What is the difference between daydreaming and meditating? Many beginner meditators may ask this question. It seems logical that sitting quietly and letting your mind wander would be a way of going inward, but you should pay attention to your intentions.
See this article by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of IBN Live about demystifying the art of meditation. It discusses the difference between daydreaming and meditation, and tells us that, in meditation, we must have clear focus.
Total rest happens in meditation. And meditation happens only when the mind settles down. How to settle this mind? By understanding the aim of life and having a clear focus. What is focus? Being fulfilled in the moment, being centered, looking to the highest and remaining in that space of peace, is focus. If there is no peace, there is no focus.
Turning this around, and you will realize that if you focus, you attain peace. When you are not happy in the present moment, then you desire something. Desire simply means that the present moment is not all right. This causes tension in the mind; every desire causes feverishness. In this state, meditation cannot happen.
You may sit with your eyes closed, but the desires keep arising, thoughts keep arising; you fool yourself into thinking that you are meditating, but actually you are daydreaming!
When daydreaming, you allow your mind to lead you. You may be fantasizing about your future or remembering a time in your past. In meditation, however, you keep a focused awareness in the present, and dismiss the tangent thoughts in your mind. That’s not to say you shouldn’t daydream. Daydreaming is a fantastic way to inspire yourself – just don’t do it while you’re meditating!