Yoga philosophy is pretty big on mindfulness. It’s also pretty big on meditation, too. And then of course we have what many people call “mindfulness meditation,” which brings both together.
But wait a minute — what’s the difference between mindfulness and meditation anyway? Are they really different at all, or do they both roughly translate to the same thing?
While mindfulness and meditation certainly do blend together, each sort of has it’s own unique definition when we get more specific about them. Here, we’ll go over the main differences between mindfulness and meditation, including what it means to combine both as a mindfulness meditation practice.
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” — Jon Kabat-Zinn
We can understand mindfulness as a simple form of meditation that really only involves directing our focus to the here and now. This is why we’re often encouraged to practice mindfulness while we’re actively doing something — like cooking, cleaning, speaking to someone, walking outdoors, and so on. You don’t necessarily need to be sitting in lotus pose with your eyes closed.
In addition to being in the here and now, mindfulness involves selecting different focal points to place our awareness on as we tune into our senses. We can choose to be mindful of our breathing, of the sounds that we hear, of the feelings in our bodies, of the taste in our mouth, or of the aromas wafting through the air.
“Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity.” — Voltaire
Meditation typically refers to the many techniques people use to get closer to accessing higher states of consciousness. People who meditate often use focused concentration to “let go” or surrender, with the intention of a desired outcome.
For example, transcendental meditation is the practice of bringing the mind to a complete state of calm, while still remaining alert. It’s meant to be practiced for 20 minutes a day, where the individual repeats a mantra to help calm the mind and transcend the act of thought. Yoga, in fact, is also a form of meditation.
When we bring awareness together with concentration/desired outcome, we have a form of meditation that we call mindfulness meditation. Even just by making the commitment to practice mindfulness at a certain time of day for a specified amount of time, we are engaging in a meditative practice, because we are choosing to concentrate on something that may help us achieve something — like stress relief or self-regulation — as a desired outcome.
To sum it up:
- Mindfulness is the state of being aware and can be considered a simplified form of meditation
- Meditation involves using techniques to reach higher states of consciousness
- Mindfulness meditation is the practice of consciously choosing to focus our attention on something specific like our thoughts or our bodily sensations in an effort to contribute to some kind of desired outcome.
Now we can see what’s involved with all three terms that are often thrown around a lot out there in yoga, and how mindfulness and meditation really compliment each other. Incorporating both into our lives can help us take our own personal journeys to new levels of growth faster and greater than practically anything else.