Mindfulness and Mindfulness and Art Therapy (MBAT)

  "To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts" (Thoreau cited in Kabat-zinn 1994)

We all experience moments of mindfulness, mindfulness is not just something that experienced meditators do. Christina Feldman states"the richest, deepest moments of our lives have all been moments of mindfulness" (2004:167). It is often a simple quality experience such as standing before a sunset or sitting and listening to a friend who is in pain.

Meditation is about the cultivation of quality experiences. It has long been recognised that this quality of experience that we are trying to understand can be cultivated  through meditation and that this can have benefits for health and well being. 

Mindfulness meditation is actually … meditations.

There are a range of practices that that have been taught as a way of cultivating this quality. They have their roots in ancient traditions from before Buddhism although Buddhism, and the “The way of mindfulness” from the Sattipathana Sutra  (Thera 1998),  is the most commonly acknowledged teaching given two thousand years ago to the Buddha as a way of alleviating suffering.

Contemporary training in mindfulness gives participants the opportunity to learn and apply these practices in entirely secular ways. Skills are developed by engaging in regular meditation practice that can then be taken into daily life and work.

Mindfulness meditation is basically any focus on an activity of daily living in the present moment, done with awareness curiosity and kindness. Jon Kabat-Zinn (1990) uses a simple exercise of eating a raisin slowly to illustrate the point  that mindfulness can and should be applied to everyday ordinary activities. In Zen Buddhism especially daily activities such  sweeping the floor are practiced as a way of cultivating mindfulness .

Martine Bachelor says about daily life: “You do not need to confine yourself to meditating in four positions, awareness concentration and inquiry can be practiced anywhere-you can meditate as you work, communicate, rest, travel and love. Bring a meditative attitude to everything you do!” (2001)

I would argue especially to artwork.

Why do we want to cultivate mindfulness?

  • These experiences often get lost as we grow older especially among busy people
  • They can make us appreciate the detail and richness of ordinary experience that we may lose in our pull away from present day ordinary experience
  • They make life worthwhile and bearable and therefore are recently recognized as being beneficial for health and well-being.
  • They can enable us to develop more self awareness and respond to lifes challenges in a more creative manner
  • They can enable us to develop more kindness towards ourselves and others.
  • Mindfulness has received much attention in recent years because it has been recognised that mindfulness practices can relieve forms of suffering, help us see things more clearly, deal with difficulties better enhance resiliency  quality of life.and health and well-being.

What are the difficulties?

If mindfulness is about the ordinary and simple then why do we need a meditation practice? Somehow these experiences get lost in everyday life..

Christina Feldman states “mindfulness is neither difficult nor complex; remembering to be mindful is the greatest challenge” (2001) Most of us find ourselves frequently ‘swept away’ by the current of thoughts and feelings, worries, pressures, responsibilities and wanting things to be different from how they are right now. This is particularly difficult to resist when there are work targets and deadlines.

This can be particularly powerful when we are faced with pain, difficulties and illness that confound our attempts to find a solution or to feel better. Mindfulness can help us to work directly with these struggles we sometimes have in relating to life’s experience and in doing so can really improve the quality of our life.

Mindfulness and art therapy.

Mindfulness works well in combination with with art therapy and art making.

Mindfulness uses the same side of the brain as art making and gives us another experiential and  non conceptial  arena in which we can explore  our direct present moment experience. It works well with those who find words difficult or have experiences that are either too painful or beyond words.

Mindfulness based art therapy works  especially in the mindfulness of emotion. Art making can be a means of being with both difficult and with pleasant emotions in the present moment. It works well for those who find being in their bodies or verbal articulation difficult or those who find working with images easier.

The art making can enable individuals to observe their emotion in the present moment in concrete form and with physical distance, experiencing and learning to notice feelings in the body during the process of art making. This can function as a bridge, enabling individuals to develop awareness of bodily sensations and giving an additional experiential dimension to formal meditation from which to work with emotional states.(L.Francis:Creative Connections 2011:.2011 and 2012: British association of Art Therapists  training courses)

I run a range of mindfulness and art therapy based    workshops and courses all  will involve practical mindful art making exercises, reflection and discussion.I also use this approach with individual clients and with groups in my work.

Mindfulness based art therapy training  for professionals.

These   courses  and workshops  look a how we use  art-making to support mindfulness practice and to extend the range of approaches available to people working with  a range of client groups. In this course   we will look at how this approach can be used in practice  and how the art making process can contribute to the field of mindfulness in general. 

The workshop is suitable for professionals in health and education who are interested in extending the range of techniques available to them. It is also suitable for those individuals who wish to explore how mindful art making can be used to support their own mindfulness practice.I presently run these courses for the  The British Association of art therapists but am happy to run them for other professional groups or organisations.(See Resources page for more information)

Mindfulness and Art therapy ten week group for Adult service users suffering from a range of mental health problems.

This course was developed with  a colleague Jill Alkin. It was a  semi structured weekly course that also responded flexibly to the needs of the individuals in the group and run at Blackberry Hill Hospital outpatients department in Bristol. 

Mindfulness based art therapy courses for children and parents.

These courses teach mindfulness and mindfulness art making skills to parents first and then look at introducing these skills to children .Parents have to teach their children these skills out of the basis of their own practice  Children often find learning mindfulness easy and  fun when art making exercises are used to support mindfulness practice..In addition children naturally use art to explore their experience.

Workshops and courses all  will involve practical mindful art making exercises, reflection and discussion.I also use this approach with individual clients.

Mindful Creativity.

These workshops explore how we can use mindfulness meditation and mindful art making to support our creative process.

It involves making art in a non judgmental and supportive environment  ls with a focus on the process of exploring marks and materials with in the present moment and from the basis of bodily experience.It is appropriate for anyone who wants to explore a new approach to art making and also explore art making as a form of meditation.FOR MORE DETAILS SEE WORKSHOP PAGE


Batchelor, M. (1994) Meditation For Life. London: Shambala.

.Francis.L .Creative Connections:British association of Art Therapists  training courses.2011 and 2012)

Feldman, C. (2004) The Buddhist path to simplicity. East Sussex: Routledge.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990) Full Catastrophe Living. New York: Dell Publishing.

Thera, S. (2010) The Way of Mindfulness:The Satipatthana Sutta and its Commentary [Accessed 4th Jan 2011].