I get asked this question a lot, and the short answer is: No. Mindfulness and meditation are different practices, though they are certainly interrelated.
Mindfulness is paying attention to what you are doing while you are doing it, rather than worrying or ruminating. You can turn anything you do into a mindfulness activity, from brushing your teeth, to drinking your morning coffee, to listening to the neighbor’s dog bark.
Meditation, on the other hand, is a formal practice where you are focusing or concentrating your attention on a prompt — such as your breath, a word, a phrase, or open awareness where you witness your thoughts, feelings, and emotions without judgment, not getting carried away on any particular storyline. (By the way, I don’t recommend open awareness to beginners. It can be shocking to notice the contents of our super busy primate minds!)
As part of my mindfulness practice, I like to bring my mindful awareness to doing meditation — and it’s something I share with my students, too! One of my all-time favorite mindfulness meditations is on Loving Kindness.
Loving Kindness = metta
Loving Kindness Meditation is an English translation of the Pali word metta. Pali was the language of the Buddha 2,500 years ago. Metta means love, friendliness, benevolence, and goodwill. Metta meditation teaches us how to be better friends to ourselves.
This traditional Buddhist practice has you call to mind an individual that makes you smile. Then, while holding the visual of that person in your mind’s eye, you silently repeat phrases of goodwill. Next, you add people to the meditation, expanding your circle of focus. You can get super creative, encompassing the entire planet!
The traditional phrases of goodwill used in this meditation are “May you be safe, may you be happy, may you be healthy, and may you live with ease.”
I also love the idea of creating your own Loving Kindness phrases.
In order to get started, I suggest thinking about what phrases you would like to hear everyday for the rest of your life. What do you need to hear? Write down phrases that would fill you with gratitude whenever you hear them and practice focusing your attention during meditation on those phrases.
If you need to hear “I love you” every day and want to morph that into a Loving Kindness phrase for yourself, it might sound something like: “May I know I am loved,” or, “May I love myself just as I am.” My students create Loving Kindness phrases for themselves, and for the world. Some of my favorites are: “May I have patience. May you be truly happy. May I be the best version of myself. May you feel good about being your authentic self. May I be a blessing. May you feel safe and have a meaningful life.”
My mission in life is to alleviate suffering, one student at a time. When we practice mindfulness (with or without meditation), we develop the ability to be less reactive, responding to situations with skill. Each person that achieves that balance spreads that positive vibe to his or her circle of humanity. Now that human beings are practicing all over the world, the bar of humanity is raised. This gives me hope for the future.