MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION: WHAT DIFFERENCES AND HOW THEY ARE PRACTICED
WHAT IS MEDITATION
The origin of meditation is traced back to the teachings of the spiritual guide Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, who lived around the fifth century BC. in present-day Nepal and northern India. In this practice, concentration develops in observing the processes of the mind and body in their continuous evolution. The original concept of “penetrative vision” or “special vision”, or in Pali “Vipassana”, was illustrated in the “Discourse on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness” (Satipatthana Sutta) and has been part of the Eastern meditative tradition for millennia.
In this discourse on mindfulness the Buddha establishes four valid objects for meditation: the body, the sensations, the mind and the mental factors. This, along with other teachings, is the central focus of the Theravada tradition. The latter is a form of Buddhism now widespread mainly in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Sri Lanka) and is usually identified as the most ancient and original tradition of the Buddha’s teachings.
In various meditation practices today, 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 of relaxation, to recover energy and feel more rested, to insert a moment of contact with ourselves in 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 twenty 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
The term Mindfulness is a translation of an ancient Pali term “sati” which means precisely awareness, paying attention, prompt attention. This term is characterized by a nuance relating to recollection, to remembering, to memory, to remembering to constantly return to direct observation of the experience when you realize you have lost it.
From the moment we come into the world, “the here and now” is the only thing we have.
• We can learn from the past, but we cannot relive it.
• We can hope for a future, but we are not sure if there is one.
Yet most of us don’t live in the present.
We tend to worry too much about the future
We dwell on the past all the time
Mindfulness means being aware and fully present in what is happening in the present moment, immersing yourself in the here and now in a non-judgmental way.
The spread of the practice of mindfulness in Western culture is due to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a biologist and professor at the School of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts. Jon Kabat-Zinn, considered the father of mindfulness in the scientific field, enters MIT in Boston in 1971 and it is precisely in this period that he begins to devote himself to yoga and Zen meditation also thanks to masters such as Thich Nhat Hanh.
It is in this cultural context that Jon Kabat-Zinn who outlines the difference between meditation and mindfulness and the difference between yoga and mindfulness and thus develops the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program in 1979. This type of program is aimed at promoting the physical and emotional relaxation through “indirect” or “central” practices of mindfulness awareness in order to increase the well-being of the individual, manage stress and promote the correct functioning of the body’s natural self-healing resources.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS?
The real difference between the discipline of Mindfulness and meditation practice is that the former contains the latter, but it is also much more.
If we really want to take a leap of awareness, using meditation alone would slow the process down for a very long time. Instead, applying self-observation in action allows us to speed up the awakening process from mechanical automatisms. The practice of Mindfulness, through self-observation, allows us to understand that thoughts come and go, and we are not our thoughts. Mindfulness allows us to grasp our negative thought patterns before they suck us into a downward spiral. It gives us back control of our life.
Mindfulness protocol exercises help us to develop the ability to be open and compassionate and to stop chasing all those thoughts that we come to judge as harmful, irrational or useless, observing them for what they are without trying to block them, because we would get the opposite effect. . Any attempt to eliminate thoughts is a struggle against the mind which only adds to stress.
If you want to know how to practice Mindfulness in your daily life, here you can find an article on 5 guided Mindfulness exercises to try right away
THE SEVEN PILLARS OF MINDFULNESS
To cultivate awareness, therefore, we do not need to mechanically learn some instructions, but first of all we must assume an attitude of complete mental openness, only in this way does a learning and an acceptance of things as they are develop.
The seven fundamental aspects of the attitude with which we approach meditation and which then help us in daily life are:
When we pay attention to the flow of thoughts in our mind, we realize how much we judge our daily experience and this does not help to find inner peace; it is necessary to place oneself in an attitude of “impartial witness” of one’s own experience, that is to realize this judging modality and when a judgment occurs, do not try to repress it, but simply observe with openness everything that presents itself to you, including judging thoughts.
Patience is very important when the mind is agitated, especially when, during meditation practice, thoughts override the perception of the present moment. With practice, you get to be open and accept any moment as it is, knowing that things will mature when their time comes.
3. BEGINNER’S MIND
Assuming the beginner’s mind means opening up, abandoning the attitude of thinking that you already know, dropping all expectations based on past experiences, observing everything, every person as if it were the first time, without using the filter of our thoughts and of our opinions.
In the practice of mindfulness it is emphasized that it is important to find guidance within oneself. The only thing one must aspire to is to be fully oneself and develop a basic trust in one’s feelings. Cultivating self-confidence will help us to trust others as well and to recognize the positive aspects in them.
This is the fundamental premise of change, which is instead often hindered by forcing situations as we want, thus creating further tensions. Acceptance does not mean resignation or passively accepting things or giving up one’s needs, but simply willingness to see things as they are, without our judgments, in this way we can have a clearer vision of things and we will be able to act better with more conviction. and only in this way will change be possible, only by accepting ourselves with awareness.
6. DO NOT LOOK FOR RESULTS
Most of the things we do, we do to achieve a certain result. In the practice of Mindfulness this is an obstacle. For example, starting meditation thinking of relaxing, of achieving well-being, of not feeling pain, of becoming a better person, means already establishing a result to be achieved, consequently implying that, as we are, we are not doing well. Mindfulness allows you to be completely yourself, without having the goal of “doing”, but only to pay attention to what happens in every moment, for example if you are tense, pay attention to tension, observing it. It is precisely not trying to obtain results, the best way to obtain benefits in meditation and with practice these results will come.
7. LETTING GO
Letting go, understood as non-attachment, is a form of accepting things as they are. Our mind tends to attach itself to thoughts, emotions and situations. If they are pleasant, he will try to recall them over and over again. If, on the other hand, they are unpleasant, cause us pain or scare us, our mind tries to avoid them, as a form of protection. During the practice we limit ourselves to observing thoughts, emotions, sensations, accept themselves as an experience of the moment and let themselves go.
Here is a guided mindfulness meditation for self acceptance that helps you to center yourself when you are faced with particularly turbulent moments in your life. Find a quiet environment, sit comfortably with your back straight and try it now!