Mindfulness, or being fully aware of oneís being (including thoughts and actions) in the present moment, is the
seventh element of the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. Long used as a meditation technique to observe the outer
world as well as the inner world, it is now being used by the medical and corporate worlds as a means to deal with
stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as being more focused and productive.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, author, scientist, and mediation instructor, is the founding director of the Stress Reduction
Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. His instruction for initial
exploration of meditation and mindfulness is capsulized into the 2 CD audio course, Mindfulness for Beginners.
Over two hours worth of instruction and guided practice can be found in the audio course. The first CD contains
a lecture on what mindfulness is and what it is not. It also discusses the ethical foundation of this form of
meditation and the Seven Key Attitudinal Factors of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. The second CD offers five
guided meditations, beginning with a simple mindfulness eating exercise, and going through breath awareness, body
awareness, sound awareness, and thought awareness.
I found Kabat-Zinnís vocal delivery during the education CD to be lively, funny, and warm. He explains that
mindfulness isnít woo-woo nor what he calls "a dime-store technique." It is a viable way to still the mind and
relax. He also indicates that mindfulness meditation can eventually lead to some greater insights into our inner
mind as well as using mindfulness in daily activities. As we begin to recognize the constant chatter inside our
minds, we donít make judgements about it and begin to just release those thoughts. We can then pay attention to
the thoughts that have some greater meaning for us. Some activities can also become a means to mindfulness, such
as washing dishes. We can also become adept enough to observe mindfulness for brief moments during our days,
observing, listening, and not judging.
The meditation exercises are deceptively simple as Kabat-Zinn takes us through the senses (touch, smell, taste)
and then to paying attention to breathing, body awareness, and the dealing with mental chatter. Unlike many other
forms of white meditation that seek to produce a blank atmosphere in which we reside, mindfulness helps us to be
more aware of our bodies and where we are in space. In that process of sifting through and slowing down the chatter,
we come to greater awareness of who we are and loving ourselves as we are. This may not happen all at once, but the
practice of mindfulness is useful to allow us to relax and begin the deeper meditation that can be done. Kabat-Zinnís
guidance through these exercises is gentle, softly spoken, and always encouraging.
Iíd recommend this audio course to anyone seeking to learn how to relax. It is also a great place to start for
anyone wanting to learn how to meditate. Mindfulness for Beginners is probably the best beginning meditation
course Iíve seen. And, for those who are more experienced meditators, mindfulness will open new avenues of experience
in your practice.