Top bar right text

Professor Mark Williams – An Introduction to Mindfulness

Professor Mark Williams – An Introduction To Mindfulness

Professor Mark Williams is Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford and was also the Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre until his retirement in 2013.

Professor Williams, along with colleagues John Teasdale (Cambridge) and Zindel Segal (Toronto), developed Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for prevention of relapse and recurrence in major depression. He is also co-author of the best selling book ‘Mindfulness: Finding Peace In A Frantic World.’

In this interview Mark elegantly answers the question ‘what is mindfulness?’ He also leads 2 simple introductory practices for beginners and talks about why mindfulness is so effective for the treatment of depression relapse.

In this interview you’ll also discover…

  • The difference between mindlessness and mindfulness.
  • Why mindlessness often gets us into so much trouble.
  • The cutting edge research on mindfulness for depression (Mark is one of the world premiere researchers in this field).
  • The ‘breathing space’ mindfulness practice, which is great to use in times of stress and difficult emotions
  • How to use ‘habit releasers’ to bring more mindfulness into daily life.
  • An experience of the ‘body scan’ mindfulness practice.

Share this

Listen to the audio version here


Show Notes

Join the The Mindfulness Summit Journey here

Come and join the community discussions at any time on our Facebook page

Check out Melli’s blog, events and retreats at MrsMindfulness.com

More about MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy)

Check out Marks books ‘Mindfulness: Finding peace in a frantic world’

More about the Oxford Mindfulness Centre





Download Mark Williams audio interview

Download MP3 (Right click to save)

Download Mark Williams audio meditation

Download MP3 (Right click to save)

Download Mark Williams breathing space meditation

Download MP3 (Right click to save)

Download Mark Williams video interview

Download MP4 – High Def, 1280×480 (Right click to save)

Download MP4 – Standard Def, 640×240 (Right click to save)

Download Mark Williams interview transcript

Download PDF (488kb)


Leave a Comment

1165 Responses

  1. Kylie Griffiths

    I really enjoyed this insightful introduction into mindfulness.
    I am an educator and I am particularly interested in teaching and encouraging mindfulness in schools.

  2. Sonia Vaillant

    Gratefulness. Many thanks! My heart is full of love and gratitude, and the sun outside is inside me. Thanks a lot to you both. “Thanks” may be the only word life is repeating inside you all the time 😉

  3. Luke Zygmunt

    Great point on being gently when realizing our mind has wondered and bringing it back to the body and breath in a kind and loving manner. This is extremely important and something that already enriched my practice as of this morning 🙂

  4. latoya seawood

    Great opening for summit. I am enthusiastic about the rest of the summit but I also commit to practice material to gain optimal results. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Linda Hodges

    Wonderful speaker, Mark Williams, bringing in some new c1oncepts for me that feel excellent; the gentle guidance when the mind is doing its Disneyland thing, the gym picture, and the short reference to the aging of us all, and in the end, accepting our minds and others as well. We hope we may be taken care of by a person of mindfulness, yes? I know I do. Be easy on Melli – everyone’s technique is not perfect. She asked good questions and I know I appreciated her relaxed instinct, and lack of interruption when Mark was explaining the history, or different techniques of mindfulness, etc. I am really happy right now so I am glad I signed up for the Summit. Here from sunny Northern California I send an open heart and continual healing for all!

  6. Nanette Kinsman

    I loved the visualisation of a 3 minute glass for the 3 minute breathing space. This is a very useful tip to have at your fingertips when one is submerged in a frenetic day. I think that this Summit is such an opportunity and privilege. Looking forward to everyday of October.

  7. Joel

    Hello from Vancouver. I am studying psychology and practicing mindfulness as I deal with various mental illnesses. I am so excited about this conference. Mindfulness has changed my life, I feel like it has saved it. Hearing people talk about it soothes me, and helps me let go of my grip I have on obnoxious thoughts convincing me I have no hope, am incapable, and need to beat myself up. Hearing people talk about being in the moment releases me from feeling like I need to respect every thought that enters my head and entertain it, obsess on it, be captured in it.

  8. Giorgiana castello

    Thank you for organising such a wonderful summit and to all the brilliant minds contributing, I look forward to what the next 30 days will bring to my world. With love from Melbourne, Australia.

  9. Schalk Lubbe

    Thank you so much for this first session. I’m from Auckland, New Zealand, and consider myself very blessed to have found this teaching … or maybe it found me!
    I appreciated the practical examples that Mark shared with us since I am very new to mindfulness and meditation. I was one of the people who thought that meditation was not successful if you could not completely shut down your mind.
    One question — what is the best way to handle discomfort during meditation? For instance, I experienced hip pain during the 8-minute practice. If I got up to relieve the hip pain, then I would have to “start from the beginning” again … or is that a mis-interpretation?

    1. Shona Keachie

      Hi Schaik – Most practitioners try and observe the pain and let it go (in the same way as the thoughts that drift in and out), but if the pain persists, just gently change position. Personally I prefer to practice through a yin yoga routine as it keeps me moving in a series of prolonged stretches. I just find my body wants to move rather than sit for long periods. The main thing is to keep letting the thoughts go.

  10. Gaby Patron

    I really enjoyed my first day of THE MINDULNESS SUMMIT, I was looking forward to receiving all this great tips and knowledge, as a beginner in meditation it’s been quite clear and helpful to understand, this is what my life needed for a long time.
    I’m very thankful to all of you that are making this available for all of us!!
    I will be here the rest of the month by the en of it, I’m sure I’ll be a much better human been

  11. Ruth Keys

    This is just wonderful. I have meditating since 1979 and when I first learnt it in London I was on anti-depressants and not in a good space. After five days of learning meditation I flushed the tablets down the toilet. So as Mark says meditation does work for depression. Even though I am not new to this I am still getting very helpful hits to help me enhance my meditation as well as deciding to go to the cinema complex and then seeing the film that is next on. It’s a new way of going to the movies! Will my husband join me I wonder. I look forward to hearing more from the lovely Mrs. Mindfullness and her guests.

  12. Shona Keachie

    Good evening from New Zealand, so glad we got the glitches sorted out after last night’s late start and I could listen today – well worth the wait! Having practiced meditation and mindfulness for a while now, I like the explanation you gave about why we take the time in your practice to slowly move our attention inwards then back out again. Also the point you make about thoughts drifting in and gently letting them go is important and liberating. Thank you.

  13. Vanessa Walker

    It’s a pleasure to be a part of this amazing and inclusive mindfulness summit. A perfect way to enter into the changing season. Thank you . Lovingkindness to all beings.

  14. Choe Hill

    Hello! not sure where to place this post, but Id LOVE it if someone could could tell me what the difference is between 1) mindfulness and 2) transcendental meditation (I think its more broadly know as vedic meditation)- can these two different techniques complement each other or not at all? I know that TM /vedic is done with a mantra to help the body relax itself and isnt necessarily about bringing the mind back to the centre/breath like in mindfulness – can anyone provide some more insight here? Cheers!

  15. I really appreciated hearing the recent developments in research in MBCT and depression. One problem was that I was having to stop and start the audio and I wasn’t able to go back to where I’d left off or navigate to the middle of the audio. Can anyone help me?

  16. Blijde Ligthart

    Thank you Mr. Williams, was a super interesting and informative opening to Mindfulness, also thoroughly enjoyed our little devotion to meditation together-I honestly felt like I was doing it with the both of you and everyone else around the world, right here from my little Amsterdam apartment. I look forward to the rest of the course! xx

  17. Teresa Gray

    What a brilliant session! So glad I managed to logged in (had some problem with registration) and listened to Dr Mark Williams.The two short meditations made me feel so light and free that I did not want to stop! I loved the way he explained mindfulness by allowing us to visualize scenes or items to better understand the meaning of mindfulness. Thank you so much for making these sessions available to so many and lets hope that it will change the world from what it is to a better more compassionate one.
    I will look forward to number two session!

  18. Taliah Nathanson

    Grateful and Thankful.
    Realizing how enthusiastic I’ve been about
    Mindfulness as mentioned in the talk,
    And how difficult it is to get to the
    Sitting and doing it.

  19. Carlos Gambirazio

    I love that three step strategy for mindful breathing, it makes it so much easier when you have a structure like that and embracing your whole body at the end truly brings an openness feeling. Thank you and I’m looking forward to the next 30 days!!

  20. Debbie Page

    I really enjoyed this opening discussion to the Mindfulness Summit Challenge. With gratitude to you both for such a great beginning. Someone once told me that “the mind controls the body, and breath controls the mind.

  21. aron gersh

    So! I am a Humanistic Psychotherapist, and like the Mindfulness spirit, but have many questions about the theory and concepts. I am making a cup of tea. I have just read a book which has stimulated me with an interesting idea. I have a hunch. I know that by thinking about what I have just read an excellent creative thought is going to emerge . . .changing the “habit” patterns of older thoughts. That is to say, I am about to produce a creative new thought. While this is happening I am also dreaming of my future goal, one which I intend actualising, of giving a really important TED talk within 2 -5 years. This creative thought I am about to produce is part of it. I thus am dreaming (ruminating?) about the future. My dreams and ruminations are indeed all “future fantasies”, (as they call them in Gestalt therapy).So here and now I am dreaming about the future. This is a good dream. it is also not unrealistic. I am working towards that future. This dream makes me happy. The creative thought I am about to produce is going to part of that future talk at a TED event. Now . . . if any Mindfulness teacher tells me that I missed out on something because I was not aware of the morning cup of tea I made and drank in my little kitchen as I I was dreaming/thinking/ruminating I would tell them to sod off. Where I was in my thoughts, in my imagination, was my current “here-and-now” . . .and to suggest it is more important to be aware of the physical world around me, the world of objects and things rather than my rich, joyful, peaceful inner life (for example, pondering the beautiful children and grandchildren in my family who are not “here-and-now” — well, I am sorry . . . I simply don’t think there is any value in that.

    1. Cindy Caldeira

      Hi Aron. If I may, I think you’re thinking about future aspirations, family and what you describe as wholesome thoughts is actually great things to continue thinking about. There is solace in this also. I like to think of mindfulness as taking the time to reflect on a deep personal level with oneself and ones mind. Happy to be corrected though. Not all cups of tea are spent listening to one’s mind in silence 🙂 This aside, i feel the mindfulness pitch should expand to all of humanity and not necessarily, (and whilst it is) as a easier path to depression. Mindfullness is all embracing and In todays’ society, eastern and western, an approach that is essential to strenghtening social acceptance, awareness and a strong sense of community.

      1. aron gersh

        Gosh, Cindy . . . at least, I can say, thanks for engaging about this. There is, of course, much to say, much to discuss, and the whole summit is moving on. But I was surprised that not a single other soul, from 900 comments, had no solid questions to ask, and had just blind “mindless” praise for the concepts. I DO like the Mindfulness approach, and I KNOW the good intentions of all its proponents. But i also believe in constantly challenging ourselves in our thinking, becoming aware (mindful) of our assumptions, and becoming aware (mindful) of either their limitations, or of the possibility of different, sometime opposite assumptions (e.g.. like “habits can be good, and give us peace” and that “the voices in the head might be joyful, fun voices, not to be turned off”). The best way to further truth and knowledge is to have it constantly challenged as to how it may be limited, or abjectly wrong. At any rate, the voice in my head says to me: “You are wonderful for being MINDFUL about these concepts . . .where hundreds of others are just going along mindlessly (thought-lessly) with the given concepts because the experts sound so convincing. But the biggest world experts have blindspots. I was simply trying to point out some possibilities. At any rate, I shall carry on, with joy and peace, with compassion for myself and others, to continue to think out of the popular boxes. Thanks again for engaging.

  22. aron gersh

    I also have a question about the “badness” of habits. What about good habits. I do think we should always REFLECT on our habits both good and bad. And, as a matter of fact, I have been practicing AMBIDEXTERITY in my life for years — trying to break the patterns of too much right-handedness. I brush my teeth with my other hand. I put on my shirt “the other way” using the other hands. I get on my bicycle from the other side. But whenever Mark Williams talks about “habits” or “dreams” or “ruminations” he seems to be making the assumption that they are in some way “pathological”, painful, not-serving to the person, But that is debatable.
    In general, as I listen to stuff about Mindfulness, I wonder about whether they are not dealing with very ordinary old wisdom that can be expressed much more simply. Be kind and compassionate to yourself. Give up judgmentalism, put-down. REFLECT . . . .have a reflective life where you think about what you are doing, and/or, at least are AWARE of all aspects of your life.
    By the way, I have nothing against having future projects in one’s life which force us to NOT be aware of certain things which are called DISTRACTIONS. A PROJECT means we are LINKING PAST TO PRESENT TO FUTURE. We are living in time. But I do think it is important too to take a break from all this PROJECTING, PLANNING THE FUTURE. . . and TO LIVE OUT OF TIME for a part of one’s day . . .where indeed one is totally present to the current physical and human surroundings, and not to one’s future dreams, not to one’s grandchildren far away.

  23. brooke bleich

    Thank you for the first day! Every time I try to meditate I am very fidgety! Any ways of dealing with this.. ? staying “still” is a problem for me.. I am always on the go..I think this is not healthy and It was difficult just to get through the 8 minutes

  24. Anette Eriksson

    Wonderful! I´m joining in from Sweden and I´m so much looking forward to follow this summit. As beeing practicing and teaching mindfulness for a while now, I still found a great value in this interview, opening up for new insights and ways to present the practice. Thank you!!!

  25. Nandini Chari

    I thoroughly enjoyed listening in. Revisited a few things known and learnt a few more. I really liked the hour glass analogy to the 3 minute meditation and the more practical 3 breadth option which as a teacher I do try to do but now with the three keywords of Awareness, Gather and Open tagged with it would be more effective. Will surely try to practice that more.

  26. Lynda

    Loving this opportunity to expand my understanding of mindfulness practices in my and my children’s lives! Ever so important to be present and engaged in the moment. We need to teach our young kids how to do this and keep the anxiety and stresses of today’s fast paced society at bay….! Mindfulness is the key to children’s focus on learning and striving for what they see is important to them. Thanks so much ! Enjoy your day….

  27. William M+Russell

    I have enjoyed the mindfulness journey over these years as a beginner, as a student, as a teacher, and as always with a beginners mind, So thank you so very much for allowing us to listen to and be present to continue mine and our mindfulness neverending journey. Mark thank you for sharing your compassion and understanding of mindulness with simplicity and directness, I hope that you will continue your work and will receive the much needed grant in your continued research and developmen and for your mindfulnesst team to remain toghether. I will pray and hope others will join me in supporting you in this much needed research. I was moved by your reading of what Hokusai says. Thank you Milli for your interview.Peace.

  28. Helen Tim

    I don’t have facebook, twitter etc. and I didn’t find the “Free Access Pass”, just the one to buy. I got the Day 1 information via email (and I found it very interesting) but now there seems to be no access to the information for Day 2. Can anyone advise me?

    1. Niki Rose

      If you look on the right of this page under the icons for face book etc, you will see a heading “Daily Speakers”with the speakers’names underneath. Click on Day 2 speaker’s name (Joseph Goldstein) and you should be able to access the talk.

      1. Luke Ward

        I get that yes, but there seems to be no option to download the Day 2 talk, unlike the Day 1 talk. I only see an option to purchase…

        I was able to download Day 1 on Day 1, and thought that I should be able to download Day 2 on Day 2, since I cannot stream the talks on my computer. I hope I’m just missing something….


        1. Jill Melvin

          Day 1 is the exceptiion,it being the introduction, and so it is available through today, oct. 3, but, generally, for each talk, they are available for 24 hours from after midnight through the following midnight.

    2. Wendy gordon

      On the top right hand side of day one page ….underneath the Facebook and Twitter logo you can see it says DAILY SPEAKERS…. Click on day two …it takes you to the day two speaker

    3. Linda Joy

      Just use the original email. Click on day one and day two will be there also.
      I am loving this summit and I am telling everyone about this! I have already purchased my pass. It is so worth it, even if it were just these first two days.

      1. Julie

        You should check this community in Dharmaloca : http://opendharma.org/, I don’t think they are in Barcelona though but they do things on line in Spanish and English and it’s a retreat center. I did many retreats with them in India and they are great teachers.
        I hope that will help for a start.


    4. Fernando Azevedo

      Honestly i cant understand how thwy have the nerve to chrge to access this sunnit. And i dont understand how people like Joseph Goldstein go along with this scham really,,,,

    5. Shruti Sankalapuram

      Hi Helen!
      If I remember correctly, there won’t be daily email reminders of the talks. I’ve received email about the daily mindfulness challenge(s). I am not on Facebook or Twitter either. I think you just gotta remember to check in everyday and see what’s in store!
      Wishing you lots of love, peace, mindfulness and miracles!

    6. Kristen Esbensen

      I have found it very challenging to even get signed in. I think I am as of today, but it has taken 3 days. I think the support people were finally able to make it possible for me. So, perhaps contact the support staff and ask for assistance. I think they are experiencing difficulties, but are getting to us as they can.

    7. Caleb Pritchard

      Hi All – to clarify, 1st day introduction only is available for download for free. The remaining episodes are available to listen to for free for 24 hours after being posted, so be sure to tune in daily catch up on these. If you wish to download them so you can view them in your own time (i.e whenever), you’ll need to donate – and fair enough, very worthwhile in my opinion – so valuable!!!! To Milli, the team, and all the speakers – thank you for sharing this experience with us.

    8. Bernadette

      I agree that mindfulness should be applied to school program’s from day one of the child’s school career! I also believe that mindfulness classes should be freely available to all people! What a better behaved world of people it would be! Thank you!

    9. Nicola Akhurst

      Dear Professor Williams,

      I work as a speech therapist with people who have communication problems as a result of neurological impairment. I think mindfulness has a great deal to offer people with Neuro problems in helping to cope with stress, grief and loss and to make the most of life as it is now. There is very limited psychological support available for this group through the NHS. Mindfulness unlike other therapies also does not require lots of speaking so could be great for people who have expressive language and speech impairment. I would like to get myself trained so I can become a more skilful helper. I also think this would be a great area for research. Where do I start?

Leave a Reply