Meditation and mindfulness: the same or different?

Within minutes of sitting down to start writing this blog about meditation and mindfulness I was distracted by a pop-up ad for a furniture brand I must have searched for on the internet earlier. Naturally, I switched my attention from meditation and mindfulness to sofas in a matter of seconds.

I’m currently dealing with bereavement and multiple freelance projects which combine to mean sleepless nights and a struggle to focus. Meditation and mindfulness are the recommended solutions but for me, there is some confusion over two terms which are often used interchangeably.

There’s meditation, mindfulness and, yes even, mindful meditation. So are they the same or different? Let’s start by defining each term separately.

Most of the major religions have incorporated various forms of meditation in one way or another; it has been firmly entwined with Buddhist and Hindu religions, as well as Judaism and Islam. Originally the sole purpose of meditation was to increase spiritual understanding and awareness but as an understanding of the role of the mind in good health developed, meditation became commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction in the West. Meditation is a physical and mental practice which can lead to long-term health and wellness benefits.

It may be obvious to those in the know, but meditation isn’t all about sitting still, although it can be practised in this way. Meditation comes in many different forms such as walks, guided visualisation or imagery, focused meditation (such as chanting a mantra) and yoga, Tai Chi or qigong. One of the best-known types of meditation is also known as mindfulness meditation, and this may be where the confusion lies.

Meditation is part of mindfulness which is broadly speaking being aware, whether this is mindful eating, mindful relationships, mindful speech and so on. Effectively, it’s an awareness of the moment or, bringing your mind to just one thing that is happening in the present moment. Mindfulness can be something we practice informally or formally, which is mindfulness meditation. Meditation and mindfulness overlap in mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is a form of meditation.

Mindfulness meditation involves paying attention to thoughts, sounds, the sensations of breathing or parts of the body, bringing your attention back whenever the mind starts to wander (as opposed to transcendental meditation which involves a mantra, for example). It’s easy to see how practising mindfulness can lead to developing a meditation practice. The two complement each other, and they can nourish both your life and your self-understanding. Those that practice yoga and tai chi will know that they can also help with developing awareness of breathing and posture. It’s become so popular over the last few years that large organisations have even included mindfulness as part of their employee packages.

You can study and practice the various forms of meditation or simply learn how to be more mindful in your everyday life as a way to reduce stress. The health benefits of both have been well-documented. Whatever you do, it is likely that you will be more focused and less distracted and I know that’s what I’m in need of. All it takes is 10 mindful minutes, for inspiration watch the TED talk video by the same title:

You can also find retreats where meditation, mindfulness, yoga or Tai Chi are offered.
If you would like to know more about the difference and similarity of Tai Chi and qigong, see our blog.

Joanna Fernandez travel journalist, portrait photo Jo Fernandez is a leading UK travel journalist, with much of her career spent working for the London Evening Standard where she was Travel Editor until 2015.
Now a freelance travel journalist and copywriter, she lives in Essex and has one daughter. As a travel expert, she still enjoys jetting off to write travel pieces, with favourite destinations including Mexico, Croatia and, of course, Essex.

By Jo Fernandez

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