Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn: ‘People are losing their minds. That is what we need to wake up to’ (The Guardian)

Kabat Zinn

By taking the Buddhism out of the practice, Kabat-Zinn pioneered a meditative approach used all over the world to treat pain and depression. He talks about Trump, ‘McMindfulness’ and how a 10-second vision in 1979 led to a change in the world’s consciousness

Interview by Robert Booth
The Guardian
Sun 22 Oct 2017

The police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, showed no mercy to Jon Kabat-Zinn in May 1970. The man now considered the godfather of modern mindfulness was a graduate student from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and an anti-Vietnam-war protester, agitating alongside the Black Panthers and the French playwright Jean Genet.

“I got my entire face battered in,” he recalls. “They put this instrument on my wrist called the claw, which they tightened to generate enormous amounts of pain without leaving any marks. But they certainly left a lot of marks on my face. They pulled me into the back of the police station and beat the shit out of me.”

Today, at 73, Kabat-Zinn’s restful, lined face shows no scars from that protest outside a police station, when a trip canvassing support for a nationwide university strike boiled over into violence,leaving him with stitches.

He sits beneath the statue of Mahatma Gandhi on Parliament Square in London taking a breather after going straight from an overnight flight out of Boston into a 90-minute talk to a gathering of international parliamentarians about how he thinks mindfulness could – to put it bluntly – change the world.

The once “very macho” anti-war activist who raged against MIT’s role in nuclear weapons research is the catalyst behind the west’s mushrooming interest in mindfulness meditation, having reimagined Buddhist contemplation practices for a secular age almost 40 years ago.

With others, he pioneered an eight-week mindfulness-based stress-reduction course at the University of Massachusetts Medical School for patients with chronic pain, harnessing 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.

Kabat-Zinn had been meditating since 1965, but had no compunction in playing the Buddhism right down. “I got into this through the Zen door which is a very irreverent approach to Buddhism,” he says. He talks a lot about dharma, the term for the Buddha’s teaching, but he’s not a Buddhist and remarks that to insist mindfulness meditation is Buddhist is like saying gravity is English because it was identified by Sir Isaac Newton.

The UMass Stress Reduction Clinic opened its doors in 1979 and taught people with chronic back pain, victims of industrial accidents, cancer patients and sometimes paraplegics. Kabat-Zinn 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’.” As a result, some of his patients found ways “to be in a different relationship with their pain” while others felt it diminish. The title of his 1990 bestseller about the clinic captures his approach to accepting whatever life throws at you: Full Catastrophe Living.

Now, in 2017, Kabat-Zinn vibrates with an urgent belief that meditation is the “radical act of love and sanity” we need in the age of Trump, accelerating climate change and disasters such as the Grenfell Tower fire.

He has a platform to build on. Mindfulness courses ultimately derived from his work are now being rolled out in the UK to school pupils, convicts, civil servants and even politicians. It is prescribed on the NHS in some areas to prevent recurrent depression, with 2,256 people completing eight-week courses last year. The course reduces the likelihood of relapse by almost a third, according to an analysis of nine trials. In the US, the NBA basketball champions, Golden State Warriors, are the latest poster boys for the practice after their coach, Steve Kerr, made mindfulness one of the team’s core values.


Video: “Mindfulness and Mental Health” with Runcie, Jennings, Brewer and Leifman.

Autistic Not Psychotic – Increasing Awareness & Preventing Tragedies

In 1973 when Judge Steve Leifman was interning in Tallahassee for a state senator, his office was notified that a parent was seeking help for their child being held inappropriately in a South Florida State Hospital. He found the young man tied to the bed, both arms and legs in restraints, and enormously overweight from the Thorazine (antipsychotic medication) hospital staff had been injecting him with. But the bloated young man strapped to the bed was not psychotic. He was autistic.


Creating Great Cities through Mindful Leadership and Comprehensive Systems

Mindful Cities Pilot

Civic leaders across America are aspiring to build flourishing communities. They have a vision for breaking down the silos to bring mindfulness training to leaders across all sectors in their cities. Engaged on the ground, cities like Flint, Michigan, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Boston, Massachusetts are countering rapid change and uncertainty, isolation, divisiveness, health problems, environmental degradation, and economic uncertainty with innovative social strategies rooted in mindfulness, compassion, and inclusivity. Why not Miami, Broward, and Palm Beach?

New approaches to social infrastructure, just like good physical infrastructure, are needed for communities and schools to thrive.

VIDEO: Mindful Cities in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with Sara Flitner, (1:06)
VIDEO: Mindful Cities in Flint, Michigan with Gerry Myers(0:52)


Why Mindfulness is Essential for Farmers and Their Health (AcresUSA)

Excerpted from …

Farming is tough on the body, and it can also take a toll on the mind. I’ve been a farmer for over six years now and not once has the job been less than physically and emotionally demanding. Before pursuing farming as my chosen career, I worked in a number of professions that exacted their own price from my body, including landscaping and cooking in professional kitchens. None of these jobs came close to matching the exhaustion I’ve felt after a hard day on the farm.

If you picture a whole farmer health regimen as a stone arch, mindfulness is the keystone that holds it all together. On one side, the arch is made up of our physical practices such as diet and exercise, and on the other side are mental practices such as education and bookkeeping. Mindfulness helps keep us in the moment, focused on what is needed in the present.

My friend and neighbor Tracy Hovde is a professional yoga instructor and part-time farmer with her partner, Mark Triebold. They run Lazy I Ranch, raising cattle on 80 acres just a few miles down the road from my farm. Mark bought the property 10 years ago and started raising Highland cattle six years ago. Tracy brings her yogic perspective to raising their cattle.

I spoke to Tracy in September 2016 about her thoughts on how farmers can keep their bodies and minds healthy and what it is like to raise cattle and practice yoga in the countryside:

What led you to practice yoga, and what does yoga mean to you?

Like most people, I started yoga for purely physical reasons. I started a regular yoga practice when I was a dancer. The physical demands of dancing were extreme, and I wasn’t taking good care of myself. I was burned out and was constantly injured.

I found that the Vinyasa classes offered at the gym I worked at as a massage therapist satisfied my need to move, and did so in a way that didn’t strain my body. Now yoga is less about the postures and more about the way I live, the way I view the world around me and my place in it.

When you teach a yoga class, what are your goals, and how do you work toward them?

My goal is always to bring balance. I never know what that means until my students walk into the room and I see how they are walking, their mood, what are they talking about, their energy level, etc. I also factor in things like season, weather and time of day. I use different breathing exercises (Pranayama), poses and specific sequencing of poses, as well as different styles of yoga to help shift their energy toward balance.

Read the full article at

Why Mindfulness is Essential for Farmers and Their Health

By Andrew French. This article appeared in the April 2017 issue of Acres U.S.A. magazineAndrew French is a livestock farmer and permaculture designer based in western Wisconsin working on developing a viable model of regenerative pig farming from farrow to finish using a whole systems design approach. He can be reached at Visit for more information.


Buddha Lessons (Newsweek)

by Claudia Kalb, Sept. 26, 2004

For decades, Dalia Isicoff has suffered the agony of rheumatoid arthritis–joint pain, spinal fusion, multiple hip surgeries. Painkillers dull the aches, but it wasn’t until she took a course at the University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative Medicine that Isicoff discovered a powerful weapon inside her own body: her mind. Using a meditative practice called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR, Isicoff learned to acknowledge her pain, rather than fight it. Her negative and debilitating thought patterns–“This is getting worse,” “I’m going to end up in a wheelchair”–began to dissipate, and she was able to cut back on her medication. The pain hasn’t gone away, but “I view it is an ally now,” she says. “Mindfulness is transformational.” Continue reading “Buddha Lessons (Newsweek)”