Many of us are looking for ways to reconnect with ourselves; to tap into the sacred, quiet place inside and feel the stillness that is there. Mindfulness and meditation are two of the most loving and renewing things we can do for our mind, body and spirit.
Cost free and immediately accessible, mindfulness and meditation offer us a way to feel and honor our internal state; whether we are jamming out at a Lady Gaga concert, working at our desk job, sitting in traffic court or moving through an emotionally difficult time in our lives. Neither require us to attend a class or sit in silence on a cushion with our hands in a specific mudra.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice of being fully present in the moment. It’s simply noticing our thoughts, body sensations, and feelings without judgment. Mindfulness gives full permission to the range of emotions that march their way through our psyche on a daily basis. By merely witnessing our thoughts and emotions, we create distance between them and ourselves.
When we allow thoughts to enter without becoming invested in them, we start to notice habitual thoughts. We all have thoughts or mind stories we’ve created based on our history and culture. Some examples of deeply ingrained stories are: I’m inadequate/unlovable or I’m victimized by others or I’ll never succeed. Start to be curious about yours. What do you hear yourself say aloud to your girlfriends regularly? Which habitual thoughts simply reflect an old version of yourself that may need to be challenged or updated?
Do your thoughts or stories mimic those of your caregivers. You may notice a correlation. Why? In our formative years, we are taught what to think and how to perceive the world by the culture at large and by those who raised us. Thus, our thoughts are often not original and certainly not our own.
Training in mindfulness, reminds us we have a choice when these habitual thoughts or mind stories happen. When a thought or mind story is causing suffering we can catch it and tell ourselves “this thought is not serving me” and then return to the present moment.
What is Meditation?
Meditation, on the other hand, is an intentional practice with the purpose to quiet our minds, relax, develop inner peace, connect to our higher knowing and live in a more heart centered way. One of the goals of meditation is to find an internal state of awareness. To get there, many concentrate on breath, sound, an image or a feeling.
There is a plethora of research on the benefits of meditation. How it relieves stress, boosts our mood, helps us build an agile mind and allows us to tap into our creativity with ease. This process of surrendering can assist our body by going into a restful state, which ultimately feels calming and rejuvenating.
Some find beginning a meditation practice laborious. Many times, those who are curious about meditation conclude after a week that they are “meditation failures” because they cannot make their mind stop. The goal is not to stop thoughts. It is to become aware of them and not get hooked by them. It’s a practice of noticing and releasing.
Using guided meditations or meditation apps offers a way to start with a metaphorical teacher. These apps make meditation available and easy — check out Insight Timer, Calm, Headspace or Simply Being.
Incorporating the practices of mindfulness and meditation results in a soothed nervous system, a releasing of old thought patterns and an entry in life’s flow; where we feel centered and at times, serene. It is a way to access our internal guidance system in order to make clear, informed and intentional decisions for our life. There is nothing quite as delicious as sitting squarely in the center of our whole, radiant selves with a sense of clarity, purpose and direction.