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Mindfulness Trainers' Resources

Mindfulness & Neurobiological 

Tools for Healing - A Training Resource

By Jim Messina, Ph.D., CCMHC, NCC, DCMHS-T

Introduction to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

In Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Own Words


What is Mindfulness

Mindfulness is:

awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way:

-on purpose,
-in the present moment, and

(Source: Jon Kabat-Zinn (2016). Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present moment-and your life. Sounds True, Inc: Boulder, Colorado, p. 1)

What is Meditation

Meditation is any way in which you engage in:

-Systematically regulating your attention and energy
-Thereby influencing and possibly transforming the quality of your experience
-In the service of realizing the full range of your humanity
-Your relationship to others and the world.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p.1)


Two Forms of Meditation in MBSR

There are two complementary ways to do this:

-Formally: Formally means engaging in making some time every day to practice with the guided meditations

-Informally: Informally means letting the practice spill over into every aspect of your waking life in an uncontrived and natural way

These two modes of embodied practice go hand in hand and support each other, and ultimately become one seamless whole, which we could call living with awareness or wakefulness

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p2)


Practice of Mindfulness

-The very intention to practice with consistency and gentleness — whether you feel like it or not on any given day — is a powerful and healing discipline.
-Without such motivation, especially at the beginning, it is difficult for mindfulness to take root and go beyond being a mere concept or script, no matter how attractive it might be to you philosophically.
-While mindfulness and the current high levels of public and scientific interest in it may indeed appear to some to be much ado about nothing
-it is much more accurate to describe it as much ado about what might seem like almost nothing that turns out to be just about everything
-As you practice Mindfulness you are going to experience firsthand that “almost nothing.” It contains a whole universe of life-enhancing possibilities.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p3)

Opportunities provided by practicing MBSR

Mindfulness as a practice provides endless opportunities:

-To cultivate greater intimacy with your own mind and
-To tap into and develop your deep interior resources for learning, growing, healing, and
-Potentially for transforming your understanding of who you are and how you might live more wisely and with greater well-being, meaning, and happiness in this world.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p4)


Importance of Breath in MBSR

-The fact is that you are a being that breathes
-You drink in the air on each in-breath, giving it back to the world on each out-breath. Your life depends on it.
-Your breathing can serve as a convenient first object of attention to bring you back into the present moment, because you are only breathing now — the last breath is gone, the next one hasn’t come yet — it is always a matter of this one.
-So, it is an ideal anchor for your wayward attention. It keeps you in the present moment.
-This is one of many reasons why paying attention to the sensations of breathing in the body -But attending to the feeling of the breath in the body is not only a beginner’s practice. It may be simple, but the Buddha himself taught that the breath has within it everything you would ever need for cultivating the full range of your humanity, especially your capacity for wisdom and for compassion

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p11)


What is Awareness

-Awareness is a capacity that you are intimately familiar with and yet are simultaneously a complete stranger to.
-The training in mindfulness is really the cultivation of a resource that is already yours.
-It doesn’t require going anywhere
-It doesn’t require getting anything
-But it does require learning how to inhabit another domain of mind that you are, as a rule, fairly out of touch with.
-And that is what you might call the “being mode” of mind.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p17)


“Doing Mode” vs “Being Mode”

Most of your life you are absorbed in doing

-In getting things done
-In going rapidly from one thing to the next
-Or in multitasking — attempting to juggle a bunch of different things at the very same time
-Often your life becomes so driven that you are moving through your moments to get to better ones at some later point
-You live to check things off your to-do list, then fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day, only to jump up the next morning to get on the treadmill once again.
This way of living is compounded by all the ways in which your life is now driven by the ever-quickening expectations you place on yourself and that others place on you and you on them, generated in large measure by your increasing dependence on ubiquitous digital technology and its ever-accelerating effects on your pace of life.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p18)

“Human Doing” vs “Human Being”

-If you are not careful, it is all too easy to fall into becoming more of a “human doing” than a “human being”, and forget who is doing all the doing, and why.
This is where mindfulness comes in.
-Mindfulness reminds us that it is possible to shift from a doing mode to a being mode through the application of attention and awareness.
-Then your doing can come out of your being and be much more integrated and effective.
-What is more, you cease exhausting yourself so much as you learn to inhabit your own body and the only moment in which you are ever alive — this one.
(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p18)


Mindfulness is Universal

-Mindfulness is often described as the heart of Buddhist meditation. Nevertheless, cultivating mindfulness is not a Buddhist activity.
-In essence, mindfulness is universal because it is all about attention and awareness, and attention and awareness are human capacities that are innate in all of humans
-Historically speaking, the most refined and developed articulations of mindfulness and how to cultivate it stem from the Buddhist tradition, and Buddhist texts and teachings constitute an invaluable resource for deepening your understanding and appreciation of mindfulness and the subtleties of its cultivation.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p21)


Mindfulness is a state of being awakened

Awakened to what?

-To the nature of reality
-to the potential for freeing oneself from suffering
-by engaging in a systematic and very practical approach to living

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p24)


Is your Mind ready to be fully awake?

-If you are going to use the mind to observe and befriend and ultimately understand itself, first you will have to learn at least the rudiments of how to stabilize it enough so that it can actually do the work of paying attention in a sustained and reliable way
-Becoming aware of what’s going on beneath the surface of its own activities. Even your best efforts can easily be thwarted by all the ways in which you distract yourself.
-Your attention is not very stable and is invariably carried off someplace else a good deal of the time, as you will experience for yourself with the guided meditations.
-With ongoing practice, you at least become far more familiar with the mind’s comings and goings; over time, in important ways,
-The mind learns how to stabilize itself, at least to a degree. Even a tiny bit of stability, coupled with awareness, is hugely important and transforming,
-So, it is very important not to build some kind of ideal about your mind not wavering or being absolutely stable in order for you to be “doing it right.”
-That may happen in rare moments under particular circumstances, but for the most part, as you will see, it is in the nature of the mind to wave.
-Knowing that makes a huge difference in how you will approach the meditation practice.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p24)


Inhabiting awareness is the essence of practice

-The challenge of mindfulness is to be present for your experience as it is, rather than immediately jumping in to change it or try to force it to be different.
-Inhabiting awareness is the essence of mindfulness practice,
-No matter what you are experiencing, whether it arises in formal meditation or in going about your life.
-Life itself becomes the meditation practice as you learn to take up residency in awareness — this essential dimension of your being that is already yours but with which you are so unfamiliar that you frequently cannot put it to use at the very times in your life when you need it the most.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p26)


Mindfulness is a practice of discipline

-To cultivate mindfulness really does involve and call out of us a certain constancy of motivation and purpose in the face of all sorts of energies in your life, some from inside yourself and some from outside, that dissipate your awareness by perpetually distracting you and diverting you from your intentions and purpose.
-The discipline is really the willingness to bring the spaciousness and clarity of awareness back over and over again to whatever is going on — even as you feel you are being pulled in a thousand different directions.
-Just taking this kind of stance toward your own experience, without trying to fix or change anything at all, is an act of generosity toward yourself, an act of intelligence, an act of kindness.
the word discipline comes from disciple, someone who is in a position to learn. So when you bring a certain discipline to the cultivation of mindfulness, you are aware of how challenging it is to bring a sustained attending to any aspect of your livfe
-You are actually creating the conditions for learning something fundamental from life itself. Then life becomes the meditation practice and the meditation teacher, and whatever happens in any moment is simply the curriculum of that moment.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p27)

Real challenge is how will you be in relationship to whatever is arising?

The real challenge is how will you be in relationship to whatever is arising?

-Here is where freedom itself is to be found.
-Here is where a moment of genuine happiness might be experienced, a moment of equanimity, a moment of peace.
-Each moment is an opportunity to see that you do not have to succumb to old habits that function below the level of your awareness.

With great intentionality and resolve:

-You can experiment with non-distraction.
-You can experiment with non-diversion.
-You can experiment with non-fixing.
-You can experiment with non-doing.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p28)


Thinking is your “Default Setting”

-Thinking seems to constitute your “default setting” rather than awareness.
-It is a good thing to notice, because in this way, you might slowly shift from this automatic reverting to thinking over and over again to another mode of mind that may stand you in far better stead, namely awareness itself.
-Perhaps over time you can adjust your default setting to one of greater mindfulness rather than of mindlessness and being lost in thought.
-As soon as you take your seat or lie down to meditate, the first thing you will notice is that the mind has a life of its own.
-It just goes on and on and on: thinking, musing, fantasizing, planning, anticipating, worrying, liking, disliking, remembering, forgetting, evaluating, reacting, telling itself stories — a seemingly endless stream of activity that you may not have ever noticed in quite this way until you put out the welcome mat for a few moments of non-doing, of just being.
-This is what the thought-stream does, and that is precisely why you need to become intimate with your mind through careful observation. Otherwise, thinking completely dominates your life and colors everything you feel and do and care about.
-And you are not special in this regard. Everybody has a similar thought-stream running 24/7, often without realizing it at all.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p30)


Befriending your thinking

It is very important as a beginner that you understand right from the start that meditation is about

-Befriending your thinking – is about holding it gently in awareness, no matter what is on your mind in a particular moment.
-It is not about shutting off your thoughts or changing them in any way.
-Meditation is not suggesting that it would be better if you didn’t think and were simply to suppress all those sometimes unruly, disturbing, and disquieting, sometimes uplifting and creative thoughts when they arise.
-If you do try to suppress your thinking, you are just going to wind up with a gigantic headache. Such a pursuit is unwise, pure folly — like trying to stop the ocean from waving.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p35)


Not taking your thoughts personally

It is very important as a beginner that you understand right from the start that meditation is about:

-Befriending your thinking
-Holding it gently in awareness, no matter what is on your mind in a particular moment.
-It is not about shutting off your thoughts or changing them in any way.
-Meditation is not suggesting that it would be better if you didn’t think and were simply to suppress all those sometimes unruly, disturbing, and disquieting, sometimes uplifting and creative thoughts when they arise.
-If you do try to suppress your thinking, you are just going to wind up with a gigantic headache. Such a pursuit is unwise, pure folly — like trying to stop the ocean from waving.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p35)


Mindfulness brought to all senses

-The term clearly seeing seems to privilege one particular sense. But “seeing,” in the way it is used in MBSR represents all of your senses, because it is only through your senses that you can be aware of and therefore know anything at all.
-Clear seeing also means clear hearing, clear smelling, clear tasting, clear touching, and clear knowing, which would include knowing what’s on your mind, and therefore knowing both what you are thinking and what emotions are visiting
-Therefore feeling what you are feeling, grounded in the body, whether it be fear or anger or sadness, frustration, irritation, impatience, annoyance, satisfaction, empathy, compassion, happiness, or anything else.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p54)

You belong

-You are never alone.
-And you already belong.
-You belong to humanity.
-You belong to life.
-You belong to this moment, to this breath.

When you undertake this practice with a group of other human beings very much like yourself it becomes even more powerful because you can be inspired and motivated by other people’s

-Strength and tenacity and insights,
-Often manifested in the face of unimaginable life circumstances and difficulties.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p62)


Mindfulness is not just a good idea

-But mindfulness is a way of being,
-One that requires consistent cultivation.
-It is a discipline all its own that naturally extends into all aspects of life as it is unfolding.
-It is certainly a good idea to be mindful, but mindfulness is not merely a good idea.
-And while it is simple, it is not easy.
-It is not so easy to maintain mindfulness, even over very short periods of time. you saw earlier that in some ways, you could think of it as the hardest work in the world, and the most important.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p64)


Make Mindfulness work for you

until and unless you implement it and sustain it through ongoing, regular practice, leavened with an appropriate attitude of gentleness and kindness toward yourself, mindfulness can easily remain:

-Simply one more thought to fill your head and make you feel inadequate …
-One more concept
-One more slogan
-One more chore
-One more thing to schedule into your already too-busy day

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p64)


Benefits of MBSR

-Many clients said to JKZ and staff with great regularity, that they feel that mindfulness training in the form of MBSR gave them back their lives and they are grateful to us for it.
-We often point out that while that may be true to a degree,it is also true — perhaps even more true — that we didn’t give them anything. Whatever benefits they received came from their own hard work with the meditation practice, from the inspiration and support of the other people in their class, from their own willingness to engage in and sustain mindfulness practice as a discipline over time, and from the fact of their already being whole in the first place.
-The flowering of mindfulness in one’s life is always more of a development and an integration of what is already here rather than an adding or subtracting of specific qualities.
JKZ’s clients in the Stress Reduction Clinic, mindfulness is not a nice little idea that you pull out every time you feel stressed. Nor is it a relaxation technique. It’s not a technique at all. It is a way of being.

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p112)

The Attitudinal Foundations of Mindfulness Practice

1. Non-Judging

2. Patience

3. Beginner’s Mind

4. Trust

5. Non-Striving

6. Acceptance

7. Letting Go

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p123-134)


1. Non-Judging

-When you begin to practice the guided meditations, notice how frequently judgments of various kinds arise.
-You only need to recognize them.
-No need to act on them


2. Patience

-Patience is really a wonderful attitude to bring to mindfulness practice because the practice of mindfulness is already, in some fundamental sense, about stepping out of time altogether.
-When you are talking about the present moment, you are talking about now; You are talking about “outside of clock time.”
-You have had moments like that. In fact, you have nothing but moments like that, but you ignore almost all of them, and it’s just once in a blue moon that you will experience a moment when time stops for you


3. Beginner’s Mind

-Beginner’s mind is an attitude.
-It doesn’t mean you don’t know anything.
-It means that you are spacious enough in that moment to not be caught by what it is that you do know or have experienced in the face of the enormity of what is unknown.


4. Trust

If you can’t entirely trust what you think,

-What about trusting awareness?
-What about trusting your heart?
-What about trusting your motivation to at least do no harm?
-What about trusting your experience until it’s proven to be inaccurate — and then trusting that discovery
-What about trusting your senses?
-What about Trusting your body?


5. Non-Striving

Non-striving is not trivial.

-It involves realizing that you are already here. There’s no place to go, because the agenda is simply to be awake.
-It is not framed as some ideal that suggests that after forty years of sitting in a cave in the Himalayas, or by studying with august teachers, or doing ten thousand prostrations, or whatever it is, you will necessarily be any better than you are now. It is likely that you will just be older.
-What happens now is what matters.


6. Acceptance

Acceptance is an expression of lived wisdom

-Not that it is easy to accept what is unfolding, especially if it is highly unpleasant
-But you can shift to “awarenessing” with acceptance which immediately frees you from the narrative in your head that says” “I’ve got to have conditions be just so in order for the moment to be a happy moment.”  But clinging is the opposite of acceptance.
-Acceptance is letting go of the need for things to be in order for you to be happy or in order for you to even show up with awareness in the present moment
-When you can hold whatever is unfolding, pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral in awareness and allow things to be exactly as they already are-then all of a sudden it becomes possible to stand fully in the moment without it having to be any different


7. Letting Go

Letting go means letting be. Letting go is akin to non-attachment to outcome

When you are no longer grasping for:

-What you want
-What you are already clinging to
-Or what you simply have to have

Letting go means not clinging to

-what you most hate
-Or what you have a huge aversion for

Letting go is a healthy condition of mind and heart-it embraces the whole of reality

In a new way. Which needs to be developed through practice

Getting Started with MBSR Practice


1. Posture

-Adopt a posture that embodies wakefulness which means to not practice lying down unless you set your mind to Falling Awake-
-If you chose a chair sit in such a way that the back is straight but relaxed with the shoulders and arms hanging off the rib cage, the head erect, and the chin slightly tucked
-Try to sit with your feet uncrossed on the floor and if possible, with your back away from the back of the chair so your posture is self-supporting, with the spine self-elevating out of the pelvis.
(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p141)


2. What to do with your eyes

-You can be aware with your closed or open
-If you sit with your eyes open, you can either let your gaze fall unfocused on the floor three or four feet out from you or on a wall if you are sitting facing the wall
-*Or you could use a mandella, which is a picture which you can focus on and allow your being be open to the messages on the Meditation tape (*Note: our suggestion not JKZ's)
-These suggestions allow you to stay in the moment without fear of falling asleep

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p142)


3. Sleepiness

-If you are sleepy it is best to sit with your eyes open
-Find a time of the day to practice when you are fairly awake: e.g. early in the morning after a good night’s sleep
-Splash cold water on your face before practicing if you feel sleepy – or even take an invigorating cold shower
-Don't Forget: there will be plenty of distractions to work with inwardly and outwardly, no matter how much you regulate the external environment


4. Protecting the time

-It is best to choose a time for formal practice in which you will not be interrupted
-Shut off your cell phone, pager, computer and the internet
-Close the door fo your room and make sure that others know not to interrupt you during this time – good reason for doing the exercise in the morning

Make this time:

-Time strictly for being
-Time for nurturing yourself through “nondoing”
-Time for cultivation of mindfulness and heartfulness

(Kabat-Zinn, 2016. p142)


Bibliography of MBSR Related Books


Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990 & 2013). Full Catastrophe Living: using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness. BaNtam Books: New York, NY.


Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994 & 2005). Wherever you go there you are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday life. Hachette Books: New York, NY.


Kabat-Zinn, J. (2005). Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World through Mindfulness. Hachette Books: New York, NY.


Kabat-Zinn, J. (2012 & 2016). Mindfulness for beginners: Reclaiming he present moment and your life. Sounds True, Inc: Boulder, Colorado


Kabat-Zinn, J. (2018). Meditation is not what you think: Mindfulness and why it is so important (book One). Hachette Books: New York, NY.


Kabat-Zinn, J. (2018). Falling Awake: how to practice mindfulness in everyday life (Book two). Hachette Books: New York, NY.


Kabat-Zinn, J. (2018). The Healing Power of Mindfulness: A New way of Being (book Three). Hachette Books: New York, NY.


Kabat-Zinn, J. (2018). Mindfulness for All: The Wisdom to Transform the World (Book Four). Hachette Books: New York, NY.


Stahl, B. & Goldstein, E. (2019). A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook (Second Edition). New Harbinger Publications: Oakland, CA

Wolf, C. & Serpa, J.G. (2015). A Clinician’s Guide to Teaching Mindfulness. New Harbinger Publications: Oakland, CA