Meditation is the practice of mindful awareness of the present moment. To meditate is to notice our experience of the present moment as it happens, without reacting to it, without judging it, without trying to make sense of it or to change it. Using the breath as a guide, noticing the inhale and the exhale, we quiet the mind of its streams of thoughts, or we simply notice the ways that the mind is not quiet, and let that be.
Mindfulness meditation sees stress and suffering as connected to the struggle with our thoughts. By paying attention to somatic sensation (the inhale and the exhale) we stop struggling with our thoughts, if only in those moments, allowing our nervous systems to calm.
In this way, meditation can offer us micro-moments of ease. Practiced over time, we begin to experience a physiological shift in which our capacity for attention and discernment is deepened, our stressful thoughts are loosened, and our innate wisdom and feelings of compassion (for ourselves, for others, and for the world) have space to grow.
Mind and Body
Mindfulness is part of a holistic health perspective that understands the powerful connection between the body’s and mind’s well-being. Mental states like panic attacks, chronic anxiety and depression can show themselves as harmful bodily symptoms. Body ailments like gastrointestinal difficulties, sexual dysfunctions, and chronic pain are often related to unresolved or unconscious emotional issues. Trauma, in particular, becomes woven into the body-mind experience in complex ways that may be intolerable to live with, but hard to diagnose or discern.
Mindfulness harmonizes with other modes of healthcare treatment in order to reach a higher level of wellness than any mode of treatment might provide on its own. Insight-oriented depth psychotherapy—centrally concerned with understanding the relationship between the tangible and intangible aspects of the self—fits easily with mindfulness meditation, a partner in search of growth and healing.