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Mindfulness vs. Meditation: What’s the Difference?

Mindfulness vs. Meditation – What is the difference between the two? Well for starters, they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Mindfulness can be actually be an entry point for meditation. Plus, you don’t need to be doing yoga to practice either one (just in case yoga isn’t your thing). Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as follows:

Mindfulness is moment to moment awareness…it is cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moment’s thought to…”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

What Mindfulness & Meditation Have in Common

To dig in a little deeper – mindfulness and meditation do have a lot of traits in common. Let’s take a look!

Meditation and Mindfulness share these common traits:
  • Focus
  • Living and being with intention
  • Awareness
  • Being present in the moment
  • Concentration
  • Discipline 
  • Non-reactivity 
  • Detachment 

How Mindfulness & Meditation Differ

However, mindfulness and meditation can also differ. Meditation can have a different intention than mindfulness alone, and meditation can also use a widely varying set of approaches: 

  • Mindfulness can be our goal for daily living and can be informally practiced moment to moment. 
  • Mindfulness doesn’t have to have a specific beginning or end, or take place in any special place with any special posture or equipment. 
  • Meditation typically takes place in a specific environment.
  • Meditation is typically associated with a type of formal practice.
  • Meditation can begin with mindfulness, but then dive deeper, encouraging a general awareness of the world without being distracted by your mindfulness of it.
  • Meditation typically has a time stamp surrounding it, meaning a certain amount of time is usually allotted for practice.

Making Meditation Fit You

Meditation does not require sitting, at least in my humble opinion as a longtime yoga practitioner, orthopedic and pelvic physical therapist, and professional yoga therapist. Meditation can take on many forms! For example, as a mom of three and owner of 2 small businesses, the classic “seated meditation” pose we see in yoga isn’t ideal. If I spend all day caregiving or in front of the computer managing work, I may take a walking meditation instead of a sitting one. The bottom line is this – there is no one right way to meditate – make meditation fit you.

ginger garner PT, DPT, ATC/L

No matter what type of meditation practice you choose, I want to add an unorthodox argument for recalibrating meditation practice.

Make meditation fit your needs.

We are no longer an agrarian society – hunting, gathering, planting, and harvesting. For the most part in our post-industrial information age, we are society of sitting. Desk dwelling, with more time spent on our backsides than sometimes even spent sleeping. Sitting has been called the new smoking, and if that is true, then perhaps our time in Meditation should be spent moving – like a walking meditation for example, instead of more sitting (or worse, folding ourselves up in some kind of pretzel shape).

For the record, that pretzel shape is called lotus and half lotus pose, and I rarely endorse using it therapeutically when I teach yoga or use it in physical therapy practice. Here are some tips if you have to sit all day for your job. And here are a few things I have to say about Half & Full Lotus Pose.

Mindfulness and Meditation: What's the difference
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www.integrativelifestylemed.com 2021. Living Well Institute.

Mindfulness can be a type of Meditation 

Meditation is practiced differently across disciplines, there are several different means of practicing Meditation. Some of those include: 

Techniques used in Meditation can widely vary and can include tenets like focusing attention, body scan, visualization, Loving Kindness Meditation, Compassion Meditation, and reflection, for starters! 

There are too many great benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness to list them in a short post like this – but you can start with simple deep breathing techniques and moments of quiet calm and still awareness throughout your day. Click on this link for access to the Basic Medical Therapeutic Yoga Video Library – it’s free with unlimited lifetime access, no strings attached!

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More Resources on Mindfulness, an wonderful entry point for Meditation practices

Here are more basic resources on Mindfulness, which is perhaps the easiest way to get started in Mindfulness and Meditation practice.

Get started with mindfulness by learning about and noticing if you have abnormal breath patterns
Then get started working on them here! An easy 6 minute guided mindfulness meditation on normalizing your breathing
Want to dive deeper? See if you can do the “Nap” Meditation, which builds awareness of and decrease mouth/neck/face, respiratory diaphragm and pelvic floor tension and helps make mindfulness fun!

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