Mindfulness for Beginners

by Jon Kabat-Zinn · read August 16, 2021


Excellent introduction to the subject; I was especially impressed by the tone and style of the book, which seemed to embody the core principles of mindfulness. The emphasis on being compassionate and non-judgmental was helpful, as were the different metaphors for the mind. Would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in mindfulness!

Liberation from suffering comes from the practice of resting in not knowing, of being aware, of attending to any given circumstance with kindness and clarity.


Mindfulness is awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.


Ironically, to grow into the fullness of who we actually already are is the challenge of a lifetime for each of us as human beings.

The application of attention and awareness helps to move us from a doing mode to a being mode.

Think of your mind as an instrument → needs to be stabilized so you can use it for observation and understanding.

A challenge: being aware and present in a moment without trying to change it.

The beauty of discipline: to continue to return to the practice of attending, even with distractions.

Usually, thinking is our default setting

Metaphors for your mind:

   Ocean: its nature is for the surface to change, but its entirety is deep and still

   Stream: can be caught up in the flow, or can sit on the banks and observe it moving

Not taking our thoughts personally — they are events in the field of awareness

Ultimate attachment is "selfing" — putting yourself at the center, identifying circumstance as part of your self

Nothing is to be clung to as 'I', 'me', or 'mine'. —The Buddha


Important to bring an affectionate quality to attending — openness, kindness, compassion

proprioception: "the sense of knowing and feeling the body's position in space both statically and in motion"

interoception: "the sense of knowing how your body is feeling from the inside"

→ These are additional sensing capacities

We take up the habit of fragmenting the world rather than recognizing its intrinsic wholeness, which can prevent us from apprehending the unity of awareness

Mindfulness reminds us that our internal narration about who we are is a construct — we need to see that our lives are bigger than thought

U of T study: two networks for self-referencing, "narrative focus" and "experiential focus"

   Can think of NF as default network, but can train ourselves to shift to EF

"Not knowing is not such a bad thing. As we have seen, it is the essence of a beginner's mind."

What is mine to see? This is a great question to ponder, to make your own, to let live inside your bones and your pores, and to guide your life.


Heart Sutra: "no place to go, nothing to do, nothing to attain"

Meditation is very much a way of letting all the doing you are engaged in and care about come out of being. Then, whatever emerges is something other than mere doing because it is informed by other dimensions of experience that come from intimately knowing your own mind.

Zorba the Greek — "the full catastrophe" of life

Can ask: "is my awareness of my suffering suffering?"

adventitious suffering: extrinsic; not a given; created for yourself

   "How we choose to be in relationship to pain makes an enormous difference."

"When we suffer, the poignancy of the circumstances always has a sense of uniqueness to it."

Liberation from suffering comes from the practice of resting in not knowing, of being aware, of attending to any given circumstance with kindness and clarity.

ahimsa: the principle of non-harming

3 Categories of Poisons

  1. Greed: acquire whatever it is that you desire; we feel as though something is missing, and if we had it we would be complete
  2. Aversion: desire that things be different from how they are; we are attached to things being the way we want them to be
  3. Delusion: not seeing things as they are

Now is always the right time because it is the only time.

We register that something is pleasant (can lead to greed), unpleasant (can lead to aversion), or neither (can lead to delusion).


Seven fundamental attitudinal foundations of mindfulness practice:

  1. Non-judging
  2. Patience: "when we are mindful and inhabit each moment, we have, to a first approximation, an infinite number of them between now and the time we're going to die"
  3. Beginner's mind
  4. Trust
  5. Non-striving: "what happens now is what matters"
  6. Acceptance: realize how things are, finding ways to be in wise relationship to them, act out of clarity
  7. Letting go

This moment is the future of all the previous moments in your life, including those in which you thought about and dreamed of a future time.

What is the purpose of living? Is it only to get someplace else and then when you're there realize that you are still not happy and you now want to be someplace else?


Four recommendations for practice:

  1. Posture — embody wakefulness
  2. Your eyes — closed or unfocused, relaxed gaze
  3. Sleepiness — practice early in the morning
  4. Protecting time — no interruptions
Julia Cooke © 2023