A couple decades ago, if you told people you were going to a yoga class, you may have looked into a face of confusion or judgment where the other person was thinking you were part of some new age movement. Now in the most conservative town, men and women throw on their respective yoga gear and step into pose.
On the same note, just a few years ago, if you told most people you were going to go to a meditation class, you would have gotten that same look -- perhaps you still might today. However, we're on the cusp of entering a mindful era, an era where the term and practice are starting to become more accepted and common. We're not quite there yet, but the explosion of research coming out of respected institutions such as Harvard, UCLA, Stanford and major healthcare companies and the embrace in the corporate world is heading the train in that direction.
But what would a post-mindful era look like?
A post-mindful era is a time when mindfulness is no longer a buzz word. It's no longer the darling of the book publishers, media and institutions, but has now become something that is just accepted in the general culture. Like exercise, maybe not everyone is doing it, but it's understood by the masses as a general form of mental fitness and hygiene.
The post-mindful era is a time when the word compassion is understood by most as a strength, a skill to be built and not just a warm fuzzy term. When there is a conflict at work, within a marriage, or on the schoolyard, it will be more natural to step into another's shoes, see the shared humanity, and have the leg up on coming to a more peaceful resolution.
In difficult times, it will be second nature to drop into a space of self-compassion, this means having a deep knowing that the automatic habit of self-judgment only serves to dig us deeper and so we have an easier time finding the voice inside to step into a space of "kindsight," that is viewing our pain with kinder eyes.
You may catch more people walking a bit slower, or sitting with their eyes closed in public being still. Maybe when you're on a walk eating a meal, it's more common to spend a moment actually tasting the food and then intentionally listening to the conversation. At large events there will be more moments of stillness prior to it beginning where people mindfully check-in, center themselves and breathe. This is already happening.
We've been in the "information age" for quite a while now and I see the post-mindful era as a "wisdom age" -- a time when people are simply more flexible, caring and in touch with what works and what doesn't work in life. This isn't to say we're entering a time of great peace on earth as again, like exercise, while it's a generally accepted avenue toward health, not everyone engages this. "I'm just too busy" will still be the common fallback as it is with so many other things.
Make no mistake, I'm under no illusion that mindfulness practice will be taken up by the masses, rather I'm hoping for the social and emotional contagion effect where one friend's action affects that friend's, friend's, friend as is spelled out in Nicholas Christakis' and James Fowler's book "Connected".
Well, call me an idealist, we all have a dream. May it be.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Adapted from article on The Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Blog.