What’s the Difference between Mindfulness & Meditation?
Mindfulness and meditation are mirror-like reflections of each other: mindfulness supports and enriches meditation, while meditation nurtures and expands mindfulness. Where mindfulness can be applied to any situation throughout the day, meditation is usually practiced for a specific amount of time. Mindfulness is the awareness of “some-thing,” while meditation is the awareness of “no-thing.”
Mindfulness is being aware. It’s noticing and paying attention to thoughts, feelings, behavior, and everything else. Mindfulness can be practiced at any time, wherever we are, whoever we are with, and whatever we are doing, by showing up and being fully engaged in the here and now. That means being free of both the past and future.
Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when we non-judgmentally pay attention in the present moment. It cultivates access to core aspects of our own minds and bodies that our very sanity depends on.
Mindfulness, which includes tenderness and kindness toward ourselves, restores dimensions of our being. These have never actually been missing, just that we have been missing them, we have been absorbed elsewhere. When your mind clarifies and opens, your heart also clarifies and opens.
Mindfulness also releases ‘happy’ chemicals in the brain; it lowers blood pressure, improves digestion, and relaxes tension around pain. It is simple to practice and wonderful in effect. Not a bad deal when all that is needed is to pay attention, which sounds like something we should all be doing but often forget. When we do pay attention, then change becomes possible.
There are many forms of meditation. Some are aimed at developing a clear and focused mind, known as ‘Clear Mind’ meditations. Others are aimed at developing altruistic states, such as loving kindness, compassion or forgiveness, known as ‘Open Heart’ meditations. Others use the body as a means to develop awareness, such as yoga or walking; others use sound, as in chanting or intoning sacred words
Mindfulness Meditation is a form of Clear Mind meditation. Attention is paid to the natural rhythm of the breath while sitting, and to the rhythm of slow walking. This alone can have an enormous impact. Ultimately, the method is simply an aide; it’s not the experience itself. A hammer can help build a house but it’s not the house.
In the same way, meditation practice is not an end in itself. We may wander off and do all sorts of other things, but stillness will always be there. It is a companion to have throughout life, like an old friend we turn to when in need of direction, inspiration, and clarity. There’s no right or wrong way to practice, we all do it differently. Most important of all, meditation is to be enjoyed!