If you've spent any amount of time on this site, you've probably already run across some of the many, many ways that meditation improves our lives. There are so many physical and emotional benefits, from reduction in inflammation and headaches, improved sleep, uplifted feelings, improved memory, reduced stress, and on and on. But what about that third leg in our tripod of being - body + mind + spirit? What role does meditation play in our spirit, and - more to the point - does meditation go against your religion?
Meditation is a cornerstone in some religions, particularly in the East. Religions such as Hinduism use meditation as a vehicle to have direct communication and experience with the divine. Buddhism is heavily centered in meditation. In the West, Christian mysticism and contemplative prayer are also rooted in meditation.
Some people are not interested in religion in the least, or even have quite anti-religious feelings. They are still able to get the benefits of meditation discussed previously. There is no need to believe in a Hindu god in order to reap the benefit of lower blood pressure through cultivating stillness via meditation. I loved the analogy I heard Bob Roth, TM expert, give on a recent podcast: You can pick up a pencil, open your hand, and it will without fail fall to the floor, whether you believe in gravity or not. The principles of stilling your body and mind and directing your energy up to the front of your brain will give you certain benefits, regardless of what you believe or don't believe. They are grounded in universal laws.
There can certainly be a spiritual element to meditation. A meditator can experience seeing light, feeling peace or love, having an auditory experience, and that could happen regardless of their beliefs. A meditator can focus on technique and go no further into working on opening herself up to greater understanding/potential and still reap many positive benefits.
Meditation does not have to be about spirituality. However, it can be a wonderful vehicle to bring in a greater divine awareness, to feel more connected to one's Higher Self, higher purpose, to other souls, to the universe. But a meditator needs to consciously open herself to that. There is effort that is needed to go deeply in that direction. I say this because some people are a little bit confused about how their religious beliefs tie in to meditation, and specifically they can be worried that it is a threat to what they believe. To that I say take meditation where you want it to go. If you just need some help with your stress, focus on the techniques and let your mind and body benefit from that. If you want to use meditation to still yourself for greater concentration to deepen your prayers to whomever you feel connected with spiritually - Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, specific saints, God, angels - you can make those prayers more powerful with meditation. Meditation can be a wonderful augmentation to any religion, and it can also be a completely secular activity. It is up to the practitioner to decide.
I am an Ananda® certified meditation teacher. I am passionate about meditation and embrace a yogic lifestyle for greater wellness physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
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