Now that we have an overview of mindfulness, we can take a deeper look at meditation...what it is, does, and a high end overview of some of the different types of meditation or dharanas. Does mindfulness or meditation come first and which is more important? There's not a perfect answer to this..let's just say that meditation can make you more mindful and incorporates elements of mindfulness and mindfulness is a kind of meditation.
Most of us think of meditation as that thing you do, seated cross-legged, eyes closed in a quiet room before dawn, right? Many believe that meditation requires you to clear your mind so it is blank. I don't know about you but my mind is never blank or cleared out completely. So, let's begin here. The idea of meditation is not to have an empty mind...your brain is hardwired to ALWAYS think...it's part of your ability to survive! Meditation is more about learning to focus and release attachment to the thoughts that appear. Example here: you are sitting in meditation and thoughts are drifting by...some you just note and let go, others like 'hey, I feel like ice cream right now' stick around. You begin to think of what kind of ice cream, where the best ice cream you ever ate was, your favorite flavor, how ice cream reminds you of your 10th birthday ice cream cake and so on and on and on. That's attachment and now you are so far off on a random direction you forgot what you are doing, where you are and in effect you are daydreaming. Your thoughts are undisciplined, random. In some meditation the idea is to release attachment to your thoughts allowing your brain to rest a little...offering your mind space to breathe. Did you notice I said 'some' meditations? Good! Let's go there...
Meditation comes in many different forms or styles referred to as dharanas. You could spend a lifetime working your way through all of the different styles/forms and still never try them all. Some meditation dharanas are about focus: breath, image, mantra, idea. Some are about connecting to your inner Self: awareness of your body, your emotions, your core beliefs and the truths that define you. Some dharanas are about getting to know yourself - all aspects of yourself so that you may go through life lighter, less burdened and more self-aware. I could go on but let's just say there are many, many more. Don't feel overwhelmed. The reason there are so many is some forms work better for people at certain times in their lives.
For me, I began with guided visualization or focusing meditation. This style of dharana helps me release tension, relax, and rest. Breath focused meditations are excellent for relieving stress, settling your mind and body and becoming more self-aware. Mantra meditations are great for centering and rebalancing the mind as well as deeper connection and understanding of your Self. All of these styles or forms are available to you when you need them.
So what should you start with and how? Most meditation teachers suggest selecting one that calls to you and practicing it for a period of time (I say at least 30 days) to see how it feels and to settle yourself into the practice. When you are ready for something different or new, you will know!
Let's debunk the meditation seat, time, quiet room, etc. for a second here. You can sit however, wherever, as long as you feel supported, can stay awake and relatively alert. For me, sitting was uncomfortable at first so I tried lying down. While some meditations are best while reclined (yoga nidra in particular), I found I fell asleep every single time. Sitting upright with your spine supported on a chair, back against a wall, or on the floor with supports (check this video for an overview of all of these) will keep you more alert and able to benefit more from the meditation. What time? That depends on you. I am not a predawn kinda girl but I have found that I am a much better human when I meditate first thing in the morning. Length of time? Start small....5 minutes. When you start here and go for 14-30 days, you can begin adding a minute a week or so. If you find you hit a point where you struggle with the length and attention- simply drop a minute and stay there for a bit. Every single minute spent in meditation is great! Quiet room? Wouldn't it be nice if we all had that? I have pets, kids, household and they all are loud and demanding but, find a spot where it is quieter. Let people know with a sign or note that you are meditating and could they please not disturb. You will find you pay less and less attention to those distracting sounds as you meditate. I find that I like a shorter meditation in the morning (15-20 mins) and a much longer guided one right before bed (30+ mins).
So what is mindfulness in relation to meditation? Meditation will make you more mindful because it helps you balance, center, and settle. In each meditation you will practice some mindfulness....connecting with your breath, your body, your surroundings. For me, mindfulness is what I practice throughout the day to hang onto my meditation experience and develop it. It brings me back to that sense of presence and I can act accordingly throughout my day. Practicing mindfulness can make your meditation more meaningful and easier to practice by helping you be more centered and focused all the time (or as much as possible).
Essentially, both are interconnected, the perfect symbiotic relationship to develop a more fulfilling and meaningful life. Think of mindfulness as practice for meditation and meditation as practice for diving deeper.
As much as I love meditation and believe everyone should practice it, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that meditation isn't always sweet and filled with rainbows. There are days I have cried during the entire meditation; days I have become angry, frustrated, deeply annoyed. Meditation is like working out...it's sometimes awesomely easy and fun, other times it's hard and a little painful. My theory here is Shrek movie based...."Better out than in I always say." You will get to know yourself in ways you never thought; but, ultimately, meditation and mindfulness will deeply enrich your life and those around you.
Check out my YouTube channel for different meditations and if you have any questions, please feel free to comment or contact me and I will do my best to answer them!
Happy Meditating - Peace & Namaste, Aprille
I have been "playing" and experimenting with yoga, aromatherapy and healthy living since my late teens - researching, testing, reading, investigating, and learning anything that would make my life - and the lives around me - better naturally.
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