Research into mindfulness meditation, and there’s been lots, shows us that its effectiveness does not rely in the slightest on any of the trappings of religion. Yet even in the secular age we live in, it’s rare to find people offering training in meditation, or mindfulness, who don’t use religious images. Adverts for meditation courses typically include images of the Buddha in their marketing. How many times have you seen the stereotype image of a ‘meditator’ as someone sitting on a cushion in the lotus position looking blissful?
The problem is that even subtle religious imagery and references such as these can put off those people who, understandably, are deeply sceptical of, or even cynical about, anything that appears either vaguely religious or perhaps new-agey. ‘Woo woo’ is how they might describe what they see.
SUBTLE RELIGIOUS IMAGERY AND REFERENCES CAN PUT PEOPLE OFF
We see and hear terms, untranslated, in the Pali language that was spoken in part of northeast India two and a half thousand years ago and which, in fact, wasn’t the language spoken by Gotama, the Buddha. I often wonder if the some of the expressions used in these courses are there to confuse people, or perhaps create the notion of an in-group (believers) and an out-group (who’ve not yet seen the light).
For all these reasons and more, people have been asking us to put together an introduction to meditation from a secular viewpoint, one which includes the insights and the tasks the Buddha set out, but from a viewpoint that Kiwis can relate to. We will do, we’re talking about this, it’s a work in progress.
But in the meantime if you’re needing to do a short, structured introductory course right now, take a look at those on offer from Mindfulness Works. Their primary offering is a practical, accessible, non-religious, four-week course for total, complete and absolute beginners, and it’s available in more than 20 centres around the country.
With emphasis given to a practitioner’s own experience and self-reflection, it has a strong focus on working with thoughts and feelings as a means to improve our mental health. Insight, wisdom, compassion, kindness, ethics and generosity, are allowed to emerge in a very natural way from the meditator’s own experience, rather than as a philosophy to debate with, a set of ideas to adopt, or a dogma to be accepted.
And now they’re in Australia too – mindfulnessworksaustralia.com. Give it a go.