When you sit down to meditate, how do you begin? The focus on mind and body, the breath, a mantra – each of these practices allow the opportunity to quiet your thoughts and bring you to a state of stillness that can leave you feeling more refreshed and relaxed. Expanded awareness and the intention of going within increase our ability to be mindful. All Meditation practices increase your awareness of being Mindful. That said, often Mindfulness and Meditation are used interchangeably, which is confusing.
Mindfulness and Meditation, although having similarities, are separate and different practices. The term Mindfulness is most often used to describe our ability to be “fully present in the moment” or as “present moment awareness.” This can be found in the practice of gardening, swimming, cooking, playing an instrument, great sex – any activity where your attention is focused on in-the-moment. Another piece of this practice is non-judgment while being present.
Meditation is a more formal practice. There are literally hundreds of Meditation techniques, many thousands of years old. To name just a few: Mantra meditation from the Vedic tradition, Transcendental Meditation (TM), as well as Zazen from the Buddhist tradition. And there is Mindfulness Meditation. This also comes from the Buddhist tradition, also called Vipassana or Insight meditation.
Being mindful is something I practice every day. Meditation helps tremendously because the practices that support a deeper meditation experience are rooted in mindfulness. Think about the different breathing techniques we take to “come into” a meditative state: calming, centering, energizing, heating the body/mind, cooling the body/mind for the purpose of releasing. All bring us more fully into the present moment.
Living a mindful life has a personal meaning to every individual.
For me, it’s being fully present with my Pilates students, being curious and open minded, listening deeply in the meaningful exchanges with Lifestyle Consulting clients, and most importantly, with my husband and family.
Many of my Pilates students ask how they might be more mindful in everyday life. Sometimes they’re surprised when I respond that they practice mindfulness in every Pilates session! Pilates leaves no room for multi-tasking, so mindfulness is encouraged as:
- Breathing is part of every Pilates movement. One of my Mentors used to say ”Let the inhalation be your inspiration to move”
- Body awareness – how your body feels moving in a variety of ways, and even through the transitions
- Technology Break – encouragement that all Mobile devices be turned off (except for our many on-call physicians) to deepen concentration, focus and presence
If you’d like to practice being more mindful, when you begin an activity, whether it’s driving to work, walking your dog, or repotting a plant, try this tip from the Chopra Center, say to yourself:
I am awake and aware; I choose to be fully present as I ___________.
When you meditate, you’re being mindful. The more often you meditate, the more mindful you’re likely to become. That’s likely to lead to a healthier you, as well. Research continues to link mindfulness with better health, from lower blood pressure to less anxiety, even helping with chronic pain, because it helps us sleep better.
What are some ways you practice mindfulness? Do you find it helps deepen your meditation experience? To learn more about meditation and mindfulness, contact me at the studio: 520-299-6541 or register for an upcoming Meditation class.