John Kabat Zinn Mindfulness Meditation Masterclass Notes

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My Rating: 7/10 Find it on Masterclass

My Bottom Line Thoughts

I thought this was a good course for a beginner to mindfulness meditation.

He covered everything a beginner needs to know and the right attitude and approach to take to meditation.

At this point in my meditation practice, I already knew a lot of the material but it was a nice refresher and addition of a few great points to focus on.

I read one of John Kabat Zinn’s books in the past so when I saw this cool course I decided to check it out.

I’d recommend this course for someone who is new to meditation and wants a simple yet comprehensive online learning experience to get started.

Summary Notes

A Guide to Mindfulness

  • Mindfulness: the awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose in the present moment nonjudgmentally 
  • Become aware of how unbelievably judgemental we are and dont judge the judging 
  • Awareness is a human superpower it’s a larger space than all thoughts, images, sensations
  • We exercise analytical thinking but never attend to deep inquiry and discernment of them in awareness 
  • There is no divinity in buddhism it’s about wakefulness and buddhist are pointing to something that is universal like the law of gravity 
  • There is no meditative state 
  • Mindfulness is awareness or relationality (my body, I, me, investigation of who we are)
  • Can change how we are in relationship to our problems and suffering which is healing
  • Healing: coming to terms with the reality of how things are
  • You’re the same person you always were but not 
  • Mindfulness is a superpower way of being with life as it’s unfolding in the way it does

Attitudinal Foundations of Mindfulness

  • Non-judging
    • Become mindful of how judging we are constantly and won’t judge that
    • Awareness of judging is a beautiful practice 
    • Not immediately collapse and contract 
    • Reduces our ability to respond effectively when contracting or reflexively acting
  • Patience
    • Immediately become aware of how impatient we are 
    • We force ourselves to get out of present moment for some illusion of future
    • Victims are people around us and it’s really abusive
    • Doesn’t mean you have to be satisfied with things currently but you can’t push the river and bulldoze things over
    • Clickbait rewires our brain for quick dopamine hits which causes harm long term
    • Remind yourself you don’t need to get anywhere when sitting
  • Beginner’s Mind
    • Suzuki Roshi is famous for saying “ in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities in the experts there are few” 
    • Being an expert prevents us from seeing honestly what’s here in the moment to moment unfolding 
    • Remind yourself of beginner’s mind when taking a seat like it’s your first time sitting
    • What you know can be seriously problematic because it can blind you from the unknown which is right over horizon
    • Insight are more accessible if we let go of “things we know”
    • All great scientists know the power of not knowing
  • Trust
    • Trust in your life, being authentic, and the unfolding of your precious beautiful life
    • Also have to be aware of when you sense it’s a time not to be trusting as well
    • The reminder of how much is going on in our body to keep us alive at any moment is trustworthy 
  • Non-striving
    • Can sound very anti-american
    • When you adopt the principle of nothing to do, nowhere to go, nothing to attain everything is attainable instantly (paradoxical)
    • Reminder that you can get more work and better work done by not being attached to the outcome and striving to get it done but to take care of every piece of it to the best of your ability
    • If lebron and steph curry can practice mindfulness then we should rethink the attitude that non-striving doesn’t get things done
  • Acceptance
    • Seeing the actuality of things as they are without deception
    • Doesn’t mean you can’t work to change them
    • Asking yourself how you are going to be in relationship with the intolerable
    • Clear seeing and action
    • Acceptance does not mean passive resignation but deep insightful recognition of how things are
    • If you are the only one seeing how things are and everyone else says something else trust yourself

A Guide to Meditation

  • Formal meditation: sitting meditation, body scan, laying meditation, hatha yoga
  • Informal meditation: life itself and cultivating awareness in daily life
  • We already are aware we need to cultivate access to that awareness
  • Mindfulness meditation is cultivating access to awareness
  • Meditation is literally not what you think (it’s not a thing but a way of being)
  • The notion that life is practice and you don’t need formal practice is fooling yourself
  • It’s brushing your mind and tuning your instrument, mind is very delicate and gets out of tune
  • Ultimately informal and formal become one and there’s no separation 
  • Often at risk of falling into auto-pilot in life and not being present when we are doing 
  • If you’re just getting things done you won’t have been there for any of it
  • Be fully awake of what’s present (good, bad, neutral)
  • Let go of outcomes and you will get the better outcome a lot of time

Guided Meditation: Dropping In

  • Find an upright awake posture
  • Drop into the body as a whole sitting and breathing
  • Notice where you feel the breath and watch it flow without any effort to manipulate it
  • When you notice that your mind is not on the breath or chosen object notice what’s on your mind
  • Note what’s on your mind and come back to the breath or chosen object
  • You will notice that you get frustrated with yourself if you wander off
  • Just let the mind be exactly how it is, don’t take it personally, then go back to the current breath
  • Learn how to embody awareness until they aren’t separate
  • See if you can keep your awareness in whatever is next in your life after the formal practice

Working With Thoughts While Meditating

  • The idea that you are supposed to have a blank mind when meditating is ridiculous 
  • Thoughts naturally buzz around, our job is to have awareness of them 
  • Sometimes if conditions are right our mind quiets down a lot but it depends on just the right conditions
  • The idea that we want to get rid of thoughts all together is like saying you want the pacific ocean to be flat all the time
  • This is just like the mind and thoughts are driven by emotions and life circumstances that hit your blockages
  • If you drop down under the surface of the ocean, even in the midst of hurricanes it is gentle and calm and you can let the hurricane pass above
  • The more we learn to drop in to awareness agitation is in a much bigger space
  • Meditation offers a new way to be in relationship with the mind 
  • Emotions and thoughts can be thought of as weather patterns in the mind
  • You can make anything the object of attention
  • Meditation is not about the objects themselves but learning how to attend to them
  • Bring a mirror into your practice to just reflect what’s happening (don’t push away, judge)
  • If you don’t feed thoughts, emotions, and sensations they come and go
  • Who gave other people that much power over you?
  • Work your way up to the most toxic thoughts and emotions over time
  • The faculty of bringing back a wandering mind over and over again is the very root of judgment, character, and will
  • Bringing the mind back to awareness is lifting weights for the mind
  • Don’t get caught up in the commentary shut down the commentary and attend the game
  • Not wanting to deal with what comes up is aversion

Meditation Postures

  • Sitting cross legged is optional
  • Lying down, walking, different types of sitting postures are welcome
  • SItting in an upright posture does promote wakefulness if you can manage
  • Most people need padding for the knees, legs, and to prop up their bum
  • Zabuton: Square cushion 
  • Zafu: smaller cushion to prop up pelvis
  • You sit on the end of the zafu to naturally tilt your pelvis forward
  • If your knees are still high it takes time to practice and change the muscles or if it’s too painful then sitting in a chair is fine
  • If discomfort on the floor gets to be too much sit on a chair
  • Find a posture that represents wakefulness 
  • There’s a range of things you can do with your hands (they each convey different energy signatures)
  • Lying down meditation is also a good option….it doesn’t get the attention it should

Guided Meditation: Falling Awake

  • When we wake up try just lying there and bringing awareness to getting up
  • Just watch the breathing patterns and the invitation to let go and watch
  • In the lying down posture there is nothing to constrain the belly
  • We can ride on the waves of the breath wherever they are most vivid
  • We can focus on one hand, then the other, the feet, then the whole body
  • Lying down meditation is great for 5-10 minutes before getting up from bed and before going to sleep to be with the body 

Putting out the Welcome Mat

  • Each message, emotion, thought stream has been sent as a guide from beyond to mold you into what you were meant to be 
  • If we can just be with whatever is currently here with us in full concentration and equanimity it will unlock the beauty of your life
  • Put out the welcome mat to all arising visitors that come……how are we going to be in wise relationship with the things that come
  • There is no perfect way to greet things in the human condition but we have the choice to welcome the new arrivals (dark thoughts, shame, malice, fear, sadness, joy, beauty, sensations)

Mindfulness & Stress

  • Stress is an inevitable part of living if we got rid of it all we would be dead
  • We have to work with it and befriend it 
  • The best coping strategy is to recognize how we are in relationship to the stressors and determine wisely how you are going to deal with them
  • With depression and other mental health issues mindfulness allows us to realize when we are falling into the black hole and decide how to be in relationship with it gradually over time strengthening the awareness muscle to avoid falling in the hole

Stress-Reaction Cycle

  • External stressors (physical, social, environmental)
  • Internal stressors (thoughts, emotions, pain)
  • These stressors affect all systems of the body 
  • Very often we react automatically instead of responding mindfully 
  • Physiology is set up to fight or flight 
  • We wind up with automatic and habitual stress reactions that the body is programmed to do
  • We internalize all this stress and pain and push it down
  • We get chronically hyperaroused
  • At this point we revert to maladaptive coping strategies (overwork, overeat, substances)
  • These make more stress and become your default mode
  • Sooner or later something is going to give (physical or psychological exhaustion)
  • The alternative is to drop in right in the middle when you feel the shit hitting the fan
  • You will still experience stress but you are holding it in awareness and acceptance
  • New options will arise over time because things change
  • Stopping in the midst is a moment of awareness and remembering you can choose how to be in relationship with the stress
  • What happens on the cushion doesn’t matter if you lose it all the time in the world 

Letting go of Selfing

  • When we see ourselves caught in the personal pronouns about our issues or how bad we are or whatever we can recognize this is a process of called selfing (I, Me, My generating false narratives)
  • The more we cultivate mindfulness the more we realize we are a beautiful boundless awareness that is profoundly knowing and trustworthy
  • Our default mode can be open heart presence surrounding the chatter in the mind
  • Koan: a paradox to be meditated upon that demonstrates the limitations of thought and reasoning (digs down into very deep inquiry that is beyond thought)

Mindfulness, Pain, and Suffering

  • When you have a chronic pain condition you can’t get up and leave
  • He realized this would be incredibly valuable for people who reached the end of their rope
  • For chronic pain and other medical conditions the average numbers of symptoms would drop in half and stay there
  • When you invite people to participate in their own healthcare new possibilities arise 
  • What we tell ourselves about sensations and emotions is where we suffer not the actual sensation or emotion
  • The thoughts about the sensations and emotions compound the suffering
  • You untangle the emotion and thought from the sensory component 
  • When you liberate pain from suffering you decrease dramatically the suffering
  • Part of mindfulness is welcoming pain and uncomfortability and parts of you that are killing you
  • Keep the practice going in the midst of intensity and aversion 
  • Can you take a quick peek at the pain or uncomfortability?
  • Over time you can actually turn towards what you don’t want to experience
  • Over time you realign yourself with parts of the body that are so painful to look at
  • It’s not your pain it’s just intense discomfort (not your identity)
  • Can you  have a good relationship with your pain and discomfort and not have it erode your life

The Science of Mindfulness

  • The longer a high stress situation goes on the more it takes years of your life and telomeres are shortened 
  • Telomeres did not degrade at the same rate if someone felt able to handle the stressful situation
  • This is a psychological and emotional factor that is having an effect on your cell division
  • The psychological factors in relationship to the stress makes all the difference
  • The default mode network is thinking about ourselves 
  • The people who went through the MBSR program had different default modes
  • When you practice non doing and mindfulness the narrative catastrophic story of me calms down and the area of the brain lights up which allows you to just be
  • Meditation changes all kinds of biological regulation

Reclaiming Our Wholeness

  • We are already whole no matter how much trauma we have experienced 
  • The thought that we are not complete is the problem
  • To open to the terror, fear, shame, ect is critical
  • How many times have we stuffed something that we should have been authentic with
  • We carry all these wounds and it’s a choice to be authentic when they arrive
  • We subjugate consciousness and suppress so many things but we don’t have to if we cultivate awareness of the situations
  • We do this to ourselves and blame the rest of the world
  • The choice is a moment to moment existential choice
  • Our life is the actuality of this moment to be who we truly are

Guided Loving Kindness Meditation

  • Give yourself a pat on the back that you even came here to sit
  • Taking a seat is an act of kindness and wisdom towards yourself
  • Sometimes its valuable to be more explicit towards the loving piece
  • First remember a time when you felt unconditional love or what it would feel like to feel unconditional love
  • Meditate on this feeling for a bit
  • Then bring that love towards yourself 
  • May I be free from inner and outer harm (feel this)
  • May I be healthy to whatever degree possible 
  • May I be happy
  • May I live with ease of wellbeing
  • Then bring that love towards other people you know and all beings on the planet
  • May all beings be free 
  • May all beings be happy and peaceful
  • May all being be free from suffering
  • May all being be filled with lovingkindness

Healing the World

  • There is a lot of stress and suffering in the world
  • We need to take care of the totality of what we are and wake up to the world and the future
  • We are at a moment of potential awakening 
  • This is all subject to meditative awareness and being present for what reality is 
  • Everyone is stuck in their fortified self 
  • If we are honest about liberating human suffering we have to be honest how we are creating ourselves
  • We experience an optical delusion of separateness from the world and our job is to get back to being in touch with the whole universe
  • The small minded self is a delusion and we need to step out of this prison
  • When we divide we set ourselves up for war and disaster
  • Tiny shifts are not that tiny they make a big difference and compound over time
  • At a certain point when the world is on fire you have to carry your practice into the world and get off your ass

Maintaining Your Practice

  • There is no end to the practice in life
  • We let life be the practice and the teacher and become fully embodied
  • We have to find our way to be mindful and heartful in the world
  • It’s a very hard training because all people and life test ourselves constantly 
  • When things get rough take a new seat and begin again and be here
  • The only way to change the future is in the present moment
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Josh is a writer and entrepreneur who runs a small digital content publishing business. His main interests are in topics related to developing personal and financial freedom. When not working he enjoys reading, yoga, surfing, being outdoors, meditating, exploring, and hanging with friends.