The year of mindfulness: 2014

The popularity of mindfulness continued to climb in 2014. It’s not the same phenomena that Transcendental Meditation (TM) was in the 1960s.

Clean water is a goal for many Americans.

I learned both meditation techniques and still practice them occasionally. I studied mindfulness while living in London in 1967. While returning from work one day on the tube (subway), I noticed an ad for meditation at the London School of Economics. Teachers of the program didn’t call it mindfulness but looking back, I now realize that’s what it was.

When I returned to Calgary the following year, the Beatles and TM were all the rage, so I took the leap and received my personal mantra.

The applications of meditation are quite different in 2014 than they were in 1967 when hippies were looking for escape from the corporate establishment.

Meditators in 2014 are still looking for escape but now it’s from the incursion into our daily lives from cell phones and technology. Mindfulness can help calm the cacophony of noise that leaves us agitated and unfocused.

So, just what is mindfulness? A Buddhist monk and former cellular biologist describes it this way: “In mindfulness, the meditator remains attentive, moment by moment, to any experience without focusing on anything specific,” says Matthieu Ricard in Scientific American.

The beauty of meditation is that no specific equipment or gear is required, only a comfortable posture that is not too tense or lax. While mindfulness finds its origins in Buddhism, and other religions practice forms of meditation, mindfulness is not inherently religious.

Researchers see growth in brain cells of expert meditators in parts of the prefrontal cortex called the Brodmann areas. Fifteen years of research shows that meditation produces significant changes in both the function and structure of the brains of experienced practitioners. But even novices can benefit.

Kids can benefit. The stress of peer pressure, raging hormones, the pressure to succeed in school and sports can take a toll on young minds. Tralee Pearce, health reporter for the Globe and Mail, explains: “Research already shows that mindfulness therapy has huge potential for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety.”

Toronto teen Caitlin Saracevic says the short meditative breaks help curb her ADHD, which makes her feel “constantly on the go mentally, with a thousand thoughts going on at once.”

Even the corporate establishment, the enemy of hippies, is buying into mindfulness as a way of improving employee performance. Executives met in the heart of hippiedom, San Francisco, in February this year to bliss out on mindfulness.

The leaders of Google, Facebook and Instagram gathered in a hotel conference room to swap meditation techniques, pausing to “get present” and laying out the benefits of a compassionate workspace. The conference was organized by Wisdom 2.0, a conference where meditation gurus and technology leaders trade practices on living mindfully.

The Founder of Wisdom 2.0, Soren Gordhamer, is confident about the corporate applications of mindfulness: “Wisdom 2.0 addresses the great challenge of our age: to not only live connected to one another through technology, but to do so in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work, and useful to the world.”

 

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