We have ideas, opinions, and evaluations about mostly everything. We are constantly making judgments about our experiences – “I like this, I don’t like that”, “I want more of this, I want less of that”, “This is good, this is bad.” This judging locks us into automatic reactions that we are often unaware of. When practicing mindfulness, we practice simply observing what is unfolding, and our reaction to it, without getting caught up in our ideas and opinions of what it all means and how we would prefer it to be. The practice involves suspending judgment and watching whatever comes up, cultivating discernment and recognition of things as they are.
This attitude is one of recognition that things must unfold in their own way and in their own time. We cannot rush the process because when we are in a hurry to get someplace else, we miss being where we actually are, and this is a tremendous loss. Give yourself the room to have whatever experience you are having. Why? Because you are having it anyway! Why rush through a moment to have a “better” one?
Our ideas and opinions of what we already know often get in the way of paying attention to what we don’t know, and the possibilities embedded in each new moment and every new experience. The present moment is always new; it was never before had. Cultivating an attitude of Beginner’s Mind allows us to rest in the awareness of not knowing, receptive to new possible outcomes. Are you seeing familiar people as they are or as a reflection of your own thoughts and feelings about them?
A good place to start cultivating trust is recognizing the innate wisdom of our body and its support of life. When we pay attention to the breath, we find that we can trust it to take care of itself, because if we had to rely on our conscious mind to remember to breathe, we would cease to exist. Likewise, we trust our eyes to see, our ears to hear, and our organs to nourish physical functioning. The wisdom of the body is a reminder that we ourselves are trustworthy. And the mind, our senses and awareness, are no different. We often trust our thoughts and opinions as though they were facts, what about trusting your awareness?
Everything we do is motivated by our desire or need to obtain something or someone – health, wealth, status, love, possessions, and so on. Non-striving is an attitude of allowing things to be held in awareness, without trying to make something happen or creating a special state, not even relaxation. We simply rest in the unfolding of life, without having an agenda. Whatever is already here is good enough, even if it is uncomfortable in the present moment, we don’t need to escape from it or try to fix it. Therefore, meditation is a sort of non-doing. Simply paying attention to whatever is happening, because it is happening! By seeing and accepting what is happening we find that we naturally move toward our goals.
Acceptance is an act of recognition that things are as they are. They may not be what we wish for them to be, but we must begin by recognizing their current state and only then devising remedial action. Acceptance is not a passive resignation and it may come after a period of denial, resistance, and anger, it’s part of the healing process, but we must come to terms with things as they are. Trying to force them to be as they are not, creates significant difficulty and suffering. Practicing acceptance shifts our relationship to what is actually occurring in ways that may be healing and transformative.
]Letting go of our grasping for things to be as we envisioned them to be when the evidence is they are already not that way. In other words, letting go is an act of “letting be”, an act of non-attachment. Letting our experience be what it is and practicing observing it moment by moment. And if we can’t let go, let’s focus on what holding on (CLINGING) feels like.
]Bringing gratitude to the present moment, just because we are alive! The body is working as it is meant to be working, even if we notice this pain, or that ache. The practice reminds us to bring awareness to all that is right with us and highlights all that we take for granted so as to enable us to choose gratitude instead.
It is an act of power when we choose to give ourselves over to life itself. Furthermore, it is a radical act of power when we choose to give to others what we know brings them joy, just because we can. It enhances our interconnectedness and demonstrates caring – attention to another, other than one’s self.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. New York: Bantam Books.
Last Updated: May 2020