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What’s the difference between meditation and mindfulness?

The similarities between mindfulness and meditation can confuse, and it is essential to acknowledge that you may hear about them together; they are not the same thing. Both are frequently used in the same context, and of course, mindfulness meditation also exists. This overlap can be mystifying, particularly for people who want to start using simple techniques to improve their health and wellbeing. Both meditation and mindfulness can induce relaxation, improve wellbeing, and your ability to be more connected to yourself and the world around you. Mindfulness and meditation are different and can be used in different ways. What’s the difference between meditation and mindfulness?

What is meditation?

Meditation is a practice. There are many different types of meditation, and mindfulness meditation is one of them. Meditation is primarily related to formal practice, most often a sitting meditation when the student intentionally practices. All types of meditation have the same basic principles and similar benefits for the physical and emotional body. However, the intention and focus of meditation can change depending on the style of meditation and how it supports self-development and self-enquiry.

Meditation relates to a state of stillness, intention, and focus. By intentionally practicing meditation, you can move from a state of doing to a state of being. Practicing meditation is intended to increase awareness using different techniques. Regular meditation practice can support a more conscious way of living. The consistent theme across meditation techniques is the induced state of calm they can create for the student.

Some examples of meditation techniques include:

Transcendental meditation

Visualization meditation

Mantra meditation

Breath meditation

Loving-kindness meditation

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a quality to apply to practice. The definition of mindfulness from Jon Kabat Zinn is ‘the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally. Mindfulness is the quality of paying attention to the present moment and what you are doing at that moment in time. Mindfulness can be applied throughout the day during all activities.

By being mindful, you bring attention to your thoughts, emotions, words and interactions with others. When you are mindful, you can create a sense of presence in what you are doing and the impact that your actions have. Mindfulness can be informal or formal. For example, mindful eating can be a more intentional way of using mindfulness to connect with food and nourishment. Everyday mindfulness can be simply bringing yourself back to the activity, for instance, cleaning your teeth without the intention of doing so. Mindfulness can be used to support specific health conditions, with or without practicing meditation.

What is mindfulness meditation?

Mindfulness meditation is a meditation technique that focuses attention on the present moment during formal meditation practice. The aim of the meditation is for the student to be present. This is where much of the confusion can occur, as you may hear people talk about the two practices together. During a mindful meditation practice you focus on something present; this could be your breath or different parts of the body in a body scan. Mindfulness meditation can also bring focus to the thoughts, acknowledging when they arise in the mind. The quality of mindfulness in the meditation practice continually brings us back to the present moment.

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Image by Brett Jordan on Unsplash


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