interfaith

Prayer versus meditation? They’re more alike than we realize

Black woman with hands held in gesture of prayer or meditation

Doug Todd (Vancouver Sun): You could call it a religious war of words, with the West Coast serving as one of its most intense battlegrounds.

The bid to win hearts and minds pits Buddhist meditation against Christian prayer, with meditation, especially so-called “mindfulness,” seeming to be gaining ground.

It’s been the focus of more than 60 recent scholarly studies. It’s being embraced by hundreds of psychotherapists, who increasingly offer Buddhist mindfulness to clients dealing with depression and anxiety. It’s been on the cover of Time magazine.

Even though polls show there are 10 times more Christians in the Pacific Northwest than Buddhists, the forms of meditation associated with those on the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean are rising to the fore in North America. Buddhist meditators, who tend to think of themselves as “spiritual but not religious,” claim what they do is not “religious.” That’s part of the appeal of mindfulness. Such medita-tors complain that Christian (as well as Jewish and Muslim) prayer over-emphasizes pleading with, confessing to or praising a God.

But meditation, Western Buddhists maintain, is simply a “practice.” It’s “secular,” with no traditional God, even while it may also be “spiritual.”

It turns out, however, that the gap between Buddhist meditation and Christian prayer might not be so huge. Indeed, some forms seem almost identical.

Still, the many well-educated, well-off Westerners who have been drawn to Buddhism, including famous Vancouver spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, have scored some important points when they criticize Christian prayer for being too busy, too noisy and too focused on soliciting otherworldly aid.

Indeed, Rev. Ellen Clark-King, the archdeacon of Christ Church (Anglican) Cathedral in downtown Vancouver, is among many who acknowledge Western Buddhists may have been doing Christians an indirect favour.

She does, however, go out of her way to cite the dangers inherent in claiming one form of spiritual practice is superior. There are many paths to the holy, she points out.

In her new book, The Path to Our Door: Approaches to Christian Spirituality (Continuum), she suggests the popularity of Buddhist meditation has prodded many Christians to re-discover some of the tradition’s less well-known meditative and contemplative methods.

“When considering silence as prayer many people’s first thought is of the Eastern, especially the Buddhist, tradition rather than the Christian,” writes Clark-King.

“Buddhism is seen as the natural home of contemplation while Christian prayer is believed by many to focus almost exclusively on intercession, confession and praise – all three very wordy ways of praying. However, this is to ignore a crucial – and central – component of the Christian spiritual path.”

Why has it taken so long for many Christians to seize on to their tradition’s contemplative practices? Clark-King speculates it is hard for anyone, whether Christian or Buddhist, to face the “emptiness” of solitude, which many equate with loneliness. It takes away our distractions and leaves us with only ourselves and, as she says, God.

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN MEDITATION AND PRAYER

It can be revealing to discover the similarities of Buddhist mindfulness and Christian prayer. The noted Buddhist magazine, The Shambhala Sun, is just one of thousands of sources on mindfulness.

In a how-to article, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche tells those who want to learn mindfulness to first get into a comfortable position and then note when thoughts arise.

Just monitor your thoughts and feelings without getting stuck on them, teaches Sakyong Mipham. “Say to yourself: ‘That may be a really important issue in my life, but right now is not the time to think about it. Now I’m practising meditation.’”

By labelling one’s “wild” thoughts and feelings, Sakyong Mipham says, mindfulness practitioners begin to recognize the mind’s discursiveness. “We notice that we have been lost in thought, we mentally label it . without judgment.” The ultimate goal, Sakyong Mipham says, is to keep noticing one’s breath, to reach tranquillity.

Even though Clark-King is not arguing that Buddhist mindfulness and Christian prayer are exactly the same, it is fascinating to note how similar her language is to that of Sakyong Mipham when she describes at least two forms of Christian contemplation.

The first form is set out in The Cloud of Unknowing, a classic book writ-ten anonymously in the 14th century, probably by an English monk.

The Cloud of Unknowing calls for a kind of contemplation that requires radical “openness” to a non-controlling God, Clark-King writes. “All that the pray-er does is keep silence as far as is possible, surrendering every thought as soon as it occurs without paying any attention to it whatsoever.”

The prayer style outlined in her book has been developed by 20th-century Cistercian monk Thomas Keating into a popular movement called “centring prayer,” which is closely akin to mindfulness.

The first step of centring prayer involves opening yourself “to whatever it is that you are experiencing,” says Clark-King. The second step is “to welcome the feeling whatever it may be, consciously saying to oneself: ‘Welcome fear, anger, unhappiness.’” The third phase is to let go of the situation and experience, “to stop trying to control it and leave it for God to take care of.”

There are now hundreds of thou-sands of Christians practicing centring prayer and related contemplative techniques across North America, Europe and beyond. The Canadian Christian Meditation Community is a leader in the field. Still, Christian meditation is not yet mainstream in Protestantism or Catholicism.

Clark-King calls contemplation a “passive” form of Christian prayer. She could say the same of mindfulness as well. Contemplation arises out of a stream of Christian practice that is known as “apophatic,” in which no names or images are used for God. God is not asked to do anything in particular.

The Path to Your Door outlines several other “passive” forms of prayer, which focus on self-emptying.

Like many Buddhists, Meister Eck-hart, a noted 13th-century Domini-can monk, taught “detachment” from desires and things. That’s in part why Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, adapted his name from Meister Eckhart.

All names for God separate people from the divine reality, said Meister Eckhart. The controversial Germanic monk was not afraid to be curt, telling anyone who would listen: “Be silent, and quit flapping your gums about God.”

Many Christian meditators, in addition, are drawn to the teachings of Thomas Merton, a 20th-century Anglo-American monk who engaged in dialogue with Zen Buddhists. Merton saw Zen-like forms of contemplation as the route to authenticity, where we rid ourselves of preconceptions and open up to God, whom many Christians call “the ground of being.”

Fortunately, there are more than a few Western Buddhists who have also figured out that the gap between their practices and those of some Christians is not as big as many assume.

Kate Braid, a Vancouver poet and scholar who practises mindfulness meditation, likes the way that Buddhist author Phillip Moffitt equates Christian “prayer” with Buddhist “intention,” and Buddhist “mindfulness” with Christian “observance.”

Victor Chan, who has brought the Dalai Lama to Vancouver on several occasions, also reminds people that “mindfulness” comes in many every-day forms. It is not mysterious or esoteric.

“You do not have to sit in the lotus position and chant ‘Om’ all the time to practise mindfulness,” Chan says. People in effect practise mindfulness, another word for “paying attention,” whenever they find ways to still their minds and concentrate.

That not only happens through “passive” forms of Christian contemplation, Chan says. People are also being “mindful,” he says, when they are learning how to play tennis, practising the piano, drawing, working on martial arts or memorizing poetry.

In the same vein, Clark-King emphasizes that contemplative prayer, or “observance,” is just one way by which Christians and other spiritual people can connect with the holy.

In addition to her book’s chapter on “passive” practices, titled “Silence,” The Path to Your Door contains many chapters outlining the spiritual benefits to be mined from “kataphatic,” or “active,” disciplines.

Kataphatic spirituality emphasizes words, actions and deeds. It includes artistic creativity, communing with nature, reflecting on sacred poetry, dance and serving the poor, ill or struggling.

THE DOWNSIDE OF CLAIMING SUPERIORITY

Clark-King takes a gentle shot at well-known Christian contemplative and author Cynthia Bourgeault, formerly of B.C., whom Clark-King says acts as if centring prayer is “the pinnacle of all spiritual experience.”

It’s counterproductive, Clark-King says. “This is not helpful. No spiritual practice, however helpful or advanced, is an end in itself; the end is always a closer relationship with God and a greater desire to serve our neighbour.”

I believe the same could be said for claims that Buddhist mindfulness is the finest of all spiritual practices. Or, conversely, that certain forms of Western prayer always trump the ways of the East.

Even though we should never ignore the real distinctions between various religions and spiritual practices, it’s humbling to recognize they often have more in common than we realize.

Original article no longer available

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A Buddhist’s perspective on biblical ways to love

Book of Corinthians

I just read a list of biblical suggestions for ways to show love and I was inspired to write this article including a Buddhist’s perspective of ways to carry out the suggestions on the list.

Ten ways to show people you love them:

  1. Listen without interrupting. (Proverbs 18) – When someone is speaking, the most loving thing we can do is listen. And, if we are really listening, we are not thinking of how to respond or how to get our point across or asking questions or saying anything. We are simply listening to hear and understand what the person is saying. So, the next time you are listening to someone, wait until the person is finished and then respond.
  2. Speak without accusing. (James 1:19) – We all have times with our partners, family members and friends when we disagree, feel disappointed, feel hurt or get angry. When someone accuses us of doing something, we can respond honestly, without blaming or accusing them, by gently speaking from our own experience including: how we felt, what we heard and how we responded. Whenever we accuse or blame someone, they feel defensive and communication is blocked.
  3. Give without sparing. (Proverbs 21:26) – A friend of mine suggested “Always follow through on an impulse of generosity”. I love this idea and put it into practice as often as possible. Yesterday I was selling tote bags and jewelry at a Crafts Fair. A young woman, with two young children, was at a table next to mine. She came to see my jewelry and found a necklace she liked. She told me she would love the necklace but she works at a Child Care Center and cannot wear jewelry to work. She went back to her table where she was selling things her students made so they could take the proceeds and purchase holiday gifts for children who otherwise wouldn’t have them. I put the necklace she liked in a box and gave it to her and told her I would like her to have it. We were both very happy. At the end of the Crafts Fair, she came back to my table with a box, filled with goodies to make a gingerbread house and offered it to me. I accepted her gift and agreed with her when she said “After all, it’s all about creating community.”
  4. Pray without ceasing. (Colossians 1:9) At times in our lives when we feel overwhelmed, uninspired, exhausted or hopeless, the best we can do is to meditate or pray.
  5. Answer without arguing. (Proverbs 17:1) Recently I received an email from a friend (Cindy) who told me she heard from a friend (Janet) who was upset because they had not gotten together for a long time. Janet has a relationship that is on again, off again and Cindy hears from her when the relationship is in the “off again” mode. Janet expects Cindy to be available when Janet wants to get together. Cindy loves Janet but feels Janet takes advantage of their friendship. Cindy wrote to Janet and expressed her feelings. Janet got defensive and argued her case. Cindy refused to enter into an argument and although they didn’t come to an agreement, Cindy left the door open for further communication. When two people argue, it is unlikely they will find a resolution.
  6. Share without pretending. (Ephesians 4:15) Real sharing comes from the heart, without pretense of giving something because it is expected or given with strings attached.
  7. Enjoy without complaint. (Philippians 2:14) Real enjoyment comes when we are wholeheartedly in the present moment. When we have a tendency to find fault with or complain about things, we stop ourselves from enjoying life.
  8. Trust without wavering. (Corinthians 13:7) Many people grow up in situations where they learn not to trust people. This lack of trust can become a habit, a way of protecting ourselves, but it also interferes with closeness with others. When we are aware that we lack trust, it is important to make a resolution to learn to trust again, not blindly, but with wisdom and compassion for ourselves and others.
  9. Forgive without punishing. (Colossians 3:13) People will disappoint us and we will forgive them and when we do, the forgiveness should come without conditions or punishment.
  10. Promise without forgetting. (Proverbs 13:12) It is so important to follow through with our promises so that we are trustworthy and dependable.
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Buddhist lifestyle becoming more popular in Utah

Steve Kent: Religious and non-religious people alike can benefit from Buddhism, according to a presenter Saturday at the Museum of Anthropology’s new exhibit honoring Buddhism in the Cache Valley.

In his experience as a teacher at the Cache Valley Buddhist Sangha, associate English Professor Michael Sowder said he has worked with people of all religious backgrounds who practice meditation and study Buddhist teachings.

People with such a wide range of religious inclination can practice Buddhism because its teachings neither endorse nor reject any particular beliefs, Sowder said.

“You can have a religious belief and practice Buddhism at the same time,” he said. “Buddhism will …

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Meditation chapel remodeled to embrace all faiths

Banner Boswell Medical Center [in Sun City, Arizona] reopened its chapel this week, just in time for Ash Wednesday.

The newly remodeled space, now a non-denominational meditation chapel, offers both patients and their families a quiet space to think and escape the busy hospital atmosphere.

Chaplain Larry Weidner, the director of Spiritual Care, said that the remodel is more inclusive to all religions. Instead of pews, the room now contains individual chairs, and the art is not specific to one religion, but a trio of paintings on one wall incorporates symbols from all faiths.

“As a hospital, we minister to anyone that comes here,” Weidner said.

Weidner pointed out that when the remodel was first proposed, he heard some complaints from people about…

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the switch to a nondenominational, rather than Christian, chapel, but he thought it was important to be welcoming to all religions.

Loretta Tropea, a hospital volunteer from Peoria, said the room looked completely different when she stopped in to receive her ashes Wednesday morning.

“I think it’s very nice,” Tropea said. “They did a nice job.”

The chapel also includes a new water feature just inside the door on a newly constructed wall, which blocks out noise from the busy lobby, where the room is located, giving visitors more privacy.

“It’s an environment that is quiet and peaceful and comfortable,” Weidner said, adding that the new design is more accommodating if a family wants a private session with him.

Chapel visitors can check out a library of more than 40 pamphlets on various supportive topics that Weidner said he has already seen circulating throughout the hospital in the hands of patients and families. There is also a special ‘faith box’ where handwritten requests for prayers can be placed for daily prayer by the chaplain.

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Meditation chapel reflects diversity of spiritual culture

After several months of remodeling, Banner Boswell Medical Center in Sun City has reopened its Meditation Chapel inside the hospital’s main entrance.

The remodeling project was done to reflect the diversity of the spiritual culture of patients, visitors and staff.
The chapel has a new water feature, an original triptych painting representing the 10 major world religions. The remodeling project also included the replacement of pews with individual chairs to create an atmosphere for individual meditation and reflection.

The chapel features a library of more than…

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40 pamphlets on various supportive topics and a special “faith box,” where handwritten requests for prayers can be placed for the chaplain. The chapel is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The reopening is just in time for this week’s observance of Ash Wednesday, which marks for Christians the beginning of the Lenten season leading to Easter Sunday.

In addition to providing ashes for patients and staff throughout the hospital, Banner Boswell’s Spiritual Care ministers will distribute ashes between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Meditation Chapel.

Banner Boswell is located at 10401 W. Thunderbird Blvd.

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Meditation and modern art meet in Rothko Chapel

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I’m Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I’m Melissa Block.

The Rothko Chapel in Houston is more than an interfaith chapel. It’s also a center for human rights – and a one-man art museum devoted to 14 gigantic paintings by the abstract expressionist Mark Rothko. The chapel opened its doors 40 years ago.

And as Pat Dowell found, it continues to make an impression on all who enter.

PAT DOWELL: Walk up to the chapel from the south and the first thing you see is a small pool with Barnett Newman’s steel sculpture, “Broken Obelisk,” apparently floating on the water. The chapel itself is an octagonal brick building, windowless. Solid black doors open on a tiny glass-walled foyer.

Beyond the room, gray stucco walls, each filled by massive paintings. A baffled skylight subdues the bright Houston sun, and the surfaces of the paintings dramatically change as unseen clouds pass outside. There are eight austere wooden benches, and today, a few meditation mats.

(Soundbite of bell)

DOWELL: Concerts, lectures, weddings, memorial services all take place in here, but on most days, it’s just visitors, about 55,000 a year. And there’s always an attendant. Today, it’s Suna Umari. She’s worked at the chapel in various jobs for 30 years, most recently as historian. She also takes a turn as attendant, and her eight-hour shifts have given her, she says, a new sense of what the chapel means to visitors.

Ms. SUNA UMARI: People feel it’s their place. You know, they come, and they have a problem, and they cry in this space. If you look at the comment books, they make comments to each other as though this was their personal little diary.

DOWELL: There’s one couple who comes every six months.

Ms. UMARI: The first time I saw them, they must have had a fight, because she came in and sat down, then he followed. And he sat next to her, and she ignored him. Anyway, they whispered to each other, and pretty soon, they made up. And then they came out here to the foyer, and he wrote something in the comment book. He used the whole page, a declaration of his love for her. And then she wrote that she loved him also. And they seem to come, you know, at the beginning of the month, usually it’s the first or second of the month, and they sit in the chapel for a while, and then they declare their love for each other and go off.

DOWELL: For at least one visitor, the chapel was unnerving.

Mr. CHRISTOPHER ROTHKO: I wasn’t prepared for that when I walked in the door.

DOWELL: Christopher Rothko is the painter’s son.

Mr. ROTHKO: I almost left with nothing, but, in fact, I sort of sat through it for a few minutes and ended up spending an hour and 15 minutes, something like that, there. The time just sort of stopped running. And I can’t even tell you where I went at that point. I just -I know that it was a Rothko experience unlike one I’ve had before.

DOWELL: These are not the luminous color fields that made Mark Rothko famous. The paintings here are dark, in purplish or black hues. And there’s a reason for that, says Suna Umari.

Ms. UMARI: The paintings, they’re sort of a window to beyond. He said the bright colors sort of stop your vision at the canvas, where dark colors go beyond. And definitely, you’re looking at the beyond. You’re looking at the infinite.

DOWELL: The canvases are huge. The largest is about 15-by-11 feet. Susan Barnes was here the day they were installed.

Ms. SUSAN BARNES (Author, “The Rothko Chapel: An Act of Faith”): What I remember most of all was these large paintings, one at a time, being put in a sling and lowered through the skylight. The largest of these barely cleared.

DOWELL: In fact, the first day, the truck and the crane had to be sent back because it was too windy.

Ms. BARNES: Take a look at that big painting and think about it as a sail.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BARNES: It was too dangerous.

DOWELL: Barnes has written a book about the project, but back then, she was fresh out of college and working for John and Dominique de Menil. They were the philanthropists and collectors who commissioned the chapel and the paintings. They hired Philip Johnson to design the building and Rothko to fill it. But the painter had such specific ideas about the space that Johnson bowed out.

It was always intended to be more than an art gallery, though. In a 1972 interview, Dominique de Menil said she saw it as a meeting place.

Ms. DOMINIQUE DE MENIL (Art Collector): But meetings of people who are not just going to debate and discuss theological problems, but who are going to meet because they want to find and contact with other people. They are searching for this brotherhood of humanity.

DOWELL: The chapel’s creator never lived to see it finished. Mark Rothko committed suicide in 1970, but his son, Christopher, says his father knew what it should be.

Mr. ROTHKO: It took me a while to realize it, but my father’s gift, in a sense, to somebody who comes to the chapel. It’s a place that will really not just invite, but almost demand a kind of journey.

DOWELL: The journey for onetime art history student Susan Barnes led to a ministry in the Episcopal Church. She says the chapel, too, has become a sacred place.

Ms. BARNES: This was a little neighborhood location. There was a house here. But you walk into this chapel and you know, now, that it has been sanctified by the prayers of the people. There is something you feel in the chapel that tells you it is a holy space.

DOWELL: For NPR News, this is Pat Dowell in Houston.

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Labyrinth experience provides outlet for meditation

wildmind meditation news

Sara F. Neumann, The Etownian: Although Elizabethtown [Pennsylvania] College is a Brethren-affiliated college, the religious identity of students and faculty has become more diverse in recent years; the religions on campus vary from Christian faiths to Jewish to Muslim and everything in between. In light of this diversity, there have been more attempts by student organizations to reach out and invite people of various faiths through different activities.

The Labyrinth, hosted by the Chaplain’s Office, is one of these new interfaith activities. Most students are unaware of what a labyrinth is and what the experience at Etown offers them. “Labyrinths are a kind of walking meditation and they are like mazes, but there is only one path in and one path out. It’s a guided path that allows walkers to get closer to God or just to themselves,” explained Assistant Chaplain Amy Shorner-Johnson.

The Labyrinth began last semester and is held on Sunday nights, but this semester it was switched to Thursday afternoons.”We wanted it to be more interfaith,” Shorner-Johnson said. “Having it during the week makes it more inviting toward everyone.”

Labyrinths date back to Roman times, when Romans carved the circular paths onto rocks. They were then adopted by various faiths, including Christian sects, who often placed them on church floors. Depending on the faith, labyrinths could be walked on the knees for penance or walked as a substitute for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. One of the most famous labyrinths is in the Chartres Cathedral in Paris, France; the labyrinth is a circular maze, which leads into a patterned center and then leads the walker back out.

Etown’s own labyrinth is modeled after the Chartres labyrinth. It is a large canvas piece that, when rolled out, reveals a winding path defined in purple. “The Chaplain’s husband picked the color, actually, and the company liked it so much they picked it up for their other labyrinths,” Senior Marshal Fettro said, the student leader in charge of the Labyrinth.

While Chartres labyrinth is a Catholic labyrinth, the assistant chaplain is eager to emphasize that Etown’s is multifaith and open to all. While labyrinths can be religious for some, walking one does not have to be a path to a personal God. It can just be a way to relax.

“It provides a sacred space or just a getaway for students. You can practice mindfulness while walking it. Sometimes if I try to meditate or relax while just sitting, I worry about sleeping. I tend to be able to focus when I’m doing something,” Shorner-Johnson shared.

Senior Laura Miller explained that she goes to the Labyrinth as an escape. “I’ve been coming since last semester. It’s just a break from everyday life,” she said.

Senior Amanda McGeary, a first time attendee, came to earn Called to Lead points. “It was calming and quiet. It was just nice,” she said.

Another first time Labyrinth walker was impressed with the fulfillment of the slogan that drew him in. “I saw the poster in the BSC that said, ‘Walk your worries away,’ and I thought, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ Well, it worked—I don’t have any worries anymore,” he explained.

The Labyrinth experience offers a few quiet hours for students to focus simply on themselves or on getting close to the God in which they personally believe. Music is played during the experience, but it is non-denominational; the CDs vary from Native American chants to simple nature sounds. The music changes from week to week. The walk can take as long or as short as the walker desires, depending on what they are contemplating.

“Just setting some time, whether to meditate, pray or think, can turn the profane into the sacred,” Fettro said, referencing Emile Durkheim’s dichotomy of the sacred and profane.

The Labyrinth is held every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. in the M&M Mars room in Leffler Chapel. It is open to all who wish to attend.

Original article not available

Bodhipaksa

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Kaiser’s new meditation room reflects shift away from chapels in U.S. hospitals

wildmind meditation news

Roseville Press-Tribune: Books on Buddha, prayers printed in different languages, moveable chairs, kneeling stools, a glass prayer bowl, space for Muslim prayer rugs and a stained glass installation with a nature design fill the 180-square-foot room.

As intended, it’s a hodgepodge scene.

But for patients, visitors and staff of the hospital at Kaiser Roseville Medical Center, the room represents a quiet, sacred space where people of all religious backgrounds and spiritual beliefs are welcome. This meditation room also illustrates a growing recognition by health care providers throughout the United States that mind, body and spirit go hand in hand.

“Healing comes in many ways and we do a great job with the physical healing, but there’s the emotional and spiritual wounds, as well,” said Kaiser Chaplain Alice Anderson.

Gylnda Hardin happened upon the meditation room during its public unveiling Jan. 19. She traveled from Oakland to visit a family member receiving treatment in the hospital. As she tried reading her Bible in the patient’s room, she grew distracted by other family members conversing and noise from the television.

“I love it,” Hardin said of the meditation room. “It’s beautiful and it’s very much needed.”

Although Kaiser Permanente opened for public enrollment in 1945, their hospitals did not include chapels until about a decade ago. Now they have about 30 chaplains serving the northern California region. When Kaiser built the local medical center in 1998, they set aside a meditation room, tacking a sign on the door.

But no one oversaw the space and the room devolved into a waiting lounge.

“It felt like a conference room and wasn’t really meeting the needs of our patients,” said Keith Hoerman, director of continuity of care, during the opening ceremony.

In June 2009, Connie Johnstone, former spiritual care manager for Kaiser Roseville Medical Center, grew frustrated telling people there was no spiritual sanctuary on hospital grounds.

A particular family had struck Johnstone as one that could really benefit from the presence of a meditation room. She talked to her boss and got the ball rolling.

“There was a pastor and a retired pastor who had a loved one in the hospital,” she said. “They had huge spiritual resources available to them. They didn’t need me to gather at the bedside with them. They needed a place to go draw on their own strength.”

Everything about the meditation room is intentional. The stained glass gives people a visual object to observe. Chairs are arranged so visitors don’t sit looking at one another. The furniture is comfortable but doesn’t enable people to curl up and read a novel.

The prayer bowl gives visitors something to interact with — they can leave prayer requests and spiritual care volunteers will keep these in their reflections, Johnstone said. The room feels set apart from the rest of the hospital.

Most importantly, elements in the room don’t privilege one religious tradition over another.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, Catholic, Baptist and Methodist churches built many hospitals, which typically incorporated chapels with crosses and pews.

“It’s just not like that anymore,” Johnstone said, adding that Roseville has a big Sikh population and many Buddhist practitioners.

Not to mention Muslims, including medical personnel, need a place to pray five times a day.

“The person brings their own resources, their own spirituality (to the room),” Johnstone said. “We understand this is a diverse world and we don’t want to diminish any one practice or put focus on any one.”

UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento made the transition to a nondenominational room recently with an “all-faith chapel.” Sutter Health’s Women’s and Children’s Center plans to open a 40-seat meditation room in 2013.

Closer to home, Sutter Roseville Medical Center has boasted a meditation room since 1996 when the hospital opened, although they call it a chapel. The interfaith space has a stained glass piece and nature motif, but Sutter uses “chapel” because people recognize the term’s meaning, said Chaplain Gerald Jones.

“It’s a place where anybody can come — religious or not — to feel connected with their sense of the divine,” Jones said.

Even people who don’t follow an organized religion may need spiritual renewal and reprieve from the surrounding stressful situation.

Prior to Kaiser’s meditation room, Anderson said intensive-care unit nurses came to her asking for a quiet place to recover from the illness and death they experience daily. Spending time in a hospital whether as a nurse, patient or visitor takes a toll.

“People are facing death and serious illnesses,” Anderson said. “There are many loses every day, so they’re dealing with these great emotional stresses, as well as spiritual stress, like, ‘Can I go on? Did I deserve this?’ They’re really wrestling with God during this time.”

The meditation room, she said, provides a place to seek wisdom, express fears, ask for mercy, grieve and find the strength to carry on.

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Bodhipaksa

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Yoga has avatars in America (Times of India)

Yoga seems to have been “reincarnated” in America and some other parts of the world.

Various organizations are promoting “Christian Yoga”, claiming to provide a Christian approach to yoga. There are DVDs like “Christoga: Yoga Filled Body – Christ Filled Soul” (60 minutes of Yoga with bible scriptures recited by Janine. Yoga with Christ as the meditation focus!). There is a “Christian Yoga Magazine”. There are books like “Yoga for Christians: A Christ-Centered Approach to Physical and Spiritual Health through Yoga”,” Holy Yoga: Exercise for the Christian Body and Soul”, etc.

Welcoming the widespread interest in yoga, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that although introduced and nourished by Hinduism, yoga was a world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilized by all. One could still practice one”s respective faith and do yoga. Yoga would rather help one in achieving one”s spiritual goals in whatever religion one believed in.

“Yoga DVD” search on January nine at amazon yielded 4,828 results.

Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago ( Illinois) is teaching “Catholic Yoga” whose announcement says…

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: “explore the multiple spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice while explicitly integrating prayers and spiritual themes of our Catholic faith”. At the First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue (Washington), “Traditional yoga postures and Biblical meditations are accompanied by Christian music”. Morristown United Methodist Church in New Jersey conducts “Christian Yoga” classes.

Talking about “Yoga and Meditation”, “The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod” says: “from our theological perspective, techniques of relaxation and/or exercise (mental as well as physical) are not, of course, problematic in and of themselves. But it is the religious aspects of a practice such as Yoga that raises concerns for Christians.”

There is “Gentle Jewish Yoga”, while “Torah Yoga” “offers an experience of Jewish Wisdom through Iyengar yoga instruction together with the study of traditional and mystical Jewish texts.”

“Yoga Buddhist pursues an interdisciplinary approach that merges the insights and practices of yoga with Buddhist mindfulness and meditation”. A paperback is available on “Yantra Yoga: The Tibetan Yoga of Movement”. And then there is “Shinto Yoga”, which “incorporates Hatha Yoga practices as well as the various exercises of Japanese Shinto”, besides a paperback on “Shinto Bouddhisme Yoga”. Of course, there is “Zen Yoga”.

“Tao Yoga” in New York teaches Taoist Yoga. Yogi Bhajan taught Kundalini Yoga and “3HO Foundation” founded by him calls itself “A Global Community of Living Yoga”. A blog on Zarathushtrian Mysticism talks about Zoroastrian Yoga and states: “The essence of Zoroastrian yoga is the purification of the Aipi”. There is “Ageless Yoga” in Australia.

Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, further said that yoga, referred as “a living fossil” whose traces went back to around 2,000 BCE to Indus Valley civilization, was a mental and physical discipline handed down from one guru to next, for everybody to share and benefit from. According to Patanjali who codified it in Yoga Sutra, yoga was a methodical effort to attain perfection, through the control of the different elements of human nature, physical and psychical. Yoga was based on an eightfold path to direct the practitioner from awareness of the external world to a focus on the inner, Zed added.

Zed argued that yoga, which never had any formal organization, was the repository of something basic in the human soul and psyche.

According to US National Institutes of Health, yoga may help one to feel more relaxed, be more flexible, improve posture, breathe deeply, and get rid of stress. Swami Vivekananda reportedly brought yoga to USA in 1893. According to an estimate, about 16 million Americans, including many celebrities, now practice yoga.

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Curious Indonesian Muslims join peaceful but controversial Falun Gong

Nyoman Suryanata must have greeted at least 100 people at the National Monument complex in Jakarta last Sunday, trying to persuade passersby to sit down with him and try the controversial practice of Falun Gong.

“Please, Ma’am! Try out our meditation. It only takes a couple of minutes. Sir, have a go at meditation! Free of charge,” the 59-year-old businessman called out, offering brochures he had made himself.

Surya, as he prefers to be called, had prepared 100 brochures — at the end of the day there were none left.

From a distance, a young couple observed the practice carefully.

They were intrigued by the group’s slow-motion movements, designed to help members “cultivate” their mind and soul.

However, the couple remained skeptical and hesitant to approach the group.

“Look, some of them are wearing headscarves,” the woman pointed out to her husband.

“That’s interesting. I was wondering whether these people are part of a religion or something,” her husband said.

Falun Gong is a spiritual movement founded by Li Hongzi in 1992.

The practice aims to focus the mind and body through a series of movements and meditative exercises based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance.

Its teachings include ideas from Buddhism, Taoism, Qigong and other traditions that date back to Chinese antiquity.

The major difference between Li Hongzi’s spiritual movement and other religions is that Falun Gong does not involve prayer or worship of the divine.

This has been part of the movement’s broad appeal, attracting followers from many different backgrounds, including Indonesian Muslims.

“The main focus is to enhance your own spiritual consciousness. You can pray according to your religion as much as you want, but if you’re not spiritually conscious, all of your prayers will amount to nothing,” Suryanata said.

Falun Gong has been banned by the Chinese government since July 20, 1999, denounced by government propaganda as a cult “that poisons people’s minds.”

Members of the movement have since been arrested, tried without the presence of legal counsel, sent to labor camps and inflicted with physical and psychological torture.

“There is well-documented evidence of the persecution and ill treatment suffered by Falun Gong members,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Philem Kien.

Over the course of just seven years, he said the movement grew to an estimated 70 million people in China.

“The Falun Gong is seen as a threat to the Communist regime, who wish to maintain monopolistic control over Chinese society,” he added.

The persecution of Falun Gong members in China has forced its members to flee abroad and seek refuge in countries across Asia, including Indonesia, as well as in western countries such as Europe and North America.

However, the persecution of the movement has only served to increase curiosity in it among those living outside China.

Sixty-year-old Hertati, who has been practicing Falun Gong for more than 10 years now, was one of its early members in Indonesia.

“I remember it was the year 2000 and Gramedia had just launched a book about Falun Gong,” Hertati recounted.

“I had heard about Falun Gong before on the news. I was intrigued and attended the book’s discussion session. I thought to myself: how can a movement that teaches truthfulness, virtue and patience be dubbed as a dangerous and heretical cult in China? If it was really a cult then they would have drained our pockets dry by now. But no, members are not even allowed to accept payment for teaching others Falun Gong.”

“I have been a member for 10 years and have never been asked for a single cent,” she added.

There are now more than 100 Falun Gong communities spread over fifteen provinces in Indonesia.

In Jakarta, there are about 20 places where Falun Gong members practice, attracting up to 50 people in a single session.

One man at the National Monument on Sunday joined in the movements of the Falun Gong members, but wanted to maintain a good distance from the pack.

“Okay, but promise you’ll join us next week,” Surya said to the man.

“If it is faith, then he’ll come back. I’m sure of it. He took my brochure, we’ll see if he is destined to join us,” Surya said with a smile.

[via Jakarta Globe]
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