Is Mindfulness Meditation Kosher?
Is mindfulness halachically acceptable even though some say it came from Buddhism many years ago?
It really depends on what you mean when you’re saying mindfulness. The concept of mindfulness is rooted in Torah. However, the implementation of the principles and discipline of mindfulness can vary so much, depending on who, what and how.
Please tell us what specifically you have in mind.
It’s hard to describe but basically what you do is you just sit on the couch and you just try as much as possible with your eyes closed to feel present and to let yourself only focus on the different things that you are currently feeling, like feeling yourself seeping into the couch, feeling your arms relaxed, feeling the breathing that you’re doing. In general, just feeling what you’re feeling and letting all thoughts, worries that come into your head, letting them fly by, and just noticing them as if you’re just a spectator. I hope I’m explaining it OK. But I just know that different professionals claimed that they got this from buddha kind of thing I wasn’t sure if this is halachically ok.
Though the very description described does not seem to be an issue, still, this approach to meditation does not align very well with the Torah approach. Meditations that appear in Jewish literature concentrate on focusing your mind on a specific topic which can arouse you to a higher level of serving Hashem. Judaism is mind-oriented, where proper thoughts influence emotions. This is in stark contrast to this approach where one is encouraged to keep their mind clear and unoccupied.
From a Torah perspective, an empty mind is a black hole, or in the worst-case scenario, it could become a vacuum to draw in destructive thoughts. To quote Hayom Yom, 16 Cheshvan:
Thought is a garment and servant of the intellect and emotions. Even when it is not serving the intellect or emotions, it continues to function, thinking and meditating. However, this activity is then not only devoid of content, but also open to depravement… It is explained that alien or evil thoughts are caused by “emptiness of the head.” For when the mind is occupied, the thought has something to serve, and there is no room for stupid and vain thoughts devoid of substance.
An additional, but fundamental, point to consider: while the actual behavior described below is not against halacha, Mindfulness as a movement and taught by instructors who are sourcing it from buddhism, would make it problematic, see here:
There is a women’s group who do yoga. It is an exercise/workout class with an instructor, and may not be Jewish. A friend mentioned that yoga may be an issue regarding Avodah Zara. Is there a problem to attend?
I suggest you source your information on mindfulness or meditation from Jewish sources. For example, a good way to start (in English): Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s books “Jewish Meditation“, “Meditation and the Bible“.
See these links as well:
- Chabad.org/On Mindfulness and Jewish Meditation: Part I, Part II
- Chabad.org/Is There a Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Track? By Tzvi Freeman
- Chabad.org/Is Meditation Kosher? And if so, why aren’t we doing it? By Tzvi Freeman
P.S. When done for mental health purposes under the guise of a licensed therapist, and stripped from any religious meaning or import, it would be permitted.