Mindfulness as a secular practice

Mindfulness as a secular practice

Mindfulness is about noticing what is happening right now. In practice, mindfulness looks like observing our breath without changing it, noticing how our emotions (anger, joy…) feel like in the body, the mind, the heart, and eating with the 5 senses. Mindfulness has its origins in traditions and religions like Buddhism, Taoism, and Stoicism, but the practice of mindfulness as stated above does not make it religious. Many things have origins in traditions and religious but that doesn’t make them religious, for instance the Gregorian calendar that we use in the West does not make us all religious. Mindfulness as it is taught in the West has proven to have many benefits in our lives, and that is why it is now taught even in schools and at work.

1- Honoring the origins of mindfulness

Mindfulness has its origins in contemplative practices such as: Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Stoicism. Some of these are religious traditions, some aren’t.

It’s important to honor these origins as a way to avoid the “whitening” of these traditions.

2- The Universality of mindfulness practice

Educator Daniel Rechtschaffen says “Mindfulness does not belong to Christianity, Buddhism, or Taoism, just as the breath we inhale or exhale does not belong to any one of us.”

In “A Mindful Nation” Ohio Congressman Time Ryan writes “mindfulness itself is not a religion. Practicing it does not require giving up religious faith, or adoption a “foreign” faith, or becoming religious if you are not so inclined”.

Several people noticed that being mindful made them happier. Some of them were religious, some not. It’s not that being mindful didn’t exist before, nor belong to these people.

Mindfulness is also called “mindful awareness”, or “bare attention”.

Being mindful is a quality that we all have. It does not belong to any religion, spiritual practice, or tradition.

3- Religious/spiritual/traditional origins don’t make the practice religious/spiritual/traditional

Astronomy and astrology used to be one and the same in the West.

Chemistry comes from alchemy but does not make it a spiritual practice.

Goodbye” comes from the contraction of “God be with ye”.

Our Gregorian calendar comes from Pope Gregory XIII.

We take an oath on the Bible in court, or when we get married, but that doesn’t make us Christians.

We’re generally not concerned with the above examples of their potential religious connotations.

4- Mindfulness as a self-regulation tool

In practice, mindfulness looks like:

  • Observing our breath without changing it

  • Observing the sensations in our physical body, part by part

  • Noticing what we feel: what does anger feel like? What does joy feel like?

  • Eating with the 5 senses

These practices help us regulate our emotions and feel safe.

There is nothing religious about this tool.


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