Secular Meditation

I meditate with mala meads daily — sometimes several times a day if I feel I need it. It obviously has no spiritual meaning for me, but it has been incredible in relieving my anxiety and improving my focus. Surprisingly, it has also become an influential part of my creative process as an artist and writer. Being more focused really lets me organize my thoughts hone in on my better ideas. 

I started using mala meads last summer to cope with anxiety surrounding a traumatic situation and they became a part of my daily routine. I wear them around my wrist every day. 

I’m not going to lie, when the going gets tough at work, I hide in the bathroom for about ten minutes and meditate with my mala meads. They very well could be why I still have my job. 

I think it’s very interesting as an atheist to take something steeped in spirituality and find a very secular use for it. My mala beads are right up there with my phone — I feel naked if they’re not on me. 

Just Curious…

Does anyone else meditate?

Do you have anything important in your life that started out as religious? How did you make it meaningful in a secular way?


  1. Katydid says

    I’m an atheist and I meditate. I find it’s a great way to quiet down my racing thoughts and practice focusing. There’s a completely secular book called Buddha’s Brain (available for free in better libraries and Unitarian churches, and sold in some bookstores) that goes into detail about the benefits of meditating. Some of those benefits include breaking you out of “fight or flight” mode into “rest and digest” mode–so many people live their lives in fight-or-flight and it’s just not good for our bodies or our minds. As you’ve noticed at work, sneaking off to meditate resets your nerves and lets you deal with whatever circus is going on around you.

    If you think about it from a physical perspective, it’s completely secular. What you’re doing is lengthening your breath and oxygenating your blood, causing a chemical cascade that calms your body by lessening the adrenaline and other stress hormones that flood your body in “fight or flight”.

  2. says

    I used to meditate, but I stopped when I stopped believeing in the associated mumbo-jumbo. I never believed it very strongly and once I stopped believing it completely, I just could not do it.

  3. anat says

    Charly, what is there to believe about meditation? It is simply an exercise in psychology. Becoming familiar with your thought patterns, emotional responses and so forth, and slowly learning to change them if needed to more desirable ones.

    My husband is very successful in quieting his mind, controlling his focus, and observing his emotions without getting too entangled with them. I suck at it because I have a very chatty mind. ‘Hmm, looks like I am noticing my breath; yes, that’s the inhale, now an exhale, right, so what was it I wanted to tell the people at work? Oh right’ and so forth. Or I get an earworm and the whole session is contaminated by it.

  4. says

    The closest Iever get to meditation is long bike rides, 60+km of nothing but road and constant pain and exhaustion. It forces the brain to start thinking about other things.

  5. brucegee1962 says

    “mala meads” — at first I thought this was just a typo, but you used the spelling twice, so I looked it up on Google and saw other sites that talked about mala meads as well. Both Etymology Online and didn’t seem to know anything about this usage, though, with just the standard definition of mead as “honeyed drink” and an archaic form of “meadow.” Do you have any idea if this is just an alternative spelling of “bead” or something different, and where it came from? As an English teacher I’m always curious about unfamiliar words.

    • ashes says

      I don’t have a lot of information on mala beads other than basic usage, but they originate from Eastern religions. I read on Wikipedia that “mala” actually means “garland”.

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