Stillness of the Mind: Meditation and / or Mindfulness?

What’s the difference between Meditation and Mindfulness? Does it matter?

In the current climate of turbulence and anxiety it’s easy to feel overstressed and tired, and as if we are no longer in control of our own lives. In keeping with the contemplative mood of searching for tranquility amidst that turmoil, let’s take a look at the concept of Peace of Mind and why it’s an active choice, no matter how busy or stressed we are.

For some finding peace of mind is closely linked with a spiritual quest, others find it through physical exercises that bring relaxation and a calm inner state. Despite the modern miracles that technology has provided, we are living through times of great change–personally, nationally and even globally. Social commentators are calling this ‘the age of anxiety’ and studies show that 50% of people consider their work to be stressful with one in ten workers experiencing depression and unhappiness as a result. All this is having a profound impact on our sense of wellbeing and inner calm.

We find it very difficult to be happy because there are so many pressures upon us and we are being tugged and pulled every which way. People making demands on us. The materialistic world, the advertisers telling us to buy things that will make us be happy. The pressure that is placed upon people to fill up their time with many meaningless activities, activities that don’t really contribute to us finding ultimate happiness in important ways.

So, how can we restore a sense of tranquility to our lives? What is peace of mind and how do we find it with all the pressures and stress of everyday life?

One of the great stresses in life for most people is the feeling that all’s not well, so it’s a feeling rather than a reality. And one of the great perpetrators of this is the media. The media keep telling people all the wrong things that are going on, all the wars that are happening, all the famines, all the disasters.

I have seen a lot of unrest come from people who are trying to find meaning, who are trying to add meaning to things, in the belief that by adding meaning you will find peace… Now my personal point of view, and I accept that all people are different therefore other people have different points of view – my personal point of view is you find peace and then the meaning comes from that. So one leads to the other.

Although many of us may struggle to find a balance between work, family and other demands, by and large we enjoy leading busy active lives. So is having peace of mind necessarily a desirable thing? Is it important, and if so, why?

Everyone I know who I ever met, wants to be content or happy. If I ask people, in the work I do with individuals and businesses, I ask: what’s life all about? And constantly people talk about happiness, contentment, peace of mind, different words but same thing. And it seems to be a central part of human nature that people want to be able to walk through life and experience it from a place of joy, love – not fear, contentment – not worry, not have your mind constantly working up danger scenarios and fears and problems, and that seems to be a natural human desire, so it seems to be part of who we are.

Health professionals recommend not only using meditation for inner peace and to decrease stress, but to also become more receptive and empathetic in relationships with others.

I feel that meditation when it’s practiced rightly enables us to open up more fully to the whole of our life, to find that we don’t need to operate so much out of reactiveness or resistance, denial or distraction. We can start to allow our self into life and also allow life in. Even though our life may include pain or illness or fear or frustration, we can start to allow ourselves to experience that and have a look at that and see where we are also adding on to our fear and frustration and anxiety. And this is again where we can start to develop some inner insight that leads to a deeper clarity and peace of mind.

I have always felt that part of our responsibility in being alive as a human being is to care for what we have. For me I have always taken up the practice of exercise and found that it can even become a meditation within itself. And often the rhythmical exercise that one may be doing can help to quieten the mind from the chatter and obsessing thoughts that often go on punctuated with the personal commercials about ourselves, and a holistic approach to being alive as a human being.

My interest in peace of mind is not really about escaping from our everyday lives, but it is about escaping from the patterns of mind, the patterns of thinking, the patterns of response that agitate us or make us feel small in relation to our own lives, or make us feel that you know, life is virtually impossible. That’s worth escaping from.

When we see peace of mind as an active and engaged state called mindfulness, that’s possible to achieve even in the midst of everyday ordinary tasks.

Mindfulness invites us to be present. So that if we are eating a meal we are actually eating a meal. We could of course be talking and laughing and reading and so on – doing all those things at the same time – but are we present to what we are doing. And that’s the trick of mindfulness, and bringing ourselves into the present moment, paying attention to what we are doing, is itself extremely calming.

Peace of mind for me has to do with harmony. I think harmony between all the aspects of my life. The outside world, the inside world, the way I operate as a human being. And I suppose a better word I like is a sense of wellbeing, and that’s physical, emotional, and it’s also spiritual.

FIVE Mindfulness Practices according to Thich Nhat Hanh:

So, how will finding peace of mind make our lives measurably different? What happens if we never experience it?

It’s very important to achieve peace of mind because we all want happiness, we all want satisfaction, and we all want to see meaning in our life. To feel on our deathbeds that our life has been significant and has been worth living, and so it’s an important goal and isn’t touchy or feely, it isn’t something that can be easily dismissed and is something that we all should strive for. It really is the ultimate goal in life.

Our world outside ourselves is absolutely a reflection of the agitation that exists in most people’s minds. And until we shift the agitation within our minds we are going to go on having the same world outside ourselves.

So, I actually regard this as a social need and to be a subject of great social importance. It’s not just about me feeling good or me sitting on a cushion and chanting – ‘OM’ or whatever I do. It’s very much about what it allows in my interactions with other people, how I perceive them, how I receive them and how they receive me.