What is mindfulness?

Kabat-Zinn (1990) defined mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgemental”.

Mindfulness is synonymous with “in-sight” meditation, which means a deep, direct observation and inquiry into the nature of mind and world. This inquiry involves moment-to-moment questioning like “What is this?” “What am I noticing” – toward whatever arises and toward “who is observing” and “who is meditating” (Varela, Thomp- son, & Roach, 1991).

Why is mindfulness beneficial?

  • It takes us out of an auto-pilot “doing” state
  • Helps us connect with the here and now
  • Builds self-awareness
  • De-conditions our responses
  • Provides opportunity to respond, rather than react
  • Lowers the heart rate
  • Slows and deepens breathing
  • Stops releasing cortisol and adrenaline into the blood stream

Exercise 1
1. Assume a comfortable posture lying on your back or sitting; keep the spine straight and let your shoulders drop.
2. Close your eyes, if it feels comfortable.
3. Bring your attention to your belly, feeling it rise or expand gently on the in-breath and fall or recede on the out-breath
4. Keep the focus of your breathing, “being with” each in-breath for its full duration and with each out-breath for its full duration, as if you were riding the waves of your own breathing.
5. Every time you notice what it was that took you away and then gently bring your attention back to your belly and the feeling of the breath coming in and out.
6. If your mind wanders away from your breath a thousand times, then your “job” is simply to bring it back to the breath every time, no matter what preoccupies it.
7. Practice this exercise for 15 minutes at a convenient time every day, whether you feel like it or not, for 1 week, and see how it feels to incorporate a disciplined meditation practice into your life. Be aware of how it feels to spend some time each day just being with your breath, without having to do anything. (Kabat-Zinn, 1990, p.58)

Exercise 2
1. Tune in to your breathing at different times during the day, feeling the belly go through one or two risings and fallings.
2. Become aware of your thoughts and feelings at these moments, just observing them without judging them or yourself.
3. At the same time, be aware of any changes in the way you are seeing things and feeling about yourself. (Kabat-Zinn, 1990, p.58)


Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness. New York: Delacorte.

Varela, F. J., Thompson, E., & Roach, E. (1991). The embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

About Mensch - Connecting Mind Body Breath

I am committed to provide empowering information, to help you cope with painful emotions and support you towards personal growth and development. I combine my PhD in Psychology with 15 years of practical experience in counselling across clinical, corporate and community settings. Contact me on 0426 558 562 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation to talk about your needs or write me a quick email at alexandra@cmbb.com.au
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