mindfulness is remembering
Picture of Chris Cheung

Chris Cheung

What is Mindfulness Practice?


I define mindfulness operationally as the awareness that arises by paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.

When I answer this question I often use the Jon Kabat-Zinn quote which points to mindfulness as paying attention on purpose in the present moment and non-judgmentally. This definition is great because it covers so many components of the practice which makes it a practical tool; covering both the objective and the attitude that you should bring to the practice. 

A Simpler Definition

More recently, while leading sessions and discussions with people who are new to mindfulness practice, I simply say that mindfulness practice is about remembering that you’re alive. It’s simpler and everybody seems to ‘get’ this. When I say ‘remembering’ most people can understand that they have forgotten something. And the something that they have forgotten is that they are, living, breathing human beings; having an embodied experience and connected not just to themselves, but also with everything around them.

Mindfulness practice is remembering that you are alive.

Why did we forget?

The next step is to ask why we have forgotten. As we reflect on this during practice, numerous reasons arise; because of busyness, because of worry, because of stress, because we suffer. Many of us face the situation where we are working so hard, or worrying about how to make ends meet that our mind is not on what we are doing, but just on how we can make it through, or make it higher. We don’t have the time to see or appreciate what’s happening right in front of us.

When we sit for mindfulness practice, it is a time in the day when we are just making a space for ourselves. A time when we recognise that we should focus on what we are doing right now and checking-in to see how we are feeling. A time when we can observe the dynamic of our emotions, thoughts and worries without getting involved in it. And in the space that this practice creates, there is the possibility to realise; wow, I am living, I am breathing, of course, I am.

Let’s remember

This image of remembering is in line with the Satipatthana where the original translation from Pali to English took place in the nineteenth century – where the word ‘sati’ was first translated into ‘mindfulness’. But another interpretation of the word ‘sati’ is ‘remembering’. And to me this makes a lot of sense – because the funny thing is, when the mindfulness session is over, and we’ve all gotten up and are about to make our way home, the chances are we will have already forgotten.


More to explore

Mindful leadership

Inspiring, Mindful, Leadership

What an honour to be guiding this inspiring group of Leaders on their mindfulness journeys. In partnership with Business for Better Society…


What Mindfulness Is and Isn’t

Mindfulness and its practice can be hard to describe. For many it conjures up images of monks sitting in a monastery meditating, for others it