(pic Weligama Bay, Sri Lanka)
Meditation vs Mindfulness – What Is the Difference?
Is anyone else guilty of vaguely agreeing to participate in a mindfulness or meditation session without really being clear on what they’re getting themselves in for? Even after it’s over? I know I am.
Surely it’s all the same, wishy-washy, inhale-exhale, breath-through-your-third-eye kind of stuff, right?
While both meditation and mindfulness stem from the same flowerbed, each complimenting the other and each a tool for focusing the mind and creating space for our authenticity to grow and manifest itself out into the world around us, there are several fundamental differences between the processes involved.
I have to be careful here. I don’t want to delve too deep and scare people away.
While meditation has been defined and redefined over centuries and by a vast number of religious groups and otherwise inclined practices, its premise has fundamentally remained the same.
In simple terms, meditation is the art of sitting with our breath; with a certain thought; with a particular occurrence or sensation, and focusing all of our attention and energy towards it. That’s it. The one thought, thing or sensation, and all attention and awareness, including breath, is focused there. Gradually, somewhere in the midst of this blurb of directed consciousness, that one thing merges with the awareness and we’re left with a beautiful sense of unity and ability to relate whole-heartedly to the object of our meditation, as if it is part of us.
This has led to the establishment of the likes of breath meditation, chakra meditation, guided meditation (where all attention is focused on the guiding words), heartbeat meditation, visualization, kundalini meditation, walking meditation, samskara meditation, pranic (energetic) meditation, intention meditation…the list goes on, and it will forever. As long as humans can consciously think for themselves.
The central idea being that all of this conscious energy and attention is directed towards that one thing, without straying to follow any shiny new thoughts or enticing smells that may pass seductively through our brains in the meantime.
Mindfulness is, admittedly, a branch of meditation. Yet while we still engage that same focus and intention as with general meditation, instead of a single chosen action, thought or sensation, mindfulness requires us to focus all our attention on the moment as it is right now. On our current set of emotions, sensations, actions and circumstances. The present moment, any current physical or mental sensations which we may be experiencing.
A lot of mindfulness comes down to the present experience. In fact, all of it does. How much of something are we really experiencing if our mind is off meditating on something that happened a week ago?
Let That Shit Go
This is where the core difference between mindfulness and meditation comes into play – the ability to differentiate between the present moment, the body and minds current situation, and any thoughts which may be hindering that by not being entirely relevant to what’s happening right now. All of this, along with the ability to let them go.
In order to focus properly on what’s happening right now, we have to be able to put our fingers obediently on the lips of any incessant thoughts persisting from elsewhere, and draw the attention back to the present moment.
A fairly simple explanation of my understanding of the differences between these two practices, yet in reality this simplicity and ease of mental activity is exactly what we seek to embody by practicing meditation of mindfulness. Simples.