Jon Kabat-Zinn says mindfulness is the heart of Buddhist meditation but that mindfulness is more about paying attention to a person's situation than it is about Buddhism. Kabat-Zinn, who has been meditating since 1966, says mindfulness is not about a particular technique or method but rather about the practitioner being where he is and knowing it.
Kabat-Zinn, a molecular biologist who was trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, founded the Stress Reduction Clinic in 1979. He started meditating when the few who were doing so were considered on the hippie fringe, he told Time.
In Asian languages the words for "mind" and "heart" are the same, he says, and to understand mindfulness people must also understand "heartfulness." He calls mindfulness "wise and affectionate attention" and adds that kindness and compassion toward oneself are part of the equation.
To begin practicing mindfulness, Kabat-Zinn says a person should experiment with noticing the experiences of the moment while not changing how he feels. He says he defines mindfulness as paying attention to one's situation without judging. Mindfulness includes coming to terms with things as they are. People who practice mindfulness well cultivate equanimity and wisdom in the face of the catastrophe of being human, Kabat-Zinn told Time. He says the point of mindfulness is to be aware of the play of body and mind and not to take things personally when they aren't meant to be personal.