The psychologist Jon Kabat-Zinn (2005) has defined mindfulness as “nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment.” Essentially it is a learned ability to calmly and objectively observe one’s thoughts and feelings in the present moment without judgment.

The origination of mindfulness lies in Buddhism. Many principles of Buddhism have been successfully linked to the principles of western psychology. These include the focus on alleviation of internal suffering, a focus on the human condition with a natural rather than religious interpretation, and the ideals of maturation and growth as paths to inner peace and happiness (Levine, 2009).

Research has demonstrated many health benefits of developing the skill of mindfulness, including improvement in blood pressure and the immune system, increased attention and focus particularly with sufferers of ADD, in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression and in fostering general well-being and emotionality. Regular mindfulness practice has been shown to thicken the brain in areas in charge of decision-making, emotional flexibility, and empathy (Mindfulness and Relaxation Center, 2013).

Several of the goals of psychotherapy align nicely with the tenets of mindfulness and therefore many therapists choose to introduce the concept to clients who come to see them across a wide range of complaints. Clients who may benefit from incorporating mindfulness techniques into their treatment include those suffering from depression, impulsivity, affective dysregulation, anxiety, panic disorders and addiction in all its forms.

The connection is simple. One of the over-riding goals of therapy is to help clients recognize and understand the role of unacknowledged feelings of fear, anger, irritation or impulse within them and then to lead them toward an understanding of how these emotional states relate to their unhappiness. Some schools of mindfulness promote awareness of ones emotional states while at the same time the development of some feeling of distance from the state. However, other practitioners encourage resistance to distancing from one’s feelings during the mediation process. Each requires people who are habitually embroiled in their emotions to become observers of themselves and their emotional states. This new perspective ultimately fosters a greater understanding and insight into how those states interact with ones ability to live a productive, happy life.

The beauty of both successful mindfulness practice and psychodynamic therapy in particular is that each offer the client a platform for exploration of ones inner consciousness in the moment, while simultaneously providing containment and structure.

For LA dwellers that wish to supplement their growth in therapy with mindfulness skills, or indeed anyone seeking to develop greater awareness of themselves, the choices are endless. Close to Santa Monica, the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center or MARC, part of UCLA’s Jane and Terry Semel Institute of neuroscience and behavior, offers classes, free guided meditations and even certification programs in the practice and teaching of mindfulness. Their informative website provides an introduction to the concept and suggests multiple ways to get involved:

Santa Monica-based “Insight LA” provides mindfulness classes with a focus on stress reduction:

Meanwhile, Against the Stream offers free or donation-based meditation sessions to all, and has several locations throughout East and West LA.


Kabat-Zinn, John (2005) Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. Bantam: New York.

Levine, Marvin (2009) The Positive Psychology of Buddhism and Yoga: Paths to A Mature Happiness. The Taylor and Francis Group: New York.

Health research documented by the Mindfulness and Relaxation Center (2013) retrieved from http://

By Lydia Mackeogh, Psy. D. PSB 36964

Supervised by Bruce Brodie, Ph. D. License #6574