Once relegated to discussions in health food stores or New Age bookstores, today mindfulness is being talked about almost everywhere and by almost everyone.
Mindfulness—the practice of bringing nonjudgmental attention to the present moment—can be practiced formally in meditation and informally in life by bringing attention to whatever you're doing as you do it.
Long a useful tool for spiritual seekers, mindfulness has now left the meditation hall and is being used by people in many different fields for a variety of reasons, from increasing focus to improving quality of life.
A recent article in Bloomberg News described how Type-A, high-powered traders use mindfulness practices to get ahead in business. Teachers use it to stay more centered and feel less stress throughout the day. Law enforcement and first responders use it to build a capacity for attention and to manage extreme stress.
Doctors hope to avoid burnout and be more present for their patients by practicing mindfulness. And mindfulness trainings are happening in schools, prisons, substance abuse treatment centers, and more.
Mindfulness was even named a trend for 2014 by one of the world’s top marketing communications companies, JWT Worldwide.
“Mindfulness is part of a much larger trend we've been observing called mindful living,” said JWT director Ann Mack. “It's kind of a counter-trend to the past decade of overly stimulated, ADD-afflicted, tech-saturated culture that we've been living in. What was once the domain of the spiritual set has filtered into the mainstream as more people are drawn to this idea of shutting out distractions and focusing on the moment.”
The appeal of mindfulness is not surprising, given that we live in a world of distractions, including easy access to bottomless technology. People are overwhelmed and want to handle all the things on their plate with more ease—or they want to discern which things they can take off their plate completely.
The rise of mindfulness in the mainstream was discussed in early 2014 in a conversation between Arianna Huffington and Jon Kabat-Zinn at Wisdom 2.0, a conference to explore the intersection of technology and wisdom traditions.
Kabat-Zinn, whose Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program introduced the Western world to mindfulness in 1979, said he sees a modern-day mindfulness renaissance happening and is excited about the rise of authentic investigation into who we are. He feels it is helping us reclaim aspects of our humanity.
Huffington, cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, admits she was confused by mindfulness at first. “Being a very mental person, I was always trying to get away from my mind,” she said. “But mindfulness is really heartfulness. It’s from the heart that we know things we otherwise can’t know.”
Huffington added that the most shared news stories today are the ones of awakenings, generosity, and compassion—the ones about heart.
"What the culture is craving is a sense of ease and reflection, of not needing to be stimulated or entertained or going after something constantly." Soren Gordhamer, founder of Wisdom 2.0, told the New York Times. "Nobody's kicking out technology, but we have to regain our connection to others and to nature or else everybody loses.”
One reason for the mass adoption of mindfulness, especially in psychology and education, is because of the solid base of research that proves its benefits.
“Research continues to show that mindfulness practice decreases stress, depression, and anxiety, and increases health, well-being, and our ability to relate to one another,” said Carla Goldstein, cheif external affairs officer at Omega Institue.
What's next for the future of mindfulness research? Will the mindfulness trend continue? We'll be paying attention—moment by moment—to find out.
© 2014 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies