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Mindfulness, as conceptualized in the Western scientific community, is the self-regulation of attention with an attitude of openness, curiosity and acceptance (Bishop et al., 2004).
To simplify the process of mindful meditation, I’ve broken the process down into two parts as indicated in the diagram below. The first part is the self-regulation of attention, which describes what is done, and the second part, shown in orange, describes how it is done, with what attitude.
What is done during the self-regulation of attention is that attention is focused on something, most commonly the breath. Now that you have a taste of gently regulating your attention, let us take a look at the mindfulness process in more detail. During the self-regulation of attention, attention is brought to the breath and when it wanders from the breath, as it will, this is acknowledged and then attention is redirected back to the breath. The first type of attention, executive attention, is used to have the intention to focus on the breath in the first place.
The second type of attention, the orienting function, allows us to select specific information from various incoming sensory stimuli. The third type of attention, the alerting function, is key in sustaining attention on a particular focus. To summarize this section, mindfulness practice strengthens the ability to choose where to put attention and then to keep it there.
An important step in the self regulation of attention is to gently acknowledge where our attention has wandered to, and to redirect it back to the breath rather than becoming emotionally or intellectually engaged in the distraction.
Consistent repetition of this process of acknowledging distractions, and then redirecting attention back to the breath leads to a state called non-elaborative awareness. With non-elaborative awareness, we feel the pain, we have thoughts that start to come up afterwards - but here is the difference - we acknowledge the thoughts and feelings, we label them, but we do not become emotionally invested in them and then we gently redirect our attention elsewhere. Of course, non-elaborative awareness can be applied not just to physical sensations, but also to mental and emotional events. The adoption of an open orientation to experience during mindfulness practice results in changes in how the brain processes emotions. First, there is a decrease in the avoidance of negative emotions and other forms of emotional distress. This in turn leads to an improved ability to experience with more difficult emotions without needing to resort to psychological defenses or maladaptive coping strategies to decrease the intensity of the emotions. Second, there is an increase in the openness with which both unfamiliar and familiar situations are approached (dispositional openness). The intensive self-observation that mindfulness practice involves results in increased cognitive complexity and improved emotional awareness and psychological mindedness.
There is an increasing body of evidence showing that metacognitive awareness, which is the process of how one relates to one’s thoughts, plays an important role in depressive relapse.
In a future article on this site, I will discuss the neurobiology of mindfulness and give an overview of what happens in the brain both during and after meditation.  Stay tuned!

About this websiteThis website is a place for patients, clinicians and others to learn about and discuss the connections between mindfulness and mental health.
In the last 12 months, I’ve witnessed a huge increase in the interest we have in teaching children mindfulness. Compared to how this was 12 years ago when I first had a hunch we should be doing this… well it is simply astounding. So for me, meditation covers everything that we can use to help this heart-felt connection.
As we continuously do this, we sense peace through the freedom we have to surrender to the moment (rather than the judgement of how life should be).
This paper by Jon Kabat-Zinn makes interesting reading about a man who was trying to make mindfulness practice accessible to American society.
I find it all fascinating and hope that it inspires you to be flexible with your attitude to meditation. When we teach children meditation, this open-heart basis is the key to what I show people through the Connected Kids programme.
Many who attend have been practising for years, yet they can come with a rigid view of how meditation should be. Mindfulness meditation programs can effectively improve anxiety, pain and depression in some people, according to a new review of studies from Johns Hopkins University researchers.
The review, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, included 47 different randomized trials that involved 3,515 people. However, the review did not show a marked benefit of mindfulness meditation programs on substance use, sleep or weight. In addition, mantra meditation programs -- such as transcendental meditation, which involves "use of a mantra in such a way that it transcends one to an effortless state where focused attention is absent" -- did not seem to show any particular health benefits, though researchers noted that very few studies on mantra meditation met their criteria to be included in the review. Overall, the review showed researchers that more studies on meditation are needed, especially to see how greater meditation training, trainer expertise and amount of time spent practicing mindfulness meditation could potentially improve health even more. Goroll noted that the benefits of mindfulness meditation found in the review are modest, with some studies finding no benefit. There are many traditional formal mindful awareness practices, such as yoga, tai chi and meditation. It is also involved in readying the mind to be open to what arises, which is part of the attitude brought to mindfulness.
We have seen that it leads to a decentered perspective and to a decrease in adventitious suffering.
Relationship of Posttreatment Decentering and Cognitive Reactivity to Relapse in Major Depression J Cons Clin Psych (2007),75(3):447-455. This CD contains three meditations to help you manage pain and associated discomfort more easily. My meditation teacher, the late Kim McManus, taught meditation groups to help with spiritual development.

The latter was seen as being religious whereas mindfulness was not – I found this fascinating that such a difference existed!
The intention is to help remove the fog or distraction of these so that we can connect to a well of inner-peace inside.
Not with a rigid attitude but with an open-hearted, gentle, curious approach to meditation. As soon as we try to define it by wrapping it up with words, we contain it and meditation (like us) is limitless. Fortunately they always leave with their heart centre more open to the potential within this universe. The review showed that mindfulness meditation had small, positive effects in these three areas, with the improvements for depression in particular being similar to that of an anti-depressant. When we combined each component of negative affect, we saw a small and consistent signal that any domain of negative affect is improved in mindfulness programs when compared with a nonspecific active control," the researchers wrote in the study. While few studies examined potential harms of mindfulness meditation (nine of the trials), none of them reported harm. This is considering mindfulness meditation is a skill that does require time and practice, and that presumably the more and longer you do it, the greater benefits it may have. He postures that trendiness, the desire to establish control and potentially even capitalizing on common anxieties are all reasons for why mindfulness meditation has become increasingly popular today. The right inferior parietal lobe of your brain became active during the mindfulness exercise with both internal distractions as well as external stimuli.
However the by-products of this were improved self esteem, energy levels and an amazing sense of trust in our heart-felt intuition. The work of Deepak Choprah and Oprah Winfrey have also helped to demystify meditation so that we aren’t spending hours meditating in strange seated positions but taking 10 minutes out of our day to re-connect. I encourage those practising meditation to consider different approaches; to treat each with a gentle and compassionate awareness. Then I would practise working with the energy centres (chakras) and recently have taken myself on mindfulness courses to find other ways to meditate. When they do, this allows them to connect to children in a way that is meaningful, light, loving and quite profound. Also included is a four-page booklet explaining Vidyamala's unique techniques and how to get the maximum benefit from the practices. Therefore, this article will focus on the development of mindfulness through a very specific form of meditation.

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