Big News: A new study from the University of Toronto claims that meditation makes individuals more politically liberal in their outlook and actions. Although it is just one study, this research is incredibly interesting, and brings sharply into focus some of the work on which the Interdependence Project is based.
(photo of IDP sangha during Occupy Wall Street in 2011)
I am personally completely uninterested in having a conversation about whether more meditators are Democrats or Republicans (I am neither, although I voted for Barack Obama in the last election and could not bring myself to support a Republican nowadays). Often the question of politically conscious meditators devolve into a discussion of Democrats and Republicans, Obamas and Boehners, which for me is a nonstarter. It is much more important to to examine how our practice shifts our consciousness toward political issues, not parties or individuals.
For me, it is an unquestionable personal experience that meditation practice has opened me to the truth of interdependence, that nothing happens in a vacuum, that we are all in this together. This basic realization seems, inherently, to move a person towards more progressive political values (note: I dislike the word liberal, as I believe it has basically become a dirty word in the realm of American politics; I much prefer the term progressive).
To be fair, I think one could just as easily argue at the same time that meditation practice makes us feel more responsible for our own actions, our own habits, our own karma. Personal responsibility is sometimes a value attributed to more conservative views, although one has to wonder if conservatives really corner the market on taking personal responsibility.
Whatever the case, this meditation study does seem to suggest that practice (and possibly studying Buddhism) makes a person more open-minded to others, and to a larger vision of the world in which we live, and those shifts affect political behavior. Does meditation turn people into more politically engaged beings? It seems there is starting to be scientific data to suggest that it does.
For me, my interest in the world and my meditation practice go hand-in-hand. I could not have one without the other I look forward to more studies on the effects of political consciousness of meditation in the future.