1. Mindfulness is the Same Thing As Meditation
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention on purpose in the present moment with kind awareness.
The main difference between meditation and mindfulness is:
Mindfulness can be practiced formally, during a carved out time and space, or informally during your daily life routines such as brushing your teeth, drinking your morning coffee, driving to work, or cooking dinner
Meditation can only be practiced formally where you set aside a dedicated time and space to practice the skill of awareness.
You wouldn't want to practice meditation while driving your car but you could practice mindfulness.
and it can be practiced formally (with a dedicated carved out time and space to practice) or informally during your daily life routines.
2. You need to quiet your mind...
Trying to quiet your mind is like herding cats. When you tell someone not to think of a pink elephant, the first thing they do is think of a pink elephant. The whole idea of mindfulness is to become aware of your thoughts, not try to stop them. When we notice our thoughts, we are able to gentle redirect our attention back to the breath.
2. Mindfulness is a spiritual or religious practice
Mindfulness meditation is a secular and scientific process. that increases one's ability to pay attention to the present moment with kind regard. We are essentially training our mind to focus more efficiently.
3. Mindfulness is Always Relaxing...
Mindfulness meditation can be relaxing but it can also not be relaxing. It's important to remember that every day and each moment is unique. Every time we show up to our practice our minds, energy levels, and attitudes are different. Try to let go of your expectations and what you think mindfulness meditation should look like.
4. You need to formally practice first thing in the morning, sitting on the floor with you legs crossed like a pretzel and a straight back
I like to encourage my students to not be so rigid when approaching mindfulness practice. It's all about finding what works best for you. I personally meditate lying down. After a long day of teaching high school, lying down feels more like self care to me and I actually look forward to this part of my day. Some people would find that they would fall asleep practicing the way that I do and would rather practice earlier in the day sitting up. We are all unique. The main thing is to find a comfortable pain-free position. This could look like lying on the couch with a pillow under your knees to support your lower back, swinging in a hammock outside, or sitting on a park bench.
5. You need to practice meditation for years before you see results
Researchers have found that the brain changes in as little as eight weeks of mindfulness meditation. They found that the grey matter in the brain, responsible for emotional regulation and problem solving increased in density. They also found that the part of the brain responsible for the stress response, the amygdala, decreased in size.
The key is consistency. Frequency of practice is more important that duration. For example, doing a 20 minute mindfulness practice daily will be more beneficial than doing a 45 minute practice twice a week.
Alyssa Mancini is a certified secondary biology and chemistry teacher. She started teaching high school biology and chemistry in 2007 and spent the first 12 years of her career teaching in NYC public schools. She is a registered yoga instructor, mindfulness facilitator, and herbalist. Her mission is to inspire and support teachers interested in bringing mindfulness and yoga to the classroom.