Jørgen Jakob Friis
We have a short meditation before and after keiko. It is never EVER presented as being in any way related to religion or any type of deity. I encourage proper sitting, balance and breathing as far as I am able to teach this, and then I suggest that everybody use this moment to focus themselves on what they are about to do so that they can do it wholeheartedly. If for some reason they use this moment to connect with some sort of deity is their own responsibility - as long as they take care of each other and practice with a sincere effort and good mental attitude.
I have to say that I don't really see the sense of the "let's all close our eyes" moment before class. I don't think it's harmful, but it may be...misleading, perhaps? Certainly if you poll a class of martial artists you'd get several different answers as to what they're supposed to be doing during this "meditation", and what it's supposed to lead to. Again, probably not harmful, but in terms of doing something good, it's kind of random, isn't it?
There are many different meditation traditions, and they're not all seeking after the same thing -- not in the immediate sense, and not in the larger sense either. I'd guess that pretty much all of them have some usefulness to an individual, and some are particularly useful to martial arts practice -- I'm thinking here specifically of some of the Buddhist meditation practices. But they're practices
, just like when you practice waza: if you want to get to the usefulness part, you have to learn them correctly, from someone who knows what they're teaching, and you have to practice them diligently. And what they teach is to focus on what's happening right now. Focusing on what you want to be doing in a minute, once class starts, goes completely against the point of those practices. I use this example not to say that one way is right and one way is wrong (although I have my own opinion about which is more valuable to a martial artist), but to point out just how fuzzy all this undefined "meditation" stuff is. Superficially similar methods, diametrically opposed goals...widely varying results, no?