Lots of people have asked me, as someone really into mindfulness and meditation, whether it’s only a trend. Is mindfulness a fad, nothing more than a metaphysical fidget spinner, or is there something inherent to the concept of meditation and mindfulness that it cannot be a fad? A lot of writers, including some in the Guardian, have argued that mindfulness is a way for people to simply sell you things and piggyback off Eastern traditions and spirituality. Some have used the term McMindfulness to describe the commercialisation of mindfulness and eastern spiritual practices.
In my view, mindfulness cannot possibly be a trend. Certainly, there will be some people out there who don’t take mindfulness seriously, and only use it to sell products or for other ulterior motives. But most people who practice mindfulness take it very seriously and have incorporated it into our lives for years. Can something that is derived from centuries old meditation practices really be considered a trend or a fad?
Some people have argued that if you divorce mindfulness from its spiritual context and make it a secular activity, it devalues what mindfulness and meditation is really about. Meditation, these people argue, comes from Buddhist traditions, and without attaching the relevant Buddhist spirituality and spiritual texts, mindfulness becomes a pale shadow of what it is meant to be.
I disagree. You don’t have to be spiritual to get benefits out of mindfulness, and indeed, many secular societies and groups have looked into the benefits of mindfulness and discovered that they still apply even when meditation practice is divorced from its context in Buddhism. Mindfulness would be ridiculously successful for a trend – hundreds of millions of people practice mindfulness and meditation, and meditation centres are established across the world. There are five in my city alone.
Either way, perhaps the real takeaway is that it doesn’t much matter if mindfulness is a trend. Who cares? If it benefits us to use it as a tool for improving our mental wellbeing, I don’t much mind if it’s a trend or if it isn’t. I’ve found a huge benefit from it, and whether people think of it as a fad or not doesn’t affect that.