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The Attitudinal Foundations of Mindfulness Practice

Authentic Counseling Blog The Attitudinal Foundations of Mindfulness Practice

1. Non Judging
Mindfulness is developed by assuming the stance of an open minded witness to your own experience. To do this requires that you become aware of the constant stream of judging and reacting to inner and outer experiences that we are all normally caught up in, and learn to step back from it. When we begin the practice of paying attention to the activity of our own mind, it is common to discover and to be surprised by the fact that we are constantly making judgments about our experience. Almost everything we see is labeled and categorized by the mind. We react to everything we experience in terms of what we think its value is to us. Some things, people, and events are judged as “good” because they make us feel good for some reason. Others are judged as “bad” because they make us feel bad. The rest is categorized as “neutral” because we don’t think it has much relevance. Neutral things, people, and events are almost completely tuned out of our conscious thought. We usually find them the most boring to give attention to.

2. Patience
Patience is a form of wisdom. It demonstrates that we understand and accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time. A child may try to help a butterfly to emerge by breaking open its cocoon. Usually the butterfly doesn’t benefit from this. Any adult knows that the butterfly can only emerge in its own time and that the process cannot be hurried.
In the same way we must develop patience toward our own minds and bodies when practicing mindfulness. There is no need to be impatient with ourselves when we find the mind judging, or when we feel tense, agitated or frightened, or because nothing positive seems to be happening. The art of being mindful allows us the room to have these experiences. Why? Because we are having these experiences anyway! When they come up, they are our reality, they are part of our life unfolding in this moment. So we treat ourselves as well as we would treat the butterfly. Why rush through some moments to get to other, “better” ones? After all, each one is your life in that moment.

3. Beginner’s Mind
The richness of present moment experience is the richness of life itself. To be present in the moment means that we focus our attention on what is happening in the here and now rather than on what has happened in the past or on what may happen in the future. Too often we let our beliefs about what we “know” prevent us from seeing things as they really are. We tend to take the ordinary for granted and fail to grasp the extraordinariness of the ordinary. To see the richness of the present moment, we need to develop what has been called “beginner’s mind,” a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time.

4. Trust
Developing a basic trust in yourself and your feelings is a basic part of meditation training. It is far better to trust in your intuition and your own authority, even if you make some “mistakes” along the way, than always to look outside of yourself for guidance. If at any time something doesn’t feel right to you, why not honor your feelings? Why should you discount them or write them off as invalid because some authority or some group of people think or say differently? This attitude of trusting yourself and your own basic wisdom and goodness is very important in all aspects of the meditation practice. It will be particularly useful when practicing yoga, because you will have to honor your own feelings when your body tells you to stop or to back off in a particular stretch. If you don’t listen, you might injure yourself.

5. Non striving
Almost everything we do we do for a purpose, to get something or somewhere. But in meditation this attitude can be a real obstacle. That is because meditation is different from all other human activities. Although it takes a lot of work and energy of a certain kind, ultimately meditation is a non doing. It has no goal other than for you to be yourself. The irony is that you already are. This sounds complicated and a little crazy. Yet this may be pointing you towards a new way of seeing yourself, one in which you are trying less and being more. This comes from intentionally developing the attitude of non striving.

6. Acceptance
Acceptance means seeing things as they actually are in the present. If you have a headache, accept that you have a headache. If you are overweight, why not accept it as a description of your body at this time? Sooner or later we have to come to terms with things as they are and accept them, whether it is a diagnosis of cancer or learning of someone’s death. Often acceptance is only reached after we have gone through very emotion filled periods of denial and then anger. These stages are a natural part of coming to terms with what is. They are all part of the healing process.
However, in the course of our daily lives we often waste a lot of energy denying and resisting what is already fact. When we do that, we are basically trying to force situations to be the way we would like them to be, which only makes for more tension. This actually prevents positive change from occurring. We may be so busy denying, forcing and struggling that we have little energy left for healing and growing.

7. Letting Go
They say that in India there is a particularly clever way of catching monkeys. As the story goes, hunters will cut a hole in a coconut that is just big enough for a monkey to put its hand through. Then they will drill two smaller holes in the other end, pass a wire through, and secure the coconut to the base of a tree. Then they put a banana inside the coconut and hide. The monkey comes down, puts his hand in and takes hold of the banana. The hole is crafted so that the open hand can go in but the fist cannot get out. All the monkey has to do to be free is to let go of the banana. But it seems most monkeys don’t let go.

In the meditation practice we intentionally put aside the tendency to hold on to certain aspects of our experiences and practice observing them from moment to moment. Letting go is a way of letting things be and accepting things as they are. When we observe our own mind grasping and pushing away, we remind ourselves to let go of those impulses on purpose, just to see what will happen if we do. When we find ourselves judging our experience, we let go of those judging thoughts. We recognize them and we just don’t pursue them any further. We let them be, and in doing so we let them go. Similarly when thoughts of the past or of the future come up, we let go of them. We just watch.


Source: Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat Zinn (1990)

Poem – Necessary Murder

Poem image of baby and adult handGrowth necessarily means change and choice; even passive choice.

Necessary Murder

The day I was born

Everything was possible.

Each decision thereafter

Murdered countless scores of maybes.


How can I take my next step

When I know how many of my selves

I send to the gallows?


But I am damned anyway

For even with inaction

There are untold numbers

Of lives unlived.


But choose I must

If I want to direct

The executioner’s axe,

If I want to make sacred

The sacrifice of all my lost lives.


My truth is I must choose

With purpose and joy and grief

To make manifest the promises

On which all my ghosts depend for meaning.


Poem – Men’s Weekend

Men's Weekend Poem









Several of my poems refer to my inner demons or parts of myself I ignore or hide
as really little children that need my love. This poem is no exception and it
also examines being a man and what growth means to me.


Men’s Weekend

I sit and listen to the masters among alphas and betas.

I am so tired of the anger of the alpha and of beta’s shame.

I’ve caught a glimpse of a different, more powerful life,

Off away from the pack’s need.


I crave to stand in the glory of my blessings,

And to love my life – ALL of my life –

Not needing my wound to find meanings.

My heart bigger, stronger from the wound’s scar.


Loving myself so much,

Having so much room in my heart

For my hurt and frightened children

And the magnificence of my divinity.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Authentic Counseling


Another fresh New Year is here……

Another year to live!

To banish worry, doubt, and fear

To love and laugh and give!


This bright new year is given me

To live each day with zest…

To daily grow and try to be

My highest and my best!


I have the opportunity

Once more to right some wrongs,

To pray for peace, to plant a tree,

And sing more joyful songs!


by William Arthur Ward

Poems for my Father part 3

Authentic Counseling Blog image of tableHere is the third and final poem dealing with the death of my father.
As you will see, I had moved into a much different place about my father.


My Father At My Table (Father #3)

I’ve fought so long

So hard to deny

With angry, righteous cries

Your place at my table.


Your pain walled away

But alive and leaking

Through so many cracks

To form the dark parts of me.


All you were, I cannot be.

I’m so much more aware, alive

I do so much more than survive

Easy it would be

To reject all you are.


I could not imagine you

Hurting and alone;

A child holding off the terror.

Carrying your father’s wound.

As I carry yours


When I look closely

At the parts unseen

Your child peeks back.


While your wound is not mine

I can accept your humanness

And your presence that helped

Shape the man I’ve become.


Come, break your fast

At my table.

I have more to learn

More tears to cry.


You are welcome,

My father.

I pray I will be welcome

At my son’s table some day.

Poems for my Father part 2

Authentic Counseling blog image poems for my fatherHere is the second poem dealing with the death
of my father where I examine the first time I touched his face.


Touching the Face of My Father (Father #2)

Many years have passed since the touch

First and last, hello goodbye.

My father lay finally resting

Still unable to feel.


How could this being so scary and large

Really be so small and withered

As if much more left

Than just spirit.


Touch is so strange and confusing

The first time I dared

The intimacy I so craved

So many feelings fill the moment.


Afraid of death’s finality

Afraid he will wake…

Sad in the first peaceful silence

For the dream

That’s passed too.


Confused, anxious about what I should

Be doing… and feeling…

His teaching still alive

Even when his flesh be still


No meaning here to be found

Just the stunned pit

Into which this bedroom

Seems to have fallen.


Withdrawing my hand from him

My first touch of my father’s face

And of death

I am adrift.


Where do I steer

Now that the shore to which I’ve clung

However desolate and sere

Has sunk into oblivion?

Poems for my Father

Authentic Counseling blog image of stairs














It took me several years to fully realize and grieve the death of my father. During those years,
I wrote three poems about the process. This is the first one. Climbing the Stairs (Father #1)

Climbing the Stairs (Father #1)

“He’s up there, go see him”

Mom says from the couch

With a face that surprises me

With its strength and resolve.

I expected histrionics

An easy climb

Back onto her cross

A public display of her loss.

But quiet calm greets me instead.

This adds to my confusion

And fear

My father’s dead?

My father’s dead.

Go up and see him?

I don’t know what to do

Or feel, or say…

So I climb the stairs

Getting younger with each step

I’ve always been afraid to enter

The master bedroom

The lair where gods

And bears slept

Where punishment is meted

And secrets are kept.

Facing my father has always carried fear.

You can do better

You must be the best

Never lose, never quit

You’re nothing if you don’t pass the rest

Life is a war to be won

You’re a soldier, not a son

“Fill each minute with sixty seconds of distance run”

I am a good soldier


At the top of the stairs

Facing the room

I cannot go forward

I cannot run.

Daring to Hope

Authentic counseling image of hope

Is this feeling, this light, real?

Do I chase ghosts?

Or the unfulfillable wants of a still hurting child?

Shamans aplenty promise respite and even transcendence

And still, after holding the gift myself,

I fear to hope,

And even push away, sometimes, the King’s touch

For fear the wound will only be torn open wider

With disappointment and betrayal.

I smile now in my recent knowing

That from my center,

The core of me uncovered from

The Earthy work of growth,

I am unbroken

And much bigger than my father’s box.

Really, there’s no going back

Now that so much Light and Wholeness

Have creeped, seeped, leaped

Into my soul

Revealing the demons to be children

That need my love.

Growth necessarily means change and choice; even passive choice.

Courting her soul

Poems of love

An important step in relationship building is becoming attuned to the ways our partner wishes to be loved and how we wish to be loved.

Courting her Soul


How can I court the woman I love?

How do I see her soul

So that my gifts touch

The part of her Earth that needs my tending?


Do I decode all the ways she tells me her needs

Through the calculus of my wound

So that my gifts are best received by me?


Being honest, do I withhold the golden egg

To avoid the oft anticipated

Future wounding of loss…

Of letting her know how much I fear


That in the giving of the egg,

I somehow give too much of myself away

And there’s too little there already?


Coming to court the woman I love

Means I am willing to risk that there might be abundance.

With this woman I have walked so many joys and sorrows

My heart surely knows her soul

And she mine.


Can I settle into her meadow and be a loving gardener?

By Chris Mathe

Spiritual Teachings of Trees: Be Strong But Flexible

Blog Spiritual Teachings of Trees: Be Strong But Flexible“The tree is one of humankind’s most powerful symbols. It is the embodiment of life in all its realms: the point of union between heaven, earth, and water.” – Rev. Lisa Ward

In a benediction, Reverend Lisa Ward shared spiritual wisdom about trees saying,

“The presence of trees articulates that when one is well-grounded, centered in one’s roots, healthy growth and flexibility in change comes from the generosity of spirit, the giving of oneself. The willow giving over to wind, fruit, and nut trees giving of their produce, leaves giving over to winter, and decay for future growth. The way we can sustain ourselves is by giving of ourselves when we are centered. The secret to abundance, the key to stop seeking more and more is to focus on what we have to give. What Alice Walker calls the circular energy of generosity. By giving we stimulate regeneration of life and spirit and it stimulates our own growth, our own expanse. Trees tell us this. Just as each tree has its own particular gift to offer, so do each of us.”

I have been drawn to trees for many years.

One of the things I love most about living in the Sacramento area is the abundance of redwood trees. My current home has 4 majestic redwood trees just behind my property line that I look at every day, and I naturally feel myself breathe a little deeper, and experience a moment of grounding and gratitude every time I look out at them. The previous home I lived in (Palm Springs, CA) faced the San Jacinto mountains, and my condo was flanked with palm trees. I often sat in my backyard, looking up at the palm trees as they rustled in the winds and felt a calm, soothing sensation take over as I focused up at the palm fronds swaying. Thinking back many years, I started noticing that while taking my dog on a walk, I found myself leaning my back up against a tree and “connecting” with it. I couldn’t explain why I was engaging in this behavior, I only knew that I was drawn to do it.

I think I have always loved trees. They are protective, grounding, and giving. They give their fruit for us to eat. They provide us with wood to use and even to claim as a status symbol (Mahogany table anyone?). Trees give us paper to write on and provide shade in an otherwise sun-drenched yard, and let’s not forget those gorgeous New England trees that give us beautiful fall foliage that people travel from miles around to enjoy. What am I forgetting? Oh ya, They help clear our air! Trees are magical, sacred, majestic, and giving. So what can we learn from them?

Years ago I came across an analogy that has stuck with me for probably twenty years that I often use with clients about the benefits of being flexible in life.

Oak vs. Bamboo

The mighty oak tree, strong and proud. The strength of its solid branches and the grip of its roots are one of nature’s enduring displays of fortitude, stability, and power. Yet, wherever oak trees are after a decent storm one can almost always drive around and see oak tree branches snapped off, broken by the force of the

Beautiful, lush bamboo also rooted well into the earth (if you’ve ever tried to remove any you know what I mean) is also an incredibly durable, strong wood but it has a key difference from that of the oak, it is flexible. When the great storm comes, it bends with torrential winds, mimicking water as it surges down a river canyon and around the rocks. When the unyielding oak is challenged, it often breaks. When the softer bamboo is challenged, it bends and accepts the force of the wind, working with it, not against it and ultimately not breaking.

It’s Important To Be Flexible

Being sturdy is a good quality, it is often comforting to those around us, but there are probably more times in our lives when we would benefit from being flexible and soft, working with life, not against it. I am reminded of a reading from the works in “The Big Book” of AA that says “…acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation, some fact of my life unacceptable to me and can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.”. The bamboo accepts that life is rough at times and moves with it, the oak resists and breaks.

How can we apply this to everyday life?  Well, it is a rather unprecedented time in our country as we navigate handling Covid-19 and all the countless ways it has impacted our lives. Many of us are working from home now and sometimes (or most of the time) cramped and jockeying for a little extra space, or less noise so we can be heard on our Zoom conference while juggling our kids’ education plans, spouse, or whatever the case may be. Or maybe it’s something like having lost our job. No matter how difficult the situation, there is a lesson in the flexibility of the bamboo. You need to be strong, yes. Bamboo is strong, but it is not rigid. Where can you be more flexible in your life? Where can you be a little softer? Maybe it’s even about being softer on yourself. Stress levels are incredibly high right now and being flexible with your thoughts is more beneficial now than ever before as we traverse these unfamiliar waters of shelter-in-place life. Being rigid gets us nowhere except eventually broken.

About The Author

Jason Market Therapist at Authentic Counseling

Jason Markel is an Associate Marriage & Family Therapist with nearly 20-years’ experience in social services and the counseling field. Currently, he works at Authentic Counseling Associates in Gold River, CA, and Heartstrings Counseling in Loomis, CA. Jason brings a wide array of professional experience to his work, including 4-years’ service in the U.S.A.F at The Pentagon. Ever the humanistic man, Jason embraces a wide variety of therapeutic approaches, but most vitally he strives for a deep, authentic connection with his clients. In his free time, he and his husband enjoy quality time with their 6 god-kids and their goofy, lovable young dog.


Ward, L. (2000) Spirituality of Trees.

W., Bill. (1976). Alcoholics Anonymous : the story of how many thousands of men and women have recovered from alcoholism. New York :Alcoholics Anonymous World Services,

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