I always thought meditating took too much time. I tried it once and all I could think of was how much I had to do. I found it boring and, since it didn’t seem to be helping me accomplish any of my goals for the day, stressful. Eventually, I stopped.
But then the word “mindfulness” became attached to the practice of meditation and it piqued my interest. I knew I retained more information (and generally enjoyed myself more) when I’m fully present, and I wanted to learn how to do that consistently.
So, what’s the difference between “mindfulness” and “meditation”? Mindfulness is when you are fully present, aware of where you are, and what you’re doing. You’re not reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you. It’s just “being in the moment.”
Meditation is exploring but not to a pre-determined destination. Your head isn’t supposed to be free of thought and distractions, as I initially believed. When we meditate, we journey into our minds: our sensations (the sound of rain, or wind blowing through our hair), our emotions (love this, loathe that), and thoughts (wouldn’t it be weird to see a dog play chess?).
Each moment is significant. Your natural curiosity takes over and suspends judgment, creating warmth and kindness toward yourself and others.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence that combining meditation and mindfulness can ease pain, make you smarter, and slow down neurological disease – and that’s the short list.
The police department in my hometown of Dallas is receiving training on how to use mindfulness and meditation in the line of duty, hoping that officers can learn how to defuse tense situations by using the best weapon they have: their minds. Practicing meditation may also help prevent and treat PTSD.
I decided that meditation (combined with mindfulness) was worth another try.
I decided to start with simple steps. I began with 3-10 minutes a day, usually in the morning. I take 3 deep nasal breaths (nasal breaths are the ones that bring results) and then a “sensory pause.” A sensory pause is a countdown, of sorts, where you catalog (or just visualize) the following:
5 things you can see
4 things you can hear
3 things you can touch
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
I like to mix them up to keep it fresh and fun. Sometimes the smell and taste part makes me hungry, so I make sure I’ve had breakfast beforehand!
“Mindful Journaling Prompts” also help. These include describing one event in my day using all five senses. Then I write down what story I’ve been living lately (this one keeps me aware of any counterproductive thought/behavior patterns, as I mentioned in my Change Your Fractals, Change Your Life).
I often include a brief (3-5 item) Gratitude list, which is great in any situation.
Doing these exercises has definitely increased the quality of my life and work. I am calmer, clearer, less judgmental, and have learned to respond more, instead of react.
The Peaceful Present
When I don’t have time for a full session and need a quick way to “stay in the moment,” I read this quote*:
If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.
I now strive to live in the peaceful present. It’s a much nicer place to be.
(If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend getting a subscription to Mastermind Meditate. It’s my go-to source for everything about meditation and mindfulness.)
*The quote has been attributed to a few different people, most frequently, incorrectly, to Lao Tzu. I don’t know who said it, to be honest, but the sentiment is a good one and I find it helpful.