Mindfulness, Well-Being, and Religion


Read an article in today’s paper about a class being offered at a Portland, OR school. It’s a year-long for-credit class that teaches “mindfulness,” and is designed to ease youth anxiety, depression, and prevent violence. For 90 minutes three days a week, students practice a mix of yoga, sitting and walking meditation, visualization techniques, deep breathing, journaling, and non-judgmental listening. The idea behind the class is that focusing on the present moment helps a person better deal with stress, difficult emotions, and negative thoughts.

As I was reading, I thought, “YES!” What a great idea!

I was already aware that similar practices were being offered by corporations like Google, Target, and General Mills, but was surprised to learn that prison inmates, hospital patients, and the U.S. Marines are also using these techniques to combat stress and illness because they increase focus and well-being. To now discover it’s also being offered in many schools throughout the nation was encouraging.

In my own life, I have long been a strong believer in meditation and deep breathing as a means to deal with stress. Many years ago (before my body rebelled), I also did yoga and dabbled a bit in visualization, so I recognize the benefits of both.

Knowing all this, perhaps you can appreciate my disgust when I came across this in the article …

Some people have greeted the move with less than enthusiasm. Last year, an elementary school in Ohio ended its mindfulness program after parents complained it was too closely linked to Eastern religion, and a conservative Christian law firm unsuccessfully sued on behalf of a couple in Encinitas, CA, arguing their school district’s yoga classes indoctrinate children.

Fundamentalism strikes again!

Of course, those who feel such classes are “indoctrinating children” are totally blind to what’s taking place within their own religion …