Is Mindfulness The Same As Meditation?
Mindfulness - no doubt about it, is now the new buzz word! According to some papers, blogs and video's it really is the ultimate 'cure-all' - providing you with some sort of superpower that will ensure you float around all day and love every moment of your life!
Debunking the Myths
For me, it is simply a set of tools. Ones I try to use every day, (not always successfully - as my kids will vouch)! I am not a meditation or mindfulness guru, I am a working-parent who tries to adopt a mindful approach to all aspects of my life. By sharing some of these tools I hope to enable you, wherever you may be to live a better version of your life, in many small ways. These all add up, we carry them with us at home and work, with all the people we meet and can affect not only our own daily life but all those we encounter too!
- I Cannot "empty my mind" - this is most probably the number 1 thing I hear from anyone when I talk about introducing Mindfulness. Just to be absolutely clear, this is not about having a 'quiet mind', you cannot simply turn off your thoughts, (unless you are a monk in some sort our 5-year hidden retreat!). We are not able to have an on and off switch for our thoughts. What we are aiming for is to be able to gain focus. We will come back to the one thing we are trying to focus on; whether it is our breath, a lighted candle, a mantra or a sound. For me, I can drift off to other thoughts time and time again, the art is in just coming back to the one thought or focus.
- Mindfulness is a Religion - although meditation and mindfulness are found in many religions, the most contemplative being Buddhism, I do feel that the secular approach to Mindfulness is open to all. It is mental training and does not require any spiritual beliefs unless you choose to take that approach.
- Mindfulness is good for everything! - this again is one of those sentences I constantly read out there. There are levels of commitment here that need to be addressed. If you put a few minutes every day to be more mindful you will certainly see benefits. However, the person who meditates consistently for longer periods of time will experience deeper and more profound changes to the brain and consequently the benefits associated with it. The brain is a muscle, just as those who walk the dog are not in the same category as the person training for a marathon! What you put in, you will get out. It will also not be a cure-all, it is another tool we can add to our lives.
- Mindfulness is just about chilling out - though this can be a great side effect of practising mindfulness. For many, including myself, it is also about a set of tools that enable me to gain greater focus and also create a 'pause' for my brain. This pause provides the simple moment that I need in order to respond to a situation with thought, not just on auto-pilot. This is one of the greater gifts that being more Mindful has given me. I can take a few moments to reflect, or re-charge or chill out, or solve a problem. They are all using mindfulness but the outcome may be very different.
- Mindfulness is just about breathing - I love to use breathing techniques as a method of gaining focus. Especially for anyone new to mindfulness and children, but there are lots of other ways you can be mindful. Listening to a great piece of music, what a great way to 'pay attention'! Or how about mindful eating? Just being aware of the meal in front of you, taking time to saviour the flavour or each mouthful, the texture in every bite. All of these are also 'mindful tools'. We can 'pay attention' to pretty much anything, it is the art of staying focused that is the skill we are trying to develop.
- Mindfulness and Meditation are the same things - I like to think of mindfulness as the starter and meditation as the main course. I am more than happy to spend my time mindfully but the meditation takes it one step further. Mindfulness is our ability to pay attention, Meditation is cultivating that attention even further. From here we can start to deepen our practice and focus and our awareness with it.
Just Make A Start
This is the key, find a method that works for you. Have a look at the resources pages, whether for your home or work life, or both. There are tools and techniques that will suit all, you just need to find the right ones for you.
Do not get hung up on the detail, if you are unsure, just play your favourite piece of music and listen, fully with all of your attention. Over on the resources page, there are video's to help you get started with breathwork, guided audios or links to apps, websites and books to help you. Why not start with creating your own affirmation stones? It is such a great family mindfulness activity!
Start small and see where you go. This is not a competition, just make a start and see where it takes you. Life is a journey and there are many paths that we can follow, so find one that suits you and embrace it!
If you would like to have more tools for your journey then please do sign up to the newsletter, where I regularly send out tools to help build your Mindful Parenting practice. Tips for you and for the kids and ones for you all to use together!
Rachel Hawkes is a mum to twin teenagers and teaches baby and kids yoga & mindfulness classes, alongside running a business Wellbeing Centre. She is a published author of 2 books relating to Mindful Parenting and loves to share her tips and ideas wherever she can.
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