Bringing the Attitudes of Mindfulness into our lives Mindfulness does not just stay within the Meditation practice itself. We need to bring our whole being to the process and to our lives. I like to think of the attitudes of Mindfulness as the 'soil' that mindfulness and our personal self grows. Without cultivating these attitudes, mindfulness can be mechanical and a means to an end. According to Jon Kabat Zinn, there are 9 attitudes that can be helpful to cultivate Mindfulness into our lives; Acceptance, Non-Judging, Patience, Beginners Mind, Trust, Non-Striving, Letting Be/Letting Go, Kindness & Compassion. This is where we bring Mindfulness into our lives in a deep way beyond the ‘Meditation Mat’ so to speak as we are able to live Mindfully and embrace Mindfulness into all our lives, not just in Meditation practice.
Acceptance Acceptance means looking at your current experiences and acknowledging it for what it is, rather than falling into judgement. Some people like to use the word ‘acknowledge’ instead of acceptance as this feels more comfortable to manage situations that we have no control over, whether we agree with it or not. Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation. Acceptance is understanding what we can control and what we can’t control. When we bring an attitude of acceptance to our situations, we are less likely to have strong emotions around the situations as we are not fighting with ourselves with frustration and irritation for something to be different than it is.
We can bring acceptance to our emotional experiences as well. If we feel frustrated or annoyed, and then bring an attitude of acceptance to this emotion, we are more likely to be able to pass through the emotion, rather than staying stuck in it, trying to feel something else. We can acknowledge the difficult emotion, notice where we feel this in our bodies, notice thoughts and allow these to be there. We are more likely to move past this feeling when we bring this attitude to the experience.
You may have also practiced an attitude of acceptance to a difficulty in your life. It doesn’t mean you like it, or have invited it, you may have noticed how helpful it is to just bring acceptance to something has happened that we may not be able to change. We can also bring an attitude of acceptance to our Meditation practice. An example of this to accept how you are feeling in the meditation, accepting that you have thoughts, accepting that on a particular day that you may not feel settled or calm and that is ok. We can just bring mindful awareness to what is happening right now without judging it.
‘Acceptance is a very active process, there is nothing passive about it, it’s not passive resignation but an act of recognition that things are the way they are… Acceptance doesn’t mean we can’t work to change the world, or circumstances, but it means that unless we accept things as they are, we will try to force things to be as they are not and that can create an enormous amount of difficulty’. Jon Kabat-Zinn
Non-Judging How often do we judge an experience as either good or bad, or seeing if the current moment fits with what we expected or wanted? We tend to look at experiences through a lens of ‘good’, ‘bad’ or ‘ok’ and if the experience does not match what we think is ‘good’, then we can dismiss the whole experience as valuable. This takes us away from the current experience, the moment by moment unfolding experience that is full of rich experiences that we may ordinarily miss if we label it too early.
This doesn’t mean we are being ‘judgmental’ or a ‘judgemental’ person, it simply means that we are doing what humans do well, which is quickly assessing a situation to see if it’s safe and comfortable and whether it matches our goals and expectations.
When we are mindful and in the moment of our experiences, we can notice what is happening for what it is right now. When we are mindful, we can let go of what the experience needs to be and notice just what is happening. The same is true for when we are practising the formal practice of Mindfulness, the meditations. If it is not bringing us the joy we were hoping, or inner peace or relaxation, then we can easily give up and think it’s not working, or is not right for us, or it’s not effective enough. This is missing the whole point of the meditation, which is to build awareness of what is happening now.
We can also judge ourselves in the meditation experience thinking that we are doing it ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. All we need to do is just be aware, to notice, to feel through the senses, to observe our thoughts – all without judgement. ’Generosity is another quality which, like patience, letting go, non-judging, and trust, provides a solid foundation for mindfulness practice’ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Patience It takes time to develop a Mindfulness practice, and this is an ongoing process for life. There is no time we actually ‘get it right’. It is an ongoing process and using patience is helpful. Patience means accepting that things unfold in their own time.
Patience is a fundamental quality of our Mindfulness practice as the full benefits sometimes don’t reveal themselves immediately. We can even feel frustration or boredom waiting to feel calm. However, the more we practice, the more we can let the benefits unfold gently in their own time.
Patience means we need to accept that some things take time and to be aware of frustrations that may develop along the way. Personal development and increasing our wellbeing will not happen overnight, but bit by bit with more practice we will feel the full benefits of the practice.
Patience also requires bringing kindness to ourselves and acknowledging that things unfold in their own time. We can truly enjoy and embody the present moment by not rushing things which involves understanding and accepting that things must unfold in their own time.
‘Patience is a form of wisdom. It demonstrates that we understand and accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.’
Beginners Mind Cultivating a Beginners Mind means just noticing like a child what your mind is thinking, or body is feeling like, willing to see things as if for the first time. We can let our perceptions, beliefs, and expectations about a particular situation prevent us from seeing it for what it really us. As each day and each moment is different to the other, using a beginner’s mind allows us to see the nuances of life rather than living through a veil of judgements or expectations.
I like to think of a Beginner’s Mind of seeing things for the first time just like a child does. We only need to study a child for a few moments to see their joy, their curiosity and innocence about a situation, an object, a person, or something in nature. They don’t have a lifetime of experiences to base their experiences on, and they are looking at things with completely fresh eyes and a new experience. ‘In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s, there are few.’ Jon Kabat-Zinn
We can try to use a Beginners Mind during day-to-day activities including being around other people. Try to see each moment, each activity, and each encounter as a new experience, seeing it for what it is right now rather than what have expected it to be. We can also use a Beginners Mind during our meditation practice. Come to each meditation experience with fresh eyes, just noticing what it is without seeing it for what we expect it to be or want it to be or what we think it will mostly be like due to our past experiences.
‘The richness of present-moment experience is the richness of life itself. Too often we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we “know” prevent us from seeing things as they really are. We tend to take the ordinary for granted and fail to grasp the extra-ordinariness of the ordinary. To see the richness of the present moment, we need to cultivate what has been called “beginner’s mind,” a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time.’ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Trust Using the attitude of Trust in Mindfulness, means trusting that the experience of meditation will just unfold gently. We remain open with patience that benefits or outcomes or the experience will just unfold as it should. During meditation we can trust that what is unfolding, is exactly as it is supposed to be, even if it doesn’t appear to be ‘right’ or ‘perfect’. Just as we trust our body takes care of its vital functions like breathing and keeping our heart beating, we can trust the ability of our mind to heal itself when given the opportunity to do so with Mindfulness. At times we may need a leap of faith to start or continue a Mindfulness practice, trying to gain the benefits we so desperately seek.
We can also use the attitude of trust in living Mindfully day to day by responding to events, rather than reacting to events based on our previous experiences. Trusting what it is you notice now, what you feel now rather than what you thought you should feel or experience. This quality of awareness helps you see for yourself, from your own experience, what is true or untrue.
This means to trust the experience right now. We can also embody the attitude of trust in making our own decisions, trusting our feelings and intuition, trusting making decisions based on our own value system rather than look outside of ourselves for guidance. We can cultivate a deep trust in ourselves and our own deepest nature and cultivate a deep trust in life.
‘Developing a basic trust in yourself and your feelings is an integral part of meditation training. It is far better to trust in your intuition and your own authority, even if you make some “mistakes” along the way, than always to look outside of yourself for guidance. If at any time something doesn’t feel right to you, why not honor your feelings? Why should you discount them or write them off as invalid because some authority or some group of people think or say differently? This attitude of trusting yourself and your own basic wisdom and goodness is very important in all aspects of the meditation practice.’ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Non-Striving When we are trying not to meditate in a certain way, we can just allow ourselves to be in the present. With this quality of awareness, there is no grasping, aversion to change, or movement away from whatever arises in the moment.
Non striving means, we are not goal-oriented, remaining unattached to the outcome of the Mindfulness practice. Without being focused on the benefits or goal of Mindfulness, we can just be in the experience of the Mindfulness. As soon as we are focused on what we are going to achieve while practising Mindfulness, we lose the whole idea in the first place – just to be present.
The benefits will come naturally by just being present. If we try to change the present to feel or experience something we are not experiencing, we move out of present moment focus to future focused thinking which often creates a discrepancy between what we are experiencing and what we want.
We can also live our mindful lives embodying the attitude of non-striving. This does not mean we do not have goals or plans but we don’t remain stuck in them, entirely focused on these to the expense of other things that also really matter. Living with a non-striving attitude, helps us to relax and enjoy each moment more. As we live in such an outcome based and goal-oriented society, this can be difficult to cultivate and takes a lot of effort and practice. We can be challenged by society’s expectations to be living a certain way, achieving things that may not necessarily be meaningful to us and being stuck in succeeding rather than just living and being.
“Non-doing simply means letting things be and allowing them to unfold in their own way.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
Letting Be / letting Go Using the attitude of Letting Be and Letting Go means to be just being present without wanting to hold on to positive emotions and get rid of difficult emotions. It can also be when we let go and put aside the tendency to elevate and hold on to some experiences and try hard to reject others. With this quality of awareness, you can simply let things be as they are, with no need to try to let go of whatever is present.
Letting Go and Letting Be brings us to a place of letting things be just as they are without any attachment of how things should be or trying for them to be different. This does not mean detachment however, but instead embracing reality just as it is.
You may have noticed when practising Mindfulness that when we start paying attention to what is happening in the mind and the body, we find there are feelings we don’t want to have, thoughts we are trying to get rid of and body sensations we don’t want to focus on. We try hard to get rid of these getting frustrated along the way.
Letting go is allowing what is there to be there, just observing it for what it is. We can let go of wanting the experience to be a certain way or feel a certain way. We can also find in Meditation we feel pleasant feelings and want to hang on to these but again just observing and feeling these for what they are, without trying to hand on to these.
We can also use letting Go and Letting Be in our lives when we need to recognise the reality of some situations. This is different to giving up or not trying to make positive changes. It’s about doing all we can and recognising that some things we can’t change and accepting that. We then let of attachment to the situation having to be a certain way. This may remind you of the serenity prayer: Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed, Courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other.
“Letting go means just what it says. It’s an invitation to cease clinging to anything—whether it be an idea, a thing, an event, a particular time, or view, or desire. It is a conscious decision to release with full acceptance into the stream of present moments as they are unfolding. To let go means to give up coercing, resisting, or struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them, in the intrinsic stickiness of wanting, of liking and disliking. It’s akin to letting your palm open to unhand something you have been holding on to.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
Kindness, Compassion & Generosity Practising kindness towards yourself in and out of meditation. Compassion can be defined as the ability to empathise with and feel the pain and suffering of others and of ourselves. This is also strengthened by wanting to relieve the pain for others and ourselves. Mindfulness is not just about paying attention in a certain way. It is also the attitudes in which we pay attention, one of them being kind to ourselves along the way. Kind to our own feelings and suffering. Compassionate towards ourselves for how we are feeling at any certain time without harsh judgment or comparisons with others, or the way it ‘should’ be.
We can bring kindness to our wandering minds. Bring kindness to our feelings of restlessness or physical pain or discomfort. We bring patience, kindness and compassion to ourselves when we don’t feel good, knowing that it takes time to build a practice and can take time to feel all the full benefits of Mindfulness.
“A good place to start is with yourself. See if you can give yourself gifts that may be true blessings, such as self-acceptance, or some time each day with no purpose. Practice feeling deserving enough to accept these gifts without obligation—to simply receive from yourself, and from the universe.” Jon Kabat-Zinn