Every single day we are bombarded via Facebook with Buzzfeed articles about how to use Acro-Yoga to strengthen relationships, find inner peace from a sound bath, 16 ways to keep anxiety from ruining your life or 7 ways to make your life better this week. If we spent as much time breathing as we did reading these articles, we'd not only be more relaxed but also more focused, creative and stimulating actual brain growth.
Definition of mindfulness:
(1) “Self regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, therby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment.”
(2) “A particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, an orientation that is characterized by curiosity, openness and acceptance.”
Meditation is not religious and no matter what your beliefs, every person can participate because we are all human. There is no dogma. There is no requirement. Detaching your thoughts from your idea of self is something that benefits every type of person whether you are young, old, poor, rich, Buddhist or Catholic.
Not only does meditation directly affect the parasympathetic nervous system, it turns our focus internally towards all of our senses. You'll often hear me ask you to focus on certain parts of your body, feel the weight of your eyelids or the chair holding your body comfortably because it allows you to be mindful of how you hold yourself and the slight movements we make even when sitting "still". This kind of mindfulness can also stimulate emotional intelligence and encourage consciousness of the energy for action that you have within your self.
We spend so much time going and doing, yet so little time being. Paraphrasing from Bodhin Kjolhede, like a snow globe that's been shaken, our lives are constantly noisy, chaotic and full of distractions-- when we take time to set the globe down and let things settle, we have the attention span to fully enjoy the experience of being.
Meditation, scientifically, allows the brain to grow by thickening the pre-frontal cortex meaning that it increases focus and expands creativity. Physically, it also decreases stress which naturally strengthens the immune system. The easiest way to start meditating is by beginning with sleep meditations like Deep Relaxation because it's natural for you to drift off when you aren't constantly doing things.
You don't have to be a zen master to start the practice of meditating. That's why it's called a practice.
The mind determines our experience and we don't spend enough time taking care of it. We spend all day overstimulated and in a perpetual state of reaction to the world around us. Our quality of living is determined by the state of the mind and not the circumstantial elements of our lives. When we stop living each day reacting to everything that goes on externally and realizing what we, deep under the surface, wish to act on-- that's when we've learned to stabilize our emotions and can start to take control of our lives.
Start taking care of your mind tonight by trying a sleep meditation.
In the simplest way, “niceness” stems from how people perceive us and “kindness” is born out of an authentic loving nature. How many of us feel that we are “nice” to people to speed up conversation, get out of a social situation, to be polite? I’ve often said, "My real friends know I love them because I am not nice to them 100% of the time." (probably less than 50% if we’re aiming to be honest). It doesn’t mean I am not kind to them though. I genuinely care about their well-being and happiness, and would drop anything I was doing if they needed me. However, we have this terrible tendency to smile and nod in uncomfortable situations and with people we are not already close to.
As with each of these posts and every meditation I record for my listeners, I am still learning, myself. Isn’t that the great thing about this life? We can learn something new every day. Everyone falls into bad habits and unhealthy routines and while I aim to help you sleep soundly at night, I also aim to wake you up consciously so that you can become aware of your thoughts and surroundings. So take notice next time you are smiling, nodding and being polite just so you can get away from a situation faster…
When we’re being nice, it is so that other people will think we are nice. It is a selfish karma (used in it’s original context to mean action). We act out of fear.
When we’re being kind, it is with a genuine feeling for the well-being of another. A selfless karma. We act out of love.
Kindness comes from compassion and empathy, whereas niceness comes from our roots of self preservation. You can find a great article that expresses the difference between these two at Meditation Mag (Nice Vs. Kind).
What I would like to highlight here is the empathy aspect of kindness. Whether you find yourself to be empathetic with others or not, it is interesting to know that empathy is not a trait of character – it is a skill. “Emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.” (Greater Good, the Science of a Meaningful Life).
RSA (the Royal Society of Arts) does a great video below describing the difference between empathy and sympathy which correlates wonderfully to this discussion of niceness and kindness.
To be able to see another person’s world is to put aside your ideas of politeness, self preservation and social discomfort. When we’re being empathetic, we don’t have to pretend to be listening and caring or fake a smile because we can truly connect with another human on more than a superficial level. Empathy is hard, though. It comes incredibly naturally to some people and awfully difficult to others. Like all things worth doing, empathy takes practice. There are many exercises you can do to practice empathy, and some habits you can incorporate into every day.
So I encourage you, the next time you are in a situation where it is easier to be nice than to be kind, to notice. To breathe in and out and open your heart to someone. Put your perspectives and judgments aside and try to be empathetic and understanding of another individual. Keep your mind open and you’ll learn something new every time.
There is a new Beachside Sleep Meditation available via Patreon if you would like to practice being empathetic to someone who is on a vacation during these chilly winter months. Guided meditations can be a great gateway into empathy because they illustrate how to put yourself in another place, take notice of your own mind and body and become more mindful overall.
My Name is Alan,
I'm a Master Hypnotist and I create powerful guided sleep meditation audio sessions that can help YOU get a better night's sleep!