Was 2014 the year of mindfulness and meditation? Yes, there’s no doubt about it. But I’ll also venture to say that meditation is here to stay. Or rather, I don’t think it ever went anywhere.
Still there can be no doubt, from a-list celebrities and super bowl athletes to news anchors and neuroscientists, mindfulness has gone viral. And it’s being mainstreamed everywhere from the halls of Harvard to the banks of Wall Street.
In case you somehow missed the buzz, I assembled a list of 18 major “moments” that helped to make 2014 a breakthrough year for meditation.
Along with the great media coverage and evolving conversation around meditation, there’s a wealth of emerging resources for new and seasoned meditators. So this list is also a bit of a resource guide featuring tools to support your practice. If I missed one (this list is far from comprehensive!), please add it in the comments sections below. Enjoy!
2014: 18 Breakthrough Moments for Meditation and mindfulness
2. The Atlantic’s “The Dark Knight of the Soul”
This year The Atlantic covered the work of Dr. Willouhby Britton, who started a kind of half-way house for recovering meditators. Can you meditate too much? For sure. Dr. Britton is doing important research into the adverse affects of meditation. Not the most popular subject, but interesting and important nevertheless. Read the original Atlantic article here, listen to an interview with Dr. Britton on Buddhist Geeks, or read our summary article featuring a range of perspectives on meditation’s shadow side here.
3. Mindfulness Graces The Cover of Time Magazine
Time Magazine featured meditation as a cover story for the second time in a decade with it’s February issue exploring Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). You can read the article all about Jon Kabit-Zinn’s groundbreaking work with MBSR here.
4. The New Yorker’s “Meditation For Strivers”
This was one of my favorite meditation articles of 2014. This quote from the article sums it up best. “On the spectrum of misappropriation, using self-advancement as a lure seems forgivable enough if it leads people to try a technique as subtly transformative as mindfulness. (Indeed, if personal betterment is America’s religion, such an approach might be seen as syncretic.) What can be lost by broadening access to a philosophy of liberation, even if a majority of people conflate it with the more vulgar priorities of our culture?” Read the entire article here.
5. How Meditation Won The Superbowl
The Seattle Seahawks won the NFL Superbowl in 2014. Afterwards, it turns out that one secret to their success was meditation. Go figure! You can read about it here in Psychology Today’s How Meditation Won The Superbowl.
6. Harvard’s First Conference on Integrative Medicine Research
In November, Harvard Medical School’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine convened over 300 medical professionals for its first conference on integrative medicine research. The seeds of this event were planted nearly 40 years ago with the publication of Dr. Herbert Benson’s landmark book The Relaxation Response. “Dr. Benson showed that relaxation techniques like meditation have immense physical benefits, from lowered blood pressure to a reduction in heart disease.” Dr. Benson was a featured speaker and the event showcased several current studies on meditation. Get The Relaxation Response here and watch extensive videos from the Osher Center’s Conference here.
7. HeadSpace Goes Viral
Mindfulness and Silicon Valley made magic this year as a clever and catchy little app called HeadSpace went viral thanks to some celebrity plugs from the likes of Tim Ferris, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Emma Watson. Developed by former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, you can learn more about this app and many others over at Mindful.
8. Unplug–A Drybar for Meditation
What’s a Drybar you ask? You’re normal drybar is a place where you only get your hair blow dry instead of getting it cut. The equivalent for meditation is a meditation studio without any religious trappings. Former Vogue fashion editor Suze Yalof Schwartz opened a new guided meditation studio in LA this year. She calls it a Drybar for meditation. According to Schwartz, “The people who need to meditate are lawyers and bankers and stressed-out mommies. And those people get turned off by the Buddhas and sage and all the woo-woo talk. I wanted Unplug to be meditation for Type A personalities: clean, modern, secular, effortless to attend.” You can learn more about Unplug here.
9. ABC’s Dan Harris publishes 10% Happier
After suffering a crippling panic attack on-air, ABC news anchor Dan Harris turned to mindfulness meditation to deal with his condition and published the book 10% Happier this past June. He became a convert to mindfulness and now he can’t stop singing it’s praises. You can watch this wonderful video of Dan talking about some of the science behind meditation on Big Think. Or watch him tell the story of his panic attack here.
10. Global Meditation For Peace–The Largest Online Meditation Gathering In History
On August 8, 2014, over 100,000 people from nearly every country in the world came together for what host Deepak Chopra called “the largest online meditation gathering in history.” Deepak actually set the Guinness World Record with this event. If you missed the live broadcast, check out the one-hour recording of the Global Meditation for Peace, hosted by Gabrielle Bernstein, featuring a guided meditation by Deepak Chopra and a musical performance by India Arie.
11. Meditation on the Cover of Scientific American
Studies on meditation aren’t new, but it’s great to see a journal like Scentific American do a cover story on the most non-material thing out there—meditation. Penned by two neuroscientists and a buddhist monk, the November Issue illuminates different studies showing how meditation changes the structure of our brains. For science-addicted Americans, this was a major feather in meditation’s cap. It’s a great read for non-science folks too. You can check out the full article here.
12. Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Study
In the beginning of 2014, The Journal of the American Medical Association published a meta-report which analyzed 47 scientific studies on the health effects of meditation. The author of the study, Dr. Madhav Goyal of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said that based on their analysis, “We have moderate confidence that mindfulness practices have a beneficial effect.” He says the positive effects on anxiety, depression and pain can be modest, but are seen across multiple studies. He added, “It was surprising to see that with so little training [about 2.5 hours of meditation practice per week] we were still seeing consistent effects.” Perhaps even more compelling, a recent study out of Harvard proved that just 8 weeks of mindfulness training could rebuild the grey matter in your brain. You can read more about the JAMA report here.
13. Sane New World by Ruby Wax
London-based US expat celebrity Ruby Wax is a comedian, writer, and mental health campaigner. And in her new book, she “shows us how our minds can jeopardize our sanity.” After struggling with depression, she enrolled at Oxford to get a master’s degree in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and then she wrote a book about it from her perspective as both comedian and social commentator. She also does a stand up show, which I saw with friends here in Boston. It was brilliant! Get the book here and check out her TED Global talk here.
14. Is Wall Street Betting on Meditation?
Who’d have thought? Wall Street is bullish on meditation and mindfulness. From Goldman Sachs to JPMorgan Chase, stock traders, hedge fund managers, and executives in the financial services industry are all looking to meditation for a leg up on the competition. Bloomberg published a fabulous piece on this new phenomenon which you can read here.
15. Meditation at the World Economic Forum
Here is a piece of seriously good news. World leaders coming together and meditating!? In January this year, Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard and actress Goldie Hawn led sessions on mindfulness and meditation at The World Economic Forum in Davos while also advocating for increased mindfulness training in schools. No doubt, this a good sign and heartening to see world leaders changing themselves to change the world. Read more about it here.
16. Wisdom 2.0
This year meditation and mindfulness took off in Silicon Valley. It’s been brewing for a while, don’t get me wrong. But this year I felt like every day I was hearing about a new app, a new company meditation room or corporate mindfulness training…all coming out of Silicon Valley. Perhaps the tip of this iceberg is Wisdom 2.0. The conference addresses an important question for all of us, how do we learn “to not only live connected to one another through technology, but to do so in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work, and useful to the world.”
The New York Times described Wisdom 2.0 this way, “Founders from Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Zynga and PayPal, and executives and managers from companies like Google, Microsoft, Cisco … in conversations with experts in yoga and mindfulness.” You can learn more about it here.
17. DYY’s Top 10 Meditation Blogs to Follow
As a definitive sign of meditation’s growing allure, the mega-popular yoga site DoYouYoga published a list of their Top 10 Meditation Blogs to follow. Chronicling many of the major bloggers and influencers in the field, the article offers a trove of mindfulness resources for the aspiring meditator. You can read it here.
18. The Dalai Lama Visits MIT
The Dalai Lama started the Mind & Life Institute 27 years ago as a forum to explore the intersection of scientific research and meditation. Mindful of the fact that many more people in the West would listen to scientific facts over Buddhist cosmology, H.H. has been an avid supporter of science-based research into the health benefits of meditation.
The trickle of research that started almost three decades ago is now a fast running river. MIT, a global bastion for cutting edge science now houses The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values and leading universities around the world have active studies evaluating mindfulness meditation’s impacts on all aspects of our health. This past November, the Dalai Lama joined scientists onstage in Boston to talk about some of this research. Read about it here.
Bonus: Free Meditation Course
Last but not least, at About Meditation we launched a new free meditation course in June. Thousands of people have taken the course and praised it for its non-religious approach to mindfulness and meditation. You can sign up for the course here.