Recently, we have been asked by members of the public and press about our views on meditation, a practice that is getting popular in Singapore. The mental practice is thousands of years old, and can be found in many religious traditions.
From the Society’s point of view, the practice of meditation has been shown to be beneficial psychologically by various studies. This article by Psychology Today compiles a list of scientific studies showing how meditation can be beneficial for your health, happiness and self-control. A 2003 study showed that a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function.
While some might find the effects temporary, others have achieved a better quality of life, due to relaxation and stress reduction and relaxation. For patients with chronic pain and anxiety, there is evidence that meditation does reduce suffering and increase well being.
While there is still a large proportion of meditation classes that are linked to mysticism and pseudo-scientific claims (such as curing diseases), there is no need to tie the practice to any particular religion or belief system to enjoy the benefits.
Furthermore, the practice are being increasingly secularised in recent years. In the 1970s, University of Massachusetts Medical School Hospital molecular biologist Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced mindfulness as a clinical intervention. The eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, developed by him, that is now being offered by many practitioners worldwide. Here’s a short video of Dr Kabat-Zinn talking about MBSR:
There are today various kinds of secularised techniques that are available in Singapore to those who are interested. On whether they are scientifically-tested and evidence-based, you might have to attend the classes in person to find out.
As a Society, we accept the scientific benefits of meditation for stress relief, but take a skeptical position on the more questionable claims. However, as long as these practices do not cause harm to one’s physical and financial health, family ties nor the social fabric, individuals should have the freedom to continue with the meditation technique of their choice.
This is an editorial by the Humanist Society (Singapore) executive committee. If you wish to recommend a secular meditation centre, you can email us at email@example.com. The photograph, titled life and death, was taken by HSS member Karina at Gardens By the Bay.