Updated: Apr 19, 2020
Let’s talk about meditation and mindfulness. What’s the difference between meditation and mindfulness? How do you meditate? What is it good for?
First I want to cover the difference between the two, and can the two ever be the same?
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware. Being aware of oneself, feeling grounded in the present and really noticing. Sometimes noticing surroundings, noticing one’s breath, noticing the taste of the food we are eating, REALLY noticing it, not just mindlessly chewing it and gulping it down. Feeling the texture of the food, tasting the multi layers of flavours filling your mouth, and engaging in all the senses.
Meditation is the practice of being still. Journeying inwards and being quiet. Focusing on one’s breath and clearing the mind. When we clear our mind we make space to receive. Some find it helpful to have a question in mind before they meditate, or a situation that they are confused about or need clarity on. Clearing the mind makes space for that clarity to come and questions to be answered. By what depends on your own beliefs. If you are religious, you might pray and then meditate to wait to see if God has an answer to your question. Many religions practice this. However even if you aren’t religious, meditation can help you discover what you really want from a situation just by calling up your subconscious.
Our conscious mind can be so busy with thoughts that our heart’s desires can be hidden among them. By quieting the mind we make space for the genuine answers to come through. How do we know what’s genuine and not? By the feelings we experience. By quieting the mind in meditation, we also quiet the body. We are able to focus and feel all the feels. So if a thought comes through and it doesn’t feel right, it’s like our conscience telling us that’s not the path to follow. If a thought comes through and you feel it all warm and fuzzy in your heart space, that’s a great sign. But only if you genuinely quiet your body and mind. Because it’s easy to kid ourselves when we think we want something that will likely hurt us. So learning to really FEEL those thoughts is important.
Sometimes the feelings can be uncomfortable. But that’s different to an answer to a question. Sitting with an uncomfortable feeling can be such a powerful thing and create so much healing. For example, I am a compulsive eater. I have practiced meditation when I feel the urge to eat my bodyweight in food when I’m feeling bored, sad, lonely and in pain. My body only wants the quickest way out of feeling those things and that’s usually squashing them down with food, which doesn’t help in the long term and causes more problems like weight gain, feelings of guilt and shame etc. So by meditating and being still, I make space for those feelings and FEEL them. When you let yourself experience the feelings of sadness, loneliness etc, they lose their power. You realise that those feelings just sit there and most of the time get smaller. They certainly don’t make your head explode (honestly one time I thought if I didn’t eat I would explode with emotion, seems stupid I know, but when you’re in that place it’s not pretty!).
So can you be mindful and meditate at the same time? Yes! In fact focusing on those feelings during meditation, especially sitting with the uncomfortable ones, is a form of mindfulness because you are being mindful of your emotions, so you can see how the two cross paths often. I love guided meditations and do these almost daily, these can be mindful or not, meditations that take you to an alternate reality are not mindful because they take you away from the present, but you can be mindful while listening to a guided meditation when the words guide you to focus on your breath, listen to what you hear around you, smell the air as it is now rather than imagine salty sea air. By listening to a guided meditation, I stay on track without my mind wondering too far for too long because the words always bring me back. Guided meditation (as the title says) guides you through, telling you what to focus on. I particularly love the ones that guide you through a forest, leading to a waterfall, or a sandy beach with the sun on my face and the sand in-between my toes aaahhh, I could be there right now...
I love meditating to sleep. I use an app called ‘insight timer’ and I play the same one most nights. Here’s the link and it’s completely free! https://insighttimer.com
So what are the benefits of mindfulness and meditation?
Depending on what you are needing, it can help with focus, stress and anxiety, pain, self worth and has many other benefits.
If you’re unsure on how to get started, I recommend starting slow, with a short guided meditation. Practice helps you get better at being able to focus so challenging yourself to daily meditation for 1 or 2 weeks can be a great way to get started.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter which type of meditation you choose, we can also be mindful just by putting down our phones and being fully present with the ones we love, the food we cook and eat, seeing the flowers, REALLY seeing them, like you're seeing them for the first time. Let this feeling take over your body and enjoy it. Gaze at the ones you love and let the love you have for them fill you up inside, from the soles of your feet, to the top of your head!
The thing I hear a lot is “but I don’t have the time!” The truth is there is always time to take 5 minutes a day for yourself. You need to make yourself a priority or your health may suffer in the long run. It’s like they say on flights, “put your mask on first before helping others” and the saying “you can’t pour from an empty jug”.
Start making yourself a priority and taking at least 5 minutes a day for yourself and your mental health. The people you’re used to putting first will thank you for it, because the more time we take to recharge, the more we have to give.
What are your experiences of meditation? What is your favourite type of meditation? Comment below with your experiences, I’d love to hear about them!