How should you start if you want to try mindfulness meditation?

Jon Kabat-Zinn has a new book on beginning meditation: Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment–and Your Life.

I have many posts that feature his work on this blog. He’s a very accessible teacher in that he speaks to lay people without bringing lots of Buddhist philosophy into the picture. In other words he’s been teaching meditation to groups in a secular way for many years. This is a great thing as I don’t think one need be drawn to Buddhism or other Eastern thought to benefit from meditation and one can also benefit from meditation regardless of spiritual beliefs or lack of belief.

Below is an excerpt from an interview in Time Magazine:

Jon Kabat-Zinn, an MIT-trained molecular biologist, began meditating in 1966, when the practice was primarily the province of hippies and gurus, not scientists. Now, thanks in large part to his efforts, it has become mainstream medicine. Dozens of studies have since shown the benefits of what he termed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in treating cardiovascular disease, depression, addictions, chronic pain and many other conditions.

Kabat-Zinn has authored a new book,  Mindfulness for Beginners that aims to introduce meditation to first-timers….

How should you start if you want to try mindfulness meditation?

Any way you feel like beginning it is good. The important thing to understand is that it’s not about a particular method or technique.

The real way to start is to be open to experimenting or playing with the possibility of noticing what you’re experiencing in this moment and not to try to feel differently. Most people think that to meditate, I should feel a particular special something, and if I don’t, then I must be doing something wrong.

That is a common but incorrect view of meditation.  Mindfulness is not about getting anywhere else — it’s about being where you are and knowing it. We are talking about awareness itself:  a whole repertoire of ways of knowing that virtually all come through the senses.

My working definition of mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment — non-judgmentally.  And the non-judgmental part is the kicker, because we’ve got ideas and opinions about virtually everything. Our consciousness is almost always colored by our likes and dislikes.  All highly conditioned, habitual behaviors really comes down to this: do I like it or not, do I want more or do I want to escape? That’s all going on below the surface of awareness and it runs our lives. Read more

It seems to be the norm among popular meditation teachers that they just keep on publishing new books, when in fact older books are just as helpful. Kabat-Zinn has written several books already that speak to the beginner. I guess frequent publishing is so that one can have a reason to again publicize their work. In any case he’s got others that are already great for beginners. I’ve not read this new one and perhaps it’s got something different in it, but it’s likely to cost more at this time too.

The one I often recommend which also introduces mindfulness in a wonderfully accessible way is: Wherever You Go, There You Are. I recommend this to people who are completely new to meditation, but it’s a great book for anyone really.

I’ve also posted other material of his on Beyond Meds. Click here for a list of posts featuring Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work.

Here are a couple of other books of his that are popular. You really can’t go wrong:

●  Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness

●  Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters