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What you need to know about meditation and mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness are two things I’ve always been curious about. And yet, no matter how many meditation apps I download and no matter how many articles I read about mindfulness, I still don’t get it. I’ve always struggled to understand what it means to sit down and meditate – do you just sit there with your eyes closed? And how do you know if you’re being mindful? And does meditation even relate to mindfulness, or are they the same thing?
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I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to cash in on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness but hasn’t quite figured out how. So I decided to find out what mindfulness and meditation really mean and the benefits they can offer. I spoke to womens wellness specialist Samantha Doyle, who is also an author, yoga teacher and the founder of Samantha Doyle Healthy Living, to find out what all the fuss was about.
What is meditation?
Samantha says that contrary to popular belief, meditation is actually a joyful, engaging practice. “Ancient sages taught that meditation is the focusing of one’s mind on transcendental sounds,” she explains. “These sounds are the names of the supreme soul, and help us to cultivate wisdom and spiritual love. The goal of meditation is to experience loving union with the supreme.”
What is mindfulness?
I always thought that mindfulness was just one of the many meditation techniques, but I was wrong. “Mindfulness, or perhaps better referred to as ‘mind awareness’, is a yoga technique used to create an awareness that we as a person are actually separate from our mind,” explains Samantha. “Mindfulness helps us to become more present and aware of our thoughts and emotions, however it doesn’t serve us on a deeper, spiritual level in the way that meditation does.”
So how does mindfulness relate to meditation? Samantha says that while they’re not the same, they do intertwine. “Mindfulness is a practical technique that can help prepare us for meditation,” she says. “If our mind is busy and we are feeling ungrounded, meditation can be a little challenging. Taking some time to practice a few minutes of mindfulness can make it so that we are feeling a little more grounded before we begin our meditation practice.”
What are the benefits of meditation?
“I personally began meditating 11 years ago because I was struggling with anxiety and mental health problems, amongst other things,” Samantha says. “After a year of practicing on a daily basis, my life had changed dramatically. I was sleeping well, making better life choices, and on the road to living a healthy, happy life. My incredible personal transformation was the thing that woke me up to just how gently powerful meditation really is!”
According to Samantha, meditation has a large variety of benefits, including:
Increased clarity and decision-making ability
Stress relief and inner peace
Improved physical and mental health
Freedom from anxiety and fear
Deeper inner happiness and fulfilment
Overcoming bad habits
Compassion for others
Inner strength and confidence
These are just a few of the areas that may be impacted by regular meditation practice. Samantha says that if you’re considering give it a go, jump in with both feet. “Dive in! Meditation could change your life,” she says. “Once you start, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.”
Who could benefit from meditation?
You might think meditation is just for people who wear tie dye and shop at the local farmer’s market but you’d be wrong. “Everyone can benefit from meditation. No matter what age you are, no matter what your religion, your professional, your state of health – meditation is for everyone,” says Samantha. “These days, everyone experiences some level of stress or distress, even children. Life has become so difficult, so we need a really simple practice that will allow us to easily retreat into the peace and harmony that meditation offers.”
What does meditation involve?
Like me, you might be under the impression that meditation is just silently sitting on the floor and trying to think about nothing. But Samantha says that the most fundamental requirement of meditation is to listen and focus our mind on the transcendental sound, or our inner mantra. “It’s normal for the mind to wander at times during our practice. The important thing is not to judge ourselves, or get frustrated, but simply keep re-focusing the mind back on the transcendental sounds,” she explains. “This way we can experience a deep rest for our mind and heart, as the transcendental sounds draw our mind away from any worries or concerns we may have.”
What are some ways to meditate?
Downloading a meditation app is a great way to start learning about guided meditation, but if you’re ready to get started on your own Samantha has three simple types of meditation to get you started.
Meditative Breathing: ”This is a type of breath meditation where the transcendental sound is incorporated into breathing.”
Japa Meditation: ”This is where a person can practice meditation with mala beads, softly repeating the transcendental sounds or mantras, keeping count with the beads.”
Kirtan: “This involves the singing or chanting of transcendental sounds or other mantras.”
How can I incorporate meditation into my day?
Samantha says that while meditation can be done anywhere you feel comfortable and whenever you’d like, first thing in the morning is a popular choice for a reason. “It’s nice to start our day with meditation. Upon rising, taking time to meditate will set us up for the day, giving us a reference point of calm and composure to come back to whenever we feel stressed,” she says.
What if I'm finding it hard to focus during meditation?
“It’s natural to find it difficult to focus at times. The important thing is to be disciplined in sticking to our practice,” assures Samantha. “It’s funny because usually the days that we find it difficult to focus, are the days we need meditation the most! That’s why it’s important to be disciplined no matter where our mind is trying to pull us. Perseverance with our practice is really important, so don’t give up!”
Are there meditation classes in Australia I can attend?
Everyone has a different approach to practices like meditation, just like everyone has a different view on the way that they exercise. If you’re into group work, you might benefit from attending a meditation class. Luckily, Samantha says that it should be easy to find a great class in your area. “The Australian School of Meditation & Yoga is the country’s largest non-for-profit yoga school,” she says. “They run free community meditation programs all over Australia.”
To find out more about Samantha, head to her website at www.samanthadoyle.com
Have you experienced the benefits of meditation and mindfulness?