In recent years there has developed a growing awareness of the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. As the words ‘mediation’ and ‘mindfulness’ have become more widely used - and more fashionable - they have become more difficult to understand. At first glance this seems wrong - surely more people talking about it and doing it leads to more understanding? In this field, however, auxiliary terms such as zen, raja yoga, karma, and nirvana have been fused with the precise technical meanings and original contexts of ‘meditation’ and ‘mindfulness’. In addition, the industry of alternative healing and yoga (in particular) is still relatively unregulated and people practicing in it tend to spread knowledges derived from Eastern philosophies in a vague and slap-dash fashion. 

So what is ‘meditation’?

Meditation in Western cultural thought, before significant intersection with Asian practices, involves a sustain consideration or thought on a subject. Mediation is ‘to measure’ through calm concentrated thought. It implies conceptual contemplation. In the classical languages of Buddhism (Sankrit and Pali), mediation is understood as samãdhi. The etymology of this term suggests gathering (sam-) the mind and placing it upon (-ã-) an object. In this broad sense it may seem similar to the the English usage, but there is a critical distinction at play.

In Western understanding to meditate assumes the exercise of ‘thinking about’ it, as per Descartes’ foundational axiom, cogito ergo sum - ‘I think therefore I am’. In Buddhist contexts it more often refers to settling one’s concentration upon tangible physical sensation or raw insights or sounds (i.e. mantras). The focal point of this interpretation, and the term most often used to describe it, is ekaggatã, which means one (ek-) pointed (-agga-) ness (). Here we have a practice of focusing the mind to a single point, merging concentration and placing it upon upon a particular thing. To some degree this is just what happens naturally we we momentarily focus on something, but what makes this meditation is the extension of this singularity of focus over multiple consequent mind moments. So concentrated meditation is, in Buddhist scholar, Andrew Olenszki’s astute interpretation, “like holding a video camera steady for a long time - one takes multiple pictures of the same scene.”

Concentrated mediation is like holding a video camera steady for a long time - one takes multiple pictures of the same scene.

Critical to this process is a careful engagement with the natural inclination of the mind to wander. No one should rightfully expect that mediation is dependent upon unbroken, perfectly sustained concentration. Rather, it is about, having noticed your mind has wandered, gently and forgivingly letting go of the train of thought the mind has been swept up with and returning the attention once again to the primary focal point (object or sensation - there is a wide variety of options.)

The Buddha observed that humans exist with irrevocable challenges - the ubiquity of change and the inevitability of ageing, sickness and death. The bulk of our difficulties, he proposed, came not from the existential challenges themselves, but rather from internal drives and predispositions to react to those challenges - the unreflective pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Concentration meditation is thus a tool to manage the workings of your mind in a measured and safe way, and over time, train it to be more focused and non-reactive.

 Image: author's own.

Image: author's own.

So what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the pursuit of insight into the workings of the mind and this requires a more agile and permeable tool. Mindfulness is called sati in Pali, and the word derives from the root (smrt) meaning memory or recollection and is associated with the “cultivation of a certain presence of mind that remembers to attend with persistent clarity to the objects of present experience.” A useful analogy to apply here is that mindfulness if like a floodlight rather than a spotlight (mediation). Mindfulness irradiates an encompassing and transmutable mind experience rather than isolating a particular object or sensation for intense concentration. This means that mindfulness is focused on the investigation of a process rather than the examination of an object. The wandering thought process that happens in the mind is a river of thought in an environment of experience, that to mindfulness meditation practitioners, is all worthy of observation, as it occurs, without interference. Critically, “there is less a sense of controlling what the awareness is resting upon and more care given to how awareness is manifesting.”

Mindfulness irradiates an encompassing and transmutable mind experience rather than isolating a particular object or sensation for intense concentration.

 Image source: Tarryn James, YOGICOMM instructor from Cape Town

Image source: Tarryn James, YOGICOMM instructor from Cape Town

So how do I start?

Let's be real here for a second, watching your thoughts in a quiet room on your own can be super weird! And when you don't know much about this, it can feel like disorientating wasted time. In addition, meditation practice has to fit in with your lifestyle and busy schedule. This means that the times you are likely to be able to give it a go is in the early morning or late evening, before bed. Thankfully, both are really good times to meditate. However, if we want to gain some guidance in our meditation practice, these are the worst times to have to travel out to a studio/centre to join a mediation class or teaching. 

YOGICOMM has solutions for you! The YOGICOMM platform is an open-source space for instructors to sign up and create a profile. They can then immediately begin connecting with clients and sharing bespoke, personalised and quality yoga or mediation videos/podcasts with their clients. This means that there are yoga instructors on the YOGICOMM platform that will create yoga or mediation videos for you - speaking to you, and addressing your needs.

We're all different, we all have different demons to face, and different schedules. Meditation, in order to be an effective path the maintaining wellbeing in the everyday, has got to work for YOU. YOGICOMM wants to help facilitate that process, allowing any number of yoga instructors to offer individually-focused online meditation and mindfulness video teachings in multiple languages to people anywhere.

What's best is that our file sharing platform allows for you to DOWNLOAD your bespoke video. Its yours. You can take it travelling with you, and follow it offline, anytime of the day - or night - when you most need that soothing voice, with on-point prompts. 

So GET STARTED - check out these instructors, currently offering meditation and mindfulness teachings.