I had some interesting discussions last weekend about ‘mindfulness’ vs ‘meditation’. I was talking to a friend about how ‘mindfulness’ is going mainstream, whilst ‘meditation’ is often seen as ‘Eastern WooWoo’ and can trigger rejection and fear from many. And an article I read yesterday confirms that opinion. Meditation is bad and scary but mindfulness is cool and good.
When I used to teach in a local Church Hall, I remember the debates about whether meditation and yoga should be ‘allowed’ on Church premises. Yet pilates (derived from yoga) and mindfulness (essentially meditation) were considered perfectly acceptable. It all came down to the name.
Would that rose by any other name smell as sweet?
Why do we let the name have power over us?
Does it matter what it’s called?
Does changing the name make it more socially acceptable and available to people?
Does changing the name cause it to lose something of its essence?
And what’s the difference between ‘meditation’ and ‘mindfulness’, anyway?
When I was writing the 28 Day Meditation Challenge book, I spent hours and hours, trying to come up with an answer to that question. The problem is that they’re both aspects of the same thing.
As a meditation & mindfulness teacher, I see both meditation and mindfulness as ancient practices with broadly common goals, including:
- Inner peace and calm
- Compassion for self and others
They are both intended to be profoundly spiritual life-changing practices, not just the superficial stress-busting techniques that are popularised in our media.
Mindfulness could be described as becoming fully aware of the present moment, including the stream of consciousness of your mind, without judging it or changing it. This naturally quietens the mind and can offer insights into the auto-pilot reactions we have been running in life. It helps us to connect with the true nature of what we are experiencing – and to accept it. This can lead to a reduction in stress levels and a strong sense of inner peace and happiness.
Meditation involves concentration techniques, to focus on a particular exercise to quieten the mind. It can help us to connect with our deeper wisdom, so that we see those same auto-pilot reactions and make changes. It can help the mind to focus more clearly, slowing it down and preparing us for deep-acting techniques.
Of course, these are simplified descriptions, but they give you an idea of the commonly-accepted meanings of the two words.
Meditation and mindfulness are complementary – there is a huge overlap. For many of us, they are aspects of the same thing.
There are so many ways of practising meditation and mindfulness. There is no right or wrong way (unless your chosen belief system tells you otherwise). But there are practical ways to lay the foundations that will work more effectively for us in our over-busy Western culture – and that’s what this book is about.
You can’t meditate unless you are being mindful – i.e. resident here in the present moment; and mindfulness is a form of meditation.
So the two are like strands of a rope, twisted together. They are distinct, but inseparable. Take away one and the other won’t work.
As a nation and in our media, we still have ‘meditation baggage’.
But ‘mindfulness’ doesn’t do justice to the immense power of dedicated meditation practice to transform your experience of life.
It’s semantics; it’s word-play; it’s labels. And labels, whichever you choose, cannot capture the essence of the experience.
I’m curious: what do you think?
What do the words ‘mindfulness’ or ‘meditation’ conjure up for you?
What would you say is the difference between the two? What are the similarities?
Please share your thoughts via the comments box!
P.S. If you’d like to find out more about how to meditate, how about joining us for the 28 Day Meditation Challenge, which will help you learn how to meditate (and change your life) in just ten minutes a day – and it even helps you figure out how to find the time 🙂