One of the conversations we have been having in our current Yoga Teacher Training is about the value or detriment of mindfulness hitting the mainstream.
When Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced the word and concept of mindfulness to health care in the 70’s, with the creation of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, he might not have imagined that this practice would become as well-known as it is now. Now it is on the cover of Newsweek and we see meditation used to sell pistachios (no joke, I saw it in Safeway the other day), and in some cases, a marketing tool to sell an ideal of “inner peace” with no effort – “just be mindful!”
Some critics express concern that this is simply a watering down of an ancient practice. I understand that concern, and I have it too. But I also see the value of accessibility for many – that mindfulness meditation is making its way into healthcare, education, psychotherapy, working with vets and others with PTSD, and the simple difference slowing down and paying attention makes in our day to day living. Much of this has been made available for many people because of the sheer accessibility of teachers and mindfulness classes, apps, and online resources.
I was recently looking back at some of my past writing, and came across a piece about why Mindfulness is more popular than ever. I think the words I wrote a couple of years ago hold true now, perhaps even more.
We are in such a fast paced culture, and we have literally forgotten how to do nothing. Waiting at the doctor’s office, in line, or to pick up our child at school – these used to be opportunities to do nothing. To just sit, or connect with other people. Now what do we do? Pull out our phones and distract ourselves with the technology constantly at our fingertips.
We have forgotten how to slow down. Forgotten how to nap. How to just be. Our nervous systems are in a mode of constant fight-or-flight reactivity. Jon Kabat-Zinn… says “A lifetime of unconscious reactivity is likely to increase our risk of eventual breakdown and illness significantly…There is mounting evidence that the sympathetic nervous system can lead to long term problems such as increased blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, digestive problems, chronic headaches, backaches, and sleep disorders, as well as chronic anxiety.”
“The healthy alternative,” he says, “is to stop reacting to stress and to start responding to it. This is the path of mindfulness in everyday life.”
My intention at Source Yoga is to continue to teach mindfulness that is authentic and thoughtful, that has us examine ourselves with truthfulness, and which makes a real difference in our lives and within our communities.
Next week, I begin another Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Series. Join me for this 8-week series, including a one-day retreat. We meet Tuesday evenings 6-8:30pm, beginning October 3rd. Find out more here. You can be assured that I, to the best of my ability, will teach mindfulness in a way that makes a difference in how we relate to our lives, our stress, our difficulties, our sorrows and our joys. This is the possibility that mindfulness practice makes available – being in full experience of life and all it brings.
May you be well,
PS: I spent some time in a recording studio this summer to bring you some recordings that we use in our MBSR course – I offer them freely for the benefit of anyone. Listen here.