Jon Kabat-Zinn

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Jon Kabat-Zinn
Kabat-Zinn in 2018
Jon Kabat

(1944-06-05) June 5, 1944 (age 79)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Haverford College
Known forFounder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Parent(s)Elvin Kabat
Sally Kabat

Jon Kabat-Zinn (born Jon Kabat, June 5, 1944) is an American professor emeritus of medicine and the creator of the 'Stress Reduction Clinic' and the 'Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society' at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Kabat-Zinn was a student of Zen Buddhist teachers such as Philip Kapleau, Thich Nhat Hanh,[1] and Seung Sahn,[2] and a founding member of Cambridge Zen Center. His practice of hatha yoga, Vipassanā and appreciation of the teachings of Soto Zen and Advaita Vedanta led him to integrate their teachings with scientific findings.[3] He teaches mindfulness, which he says can help people cope with stress, anxiety, pain, and illness. The stress reduction program created by Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), is offered by medical centers, hospitals, and health maintenance organizations, and is described in his book Full Catastrophe Living.[4][5]

Life and work[edit]

Kabat-Zinn was born in New York City in 1944 as the oldest of three children to Elvin Kabat, a biomedical scientist, and Sally Kabat, a painter. He graduated from Haverford College in 1964 and went on to earn a Ph.D. in molecular biology in 1971 from MIT, where he studied under Salvador Luria, Nobel Laureate in medicine.

While at MIT, Kabat-Zinn was a leading campaigner against military research at the university and against the Vietnam war.[6] To reduce student protests, MIT appointed him - alongside Noam Chomsky and George Katsiaficas - to an advisory panel on the future of the university's military labs.[7] During this time, he pondered his life's purpose, which he called his "karmic assignment."[8]


Kabat-Zinn was first introduced to meditation by Philip Kapleau, a Zen missionary who came to speak at MIT where Kabat-Zinn was a student. Kabat-Zinn went on to study meditation with other Buddhist teachers such as Seungsahn.[9] He also studied at the Insight Meditation Society with Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein, and eventually taught there.[3][9] In 1979 he founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he adapted the Soto Zen, Vipassana, Hatha Yoga and Advaita Vedanta teachings and developed the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program.[3] He subsequently renamed the structured eight-week course Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). He removed the soteriological goals of the religious and spiritual systems that influenced the MBSR and any connection between mindfulness and Buddhism, instead putting MBSR in a scientific context.[9][10] He subsequently also founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His secular technique of Mindful Yoga, which combines meditation and yoga as exercise, has since spread worldwide.[9] The course aims to help patients cope with stress, pain, and illness by using what is called "moment-to-moment awareness."[11][12]

Kabat-Zinn's MBSR began to get increasing notice with the publication of his first book, Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness (1991), which gave detailed instructions for the practice.[5][13] Then, in 1993, his work in the Stress Reduction Clinic was featured in Bill Moyers's PBS special Healing and the Mind, spurring wide interest in MBSR and helping to make Kabat-Zinn nationally famous.[9] In 1994 Kabat-Zinn's second book, titled Wherever You Go, There You Are, became a national bestseller.[14] In the latter part of the 1990s, many MBSR clinics were opened, either as standalone centers or as part of a hospital's holistic medicine program.[9]

Research by Kabat-Zinn includes the effect of MBSR on psoriasis, pain, anxiety, brain function, and immune function.[15]

He is a board member of the Mind and Life Institute, a group that organizes dialogues between the Dalai Lama and Western scientists.[16]

MBSR has been adapted for use by the US military to improve combatants' "operational effectiveness," apparently with Kabat-Zinn's approval, which has provoked some controversy among mindfulness practitioners.[17][18][19]

Discussing the integration of narratives into mindfulness practice, Kabat-Zinn has said, "the map... can occlude... the territory.' That is, thinking about a storyline can get in the way, like creating a mental representation 'map' rather than directly experiencing the 'territory' of the present moment.

Kabat-Zinn is Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.[20]

Personal life[edit]

Kabat-Zinn is married to Myla Zinn, the daughter of the historian and playwright Howard Zinn and his wife Roslyn. They have three grown children.[21]

Kabat-Zinn grew up in a non-practicing Jewish family.[22] He has stated that his beliefs growing up were a fusion of science and art.[20] Although he has been "trained in Buddhism and espouses its principles", he rejects the label of "Buddhist",[14] preferring to "apply mindfulness within a scientific rather than a religious frame".[9]


  • 2008: Mind and Brain Prize from the Center for Cognitive Science, University of Torino, Italy
  • 2007: Inaugural Pioneer in Integrative Medicine Award from the Bravewell Philanthropic Collaborative for Integrative Medicine
  • 2005: Distinguished Friend Award from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies[23]


  • Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. Delta Trade Paperbacks. 1991. ISBN 0-385-30312-2.
  • Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life. Piatkus, 1994. ISBN 0-7499-1422-X.
  • Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. Hyperion Books, 1994. ISBN 1-4013-0778-7.
  • The Power of Meditation and Prayer, with Sogyal Rinpoche, Larry Dossey, Michael Toms. Hay House, 1997. ISBN 1-56170-423-7.
  • Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, with Myla Kabat-Zinn. Hyperion, 1997. ISBN 978-0-7868-8314-1.
  • Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness. Hyperion, 2006. ISBN 0-7868-8654-4.
  • The mindful way through depression: freeing yourself from chronic unhappiness, by J. Mark G. Williams, John D. Teasdale, Zindel V. Segal, Jon Kabat-Zinn. Guilford Press, 2007. ISBN 1593851286.
  • Arriving at Your Own Door. Piatkus Books, 2008. ISBN 0-7499-2861-1. The book contains 180 verses that discuss the connection between mindfulness and our physical and spiritual wellbeing and can lead to healing and transformation.[24][25][26][27]
  • Letting Everything Become Your Teacher: 100 Lessons in Mindfulness. Dell Publishing Company, 2009. ISBN 0-385-34323-X.
  • The Mind's Own Physician: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama on the Healing Power of Meditation, co-authored with Richard Davidson (New Harbinger, 2012) (based on the 13th Mind and Life Institute Dialogue in 2005).
  • Mindfulness for Beginners: reclaiming the present moment - and your life. Sounds True, Inc., 2012. ISBN 978-1-60407-753-7.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fitzpatrick, Liam (24 January 2019). "The Monk Who Taught the World Mindfulness Awaits the End of This Life". Time. Retrieved 22 June 2020. Among his students was the American doctor Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course that is now offered at hospitals and medical centers worldwide.
  2. ^ Kabat-Zinn, Jon (October 2017). "Too Early to Tell: The Potential Impact and Challenges—Ethical and Otherwise—Inherent in the Mainstreaming of Dharma in an Increasingly Dystopian World". Mindfulness. 8 (5): 1125–1135. doi:10.1007/s12671-017-0758-2. PMC 5605584. PMID 28989546. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Kathirasan, K.; Rai, Sunita (2023-02-20), "The Mindfulness-Based Wellbeing Enhancement (MBWE) Curriculum", Introducing Mindfulness-Based Wellbeing Enhancement, London: Routledge, pp. 237–248, doi:10.4324/9781003322955-4, ISBN 978-1-003-32295-5, retrieved 2023-05-10
  4. ^ Horstman, Judith (2010). The Scientific American Brave New Brain. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons. p. 33. ISBN 978-0470376249.
  5. ^ a b Kabat-Zinn 1991.
  6. ^ The Tech, 7/10/69 p2-3 and 5/11/69 p1,3,4 and 7/11/69 p1,3,5 and 17/3/70 p1 and 5/5/70 p6 and 6/5/70 p1; MIT Review Panel on Special Laboratories Final Report; J. Kabat-Zinn, Coming to Our Senses p556-9.
  7. ^ Nelkin, Dorothy (1972). The University and Military Research, Moral Politics at MIT. Cornell University Press. pp. 67-8, 81-2, 105; Knight, Chris (2016). Decoding Chomsky. Yale University Press. pp. 34-5
  8. ^ Kabat-Zinn, Jon (2011). "Contemporary Buddhism" (PDF). University of Massachusetts Medical School. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 September 2015. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Wilson, Jeff (2014). Mindful America: The Mutual Transformation of Buddhist Meditation and American Culture. Oxford University Press. p. 35.
  10. ^ Kathirasan, K.; Rai, Sunita (2023-02-20), "The Mindfulness-Based Wellbeing Enhancement (MBWE) Curriculum", Introducing Mindfulness-Based Wellbeing Enhancement, London: Routledge, pp. 248–254, doi:10.4324/9781003322955-4, ISBN 978-1-003-32295-5, retrieved 2023-05-10
  11. ^ "What is the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course?". Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society. Archived from the original on April 14, 2012. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  12. ^ Thompson, Sylvia (10 April 2012). "The Father of Mindfulness". The Irish Times.
  13. ^ Kabat-Zinn, Jon (1 May 2011). "Some reflections on the origins of MBSR, skillful means, and the trouble with maps". Contemporary Buddhism. 12 (1): 281–306. doi:10.1080/14639947.2011.564844. ISSN 1463-9947.
  14. ^ a b Boyce, Barry (May 2005). "Jon Kabat-Zinn: The Man Who Prescribes the Medicine of the Moment". Shambhala Sun. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
  15. ^ "Jon Kabat-Zinn: Selected Publications". UMass Profiles. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  16. ^ "Jon Kabat-Zinn bio". Mind and Life Institute. Archived from the original on 2010-12-27.
  17. ^ Christopher Titmuss, 'Are Buddhist Mindfulness Practices used to support International War Crimes?'
  18. ^ Ronald Purser, 'The Militarization of Mindfulness' Archived 2015-07-19 at the Wayback Machine, Inquiring Mind, Spring 2014
  19. ^ 'Dr. Kabat-Zinn talks about Mindfulness Program in Camp Zama'.
  20. ^ a b Cochran, Tracy (December 6, 2004). "Mindful Writing: Jon Kabat-Zinn asks us to come to our senses". Retrieved August 4, 2014. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  21. ^ Gesund durch Meditation p330 and 331 the German translation of Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness
  22. ^ Booth, Robert (22 October 2017). "Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn: 'People are losing their minds. That is what we need to wake up to'". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  23. ^ Kabat-Zinn, Jon (2012). Mindfulness for Beginners: reclaiming the present moment--and your life. Boulder, Colorado: Sounds True, Inc. p. 165. ISBN 978-1-60407-658-5. OCLC 747533622.
  24. ^ "Arriving at Your Own Door". Retrieved 2021-04-12.
  25. ^ "Video Playlist: Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn". PsychAlive. 2014-07-08. Retrieved 2021-04-12.
  26. ^ Parade (2020-04-22). "Meet Mr. Mindfulness: How Jon Kabat-Zinn Brought Mindfulness to the Masses". Parade: Entertainment, Recipes, Health, Life, Holidays. Retrieved 2021-04-12.
  27. ^ Jon Kabat-zinn (2008). Arriving at Your Own Door: 108 Lessons in Mindfulness. Piatkus. ISBN 978-0-7499-2861-2.

External links[edit]