The seven characteristics and attitudinal factors of mindfulness constitute the major pillars of mindfulness practice.
The following is a list that shortly describes these factors:
- NONJUDGING: “Being with” whatever arises without judgment requires gentleness, kindness and acceptance. To do this requires awareness of the constant stream of judgment and reaction to inner and outer experiences. Being aware of this automatic negative habit and learning how to recognize it as well as stepping back from it (also not judging the judgment), is key.
- TRUST: Developing trust in ourselves and our feelings is an integral part of living life without worry and other-thinking. Learning to trust one’s own experience, feelings and intuition —provides the key to the ultimate freedom. It is a key hallmark of integrity and personal development.
- PATIENCE: To be patient is simply to be completely present in each moment, accepting it in its fullness, without thinking about the next moment or activity, while reminding ourselves that there is no need to be impatient with ourselves, goals and attachments as well as with others. Patience means that things will unfold in their own time in due time.
- A BEGINNER’S MIND: To see the richness of the present moment, we need to cultivate what has been called “beginner’s mind” – a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time. No moment is the same as any other. Each is unique and contains unique possibilities. Beginner’s Mind reminds us of the simple truth that each moment or situation is always fresh and always new with new possibilities.
- NONSTRIVING: Almost everything we do is driven by purpose. If it is to get something or somewhere. The tendency to ”driven-ness” is in our “blood” in our being and our culture. It has enabled us to enjoy unprecedented standards of living, comfort and security. However, ”driven-ness” has resulted in extraordinary levels of dissatisfaction, stress and other associated problems. Within this context, the attitude of “non-striving” is best understood as not straining or forcing for a result. It is the idea of doing your best and yet detaches you from the outcome. Loosening up expectations in one’s life can be both challenging and liberating. At the same time, in meditation, this attitude brings a major obstacle. Ultimately, it has no goal other than “just” being in the present and being in each moment just as it is, without making an effort to make things different than they are.
- ACCEPTANCE: Acceptance means seeing things as they actually are in the present. If you have a headache, accept that you have a headache. If you are in pain, emotionally or physically, accept that you are in pain. Acceptance does not mean that you have to like everything or that you have to take a passive attitude. It does not mean that you are satisfied with things as they are. Acceptance, in this context, simply means that you have a willingness to see things as they are without judgment.
Only when you accept yourself as you are, you can really change. This attitude is about attending to one’s experience with clarity, compassion and kindness.
In meditation practice, we cultivate acceptance by taking each moment as it comes and being in it fully, as it is. We don’t impose our ideas about what we should be feeling or thinking or seeing on our experience, but be receptive and open to whatever comes.
- LETTING GO: The tendency to want to hold on to what is pleasant in our experience and to reject what is unpleasant, is usually an automatic response sometimes known as being on autopilot. Yet, cultivating the attitude of letting go, or non-attachment, is fundamental to the practice of mindfulness In meditation practice we intentionally put aside the tendency to elevate some aspects of our experience and to reject others – prolonging pleasant thoughts or feelings and trying to get rid of the unpleasant. Instead, we just let out experience be what it is and practice observing it from moment to moment.
The above writing was adapted from “Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness” by Jon Kabat-Zinn
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