by Patton Hyman
The last few weeks have seen a rash of articles about mindfulness. The Times of London featured a story about Goldie Hawn’s presentation at the Davos World Economic Forum, headlined, “Inner peace will come if you put your mind to it”. TIME magazine’s cover story was called “The Mindfulness Revolution”. There was even a story in an online magazine about how the coach of the triumphant Seattle Seahawks encourages his players to practice meditation and yoga.
As someone working to bring mindfulness into professional venues, maybe I’m an ingrate for not totally appreciating this exposure of mindfulness to a larger audience, but there’s something about the presentations that makes me uneasy about just what’s being communicated by the reportage itself. Does it communicate that mindfulness is something of a lark, that it’s not applicable to the nitty-gritty of everyday, professional life?
First there are the images. On TIME’s cover is a full head shot of a woman (attractive, of course) with eyes closed and a facial expression that made me wonder if she was catching a few zees. The Davos piece features a photo of a female of the babe persuasion, in full busty profile, meditating on a beach, hands in a yogic position. By the way, a beach? Have you ever tried that? It sounds cool, but frankly, I’ve tried it, and I prefer meditation venues that don’t have so many bugs.
Even the photo accompanying the Seahawks story is a little weird. First there are two guys (cute, naturally) in football gear, and with the same yogic hand positions, reminiscent of the finger position adopted just before flicking something unpleasant at an unsuspecting victim. But wait, although there are two guys there, on closer inspection they look like the same guy. Must be a trick of photography or maybe twin football players, but at least they’re both nice looking. Guess that comes from meditation—or maybe only attractive people meditate. Someone should do a study of that.
Once I got past the photo, the Time magazine article was not at all bad. It talked about real people who I know are doing professional work in mindfulness. But the title of the article? The Mindfulness Revolution? Really, does anything worthwhile have to be a “revolution” these days? And anyway, what’s the implication? That if you meditate, everything in your world’s going to get turned on its head? Maybe you won’t have to balance your checkbook anymore? Perhaps if the outcomes of revolutions were a bit less gory, I’d have a more positive feeling about the term. At least it avoided “transformative,” a term that reminds me of kids’ toys called “transformers.” Or maybe it was a movie?
I confess that I didn’t read the entire article from the London Times because I would have had to subscribe, but fortunately, my frugality didn’t bar me from reaping interesting intelligence from the world of global finance. Although the “inner peace” of the headline is, I suspect, a more realistic goal than “world peace”, the kicker was a sidebar that read: “An aura of mysticism pervaded the air at the World Economic Forum in Davos.” As the reader probably knows, the Davos forum is a gathering of economists, political leaders, and corporate executives from all over the world, so I’m pretty sure I know why focusing on a pervasive “aura of mysticism” didn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. I’d have been more impressed by hearing that the participants learned something about working effectively with their states of mind.
But, heck, it’s probably just a limitation on my part. Maybe if I meditated more, I’d understand. Or maybe I should go to journalism school.
Patton Hyman is the President of Applied Mindfulness Training, Inc. and teaches meditation-based mindfulness to lawyers, executives (private and public sectors), health care professionals, and others.