Mindfulness and meditation – buzzwords that we hear a lot about at the moment. They often refer to the same general idea of calming our frenzied mind.
Mindfulness and meditation have a lot in common and they are often seen as the same thing. They both aim to make your mind a calmer place and bring you closer to the present moment. Both mindfulness and meditation are excellent ways to reduce stress and anxiety, anchor yourself to the present moment, increase gratitude and happiness in your life as well as allow you to notice the ordinary beauty in the world. In addition, breathing plays a vital role in both mindfulness and meditation by bringing your attention to the present moment.
To understand mindfulness and meditation more deeply, it’s helpful to look at the differences between these two pathways to well-being and peace of mind.
Meditation is an umbrella term that encompasses the practices that allow the practitioner to reach ultimate consciousness and concentration, and to acknowledge and regulate the mind. It is about tuning in to your thoughts. It’s about becoming the observer of the mind, to allow thoughts to pass without judgement and in the process calming the mind. It is about finding the connection with your inner self by observing the mind. There are multiple techniques that can be used including chanting mantra with mala beads, loving kindness and compassion meditations.
Meditation quiets the busy mind by allowing us to become aware of the thoughts in our minds and how they may be affecting us. We all have a lot of stress, worries and anxiety in our daily lives. These are thoughts formed in the human mind that often take us away from the present. Stress and worries are about the past, and anxiety is often about the future and not being in alignment with our true selves and our needs. A busy mind buzzes with activity, rarely giving us a break to make the most of the present moment. And our society places a lot of demands on our attention. Meditation provides the tools to calm a busy mind and to take a break from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives by tuning into our inner selves.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation. Mindfulness is the act of focusing on being in the present, bringing your full mind to an object. It is about observing the outer world with awareness and consciousness. Allowing full awareness when drinking a cup of tea for example, taking in the scent, flavour and warmth. Being mindful of our breath is a common form of mindfulness during meditation practice. Meditation and mindfulness complement each other.
Our minds are so busy that we don’t have much attention leftover for to notice our surroundings, other people and our emotions. We might be so caught up in our stresses that we forget to breathe properly and consequently maintain the circle of stress by taking very shallow breaths. In addition, our days are usually built around habits and routines that don’t encourage mindfulness and awareness – we perform our daily tasks without paying attention to what we are doing because we are on autopilot. For example, when we cook dinner, our minds and awareness might still be at the office thinking about all the work that still needs to be done and this creates feelings of anxiety.
Mindfulness can allow us to connect with ourselves and with other people more meaningfully. We can stop and really see the clouds in the sky, notice the flowers, listen to music with the attention that it deserves. It is also about tuning in to our emotions and to the way we are breathing and feeling the sensations in our body. Mindfulness can be understood as clarity; it helps you see and perceive things clearly and take every moment as it comes without holding any judgments or presumptions. Mindfulness is about seeing, feeling and hearing what is happening right now in this moment. There’s plenty of evidence to support that harnessing your mind to be in the present can improve your mental and physical health.
Mindfulness and meditation can also be differentiated based on the perspective that we want to take. From a yogic perspective meditation is a way to practice yoga. Mindfulness, on the other hand, can be seen as being in the state of yoga. From a meditation perspective, mindfulness means being in a constant meditative state where we have a connection with the present moment and the breath. The practice of meditation predates the practice of mindfulness. Focusing entirely on our breath allow us to see reality and reach meditation more quickly.
If you want to start a meditation-based practice, start with baby steps. Just take ten minutes out of each day to become mindful when drinking tea, taking a break during work, or focusing on your breath before sleep. There’s quite a bit of power in the simple act of focusing your mind. There are meditation classes and lots of meditation apps to help you on your way to a calmer mind. It also helps to have props such as meditation blankets
Pirita is a Sydney based yoga teacher student with a special interest in mindfulness and meditation. As someone who has struggled with burn outs and anxiety in the past, she knows how slowing down and tuning in can transform your life from the inside out. Pirita helps people to step into their full potential and align with their inner selves. You can follow her on Instagram @piritayoga.