In this day and age, the words meditation and mindfulness are thrown around A LOT. We know, we see it too. Often times people speak about it or tell you to do these things without breaking them down for people to understand and possibly incorporate into their lives in an effective way.
Personally, we know the benefits of both. It is definitely a practice and we are no experts, but we do know that when we practice meditation or mindfulness individually or in combination, it does wonders for our bodies, physically and spiritually.
Let's get into it, shall we?!
What is mindfulness?
1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
2. a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
3. involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there's a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment.
4. the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis
The benefits of mindfulness are (according to the American Psychological Association):
•decrease depression & anxiety
•increases working memory & capacity to focus
•increases attention span
•increases positive affect
•decreases emotional reactivity
•increases cognitive flexibility (“self-observation neurologically disengages automatic pathways created by prior learning + enables present-moment input to be integrated”)
•respond better to relationship stress & increases ability to communicate emotions/feelings to ones partner
•increases self-insight, morality, intuition, & middle lobe brain function
There are SOOOOO many benefits! You can see why we love it! Personally, there are many situations that we diffused only by the act of being mindful (and bringing awareness to our breath)!
Now that we defined mindfulness and explained a few benefits, you may be asking, "How can to be more mindful?"
Well, WE GOT YOU BOO!
Here are a few tips that we came up with, on how to incorporate mindfulness into your every day lives!
• Become aware of your breath as often as you can. Notice when you hold your breath or your breath becomes shallow. Do your best to take long, deep breaths as much as possible. Bringing your awareness to the breath helps bring your awareness to the NOW!
• Eat slowly. Take your time to savor your meal. In any eastern traditions, it is known that they chew 32 time (one chew for every tooth) before swallowing. Instead of rushing through the meal, this allows for appreciation of the flavor and nutrition that you have before you
• Be slow to speak. Take time to respond and not react. Take a breath before responding to someone regardless if it is a heated situation or not. Sometimes, that second or two that you gain from pausing and breathing can make a huge difference. It allows you to get a full scope before opening your mouth.
• Pay attention to each step that you take. Literally be aware of how the earth supports you. Feel each part of your foot that touches the ground, the muscles and tendons that you use to walk. You can also use this as a form of meditation. Walk with your gaze cast lightly on the ground ahead of you or just be aware of your surroundings (colors, shapes, textures).
• Get our in nature & observe the sounds, smells, textures, etc.
Since we got mindfulness covered, lets move on to meditation. If you have been to a yoga class, you know that savasana means meditation. You may have also hear this word in religious settings or you have seen this word attached to a Buddhist monk, like this guy. We totally love the Dalai Lama btw!
By definition, this is meditation.
1: to engage in contemplation or reflection
2: to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness
1: to focus one's thoughts on : reflect on or ponder over
2: to plan or project in the mind
The benefits of mediation are (but are not limited to):
•reduces stress & increases relaxation (pretty sure you saw that coming)
•reduces depression & anxiety
•increases self-awareness aka mindfulness
•may improve cardiovascular & immune health
•increases emotional well-being
•increases cognitive skills & creative thinking
Again, there are SO many proven benefits of meditation that have even been scientifically proven (for the skeptics out there)! Five minutes alone can prove to be beneficial, but to see the most benefits, you do need to have a more consistent practice with longer meditation sessions.
On to how to actually meditate. It does not require much, really:
•find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed
•quiet the external chatter (shut off cell phones, computers, TVs, radios)
•find a comfortable position to sit in (on a chair or cross-legged on the floor) you don’t want to be TOO comfortable where you fall asleep!
•begin to focus on your breath. Take deep breaths filling the belly (diaphragm) & then fill the chest (lungs). This increases your oxygen capacity & fills your brain with necessary oxygen.
•don’t try to “quiet” your brain & “get rid of your thoughts”. Thinking about getting rid of your thoughts is a though in & of itself! Pull back & simply observe your thoughts if & when they arrive, not being attached to them nor holding on to them. Let them go just as fast as they came.
•be mindful as often as possible & bring yourself back to your breath as much as possible.
•start with 5 minutes of meditation. You don’t have to jump in to 20-30 minutes. Meditation is a practice so do it as much as you can & work your way up.
Other things you can do to help:
-put on soothing music (nature sounds, OM chanting, soft music, drone music)
-use scents to help you either via diffuser or incense
-use a candle to use as a focal/gazing point
-you can use our crystal allies to contribute a certain energy frequency to your meditation (Rose Quartz for Love/Self love, fluorite for concentration, black tourmaline for grounding + protection, etc.)
-you can use a question to meditate on. These are called questions or riddles are called koans in the Buddhist tradition!
**you can follow along a guided meditation if you feel like you need some guidance (We would recommend this to people who have never meditated before, just to get into the flow and see how your body and spirit are supposed to feel. Once you are comfortable with the practice of meditation, you can venture on your own.
*also, please let us disclaim that you can meditate WHEREVER you are: work, in the car, grocery shopping, etc. just bring your awareness to your breath & be an observer! You don’t have to run yourself down with oil, surround yourself with flowers, or drape fine robes over your shoulders. Your breath is YOURS wherever you go!
The hopes of this article was not to make these things seem bigger or more complex than they actually are. Meditation and mindfulness are not convoluted & should not be confusing, when understood in their proper context. We hope that this article helped someone! Please so share with us your meditation and mindfulness stories and experiences!