Since the mindfulness trend, I have noticed many people conflating the terms ‘meditation’ and ‘mindfulness’, but there is, in my opinion, a distinct difference. To put it simply, meditation is a learned process where you withdraw your senses and go within. It is not that you are trying to quieten your mind but more that you go into a place of acceptance. Acceptance that there will be distractions in your external environment both in the room you are in and outside the room in the distance. Acceptance that there will be sensations in your body as the body rebels to being kept still. Acceptance that your mind is going to play scripts but instead of hooking onto each thought you notice, you learn to be a witness to the process and allow them to flow through. A thought comes and goes and doesn’t become a train of thought that gets so long you run off with it.
Mindfulness on the other hand is about engaging with your senses to really be present. To be present to the touch of how something feels textually, the feel of handmade paper for example. To the smell as you inhale and savour the fragrance of the moment, which might be walking past a coffee shop and smelling the freshly ground coffee beans. To soften the eyes and allow a sight to be held and absorbed letting it come to you. To hear with exquisite detail the birdsong in the bush; listening intently right there in the moment. To taste with your eyes closed and full attention being on the herbal tea you are about to take into your mouth, the warmth, texture, sensation and every aspect of that cup of herbal tea.
Mindfulness is a great way to develop your concentration, a vital skill to being able to meditate effectively. This quote by Mark Nepo is a lovely reflection of mindfulness.
“Mysteriously, as elusive as it is, this moment – where the eye is what it sees, where the heart is what it feels – this moment shows us that what is real is sacred.”
“My sense of identity was no longer narrowly confined to a body, but embraced the circumambient atoms.”
Like any new skill it takes practice to become proficient. Mindfulness and meditation are skills that will be invaluable to you in finding peace. Once you taste the vastness of meditation it will call you back again and again. Start with small steps and regular practice and you will not be disappointed.
I close with another favourite quote by Paramahansa Yogananda.
“By the practice of meditation you will find you carry within your heart a portable paradise.”
P.S. If you live in the South West of Western Australia and would like to join a meditation class or mini-retreat, you can find my events here.