Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Homer Simpson and the 8 Attitudes of Mindfulness

posted by Beyond Blue

I’ve long been a fan of Elisha Goldstein’s work on mindfulness because, more than any author on that topic, he seems to communicate the practice in a way that doesn’t totally overwhelm me and make me want to run the other way. With Forrest Gump.

I know this isn’t a very sophisticated image, but I keep going back to Homer Simpson in the Simpsons movie on his roof trying to hammer down the roofing, and the cameras zero in on the nail as he says to Bart, “Steady …. Steady … Steady …” and then he whacks the hell out of something: his eyeball instead of his thumb.

I can’t help but compare that image to how I do meditation. I start out right: easy … easy … but then I somehow getting really turned around. Kind of like my son David who, for Halloween this year, was Bart Simpson. But his mask was so thick and suffocating that he couldn’t see a thing, ran straight into a tree, and spent the rest of the night passing out candy instead of begging for it.

In his book, A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Elisha and Bob Stahl first define mindfulness:

Mindfulness is about being fully aware of whatever is happening in the present moment, without filters or the lens of judgment. It can be brought to any situation. Put simply, mindfulness consists of cultivating awareness of the mind and body and living in the here and now.

And then they discuss the two kinds of mindfulness: formal, which involves setting aside some time each day to sit, stand, or lie down and focus on the breath, sounds, senses, emotions, or bodily sensations; and informal, which means bringing mindfulness to daily activities like eating, exercising, doing the dishes, or homework with the kids.

Although I’ve been sitting still for ten minutes concentrating on my breath, I don’t really see that I’m making any progress. I get to about two breaths and my mind is off running with Forrest Gump again. So I’m delighted that Elisha and Bob emphasize the informal practice of mindfulness, because I do feel as though I’m getting somewhere there. I mean, I still zone out every other minute. But now I realize I’m zoning out, which is substantial progress. And occasionally I can even catch what I’m zoning out and why. And I try, really try, like try as hard as Homer when he’s at the top of his roof with that nail, to aim for these eight attitudes of mindfulness that Elisha and Bob list in their book:

  1. Beginner’s mind. This quality of awareness sees things as new and fresh, as if for the first time, with a sense of curiosity.
  2. Nonjudgment. This quality of awareness involves cultivating impartial observation in regard to any experience—not labeling thoughts, feelings, or sensations as good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair, but simply taking note of thoughts, feelings, or sensations in each moment.
  3. Acknowledgment. This quality of awareness validates and acknowledges things as they are.
  4. Nonstriving. With this quality of awareness, there is no grasping, aversion to change, or movement away from whatever arises in the moment; in other words, nonstriving means not trying to get anywhere other than where you are.
  5. Equanimity. The quality of awareness involves balance and fosters wisdom. It allows a deep understanding of the nature of change and allows you to be with change with greater insight and compassion.
  6. Letting be. With this quality of awareness, you can simply let things be as they are, with no need to try to let GO of whatever is present.
  7. Self-reliance. This quality of awareness helps you see for yourself, from your own experience, what is true or untrue.
  8. Self-Compassion. This quality of awareness cultivates love for yourself as you are, without self-blame or criticism.

Originally published on Psych Central.



  • http://onbeingmindful.wordpress.com/ Shelly

    My therapist recommended the books by Thich Nhat Hahn who writes and speaks on mindfulness. I’m beginning a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction 8 week course tonight! I, like you, have a good awareness but have trouble mentally staying where I am and being present. I’ve gotten better at less judgement of thoughts and self. Sometimes I can even let a negative thought go after observing and being with it for awhile and waving at it as it passes. It’s a far cry better than clinging to it with all my might, scrutinizing for all it’s worth from every angle and even though I know it’s detrimental, hanging on because I know it so well!
    Another book that was recommended to me by my priest as well as my spiritual director was Armchair Mystic: Easing into Contemplative Prayer by Mark E. Thibodeaux. I think the point is to maintain awareness, keep praying and keep trying. Every so often our brains are quiet enough to really enter in to the moment.

  • http://beingoverwhelmed connie tedrow

    sometimes its hard to be mindful of anything in particular as the stress of several things in my life overwhelm me . Not knowing where to turn but I get some relaxation by reading this newsletter.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Liti

    Therese,
    Do you have the cd of Dr.Goldstein’s mindfulness for anxiety and depression?Its so great.You can just LISTEN.
    THanks for the post,applying Homer is great.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Chris

    Thanks, Therese.

    This post sums up exactly what I have become aware of in the past days and weeks. I love the universe when I can hear, really hear, consistent messages from multiple perspectives.

    Bright blessings!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment ALICIA ALVARADO

    THANK YOU FOR THIS WONDERFUL MESSAGE!! IT IS VERY INSPIRATIONAL!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Aliya

    Each & every time you bring the mind back to the breath, you are practising mindfulness.
    What’s interesting is that you sound less judgemental of your effort at the informal practice than the the effort at the formal-perhaps it is how the words ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ that creates related degrees of expectations and judgement.
    It is ok if the mind wanders (and it will because that’s what minds do)just bring it back to the breath, no matter how many times.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment KimO

    Such a timely post and comments for me. Thank you. I am reminded of a funny story (at least now I can laugh at it)! I was working with my counselor on calming breath. However,focusing on my breath was stressing me out because I was convinced I wasn’t doing it right due to a blockage or something else wrong on one side of my nose/head. Being the wonderful counselor she is, she said “well just forget about that then” and find something else calming. I have to laugh that I even felt like I couldn’t breath “right”. Can you say anxious, perfectionist, ultra-sensitive? Turns out I do have a sinus issue on one side that flares up at times, but nothing more serious than that.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jan

    It’s my understanding that it’s perfectly fine and to be expected that your mind will wander during mindfulness meditation. If it wanders 100 times during your session, that’s no problem: simply acknowledge the thought and gently direct your attention back to your breath. The goal is not to try to empty your mind.

  • http://mindyourspirit.com/ Parwathy Narayan

    I am a strong believer in mindfulness and meditation when it comes to the treatment of depression. I suffer from manic-depression, but I’m also a doctor so I know all about how the neurons in your brain can change by simply thinking positive and practicing mindfulness. Your blog was truly inspirational. Thank you!

  • http://www.MindfulTimeManagement.com/blog Janet Bailey

    Love the Homer story! In “formal” practice, I also spend a much bigger proportion of time zoning out than focusing on the breath. It helped a lot to hear a couple of different teachers reframe this. For example: When you (eventually) notice that you’re zoning out, that’s a good thing, rather than a sign of poor progress–it means you woke up for a moment. And every time you (I) notice the mind wandering, it’s an opportunity to practice self-compassion (when my urge is to be self-critical). Both these ideas are taking some time to remember and get used to, but they’re helping.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment kate

    don’t try too hard luv, it’s ok xxx

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nelly

    •Beginner’s mind. This quality of awareness sees things as new and fresh, as if for the first time, with a sense of curiosity.
    •Nonjudgment. This quality of awareness involves cultivating impartial observation in regard to any experience—not labeling thoughts, feelings, or sensations as good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair, but simply taking note of thoughts, feelings, or sensations in each moment.
    •Acknowledgment. This quality of awareness validates and acknowledges things as they are.
    •Nonstriving. With this quality of awareness, there is no grasping, aversion to change, or movement away from whatever arises in the moment; in other words, nonstriving means not trying to get anywhere other than where you are.
    •Equanimity. The quality of awareness involves balance and fosters wisdom. It allows a deep understanding of the nature of change and allows you to be with change with greater insight and compassion.
    •Letting be. With this quality of awareness, you can simply let things be as they are, with no need to try to let GO of whatever is present.
    •Self-reliance. This quality of awareness helps you see for yourself, from your own experience, what is true or untrue.
    •Self-Compassion. This quality of awareness cultivates love for yourself as you are, without self-blame or criticism.

    Beginner’s mind- I see things the same way, over and over, until I go nuts.
    Non-judgement- I can feel the pain in my brain, heart and body when I think how bad and unfair this thing that eats at me is
    Acknowledgement- I surely aknowledge the experience, as it is, right in the core/ gut
    Non-striving- I wish the person that caused me to feel that way tortured and in suffering, same way I feel. I get angry when they don’t care.
    Equanimity- I try hard to change my ways of accepting the injury, and I stay there for a few minutes, but the whipping goes dipper and dipper, until I scream in anger and pain.
    Letting be- How can I let it be? It hurts! I’m not Jesus.
    Self reliancee- I always question my ways, my decisions, my choices, because I know they could have been different, better, if I only listened and waited long enough. Remorse
    Self acceptance- It’s my fault for all that comes my way, I deserve it!

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