Meditation & Mindfulness - What's the difference?
Do you meditate? Do you know how to meditate? Do you know what meditation is? How about mindfulness? Have you heard that term?
Are you wondering why all the questions?
I had never practiced any form of meditation before this year, or at least not what I believed meditation to be. I had pictured sitting cross-legged on the floor with my hands out, palms up, chanting “Ohm….Ohm….Ohm….”
I’m sure that is one way you can meditate but that is not what I have learned to do.
Before I share my personal experiences with meditation and mindfulness, I wanted to define the two concepts. I found this online:
1. to engage in contemplation or reflection-He meditated long and hard before announcing his decision.
2. to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.
Mindfulness: 1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. 2. a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
I interpret this to mean that meditation is taking time to just be quiet and practice some way of focusing on something, maybe it’s on you or something else. Mindfulness is taking what you learn from that focus and doing something about it. “Doing something about it” does not mean major action or activity however.
This is my interpretation and of course, yours might be different. I am not an expert in this field in any way, shape, or form and I rely on others to guide me when needed. I take classes from Mindful Way Coaching in Hudson, Wisconsin. Chantal Doriott teaches her students how to spend time focusing on how you are feeling, accepting whatever it is, and connecting with your higher power. If you are interested in learning from Chantal, most of her classes are online so you do not need to be geographically near me.
This is a great time to learn more about meditation and mindfulness. We get so busy in our lives, especially this time of year with school starting and new activities coming up. We so easily get consumed by our schedules and tasks we need to accomplish and we forget to just take a few minutes and breathe. Our focus is on everything we “need” to do and on whoever we need to take care of and we forget about ourselves. We rush around doing all the things and making sure our kids/partners/pets/friends/family are all ok.
Now there’s nothing wrong with taking care of others, nothing at all. Some of us have even made a career out of it. The problem is that sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves and this can lead to burnout, stress, and eventually illness. This is where meditation and mindfulness practice comes in.
Taking even a few minutes to stop everything, close your eyes and just breathe is so beneficial! This sounds so easy, but I highly recommend taking a meditation/mindfulness class to learn more. The ideas and practices I learned in structured classes have helped me in my everyday life when I feel the muscle tension, stomach churning and other negative effects of stress happening.
In a very basic nutshell, this is how it works: you get yourself into a comfortable position, it can be sitting, lying down or even standing if you need to. You can close your eyes if you want to, it is very helpful to block out distractions, so I do try to do this whenever possible. Then you just breathe, in and out, slowly if you can, and feel that breathing just happening.
Chantal does not “require” any certain way to breathe. Did you even know there are different ways? You can breathe in through your nose and out your mouth, in and out through your nose, in and out through your mouth, diaphragmatic breathing…it’s up to you. Whatever is comfortable for you is what you should do.
The next thing you are going to do is the mindfulness part. As you physically slow yourself down, you start noticing your body and any parts that hurt or are tight or stressed and any feelings you are having. The next part is the part I love. You accept whatever it is that you are feeling without any judgment.
Just be with the feelings and don’t assign any meaning to them. They just are. You do not have to do anything with them or try to fix them. Just let them sit there with you. Just be.
The amazing result that can come from this practice is that you may come up with a solution to whatever is bothering you or you may realize that it’s not worth holding on to and let it go. As you block out the noise of your world, your mind can show you what you probably already know but weren’t paying attention to before now. This has happened to me and it is wonderful.
We recently spent some time with family “up north” at a lake. This lake is part of a chain and there are little channels you can follow to find quiet parts with little to no boat traffic. One afternoon, I took my kayak out to explore one of these quiet areas. I had had a very stressful situation at work recently that was really bothering me and I was looking for a way to let go of it. If you have a kayak and use it, you know how peaceful it is to take it out and just paddle around. It’s quiet, so any wildlife nearby may not hear you until you are quite close and they may not even care if you do get near. You can paddle into more “weedy” areas and if the water is clear, you can see fish and turtles. It’s just amazing, I highly recommend trying one sometime. So back to my expedition-I found a really quiet spot and just stopped paddling. It was not windy so I didn’t drift very far and if I did, it was no big deal. I leaned back in my seat, closed my eyes, and breathed. As I breathed, I paid attention to what I could hear and feel. I felt the tightness in my stomach and the tension in my shoulders. I heard the breeze going through the nearby grasses. I heard lily pads quietly flapping on the water when little puffs of the breeze would lift one up and drop it again. I felt the kayak bobbing in the water slightly. I felt the sun on my skin. I kept breathing and let go of the tightness I was feeling after I acknowledged it was there and why.
I paddled back to shore and felt renewed and at peace. So good.
Now you don’t need to be out in a kayak to practice something like this. You can sit in your own living room or front porch or car (but please not if you are driving) or wherever. You don’t need tons of time either, take 5 minutes to close your eyes, breathe, and notice what you are feeling. Even that little bit of time will help you move on to the next part of your day feeling a bit better.
I have also used my essential oils to help with meditation of course. I have several different oils that I use for stress (Adaptiv™), anxious feelings (lavender, frankincense, copaiba) and bad mood (Wild Orange, lemon, bergamot). Using them aromatically or topically before or during meditation can give you an extra boost for positive results. If you would like more information about using oils for meditation, email me firstname.lastname@example.org so we can figure out what is best for you.
Have you learned how to meditate? Where did you learn? Please share your experiences in the comments so others can learn from you too.
Take care and Namaste!