Mindfulness is being aware of life as it’s happening, with openness, kindness and without judging. It’s a natural capacity already in us, as human beings, but it needs awakening.
Mindful presence comes about by being attentive to our direct, immediate experience and letting go of familiar and known methods of conceptual learning of facts and analysis.
We spend much of our time caught up in re-living past events or imagining the future and planning – usually the way we’d like it to be, but that’s seldom the case! Mindfulness teaches us how to return to the present by noticing when we’re forgetful or distracted. In fact the origins of the word for mindfulness means ‘to remember’!
Our capacity to return to present moment experience is helped by meditation and mindfulness practices. Over time, with practice and patience, more inner stability and resilience emerges in the face of emotional storms, the challenges of life and crises in the world. By connecting to our inner calm and strength, we learn to respond and relate to our self, the people in our life and the world with greater wisdom and care.
Mindful awareness can bring nourishment, discovery and appreciation. We can start to savour the good, the beautiful, the many enjoyable moments that come to us all the time but so easily missed or dismissed.
In the last decade or so, there has been a huge amount of scientific enquiry into mindfulness and meditation. Cognitive-behavioural and neuroscientists have found that regular practice brings many positive changes to the brain with benefits to physical and mental health. What meditation practitioners have known for thousands of years from their experience, scientists are now seeing for themselves through technology.
What are the main Mindfulness-based Approaches?
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
The original programme developed in the USA by visionary Jon Kabat-Zinn started within the hospital where he worked, with the intention of healing suffering (mental and physical), chronic and terminal conditions and the impacts of general life-dissatisfaction. In 1979 he set up the Stress Reduction Clinic within a teaching hospital and over 20,000 participants have attended the 8-week courses, with outreach into many areas of society and work.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
This second 8-week programme was adapted from MBSR by Professor Mark Williams of Oxford University and his colleagues in collaboration with Jon Kabat-Zinn. The intention of this course is preventing repeated depressive relapse, and creating the potential for living life well and fully. MBCT is one of the recommended treatments for depressive relapse in the UK NICE Guidelines, and mostly chosen by the NHS to help with depression and anxiety.
Both MBSR and MBCT have a strong evidence base and are available now throughout the UK and in many countries worldwide. For further information on the main difference in approach, go to
Mindfulness for Life (MBCT-L)
The most recently developed, contemporary and evidence-based course developed from MBCT by the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, one of the main UK centres of excellence in mindfulness training. The aim and scope is to offer a universal course suitable for all people. Mindfulness is a capacity that everyone has, therefore we can all benefit, whatever our state of wellbeing. The emphasis is on building mindful awareness into all aspects of daily life, and cultivating resilience and appreciation over the weeks. As well as learning new, constructive ways of relating to emotions, habitual thinking patterns and physical pain the course has a strong emphasis on living a flourishing life by really engaging; on cultivating the capacity to deeply savour the good and beautiful however apparently small or ‘trivial’, enjoying the richness of life.
All these courses are composed of eight classes each week (2-2.5 hours), one all-day session to draw the learning together, and practice at home between sessions.
“Looking back on the course, I realise what an impact it had on my life. I attended the course at a time when my life was very full on and tough, because I really needed ‘something for me’ to ‘find me’ in my life. The course helped me soak up the richness of life – even though nothing had changed in my situation. I learned easy ways to nourish myself each day when I chose to, how to appreciate so much of everything around me – like even the simple ritual of making a cup of tea – the anticipation with the sound of the kettle boiling and the water pouring into the cup, the smell, the taste, the sheer enjoyment of holding the warm mug and drinking the tea…
Something changed in my way of being and I felt (realised) this. I felt more able to cope with life and people and situations. My perceptions are more balanced. I am less judgmental and more compassionate. I’ve learned the importance of being kind to myself without guilt. I know that being kind to myself enables me to be more patient and kinder to others – they’ve said so!
Mindfulness is now integrated with my life everyday. I’m looking for ways to build on what I’ve learned and enjoying my journey.” (Hawick 8-week course participant)