We hear a great deal about the benefits of both mindfulness and meditation. Sometimes, we even hear them used interchangeably, which may make us wonder if there is a difference at all. The truth is there is a great difference, but they are related to one another. One is a more focused version of the other.
Mindfulness is the practice of living in the moment, bringing attention to the things we aren’t used to paying attention to. It is the practice of staying aware of our thoughts, sensations, feelings, and surroundings. Bringing awareness and mindful thought to our everyday tasks can become an effective way to reduce stress. Anything we do usually without thinking can become a less stressful activity when done with mindful awareness.
But there is a type of mindfulness that goes further to bring healing to our whole selves. It is the practice of Meditation. Meditation is an ancient practice of intensely focused mindfulness that has many benefits.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
“Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. Meditation originally was meant to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. These days, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction.
Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine. Meditation produces a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind.”
Meditation has been known to increase memory, brain function, and self-esteem. It costs nothing and can be done almost anywhere. It can be done alone or in a group, sitting quietly or in conjunction with movement or postures. It is usually done as a practice of self-discipline for a set amount of time.
The goal of mediation is to discipline one’s mind to focus and not jump around. The focus is often on the breathing and body sensations the meditator is experiencing in the moment. The focus can also be on an inspiring or encouraging thought or idea.
It is important in all meditation that an intention be clear before beginning. It is not an activity where your mind can be on other things and your body just rests. Some choose to meditate with the intention of gaining a new perspective or opening the mind to new ideas, others do it with the intention of increasing their ability to choose peace over stress. Many will meditate to sharpen their skills in the area of focusing on the present or transforming negative emotions. The reason matters less than the fact that there is one. Intention is key.
Beyond that, meditation can be done any number of ways, such as guided meditation, yoga, tai chi, mantra meditation, or transcendental meditation. There are many options to explore with this ancient and effective practice. For any looking to bring balance and peace into life, such an exploration would bring sure benefits.