//Meditation: a formal, scientific practice of turning your attention inward, away from external distractions, toward a concentrated focus on a single point of reference, such as the breath. Utilized to increase self-awareness, enhance presence in daily living, promote relaxation, and understand the most basic essence of peace and bliss.
// Mindfulness: the ability to maintain a moment-by-moment sense of acceptance and awareness of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and environment. Letting the past and the future inform the present, but not control it. It is the act of being where you are when you are there.
Spring is nearly upon us, yet it seems to be an eternity away. In this last push out of winter, I am reminded of the importance of this time of year for self-reflection and introspection. Every season and every moment is an opportunity to observe and to gain a greater understanding of who we are. Even so, I find at this time each year, as I ache for a season with more light and warmth, that I am called to return, to return to where I am as I am here.
Ultimately, this gesture of presence is simply showing up for myself; it is being an active participant and partner in my own life. Externally, we work to have functioning and healthy relationships, to understand and support our friends and partners as they move through their journey. This understanding of the other and of the relationship comes from a tremendous amount of work, observation, and a whole lot of time. The success of the relationship is contingent upon us showing up, and being present. As this is of value, it is of equal, if not greater value to spend that same energy and time to understand and have a healthy relationship with ourselves.
Meditation and mindfulness are two ways to begin to engage, nurture, and understand who we are. In meditation, we offer ourselves a dedicated time to practice inward reflection of our thoughts, feelings, and tendencies. It is here that we train our mind to be attentive to the present by focusing on a single point, whether that be our breath, a bodily sensation, or a phrase. As other thoughts, or feelings arise, we attend to them by acknowledging that they are there, then without judgement, return to the task at hand. Now, this acknowledgement and return is crucial; this is where we develop two essential pieces for understanding and nurturing our being. The first is that we are able to see, almost from a bystander's perspective, what emotions, thoughts, and anxieties are affecting us. In that act, we become mindful of our tendencies and bias and can begin attending to them, in a nurturing and constructive way. The second is that in the return back to the single point of focus, we train ourselves to acknowledge but not follow our thoughts and emotions; essentially we take back control of where we go. We no longer are subject to the rollercoaster that can be our monkey mind. As we practice this we are better able to engage in everyday life. As our thoughts stray, we stay anchored to the present and can more rationally make decisions and engage in relationships.
In mindfulness, we offer ourselves the opportunity to engage and be present with the external environment. Instead of multi-tasking and doing a thousand things at once, we choose to be where we are when we are there. If you are eating, you are eating. As you take each bite, allow yourself to fully savor the flavors of the food and the sensation that it builds in your mouth. Observe how the food makes you feel, notice what you are smelling, and fully attend to the experience. Mindfulness can happen in any waking moment, and because of that, it is a powerful tool to finding out who we really are.Read More