Friday, February 18

How to be a Spiritual Atheist - Mindfulness Meditation

MeditationIf you're anything like me, the word mediation probably conjures up the image of lots of orange cloaked Buddhists sitting a long room humming. That or some new age hippies sat in the lotus position with quaint smiles on their face breathing in marijuana incense. In short I see it as something mystical, quaint, and ridiculous.

That's probably because of my childhood. (What isn't?) When I was growing up, I was told that meditation was evil. An empty mind paved the way for Demons to come in and take over. And so instead, we would spend hours praying instead. Because somehow that was different. And so in my mind Meditation has strange powers. It connects with a spirit, with the occult, or with some other fictional illusion. And part of me still thinks of it that way. If meditation does require a belief in the supernatural then clearly it's not the kind of thing an Atheist would want to be involved in. But thankfully, as with most things, I've got that wrong.

Meditation is not mystical, or supernatural. At its most basic, meditation is about taking a step back, looking inside your mind, and just noticing what you find there. Mindfullness meditation, especially, is simply a technique in which one pays attention to his or her present emotions, thoughts and body sensations, such as breathing, without passing judgment or reacting. An individual simply releases his thoughts and “lets it go.”

I used to meditate this daily, back when I was in university and was flirting with the idea of New Age and I remember feeling better for it. Watching my thoughts for 10-20 minutes a day meant that I able to keep an eye on them all day. Often I would notice a thought running through my head and have time to think about it before reacting, as if there was a buffer between my thoughts and my mind.

To have that level of awareness can only be described as spiritual. To be able to see into your own thoughts, is to see yourself as you really are. But was that really due to the meditation? Or was that due to my belief in the New Age at the time

But that's just my experience. It doesn't count as science. However, scientific investigations into Mindfulness meditation have found that it can increase concentration, help decrease stress, increase the feeling of general control over your life and increase the feeling of life purpose.

All this just by sitting back and watching the world go by? It seems like something too good to not try!

Further experimentation is required. Therefore, for the next week, from Saturday onwards, I will spend at least 15 minutes a day in mindfulness meditation, and feedback as to what I have found. or if we just feel like we've sat around doing nothing.

I'll post an example of how to do mindfulness meditation tomorrow, and we can see how it goes?

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1 comment:

Marsha Lucas, PhD said...

Good luck! As you already know, it's a no-religion required, no-New-Age-ism required thing. And you make changes in your brain for the better. I'm a neuroscience geek, and I find mindfulness meditation to be incredibly worthwhile.

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