During the early days of my meditation practice I recall attending a meditation workshop on Primordial Meditation, Deepak Chopra’s version of Transcendental Meditation and on video he stated that there was no such thing as a bad meditation. I have held to this belief through good times and bad.
Imagine my concern recently to listen to a podcast from one of my favourite CBC broadcasts – Tapestry (Tapestry is a weekly exploration of spirituality, religion and the search for meaning.) and hear Professor Ralph Purser accuse the military and corporations of hijacking mindfulness for their own nefarious purposes. Could it be true? Can meditation be put to negative use?
The professor’s premise is that mindfulness is being used by corporations as a stress reduction tool to maximize profits, and by the military to help soldiers become more focussed. I listened with dismay – had my premise been fallacious all these years. Then the interviewer asked a question about the writer’s strong negative critique of Jon Kabat-Zynn on the ground he introduced mindfulness to corporations and the elite.
At this point Purser’s credibility dissipated. I have a great respect for Jon Kabat-Zynn as a teacher and a human being. Perhaps I am not wrong after all. I found 4,970 Google hits for the words, “there is no such thing as a bad meditation” so I have numbers on my side. I am also in the company of such luminaries as renowned author and motivational speaker the late Dr. Wayne Dyer who always stated the same.
American philosopher Ken Wilbur suggests that meditation can accelerate the development of human consciousness and that the only way to test this hypothesis is to begin meditation. I feel meditation is a bit like a wonder drug except it is free with no side effects. Proven benefits include reducing stress, stimulating the immune system, increasing blood flow, regulating the heart beat, improving mood, activating the intuitive faculties, strengthening neural pathways, and improving compassion and empathy.
Dr. Andrew Weil sent me an email summarizing the seven benefits of meditation that he is aware of then I encountered a wonderful book by Rick Hansen titled, “ Buddha’s Brain – the practical neuroscience of happiness, love and wisdom which listed a dozen more. It is easy to convince yourself of the positives of meditation if you take the trouble to review the data.
The military may think they can use mindfulness meditation to create better soldiers, and corporations may consider they can improve profitability by reducing stress but what do they really know? Perhaps this is more like a Trojan Horse that looks like a gift but insidiously begins a process of creating better, more self aware human beings that change the very institutions that thought they were controlling them.
It is these institutions that most need a shift of hearts and minds and I suspect that more will be accomplished by Jon Kabatt-Zynn bringing mindfulness to corporate and world leaders than will ever be achieved by the attacks of the professor.