Within the repertoire of meditation practice, there are several techniques, including the categories of formal and informal meditation.
The essential aim of both types of meditation is to live the present moment in full awareness, without judging it; however, there are several characteristics that distinguish them.
Therefore, in this article they will be explained briefly the differences between formal and informal meditation, giving examples of each.
Main differences between formal and informal meditation
These are the key aspects that distinguish the two types of meditation.
1. Context in which they are performed
One of the main differences between formal and informal meditation is that the latter is a form of meditation that can be practiced in any setting. day to day, for example while the person is eating, so that they can fully focus on tasting each bite.
Formal meditation, on the other hand, requires a quiet place where it can take place, without distractions that could interrupt its practice.
2. Time required for practice
Another aspect of the differences between formal and informal meditation is that informal generally requires less time to be practiced.
For example, this can be done through an exercise as simple as focusing all the senses on the act of eating an orange; focusing on each bite, the color, the smell it gives off, the touch, etc.
On the other hand, formal meditation requires minimal time to be able to effectively perform the exercise sequence of which this meditation mode is composed (for example, 10, 15, 30 minutes, etc.).
3. Routine and consistency required by everyone
To carry out formal meditation successfully, a more structured routine plan should be implemented and with more consistency than doing informal meditation.
Indeed, it is a form of meditation consisting of a greater number of exercises than it is recommended to perform in sequence. On the other hand, as the duration of formal practice is longer, it requires more time to be able to exercise independently.
4. Implementation structure
Here we find another of the differences between formal and informal meditation like formal meditation requires the completion of previous exercises, such as the body scan or imaginary visualization, before practicing this type of meditation; while informal meditation is usually performed on the spot, through mindfulness in an activity of daily living, without the need for any prior exercise.
5. Posture required to be practiced
Another difference between formal and informal meditation is the posture that people who practice formal meditation must adopt, as it requires a comfortable posture, be performed preferably in a sitting position or sometimes lying down.
In contrast, informal meditation does not require any specific posture or position on the part of those who practice this meditation, as it is performed during certain activities of daily living (for example, eating, walking, taking a shower, etc.) .
6. Degree of assistance
A difference between formal and informal meditation is the degree of help required to put them into practice. And does formal meditation, as already mentioned, require more help and is done in a more structured way with a series of previous exercises, where a professional is needed at the start to guide the process, either in person or through a once-recorded audio.
It should be noted that you can also use specialized pages or applications where there are audio and recorded videos that serve as a guide.
The help when it comes to helping with formal meditation is that a professional will indicate what needs to be done during the processeg indicating which part of the body to focus on on the body scanner, then indicating when to change which part of the body to focus on, etc.
However, informal meditation, while it also requires practice and professional education, is a less expensive process to learn and master.
To better understand the differences between formal and informal meditation, we will briefly explain what each is, as well as some of the exercises that make them up.
Examples of formal meditation
Formal meditation is a very useful tool to learn more about our own thoughts, as well as the sensations and emotions they arouse in us.
Below we will see some exercises that are performed while practicing formal meditation.
1. Body scanner or body scanner
This exercise it consists of going through each part of his own body, focusing on the sensations he perceives; the whole being guided by the voice of a professional until it is mastered and can be done independently.
For example, start with one foot, go up the sensations perceived by each part of the leg, moving to the other leg until the end, so that it continues through the abdomen, chest, limbs and, finally, the head; continue to be aware of the whole body. All this should preferably be done with your eyes closed; although, if it causes agitation in the person, he can do it with his eyes open.
2. Relaxing positive visualization or imagination
This is another exercise which, like the body scan, aims to bring the person into a state of relaxation in order to do formal meditation.
Basically this exercise it consists of the person performing this practice imagining themselves in a calm place and transmitting calm, like a deserted beach to calmly listen to the waves of the sea and focus on those sounds, the sights, the sensations that the person evokes, etc.
3. Keep your attention focused
Once you have successfully entered a state of relaxation through exercises such as those mentioned above, it is necessary to choose a focus on which to give full attention which must be maintained for a certain time (from a few seconds to a few minutes).
The most common goal on which full attention is usually maintained is breathing. It involves having full awareness of how air enters and leaves the body itself, breathing in and out slowly and deeply.
The external image of an object in front of the person or even an image recreated in the mind itself can be other very common foci to which full attention can be given when performing this exercise.
4. Work with thoughts
This exercise it can help in times when a person is immersed in negative ruminative thoughts, so that he is aware of how his mind wanders and thus understands that it is not the content of these thoughts and that these thoughts are the product of his imagination.
5. Mindfulness centered on emotions
This exercise is another clear example of the differences between formal and informal meditation, and one practice brings together resources from some of the aforementioned formal meditation exercises; for that, to master it, you must first learn to do others.
It is a useful exercise in times when a person experiences negative emotions and tries to avoid them without success. In this situation, the exercise consists of letting these emotions be present in one’s own consciousness from the point of view of acceptance.
Therefore, after doing an exercise that induces a state of relaxation and mindfulness in the present moment, you must allow a thought that worries you to be in your awareness, so that you can locate the sensations you are feeling in the moment. the rest of that. concern and then puts a name on that state of concern (eg, despair). From that moment on, you have to let the emotion you experience be present, while the person concentrates on their breathing.
Examples of informal meditation
To achieve this type of meditation, the idea is to look for certain moments, in which the person considers that his practice will be more productive for him, and to try to live them with a full consciousness.
1. Taste exercises
Another clear example of the differences between formal and informal meditation is this exercise, the task of which is it is based on performing routine activities with great attention to detail (for example, smells felt, visual details of what is around, sensations felt at that precise moment, among others).
This exercise can be performed while eating, so that you are fully savored with every bite, as well as in any other routine activity (e.g. showering, cooking, etc.).
2. Focus on the present moment
Practice informal meditation this can be done in different ways, such as fixing and / or describing something specific that is in the environment around us when it is put into practice (For example, while you are in the waiting room for a consultation, you should look at five objects there and mentally describe them according to their physical characteristics and use.).
3. Walk consciously
An example of mindful walking practice would be doing the following: consciously walking the path to work, so that you are not focused on the issues that you need to solve in your work day, but are you focus your attention on every step you take, on the sensations and pay attention to what is going on around you as you walk.
The main goal of informal practice is to remove the autopilot, while performing a series of routine activities, to be fully aware of the present moment.
In this way, the person can learn to find out what are the key situations for the ruminant thoughts that generate discomfort to appear and thus learn to tolerate the experience of that precise moment and focus on what is happening around. she ; so that in time these ruminant thoughts will cease to cause him this discomfort.
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