Zinn defines Mindfulness as "The Art of Paying Attention, on Purpose, Without Judgement to the Present Moment."
But “Without judgement” is
sometimes misunderstood as meaning passively accepting, and this is not the case:
We all make judgements between
“good” and “bad” without even being consciously aware that we are doing so. For
example, the majority of us will judge a kitten or puppy, or a fast and
expensive car, as good, and a pile of soiled and smelly nappies/diapers as bad.
You may have even noticed a physical reaction just now to the images that those
words conjured up. Those reactions are spontaneous and unconscious.
So when we say mindfulness is
without judgement, we do not mean fighting those natural and spontaneous
reactions. Rather it’s about acknowledging them, with kindness, whether we
judge them good or bad.
And it’s also important to understand that acknowledging without judgement is not the same as allowing an unwanted situation to continue. It is acknowledging that it is as it is right now, and no amount of complaining, whining or self reproach will change that. But that does not mean we cannot plan a way to change things.
In his recent blog in
Mindful Magazine, Ed Halliwell suggested using the term Kindfulness, and perhaps
it would be a good idea to replace “Without Judgement” with “With Kindness”
And this kindness is really what
permeates Mindfulness throughout. Kindness to ourselves whenever we find our
thoughts wandering during meditation, kindness to ourselves whenever we get
frustrated or anxious about things, kindness to ourselves whenever we forget
important stuff or make mistakes.
So paying attention without
judgement really means acknowledging everything that‘s going on in our mind,
As we practice mindfulness
regularly, our self-confidence increases, and we develop not only a greater
tolerance and kindness towards ourselves, but also towards the people around
us. And with this greater tolerance and
kindness comes greater compassion and understanding. And now we really do have
the key to changing unwanted situations; because with compassion and understanding
comes greater clarity. We become less reactive and more proactive.
So for example, instead of
whining and complaining about, or forcefully confronting our boss, we can
approach them calmly and voice our concern or disparity with kindness. We may
not get exactly what we want, but the process of change has begun, and our
self-confidence and clarity will make it more likely that we will reach some
I have to agree with Ed Halliway
when he says that if we lose the kindness from Mindfulness, then it really just becomes a form of attention training.