The practice of mindfulness is like cultivating a garden: it flourishes when certain conditions are present. These basic attitudes are interdependent and influence the degree to which you are able to cultivate the other. Together they constitute the foundation upon which a strong meditation practice builds.
Cultivating a Garden
- Beginner’s mind. This attitude allows us to be receptive to new possibilities and prevents us from getting stuck in the rut of our expertise. With curiosity we see things as new and fresh, as if for the first time. The richness of present-moment experience is the richness of life itself. Each moment is unique.
- Non-judging. The habit of categorising and judging our experience locks us into mechanical reactions out of awareness. A non-judging attitude describes impartial observation of our experience—not labelling thoughts, feelings, or sensations as good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair, but taking note of thoughts, feelings, or sensations in each moment.
- Patience. This wise attitude reminds us that things unfold in their own time. Patient openness to each moment can be particularly helpful to invoke when the mind is agitated and wandering.
- Trust. Trust your intuition, your own inner goodness, your own wisdom and your own authority, even if you make “mistakes” along the way. In practicing mindfulness you are practicing taking responsibility for being yourself and learning to listen to and trust your own being.
- Non-striving. Meditation is non-doing. This is the polar opposite of how we tend to live. Most of what we do is intended to get us somewhere, make progress, improve. A non-striving attitude means not trying to get anywhere other than where you are. In this sense meditation has no purpose.
- Acceptance. In the context of mindfulness acceptance is not the passive acceptance of the intolerable. It is not ‘giving up’, resignation, spinelessness or detachment. Acceptance describes the embrace of the true, deep understanding of how things really are. It is a pause, a period of allowing, of letting be, of clear seeing.
- Letting go. When things feel pleasant we tend to hold on to them, and conjure them up again and again. When things feel unpleasant we tend to avoid them. Mindfulness is an invitation to letting things be as they are, looking fresh in each moment.
The cultivation of these attitudes greatly supports and deepens mindfulness. In addition to these attitudes, you will also need to bring a particular kind of energy and motivation to your practice. Mindfulness doesn’t just come about by itself because you have decided that it is a good idea to be more aware of things. A strong commitment to working on yourself and enough self-discipline to persevere in the process are essential to developing a strong meditation practice and a high degree of mindfulness.
- Kabat-Zinn, Jon (2004), Full Catastrophe Living: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation, Piatkus
- Stahl, Bob and Goldstein, Elisha (2010) A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, New Harbinger Publications
- Williams, Mark and Penman, Danny (2011) Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World, Piatkus
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com