What is meditation?
Meditation is finding stillness both physically and mentally. You can do it while sitting, wlaking or standing. While sitting is probably the most concentrated way.
You will focus on the movements of the breath, or on the sensations in the body, for example. This way your thoughts begin to calm down and you are more present in the moment – as opposed to daydreaming.
Whatever arises in you, feelings, memories, emotions and so on, is accepted with awareness, wether they are pleasant or unpleasant, without you being drawn into them. This way, a calm is created, a steadiness in yourself. Time and again you return the attention to the breath or just to the sitting itself, in order to be here again, present. Not worrying about past or future, not longing for something better or different.
Most people find that the meditation is helping them immediately, even if it is not that easy, however simple the practice may in fact be.
But meditation is a practice, and even after just a few times, you will already notice a greater ease to bring the mind to a certain stillness.
The method itself is easy to learn. The basic instruction is to follow the breathing, but there are many different methods to use. This practice can go on always, and be deepened and strengthened endlessly.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness means: Consciously directing the attention to observe without judgment.
Maybe it sounds a bit too obvious, but in fact it is mostly not our habit. Very often we are reliving the past or planning the future, and thus missing out on the richness of the moment. We are living in the world of all our judgments, interpretations and emotions, and are determined by them.
In mindfulness meditation we practice attentiveness: conscious and open, not judging while noticing the experiences within and without. This is practiced in the different meditations as well as in daily life.
Mindfulness as a method means to apply this attitude in all of your life: in the realm of you emotions, physical challenges, work, communication and relationships. But also in the many simple activities of the day such as walking the stairs, eating, doing the dishes.
The enormous popularity of mindfulness nowadays only shows us how much we really lack and need stillness, calm and slowing down. We almost forgot how to enjoy the small things of life and relax in the moment.
Listen to Mark Williams, developer of MBCT here on this shift in stress levels. (3 min.)
Extensive scientific studies have already shown that the aplication of mindfulness provides significant support in case of stress, burnout, pain, anxiety and depression. E.g. read this article about this in Science Daily: here.
However, whatever science may be able to ‘prove’, millions of people around the world by now have already experienced how mindfulness has enriched their life to make it lighter, happier and more relaxed.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is the founder of the world famous eight week mindfulness-training MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction). From there, many other programs developed, like MBCT (mindfulness based cogntive therapy) that helps prevent relapse in depression.
Kabat-Zinn on mindfulness on Youtube.
The program I teach was developed by David Dewulf of IAM. (instituut voor aandacht en mindfulness). It is based mostly on MBCT and MBSR.