Meditation & Mindfulness
“Live the actual moment.
Only this actual moment is life.”
Thích Nhất Hạnh
In 2016 I decided to take a career and life- break embarked on a journey through India (a mid-life gap year) the purpose, to study yoga and become a yoga teacher but also, cliché of all cliché’s, to “find myself”. It was a journey that surpasses all expectations. Firstly, I studied at the Kryshnamacharia Mandarin in Chenai. Kryshnamacharia known as the father of modern yoga where I learned many valuable life skills especially those embedded into traditional cultures and daily rituals such as praying, breath-work, chanting and meditation, the fundamental roots, of which I learned, were integral to the flow and practise of yoga and indeed life itself, and one of the most enlightening lessons I’ve ever had.
Since returning to the western world and imparting these practises in my own classes, people have often asked me the what the difference is between meditation and mindfulness. Both exercises can be similarly defined as something known as present moment awareness, where when concentrating on the present moment, objectively, and intentionally, one can reach a more peaceful and serene state of awareness. For me meditation and mindfulness are one in the same.
Meditation is an ancient practice deeply rooted in many ancient cultures from Asia to Indigenous America. It’s fundamental to devout practitioners of most religions, Buddhism, yoga, and martial arts worldwide and has been for thousands of years.
– Conscious Presence –
Eckart Tolle wrote in his book The Power of Now says “It’s not entirely self-serving, in an external sense, it’s how you observe your inner self at any given moment in time”. In this sense, present moment awareness is sitting with calm, devoting your senses to each moment, and giving them your full attention.
As technology continues to become faster, and our streams of communication more demanding and commanding of our time there is a greater need to slow our lives down and return to the senses, take time to connect with our immediate surroundings. To recalibrate and ground ourselves.
The practise of meditation, mindfulness or present moment awareness can help us to fully observe the here and now and shift our focus from the stresses of all the shoulds, musts and to-dos in our lives and in turn build personal resilience.
– Benefits –
Regularly practising meditation in this way will illuminate all these pressing ruminations that cause so much of the stresses and anxieties in our daily lives. It’s a skill of shifting the focus from the past and present to what is directly before you and in turn maintain focus on the moment.
Once you have begun to practise meditation you will begin to see a shift in your approach and responses to life. You will notice the feel of your clothes against your skin, the taste of food with every mouthful, the shift of the ground under your feet, in fact everything you do will have a sense of ritual, approaching daily tasks with closer consideration, meditatively and mindfully. A regular meditation practise will help you manage your life with a calm resilience, e.g., you will notice a significant difference in how you approach your life, your work and your personal relationships.
Health experts have defined mindfulness as the ongoing “I-spy” of present moment occurrences- externally and internally, benefiting the brain, stress levels, health, and emotions. Researchers have expressed that the key to mindful practise is acceptance. For example, by engaging closely with our status, helps to accept the experience and move us away from responses to stimuli that are ultimately negative.
Meditation can also:
Assist with relieving stress and anxiety
Help cope with present and anticipated stressful moments and events.
Improve cardiovascular issues including blood pressure.
Support students with learning disabilities.
Help treat mental health issues.
Treat trauma and triggering.
- – Walking Meditation –
Take one minute in your daily routine to do this meditation. You can do it on your way to your car or from room to room in your home. Later you can expand the walking meditation as part of a daily recreational walk or your commute.
The following walking meditation is taken from the Buddhist mindfulness guru Thich Nhat Hanh’s book “Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices.”
Pay attention to each step as you begin walking.
During each inhale and exhale, notice the speed you are walking and how many steps you take.
Synchronise your breath to your steps. E.g., with every in breath count each step, 1-2-3. With every outbreath also count 1-2-3 steps. Let your feet and your lungs work in harmony.
Match all your steps to your breath. For example, as you breathe in, count through 1-2-3 steps. As you breathe out, count 1-2-3 steps. Let your lungs and feet work in harmony.
Whilst you practise this walking meditation you may like to add a positive phrase that compliments the rhythm of your steps. Thich Nhat Hanh suggests: “With each step, a gentle wind blows.”