Last updated December, 2017.
So, what's the difference? 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 compulsive mind and its non-stop activity without indulging it (without getting caught up in 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?" Because you - like the rest of us - aren't always mindful!
We spend most of our day lost in our minds. 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, and the other struggles your mind creates in your life.
note - read the follow-up to this musing: How to meditate - short and simple.
The secret to everything.
There's a difference between what happens to us, and the stories our minds tell about what happens to us.
The things we deal with every day - from the inability to stop bad habits, to stress, anxiety, and self-confidence issues, to problems with sleep, focus, and productivity - can be traced back to this difference.
It's the root cause of all our struggles.
The good news is, if you learn to become aware of this difference and stop getting caught up in the stories constantly running through your head, life can improve dramatically.
The better new is, we've been teaching people how to do exactly that for almost 20 years now. Tens of thousands of people around the world, and from every walk of life.
Click here to read about "An owner's guide to the mind."