Next time you practice mindfulness in any form, consider practicing with intention and some serious attitude!
Inherent in mindfulness practices is the cultivation of seven core attitudes: Non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go. Whether you are new to the practice or already maintaining a daily mindfulness routine, understanding and embracing these foundational attitudes is your power to unlocking the gifts of mind, body, and the present moment:
Our minds assess and judge endlessly. It’s part of our evolutionary development and necessary for our fight or flight response to danger or threat. But some judgments on a personal level become repetitive and unhelpful, and may lead to one’s general sense of not being good enough.
Non-judging is about becoming an “impartial witness” to our own experience by developing an awareness of our insistent judging of ourselves, our experiences, and of others. In mindfulness practices, we pay attention, but in a particular way, from a more neutral point of view. Be curious and let the judgments go!
Patience is the act of understanding that things will unfold in their own time, even when we don’t see immediate results. It’s about giving yourself permission to take the time and space necessary for mindful practices, without attachment to any particular outcome, and just see what unfolds.
3. Beginner’s Mind
Too often we let our beliefs and what we know blind us from seeing things just as they are. In mindfulness practices, we try to cultivate a “beginner’s mind,” in which we see everything as if for the first time, without any preconceived expectations. Who knows? Your new perspectives may lead to new beginnings.
Developing basic trust in yourself and your feelings is integral to meditation training. It’s better to trust your own intuition, even if you make some mistakes along the way, than to always look outside yourself for direction. Be open and receptive to what you can learn from other sources, but ultimately, the intention is to find your own wisdom from within, and to trust in that unfolding.
Though meditation takes a certain kind of work and energy, essentially it is non-doing. We may say to ourselves, “if only I could relax, be a better meditator, have a healthier body, etc. Then I would be ok.” Suggesting an idea of how we should be implies that “right now, I’m not okay just as I am.”
Non-striving is not the same as no effort. It’s more about being present with intention while letting go of the results. This is the most difficult mindfulness attitude to embrace because almost everything we do, we do with purpose or a goal in mind.
In the meditation domain, however, goals are more effectively gained by backing off from striving and focusing more carefully on seeing and accepting things as they are. Acceptance creates a touchstone for growth, but more on that below….
6. Acceptance or Acknowledgement
Acceptance means seeing things as they actually are in the present moment.
Whatever your present physical, emotional, or spiritual state, if you don’t want to remain stuck in a frustrating, vicious cycle of wanting things to be different, you might realize that this is the only time you can love and accept yourself. Remember, this is the only time you have for anything. An important caveat to acceptance is that it does not mean that you have to like everything, or that you have to take a passive attitude and abandon your principles. It is simply a willingness to see things as they are right now. We remind ourselves to be receptive and open to whatever we are thinking, feeling, or seeing, and accept it because that is the key to change, healing, and sustainable growth.
7. Letting Go – Letting Be
As we start paying attention to our inner experiences, we discover a pattern of certain thoughts, feelings, or past experiences that the mind seems to want to hold on to. If they are pleasant, we try to prolong and stretch them out, bringing them up - again, again, and again. If they are unpleasant, we may try to get rid of them, or protect ourselves from them by pushing them away - again, again, and again.
In a meditation practice, we put aside our tendency to elevate the good aspects of our experience and reject the not so good aspects. When we become aware of the mind’s impulses to dwell, grasp, or push away, we recognize them and choose not to pursue them any further. We just observe and let go, or notice, and let things be. Imagine what some aspects of life would be like, if you could let go or let things be?
It's a practice.
Adapted from Full Catastrophe Living, by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Attitudinal Foundations of Mindfulness Practice