The Difference Between Mindfulness, Heartfulness, and Wholeheartedness

What do Mindfulness, Heartfulness, and Wholeheartedness have in common? These concepts, which are frequently discussed in spiritual and self-improvement literature, are intertwined yet hold unique differences.

As Heart Leaders, it’s essential not only to understand these philosophies, but also to weave them into the multithreaded fabric of our personal and professional lives. This week, let’s explore each of these concepts, their commonalities, as well as their differences. We’ll also take a look at how to integrate them into our daily lives.

Let’s get started!

“In the journey of Heart Mastery, each step illuminates a pathway, a doorway to a specific universe within us—Mindfulness takes us to the realm of the present, Heartfulness guides us to the kingdom of the heart, and Wholeheartedness escorts us to the sanctuary of authenticity.”

As leaders walking the path of heart-centered spirituality, integrating these approaches into our everyday life may seem challenging. But rest assured, the journey is not only achievable, but also deeply rewarding. The question is, how do these concepts differ, and how can they harmoniously co-exist within our personal and professional lives?

Mindfulness: Cultivating Present Moment Awareness

Mindfulness, a concept with roots in ancient Buddhist philosophy, describes the psychological state of being intensely aware, without judgment, of what you’re sensing and feeling in the given moment. It’s about being present, actively involved in the here and now, rather than obsessing over past regrets or worrying about future predicaments. 

This might seem like a fairly simple principle to understand, but in practice, achieving genuine mindfulness can be a challenge. In a world where multitasking is praised and distraction is a constant, we’re more often than not lost in thought, rather than being fully engaged in what we’re doing. 

Mindfulness involves shifting our focus to the present moment, bringing our mind’s wandering tendency under control, and awakening to the embodied experience of life. In essence, it’s a form of meditation— a way to cultivate awareness and reduce stress. By practicing mindfulness, you can learn to live life more fully, engage more effectively, reduce stress, and increase enjoyment. 

Imagine you’re enjoying a morning walk. It’s not just about moving your feet in an autopilot mode, it’s about feeling the breeze against your skin, hearing the birds chirping, being aware of the rhythmic pattern of your breathing, and watching the sunrise paint vibrant hues in the sky. That, in essence, is a moment of mindfulness – obviously, it’s more than just a buzzword!

Heartfulness: The Path to Heart-Centered Awareness

While Mindfulness asks us to be fully present, Heartfulness asks us to connect with our heart. Heartfulness has roots in many ancient philosophies and traditions, particularly those of Eastern spirituality and Mindfulness. However, the term ‘Heartfulness’ has been popularized and more widely understood through its use in modern psychology and personal growth contexts. It’s considered to be an important aspect of emotional intelligence and is widely practiced in cognitive behavioral therapies. 

Fundamentally, the practice of Heartfulness holds a conviction that our hearts contain untapped love, wisdom, and power, providing us a compass to navigate life’s challenges. The essence of this methodology lies in opening up to, and listening to your heart. This practice facilitates an enriched grasp of your emotions, leading to a state of inner peace and tranquility that is associated with resilience. 

It is essential to note that Heartfulness does not advocate for the suppression of mental functions. Instead, it aims to foster a harmonious relationship between the mind and the heart, similar to what the Institute of HeartMath refers to as Heart Coherence. This balanced interplay empowers individuals to better manage their emotions, respond with conscious intention rather than react impulsively, thus promoting improved mental health and emotional well-being. 

In the practice of Heartfulness, focus is significantly placed upon emotions such as love, kindness, compassion, and gratitude. However, it is not just the experience of these emotions, but also the ensuing influence they have on your actions and behavior that is important. Through meditation and introspection, Heartfulness seeks to foster a deep appreciation for the present moment, alongside nurturing a compassionate approach to relating to others. 

Consider for a moment your heart as a vast ocean of love. As the waves of emotions, thoughts, and experiences roil on the surface, the deeper regions of this ocean are, nevertheless, serene and untroubled. The journey through Heartfulness is like diving into these unconditional loving waters, and as a result, you feel an overwhelming feeling of love towards everyone and everything. This is the essence of what Tej Steiner refers to as, Heart Awakening.

The Role of Meditation in Mindfulness and Heartfulness

Meditation plays an essential role in both Mindfulness and Heartfulness. While the pursuit of both paths shares a common instrument—meditation—the way this practice is carried out varies between the two. 

Mindfulness meditation, at its core, is a practice aimed at cultivating a heightened state of awareness and focused attention on the present moment. The objective is to acknowledge and accept things as they are without judgment. Here, meditation serves as a tool that assists you in training your mind to observe thoughts, sensations, and emotions as they arise, allowing them to pass without becoming entangled in them. You learn to become the witness and see the transient nature of your experiences. This promotes mental clarity and emotional calmness. 

Heartfulness meditation, on the other hand, concentrates on the heart, promoting deep connection with one’s inner self. As the name suggests, Heartfulness emphasizes feeling over observation. Although it also makes use of Mindfulness meditation’s strategy of sitting quietly and focusing inward, the intention in Heartfulness meditation is to foster a heartfelt quality of compassion, understanding, empathy, and love toward self and others. It’s about experiencing the heart’s wisdom, fostering a sense of harmony and peace. 

In a nutshell, both Mindfulness and Heartfulness meditation nurture an overall sense of well-being. When practiced together, these practices amplify each other. While Mindfulness keeps you grounded in the present, Heartfulness helps you connect with your deeper emotions, enabling a state of both presence and emotional availability. Practicing both Mindfulness and Heartfulness nurtures a holistic development of mind and heart, cultivating a balanced emotional and mental state.

Walking the Path of Wholeheartedness

The concept of Wholeheartedness diverges from Mindfulness and Heartfulness in several interesting ways. While Mindfulness focuses on the present moment and Heartfulness on the expression of the qualities of the heart, Wholeheartedness is an all-encompassing approach to life that encourages us to embrace vulnerability, live authentically and nurture a sense of worthiness. Instead of distancing ourselves from uncomfortable emotions or experiences, Wholeheartedness asks us to dive headfirst into them, recognizing that our ability to feel pain is just as essential to our humanity as our capacity for joy. 

While Mindfulness and Heartfulness can, in a way, be compartmentalized into activities or meditative practices that you set time aside for, Wholeheartedness is more of an encompassing lifestyle, or a way of showing up for yourself and others. It’s not something you do; it’s a way you strive to be in every aspect of your life. 

So how does one cultivate wholeheartedness in daily life? It is a continuous process, a journey rather than a destination. It involves: 

  • Embracing Imperfections: Accepting that you are not perfect, acknowledging your faults, and transforming them into strengths.
  • Expressing Authenticity: Being true to yourself and real with others, understanding and expressing your feelings honestly, and making choices that reflect your values and beliefs.
  • Nurturing Connections: Cultivating meaningful relationships, creating an environment of trust and mutual respect, where vulnerability and connection are valued.
  • Pursuing Growth: Continually learning, evolving, and striving to better yourself, finding purpose and fulfillment in personal growth.

The beauty of wholeheartedness is that it enriches the quality of your life on multiple levels. It bestows a sense of freedom, enabling you to live authentically, unburdened by what others may think of you. It enhances emotional resilience, by helping you acknowledge and face your vulnerabilities honestly. It strengthens relationships, fostering deeper connections based on trust and mutual understanding. It cultivates an attitude of constant learning and self-improvement, driving personal growth and fulfillment. 

In essence, Wholeheartedness is a pathway to finding wholeness through the heart: living life deeply, fully, and joyously. It is a commitment to inhabit all aspects of your existence with courage, vulnerability, and authenticity. The invitation is there. Will you accept it?

Contributors in the Fields of Mindfulness, Heartfulness, and Wholeheartedness

Beyond the definitions, it’s worthwhile mentioning several individuals who have contributed their knowledge and insights to these practices:

  • Jon Kabat-Zinn: An acclaimed author and celebrated professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Massachusetts. Kabat-Zinn is esteemed for his influential Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. This groundbreaking approach has played a pivotal role in promoting the benefits of mindfulness on a global scale.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh: Honored as a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, revered Zen master, and accomplished poet, Thich Nhat Hanh has devoted his entire life to educating others about mindfulness. His unique teaching methodology emphasizes compassion, breath awareness, and loving-kindness. His literary works and teachings continue to inspire lives worldwide.
  • Kamlesh D. Patel: Lovingly known as Daaji, Patel has popularized Heartfulness Meditation in the modern era. As the guiding light at the global scale of the Heartfulness Institute, he has written exhaustively on the subject. His teachings predominantly focus on heart-guided relaxation and meditation.
  • Joshua Pollock: A Heartfulness trainer and practitioner, Joshua Pollock co-authored the book ‘The Heartfulness Way’, which elucidates Heartfulness meditation and its benefits. His teachings focus on using the heart’s guidance to foster personal transformation.
  • Brené Brown: A respected research professor stationed at the University of Houston, Brown has made significant academic contributions with her research on human connections, vulnerability, and courage. Her insights into the concept of Wholeheartedness have shed light on how to live a fuller life.
  • Dr. Gabor Maté: Acknowledged worldwide for his innovative work in the field of addiction, Maté has shed valuable insights into the nature of Wholeheartedness. His research speaks volumes about the potent interplay between mind, heart, and body health, further redefining Wholeheartedness as a holistic state of being.
  • Mari Perrone: In her book, ‘A Course of Love‘, she defines Wholeheartedness as a harmonious state of unity between the heart and the mind. Her Christ-based teachings pave the way for individuals striving to fully embody unconditional love in everyday life.
  • Tej Steiner: His Heart Circle Framework and Five Ways of Being provide a simple, and practical approach to bringing Mindfulness, Heartfulness, and Wholeheartedness into a unified whole for individuals, families, and groups.
  • Dr. Susan Campbell: A highly respected clinical psychologist, therapist, and trainer, she’s the author of Getting Real: 10 Truth Skills to Live an Authentic Life. Her work provides a Wholehearted approach to communicating and relating to yourself and others.
  • HeartMath Institute: Known for their scientifically validated research on heart coherence, the HeartMath Institute’s efforts have opened avenues for Heartfulness practices. Their studies demonstrate that a synchronized heart and mind can lead to elevated mental clarity, heightened emotional balance, and improved cognitive function.

Integrating Mindfulness, Heartfulness, and Wholeheartedness into Daily Life 

Mindfulness, Heartfulness, and Wholeheartedness are not owned or limited to any specific religion, new-age group, or spiritually based organization. Rather, they are universal psycho-spiritual practices or ways of being that can help you become a better, more loving human. Integrating them into your daily life isn’t just possible, it’s a priority. These practices can be woven into your everyday activities, subtly shifting your perspective and enhancing your overall quality of life. 

Mindfulness in Daily Life 

Mindfulness can be incorporated into virtually every moment. For example, when you’re eating, pay attention to the taste and texture of your food, savoring every bite. During work, be present and focused, zeroing in on one task at a time. Even mundane activities like washing dishes or taking a walk can be opportunities for mindfulness. Simply focus your attention on the sensations involved in the activity and practice staying in the present moment. 

Heartfulness in Daily Life 

Heartfulness, too, can be a part of your daily routine. It’s about setting aside a few minutes to meditate on your heart, and experiencing love and compassion. During interactions with others, try to empathize with their emotions and perspectives. You can also show Heartfulness toward yourself by taking time out for self-care activities, acknowledging your feelings, and forgiving yourself for any mistakes. Essentially, it’s about allowing your heart to guide your actions. 

Wholeheartedness in Daily Life 

Wholeheartedness, like the other two, is a way of being and can be embodied each day. It involves living and acting with authenticity, vulnerability, and courage. When you make decisions, consider what is true to you, what matters the most to you, and let that guide your actions. Embrace challenges with courage, commit to your passions, and express your feelings openly. By choosing to engage fully and authentically in every experience, you embody Wholeheartedness. 

Tej Steiner’s Five Ways of Being offer a fantastic approach to Wholeheartedness. They invite you to be clear, present, real, connected, and heart-directed in every interaction and in every area of your life. That’s why I’ve included them as one of the foundational principles of Heart Centered Living and explore them in great depth in of my group training programs.

Final Thoughts

As Heart Leaders, it’s important to recognize that Mindfulness, Heartfulness, and Wholeheartedness, while differing in their approaches, share common goals – increased self-awareness, and a more profound connection with our hearts, others, and the world around us. Therefore, it should be a top priority to incorporate them into our daily lives.

Mindfulness encourages you to become more present. Heartfulness allows you to connect more deeply with your heart. Meanwhile, Wholeheartedness demands your complete engagement and authenticity, fostering authentic, compassionate connections with others. While they can be practiced individually or together, integrating them into your daily life can provide a comprehensive approach to personal mastery, leadership development, and spiritual growth.

Lastly, remember that everyone’s journey is different. So, find what resonates most with you, discard what doesn’t, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different practices. Start with small steps, be patient with yourself, and gradually, you’ll start to notice the changes.

From my heart to yours,


Filed under Personal Mastery

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