The Seven Attitudinal Foundations of Mindfulness
Mindfulness has many aspects to it that can be interesting to explore, not just on a meditation cushion, but in how we live our lives. Once we have learned about them, we can actually apply these concepts in our daily life. For example what is it like for you to do something routine (taking out the trash, going to the grocery store, taking a walk) with a beginners mind. Is it possible to approach these with a fresh view? Is there something new to be noticed? Sometimes our beliefs and assumptions about the way something is, prevent us from experiencing the richness of the present moment. It is also easier to learn from a beginners mind, than if we think we already know what’s going to happen. As Suzuki Roshi said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the experts’ mind there are few”.
What does patience really mean? Do we practice patience with a feeling of long suffering and endurance? Or can it be practiced with a feeling of deep faith in ourselves and in life and trust in others to come through for us. Could patience mean that we have developed enough wisdom to accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time?
To practice non-judging, try going through a day paying attention to how often we judge everything that comes into our experience moment to moment. What feeling does this judging mechanism evoke in us? What is it like to simply experience and observe something with out clinging to it, or wanting to push it away? The Buddha taught that this very process of craving things to be a certain way or to not be a certain way- is at the root of our suffering. See for yourself if this rings true as you observe the judging process. Also notice if you are judging yourself for judging!
The foundation of Trust encourages us to look deeply at trusting ourselves. Many of us have given our power away to an outside authority, or to a system or institution. Meditation takes us back to ourselves, where we can access our own wisdom, and trust our selves. Pay attention to self doubting thoughts when they arise and look deeply into where they really come from, instead of just believing them. One of the gifts meditation can offer is that of authenticity. We aren’t meant to be like anyone else, we can only be ourselves. Looking at our thoughts and feelings can lead us to a more authentic life. Can you trust yourself?
Another aspect to living mindfully is practicing with out striving for any particular outcome. It is unusual for Americans who are such “go-getters’’ to practice non-striving. We may approach our meditation with a goal of trying to fix a problem, and the harder we try to accomplish this, the less we experience what may be unfolding quite naturally. The notion of trying to get somewhere with your meditation has built into it the belief that there is something wrong with where we are right now. Pay attention this week to the driving desire in you to get somewhere other than where you are right now, and see how it makes you feel. Then explore what it’s like to practice with no specific goal and see what happens!
Practicing non-striving leads us directly to the next attitudinal quality of mindfulness which is acceptance. Sometimes we confuse acceptance with approval or resignation. Accepting something means seeing things as they are right now. It doesn’t mean we aren’t going to do something about it. See if there is something you feel challenged to accept, and what resisting it feels like. Does it help? Does it make you feel stuck? Just notice. The attitude of acceptance can have a quality of compassion and understanding to it. These qualities actually make it easier to change something. I once heard someone say with regard to weight loss, “No one ever changed by hating themselves into it.” When I looked into this statement, I found it to be true for myself. See what is true for you with respect to acceptance.
The last foundation of letting go is built upon and includes all of the other attitudes we have discussed. In our meditation practice, we see our thoughts, body sensations, and feelings, come and go, over and over again. With time we become better at intentionally letting them go. As we continue our practice and become more comfortable with it, we see that this is not unlike life. Everything in life changes, in the outer world and in our inner world; the more clearly we see this, the easier it is to let things go. See for yourself if it causes discomfort to hold on tightly to things. Keep in mind it is also very natural to cling to the things we love and want or believe are important to our well-being, so we don’t have to force ourselves to let go. Using trust, acceptance, non-striving, patience, beginner’s mind and non-judging can lead us to the ability to let go.
The Seven Attitudinal Foundation of Mindfulness
The practice of mindfulness is like cultivating a garden. A garden flourishes when certain conditions are present. Holding the following seven qualities in mind, reflecting upon them, cultivating them according to our best understanding- this effort will nourish, support and strengthen our practice. Keeping these attitudes in mind is part of the training, a way of channeling our energies in the process of healing and growth. Remember too that they are interdependent. Each influences the other and working on one enhances them all.
1. Beginners Mind
5. Non -Striving
7. Letting Go