“The number of Americans who meditate spiked to 14.2% in 2017, up from 4.1% in 2012”
I’ve been teaching meditation for more than 40 years so I’ve been tracking this trend for decades. But this recent surge in interest in the US took even me by surprise. We seem to be fast approaching that 20% point on the adoption curve where something becomes a mass phenomena.
The adoption of Eastern meditation practices in the US began more than 100 years ago when Swami Vivekananda, fresh from India, spoke at the World Council of Churches in Chicago in 1893 and became an instant celebrity. He established Ramakrsna Mission ashrams across the country. There is one right in the middle of Berkeley, California, across the bridge from Silicon Valley.
Swami Yogananda picked up the ball in the 1920’s, paving the way for the flood of monks and swamis in the 60’s. Then meditation received a massive boost when The Beatles learned meditation. It quickly spread to a host of other rock stars and a good portion of the entire hippie generation.
Something of a lull followed during the ’80’s and 90’s but in the early 2000’s three new factors appeared on the horizon and began driving the mainstream adoption of meditation. Interestingly, all three factors are technology related: Stress, Science & Scaling.
Stress: The growing stress epidemic, aggravated by devices and social media addiction, has created an increasingly acute need for peace of mind and focus. Meditation is the no-brainer, side-effect free solution.
Science: Recent breakthroughs in brain monitoring technology have enabled us to get a first look at what is actually happening inside a living brain. Making possible the thousands of studies into the effects of meditation and mindfulness that are validating the remarkable benefits of meditation, ranging from reducing anxiety and depression to optimizing focus and creativity.
We are still in the early stages of mainstream adoption, but it is accelerating rapidly. Meditation is not some new fashion that is going to fade away when people find some new fad. This 7000 year old ‘fad’ is the most tested mental, emotional and spiritual health discipline in the history of the world. And now it has the backing of science.
Scaling: When I first searched for the word, ‘meditation’, on Google in 2004 I got 2.4 million results. Last week it was 400 million. But the internet is just one technology feeding this trend. The big accelerator now is meditation phone apps. In February the award winning Calm app. became the first meditation ‘unicorn’ 🦄with a valuation of 1.1 billion $US. When I spoke to Calm co-founder, Michael Acton Smith, a year ago they were gaining 2 million new users per month. That was before the got $115 million in funding. And Calm is just one of a growing army of meditation apps spreading this healthy habit like a California summer fire.
Within very few years meditation will be as widely accepted as a part of a healthy daily routine as exercise and eating your veggies. This beautiful practice is here to stay. Lucky us. 🍀🙏
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