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 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

 

Attitude 2 – Patience

“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” ― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

This is the second of the seven attitudes that Jon-Kabat-Zinn believes are the basis for mindfulness. We all talk about patience, but what does it mean in the context of mindfulness?

It can be really really hard to be patient. It is really hard to wait in general. In fact, many of us get antsy or even angry at having to wait. For instance at traffic lights; in traffic queues; waiting at the supermarket; in fact almost anywhere. There are times, even, when we just wished time would go faster; when we hurry to make it feel like it does. But when we do have to wait for something, time really seems to slow down, and we can feel our emotions heat up, both in our minds and in our bodies. Of course, there are times when we wish time would, in fact, slow down to a crawl, as when we are filled with feelings of joy, relief, or even calmness. How can mindfulness help with our very human tendency to be impatient?

So what is Mindful-based Patience?

Definition: An understanding and acceptance that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.

Do we practice patience with a feeling of long suffering and endurance? Or can it be practised with a feeling of deep faith in ourselves, in life and trust in others to come through for us?

Mindfulness patience means that we have developed enough wisdom to accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time, in their own pace.

So what are some of the key tips that will help you to have more patience?

  • Don’t try to hurry things along. Everything has it’s own time. This feels obvious, but we try so hard to force things through that we forget that for many activities, there is a natural rhythm or pace to it. 
  • Practice patience with ourselves. Why rush through some moments in order to get to other ‘better’ ones? Each one is you “living your life in that moment.”
  • Be completely open to each moment as it happens, accepting its fullness, knowing that things will emerge in their own time.

I have noticed for instance in meetings, where-as in the past I would rush in with ideas, comments and suggestions; now I try to find the flow of the meeting. The pace of the conversation and allow myself to match it. Often, I do not even make comments or suggestions; but rather stay silent. This can feel counter-productive; but trust me, I feel more grounded and focused.

How do you practice patience?

Practising patience in the midst of a stressful situation is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it seems to be completely counterintuitive. At it’s heart, it really means acknowledging that you don’t have control about all the aspects of your life. Look, none of us do. This can feel very scary, and for some, this means they can become angry, anxious or depressed in response to this sense of “non-control”.

But by practicing patience at these times, by allowing yourself to “be in this moment”, knowing that this moment (and all of the other moments that you are going to experience) is not in your control and that it cannot be otherwise, you will be re-regulating your mind-body, and strengthening your inner self.

There is a technique I came across that does seem to help.

STOP!

When you find yourself in the middle of a situation; be it at work, at home, with loved ones or friends; where you feel your impatience rising, think: S-T-O-P

  • S = Stop. Stop talking. Stop shouting. Stop whatever you are doing.
  • T = Take a breath. I try to breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of seven and breathe out for a count of eight, but whatever works for you.
  • O = Open yourself up to self-compassion. Realise that you in the moment. Just this moment and it will pass. Just like every other moment you have ever had.
  • P = Pause and reflect on what the context of the situation is that is making you feel impatient. I can assure you, that it will feel a lot less by this stage.

Try practising, the “STOP” technique. This in turn, may encourage your brain to “turn down” the heat and adjust itself by having you feel less reactive to the stress.

Patience is about accepting “what is”, knowing that “what is” will change, that everything is impermanent; the bad as well as the good. It is about self-compassion, knowing how hard it is to acknowledge the limited control we all have in our world. It is about knowing that we really will feel better by being less reactive to the “issue” or to the “situation” we find ourselves in. Finally, and probably the most important aspect is, that cultivating patience for yourself will allow you to be more patient with others.

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkW27a8m1mY&list=PLkgahhWgJW97ADlyc2BYMwOD8wZjcBZ8D&index=3

I leave you with the following quote which is really wonderful.

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Attitude 1 – Non-Judging

“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” ― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

This is the first of the seven attitudes that Jon-Kabat-Zinn believes are the basis for mindfulness. We have all heard of being judgemental, but what does being non-judging mean?

It is part of the definition of mindfulness itself:

“The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”

So what is non-judging?  

Definition: Not getting caught up in our ideas and opinions, likes and dislikes.

There is an inner critic who lives inside my head rent-free and is one loud and obnoxious bugger. He has something to say about everything, and I mean everything, I do and say.  From the way I drive to work in the morning to how many pieces of fruit I consume in a day, from the way I talk to my children and family to my writing and blogging. Literally, everything I do, say and life through.

What is the purpose of that inner critic we all have inside of us? I have no idea of its source, point or reason. Suffice to say, that sometimes it completely consumes every thought I have.

Part of Mindfulness practice is the art of being non-judging to yourself and also to others. When you start to do a formal meditation practice, say a breathing exercise, as soon as you start, your mind will wander. I can guarantee it. Now, you can let that inner critic say those words of “you are failing at this” or you can accept that these things happen and by being non-judging, return to the breath.

Jon Kabat-Zinn writes, “When you find the mind judging, you don’t have to stop it from doing that, and it would be unwise to try. All that is required is to be aware of it happening. No need to judge the judging and make matters even more complicated for yourself.”

So what are some of the key tips that will help you be more non-judging?

  • Take the stance of an impartial witness to your own experience.
  • Notice the stream of judging mind .. good / bad / neutral… do not try to stop it but just being aware of it.
  • When you are with others, accept the moment by moment events, try not to judge others; instead, accept them as themselves.

How do you practice non-judging?

To practice non-judging, try going through a day paying attention to how often you judge everything that comes into your experience moment to moment. What feeling does this judging mechanism evoke in you? Anger? Fear? Jealousy? What is it like to simply experience and observe something without 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! Judging the judge, judging the judge!

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNICQ-x_Gek&list=PLkgahhWgJW97ADlyc2BYMwOD8wZjcBZ8D&index=2
I leave you with the following quote.

“If you want to forget something or someone, never hate it, or never hate him/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.

How attitude helps with Mindfulness

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

I have been trying to cultivate my own Mindfulness practice now for over two years, trying to do formal as well as informal practice on a daily basis; sometimes successfully, sometimes not. At times it has felt really easy. Sometimes, it has felt almost impossible, However, what has kept me going is the concepts of bringing awareness into my daily life; being more present and connected to what is going on around me. With these, I have felt truly alive for the first time in a long time.

Mindfulness has many aspects to it that can be interesting to explore. I have experienced many including silent practices; walking and movement practices; even mindful eating and tasting. All of these lend themselves not only to the formal practice of meditation but also 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 (such as going for a walk with what is called “a beginners mind” (I’ll explain what this means in a subsequent post)? Is it possible to approach activities and life’s events with a fresh viewpoint? 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; of the life around us.

I recently came across a video from Jon Kabat-Zinn where he talks about having the right set of attitudes that support the practice of Mindfulness. He talks about the fact that Mindfulness is more than just the formal sitting meditation practice; it is an approach to life. The challenge that we all face is the way we think of ourselves as “I, me and mine”; who we think we are and who we actually are are two entirely different things. Do you constantly think about yourself rather than others?  Do you really understand who you are and what life means for you?

There appear to be seven attitudes that Jon describes (plus a couple of others at the end of the videos). They were originally described in the book Jon wrote called  Full Catastrophe Living:How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation. They are:-

Non-judging: Consists in taking the position of an impartial witness to your own experience.
Patience

Patience: Having patience demonstrates that we understand and accept the fact that sometimes things unfold in their own time.

Beginner’s mind: Practising mindfulness means to take the chance to see everything as if it was for the first time.

Trust: Learning to trust one’s own experience, feelings and intuition.

Non-striving: Almost everything we do is for a purpose. Meditation and Mindfulness should not be!

Acceptance: Accepting what is happening in your life; around you and to the general situation of life.

“You have to accept yourself as you are, before you can really change” (op.cit. p. 38). This attitude is about attending to one’s experience with clarity and kindness, an essential foundation of meditation practice. Whereas a formal kindness meditation is not taught within the course material, this quality is inferred to within all the course content.

Letting go: The idea of letting go, or non-attachment, is fundamental to the practice of mindfulness.

We have a journey we can travel together: I have reflected on each of these and over the coming weeks will share my thoughts, experiences and feedback on each of them via a set of blog posts dedicated to each attitude. I hope you find them enlightening and thought provoking.

If you would like to check out the video that inspired this series, that Introduces the attitudes of Mindfulness click on the link below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kANsRoYcaAo&index=1&list=PLkgahhWgJW97ADlyc2BYMwOD8wZjcBZ8D

 

I leave you with the following quote.

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Ruminating and how to change how you think?

“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.” ― Terry Pratchett, Diggers

We all self-reflect on situations and life’s events. Constantly. Every moment of every day. I do it. You do it. We all do it. It is one of the most powerful, and yet potentially destructive features of our makeup.

We ruminate.

When people ruminate, they over-think about situations or life events, including; work challenges; relationships issues; problems with friendships; money worries; and even health issues. Research has shown that rumination is associated with a variety of negative consequences, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, binge-drinking, and binge-eating.

Ruminating is like a record that’s stuck and keeps repeating the same lyrics.

Sorry, that is an ageist analogy. I used that with my children, they looked at me blankly. I just asked my teenage daughter and her comment was that sounds like when you watch something on playback on the internet and you have to keep restarting the playback session.

What causes rumination episodes?

It is not clear exactly why we ruminate, although there are strong reasons to believe that it may be an unsuitable mental coping strategy adopted to try and cope with strong emotions; such as the fear of loss, impending significant change or a major life / relationship challenge.

What is the impact of rumination?

Rumination paralyzes your problem-solving skills. You become so preoccupied with the problem that you’re unable to push past the cycle of negative thoughts. You cycle round and round not able to break out of the self-talk. You start to feel helpless and if left unchecked potentially into depression.  It takes time to cycle out of a rumination event. For some, it can be hours, for others, it can be days. For some, unfortunately, they are unable to cycle out of the rumination event and cycle down into a depressive episode. We all have experienced a rumination episodes. For me, my most recent one took about twenty-four hours to cycle out of the event. A number of the techniques below helped me.

How do you begin to change your mind and reduce rumination episodes?
There are a number of ways to help reduce the impact of a rumination episode and even shorten the duration.

Positive problem-solve the situation: People who ruminate not only replay the negative and helpless situation in their head, they also focus on abstract questions, such as, “Why does this happen to me?”; “What’s wrong with me?”, “Why do I keep making the same mistake?” or the ultimate one “Why am I a failure?”.

Positive thought activities: Engage in activities that foster positive thoughts. These could be anything from a favorite physical activity such as swimming, walking, running or cycling; to a hobby; or even to meditation, which is the technique that I use to help deal with the episode. The main thing is to get your mind distracted away from the rumination for a time so that the thoughts begin to subside and hopefully die out.

Instead, when you can think positively and clearly you can try to change the “self talk tape”. Identify at least one positive, constructive and concrete thing you could do to overcome the problem you are ruminating about.

For instance, if you’re worried about a situation at work, commit to sitting down with a close colleague to discuss the situation and how to deal with it.

If you have a relationship challenge, commit to sitting and talking through the positive aspects of the relationship; the things that you both appreciate in each other.

There are many different ways to help change your self-talk. If you have techniques that work for you, it would be wonderful if you could share.

I leave you with the following quote.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

Mahatma Gandhi