As humans, we’re exposed to an overwhelming amount of stimulus and information, which has grown exponentially in the past few decades. However, our bodies haven’t had the time to evolve and keep up with this demand. Our bodies main rest and repair time during sleep is being out-weighed by the input and quality of our sleep. Each day we are accumulating stress and fatigue, and these are barriers to our performance and expansion of our minds, and the root cause in my opinion for a lot of our issues and illnesses.
Issues like anxiety, depression, addictions, lack of clarity and purpose are now becoming the norm. The old ‘healthy’ lifestyle of meat and veg, a bit of exercise and “pushing through” aren’t cutting it anymore and the symptom-numbing coping mechanisms of suppression, escapism and medication are not working on the root causes of our issues.
Over five decades of scientific research into meditation and mindfulness now put these techniques at the forefront of working on the root cause. Want to reduce anxiety? Want to have better communication and relationships? Want more clarity? Want better sleep? Meditate. But like anything you need consistency – you can’t expect a one off retreat or doing it every now and then to have a profound impact.
Meditation still has a slight branding problem. Lack of understanding and stigma such as it being only for monks and hippies, or that you need to control your mind, are barriers for most people. Meditation is like the term ‘exercise’, there are different types that engage the mind and body in different ways. Mindfulness and meditation are often terms that are substituted for one another, but they are not the same.
Mindfulness is a state of present moment awareness. The Buddhist philosophy suggests the majority of our suffering comes from attachment and speculation of the past (depression) or future (anxiety). So, if you are in the present there is no (or at least minimal) suffering – even aspects of pain are controlled by the mind and the story that comes with it.
You can be mindful anytime; while drinking a cup of coffee – what can you smell, see and taste? While having a conversation – actually listening and engaging, not checking your phone, looking around the room and waiting to share your version of the story. By practicing mindfulness daily we can literally rewire our brain to be more in the present, and thus less in speculation (suffering). This can also increase our ability to focus and our clarity of mind, as currently our attention spans are decreasing and we are becoming more scattered. You can drop into mindfulness whenever you want, like a tool for calming you in the now.
Meditation is a specific practice, the by-product of, which includes a heightened level of mindfulness and awareness. Some of the more common techniques include;
- Visualisation, which creates a physical and energetic experience such as loving kindness.
- Concentration where a single point of focus (breath, flame, body part) is used to bring us out of the ruminating mind.
- Contemplation of thought and processes of the mind
- Non-directive mantra based meditation
Most of the meditation apps use a combination of visualisation and concentration techniques.
The non-directive technique is from the Vedic philosophy – using a mantra effortlessly whispered internally to bring the body (nervous system) to deep states of rest and allowing the laundering of built up stress tension and fatigue you have accumulated throughout your life. Unlike apps, this practice must be taught by a trained teacher and works at a slightly deeper level.
If you are practicing any kind of regular meditation or mindfulness you are already ahead of the curve. Having a solid understanding of the differences and what may work best for you, however, can help increase your results and thus performance in this game we call life!
Janoah is a meditation teacher based between Melbourne and Sydney. He never felt like he was operating at his full potential but as a sceptic he had always associated meditation with religion or having to join a cult.
He was under the illusion that meditation and mindset practices were about clearing your thoughts which is basically impossible. There is so much more to it, and it’s easy. So many of us are missing out due to lack of understanding or resistance from the weird stigma attached to it. His aim is to normalise meditation and get as many people doing it as possible.