Meditation becoming the new Prayer
It’s undeniable the fact that presently, there is global brawl between spirituality and religiosity. Research shows that more and more people are becoming religiously unaffiliated and instead are identifying themselves as “spiritual but not religious”. This situation is believed to be the result of the failures of religion and on its promises. Now, people are more than ever getting beguiled by spirituality and all it offers, which appears to be more progressive, self attaining and fulfilling.
This new trend has resulted in the popularity of a historical religious practice, “Meditation”. It has gradually taken the place of prayer for many. But the disturbing fact is that it’s potentials is being touted in the same manner religious traditions did in over exaggerating the efficacy of prayer. With that came the instruction to “pray without ceasing,” with the conviction that God is just by the corner and will faithfully answer exactly as requested. Prayer became considered the key to everything imaginable and faithfuls made foolish “prayer warriors” of themselves.
Now, with an increase in anti-religious materials available, meditation is being touted by many as the new key to everything tenable. It impacts you physiologically and psychologically, has spiritual consequences and effects your over-all well being is become the in thing.
Yesterday, I came across a post on Harvard Business Review: What to do when anger takes hold. In this piece, Peter Bregman, describes a recent incident between him, his contractor and building management that triggered anger and how meditation helped him handle it. As I was reading through this piece, I couldn’t help but ask: Really? Meditation has such a quick acting potential? Yeah, I asked! Though, I consider myself a spiritual but not religious person, I haven't yet succumbed to the whole meditate for a wholesome living notion. Thus, I am not exposed yet to any of it’s believed extensive effects.
With my religious background, I got my dosage of teachings on prayer. So, I said, so also is prayer. Or better yet, so we were always told: Just spare even a second of your time and talk to God in prayer, no matter what the circumstance is, how grave or mild it may be, He makes it all right. Or directs you on the best way to get a hold of it.
A reason for bible verses like these: “Pray to me when you are in trouble! I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15); “Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a murmur, and the waves of the sea were hushed. They rejoiced when the waves grew quiet. Then He guided them to the harbor they longed for” (Psalm 107: 28-30).
This is the swift promised essence of prayer. God is always attentive and quick to turn every negative situation positive. Remember the story “When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Silence! Be still!" Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39)? Meaning that prayer is always suddenly answered. And after its settled, it will be so obvious the turn around is God’s doing, leaving us with no choice than to give Him glory and praise, for “the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23).
Did all these hullabaloos end up being the truth? No! Consider this, my Uncle even once suggested while teaching us about the wonders of prayer that before preparing a meal, that one should pray so as to increase the chance of it being tasty. Yeah, God can direct you in the kitchen to choose the right recipes and control your hands to mix them, right for a delicious meal. All you have to do is remember to ask him for that in prayer before commencing.
Isn't this the same kind of promises that are now being presented about meditation? Just take time to clear your mind, let go of your egos and ignore all that is happening around you and see it work its magic in all aspects of life or on a particular circumstance. With regard to anger, Peter urged:
"Simply sit for five or 10 minutes a day, feel whatever comes up, and don’t do anything about it. Notice what anger feels like. Notice what frustration feels like. And loneliness and desire. Notice where you feel it in your body. Notice its texture, how it moves, where it leads.
Here’s the important part: don’t get up and do anything about it. In meditation there’s nothing to do. Just sit, experience, and don’t act. That’s what makes it so powerful."
No wonder he eventually wrote:
"Thankfully, before I received the call from my contractor that morning, just before I sat down to look at my calendar, I had meditated for 10 minutes. The feeling of feeling — and my independence from it — was fresh in my body.So, when I hung up with my contractor, and before I dialed the management company, I paused to take a deep breath. I felt my anger fully; I felt my heart beating and my adrenaline flowing.
I continued to breathe and, underneath my anger, I felt my fear. I felt powerlessness and how much I hate feeling powerless. And I felt my anxiety about how much money I had been spending. I also felt my deep loathing for bureaucracy. That’s one of the interesting — and sometimes scary things— about feeling: you never know where it will take you.
Still, feeling all those feelings only took a few short seconds.
And here’s something important: I was no less angry after I was done. My goal was not to diminish my feeling or diffuse it to make myself feel better. My goal was to feel it so that it wouldn’t control my next move.
After feeling my anger, I made a strategic and intentional decision that I felt would be most useful in the situation: I would express my anger fully, but respectfully.
Then I picked up the phone and dialed the building manager. As the phone was ringing, I wrote two things on a piece of paper in front of me: “No threats” and “No cursing.”
When I got the building manager on the phone, I let my anger rip. I told him exactly what he was doing to undermine me and the project. I raised my voice and, I have to admit, it felt great. But I didn’t curse and I didn’t threaten. I maintained control.
And because I was in control, I was articulate and I could pause for his response, two things that would not have happened if I were caught in the throes of my own anger. I was also able to consider his response and choose to soften when he admitted his mistake and recognized how his mistake affected me."
Isn't it possible Peter was able to rationalize the situation because he has trained his cognitive ability into maturity and the incidence in question happened to be a manageable one? Isn't it also possible that people can actually train their ability to control their emotions like Peter did without needing to meditate or pray? Or is such only achievable through a religious ritual? Or is the aptness to “do things we later regret, or don’t do things we wish we had, because our emotions take hold” solely a religious affair. Does it mean all those who “succeed in life and in leadership [made sure]… to act powerfully in the context of strong emotions and still have the impact…intend[ed]” did so religiously? I thought spirituality is about our individual potentials and how well we are able to recognize that to be real?
My fear is that we aren't appreciating the fact that irrespective of how personal medication feels, and how appealing it is, it has religious root and has been historically understood as a religious ritual. Yes, the experience may be soothing and invigorating, but it’s not for everyone and it may not even hold as much potentials as are being presented, though there are many researches backing its efficacy argument. Now, think about this, its now a common belief, after all these while that though prayer has some effect on those who pray, but God doesn’t really answer prayers. In fact, “Recent studies provide some support for the idea that prayer has curative powers. It is argued that even if prayers are effective in these kinds of cases it cannot be because God is answering them”. This as one of the fallacies of religion, which we are all discovering later, is making me want to say, lets be careful so the cycle of later letdown is not repeated.
The tormentous winds of life are never instantly calmed down or handled better with prayers, likewise meditation. So, for the Soul of this new paradigm of spirituality, and the sake of those flocking towards it, let the nature of the effect and potentials of meditation be down played. Like the experience of “Spiritual awakening,” let meditation be sold as a practice of choice. One that is purely based on the functional, adoptable and efficacy appeal to the individual spiritual being. It ought not be presented as the basis for a “what or how to do” argument.
When presented in such manner, it appears as a gold standard or must do practice in order to fully reap the benefits of spirituality. Lets not make this as the case, lest it turns out as the new prayer of the new movement. Such will subject those who can’t, under a new somewhat religious misery. Idea bearing any religious banner or presents religious kind of expectations and promises should be made less generalistic. Relaxation techniques, yes, but meditation, no, irrespective of how secular it is tweaked to appear or understood.
Bregman, P. (2014, October 1). What to Do When Anger Takes Hold. Retrieved from http:// blogs.hbr.org/2014/10/what-to-do-when-anger-takes-hold/
Why Even a Believer should not Believe that God Answers Prayers. Published in Sophia, May 2007, 46, pp. 177-187. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from https://www.ecu.edu/phil/ veberwhy.html