Meditation resources that are neutral on religion
June 8, 2015 2:52 PM   Subscribe

Partner and I are interested in meditation and mindfulness. I am a Christian and partner is an atheist. There are a lot of resources on atheist meditation and a lot on Christian meditation. I am put off by the anti-religious content of the former, and partner is put off by the religious aspects of the latter. Can you suggest any books/podcasts/websites/etc. that are neutral on religion, and are just about how to meditate?

We are looking for something that we can read/hear and then discuss with each other, without having to engage with the anti-religious or religious content. We certainly talk about anti-religious and religious issues, but this is a distraction to the meditation and mindfulness journey we are trying to start together.
posted by OrangeDisk to Religion & Philosophy (15 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Mindfulness based stress reduction programs are all non-religious in my experience. May or may not be what you're looking for.

Also, Buddhist meditation resources? It's neither atheist nor Christian. Thích Nhất Hạnh's writings aren't like, super Buddhist of the little I've read. Maybe Peace Is Every Step? The Miracle of Mindfulness?
posted by GuyZero at 3:11 PM on June 8, 2015

Check out UCLA's Mindful Meditation podcast.
posted by johngoren at 3:12 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend the resources (esp. the podcasts) from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC). Some sessions have more religious-influenced language than others, but the general tone is very neutral.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 3:12 PM on June 8, 2015

The Meditation Podcast has guided meditation podcasts, which is useful if you are just starting out with meditation and need a guide to keep your thoughts on track (or lack thereof!).

I'd also suggest doing a beginner's yoga class; Ashram yoga is good for this. Yogic exercise is meditative in itself, and I suggest particularly looking for a yoga teacher who ends their sessions with a 10-15 minute guided relaxation session.

Otherwise, no specific books as such, but I think a good middle ground between an atheist and Christian approach is Buddhist (Zen) meditation.

Good luck and enjoy :)
posted by New England Cultist at 3:15 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Derek Tulsky's "The Garden of Now" is what you're looking for.
posted by u2604ab at 3:16 PM on June 8, 2015

I recommend Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I think you'll find it helpful.
posted by cleverevans at 3:18 PM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Relaxation Response is a form of meditation specifically billed for lowering blood pressure. I've also heard meditation referred to in a therapeutic context as self-hypnosis. (Apologies for the terrible website. The book is much better.)
posted by mchorn at 3:42 PM on June 8, 2015

I've found the Headspace app for iOS really lovely and useful.
posted by lizifer at 3:56 PM on June 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

Otherwise, no specific books as such, but I think a good middle ground between an atheist and Christian approach is Buddhist (Zen) meditation.

Along this vein, I can recommend Zen and the Birds of Appetite by Thomas Merton.
posted by jquinby at 4:02 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

You might like Mindfulness in Plain English.
posted by three_red_balloons at 5:48 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

I came to second Headspace. It sounds like exactly what you are looking for. It is available on the web, iOS app & android app.
posted by newsomz at 6:06 PM on June 8, 2015

I might recommend Stephen Batchelor's Buddhism Without Beliefs. This short book is both beautiful and challenging, outlining how a secular Buddhism might function in the world, and the meditations in it are the first I ever used as an adult. Batchelor, himself now an atheist, talks more about the psychology and ethics of Buddhism, rather than attempting to force a religion (or lack of religion) on the reader; and you quickly come to understand that mindfulness is not a way of hiding from the world, but a very active, moral engagement with it. He is also a captivating speaker, and many of his talks can be found at Dharma Seed.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is mentioned above, and I can wholeheartedly recommend his Wherever You Go, There You Are. The book is made of many very short, thought-provoking chapters, perfect for a period of brief reading followed by reflection and discussion. Kabat-Zinn also has Mindfulness for Beginners, which may also be useful...I can't offer a recommendation for it yet since it is still on my Amazon wishlist! (He also has CDs of guided meditations, but you may want to listen online before you buy...I find his voice a little un-relaxing, even while finding his writing extremely soothing and meaningful.)

Finally, while this is geared a little more towards busy/stressed individuals who want an introduction to mindfulness, rather than people who have decided to devote some good mental/emotional time to it as a way of life, I can't go without recommending Mark Williams and Danny Penman's Mindfulness. This is set up as an 8-week self-help course, based on Williams' work with mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, but can also form a core of ongoing understanding and practice of mindfulness. Even more importantly, for me, I really respond to Williams' voice, and have the guided meditations from this book downloaded on my phone; I listen to them whenever I feel I need a little more structure to the practice, especially when frantic stress is guiding me away from the focus I would like to have.

Finally-finally, thinking about that last recommendation, Williams and Penman also have a brief series of podcasts describing Williams' work in the field of MBCT, that might be of interest as well. Again, this is more about mindfulness as therapy, but it is still extremely thought-provoking and might make for some good discussion.
posted by mittens at 4:25 AM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg, which I got on a recommendation from my GP. I find the meditations and the theory really useful. The book is explicitly religion-neutral and geared toward a somewhat skeptical audience.
posted by capricorn at 2:23 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding Williams and Penman if you want a way to practice without any particular religious context. I'm not sure what you're looking for when you mentioned discussion, though. The book is more of a how to guide.
posted by pw201 at 4:45 AM on June 10, 2015

All of these resources are helpful and awesome! I second Jon Kabat-Zinn's works, you may even be able to find an MBSR (Mindfulness based stress reduction) 8-week course that he developed offered in your area. A course which I have taken and was truly wonderful. I also second the meditation apps such as Headspace or the one I prefer, Calm.

However- a word of caution on resources, classes, materials, etc. on mindfulness and meditation- do not allow the search for resources to cloud VERY simple practices. Sometimes we can get caught in the cycle of endlessly buying books and looking for resources and taking classes with people who don't necessarily know much more than the general public. Thus the search for meditation resources becomes a huge distraction from the act of sitting down and focusing on your breath for 20 minutes. To be sure, reading up on and studying meditation and mindfulness is fascinating but do all that AFTER you've sat for 20 minutes. If it seems complicated it's because your mind is resisting being told to sit in the corner, not because you're doing it wrong and not because you need to take another class or buy another book to figure it out. :)
posted by Dreamcone Jones at 6:29 AM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

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