By Jeff Wilson, special to CNN
(CNN) – Mindfulness meditation is a huge phenomenon – and a multibillion-dollar industry – in the United States.
It’s being used to help soldiers deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, to assist schoolchildren with attention difficulties and to bring stress relief from the hospital bed to the boardroom to the bedroom.
In fast-paced, multitasking modern America, mindfulness is used both to take a vacation from our hectic lives and to help us manage ever more work and stimulation in a mindful manner.
This mindfulness movement is diverse, but it traces back to Buddhist awareness techniques, especially as promoted by UMass Medical School researcher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Essentially, mindfulness is a technique of open awareness without judgment, which allows the meditator to observe their physical and mental actions and reactions without attachment or aversion.
Once upon a time, mindfulness meditation conjured up images of an orange-robed monk with a shaven head, sitting quietly somewhere in a jungle cave.
But now, the average mindfulness practitioner is a suburban soccer mom who meditates in order to increase her work efficiency, deal with her kids’ needs, watch what she eats and keep her sanity,
Whenever a foreign practice becomes mainstream, naturally, some confusion occurs. Here’s a list of four common misunderstandings that have appeared as mindfulness spread from the monastery to the middle-class home.
Opinion by Janet Nima Taylor, special to CNN
(CNN) - Valentine’s Day can conjure up the whole spectrum of human emotion, from the ecstasy of new love to the intense pain of loneliness.
It seems the day reeks of the expectation that we need a perfect relationship in order to be happy. But what do we really want?
Some of you might know that the Buddha left his wife and young child to pursue enlightenment, so maybe he’s not the best person to give advice about your love life. On the other hand, his teachings on love, relationships and suffering have a lot to say about our harried modern lives.
The Buddha’s first teaching, known as the Four Noble Truths, was about the connection between expectations and suffering.
He taught that life includes suffering because we seek happiness in inherently dissatisfying ways. If things are going great, we think they'll never change. (They always do.) If things are going poorly, we think it's because the world has failed us.
Opinion by Mark Schacter, special to CNN
(CNN) – I don’t believe in a divine presence, nor do I subscribe to any organized religion.
And that, perhaps oddly, is why I am drawn to the mystery of faith.
With the wonderment of an outsider, I try to understand the seemingly incomprehensible (to me, at least) pull that faith exerts over so many people's lives.
As a photographer approaching this mystery, I am confronted by what might seem like a contradiction: Photographs capture what can be seen, and yet faith is often invisible.
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) – The disasters are always different and often devastating. But the questions they raise are hauntingly familiar.
In the days since Super Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines on Thursday, survivors are frantically searching for lost family members and international aid groups are springing into action.
Officials say the death toll may rise to 10,000 in the heavily Catholic country. Meanwhile, many people are asking: How should we make sense of such senseless death and destruction? Was God in the whirlwind itself, as the Bible hints, or present only in the aftermath, as people mobilize to provide food, water and shelter?
These questions may not be new, but we keep asking them, perhaps because the answers remain so elusive.
Opinion by Brett Robinson, Special to CNN
(CNN)— Forget the forbidden fruit logo and the cult of Apple jokes. The legacy of Steve Jobs is anything but religious.
Apple was conceived in the heady days of the counterculture movement. While Jobs and friend Steve Wozniak were busy hacking into AT&T’s long-distance phone lines from a Berkeley dorm room in the 1970s, the culture was awash in New Age experimentation and social unrest. Traditional institutions were under siege by idealistic youth rejecting what they viewed as mass-marketed delusions.
At the top of the hit list was organized religion. When Jobs and Wozniak got the phone hacking device to work, their first call was to the Vatican. They proceeded to hang up on the pope’s personal secretary before he could connect the call to the Holy Father. Jobs the iconoclast relished the prank.
From Manesh Shrestha, for CNN
Kathmandu, Nepal (CNN) - A Tibetan man set himself on fire in front of a famous Buddhist shrine in the Nepalese capital on Wednesday, police said, becoming the latest Tibetan to adopt this harrowing form of protest over Chinese rule.
Self-immolation began as a form of protest among Tibetans in China in February 2009, when a young monk set himself ablaze. In March 2011, another young monk followed in his footsteps, becoming the first to die. Scores of others have since followed suit.
The number of Tibetans in China who have set themselves on fire to protest Beijing's rule has now reached 100, according to Tibetan advocacy groups.
By Katie Hunt, for CNN
Hong Kong (CNN) - A darkened room in a Hong Kong university building is an unlikely portal into an ancient world.
But with the touch of an iPad Mini, the space is digitally transformed into a 1,500-year-old Buddhist grotto. Its walls decorated with exquisite but faded paintings of enlightened beings, dancers and musicians.
Another swipe and a pair of 3-D glasses brings the cave to life.
Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
(CNN) –China Daily, an English-language newspaper and a mouthpiece of the Chinese government, last week published an article called “Western Voices Question Tibetan Self-Immolation Acts.”
The first of the voices quoted was mine—for a Belief Blog piece I wrote last summer criticizing the Dalai Lama for averting his gaze from the spate of self-immolations protesting Chinese rule in Tibet. "If the Dalai Lama were to speak out unequivocally against these deaths, they would surely stop. So in a very real sense, their blood is on his hands," I wrote in a passage quoted in the Chinese Daily piece.
In my post, I wrote of an “epidemic of self-immolations,” noting that from mid-March to mid-July 2011 more than 40 Tibetans had set themselves on fire to protest the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Since then, the pace of these protests has accelerated. According to the International Campaign for Tibet, 94 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since March 2011, and the pace in November was nearly one a day.
By Jen Christensen, CNN
Atlanta (CNN) – A young girl bravely stood to ask the Dalai Lama's doctor a question, and he gave her an unusual answer.
Dr. Tsewang Tamdin, a world-renowned expert in Tibetan medicine, visited Emory University in Atlanta on Monday as part of his effort to reach more American medical practitioners. He wants to develop collaborative projects between the Tibetan medicine system, which is more than 2,500 years old, and Western medicine.
The little girl told Tamdin she suffered from asthma. She wanted to know if there was anything in Tibetan medicine that could help her get better.
Tamdin, who spoke through a translator for the hourlong lecture, immediately switched to English. In a gentle, almost too-soft tone, he explained what might help.
Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
(CNN) - A few years ago, I came across a high school textbook on U.S. history that stumbled badly when it tried to describe the first Thanksgiving. Because of a serious misunderstanding of the First Amendment, the authors thought they couldn’t even refer to God in their textbook. So they ended up telling their readers that the Pilgrims were giving thanks to the Indians. (Huh?)
Personally, I think Thanksgiving is (and was) about giving thanks to God, but I am too eclectic nowadays to confine my giving of thanks to the capricious Calvinist God of the Pilgrims. So in the spirit of Pascal, who placed a wager on the Christian god, I'm putting a marker down, too. But why confine your wager to one divinity? Here is my own Thanksgiving litany to the gods.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.