Attitiude 7 – Letting Go

“If you want to forget something or someone, never hate it, or never hate him or her. Everything and everyone that you hate is engraved upon your heart; if you want to let go of something, if you want to forget, you cannot hate.” ― C. JoyBell C.

This is last of the seven attitudes that Jon-Kabat-Zinn believes are the basis for Mindfulness.

so what is Letting Go?

Definition: Letting our experience be what it is.

  • Letting go is a way of letting things be, of accepting things as they are rather than striving all the time to hold onto something
  • We let things go and we just watch…
  • If we find it particularly difficult to let go of something because it has such a strong hold on our mind, we can direct our attention to what ‘holding’ feels like. Holding on is the opposite of letting go. Being willing to look at the ways we hold on shows a lot about its opposite.
  • You already know how to let go… Every night when we go to sleep we let go.

This is the last and in some cases the most difficult of the attitudes of Mindfulness. It is the one that I have the biggest difficulty with. Relationships. Family. Work. Life itself. I find letting go so hard. I used to jump in and try to cling onto something when I thought I was loosing “control; a relationship; a work situation”. Almost anything. 

For me, nothing worked to help minimise the feeling of loss. Until that is, I came to Mindfulness. It has only been through both the daily formal and also the informal practice have I come to recognise where I try to cling and in so doing, get even more caught up in the situation.

Rather, in our meditation practice, I see my thoughts, body sensations, and feelings, come and go, over and over again. With time I have become better at intentionally letting them go. God, it is hard. Sometimes it is almost a conscious effort. Others, I just feel as if I am moving thorugh the moment. 

As I continue my practice and become more comfortable with it, I see that this is not unlike life. Everything in life changes, in the outer world and in our inner world; the more clearly I 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 video where Jon describes the Letting Go attitude can be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBCithP9JrM&list=PLkgahhWgJW97ADlyc2BYMwOD8wZjcBZ8D&index=7
I leave you with the following quote which really struck me.

“This life is what you make it. No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up. Girls will be your friends – they’ll act like it anyway. But just remember, some come, some go. The ones that stay with you through everything – they’re your true best friends. Don’t let go of them. Also remember sisters make the best friends in the world. As for lovers, well, they’ll come and go too. And baby, I hate to say it, most of them – actually pretty much all of them are going to break your heart, but you can’t give up because if you give up, you’ll never find your soulmate. You’ll never find that half who makes you whole and that goes for everything. Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.” ― Marilyn Monroe

Attitude 6 – Acceptance

 

“Some lose all mind and become soul, insane. Some lose all soul and become mind, intellectual. Some lose both and become accepted Charles Bukowski

This is the sixth of the seven attitudes that Jon-Kabat-Zinn believes are the basis for Mindfulness.

So what on earth is the idea of Acceptance?

Definition: Simply put, coming to terms with things as they are.

Some of the key things you can try include:

  • Seeing things as they actually are in the present. If you have a headache, accept you have a headache.
  • We often waste a lot of time and energy denying what is fact. We are trying to force situations to how we would like them to be. This creates more tension and prevents positive change occurring.
  • Now is the only time we have for anything. You have to accept yourself as you are before you can really change. 
  • Acceptance is not passive; it does not mean you have to like everything and abandon your principles and values. It does not mean you have to be resigned to tolerating things. It does not mean that you should stop trying to break free of your own self-destructive habits or give up your desire to change and grow.
  • Acceptance is a willingness to see things as they are. You are much more likely to know what to do and have an inner conviction to act when you have a clear picture of what is actually happening.

Practising 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 reflected on this statement, I found it to be true for myself. See what is true for you with respect to acceptance.

The video where Jon describes the Acceptance attitude can be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOGsj0Aklx8&list=PLkgahhWgJW97ADlyc2BYMwOD8wZjcBZ8D&index=9

I leave you with the following quote.

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

 

Attitude 5 – Non-Striving

. . . My opinion is that you never find happiness until you stop looking for it. My greatest happiness consists precisely in doing nothing whatever that is calculated to obtain happiness: and this, in the minds of most people, is the worst possible course. I will hold to the saying that:”Perfect Joy is to be without joy. Perfect praise is to be without praise.”  ― Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu

This is the fifth of the seven attitudes that Jon-Kabat-Zinn believes are the basis for Mindfulness.

What is non-striving?

Definition: Trying less and being more.

  • Meditation has no goal other than for you to be yourself. The irony is you already are.
  • Paying attention to how you are right now – however, that it is. Just watch.
  • The best way to achieve your own goals is to back off from striving and instead start to really focus on carefully seeing and accepting things as they are, moment by moment. With patience and regular practice moving towards your goals will take place by itself.

Another aspect to living mindfully is practising without striving for any particular outcome. It is almost unnatural for us all to practice non-striving. We approach life with the idea of constantly trying to “fix things”; t strive to sort out problems. We may even approach our meditation practice 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. Instead, allow things to unfold naturally and try to stop 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. I have just sat and concentrated on my breath and have been amazed a the depth of peace that I can achieve.

Is there to be found on earth a fullness of joy of non-striving, or is there no such thing?


. . . What the world appears to value is money, reputation, long life, and achievement. What it apparently counts as joy is health and comfort of body, good food, fine clothes, beautiful things to look at, pleasant music to listen to, etc.

What society seems to condemn is a lack of money, a low social rank, a reputation for being no good, and for being different.

If people find that they are deprived of these things, they go into a panic or fall into despair. They are so concerned for their life that their anxiety makes life unbearable, even when they have the things they think they want. Their very concern for enjoyment makes them unhappy.

. . . I cannot tell if what the world considers “happiness” is happiness or not. All I know is that when I consider the way they go about attaining it, I see them carried away headlong, grim and obsessed, in the general onrush of the human herd, unable to stop themselves or to change their direction. All the while they claim to be just on the point of attaining happiness.

. . . My opinion is that you never find happiness until you stop striving for it. My greatest happiness consists precisely in doing nothing whatever that is calculated to obtain happiness: and this, in the minds of most people, is the worst possible course.

I will hold to the saying that:”Perfect Joy is to be without joy. Perfect praise is to be without praise. Perfect peace is without striving.”

Contentment and well-being become possible the moment you cease to act with them in view, and if you practice non-striving, you will have both happiness and well-being.

The video where Jon describes the Non-Striving attitude can be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cl0DreXY4JI&index=6&list=PLkgahhWgJW97ADlyc2BYMwOD8wZjcBZ8D
I leave you with the following quote.

“In mindfulness practice there is nothing to achieve, nothing to get, and nowhere to go. Instead, you are cultivating another way of being, learning how to be fully aware of exactly where and how you are in this very moment, even if the moment is painful or you don’t like it, because in this moment, this is your reality. A non-striving attitude can be especially valuable during childbirth. As you will see, allowing things to be exactly as they are during labor actually creates the optimal mind-body condition for your body to open, change, and give birth.”

Nancy Bardacke, Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond

Who are you?

Thank you it made me stop and think

Julian Summerhayes

“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” ― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Your name?

Your job title?

Your bank balance?

Your circle of friends?

You don’t honestly know, if only because, apart from your social conditioning, you’ve never looked much further.

It’s OK. It’s like that for most people. If they do look, it’s usually too late.

The flipside is that if you go looking for the next (faux) liberation, you’ll find yourself exhausted.

Stop.

Sit.

And do nothing.

No, this isn’t a meditation instruction but rather my crass attempt to get you to sit still long enough to ask one simple question (thank you Darryl Bailey):

What is there when there is no thinking?

If you’re able to construct a semblance of an answer — which may be nothing more than a series of hackneyed lines — then you may find yourself exploring new territory. If nothing…

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Attitude 4 – Trust

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them” ― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

This is the fourth of the seven attitudes. Trust is talked about is so many different guises, how does it reflect on mindfulness? Trust is important in mindfulness because you can’t expect mindfulness to give instant results. Trust me, when I started the formal eight week programme, it wasn’t until week seven that I realised that something was changing and growing. Without genuine trust, you may not put your heart into the process of developing a mindfulness practice and thereby reduce the chance of enjoying your journey into mindful living.

So what is Trust?

Definition: Trusting in your intuition and your own authority.

  • Developing a basic trust in yourself and your feelings.
  • Trusting in your own authority and intuition, even if you make some ‘mistakes’ along the way.
  • Honour your feelings. Taking responsibility for yourself and your own well-being.

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 ourselves. 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.
  • Finally, can you trust yourself?

The video where Jon describes the Trust attitude can be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9HhURnnlh4&list=PLkgahhWgJW97ADlyc2BYMwOD8wZjcBZ8D&index=5
I leave you with the following quote.

“When you’re surrounded by all these people, it can be lonelier than when you’re by yourself. You can be in a huge crowd, but if you don’t feel like you can trust anyone or talk to anybody, you feel like you’re really alone.” ― Fiona Apple

 

Attitude 3 – Beginner’s Mind

 

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.” ― C. JoyBell C.

This is the third of the seven attitudes that Jon-Kabat-Zinn believes are the basis for Mindfulness. This one is probably the most difficult to understand. When I first heard this phrase, I thought to myself “Beginner’s mind? Shouldn’t we strive to be an expert?”.

So what is a Beginner’s Mind?

Definition: Seeing things with fresh eyes, with a clear and uncluttered mind.

The idea of “Beginner’s Mind” comes from a Japanese concept called Shoshin (初心). It is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind”. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. Now, this sounds counter-intuitive but, in fact it is not. The issue is that too often we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we ‘know’ stop us from seeing things as they really are. That is the core tenet behind “Beginner’s Mind”.

So what are some of the key tips that will help you to have a “Beginner’s Mind”?

  • Cultivate a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time.
  • Be receptive to new possibilities, not getting stuck in a rut of our own experience or expertise.
  • Be open and engaging with each situation.
  • Treat each situation as if it is the first time you have encountered it. How many times do you go into a situation with a preconceived idea of the outcome? Don’t. Even if you have experienced it many times.
  • Each moment is unique and contains unique possibilities.
  • Try it with someone you know – next time, ask yourself if you are seeing this person with fresh eyes, are they really that person?
  • Try it with problems… with a work situation… with your partner at home… with the person you see every day.

Is it possible to approach life with a fresh view? Is there something new to be noticed in the world around us? Sometimes our beliefs and assumptions about the way something is, cloud our judgements and prevent us from experiencing the richness of the present moment right in front of us. That is why the “Beginner’s Mind” is so important. Taking that view, helps us reframe our view of the world in a fresh, new, way.

So what is “Beginner’s Mind”?

It’s dropping your expectations and preconceived ideas about something and seeing things with an open mind, fresh eyes, just like a beginner. If you’ve ever learned something new, you can remember what that’s like: you’re probably confused or unsure of what to do, because you don’t know how to do whatever you’re learning, but you’re also looking at everything as if it’s brand new, perhaps with curiosity and wonder. That is what “Beginner’s Mind” means.

But imagine if you could apply this to every activity. One of the simplest is to imagine eating food. After all, for most of us, eating is almost automatic. We rarely think about the food; take the time to appreciate the flavours, and textures and appreciate the experience. So why not try the following exercise:

  • You start by seeing the act of eating with fresh eyes as if you don’t know what to expect as if you hadn’t done it thousands of times already. After all, we were taught as little children how to eat and it has become automatic for most of our life.

  • When was the last time you really looked at the food on the plate in front of you and really notice the layout, structure, textures and form of the food laid out before you.

  • Now you take the first bite of the food. Having placed various parts of the dinner onto the fork and brought it to your mouth, notice the smell as you open your mouth and start to eat. Notice the texture, the taste. Perhaps the sweetness or bitterness or saltiness. Everything seems new, perhaps even full of wonder.
  • Don’t take anything for granted. Appreciate every bite as a gift. It’s temporary, fleeting, and precious.
  • As you can see just from this description, the practice of beginner’s mind transforms the activity.

Why does it matter?

When you practice beginner’s mind with an activity you get better experiences of the activity. It feels fresh, new and alive. You are less likely to feel negative and more likely to enjoy the activity.

How do you practice it?

Beginner’s mind is what we practice in meditation. Instead of sitting in meditation and thinking you know what your breath will be like, or the present moment in front of you will be like … you pay attention. See it with fresh eyes. Drop your preconceived ideas and just look clearly at what’s in front of you. A daily meditation practice is useful in developing this beginner’s mind. However, it is not the only way to develop it.

Here are a few practices courtesy of Mary Jaksch of Goodlife Zen that I came across that also might help:

  1. Take one step at a time. Don’t try to strive out. Just take one step at a time.

  2. Fall down seven times, get up eight times.

  3. Don’t pre-judge.

  4. Live without shoulds.

  5. Make use of experience. Don’t negate experience, but keep an open mind on how to apply it to each new circumstance.

  6. Let go of being an expert.

  7. Experience the moment fully.

  8. Disregard common sense.

  9. Discard fear of failure.

  10. Use the spirit of enquiry.

  11. Focus on questions, not answers.

With a Beginner’s Mind, you will be more open to possibilities and more creative. You may also form closer bonds with others in your life as well.

The video where Jon describes the Beginner’s Mind attitude can be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssqclf52ZpY&list=PLkgahhWgJW97ADlyc2BYMwOD8wZjcBZ8D&index=4
I leave you with the following quote.

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. ”  ― Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice

 

Change is the only constant

“Forgive the past. It is over. Learn from it and let go. People are constantly changing and growing. Do not cling to a limited, disconnected, negative image of a person in the past. See that person now. Your relationship is always alive and changing.” ― Brian L. Weiss, Messages from the Masters: Tapping Into the Power of Love

Spending time reading at the weekend, I have come to regard as a pleasure.

Getting up early and sitting with a book; reading on my kindle or on-line; I get lost in the words; the story; the journey. I have always read, ever since I can remember. I was known as the “bookworm” in my family. I can recall reading under the bed covers as a very young child; using a very old fashioned rectangular blue torch to shine the light onto the printed page as I devoured the story; gripped by the plot and the characters. Then would come the inevitable “Put that light out and go to sleep” from my mother.

Anyway, back to now. An article in a newspaper has prompted me to reflect on change why it is constant. Whilst reading the article “The secret of happiness? Live life in the slow lane”, I was struck by one small section:

“Things I liked when I was young but now couldn’t care less about: aeroplane journeys, all-you-can-eat buffets, horror movies, staying up all night. Things I enjoy now I am older: Mozart, brown rice, meditation, spending time alone, regular exercise. We change without realising it. We are in the midst of change now.”

I stopped what I was reading and realised that life has been a constant change. The words in bold are key to the next series of thoughts I had.

When I was young, I liked: Horror movies.Staying up late or even all night. Reading fiction and especially horror and fantasy. Getting out on my bike. Being with my mates down the park.

In my middle years, I liked: Science programmes. Reading about World War II. Going to the gym. Chasing girls. Listening to 1980’s pop music.

Now, I like: Listening to podcasts. Listening to classical music and modern classical composers like Ludovico Einaudi. Meditation. And I have rediscovered a need for exercise to try to be healthy.

Throughout all of my life, I have lived a life of constant change. Change that has been almost unnoticed. It was only by pausing and reflecting this morning, that I recognised, even for those things that we feel are constant, like our taste in music, or reading or films; change happens. So imagine, if you will, those major changes in your life? Relationships. Work. home. Places you have lived. Those are not changes. They are more like transformations.

For instance, we transform ourselves for others when we start relationships. I am reading (yes, I know, I’m repeating myself) a fascinating book by Alain de Botton on The Course of Love. You may disagree but think for a moment about a recent or even current relationship you are in. I can guarantee that you are not the same person who started that relationship. You have changed, and quite possibly, you will notice that the other person has changed as well. If you write down what attracted you to the person when you first met them and compare it to your feels now, there will be a difference.

We transform ourselves when we start a new job. Certainly, when you move companies. The company culture will be different. The people’s work practices will be different to what you might have experienced in a previous employer. Even if you are self-employed, you may find that you approach a new client in a different way to an old client.

Finally, homes. It is a given than when we move into a new home; whether rented or owned; we want to change it. Put our mark on it. Paint it. Decorate it. Furnish it with our stuff. Even when you are our looking at potential new places to live, I know you will make comments like “If we change that, or move that….” as part of the decision process.

So change is a constant. So is transformations. Life is a journey that we all go on. As it is Saturday, I will return to my reading. Whatever you are doing this day. Enjoy and I hope you have a pleasant weekend.

The article, I read is here, if you are interested.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4258372/The-secret-happiness-Live-life-slow-lane.html

I leave you with the following quote.

“Change is a funny thing. We never are quite sure what we are becoming or even why. Then one day we look at ourselves and wonder who we are and how we got that way. Only one thing about change remains constant…it is always painful”

Jodi Picoult, The Tenth Circle