11 Principles Of Mindfulness

11 Principles Of Mindfulness

Cultivating mindfulness – the disposition of paying attention to whatever is happening in the present moment, with non-judgment and purpose (i.e., paying attention to it on purpose, as Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the popular Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction program, defines it) – is now widely practiced because it works to reduce stress, increase well‑being, and bring inner peace. Here, I will share with you the 11 guiding principles of mindfulness that will help you face life’s challenges in a healthier, more clear-minded way when applied to your lived experience daily.

1. Be Present in the Moment

Perhaps most importantly, you are paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, not entangled in thoughts or ’ stories’ about what happened yesterday or what you’re doing today. You are right here, in your experience of whatever you are doing as you are doing it. When you do this, you will be open to what the experience presents. While eating your dinner, stop the impulse to scarf it down while your mind drifts to some other topic. Notice the eating itself, the flavors, textures, and smells.

2. Observe Without Judgment

With mindfulness, you just observe what’s happening – you notice feelings and sensations of the body – but you’re not trying to label those feelings and sensations as good or bad. You can develop a less critical and more accepting relationship with yourself and others because you’re practicing something difficult to do and possible only with non-judgmental and peripheral awareness. When you find that you’re judging yourself or others – I should; I shouldn’t; She’s rude; I hate him – become aware of that. It’s just an emotional story, not a story that needs to get tangled. Let it go. See if you can give yourself some space. You notice you feel anxious. It’s OK, let it be there.

3. Embrace Beginner’s Mind

Put another way, the beginner’s mind invites not-knowing. So if we can take that spirit of not-knowing (or perhaps ‘don’t know mind,’ as my Buddhist teacher Stephen Batchelor calls it) and carry it around, we find a new openness and freshness. If we can repeatedly bring that fresh curiosity to our beginner’s mind, we don’t have to be an expert about what is happening. We can open to seeing things unencumbered by specific knowledge. For example, if we are learning something new, I might remind myself: ‘I am a beginner; I can relax and enjoy rather than get frustrated at myself for not knowing what I’m doing.’

4. Practice Patience

The third, patience, adds another mindfulness component to help you navigate this lifetime. The more you worked with it, the more it increased acceptance. Lessening trying and accepting that growth takes time might serve you better in relating to and solving a challenge than trying to control a challenge. If you have a goal you’re working toward, like any kind of development, be patient with yourself and let things come to you as an open-ended trust in your consistency and commitment.

5. Trust in the Process

By using mindfulness, we can keep faith in our inherent wisdom and resiliency and possibly find deeper faith in ourselves and life, even when we don’t understand why. If there is a setback or disappointment, trust that there is something you can learn from it and trust that you can face it with grace and wisdom.

6. Let Go of Attachment

Holding on to what we want (or don’t want) or things we have (or don’t have) is a significant cause of suffering and stress. That stress becomes reduced when, through non-attachment, we hear and accept the truth of change and impermanence. You can practice this on the cushion, but then take the practice into your everyday life. Open to the waves of things as they come and go, accept whatever comes, and relinquish the struggle to get things to be how you want them to be. If you’ve recently split up with a lover or missed out on a job, leave what you want or don’t want, unhook from expectations of how life should be, and open yourself up to whatever new things appear.

7. Cultivate Compassion

The second leg of mindfulness is compassion, first for yourself and then for others, because ‘they are us’ in that you experience them because you are being with yourself and others. Buddhist theory encourages us to see others – especially when we’re confronted with and meet them – not as strangers but as people we can understand. In these circumstances, we can now meet, negotiate, act towards, and deal with challenged and complex people with more kindness and compassion – especially if we realize that everyone is doing their best. So, after saying ‘Yes’ to yourself and coming back ‘here’ every time you practice mindfulness, cultivate compassion for yourself and others. Understand their behavior and responses before judging, and then offer an experience of compassion when things are tricky for others. Next time you meet your annoying boss, show them the Buddhist version of the loving-kindness metta meditation and act towards them with kindness instead of your rage.

8. Embrace Simplicity

Amid a culture that seems to praise fracture and agitation, mindfulness opposes it with a virtue you might call unicity – completeness of self or simply one-mindedness. The less there is to process at any given moment – physically and mentally – the more you’ll have room for the good stuff in life and the less room left for a nervous collapse. Practice unicity: ask yourself: ‘Am I doing too much?’ Then, act accordingly. Weigh each new situation as it unfolds regarding the strength of your vitality and sense of meaning and meaningfulness. If your vitality and sense of meaning are growing smaller, pull back.

9. Practice Gratitude

Gratitude enables us to face the world in a more fully receptive position: to orient ourselves, on any given day and across one’s life, towards what is the case. To list aloud what is good and to count what is good in one’s life is an enriching exercise of proliferation. If gratitude allows us to develop an orientation toward abundance, expressing gratitude to others might enable us to create social bonds and mutual reliance. Consider, for example, listing three good things from the day.

10. Develop Equanimity

The third principle of mindfulness lists the state of stability: the ability to maintain a healthy, balanced, and settled state of mind. When we weather the vicissitudes of life with equanimity and ease, we develop an inner stillness and tranquility that lifts us above the human condition. This is not about stopping, repressing, or holding back your emotions. It’s about disidentifying. You might be tempted to react with stress and anger from some complex events at work. Instead, try to detach yourself and respond on more even (effortless) ground.

11. Commit to Ongoing Practice

Mindfulness is not a destination; it is a journey for life. When sustained for an ongoing period or habituated into daily practice, we will follow paths of more fabulous felt presence, compassion, and inner peace every day whenever we practice mindfulness – whether that may be at a daily predetermined meditation or other specific practice times, or engaging with everyday life, activities, and people. Whatever way you proceed, practice with kindness. Stay in the process; every moment is an opportunity to start again with an open mind and heart. NB: To further support your journey, download a free e-book of The Clear-Mindedness Rushām-Nāma by Sultān Walāyat for a wide array of additional daily meditations, exercises, and reflections.

Case Study: Sarah’s Mindfulness

Sarah, a high-flyer in marketing, felt strung out and anxious by her demanding work and hectic personal life. Her hard-driving and unhappy life made her search for a way to reconnect with calm and well-being. Through applying mindfulness directly to daily life, Sarah began to experience life freshly. She started every day with a couple of minutes of meditation, paying attention to her breathing and noticing the flavor of her experience, just sitting with what was coming up, noticing it, and letting it go.

For the rest of the day, she brought herself to the present moment, whether at her desk, over lunch with the boss, picking up the kids from school and taking them to a playdate, and set aside her aspiration for perfection as well as anxiety over the demands of her time, returning to the simple solidity of the moment. She worked on widening her repertoire of free and robust responses to difficulties and enjoying more of life’s transcendent and ordinary moments.

Key Takeaways

  • Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and aware in the moment.
  • And so we come to the 11 steps of mindfulness, which are with me now: observe without judgment; take a beginner’s mind; cultivate patience and trust; practice non-attachment; practice compassion; practice simplicity; practice gratitude; practice serenity; and practice all the time.
  • Doing so encompasses these principles into daily living and can lead to a healthier and happier life.
  • Mindfulness is a lifelong journey that requires patience, trust, and ongoing commitment.


Empowered by the 11 tenets of the Mindful Path, you will, either on or off the cushion, cultivate a healthy, sustainable, daily mindfulness practice so that you can become more you so that this life of yours is more your thing. Being here now – with dedication, patience, and regular practice – you will become more fully present, more awake and accepting of what is, and live with greater resilience and joy. Today. Tomorrow. Every day is a new beginning. Keep practicing!