In the previous article, we talked about the definition of mindfulness and identified some key ways that our attention shifts gears when we’re being mindful.
Through this definition, it was pointed out that the attitude with which we approach our experience matters. And we discussed the importance of trying to meet our reality with an open mind. But open-mindedness is just one quality that’s interesting to explore in and through our practice.
There are so many other aspects of mindfulness that deserve our attention. And once you’ve learned what they are, and get some idea for how you can begin to apply them in your daily life, I feel pretty confident that you’ll start to see why so many people talk about the practice of mindfulness as being life-altering.
In this guide, we’re going to discuss seven additional qualities or attitudinal foundations that are fundamental to the practice. Keeping the attitudes in mind as you move through various experiences in your day is a critical part of the training.
These qualities provide us with a strong foundation for our awareness. And they give us guidance on how to channel our energies in the process of learning who we are, and how we want to develop. And as you’ll see, some of them will come more naturally for you than others. These qualities are interdependent. Each influences the other, and working on one enhances them all.
Related: Introducing Mindfulness to Students
Exploring the Qualities of Mindfulness
Mindfulness Foundation #1
The first foundation deals with non-judgment. And even though we’ve already discussed this to some extent, I think it’ll be helpful for us to do a deeper dive into the topic. This particular foundation deals with our tendency to judge all aspects of our experience.
And it helps us see how detrimental it can be to us when we get caught up in our ideas, opinions, our likes, and our dislikes.
Suspending judgment allows us to assume the stance of an impartial witness to any experience. And it helps us stay curious about what’s happening rather than closed off. It’s important to begin to recognize the judging mind when we practice mindfulness.
So if in your meditation you find yourself thinking this is boring, or you can’t do this, realize this is your mind judging the experience. You don’t have to stop the judging, just recognize that it’s occurring.
And then try to notice the feeling that the judging mechanism evoked in you. When we can just observe our experience without wanting it to be different than it is, we take a tremendous first step in alleviating the hardship of life.
Mindfulness Foundation #2
Another foundation deals with our ability to bring patience to experience. In today’s world, most of us are used to moving quickly and efficiently. We’re doers and problem solvers. And when things in our lives go wrong, we’ve come to expect magic pills, and immediate solutions so that we don’t have to sit in our suffering for long.
But not everything can be rushed, and in growing the skill of patience, we can better understand and accept that some things just have to unfold in their own time. Some of you will likely become impatient with active meditation.
Or you’ll expect yourself to be better at it than you perceive yourself to be, and you might be frustrated with your progress.
But if we can invite patience into our practice, we can bring a kind of self-compassion to our awareness, helping us acknowledge and accept our developmental process, trusting that our evolution is unfolding exactly as it should.
Mindfulness Foundation #3
Another concept deals with something called The Beginner’s Mind. Sometimes in life, our beliefs and assumptions prevent us from experiencing the richness of the present moment.
As we move into adulthood, the frequency with which we view things as beautiful, awe-inspiring, or full of wonder is diminished. We fall into conventional and mechanized ways of being, and we often miss out on some of the loveliest little pleasures that life has to offer.
But with regular practice, we can rediscover the delight that each moment is a fresh one. Developing a beginner’s mindset helps us drop our preconceived ideas, and meet each moment with clear eyes, openness, and curiosity.
And this allows for the possibility and prevents us from getting stuck in the rut of our expertise, which often thinks it knows more than it does.
Mindfulness Foundation #4
The last attitudinal foundation of mindfulness that I want to mention in this segment deals with trust. In my mind, one of the most interesting things about this practice is its usefulness in helping us peel back the layers of armour that protect us.
Both from the outside world and from really seeing our true selves. It allows us to know our hearts and minds more deeply, and it permits us to validate our own experiences.
So by sitting in reflective stillness, we can learn to trust our intelligence. And the feedback that’s coming from our hearts, and our true intentions. The more this trust is cultivated, the greater the access to our resilience and strength. Believing in our intuition and authority, and the goodness inside us helps us to live with more authenticity.
Subsequently, the frequency with which we look outside ourselves for guidance diminishes. As best as you’re able, pay attention to self-doubting thoughts when they arise and look more deeply into where they come from.
Instead of just believing them, interrogate their validity and helpfulness. You might just find that everything you need to handle the challenges in your life is already inside you.
So we’ve discussed a few of the attitudinal foundations of mindfulness, but there are a few more that I still think are worth us exploring.
Mindfulness Foundation #5
Another foundation I want to discuss deals with the striving mind. Have you ever noticed that everything you do is done with a particular purpose?
As I mentioned earlier when we were talking about patience, most of us are doers and problem solvers, always on the run to the next thing, trying to be efficient with our time and energy, and determined to reach our next lofty goal. And while this sometimes sets us up to achieve great heights in life, in meditation, this kind of striving can be a real hurdle.
When we mistakenly come in with an agenda, and by this, I mean when we decide that meditation is the means to some desired end like relaxation, a calmer mind, or a better, more compassionate version of ourselves, we can set ourselves up for frustration.
When we focus on a product, we’re attaching to an outcome, and subsequently creating the conditions for suffering to arise.
Think about it this way. Let’s say you sit down for a meditation determined to come away feeling calmer, with a less busy mind. And the moment you experience anything other than that, judgments arise, and because of your attachment to the desire for the session to result in peace, you begin to experience anxiety, doubt, and frustration.
It was a setup for suffering. As you begin your practice, it’s important to keep in mind that there are no goals here except to be present for, and open to, an unfolding process rather than some end product.
Pay attention to the driving desire in you to get somewhere other than where you are right now, and see how it makes you feel. And then explore what it’s like to practice with no specific goal and see how that changes things.
As best as you can, try and remember that we’re just practising for the sake of the experience. And in doing so, I bet that you’ll soon experience the relief and peace that comes when we give ourselves over to each moment.
Mindfulness Foundation #6
Practising non-striving leads us directly to the next attitudinal foundation of mindfulness, which is acceptance.
In mindfulness, acceptance means seeing something as it is and making space for it without all the usual layers of judgment or efforts to resist.
We spend so much time and burn so much energy thinking something should be different than it is or scheming to find ways to change our situation or our feelings.
Tara Brach, a wonderful meditation teacher and psychologist calls this resistance being at war with our reality. But the foundational pillar of acceptance reminds us that we can develop a different relationship to our experience, one that doesn’t require endless amounts of energy and is characterized by letting it be.
This invites spaciousness and helps us to recognize our thoughts and feelings before choosing how to respond to them.
And while this may be contrary to your current way of thinking, the denial of our experience of negative thoughts, feelings, or sensations is actually what leads us to the same automatic habitual and critical patterns of mind that leave us feeling locked in, stuck, and unhappy.
Consider now if there’s something you feel challenged to accept and what resisting it feels like. Does it help? Just notice.
Mindfulness Foundation #7
The final foundation we’ll discuss deals with letting go or practising non-attachment. And this is perhaps the most difficult of all of the attitudinal foundations.
All human beings are inclined to hold onto things, people, and events long after their time have passed. We tend to grasp what we want, and want more of what we like or feel we need.
Interestingly, we have an equal propensity to hold onto negative situations. Can you think of any old wounds or disappointments from long ago that you’re still holding onto?
Letting go is a way of letting things be and requires that our hearts be aligned with the way things are. In our meditation practice, we see our thoughts, body sensations, and feelings come and go, over and over again. As we continue to practice, we see that this is not unlike life. Everything in life changes, in the outer world and our inner world. Nothing is exempted from this basic law of physics.
The more clearly we see this, the easier it is to let things go. We’re not as horrified when a relationship ends, a job is lost, or when people die. This isn’t to say that these situations suddenly feel easy, but we don’t add to their difficulty by clinging to something that’s had its time.
- What are you attached to?
- Is there an area of your life that might benefit from a little less clinging?
Explore this the next time you practice; you might be surprised by the sense of freedom it brings.
Mindfulness Meditation Guide
So remember, keeping these attitudes in mind as you move through various experiences in your day is a critical part of this training. Some of them will come more naturally for you than others, but if you stay committed to doing the work all of these skills can continue to develop over time.
Also Read: Mindful Productivity