The other night, I mentioned something about my daily meditation and Thor corrected me and said, “It’s mindfulness; Mediation is when it’s religious.” And I was all like, “Whatever.” But seriously though, was I wrong? Have I just been practicing “mindfulness” when I thought I was “meditating” – what the heck is the difference?
Thank goodness for the internet. What I discovered is that there are multiple definitions for both mindfulness and meditation, but if I could boil it down to the nutshell of a Women’s Health Magazine article (obviously the most empirical of sources), here’s the difference:
“…meditation is when you intentionally set aside time to do something good for yourself,” and mindfulness “…means that you’re simply attempting to be more aware in everything that you do.” Apparently when you sit down and formally work on mindfulness, that’s also mediation.
But if you ask a Buddhist monk, maybe he will tell you different.
Anyway, I don’t really care what the concept comparisons are…my doctor suggested “mediation”, and then I downloaded a “meditation” app and did some reading on “meditation”, and have practiced “mediation” pretty regularly. I’m pretty sure I have this “meditation” thing down, for a beginner.
At first, I really needed a quiet “don’t bug me” kind of space. The goal was just to chill out when I was getting stressed (mostly due to work or traveling). But as I got used to it, I learned to mediate with my headphones when I was in a public setting (like on an airplane or a bus). Pretty soon, I tried it for better sleep, and even better running (yes! there’s a whole series on better running!). I began practicing without the guided mediation app at night when I had trouble sleeping (also directly related to work) and generally found myself drifting right back to sleep, as opposed to staring at the ceiling in frustration.
Finally, I started trying different routines when I was in a boring or stressful meeting (that’s right – I was totally meditating during staff meetings), and then in really bad traffic. Granted, I don’t crash out and fall asleep like I do when I’m alone in a comfy place – but you get the idea.
Two summers ago is when my doctor initially suggested I try mediation, and I was unable to stifle my laughter. “Meeee? MEDITATE??” Yes, LOL, you. But I get it now – it’s not about reciting mantras and burning incense and convincing your friends to go vegan. It’s about taking a second to RELAX when the things that are bothering you are actually stupid or insignificant or short-term. And it’s about improving your health in terms of better sleep, being more efficient at work, being more patient and so on.
Unfortunately, I have started to see subtle (and overt) anxiety in a lot of people I know, and I think to myself, “Man, they just need to take a breath and meditate right now,” but you can’t just say that to people. (And frankly, I could have really reminded myself to practice breathing when I didn’t win at bingo last night.)
Thus, I encourage you to TRY ten minutes a day for one week. If you hate it, oh well – maybe it’s not for you. But if I, the skeptic of all skeptics, the sarcastic of all sarcastics, the eye roller of all eye rollers, can do it – then you could at least give me the benefit of the doubt.