What is Mindfulness?

“Mindfulness” is a term we hear constantly as a means to live a more fulfilled, less stressful, and more joy-filled life. It is often talked about as a tool to use in social work practice as well as an effective self-care technique. What is mindfulness? While we know that it is popular in practice, what does the term “mindfulness” really mean? Is it a self-help technique? Is it a form of meditation? Is it a state of being? Is it an intellectual understanding? To help us better grasp this all-encompassing term, we turned to the experts. We asked mindfulness professionals spanning a diverse array of mental health disciplines to answer the question: “What is Mindfulness?”

Their answers may surprise you. Take a look below and investigate mindfulness for yourself.


1. Dana Grossman Leeman, SocialWork@Simmons Program Director
2. Alvina Cassidy, Mindfulness Teacher
3. Daniella Gordon, Certified Life Coach and Reiki Master
4. Dorlee M, MBA, LMSW, Social Worker
5. Dr. Lynda Klau, Psychologist, Coach, and Speaker
6. Dr. Romie Mushtaq, Neurologist and Mind-Body Medicine Expert
7. Jon William Wilde editor of Everyday Mindfulness and Everyday Mindfulness Community Members
8. Gill Thackray, Business Psychologist and Neuroscientist
9. Andy Puddicombe Headspace
10. Karen Maezen Miller, Zen Buddhist Priest
11. Lisa Brookes Kift, Marriage and Family Therapist
12. Julie Gavin of Making Mindfulness
13. Marguerite Rao, Mindfulness Based Psychotherapist and LCSW
14. Mike Fitzgerald of Mindful Wellbeing
15. Alexa and Autumn of The Mindfulness Project
16. Sarah Canter, Educator and Mindfulness Author
17. Susan Piver, Buddhist Teacher and New York Times Bestselling Author
18. Adrian from The Now Project
19. Toni Bernhard, Buddhist Teacher and Best Selling Author
20. Rebecca Wong, LCSW, Psychotherapist, and Connectfulness Coach
21. Pennie HuntSpeaker, Author and President/Founder of Journey Through, LLC
22. Ritu Ryat, Founder of the Stress Detox
23. Kelly Morris, Celebrity Yoga Instructor
24. William Marchand, MD Psychatrist, Author, Mindfulness Teacher
25. Charles Francis, Co-founder Mindfulness Meditation Institute
26. Joree Rosenblatt, Mindfulness Educator and Author
27. Dr. Jesse Lyn Stoner, Business Consultant and Best Selling Author
28. Dr. Caroline Hexdall, Licensed Psychologist and Nationally Certified School Psychologist

Dana Grossman Leeman

Program Director, SocialWork@Simmons
Twitter: @leeman_dana

Mindfulness is about paying attention, being in the moment, and being aware of one’s internal experience, and the feelings and experiences of others. Mindfulness is about being open hearted, compassionate and less critical and judgmental of ourselves and others. This is hard and takes practice. As social workers, this is a critical aspect of creating meaningful therapeutic alliances with our clients. As human beings, this is about creating compassionate community.

Alvina Cassidy

Mindfulness Teacher, Mindful Rest
Twitter: @AlvinaCassidy

Mindfulness is a meditative practice that trains us to bring attention to our experience, as it arises in the present moment, with awareness and kindness.

Daniella Gordon

Certified Life Coach and Reiki Master, DG The Life Coach
Twitter: @DGTheLifeCoach

Mindfulness is being in a state of awareness that cultivates insight into thoughts and emotions through observation, non-judgement and acceptance. You embody mindfulness when consciously anchoring this state in the present moment.

Dorlee M

MBA, LMSW, Social Worker Social Work Career Development
Twitter: @DorleeM

Mindfulness is being fully attentive to what is happening at the present moment. You are not worrying about the future or ruminating over the past. You are fully here attending to your client and his/her needs.

When countertransference arises, mindfulness helps you notice it and you are able to make sure it doesn’t interfere with your work with your client.

Dr. Lynda Klau

Psychologist, Coach, and Speaker Life Unlimited Center for Human Possibility
Twitter: @drlyndaklau

Ultimately, mindfulness is a practice for transformation. Typically we identify with and run our lives from the “learned or conditioned mind” – beliefs, feelings, sensations which are in the past or the future. When we practice mindfulness, we use our breath as our anchor. Over time, we develop a new place to stand – our Unconditional Self. In this place we can witness and embrace whatever comes into our awareness without judgment. The more mindful we become, the more we can leave the prison of our conditioning and be truly free.

Dr. Romie Mushtaq

Neurologist and Mind-Body Medicine Expert, Brain Body Beauty
Twitter: @DrROMILA

Mindfulness is two simple words, be present. How can we be present in this current moment? Breathe. When we are in this present moment connected to our breath, we can dissolve the despair of the past and disconnect from our worries of the future. Mindfulness is not about one particular religion or spiritual movement. Mindfulness is a way to bring the mind, body and spirit into the present moment. Just breathe.

Jon William Wilde and Everyday Mindfulness Community Members

Editor, Everyday Mindfulness
Twitter: @mindfuleveryday

“Mindfulness is remembering to be present in the moment, learning to relate to our thoughts and our feelings in a way that goes against the grain of our conditioning. It is a way of unbecoming what we are not. This way freedom lies.” – Jon Wilde

Mindfulness is being present in my body, in my life moment by moment. It is being aware of breathing in and out, the sound, smell, feel and taste I’m experiencing right now. – Fee Hutch

Mindfulness is a personal discovery of one’s own uniqueness that comes about through the practice of letting go of one’s fallibility, and paying attention to what is left. – David

Mindfulness means paying attention to present moment experience in a gentle, accepting way. With mindful awareness, we learn to inhabit our direct, sensory experience in the body, and this gives us more choice in how we respond to difficulty. – Sheila B

Gill Thackray

Business Psychologist and Neuroscientist, Koru Development
Twitter: @KoruDevelopment

Mindfulness is feeling the wind in your hair and the sun on your face, intentionally creating a space to be alive and consciously aware in the here and now. To be open to the world around us with kindness and acceptance both for ourselves and others.

Andy Puddicombe

Founder, Headspace
Twitter: @Get_Headspace

At Headspace, we define mindfulness as the intention to be present in the here and now, fully engaged in whatever is happening, free from distraction or judgement, with a soft and open mind.

Karen Maezen Miller

Zen Buddhist Priest, Paradise in Plain Sight
Twitter: @kmaezenmiller

Mindfulness is the fruit of meditation. Mindfulness without meditation is just a word.

Lisa Brookes Kift

Marriage and Family Therapist, Love and Life Toolbox
Twitter: @LisaKiftTherapy

Mindfulness is a state of being attuned to the present moment and offers a powerhouse of potential benefits. The skill of being mindful can act as a buffer against stress, worry and sadness, bring attention to thoughts, feelings and physical sensations, allow for acceptance, increase resilience and with regular practice, literally rewire the brain.

Julie Gavin

Editor, Making Mindfulness

To me, mindfulness is a deliberate effort to slow down, reflect, and be present; instead of racing and charging ahead, the focus becomes the feelings, sensations, thoughts, and reflections of the present moment. Mindfulness has helped me to experience my days more fully and has encouraged extended and expanded gratitude. It is so easy to be thankful when you experience your moments entirely.

Marguerite Rao

Mindfulness Based Psychotherapist and LCSW, Mind Deep

In its purest form, mindfulness practice is about bringing our attention to the present moment. In its expanded version, it also includes the wisdom to know what to include in our field of awareness, and how to be with it.

Mike Fitzgerald

Editor, Mindful Wellbeing
Twitter: @mind_well_being

Mindfulness is essentially remembering to pay attention to the present moment, but for people coming to Mindfulness with a fresh pair of eyes, a fuller definition could be:

Mindfulness is about staying in the present moment by remembering to gently pay attention to the coming and going of different phenomena that emerge in one’s internal and subject experience, without dwelling upon, or becoming overly attached to them.

Alexa and Autumn

Editors, The Mindfulness Project
Twitter: @LondonMindful

Mindfulness is a simple and very powerful practice of training our attention. It’s simple in that it’s really just about paying attention to what’s happening here and now (i.e. sensations, thoughts, and emotions) in a non-judgemental way. It’s powerful because it can interrupt the habit of getting lost in thoughts, mostly about the future or past, which often generates more stress on top of the real pressures of everyday life.

Sarah Canter

Educator and Mindfulness Author, SarahCanter.com
Twitter: @SarahCanter

Mindfulness is connecting to one’s inner self by bringing awareness to the present moment. It is being aware of and honoring personal thoughts and feelings, while knowing that the present moment is all a person can control. It is through deliberate choice of thoughts that someone can shape and create his/her life.

Susan Piver

Buddhist Teacher and New York Times Bestselling Author, Open Heart Project
Twitter: @spiver

Mindfulness is about being fully alive and fully human. Far more than a self-help technique, it is a path to wisdom and compassion. The simple act of resting the mind on the breath brings everyone’s natural brilliance to the fore.


Editor, The Now Project
Twitter: @conscious2

Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment. That’s paying proper attention the amazing world we live in and also paying attention to our inner world , our thoughts emotions and unconscious conditioning. And with that self awareness we can exercise more conscious self control so we do less harm to ourselves and others.

Note: Mindfulness is a state of being and not an intellectual understanding.

Toni Bernhard

Buddhist Teacher and Best Selling Author, ToniBernhard.com
Twitter: @toni_bernhard

Mindfulness is a particular kind of attention in which the object of attention is not only our experience of the five physical senses and the thoughts and emotions passing through our minds, but also our intentions. Are we paying attention with the intention to ease suffering in ourselves and others, or are we passive and indifferent observers of life? Without a benevolent intention, mindfulness can become a heartless practice.

Rebecca Wong

LCSW, Psychotherapist, and Connectfulness Coach, RebeccaWongLCSW.com

Mindfulness is a mindset. It’s a playful, open, curious approach to connecting back to one’s self in the present moment. Mindfulness is a powerful practice of tuning into and training the muscle that is our brain, much like we train our bodies at the gym. There are as many ways to practice mindfulness as one can imagine.

Pennie Hunt

Speaker, Author and President/Founder of Journey Through, LLC PennieHunt.com
Twitter: @PennieHunt
Facebook: Pennie Hunt

Mindfulness is practicing openhearted attention to present moment awareness. This is done without judgment, attachment or disturbance felt for the process or outcome while holding an objective clarity of acceptance through love, compassion and kindness for all experiences.

Ritu Ryat

Mindfulness Teacher and Founder of the Stress Detox, RituRyat.com

Mindfulness is the practice of living life with awareness. Paying attention on all levels mind, body, and spirit. Being fully aware and engaged in the present moment. When one lives mindfully they begin to see how their actions affect others and in turn how they are affected by actions of others. In this awareness one stops simply “reacting” to situations in life and rather begins acting responsibly.

Kelly Morris

Celebrity Yoga Instructor, Conquering Lion Yoga
Twitter: @kellymorrisyoga

Time doesn’t exist. Clocks exist. Yet most people live and die by the clock, their minds tictocking from the past to the future and back again like a dog chasing its own tail except unlike the dog no one is having any fun. The cultivation of mindfulness allows us to drop the past (it doesn’t exists anywhere but in your head) and the future (same!) so that we can participate in the only this that ‘is’: the living present. For most people, the present consists of about…one second. Imagine the presence of mind needed to fully experience one second completely and in its entirety, from start to finish. Start to finish you exclaim, whats to experience?! Its only ONE second. The more closely you hew to the present moment, the bigger, more spacious that tiny one second becomes…the meditator begins to experience the ‘divine’. Where else could that live, save in the present moment?

William Marchand

MD Psychatrist, Author, Mindfulness Teacher WilliamMarchandmd.com
Twitter: @WRMarchandMD

Mindfulness is being fully present with what is happening right now – rather than thinking about the past or future. In mindful awareness, our attention is focused the sights, sounds and sensations of each moment as they arise and pass. When practicing mindfulness, we can experience our lives without judgement and find the joy that is always there in each moment.

Charles Francis

Co-founder, Mindfulness Meditation Institute
Twitter @CharlesAFrancis

Mindfulness is a deep awareness of what is happening in the present moment in our body and the world around us. With mindfulness we can make better decisions on how to conduct ourselves in order to ease our suffering, promote peace and harmony in the world, and to make the most efficient and effective use of limited resources. The two main vehicles for cultivating mindfulness are mindfulness meditation and mindful living.

Joree Rosenblatt

Mindfulness Educator and Author, Mindfulness Tools for Living
Twitter: @joreerose33

Mindfulness is living your life with greater awareness, attention and intention, and is rooted in cultivating a deep connection to your breath, which continually draws you back into the here and now. It’s about getting out of your head and all the stories we create, and into your body, which reflects your preset moment experience. Practicing mindfulness is allowing whatever is arising in the moment to exist, without judgment, and creating space around it – to see it, honor it and acknowledge it, enabling you to make a conscious choice in how to respond rather than react to it.

Dr. Jesse Lyn Stoner

Business Consultant and Bestselling Author, Sea Point Center

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present with the experience of each moment.

Dr. Caroline Hexdall

Licensed Psychologist and Nationally Certified School Psychologist, Center for Mindful Development

Mindfulness is, at its essence, being present. It is being present is a way that is open, attentive, non-judgmental and aware. Its roots remain in Buddhist meditation; however, it has become more of a mainstream psychological practice in recent years. When one pays attention to the present moment, thoughts, feelings and other sensations are accepted as they are without judgment or opinions being made about them. The effect is often described as feeling more open, grateful and relaxed.