How we Pay Attention is Valuable
So much of mindfulness is about paying focused attention in the given moment but, it isn’t just about paying attention but also how we pay attention.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, a former medical professor known as the founding father of modern western mindfulness, created a stress and pain reduction mindfulness program - Mindfulness-Based Stressed Reduction (MBSR) - outlining attitudes that enhance the practise of mindfulness. In fact, attitudes that benefit your whole life!
Over the next couple of blog posts, we’re going to take a look at these attitudes and whether you are conscious of them when you’re practising mindfulness, or taking them into everyday life, I’m sure you’ll start to recognise their benefit.
Here are the first of these attitudes:
A BEGINNER’S MIND
This is so important within mindfulness, and also in so many other areas of life. This attitude is a curiosity and a willingness to learn. To see things as if for the first time, to be open to new experiences. It’s when we recognise that this moment is always fresh, always new.
Have you ever observed a young child at play? They are continually open and curious to how things are and surprised at everything new they discover.
A beginner's mind is to have an open mindset like a young child, open for new experiences without presuming an outcome without full knowledge of what something is before experiencing it. We never arrive, we are always exploring. We are not an expert but always learning, with infinite possibilities.
Imagine bringing a beginner's mind attitude to relationships, like with someone you're close to? Being open & spacious with them and not seeing them as they were last year, or even last week, but seeing them as they truly are, in this present moment. Fresh & new. How might this change your conversation or relationship with them?
Or having a beginner's mind to your next meal. Or what about to the next time you arrive home from work? Or maybe that next holiday?
A beginner’s mind brings more joy and more excitement into every part of our lives. Try being intentional about this attitude for the rest of the day and see how different things are.
This is a tricky one because it requires us to turn into a given situation, acknowledge it, then … accept it. Acceptance is definitely not passive though but an active recognition of the way things simply are. Not that every situation is “acceptable”, some definitely are not. This is about facing the situation and seeing it for what it is.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t try to change the world or a situation that needs changing, but it’s about accepting that it needs changing and do so without force.
I’ve personally experienced this with chronic pain. Due to a spinal fracture several years ago I am often in pain. I now recognise the pain as a message, not as an enemy. I had to learn to accept the pain, not make friends with it but to see it for what it is. Since then, I am no longer a victim to this pain.
Acceptance of pain is a difficult thing to do but Kabat-Zinn says it will open the door to the relief of suffering from this pain. It’s about being able to sit in the space of the “uncomfortable”, acknowledge it as such and recognising the moment for what it is - “I am in pain” or maybe, “I am stressed” or “I am lonely”. In other words, “this is me at this moment and that’s just the way it is.”
Check-in with yourself right now and notice how you are … in this moment.
What are you experiencing right now that might benefit from you accepting and not fighting it? Not that you won’t seek change but that right now, acknowledging this moment as how it is.
Notice it. Acknowledge it. Accept it, letting go of any other attitude that seems to fight for attention. Breathe calm into that space and ‘sit’ in the acknowledgement of this moment for just a little longer and notice the freedom that arises from acceptance.
Next time we will unpack non-judgement and non-striving within mindfulness, two attitudes that again can bring about real peace and joy into your world.
Until then, intentionally turn to acceptance and a beginner’s mind during your week and notice how they affect you.