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More PsychNotes: Mindfulness and Relaxation Methods

January 21, 2016       

Mindful Passion
by Monica A. Frank, PhD

The Mindful Attitude now available on Kindle!

At the age of 19 when I first learned about Maslow's concept of self-actualization in Psych 101, I thought, “It must be pretty boring to be self-actualized.” Under the mistaken impression that complete acceptance of the self and the world corresponded with a lack of passion to change the world, I wanted no part of self-actualization. At the same time, however, being at peace with the self intrigued me. And so began my search which led to a study of psychology, training in the martial arts and tai chi, and finally, an understanding of mindful awareness (to me—a synonym for self-actualization).

In the same way as I did, sometimes people get the impression that mindfulness is passive, mindless acceptance. They equate it with “blissing out”--a euphoric, contented state in which consciousness of the surrounding world is lost. This feel-good internal state, similar to some drug highs, is pursued as a way of escaping from the world and is erroneously considered happiness by some: “As long as I'm happy, who cares about anything else?”

But the opposite is true of those with a mindful attitude. Certainly, people can pursue mindfulness just for the feel-good aspects, but that is not the same as a mindful attitude. People with true mindful awareness are fully in touch with all emotions and use their emotions as they are meant to be used. As such, they recognize the need for personal improvement and pursue the necessary course of action even when it is difficult. Also, they are fully aware of the inequities in the world and are passionately involved in world change.

Acceptance does not equal complacency. Although people who are mindfully aware are more in touch with their emotions, they are not driven by their emotions. Instead, they are able to access their emotions, assess them, and determine a rational and effective response. Therefore, true mindful awareness ultimately addresses inequities more successfully. Developing a tolerance of our emotions allows us to be able to address them and be guided by them. Instead of escaping discomfort and avoiding emotions, those with a mindful attitude take greater responsibility for themselves and their impact on the world around them. Being fully aware allows them to determine what they can do to create personal and societal change.

A mindful attitude is passionate.

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