Meditation has undergone a sort of re-branding lately, and as “secular mindfulness” it is moving into schools, prisons, the corporate environment and universities.
Mindfulness-based approaches are also proving hugely effective in the mental health fields, as in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for everything from anxiety to schizophrenia, and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for treatment-resistant depression.
About 2 500 years ago in India, the Buddha taught mindfulness as a path to complete psychological liberation and awakening, but for now most people in the West simply embrace it to enhance well-being and become more productive. Many believe this to be a profoundly important project for humanity, and current trends are hugely encouraging.
The working world has become ever more fraught with stress and pressure, and corporate culture can take a steep toll without remedial methods for support. Anxiety, for example, has reached epidemic proportions (the South African Depression and Anxiety Group receives about 400 phone calls a day!). Those who are trying against the odds to promote meditation in the workplace, therefore, are doing much-needed compassionate work.
Mindfulness has become everything short of compulsory for students at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, thanks to the pioneering work of Linda Kantor, while Cape Town-based companies like Yes to Life and take the practice into corporate offices across the country.
Meanwhile, in a less formal setting, Paradigm Shift’s full-moon meditations on Camps Bay beach have grown in popularity, with ever larger groups of hundreds gathering to give their vote of confidence to the Maharishi Effect, which predicts that large groups meditating together can have a beneficial effect on crime and violence in the city.
Whatever your opinion on the Maharishi Effect, research by neuroscientists has shown conclusively that regular meditation practice has numerous benefits, on both the brain and the body…and in the boardroom! So you don’t have to believe the people in red robes if you prefer to trust the people in white coats – the jury is in: meditation works, and anyone can do it.