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What's the difference between meditation and prayer?

Teaching children to meditate can change the world.

I created my Start Small program where I instruct elementary school teachers on the many easy ways to bring meditation into the classroom. Working with a group of teachers, I asked for their feedback. The first thing they said was, "Don't call it meditation."

They said I could call it "mindfulness" or "breath practice" or "quiet time" but calling it "meditation" would bring down the wrath of parents on my head because I'd definitely convert their children to Buddhism.

Saying meditation makes you Buddhist is like saying eating a salad makes you a vegetarian. (WTF?)

There are LOTS of misunderstandings about meditation. Obviously.

Some people believe meditation is praying to Hindu gods. Some people think it's praying to Buddha. Some people think meditation opens a portal to hell that Satan and his minions can ride like an escalator to seize our souls. (Okay, that last one might not be true. Or it might.)

So let's clear this up. Meditation is not prayer. It is not the worship of any deity. It's a way to bring stillness to the mind, body and soul. That's it. That's all. Nothing sinister. Nothing religious.

Just peace.

So how do meditation and prayer differ?

A very simple explanation is - prayer is usually offered with the hope to convince a deity to intervene on our behalf or to provide something we need. It's very often a request. Absolutely nothing wrong with prayer.

Meditation is an internal practice where the main idea is to listen or focus. We try to quiet our minds and silence the crazy voices that scream in our heads all day. My practice has made me more calm, understanding, and wholehearted.

Here's the fun part. You can pray AND meditate. Whaaa????

Yep. In fact, meditation can deepen your connection with prayer. Try this.

When you sit (or kneel or whatever you do) to pray, spend five minutes listening to your breath, letting the outside world and its concerns drop away. Once you're in a peaceful place, then offer up your prayer. It usually comes from a more appreciative, loving heartspace.

Or. After your prayer, sit in silence for several minutes, noticing whatever thoughts rise up. That's usually the time prayers are answered. But if you say "Amen" and hop into bed, you miss that opportunity.

The Dalai Lama said, “If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”

He wasn't trying to convert all 8-year-olds to Buddhism. He was offering the world a way to peace.

For information about my Start Small program, reach out to me at

Peri Kinder is a Happiness Coach, Certified Yoga Teacher, Meditation Instructor, and Humor Columnist.

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