What is mindfulness meditation


From Buddhism to Medicine

The concept of mindfulness comes from Buddhism, in which meditations play a major role. Mindfulness is an attitude that underlies all meditations.

So no meditation can do without mindfulness, but one can also be mindful without meditating. In this respect, the terms mix up more often. For example, when scientists research the effects of meditation, they inevitably also refer to mindfulness.

The molecular biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn is considered the father of modern mindfulness practice in Western cultures. Kabat-Zinn taught at the University of Massachusetts and developed the medical mindfulness training MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) in the late 1970s.

Kabat-Zinn was a staunch student of Zen Buddhism. When creating his program, he mainly oriented himself towards yoga postures and elements of Buddhist Vipassana meditation, where it is a matter of concentrating on one's own breath.

Kabat-Zinn's practice of mindfulness manages without a philosophical-religious superstructure. His MBSR program has been comparatively well researched and evaluated scientifically. It is also supposed to help people without a spiritual connection with a wide variety of problems.

Mindfulness practice is part of newer behavioral therapy procedures and is already being used in clinics in the USA and Germany.

Mindfulness can be learned

The MBSR mindfulness training according to Jon Kabat-Zinn is the method that is most widely used to learn mindfulness. Such training usually lasts eight weeks.

In the group, the participants learn mindfulness by meditating, practicing yoga and performing the so-called "body scan". In doing so, they systematically observe what they are currently perceiving in different parts of the body without evaluating it.

Meditation is all about focusing on your breath. The weekly sessions are two to three hours long. In addition, the participants should ideally practice alone for 45 minutes a day. Above all, taking on the training in everyday life requires a lot of discipline.

The psychiatrist and psychotherapist Michael Huppertz is convinced that mindfulness can not only be learned through rigorous MBSR training, but also through simple everyday exercises.

Instead of meditating for at least 30 minutes a day, which many people find very difficult at first, Huppertz recommends spreading mindful moments over the entire day. Huppertz's suggestions for such moments already include getting up, during which morning routines are to be observed.

Other opportunities to incorporate mindfulness into everyday life include:

  • Focus on the warming water in the shower instead of thinking about the day's to-do list
  • When eating breakfast, focus on the taste of the food - not on the shopping list
  • Perceiving the fresh air while cycling on the way to work or consciously paying attention to ambient noises on the train

Mindfulness can also mean looking at everyday life from a different perspective and breaking routines: for example, taking a different path than usual, listening to music that you otherwise never hear, or eating with your left hand instead of your right hand.

Some health insurance companies pay for mindfulness training

As with all hype, mindfulness has led to the fact that there are guides - in the form of books, CDs or videos - and training opportunities en masse. Mobile phone apps are also offered that suggest exercises and, if necessary, remind them regularly.

Particularly in the case of expensive courses, one should look carefully at the qualification of the provider. It is often worth asking the health insurance company whether the costs for such a course will be at least partially covered or which providers the health insurance companies are working with.

(First published: 2014. Last update: May 6th, 2021)