Meditation and Religious Stigma
When I talk to people about meditation, most people, at least in Southern California, seem to either do some form of meditation, or accept it as part of the culture here. It’s as much a part of the culture as fast cars and sunglasses. There have been many spiritual leaders who have come through the area and taught some form of meditation over the last hundred years.
While meditation seems ubiquitous here, there are many other places where it is still considered foreign. I speak to people from other areas of the country and the world, and get the feeling that meditation is viewed as a religious or “new age” thing for “different” and “eccentric” people. It’s not for them, and some even say it goes against their religion to accept any practice like meditation. It’s one of those “New Age Hippie California” things, or some Eastern Himalayan thing that they want no part of. There seems to be a religious stigma about meditation.
Sadly, though this perception seems to be pretty popular in certain circles, it could not be further from the truth. Meditation is a practice, not dogma. While meditation is touted as central to the Buddhist religion, it is not intrinsic to only Buddhism. In fact, all people on Earth can benefit from the practice of meditation. One need not be “spiritual”, “new age”, “liberal”, “hippie”, or Indian to benefit from meditation. One just needs to adopt it into their current structure and practice to see and feel the benefits.
There is a good article on Oregon Live right now that talks about this very subject. In the article, the author writes of a meditation teacher who felt as if all the new age affiliation with meditation didn’t resonate with her,
“People are really hungry for something that isn’t religiously based,” says Caren Prentice, known to her students as Meditation Momma. “Either they have a religion and they’re happy with it or, if they don’t have one, they’re happy that they don’t.
“Meditation is not about religion it all,” she says. “It helps us calm down, to find an oasis. That moment of calm, that fresh breath, can carry you throughout the day.”
This is true. I’m not religious at all, in the traditional sense, and meditation is something I can use practically, stripped of any spiritual practice, if I so desire. The practice of returning yourself constantly to the present moment is a skill that can do wonders for your emotional state. There are many benefits of meditation which I’ve written about in other posts, so I won’t go into them here. I will say though, that if you are inclined to try meditation but feel hindered because of your religion, keep in mind that you can separate meditation from spirituality and just use it as a practical tool for centering yourself throughout the day.