Mindfulness & meditation

How our minds affect us

Our minds are affected by internal weather, just as our bodies are affected by external weather.  Our internal weather consists of our thoughts, our emotions and our perceptions.  Our internal weather can be bright and sunny with happy feelings or black and stormy with rage and distress.   We can wear suitable clothing to manage the effects of external weather and we can use techniques to manage and transform internal weather.   Mindfulness and meditation are examples of these techniques that help us improve the quality of our lives.


Mindfulness involves paying attention, deliberately and without judgment, to what is going on in our mind and externally in the present moment and using this to make appropriate responses.

Sharon Salzberg, a well-known mindfulness teacher defines it as “Mindfulness isn’t just about knowing that you’re hearing something, seeing something, or even observing that you’re having a particular feeling. It’s about doing so in a certain way – with balance and equanimity, and without judgment. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention in a way that creates space for insight.” 

We spend surprisingly little time in the present moment, our minds habitually dwell in the past and seek to anticipate the future.

As Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen monk who did much to introduce mindfulness to the West puts it “Without mindfulness, we can be pulled away by many things. Sometimes we are pulled away by regret and sorrow concerning the past. We revisit old memories and experiences, only to suffer again and again the pain we’ve already experienced… We may also get pulled away by the future. A person who is anxious and fearful about the future is trapped just as much as one bound by the past. Anxiety, fear, and uncertainty about future events prevent us from hearing the call of happiness.”

Often we are not even aware of where our minds are, as we are in a kind of autopilot, not paying attention.  How often do we finish a meal or arrive at our destination without any real recollection of what we ate or the details of the journey?   This absence of mindfulness is very common and is exacerbated by our busy lives as we try to balance the demands of family, work, and friends etc.

We also have a tendency to put a negative spin on a situation whether this is warranted or not.  Our seemingly  in-built critical voice can produce negative and destructive thoughts towards ourselves and others, if we listen these thoughts and believe them unquestioningly.  These inner voices can come from our childhood or from interactions as adults.  Mindfulness encourages us to question these thoughts and beliefs.  “You’ll never be able to swim across that fast-flowing river” might be a useful and helpful thought.  “You’ll never be able to lose weight, you have no self-control” is unlikely to be helpful or even totally true!

Learning through mindfulness to be able to question self-judgment and the voice of the inner critic can be extraordinarily liberating.   Mindfulness does not take away the stresses and challenges of life, but it can help us respond in a way that is kinder to our mind and body and to the people around us.  It can help us be fully present for the good things in our lives.


Meditation is the practice of focusing attention both to calm the mind and to gain an understanding of how the mind works.   Meditation can lead both to great peace and to life-transforming insights.

In meditation, we close down as many of our senses as we can.  Typically, we sit in a stable position in a quiet, warm, undisturbed spot with our eyes closed.   That alone won’t stop our minds from chattering so we adopt a meditation subject.   This is frequently the breath.   We attempt to keep our minds on our meditation subject.  When thoughts arise, which they will, we observe them without getting engaged with them and let them go.  The analogy that is often used is that we see thoughts come and go like clouds floating by in the sky.

Bearing witness to the kinds of thoughts that arise while meditating without attaching to them will quieten our mental chatter and will help our mind become still and peaceful.  As our minds become quiet, we are better able to see tensions, expectations, and habitual ways of thinking and transform them into peace and joy through gentle and penetrative enquiry.

How mindfulness and meditation support one another

Mindfulness and meditation mutually support one another by increasing the effectiveness of the other.   Meditation allows you to become more aware of your thoughts and thought patterns as distractions are eliminated.  Mindfulness supports this during the day outside of your formal meditation practice.