The article reproduced below was originally written by Aida Askry, Ph.D. on May 10, 2018.
Both terms meditation and mindfulness are becoming popular in holistic wellness and mental health fields these days. Hospitals, corporations, athletic sports clubs, and even schools are taking an extra step to include meditation or mindfulness as a part of their mandatory training or service programs. Whether they employ doctors, engineers, scientists, social workers, or athletes, major corporations now recognize the importance of mental health for the growth and productivity of their employees and their organization.
In hospitals, Medical Meditation supports the patients by releasing stress and tension, reducing sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system response and activating the parasympathetic (rest and repair) nervous system. It is not only the patients, but also the doctors, nurses, and medical staff that benefit from these daily concentration techniques and stress management practices.
Over the past decade schools around the world, from elementary schools to universities, are improving the quality of their education systems by using mindfulness methods for students, parents, teachers, counselors, and other staff members. Even athletic sports clubs and major performance schools are educating their students about the methods and psychology of concentration, seeking to holistically improve the performance of their athletes and performers.
It seems that everyone has at least heard about meditation and mindfulness methods and most folks have even explored and experienced some of the benefits of these techniques personally. However, not many people can differentiate the practice of meditation from mindfulness. This confusion can create uncertainty and discourage the practitioner, as each method has different purposes and can lead to different results. Although a comprehensive explanation of the differences between these two methods deserves a much longer article (or even a whole book), the following brief description can help guide you toward selecting a practice:
Meditation is an ancient mental practice to expand the mind through withdrawal of the senses (or often a guided visualization technique) to attain a higher state of awareness (i.e., consciousness) with the purpose of self-understanding, healing, growth, transformation, and evolution (i.e., enlightenment). Well-recognized meditation modalities include Mantra, Zazen, Tantra, Kundalini, Pranayama, Taoist, and many more.
Meditation is an appropriate practice for:
Mindfulness is a modern term and practice coming from an ancient concentration technique called Vipassana (insight meditation). Mindfulness practice requires mental concentration with focus on the present moment: connecting with current flow of the senses, thoughts, and feelings. The purpose of mindfulness is self-improvement through self-observation. These improvements could be physical, mental, or emotional. Most of the organizations mentioned earlier use guided mindfulness such as breathing techniques, mindful movement, or mindful eating to improve both mental and physical health of the participant.
Mindfulness is an appropriate practice for:
A well-supported meditation or mindfulness practice is a valuable, rewarding, and joyous experience that only improves with time and repetition. Of course, we all know that cultivating inner understanding does not come without challenge. For that reason, I recommend that you only seek professional guidance from experts who can confidently guide you in this journey, having practiced, studied, and experienced it themselves.
To support my practitioners, I am offering 1-to-1 Meditation and Mindfulness Consultations. I would love to help you cultivate a practice based on your unique goals and lifestyle.
As always, it is my honor and pleasure to be a part of your journey within. I'm looking forward to spending more time with you through the Book of Present.
Aida Askry, PhD