Mindfulness and Meditation
Much has been written about Mindfulness and Meditation, the latest buzzwords for a path to healthy mind and body. Children are meditating at school, and patients are attending training programs at local health facilities. Presenting it as something that needs to be taught certainly adds to the mystique, but most of us can use these practices naturally in our daily lives.
Mindfulness is the awareness of and focus on each task, word or thought. It can be brought to the extreme by a focus on each bite of food, or each part of the foot while walking. A more natural way to practice Mindfulness is to avoid multi-tasking, and focus on each act individually. It may involve talking to yourself at first, but staying focused on each task will help to eliminate those moments when you walk into a room with no memory of why you are there. Mundane or repetitive tasks tend to be the biggest challenge to our Mindfulness, such as driving the same route each day and having no memory of the trip, or placing car keys in the refrigerator with the groceries. Practicing Mindfulness helps to organize the mind clutter that distracts us from the task at hand.
Meditation has been referred to as Mindfulness of the Mind – placing the mind clutter to the side, becoming a witness to thoughts, and placing sounds in the background. Meditation is not “clearing the mind,” as we all have constant mind clutter. The goal is to find the ability to come back to the breath or a mantra once distracted by thoughts or sounds. To begin, find quiet time for 10 minutes each day. Begin taking slow deep breaths through the nostrils, and when thoughts or sounds enter your mind, place them to the side, and return your focus to the breath or a mantra, i.e. “I am breathing in, I am breathing out” or “I am happy and healthy.” Choose your mantra, your comfortable position, and whether you soften the gaze to a focal point or close the eyes – find what works for you. The more you practice, the easier it becomes, and the time spent focusing inward increases – perhaps creating the desire to increase the time for your Meditation. And yes, you may find your “zone” or “state of bliss,” but reaching that point is not a requirement to reap the benefits of Meditation.
Both Mindfulness and Meditation are important components of a Yoga practice. Mindfulness is in the focus on each breath, each pose, and each part of the body. Meditation is in the Yoga pose itself, as the mind is brought inward to count the breaths, and to feel sensations in the body. The gaze is either directed to a focal point, or the eyes are closed to bring the sensation of the pose inward.
Other activities can be meditative as well. For example, the repetition of walking on a treadmill requires a focal point for balance and Mindfulness of each step, allowing thoughts to move inward to the breath or mantra. This meditative state can also occur while watering the garden, watching a campfire or candle flame, observing nature, or working on creative projects. Once you become Mindful in your daily activities, you may find you have been practicing Meditation all along.
“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment.” [Thich Nhat Hanh]
Julie Hunt-Juneau, RYT 200
Yoga By Water