So why am I excited about the surge in meditation?
Because I believe it’s the first time since the dawn of modern science that the scientist has been humiliated.
Listen to that Joe Rogan interview with Amishi Jha. At the beginning, she describes a lecture she attended, in which the lecturer showed images of two brains: one healthy, one not. Someone asked, “How do you get a brain that looks like the healthy one?” The lecturer replied, “Meditation,” then the lecture was over.
She says she was borderline offended. It was a lecture for scientists by an acclaimed scientist, and he ended it with a hocus-pocus suggestion like meditation. Outrageous, back then, she said.
“Back then” was just 20 years ago.
And now? Most scientists are aware that meditation, as practiced by the greatest religious traditions over the past 2,500 years, is important. Very important. Probably crucial.
Come on Baby, Let’s do the Meditation Twist
Meditation is on the verge of becoming what jogging was in the 1970s: a health fad that kicks off more health fads. As people start to realize that mental health is as important as physical health, I believe the meditation craze will move from the sweatsuit-shuffle joggers of the 1970s, to the aerobic craze of the 1980s, to the 1990s rise of weightlifting, to today’s vast assortment of exercise alternatives: high-intensity training, Pilates, wheel classes, CrossFit, foam rolling, cable training.
Of course, I’m inclined to think attention to mental health can also be a bad thing. Are you practicing it to become a superhero of sorts, the kind of guy with such mastery over his disposition that he can shake off a kick to the scrotum without a flinch? I’m afraid that’s off-the-mark. But I’m afraid I also find it kinda cool.
The vanity monster with the eight-pack abs; the vanity monster who can shake off a scrotal kick. Both are disturbing in their own way, but . . . I’m impressed with both. I mean, am I supposed to be impressed by the guy with a beer gut who can’t even shake off a tumble from his couch?
It’s obviously a call to the Aristotelian golden mean, finding the right balance. Each person will have to find it for himself.
I’m just happy that meditation is increasingly going to become a part of each person’s balancing effort.
Madison Avenue Cometh
Are you thinking that meditation can’t possibly take on the dizzying variety that we see in the world of physical fitness?
Think again. It will happen. The free market will reward entrepreneurs who scour the perennial tradition to come up with new forms of meditation and then market them. Count on it:
Six-Minute Hesychasm: How to Mount-Athosize Your Mind in Just Six Minutes a Day
Quieter, Alerter, Calmer
The Encyclopedia of Modern Mindfulness
100 Om Symbols for Maximum Mindfulness
Rise and Reflect: Recipes, Rituals, and Ruminations to Fuel Your Day
Wakefulness Workout: How to Get as Mentally Jacked as Jack Kornfield
Think I’m exaggerating?
It’s already happening. There are more books on the market about meditation than I can count. Ten years ago, I would’ve lapped up each of these books the second I saw them, but now? I can’t possibly keep up.
There are also more forms of meditation than I can count. Contemplation or meditation? Praying with the Gospels or silencing the mind? Secular mindfulness of Catholic mindfulness? Zen or Sufism? Hesychasm or mindfulness (the polar-opposite positions of these two traditions is, in my opinion, the biggest suspicion hanging over the entire meditation movement . . . more on that some other time).
An avalanche of talk shows, podcasts, books, and advertisements about meditation is coming.
There’s already a form of “extreme meditation” on the market: hypnosis. I guess it promises the results of meditation in just three minutes a day, or some such thing. I haven’t looked into it yet, but can you imagine? All those monks spend years on Mt. Athos, trying to attain enlightenment, but they could’ve done it with a hypnosis app and four minutes a day?
If you want to try a different form of extreme meditation but one with a longer track record than hypnosis, you could try psychedelics. Aldous Huxley wrote an excellent book entitled The Perennial Philosophy. A few years later, he was taking LSD and writing The Doors of Perception. Psilocybin is Six-Minute Hesychasm and Huxley knew it.
Welcome to the Age of Mind
Anything, once it starts to enter the mass consciousness, brings the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Meditation is entering that mass consciousness. Buckle up. I anticipate a wild ride in the world of the mind.
I think it’s going to be great.
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