“It’s almost like mindfulness is becoming a folk religion of the secular elite in Western Culture.” – David McMahan (Buddhist Scholar)
SInce Buddhism and meditation have been brought to Western Culture, it has been reinterpreted and reapplied to fit the needs and intentions of the varied followers who practice. Are the meditation practices being used today truly in alignment with original Buddhist practices? Or, is what we practice now just a modernization of an ancient practice that is meant to be independent of culture and time? Are we meditating authentically? Do we concern ourselves with these thoughts and comparisons or do we just meditate in our own way and veer from tradition to simply extract what we can and pull what we need from it? This topic would no doubt give Buddhist scholars much to pontificate about, but my opinions here are those of a Westerner who holds a deep respect and appreciation for all that Buddhism, meditation and mindfulness have taught me. I am not Buddhist, but I enjoy reading about what it has to teach us. I do meditate and feel that I do it in my own way following my own agenda. I try to live mindfully, but I interpret what that means for my life. In my position in life it would be impossible for me to live up to true Buddhist customs. I do what I can with what I’m handed. I don’t concern myself with popular belief, I concern myself with what serves me and what makes me feel at peace. Meditating in my Meditation Garden for as long as I have time for is what works for me.
What is being done in present day may be more like a quick and convenient shot of meditation espresso, but I feel that may be what we need and all we can accommodate right now. The life of a modern day member of Western Culture looks much different than that of a Buddhist Monk. And, if the end result brings us the desired outcome then should we bother even considering our means to a desired end? If our intentions are good then our methods are sound. I see people pick their method and adapt their ways to fit their busy lifestyles and I don’t judge. Judgement of these things would, of course, not be in alignment with practices such as this anyway.
However, if you decide to incorporate your version of relaxation meditation, understand that your result will be just that: relaxing. Without internalizing dharma by reciting scriptures and sinking deep into your own mind for devoted periods of time as the Buddhist Monks do, you will technically not reach the insights intended to be learned through ancient meditation. But, don’t misunderstand me. My message here is one of support to all of you who meditate for as long or as short as you wish and in whatever way you decide. “Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” -Ella Fitzgerald
In this world of chaos and unpredictability, for me it is comforting to turn to meditation to quiet my mind and relax my body. I feel comfortable calling what I do meditation even though it follows the guidelines of more popular beliefs about meditation than the Buddhist protocol.
With a healthy dose of self love and a whole heap of good intentions, mindfulness and meditation in any capacity will serve you well. “Put it in your heart where tomorrow shines” – Shiny Happy People REM
photos taken in my meditation garden