Meditation is the mental exercise of focusing all your attention, moment after moment, on the object of meditation. This object can be your breath, visualization, anything. During the session, the effort is to keep bringing the attention back whenever it wanders, and to disengage it from being occupied with other things.
“Mindfulness” is the practice of being aware in the present moment, a space of noticing the state of things (internal or external) without judgment. It can be said to be a type of meditation, or a way to integrate meditation into daily life activities.
Thinking about the past, blaming and judging yourself, or worrying about the future can often lead to a degree of stress that is overwhelming. But by staying calm and focused, you can bring your nervous system back into better balance. Mindfulness can be applied to activities such as walking, exercising, eating, or meditation.
Meditations that cultivate mindfulness have long been used to reduce overwhelming stress. Some of these meditations bring you into the present by focusing your attention on a single repetitive action, such as your breathing, a few repeated words, or flickering light from a candle. Other forms of mindfulness meditation encourage you to follow and then release internal thoughts or sensations.
Key points in mindfulness meditation are:
A quiet environment. Choose a secluded place in your home, office, garden, place of worship, or in the great outdoors where you can relax without distractions or interruptions.
A comfortable position. Get comfortable, but avoid lying down as this may lead to you falling asleep. Sit up with your spine straight, either in a chair or on the floor. You can also try a cross-legged position.
A point of focus. This point can be internal – a feeling or imaginary scene – or something external - a flame or meaningful word or phrase that you repeat it throughout your session. You may meditate with eyes open or closed. Also choose to focus on an object in your surroundings to enhance your concentration, or alternately, you can close your eyes.
An observant, noncritical attitude. Don’t worry about distracting thoughts that go through your mind or about how well you’re doing. If thoughts intrude during your relaxation session, don’t fight them. Instead, gently turn your attention back to your point of focus.
For those who are interested in guided meditations, I would recommend: Meditation Oasis (scroll down to "podcast episodes" to listen for free).
What if I told you that there was something simple you could do to reduce stress, anxiety and depression that was completely free of cost, took about 20 minutes a day, could actually change your brain for the better, had essentially no negative side effects and didn’t involve driving anywhere or even changing out of your pajamas? Would you be interested? Read on…
All photographs by Amy Gray