Jon Kabat-Zinn is considered by many to be the ‘godfather of modern mindfulness’ or the creator of ‘secular (non-religious) mindfulness’.
He has defined mindfulness meditation as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. By focusing on the breath, the idea is to cultivate attention on the body and mind as it is moment to moment, and so help with pain, both physical and emotional.
It often results in apprehending the constantly changing nature of sensations, even highly unpleasant ones, and thus their impermanence,” he says. “It also gives rise to the direct experience that ‘the pain is not me’.
Almost 40 years ago, Kabat-Zinn pioneered the 8-week Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction programme at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He taught patients with chronic pain to harness the fundamentals of mindfulness meditation as taught by the Buddha, but with the Buddhism taken out.
“I bent over backwards to structure it and find ways to speak about it that avoided as much as possible the risk of it being seen as Buddhist, new age, eastern mysticism or just plain flakey”, he says.
Read the full Guardian article about Jon Kabat-Zinn (23 October 2017).