Is Meditation different from Mindfulness?

Seven Sacred Pools

You don’t have to find a serene place like this in order to meditate or be mindful. This is the ‘Seven Sacred Pools’ in Sedona, Arizona – so beautiful.

The answer to this question is both Yes and No. There is no a global standard for these two terms so I offer my simplified answer to this question below. Hours can be spent discussing the differences and similarities. This post is not meant to define meditation or mindfulness completely, instead, it simplistically compares and contrasts the differences and similarities.

  • Meditation is about setting aside time to be still and quiet. It’s about concentration. I refer to it as ‘sitting on the cushion’ because generally you are devoting a period of time to be still and use a chosen meditation technique. There are many different meditation techniques, however, and some are moving meditations such as walking or yoga.
  • Mindfulness is about being intentionally 100% aware and present. It’s about being ‘in the now’ and allowing yourself to be exactly where and how you are in this moment. Mindfulness is about using your senses to experience the present moment, in a nonjudgmental way, and is not necessarily about getting rid of emotions, but instead, being aware of your emotions.  It’s challenging and interesting to be 100% present and to experience what you are doing without judgment.

The general difference is that you can practice mindfulness, or ‘being mindful’ anytime during the day – while washing your hands, while eating and drinking, or while interacting during a meeting.  Meditation is generally when you set aside time to become still and go inwards to be alone and concentrate on the topic of your meditation.

The general similarity, or where meditation and mindfulness overlap, is that whenever you are meditating on the present moment, you are doing a ‘mindfulness meditation’.  Probably the most common mindfulness meditation is focusing on your breath.  I like to describe mindfulness as ‘portable meditation’, because one can achieve some of the wonderful benefits of meditation by practicing mindfulness during the day. If you are 100% present, there is no space in the mind to worry about the past or future.

The term ‘mindfulness’ is really catching on as a mainstream concept and now many people have heard of it, but perhaps do not realize exactly what it is or how to do it.

I hope the above explanations are helpful.  Simply put, if you are being 100% present, and being non-judgmental, you are being mindful.

The bottom line is that there is no need to get caught up in the differences or similarities.  They both can make your experience of life more peaceful and calm, and get you through the tough times.


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