A few years back I was invited to speak on a panel about mindfulness. Joining me was a Vedic practitioner, a well-established yoga teacher, and a shamanic meditation guide. Funny enough, I was the only person on the panel who actually practices mindfulness meditation daily.
“What does mindfulness mean to you?” was the first question. As the microphone went around, each individual very humbly explained their personal practice and how it’s not primarily mindfulness. Then they offered approximately the same traditional definition of that word. When it was my turn, I did feel compelled to point out that mindfulness and meditation, while intimately related, are not the same and both do, in fact, have proper definitions.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a revolutionary practice for transforming your life by becoming familiar with, and ultimately, befriending all aspects of who you are. Running my large programs (the Buddhist Immersion and Mindful Teacher Training), I encounter people who have been led to believe that meditation is just one thing, and that one thing is whatever technique they were exposed to first. There are thousands of meditation techniques out there, but I will speak to some of those that are time-tested, having been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
One form of meditation is bringing your mind fully to the breath, whether that is relaxing with your existent breath as is taught in Buddhist traditions, or more controlled breathing, like what is sometimes found in Kundalini lineages. In the Buddhist tradition, relaxing with the breath as is is known as mindfulness meditation because we are relaxing with and tuning into what is currently going on: the body breathing. The more you train in mindfulness meditation, the more you are able to be present in the rest of your life.
This is different than, say, Vedic or Transcendental Meditation as mentioned above, where you work with a mantra. These mantras are personal to you, having been offered by a trained teacher. The transcending aspect is actually repeating the mantra until it falls away — meaning you transcend it and relax into how things are. As a Buddhist, I admit I am not the best person to address this practice and highly encourage you to seek out certified Vedic or TM teachers who can do this profound practice justice, but as you can likely already tell this is different than mindfulness of the…