It seems meditation is everywhere these days and everyone from Google CEO’s to kindergarten students are practicing it. So what’s the big whoop whoop anyway? Has meditation become yet another fad or is it here to stay?
Without question meditation has become wildly popular and is rapidly growing throughout the Western world. With this comes a cornucopia of ways to meditate including apps, you tube video’s, on line meditations, classes, silent studio’s and mentorships. There is also a fair bit of research (a little over a thousand studies) showing the benefits of this four thousand year old practice which historically has spanned numerous cultures, creeds and philosophies. But from my perspective whether meditation turns out to be just another fad or not really depends on what people do with it and perhaps why they started meditating in the first place.
Allow me to digress fifteen years to the first meditation class I ever attended. At the time I was working at the U of A Hospital and was accustomed to a head crammed full of daily pressures and busyness. One lunch hour I saw a meditation class offered at the McMullen Art Gallery and it piqued my curiosity. With no grand expectations of enlightenment and being relatively ignorant about meditation, and the entire wholistic world in general, I attended.
After a short explanation we sat quietly on chairs and for thirty minutes paid attention to our breath. While the experience itself was not profound the after effects definitely were. Walking back to my office I noticed the chronic traffic jam in my head had quite literally opened up to what felt like a spacious eight lane highway. There was enormous internal space where things used to be habitually tight, a perception of time expanded beyond the tick tick tick of seconds, a new opening to make choices from and a sense of internal freedom unsurpassed. Not only did it feel amazing but it lasted for three days!
Fast forward to the present where I am a meditation teacher and a daily practitioner, largely because meditation gave me one of its infamous gifts on the very first try. I liked what it did, and as it turns out, my ignorance that day really was bliss. Arriving with no expectations allowed my busy mind to remain open, and undefended; without judgments, labels and bias I simply followed the practice and allowed the experience to happen. Because I liked the change I wanted more and stuck to it. With all the now known benefits, as well as the personal benefits, this is a decision I’ve never regretted.
But would I have continued if I had left feeling unchanged? Would I have even been curious enough to go in the first place if the time was now and meditation was hyped up everywhere I looked? It’s impossible to know but I’ve never been one for fads. Fads are fads because they quickly come into “style” and just as quickly fade away. While a four thousand year old practice has surely earned its worth in time, it could easily be turned into a fad, depending on what people do with it.
We know that meditation is growing in popularity. What was once limited to ascetics, ashrams and monasteries is spreading widely and quickly into mainstream workplaces, schools and throughout society. We know meditation offers a multitude of physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual benefits and overall enhances the quality of ones health and wellbeing. We know that most meditation benefits occur in a persons life and that some meditations also offer a fantastic experience. We know that most people want to be healthy and happy but that making these choices consistently is challenging.
Whether we choose to make meditation part of our daily lives is entirely individual and whether groups of individuals choose to stick with it will determine whether it becomes yet another fad of our western world or is here to stay. Somewhere in all that, beyond fads and popularity, is the meditation practice I still love. The practice that has turned into a passion for teaching, an enjoyment for sharing and an opportunity for growth unsurpassed. No question, in my life meditation is here to stay!