In 2010, when A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook was about to be published I stepped into my publisher and right there on the wall were printouts of dozens of covers for all the new mindfulness books coming out in the next year. In that moment I said, “Oh no, mindfulness is going to get watered down and people are going to get turned off to it.”
Well, that didn’t happen, but something else has…
The Current Mindful Wave – Shallow Waters are Noisy
Science and technology have brought on the dawn of delivering mindfulness in a million different ways. The options are endless at this point, you can access mindful learning through a variety of apps at your finger tips, you can pick through various meditations or find an ever expanding list of self-paced pre-recorded courses online, you can find it live online and if you’re lucky you can find a local group to access in-person. You can learn it in businesses, schools, healthcare companies, Buddhist centers and in secular meditation studios popping up all over the country.
In many ways this is so incredible, but in the process it seems like the stage of mindfulness has reached a point there’s a lot of “mindful noise” out there that has the potential of making it difficult to decipher what the practice is anymore, who is credible and where to start or continue.
For example, learning mindfulness is not just about sitting down and practicing mindfulness. There are other important factors to weave in to optimize the integration of the practice in daily life. One example is the essential need to take the time and space to learn how to create calm and stability in our minds in preparation to settling into many of the practices that are just being offered through most apps and programs out there. It’s like telling someone to get on an untamed horse and just ride. This usually doesn’t go well.
As a result, many people have difficulty truly realizing the fruits of the practice in any enduring way for themselves and in relationships.
The Next Mindful Wave – Still Waters Run Deep
Here is where we can now go from a million different options and ways to learn mindfulness to fewer cohesive and deeper immersive options in Mindful Living with teachers of high credibility and integrity and fellow value aligned students to trust.
It’s always been the case, but glossed over by many media articles, that if we want to truly experience that sense of balance, clarity and confidence over our nervous systems that all the science and marketing is promising, most of us need more support and immersion in the practice.
This is no different from learning anything else. If you wanted to learn a new language, would you pop into a language studio weekly and expect to become fluent? Most people who have mastery over their craft have practiced it daily over a good period of time and been closely mentored. There’s nothing wrong with dabbling in anything, I do it with many things in life, it can be uplifting and even provide some insight, but it won’t yield fluency.
This is a really exciting time!
We have the ability to go beyond what’s currently available and into “next level” cohesive courses that provide regular teachings, practices tailored to where people are starting from, personal mentorship, and enough time to allow the teachings and practices to truly sink in and create an active community that can support everyone going forward.
Here are 5 key and essential elements for this next wave of secular training:
- Time – There are no shortcuts as much as we’d like them. Is eight weeks enough time to create enduring change? We certainly see neurogenesis during that time, but the science also shows a steep fall off in practice after those groups end. If we really want something to stick longer, we need more time and support in weaving in all the other factors that make mindfulness strong such as a relaxed and stable mind, the ability to focus, have balance, arouse energy, facilitate community, among other things. A program that gives this kind of attention and time is not currently available in a secular form.
- Skilled Teachers – Along the path there are many obstacles, and personal or small group guidance is essential to support fine tuning and integration of learning, experience and growth. This isn’t news, it’s been part of most secular and spiritual disciplines since the dawn of time. In response to this need, in the coming year, you’ll see a lot of personal mindful coaching options popping up on various apps.
- Live experience – More and more learning options are moving to pre-recorded online courses and these can hold value if done well, just like a book or audio program. However, when it comes to learning and sticking to a practice, nothing replaces a live experience where you can interact with the teacher and group on a regular basis. In this day and age, access to good teachers isn’t always available and the next best option is to be with a skilled teacher live online.
- Daily Practice – There’s also no shortcut here. We only learn through experience. Very few people pick up a guitar or sit down to a piano infrequently and play with confidence. One thing we know is the most important thing is to make the practice daily (even if it’s short) because that ingrains the learning and habit.
- A Strong Community – There are no better cues and supports in life than people and dipping into a supportive value-aligned community is enormously helpful in keeping yourself connected to your intentions. The longer you can stick with this community, often times equates to even stronger connection and support.
Along with these five fundamentals, you’ll also of course need a lot of forgiveness along the way as it’s not easy to take this path, but with all these elements it gets easier.
I look forward to seeing more secular offerings that incorporate these essentials for this next wave of mindful learning. You also now have a bit of a window into my mind for the last year and the pieces I’ve been putting together to create something that brings together all these “next level” pieces in A Course in Mindful Living. This is a six month live online course, book-ended by daylong retreats, where I get to be with everyone live online for six months. There will also be ongoing small group mindful faculty support and all the other ingredients mentioned above necessary to integrate this work in a deeper, enduring way.
Mindful.Org, the central hub to all things mindful, understands the need for this and in respect to A Course in Mindful Living says:
“Our association with this program will convey to our audience that Mindful understands the importance of this next step and is working to create the opportunities for people to engage at a deeper level.”
It’s like bringing the retreat to your everyday life.
I assume there will be more deeper immersion offerings coming out in the years to come and look forward to that day.
For now, I hope you’ll join me in not only making a significant impact on your life, but watching the ripple effects that has on all the people around you and around them.