With everyone from Miranda Kerr to Rachael Finch touting mindfulness and as the solution to, well, everything, you can understand why we’re champing at the bit to get on board.
Although, there’s one problem: We’re not 100 per cent sure what mindfulness is. And—while we’re being honest—our understanding of meditation doesn’t extend much further than sitting on the floor, cross-legged and chanting the word ‘om’ until we run out of breath.
What is mindfulness?
According to Kate Kendall, Co-Founder & Director of Yoga at Flow Athletic, mindfulness is a state of being. “To be mindful is to walk the world conscious of one’s actions, environments and inner rhythms,” she says. “Simply put it’s ‘awareness’ and if we want to be more mindful, it’s not something we practice for 20 minutes a day but rather a lifelong, moment by moment practice.”
It’s about making a conscious decision to remain in the here and now, but as Kate notes, “This is all sounds well and good and easy but the human condition makes it a challenging task.”
“Mindfulness allows us to begin cutting through the ‘untruths’ (or conditions and beliefs) to stay aware and in reality. In other words, ‘Am I reacting to something that is happening now or in the past?’”
What is meditation?
On the other hand, meditation is a dedicated practice. Something that you sit down and do. Psychologist and Founder of Fermentanicals, Jayta Szpitalak, explains, “Meditation is a practice that can be done in as little as 10 minutes a day where you sit in stillness and focus on your breath.”
“As thoughts float in and out of your mind, potentially distracting your practice, you acknowledge them in a non-judgemental fashion, you let them go and you re-focus on the breath.”
How does mindfulness differ to meditation?
“Mindfulness itself is a state of mind, or more of a psychological practice that you can achieve in all activities in life,” Szpitalak says. You can apply mindfulness to a whole host of things. “For example, you can mindfully eat, which has shown to help those who suffer from eating disorders, you can mindfully spend time with your family, and you can mindfully have sex, which data indicates often makes the experience more enjoyable—even mind-blowing!”
What if you’re ‘not good’ at meditation?
Good news: there’s no such thing as being ‘bad’ at meditation. “So many people think that they’re not ‘good’ at meditation because when they do it nothing happens,” Kendall quips. “Every meditation is different. Some days in my practice nothing happens. Some days I have moments of clarity and warm, calming sensations. Others I feel frustrated, angry or annoyed. The way my meditation teacher explained it to me is that whatever is coming up is there for a reason and to be processed.”
How can I incorporate mindfulness into my everyday life?
Szpitalak recommends introducing mindfulness practices slowly—one sense at a time. “Because mindfulness focuses on staying in the present moment and experiencing life through all five senses, I recommend trying mindfulness one sense at a time as an introduction.” Start with mindful eating: “You can do this by getting rid of distractions—phone, TV, etc—and enjoy your meal. Try closing your eyes and relishing the first bite, consider how it feels in your mouth, and the sensations on your tongue. Notice how the food looks, and the various textures on your plate.”
“Another easy way to incorporate mindfulness is to simply observe your surroundings,” Szpitalak says. “When walking, notice the people, the sights, and the sounds. Also, take time to breath. Just focusing on breath for as little as 5 minutes a day helps as a start.”
“Think of mindfulness as a way of living in awareness and meditation as a tool,” Kendall says.