When Will This Ridiculous Mindfulness Fad Go Away?

Business people meditating outdoors.

I mean seriously, it seems like we’re in high froth mode with all of the mindfulness nonsense clogging our airwaves and brain pipes these days. Have you not witnessed the growing plethora of meditation apps, complete with monthly subscriptions to receive the latest guided recitations on your iPhone? Oh, you don’t like meditating? That’s OK. You can become a more mindful parent. Oh, you’re not a parent? That’s OK. You eat food, right? Well, you can certainly eat more mindfully. Now, if you think I’m not going to go there, let’s mindfully correct that perception and talk about pooping, because yes, someone has actually written an article about mindful pooping.

And I’m sure you’ve all heard of the ABC reporter dude who had a nervous breakdown on the air and then found his way to sanity and a “10% happier” state of mind through meditation. He now has a podcast surging in popularity on the InterWebs.

Enough! When will this nonsense stop??!!

My hope? Never. Because I’m convinced that a growing and enduring collective consciousness around being mindful with an aim toward doing more good in the world is the only thing that will save us in the long term. In fact, the only aspect of today’s mindfulness boom I have an issue with is certain millenials claiming that the non-woo-woo version of mindfulness only became popular about 10 to 15 years ago. You know I love you Minimalist guys you and can’t wait to see your new documentary when it comes to San Francisco later this month. But may I respectfully suggest you stop spreading this fiction? Data point number one: Herbert Benson is a penultimate western medical doctor who became a bestselling book author by calling attention to the many health benefits of meditation, backed up by medical research, 41 years ago, in 1975. Data point number two: UMass Medical School Professor of Medicine Jon Kabat-Zinn gained international notoriety 26 years ago, in 1990, by writing about how a non-spiritual form of meditation practiced daily at his stress reduction clinic outside of Worcester, Massachusetts measurably reduced chronic pain levels in patients experiencing a range of maladies.

As for the ABC reporter dude, he is Dan Harris. Mr. Harris’ no woo-woo pitch on the benefits of a regular meditation practice is clearly aimed at attracting a much larger following than might otherwise consider taking up meditation. While I don’t get intimidated by bearded sages with flowing beards who smell like incense, I imagine I’m still in small company. Incidentally, it’s early days for Mr. Harris’ new podcast during which he interviews a wide range of guests, most of whom meditate regularly. But I highly recommend it.  As is the case with any podcast, different guests will “speak to you” more than others. The second episode featuring the amazingly authentic Rivers Cuomo from Weezer did it for me in the most positive of ways. And while we’re talking about the allegedly woo-woo loathing Mr. Harris, as it turns out he is a self-proclaimed practicing Buddhist. Nice!

Let’s talk about some bennys of becoming more mindful. Reduced blood pressure. Increased peace of mind. Enhanced ability to focus and concentrate. And for those who develop an intention toward being more kind to themselves, the people they encounter in every day life, their work colleagues, their fellow presidential candidates (ahem!) and the strangers they no longer troll on the Web — we have the potential to direct humanity in a slightly kinder direction. Given that the Dalai Lama says, “My religion is kindness,” wouldn’t you like to help spread that vibe, including in a non-denominational way? You can begin to do this with an act as simple as listening more attentively, pausing and responding in your everyday conversations instead of cutting off in reaction mode.

This doesn’t mean you have to give up your edge, your dynamism, and your aim to excel and in so doing increase your net worth to $100 million. But don’t you think you can still do these things without constantly interrupting and intimidating people in meetings, engaging in road rage antics on your drive home, and sending ‘group flame’ emails at 1:27 a.m.? And let me repeat a key benefit of incorporating a regular mindfulness practice: enhanced ability to focus and concentrate. I’m convinced that in our age of ever-increasing distractions, excelling in this one area will set you apart.

The risk of ‘mindfulness’ is that it’s an abstract term, akin to the abstract definition of the term ‘happiness.’ Or is it? Try this on.

“Mindfulness is a way of paying attention moment-to-moment to what’s happening within and around us without judgment. So, said differently, when we attend to the moment-to-moment flow of experience, and recognize what’s happening…fully allowing it, not adding judgment or commentary, then we are cultivating a mindful awareness.”

Living in and experiencing the now, recognizing it, and being non-judgmental in the process. That’s pretty cool. I don’t know about you, but I could stand for a whole lot less inner dialogue ‘commentary’ and opinionating pulsing through my mind each second. To me that is mindlessness and our world certainly doesn’t need any more of that. Incidentally, this definition of mindfulness comes from Tara Brach, a Buddhist meditation teacher, clinical psychologist, and bestselling book author with a very popular podcast – no subscription required. Oh, and to add some corporate cred, yeah…she spoke at Dreamforce last Fall. Just scroll to 7:30 right here. Be patient. Tara speaks slowly and intentionally. However, it’s well worth taking in what she has to say.

Here’s another powerful quote.

“When we operate from the perspective of mindfulness, we see that we are not our thinking. We discover that we can observe and listen to thinking with complete objectivity, as though it’s on a heads-up display. When we see and listen to thinking objectively like this, it can no longer consume our attention against our will. Although this is a very subtle shift, it is the shift that fundamentally changes the functioning of the mind.” – Matt Tenney

And if nothing else, just breathe. In and out. Slowly. And mindfully focus simply on your breath. Because that’s pretty much everything.

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