Mindfulness, meditation, awareness – what’s the difference?
Mindfulness is present awareness and mindful meditation is distinct from concentration meditation, where we focus concentration on a particular object. Mindfulness in everyday life is about being aware of how we are in the present moment, and in mindful meditation every aspect of our experience is welcomed and acknowledged and we are able to know it is there without it being judged or assessed as defining us as individuals.
Studies of mindfulness in a business context have shown that increases in mindfulness are associated with increased creativity and decreased burnout (e.g., Langer, Heffernan, & Kiester, 1988). A study with businessmen in Korea found an increase in productivity as well (Park, 1990).
Studies in the education field presented in The Power of Mindful Learning (Langer, 1997) show that increasing mindfulness in learning, be it academic subjects, sport or music, encouraged participants to use objects more creatively and move away from mindsets that hamper competence in learning. One study demonstrated that telling people to mindfully notice new stimuli improved attention and memory.
So here are some techniques for trying to increase your mindfulness….
1. RAIN – (Tara Brach – Radical Acceptance)
R – Recognise when you feel a strong emotion
A – Acceptance – acknowledge the emotion to be there
I – Investigate the feeling deeply, how it affects your body, feelings and thoughts
N – Non-identify what is there by seeing that it is a passing emotion or state of mind and does not define who you are.
2. STOP – (Elisha Goldstein – A Mindfulness Stress Reduction Workbook)
S – Stop what you are doing.
T – Take a breath – concentrate on breathing in and out naturally.
O – Observe what you are feeling and thinking. Name your emotions. Acknowledge your thoughts and let them pass on.
P – Proceed with something that will help you at that time, i.e. continue deep breathing to aid relaxation, talk with a friend, go for a walk.
3. What are you doing?
Start focusing on how you do particular things. When you are driving how are you sitting, how are you holding the steering wheel, what are you observing, what are you thinking?
What happens when you are eating – are you savouring each mouthful, what are you tasting? Are you eating quickly? How are you sitting?
Practice being more aware of ‘how you are’ when doing normal or habitual activities to build mindfulness of ‘how you are’ in your life generally.
Breathing is central to your mindfulness practice. Breathing can undo the tensions created by inner emotions, relax stresses and restore balance.
Start by noticing your breathing, put a count on it – how many counts to the in-breath and how many counts to the out-breath. Is there a pause between breathing in and breathing out? Establish a comfortable count, say 4 in and 4 out. Then add a little pause between the in and out breaths, say a count of 2. Experiment with other counts, try a pause after the out-breath. On the out-breath feel your abdomen rising and then your chest . Let your breathing be soft and gentle and natural.
…..or try a mindfulness meditation class or a yoga class…