A list of my favourite books, podcasts, websites, apps and articles on mindfulness practice. These are resources I reference and use regularly with my clients and for myself.
You can't open your inbox, social media or a magazine without seeing something about the Practice of Mindfulness. Is this the latest craze? The latest buzzword? Well…yes….and no.
Mindfulness is rooted in Buddhist teachings and meditation, but the term didn't really appear until the 1980's when Jon Kabat-Zinn, while at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, began studying the impact of meditation practice on stress and integrated Buddhist teachings with science to develop a training program removing the word 'meditation' and replacing it with 'mindfulness'. Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program is offered through hospitals and medical centres to help people cope with stress, pain and illness using 'moment-to-moment awareness'.
For many years I have suggested mindfulness practice to clients, friends and family, but didn't quite dive into the practice myself…until recently. The abundance of quality research on the wide-ranging health and productivity benefits of mindfulness have essentially overwhelmed me and convinced me that mindfulness practice is the only truly effective tool for combatting overwhelm, increasing cognitive performance and supporting wellness.
It was when I stumbled upon the research describing the neurological changes that occur following an eight-week daily practice of mindfulness that tipped the scale for me. Mindfulness actually increases the size of the prefrontal cortex and shrinks the amygdala! Mindfulness actually changes the structure of the brain – for the better! Double-wow!
I am so in love with this powerful tool called mindfulness and the positive impacts it has in all areas of our lives and professional performance that I've put together my list of the research, books, training guides, podcasts, guided practice and apps on mindfulness. Enjoy!
Books - the ones on my shelf that I regularly refer to
John D. Teasdale, Mark Williams, and Zindel V. Segal
The title says "depression', but this book is very useful for anyone wanting to establish a practice of mindfulness and a more mindful way of being in the world…and it's quite effective for overcoming depression. I worked through this book with a family member during a stressful period of our lives when we all had to pull together to handle a family member's health crisis. We both were amazed at how quickly we were able to reign in our mounting stress and anxiety-driven reactiveness. The worksheets are useful for gaining self-awareness and exploring alternatives, but I found the recorded guided mindfulness practices to be most helpful.
How can you not be intrigued by this title? Jon Kabat-Zinn is the founder of The Centre for Mindfulness and a pioneer in the scientific research and application of mindfulness. Essential reading (in my opinion), this book offers the antidote, based on his Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program, to the burnout caused by our fast-paced living. I believe that if everyone were taught MBSR (in our education system, perhaps) our world would be a kinder, friendlier place.
Another classic from Jon Kabat-Zinn that maps out a simple path for cultivating mindfulness. His focus in this book is on how to reclaim the richness of the present moment, how not to miss those precious moments that are, in essence, your life.
You are not Your Pain: Using Mindfulness to Relieve Pain, Reduce Stress, and Restore Well-Being - An Eight-Week Program
Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman
This is a beautiful book and CD set. The research on mindfulness meditation has shown that it can be as effective as pain medications in helping people cope with physical pain. Furthermore, the practice of mindfulness also helps reduce the overwhelm that comes from coping with pain. Exhaustion, irritability, anxiety, and stress are the typical side effects of chronic pain and this book/CD set offers a compassionate guide and some meditations to help people regain their ability to more fully live their lives.
Rick Hanson, Ph.D.
Anyone who knows me well understands my deep love of all things 'neuroscience'. For some strange reason (likely my youthful self's lack of confidence) I didn't advance my studies in neuropsychology…well, I gave up formally studying it, but I continue to seek out and absorb anything in the realm of neuroscience and that includes this book by Rick Hanson. He outlines how your brain creates worry or inner strength, confusion or clarity, heartache or love. I've used many of his teachings to guide my coaching, particularly in how clients can tap into the voice of their inner sage to squelch the impact of their incessant inner critic in ways that actually rewire the brain toward improved cognitive functioning.
I return to this book time and again for both personal use and for my coaching with clients. Maria Gonzalez, who was a corporate executive and now guides corporations and boards in mindfulness practice, offers a structured approach for leaders to follow to help them increase their strength in nine leadership capacities using the practice of mindfulness. Gonzalez outlines where leaders go wrong and how to use mindfulness practices to transform themselves to achieve positive results.
If you remain unconvinced of how transforming the practice of mindfulness can be, particularly in the corporate world, then this is the book for you. Gelles, a business reporter for the New York Times, does a good job detailing how companies such as Google, General Mills, Aetna and Patagonia have been changing their workplaces using mindfulness practice with profound results. A good book if you are interested of introducing mindfulness into your workplace.
For the science geeks who want to read the research
This article discusses the research that had me embrace mindfulness as a daily practice. It is the first study to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain's gray matter. Researchers Sara Lazar and others, of Massachusetts General Hospital, used neuroimaging to demonstrate that improvements people report following an eight-week mindfulness program are due to actual structural changes in the brain. Brain areas associated with memory, learning, self-awareness, compassion and introspection increased in size while brain areas associated with stress (the amygdala) decreased in size.
Gard, T., Holzel, B.K. & Lazar, S.W.; Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2014 Jan: 1307; 89-103
A scientific literature review of studies investigating the effects of meditation on age-related cognitive decline, concluding that mindfulness practice for older adults can offset age-related cognitive decline and possibly increase cognitive capacities. This research paper is written for the science and medical communities, but is very interesting as it outlines several studies that further document structural and functional changes in various brain areas.
Psychology Today; by Christopher Bergland
An exciting review of two studies, one of which shows that mindfulness practice actually decreases inflammation biomarkers (Interleukin-6) and, therefore, suggests mindfulness produces physical health benefits. That's exciting.
Available in Soundcloud and Apple itunes and on other platforms. Many guided meditations and discussions. Very good bedtime listening….the description advises not listening while driving.
Known for his book and App by the same name, this podcast features interesting interviews with bestselling authors, well-known meditation teachers, entrepreneurs, and others. Harris' podcast allows anyone of any background or experience to begin practicing mindfulness. Available on his website or itunes.
You may be unfamiliar with Tara Brach's work, yet you have likely seen her name float by in numerous social media memes. She's very quotable. She is also quite adept at blending Eastern and Western philosophies in a very relatable way. You will find a lot of wisdom here. Available on itunes and other platforms.
If, like me, you love hearing heartwarming first-person stories about transformation, this podcast will fulfill that love. Interviews feature everyday people who share their stories on how incorporating mindfulness into their lives resulted in positive changes. A companion to the Meditation Studio App. Available on itunes, Soundcloud and on Meditation Studio's website.
Favourite Mindfulness Websites
A great blog and other resources to be found here. Janice Marturano founded the Institute for Mindful Leadership following her years as Vice President, Deputy General Council at General Mills, where she introduced mindfulness practice. Her vision is to transform leadership in the 21st century by offering mindful leadership training to cultivate each person’s ability to focus, see clearly, be creative and embody compassion. I haven't read it yet, but I've heard good things about her book, Finding a Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership. It's on my to-be-read-next list.
Run by mrsmindfulness.com The Mindfulness Summit Is a non-profit project with the mission to make mindfulness mainstream to help fulfill a vision of a more peaceful and compassionate world. Their goal is to "make high quality mindfulness training free and extremely accessible". I signed on to one of their 31 day summits (hosted each October) and loved the high quality experience. There is a wealth of resources and tutorials from many well-known leaders and researchers of mindfulness available on this website if you register (no-cost).
Founder of The Mindfulness Summit, Melli O'Brien's blog is a great resource to help you begin a practice of mindfulness. She also offers audio and video guides, as well as workshops and retreats.
Tara Brach's website offers an extensive library of guided meditations, such as, Forgiving and Freeing our Hearts, Radical Compassion and Aliveness and Presence. She also offers online courses, discussion videos and recommended readings.
Mindfulness on Video/YouTube
Tara Brach discusses how to awaken from our habitual grooves and the stimulus-reaction cycle we get bound up with that can cloud our perspective and impair communication and relationships. Her take on what she calls our virtual reality we are living in and how it creates suffering is eye-opening and interesting.
Working with anger through mindfulness. Tara Brach discusses how to recognize when we get hi-jacked by anger and how to transform our patterns of reactivity into responding with wisdom and honest connection.
From WiseMindBody, this is my go-to You Tube mediation when I just need to take it down a notch.
Apps to Help You Foster A Practice of Mindfulness
Described as a "No BS meditation app for skeptics" this app provides a series of meditation courses.
For iOS and Android, the Insight Timer App is the top rated app for all things mindfulness and also gives you free access to discussion groups and hundreds of the world's meditation teachers. Many members of a forum I belong to highly recommend this app.
Another highly rated app with free and fee options. It features a huge resource of guided meditations and many extras, such as classes with well known teachers, programs and progress tracking. Available on IOS and Android.
Other Readings that Dovetail with the Topic of Mindfulness
Not necessarily about how to practice mindfulness, but on how to approach life mindfully.
Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson
I haven't yet read this book, but it is on my to-be-read-next list. I recently attended a training workshop facilitated by Daniel Goleman on mindfulness and high performance for leaders and was delighted by his depth of knowledge and application of the research on mindfulness and how it enhances what he calls the 'leader's triple focus' and can launch leaders from threshold competencies to exceptional competencies such as your social awareness, organizational awareness, your ability to influence, inspire and mentor people, and your ability to manage conflict.
Any book by Byron Katie will add new tools to your toolbox for living mindfully, but this one is my top recommendation. Based on her assertion that "it's not the problem that causes the suffering; it's our thinking about the problem", Katie outlines The Work which is simply four questions that, when applied to specific problems, will enable you to achieve a new perspective on what is troubling you. It is a book that helps you let go of the thoughts that are causing your suffering and just love what is. Loving what is, in its essence, is a way of achieving mindful living. Clients who have adopted the use of The Work reported positive results, especially in supporting positive relationships and reducing stress.
I mean, Brené Brown. Need I say more? Well…yes, I'll say this: This book is Brené's assertion, based on her tremendous research, that embracing our vulnerability is our clearest path to courage, engagement and meaningful connection. I think her lessons on embracing vulnerability underpin our capacity to be able to live and work mindfully. It's a terrific read and I highly recommend this book, as well as any of her others.
And…here's a great TEDx video of Brené Brown on The Power of Vulnerability.
**Just a quick note to let you know that I do not have any affiliation with any of these resources I've shared. These are just ones I've gained a great deal of wisdom from and I want to share in that wisdom with you.