Now there may finally be some scientific grounds for the “hippie liberal” label slung at us yogis by non-practitioners. Hooray? In the never ending search to make sense of our gray noodle bowl, a new research study found that people actually became more liberally minded after meditation or another spiritually oriented exercise. That’s spiritual, not religious. How’s that difference go again?
As part of the study, researchers at the University of Toronto found that “religious individuals tend to be more conservative and spiritual people tend to be more liberal,” said one of the study leaders, Jordan Peterson of U of T’s Department of Psychology.
However, Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., a psychologist and the Director of the Center for Progressive Development in Washington, DC disagrees with the “religious” vs. “spiritual” orientations, “spirituality” being defined in terms of going beyond yourself and the feeling that we’re all connected, with “religiousness” defined as a clinging to a code of traditions. Many people might agree they’re not mutually exclusive.
Nevertheless, the key finding is a fascinating one indeed, LaBier says via Psychology Today:
When participants in the study meditated they subsequently reported significantly higher levels of spirituality, and they expressed more liberal political attitudes. That is, meditation led both liberals and conservatives to endorse more liberal political positions.
Study lead author Jacob Hirsch explains why this is:
“Spiritual experiences seem to make people feel more of a connection with others,” he said. “The boundaries we normally maintain between ourselves and the world tend to dissolve during spiritual experiences. These feelings of self-transcendence make it easier to recognize that we are all part of the same system, promoting an inclusive and egalitarian mindset.”
One love, y’all! OK, maybe not so fast.
Dr. LaBier continues the meditative peace appreciation and offers further explanation for the liberal liberation:
Nevertheless, to the extent that movement towards politically liberal ideas does occur from meditation, I think that’s best understood as one possible manifestation of a broader and deeper phenomena: Meditation triggers awakening. It expands and elevates your overall perspective — about the relationship of your being to the whole; the “oneness” of life and the universe. You awaken to the flow of ongoing change and impermanence that characterizes life. Self-transcendence tunes you in to the reality that we’re particles of stardust, literally, traveling together on this planet at this moment of time.
Not only that, meditation helps reduce the “me”ness and allows for greater capacity for empathy, tolerance and compassion. Does it mean religious people are any less so? Not entirely. And the study may have some holes. Don’t go counting your gay marriage rights just yet. But it does suggest that meditators are more likely to be more open minded no matter what side of the political arena they set their zafu on. You tell us, could that be a bad thing? Filthy hippies, all of you! Love.
Expect Bill O’Reilly’s “War on traditional meditation” in 3..2…
image via upenn.edu