Is there any difference between mindfulness and meditation? What about mindfulness meditation? Is there anything such as mindfulness vs meditation or they are the same?
God, this is so confusing! How can one have no thoughts at all?” If you’ve ever asked these questions to yourself or to anyone, it is highly likely you got even more confused.
You are not alone. Ever since mindfulness entered the mainstream and everyone got raving about the benefits of mindfulness, the terms meditation and mindfulness (and mindfulness meditation) have come to be used interchangeably.
However, there is indeed a difference between mindfulness and meditation but… and that is one big But..!
But, the catch is you can only realize or experience that difference once you have become a reasonable expert in meditation. However, do not worry as you can have a fairly intuitive idea of what is it.
Understanding Difference Between Mindfulness and Meditation
Remember the time when you begin to learn driving. Initially, you’ve to pay close attention to every task you were doing. Start the ignition, press the clutch, put into gear, release the clutch slowly, and so on. Chances are you would have to spend a few days to even start the vehicle smoothly without any jerks or without stopping.
Now, unless you have recently begun to learn driving, you have become fairly good at it. You can drive effortlessly without paying any conscious attention to the actions themselves.
The whole process has become automatic for you. At times, you may even become lost in other tasks while driving like talking on the phone (Stop doing it, though! ) or listening to songs (ok as long as you do not become transported to the other world! ).
It happens with anything which you love to do these days but you’d have to go through training to achieve that meditative state you often experience while completely immersed in it.
So, what does it have to do with the difference between mindfulness and meditation?
Now mindfulness is similar to the beginner stage of learning to drive or anything else. However, in this case, you are learning to train your mind and to become aware of your real nature– that thoughtless Being or consciousness that permeates everything!
On the other hand, meditation can be thought of like that deep state where you are aware of the thoughtlessness inside your mind. You are deep in the state of “no thoughts” and at the same time aware of this state.
You could be focussing on mantras like in Transcendental Meditation or on body sensations like in Vipassana. But the focus is so deep that you experience a thoughtless yet aware state- sort of that gap which experienced meditation practitioners often talk about and beginners sometimes experience this gap during meditation.
Sometimes you can experience a meditative state even while doing mindfulness exercises like breathing awareness, walking meditation, or even washing dishes (yes you can be mindful any time of the day). That is when mindfulness turns into mindfulness meditation and you begin to explore mindfulness vs meditation!
There is another reason why you get to hear mindfulness more than meditation these days. It is because people often consider meditation as a religious practice associated with monks, ascetics, or holy people with long beards.
In fact, there are some huge number of meditation myths prevalent in this society. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is a fairly secular practice without any associations of religion or sect.
Moreover, since a huge people face daily stress and anxiety these days without any coping means, mindfulness is a wonderful practice to begin training the mind to focus and relax. Many people get overwhelmed with a sheer number of thoughts they experience and mindfulness trains them to observe these thoughts without reacting to them and judging them.
The famous proponent of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn, defines mindfulness as:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
Oxford Dictionary on Mindfulness vs Meditation?
Mindfulness: “The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something” Or “A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Meditation: “Focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation”
Notice how meditation definition involves mind focus for a period of time! To allow that to happen, you need to relax your mind and let go of your thoughts. Mindfulness, mantras, breathing, body sensations, external point- these are just different means which you use to achieve that meditative state!
So, you see there can be a slight difference between mindfulness and meditation depending on the stage you are in your self-exploration. Nevertheless,if you are a beginner to meditation, I’d recommend not to get too involved in the battle of mindfulness vs meditation or get too attached to definitions and word meanings.
Instead, you must start with a practice which seems most familiar to you. If you are not sure about it, you can learn how to do mindfulness meditation right now which will give you an idea of what is mindfulness after all! You can even learn to meditate with cats with this cat meditation video by Karma Kitties.
On the other hand, also feel free to share your viewpoints about the difference between mindfulness and meditation in the comments below. Let us hear your views about mindfulness vs meditation. In the meanwhile, keep doing meditation! Happy Meditating!