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Mindfulness 101: A Beginner's Guide

The ability to be more mindful is something we all possess and can make stronger at any time. It just takes practice. Read on to learn how.

If it seems like everyone is talking about mindfulness, you’re not imagining things. Mindfulness is one of the most important skills we can develop to navigate our lives with greater ease, self-acceptance, and happiness.

And thanks to a tenfold increase in mindfulness research, we’re also seeing its potential and benefits in everything from healthcare and education to leadership training and conflict resolution.

Most important of all, the ability to be more mindful is something we all possess and can make stronger at any time. It just takes practice. Read on to learn how.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the act of bringing your awareness to what’s present and happening, in this very moment, without judgment or needing to change anything.

Cory Muscara describes it as the practice of being with our experience rather than in our experience, in a way that’s spacious, curious, and heartfelt.

Mindfulness is:

  • A natural ability that everyone possesses
  • Easy to learn
  • A technique that works with your body and mind
  • Friendly and kind
  • Curious
  • Key to mental fitness

Mindfulness is not:

  • Stopping all thought
  • An escape from reality
  • A blank mind
  • Becoming passive
  • Willpower
  • Religious

Rest in the Moment

Meditation · 5-30 mins

Awareness Is Meditating

In this meditation, we'll explore a different way to be in relationship to the meditation process, one that is more accepting, easy, and wise.

Play Now

Is Mindfulness the Same as Meditation?

Not exactly. Mindfulness is a quality of mind that is strengthened through the practice of meditation and also can be used with many other practices. Sometimes the two terms are used interchangeably, or you might see them combined, as with mindfulness meditation. That’s because meditation, in any form, trains you to mindfully focus your attention on an “anchor,” such as your breath; a “mantra,” or a word that you repeat silently to yourself; an image that you hold in your mind; a physical sensation; or a sound. Practicing meditation regularly bolsters your ability to direct your awareness—your attention—and keep it where you want. In this way, meditation strengthens your mindfulness “muscle.”

Mindfulness is also often paired with other activities, such as mindful eating, mindful walking, and mindful listening, to name a few. These mindfulness exercises can be used throughout your day to help you develop greater self-awareness.

As an added benefit, through mindfulness practice, you learn to recognize your thought patterns without judging them, gain insight into your feelings and emotions, and gain an embodied sense of both your capacity and your boundaries. All of these benefits of mindfulness help grow self-esteem and a grounding sense of befriending yourself.

The best way to understand mindfulness is to experience it for yourself!

Try a Mindfulness Exercise

Meditation · 10 mins

Sensory Awareness

This meditation is a practice to attune you to your senses and the sensory world you live in. It is a way to invite connection between our inner and outer worlds

Take a look around the room where you’re reading this. What do you see? Furniture, assorted objects, painted walls; maybe books, pictures, a window. Is there an overhead light, a lamp, or both? Perhaps there are other people in the room or your dog is sleeping nearby. Is the air warm, cool, neutral? Is there a breeze from an open door, airflow from a vent?

Just notice what’s there.

Are there any sounds that stand out? A car driving by, a door closing, the tapping of fingers on a keyboard, people talking, the steam from an espresso machine.

And what about you? Can you turn your attention inward to notice what’s going on inside your body? Do you feel at ease? Is your breathing slow and steady, rushed or shallow? Can you feel your heart beating? Do you feel tired, alert? Bring your awareness to those places where your body touches a surface, such as the backs of your thighs on your seat, your forearms resting on a table, your feet on the floor. Where are your hands right now?

All of these moments of simply noticing what’s there are considered mindfulness. And the purpose of it is to train your mind to be more present.

All of these moments of simply noticing what’s there are considered mindfulness.

So much of our waking lives is spent in our heads. We think about the future—anticipating what will happen, what we’ll say or do; we ruminate on the past—what we wished we’d said or done, how it could have been different; we daydream; we remember; we judge. We get distracted and go down rabbit hole after rabbit hole chasing thoughts. Simply put: Our thinking minds are constantly churning.

Now, add in the realities and events of everyday life. It gets busy up there in these big ol’ brains of ours, as we analyze, strategize, question, anticipate, fantasize, regret—and on and on.

All this thinking effectively takes us out of the present moment, of what’s happening right now. Or, at the very least, it distorts our experience of what is truly here.

Why is Being Present So Important?

Being present is one of the best ways to reduce suffering, in any form. This may seem like a bold statement, but it’s what the practice and the science of mindfulness is all about.

Consider this: When the events and actualities of our lives are “good”—we’re falling in love, on vacation, enjoying friendship, learning something new and exciting, feeling appreciated at work—we relish it. We feel happy and relaxed but also wide awake and alert. We are fully present and in a naturally mindful state.

When things are challenging—we lose someone or something we love, we’re concerned about money, we get a frightening health diagnosis, we’re in pain—our thinking minds go into overdrive worrying, anticipating, planning, strategizing, and more worrying.

In other words, our attention is anywhere but in the present. This state is amplified by all the distractions in our lives, from an overwhelming amount of choice in everything we do to the addictive nature of social media.

Yet, the present moment is exactly where we need to be in order to fully understand our circumstances and also to clearly see our options.

Even in the midst of difficulty, life is full of exquisite moments.

And then there’s this: Even in the midst of difficulty, life is full of exquisite moments—

The way sunlight shines through the trees. The sound of kids laughing uproariously on a playground. A moment of downtime in an otherwise hectic day. The smell of someone barbecuing nearby. A small kindness from a stranger.

Presence is what allows us to notice these moments. And the very act of noticing gives you a mental and emotional pause from feelings of distress or overwhelm. This respite, however brief, puts some distance between you and the upset. You get a break from all the worry. (Importantly, your body also gets a break from the very real onslaught of the stress response. More on that in a minute.)

Within this pause is opportunity. You might gain a new perspective on the situation. It might mean the difference between simply reacting in a habitual way and making a different, perhaps healthier choice.

Being present also helps us see that it’s not only the “good” experiences that can bring a smile, make us feel connected to others, lift our spirits, or give us hope. These moments happen all the time, even when things are challenging. We just need to notice them.

Quiet Your Mind

Meditation · 5-20 mins

The Power of Being Present

A meditation to remind us that awareness is our true home. Sometimes we get lost in seeking, striving or rushing—but awareness is always here for us.

The Mindfulness-Stress Connection

For all of its many benefits, mindfulness might best be known as an antidote to stress. This alone makes it a powerful and proven tool in supporting our physical and mental health and well-being.

Stress can be defined as anything that causes us to feel overwhelmed. This might be due to external factors, like pressure at work or a strain in your relationship. It might be due to physical circumstances, such as pain or illness. It could stem from worry, fear, or grief. It might be the cumulative result of having too much to do and not feeling that you have enough time or energy to get it all done.

Whatever the cause, the result is the same: Stress triggers physiological responses, including the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which have a cascade effect in our bodies—increased heart rate, decreased functioning of the digestive system, and systemic inflammation, among other reactions.

In small doses, stress shouldn’t harm you. After all, it’s stress that gives us the energy to run away from danger or to think on our feet in an emergency. And some stress is natural, our body’s way of powering us to get over the proverbial finish line.

But when stress is chronic, it strains the body and mind. Over time, unabated stress can lead to conditions such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Chronic headaches
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

The difference between debilitating stress, the kind that wreaks havoc on our mental, emotional, and physical health, and manageable stress has much to do with how we react to the challenges and hardships at hand.

Mindfulness might best be known as an antidote to stress.

This may be where mindfulness is most helpful. The practice of cultivating present-moment attention strengthens our ability to focus and creates space between our thoughts and our reactions. It helps us become more aware of the thought patterns that take us down mental rabbit holes. It allows us to tune into physical sensations and to our emotions, to provide us with real-time information about how we feel. And this self-awareness is exactly what we need to mitigate stress.

So, for example, instead of our minds taking over and running the show when stressful circumstances arise, we’re able to pause, take a breath, tune in, and gain greater perspective on what’s happening. From this grounded place of self-awareness, we can then choose how to best respond and take care of ourselves.

These skills have broad implications for how we navigate life, influencing, for example, how we

  • Relate to others
  • Relate to ourselves
  • Make decisions
  • Manage conflict
  • Recover from setbacks and disappointment
  • Grow and change

Who Should Practice Mindfulness?

Every single person will benefit from developing and strengthening their natural ability and capacity for mindfulness. And one of the best things about mindfulness is that it’s available to everyone at any time. You don’t need a doctor’s prescription; it’s not dependent on age or physical ability. It’s easy to learn, and the more you practice, the easier it becomes.

Parenting with Purpose

Talk · 15 mins

Becoming an Attuned Parent

In this talk and meditation, we'll explore why attunement is one of the most important parenting skills.

What is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness meditation is a technique for cultivating mindfulness by sitting quietly for a set amount of time and resting your attention on your breathing. When your mind wanders from your breath, you bring it back. And you do this again and again until your time is complete.

Like most habits, mindfulness meditation gets easier with practice. It’s often compared to building muscle. The more you exercise the muscle, the stronger it gets. The more you practice any mindfulness technique, and particularly mindfulness meditation, the stronger the benefits you’ll experience, including greater focus and calm, feeling less reactive, the ability to hold a greater perspective, even liking yourself and others more.

Most experts recommend a daily mindfulness meditation practice of 10 or more minutes. You can also split that into two smaller practices of 5 minutes each, preferably at the same times, such as first thing in the morning and in the evening.

But you can also practice mindfulness for any amount of time, even just a minute here and a minute there will help you develop your innate capacity for mindfulness.

Quick Practices When You Need Them Most

Cory Muscara

"Stop, Drop, & Be" Phone Technique

Micro Practice · 60 sec

Yes, it’s possible to experience the benefits of mindfulness in just 60 seconds. In fact, “mini-practices” are perfect when you have limited time but want to keep honing your skill at staying present. Try one the next time you’re:

  • Waiting in line at the coffee shop
  • At a stoplight
  • On hold
  • Commuting to work
  • Sitting at your desk
  • Just waking up
  • Going to sleep
  • About to eat
  • Enjoying your morning tea

Reset in 60 Seconds

Cory Muscara

5-Sense Grounding Technique

Micro Practice · 60 sec

5 Ways to Bring Mindfulness into Your Day

1. Mindful eating.

Bring a mindful approach to meals by slowing down and giving your full attention to every aspect of eating, including sensory stimulation, physical sensations, feelings, and more.

Susan Albers

How to Practice Mindful Eating

Talk · 38 mins

2. Mindful movement.

Apply mindfulness to slow-moving exercises such as walking, yoga, or tai chi by being aware of both your inner experience and the environment around you.

Melli O'Brien


Meditation · 10 mins

3. Mindful listening.

A powerful way to deepen relationships by keeping your attention on the speaker and on what is being said, with the intention of listening to understand and not to respond.

Cory Muscara

Become a Better Listener

Meditation · 5-30 mins

4. Shift “What if” to “What is.”

Whenever you get caught up in “what if” thinking and worry, ask yourself, What’s here? Turn your awareness to physical sensation and to noticing: Feel your feet on the ground, notice the temperature of the room or any sounds, tune into your breath.

Cory Muscara

"What If" to "What is" Technique

Micro Practice · 60 sec

5. One-task focus.

Shift out of autopilot by giving your full attention to whatever task is at hand, such as brushing your teeth or making coffee.

Melli O'Brien

Open Awareness

Meditation · 5-20 mins

Mindfulness at Work

Over the past few years there’s been tremendous interest about the potential of mindfulness to improve our work lives. Studies have found that mindfulness can improve job satisfaction, boost confidence in one's skills, and improve focus and task management, among other things.

In the same ways that mindfulness supports overall health and well-being in everyday life, these benefits are useful at work. It can make you more aware of your physical needs for a break, for example. It can also help you to notice triggers so that you can pause before you react. These kinds of positive impacts have inspired many companies and organizations to offer mindfulness training to employees and managers.

Mindfulness and Mental Health

From managing anxiety and stress to playing a helpful role in the treatment of chronic depression and addiction, mindfulness is an important skill for mental health.

Mindfulness supports mental health in all the ways mentioned above—helping us to bring our awareness into the present moment, to take a mental and emotional pause, and to gain perspective on our situation instead of letting our habitual thoughts and reactions run the show.

Some of the most encouraging mental-health benefits of mindfulness are in its ability to help us observe our thoughts and feelings without judgment and to generate greater compassion for ourselves.

Self-criticism and low self-esteem can contribute to feelings of distress, disempowerment, anxiety, and shame. These feelings can contribute to conditions including depression and substance abuse, and may complicate others, including ADHD.

By developing our self-awareness and encouraging a kinder view of ourselves, mindfulness helps us be with our emotions instead of needing to push them away and to consider our circumstances with greater humanity.

Bolstered by a growing body of mindfulness research, mindfulness is increasingly used as a non-pharmacological adjunct and with cognitive behavioral therapy for treating conditions including PTSD, depression, chronic pain, and anxiety disorders, among others.

Two widely respected mindfulness training programs include Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR), a landmark 8-week program created by medical researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn, is highly regarded for helping people regulate their emotions and manage stress. An offshoot of MBSR, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MSCT) is often used to help reduce incidence of depressive relapse and in addiction treatment.

Clearly the applications and benefits of mindfulness have wide reach. We'd argue that no matter who you are or where you are on your journey, mindfulness has something to offer you. We're excited for you to experience it yourself.

Build Your Mental Health Toolkit

Meditation · 5-30 mins

Focus and Flow

Explore how to clear your mind, cultivate focus and flow not only in your meditation but in your daily life too.

Begin your mindfulness journey right here!

Discover the practical benefits of mindfulness and meditation by learning from some of the world’s most respected teachers, authors, and researchers.

Live a Mindful Life

Enjoy these articles, stories, and guided practices for incorporating mindfulness into every day.

Mindfulness is better with friends

Click below to invite a friend

Mindful Meditation Program For Beginners

How to Meditate

Join co-host Cory Muscara for a 10-day course to master the foundational principles of mindfulness and establish a realistic daily mindfulness practice that can easily integrate into your modern, busy life.

Available on

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