Is Spiritual Meditation Better than Secular Meditation?

Buddha Statue at Bodhgaya

The study by Amy B. Wachholtz and Kenneth I. Pargament (Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio) showed that the Spiritual Meditation group had greater decreases in anxiety and more positive mood, spiritual health, and spiritual experiences than the secular meditation group. They also tolerated pain almost twice as long as the secular group.

Sixty eight participants were taught a meditation or relaxation technique to practice for 20 min a day for two weeks.

In the Spiritual Meditation group, the participants were allowed to choose one of four spiritual meditative phrases in an attempt to allow the participants to use the phrase that best fits their spiritual system: “God is peace,”
“God is joy,” God is good,” and “God is love.”

Participants from the Secular Meditation group were offered a choice from
four secular phrases as well: “I am content,” “I am joyful,” “I am good,” “I am happy.”

The Relaxation control group was given the same instructions as the meditation groups regarding physically comfortable positions and isolation.

After two weeks, participants returned to the lab, practiced their technique for 20 min, and placed their hand in a cold-water bath of 2◦C for as long as they could endure it. The length of time that individuals kept their hand in the water bath was measured. Pain, anxiety, mood, and the spiritual health were assessed following the two week intervention.

Following two weeks of technique use, the Spiritual Meditation group reported more positive outcomes than the other two groups on most of the psychological criteria. Members of this group reported more positive mood and less anxiety than the other groups.

These findings are consistent with several studies that have found that the use of spiritual techniques can improve psychological health (Alexander et al., 1991; Carlson et al., 1988; Ferguson, 1980).

The Spiritual Meditation group was able to endure that pain level almost twice as long as the other two groups. Thus, the spiritual focus of meditation appears be able to affect, not how much pain the practitioner feels, but how well the practitioner copes with that pain.

 

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