Mindfulness has been part of our Western culture for the greater part of the past 30 years and has long been synonymous with at least one of two prominent figures. Jon Kabat-Zinn, whom I refer to as the “Grandfather of Mindfulness in the Western World” developed a program in 1979 called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts designed for chronically ill medical patients, in which he taught mindfulness and meditation to use their minds to change their bodies. Every scientific study ever conducted on the effects of a MBSR course proves the benefits by showing a significant decrease of symptoms and increase in quality of living. About 25 years ago Jack Kornfield a trained Buddhist monk co-founded Spirit Rock, a Buddhist retreat center in Northern California, and is seen as one of the key teachers of mindfulness and is revered as a prominent spiritual leader. But if you weren’t in the mindfulness world, or don’t watch Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, you may have not ever have heard of these men or been privy to their significant contributions of bringing mindful awareness to the West.
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Over recent years, mindfulness programs have been developed all over the country in our health care industry, our military, our education system, and in the business world. More key players like Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, discovered mindfulness and is now on a crusade lobbying for congressional funding of mindfulness programs. He is steadfast in his belief that mindfulness will make our country better and is dedicated to making this practice woven into the integral systems in our country’s fabric. But again, unless you were up on the meditation practices of Congress members, or read his book A Mindful Nation, you may not have known about it.
Five years ago, a conference that started out fairly small in San Francisco has now grown in its exposure and impact with its annual conference occurring over President’s Day weekend to over 2000 world-wide attendees. Wisdom 2.0 asks the question: “How do we live with awareness and connection in a digital age?”, and brings together leaders in the spiritual world like Jon and Jack (and this year Eckhart Tolle) with leaders in the business world like Arianna Huffington, Bill Ford and Silicon Valley’s major players to create space and conversation. It’s brilliant – but again, if you weren’t in the spiritual or tech circle, you may not have heard about it.
But all that has now changed. Two major events in Mindfulness’s timeline have occurred in one week, and if you aren’t in both circles, I can almost guarantee you’d be aware of at least one of them. The current issue of Time magazine, dated February 3, 2014 hit mailboxes and newsstands last week. The cover story is dedicated to The Mindful Revolution. For those of us in the mindfulness community it felt huge. Yes, we have had the Mindful magazine out for nearly a year now, but again, unless you knew about that or found it on the stands at Whole Foods, you might not know. But my social media updates, newsfeeds and tweets were quite abuzz over this huge exposure mindfulness was getting from Time. There was tangible energy floating through the mindfulness world as this trusted, newsworthy magazine touted a practice that we all know to be life-changing in its promises, time-tested in its tools and grounded in its roots. It was now getting not just legitimate, secular exposure, but endorsements stating clearly and succinctly how everyone could bring this practice into their lives and experience the benefits of greater presence, awareness, balance, joy, peace and not to mention health benefits. I know I personally felt pride as being part of the Revolution and though I’ve been a mindfulness educator for over two years, it felt like it was now nationally recognized as a practice that was not just something “other” people did. Mindfulness is for everyone and Time magazine showed that.
And as the universal law of spirit works, timing is everything and there are no accidents. So, if you happened to be not in the loop of Time magazine (although I have to say, it took me days to find a copy cause every store I went to was sold out, so clearly people caught on fast!), then I am most certain that you may have fallen into the other category of watching The Super Bowl. Okay, even if you didn’t watch it, as a red-blooded American, you had to know it was happening. The team that won by a whopping 35 points, beating out record-breaking Peyton Manning, is the Seattle Seahawks…a football team that just so happens to practice mindful meditation.
Back in August 2013, ESPN magazine featured a story of the Seahawks, with a picture of players meditating, with a tag line referring to their belief that a “kinder, gentler philosophy is the future of football.” The article talked about their Coach Pete Carroll’s philosophy of introducing a sports psychologist, Mike Gervais, who guided the players in yoga and meditation with the invitation to “breathe in, breathe out and open their minds.” Rather than a typical coach screaming at the players, Coach Carroll believes that “happy players make for better players” and that practices to guide the players to be in the moment, relax and offer tools for dealing with stress will lead to better results on the field. Well, this little experiment of Carroll’s has paid off with the biggest reward the NFL can offer! Seahawks players Russell Okung was quoted in that article as saying "Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field for practice. It's about quieting your mind and getting into certain states where everything outside of you doesn't matter in that moment. There are so many things telling you that you can't do something, but you take those thoughts captive, take power over them and change them." Wow, an NFL player whose team is still celebrating as I stay up late to write this, summed up the tenants of mindfulness so eloquently: quiet your mind, be in the moment, acknowledge and let go of thoughts that aren’t serving you, have power of your negative thought patterns and cycles, and the importance of bringing these tools into your everyday life. I hardly could’ve said it better myself.
So yes, mindfulness had a really big week and I truly love the serendipity of timing! Coach Carroll said in the last sentence of that article, "Let's not just win one Super Bowl. Let's win multiple." And I see this as not just as a big win for the Seattle Seahawks and all their fans, but a bigger win for mindfulness. It’s a win for the awareness and widespread acknowledgement of a practice that has patiently, yet significantly, impacted the lives of many. And now, I invite a collective bow and moment of silence to honor this practice that provides the tools to live your optimal life – to get out of your head, into your body and breath, into this present moment rather than ruminating on the past or agonizing about the future, to see the present moment as ‘this, just this’ without attachment, to breaking unskillful, habitual patterns, recognizing the possibility to respond and not react, and the ability to simply allow space for whatever is arising. This is the beauty of mindfulness. It’s so simple yet so profound. And I truly hope that now, with this Mindful Super Bowl win, that mindfulness will stay true to its integrity, true to its roots, and true to the authenticity it demands of those who practice. Take a deep breath, breath into your intention and know that you too, can be part of the Mindful Revolution.