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What’s the Difference Between Meditation and Mindfulness

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We live during a time where Eastern philosophy is beginning to seep into the mainstream Western way of life. Words like mindfulness and meditation are becoming everyday terms in Western colloquialism. The question becomes: Are these words interchangeable?

Because these terms are often used in a similar context, confusion about the differences between mindfulness and meditation is understandable. There are many ways to define, describe, and practice both, and their practical applications are incredibly intertwined.

Mindfulness and meditation embody many similarities and can overlap, but they are not exactly the same. Let’s take a closer look.

Meditation

Meditation typically refers to formal, seated meditation practice. There are many types of meditation—those that focus on opening your heart, expanding your awareness, calming your mind, experiencing inner peace, and the list goes on. Here are some examples:

  • Breath-awareness meditation
  • Loving-kindness meditation
  • Mantra-based meditation
  • Visualization meditation
  • Guided meditation

Meditation is an intentional practice, where you focus inward to increase calmness, concentration, and emotional balance. Seated meditation usually begins with deep breathing in a comfortable position, bringing all your awareness to your breath—inhales and exhales—consciously guiding the mind toward an anchor, or a single point of focus. In meditation, you typically spend a focused chunk of time—anywhere from a minute to an hour or more—in which you are tuned inward.

At the Chopra Center, we teach Primordial Sound Meditationa specific type of mantra-based meditation, and recommend meditating for 30 minutes at a time, if possible. If that’s not possible for your schedule, any amount of time will help you find your center.

Simple Mantra Meditation: So Hum

Try this seated meditation with whatever time you have available.

  • Close your eyes and take one full minute to settle in by taking a few deep, cleansing breaths.
  • Start to repeat the mantra So Hum to yourself silently, slowly synching the rhythm of your breath to the mantra.
  • As you inhale, silently repeat the word “So“.
  • As you exhale, silently repeat the word “Hum“.
  • Continue breathing slowly and aligning your mantra to your breath, being careful not to rush your breath if you notice your mantra speeding up.
  • Each time you notice your mind wander, simply draw your attention back to the mantra So Hum.
  • When your time is up, gently release the mantra, taking a moment to sit quietly before opening your eyes.

 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is all about being aware, which of course includes the practice of meditation. When you are being actively mindful, you are noticing and paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and movements, and also to the effects you have on those around you.

You can practice mindfulness anytimeanywhere, and with anyone by showing up and being fully engaged in the here and now. Mindfulness is the simple act of paying attention and noticing and being present in whatever you’re doing. When most people go about their daily lives, their minds wander from the actual activity they are participating in, to other thoughts or sensations. When you’re mindful, you are actively involved in the activity with all of your senses instead of allowing your mind to wander.

Mindfulness can be practiced both informally (at any time/place) and formally (during seated meditation). Where meditation is usually practiced for a specific amount of time, mindfulness can be applied to any situation throughout the day.

It can be difficult for the human mind to stay in the present moment. In fact, a recent study at Harvard found that people spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are doing. This kind of mindlessness is the norm, as the mind spends its time focused on the past (in regret mode), the future (in worry mode), and trying out should have’s and what if’s. The study also found that allowing the brain to run on auto-pilot like this can make people unhappy. “A wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” the researchers said.

This is where mindfulness can help. Here’s an example of an informal mindfulness practice you can try at any time of the day:

5 Senses Practice

Any time you complete a simple task—like brushing your teeth or washing your dishes, tune into your five senses—sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. For each sense, name two to three examples of the things you notice as you complete the task.

For example, when you’re brushing your teeth, you may notice:

  • The flavor of the paste on your tongue.
  • The smell of the paste coming through your nostrils.
  • The cooling sensations.
  • The way the toothbrush moves over your teeth and gums.
  • The sounds of the bristles moving back and forth in your mouth.
  • Your reflection in the bathroom mirror and the lighting in the bathroom.
  • The tingling sensation of the paste on your gums and teeth.

This practice will help you tune into your surroundings and increase your present-moment awareness. If you practice this with everyday activities—even those you have done a thousand times—you will begin to notice new things about the space you are in.

As you can see, you are practicing mindfulness during formal meditation, and a formal meditation practice supports and enriches your ability to be mindful in your everyday life. When you practice focusing on one thing at a time during seated meditation, it allows you to bring more focus, presence, and mindfulness into every other part of your life.


This summer, join Oprah and Deepak for a free online meditation journey to follow your passion and discover your purpose. Energy of Attraction starts July 23. Register for free.


Thanks to our Guest Author, Melissa Eisler
About the Author
woman smiling

Melissa Eisler

Certified Leadership & Career Coach, Yoga & Meditation Instructor, Author
Melissa is the Senior Content Strategist at the Chopra Center. Also an ICF Certified Leadership and Career Coach (ACC) and certified meditation and yoga instructor, she is passionate about motivating people to live a healthy, balanced, and purposeful life. You can learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at MelissaEisler.com . Melissa is also the author of The Type A’s Guide to Mindfulness: Meditation for Busy Minds and Busy People , a practical guide for new meditators in the modern world, and the creator of mindfulminutes.com , a…Read more
Hope you enjoyed this article. To order my book on Meditation please use link below for In Silence, Discovering Self through Meditation
Peacefully Jane,

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I was looking at a stress management assessment sheet this morning. It was a form where you had to reply to the statement~

“Anyone watching me could tell what’s really important to me in life
(1)Definitely (2) I think so and (3) no way.

There were many other statements to answer but this one caught my eye. We are always looking out into the world at others, but how are we showing ourselves to the world?

How often has someone said to you about someone, ‘Oh, she’s really nice once you get to know her’? Or, ‘He just looks tough, but he’s an old softy inside.’

Why are we afraid to reveal ourselves to the world? What is our fear?  We should all be radiating our true self but we hold back. I know there are things about myself and my life I do not share. We all have private memories and that’s okay. But it’s not okay if we are not showing what is really important to us at this time, in this moment.

Our values of love, justice, honestly, patience, compassion, tolerance all should be reflected in our lives by what we are doing. If your answer to the above statement is (3) no way, perhaps it is time for you to step up and reveal your radiance, your strength and courage, your love and compassion. As Marianne Williamson wrote you are not doing anyone a favour by not shining your light.  Look at the beautiful lily in the picture.  Look how it reflects itself upon the pond…so beautiful.  Beauty is meant to be shared and reflected.

We need your light and beauty each day so anyone who is watching you can tell what’s really important to you. Then they can feel your light and realize that your values are important and make the world a better place. It makes them think about what they value and changes they can make in their life. You encourage others to be peaceful and kind without saying a word…just by being you and allowing others to see your inner beauty.

Have a beautiful day,
Jane

Author of In Silence, Discovering Self through Meditation

http://www.goldenlightcentre.com

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BY JULIE CHRISTIANSEN
Author of Stress Less in 27 Days

Sleep these days seems to be overrated. Do you remember that famous sitcom episode in which a member of the ensemble cast decides he can get so much more done if he only takes a few short naps throughout the day rather than sleeping a full night? As it always happens in sitcoms, chaos ensues. The character finally succombs to exhaustion in the middle of a make-out session with his girlfriend, who assumes he has died, and when he wakes up, he on his way down to the bottom of the Hudson River, rolled up in a carpet! It is a hilarious commentary on the dangers of sleep deprivation, and though humourous, it isn’t too far off the mark.

According to the website, www.sleep-deprivation.com, sleep deprivation can have serious effects on one’ health in the form of physical and mental impairments. Inadequate rest can impair your ability to think, to handle stress, to maintain a healthy immune system and to control and appropriately express your emotions. In fact, sleep is so important to our overall health that total sleep deprivation has been proven to be fatal: according to this site, lab rats that are denied the chance to rest die within two to three weeks.Without adequate rest, the brain’s ability to function will deteriorate rapidly. The brain will work harder to counteract the effects of sleep deprivation effects, but will operate less effectively: concentration levels drop, and memory becomes impaired.

Under the effects of sleep deprivation, the brain begins to lose its ability to problem solve, make decisions, or to perform acts of simple logic. In other words, without sufficient sleep, you will not be able to do simple math like 8×7… what’s that? Insufficient rest can also cause people to have hallucinations, slower reaction times, slurred speech, tremors, irritability, and driver fatigue. Other typical effects of sleep deprivation include depression, heart disease, and hypertension.
While North Americans enjoy the benefits of sufficient sleep, studies have shown that as many as 47 million adults may be putting themselves at risk for injury, health and behavior problems because they aren’t meeting their minimum sleep need in order to be fully alert the next day.
Sleep deprivation causes dangers such as drowsy driving, stress, anger and road rage. But beyond all of this, sleep deprivation can adversely affect all areas of your physical and mental health.

People who suffer from sleep deprivation due to sleep disorders- sleep apnea, narcolepsy, insomnia, etc. may also suffer from other problems including diabetes, asthma, diabetes, cancer, illnesses that thrive on a weak immune system, or a second sleep disorder.

Sleep deprivation also contributes to stress and, again, stress weakens our immune system. So a sleep deprived, stressed individual will experience a double whammy effect on his/her ability to fight off illness and disease. To add insult to injury, sleep deprivation and stress, can upset your mental processes. You may experience confusion, memory loss, irritability or emotional highs and lows. If you already have a mental health disorder, sleep deprivation only adds to the problem.

Sleep deprivation is not just an issue for the young to middle-aged working class that is consumed by Hurry Sickness – madly rushing to and fro, trying to make ends meet. Many elderly people also suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders. For the elderly, sleep deprivation can prove to be even more dangerous. Sleepy people are less focused on what they are doing or where they are going. Disorientation could lead to falls or getting lost in a neighbourhood that is unfamiliar. Add to this the other problems that may be found in the elderly such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, or memory loss, and sleep deprivation presents a serious issue.

What can we do then, if we want to stay healthy? Start by getting the sleep you need. It may require you to change your lifestyle by altering your schedule, cutting activities, or making changes to your sleep habits. If you suspect you may have a sleep disorder, or you already know for certain that you do, talk to your doctor and ask about a sleep study.

While there is some disagreement about just how much sleep we really need, most experts agree that a night of seven to nine hours of restful, uninterrupted sleep is a good estimate for what we need, especially during times of high stress and anxiety.
Here are some general guidelines to help you fall asleep and stay asleep:

1. Spend your last hour before bed collecting and organizing your thoughts. Write in your journal or at the very least, make a list of the things that you need to do tomorrow – tell yourself you are clearing your mind so that you can rest without worrying about what will happen tomorrow.

2. Maintain a ritual to prepare yourself mentally for bed (e.g. washing face, brushing teeth, locking doors, etc.).

3. Limit your caffeine, nicotine and alcohol consumption. Do this throughout the day, and be sure not to consume too much of these substances at night.

4. Exercise vigorously each day. Do some gentle stretching before bed.

5. Listen to relaxation tapes.

6. Save your bed for when you are tired. When you feel sleep coming on, go to bed – don’t try to hold off, or decide then that it’s time to brush your teeth.

7. Do deep, slow, rhythmic breathing. Breathe slowly as if you were asleep.

8. Stop watching or listening to news programs at least an hour before trying to go to sleep. Don’t expect to fall asleep immediately after hearing or watching disturbing news. In fact, you should leave all the bad news from television or radio in the living room or den and keep it out of the bedroom.

9. Create a sleep-promoting environment that is quiet, dark, cool and comfortable.

10. Get professional help. If sleeplessness is becoming a problem for you, talk to your family doctor. S/he may be able to prescribe natural or medical assistance that can help you fall asleep without feeling hung over the following day.

As one who has witnessed first hand the extreme ill-effects of sleep deprivation, I urge you to take this aspect of your stress management plan very seriously. It’s funny when it is portrayed in a sitcom, but not so amusing when played out in real life. Think of the “accidents” that could have been avoided, the lives that could have been saved, and the millions of dollars that would not have been paid out in lawsuit settlements if over the years, people were fully rested, and alert when driving, operating dangerous machinery, or making important decisions.

Think about your own sleep patterns and check out the vast array of resources we have available to help us determine if we are engaged in healthy or unhealthy sleep habits. Learn what you need to do in order to get a good night’s sleep, and then act on it. Your brain, your stress response, your body, and your immune system will be eternally grateful.

“If a man had as many ideas during the day as he does when he has insomnia, he’d make a fortune.”
Griff Niblack

This article is excerpted from Julie’s new book, Stress Less in 27Days. Visit www.angersolution.com and download the order form from the home
page to get your copy.

DAYLIGHTS FOR SLEEP DEPRIVATION
Learn about the benefits of DayLights for Season Affective Disorder that also assist with sleep deprivation. DayLights are available at the Golden Light Wellness Shop.

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