The Secularization of Mindfulness

There is a growing trend you may have heard about. And though most trends come and go, I can say with certainty that this one is here to stay. How can I say that with such assuredness? It’s because it’s been around for over 2500 years.

What is the trend I am referring to? It’s actually not a trend at all, but as with the popularization of new zeitgeists, until it becomes more part of the everyday paradigm, it can be viewed as a trend. I digressed into linguistics; I apologize. This phenomenon that is growing in practice, in science and in popularity is Mindfulness. (In fact, the February 3 issue of Time magazine dedicated the cover story to The Mindful Revolution.) Mindfulness has been around for over 2500 years and has historically been a practice in the East. However, over the past 35 years it has made its way into our Western culture and society, and more recently there has been an even bigger surge in the awareness of mindfulness.


Why is this? I believe it is because people are realizing that for a variety of different reasons their life just isn’t working and they need tools to cope and to get through it all with a bit more ease, acceptance and peace. Mindfulness, rooted in Buddhist meditation practice, is the practice of being in the present moment and living your life with greater awareness, attention and intention. It provides tools on how to view yourself (and others) with non-judgmental acceptance and show up in your life as a more active participant, rather than a passive bystander to whatever life’s curve balls throw you. Cultivating and maintaining a mindfulness practice allows you to experience peace and calm through the chaos as you learn to bear witness to what is occurring inside you and around you, without the constant need to change or alter what is happening. Breathing and simply allowing space for whatever is arising in the moment is the cornerstone to the practice.

One of the main reasons I see for this increase of mindful awareness is that this practice works to help us to live the lives we want to be living. And as scientists have been proving the benefits of practicing mindfulness, for our brain, our health and our overall wellbeing, the more secular application it has in our everyday lives. In the East, scientific proof was never needed because living mindfully was simply a way of being; the people didn’t care what scientists proved is happening in their brain when they practice. They simply know that they feel better, they have a more peaceful outlook on life and have the tools to respond and not react. However, here in the West, we like to know that what we are doing is worth our time and known to be beneficial; we don’t always believe on faith alone.

And such, mindfulness has spread into many areas of our secular American society, with much proven success. Though grounded in the fundamentals of the Buddhist practice, secular application of mindfulness practices are being developed and practiced within our health care system, our military, the education system, the business world and in the family unit. Mindfulness is a newer Western trend, but with the time-tested proven track record for bringing peace and awareness into people’s lives, combined with the science to back up what is happening physiologically, there is no reason not to give it a try.

One of the ways to learn more is to attend a free screening of the new documentary The Mindfulness Movie which highlights this secularization and spread of mindfulness across our country. Shown with experts in the field, current scientific research and interviews with people on the street, this movie demonstrates why this trend will last and how you can incorporate it into your life. I am hosting a screening of The Mindfulness Movie, followed by a discussion on how to cultivate your own practice, on Thursday February 27 from 7-8:30pm at The Seven Hills School in Walnut Creek. The cost is free, however space is limited and a RSVP is necessary. Please contact me at [email protected] for more info or to secure your spot.

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