Mindfulness and meditation

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Nowadays mindfulness and meditation are everywhere. They became mainstream, and both terms are often used together in the same context and referred to has having the same benefits.
However, are they the same?

 


 

The confusion is understandable: they both give us skills to live a happier and more balanced life, and they both give us the tools to enhance our ability to focus on the present moment.
Spoiler alert: we cannot be happy if we keep on regretting the past and worrying about the future.

We should not think of mindfulness and meditation as being the same, even if they have similarities, they are different practices.
Let’s take a better look:

Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the simple act of paying attention and noticing and being present in what we are doing.
Mindfulness is all about awareness. The development of awareness in the present moment, in the here and now.
You practice being mindful by being fully engaged with the present moment, by being fully present: body and mind.
You can practice mindfulness anywhere, with anyone, at any time. You just have to show up and be fully engaged in the here and now.
When you are being actively mindful, you are noticing and paying attention to your thoughts, emotions, feelings, body sensations, movements and behaviours. That’s how you engage with the present moment.
This seems like a simple and easy practice but it is not. Our attention is being constantly hacked, and we usually get distracted. Most people don’t even notice the fact that their minds wander from the actual activity they are participating in, to other thoughts and sensations. By practicing mindfulness, you are actively involved in the activity with all your senses instead of allowing your mind to wander.
This mind-wandering leads us to live on auto-pilot mode: body and mind are completely disconnected. And leads to unhappiness.

According to a Harvard study, people spend 46,9% of their time while walking, eating, shopping or watching tv, thinking about something other than what they are doing. “A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” Killingsworth and Gilbert write. “The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”

This kind of mindless behaviour is common, usually our mind is lost in the virtual reality of the past (regretting) or future (worrying) and our brain is running on auto-pilot with our head full of “I should have” or “what ifs”.
This is where living a mindful life can help.

Meditation
Meditation is an intentional practice and usually refers to formal, seated practice.
There are many types of meditation, according to their different focus.
Some examples of seated meditation: Vipassana meditation, Breath awareness meditation, Loving kindness meditation (Metta), Zen meditation, Mantra based meditation, Visualisation meditation, Mindfulness meditation (you are right, the focus here is to train the mind to remain aware and present in the moment).

Regardless the type, meditation offers time to turn inward to increase concentration, calm and balance. It offers relaxation and heightened awareness.
For someone who meditates, the practice offers a chance to improve physical wellbeing, as well as emotional health. However, there is no “right way” to meditate, meaning people can explore the different types until they find one that works for them.
Seated meditation usually begins with deep breathing in a comfortable position, bringing all your awareness to your breath—inhales and exhales—consciously guiding the mind toward an anchor, or a single point of focus. In meditation, you typically spend a focused piece of time—anywhere from a minute to an hour or more—in which you are tuned inward.
In case you are wondering you should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day… Unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for one hour 🙂 Old zen saying.

As you can see, mindfulness and meditation are not the same: mindfulness is the ability of being present in your daily life, meditation is how you train to achieve that presence.
Mindfulness is awareness in life, meditation is training the mind to develop the awareness (it’s the gym).
They are both skills that you can develop. You develop them through practice. Becoming aware requires practice, disconnecting the auto-pilot requires practice, being fully present with the ones we love requires practice, engaging fully in the here and now requires practice, sitting and developing a solid meditation practice requires.. practice.

Mindfulness practice, being fully engaged with the present moment, checking in on yourself and noticing and paying attention to your thoughts, emotions, feelings, body sensations, movements and behaviours, and meditation practice (in this case mindfulness meditation) training your mind to remain in the present moment.
Happiness is also a skill. Mindfulness and meditation make you better at it.

One last note to say what mindfulness and meditation are not:
Mindfulness is not forcing yourself to give attention to just one thing.
Meditation is not stopping your thoughts or not thinking about anything.

I hope this was helpful to you.
Take good care of you,
Manuela

 


 

P.S. For those interested, here are 3 “official” definitions of Mindfulness:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”~Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Mindfulness in its most general sense is about waking up from a life on automatic and being sensitive to novelty in our everyday experiences. With mindful awareness the flow of energy and information that is our mind enters our conscious attention and we can both appreciate its contents and come to regulate its flow in a new way.
Mindful awareness, as we will see, involves more than just simply being aware: It involves being aware of aspects of the mind itself. Instead of being on automatic and mindless, mindfulness helps us awaken, and by reflecting on the mind we are enabled to make choices and thus change becomes possible.” ~Daniel J. Siegel

“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.” ~Sylvia Boorstein

How To Find Time To Meditate

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There is no right time to meditate, it’s going to be different for everyone.
The right time for you, is the time when you are going to be able to practice it in a regular way. If you can figure out the best time for you and stick with it, this will help you to create a routine.
There are, however, a few steps that can help you find your best time to meditate and turn it into something you enjoy doing and into a habit.

 


 

1. Experiment. Try different schedules and times. Notice how you feel when you meditate at different times and what works with your daily routine. Sometimes what we think works for us, just brings tension, only by experimenting will you know. This will help you to find the time that works for you and that doesn’t interfere with your day (or you will create resistance).
Start by looking for small ways to incorporate into your daily life. If you don’t have time during the day start waking up 15 minutes early and sit with a cup of tea and practice deep breathing before the chaos of the day begins.
If you have a lunch time break take a walk around the block or go to a park and listen to a guided breathing meditation.
Or maybe after the kids are in bed: put your phone away and take 15 minutes in silence for you.
If you notice that a certain schedule is not working, try another one until it feels right. Don’t force it.
After you have established those 15 minutes for you, be curious and explore.

2. Schedule your meditation practice and guard that time. You can start by bringing self-awareness to the excuses your mind is telling you. “I don’t have the time” is an excuse. Not having the time means not having your priorities clear.
When you understand the importance of making time for you, you will find the time.
Write it in your agenda, don’t leave it for last. Schedule it. Find small holes in your schedule. The key to finding a little bit of personal time is to look for the small pockets of air. Remember, we’re talking about only a few minutes at a time.
It can be hard for all of us to find the extra time. But it is extremely important to plan this time. After you make it a priority, be consistent, turn it into a habit.
You will start seeing immediate results and that will be all the motivation you need to continue.

3. Eliminate distractions. One of the reasons why many people prefer to do their meditation practice in the morning is because they have fewer distractions. However, if the morning doesn’t work for you just make sure your phone is in silent mode and that you are not going to be disturbed. We are so used to being busy that it’s hard to escape from being immersed in the activities of the day, and in the beginning it feels like you have to tear yourself away from your work or from family.

4. Connect it to another regular habit. The quickest way to develop your practice routine, and create new habit pathways, is to attach it to something you already do consistently.

5. Commitment. Taking life to the next level begins by accepting total and full responsibility for our life (and refusing to blame anyone else). Be honest with yourself.
Once you identify the best times to meditate, schedule them and commit to it. When the appointed time comes, stop everything and start your meditation practice. Be aware that something will happen that will tempt you to deviate from the plan: you will get a phone call, a deadline will be changed, your e-mail and social channels will ping repeatedly. Life will continue to happen. Stick to your commitment. Understanding its importance, and realising it’s not a waste of your time, but instead it can make you gain, not only time, but energy and joy, is crucial for your commitment to the practice.

6. Break only for emergencies. At first your mind is going to fight it. Ask yourself: “can this email wait a few minutes?” “do I really have to do this now?”, that way you can start to make the distinction between a true emergency or just routine. We usually live on autopilot, it’s difficult to make new habits. To overcome this, you can tell yourself that you can get right back to whatever issue arises as soon as the meditation is over. You may even have a better handle on the issue after meditation than you did before.

7. Do it anyway. Even if you are not “feeling” it. If you are not in the mood. If you are distracted, restless and having trouble letting go. Meditate anyway. It is better to meditate while distracted than not to meditate at all.

8. Be kind. Don’t be hard on yourself. If you miss a practice one day, just show up on the day after. If your routine changes, be open to meditate on another schedule. Guilt tripping is not productive.

“So what is a good meditator? The one who meditates”~Allan Lokos

Take good care of you,
Manuela

Why you need a mindfulness teacher

One of the reasons people don’t give meditation a fair chance is because they feel they fail at it. Mindfulness and meditation are everywhere, they became mainstream, the way we live our lives nowadays, filled with tension, stress and stimulation, created an urgent demand for it.

Sometimes it’s presented like a quick fix, a magic panacea, that heals everything from sleep deprivation to improving your sex life. And if not well taught it can be superficial and even counterproductive, it can give you the wrong idea that if you take a few deep breaths everything is going to be ok. Well, it’s not. Mindfulness is about being present and it can make a real difference in your life. As simple as it might sound, to start and develop a consistent meditation practice is not that easy and it requires practice and commitment. Also, living in a mindful way it´s not that simple and requires intention.

The good thing is that more and more of us seek mindfulness instruction and guidance.

 


 

For me, one of the key elements in helping me establish a meditation practice was having a good teacher. It’s where my greatest understanding and knowledge comes from. Even after years of practicing meditation and several instructor certifications, I still attend various meditation trainings and courses, that I know will not only benefit my own practice time and expand my mind but also for the increased benefit of my students.
Meditation must be taught. If you never learned it, how will you do it? There is a lot of misconception about it, and that is why it’s so important to find a good teacher that you feel comfortable with. Questions and doubts are normal and a big part of the process. Also, it’s good to have someone to support you, to share experiences and to explore any challenges that come up.

Here are some reasons why it is important to have someone’s support when you are starting a mindfulness practice:
• A teacher serves as a guide and walks beside you; it prevents you from getting lost along the journey of learning a new skill.
• A teacher gives you the tools to develop a consistent meditation practice.
• Inspires you to meditate regularly.
• It helps you to create space in your life and in yourself to start and develop a solid meditation practice.
• It helps you to create a realistic practice routine for you.
• Teaches you a consistent meditation technique.
• Answers all your questions and doubts: Where do I start, how do I build it, and how do I create that desire to show up day after day? And these are just the first ones.
• Encourages you to go deeper in your practice and to not ignore discomfort.
• Shows you the patience and tenacity to hang in there when things get tough.
• Teaches you not to take yourself so seriously 😊
• Opens the door to deeper inquiry and insight.
• Encourages you to investigate unconscious bias and to do deep listening.
• Engages students in discussions that investigate, with curiosity, the causes of pain: personal pain, shared pain, organizational pain.
• Introduces kindness and compassion practices that emphasise our intimate connection with others, as opposed to focusing purely on ourselves.

In fact, initially, you may want to start a mindfulness practice for some stress relief and a greater calm, but over time you will discover some of the longer lasting health benefits, or perhaps the deeper levels of awareness that are available within, and the possibility for real personal expansion. In the hands of a good mindfulness teacher, mindfulness opens the door to a healthier relationship with your thoughts and your emotions, no matter what comes your way.

“What we’re really doing is teaching people to be more aware. If you are more aware in your everyday life, you can enhance your capacity for joy.”~Dr. Patricia Rockman

In an early stage a mindfulness practice is about developing focus and concentration by working with the natural breath. By working with it we learn to calm the mind and lower reactivity. This will create conditions for us to investigate and to do deep listening. We look at causes, context, conditions. We develop a well rounded picture that can lead to change.
Mindfulness has also been used for improving our ability to have difficult conversations, and to practice empathy and active listening of others. It’s used in the corporate world to enhance leadership and emotional intelligence skills.
In short, a mindfulness teacher helps you to achieve personal growth and deeper self-awareness. No matter what, you will struggle with focusing and staying present. We all do. Know that and be kind to yourself!

“Mindfulness is a we thing, not a me thing.”~Unknown

 


 

You can work with me through my online courses with recorded sessions, in one-to-one personalised sessions of meditation mentorship. I am here to help you grow a daily meditation routine you feel confident in. I provide simple, accessible and science-backed meditation techniques to support you in living a mindful life and to make meditation and mindfulness part of your everyday life.

If you are not sure what path to take, I offer a free 20-minute consultation, contact me and book it.

Whatever your choice in learning meditation, know that you will get personalised support. You will be able to be in contact with me on a regular basis to ask questions and to gain support and confidence. I include downloadable audios and handout materials for you to use at home. If you have questions, contact me here.

Breathe to focus the mind

Hi friends! Today I’ll guide you through a breathing meditation practice to help you to focus your mind. It can be used to deal with stressful moments, or you can do it before sleep because it calms your vague nerve. It will reduce your heart rate and re-open the communication between your brain and your body.

You can do this meditation sitting down, lying down or walking.
Remember, comfort is key. You can also choose to close your eyes or to keep them open. There is no right or wrong here, what makes sense to you is the best way.

Start by taking a full breath in counting to 2 and a long breath out counting to 4. We are going to double the exhale time.
Inhale through your nose. Exhale through your mouth.
Breathe in to the belly. Breathe out relaxing your muscles.

Apply these instructions to bring your full attention to your breath.

Take good care of you!
Manuela

P.S. – I hope this meditation was helpful for you. If you want to know more about mindfulness and meditation, visit my website and discover how I can help you to develop a strong and consistent meditation practice, in order for you to live a more mindful life and achieve greater well-being and happiness.

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One Complete Cycle of Breath

Hi friends! Today I’ll guide you through one complete cycle of breath practice. You can do this meditation sitting down, lying down, standing or walking. Remember, comfort is key. You can also choose to close your eyes or to keep them open. There is no right or wrong here, what makes sense to you is the best way.

Apply these instructions to bring your full attention to one complete cycle of breath.

Take good care of you!
Manuela

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Relax into your body

Hi friends! Today I’ll guide you through a short body scan. This is an easy way for you to check in with your body, to connect with your senses, and to bring a mind-body connection. By noticing our body we naturally calm our mind.

You can do this meditation sitting down, standing or lying down. However, I would advise you to stop moving. Remember, comfort is key. You can close your eyes, or keep them open. And you can bring a smile to your face 🙂

Notice if there is any particular place in your body asking for attention. Any muscular tension, or pain? Or maybe, there is a lack of sensations and just the awareness of your body sitting or standing.

Take good care of you!
Manuela

P.S. – I hope this meditation was helpful for you. If you want to know more about mindfulness and meditation, visit my website and discover how I can help you to develop a strong and consistent meditation practice, in order for you to live a more mindful life and achieve greater well-being and happiness.

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My Âncora: Presentation

Hi friends! This is a short presentation of me and my aspiration for the podcast.

Âncora is a Portuguese word and it means anchor. Meditation has been an anchor in my life. My goal is for this to be a safe place you can always access to calm your mind and to anchor you to the present moment. Here you have an opportunity to pause. Disconnect for 5 minutes, or less, and listen to guided meditations that will allow you to calm the mind, focus, relax and to connect body and mind.

Put on your earphones and welcome to My Âncora!

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