On Mysticism, Skepticism, and Atheism.

I don’t go in for that new-age hogwash. I’m yet to see any evidence for the medical benefits of holistic “medicine”, or the precognitive powers of crystals.  I’ve never seen healing hands, or magic powers.

However, in recent years, there have been a number of studies showing the benefits of meditation. “Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density” By Britta K. Hölzel, James Carmody, Mark Vangel, Christina Congleton, Sita M. Yerramsetti, Tim Gard, And Sara W. Lazar (A group of Doctors from Massachusetts) showed how meditation training can increase brain density. Study is found here: http://www.psyn-journal.com/article/S0925-4927(10)00288-X/abstract

The field of Positive Psychology (not as crazy as it sounds) also has found links between mediation and stress levels, happiness, and success.

With all the research behind it, I decided to give it a try.

It started simply, just trying to quiet my mind for a few minutes a day. It was hard. I would literally end up sweating sometimes. But it got a bit easier over time. My mind is always on overdrive, trying to figure out everything always. There is no quiet in my mind, it is simply a torrent of overlapping thoughts, feelings, and an insurmountable urge to cram more in there. It’s a full suitcase that I just HAVE to put 1 more shirt into… always just 1 more… its never enough.

When I tell people (fellow atheists mostly) I meditate most days, I get looks as though I just proclaimed  I believed in fairies (and not the good kind that helps me pick clothing at American Eagle.) Now, I do realize that, much like many other things, religions around the world have incorporated mediation into their teachings.  But, as a skeptic, should I not question each practice individually?

Mediation helps me quiet the torrent, order my thoughts, and relax. Exactly what the studies said it would. When I think about it, I’ve always sought ways of quieting my mind. For years, I would drink or smoke myself down to a level where it was only a dull roar instead of this crescendo. Mediation does the same thing, but without the hangover, bad breath, and waking up with strangers. It’s really great in that way.

I still however, cannot figure out why my meditation is considered inconsistent with atheism and skepticism. I don’t know if I ever will.  Maybe my definition of skepticism is just different from everyone else’s, and no amount of evidence will change their thoughts on meditation.

But my suggestion is, as always, check the research, try it yourself, more than once.


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