Meditation and mindfulness are buzzwords when it comes to mental and emotional health.
But there sure is a lot of confusion out there about these two terms that can often lead to more harm than good.
Let’s briefly explore each of these to get some better understanding of them, as well as some practical tips.
Mindfulness is another word for attention regulation. Your ability to regulate, control, and direct your attention is mindfulness.
Often, you go through your life on autopilot. You think the same things everyday, you do the same things everyday, you have emotional habits where you react to the same things the same way every day. And you do these things on autopilot, automatically, mindlessly.
You see, mindlessness is the opposite of mindfulness.
Mindlessness is going through the motions of life, while your mind is who-knows-where. Mindfulness is directing your attention to the hear and now, living your life in the present.
Mindlessness is thinking, feeling, and acting automatically, going where the wind blows and not knowing how you got here.
Mindfulness is heightened awareness.
What is going on around me right now? What are the sights and sounds around me right now? How are others feeling and what perceptions lead them there?
What is going on within me right now? What am I feeling? What pushes my buttons and why? What beliefs form those buttons and where do those beliefs come from? What is the best way to say what I need to say and how will that impact our relationship?
Mindfulness is a practice, an ongoing effort to increase your awareness. You can practice mindfulness all day, everyday, whenever, wherever. It just involves increasing your awareness of what is around you and what is within you.
Meditation can be thought of as formal practice of mindfulness. Meditation involves time set aside where you practice mindfulness.
There are many forms of meditation. None of them are really better than the other. It’s important to find one that works for you on this day. Maybe you use music. Maybe you sit in a quiet room, maybe you find a spot in nature. Probably you close your eyes. Most likely you slow down your breathing. Bonus points when you focus on your heart.
You can’t do it wrong. Even if it feels like nothing is happening, even if it feels like your mind is a squirrel cage, even if it feels like you’re getting nowhere, you are doing it.
Actually, there’s really only one way to do mediation wrong. And that is by not trying.
Meditation involves sitting/laying/whatever posture you like, with your eyes closed. Your job is to pay attention. Pay attention to your thoughts, your feelings, where your mind goes, and what you feel about it.
1. Is mindfulness and mediation used to fix negative thoughts and feelings?
The goal isn’t to fix anything or to analyze your thoughts and feelings and judge them as right or wrong. Your job is to observe. That is all.
2. I’m not really doing anything? What’s the point?
The point isn’t to “do” anything. The benefits of mindfulness and meditation don’t come from having an awareness of negative thoughts and feelings and then fixing them. The benefits of mindfulness and mediation come because you are not identifying with your thoughts and feelings. The point is to find your identity as the observer - the observer of your thoughts and feelings. There is great spiritual power in being the observer, as you merge with the original Observer. You remember your identity as being one with God and everything else. From there, positive feelings, faith, courage, and serenity are natural - you don’t have to force it.
3. Is mindfulness and mediation just dwelling on problems?
It is true that in mindfulness and mediation, you become aware of your negative thoughts and feelings. But think of it this way, instead of sitting IN your negative thoughts and feelings, you’re sitting WITH them. And then, it’s easier for you to let them go.
4. Can I make mindfulness a habit if I practice enough?
Mindfulness and mediation aren’t easy. They require effort. You’ll never become a mediation master where with just a snap of your fingers you’re “there”, wherever “there” is.
Meditation and mindfulness never ever become automatic. Ever.
Because if they were automatic - if you could do mindfulness and meditation on autopilot, automatically, mindlessly - well, that wouldn’t be meditation or mindfulness at all. That would be mindlessness.
Simple meditation practice:
The purpose of this exercise isn’t to have laser focus on your heart and only your heart. The purpose of this exercise is to increase your ability to direct and redirect your focus. When your focus wanders, celebrate the opportunity to strengthen your refocusing muscles, and bring it back to the heart.
And most of all, enjoy. I don’t mean you have to smile and laugh through the whole five minutes; I just mean that it’s not supposed to feel like work. If it feels like work, you’re probably trying to do it right and perfect. If that’s the case, just notice this tendency in yourself without judging it, and carry on in your mindfulness and meditation.
Here’s to Conquering Stress,
The Stress Experts
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