Meditation and Mindfulness
Science has no doubts that there is a bridge between the physical and the mind. Pay attention to posture, shoulders open and broad, and head up. Concentrate on regular, gentle breathing, which is a sign of tension. Choose the right place to meditate: silence is needed.
Get rid of the stress and negative thoughts and anxiety attacks that drift away. Body and mind, physical and mental health, which come together: science no longer has doubts about the enormous advantages of meditation. What is defined as mindfulness, the awareness of one’s inner resources, is a real magical power, not to be wasted, that we can all conquer. Everyday. Also to rediscover, when they are lacking, vitality, enthusiasm, and energy: things that are somatized even in the improvement of our physical appearance.
What is Meditation?
Meditative practices have always belonged to human beings. Since humanity has existed on this Earth, meditation has also existed. In the ancient cultures that we know of, meditation was a fundamental practice for cultivating spiritual awakening and connection with the divine. Beyond religion, it was used to rediscover the path of spirituality within oneself.
Meditating means first of all taking the time to carry out the practice, with constancy and discipline. Although there are many types of meditation, one element common to all is to keep constant attention to the breath, thus orienting all our senses within us. The main meditations can be divided, facilitate understanding, into some categories, although it is certainly not an exhaustive list:
- static meditations: in this type of practice, we sit in a comfortable position, close our eyes, and simply remain in connection with our breath, letting the body and mind slowly relax and focus our attention on the act of breathing. Vipassana meditation is perhaps the best-known example in this category;
- dynamic meditations: many of these meditations have been taught by Osho, as well as by other great spiritual masters; in this case, we are dealing with active meditative forms, in which we keep our eyes closed and attention to the breath but in the meantime, we move with the body (perhaps to the rhythm of particular music);
- meditations with visualization: there are forms of meditation in which we can make a sort of “journey”, visualizing or imagining certain passages with a particular goal: for example, we visualize ourselves in a forest, we imagine ourselves hugging a tree and asking for something, or as we connect with Earth to let go of something, etc.
- contemplative meditations: in this type of meditation, we bring attention not only to the breath, but also to something external to us to “contemplate”, such as a candle, the horizon, a tree in the distance, or an imaginary light in our third eye, etc. The goal is always to remain anchored to something different from our minds.
In meditation practices, we can learn to stop and go deeper within ourselves, to perceive inner spaces that don’t usually enjoy our attention. This is useful for cultivating a space for relaxation, for recovering energy and feeling more rested, for inserting a moment of contact with ourselves into our daily life.
Today, in our contemporary society, most of us lead a frenetic pace and constantly receive a huge number of external inputs. We live immersed in visual, auditory, and emotional stimuli. It is a lifestyle that is profoundly different from the ancient civilizations that based spiritual awakening on meditative practices.
To carry out a profound work of inner transformation, therefore, the use of meditation alone is insufficient, as it remains separate from everyday life. If we allow ourselves to meditate for ten minutes every day and that’s it, we create a sort of separation between practice and everyday life.
It becomes an attitude similar to when we play sports: I go to pilates three times a week, then for the rest of the time I live my life. Of course, I will have benefits that over time “stabilize” even in everyday life, that is, my posture will improve, my muscles will be stronger, but during my days I will think and do something else.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice that “contains” meditation, but it is also much more. It is a discipline that is based on a well-defined goal: to learn to live in the Present, through self-observation of oneself and the recognition of automatic mechanisms.
Practicing Mindfulness essentially means working on 2 fronts:
- through meditation, learn to explore our inner spaces in a non-judgmental, welcoming, and curious way; in this case, meditation is only a means to get to connect with our feelings, to create a space of connection with our profound Being, in which we find answers, intuitions, understandings; it is a means of self-observation from a quiet space, which allows us to clearly recognize what moves within us beyond mental automatisms;
- through the exercises of presence in action, that is, stimulating self-observation during our daily life: while taking a shower, I remain present to everything that happens, that is to my senses that perceive the sound of the water, the sensation on the skin, the scent of soap, etc., to the thoughts that the mind produces, to the inner sensations I am experiencing; as if I wanted to build a witness who observes what happens in me.
The real potential of Mindfulness, therefore, lies in the fact that we bring the practice into everyday life, while we are active in the world. I can self-observe myself while shopping, walking, eating, brushing my teeth. What is my mind doing? How is my body posture? What are my emotions? These are the questions we can ask ourselves in the here and now, to learn to observe ourselves and to awaken to the energy of presence.
What are the benefits of meditation?
The well-being of the mind can influence our physical health: therefore the dialogue between the body and the mind is fundamental. As? Through meditation and other practices that help free the mind, such as the art of origami. In medical jargon, we speak of somatization, or when the body absorbs and receives some problems, such as worries, that lurk in the mind.
Let’s take an example: the back is often a source of pain and fatigue because it is literally and metaphorically our backbone, the first to yield under the blows of anxieties and anguish. Through meditation, we can not only reduce physical pain but also relieve stress and reduce anxiety and depression.
The positive effects of meditation
Meditation is a discipline with ancient origins, but increasingly topical which, if practiced consistently, can bring countless advantages. Meditation helps to regain psychophysical well-being: it has a very restful effect and is an important tool for getting to know yourself and your limits better. Here we have listed 7 meditation benefits;
- It is a real natural remedy for anxiety and depression: just practice this discipline for at least half an hour a day to feel better.
- Improve memory and concentration.
- Relieves stress and increases productivity at work.
- It allows reducing physical pain, without any side effects, unlike drugs.
- Lowers Blood Pressure: Meditation promotes the release of nitric oxide into the blood, a substance that relaxes blood vessels allowing blood to flow better. Combining meditation with a healthy and balanced diet and constant physical activity is an excellent natural remedy for high blood pressure.
- Keeps you young: Meditation slows down the aging process of cells.
10 key points to mindfulness and meditation
Here are 10 tips, which summarize the main known techniques, for a practical guide on how to meditate and achieve a good relationship between mind and body. Before starting, however, it is good to know that there are many different practices: for example, some types of meditation argue that it is necessary to drive away thoughts, while others believe it is important to keep them close. So let’s see what are the main points they have in common.
- Pay attention to posture. The posture speaks to us: closed shoulders, bent head, and downcast eyes are all symptoms indicative of a defeat and an attitude of renunciation. Then recover an open posture.
- Broad shoulders. Among the gestures to be done immediately, just as the first act of good meditation, is precisely that of widening the shoulders, a test of the authority of the mind that is transmitted to the body. It is also a way to improve breathing.
- The body speaks. The body signals some problems of the mind in a practical way: a knee that does not advance in the path, the throat that burns when you speak, the back that aches as we have already seen. Well: don’t overlook these signs.
- Muscle tension equals fear. The stiffness of the body does not allow you to move well. If you can understand, in the silence of your thoughts, where your mental problem is, then you will also be able to walk better.
- Recover contact with the body. It is a decisive step to be present to yourself and aware of what is happening in your head.
- Each symptom is not an isolated event. Understanding the underlying reason for a symptom, which you cannot otherwise explain, helps you get back to your point of equilibrium.
- Focus on the breath. Wheezing is a symptom of uncertainty and fear. Breathing that is too slow signals fatigue. Meditation helps to regulate the breath, to bring it closer to a physiological level. It will be possible to help yourself by counting backward in the mind when you inhale. If for any reason you lose your attention and get distracted, just get back into activity and start counting again while you are concentrating on breathing.
- Breath brings energy. Good breathing, which is certainly helped by meditation, in addition to improving the oxygenation of the body also allows us to better channel our energies.
- Step by step. Nothing, in the relationship between body and mind as in life in general, can be achieved in a moment. It takes time, practice, continuity. And awareness of one’s own means.
- The right place. Meditation needs silence to give you the right concentration. So choose a suitable place to do it, where you feel completely at ease.
Differences between Classical Meditation and Mindfulness
Meditation, understood in the classical sense, is a practice that was born from the Buddhist teachings of about 2600 years ago. Mindfulness, on the other hand, can be translated with the word awareness and is only ‘a part’ of traditional Buddhist meditation. It is the practice that we Westerners, after discovering the benefits of the first on Eastern peoples, began to bring into our lives from the 70s onwards.
Absence of judgment
The same absence of judgment is required not only with respect to thoughts but also with any situation that arises while you are in the practice of Meditation. External noises, some physical discomfort … all this is an inevitable ‘background’ (it is life!) And the more we practice accepting it and letting it go without labeling it as pleasant or unpleasant, the more we really learn to practice.