In recent years, people’s concern for health and wellness has grown and many have set their focus on finding ways to exercise and maintain their physical and mental strength. In that search, many have found solace in practices like yoga and Buddhist meditation. While nothing is inherently wrong with the physical benefits of yoga, the problems lie in its Buddhist spiritual background.
On a recent episode of Trending with Timmerie, Timmerie had Catholic Psychologist Dr. Gregory Bottaro on the show to discuss the dangers of supplementing your Faith with non-Catholic, spiritualist habits.
Timmerie started by asking the biggest question at the root of such a problem. “What are people missing in the rich, spiritual heritage of our Catholic Faith that they’re filling a gap, essentially, with Buddhism?” Dr. Bottaro got straight to the point, saying, “To clarify the question first, there’s nothing missing in our rich, spiritual faith, in our tradition. But what people are not getting, what’s not necessarily being taught, what’s not being emphasized, what’s not being clarified and given to people who are looking, are some very deep, human characteristics that resonate with our soul such as compassion and connection.”
He says that people are looking for something deeper in their secular lives and in opening themselves to God and spiritual direction, they expect a connection through charity, peace, and calm. However, they aren’t always met with these things in learning about the Faith from others and so they begin to drift, looking for it in other places. They drift to alternative practices and begin exploring different religions or spiritualities, until they think they’ve found something better.
Timmerie added that another part of the problem is that some people don’t treat their Faith like a part of their lives anymore. They think of it as the reason they have to go to church on Sunday, or just another set of laws that states what you can or cannot do. They’re completely missing out on the rich meaning behind the teachings, the tradition, the virtue ethics, and the meditations that one can find in Catholicism. And these concepts are not mutually exclusive from the physical and psychological ideas that govern our minds and bodies. In combining an acceptance of the Faith with a search for scientific answers for health and wellness, we can find a harmonious integration of God’s grace into our personal journey.
Dr. Bottaro offered an important distinction to things like yoga, saying that there is value to the exercise itself, but the problem is that when we find something we like, something that improves us, we want to do it more and become more involved. In practicing yoga, one can easily slip into treating yoga like a form of spiritual direction, as guiding principles in life, as a new god. That is why the Church teaches to avoid yoga and similar practices and examinations of conscience explicitly mention their prohibition.
The way Dr. Bottaro advises to avoid turning our Faith into a secondary hobby is through integration. “God made us bio, psycho, social, spiritual – meaning we have these four general categories of the way that we operate and function in the world. And our body, mind and spirit, especially in our relationships, are all areas of seeking excellence and ways that we can be healthy or not healthy.” We need to take those four parts and advance them together to provide a unity in life, all the while making sure that we are seeking this unity through truth.
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