Mindfulness is more than just sitting quietly in a room.
It’s more than just watching your thoughts.
It’s a lifestyle.
A way of being. A way of approaching all the problems you will face in life.
There are seven attitudes that underlie this approach and all of them support and reinforce each other.
Each is listed below one by one:
Have you noticed that we have a habit of labelling our experiences? Everything that happens to us we call either good bad, or neutral. But the habit can be destructive if overused. By continual judging our experiences we lock ourselves into mechanical reactions that often have little basis in reality. More often or not these judgments slip by our awareness.
The process of bringing awareness to our judgment means we can change actions and behaviours more consciously. And rather than automatically reacting to our environment, we have more freedom to choose our response.
As you start to engage in Mindfulness practice your mind may make judgments about them being boring or a waste of time. Especially at this time you need a non-judgmental attitude.
Patience means accepting that things unfold in their own time. If we are constantly living with a goal in mind then as we feel that goal might be threatened we will become impatient. Sometime you can’t rush things though. Sometimes they really do take time.
Impatience really means the mind is agitated. By opening ourselves to patience we calm the mind.
Practicing Mindfulness can take time and requires practice. With a little effort though the rewards will come. Stick through whatever takes place and trust that after a while you’ll get the result you want.
Often we let our beliefs about a situation stop us from seeing it as it really is.
Yet no moment and no experience is the same as any other.
With a beginners mind we are receptive to new possibilities. It prevents us from getting stuck in habitual patterns of thought or behaviour. It protects us from trusting a mind that often thinks it knows more than it does.
When starting with a beginner’s mind view it as an experiment.
For example, next time you meet a person, see if you are seeing the person as they are at that moment. Check that you aren’t seeing them through the lens of your beliefs about them.
Or another example. If you start a new activity you wouldn’t normally do, try to notice if you make judgments about it. Notice especially the judgments you make before you even start. Have you already decided you are going to dislike it?
A beginners mind opens you up to new possibilities. You are no longer viewing things through a lens shaped by past experience. Everyday is different and new and can be experienced that way.
Everyone has wisdom within themselves. An important aspect of mindfulness is learning to trust that basic wisdom. It means paying attention to your feelings and intuitions and not ignoring them because someone has told you so.
You are your own authority.
You don’t need to accept unquestioningly what people of ‘authority’ tell you. Questioning the value of what others say is an important part of mindfulness.
In the end, while it is important to stay open and learn from others, we’re here to live our own life. And this means making choices that feel right for us.
Mindfulness practice encourages the art of experiencing and understanding our feelings It means trusting what they are telling you about a situation and then trusting yourself to find the right response.
Non-striving is often the most difficult of the principles.
In our culture we are taught to be goal-orientated and that we must always be doing something to reach our goals. In mindfulness you will reach your goals by not trying to change the present but by being present with whatever arises.
Everyone undertaking mindfulness practice, usually has a goal in mind while they are taking our mindfulness courses and that’s ok. At the time of practice itself, however, simply do the practice without any expectations.
If you set expectations first, such as feeling relaxed or becoming stress free, then you are introducing conditions that don’t allow you to be present with what is. This is because you are trying to change your experience into something else.
The most important thing is to allow whatever you experience to be there just as it is. If you are tense then you are tense, don’t fight it. Just pay attention to the tension. If you criticise yourself, just observe the tendency of part of your mind to do that.
Acceptance means accepting things as they are. But it does not mean that you are have to be satisfied with things the way they are. Or that you must do anything to change what you don’t like.
Accepting things as they are frees up energy to take appropriate actions. The alternative is to work with the mind that is clouded by denial, fear, prejudice and self-judgment.
Letting go means letting things be. Or accepting things as they are. When you become attached to a person or goal or an idea, you will find your mind always groping for some things or pushing other things away. You don’t have to follow these impulses though. You can remind yourself to let go.
If this proves difficult, try to think of what the opposite of letting go is. When we do this we often realise how tightly we are holding onto things.
Matt is a trained and licenced Mindfulness teacher and Stress and Anxiety Reduction Counsellor operating in and around the Peterborough area. After overcoming his own stress and anxiety he's found his purpose teaching others to do the same.