Words like ‘Mindfulness’ and ‘Stilling the mind’ are often used to capture some of the essence of meditation.
Mindfulness is learning to observe and pay more attention to the present moment, to your thoughts and feelings and to the world around you. With yoga training you can start to develop more mindfulness and a greater awareness of your thought processes through various exercises beginning with the primary focus on the breath. This state of concentration and awareness of your own thought processes are recognised today as being very beneficial to improved good health and well being. Some of the benefits can be: reduced stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, improved concentration, clarity and creativity.
Meditation however is the state achieved from deep concentration on a single object until all other thoughts vanish and all that is left is an intense awareness of that object.
There are many stages before this can be achieved.
In Yoga we have a system of 'steps' known as the 'Eight Limbs of Yoga' :
Yamas and Niyamas: Ten ethical precepts that allow us to be at peace with ourselves, our family and our community.
Asanas: Physical postures designed to keep the body strong, flexible and relaxed.
Pranayama: Breathing practices.
Pratyahara: Sense withdrawal – observing the stilling of the mind.
Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi – 3 stages towards returning the mind to silence Meditation.
“Meditation is a means to an endlessness. It allows us to directly experience our true nature. From that vastness and clarity comes the peace and wisdom that we so long for. The space to accept ourselves “as is”. Stephen Levine.
"Active meditation can occur when one performs ones daily duties, walking, talking eating etc. Passive meditation is the aim of sitting in one pose and performing a meditational practice. Its aim is to still the ever restless and wandering mind and make it one-pointed."
“Meditation is a state of consciousness that can be understood only on a direct intuitive level. Ordinary experiences are limited by time, space and the laws of causality, but the meditative state transcends all boundaries”.
Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre