Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably—both share a common goal of bringing the mind to the present moment. While mindfulness has this as its core focus, it is also one of the many outcomes of meditation. Mindfulness is about concentrating or focusing on the breath, body, thoughts, mental or physical activities, and/or surroundings. Meditation is about letting go and de-concentration. Both improve the quality of life.
Mindfulness can be practiced anytime while doing any activity. It is a skill which ideally should be practiced at every moment. Beginners can follow a few instructions till they get into the groove of it. With regular and continuous practice, one starts living in mindfulness under all circumstances.
Try this 10 minute mindfulness exercise.
- Sit in a comfortable corner with clean and quiet surroundings.
- Keep the spine straight, but not too strained; body relaxed.
- Place hands on the knees or thighs with palms facing the ceiling.
- Become aware of the body. Take the attention to the body, observe if there is strain, tension or sensations anywhere in the body.
- Focus on the breath. Observe how the breath is flowing through the nose to the stomach and back out of the nose.
- Continue to keep the focus on the breath for 10 minutes. The moment you become aware of thoughts (or distracts) bring the attention back to the breath.
When the focus is on the breath, the mind comes to the present moment. After a few days of the practice, you can begin observing everything that happens inside and outside. The practice will facilitate this state of observance. Just be aware of your emotions, feelings, or thoughts. Do not engage with them or try to stop them—being aware is the key.
Eventually, the point is to extend mindfulness to every moment in the day. It should be practiced while walking, eating, working—any task during the day.
Techniques That Bring About Mindfulness
In general, any meditation practice can promote mindfulness, but there are few techniques which can bring instant results –
SKY or Sudarshan Kriya Yoga
This is a powerful breathing technique cognized by global spiritual master and founder of the Art of Living, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, that is being practiced by more than 450 million people. The technique finds its uniqueness in a specific rhythmic breathing pattern combined with pranayam taught by trained teachers.
Practitioners of the technique find it extremely beneficial in calming the mind and a strong catalyst in deepening mindfulness. It makes mindfulness as a phenomenon easy to practice every minute in life.
Focus on the Breath
Breath has a direct connection with the mind. The pattern of our breath changes with changing emotions. Focus on the natural flow of breath for a couple of minutes and then take a few deep breaths. This can heighten awareness. Mindfulness on the breath instantly brings the mind to the moment.
Yogic exercises cleanse the body and calm the mind. The very unique aspect of yoga asanas is the fact that breath and body movements are synchronized mindfully. This enhances mindfulness and makes it a spontaneous happening. The attention from the breath and body may keep shifting, but bringing it back again and again is the key. This practice increases the lifeforce energy. So practicing it in the morning is very beneficial for a productive day ahead.
To practice Tratak—which means gaze or look in Sanskrit—the gaze is fixed on a stationary point. This instantly brings our monkey mind to the moment. Regular practice of this sharpens the eye sight and brings mindfulness. The gaze can be fixed on the yogic symbol Om, or a candle flame, or picture of a deity. Begin with a few minutes, gradually increasing time until your eyes start to water. Then, close your eyes. The mind’s image of the object of gaze should be focused on for a few minutes.
Body Scan Meditation
Body scan is an easy and quick way to relax the body. A healthy body is the basis for enthusiasm, increased efficiency, and ability to handle multiple tasks with equal perfection. The focus here is on reducing the stress and tension from the entire body by just taking attention through it.