What is meant by Mindfulness Meditation?
Well first, let’s break this down. There is a lot of misconception over the term ‘Meditation’.
When I first ask my clients what they understand by the term they often say something along the lines of ’emptying the mind’, or ‘relaxation’. It is actually impossible to empty the mind – at least whilst you are alive and conscious. Human beings are hard wired to either dwell on past events or worry about the future, and often try to predict what will happen by recalling the outcome of similar events that occurred in the past. And this can be useful in certain situations; for instance recalling that when you touched fire it burnt you and hurt, or avoiding a costly scam when you have been tricked in the past. But there are many situations where this is not useful, or may develop into irrational anxiety in the present.
When you meditate, you don’t empty the mind, but choose one thing that you will focus your attention on, and keep it there. This can be done lying down, seated, standing, or whilst walking. The posture is irrelevant, but the important thing is that the mind is totally focussed on that one thing. It can be a ‘structured’ meditation, ie a body scan, your breath, a picture, or chanting. Or it can be an ‘unstructured’ meditation, with a more open, investigative approach, ie asking a question such as ‘who am I?’.
Mindfulness is concentrating on what you are doing whilst you are doing it, in other words, being ‘in the present’. It sounds easy, but this is usually quite a challenge. Our minds have a natural tendency to wander. An example of this is driving to a well-travelled destination and on arrival not being able to recall any detail of the journey.
Combining the two elements, Mindfulness Meditation is training the mind with concentration, to stay where we want to put it. When our mind does wander, we recognise this and gently, without self-criticism, bring it back to the focus of our meditation. The more we practice this, the more we can stay in the present moment, and not constantly replay what happened in the past or live in fear of may happen in the future. We start to become actually present in our own lives, and therefore can live life more fully and enjoyably.