Like peas in a pod, meditation and mindfulness go together They are complimentary practices that enhance our exploration inward to knowing who we are. You will find many varied techniques and ways of practicing both meditation and mindfulness, however, the difference between the two is important to understand so that they are practiced correctly and effectively.

Let’s begin with mindfulness and what that means and how it is practiced. To be mindful is to pay attention to our thoughts and actions, it is a focus on how we are thinking and recognizing patterns of thought and being present with our actions. Most of our thoughts are not of our own control, but rather a result of repetitious thoughts or random domino thinking.

Domino thinking is like what happens when we stand domino blocks in a line and as the first one is tipped it knocks the next creating a cascading effect of blocks falling one after the other in succession. A thought comes to us and that thought leads to another and another, on and on until we stop and realize we don’t even know why we are thinking what we are thinking and what our original thought was that begun the cascade of thoughts in the first place. This kind of thinking is the opposite of mindfulness, it is mindlessness. We are not paying attention to what we are thinking, we are falling down the rabbit hole of thoughts unaware we are doing it.

Repetitious thinking is a result of unattended issues we have in our lives creating a tumbler of thoughts that rumble around in our minds over and over and arise unconsciously into our minds. We then regurgitate the same thoughts again and again in an endless loop. The repetition becomes a habit that perpetuates itself. This also is counter to mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the practice of taking back control over what we think and how we use our minds. It is being mindful of what we are thinking and consciously changing and eliminating the tumbler and domino thinking patterns. So, we are using the mind, to be attentive to our mind. This takes much practice to achieve because we have practiced the other for so long. It was practice that created the tumbler and domino thinking and so it takes practice to undo these patterns. This is done by taking time to sit and pay attention to the patterns, why they are there, what causes them to arise and then recognizing when they arise so we can counter them with mindfulness.

It is also the practice of being present with our actions so we can be aware of our actions. Having attention on ourselves while we are going about our daily lives gives us an internal perspective, an awareness of self, so we can see and experience ourselves in action, not just experience the external world. This will bring about a more mindful way of being in the world.

Mindfulness is of the mind and is a necessary practice for meditation. When we sit to meditate, we don’t want that tumbler and domino mind to distract our meditative practice. Mindfulness quiets the mind chatter making the practice of meditation easier. Meditation is not of the mind, it is letting go of the mind, leaving it behind, putting it aside for a while. Therefore, we can’t use the mind to meditate, but having a quiet mind will make it easier to put it aside. Like a noise from outside that interferes with our meditation practice, a busy mind is a noise that distracts us.

In meditation we are using our awareness instead of focused attention of mindfulness. Awareness is not a doing it is a non-doing, like a cat watching a mouse hole. The cat is waiting in awareness, but not anticipating the mouse, it is simply in a present moment awareness. Meditation is of course a lot more than a cat watching a mouse hole, but we can understand the patience of the cat that sits undisturbed by time passing or what else is happening.

Meditation is entering the space beyond the mind and connecting with life that is there. It is merging with the soul, the source of universal life. Here we leave behind the human thinking and conditions to the be with our true nature and that of the creator. It is our awareness of self, merging with awareness-ness of all that is. In this space we encounter what cannot be encountered through the mind, although, while in this space we can affect how we think and can change patterned thinking. This is the relationship we have between mind and what lies beyond it.

Sitting in meditation is a surrendering of the body and mind. We let go of any attachment to our mind, our body, or emotions. When we do this our awareness opens up and expands beyond the boundaries of limited thinking or form. We become formless and boundless as we surrender to the experience. Limitations fall away as we enter the expanse of our own awareness, merging with the greater awareness-ness of all that is.

Two peas in a pod, mindfulness, and meditation, each one a part of our wholeness, working together in concert to enlighten our experience of life.