Two concepts that get thrown around a lot in meditation are mindfulness and concentration. And while these two Buddhist meditation beliefs might seem similar to a beginning meditator, they are vastly different and help you to grow in very specific ways.
Will Meecham explains the difference between mindfulness and concentration in this latest Psych Central post. According to Meecham, mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of one’s thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations that form the substance of a person’s experience. Concentration, on the other hand, entails mental effort (for example by focusing on the breath) to develop control over the activities of mind.
The two meditative poles can be seen as the Yin and Yang of mental development (to add Chinese philosophy into the mix). Mindfulness is the Yin, receptive aspect of mind. It is awareness without action. It leads to serene clarity, and the ability to embrace everything that happens, both interior and exterior to the self. Concentration is the Yang, active principle that helps us build proper thought and behavior. It transforms us from impulsive reactors to thoughtful agents of life.
Both are necessary to human maturation. We can’t choose our actions properly if we don’t learn to unflinchingly observe ourselves. We can’t learn the skill of profound observation unless we develop an ability to steer the mind away from useless and distracting chatter. We use mindfulness to observe our behavior, and concentration to improve it.
Read more from Meecham on using meditation to cultivate mindfulness and concentration here.