Meditation as a Humanist Practice
Questions and answers about why Humanists meditate – from a Humanist perspective. As more and more Humanists take up meditation – I thought it would be helpful to discuss why and how I consider meditation to be a basic life skill.
This post comes in the form of a Q&A from a reporter. I thought I would share my answers here.
I am 48 and practice meditation. I am also a Humanist – so I practice a non-woo form of meditation. I consider it an important part of my practice as a Humanist.
How long you have practiced meditation?
I started meditating when I was young – in college. I came across it accidentally. At some point I learned how to shut off my mind and just be. It felt great, so I continued doing it whenever I had a spare moment.
Why you got started?
I was really mad about something and stared at a wall for a few hours. At some point, after a few hours, my mind stopped talking to itself and I just relaxed. Once you know what that feels like – it’s fairly easy to just – do. So – I learned it by accident. But again, the feeling of no-thought – it feels really good. To just be present and not narrating. So I kept practicing it.
How often you practice?
I try to do a little bit of meditation every day. It isn’t always no-thought. Sometimes I do guided meditations, visual meditations, mindfulness practice etc. Pretty much every night as I’m getting ready for bed, I do a short meditation. It helps me to relax and turn off my brain so I can go to sleep.
Whether you meditate on your own or with a teacher or class?
I usually meditate on my own, but I have enjoyed group meditations and having teachers as well. I learn something new about the practice every time I experience a group or class guided meditation. It’s always nice to know how other people use it and practice it.
I would also like to know what you get out of the experience.
As I said, I’m a Humanist. So, I don’t get all spiritual about it. For me, being able to calm my mind on demand is probably the best part of the experience. In order to solve my problems effectively, I need to think rationally. And that’s not always easy to do – especially when I am upset or agitated. So I find reminding myself to be compassionate, do some breathing and calm myself down, helps me to approach whatever the problem is more effectively, compassionately and rationally. I consider this ability an essential life skill. It’s about changing my focus intentionally and then using that new focus to calm myself so that I can be the person I want to be – even when situations aren’t ideal.
As for the technical aspect of what happens in your brain when you meditate – my friend Rick Heller, has a course at Humanist Learning Systems – Humanist Meditation: Answers for Skeptics – about the science of what happens when you meditate. https://humanistlearning.com/meditation101/
It’s a really great program. It covers everything from the history of meditation to the different types of meditation and what happens in your brain when you meditate, plus the pros and cons of practicing meditation. Best of all, it’s all science based information. Very helpful.