Meditation is having a moment right now. It’s estimated that up to 500 million people meditate globally, and in Australia one in six people meditate regularly. Those figures are pretty impressive for a practice that is thought to date back to 5,000BC. To find out a little bit about why meditation is so popular right now, and where it might be headed, we sat down with meditation teacher and author of Heavily Meditated, Caitlin Cady for a green tea and a chat.
Tell us, why do you think that Google searches have gone up 56% for meditation in the past few years?
“I think it’s two-fold. First of all, as scientific studies start to explain the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, there are suddenly more ways to talk about meditation. As I once heard Dr. Joe Dispenza say: ‘Science is the modern language of mysticism’. So for those who may be more skeptical about the anecdotal evidence around meditation, science is now speaking their language. These hard scientific facts have, in a way, invited more people into the conversation about meditation, so we’re seeing a broader range of interest from a wider variety of people.
Secondly, according to The World Economic Forum, mental health costs are projected to be greater than the cost of diabetes, respiratory disorders, cardiovascular disease or cancer by 2030. That tells me that more and more people are suffering from mental health issues, which means you have more and more people (and their healthcare providers, caregivers, friends, and family) actively looking for solutions. Meditation is one option on that menu. And with research showing that mindfulness and meditation improve anxiety, depression and emotional regulation, all major factors in mental wellness, it’s no wonder then that meditation is becoming more and more mainstream… and more and more Googled.”
What do you see as the future of meditation? What trends do you expect to see?
“I’m hopeful that meditation will become part of the curriculum taught to children in school. It is such a powerful, fundamental life skill, and one that I believe can positively impact our futures.
It’s also exciting to think about meditation becoming even more mainstream in workplace environments, with companies not only creating designated spaces for employees to take meditation breaks, but also offering group classes. Imagine how the Maharishi Effect could impact the culture and consciousness of businesses!
I’m also hopeful that we will see a continued, strengthening trend of meditation and mindfulness being offering to incarcerated adults and youth, as well as a component of substance abuse intervention.
On a related topic, I believe that meditation’s sleepy sister, Yoga Nidra is going to have her moment in the spotlight. My prediction is that Yoga Nidra (which is, in a simplified nutshell, an ancient, guided relaxation technique sometimes called yogic sleep) might even eclipse meditation in the coming years. It’s like a nap on steroids. There is promising research emerging about the effectiveness of Yoga Nidra in helping people heal from trauma, anxiety, and depression as well as PTSD. In some ways, Yoga Nidra is also even more approachable than meditation – for one, you get to lay down (blanket and eye pillow optional)!
You mention meditation in groups, can that have added benefits?
“Yes! There was an interesting experiment done in the 1970s around the effects of coherence generated by large group meditation practices. The findings showed that when a small percentage of a community practiced a particular type of meditation, the crime rate in the community decreased quite dramatically. The phenomenon is known as the Maharishi Effect and the experiment – and its outcomes – have been repeated multiple times over the past 40 years.
If a group meditation practice can have a positive outcome on the wider community, I’d say that’s a pretty profound benefit. Beyond that, being of service to others in our local and global communities can give us a deeper sense of meaning, purpose, and power in our own lives, which is incredibly uplifting. It’s really a win-win.”
Well, then! What would be some of your tips for meditating in a large group?
“In some ways meditating in a large group can be more challenging. There are more bodies and less space than you might be used to, which can add up to scents, sounds and movement around you that could have the potential to be mighty distracting (and vibe-killing.)
However, these potential distractions can actually become part of your meditation practice. Just as in meditation, where we allow and observe our thoughts and feelings without engaging or passing judgment, we can take the same approach with the sounds or other stimuli in our outer environment. Rather than getting our attention ‘caught up’ in the noisy breather next to us, it can help to just notice it and let it pass, like a cloud sailing through the soundscape, and then gently bring your attention back to your meditation focal point or technique. Bottom line: don’t let distractions stop you, instead let them help strengthen your meditation muscles!”