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Qualities Enhancing Mindfulness in Our Lives

November 8, 2017

By Riitta H Rutanen Whaley, MS, MSPH

You have probably heard mindfulness described in more than one way depending on the context. In Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), we refer to it as an inherent ability to be aware of the present moment in a kind, open, accepting, and non-judgmental way. Mindfulness is a way of being that we already possess, but can be fostered to a greater degree. The intention to live our lives more mindfully is enhanced by the cultivation of the following attitudes that, over time, contribute to mental stability and resiliency:

Non-judging

Refers to the cultivation of the impartial witness qualities in ourselves. Instead of mechanically reacting or labeling a situation, person, or an object, we suspend judgement and listen, look, and feel with open curiosity before proceeding.

Patience

In its deepest form is a type of wisdom that understands things unfold in their own way, and in their own time. It also reminds us that there is no need for constant activity or for being slaves to our minds, but that there is a lot to learn from resting in the ground of awareness.

Beginner’s Mind

Reminds us that what we know often gets in our way. It also reminds us about what has been termed as “the boundary-making mind.” Attending to phenomena within and without ourselves with a beginner’s mind takes us on an experiential path, towards a discovered truth. It allows us to learn that no moment is like the one before and puts us in contact with our own uniqueness, impermanence, etc., in that we also emerge different from each passing moment.

Trust

Asks us to consider that we might be better off if we planned and worried less. Instead, it challenges us to cultivate trust in ourselves, our feelings, and inherent wisdom (like intuitive insights). In this way it helps us diminish fear and doubt in our lives and cultivate love and compassion. The process of trust takes courage, but can help us take full responsibility for our lives.

Non-striving/Allowing

Challenges us to be ourselves and consider that we already have a place in the scheme of things. We don’t have to get to some goal to be “good” or fix things in a particular way, but rather to consider a different relationship to ourselves, focusing on being. And to consider that out of being might arise healing and the insights for our speech and actions.

Acceptance

Allows us to arrive at a different relationship and vision of ourselves and our circumstances, seeing clearly how things are. An accepting attitude encourages us to turn towards, acknowledge, and feel the pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral in our lives, and to uncover the clouding that arises from constant doing, judging, and fear-based engagement.

Letting go/be

Rephrases the concept of non-attachment. We often find ourselves disappointed in life, whether or not we get what we want. This refers to the underlying discontent that we live with, when we live by entertaining expectations and goals. By practicing letting things be as they are in their arising, lingering, and falling away, we grow in our contact with the rhythm and nature of life, as well as the impermanence, equanimity, and peacefulness.

Interested in learning more about Mindfulness?

Click here to learn about our upcoming Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program. Offered at Duke since 1998, our program challenges participants to practice present moment awareness, deep relaxation, and gentle movement. Through the use of these techniques, a person learns to discover and observe his or her reactions to life’s stressors and to choose how to respond. With practice, one can apply these skills to everyday situations and connect more fully with one’s self, loved ones, and the life one is living. The early registration deadline for the January course is December 21, 2017.

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