MEDITATION & MINDFULNESS
Meditation and mindfulness have become much more popular in recent years as we lead busier and busier lives and are looking for ways to calm our minds.
Meditation is a state of thoughtless awareness, of profound deep peace that occurs when the mind is calm and silent, yet completely alert. This doesn’t have to involve sitting in lotus pose on a retreat in India. We can incorporate meditation into our daily lives by just sitting for 5 minutes and focusing on the breath, or gazing at a beautiful flower and being completely absorbed by it. Meditation is not an act of doing; it is a state of awareness.
Mindfulness is quite a buzz word at the moment and has become very popular in a secular way, although it has actually been around for over 2500 years, and was originally a Buddhist practice. It simply means paying attention in the present moment with openness, curiosity, kindness and flexibility. A definition of Mindfulness by Jon Kabat Zinn really sums Mindfulness up:
"Mindfulness is an awareness that emerges naturally when we pay attention, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and without judgement."
The formal practice of mindfulness is an intentional commitment of time to practice meditation every day, this is often a seated practice but can be a walking or standing meditation. This is where there is an awareness on one object (your anchor) which may be the breath, the body, the feet or the senses. You simply keep bringing your attention back to your anchor, without trying to change your experience in anyway. Practicing formal mindfulness on a daily basis actually changes the structure of the brain in a physiological way, which shows itself on a psychological and emotional level with a decrease in stress symptoms and increase in our mood and well-being.
Informal mindfulness is simply paying full attention to the task you are engaged in, whether that be washing up, playing the piano, painting, taking part in a sport or anything else. It is not having a conversation, while watching television and checking social media on your phone! Life has become so busy and we overload our minds with so much activity which causes stress, anxiety and depression. This is because our mind is full rather than being mindful.
There are enormous benefits of bringing some mindfulness into your daily lives, so switch off the phone, turn off the TV and spend some time simply being. Feel free to try the Awareness of Breath Meditation, Body Scan and Yoga Nidra below.