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  • Rick Repetti

Even Ivanka Trump meditates?

I never thought having a meditation practice was necessarily an indication of anything especially ethical about the person who has a meditation practice, other than what that minimally implies about the discipline of having any sort of mental or physical exercise. However, the article, "Yes, Even the Trump Family Meditates", opens by rejecting the idea that meditation speaks to anything ethical about the person who meditates, implicitly using the Trump family as an example, it being presumably obvious that meditation doesn't add up to anything ethical in their lives. I doubt the Trumps think it does, but they might.

I have met many apparently 'spiritual' folks, particularly yogis and Buddhists, who seem to think having a meditation practice is a central measure of their spirituality, and thus also of their ethicality. I understand, however, that even Samurai, snipers, and hit men might improve their skills by cultivating meditative muscles, so to speak, as may anyone else. It certainly made me a better martial artist, and my teacher, the late Sensei Warren Kaye, used to begin every karate class in the Bushido Karate Dojo in Brooklyn with meditation. Meditation helped us focus, remain calm, receptive, flexible. It helped us to regulate our emotions, our breathing, our energy, to tune into kinesthetic energy, to balance, to roll with whatever came at us. It helped us to start each session fresh, new, ready, mentally free.

Similarly, anyone may improve their game, whatever it is, by exercising, eating well, sleeping well, and by engaging in mentally or physically challenging tasks, like logic puzzles or obstacle courses. Would it be problematic if the Trumps did these things too? I see no problem with any of this, but I understand the cries of foul by traditional Buddhists and yogis over the popularization of meditation outside their turf, as well as the valid objection to the effect that traditional teachings on meditation embed it within an ethical framework. Sensei Kaye did the same thing before each class, when he would speak about karate not primarily as a fighting art but as an art designed primarily for the cultivation of excellent character, virtue, integrity, and the like. Of course, most karate students believe this, but are probably primarily interested in learning how to fight.

But I also have an optimistic attitude toward the potentially more meaningful benefits of engaging in meditative practices. Most people come to meditation to receive some benefit, be that stress reduction, anger management, better health, sharper skills, some inner peace, etc. Many of these eventually stumble upon some of the deeper benefits, such as philosophical insight, moments of transcendence, a sense of oneness or communion with all that is, empathy, mental freedom, and other elements of existential, psychological, or philosophical wisdom, virtue, goodness, meaning, and beauty. For these reasons, I applaud anyone who takes up the practice, for taking it up, as it is understood by everyone to have both sorts of potential, and thus by taking it up they are at least rendering themselves vulnerable to becoming sensitive to the suffering of all sentient beings, to the potential for self-transformation, and to the potential for some movement toward a more enlightened framework, understanding, or behavior.

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