Mindfulness and meditation have been getting a lot of attention in the past several years, but it’s not new. There is a lot of misinformation around mindfulness and meditation including the belief that it is Satanic and can invite evil into the meditator’s heart. It’s important to be clear on the roots of mindfulness and meditation and the innumerable ways in which it can be practiced to improve mental, emotional and spiritual health. So let’s dig in…
What it IS and What is NOT
“Living in the moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future. It means living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breathe is a gift.” – Oprah
Mindfulness and meditation have its roots in Buddhism dating back as early 1 BCE. Thus it is an Eastern practice centered in connection to one’s self and groundedness to cultivate awareness around how the present moment is being experienced.
There are no required directives as to how one ‘should’ meditate or practice mindfulness, only a willingness to allow one’s self to connect to and experience the present moment. In fact, one major element of mindfulness and meditation is attention to languaging – noticing the ‘shoulds’, ‘rights’, ‘wrongs’, ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ and how it impacts how we are experiencing and interacting with the present moment.
A person wishing to practice mindfulness and meditation can focus on precepts of the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, nature, the universe or anything that is of importance to the practitioner. The options are endless and are most often rooted in what is centering or grounding for the person practicing.
“Prayer is when you talk to God; meditation is when you listen to God.” – Unknown
Mindfulness and meditation are what it is made to be by the practitioner. It is not, by its very nature, negative or sinful.
Mindfulness is simply a way to reconnect to and observe the very essence of your experience through a wider observant and objective lens that allows you to see the bigger picture versus the small part your experience occupies.
By definition, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, meditation is the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religions activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed
Prayer can be a form of mindfulness and meditation – mindfully focusing on everything in light of your vertical relationship with God and meditating on God’s precepts,
“Wherever you go, there you are.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Jon Kabat-Zinn is considered to be one of the major influencers of the Western adoption of the practice of mindfulness. He created an approach called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to treat depression and anxiety and enhance mental health. This approach is grounded in the theory that reconnecting to the present moment counteracts ruminative thinking of the past – usually present in depressive thinking – and the sometimes paralyzing thinking around the future – usually present in anxious thoughts.
A variety of strategies are used to deactivate the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of our autonomic system focused on protection, and activate the sympathetic nervous system, the part of our autonomic nervous system focused on relaxation.
Give it a Try:
Both mindfulness and meditation can be challenging to practice in the beginning. Our minds and bodies are accustomed to stimulation and it can be quite the task, to say the least, to get both body and mind to settle into intentional focus. Because of this, it is recommended that those new to the practice begin with a short practice.