The Eight Attitudinal Qualities of Mindfulness
To harness the healing power of mindfulness requires much more than just following a set of instructions in a mechanical fashion. No real process of learning is like that. When learning mindfulness we can't assume that just playing a recording and sitting in a certain posture is going to magically do something for us. The attitudes that we bring to our learning and to our practice is crucial.
“It is the soil in which you will be cultivating your ability to calm your mind to relax your body, to concentrate and to see more clearly” (Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Below you will find the eight attitudinal qualities that are recommended to be cultivated and borne in mind when practicing mindfulness. It is useful to revisit these regularly and perhaps choose one or two to focus on from time to time, not just with your practice but with the experiences that appear in your life in general.
Our minds are judging machines. They are constantly working away in the background is to judge whether we like things or whether they are good or bad or even neutral. The habit of judging our experience can create automatic reactions that we are often not even aware of and that often have no objective basis at all. When we get very caught up in judgment it is very difficult to find any peace within ourselves at all.
By cultivatingthe attitude of non-judging we learn to step back from this process so that we can take a more objective stance and become more open to our experience as it unfolds without reacting to it in unhelpful ways. So see if you can begin to let go of the tendency to judge. But remember, we will judge so don't judge the judging!
The feeling of impatience can be accompanied by sensations such as agitation or with an urge to move onto the next thing. It can be accompanied by thoughts of criticism for our experience. If we can learn to bring more patience into our practice we can remind ourselves that we don't need to fill all of our moments with activity and more thinking in order for them to be fulfilling. It can also help us to understand the nature of change itself and enables us to be able to allow the process to unfold in its own time.
3. Beginner’s Mind
Remember the raisin activity? Where we looked at a raisin as if we'd never seen it before. Allowing us to discover unexpected qualities. When we cultivate a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time, it allows us to stay in the present with our experience as it is in this moment rather than looking at it through the preconceptions that come from our history or our emotional reactions. We discover how things really are rather than how we think they are going to be. We often find either new unexpected pleasures within our experience or that we are much more able to cope with unpleasant experiences that we thought we were.
When we begin to trust our experience as our own, we can learn to validate our sensations, feelings, thoughts and intuition. Through trusting ourselves and honouring our feelings rather than trying to mold our experience to someone else's, we can become more fully ourselves, which really is our best hope.
Non-striving is so important that we will dedicate a whole section to its. We are so used to try to get somewhere or achieve something that is a very difficult for us to not automatically kick into striving with meditation. However with my present practice there is no goal other than to you to just be with yourself. All we need to do is to just pay attention to what is, however it is in each moment without trying to make it different or fix it in any way. There is no right or wrong way to meditate, There is just practice.
Acceptance means seeing things as they actually are in the present. For example, if you are overweight or don't like the way your body is at this time, why not accept it is a description of your body right now? If you feel bad about your body, it's no good to wait until you are the weight you think you should be before you start liking your body and yourself. At a certain point, if you don't want to remain stuck in a frustrating vicious cycle, you might realise that it is all right to love yourself at the weight that you are now because this is the only time you can love yourself. Remember, that now is the only time you have for anything. You have to accept yourself as you are before you can really change. You're choosing to do so becomes an act of self compassion and intelligence. When you start thinking this way, losing weight becomes less important. It also becomes a lot easier.
By intentionally cultivating acceptance, you are creating the preconditions for change. This quality of awareness validates and acknowledges things with an openness and willingness to see things as they are without trying to change them. One thing you can be sure of, if you keep your attention focused on the present, things will eventually change.
7. Letting Go
Letting go or letting be, allows us to simply let things be as they are. We let go of our resistance and to those thoughts and feelings that no longer serve us. By doing this we become less entangled with the content of those thoughts and feelings thus freeing ourselves from suffering.
8. Self Compassion
Bringing this quality of awareness to your experience can completely transform your mindfulness practice. If you can be kind to yourself and let go of self blame or criticism that you will be well on the way to finding the peace of mind that we all long for.