Bringing Mindfulness to the Masses

In an article published on September 18, Ashok Jansari of The Irish Times wrote on how several Dublin hospitals have begun to look into “mindfulness meditation” as a means of helping people cope with a “diverse range of problems including chronic pain, depression, anxiety, cardiac difficulties and even psoriasis.”

Dr Noirin Sheahan, who has been practicing mindfulness meditation for 20 years, says, “Mindfulness is a secular form of meditation . . . [and] . . . is useful for anyone going through stress and strain in life, which is probably everybody.” While mindfulness meditation may have its roots in Hinduism and Buddhism, it is currently being used by a US molecular biologist, Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, who realized he could take the practice outside of religion.

Applying his knowledge of mind-body interaction, he developed an eight-week course to be used in hospitals. Demystifying meditation and bringing it to a clinical setting helps to bring more attention to the mind-body connection. time, patients learn a state of “relaxed alert attentiveness,” and so far the results have been promising. the first of the two-and-a-half hour weekly sessions, patients chew a raisin to illustrate the way in which most of us simply chew and swallow without really experiencing the act of eating.

Thich Nhat Hanh has a wonderful meditation about eating a tangerine that illustrates a similar principle.

Why not try it yourself at home? Winter is a great time to enjoy citrus fruits such as tangerines and clementines.

•To find out more about mindfulness meditation, contact Dr Noirin Sheahan at

• Ashok Jansari is based at the University of East London and was on placement at The Irish Times as a British Association for the Advancement of Science Media Fellow

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