Mindfulness and meditation have been around since the beginning of time, yet the terms and uses have gotten very popular in the Western world during this millennium.... and for good reason. They work.
Mindfulness is a way of being.
Meditation is a tool to help us become more mindful.
Mindfulness is a state of being present, aware and in the moment. It is slowing down and breathing fully. It is being open to the full array of feelings and sensations we are experiencing. It's awareness of what's happening within and around us. It's looking people in the eye when we're talking. It's perceiving all of our senses (sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch) in any daily activity. It's accepting what is.
Mindfulness is the opposite of auto-pilot, multi-tasking, busyness or worry. It's also not all-or-nothing. It's a spectrum. Mindfulness is like being thoughtful. Someone can be described as a thoughtful person and still do thoughtless things occasionally. It's a continuum, a daily practice, something to work towards even though there is no end. We never really 'get there', we just get more. Mindfulness is absolutely imperative for personal growth and transformation. One way to become more mindful is through meditation.
A medical dictionary I found defined meditations as a practice of concentrated focus upon a sounds, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment,
reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth'. It's "brain training". I consider it my daily date with God and my higher self. It's a time to listen. It's a way to learn to let your heart be in charge more than your head just a little more often.
The benefits to both are innumerable, but rarely immediate which make them not-so-appealing for a society fixated on immediate gratification. We may feel calmer and more peaceful after meditation (or any mindfulness practice), but the real benefits are cumulative and show up down the road when things really get ugly. I remember the first time I noticed the effects. I got into a heated conversation with someone very close to me. In the past, this type of conversation would have sent me over the edge in fear, guilt, and the need to run away. However, due to my mindfulness practices, I was able to sit, breathe, and stay in the conversation. I was able to realize and understand that no matter how painful it got, I was fundamentally OK and that this was all temporary.
When the conversation was over, I sat and cried for a while. As I was becoming aware that the practice was "working", I was surprised that it was still so painful. I had naively thought if it was "working" than it wouldn't hurt so much. I was wrong. However, even though the feelings were just as strong, I was so much better prepared to handle the situation. I was able to be the observer, seeing that my thoughts and feelings were just one part of me and they were not in control. I knew I could eventually let the painful feelings pass THROUGH me instead of suppressing or running from them. These types of experiences have helped me recover my power, my voice, and a whole lot of self-love.
If we can become the observer to our emotions and create that pause our souls need between action and reaction, our bodies and brains won't go immediately into our unconscious reactions which are often feelings of guilt, shame, anger, or sadness. Our truer selves gets a chance to see what's really going on and actually make choices in situations we thought in the past we couldn't control. Every time we choose more love, compassion or gentleness for ourselves and others, those pathways get strengthened and eventually THOSE become habit and life becomes less of a struggle.
Think of meditation as a foundational exercise necessary for conscious growth and healing. We can go to all the greatest teachers, workshops, seminars and spend boatloads of money to get help, but if we have nothing in which to root it, we'll be frustrated with the results.
I dabbled in meditation for years through yoga, spiritual classes and workshops, but didn't start my own sitting practice until a few years ago (at the strong suggestion of my most trusted teachers and healers). The beginning was a little painful (and humorous at times) because I tried to do too much too quickly. But I endured and eventually a few important things shifted. The biggest was my understanding of what meditation REALLY is. I thought that meditating was having a clear mind during the whole practice and I was failing if that wasn't happening. Although that may be a goal, that is NOT the practice. The practice is the act of realizing the mind has drifted and bringing it back to the breath or mantra we are using. In that sense, we can't do it wrong! No matter how many times we have to bring our minds back and drop the thoughts, we are still meditating correctly because we are willing to do so. Wow. Understanding that, I began to judge less and sit more.
Are you ready? Cool. Start slowly. Pick one resource and just commit to starting. You can increase your duration and frequency along the way. If you don't like the program or app, ditch it and select another you do like. Recruit support and accountability. Join a group, local or online. Some of the resources below have programs that map it all out for you. You just have to show up. Let me know how I can help you get started. Happy Meditating!
Resources to help you get started :
Susan Piver / Open Heart Project
Stop Think Breathe
I also offer a few guided mediations of my own. Click here to check them out.
I'd love to hear about some of your favorite meditation and mindfulness resources and practices. Please share them in the comment section below.
Peace & Love,
Jacque Saltsman is a Healer and Life Coach who is committed to the empowerment and healing of women locally and globally. Jacque has attended and staffed the Woman Within Training Weekend and sits in an amazing E-circle in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. She can be found at jacquesaltsman.com.