Is Mindfulness A Religion?

My idea to explore the question ‘is Mindfulness A Religion’ came to me because of some fevered listener responses to a recent CBC Radio 1 show hosted by Anna Maria Tremonti (the current), from October 14, 2014 calledMindfulness meditation moves into the classroom.’ While many CBC listeners who commented did support Mindfulness meditation in the classroom, there were a few passionate, negative responses that were against it because they felt it, “is forcing a religion on our children.

I would like to share with you my experience with Mindfulness in light of a few of the ‘negative’ responses.Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 12.36.30 PM

My answer: I don’t agree… and if you have a few minutes I’ll share why and welcome of your comments to this post.

What is the Definition Of Mindfulness?

Master instructors like Jon Kabat-Zin and Zindel Segal can give you a formal definition of Mindfulness – and yet I want to offer you my experiential definition of Mindfulness.

Mindfulness has a strong impact on self-awareness and a person’s influence over their thoughts/feelings/actions as well as their influence on the people/world they encounter. Mindfulness helps bring awareness to what a person is ‘feeling/experiencing’ and then, what they can change and what they cannot change – which is exceptionally helpful when encountering emotions like anxiety, frustration and impatience. 

Mindfulness is based in goodness and non-judgmental observation of oneself… ones surrounding… a situation… anything.

Me And Mindfulness

I’ve been practicing mindfulness for some years now – a friend who knew I have a passion for effective, respectful communication recommended I look into it.

I would consider my practice as… casual. I don’t meditate in the traditional ways, I don’t wear robes and I feel no need to belong to any Mindfulness center or groups.

I do attend retreats from time to time and have enjoyed Mindfulness instructor-training workshops. I read quite a bit and have met some lovely people I now call friends who also practice Mindfulness. While almost nobody would notice it, I practice Mindfulness every time I give a training session or speaking engagement… mostly to help me focus, relax and be aware of my needs/energy as well as my audiences’ needs/energy; and yes, I do give Mindful Listening Skills workshops. I also practice Mindfulness when speaking with my Mother, friends, neighbours and even when walking with my dog.

Personally, I find I Respond more often now vs. React (two very powerful words for me). Mindfulness has subtly changed the way I engage with myself and the people I meet. But my friends have not tried to orchestrate an intervention, nor have they abandoned me because I’ve got religious and/or try to convert them. I suspect that to them I am still just me… but perhaps a bit more calm, patient, more self-assured, have better listening skills and I hope less negative. 

I feel like I simply have better emotional balance… friends haven’t asked me what has changed… and yet, to me, everything seems better.

Now, to the question; Is Mindfulness A Religion?

One of the people who commented on the CBC story saw Mindfulness as a Buddhist practice. Mindfulness does have a strong connection to Buddhism… and yet I don’t see Mindfulness is a religion. Mindfulness is a tool used within the Buddhist faith but not the faith itself.

To me, calling Mindfulness a religion is the same as calling singing a religion because most religions incorporate singing… or that drinking wine is a religion because drinkingritual wine was part of Jewish practice since Biblical times and, as part of the eucharist commemorating Jesus‘s Last Supper, became even more essential to the Christian Church.” Sourced from Wikipeda.

Are there cults or groups of people who are passionate about Mindfulness? I expect there are, but there are groups that rally around almost everything from art to wine to story telling… (art, wine and story telling all also have a strong connection with many religions), and yet they are not considered religions.

Conclusion

There is considerable research and evidence that Mindfulness improves mental health and also significantly reduces feelings like anxiety, fear and/or anger… and therefore depressive and/or aggressive behavior.

Mindfulness helps people develop the awareness and to experience the meaning of self-understanding and how their actions do matter. The ability to observe a situation Mindfully is empowering and helps us Respond… not React.

Again, I don’t believe Mindfulness is a religion. Mindfulness is a non-physical tool that anyone can use. And, as I wrote last April, I also believe Children Can Benefit From Mindfulness in three really important ways.

I’ll enjoy reading your comments on this post.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

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I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

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About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

I’ll enjoy reading your thoughts and your experiences.

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