Mindfulness, according to Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness Therapy in Bethesda, MD

You probably hear this a lot, but my life feels out of control. I race from task to task and I’m always doing more than one thing at a time. My friends tell me I’m close to the “red line” and they’re worried about how I’m taking care of myself. This .gif popped up on my feed the other day when I was on the Metro, and I’ll admit I felt better after timing my breathing to the animation. Can you help me understand how to begin to practice mindfulness?

Mindfulness is helpful no matter what type of therapy clients are seeking– individual therapy, premarital counseling, couples therapy, or discernment counseling. That’s because learning how to harness the power of mindfulness, and feeling its benefits in your relationships, is a great way to start experiencing positive results from therapy.

One of our Bethesda therapists’ favorite ways to teach mindfulness is through a famous quote by Jon Kabat-Zinn:

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.  –Jon Kabat-Zinn

Okay, so let’s break that quote down to really understand what he’s saying:

Mindfulness means paying attention…

Mindfulness requires us to turn off the autopilot that is so often in control of our thoughts and actions. And let’s face it, sometimes autopilot is helpful! Routine and muscle memory may make task completion quicker and easier, but when we’re setting out to be mindful, paying attention is key. It requires focus and consideration.

…on purpose…

Jon Kabat-Zinn builds on the idea of attention by pointing us to intention. We’re practicing mindfulness on purpose because we want to, because we need to. We have cleared some time from our busy schedules and prioritized the moments of stillness that come from mindfulness. Doing something on purpose gives it meaning and importance.

…in the present moment…

Mindfulness is synonymous with the present. When we’re being mindful, we resist the urge to time-travel in our minds either to the past down memory lane or into the future of worry and what-ifs. A good way to practice grounding yourself in the present moment is to attune to your five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What can you taste? What are you touching? Moment to moment, our senses can mindfully tune us into the present.


At the end of the quote, Jon Kabat-Zinn reminds us that our orientation to mindfulness is important, too. For some of us, being non-judgmental may be the hardest part about it. We must shift our thinking from from judgement (labeling, opinions, preferences) to curiosity (what do I notice? how do I feel?), and finally to compassion (empathy, tolerance, acceptance, kindness). There is no wrong way or right way, there is no success or failure. There is only watching the present moment, just as it is, without changing it. We let go. We let be.

mindfulness therapy in Bethesda MDIf you’d like to learn more about how practicing mindfulness can help you find peace in your life and connection with others, call us today. We can help!

*Featured Image Credit: @krislee_3 via Instagram