What Exactly Is Meditation?

Meditation is a state of just being. 

It is being aware but not putting thoughts to that awareness.

But as you will know if you have ever tried, this is far easier said than done!

Meditation is a skill which requires practice. It is something we all did as babies but which we lost the ability to do as we learnt language. Once we learnt to talk we also started to think.

The use of language lets us easily imagine scenes and events which are not present in the here and now. All too often we visit these. Most of us spend most of our time with our bodies in one place and our heads somewhere else entirely.

Mindfulness meditation teaches being “in the moment”. It encourages the re-development of the ability to keep our minds and our bodies together, as they were designed to be. This activity alone tends to make us feel calmer.

Most of the places our minds go are not good places. All too often they involve worry, regret, guilt, and all manner of other negative emotions. Negative emotions which are only with us in the present moment because we are bringing them along in our heads.

Generally mindful meditation teaches us the skill of keeping our minds and bodies together in the same place, just as we did before we learnt to talk.

How does meditation reduce anxiety?

Anyone who experiences anxiety will soon realise if they monitor their thoughts, that it is what they are thinking that is causing them to feel anxious, not what is actually going on in that moment.

Therefore, if we develop an awareness of when we are thinking about things that make us feel anxious and we move our thoughts away, the anxiety will reduce.

This, of course, is easier said than done which is why meditation is something that requires practice so that we can more easily over-ride the thinking habits which we have all unwittingly developed.

But it is a case of being aware of the unwelcome thoughts and then of moving our minds elsewhere. It is not about trying to block out the unwelcome thoughts or to distract ourselves.

What is the best way to learn to meditate?

One of the easiest ways to start to re-learn the ability of not thinking, not assessing, not passing judgement on everything, is to allow yourself to just be aware of sensations. Allow yourself to notice what you experience by way of touch, the sensations of your breath or the sounds that drift through your consciousness... 

There are three simple and very brief meditation exercises on the downloads page which you can try to begin with. The tracks are self-explanatory. There is one describing how to meditate on breath, one on touch and the third on sound.

If you require something longer or slightly different, there are many meditations of all kinds available on the Guided Meditation Site (more about this site in the Products section) There are also more detailed instructions about how to meditate. 

singing bowl

My own particular favourite is that of a meditation bell called Henry being struck at intervals. The sound made by the bell resonates again and again. This mesmerises me and I find that I am unable to think anything but readily become entrained to the mellifluous sounds...

(You can find the sound of Henry, the meditation bell, by going to the Guided Meditation site and clicking on Music Downloads/Mindfulness Bells. The track is "Mindfulness Bells Volume 1". There is the opportunity to try it by playing an excerpt before committing to buy.)

I also love the sound of singing bowls. The best ones are created from different metals and are shaped to produce very special sounds.

You can find examples of ‘singing bowls’ for sale on Amazon as well as elsewhere.

*Sue Breton is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to anxaid.com

What is the difference between Mindfulness and Meditation?

  • Meditation means allowing yourself to simply be.
  • It's about not trying to think about anything that comes into your awareness.
  • It's about keeping your mind and body together in the here and now

You don't have to have silence in order to meditate - you just have to allow sound to wash over you and not focus onto it.

You don't have to be alone to meditate - you can allow yourself to just be when amongst others if appropriate.

Obviously there are times and occasions when it would be unwise and even dangerous to meditate such as when driving, when you are being paid to do a job, when you have to take care of your safety or that of others in any way.

In our busy everyday lives many people say they don't have time to meditate! But meditation can be done in very small time spaces and this is where it becomes useful in the treatment of anxiety.

Mindfulness Meditation for Therapy

When Meditation is taught as a therapeutic application it is often initially done in short bursts. In this context it is often referred to as being mindfully in the moment. The term 'meditation' is usually reserved for longer, more intense sessions. 

Being mindful means being aware of where you are here and now. Being aware of the input of whichever of your senses (touch, hearing, taste, sight, movement) you are choosing to be mindful of. In other words, when using mindful meditation to reduce anxiety the sufferer consciously chooses what to focus on - usually anything other than their thoughts or anxious feelings.

navigation symbol for page about Mindfulness

Mindfulness also teaches us to become aware of our judgmental and resisting tendencies in general and address these as these are habits which create negative arousal, hence stress.

There are step by step instructions for learning to be mindfully in the moment for just 30 seconds at a time on the Mindfulness page under Self Help Techniques.

To gain more understanding of ways in which a Mindfulness approach is relevant to everyday life, look at the articles in the "In the Moment Blog" section and even add your own comments.

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