Meditation is going into bloom around the world as more and more people learn to meditate and practice mindfulness. Today, Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra are beginning their 21 day meditation challenge, which will be followed by millions around the world. At the same time, new books, programs and even movies are advocating meditation and mindfulness. Is this the new beginning for meditation?
“When I began meditating I did so in secret,” says meditation teacher Donald Townsend. “Meditation wasn’t understood. If you told someone you were meditating they’d think you were mad. Many even considered the practice satanic because it was based on Eastern religions. The exact same people who condemned meditation all those years ago are now practicing it themselves.”
Over the past ten years, business, athletic organisations, schools and hospital have begun to embrace meditation. My own personal experience with meditation began twelve years ago at acting school. Clearly, meditation is spreading its wings.
But why are more and more people beginning to meditate? Perhaps it is science.
Advancements in neuroscience has allowed researchers to prove the effect meditation has on the brain. “We’ve learned a tremendous amount about meditation over the past ten years,” says Neuroscientist Mary Swanson. “The benefits that meditation offers to physical and mental health are quite amazing. And even beyond health, the sheer relaxation and happiness that meditation creates is a wonder in itself.”
While meditation began life as a religious practice, many ignore the religious element. “There isn’t any reason why meditation should necessarily be a religious practice,” says Martin Ridgeman, who gives lectures on religious practices throughout Europe. “It’s important to remember the history of meditation, but it is also important to embrace meditation as a practice purely for health and wellbeing. By removing the religious element meditation opens itself up to billions of people who would otherwise shun it. Besides, meditation is meditation; the religious aspect does not change the nature of the practice.”
It’s largely because of the religious connotations of the word “meditation” that “mindfulness” is often a more popular term. Mindfulness removes the religious aspect. Mindfulness seems less threatening to non-religious people.
Whether we call it meditation or mindfulness, the practice is quickly becoming one of the most popular health practices in the world. Leading the way are Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey, who today begin their 21 day meditation challenge, the aim of which is simple: get as many people meditating as possible.
It seems there has never been a better time to begin to learn meditation. Meditation has gone from the “weird, satanic occult practice” that many in the west once deemed it to be, to the popular choice for mental and physical health.
One thing above all else shines true: there’s never been a better time to start meditating than right now.