“Mindfulness is a mode of awareness – a skill that can be developed with practice.”
This class changed my life.
I learned how to control my stress levels, how to meditate, how to make mindful choices, and how to be more aware.
Above all, it introduced the concept of mindfulness to me.
That learning period of my life was truly one of the most rewarding times I’ve ever had.
The 7 attributes of mindfulness have concretely changed my life.
These are the same attributes & concepts Phil Jackson preached with the Chicago Bulls & Los Angeles Lakers, the Seattle Seahawks use with their players, & countless other successful sports/business/life figures use daily.
We read much of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s (the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) work in this class, and a lot of the teachings he had in his book “Full Catastrophe Living” have had a tremendous influence in me.
I want to share with you the Seven Essentials of Mindfulness, adapted from this great book.
Being non-judgmental is difficult for many people – why? Discrimination and stereotypes! Although they have a negative connotation, judging, discrimination & stereotypes are key to our survival. They allow us to judge a situation before fully knowing what’s going on, so we can be ready to take proper action should anything go awry.
But learning non-judging is a huge key to mindfulness.
It’s been said that we do not see things as they are so much as we see things as we are.
Suspending judgment can yield new perspectives on a situation or a person.
Non-judgment assists in letting go of rumination and the triggering of the automatic story line that accompanies so many familiar experiences.
Quotable: “These judgements of mind tend to dominate our minds and make it hard for us ever to find any peace.”
Implementation: Identify areas of your life in which judging less would alleviate some of the additional thoughts and unnecessary rumination that come with it.
Patience is not passive – it is not ‘waiting.’
Patience is a form of wisdom – the simple understanding of the time it takes for events to progress or unfold.
Specifically, with respect to developing mindfulness, understanding that you are learning to consciously modulate pre-conscious survival processes that have evolved over millions of years yields the perspective that enables patience. You are literally self-evolving. It takes time.
Quotable: “To be patient is simply to be completely in each moment, accepting it in its fullness.”
Implementation: Identify why it is hard for you to be patient. Ask yourself what being impatient accomplishes.
3) Beginner’s mind
This is a fascinating and extremely useful notion – it’s the idea of going into something with no expectations & being OK with not being a master of the subject.
For example, if you went into salsa classes for the first day, would be overthinking every step and thinking you looked like a fool…or would you be OK walking into the room with a “beginner’s mind,” taking things as they came, and being open to learn?
The opposite of beginner’s mind is setting expectations. Once you set expectations on a situation, you’ve placed yourself in a box for your experience to happen in.
Quotable: “Too often we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we ‘know’ prevent us from seeing things as they really are.”
Implementation: Identify areas of your life in which you’re not OK with walking in and being knowledgeable. Ask yourself what carrying expectations accomplishes.
There are two forms of trust are applicable to this discussion: (1) Self trust and (2) Trust in the process [Trust in another person].
Self trust means being more ‘integrated’ – more self-aware of core feelings and beliefs – apart from espoused, enculturated beliefs, leads to self-trust. It’s a process of learning to trust yourself in any situation – not just those you are comfortable with.
Trust in the process means trusting that things will work out in the current path you’re on. It means having confidence that the people and processes in your life will work in your favor if you continue to work diligently through them.
Trust is an enabler of most other mindful attributes. Patience comes more easily if you trust the process. So does acceptance. So does suspending judgment.
Quotable: “Learning to trust one’s own experience, feelings and intuition — loosening oneself from the tyranny of authority and inner harsh judgement — has the ‘taste of freedom,’ a key hallmark of a genuine practice and essential for individual development.”
Implementation: Identify what areas of your life you lack trust in. Ask yourself what lacking trust in others does to your mind.
This is exactly what it sounds like – not striving. Being OK with things exactly how they are.
This is another ‘state of being’ that is very difficult for many people. Why?
Because we always want to take control, we always want things in our hands, we always want to try hard to be in the driver’s seat.
Instead, take this perspective: It’s already perfect. It’s exactly as it should be (and must be).
The feeling of comfortable non-striving is an indication that the parasympathetic nervous system (which activates tranquil functions) is dominant.
Quotable: “Almost everything we do, we do for a purpose – to get something or somewhere. But in meditation, this attitude can be a real obstacle. The tendency to constantly strive in our culture and society has enabled us to enjoy unprecendented standards of living, comfort and security.”
Implementation: Identify what areas of your life you are constantly striving in. Are there areas you do not strive in? Ask yourself how your life would change if you were “OK” with more situations exactly as they were.
Acceptance is a willingness to see things free from preconceptions (especially of yourself).
Acceptance is a willingness to see things you have seen a thousand times before – differently this time, in this moment.
Acceptance is a willingness to stop resisting things as they are, to cease self deception in all forms and be comfortable with what is.
How this worked for me is I stopped overanalyzing myself. I stopped caring about my big head, my big nose, my stutter, the way my face looks when I smile, the sound I make when I laugh…I accepted it.
Quotable: “You have to accept yourself as you are, before you can really change.”
Implementation: Identify what areas of yourself you don’t accept. Why don’t you accept yourself? How much different would your life be if you accepted these things instead of fighting them?
7) Letting go
Letting go is a great assist in ceasing rumination.
Essentially, you’re cutting the negative feedback loop.
You’re cutting the loop you tend to go in when something goes wrong or you feel guilt.
Guilt is one of the biggest wastes of a human emotion because it accomplishes nothing except for getting you to ruminate and think more about your situation than is necessary.
Let go of situations that may have gone wrong. Forgive yourself. Accept that these things happen. Move on.
Quotable: “Cultivating the attitude of letting go, or non-attachment, is fundamental to the practice of mindfulness.”
Implementation: Identify what things in your life you have not let go. Why are you holding on to them? How would your life change if you let these things go & moved forward?
Featured Image Credit >> Illustration by author
What steps are you taking to enact more mindfulness in your life? I’d love to hear your current path to a more mindful state in the comments below!