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The Danger & Opportunity in the Popularity of Mindfulness & Yoga

Wednesday, September 21, 2016 18:59
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The Danger & Opportunity in the Popularity of Mindfulness & Yoga for Our World

by Waylon Lewis

Mindfulness was on the cover of Time Magazine, last year. It’s a media trend. It’s used to market just about everything. Is this a good thing?

Oh hell yeah. I remember when yoga hit the cover of Time, maybe 16 years ago now. That marked the real start of the boom of yoga studios on the corner of every other block in half of America. Young, old, conservative, liberal—everyone loves a little stretch. A time to slow down from the rat race. A place where multi-tasking isn’t cool. I love it.

Mindfulness is now in that same place. Kindergarteners are practicing it to help with ADHD. Veterans and military are working with it to help with PTSD and communication. It’s helpful in therapy, domestic violence and drug rehab—and it’s helpful for the millions of everyday folks like me who are just trying to do a good job, fall in love, serve our planet, make dinner, have some fun and get to sleep without messing everything up.

The danger, of course, is Capitalism. I love business and nothing’s inherently wrong with marketing or money, but we love to turn anything good into something style-based, superficial, something we can profit off of. Just about every yoga mat ever sold is toxic, for example. Same with plastic yoga clothing. We don’t think about that, or talk about it. Capitalism looks at a “market” like yoga or mindfulness and asks, “How can I make money off of this?” That’s fine. But in the case of mindfulness, and yoga, we don’t need much. We just need to show up. Maybe we want to pay for a class instead of doing it at home. That’s great. But beyond that, we don’t need to buy anything. So Capitalism has to work hard to help us forget that. We need a Lexus and a yoga mat holder and three yoga mats and a to-go Starbucks with a plastic straw…all the stuff you see marketed in Yoga Journal or elephant or Wanderlust.

But mindfulness is free. You can sit down right now, take a deep, long, slow breath. You can relax. You can notice your thoughts, and return your attention, gently, to your breath. In, gap, out. It’s all free. Free is the greatest protection that mindfulness has.

Sure, you can buy your Alan Watts or Trungpa or Pema Chodron or Dalai Lama book, or subscribe to Elephant or what have you. But fundamentally, it’s all available right now, right here. It’s not about kombucha, $12 smoothies or a bowl of acai and granola.

It’s about being responsible for our every action, and thought, with a light touch and a sense of caring, and humor. It’s about turning off the lightswitch not just ‘cause we care about our environment, but because we can use that lightswitch as a reminder to slow down and show up in our lives. It’s about taking responsibility for our actions, and world—we boycott plastic straws because we know they’re made of petroleum and toxic chemicals and then they wind up choking sea life. That kind of thing.

It’s about bothering to meditate for five minutes each morning, and evening. It’s about resisting the urge to look at our phones when driving or at a stoplight.

Just relax. Be present. Enjoy your life. It’s good stuff!

It’s the only reason I can get up in the morning, with some sense of cheerfulness. I love to not obsess about myself—because obsessing about myself makes me miserable and stressed out.

If we choose to devote our life to the good of others, including ourselves, life becomes much bigger, simpler, and more fulfilling and fun.

About the Author

Waylon LewisWaylon Lewis is a “Dharma Brat,” or second generation American Buddhist. Founder of Elephant Journal and host of the Top-10 US Video Series “Walk the Talk Show,” he’s been named Treehugger’s Eco Ambassador & Changemaker, Discovery Network’s “Green Hero,” “Prominent Buddhist” by Shambhala Sun. Waylon recently authored “Things I would like to do with You,” a book about a new kind of independent-minded, genuine love affair:


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