Mindfulness arises out of learning to pay attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgement, to things as they actually are.

Meditation and mindfulness practices are not weird fads and do not have to be religious. They are ancient practices that have found a new currency in the 21st century. Now taught in a secular way they have roots, especially in Buddhism which contains a huge body of experience on the subject.

Mindfulness is a simple yet subtle skill that requires doing to understand. No amount of reading can replace your own experience. Personal instruction and guidance is a great starting point as is learning with a group of people.

The benefits

There is a growing interest in the subject which is due, in no small part, to the emerging evidence of the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Respected researchers have identified benefits such as reduced stress and it's associated physical benefits, improved concentration and a lower propensity to depression.

"We're beginning to discover that meditation practices can have extremely powerful effects on our health. Exciting new research is revealing exactly how meditation works on the brain and how it can be applied more widely"

Mark Williams, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Director of the Mindfulness Centre at the University of Oxford.

"Now there is new scientific evidence that meditation, especially when associated with some other mental disciplines derived from CBT, can improve our mental and physical health.This has given rise to a new group of psychological therapies called mindfulness-based therapies.

Despite the jargon this is a very exciting development – showing how ancient wisdom combined with modern science can improve mental health. In particular this new treatment can tackle recurrent depression but the principles have a much wider application to our lives. There is evidence for example that the use of mindfulness in the workplace can improve productivity and decrease sickness absence."

From the "Be Mindful Report, Dr Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive, Mental Health Foundation

"According to the Mental Health Foundation's surveys, over half of us say we'd like to attend free meditation classes to help with stress"