Beyond a Dedicated Mindfulness Meditation Practice

Leah Weiss, Ph.D., MSW, is a teacher, researcher, and meditation expert at Stanford University specializing in the application of mindfulness and compassion in secular contexts. She is also the Director of Education at HopeLab, a social innovation lab focused on designing science-based technologies to improve the health and well-being of teens and young adults. Her new book, How We Work: Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind, was published earlier this year. Her website is In this contribution to the KineSophy Mindfulness Series, she distinguishes between mindfulness and meditation and explains how we can be more mindful all the time.

A strong and regular meditation practice has some amazing benefits including reducing stress, improving concentration, and increasing happiness. But mindfulness doesn’t have to be solely linked to meditation. You can practice mindfulness “off the mat” and, in fact, you do not have to meditate in order to be mindful.

Mindfulness is “the attention to inattention,” which means making note of those times that your mind wanders or you’re attempting to “multi-task” (which, by the way, does not exist!). You can effectively train your brain to focus on the moment or task at hand through the acknowledgment of what’s happening in your body.

One very helpful way of doing this is to complete a full body scan. This can be done anywhere (so whether you are walking, laying down, or sitting at your desk, you can run through this exercise). Simply begin by taking note of the top of your head and moving your attention slowly down your body making sure to stop and notice every inch (your jawline, your neck, the back of your shoulders, etc.).

Beyond a Dedicated Mindfulness Meditation Practice

Notice the tension in your body. Notice the aches and pains. Notice those areas that are tired or weak or sore. If you spend a few minutes scanning your body and really paying attention to what’s going on, you can begin to focus and channel your mind to focus on the task at hand. Another helpful prompt is to return to your breath—not in the form of meditation, but just in the form of noticing how your breath feels.

The air that moves in and out of your nostrils might be cool when drawing in breath and warm when exhaling. Your belly might become rounder as you breathe in air and tighter as you breathe air out. Concentrate on your breath for a few moments with the intention to focus and concentrate on the moment or task in front of you.

Mindfulness doesn’t have to be meditation alone. Mindfulness can be present at any time and in any place simply by using your body as a tool to notice, accept, and be in the current moment. It really is that simple.

Read the other articles in the KineSophy Mindfulness Series.