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Q: What is mindfulness? Is it some form of religious meditation?

Mindfulness originated from Asian traditions. In that context, it has some links to Zen Buddhism and also with similar traditions such as Roman Catholicism (Siang-Yang Tan, 2011). However, in the context of Western medical practices, mindfulness is often presented without any religious connotation. In medical circles, mindfulness means “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” (Kabat- Zinn, 1994). In the 1970s, Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn started to incorporate the approach into Western medical practices, for instance Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, which was targeted to help clients handle stress, pain, and chronic illness. Mindfulness is now widely integrated into many therapeutic approaches such as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.


Q: What are the benefits of practising mindfulness?

As a way of improving awareness in our lives, mindfulness may be helpful to people whether in sickness or health. Some psychologists (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2013) also described this as the “driven-doing” mode, where a well-worn pattern of thoughts, beliefs and behaviours automatically arise because we have been using them for a long time. Being mindful allows us to notice these, and subsequently give us the choice to switch to a “being” mode – we may notice thoughts as thoughts, accept emotions whether they are comfortable or uncomfortable, and gain an awareness that we can choose an action that is perhaps more in line with our values.

Q: Does mindfulness need to be carried out under the guidance of a trained therapist?

The following script will guide you in practicing mindfulness of your breath, and serves as a good introduction to the skill. Do consult a specialist if you experience any discomfort or distress:

  1. Find a place where you will not be disturbed.
  2. Prepare yourself by sitting upright on a chair, adopting a dignified upright posture. Uncross your legs and place your feet flat on the ground. Relax your shoulders and place your hands on your thighs.
  3. Close your eyes, or focus on a spot in the distance. Gently, turn your attention to your breath, starting with your nose. Observe the sensations of air fl owing through your nose. Breathe normally.
  4. You may find your mind distracting you, bringing you away from your focus on your breath. That happens. When you are aware that your mind has brought you away, notice where your mind brought you. Gently thank your mind, and then choose to gradually shift your attention back to your breath. As often as your mind distracts you, allow yourself to gently return to the focus on your breath.
  5. After several breaths, shift your attention to your shoulders. Notice how your shoulder rise and fall with each breath. Breathe normally.
  6. After some time, move your focus to your lungs. Observing how your lungs expand and contract with each breath. Breathe normally.
  7. Next, shift your awareness to your stomach. Noticing that your stomach expands when you breathe in and it deflates as your breath out. Focus on the sensations of your stomach expanding and contracting. Breathe normally.
  8. Bringing the practice to a close, slowly and gently open your eyes if they were closed, and look around and notice everything around you. Stand up slowly and give yourself a good stretch.
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