Mindfulness and meditation are often accosted with one another and although they share many similarities they are not quite interchangeable. It seems as though everyone is talking about ‘mindfulness’ and ‘meditation’ these days but few people really understand the difference. This article aims to help you fully comprehend meditation and mindfulness and how they complement each other, as well as the difference between the two.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is the practice of concentrating your mind and thoughts onto a specific thing or point of focus in order to increase calmness and emotional balance. This focal point can be anything from your breath, a repetitive sound, mantra or a flickering candle. The aim of meditation is to give all your attention to this point and by doing so therefore blocking out any unwanted thoughts or emotions. If you lose concentration, simply guide your mind back towards the anchor that is your focus point. Meditation can be practised for many different reasons. It has become increasingly popular in recent years due to people being significantly more aware of its benefits. Some of the benefits of meditation are expanding your awareness, calming your mind and opening your heart.
There are many different types of meditation, it is hard to say exactly how many. Different techniques are used based on the practitioner’s preference for their individual circumstance. Factors such as the reason for meditating, desired results and lifestyle will determine which type of meditation is required. One specific type of meditation is mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a psychological process in which you learn to be fully aware of what is happening in the present moment, in your mind, body and surroundings. Mindfulness encourages you to observe your wandering thoughts and emotions as they appear in your mind, but to not be overcome by them. The intention is to not get involved with the thoughts but to simply acknowledge them as they arise. By doing so you are keeping yourself grounded to the present moment, accepting your mind, body and surroundings. Mindfulness is done with the purpose to become more self-aware, less stressed and be able to control unhelpful and unwanted thoughts. Mindfulness has been around for thousands of years, originating from Buddhist teachings. However, you do not have to be spiritual to practice mindfulness. Just like meditation, mindfulness has grown ever popular due to its scientifically proven mental and physical benefits.
So, what are the differences?
At a glance mindfulness and meditation can seem indistinguishable, but at a closer look it is clear they have significant differences. When you set aside time to perform an activity that involves concentration, that is meditation. When you practise being aware of your thoughts and surroundings in that present moment, you are applying mindfulness.
It is said that meditation is the awareness of no thing whilst mindfulness is the awareness of some thing. During meditation, you are encouraged to clear your mind of all thoughts in the attempt to reach a different state of consciousness, a deeper rest for your mind, body and soul. In contrast, mindfulness encourages you to direct your focus to the present moment, acknowledging your thoughts as they arise but observing them without judgement. This is one of the most distinctive differences between mindfulness and meditation. The practice of mindfulness often starts as a form of meditation called mindfulness meditation.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is a specific type of meditation which can be practiced in a different way to more traditional styles of meditation. There are many types of meditation, all of which focus on different objectives. Some aim at developing a clear and focused mind, others develop selfless states such as kindness and forgiveness. Others use the body to develop awareness such as yoga, and others use sounds such as chanting a mantra. Mindfulness meditation is about being free from the past and future. Being free from all judgement and living completely in the present moment without any distraction.
To begin the training of mindfulness, it is recommended to start by performing the practice of mindfulness meditation. This is done by combining awareness and concentration. By purposely taking time out of your day to remove yourself and become aware of the present moment. This includes your thoughts, emotions and surroundings. This practice has grown popular due to its success in reducing stress and anxiety instantaneously as well as increasing self-awareness over time.
Once you become more confident with mindfulness meditation you can start to apply this practice as not just a form of meditation but a way of life.
Mindfulness, unlike meditation, can be practiced anywhere and at any time. You do not have to set aside time to practice mindfulness as mindfulness is simply paying attention to your attention. This can be at work, walking the dog or even whilst talking to a friend. As long as you are aware of the present moment without judgement, this is mindfulness. For example, if you make a cup of tea and all your focus goes onto making this cup of tea without any judgement or distraction, that is mindfulness. Being able to acknowledge your thoughts and emotions without judgement may seem a difficult task to begin with but with practice it will become an effortless mind-set you apply to your everyday life.
Why Practice Mindfulness?
By applying mindfulness to your life, it will result in numerous benefits to both your mental and physical health. A consistent practice of mindfulness is scientifically proven to lower stress levels, enhance your self-awareness, improve mental health including depression, help you sleep better and even encourage weight loss. By practicing mindfulness, it allows you to become more present in your lives and in relation to others around you. It can help you to make better decisions, to manage your emotions and to be more fully engaged in your life. Many of these benefits are the same as those acquired from practicing meditation.
You can learn to be mindful at anytime, anywhere and whilst doing almost anything. It may seem like a difficult and scary task to begin with, but with daily practice you will able to observe the present moment without judgement and mindfulness will eventually become a new revolutionary way of life.