Mindfulness Breathing

Free Guided Meditations for Greater Peace and Clarity

Free Guided Meditations

Sometimes, I wonder what the Buddha would have thought about guided meditations.

I think he would have approved of them as useful tools for the beginner learning the ways of meditation, or even for someone experienced that's simply going through a difficult challenge and needs a voice to guide them to a place of greater calmness and clarity of mind.

In any case, more than anything else, it matters what you think. What you feel. What works for you. And that's why I, and why so many others, enjoy guided meditations.

Guided meditations are more than just words on a page (as much as I enjoy writing). The sound of the teacher or speaker in your ear guiding you through the meditation is the closest thing to having a real teacher right there with you as you can get without actually having one there.

My podcast, Zen for Everyday Life, features two weekly episodes. One is a talk discussing similar topics like those I discuss on the blog. The second is a free guided meditation on everything from classic mindfulness meditation forms such as the Zen form of zazen, to loving-kindness, to Thich Nhat Hanh's practice of Going Home, as well as new and unique free guided meditations that I've created such as Healing Through Understanding and Just Being.

Below is a neatly compiled list of the best free guided meditations from the Zen for Everyday Life podcast. Check back here regularly for new guided meditations.

Free Guided Meditations for Greater Peace and Clarity

*Click the corresponding link to go to the guided meditation page. Right click the big yellow download button and click "Save file as..." to download the file to your computer or simply hit Play to listen on the page.

  1. Breath As Life - The basic mindfulness practice of mindful breathing. This is a 1-click free download separate from the podcast. Nothing, not even an email, is required to download this. All you need to do is click the link. Enjoy.
  2. Going Home - This guided mindfulness meditation is on Thich Nhat Hanh's classic mindful breathing practice. This is the simplest of practices and is really what mindful breathing is all about- going home to yourself with mindfulness.
  3. Zazen (Zen sitting meditation) - This a guided meditation for the classic Zen form of mindfulness meditation. It's basically mindful breathing in a very free manner (as opposed to Vipassana, which is more active).
  4. Minful Refresh - This is a guided morning meditation for starting your day off fresh each day with a simple mindfulness practice. This, to date, is one of the most popular guided meditations I've done and a personal favorite.
  5. Just Being - Just Being is very close to the Zen practice of "just sitting" or shikantaza. It's the practice of accepting everything openly as it is with mindfulness and just being in this moment. Another community + personal favorite.
  6. Healing Through Understanding - This is a very active guided meditation and it's all about opening the mind after a difficult conflict with another person.
  7. A Mindful WelcomeA Mindful Welcome is about the fundamental shift from “hostile enemy” to “welcoming friend” we must make to begin the path of healing emotionally.
  8. Mindful Wisdom (@42:16 in the episode)- Mindful Wisdom is a moment-to-moment mindfulness and contemplative practice I created for unlocking your own intuitive wisdom. What would the Buddha do?
  9. Mindfulness of Body (@40:10 in the episode) - The traditional mindfulness of body meditation.
  10. Loving-Kindness - Loving-kindness meditation is the traditional Buddhist meditation practice of cultivating positive feelings and well-wishes for all beings.
  11. Mindful Walking / Walking Meditation (Formal Practice) - The formal practice of walking meditation typically done immediately following a session of sitting meditation in many Buddhist circles.
  12. Mindful Cleaning - A powerful mindfulness practice that takes a typically boring and mundane activity and turns it into something nourishing and delightful.
  13. Mindful Driving - A powerful mindfulness practice for turning a typically mindless autopilot activity into an opportunity for peace and mindfulness. 
  14. Mindful Breathing (Basic Mindfulness Meditation) - The fundamental practice of mindful breathing. When you hear “mindfulness meditation” (which typically refers to the secular practice of mindfulness) this is the practice that’s being referred to.
  15. Mindful Walking (Informal Everyday Practice) - The “everyday” informal practice of mindful walking. 
  16. Mindful Eating - If you’re looking for a way to live your everyday life more mindfully and even meditatively, this is a great practice which serves as one of the core mindfulness exercises.
  17. Being in Your Meditation Space - A special guided meditation from my course Meditation for Everyday Life which is designed to help you "settle" into your designated meditation space and cultivate it into a place of solace.
  18. Mindful Smiling - This guided meditation is all about using the power of intention and the natural effect of smiling with mindfulness.
  19. Rise with the Sun (a Guided Morning Meditation) - Rise with the Sun is about taking inventory before the day gets started so that you’re on solid ground and can handle the challenges of your day with more poise and clarity.

And remember to subscribe to the Zen for Everyday Life podcast for new weekly talks & guided meditations:

10 Awesome Mindfulness Tips for Beginners

10 Awesome Mindfulness Tips for Beginners

So, you've read a magazine article, a blog post, or maybe had a conversation with someone about mindfulness. Maybe it's not the first time you've heard, read, or talked about it.

Now, you're interested in practicing mindfulness because you want to use it to improve your life in some way. Maybe you want to reduce your stress level, get rid of your anxiety altogether, or maybe you just want to learn how to make the most of your life as a whole.

But, where do you start? Basic how-to instruction is necessary, but that's not enough if you want to actually develop your mindfulness practice into a daily habit, or a way of life.

Being a dime-a-dozen nowadays and growing every minute, quality information can be difficult to identify when it comes to mindfulness. What should you listen to and what shouldn't you?

Many resources discuss mindfulness practice only as a form of sitting meditation. This greatly limits your practice.

In order to obtain a truly calm and clear mind and obtain the full benefits of mindfulness practice, you can’t just practice mindfulness as a form of sitting meditation.

You also need to be mindful while going about your everyday life. After all, what good is anything which isn’t actually useful to you in your everyday life?

One of the great things about mindfulness is that it's available to you in every moment. You can practice mindfulness right now this very second and touch seeds of peace and joy within yourself. You can directly and immediately create a positive impact on your daily life and in a number of ways.

In order to start you off on the right foot, I’ve organized a list of my best mindfulness tips for beginners just starting out on the path to living a more mindful life. These are all the things that I myself have found to be important, made the mistake of not doing, or both at the beginning of my own practice.

Following even one of these points can greatly improve your practice if you’re just starting out. I’d suggest following each mindfulness tip closely.

Keep in mind that the purpose of this post isn't to provide instruction on how to practice mindfulness itself, rather as I mentioned it's to give you a sort of jump start to make sure you start off in the right direction from the get-go. ________________________________________________

This post is adapted from my book, The Little Book of Mindfulness. It covers everything you need to know about mindfulness from A to Z. You can get it free by entering your name and email below:


Here are 10 awesome mindfulness tips for beginners:

10 Awesome Mindfulness Tips for Beginners

1. Focus on developing concentration

Concentration is the anchor of mindfulness. If you imagine mindfulness as the ship, yourself as the ship captain who steers the ship and decides where to place the anchor, then concentration is the anchor and the object of your mindfulness, such as your breath or steps, is the anchor point.

Concentration is the constant partner to mindfulness. Think of it as the active force and mindfulness as the passive. When you consciously decide to focus on your breath and work to keep your focus on it, this is your concentration.

Think of mindfulness then as a field of vision that extends outward to cover everything in your perception. When your concentration wanders to a thought, sensation, or distraction and you're aware that you just became distracted this is your mindfulness. Mindfulness is the great observer.

In the beginning, you'll want to put all of your focus on developing your concentration. At the beginning of your practice, your mind will literally be all over the place. You’ll seem to have a new thought or some other distraction every few seconds.

This is perfectly normal. I went through the same thing at first. It took time to quiet my own mind as well as develop my concentration, but it was well worth it. Simply quieting the mind can bring you a great sense of peace and happiness.

Without developing your concentration, you won’t be able to practice very effectively. So it’s necessary, at first, to do so.

Once your concentration improves you’ll be able to put more focus into exercising mindfulness. You’ll start noticing why your mind strayed (was it a thought or feeling? What was the thought?), as opposed to simply noticing your mind stray and refocusing on your object of meditation.

2. Pick simple objects

At the beginning, you’re going to want to pick an easy object of meditation. Then once your skill improves you can pick more difficult objects. At first, I’d suggest practicing mindful breathing for a couple of weeks.

To practice mindful breathing, all you have to do is stop and be mindful of your breath. Whether you’re at your desk, at a stoplight, or in between places or sitting down for an extended meditation session. Just stop what you’re doing and follow your breath with mindfulness.

Focus your concentration on each exhale and inhale and let your mind quiet. If your mind seems a bit chaotic, don’t worry. This is perfectly normal and might last a few weeks before really beginning to calm down.

Mindful breathing is a major meditative practice of many spiritual traditions and has a number of benefits. In the beginning, sit for 10-15 minutes every morning and/or night and simply stop what you’re doing for 30-60 seconds every hour or two during your day to practice mindfulness of breath (you don’t have to sit to do this) and you’ll gradually begin to develop both your ability and establish mindfulness as a habit. Do this for at least 2-3 weeks before trying anything else.

After that, you can move on to mindful walking, eating, and many other nourishing practices. But continue to practice formal sitting meditation in the morning and/or night and mindful breathing throughout your day. These are great beginner practices and they’ll remain cornerstones of your mindfulness practice even as your skill improves.

The reason these are great beginner practices is because they don’t require a high level of skill. Walking meditation (or mindful walking) is an example of moving meditation, but it’s typically done in a slow manner to where it’s easy for a beginner to do. I’d still suggest sticking to mindful breathing for the first few weeks though before trying to practice walking meditation at all.

Don’t rush the process of developing mindfulness. You’ll gain nothing from doing so and only end up hurting your practice.

3. Sit often

Sitting meditation really is the cornerstone of all meditative practice. It was my first experience with mindfulness and I’d suggest it be your first experience with meditation as well. Adopting a daily practice of sitting meditation is very important.

There are various forms of meditation, and sitting meditation in particular, but because this post is centered on mindfulness practice what we’re talking about here is essentially mindful breathing while sitting in a quiet and distraction-free zone.

If you try to start practicing mindfulness without making sitting meditation a part of your daily practice then it will be much more difficult to get to a point where your mind becomes quiet. And later, sitting meditation will aid in your efforts to obtain a clear mind.

No matter how far a Zen monk, Yogi, or sage goes in their practice, they always sit and often twice a day (for 1-2 hours). Think of sitting meditation as your “practice” time to keep you sharp.

Every great athlete practices the fundamentals of their craft on a daily basis. No matter how good they become, they practice the fundamentals. For spiritual practice, this is sitting meditation.

4. Go easy on yourself

I've talked previously about the nonjudgmental aspect of mindfulness. Mindfulness is an open acceptance of everything, so those thoughts, feelings, and sensations that keep popping into your mind shouldn’t be labeled a bad thing. In fact, they aren’t a good thing or a bad thing.

Remember, mindfulness is just an observer. You shouldn’t be passing judgment, good or bad, on anything including disruptions to your concentration.

These distractions are normal. They’ll subside naturally, your mind will quiet over time, and it will bring you a great sense of peace. Don’t worry about that. You’ll know you’re practice is really successful not when these distractions subside but when you start becoming mindful of these distractions. No matter how many of them you have.

Don’t get frustrated if, at first, you can’t hold your concentration for more than a few seconds. This is perfectly normal. If you get frustrated just acknowledge the frustration in mindfulness and let it go. Know that these distractions will subside with practice and that your goal is primarily to develop your mindfulness.

When you develop the ability to shine the light of mindfulness on these distractions is when the real healing can begin. These disruptions are the things distorting your perception and keeping you from reality as it is, filled with peace, joy, and freedom. No matter what, just keep practicing. With time, you’ll see the fruits of your labor.

5. Prioritize mindfulness

You won’t get far in your practice of mindfulness if you don’t prioritize it. This goes for anything in life. This is because right from the beginning you’ll be clashing with old habits.

The more often we do something the more energy or “pull” it has. This is our habit energy. We all have this habit energy. What differs from one person to another is where we place this energy.

When you begin practicing mindfulness you’ll naturally be “pulled” in other directions constantly. This is your old habit energy attempting to pull you back to your old ways.

You can use the other mindfulness tips in this post, such as making sure to enjoy the process and to pick simple objects of mindfulness, but you’ll still need to prioritize your practice. This means, as with establishing any other new habit, you’ll have to fight with your old and likely less productive or positive ways.

But remember how energy works, the more time and effort you place into something the more pull it will have. Stick with it and gradually it will become easier until the point in which it takes almost no effort at all.

And the great thing about mindfulness is that you can do it while doing just about anything else. So it’s not so much choosing mindfulness over other things, it’s more of remembering to be mindful. At first, though, remember to keep it simple and choose simple objects of mindfulness.

6. Slow it down

We’re taught to move quickly, multitask, and ultimately be as productive as possible. This mentality is ingrained in us. It probably started during the industrial revolution, where we as a species became obsessed with speed and productivity. It was all about who could grow the fastest and claim the most land.

It was inevitable based on our development as a species, but this mindset has stayed with us to the present day and it’s completely against our true nature.

We’re so used to rushing around all day that a lot of times we never even realize there’s another way to live. We think that it’s “just how life is”. But it’s not. And of course, part of the point of mindfulness and meditation is to calm the mind.

But this job should be handled on both sides. While developing your practice of mindfulness you should also work to become aware of when you’re rushing around and when you’re not. And aside from helping to calm your mind, if you actively work on slowing down you’ll also find more opportunities to practice mindfulness. Due to this, it’s highly beneficial to analyze your daily schedule. You’ll find that opportunities to practice mindfulness are abundant in our daily lives.

Walking from point A to point B, sitting in a waiting room, driving to and from work, and just stopping for a moment to follow your breath anywhere and at any time. Slow it down and really start taking the time to enjoy the little moments with mindfulness.

7. Be patient

Mindfulness takes time and patience to develop. At first, it will be subtle. Unicorns won’t start flying through the air and celebration banners won’t drop from the sky. You’ll just feel….a little more alive. A little more present. That’s the best way I can describe it.

But with practice, you’ll notice your ability improve. You’ll feel more present and more alive. Of course, you’ll need to have some indicator that you’re practicing correctly.

The best advice I can give to make sure that you’re practicing correctly is to practice mindful breathing and sitting meditation often. These are the easiest ways to practice mindfulness and the method of mindful breathing, which you’ll do during both of those exercises, is the easiest way to tell when you lose your mindfulness.

Remember, mindfulness works like a muscle. The more you work it out, the stronger it gets. Make mindfulness a way of life so as to develop it into a powerful force for peace and happiness in your life.

8. Let go

When you begin your mindfulness practice (or if you have already) you’ll probably find it extraordinarily difficult not to become distracted. We covered this earlier, so it shouldn’t be of any surprise.

But something else will likely happen. You’ll have a hard time convincing yourself to let go of these distractions. Why is that? Well, we tend to blow everything in our mind out of proportion.

What that means is when we have a project due at school, a presentation at work, a big event with the family, or some personal business, we tend to mull over them in our heads repeatedly. “Did I remember to do that?” “Did I have them add that?” “What am I going to do about that?” “How is that going to work?” It’s an endless cycle of questions and answers.

When you begin your mindfulness practice you might have a very hard time convincing yourself to let go of these thoughts for even 10 minutes to sit down and meditate. But it’s so important.

You might think that you need to keep these things cycling through your brain constantly, otherwise, you’ll screw something up or just not do as good a job as you could or should, but that’s not the case. You only minimize your effectiveness in any given task by hounding over it and never giving your mind any rest.

You’d be surprised how refreshed and sharp your mind will be if you allow yourself to step away from something for even a single session of mindful breathing or walking meditation. So learn how to let go of these things and just follow your breath. Let go of everything. The more you practice the easier it will be to do this and the better you’ll feel.

9. Have fun

You’ve probably heard this one a million times before about a million other things, but that’s because it’s true. It’s not just true. It’s one of the most important points on this list. Why? Because when we enjoy something our drive to do that thing increases tenfold. Luckily, for the most part, this will come naturally when practicing mindfulness.

By the very act of practicing mindfulness, your monkey mind will begin to settle and you’ll feel an extraordinary sense of tranquility. When I first began my mindfulness practice I felt an amazing sense of peace that seemed to extend throughout the rest of my day. It was rough at first, I can’t say that it wasn’t difficult.

Your mind will likely be bouncing around uncontrollably for the first a couple of weeks, you’ll be pretty fidgety, and if you use a timer during sitting meditation you’ll find thoughts like “I wonder how much longer I have to go?” popping up regularly. But even so, you’ll find yourself feeling great after finishing a session. Even if it was just a few minutes long.

During this time, you really just have to push through the difficulty. But I don’t mean literally push or be forceful. I mean don't give up, keep chugging along. Just be mindful of whatever it is you’re being mindful of, in the beginning, this will be mostly your breath, and as thoughts arise gently acknowledge them and bring your concentration back to your breath.

This tough period won’t last long. Plus, you’ll still get a lot of joy from practicing during this time as well. Take the time to notice how mindfulness is affecting your mood and behavior. If you take the time to do this you’ll deepen your appreciation of your practice further and find even more drive to continue practicing.

But the real joy is in once your mind has begun to settle and you can just sit with little interruptions. When you can sit, stop, or walk and be mindful without feeling like you want to get up or like you have something you need to get to, you’ll know you’ve reached a real milestone.

I can’t describe this feeling to you. You just have to feel it for yourself. It’s one of the most beautiful and peaceful feelings you’ll ever feel in your life. In those moments everything is perfect just as it is and you feel like you could sit forever.

10. Don't accept the excuses you give yourself as to why mindfulness isn't for you. If you can't sit still, you need mindfulness the most.

Those who have the most difficulty sitting still are the ones who need mindfulness the most. If you’re constantly moving to the point where you can’t imagine yourself sitting still for more than a few minutes at a time then your mind is very, very busy. And the busier your mind, the more stressed and anxious it is as well.

Don't convince yourself that you can't practice mindfulness, especially mindful sitting/sitting meditation, because you have a hard time sitting. You need mindfulness the most.

If you do the work and just learn how to stop and follow your breath from time to time you’ll completely transform how you feel on a day to day basis. Those with the most difficulty sitting are typically the ones who end up appreciating the practice the most because they got the most meaning from it.

We often have to learn from experience in order to really appreciate something. If you experienced a chaotic mind then you’ll truly appreciate what your mind is like once you’ve found even a sliver of the peace you can feel from adopting the practice of mindfulness in your daily life.

Additional Resources

Interested in learning more about mindfulness or meditation in general? Here are a few posts to get you started:

  1. What is Mindfulness? A Guide to Mindfulness Meditation
  2. How to Practice Mindfulness: The Quick and Easy Guide to Learning Mindfulness Meditation
  3. The Mindfulness Survival Guide: 10 Powerful Mindfulness Techniques for Overcoming Life’s Challenges and Living Mindfully
  4. 6 Great Ways to Implement Mindfulness in the Workplace
  5. 50 Awesome Meditation Tips for Beginners


This post is adapted from my book, The Little Book of Mindfulness. It covers everything you need to know about mindfulness from A to Z. You can get it free by entering your name and email below:

How to Practice Mindfulness: The Quick and Easy Guide to Learning Mindfulness Meditation


What if you’re not interested in the “what” and the “why” and just want to know how to practice mindfulness meditation? The cool thing is, you don’t need to know anything else to practice mindfulness.

The what and the why are valuable and worth learning about, but mindfulness practice is a deeply personal experience and something you can only truly understand having practiced for yourself.

Well, I’ve got good news. If you want to know how to practice mindfulness in simple, clear, and straightforward language with no extra fluff- this is the only guide you need.

And if you want to learn more and really delve deeper into the practice? I’ll provide a whole suite of guides, resources, and guided meditations which you can utilize, all for free, at the end of this post as well.

How to Practice Mindfulness of Breath

Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something, so the instructions below will be on the most basic and fundamental of mindfulness practices: mindful breathing.

In the practice of mindfulness, you're very lightly and loosely concentrating on something while being mindful of everything which arises within your field of awareness (think: being clearly aware in an open and all-inclusive way).

Of course, that sounds nice, but the practice rarely looks so pretty in the beginning. It really looks like this:

Focused on the breath → 3 seconds later, lose concentration → "wake up" 2 minutes later ("what the heck happened?", return to the breath → 3 seconds later, lose concentration → wake up 1 minute later, return to the breath

Just know this is perfectly normal and that, with time, your mind will begin to quiet and become quite clear.

How to practice mindfulness: Mindful breathing

Mindful breathing can be done as a form of sitting meditation or just standing in your home, office, or outside in nature and for even a few seconds.

There are really no restrictions to the practice, but it's most often done as a form of sitting meditation for at least a few minutes at a time. That's how I suggest you do your first few mindfulness practice sessions.

Start by finding a quiet place, somewhere with the least possible distractions. Nowhere will be perfect, just find a decent spot.

Next, find a comfortable sitting position. To keep it simple, for now just sit on the floor in a cross-legged position or in a chair. Straighten your back and neck, place your hand in your lap, and look down 3-4 feet in front of you.

Now, either close your eyes or let your eyelids naturally fall so that they remain about 1/2 open. Keep in mind that eyes closed can make you more likely to fall asleep while meditating (a common problem), while eyes half-open may feel odd at first and distract you. For now, either is fine.

Then, follow these 4 simple steps to practice mindful breathing:

1. Become aware of your breath

Simply turn your attention to your breathing. Follow each in-breath and out-breath from beginning to end. Place a firm but soft focus on the breath.

Do not attempt to control your breath, simply observe it silently. Your silent observation will slowly begin to calm your breathing naturally. This may be easier said than done in the beginning but make your best effort.

2. Count each in-breath and out-breath

Inhale…one. Exhale….two. Count to 10 like this. If a thought distracts you, start the 10 count over from 1. When you get to 10, start over and attempt to count to 10 again. If you never do, don't worry,

Do this for as many weeks or months as it takes until you can count to 10 with little to no effort. Then count each inhale + exhale as one. Then, when that becomes easy, stop counting and simply follow your breath. Don’t rush this step, progress slowly.

3. Acknowledge thoughts, feelings, and sensations that arise

Understand in advance that various thoughts, feelings, and sensations will arise while being mindful and make you lose your concentration on the breath.

In the beginning, you'll likely be interrupted constantly and feel like you're doing something wrong. You're not and it really is that difficult for everyone, in the beginning, to stay concentrated on the breath.

4. Return to being mindful of the breath

This will be difficult at first, you’ll lose focus on your breath constantly. Stay focused, after a while your mind will begin to grow quieter.

That's it! That's all there is to it. The practice of mindfulness, in this case specifically mindful breathing, is simple and straightforward.

Just keep in mind that while the practice won't necessarily feel easy in the beginning, it will get better typically in a very short period of time (in a few weeks you should start noticing a calmer and quieter mind).

A Few Important Tips

Here are a few tips for getting off on the right foot:

  • In the beginning, it's about making meditation a daily habit. That means don't worry about how long you're practicing for. Practice mindful breathing for 1-3 minutes for the first 1, 2, even 3 weeks. Really, in the beginning, nothing more is necessary and even with that you'll notice a big difference in how you feel. After a while, you'll feel gradually able to sit down for longer and longer periods.
  • Practice x2 a day. To further develop your mindfulness meditation practice into a strong daily practice, sit twice a day (preferably morning + afternoon or night). Remember, you're meditating for just 1-3 minutes so there should be no reason you can't do it.
  • Your mind will feel like a jungle. Don't sweat it. I said this earlier, but I feel it's important enough to mention again. People often feel like they're doing something wrong, or like something's wrong with them. Nothing is wrong at all. It's perfectly natural to feel like you're jumping out of your skin, unable to focus on one point for more than even 3 seconds. This will quickly begin to change if you stick to a consistent daily practice.
  • Be gentle with yourself throughout the process. Don't go into mindfulness meditation thinking that it's easy. It often isn't. In the beginning, you're likely to not be able to notice clearly what is arising. You'll just know you've lost your mindfulness. At best, you'll know you were thinking about "something" but not know exactly what. But there is the possibility that some uncomfortable thoughts and feelings can arise while meditating. Be kind to yourself and know that whatever happens is totally natural and not a sign of any personal shortcoming.

Additional Resources

Whether you're interested in learning to develop a daily meditation practice or bringing the practice of mindfulness into your everyday life, I've got you covered:

Creating a home meditation practice:

  1. How to Meditate for Beginners
  2. ZfEL Ep. 8: How to Create a Home Meditation Practice
  3. 5 Steps to Making Meditation a Daily Habit
  4. 5 Tools to Help You Start Your Home Meditation Practice
  5. How to Create a Zen Space: Finding Peace by Creating a Personal Space That Nourishes Your Mind and Bod

Bringing mindfulness into your everyday life:

  1. ZfEL Ep. 6: How to Make Mindfulness a Way of Life: 7 Keys to Living a More Mindful Life
  2. How to Create a Mindful Morning Routine
  3. ZfEL Ep. 4: How to Design a Nightly Ritual that Nourishes and Brings Rest to the Mind and Body (Plus Mindfulness of Body Guided Meditation)
  4. 7 Ways to Live More Mindfully in the Busy, Fast-Paced, and Plugged In Modern World
  5. 5 Powerful Ways Mindful Eating Will Transform Your Relationship With Foo

Free guided meditations:

If you're really interested in learning how to practice mindfulness, text instruction isn't complete without an accompanying guided meditation. Luckily, I've got you covered there too:

Free Guided Meditations for Greater Peace and Clarity

Keep in mind that the above list is constantly growing. Each week I future a new guided meditation on the Zen for Everyday Life podcast. You can listen to the podcast on the blog here or on iTunes here.

No matter what brought you to the practice of mindfulness, I hope you discover the beauty of the practice and that it helps do for you what it did for me so many years ago.

What is Mindfulness? A Guide to Mindfulness Meditation

What is Mindfulness? A Guide to Mindfulness via Buddhaimonia, Zen for Everyday Life

What is mindfulness?

So, what is mindfulness? In a nutshell, mindfulness is a complete and nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment.

But perhaps my favorite mindfulness definition is this:

“Moment to moment awareness of present events”.

Keep in mind, there’s no one agreed upon way of defining mindfulness. This is because it's is a state of being beyond words or concepts. One must practice mindfulness in order to truly understand what mindfulness is.

The origin of the word mindfulness is in the Pali word “sati”, and its Sanskrit counterpart “smrti”, which both literally mean “memory”. But perhaps more precisely they represent “presence of mind” or “attentiveness to the present”.

This is what the Buddha was referring to when he said, "When we sit, we know we are sitting. When we walk, we know we are walking. When we eat, we know we are eating." He meant that when he and his disciples sat, walked, or ate they were fully present for the act of sitting, walking, or eating.

Even when becoming lost in thought, while practicing mindfulness the practitioner is fully aware that they just became lost in a particular thought and are mindful of the thought itself. This is because mindfulness isn’t just mindfulness of an object in the present moment such as one’s breath, steps, or food. It’s also mindfulness of anything which might arise in the present moment while concentrating on an object.

In a way, mindfulness is the observer of change. While concentrating on the object of meditation, such as one’s breath or steps, we become distracted by thoughts, feelings, and other sensations. These are “changes” in the field of mindfulness, the area which mindfulness observes.

In this way think of mindfulness as a motion detector. If nothing moves, if nothing changes, then nothing is detected. You're still there observing, just as the motion detector which detects no motion is still there observing its area of detection, but until a thought, feeling, or some other sensation arises the practitioner just continues to concentrate on the object of meditation. When this happens is when the real work begins.

Mindfulness is a complete and nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment.

Think of mindfulness as a “field of attention” with a point of concentration in the center acting as an anchor to the present, rather than just a pointed concentration on something while pushing away everything else around you.

Imagine a dream catcher. The idea behind a dream catcher is it’s supposed to “catch” your bad dreams as you’re sleeping. Just as a dream catcher catches your bad dreams, imagine each thought, feeling, and sensation being caught by your “field of mindfulness”. Except in this case, you don’t label any thought, feeling, or sensation either good or bad.

While in mindfulness, each thought, feeling, and sensation that arises automatically enters into this field and, this is the important part, is gently acknowledged and accepted “as it is”. By “as it is” I mean without judging it in any way.

If this is hard to imagine, don’t worry. For the most part this nonjudgmental awareness happens naturally when you practice correctly. The important thing to remember for now is that mindfulness is not a rejection of anything.

Mindfulness is an open acceptance of everything that comes into your awareness. If you’re practicing mindful breathing, don’t reject thoughts that come into your mind just because they interrupt your mindful breathing. Observing these thoughts, which are typically unnoticed but always dispersing our awareness and coloring our perception, is a major part of practicing mindfulness. So this is perfectly fine.

Simply acknowledge the thought in mindfulness, just as you were doing with your breath, and then let the thought pass. Then bring your focus back to your breath. As time goes on your ability to concentrate on one point for a period of time as well as your ability to detect things with your mindfulness will improve. And with it, the quality of your mindfulness practice will improve as well.

Mindfulness has a number of different “qualities”. It's for this reason that a simple mindfulness definition doesn't really suffice. But, If you break mindfulness down based on these qualities it becomes much easier to understand it as a whole.

We’ve covered the basic workings of mindfulness so far, but in order to gain a deeper understanding of mindfulness let’s break it down and look at each quality individually. There’s 6 key aspects of mindfulness which I’ll cover below.

But first, before I continue, this post is an excerpt from my eBook, The Little Book of Mindfulness. You can get The Little Book of Mindfulness free by entering your name and email below:

Let's continue...

Mindfulness is…

1. ...mindfulness of something

Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. It’s not just a conscious directing of your awareness to the present moment, it’s a conscious directing of your awareness to something which is occurring or existing in the present moment.

Common centers of focus are your breath, steps, or some other area or areas of the body. Concentration, or samadhi in Sanskrit, is a force which works in tandem with mindfulness. Concentration is “single-pointedness of mind” and it’s just that- the act of focusing on a single point.

While practicing mindfulness, you will be developing your power of concentration as well as your mindfulness. There is no separating mindfulness and concentration. They’re partners on the path to attaining a tranquil and clear mind.

Think of concentration as the “hard” force and mindfulness as the “soft”. Concentration is exactly what it sounds like, it’s the forceful act of focusing on a single point.

Imagine your field of mindfulness enveloping everything within your perception in a soft glow. Next, imagine a thin line piercing out from your mindfulness directly to an object. This is your concentration. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is a sort of soft awareness.

Remember the dream catcher? Mindfulness is the field of awareness which then “sees” everything that arises while concentrating on an object. Mindfulness is what notices when your concentration lapses and your thoughts stray.

Think of mindfulness as the ultimate, voiceless, and nonjudgmental observer. It judges nothing. It makes no distinctions. It simply observes everything that comes into its field of awareness. Your concentration, the force anchoring your mindfulness to some object in the present moment (the object of meditation), is the instrument of mindfulness.

Mindfulness decides where the point of concentration will be. It observes the anchor point (the point of your concentration), notices when concentration strays, and where it strays to. This might be difficult to imagine at first, but for now just know that the act of practicing mindfulness will feel much like concentrating on an object, such as your breathing, and then doing your best to notice or acknowledge when your thoughts stray.

Just being able to acknowledge when your thoughts stray will take some time. In the beginning, your practice will look and feel like this:

  1. Concentrate on your breath.
  2. Lose concentration within a few seconds, sometimes aware of the thought or feeling you strayed to, most of the time not.
  3. Back to concentrating on your breath.

That’s it. But after a while, you’ll begin to notice these thoughts and feelings more often, more clearly, and that will allow you to acknowledge them with your mindfulness.

2. ...mindfulness of something in the present moment

Moving on from the last point, mindfulness is always mindfulness of something in the present moment. If you think hard on this, you'll realize that this goes without saying, because there is nothing but this moment. Any recollection of the past or imagination about the future occurs in the mind, within the present moment.

As we spoke about earlier, that can be mindfulness of a thought that arises in the present moment while concentrating on your breath, body or some other object. What mindfulness isn’t is consciouslyreflecting on the past or thinking about the future.

When reflecting on the past or thinking about the future, you’re consciously directing your attention to the past, future, or some altogether imagined place. But, you can always be mindful of what arises after contemplating the past or future. In any case, mindfulness is always the observing of what is occurring in the present moment.

As we go about our daily lives, we often don’t notice how our perception or mental filters, such as bias, affect how we see the world around us. And we think that what we’re thinking and seeing with our eyes are two different things. But they aren’t. What we see with our eyes passes through our perception before we even realize we see the object.

It’s like we have an internal checkpoint which we’ve built up from our life experiences. And this checkpoint has, over the years, gotten filled with both good and bad things which “color” our perception and affect our experiences.

In this way, you and your mindfulness are like the house cleaners come to clean up this internal checkpoint and empty it of all those things keeping you from experiencing reality in its true form.

Imagine someone offers you a piece of food which you’ve never tried before. This food somewhat resembles, say, Brussels sprouts (bleh!). As soon as you lay eyes on it you have a negative sensation. Maybe you get a bad taste in your mouth, your body cringes a little, and a bad memory of eating Brussels sprouts flashes into your mind.

This new food item could be amazing. You have no idea if it is or isn’t. You’ve never actually tried it. But your perception has already completely colored your experience to the point where it can even affect how it will taste.

This is an example of how our perception colors everything around us. Everything you perceive is your mind. You might think you’re observing your breath, a Brussels sprout, or a flower. But what you’re really observing is your perception of those things.

Mindfulness is about observing what is occurring in the present moment so that you can pierce through perception itself to witness reality as it is without any mental filters getting in the way.

This is why mindfulness is mindfulness of something in the present moment. The point of mindfulness is to experience reality as it is, allowing you to touch the true nature of a thing in that moment.

3. ...a conscious decision

Mindfulness is a purposeful directing of your consciousness to the present, it doesn’t happen on accident. To be fully awake to the present moment you have to decide “I am fully awake to this moment” by directing your consciousness to an object in the present moment. You decide to be mindful in any given moment. It doesn’t happen by accident.

I mentioned earlier how the point of your concentration, or object of meditation, works as your anchor point to the present moment. The starting point for the anchor and the eventual anchor point is this conscious decision.

Think of mindfulness as a ship and you’re the captain. You make the conscious decision to place the anchor down and where to place it. You then throw the anchor, your concentration, off the ship. The anchor then hits the intended anchor point, or object of meditation, where it will rest.

Of course, at first, this anchor won’t be very strong. It will be made of, say, plastic. Not a very good anchor. But with time, it will develop into a heavy and resilient anchor.

4. ...a nonjudgmental awareness

All spiritual practice in an overall sense is about realizing our connection with the ultimate and finding true peace and happiness through accomplishing total liberation (or freedom) from the various factors that hold us back from it. And so we become liberated by discovering the truth. That is, by uncovering all those things which cloud our vision.

This is the ultimate purpose of mindfulness. It’s this nonjudgmental awareness that makes mindfulness so important in finding true peace and happiness.

Mindfulness accepts everything as it is. As I mentioned earlier it makes no distinctions, holds no bias, and is completely separated from all mental filters which distort your perception of reality.

Mindfulness allows you to experience true reality. This is liberation. And as I also mentioned earlier, if you’re not sure how to do this at first then don’t worry.

Mindfulness is itself nonjudgmental. It’s helpful to keep this point in mind at times, but you’ll find this will happen somewhat naturally. If you sense bias or get the feeling that you’re somehow coloring your perception of something while practicing then this is a good thing. Simply noticing this is to become mindful of your various mental filters.

If this happens, know that you’re on the right path. As always, simply acknowledge it and bring yourself back to your object of meditation. It’s not wrong that you lose your concentration. What’s wrong is not observing the distraction with mindfulness.

5. ...developed like a muscle

Mindfulness works like a muscle. At the beginning, your energy of mindfulness will be very weak. But over time, your mindfulness will strengthen and you’ll notice a significant difference both in your ability to concentrate and in your ability to see with mindfulness.

This is important to know at the beginning because it’s at the very beginning stages where things are most difficult. While trying to establish the practice of mindfulness as a part of your life, you’ll be constantly fighting old habits.

In Buddhism, this is sometimes called “habit energy”. Imagine everything you do carries with it a certain energy. The more you do something the more energy it develops, and with it, the more “pull” it has.

You can develop energy anywhere in your life, in both positive and negative places. So when starting out don’t become discouraged when you’re having a hard time sticking to your mindfulness practice, such as when you forget to practice for an entire day altogether.

I went through this constantly at first and it’s just part of the challenge. But I promise you that if you just make your best effort, you'll make your way and establish a strong daily practice over time.

6. ...like turning on the “HD” switch to your life

Most of the time, without us even knowing it, our consciousness is split in many directions. It’s split between various sensations in the present moment and various thoughts in our mind.

When sitting at your computer at work, for instance, you could be typing up an email, but really, you’re typing up the email while semi-listening to two people talk a few feet away from you, noticing how cold you are, thinking about that episode of Lost you watched last night, and thinking about the fact that you feel like you’re gaining some weight.

That’s really what the “present moment” looks and feels like for most of us: our consciousness, bouncing constantly from one place to another. As you begin practicing mindfulness, you’ll start to observe this very behavior for yourself. This bouncing around makes us live in a way to where we’re only half-awake to anything that occurs around us.

Let’s call this life in “standard-definition”. More on this in a bit.

The last point I’d like to cover in this chapter is that it’s important for you to know what mindfulness feels like. I can put as many words as I’d like on a page describing how it works, how to do it, the benefits of doing it, and you could read it all, but if I don’t clearly explain how you’ll feel while truly being mindful then you won’t have much more than a guess at whether or not you’re really practicing mindfulness properly or not.

So what does mindfulness feel like? In a few words…it feels like turning on the “HD” (High-Definition) switch to your life.

By that I mean that the moment you make the conscious decision “I’m now fully aware of what I’m doing and what’s happening to me in the present moment” you should feel as though you’ve come alive. As though, before you made that conscious decision and “activated” your mindfulness, you were half-asleep. With time, you’ll notice things you never noticed before and everything around you will be magnified.

Don’t expect the feeling to be that intense at first, though. When you first start practicing the feeling will be subtle, which is all the more reason why one of the first mindfulness practices you adopt should be mindful sitting (traditionally just called sitting meditation, which we’ll cover in Part 2).

While sitting quietly in meditation, you’ll make the greatest progress towards improving your concentration and developing your mindfulness, as opposed to doing a more difficult activity before you’ve really developed your skill level.

This is because you’ll have fewer distractions and will be able to “hone in” on the feeling I described in the last chapter better. Once you’ve developed your mindfulness though it will be highly beneficial to practice mindfulness of more difficult tasks in order to develop your skill.

One last note: Even if you’re just beginning with mindfulness, while you might not be able to tell exactly what thoughts arise in your mind, you should still begin noticing these distractions as they arise. Simply noticing that some sort of distraction just arose in your mind is the second feeling you should look out for, even if at first you don’t know what the thoughts or feelings are exactly.

Take these two feelings described together and you’ll have a much clearer picture of what mindfulness should feel like. Use the information I described in this point to guide your practice in the beginning.

Breaking down mindfulness into parts helps us understand how it works. But we need to make sure not to make the mistake of actually thinking of mindfulness as a bunch of separate things.

Mindfulness is one thing: it’s the conscious act of bringing one’s complete awareness into the present reality, which allows us to see the world in a way we’ve never seen it before- beyond our wrong perceptions (and perception itself), preconceived notions, deep-seated emotions, and beyond the ego. Seeing reality in its purest state, filled with a limitless peace, joy, and freedom.

The moment you make the conscious decision “I am going to be fully aware of what I’m doing here and what’s happening to me in the present moment” you should feel as though you’ve come alive. As though, before you made that conscious decision and “activated” your mindfulness, you were half-asleep.


FAQ : What’s the difference between mindfulness and meditation?

At this point you might be wondering: what exactly is the difference between mindfulness and meditation? Mindfulness is itself a form of meditation. One of various forms of meditation. Which is why, as you might have noticed, the word meditation has been used in place of, or alongside, mindfulness at various points in the book thus far. There’s just certain more traditional ways of referring to different types of mindfulness practices which can often make things confusing for a beginner.

Mindful sitting is traditionally called sitting meditation, simply meditation, or more recently mindfulness meditation. Mindful walking is traditionally called walking meditation, not mindful walking. Things like this can make it confusing for someone just starting out, especially someone who’s learning on their own without the guidance of a formal teacher, which is common in the age of the internet.

So, if mindfulness is a form of meditation, what is meditation? Meditation covers a pretty broad spectrum of techniques. But there is a central theme. All meditation has to do with developing the mind through becoming absorbed with something. In a nutshell, meditation is:

A mental technique characterized by absorption of the mind on an object (either mental or physical) and used to develop or maintain the mind. 

Like mindfulness, meditation can be defined in a number of ways. What’s important is just that you get the general idea. Your true understanding of meditation will come when you actually begin to meditate.

Why Practice Mindfulness?

"Mindlessness is the primary cause of our unhappiness. Mindfulness is the cure. "

The Buddha considered mindfulness a matter of life and death. Not a matter of whether we'll stay breathing or keel over and die from one day to the next, rather this means that whether you're truly alive and in control of your destiny or not is a matter of mindfulness. Mindfulness gives you back control of your life.

When mindless, you're not in complete control of yourself. Your deep-seeded limiting beliefs take control and direct you in a way that attempts to protect the ego. The ego has no concern for our happiness and well-being nor any care for reconciliation with our deep-seeded anger, sadness or any other limiting belief we may have.

On top of that, the outside world constantly pulls and pushes you wherever it likes. Life happens, and naturally, your mind reacts to it. That is unless you practice mindfulness.

When mindful, you awaken and see through all illusions. You see your limiting beliefs rise to the surface. This allows your body and mind's natural healing process to take effect.

Think of mindfulness as your anchor point. The way most of us live our lives, we're physically in one place but mentally in another. We're dispersed between what's actually going on in the present moment, what already happened (past) and what is yet to happen (future).

Without even knowing it, we're causing ourselves a lot of pain. We live unreasonably expecting or wanting something other than what's in front of us, we regret what happened in the past even though we have no control over it and then disconnect from what is because the pain of both of those things makes it more enjoyable to live in our imaginations. This is a major cause of unhappiness.

This mind dispersion, or mindlessness, heightens stress and anxiety, decreases our productivity, restrains our creativity, disconnects us from the world around us including our loved ones and overall makes us less happy. Instead of being at peace, when we're mindless instead of mindful, our minds are often in chaos.

In Buddhism this mind dispersion is referred to as "monkey mind" and is something we've all experienced at one point or another. Some more than others. This is the mind that bounces around from one thought to another uncontrollably. Mindfulness calms our monkey mind by creating an anchor point in the present moment.

At first, the monkey mind will resist, but with time you will tame it and gain back full control over your mind. This is the path to true happiness.

This is also the major reason mindfulness and mindfulness meditation is so powerful and attractive to us in our modern plugged-in 24/7 world. More than ever it's so easy to live in a mindless, disconnected, state of being. Mindfulness brings us back to ourselves. And it turns out, that's all that we ever needed in order to be happy.

Mindfulness is the practice for everyone. Children, adults, men, women, soldiers, athletes, scientists, teachers and everyone in between.  It's the most basic practice of peace, happiness and self-healing. And as I'm about to show you, there's a lot of science to back up this point.

The Science of Mindfulness

As if that wasn't enough reason to practice mindfulness, there just so happens to be A LOT of science to back its effectiveness. Below is a list benefits, many stretching beyond what I mentioned above. All of this comes back to the same thing-when we're fully awake to the present moment we become our best selves. Our true selves.

I mentioned earlier that mindfulness has become the focus of hundreds of scientific studies. I also mentioned that the results have been so positive that even Wall Street, Silicon Valley as well as medical centers, hospitals and even parts of our education system all across the U.S. have adopted the practice of mindfulness.

With that impressive list, it's needless to say that the scientific findings on mindfulness have been pretty stellar. Here are some of the scientifically validated benefits of mindfulness:

The Scientifically Validated Benefits of Mindfulness:

How to Practice Mindfulness + Getting Started

This is the fun part. Now it's time to begin learning how to practice, and feeling the effects of, mindfulness. Before you read through this section and dive into the material though, remember the working mindfulness definition we covered earlier. It will help you initially get into the right mindset for practice.

As you go about your day you should begin to closely examine everything you do. Create the habit of "checking" yourself throughout your day. Ask yourself at random points in the day: "Am I here, or somewhere else?". Many times we don't even realize we're not being fully awake to the present moment. Let me give an example.

In The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation, ThichNhatHanh tells a story of how one day he and his friend Jim shared a tangerine under the shade of a tree. Jim began talking about what they would be doing in the future, attractive future projects and the like.

Jim became so immersed in this thought that soon he forgot altogether what he was doing there in the present moment. He'd put a section of tangerine in his mouth and, before finishing the piece he was chewing, would have ready another piece to put into this mouth. NhatHanh said:

You ought to eat the tangerine section you've already taken.

Jim was surprised. He hadn't realized it, but he wasn't really eating the tangerine at all. As ThichNhatHanh puts it:

If he had been eating anything, he was "eating" his future plans.

Why do I tell this story? Because in order to know how we can cultivate mindfulness it helps for us to be able to identifywhen we're not being mindful.

This story aptly sums up the way most of us live our lives. Everyone can relate to doing this at some point. We do this on a daily basis and many of us constantly throughout the day. This story does a great job of helping us identify what a lack of mindfulness looks like in our everyday lives.

This is a process, it will take time to notice when you're not being mindful and to build the habit of practicing mindfulness throughout your day. But, it's worth it, as you saw from the previous section. This isn't a race, so don't try to do everything at once. Take it one step at a time and you'll begin feeling the effects of mindfulness on your mind and body.

Let's go over some basic ways to add mindfulness into your everyday life:


Sitting meditation is how most people are introduced to mindfulness. Many think mindfulness is just a form of sitting meditation, but to think so is to greatly misunderstand the purpose and downplay the importance of mindfulness.

In order to create new mental habits and condition your mind you need to be mindful throughout your day, not just during meditation. It can be beneficial to think of mindfulness as an extension of your meditation practice and sitting meditation as the foundation.


Walking meditation is great because you can do it anywhere and at any time. It's absolutely one of my favorite mindfulness practices and pairs well with being in nature. But, as long as you're walking you can practice walking meditation anywhere.

Resource:The Ultimate Guide to Walking Meditation

Following the Breath

This can be done anywhere and at any time and is really an extension of your meditation practice, yet still it's own distinct technique and worth mentioning here. All you have to do here is pay attention to your in-breath and out-breath. Make sure your breaths are easy, light and even. As you breathe be aware of where you are and what you're doing.

Feel the breath coming in and out. Don't attempt to control your breath, just pay attention to it (although your attention on it will calm your breathing somewhat naturally). During this moment, whatever you do, don't lose attention on your breath. Your breath is the most effective tool we have for practicing mindfulness. It's always there with us so it works as the perfect anchor to the present moment.

This exercise is great used as an occasional pause button in your day. When you first begin practicing mindfulness you'll have to remind yourself to practice, so pausing a few times throughout the day to do this is perfect as it begins to establish the habit.

Other basic activities

Other basic activities such as sweeping, doing the dishes, brushing your hair and teeth, gardening, drawing or painting and others can be very nourishing mindfulness activities. These types of activities are much easier to do in mindfulness than, say, having a conversation with someone, which won't be possible until you've built up a certain level of concentration.

You can pick to do any of the above activities in mindfulness once you've practiced mindfulness of breath for a bit. Just make sure you do these activities slowly so that you stay in mindfulness from start to finish. Be 100% fully committed to the task at hand.

If you're sweeping the floor, sweeping the floor becomes the most important thing in the world. Don't sweep the floor so that you can be prepared with a clean floor for when company comes over later. That isn't sweeping the floor in mindfulness. Sweep the floor to sweep the floor. That is mindfulness.

Get a free download of my book, The Little Book of Mindfulness

My first book is a complete 130-page A-Z guide on mindfulness that expands on this guide and gives you practical tips and strategies for effectively bringing mindfulness into your everyday life.

To get The Little Book of Mindfulness, just enter your name and email below, click the yellow button, and you're good to go:


Additional Mindfulness Resources:

Here's a list of additional resources, all to help you deepen your understanding of mindfulness, develop your practice, and make it a daily habit:

  1. How to Practice Mindfulness: The Quick and Easy Guide to Learning Mindfulness Meditation
  2. 6 Great Ways to Implement Mindfulness in the Workplace
  3. The Mindfulness Survival Guid
  4. How to Meditate for Beginner
  5. ZfEL Ep. 8: How to Create a Home Meditation Practic
  6. 5 Steps to Making Meditation a Daily Habi
  7. 5 Tools to Help You Start Your Home Meditation Practice
  8. ZfEL Ep. 6: How to Make Mindfulness a Way of Life: 7 Keys to Living a More Mindful Life
  9. 7 Ways to Live More Mindfully in the Busy, Fast-Paced, and Plugged In Modern Worl
  10. Free Guided Meditations for Greater Peace and Clarity

I hope this guide was able to give you a clear definition of mindfulness and answer the question "what is mindfulness?" fully and completely.

If you have any questions about the practice or about mindfulness itself, feel free to contact me here and I'll be more than willing to help.




  1. Thanks to Greatergood.berkley.edu for putting together great high-quality articles on the various scientific studies on mindfulness.

Book Preview #2: The Little Book of Mindfulness, Chapter 2: Finding Peace Within

The Little Book of Mindfulness

The Little Book of Mindfulness Book Previews: 1. The Little Book of Mindfulness, Chapter 1 2. The Little Book of Mindfulness, Chapter 2: Finding Peace Within (Current) 3. The Little Book of Mindfulness, Chapter 3: Awakening to Your True Nature

Making Progress

Writing a book is best done one chapter at a time. If you try to tackle too much at once you'll just end up overwhelmed and incapable of even finishing a single chapter. This has been a big challenge, but the biggest writing challenge for me has always been finding out how to explain things in a simple manner while still getting the complete point across.

"You never really know something until you have to teach it to someone." This isn't an exact quote, just something I've remembered roughly ever since I was a kid. And it couldn't be truer.

You might think you know something, or are good at something, but until you have to explain it/teach it to someone else you realize your knowledge was only fuzzy. Writing forces you to sharpen your focus on the subject at hand. It has the ability to help you develop an incredibly clear level of understanding. And for this reason, writing is best used to convey some truth which has the ability to teach either yourself or another something valuable. For discovering that in my own life I'm grateful, but it's because of this that I also feel the need to tell others about the power of writing.

If you're faced with a difficult situation, or sense some strong or confusing emotions rising to the surface, take out a pen and paper or sit down at your computer and just write. Write whatever comes to mind. "It kind of feels like anger.", or, "I think I'm jealous of my sister." Whatever rises to the surface when you begin to write, just let it out. This can be an incredibly healing activity and a great partner to mindfulness.

I hope you enjoy this exclusive preview of Part 1, Chapter 2 of The Little Book of Mindfulness: Finding Peace Within. Let me know what you think!

 Part 1, Chapter 2:

Finding Peace Within

So, now you have a general understanding of what mindfulness is. But why practice mindfulness? What’s so important about being mindful? Knowing how mindfulness works is only part of what constitutes a complete understanding of mindfulness. In the introduction, I covered briefly some of the reasons why you should practice mindfulness. In this chapter, I’ll expand on what I mentioned there and show you why mindfulness is the key to both finding inner peace and true happiness.

All spiritual practice can be broken down into obtaining and maintaining two states: 1) a calm mind, and 2) a clear mind. In Buddhism, these two states are generally referred to by their Pali/Sanskirt terms depending on the Buddhist lineage. The first state, samatha, is a state of tranquility, inner peace, or calmness of mind. And the second, vipassana, is a state of awakening or clarity of mind. The first state, samatha, is typically translated as “stopping” (referring to the mind). Samatha is the process of stopping, calming, fully resting, and healing the mind. The growing popularity of mindfulness as a way to “manage” one’s emotions and reduce stress comes from the samatha side of the equation.

Samatha, which moving forward I’ll refer to as inner peace, tranquility, or calmness of mind, is the necessary basis for the second stage, vipassana, which refers to seeing deeply or with clarity. The English equivalent of vipassana is “insight”, and it’s the word typically associated with vipassana. Insight is wisdom gained through direct experience, and insight into the “true nature of reality” is what vipassana is all about (moving forward I’ll refer to vipassana as awakening, insight, or clarity of mind). You’re likely familiar with the concept of “learning from experience”. You know, the idea that, say, reading something in a book and “knowing” it is different from experiencing it yourself. You might have read ten books on true love and think you know all about it, but until you actually experience true love for yourself you don’t really know true love. That’s insight. In the case of spiritual practice, though, this direct experience is typically a direct experience of the “Ultimate Reality”. This ultimate reality goes by many names: the ultimate or absolute dimension, the ground of being, or even God, depending on your interpretation. But we’ll get more into that in the next chapter.

Likewise, the “benefits”, or purpose, of mindfulness can be separated based on these two states as well. Which brings us to the topic of this chapter: the first “power” of mindfulness. The first power of mindfulness is the ability to help one obtain inner peace or a calm mind (samatha).

Inner peace is the very foundation of spiritual practice. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to obtain awakening, the state of complete liberation and true happiness. How does mindfulness help us attain inner peace? The process can be broken down into four components: stopping, calming, fully resting, and healing (the mind and body).


Obtaining a tranquil mind, the practice of samatha, is ultimately about stopping. We need to learn how to stop. At first, this might seem silly, “I’m sitting while I’m reading this book. I’m stopping!” But it’s not so simple. By stopping I mean we need to stop both body and mind. A mind at rest is a peaceful mind. So we need to learn how to fully stop and let our minds calm. By doing so we bring us back to ourselves. This is called the practice of “going home”, and it’s the practice of going home to ourselves by reuniting mind and body. The practice of mindful breathing does just that- it allows us to reunite mind and body as they’re truly meant to be. This is important because the way we typically live our lives both mind and body are almost always separated.

Mindfulness is in opposition to the way we usually live our lives. That is, halfway in our heads, bouncing around in an endless stream of thoughts, and halfway in the present moment, only partially awake to what we’re doing. This state of semi-consciousness, or mind dispersion, is a state where we’re unable to attain complete rest and our minds are perpetually clouded.

This semi-conscious state, or mind dispersion, is what the Buddha often referred to as our “monkey mind”. Our monkey mind is constantly bouncing from one thought to another. We’re doing one thing (body) but thinking about another (mind). We’re driving home from work while we’re thinking about work, and then bills, and then dinner, and then that dinner date with your old friend coming up, and then your daughter’s school project, and then whatever happened to your favorite band because they seemed to drop off the map, and then “When was that TV special again?”, and then work, oh and then that sounds good for dinner, and then you look in your overhead mirror and think “I look tired today”, and then a Sit-And-Sleep commercial for some reason pops into your head and so you start thinking about how you really should get a new mattress soon, and then you think about home again and how the day is passing so quickly, and then, and then, and then…it never ends. That is, unless you take action.

Mindfulness delicately brings the mind to rest and unites body and mind as one force. When you walk to work you’re walking to work and you’re enjoying the walk with all of your being. You’re not thinking about what’s for dinner or what you’ll say to your boss about that project when you get into the office. When you drive home you know you’re driving. You’re not letting yourself be distracted by the billboard advertisements or passing retail outlet signs. You’re truly enjoying the drive home in peace and quiet. When you’re sitting down to play with your children you’re fully present for them, giving them you complete and undivided attention. When you live with mindfulness you’re able to truly appreciate the presence of your loved ones.

This state of mind dispersion does more than just make us stressed and take us away from our loved ones. On top of heightening stress and anxiety it decreases our productivity, restrains our creativity, disconnects us from the world around us, and overall makes us less happy. Instead of being at peace, our minds are in chaos. And as long as our attention is dispersed this monkey mind will rear its mischievous little head. The only way to stop our monkey mind is with mindfulness. Mindfulness gives us the ability to stop our monkey minds. Once we learn how to do this, the process of calming the mind, obtaining complete rest, and healing comes naturally. This is because, in reality, there’s no separating the four components of inner peace (samatha) as you’ll see in the next sections.


By living in the present moment with mindfulness we’re able to bring our mind into a state of deep calm. A natural byproduct of learning how to stop the mind and body and simply be fully present, such as for the act of following one’s breath, is a calm mind. Indeed, the opposite of our monkey mind is a calm mind.

Calming the mind is a process, though. It doesn’t happen all at once. We build up a lot of stress and tension in our everyday lives and it takes some time to fully calm the mind, especially assuming your current life doesn’t just stop when you begin practicing mindfulness (which it doesn’t!). You’ll still have the same headaches and stressors as before and so you’ll need to calm the mind despite these things constantly getting in the way. Of course, this is a two-sided problem. You might need to reevaluate why you do certain things which are causing you stress. But your focus should always be on your practice of mindfulness. By making the act of stopping a priority and seeking to live your life fully in the present moment, cherishing every moment of life, you’ll naturally begin to calm the mind.


Nowadays, we’re so productivity focused we even map out our vacations. A checklist for a vacation? Yeah, we’ve lost our way. We live off of checklists and to-do lists at work and at home. We think the more things we check off of our list the better we’ll feel. We don’t even notice it but what we’re chasing is inner peace. We’re hoping for just a little slice of it here and there. Even if it’s temporary. But we don’t have to settle for these temporary states of peace. We can have the whole pie. Indeed, if we could only learn how to truly come in touch with it, we’d see that this pie is limitless.

We need to learn how to attain complete rest. By complete rest, I’m referring to a fully rested mind and body. A state which most of us rarely if ever feel. And a full night’s sleep doesn’t provide this for us either. We’re tossing, turning, and bending our bodies in uncomfortable positions which lead to aches and pains. To add to that we’re dreaming constantly. And the more your mind is racing when you go to bed, the more it will be racing in your dreams when you go to sleep. Worst of all, though, our sleep can be interrupted (especially if you have kids!). That really sets us off. Then there’s the fact that sleep primarily rests the body and does very little for our monkey mind. The second we wake up, we’re right back in the jungle.

Mindfulness, particularly sitting meditation, allows us to attain this state of complete rest. It gives our minds the rest it needs. My favorite example is the image of a pebble slowly falling to the ocean floor. Imagine your mind is the pebble. The longer you meditate, the deeper the pebble sinks. And the deeper the pebble sinks, the more calm and peaceful your mind becomes. Meditate until you feel your mind reach the ocean floor. Imagine your body slowly sinking just like the pebble. Then simply sit there for however long you’d like. Be fully present for this state of absolute calm. This is what inner peace feels like. This is true rest.

If we can learn how to rest in this way we give ourselves the ability to overcome so much. Without a doubt, the major reason we experience so much stress and anxiety in modern life is because we don’t know how to attain complete rest.


This last section is about learning how to utilize the body’s natural healing ability. In order to attain inner peace, it’s not enough to stop, calm, and completely rest the body. These are key aspects of achieving a tranquil mind. But if we don’t know how to heal our mind and body then we’ll have no chance of attaining inner peace.

Our mind and body come equipped with a natural healing ability. We’ve all but forgotten about it, living in an age of advanced medicine, thousands of both over-the-counter and subscription medicines, and a whole roster of mental and physical professionals all ready to help us heal our mental and physical wounds. It’s because of this that we now grossly underestimate our own ability to heal.

We’ve forgotten that the only thing necessary in order to heal is to be with that which needs to be healed. My favorite example of this is from Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. He often speaks of how, when injured, an animal’s natural instinct is to find somewhere safe and quiet to lie and rest. This is what it means to be with an illness, whether mental or physical. By stopping all activity the animal conserves every ounce of energy. This puts all of their being into the process of healing. You can do this yourself to heal both mental and physical illness.

What is a mental illness? In the case of the mind, this could be a deep-seated negative emotion or limiting belief. Maybe you hold a deep sense of resentment, and maybe even anger, towards your spouse. Years ago, when you first started dating, things were great. You were both young and you had the entire world at your fingertips. You had fun and generally lived life with wild abandon. But years later you become married, have children, and gain multiple responsibilities. Now you feel as if the entire world has closed in around you. You feel like all the opportunity and possibilities that were once at your fingertips are all but gone. Never to return. Because of this, you now resent your spouse. This is an example of a very deep-seated emotion which needs to be overcome before you can achieve inner peace.

To heal this and any other form of deep-seated emotion you need to sit in meditation and simply be with the emotion. When mindful, you awaken and see through all illusions. Your limiting beliefs rise to the surface. This allows your body and mind’s natural healing process to take effect. You simply need to care for the emotion. Tend to it. Accept it fully with compassion. Much of our suffering comes from our tendency to bottle up emotions and ignore them, thinking that if we do they’ll go away. But this never happens. Neglect won’t heal your wounds. You need to face these emotions with your mindfulness and full of self-compassion. Know that you’re human and everyone has emotions such as these. Accept it fully with your mindfulness and it will subside. This is our natural healing ability and anyone can utilize this with practice.

As you can see, there’s really no separating these four areas from each other. Stopping and calming essentially always happen simultaneously to some extent, resting involves stopping, calming, healing can really be considered a form of resting (or vice versa), and all four can be a part of one single mindfulness practice.

Finding Peace in the Age of Distraction

Distraction is a force which takes our already dispersed attention and splits it into a million different strings. It brings our monkey mind to a whole new level. This was already touched on in the section on “Stopping”, but our modern world warrants extra focus on this particular point. If it wasn’t enough that our minds are already naturally inclined to this semi-conscious and stress inducing state, the modern era has brought us many of the worst sources of distraction all within a matter of decades.

These distractions, which are the substance of our monkey mind, are always within arm’s reach in our modern world. Smartphones are in our pockets, desktops are at our place of work, and TVs are in our homes. It’s so easy to distract ourselves from reality. But if we can bring our attention back to the present moment with mindfulness we have the ability to attain both a tranquil mind and clear vision.

This is the reason mindfulness is so attractive to us. Our modern world is plugged in 24/7 and it’s difficult to get away from these distractions even if you make an effort. More than ever it’s so easy to live in a mindless, disconnected, state of being. Most of us are rarely fully present. We live in a state of perpetual distraction. We live the majority of our lives in one place while thinking of another. We’re at work but we’re thinking about what to make for dinner at home. We’re at home thinking about that project we have to finish at work. We’re enjoying eating out with our family but we’re really inside of our heads, stressing about the bills we have to pay next month.  We all think this is normal. That it’s OK. But it’s not. This mind dispersion is the cause of much of our suffering and discontent.

After a tough day, one where you’ve been rushing around constantly and inevitably forgotten to take time for yourself. Your mind will naturally be more active. If you sit down to meditate during this time you’ll see that your mind is literally like a firecracker. It will be very difficult to keep the mind in one place for more than a few seconds. In this situation, the mind will often be distracted over nothing special. It’s still racing because it’s conditioned to you racing around, not because there’s anything particular going on in your consciousness. Mindfulness of these distractions won’t lead to any great liberation. This is simply a sign that you need to slow things down. If your life continues as is it will be very difficult to attain complete rest and fully quiet the mind. And if you can’t calm the mind you certainly won’t be able to get to the point where you can start gaining clarity of mind. Of course, that’s part of the point of mindfulness. At the beginning, in order to practice mindfulness of anything you’ll have to do it very slowly. If you’re constantly rushing around your mindfulness practice won’t be authentic. You’ll be telling yourself that you’re practicing mindfulness but you won’t actually be mindful.

Computers, smartphones, and TVs aren’t the enemy. But you do need to be careful not to go overboard. For this reason (among many others), it’s important to establish mindfulness as a way of life as opposed to simply “something you do sometimes”. By making mindfulness a way of life you’ll begin to notice how these things distract you and pull you away from the real beauty of life. You’ll naturally begin to distance yourself from these devices a bit. A busy mind is only natural and the modern age has made our minds more chaotic than ever. But by developing the practice of mindfulness in your daily life you have the ability to stop, calm, fully rest, and heal the mind and body which will provide a renewable sense of peace and joy in your everyday life. In Part 3 I’ll cover all the tips and tricks I’ve personally used to establish mindfulness as a way of life.

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