Here is a suggestion of the qualities needed to integrate mindfulness in our lives:
Focus on the Here & Now—Too often thoughts get lost in thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Always come back to what we are experiencing right now. We try to remain open to how things unfold in the present, rather than having preconceived ideas about how things will or should turn out.
Being Fully Present—We are aware of whatever we are experiencing in the present moment as we go through our daily life, trying to be less distracted as we go about our day. What I you feel in my body? What am I seeing, hearing, doing – right now?
Openness to Experience—Rather than dreading and shutting out our own feelings and experiences because we think we can’t handle them, we welcome with curiosity any thoughts and feelings that naturally arise, knowing they are merely sensations in the moment and the next moment can be different. We create mental spaciousness to contain these thoughts and feelings. Become aware of our experience as a flow of sensations, thoughts, and feelings and watch how these change and transform naturally over time.
Non-Judgment—Don’t categorize your thoughts and feelings as good or bad, try to change them, or feel compelled to act on them. All feelings have a purpose, whether to protect us from danger or open us to love. Watch and accept whatever arises in consciousness with an open mind; extend this non-judging attitude from yourself to other people and things.
Acceptance of Things as They Are—Its useless to try to force or change reality to fit our vision of what it should be, to feel like a victim, or complain the unfairness of life. Instead, we try to see reality clearly and let it be as it is, knowing that we can tolerate whatever it is that comes up. From here we extend this acceptance to others, knowing they know best what is right for them.
Connection—We are one. The feeling of being connected to all living things and nature in being part of a larger whole. We reflect on and feel grateful for the cycle of life and the food, beauty, and protection that nature gives us. All living beings want to feel happy and secure and avoid suffering and we are connected by similarity of needs and experience.
Non-Attachment—Try not to hold onto things, people, or experiences, knowing that life is in constant flow. Attachment comes from fear and is the basis of suffering. Learn to surf the wave of life, going with the flow and being confident in our own ability to adapt. When one door closes, another opens.
Peace and Equanimity—Maintain peace, not getting too swept up in life’s highs and lows. Know that life is a cycle and you can’t see the whole picture at any one moment. When things don’t go our way, we stay firmly rooted in our own clear vision and values. We walk with a peaceful heart and adopt a non-harming, non-violent attitude.
Compassion—To be gently, kindly, and patiently with others and ourselves. Rather than judging, or condemning, we open our heart to really listen and try to understand our own and other people’s experiences. Allowing ourselves to feel other people’s suffering. We love people not for what they can give us or because we need something from them, but because we connect and empathize with their experiences.
There is no one right way to practice mindfulness
The awareness practice of breathing is one of the most common ways to develop mindfulness, but there is no one “right” practice. Other meditation practices might place the attention on sensations in the body, or sounds, or an open awareness of whatever is arising. All of these help develop a steady attention that is firmly grounded in the present moment.
Mindfulness is not always easy because other experiences (thoughts, feelings, physical discomfort) naturally arise and can pull our attention away. But with practice, our skill increases, and we can pay attention to our chosen object without getting lost in other experiences. And we find that we can also simultaneously notice any underlying reactivity, such as annoyance or frustration.
For some people, mindfulness is primarily a way to enhance health or performance. For others, mindfulness is a tool for self-exploration. And for yet others, mindfulness is part of a spiritual path, a way to develop insight into the human condition and freedom from suffering.
Regardless of the motivation, scientists find that practicing mindfulness is associated with changes in the structure and function of the brain as well as changes in our physiological responses to stress, suggesting that this practice has important impacts on our physical and emotional health that are worth exploring.
As Eckhart Tolle so eloquently said: “Always say “yes” to the present moment. Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life—and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”
ESSENTIALS OF A MINDFULNESS APPROACH
The pioneer of modern mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn, presents in his first book “Full Catastrophe Living” the main aspects of a mindfulness practice. Here we share with you the Seven Essentials of Mindfulness Practice, adapted from this great book.
Be an unbiased witness to your experience. Observing without judging helps us see what is on our mind without editing or intellectualizing it, or getting lost in your thoughts.
There is no goal other than to be ourself. It is not about achieving bliss or relaxation.
A willingness to see things the way they are. By fully accepting what each moment offers, we are able to experience life much more completely.
• LETTING GO
Of thoughts, ideas, things, events, desires, views, hopes and experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant. Allowing things to be as they are, without getting caught up in our attachment to or rejection of them. It means to give up resisting or struggling and accepting what is.
• BEGINNER’S MIND
Free ourselves of expectations from past experience. Removing the attachment of the past and just be. Watching the moments unfold, with no agenda other than to be fully present.
Remembering that things must unfold in their own time. Not letting our anxieties and desire for certain results dominate the quality of the moment.
In yourself and your feelings. A feeling of confidence that things can unfold within a dependable framework that embodies order and integrity.
Bhante Gunaratana notes three fundamental mindful activities in his book “Mindfulness in Plain English”. We can use these activities as functional definitions of the term: (a) mindfulness reminds us of what we are supposed to be doing, (b) it sees things as they really are, and (c) it sees the true nature of all phenomena.
For him mindfulness is awareness of change. The observance of the basic nature of each passing phenomenon. It is watching the thing arising and passing away. It is seeing how that thing makes us feel and how we react to it. And it is observing how it affects others.