In the United States, the number of people practicing meditation more than tripled between 2012 and 2017. Meditation has a rich cultural history in countries like India, China, and Japan, and it is becoming increasingly popular in the Western world, with good reason: meditation can have extensive mental health benefits, and a person needs less than ten minutes alone each day to do it. Very significant to the times we are in right now, some studies have found that meditation may reduce implicit bias and fight against racial prejudice.
The main idea of meditation is to be fully in the present moment and aware of your thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is the ongoing practice of honing that awareness and reconnecting to what we do and why we do it. Meditation is not the only way to be mindful. For example, if you are totally immersed in a single task, in the moment, then you are not thinking about the past or the future—you are being mindful. Or if you go for a walk and feel lost in nature, becoming attuned to the chirping birds or falling leaves, you are also being mindful.
Mindfulness meditation is the intentional practice of being mindful and training your attention and awareness from a place of non-judgment. Instead of focusing on nature or specific tasks, you focus on each inhale and exhale. This type of mindful breathing is an important and useful way to anchor your focus in the present moment.
It may at first seem difficult to begin and keep up a meditation routine, yet the following guide simplifies it.
1. Find a quiet space where nothing will disturb you.
2. Sit in a comfortable position such as on top of a cushion, blanket on the floor, or in a chair. Sit upright, yet don’t tense—your body should feel relaxed.
3. Breathe gently while focusing your attention on each inhale and exhale. Alternatively, you can begin with a body scan, which focuses on each part of the body down from your toes and up to your head, pausing to notice the sensations.
For many years I have been practicing both meditation and mindfulness. On my morning walks in nature, I am aware of, and appreciate, the many birds and especially the trees that are close by. This is my favorite way to begin each day. In addition, I practice mindfulness when I do Qigong—being very aware of my breathing while exercising various parts of my body.
Dear reader, no doubt in some way or another you do practice meditation and mindfulness, whether you are aware of it or not. Sharing your experiences would be much appreciated!