The New York Times magazine published an amusing exchange between interviewer Deborah Solomon and Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons yesterday that points to the general public’s confusion about the difference between meditation and relaxation (just doing something pleasurable).

When Solomon says in the interview that Simmons’ book “Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success” advocates old-fashioned American values and hard work, Simmons corrects her: “The book doesn’t say just work hard. It says meditate. That’s the most important thing in the book. I go to yoga every day. I meditate every morning. Do you meditate?”

Solomon says, “I prefer reading in bed. That for me is meditation.”

“No, it’s not. It’s noise,” Simmons snaps back. “It’s the opposite. To be awake is to be fully present, no noise, just you and God. Most of us only have seconds of full consciousness.”

Simmons is right. Soothing activities aren’t meditation, and are often quite different from focusing on the breath, and calming the chatter. I notice more and more people saying that they meditate when they’re driving (oh-oh…look out!), or exercising. Do you see the distinction between focused concentration, relaxing or soothing yourself, and meditating? We should definitely keep talking about this.

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