Meditation vs Mindfulness

The mention of mindfulness or meditation has become quite common in modern western society. Dozens of books and magazines have been published including mindful colouring books for adults. We come across meditation and mindfulness in health and wellbeing centres, schools and business environments. The NHS supports mindfulness for improving mental health and its’ prevalence in the field of scientific study has grown significantly in the past 10 years. Both mindfulness and meditation are often seen interchangeably or can be referred to as mindful meditation. Is there a difference between the two? And if so, how are they different?

The term mindfulness was introduced to the West largely by Dr. Jon Kamat-Zinn, Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Centre at the university in 1979, and later the Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society in 1995. Kamat-Zinn, a student of Buddhist meditation, was aware of the potential health benefits and keen to integrate the practice with science. However, such an introduction to the scientific/health community, and indeed to our western school of thought, was tricky. Meditation was typically associated with mysticism, religious dogma or images of monks sitting on mountain tops. By calling it mindfulness, the concept suddenly became more palatable, benign and certainly more accessible to the western mind. Some sources, therefore, will use the term mindfulness interchangeably with that of meditation.

There is indeed a difference between the two, although they overlap like circles of a Venn diagram. Mindfulness is about being present and living in the moment, free of worries of the future or negative retrospection. The expression, “stopping to smell the flowers” exemplifies mindfulness. It can be done anywhere, anytime. Sometimes our thoughts can overwhelm us. Activities and events, the hurry and the rush that surround us daily, can interfere with our peace of mind, happiness and health. Taking the time to breathe, to centre yourself and focus on a single moment in the present can create the “headspace” we need, almost like being in the calm eye of a hurricane. Mindfulness is also about stepping away from our thoughts and emotions and examining them, and ourselves, objectively and without judgement.

The study of algebra is a part of mathematics, but mathematics is so much more. The same to applies to mindfulness. It is a part of meditation, but meditation is so much more. Andy Puddicombe, author of Get Some Headspace, explains it this way, “…by sitting down to meditate each day…that feeling of being present, aware and in the moment, becomes increasingly familiar and is then that much easier to apply to the rest of your life…In fact, the practice of meditation provides such good conditions for learning mindfulness that for many, that’s as far as they want to take it.”

Meditation takes years to master and involves practice and skill. One of my favourite descriptions comes from author Jurgen Ziewe. In his book, Vistas of Infinity, he writes, “Meditation is nothing more than…letting go. Our Western mindset makes letting go hard, because our main focus is on “holding on”, of “being more” and “getting more”….It is more like surrendering to the heart or the breath than hanging on to our thoughts…By a continuous practice of “letting go”, these rigid structures (our thoughts) will be broken down….We will then begin to realise that our brains can be trained and controlled….We are in a psychologically much better position to realise a state of natural transcendence, which had been obscured by our fixations and attachments to specific issues.”

Whether you choose to adopt a mindful approach in the way you live your life, or find time to practice the art of meditation, either will help lead the way to a healthier and happier you.

By Elaina Curran, HPD, DSFH, AdvDPLRT, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Past Life Regression Therapist

Published in BS35 Local Magazine, March 2018 issue


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