The seven attitudinal factors of mindfulness “constitute the major pillars of mindfulness practice” (Kabat-Zinn, 2004, p. 32) of MBSR and MBCT training and practice, and it is difficult to underestimate their importance. I will list each factor utilising Jon Kabat-Zinn’s seminal book Full Catastrophe Living, offering my own reflections.
“These judgements of mind tend to dominate our minds and make it hard for us ever to find any peace” (op.cit. p. 33) and can be extremely unhelpful in the context of meditation and premature judgement and rejection of experience is extremely common . “Being with” whatever arises requires gentleness, kindness and often the encouragement of a group environment.
“To be patient is simply to be completely in each moment, accepting it in its fullness” (op.cit. p. 35). To keep bringing the mind back again to the breath, back to sensation of body requires tremendous patience and perseverance. This is the working ground of a meditation practice.
“Too often we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we ‘know’ prevent us from seeing things as they really are” (op.cit. p. 35). Approaching each meditation as if it were your first time, building from “the ground up” from the body, contacting the breath, asking of yourself “what is really happening now” are hallmarks of beginner’s mind. This attitude can be particularly difficult if you have an established meditation practice.
Learning to trust one’s own experience, feelings and intuition — loosening oneself from the tyranny of authority and inner harsh judgement — has the “taste of freedom”, a key hallmark of a genuine practice and essential for individual development.
“Almost everything we do, we do for a purpose, to get something or somewhere. But in meditation, this attitude can be a real obstacle” (op.cit. p. 37). The tendency to “driven-ness” in our culture and society has enabled us to enjoy unprecendented standards of living, comfort and security. However, “driven-ness” has resulted in extraordinary levels of unsatisfactoriness, stress and other associated problems, and we can inevitably bring this tendency into our meditation practice. Within this context, the attitude of “non-striving” is best understood as not straining or forcing for a result. Loosening up expectations of our meditation practice can be both challenging and liberating.
“You have to accept yourself as you are, before you can really change” (op.cit. p. 38). This attitude is about attending to one’s experience with clarity and kindness, an essential foundation of meditation practice. Whereas a formal kindness meditation is not taught within the course material, this quality is inferred to within all the course content.
“Cultivating the attitude of letting go, or non-attachment, is fundamental to the practice of mindfulness” (op.cit. p. 39). The tendency to want to hold on to what is pleasant in our experience and to reject what is unpleasant, is usually an automatic response sometime known as being on autopilot (op.cit.). To be asked to neither hold onto, nor to reject experience, is a challenging principle of MBSR and MBCT courses.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2004 edition), Full catastrophe living: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation, London: Piatkus