By Robin Langston-Saylor
I’m no expert on mindfulness or meditation, so I won’t claim to have all the answers.
Nor will I regurgitate what books and practitioners have taught me over the years. I won’t try to teach you how to become more mindful or how to meditate. What I will do is try to explain how it benefits me in terms that I feel anyone can understand. Then, if you feel it is something from which you could benefit, you can research and find what works best for you.
First, I want to be clear on a misconception that I believe some people might have. I do not believe you have to be a Buddhist. I don’t believe you need to embrace any particular lifestyle, nor must you have any particular belief system, in order to become more mindful and to meditate. You also do not have to meditate in the traditional sense in order to be mindful, and I believe both can benefit everyone.
Mindfulness and/or meditation can be practiced for 15 minutes every day, or for several hours throughout the day. You can do it in your room, at work, walking down the street, or just walking from your car into the store. Regardless of your current beliefs, if you have the desire to be more aware in this moment, more aware of your surroundings, of your body, your emotions, and your thoughts, to become more whole instead of leaving fragments of yourself in the hundreds of places and events to which your attention is pulled every day, then you might want to at least consider mindfulness and some sort of meditation. Both can bring awareness, peacefulness and calmness to your mind, body and life.
What is mindfulness?
Being mindful is bringing awareness to oneself and one’s surroundings in the immediate moment and not letting attention get pulled apart, not letting oneself become fragmented in the past or future. You can be mindful without meditating, but mindfulness can also help with meditation. In becoming more mindful, you also learn what divides your attention, and the things that tend to give discomfort to your body.
As you are walking from your car into the store, are you distracted? Have you been thinking about that conversation you had with your boss earlier today, maybe how you wish you had or hadn’t said a certain thing? Have you been worrying over the bill you can’t pay tomorrow, or next week, or next month? Do you desire to be more present in the current moment? Did you notice how the tree you just walked under rustled in the wind, and how that bright-red leaf fell at your feet? Did you notice how your breath became a bit faster because you had to walk up the hill? Are you noticing how your foot feels as it rolls, heel first, then to the ball of your foot, and then lifts as you cycle through each step? Do you now notice how your weight transfers from one leg to the next and how your pelvis rolls and sways as you walk?
Now, tell me, who couldn’t use a little more mindfulness?
Meditation to me is more inward focused. It is letting the thoughts come and observing them without judgement, then letting them go and finding the wisdom within. It is also a way to train your mind to become more peaceful, more calm and induce an awakened state of consciousness. Usually meditation does bring with it at least some mindfulness because it helps us to calm those thoughts that distract us from the current moment. Many people get frustrated trying to meditate because they think they have to stop their thoughts. You don’t. You just have to learn not to hang onto them and not let them control you and pull your attention away. Let them come and go, and then bring yourself back into your center, and you will become more peaceful and calm in your thoughts over time.
Worried about an event, or trying to find meaning in something that happened? Feeling stressed or confused? Meditation can help us find peace and wisdom. Meditation, to me, is looking within yourself—within our own hearts and souls, and even our own minds and bodies, for some key answers to questions we have been asking. If you pray, no matter your religion, you can continue to do that as well. Meditation does not replace normal activity of prayer, it is just a way to become more aware of the answers that live inside us, in addition to those that live outside of us. It is a way for us to listen to what our inner selves is trying to tell us.
Meditation can help with becoming more mindful because it allows the observation of thoughts and honing the skills needed to not fight them. And, being mindful can help with meditation because it pulls awareness into the body. Practicing a bit of mindfulness and meditation every day, even if just 5-15 minutes—helps us calm any inner turmoil and become aware of everything around us in that moment. You can do it while moving or sitting, and you can make it as formal and ritualistic as you wish, or as informal as needed.
The way meditation works for me, might not work for you. I prefer relaxed sitting meditations in a chair because I have back and knee issues, so being seated on the floor with my legs crossed for too long makes my legs go numb. I like staring at a candle flame at first, and then closing my eyes and using mudras which are hand gestures that help me focus on a certain thought or feeling. I also love walking meditations for those times that I feel very restless and can’t relax into my body, or don’t have time or solitude, or if I am very unsettled.
For me, it always starts with my breath no matter if I am sitting or walking, and I do a “walk through” in my body to release any tension before going inward. I always end it with a focus on my breath and body as well to bring me back into a mindfulness day. You may prefer lighting incense and sitting on a cushion on the floor in the full lotus position. Or you might prefer the informal, eyes open, walking down the sidewalk and just meditating on your breath and your body as you go throughout your day, focusing on a thought or a feeling to bring clarity and peace into the center of your being.
Whatever the goal, there are many benefits to both mindfulness and meditation, and I hope you explore further. May peace and compassion light your way.
Robin Langston (aka Robin Saylor), is a #WildHeartWriter. She has written poetry and short stories since she was in high-school. She won a few awards, and had a few poems published in anthologies, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that she published her first book, and four more since then and she hopes to publish more. Her close family is her first priority, and she moved home to help care for her elderly parents. She is a financial services specialist by day. Her passion is writing, art, music. Robin says: “But, who am I really? I am evolution. I am revolution. I am a world citizen. I am the embodiment of love. I am the wild beat of my heart. I am the catching of my breath. I am the whisper I hear in the midst of my busy life. I am the screaming voices in my head demanding that I create. I am the gentle sigh of relief when I am my true authentic self. I am an abuse survivor, rider of lightning, three times divorced, broken and healed. I am always becoming.”
Editor: Dana Gornall
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