Your Attitude While Meditating

I am sticking with Mindfulness in Plain English this week.

We are on Chapter 4, if you are following along at home. From what I can tell, the website contains all the information the book has, but there are some formatting problems and misspellings.

I suggest that you buy the book. I have read a lot of meditation/mindfulness books. This one is the best I have come across. And if you are interested in this blog, you will be interested in the book.

Here is a paraphrased list of rules to follow in order to have the right attitude while meditating:

  1. Don’t expect anything: do not have opinions or expectations about anything that happens while meditating.
  2. Don’t strain: everything should be relaxed and steady.
  3. Don’t rush: take your time.
  4. Don’t cling to anything, and don’t reject anything: don’t fight with what you experience, just observe it all mindfully.
  5. Let go: loosen up and relax.
  6. Accept everything that arises: accept your feelings, even the ones you wish you did not have. See all activity as being perfectly natural and understandable.
  7. Be gentle with yourself: total acceptance of who you are.
  8. Investigate yourself: question everything. Long to wake up to the true structure of existence.
  9. View all problems as challenges: don’t run from problems.
  10. Don’t ponder: you don’t need to figure everything out. Don’t think.
  11. Don’t dwell upon contrasts: notice the similarities between yourself and others.

Pretty good list. But I do have a few problems with it.

  • The author just threw that last entry in there. When did other people get involved?
  • Some of the items are repetitive.
  • Some of the items contradict each other.

Here is a modified list:

  1. Don’t expect anything.
  2. Don’t force anything.
  3. Don’t cling to anything.
  4. Don’t reject anything.
  5. Don’t think.

That list sounds like something a cult leader would tell you while he tries to get you to join the group. Which is exactly the opposite of what mindfulness is. So, let me emphasize an item in the original list that directly goes against blind submission.

“8. Investigate yourself: Question everything. Take nothing for granted. Don’t believe anything because it sounds wise and pious and some holy men said it. See for yourself. That does not mean that you should be cynical, impudent or irreverent. It means you should be empirical. Subject all statements to the actual test of your experience and let the results be your guide to truth. Insight meditation evolves out of an inner longing to wake up to what is real and to gain liberating insight to the true structure of existence. The entire practice hinges upon this desire to be awake to the truth. Without it, the practice is superficial.”


  1. Just a note of thanks for your writings and an encouragement for you to continue. (I just purchased “Mindfulness in Plain English” based on your recommendation.)

    Have you explored Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)? It’s a valuable complement to my mindfulness practices.

    ACT commonly employs six core principles to help clients develop psychological flexibility:

    Cognitive defusion: Learning to perceive thoughts, images, emotions, and memories as what they are, not what they appear to be.
    Acceptance: Allowing them to come and go without struggling with them.
    Contact with the present moment: Awareness of the here and now, experienced with openness, interest, and receptiveness.
    Observing the self: Accessing a transcendent sense of self, a continuity of consciousness which is unchanging.
    Values: Discovering what is most important to one’s true self.
    Committed action: Setting goals according to values and carrying them out responsibly.

  2. Thanks for the comment, James. It really is motivating to see people reading the blog and getting something out of it.

    I had never heard of ACT before your mention of it. But I have heard of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which attempts to systematically use rational thought to modify irrational thoughts and behavior.

    As the Wikipedia article states, the main difference between the two is that ACT focuses more on recognizing and accepting the thoughts within your head vs. CBT training you to classify certain thoughts as irrational and apply rational responses to remove them.

    Both seem to be similar therapeutic methods. Both are very interesting to me. These new types of therapy are becoming more popular and many people are saying that they are effective.

    But I have been reluctant to dive too deep into psychological theories related to mindfulness and/or rational thought.

    I tend to judge the self help section of the bookstore negatively. I am not too sure why. I need to think about the reason for that more.

    I don’t want to have those same negative judgments towards what I am trying to do with this blog and my mindfulness/rational practice.

    However, I could be missing a lot of useful information and/or practices by completely avoiding those therapies. I should look into them more.

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