Mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn Video

Published on July 4, 2011

In 2007, Jon Kabat-Zinn gave a talk on Mindfulness meditation at Google. The video may be a few years old but it offers an excellent insight into the topics of mindfulness for beginners. The present article provides a brief summary of his presentation along with the actual video which you can watch on your own.

Jon started with an analogy of the usefulness of meditation for Olympic rowers. To maximize their potentials, rowers  have to work in harmony with the boat, the water and  each other, in other words, each rower's body and mind must becomes one with the environment they are in at that moment along with the other rowers.

Jon mentioned that "from the point of view of the meditation tradition, the entire society is suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD)". He went on to describe how the digital revolution has delocalized work when work can be done anywhere and anyone can be reached anytime of any day through modern commnications. People are constantly kept on the edge doing something, whether it is checking the next email that comes in the digital mailbox or the constant distractions offered by the boundless information of the internet. People are described as having a "stone-aged mind" in a digital world.

We need self education to help us make sense and cope with the bombardment of information on our conscious mind. Just as orchestras and symphonies tune their instruments at the beginning of each performance, we need to tune our minds each day through meditation to focus and perform our daily functions with renewed perspectives and awareness.

In our increasingly fast paced society, the concept of stillness, self reflection, and non-doing may appear weird and outside of common norms. However there is a common misconception about doing and non doing. Doing and non-doing do not repel each other like similar poles of magnets. Sometimes, we can do the most when we are not doing very much. Most scientific breakthroughs come during periods of serendipity and even from dreams. When faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem, instead of continuously banging your head against the problem, sometimes  you must be willing to acknowledge that you don't know, to go beyond thinking, to let go and give in to awareness. Clarity can then present itself.


He went on to describe awareness as learning to read the signs and symptoms of things that are unfolding in your life so that you can react to them in a timely fashion instead of letting the situation reach a point of no return without even knowing it. It is the senses that tie you to the realities of the work. To the Buddha, the mind is in itself a sense. Your mind can see without seeing, hear without hearing when you are not in tune with your mind. An classic example would be of the wife who tells her husband that he never listens to her. That's what happens when we are preoccupied with listening to ourselves. Meditation helps us investigate who we are and with that, sense that we are at peace within, we are much more able to interact with clarity, focus, and purpose with other aspects of our lives.


With this Jon started with the brief meditation exercise that you can see starting at 24:50 in the video. He ended the talk by quoting the following poem by Derek Walcott, a Nobel laureate in literature, titled Love after Love:

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.


Category(s):Mindfulness Meditation

Written by:

Psych Mat Asia Editor

Psychology Matters Asia Editor


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