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This state of mindful awareness is a desirable state because when you are mindful, you will not get lost in erratic thinking about the past or the future. Furthermore, you’ll be experiencing your emotions without resistance which eliminates most of your mental suffering.
The ‘7 Factors of Enlightenment’ are mental states and attitudes that together will significantly increase your likelihood of gaining insight whenever you become aware of yourself in any given moment.
Factor 1: MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present; an awareness of the reality of things. It’s considered an antidote to delusion; a clear and relaxed awareness of what is actually going on around us. It involves being fully present in the moment instead of distracted by thoughts of the past or the future.
Factor 2: INVESTIGATION
Investigation requires that we investigate the Dharma for ourselves. The Buddha said, ‘Believe nothing no matter where you read it or who said it unless it agrees with your common sense and observation.’ He was suggesting that we are not to practice the Dharma simply because he said so, but rather to understand and experience it for ourselves. This implies that he wanted us to utilise our minds to the fullest capacity – not become empty-minded!
Factor 3: ENERGY/DILIGENCE
Diligence represents not giving up. In the world today, we have millions of ways to entertain and distract ourselves. But diligence means pursuing the path with determination. Back in my military days, my old squadron motto was ‘Persist, Pursue and Persevere’.
Factor 4: JOY
Joy accompanies useful thinking. It’s associated with the excitement of learning something new. We aren’t practicing mindfulness because we think we have to. We are practicing to transform ourselves and bring more contentment to our lives. That is something to get excited about.
Factor 5: TRANQUILITY
Tranquillity refers to our willingness to relax. The cultivation of Tranquillity represents our ability to manage our stress and anxiety. When we take a deep breath when we are upset, angry or nervous, we are engaging tranquillity.
Factor 6: CONCENTRATION
Concentration is our willingness to focus. When we strengthen our ability to concentrate, it gives us a real insight into our lives. But, it is something we have to develop and strengthen over time. Improving our concentration helps us in several ways such as focusing on something we’re studying (for example, this course) or some new project at work. Concentration is like a lamp, the stronger it is, the more of the mind we can see.
Factor 7: EQUANIMITY
Equanimity is probably the deepest of the seven factors. It represents facing the difficulties of life without becoming attached to them. When something bad happens, and we become stressed or angry about it, we often make a situation worse than it is. If we face a problem with Equanimity, then we don’t let a problem become bigger than ourselves. We have a tendency in our lives to make things larger than they are. Equanimity is our ability to resist that.
THE ATTITUDINAL FOUNDATIONS OF MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness and it’s other factors are all a matter of Attitude, and you can learn to have the right attitude by practicing the art and being aware of your own mindlessness.
Simplicity. That word describes the starting point for the practice of mindfulness. Practice means ‘being in the present on purpose’.
The practice of mindfulness meditation involves no end destination. The means and end do not differ. The simplicity of the practice requires more than a recipe or a set of instructions. Our whole being must become involved. This is where attitudes and commitment, come into play.
Attitudes involve intention. Intention sets the stage for what mindfulness can make possible. This article concerns the seven core attitudes of mindfulness.
ATTITUDE 1: A Non-Judgmental Attitude
– This requires taking the stance of an impartial witness to your own experience.
– You begin noticing the stream of judging mind .. good/bad/neutral … not trying
to stop it but just being aware of it.
ATTITUDE 2: The Attitude of Patience
– Letting things unfold in their own time.
– Practicing patience with ourselves. Why be in such a hurry to get through some moments to get to other ‘better’ ones? Each one is your life at that moment.
– Being completely open to each moment, accepting its fullness, knowing that things will emerge in their own time.
ATTITUDE 3: Adopting a Beginner’s Mind
– Too frequently we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we ‘know’ prevent us from seeing things as they are in actuality.
– Cultivating a mind that is willing to view everything ‘as if’ for the very first time. Being open to new possibilities… not getting stuck in a rut where we believe our perspective is the only right one.
– Each moment is unique and holds unique opportunities.
ATTITUDE 4: An Attitude of Trust
– This involves developing a basic trust in ourselves and our feelings.
– Trusting in our own intuition and authority, even if we make several ‘mistakes’ along the way.
– This requires that we take responsibility for ourselves and our own well-being.
ATTITUDE 5: The Attitude of Non-Striving
– Meditation has one goal – for you to be your authentic self. The irony is that you already are.
– Paying attention to how you are being right now; however, that is. Just observe and be true to this.
– The most effective way to achieve your own goals is to back off from striving and instead start to focus on carefully seeing and accepting things as they are, moment by moment. With practice and patience, movement towards your goals will naturally occur by itself.
ATTITUDE 6: Unconditional Acceptance
– Seeing things as they are in the present.
– We often waste a lot of time and energy denying what fact is. We often try to force situations to how we would like them to be, which creates further tension and prevents positive change from occurring.
– ‘Now’ is the only time we have for anything. You have to accept yourself as imperfect, flawed in every way, before you can change.
– Acceptance is not passive; it doesn’t mean you have to like everything and give up on your values and principles. It doesn’t mean that you have to resign yourself to just tolerating things. It doesn’t mean that you should stop trying to break free of self-sabotaging habits or abandon your desire to grow and change.
– Acceptance is a willingness to see things for how they are. You’re much more likely to know what to do and be able to follow your gut instinct when you have a clear picture of what is actually happening.
ATTITUDE 7: Faith and Letting Go
– Letting go is about letting things be and accepting things as they are.
– If we find it especially difficult to let go of something because it’s got such a stronghold on our mind, we can turn our attention to what ‘holding’ feels like. Holding on is the complete opposite of letting go. Being open and willing to look at the way we hold on to things shows a lot about its opposite.
– We already know how to let go… every night when we go to sleep… we let go.
Summary of the Seven Core Attitudes of Mindfulness
– Non-judging – Suspending Judgment … Just Watching Whatever Comes Up
– Patience – Not spitting the dummy (a Scottish saying).
– Beginner’s Mind – Seeing With ‘Fresh Eyes’.
-Trust – No Imitations, Living Your Own Life, and Honouring Your Own Feelings, Intuitions, Wisdom
– Non-striving – Mindfulness is a ‘non-doing!’
– Acceptance – Having a Clear Picture & Coming to terms with how things really are.
– Letting go – Not Clinging onto ‘people or stuff’.
These qualities make up the seven Core Attitudes, which together serve as the
foundation for engagement in and practicing mindfulness.