People talk about practicing mindfulness and meditation and some also mention mindfulness meditation, so what’s the difference!

The state of being mindful is being present in the here and now, without worry. It is a natural state that is often over ridden by busy busy thinking minds and so learning to be mindful is about peeling back the layers and shell of thinking and beliefs that have calcified over our inner ability to be not do – we are after all human beings not human doings.

The aim of both meditation and mindfulness practices ius to enable us to cultivate the state of being mindful in everyday life.

The way in which we achieve this state is by practicing mindfulness exercises, which can either be done as formal meditations or as carrying out everyday tasks in a mindful way.

Formal mindfulness
Formal mindfulness practise normally takes the form of a meditation. It can be conducted in any position, sitting up, lying down or even standing and can involve the eyes being open or closed. Formal mindfulness exercises can be guided or can involve simply sitting in a focused state of awareness. Often the breath is used as an anchor in formal mindfulness practise and the body and mind are encouraged to be still. Meditation does not need to be conducted in a quiet space however if it takes place in a busy or loud environment it can be more challenging.

An example of a formal meditation is the body scan. This is ideally carried out lying down to enable all the bones to be supported, thus allowing the muscles to relax.  Focused attention is taken to each part of the body and the whole meditation can last up to 45 minutes. This meditation is derived from Yoga Nidra and can be good training for cultivating patience, acceptance and non-striving, three of Jon Kabat Zinn’s 7 attitudes of mindfulness.

Informal mindfulness
Informal mindfulness is applying the theory of mindfulness to the practise of normal everyday life. The key skill here is to keep awareness in the here and now. This is the ultimate aim and if we uncovered all our habits and errors in thinking, this would be the natural state.

An example could be carrying out an everyday task mindfully. It could be folding the laundry or brushing your teeth.  The key is to keep the attention in the present, in a non-judgemental way, so that you are fully aware of the task and experience it through the five senses.