Quite often meditation conjures thoughts of the religions and lifestyles of the East, whereas mindfulness is becoming a bit of a buzzword in the world of health and wellbeing. But, with many overlaps, the two are often generalized as the same thing: used interchangeably to declare the calming, mind focusing benefit that comes from both practices.
There are different practical aspects of the two and benefits of them both, and by understanding these it makes them less daunting to integrate into your daily life. Below we’ve outlined some of the key differences between them, with suggestions of how you might be able to start utilizing them in your daily routine.
What is Meditation?
Both mindfulness and meditation have roots in Hindu and Buddhist traditions, but far from being seen as part of only religious rituals, they have both spiritual origins too.
There can be a difficulty in defining what exactly meditation is. But basically, meditation combines elements of mindfulness, breathing techniques and calmness to focus and sharpen your mind, resulting in high levels of awareness.
The practice initially moved into the western world but our adoption focused on self-improvement, relaxation and stress reduction. Prior to this spiritual growth that was at the heart of meditation. Embracing it in the western world, those who practice meditation, champion its enduring ability to bring positive change into their lives. If you regularly include meditation in your routine, you are likely to feel grounded and more prepared for stressful or hectic situations.
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And What is Mindfulness?
In a nutshell, mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and have a complete awareness of where we are and what is going on in the moment. This resulting in not being overwhelmed or overly reactive when situations arise.
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn brought mindfulness to the West in the 70s, where he celebrated the mindful aspect of meditation without religious overtones; this brought it to the attention of both the public and scientists. With the increasing popularity of yoga in the west, mindfulness which is very much tied to the practice has also experienced an increase in interest.
What are the Main Differences?
It’s quite difficult to distinguish significant differences between the two practices themselves as the benefits of both are similar. Essentially, mediation is the sum of multiple different practices that help you reach optimum awareness of your mind; mindfulness is one of these practices on its own.
Meditation can come in different forms: tantra, yoga, heart rhythm, breathing, transcendental.... the list goes on and each comes with its own benefits, so it’s great to research different techniques and forms of meditation to see what is best for you.
Alone or as Part of Daily Activities?
One of the key differences is the way in which each of these techniques is practised. Mindfulness can be channelled into different applications because it is not as formal a process as meditation.
For example, you can use simple steps, outlined in our article Mindfulness and Exercise to understand how to utilize it in sport or apply it to hobbies. It can also be part of your walk to work or during eating, in order to heighten your satisfaction with meals, something that technology’s presence in modern life is making increasingly difficult. This is the application of only mindfulness and not meditation.
On the other hand, meditation is something to focus on its own and not in conjunction with other aspects of your life. The basic mechanics of meditation involve complete concentration, a tranquil environment and a comfortable place for your body to sit; in fact, all aspects of the environment should be comfortable so as not to distract from the process.
Mindfulness and Meditation Used Together
Mindfulness can be practised by itself but it can also be applied to other breathing techniques as a type of meditation: mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is the byproduct of successful meditation. It helps you see what is going on in your mind clearly but without reacting to it, so used in conjunction with meditation it results in the awareness that it noted as one of its key benefits.
One common thing that many people struggle with both in mindfulness and meditation is the fear that their mind is going to wonder, as it naturally does. When this does happen just return to focusing on breathing and being aware of your body bringing you back to a state of awareness. This is a hurdle that many people worry about in terms of practising meditation but it shouldn’t put you off - just deal with it when it happens and the more you do it the better you’ll get!
Mindfulness can be practised at any time in many aspects of daily life. The practice of this can help your ability to meditate and is a method that beginners might enjoy to help ease the daunting aspect of meditation. Both mindfulness and meditation will help with more reflection and adaptability in life. Progress in meditation isn’t always noticeable by yourself, and others might even recognize it before you do!