What are the qualities of mindfulness? Beautiful spiritual virtues cultivated through mindful practices, such as loving-kindness, positive thinking and radical acceptance are on the table. However, does mindful living mean that I am free from all negative thoughts? Does it mean always say “Yes”? Does mindful living mean a complete acceptance and consequently no action? This article clarifies the 3 most common misunderstandings about these qualities of mindfulness.
Great mindfulness qualities, but…
There can be so many expectations when you start practicing mindfulness. Rest assured, I had the same thoughts.
Like me perhaps, one beautiful morning you wake up and feel lovely. You seem to start having a spiritual awakening! Life is then suddenly full of meaning. The “mindful lifestyle” that you just put a step appears to completely change all your relationships.
But… There are other mornings when you wake up irritated and frustrated. Bad feelings are still sovereign. You expect yourself to be kind all the time and get overwhelmed. You even fall under the pressure of accepting the situation while it doesn’t suit you at all! Are you completely sliding out of your mindfulness path while others seem to be over the moon with it?
Don’t worry. I’m writing down the three big qualities of mindfulness, but also the most common misunderstanding about them to put your mind at rest. Check them out below.
What are the qualities of mindfulness? Does it mean… I never have negative thoughts and feelings?
Mindfulness is the art of living deeply in the present moment. With this we expect to be liberated from the regrets created by our past. We are less worried about the future. Indeed, mindfulness seems to be a royal path to positivity. Do you know that research demonstrates that mindfulness is significantly correlated with positive affect, life satisfaction and overall well-being? (Seear & Vella-Brodrick, 2012; Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009) (Mindfulness and positive psychology).
But I know you have doubts. Do we always have good thoughts when we are mindful? “I don’t want to have false positivity” you might think to yourself. “It does not serve to pretend that all is well!” Well you are right. Mindfulness doesn’t mean that you always have good thoughts. It is indeed among the most common misunderstanding about the qualities of mindfulness.
In reality, it is completely fine to live mindfully with negative thoughts. Why is that so? Because mindful living means being present with our emotions, whether they are negative or positive. We can feel bad, irritated, even angry, and all other negative feelings. What makes a difference between a mindful and unmindful person is the awareness of them.
Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation should be welcomed, recognized, and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves.Thich Nhat Hanh
Consequently, mindful persons will remember to come back to their breaths and stay aware of their negative emotions. They will just accept them as they are without necessarily reacting to, nor identify themselves with their mental state.
With the awareness and total acceptance of positive feelings we can then take care of them, heal, and transform our suffering into a calmer and more positive state of being. That is why, one of the qualities of mindfulness, after all, is long-term and genuine positivity.
Hence, if you ask “what are the qualities of mindfulness”, I will definitely say “amongst others, positivity“. It is obviously, a true positive outlook that emanates from the profound calmness of a mental observer.
Loving-kindness vs saying “No”
Mindful living is very often linked to the practices of compassion. When we sit down and breathe mindfully, we are present with our bodies as well as our minds. We know we are one with all that is. Goes with this realization, the capacity to deeply understand and compassionate with others. Therefore among the 2 mindful practices for children taught by the Plum Village of Thich Nhat Hanh, the “love and compassion to all beings”. It is a great quality by mindfulness energy.
However, too ofte, we might wrongly set to ourselves the pressure to be “kind” all the time. Are we contradictory to our mindful practices when we get angry, shout, refuse to help? How can I live mindfully and still say “No”?
Indeed contrary to common belief, successful mindful practices help you say “No” more firmly. When we breathe mindfully, we return to intimacy with our own needs. We learn to take care of and love ourselves and cultivate self-compassion. This helps us set good boundaries to preserve our freshness and energy for others.
For that reason, the cultivation of loving-kindness is of no contradiction with the assertiveness or the capacity to say “No”. Both are among the most beneficial qualities of mindfulness.
Mindful acceptance vs “non-action”
If you ask mindfulness practitioners “what are the qualities of mindfulness that change your life? “. I am sure many will tell you: “I’ve learned to accept“.
Mindfulness is the capacity to be intensely in the present. The practitioner is under no pressure of the psychological time. It is because they know time doesn’t exist, because it is an illusion. You’ll never hear them say “When I have a new place, I’ll feel better”. Or “When my child is bigger, I’ll enjoy life”. There is no “waiting for the future”, or any resistance to the present.
But does mindful acceptance mean accepting everything and take no action to change the situation, even when it is unbearable? Here again I must bring some clarification on one of the most common misunderstandings about mindfulness.
Mindful acceptance means releasing any “inner resistance”. It has nothing to do with taking action. A circumstance that does not suit you? Take immediate action to change it. If you can’t do anything then just accept it totally. The action, or “non-action”, both will be free of resistance and negative feelings.
Once we can accept the present situation as it is presented to us, we save our vital energy from unnecessary negativity and resentment. Resisting the present is resisting the whole universe. The more we can cultivate the capacity to accept our own limits and vulnerability, the more we can overcome our limits and favor quality balance and energy.
“Accept—then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it… This will miraculously transform your whole life.”— Eckhart Tolle.
Therefore the capacity to accept the present moment doesn’t mean resignation, “non-action”, or passivity. In reality, fulfilling mindful practices embraces both worlds – the inner world and the external world. It is a balance between taking time to listen to our inner silence, and going out to the world and take action, without any inner resistance.
As a conclusion
What are the qualities of mindfulness? Mindfulness is not resumed to a technique of breathing. Rather, it embraces within itself a wholesome philosophy and spiritual practices. As a result with mindful living, we can cultivate many virtues and qualities, such as positive thinking, loving-kindness, mindful acceptance, and effortless attitude.
However, first of all, it’s inaccurate to think that by being mindful we are free of all negative thoughts and feelings. In reality, we cultivate the capacity to stay present when the negativity comes. Being aware of our suffering we can embrace it, and let the place for healing and transformation manifest itself.
Secondly, when we are mindful and feel the oneness with al, we cultivate the quality of loving-kindness. This doesn’t mean however that we say “yes” to all. Instead, we nurture our compassion based on the true understanding of the value of “no”, to preserve our freshness and energy in the service of others.
Lastly, mindful acceptance does by no means encourages you to stay passive and not to take action. The only difference is this: Whether in action or “non-action”, both attitudes contain an absence of resistance to what is.