The scholars and teachers responsible for the ‘mindfulness revolution’ gather for a landmark conference—and disagree about everything.
Mindfulness’s moment is here. One million Americans are taking up mindfulness meditation each year. It’s in the conference rooms at Twitter, in schools and hospitals, and helping traumatized soldiers. And the scientific data on the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions has become so compelling that insurance companies are starting to cover them.
The backlash is here, too. Buddhist purists are dismayed by one-percenters using mindfulness to get even richer. Skeptics say that meditation’s benefits are being oversold and overhyped. And critics say that celebrity meditation-boosters like Arianna Huffington and David Lynch offer more flash than substance.
All of these people are currently in the Marriott Copley in Boston for the International Symposium for Contemplative Studies (ISCS). There are bestselling authors here (Jon Kabat-Zinn, Daniel Goleman), top-level Buddhist celebrities (the Dalai Lama, Roshi Joan Halifax), and even Arianna herself. There are also legions of young researchers investigating meditation’s neuroscientific, behavioral, and philosophical effects.
With the explosion in mindfulness—the cover of Time! Government grants!—it feels a little like a victory lap. Yet as mindfulness grows into big business, the cracks are beginning to show.
“We risk being swept up in a marketing mania that is orthogonal to objectivity,” said former Wellesley President Diana Chapman Walsh at the event’s opening keynote, arguing for rigorous “norms, procedures, and evidence” as a corrective to potential enthusiasm. Continue reading >>