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Cultural Differences Reflected In Meditation Practices

The Western Way of Meditation

By Western way, I mostly refer to the modern American way of meditation.

The American way of meditation is accompanied by spiritual music and/or verbal guidance. And the meditator can sit in a comfortable chair or even lay down.

The American meditation guide instructs you to pay attention to your breathing during meditation.

In the act of physical silence and non-movement, there is actual movement within the meditation. For instance, the meditator is guided from one spot to another, such as following a quiet wooded path to the side of a tranquil lake, or from a green pasture to a beach with peaceful waves.

The American meditation encourages you to feel the physical sensation of each part of your body at the beginning of the meditation, and tries to evoke in you the feeling or sensation during the meditation, such as feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin or the sand on your feet on the beach.

It also encourages you to seek your spiritual teachers and answers from your meditation.

What Is Different About Eastern Way of Meditation

By Eastern way of meditation, I mean Indian way, since most of Eastern spiritualism originates from India.

There is no music to accompany the meditation. The meditator will sit on the floor or very low chair with legs crossed close to the body, referred to as the “Lotus” position.

The Eastern meditation may be preceded by some yoga stretches, and a brief moment of breathing in and out of right and left nostril alternately.

The sacred mantra that each meditator is given should be used sparingly to keep the mind from connecting thoughts.

The meditator is to shut off all physical senses: no desire to hear, see, smell, feel or touch anything. “I desire nothing. I seek nothing. I am nothing”.

Therefore, do not seek your spiritual teacher, and do not seek answers to any questions you have, and do not desire wisdom from anywhere.

How Meditation Practices Reflect Cultural Differences

The western culture stresses on individuality while the eastern culture stresses on uniformity. The Western way of meditation encourages you to connect with your Source and become conscious of who you really ARE; the eastern way of meditation keeps you disconnected from everything.

While the individualistic western meditator finds connection and unity in his meditation, the eastern meditator finds moments of isolation and singularity.

The western meditation wants you to feel, explore and imagine, whereas the eastern meditation wants you to shut off all senses, be still and completely empty the mind.

The western meditation as western culture values variety, growth and expansion. The eastern meditation as eastern culture values uniformity, stillness and status quo.

The western culture believes in dreams and desires, and success in life; the eastern culture believes that “too much desire for senses creates lusts and too much desire for material creates greed”.

Ultimately, the western culture treats each person as mature adult, able to decide what to do with their lives or their resources. One can do good things when he is successful. He is just more of himself when he has money.

The eastern culture treats each person as incapable of making decisions for their lives and their resources. One become corrupted when he has money. Wanting money is not good. So it’s better they stay the way they are. Don’t be successful. Don’t be rich. Don’t enjoy life too much. Just don’t do anything.

In a western culture such as the American culture, more people are typically ADD, even I, not ADD in nature, have become accustomed to ADD ways of behaviors. Maybe that’s why American s do better with guided meditations. The easterners can completely empty their mind and meditate for hours for pure spiritual pursuit.

The eastern culture I believe was shaped by the rulers. It surely is easier to rule a populous land if everyone is uniform and content. It is easier to rule a land if the people have no desires, no preferences, and no want of anything other than what they have been given.

Respect Each Culture and Take Only What Is Good for You

As someone who has lived in both eastern and western cultures, I respect each culture. Each culture is developed because it is appropriate and is necessary for survival.

As important as respecting each diverse culture, we are to take and apply only good things from each culture for our own benefit.

The universe is colorful and diverse, and is big enough to encompass all. Every faith, every religion and every culture has its own purpose in existence. They are appropriate for some people at some specific time or in specific situations.

Our job is to seek out what is appropriate for ourselves to live a fulfilled life.