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Interfaith meditation group brings religions together

Tuesday - 10/23/2012, 6:54am  ET

Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Whether familiar with meditation or a first-timer, a unique program in the region may be worth checking out.

The Interfaith Meditation Initiative puts together free meditation programs that are open to the public.

"We're a 501(c)(3) public charity that brings together religious leaders from diverse traditions to share their tradition's meditation practices with one another and with public audiences in churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, universities and community centers," says Founder and President Andrew Stern.

"Our primary purpose is to provide transformational interfaith programming across religious lines."

At Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Arlington Monday night, a group of about two dozen people gathered to participate in a meditation from the Christian point of view, and a guided meditation from the buddhist tradition.

Ven. Bhante Pannawansa, a Buddhist monk from the Washington Buddhist Vihara, led the Buddhist part of the program. Nicole Meister with Our Lady Queen of Peace led the Christian part.

Stern says people of different religious backgrounds may have different beliefs, but meditation is something that can bring them together for a shared experience in the same room.

"So one person may be experiencing Christ, whereas a Buddhist may be experiencing Buddha-nature or universal spirit. Someone who's Jewish might be having a connection with Adonai," says Stern.

"This is not about asking anyone to convert to another faith, or even asking those who are unaffiliated with any particular faith to adopt a certain faith. And similarly, we are not espousing a unity of all religions," Stern adds.

According to The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life study from 2008, four in 10 adults said they meditate at least once a week, nine in 10 Americans said they believe in the existence of God and most Americans have a non-dogmatic approach to faith.

Stern says these results show meditation may be natural conduit for bringing together those affiliated with a religious tradition and those unaffiliated with a particular religious tradition.

Anyone is invited to take part in other similar programs happening this month and next in the region.

The next event is Sunday, Oct. 28 at the Baha'i Center in Northwest and will feature Baha'i and Buddhist meditations.

Find an event schedule on the Interfaith Meditation Initiative's website.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)