05 Jul The Difference Between Meditation and Mindfulness
The word ‘meditation’ has become like the word ‘food’. We are using it as a catch-all to describe any inward practice where you close your eyes. But just as enjoying chocolate affects your body differently than sucking down a chia seed smoothie, meditation and mindfulness impact the brain and body in different ways. Here are a few ways that the processes differ:
Who They’re Made For
There are many different styles of meditation, but the style I teach at Ziva Meditation is called Vedic meditation and was designed for “householders.” This term refers to people with busy lives and busy minds who accumulate stress on a daily basis. So the practice is all about giving the body deep rest so it can heal itself of stress.
Mindfulness is derivative of a “monastic” practice, meaning it was originally made for monks. It utilizes deliberate focus to increase your consciousness and appreciation of the present moment as opposed to finding fulfillment through external objects and activities.
How You Do “The Work”
When we meditate we sit quietly and let the assigned mantra do the work for us, making no effort to control our attention or thoughts. Our “goal” is to do as little as possible and let the body heal itself. We have a theme song; do less, accomplish more.
Mindfulness, on the other hand, is more active. We concentrate on the details of our environment or on our bodily sensations, making a conscious effort to shift our attention in order to increase physical and mental awareness.
The Way They Change Your Brain
Think of your brain as a computer. Meditation de-excites the nervous system in a way that gives the body rest which is even deeper than sleep. This rest helps the body (hardware) heal itself from the inside out so it can function better. It’s a lot like defragging your computer.
When we practice mindfulness, we’re creating a new operating system (software). Mindfulness can help us reprogram old fight-or-flight stress reactions and help us move into a “stay and play” mindset. It’s not a physical rewiring of the brain, but a reorganization of the process by which we interpret incoming data. It’s like we’re actively training our brains to change the way we perceive the world around us.
What Effects They Have On Consciousness
Vedic Meditation, which is the foundation of what I teach, helps you access a verifiable fourth state of consciousness that is different than waking, sleeping, or dreaming. We move beyond the realm of thinking into the realm of being; or beyond the left brain and into the right.
By contrast, mindfulness is more of a waking state practice given that we are more fully conscious when it is happening. Our bodies are relaxed but our minds are alert and attentive— a state often referred to as “relaxed readiness.”
The bottom line? Meditation and mindfulness are not the same thing BUT they’re both great for you. Whichever M word you practice, it’s a powerful addition to your wellness alphabet.
Emily Fletcher is the founder of Ziva Meditation & creator of zivaMIND the online meditation training platform. Emily began her ten years of training in meditation in Rishikesh, India under world-renowned instructors. She was inspired to share this practice with others after experiencing the profound physical and mental benefits it provided her during her career on Broadway, which included roles in Chicago, The Producers, A Chorus Line and many others.