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Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn

American academic
Jon Kabat-Zinn
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American academic
A.K.A. Kabat-Zinn
Is Biologist Scientist Molecular biologist Physician Writer Educator Professor
From United States of America
Type Academia Biology Healthcare Literature Science
Gender male
Birth 5 June 1944, New York City, United States of America
Age: 76 years
Star sign GeminiGemini
Jon Kabat-Zinn
The details


Jon Kabat-Zinn (born Jon Kabat, June 5, 1944) is an American professor emeritus of medicine and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Kabat-Zinn was a student of Zen Buddhist teachers such as Philip Kapleau, Thich Nhat Hanh and Seung Sahn and a founding member of Cambridge Zen Center. His practice of yoga and studies with Buddhist teachers led him to integrate their teachings with scientific findings. He teaches mindfulness, which he says can help people cope with stress, anxiety, pain, and illness. The stress reduction program created by Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), is offered by medical centers, hospitals, and health maintenance organizations.

Life and work

Kabat-Zinn was born in New York City in 1944 as the youngest of nine children to Elvin Kabat, a biomedical scientist, and Sally Kabat, a painter. He graduated from Haverford College in 1964 and went on to earn a Ph.D. in molecular biology in 1971 from MIT, where he studied under Salvador Luria, Nobel Laureate in medicine.

While at MIT, Kabat-Zinn was a leading campaigner against military research at the university as well as a campaigner against the Vietnam war. During this time, he pondered his life's purpose, which he called his "karmic assignment."


Kabat-Zinn was first introduced to meditation by Philip Kapleau, a Zen missionary who came to speak at MIT where Kabat-Zinn was a student. Kabat-Zinn went on to study meditation with other Buddhist teachers such as Thích Nhất Hạnh and Seungsahn. He also studied at the Insight Meditation Society and eventually taught there. In 1979 he founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he adapted the Buddhist teachings on mindfulness and developed the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program. He subsequently renamed the structured eight-week course Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). He removed the Buddhist framework and any connection between mindfulness and Buddhism, instead putting MBSR in a scientific context. He subsequently also founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His secular technique of Mindful Yoga, which combines meditation and Hatha yoga, has since spread worldwide. The course aims to help patients cope with stress, pain, and illness by using what is called "moment-to-moment awareness."

Kabat-Zinn's MBSR began to get increasing notice with the publication of his first book, Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness (Delta, 1991), which gave detailed instructions for the practice. Then, in 1993, his work in the Stress Reduction Clinic was featured in Bill Moyers's PBS special Healing and the Mind, spurring wide interest in MBSR and helping to make Kabat-Zinn nationally famous. In 1994 Kabat-Zinn's second book, titled Wherever You Go, There You Are, became a national bestseller. In the latter part of the 1990s, many MBSR clinics were opened, either as standalone centers or as part of a hospital's holistic medicine program.

Research by Kabat-Zinn includes the effect of MBSR on psoriasis, pain, anxiety, brain function, and immune function.

He is a board member of the Mind and Life Institute, a group that organizes dialogues between the Dalai Lama and Western scientists.

MBSR has been adapted for use by the US military to improve combatants' "operational effectiveness," apparently with Kabat-Zinn's approval, which has provoked some controversy among mindfulness practitioners.

Discussing the integration of narratives into mindfulness practice, Kabat-Zinn has said, "the map... can occlude... the territory.'

Kabat-Zinn is Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Personal life

Kabat-Zinn is married to Myla Zinn, the daughter of Roslyn and Howard Zinn. They have three grown children.

Kabat-Zinn grew up in a non-practicing Jewish family. He has stated that his beliefs growing up were a fusion of science and art. Although he has been "trained in Buddhism and espouses its principles", he rejects the label of "Buddhist", preferring to "apply mindfulness within a scientific rather than a religious frame".


  • 2008: Mind and Brain Prize from the Center for Cognitive Science, University of Torino, Italy
  • 2007: Inaugural Pioneer in Integrative Medicine Award from the Bravewell Philanthropic Collaborative for Integrative Medicine
  • 2005: Distinguished Friend Award from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies


  • Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness, by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Delta Trade Paperbacks, 1991. ISBN 0-385-30312-2.
  • Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life. Piatkus, 1994. ISBN 0-7499-1422-X.
  • Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. Hyperion Books, 1994. ISBN 1-4013-0778-7.
  • Full catastrophe living: how to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation. Piatkus, 1996. ISBN 0-7499-1585-4.
  • The Power of Meditation and Prayer, with Sogyal Rinpoche, Larry Dossey, Michael Toms. Hay House, 1997. ISBN 1-56170-423-7.
  • Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, with Myla Kabat-Zinn. Hyperion, 1997. ISBN 978-0-7868-8314-1.
  • Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness. Hyperion, 2006. ISBN 0-7868-8654-4.
  • The mindful way through depression: freeing yourself from chronic unhappiness, by J. Mark G. Williams, John D. Teasdale, Zindel V. Segal, Jon Kabat-Zinn. Guilford Press, 2007. ISBN 1593851286.
  • Arriving at Your Own Door. Piatkus Books, 2008. ISBN 0-7499-2861-1.
  • Letting Everything Become Your Teacher: 100 Lessons in Mindfulness. Dell Publishing Company, 2009. ISBN 0-385-34323-X.
  • The Mind's Own Physician: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama on the Healing Power of Meditation, co-authored with Richard Davidson (New Harbinger, 2012) (based on the 13th Mind and Life Institute Dialogue in 2005).
  • Mindfulness for Beginners: reclaiming the present moment - and your life. Sounds True, Inc., 2012. ISBN 978-1-60407-753-7.
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 17 Sep 2019. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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