Why religious leaders as meditation program co-leaders?

Ordained and lay religious leaders who already meditate are uniquely positioned to advance the practice of meditation within their tradition – as well as to partner with leaders of other faiths to reveal together the Divine or transcendent underlying our tradition. During an interfaith meditation program, these leaders may reach, affect, connect with those affiliating with their own religion tradition, and those who are willing to experience our shared human spirit in spite of our creedal differences. Following a program, these leaders invariably transmit this common ground of being experienced with other faith leaders, within their congregations and communities, as the experience of our shared human essence with people of dissimilar backgrounds infuses their ministries and ripples outward in widening circles of spiritual understanding.

Why faith organizations as hosts?

Each major faith has a rich tradition of meditation, and congregations often can be relatively unfamiliar practicing meditation (of their own faith). Interfaith meditation programming re-introduces congregations to their own meditation tradition, in a welcoming interfaith environment – for calming the universally restless mind, lessening stress, and reconnecting with what matters most deeply (according to each person). After each program, some congregations explore initiating or expanding meditation programs of their own tradition (intra-faith), while others choose to invite a second or third interfaith meditation program.

Many faith organizations already are enthusiastic hosts for opening their doors to people of other backgrounds to inquire together into our collective existence and being-ness. With more than nine-in-ten Americans saying they believe in God, universal spirit, or higher power (Gallup, June 2011); 80% affiliating with a religion (Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 2012); 65% saying religion is an important part of their daily lives (Gallup, January 2009); and 54% attending religious services at least once or twice per month (Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 2008), faith organizations are natural hosts for reaching a number of spiritually-inclined individuals.

A faith organization also can be a satisfactory venue for an interfaith meditation program among the religiously unaffiliated, who comprise 20% of the U.S. population – with two-thirds of the religiously unaffiliated saying they believe in God and three-quarters saying religious organizations “bring people together and help strengthen community bonds” (Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 2013).

Why universities as hosts?

Young adults also benefit from mitigating stress; increasing awareness and focus; cultivating compassion for oneself and others; and improving relationships. The life-enhancing benefits of meditation can be cultivated beginning at this early stage for these young adults, setting the stage for a lifetime of mindful living.

Moreover, as the Interfaith Youth Core relates: “America’s institutions of higher education are uniquely positioned to equip a new generation of leaders with the skills to constructively engage religious diversity…Such a movement has the potential to strengthen democracy at home while equipping students with the very practical skills and knowledge to live and lead in an increasingly interconnected world.”

Why universities as hosts?

They don’t need to present an impediment. While religious creed is intrinsic to most religious services, meditation less frequently presupposes adopting a specific religious framework. “The extent to which spirituality or belief plays a role in any meditation practice appears to depend in large part on the individual practitioner. Though the traditional practices were developed within specific spiritual or religious contexts…and therefore have spiritual or religious aspects, this does not mean that a practitioner must adopt the belief systems upon which they are based.”

During an interfaith meditation session, one’s aspiration may be to quiet the wandering mind, to reconnect with the essence of one’s being, or to experience another faith directly. There is no intention to adopt any religious creed. We encourage substituting any potentially uncomfortable word of a meditation with what may be more conducive to relaxing the mind and welcoming one’s own spirit.

According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life/U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (2008), “A strong majority [70%] of those who are affiliated with a religion, including majorities of nearly every religious tradition, do not believe that their religion is the only way to salvation.” Writing about this survey, the New York Times wrote, “The findings seems to undercut the conventional wisdom that the more religiously committed people are, the more intolerant they are, scholars who reviewed the survey said” (June 24, 2008). A later survey observed: “The lack of dogmatism in American religion may well reflect the great diversity of religious affiliation, beliefs and practices in the U.S.” The Pew Forum on Religious & Public Life: Religious Discrimination Survey (2009).

Does the Initiative intend the merger of religious traditions?

The Interfaith Meditation Initiative honors the diverse expressions of religious faith and seeks no merger whatsoever of the world’s many and varied religious traditions. Each tradition brings forward a cherished spiritual path within a unique culture. By recognizing the spirituality of our shared humanity, we may cooperate more fully in the world.

Is the Initiative a religious organization?

The Interfaith Meditation Initiative is a non-religious, charitable organization. The Initiative is unaligned with any religion.

Isn’t the Initiative’s programming already being done?

With profoundly valuable, heartfelt, and life-changing outcomes, interfaith energies generally have focused on dialogue, social action, economic outreach, and political initiatives. We bring forward authentic meditation practices from the major faiths – through religious leaders from these traditions – in ongoing multi-faith programs within faith organizations, universities, and institutions.

How may I attend when my faith has some restrictions?

The Initiative does not wish for anyone to act outside of what they value. Nor does the Initiative take a position on anyone’s religious beliefs or observances; this is a matter for each person to decide for themselves.

Our programs are neither prayer services nor worship experiences. We simply invite you – but only if you wish – to experience a meditation from another tradition, in the spirit of our shared humanity. During an interfaith event, no one is required to sample a meditation from another tradition; each person is welcome to substitute for themselves a meditation of their own tradition, or to remain in contemplative reflection from their own tradition.

The Initiative does not advance any “musts” during its interfaith events. We request that each person, in light of his own faith and experience, follow her own heart.




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"I've co-led two interfaith meditation events, each time with Jewish and Muslim faith leaders...I connected with the devotion of my colleagues, and the language of their meditations became a portal for me to a place beyond words.” Reverend Randy Lord-Wilkinson, Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Maryland; IMI meditation co-leader