Meditation is a journey from activity to silence ... a quieting of the mind. We are all out there in the world moving quickly. Meditation helps you to reconnect with yourself and your internal world, what I call the divine within. It is as simple as following your breath. Breath is magic - it's your life force. Your breath gives you a sense of peace, of being centered, being here, now. For me, meditation is catching a breath and letting it go. Meditation can be simple and effortless; it helps you tune into you.
Mindfulness is a result of meditating and a way of thinking and being that comes from paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and surrounding environment without judgment, as an impartial observer. When you pay attention in this way, you slow down and take note of what is really happening to you and around you. You begin to see things as they are, not as they used to be. Mindfulness allows you to get out of the past and create from the present.
Benefits: When you remain present, you are able to notice your thoughts and emotions without being triggered by them. This provides relief and perspective when dealing with chronic pain and disease. In essence, you are breaking the fear and pain cycle and replacing it with the positive. You get to choose your thoughts and how to react to circumstances.
An example for me is my migraine headaches. I've experienced these since age 10; they are excruciating and debilitating, and always begin with a visual "aura." My vision is so disturbed that I can't see. This visual disturbance lasts 20 minutes or more and once it subsides, I know the worst is coming. Pain so violent I vomit, pain that can only be interrupted by banging my head against the wall.
Over time, I came to realize that the visual aura set me up for the pain - I automatically expected the worst. Now, I am mindful of the flashing lights and disturbance, but don't immediately hit the panic button - PAIN IS COMING! I am able to get through the aura without fear and when the pain starts, I am mindful of it, but not overwhelmed by it ... it is much easier to bear.
Imaging studies show that mindfulness soothes the brain patterns underlying pain and over time, these changes take root and alter the structure of the brain itself. Result? You no longer feel pain with the same intensity. In fact, clinical trials show that meditation reduces chronic pain by 57% and in accomplished meditators, can reduce it by over 90%.