The evangelical newly-anointed gurus can be incredibly irritating, though perhaps Sophie White needs to wake up to the new Nirvana (and acknowledge the fact that people with a healthy meditation practice aren’t spending their days writing little rants about people finding contentment)
Meditation is everywhere. And I know it’s not like meditation is a new thing by any means but it seems to have hit the mainstream massively in the last couple of years. I got into a taxi last week and the driver’s meditation app was playing on the radio. He turned it off pretty sharpish but I’d already heard the soothing tones and squeaking birds of a guided meditation. Now, I’m not trying to perpetuate a derogatory stereotype about angry taxi drivers, but we’ve all had a run in or too with this volatile breed so I was pretty intrigued to hear mediation so far out of its usual context of, ya know, smug yoga people.
“Have you tried meditation?” has got to be the generational catchphrase of this millennial epoch. It is always delivered in an imploring tone, “Have you tried meditation?”. The question is the answer to whatever malady you purport to be suffering from. I’d wager that you could have just been mauled by a wild dog, with half your face hanging off and someone would say “have you tried meditation?”. I do a bit of routine complaining about my back pain to my friend – “Have you tried meditation?” She says it so often that I decide to test her. “I’m thinking of finally getting lip fillers,” I muse. She doesn’t even look up, “Have you tried meditation?”
The grating sense of ubiquity around meditation and its contemporary makeover “mindfulness”, comes from the fact there are so many more platforms from which the newly zen can bray about the life-changing properties of their meditation practice. The WhatsApp groups, the inspiring quote memes. I have literally watched people meditate on their Instagram stories. Is that not the very definition of pure batsh*t bonkers? This person had set up an ad hoc alter with candles, positioned the camera and then hashtagged the whole bloody charade #unplugged. I can’t even. Telling people about your meditation practice is like the new version of boring people with your dreams.
Some days I feel like I’m trapped in some dystopian Groundhog day nightmare of people hectoring me endlessly about their wellness practice. It’s not the actual mediation itself that I object to, I tell myself but the tiresome peacocking. It was then I had to acknowledge that this was a dark development indeed… was I actually begrudging people their contentment? Yes! When they’re boring me about it, insisted the dark part of my heart that clearly can’t live with other people being happy.
I suffer from terminal cynicism but there has been a growth in research around the impact of meditation. In a 2009 study, neuroscientists used MRIs to compare the brains of meditators with non-meditators, the differences they observed led the scientists to speculate that certain benefits, like improved cognitive, emotional, and immune responses, can be tied to this growth.
In cities in the US, the food truck craze has given way to the meditation mobiles. Souped-up buses move location daily, bringing the zen to you as it were. Aboard the PauseNow bus, clients can reserve one of several private pods which come with noise-cancelling headphones and iPads in each, giving the meditators a choice between different meditations, or the opportunity to sit in silence for 15-minutes.
There have even been links between meditation and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. Obviously, no one’s claiming you can meditate cancer away but as the glowing faces of the “Have you tried meditation?” brigade seem to suggest, while it cannot cure cancer or sadness or life itself – meditation certainly seems to be improving their day-to-day.
And I know they’re only trying to help. They’re excited about a new good thing in their lives. It’s just like when I discovered coconut and almond butter and couldn’t stop telling people about how they had to try it. “Have you tried coconut and almond butter?” I told everyone I met. So look, if you stop badgering me maybe, MAYBE!, I’ll give the meditation a go.