The Flowering of Mindfulness in Society

It was a cold spring night down in the Palo Alto Hills but it didn’t seem to matter as the warmth of connection between friends and colleagues that had turned up that night kept our spirits warm. Researchers, meditation teachers, and pioneers in the field of mindfulness, neuroscience and business had shown up for this unique book event at the house of James Doty, founder of C Care, Stanford’s groundbreaking research project on Compassion.
It was a book launch for 2 groundbreaking books on mindfulness. The first book was Meng Tan’s Search Inside Yourself The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness and World Peace. It’s a book about the mindfulness and emotional intelligence program that is now offered to Google employees at Google University at their headquarters in Mountain View.

The second book was Tim Ryan’s Mindful Nation – How a Simple Practice Can Reduce Stress Improve Performance and Re-energize the American Spirit. . . . What is significant about this book is it is written by a US Congressman from Ohio. Who would have thought someone from the political corridors of DC would have written with authority on this subject! Beginning his mindfulness practice at Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Mass., Tim attributes the practice for transforming his life.

Both visionary and humble in their approach, both have big visions. Meng’s goal is to bring mindfulness and emotional intelligence to the workplace and to have those principles transform culture of business and thus our lives. Starting with Google, his non-profit SIYLI–Search Inside Yourself Leadership Development–aims to transform work culture. (I plan to be facilitating one of the Search Inside Yourself programs in the near future).

Tim’s goal is no small matter either. He plans to: bring mindfulness practice mainstream America; to have one in ten Americans practicing mindfulness; and to bring mindfulness to education, business, prisons, the healthcare system and every sector of society. Quite a tall order. But when you listen to him speak and see the people around him inspired you understand that this may be possible.

What so moved me about this event was the conversations, connections and synergy that happened between the attendees. There were people I knew from the Dharma world, folks busy trying to weave mindfulness into corporate culture, education and other areas, and neuroscientists and researchers endeavoring to study the effects of meditation practices on the brain. What I sensed that evening in a way I haven’t before was the real possibility for mindfulness to radically permeate American culture and the creative outflows that may arise from that.

My friend Russell Long shared with me his work that night of having completed an hour long documentary on the effects of mindfulness in low income schools and the transformations with students. Emma Thomas from C Care shared of their work and studying the effects of compassion practice on the brain and plans for disseminating that practice on a broader scale.

Despite all the inspiration it was clear, as it has been for me for some time, for the need for a national network of qualified, trained and experienced mindfulness practitioners and teachers who could truly make a difference in the lives of so many, in the same way that people have been transformed by their contact and immersion with the Dharma over these past 4 decades.

What’s seems necessary is a coordinated national training body that provides an in depth mindfulness teacher training, and graduate levels of training to facilitate mindfulness for the different sectors of society that mindfulness can reach whether that be health care, psychology, education, military, business, social justice, environmental work, etc.

I was left feeling both inspired and happy to be part of a tradition and growing movement that holds the possibility for Dharma teachings and practice to make a genuine difference in the lives of so many.
Where and how the Dharma is flourishing now is so much more than I could ever imagined when I started practicing meditation in an obscure center in the run down neighborhood of East London in the early 80s, when it was viewed as weird, obscure and irrelevant. How very different that reality is now.


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