Mindfulness and Meditation

Where the Mind Goes, Energy Flows

Our minds love to think. They take their job very seriously, a little too seriously sometimes. Overthinking is human nature, but it can be problematic, especially when we’re trying to concentrate or be present in the moment. Elevated stress levels, reduced creativity, clouded judgment, and decreased ability to make decisions are the results of thinking too much. Since we’ve evolved to evaluate everything in our environment in order to stay safe, it’s normal to follow our thoughts as our minds go chattering merrily on their way.

Join us for a Mindfulness and Movement Practice: 44 mins

We must also remember that our thoughts have power, so much so that they can become our reality. It is important to hear what they are actually saying. Thoughts like “I’m not good enough” and “I want to give up” go through everyone’s mind at some point, but noticing when you’re having them, how often, and how they affect your life is key. Mindfulness can help you notice the nature of your thoughts and meditation can help you hear the quiet spaces in between them.

The goal of being mindful is being present in the moment, EVERY moment. But can we do this with anything we’re experiencing? How can we sit with anxiety, pain, anger, or sadness? It’s a big challenge. However, sitting with all of our feelings—the good, the bad, and the mediocre—leads to a greater sensitivity and the ability to regulate emotions. Once the feelings have passed, you may feel you are in a wiser state of mind.

The mind is like a muscle: the more we exercise it, the more we can build concentration and focus. We can eventually rewire our brains! Sometimes the mind is like a toddler: easily distractible, but also easily redirected. If we give the mind a job, like focusing on the breath, it gives us a chance to listen and hear our own truth.


What’s the difference between mindfulness and meditation? Is there one? They both require focused attention, concentration, and eliminating distraction, but mindfulness is a little more subtle than meditation. Mindfulness is being fully present and aware of the moment. That means if you’re in a crowded, loud restaurant and your stomach is starting to tighten and your thoughts are starting to race or you’re excited and talking a lot, then you notice it. All of it. Mindfulness is the practice of expanding your senses and becoming more attuned to your environment. Regardless of the environment and without judgment or reaction, mindfulness is simply observation. Pause and do this simple exercise right now: Make a mental list of something you see, hear, and feel, as well as any emotions you are experiencing.

Nice work.

Did you find yourself judging certain thoughts, feelings, or things you noticed as good or bad? Witnessing our thoughts and feelings without judgment or reaction can feel impossible. However, it can make you happier. Research shows that what we think about our emotions matters. Our beliefs about the feelings we experience can directly affect our happiness. Weird, right? But it makes sense if the messages we receive from our families and our society are, “Happiness is good and anger is bad.”³

Take a Minute

  1. What emotions have you noticed are labeled “good” or “bad”? 
  2. Of the six basic human emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, fear, and surprise, how many would you label as good? 
  3. How might unpleasant emotions be informative, “good,” or even helpful?

If we simply notice our emotions as the fleeting information delivery systems that they are, then we might feel better in the long term. Give your emotions the space to tell you what they need to. Listen for the truth. Then let them go, or work to regulate them.

For example, if you’re experiencing anger, you might ask yourself, What am I defending so fiercely? Has a boundary been crossed? Is there another emotion that might be at the root of this feeling?

Mindfulness allows us to respond to circumstances, which is different from reacting to them. The former incorporates a moment of thought, the latter is a knee-jerk reflex. Always go back to your breath. Take a nice deep breath to notice how you feel, then respond in a proper manner instead of reacting in the heat of the moment.

Awareness is a great gift. Imagine what humans were like before we developed prefrontal cortexes—we could only notice and react. We can hone the gift of awareness even further with mindfulness. When we retrain our brains to be more mindful, we change our thoughts, behaviors, and the way we show up in the world. We become more conscious, awake and aware of our surroundings, through the practice of mindfulness.

“Qualitative research has identified that emotional regulation is positively influenced through meditation,” states an article entitled “Contemplative Education: A Systematic, Evidence-Based Review of the Effect of Meditation Interventions in Schools,”,*4 from the Educational Psychology Review. Studies show promising outcomes when it comes to introducing meditation into school curriculum.

Mindful Practices

The memory game: Have someone place several items on a tray and then show it to a group of students or friends for 30 seconds or a minute. Then take the tray away and ask the students to remember all the items. You can also play the game with matching pairs of cards the traditional way.

Enjoy an item of food. Think of everything you can about the food. What ingredients are in it? Where was it grown? Was it harvested from a plant or is it a seed? Who grew it? How long did it take to grow? Was it shipped in a container? From the source to the store, how many hands touched your item? Appreciation builds when we acknowledge the effort of the process to make the finished product.

Do a taste test or a smell test. See how well you can identify tastes or scents without visually identifying the sources.

Notice where each of the five elements (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste) show up in the space you’re in. Try to name an object for each.

Go around the room in a circle and share what you admire about the person beside you. Paying compliments means you’re paying attention.

Practice not looking at your phone when you’re doing a task like your homework. By setting the intention to stay focused, you can avoid distraction and mindfully follow through on your task instead.

Play a recall: Go through the alphabet and name things in a specific category such as farm animals, fruit, birds, candy, ice cream flavors, school subjects, countries, states, capitals, presidents.

Sit for 10 minutes and write every thought that comes into your mind. Notice if these are true or false thoughts. Write true or false beside each thought so you don’t keep repeating what is not true.

Sit across from your friend. Take a few minutes to notice the details of your friend: hair color, eye color, clothes, accessories, etc. Then close your eyes and tell your friend exactly what you saw, trying to remember each little detail.

Write a paragraph describing something you love. Use details. Make it pop off the page. Use sensory details such as visuals, texture, scent, taste, and sound in your description. Being mindful of something is noticing it from all realms.


Quieting Our Minds and Inner Critics

The practice of quieting our busy minds, creating space between our thoughts, and potentially redirecting our thoughts is meditation. It’s watching our thoughts without judgment, opinion, or trying to change them. It’s about noticing where the mind goes.

Already you might be thinking that meditation sounds boring, annoying, or actually quite intolerable. We are masters of distraction, and getting quiet means we have to feel what’s going on inside of us. The problem is that when we sit down to listen, we often hear harsh and self-critical thoughts in our heads. Our inner critics are so mean!

Write down some of the things your inner critic says to you throughout the day.

Can you imagine saying those things to a friend? Why in the world would we want to sit with that horrible criticism? Or the pain of sadness? Or the heat of anger?
Nope. No fun.

Action with an unclear mind is a circuitous route.
Action with a clear mind is a straight route.

Sri T. Krishnamacharya

Monkey Mind

Meditation supports our mood and emotions, allowing the body to release energy and relax. It helps relieve levels of anxiety and other emotional stressors. When we slow down, our pulse and heartbeat can get into sync with one another. When our sympathetic nervous system regulates itself, we automatically feel better. The mind’s job is to think, to keep us safe at all times, and to avoid mistakes. But it’s often on overdrive, which is referred to as “monkey mind” in Buddhism. Monkey mind hops from one thought to another.

The constant chattering of the mind—similar to the concept of the monkey mind is defined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as vrittis. This directly translates to mean “whirlpool” or the contents of our consciousness, including our thoughts, senses, emotions, perceptions, memories, and even dreams. With practice, meditation will lead to the capacity to become aware of our own vrittis (the thoughts that are constantly swirling in our minds) and become masters of mindfulness.

Take a Minute

Here’s a challenge: try to control your mind NOT to jump to the next thought, for one minute. Stop at the end of this paragraph and wait for the pause, the space between your thoughts. Try to stretch that space for just one minute. Close your eyes and begin.

How was it? Don’t make any judgments. Let it be what it was. Maybe you were able to witness some space between your thoughts, maybe you witnessed them whizzing by, maybe you found some space and got curious, or maybe you noticed them slowing down, even if only for a moment.

With the practice of meditation, we become more clear and focused with our attention and energy. We are changing our patterns of thinking when we rise above our monkey mind and simply witness. Imagine taking the perspective of an eagle, high in a tree. Witness your thoughts from above.

“Qualitative research has identified that emotional regulation is positively influenced through meditation,” states an article entitled “Contemplative Education: A Systematic, Evidence-Based Review of the effect of Meditation Interventions in Schools,”² from the Educational Psychology Review. Studies show promising outcomes when it comes to introducing meditation into school curriculum.

Meditation can lead to a deep state of relaxation that allows the nervous system to realign. Inside the brain, the parietal lobe is considered the gatekeeper of the senses. It is impacted during meditation by funneling our attention, our thoughts, and our senses, which allows brain signals to soften and our thoughts to slow. As we stated in the beginning, where the mind flows, energy goes.

In the Eight Limbed Path of Yoga, the last three stages include full concentration, meditation, and the ultimate surrender of power and devotion. The point of meditation is to come into a state of calm, clarity, and well-being, such that you feel more connected to your inner wisdom. Connecting to your conscious mind, a wiser state of mind beyond your own sense of self, can help in many ways. You might experience more energy, more creativity, a greater sense of peace, and efficiency in your decision making. Try one of the meditation exercises below to practice intentionally directing your thoughts to things you DO want to think about or learn.

Types of Meditation


Meditation is not as natural as you may think. In order to slow down the mind and watch our thoughts, we first start by building a comfortable seat. Use a pillow or blanket on the floor, and sit cross-legged with the pelvis lifted above the knees for comfort. If a chair is more comfortable, be sure your feet can touch the floor. Begin by noticing what part of your body is connected to the floor. Allow your body to begin to sense and notice everything. Welcome yourself and become comfortable and seated, quiet and at peace. Your focus can be on one thought, no thoughts, or the space between your thoughts. Set a timer for 2 minutes and slowly work up to 5 minutes (or even 10 minutes!).


Moving meditation is about connecting with your breath and your mind. Any athlete, performer, or anyone who has advanced their abilities in the physical body is in meditation with what they are doing. They are in union with what they are creating. When we allow the breath to lead, we allow the ego and the mind to soften. When we move in tandem with the breath, we are in balance with ourselves. The next time you are doing something physical, be intentional about noticing everything. If you can, slow your movements down. Take an extra-long time walking from one room to another. Notice your breath and pay attention to your mind. Give it permission to relax and let your breath and body move in unison.


Mindsight is another word for visualizing what you want in your life. When we hold images of what we want to attract, the brain starts to behave like it has already happened. Our senses hold memories from our experiences. If we expand our senses, then our experience expands. When we focus on the good and can see the positive in our lives, we get to live in abundance and gratitude. When we can see ourselves more clearly, we become more authentic and we can offer ourselves back to the world. How do you choose to see the world?


When you are guided in meditation, someone else leads the way. They monitor time so you don’t have to. They set the stage for the experience to occur. They can support you by actually offering you things to think about rather than your own thoughts. This gets us out of our own heads, away from thinking about our own problems, and towards a place of compassion and empathy. Guidance gives you complete permission to relax so that you may have an optimal meditation experience.


Song is our birthright. When we first make a sound in the world, it comes in the form of a primal cry. We are here. Song and chanting are what bring groups together, sharing their voice and ultimate union and joy. A song is a form of entertainment and the salve of the soul. Song and chanting bind us to time, moments, and memories. It manifests in the form of learning. We all get sung to at least once a year on our birthdays. The vibration from a song helps to regulate the nervous system. This builds upon our health and well-being.


A mantra is a short verse, sentence, or word. By repeating the mantra over and over, we have the power to change a pattern, thought, or behavior. Mantras can help deepen the grooves for new pathways in the mind. It gives the mind a break from thinking and lets the subconscious and the body take over. The mind can then focus on other things.


Handwriting with old-fashioned pen and paper is literally a way to force yourself to slow down your thoughts. Set a timer for ten minutes and try stream-of-consciousness writing, put everything you are thinking on the page without stopping. Expressing your interior monologue can be very helpful for working through emotions, and it is also a good way to prepare yourself for seated meditation. Another exercise to try is to write a letter with your opposite hand. Take your time like you would write any letter. Consider writing it to your future self. Thank it for all the hard work you have done to get where your dreams have taken you.

Guided Meditations

Audio Meditations that Guide Your Breath and Increase Your Awareness

Our thoughts have the power to create our reality, so it’s helpful to hear what we are saying to ourselves through mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness is the practice of limiting distraction and noticing the nature of our thoughts. Meditation is the practice of focused concentration in order to hear the quiet spaces in between our thoughts and finding the union of mind and body in the present moment. Building a discipline of meditation allows access to a wiser state of mind, a more conscious mind and a greater sense of peace.