Meditation and Mindfulness: What are the key differences?
Although both great, there are some big differences between meditation and mindfulness, and it’s important to understand that.
In English, we don’t have an expanded set of words available to describe meditation in the same way the East does. In Sanskrit (the language used in the Vijana Bhaivra Tantra Sutras) there are 96 words for love, in English there is one.
There are also many words for different stages of meditation – dharana, dhyana, samadhi are some. Whereas, In English we simply use the general term of ‘meditation’ to describe all stages. We also often use the word meditation to mean concentrating on something. Like when we do mindfulness practices we are concentrating our focus more on ourselves than our busy mind and the outside world.
Mindfulness is about connecting and being present with your human aspect. You can be mindful when you’re running, surfing, painting, but you’re still “doing”. You’re very aware of your human aspect. This is mindfulness. Whereas meditation in the truest sense means to go beyond the mind and connect with your eternal aspect. In this way, although meditation and mindfulness are perhaps on the same journey – they are definitely very different.
In meditation we use techniques to get us to a certain point, and then we ‘let go’ and deep dive into the ‘being’. For this we need stillness and silence. In this stillness and silence we can be more receptive to the subtleties of our being – it’s literally going quantum.
Mindfulness is a great technique to prepare us to go into meditation. In India they have a saying, you drive your car to the temple, but it doesn’t come inside with you. Mindfulness gets us in a state ready to enter the temple, but that is not the end of the journey.
So mindfulness ‘tunes’ our human aspect. There is a doing, and then in meditation we are going deep into our eternity, there is no more doing, no more awareness of our physical form.
Mindfulness – a vital step towards meditation
Mindfulness is a very important step on the journey. Meditation is akin to climbing a mountain or running a marathon. We need to prepare ourselves by getting to a point where all our mind is calm. It’s like cleaning your house before welcoming a guest. So rather than having your thoughts scattered to every corner of the universe with never ending worries about the future, mentally writing your to do list and worrying why your friend hasn’t called you back, all at the same time, you learn to have your mind in one place. This can be done by focusing on slow movements, such as walking slowly and being present with yourself, or focusing on your breath.
Mindfulness is anything that brings your mind to the present. Breathing may sound like a meditation technique and it is.
So what’s the difference between meditation and mindfulness? As I said mindfulness is a step towards meditation. A meditation technique is anything that first allows us to quieten the mind so we can move beyond it.
Whilst mindfulness is about being present with your human aspect, meditation is about being present and merging with your eternal aspect, your being. In mindfulness we concentrate our attention, in meditation we move through that focus point to then let our focus expand.
What about hypnosis?
I’m getting asked a lot about the difference between hypnosis and meditation right now as again some people are using the terms quite lightly and almost interchangeably.
To put it simply meditation is going into your Super Consciousness, whereas hypnosis is going into your subconscious mind. So in hypnosis we go down, in meditation we go up. Both serve important purposes and both are taught in the ashram I attend in India.
Deep hypnosis is also used in the ashram for us to go into past life regression. Not so that we can identify with those past lives, but more so to experience that we truly are eternal. We have been here many times before and it’s likely we will come again as there is so much to learn on this ‘earth plane’ in terms of being more conscious of ourselves in our human form.
We come here to have the experience of remembering we are eternal, we are divine, and that we are not our identity – and this is where the truly amazing and very paradoxical journey of meditation really begins. The goal is not to relax, the goal is to identify with our true self, and be able to use our human senses to be aware of it. However without relaxation we don’t’ get so far, just like without mindfulness you won’t get far either. We need to learn how to walk first as the saying goes. In this way, meditation and mindfulness can be great when used together.
Belinda Matwali is a meditation teacher and electronic music enthusiast who is passionate about making meditation accessible and fun for all.