An Evening in the Company of Jon Kabat-Zinn

Last week I was lucky enough to attend an Action for Happiness event where the guest speaker was Jon Kabat-Zinn. For those not au fait with the great man, Kabat-Zinn is basically the father of mindfulness in the western world.

He captivated the audience of 1000 people for about 90 minutes – speaking without notes on the well-being movement and where mindfulness fits into it. We were also lucky enough to to be led in a guided meditation by him.

Jon Kabat-Zinn talking in the Friends Meeting House, London

Here are 3 of the most powerful pieces of advice that I took away from the evening.

Don’t be a Slave to your Thoughts

· The mind  has its own agenda (and has an inherent negativity bias) so notice the tendency of the mind to go down habitual (usually self-critical) pathways and respond accordingly.

· A thought is an event that can ruin your day. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Recognise this and recognise that thoughts are not the gospel.

· Our thoughts often take the form of a ‘narrative of me’. Remember that your narrative is not always the true narrative as thoughts are just mental events NOT facts.

Be in a Wise Relationship with the Present Moment

· Kabat-Zinn explained how he was once asked if he believes in life after death. His response: He’s not interested, he’s more interested in focusing on life before death.

· The present moment is the door to life itself.

· In order to change the future, be fully present.

· Mindfulness is an invitation to be awake, not to feel good.

Meditation is a radical act

· Kabat-Zinn has been meditating for 52 years. It is not a fad.

· It’s something to commit to and isn’t always easy.  But it doesn’t have to be overly difficult. He used a tennis ball as a prompt to remind the audience to drop the anchor and be grounded in the present moment.

· The world is starving for mindfulness, meditation and ‘heartfulness’ (especially since 9th November 2016 with the election of Donald Trump).

· The NBA (US basketball team league) is awash with players who meditate. The best team in the US right now, the Golden State Warriors have mindfulness-based principles including meditation at the core of their training and practice.  These are the role-models who can inspire our young to meditate.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, an academic, a scientist, a meditator, an innovator and apparently a warm and gentle human being.  A man who also speaks sense. Before the talk he walked past me in the corridor and it probably was obvious that I was awe-struck. He just nodded, smiled and said ‘hello’.  One grounded and grounding man who I felt incredibly grateful to have had the chance to hear him speak.

handwritten Hayley






  1. June 29, 2017 / 6:53 am

    I’ve heard the motivational speeches of on Kabat-Zinn quit a few times. I enjoy his speaking. It motivates me. Action for happiness must be a great event.

  2. July 5, 2017 / 9:29 pm

    I saw all about this on your instagram and thought I must take a read. sounds so uplifting!
    thanks for linking to #ablogginggoodtime

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