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What are the 7 Attitudinal Foundations of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)?

Anne has a BSc in Applied Psychology and qualifications in counselling, CBT & mindfulness. She teaches mindfulness workshops and courses.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

Mindfulness is not just practiced during meditation, it can also be a way of life.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn of the Stress Reduction Clinic and Centre for Mindfulness, Medicine, Healthcare and Society, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) can reduce anxiety and bring better balance to your life.

What Is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?

MSBR is a meditation therapy designed for stress management, it is also being used experimentally to remedy a variety of illnesses such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain, cancer, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, skin and immune disorders.

7 Attitudinal Foundations

  1. Non-Judging: Not labelling anything as being ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’
  2. Patience: Having patience with everyone and everything
  3. Beginner's Mind: Imagining how it would be if you were seeing and experiencing everything for the first time
  4. Trust in Yourself: Trusting that your feelings are your feelings and honouring them
  5. Non-Striving: Focusing on being in and accepting each moment
  6. Acceptance: Acknowledging and accepting things as they are
  7. Letting Go: Releasing any negative energy into the atmosphere
Being in the Moment

Being in the Moment

Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life

Jon Kabat-Zinn identified seven “attitudinal foundations” for mindfulness practice. This means that the attitude we bring to our everyday life can affect the outcome of situations, and our overall perspective. They are all similar and some even overlap a little, but each one also has unique qualities. Try the following exercise to practise a change in perspective:

  1. Pick up a pen, pencil, a flower or any other object and hold it about 2" from your face.
  2. Examine the color, texture and pattern of the object.
  3. Chances are you’re finding it a bit difficult to see it clearly.
  4. Now move the object far enough away from your face so you can focus on it, and examine it again.

Was it easier this time?

The same applies to situations or problems in life. When we’re too close to them, it’s difficult to see clearly. MBSR helps us to step back from life and see things from a different perspective.

1st Attitudinal Foundation: Non-Judging

This means not labelling anything as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This includes but is not exclusive to:

  • People
  • Situations
  • Experiences
  • Your emotions
  • Your body (whether it’s sick, tired, over-weight, under-weight, etc.)

Of course, you might find that you automatically make these judgments, but don’t try to stop them. Just be aware of them.

2nd Attitudinal Foundation: Patience

This means having patience with everyone and everything.

Just as breaking the chrysalis of a butterfly does not help it to emerge any faster, trying to force things to happen before they are ready is not always helpful. Here are some suggestions for how to cultivate patience:

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  • Take some time to watch how a situation unfolds before you jump in.
  • Listen when people are speaking rather than thinking about what you want to say next.
  • Have patience with yourself.
  • Be in the moment.
  • Appreciate the qualities of each moment you are in.
  • Learn from momentary problems and discomfort.

Don’t worry if you forget to be patient. Just observe when you are and when you are not.

3rd Attitudinal Foundation: Beginner’s Mind

Imagine how it would be if you were seeing and experiencing everything for the first time. Here are some thoughts and ideas to help you:

  • It’s easier to see something from a new perspective if we suspend our current beliefs and attitudes towards it.
  • Sometimes what we know or think we know about something can prevent us from being open to new perspectives about it.

This can apply to people we know (or think we know!), too. Put your preconceived and learned thoughts away to practice a beginner's perspective.

Don’t worry if you forget to do it sometimes. Just observe when you do and when you don’t.

4th Attitudinal Foundation: Trust in Yourself

Sometimes when we’re unsure of ourselves, we feel the need to check with others – in these moments we're looking for reassurance that what we are doing or feeling is right. But your feelings are your feelings; trust and honour them.

  • Trust your actions, your intuition, and your ability to make decisions.
  • Take responsibility for yourself.
  • Trust yourself to have the life skills of love, patience, kindness, intuition and ability to learn.

Trusting yourself doesn't mean trying to do something for which you have no knowledge or skills, but it can mean choosing the right person with the right skills to help you.

Don’t worry if you sometimes forget to trust yourself. Just observe when you do trust in yourself and when you don’t.

5th Attitudinal Foundation: Non-Striving

This means focusing on being in each moment and really accepting them as they are.

  • Accepting things as they are does not mean allowing them to remain the same or stagnating.
  • It can mean accepting that some planning is required to change things.

Just wanting or wishing things to be other than they are does not make them so. Accepting things as they are and planning to make them otherwise, does. While you are planning change and carrying out those plans, remain in the moment.

6th Attitudinal Attitude: Acceptance

Similar to non-striving, this is about acknowledging and accepting things as they are, right now, rather than ignoring or side-stepping them.

  • If you are upset, sick or in pain, accept that you are upset, sick or in pain.
  • Do not pretend that everything is okay when it clearly is not. This can actually make a situation worse.
  • Accept the situation to get a clear picture of where you are, and where you can go from here.

Acceptance does not mean leaving things as they are, nor is it wallowing, or resigning that things stay the same. It means acknowledging reality and planning for ways to solve issues that arise.

7th Attitudinal Attitude: Letting Go

Letting go is similar in some ways to several of the other attitudinal foundations. Sometimes it’s difficult to let go of our idea of perfection.

  • Letting go does not mean settling for a second best-rather accepting how things are right now.
  • Fussing and fretting that things are not as you want them to be is not helpful.
  • Accepting how things are, and planning to change them, is more helpful.

Give things time to unfold. Sometimes they work out better than expected.
You don’t need to control everything and everyone around you. Remember it doesn’t have to be perfect, just the best that can it can be in the moment.

Setting Intention

In order to integrate these attitudes into everyday life, we can set our intention to do so. Setting Intention is a really powerful yet simple tool and can be applied in lots of situations.

Simply say to yourself “today I intend to be non-judgemental” (for example).

Say it with conviction, but you only need to say it once. Then continue with your day as normal. There’s no need to continually remind yourself of your intention.

You’ll more than likely find that you will have followed your intention most of the time.

Daily Practice of MBSR Attitudinal Foundations

  1. Set your intention in the morning to practice one of the attitudinal foundations. Then let it go and get on with your day as normal.
  2. If you find during the day that you have not been practising it, don't worry. The simple fact that you did think of it means that you have reinforced the intention.
  3. Then, in the evening, think back over the day. Was there anything you reacted to differently than you might have, had you not set that intention? Is this something you think you would like to cultivate in your life generally?

References

1. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness. New York: Delacorte.

2. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life.New York: Hyperion.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

annerivendell (author) from Dublin, Ireland on March 10, 2014:

Thank you, Shelly. I agree with you. MIndfulness brings it back to basics and reminds us of what's important in our life.

Shelley Watson on March 09, 2014:

Mindfulness meditation is wonderful and so needed in our world of instant communication. Up, interesting and useful

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