We can barely scroll through a social feed these days without seeing someone perched on a yoga matt or a Buddhist-like meme with someone meditating in a pretty spot, “be like water, flow around your problems.”
Often, these bitesize signals, intended to boast spiritual enlightenment, leave us disconnected. We question their authenticity, and wonder how anyone can be so reductive about the human condition? How can the cures for stress, anxiety, depression be distilled into woke captions? The answer is they can’t.
But – this doesn’t mean one-liner posts about meditation and mindfulness are valueless. On the contrary, it shows people are thinking about mental health. In a world that has become increasingly cold to such things, this is critical.
Disingenuous or not, we could all do with being in the moment and clearing our minds. However, it’s good to know what’s what. What’s meditation? What’s mindfulness? Vague social posts claiming enlightenment are, usually, unenlightening.
What is meditation?
In modern society we lead hectic, high-pressure lives— chasing the consumerist dream. We have a crisis of self-worth, identity, and our minds are cluttered. We’re burning out. Existential rest is required.
Obviously, society has a lot to answer for, but we do have the option of taking our mental health in hand. This is where meditation comes in. When we’re subjected to chronic stress and info-overload we can mentally crack, losing control, and succumbing to destructive thought spirals.
Meditation is taking control of our inner life and gaining an awareness of our thoughts. An ancient practice with roots in Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. Meditation can be aided by sound, but frequently involves sitting in silence, eyes closed. The idea is to become an observer of our thoughts. Instead of being overwhelmed by negative or unimportant ones, we let them float by, as clouds across our mind’s sky. Meditation is also a way to channel energy into specific altruistic states, where we become more compassionate, loving, or tolerant.
Becoming adept at meditation requires practice and dedication. Sitting alone with your thoughts might sound easy, until you try it. We’re so used to constant stimulation it can feel alien to be alone with our cranial chatter. There are many types of meditation, each looking to improve our internal worlds and help boost our mental health.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is one of the facets that makes up meditation, and can be practiced without the need for directed time. It is an agile mental skill which can enhance our ability to experience being alive, in a positive and freeing way. One of the features of poor mental health is being trapped in our heads. Not in the same way that meditation requires us to be aware of our thoughts. In a sense that we are locked into patterns of worry about the past and future, and as such, numb to the goings on around us and our senses.
The essence of mindfulness is about reconnecting or grounding us in our bodies. Being mindful is the awareness of our externality and planting ourselves in the present moment with our senses—no past, no future—only now. It is a primal state, independent of ego. We cannot feel negative emotions if we are immersed in being, not thinking.
We’re all prone to ruminating on toxic thoughts. Mindfulness is a wonderful tool to help us cope with our minds and reconnect with reality. The reality is, only the present exists. The past is gone, and the future has yet to happen. The past cannot be altered and, for the most part, the future cannot be bent to our will—so worrying about them achieves nothing. The solution is to enjoy the present as much as possible and relish being alive.
The Glass House is offering a range of meditation and mindfulness classes now in our outdoor Wellness dome.