Mindfulness and Character Strengths: Training #1 (Reverance for Life)
June 29, 2012 by Dr. Ryan Niemiec ·
Mindfulness will help you. Character strengths will help you. The practice of mindfulness and the practice of character strengths have each been connected with a number of positive benefits relating to happiness, health, relationships, achievement and other valued outcomes. What happens when these two areas are brought together?
I will explore this topic in the next five blog entries by using the lens of the Five Mindfulness Trainings of Thich Nhat Hanh. These trainings are a very practical, modern day formulation of ancient teachings from Buddhism. Indeed, one way to view them is that they can help us realize our goodness and bring this goodness more into the world.
Keep in mind:
- These are mindfulness trainings not mindfulness commandments. The idea is to move toward the training and to practice the training as an ongoing process, not something to be perfectly achieved.
- The practice of the mindfulness trainings is for everyone to enjoy.
- For a full description of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, click here.
This blog entry focuses on the first mindfulness training, called Reverence for Life. It begins:
- Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and to learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals (Nhat Hanh & Cheung, 2010, p. 210).
- This training also encourages the cultivation of openness, non-discrimination, and nonattachment to views. It directly invites us to increase our kindness/compassion strength to a level that moves the focus on oneself to a focus on others, namely all living beings. The strength of fairness appears to be an underlying principle for this training.
How might you use character strengths to practice this training?
- When you find yourself gravitating toward dualistic or exclusiveness in your thinking, call upon your judgment strength (rational, open-minded thinking) and your fairness strength to help you see all sides of the issue, and to find a sense of balance and a common, middle ground.
- Use your bravery strength to speak against acts of killing in the world, even those that appear benign such as deliberately stepping on a spider on the sidewalk. To mindlessly “squash” any form of life is to subtly rehearse a cognitive and behavior routine of apathy and disregard for living beings.
- Build your appreciation of beauty strength by training yourself to see beauty wherever you look; keep a “beauty log” in which you regularly write about the wonders of the life and beauty of plants, animals, and even the moral acts of beauty that you witness in others.
- For the full text of Ryan’s article called “Mindful Living” published in the International Journal of Well-Being, click here
- To learn more about mindfulness and Thich Nhat Hanh, click here
- For images of Thich Nhat Hanh from Touching Peace Photography, taken by mindfulness practitioner Paul Davis, click here
- Nhat Hanh, T. (1993). For a future to be possible: Commentaries on the five mindfulness trainings. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
- Nhat Hanh, T. (2009). Happiness. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
- Nhat Hanh, T., & Cheung, L. (2010). Savor: Mindful eating, mindful life. New York: HarperCollins.
- Niemiec, R. (2012). Mindful living: Character strengths interventions as pathways for the five mindfulness trainings. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2(1), 22–33.
- Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press and Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association