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Mindfulness & Meditation: What’s the difference?

Updated: Mar 12, 2022

The words 'mindfulness' and 'meditation' are often used together when trying to convey the same thing - which can, and often does, lead to confusion. There is much literature on these topics now, both scientific and spiritual perspectives, as well as practical and theoretical.

In my person experience, it seems that mindfulness is a quality that means simply being aware, and being aware of being aware! This includes noticing (and paying attention to if choosing to) thoughts, feelings, emotions, behaviours, sounds and everything else that arises within awareness - other people and the world around you. Mindfulness is being fully engaged, being awake to all the senses, in the here and now - meaning this practice can take place at any time or place, whatever we are doing and whoever we are with.

“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when we non-judgmentally pay attention in the present moment” - Jon Kabat-Zinn

In my experience and how I practice, meditation is the formal act of sitting for a set period of time, with the intention to just be. To be aware of nothing in particular. This is difficult because without the usual stimuli of the world, the active nature of the mind becomes very apparent! And so I will set the focus on my breathing, being with the physical sensations of the breath, following the breath in and out. Without any control over where the attention drifts, whenever I notice being caught in thoughts or distracted by something, simply acknowledging it and gently guiding the attention back to the breath. Over and over again. Meditation, thus could be described as the practice of increasing attention, calmness and awareness. There are many different types of meditation practice, for example, body scan, breath awareness, loving-kindness and walking meditations.

“Real meditation is not about mastering a technique; it’s about letting go of control”

- Adyashanti

So, meditation develops and enhances mindfulness. To me it feels that sitting meditation is practice for daily life - we strengthen the mindfulness muscle during meditation practice, so it can support us during daily life - when mindful attention is most needed.

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