Mindfulness Attitudes and Guidelines for Meditation Practice

This month we explore the attitudes and guidelines, essential aspects of an effective Mindfulness practice during meditation as well as for everyday living.

Mindfulness is …
Mindfulness is awareness that arises by paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally (that is, suspending judgment). Another way to define mindfulness is to look at its components – Attention, Concentration, Awareness, and Compassion and its benefits.

Key Aspects – Mindfulness involves training in attention, awareness, concentration, and compassion: Attention – where you focus your mind; Concentration – the ability to stay focused on one object, one-pointedness. Awareness – another way of knowing that is non-cognitive, it is experiential. Awareness is the mind’s ability to know, in the present moment that is, not being caught up in thoughts of the future or thoughts of the past; to “be here, now.”

Mindfulness brings a gentle, curious attention to whatever arises in mind and body as you rest in awareness. You just observe the sensations themselves, as they arise moment by moment with nothing added. As a result, you come to know and understand yourself in a deeper, experiential way. Compassion deepens as you come to understand the conditions of the present moment and as that understanding and compassion deepens for yourself, it is easier to extend compassion to others. Keep in mind, as with developing any art or skill, mindfulness requires practice and patience.

Benefits of developing a mindfulness practice:

  • Change your relationship to stress, anxiety, anger, fear, sadness, grief, etc.
  • See more clearly – with fewer perceptual filers
  • Be less reactive and more responsive – allowing space/time for conscious and creative choices
  • Gain insights- identifying skillful and unskillful patterns of behavior, speech, etc.,
  • Know yourself more deeply, fully
  • Deepen your inner wisdom
  • Develop a calm peacefulness/ a reservoir of peace and energy
  • Be more compassionate with self and others
  • In summary, to realize greater health and happiness personally and professionally

Mindfulness Meditation Attitudes and Guidelines
Developing a mindfulness practice is an art, requiring patience and persistence. The following essential attitudes and guidelines will help develop a strong and meaningful Mindfulness practices.

Developing mindfulness involves cultivating a sense of impartiality to all of your experiences. The mind tends to categorize and place a value on what it is experiencing. We then react to what we categorize as pleasant (like) with clinging and to what we categorize as unpleasant (disliking) as something to avoid. This reaction is often automatic and unconscious. By becoming aware of the mind’s thoughts and reactions we can observe them rather than becoming caught up in them. We step back, not identify as closely with the stream of thoughts and simply observe them. By practicing mindfulness we learn to simply witness the judging mind as an impartial witness.

Having patience involves deepening our understanding that everything unfolds at its own pace. This is true of our mindfulness practice. As we sit in meditation we can remind ourselves that the wandering and judging mind is what is happening in that moment and that is fine. Developing the capacity to be fully open to your experience moment to moment as it unfolds takes time.

Beginner’s Mind
This attitude is developed by approaching each moment as it is – unique and distinct with a character all its own. We often allow our thinking to color or distort our experience, to shade what we are perceiving. Beginner’s Mind involves remaining open to your experience just as it is, seeing it with clarity, without our perceptual filters. Beginner’s Mind is seeing with fresh eyes, directly, without expectations.

Trusting Yourself
It is important to trust your own feelings and intuition, to be your own authority when developing your mindfulness practice. Trust in the mindfulness process, rather than what you read in a book about meditation or what your teacher says or suggests. Mindfulness is about your seeing clearly and knowing in an experiential way what is happening moment by moment. Listening to and honoring your own feelings and sense of what is right. This is an essential aspect of mindfulness developed through practice. “Be a light unto yourself.” See for yourself, this moment, here and now.

Counter-intuitive to most of what we do with a purpose and a goal, trying to get somewhere or fix something, Mindfulness is about non-doing. It sounds paradoxical, doing less, to be yourself. Mindfulness is about just paying attention to whatever is happening. Just observing. Everything else, in a way, just gets in the way. It is a different approach than what most of us are used to. The practice is about allowing and acknowledging things to be as they are as we bring our attention to whatever that may be moment-to-moment. One mindfulness practice is to simply notice the impulse to strive whenever you notice “striving” is present.

Acceptance (Acknowledging)
Bring an openness and allowing attitude to your practice and your life. Be open to whatever arises during your mediation practice. Mindfulness trains us in seeing things as they actually are without all of our judgments, projections, and expectations coloring or distorting our view. Acceptance is about acknowledging or being with things just as they are, mindfully rather than denying things we may dislike or find unpleasant. This is not about accepting things you are philosophically or morally opposed to or being passive. We are cultivating the willingness and wisdom to see things as they are.

Letting Go (Letting Be)
Perhaps a clearer phase is letting things be just as they are. Mindfulness invites us to not hold on to anything whatsoever, whether it is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Cultivating an attitude of non-attachment is fundamental to the practice of Mindfulness. In affect we are accepting things as they are so we may simply observe them. Just being with mind body phenomena. We learn to recognize this grasping or turning or pushing away from various thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and then remember not to pursue them in any way. We are just watching, being a silent observer of our mind and body as phenomena arises and passes.

Compassion and Self Compassion
It is helpful to have compassion for yourself as you practice Mindfulness. And in turn you will be developing a deeper understanding of how stress/suffering comes about. We recognize the causes and conditions that lead to stress and open to ways to reduce it. Practicing Mindfulness, approaching practice with kindness, and a sense of how all humanity shares suffering, leads to compassion for yourself and then for others.

As we “observe” or watch our experience, our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations we are just bring the attitude of inquisitiveness or curiosity to the practice. For the most part this practice is not about thinking about our experience, analyzing, contrasting and comparing. Our attention is just curious as we become more aware of what is unfolding before us.

Mindfulness Practice Guidelines

The self-discipline needed to maintain a daily practice is a challenge for most people. You are asking a lot of yourself – to make a significant lifestyle change, arranging your life so you will have 45 – 60 minutes most every day for your Mindfulness practices. Understanding the process and tasting its benefits will help you in maintaining your practice. The simple truth is you don’t have to enjoy the practices; but to gain the benefits of the workshop you do have to do them. As you start to realize the benefits of practice motivation will grow. As the sense of peace and calmness, energy goes you will look forward to practicing.

Making a firm commitment to do the practices and activities asked of you during the workshop is important. Carving out the time and a place for practice is necessary, even though, initially it may add to your stress to fit everything into your day. You might think of this as investing for something you would like to have. Spending time now for less stress, more peace as practice deepens.

Intentions are different than goals. Goals are future orientated, whereas intentions are for the present moment. With goals there is a tendency to feel as though you have failed if you have not met them by a certain time. With intentions there is no failing, only a re-commitment to the intention whenever you notice you are not doing what you intended to do. No need for self-judgment.

Experiment and find what works best for your current needs. A regular time for practice helps with maintaining the practice. In the morning, is often a good time to practice, to start the day of with a sense of presence and before the day “gets-away-from you.”

A quiet place is helpful but not necessary for meditating; a place suitable for the study of your mind and body. Remember, all mind body phenomena are suitable objects of awareness, even “disturbing” sounds, body sensations, thoughts, and emotions. These are what we work with using awareness and inquiry. Observing “disruptions” often deepen understanding.

Your posture reflects the attitude that you bring to practice. Bring an attitude of dignity to your sitting practice. Maintain a relaxed but alert position, without moving, except when necessary and then bringing mindfulness to this movement. Be aware of the intention to move and the entire mind body processes of all that is present in each movement. It is useful to begin practice with some stretches or yoga and breathing practices.

The formal sitting practice is done with a natural breath, that is, let the breath breathe itself. Deep, three-part breathing done prior to practice is both relaxing and energizing; however, during meditation, let the breath find its own natural rhythm. Let the breath breathe itself.

Research on Mindfulness
The Mindfulness- Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) workshop is considered the “gold standard” for mindfulness studies. For peer reviewed journal articles on mindfulness research – visit http://www.goamra.org – the American Mindfulness Research Association. Workshop details are below.

Free, Online Mindfulness Practice Opportunities

Mindfulness Practice Evening is a Free Offering for the community – that meets the second Friday of each month from 6:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. We explore different aspects of mindfulness through discussions and practices. All are welcome – whether you are just curious about mindfulness and its benefits or have a regular practice. For more information and/or Zoom link, please contact Mike Healy at mfhealy@bellsouth.net

Dedicated Mindfulness Practitioners Group is a free offering for the community – that meets each Saturday from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. This is an opportunity to practice and discuss your mindfulness practice. Now offered online with Zoom. For more information and/or Zoom link, please contact Jasey Jones at jaseyjones@gmail.com

The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) workshop provides guidelines and practices to reduce stress, anxiety – the suffering that we all experience in life. MBSR was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts. It is one of the most effective and researched stress reduction workshops available today. MBSR is taught and researched at US medical centers, universities, and elsewhere throughout the world. Research on MBSR is the “gold standard” for mindfulness – www.goamra.org The MBSR workshop is available online, live using Zoom – a free online platform. Call Mike Healy-706-248-8918. Flexible scheduling to meet your needs.

Online, individual session for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop – Live & Online using Zoom, with a schedule that fits your needs – please contact Mike Healy at mfhealy@bellsouth.net for details or visit MindfuLiving.Org