11 Attitudes of Mindfulness:
How 11 Words Cause Calm
What are the Attitudes of Mindfulness?
As a student of Mindfulness training, I was constantly reminded of the “Attitudes of Mindfulness” clearly posted in the Mindfulness classrooms. These attitudes were continually referenced during classes. We were often invited to choose an Attitude of Mindfulness as an intention for the class session (or longer). Then, these attitude references made it easy to reflect during group discussions. I would like to note that though my mindfulness practices–in general–bring me calm, relief, empowerment, etc– the point of mindfulness isn’t to bring calm or any particular emotion or state. Rather, mindfulness is about learning to just be with what is.
Jon Kabat-Zinn started Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction as a way to treat chronic pain in the late 1970s. He crafted the widely-used definition of Mindfulness: “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn identifies seven fundamental Attitudes of Mindfulness– Non-Judging, Patience, Beginner’s Mind, Trust, Non-Striving, Acceptance, and Letting Go– described in his book Mindfulness for Beginners. He says that other attitudes (such as four others I discuss: Gratitude, Compassion, Humor, and Generosity) develop through the cultivation of the aforementioned fundamental seven Attitudes of Mindfulness. I include some of Kabat-Zinn’s quotes from “The Attitudinal Foundations of Mindfulness Practice” section of his book Mindfulness for Beginners. You can find out more about Jon Kabat-Zinn’s collection of books on his website.
The Attitudes of Mindfulness are so beautifully woven together. I view several of them as going together hand-in-hand.
Non-Judging & Compassion
Non-Judging and compassion go hand-in-hand for me, as I view compassion as a tool for healing judgment. This means that I shouldn’t judge myself for the emotions I feel. Rather I should acknowledge them, label them, and let them pass. Self-compassion has been especially supportive in my journey of releasing perfectionism and adopting positive self-talk.
Jon Kabat-Zinn says that a non-judging attitude is imperative to “see past the automatic and usually unexamined ideas and opinions we have about pretty much everything.” My favorite part is “No need to judge the judging or try to change it. Just seeing it is enough.”
I view “Non-Striving” as the antidote for perfectionism. Many of us have been stuck in the cycle of seeking achievements that we think will bring us fulfillment. However, once we achieve that which we think will make us happy, there’s something more that we want. Mindfulness is about being in the present moment. Therefore, it’s a break to release any thoughts of the past or future.
I realized in a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course that I was striving even while doing slow, gentle mindful yoga. I was trying to hold tree pose for longer, with my foot higher than normal. Mindfulness gives us the opportunity to be aware of such things, without needing to be better.
Acceptance & Letting Go
I feel like “Acceptance” and “Letting Go” go hand-in-hand, as once I accept what is, it’s easier to just be with it, without judgment. Jon Kabat-Zinn says:
“Acceptance has nothing to do with passive resignation– far from it. If things are going to hell in a handbasket, then that knowing– that awareness– of things going to hell in a handbasket can give you a place to stand, an orientation for taking appropriate action in the next moment. But if you don’t see and accept things as they actually are, you won’t know how to act. Or you might be overwhelmed by fear, and that fear might cloud the mind just when you most need clarity and equanimity…
The shift to awarenessing with acceptance immediately frees us from the narrative in our heads that says: “I’ve got to have conditions be just so in order for the moment to be a happy moment.”
This means we accept what has happened, what we cannot change, and let go of the expectations we had. Here’s a simple example: I used to let traffic annoy me. Now my tendency is to accept that traffic exists, realize I cannot change it, and use this as an opportunity to practice mindfulness.
Attitudes of Mindfulness: Trust & Patience
Something that helps me accept and let go is the belief that things happen for a reason. I TRUST the affirmation “I am exactly where I’m supposed to be”. This means both in physical location and mental place. This also helps me when I’m stuck in indecision: any decision is better than no decision.
Another affirmation I use is: I trust that my good intentions and actions, consistency, and authenticity lead to my purpose and impact, even when I feel like I’m in a low point of life.
Attitudes of Mindfulness: Gratitude & Generosity
It’s difficult to experience anger (or any other unpleasant emotion) when we’re truly focused on what we’re grateful for.
I love the Brené Brown quote, “Practicing gratitude is how we acknowledge that there’s enough and that we’re enough.” I think this quote recognizes that living with a spirit of gratitude naturally makes it easier to be generous.
“Your ability to see beauty and possibility is proportional to the level at which you embrace gratitude.” —Steve Maraboli
Attitudes of Mindfulness: Beginner’s Mind & Humor
Beginner’s Mind is when we’re open, curious, and enter an experience without expectations, as a beginner would. It helps for me to think about being a child with childlike wonder, just excited to explore. I’ve noticed when I consider the beginner’s mind perspective, it’s easier for me to experience humor and gratitude.
The greatest aspect of the Attitudes of Mindfulness for me is that these words (some more than others) are anchor words that aid me in resetting my perspective. For more about mindfulness class components, view my blog post, What is a Silent Retreat? 5 Ways to Implement Silent Retreat Mindfulness into Everyday Life. For more