Last updated December, 2019.
So, what is the difference between mindfulness and meditation?
It's a great question, because people often get confused about the two.
Common follow-up questions include:
Meditation is a dedicated exercise you do to strengthen awareness, and develop the skill of observing your mind and its non-stop activity without indulging it (without getting caught up in - or swept away by - it).
Mindfulness is applying the skill you develop while meditating to your "non-meditating" time.
The goal for a lot of people (myself included) is to be mindful in all our activities: working, playing, walking the dog, washing dishes, interacting with others, et cetera.
When you are fully engaged with the present moment - as opposed to following your mind when it tries to pull you away from "here and now" - it increases the quality of everything you do.
In regard to the question "Can I meditate while doing my job?" - you normally don't do the dedicated exercise of meditating while you work. You can, however, work mindfully.
Which brings us to the other question - "Why do I need to meditate at all if I'm always mindful?"
The answer is simple: Because you - like the rest of us - aren't always mindful!
We spend most of our day lost in mental drama. We dwell on the past, stress about the future, or escape to an alternate reality (fantasize/daydream). Most of us don't even realize the extent to which this happens, because we are usually not aware of what our minds are doing; we just follow them wherever they lead.
If you truly examine where you are at any given moment during the day, however, you will likely find you are caught up in thought about something that isn't related to the present moment.
Meditation trains you to get better at being mindful (remember, you are developing a skill). Just like anything else in life - excelling in sports, doing well at work, getting smarter, improving relationships - you have to practice. It's very rare you just "show up" and are good at something. Meditation is the practice.
There aren't any shortcuts. But, don't look at meditating as a chore. Instead, view it as "a way of being." And, this way of being can deliver liberation from stress, anxiety, extreme emotions, self-doubt, and the other struggles your mind creates in your life.
note - read the follow-up to this musing: How to meditate - short and simple.
Common questions we're asked:
Our 15-day meditation challenge - "Your inner narrative" - answers these questions and more.