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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.

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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

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Download Mark Williams audio meditation

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Download Mark Williams breathing space meditation

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Download Mark Williams video interview

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Download Mark Williams interview transcript

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1165 Responses

  1. Anne

    Fantastic opening from one of my favourite Mindfulness teachers, and what a beautiful video Hokusai says – we need reminding of this often.Thank you Mark and Melli. Looking forward to the rest of the summit from sunny Hertfordshire!

    1. mpburger0113

      I am a teacher by profession and as I listened, I realise the potential of mindfulness in the class room because that is something I’m occupied with 24/7 but I did not know how to teach learners the skill of paying attention although I say it so many times during a lesson. Think you for this valuable introduction!!

  2. Ginger Bateman

    Excellent introduction! I really enjoyed Professor William’s interview. – Others in my family practice, my son’s school has now integrated mindfulness, so I figured I best explore as well. Looking forward to the benefits and so welcoming to the adventure. Thank you so much for all of your work and effort in putting this together, and for making it accessible to all!

  3. tina callender

    Greetings to all . I am so thrilled to be taking part in this summit,. Having just watched the videos , it has given me hope to look at the world in a different , and kinder way. Thank you to the organisers and contributors of this summit. Thank you.

  4. Eva

    Very interesting, i always gave up on meditation because my mind tends to wander. Come to find out it’s actually quite normal for it to wander. Maybe now i will actually stick to it and make some progress…

  5. Ruth Chappell

    I discovered Mark Williams’s book and started the eight week programme. That was a couple of years ago and I’ve not completed it after several attempts of trying. I’m forever making promises with myself to restart it tomorrow or next week. But this interview with Mark is just what I needed to stop beating myself up and just get on with it.

    I’m really looking forward to the rest of the summit, thanks for hosting!

  6. Jacqueline Sturbaum

    Thank you for this. One question. How has mindfulness been integrated in Asian countries? Have they had success with their governments and society improving from practicing mindfulness? I have often wondered what roadblocks they may have had over time since they have had mindfulness teachings for so many years.

      1. Jacqueline Sturbaum

        HI Freida,

        Yes that is my question. Mindfulness originated in Asian countries. How has that played out over centuries. Have they made progress with integrating into schools/government, etc. the way we are talking about doing in the west. Basically what can we learn from what they have tried already.

    1. Eva

      You can stream it to view all the talks for 24 hours, you can download day 1 for free but all other days you have to pay to download. You can stream it for free for only 24 hours though…

  7. Dana Kenneth+Lewis

    Absolutely loved the first day! Unlike some of the critics of the format, I rather enjoyed the use of the split screen and a dialogue as opposed to a lecture with the guest only. I am thrilled that this is occurring and that Mindfulness continues to spread into public awareness. Prof. Williams is wonderful. Sending mindful greetings from Newark, Delaware USA

  8. Liane Webb

    What was really helpful for me in this first talk was not just that mind wandering is okay but that the return to the breath is done with compassion and kindness towards ourselves and not that we’ve ‘done something naughty’ and returning to the breath and hoping no-one notices!!

  9. Zinnia

    Thank you,! That was an interesting first talk, despite being a frequent practitioner of meditation whose mind is not yet “stilled”. I have two questions for the software adminisitrator: 1) My first attempt was to access the talk on video…which worked for all of 9 minutes as a fixed picture, no video/animation. So i listened on audio staring out into the ocean seeing the illumination on large ships and smaller fishing boats….which was nicer, perhaps. 2) But the two times I tried to “Pause” the lecture, I couldn’t return to the last viewed location and had to go back to the start. Thank you for your advice on why I could not see it as a video and on how to pause yet restart from where last viewed. Good Night All!

  10. julie +miller

    Thank you, thank you! I’m so excited to start this journey. I need a lot of guidance on this subject and this presentation was just the perfect introduction. I’ve had trouble sleeping all week and even though I didn’t finish it until 1 a.m. today, I felt more refreshed than I have all week this morning. It’s already having a positive effect.

  11. Felipe

    Thank you Professor for your sharing. Thank you for the new point of view of what is really the wander of the mind. That is a thing that many people find – like myself – find hard to deal with, and you have definitely got me more interested in this amazing opportunity.

  12. Adrian

    Greetings from Granada Hills, California. What a beautiful and enriching experience you are providing all of us. I’m so glad to be a part of this amazing journey with everyone. The interview and your approach to it is exceptional, heartfelt, genuine, practical, and informative. I really look forward to this month, learning about and practicing mindfulness. Thank you so much. Love and Light.

  13. Sherrill Hannon

    Excellent discussion and will definitely read Mark Williams book. Yes, too many people are working overtime, especially the nurses in hospitals! Without breaks and nutrition!

  14. Sarah Ward

    The way the interviewer tries to respond and acknowledge is extremely distracting. It would be much easier to listen to Mark talk if she silently let him explain instead of interjecting ‘mmhmm’s and ‘yeah’s. I don’t want to come off as ungrateful, it has just been difficult for me to focus on what Mark was saying because of the way she was responding! Thank you for this project.

    1. Anne Wolka

      I agree. I find myself not listening to the speaker because I’m waiting for the next hmmm.. Or yeah… Not very mindful of me, I suppose but that’s why I’m here. 😉 I do think it’s a fantastic project and opportunity, thank you to the team putting it on!

  15. Martha de+Yturbe

    I recently dreamt that i was in a church whose choir greeted its guests chanting “Welcome home, welcome home, welcome home; welcome home, welcome home …” Happy to say i feel very much at home within this wonderful community. Thank u all for sharing your wisdom. Your words of wisdom are music to my ears. God bless us all!

  16. LeeOra Scott

    Thank you so much for this opportunity to be part of this summit. I work in health care and it is our hope that we will be practicing Mindfulness with our elderly residents, many of whom are depressed and ill. Our hope is also to introduce Mindfulness to our employees as a part of our Wellness program. It’s very exciting! Professor Williams said “getting there is the challenge” and I believe that. It is hard in to stay committed and focused on taking care of just me but I’m going to give my best shot!

  17. Marsha

    This is fantastic timing for me. I am so glad you are doing this. Regarding the meditation, there is one thing I am not completely clear about. Would mantra meditation like TM/transcendental meditation work for this?

  18. Irma Martin

    Love the clarity and explanation of mindfulness! Enjoyed the step-by-step for “gathering and settling the mind.” Thanks so much! I look forward to the rest of the summit! Better get to work on my “1 minute mindfulness!”

  19. AkikoUeda

    It was an enjoyable talk. I thought you might want to acknowledge the contribution of the tradition of Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism. With my humble understanding, the main part of the meditation method you described is very similar to what I am practicing within the teaching of Tibetan Buddhism.

      1. Robert Haile

        As an MD in the crazy fee for service system in the USA, I found that over time the types of patients with whom I worked( Head and spinal cord injuries, amputees, etc..) required more time( Imagine helping a quadriplegic undress, get on a examination table, examine every inch/aspect of them.) but paid less than my overhead on Medicaid and then trying to make up the loss on Medicare(paying about 48%.) patients will complex diagnoses taking time, again, but then having a goal of working less( < 100 hours/week). We not only need a better health care system but to encourage the richest <1% to meditate and develop emotional intelligence, compassion, etc.. Our greatest changes could come about by finding a way to address these people, as you pointed out with your example of Henry Ford.

  20. gingerssnapped6547

    The Professor is brilliant. The female interviewer is very annoying and distracting! Please, no more slang,! Be professional. Learn to say YES, not yeah. And frame your questions without ummmms. . Finally when the lecturer is speaking, keep your comments to yourself.

  21. Robert Slatten

    I thought the Day 1 presentation was very good. I wasn’t sure about Mindfullness but it is much clearer after the Professor’s presentation and Melli’s direction and questions. I forwarded your site to other members of my family and my friends. My belief is “Positive Strokes” – everyday something is good and you have to awaken yourself to understand them. At 82 years old and in Gentle Yoga for some 11 years, I am still learning. Mindfullness is just another chapter. Thanks

  22. Miranda

    I am very glad you went into detail when your mind is wandering and to gracefully bring your awareness to your body as well. Be gentle on your mind and acknowledge that you may be thinking many different things however gathering yourself using the 3 step breathing space. Give you thinking mind a break 🙂

    I really enjoyed the concept of the 3 breaths process: Acknowledging gathering & opening… a beautiful tool.
    Many Thanks.

  23. Chandra Laxton

    Thank you Millie for organizing the Mindfull Summit. It is very impressive that such a young woman has assembled this group of experts and made it accessable to all of us! I enjoy your interview style: your questions are interesting and relevvant and your style is informal and unintimidating. For those o f you who are distr actd by her comments, dont worry, mindful practice will bring you greater ability to focus your atten tion, but also, most importantly, it will bring you compassion. Good job Millie… Looking forward to more learning!!

  24. Anabel pandiella

    I have only just done day one but really enjoyed the talk. That 8 minute meditation was fantastic, I think giving myself the time to watch an hour really helped. Am looking forward to the next ones. Thank you so much!

  25. Alison Burton

    My take is practice makes progress…not “perfection”. ( lived with a very perfection driven mother!!!) Per Brene Brown…we are human beings and we make mistakes. So life is practice, practice, practice. Also…I just got into the summit and it’s free. Just listened to Day 1 and Day 3. Interesting!!!

  26. Freida Maverick

    I think that compassion and loving-kindness is not emphasized enough in these talks on mindfulness. Anyone can train to be mindful – sportspeople, CEOs, politicians, saints and dictators. Being mindful makes you better at what you do – sports, running a business or a country, being a saint or being a dictator. It can certainly make you happier when you are able to learn not to identify with negative thoughts. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are acting in a way that is beneficial to others and causing no harm.

    The point of mindfulness in the Buddhist context is come to a middle-path, away from the extremes of hedonism and asceticism, to live our human life in a way that is harmless to other sentient beings, to practice equanimity, and to be mindful so that our thoughts, intentions, speech, actions and livelihood are not only harmless but also beneficial. Being mindful is about creating a space between stimulus and response so that there is time for inquiry, to hunt out and challenge assumptions (our own and others), to entertain other points of view, and to critique our thoughts and intentions before they become actions. The point of mindfulness in the Buddhist context is to cultivate wisdom and compassion/loving-kindess.

    The ‘practice’ of mindfulness – meditation – is just that: Practicing to be aware of stimulus and to create a space of non-response in the mind. It’s like ‘practicing’ the scales on the piano. The point is not the scales, but that out of the piano practice comes beautiful music. The point of mindfulness meditation practice is not the awareness and mind-space, it is that we now have a skill to apply virtuous and meaningful responses to stimuli.

  27. Freida Maverick

    Professor Mark Williams is brilliant. His research is excellent. I was quite sobered when he said that the research showed that enthusiasm has no impact on efficacy – only regular practice does! So here I go again, another promise to myself to practice regularly. I’m keen to read his book/s.

    I understand why Professor Williams has concentrated his studies on mindfulness and depression, when depression is so common – the same reason that Jon Kabat Zinn focused his research on stress – it affects a significant percentage of the ‘western’ population. I personally would like to know if any studies have been done on mindfulness and psychosis (psychosis is not common at all), particularly on auditory hallucinations. Can mindfulness help people experiencing psychosis to detach from rather than identifying with the voices?

  28. Jordi Guarinos

    Thank you for this absolutely inspiring interview. An excellent opening to this summit. Just waiting for next interviews. Congratulations and best wishes from Barcelona!

  29. Veronica

    Inspiring. Truly amazing. Especially the part of mindfulness at work and how the work structures and cultures need to change in order to be healthy and live more fully.

  30. Kathleen Shaffner

    We are Humans Being Human Kind. We are Physical, Mental, Emotional & Spiritual in expression in this life time & if you believe, you have lived in this Universe forever in the form of Energy. What type of Energy are you emitting in this present precious moment? What thoughts are you allowing into your life right NOW; are these thoughts life enhancing or are these thoughts choking off the inherent benevolent Universal Eternal Infinite Mind of Expansion = Loving Kindness to yourself & others. Whatever you think; will influence your feelings & actions.
    So, if your thoughts are depressing you PLEASE go on a vision quest/study/travel/etc… to find your joy in this lifetime Now PLEASE.
    “What you do unto yourself, you do unto others” All is ONE Universe & you are a part of it! Everyone deserves happiness & a sense of Well Being through meaningful Life Purpose & Loving Kindness! Bless-SINGS to All & may you find your JOY NOW!

    1. patrick griglio

      I live in NJ, are there mindfulness support groups? I believe a reason why so many people begin then leave the study and practice of mindfulness is because they lack a support group. If mindfulness is to change the world then we need to feel we are not alone, that others, in our community, have the same mindfulness desires. To change from the inside out ourselves and the world.

      1. Beth Hubert

        Any Buddhist Sangha would be welcoming and most supportive… and one doesn’t need to be a Buddhist to participate. One I was involved with had small groups (within the larger Sangha body) whose purpose was specifically to provide mutual support for the individuals’ mindfulness practices. This is not uncommon. Check your area listings. Buddhist Sanghas are very warm, accepting places.

    2. Solstice13

      Iv been using mindfulness for 18 months now. I use it to help me relax when its night time and am cozy in bed. I had difficulties sleeping before i discovered mindfulness. I can vouch for the fact it works in aiding me off to sleep problem being now is that when iam comfortable and attempt to practice mindfulness now like with Mark & Melly in this podcast i fall asleep. I have has a great sleep in today being sunday and that was my plan so its not that iam tired. Have i trained myself to sleep when in practice? I hope someone can answer this

      1. Mary Anne+Petersen

        I enjoyed Mark William’s instruction.Much of it resonated for me.I especially appreciated his reminders about the difficulties of practice that we need to be aware when they are happening and it is these very moments that we need to pay attention to, and be curious about discovering where these difficulties will take us on our meditation journey.Thank You!!

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