From Wall Street to Google and General Mills, mindfulness meditation has been picked up as a way to improve one’s health but also tackle career-minded goals. Writing for the New Yorker, Jacob Rubin suggests one of the largest indications of mindfulness’ growth is that two books—Arianna Huffington’s Thrive and the “Nightline” co-anchor Dan Harris’s 10% Happier—have remained on the Times best-seller list for months. “How did strivers everywhere come to appropriate a twenty-five-hundred-year-old philosophy of non-striving?” Rubin asks.
Rubin finds a clue in Harris’ book.
If even Harris, a hard-nosed skeptic, can find use in it, so can you. He states his mission explicitly in the book’s preface: “Meditation suffers from a towering PR problem.… If you can get past the cultural baggage, though, what you’ll find is that meditation is simply exercise for your brain.” It’s clear from Harris’s conjured associations (“pan flutes,” “granola,” “crystals,” “Age of Aquarius”) what kind of cultural baggage he’s referring to: hippies, the sixties. This is Buddhism’s P.R. problem: it is still salted by its last wave of contemporary popularity, when it was widely presented as a more ancient form of tuning in and dropping out.
Indeed, Harris offers a candid critique of meditation’s PR problem when seeking to appeal to a mainstream audience. In his interview with MindfulDirect, Mindful’s new video project, Harris suggests new ways, and new models, of presenting mindfulness.
“There are very few people who are talking about it in a way that can relate to someone raised in the age of irony,” says Harris. “We need to have people who don’t use terms like ‘sacred space’ and the ‘goddess mother.’ We need people who can talk about it in a normal way.”