Mindfulness 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness in everyday life is the ultimate challenge and practice. It is a way of being, of seeing, of tapping into the full range of our humanity – often seen in playful children fully experiencing life in the here and now. Mindfulness is described by Jon Kabat-Zinn (1994)

“as paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally” (p.4).

Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein (2010) report “in Sanskrit, it’s known as smrti, from the root word smr, meaning “to remember” and in Pali, the language of the earliest Buddhist scriptures, it’s known as sati (mindfulness)” (p.15).

The Greater Good Science Centre at UC Berkely say –

“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.”

Through the practice of mindfulness, individuals can become more aware of their thoughts, feelings and body sensations in the present moment. This observing, non-reactive perspective enables you to consciously respond with clarity and focus, rather than react out of a habitual pattern. It opens up the possibility of working more wisely with difficulties in life and choose what is nourishing to ourselves and others.

 

Why Practice Mindfulness?

There are many reasons why practicing mindfulness can be beneficial to your health and wellbeing. Some of the benefits of mindfulness include –

  • decreasing the symptoms of anxiety,
  • increasing a sense of empathy and spirituality,
  • decreasing symptoms of chronic pain,
  • reduce stress levels in healthy people,
  • decreasing symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder,
  • increasing well-being,
  • helpful in reducing the effects of psoriasis,
  • preventing relapse in depression and drug addiction, and
  • decreasing stress and enhancing quality of life for those with breast and prostate cancer.

 

What are the Attitudes of Mindfulness?

Since Jon Kabat-Zinn originally wrote about the 7 attitudinal foundations in his book Full Catastrophe Living, Bod Stahl and Elisha Goldstein have tweaked them in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook to create 8 attitudes of mindfulness practice. Mindfulness practice flourishes when certain conditions are present.

The following 8 attitudes of mindfulness are the combination of Jon Kanat-Zinn, Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein and each of these are essential to mindfulness practice –

  1. Beginners mind – a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time with fresh curiosity and vitality.
  2. Non-judging – assuming the stance of impartial witness to any experience (i.e. your thoughts, feelings or body sensations).
  3. Letting be / letting go – simply letting things be as they are – with no need to try and let go of whatever is present.
  4. Acceptance and acknowledgement – bringing openness to, kindness towards and welcoming of experience just as it is in the moment.
  5. Trust and self-reliance – a faith in the validity of our own experience and allowing you to see for yourself (from your experience) what is true and untrue.
  6. Patience / equanimity – involves balance and fostering wisdom. Equanimity allows you to be with change with greater wisdom and compassion.
  7. Non-striving – an attitude of willingness to allow the present to be the way it is without trying to fix things. Striving may interfere with fully knowing the present and so being able to respond to it rather than to react.
  8. Self-compassion – allows you to cultivate love for yourself as you are (without criticism or self-blame).

You can read more about these 8 attitudes of Mindfulness in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook or in Full Catastrophe Living.

 

How Can I Practice Mindfulness?

Basically, you can practice mindfulness in two ways –

  • informally, or
  • formally.

Informal practice involves bringing mindful awareness to your daily activities (i.e. exercising, chores or any other action you find yourself in).

Formal practice involves taking specific time out to intentionally sit, lie, walk or stand and focus on the breath, body sensations, sounds, smells, tastes, thoughts and emotions.

 

I Don’t Have Time to Meditate, What Can I Do?

Many people have this challenge. However, finding time to meditate is like giving a gift to yourself every day and no one else can give you the gift. In order to set this time aside for yourself, you may like to schedule in an appointment to practice meditation. Just be gentle with yourself and if you can only practice five minutes, remember that five minutes is better than no time at all.

 

How Long Will it Take for Me to Become Mindful?

As we are all unique and have different life experiences, there is no exact prescription around mindfulness and how long it will take to become more mindful. Mindfulness is a practice and can be difficult at times, however Thich Nhat Hanh (2003), a Vietnamese Buddhist, says

“Every mindful step we make and every mindful breath we take will establish peace in the present moment and prevent war in the future. If we transform our individual consciousness, we begin the process of changing the collective consciousness” (p.56).

 

Is Mindfulness Meditation the Same as Other Forms of Meditation?

There are essentially two forms of meditation – insight and concentration. Mindfulness meditation is considered insight meditation as it brings awareness to the whole body and mind in the present moment. Mindfulness meditation brings attention to the whole experience (thoughts, smells, sight, tastes, body sensations, sounds) without judging or altering the experience in any way. The key is to simply observe, which is generally different from what we usually do. In our everyday life, we usually do not see life as it is – we see life through a screen of thoughts, concepts and memories and we mistake those mental object as reality itself. Subsequently, life flows by unnoticed.

Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein (2010), indicate that as you practice,

“… you begin to discover the causes of your own suffering and discover a pathway to greater freedom” (p.8).

Concentration meditation focuses more on concepts, imagery and mantras.

 

Over to You…

I hope this article has given you some insight in to mindfulness. What was your biggest takeaway? If you have any further questions, please comment below or on our Facebook page here.

 

If you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards your freedom and opening your heart, why not join our Toolkit?

 

References

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. New York, USA: Bantam Dell.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever You Go, There You Are – Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York, USA: Hyperion.

Nhat Hahn, T. (2003). Creating True Peace: Ending Violence in Yourself, Your Family, Your Community, and the World. New York, USA: Simon and Schuster.

Stahl, B., & Goldstein, E. (2010). A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook. Oakland, USA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

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