What is the Difference Between Mindfulness and Meditation?

Mindfulness vs Meditation

This is a question I get asked all the time. It’s confusing so many people that I thought I’d write this article to clear this up. It’s pretty simple, really.

Meditation is focus with the aim to transcend thought and mind. Mindfulness is observing life as it’s happening.

Both work together, but can be mutually exclusive in many respects. To illustrate, lets’ start with mindfulness. This is easier to illustrate and will pave the way to explain how it works with meditation, but is not meditation.

What is Mindfulness?

STOP RIGHT NOW and do this:

  1. Look at your hands.
  2. Pay attention to them.
  3. How do they feel?
  4. Can you feel the blood flowing through them?
  5. Can you feel the energy of life flowing through them?
  6. Become hyper-aware of them for a minute or two.

Do you feel that? You’re in the moment, simply paying attention to your hands. Sure, you know you have hands, you’ve known that your whole life. BUT… Have you ever just stopped and felt them, payed particular attention to how they feel? Maybe, but if you’re like most people, myself included, probably not.

I’ll also wager that they feel a bit different now. More alive. More organic. More surreal. If not, do another minute.

That’s mindfulness. From your hands, extend that to your whole body, and then become aware of that in every moment you are conscious. That’s mindfulness.

It’s living in your body and being hyper aware of everything you are experiencing AS you are experiencing it. It’s being truly present in the moment, or the NOW. It’s truly living. Get it?

What is Meditation Then?

When you have a chance, do this:

  1. Sit with your back straight. (this simply keeps you awake)Close your eyes (this simply limits easy distraction)
  2. Concentrate on your breathing, in and out, in and out.
  3. When your thoughts come, just say to yourself, “thanks for telling me”, and let them go. Don’t dwell on them.
  4. Move your attention back to your breathing. In and out, in and out.
  5. Thoughts come and go, just let them pass. (They rarely stop)
  6. Repeat this for a few minutes.
  7. Open your eyes, get up, and enjoy the rest of your day.

That’s meditation in a nutshell. Sure, there are mantras and other things, and so many techniques that it makes your head spin, but that’s it in the simplest form I can describe.

If you do this often enough, you might start noticing that there is space between your thoughts. That space is way too much to get into in this short article. I will say that the answer to why we should meditate lies in that space, and that’s all I’ll say about that here.

How Do Mindfulness and Meditation Work Together Then?

Mindfulness can have a great impact on your ability to meditate, and vice-versa. When you practice mindfulness, you become aware of how you feel in the present moment. This helps when you sit down to meditate as it can help you to limit distraction. It also gives you keen insight into how your body and mind work and feel at any given moment. This information can help you tolerate meditation.

Conversely, meditation can help you calm your thoughts and mind so that when you practice mindfulness, you can really FEEL what’s going on without the crazy monkey-mind distractions. Meditation will show you that your mind never stops talking. It’s constantly telling you things. Those things it tells you often lead to emotional response. It’s here that the trouble of true distraction begins.

We all have a tendency to follow our thoughts into hell. We get annoyed in traffic, or someone says something to us that we can’t just shake off, or we make a mistake and get all stupid about it…

These things destroy our calm and take us out of our immediate experience and into worry, fantasy, or a host of other distractions. This takes us out of the present moment and kills our practice. Does that make sense?

What mindfulness does is it brings us back into the present moment experience of living our lives. Meditation, then, can bring us out of our minds and into something that is hard to describe in words. It’s PURE experience.

Does That Help You?

Hopefully that clears things up for you, as this stuff can get really confusing. That’s why it’s best to just practice it and see for yourself. I know it’s hard in everyday life, as I struggle with it as well at times. I find that this inexpensive course¬†helps and gives some great practical exercises for using mindfulness in every-day situations. I bought it, it’s cool, and I vouch for it. (That link is an affiliate link, it gives me like, a few dollars to help me run this site and costs nothing for you… if you want a non-affiliate link, it’s here)

That’s about it. Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions. It’s confusing, but with practice, you’ll see the difference and also how mindfulness and meditation can work together while still being mutually exclusive.

If you want guided all-day active mindfulness, check out this very inexpensive course on Udemy. I bought it and have been through it, and it's good.

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