Religious Devotees Worry About The Yoga-Ization Of Meditation In The U.S.

06/08/2015 08:37 am ET | Updated Jun 08, 2015
Yana Paskova via Getty Images

Inside the newly opened Meditation Museum in Silver Spring, exhibits refer to the pursuit of “God,” the “Supreme Soul” and often “The One.” A constant visual theme is ­orangeish-reddish light emanating from a vague, otherworldly source. The message is clear: Meditation is about connecting with the divine.

“If the mind can be in a state of experiencing the energy of God’s light or presence,” said Sister Jenna Mahraj, a nightclub owner turned ­spiritual teacher whose organization opened the museum this year, “it’s like everything we tend to find so disheveled — it starts to find its own purpose.”

Yet in gyms, businesses and public schools in every direction from the museum — which sits on busy Georgia Avenue — meditation is often presented as something akin to mental weight-lifting: a secular practice that keeps your brain and emotions in shape. Gyms list it alongside Zumba classes, and public schools say it can help students chill out before tests by calming the mind and training it to look upon disruptive thoughts from a non-judgmental distance.

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