2 years on: the top 10 meditation trends in the UK

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It’s been exactly 2 years since I last posted here on March 2014. In this hiatus I’ve observed how meditation, in particular mindfulness meditation, has come to the fore of public awareness in the UK.

With much relief, optimism, and only a small dose of wariness, here are the top 10 trends I’ve noticed, in no particular order.

  1. Mindfulness lands right in the heart of the British establishment as The Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group forms on May 14th 2014.  According to Jon-Kabat Zinn, the Professor of Medicine who brought the mindfulness into the West in the 70s, “The Mindfulness all-party parliamentary group and its Mindful Nation UK inquiry has heard evidence from leading scientists, practitioners, commissioners of services and policymakers, and makes rigorous, cost-effective suggestions for developing the potential of mindfulness.”
  2. Tech start-up Headspace, the mindfulness meditation app, gets $30m in funding in September 2015. It boasts 3m+ users. Commerce has always been instrumental in taking the alternative into mainstream.
  3. Mindful Nation UK report is published on October 2015, including broad recommendations for applying mindfulness interventions to policy areas in education, health, the workplace and the criminal justice. This report comes from the aforementioned Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group, through its secretariat The Mindfulness Initiative.
  4. His Holiness the Dalai Lama promises free courses on happiness in September 2015 when visiting the UK, as patron of the organisation Action for Happiness. Essentially, an 8-week course, “Exploring what matters” is being offered around the country, free of charge, that combines activities such as mindfulness with discussion on topics about life and happiness.
  5. Over 30% of GPs are now referring patients with recurrent depression to mindfulness-based treatments. While this seems like great news, progress is arguably quite slow: “Despite recommendations by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the use of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) to prevent relapse in depression, NHS implementation rates are low, and there is little understanding of how mindfulness could help in other areas of policy.” – Mindfulness initiative
  6. Google searches for meditation and mindfulness in the UK nearly double in the last 2 years – to average monthly figures of 49,500 and 74,000 consecutively.
  7. Mindfulness is trickling into schools, to help children relax and focus, and alleviate stress for teachers.
  8. There are fears of the spread of McMindfulness, as ill-qualified practitioners proliferate, offering a quick fix to those most in need. This fear is not without any basis. The fact that it is a practice which asks people to engage with all parts of themselves, even and sometimes especially uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, sensations, is left out of many marketing brochures.
  9. Mindfulness in the workplace is now well established as it makes the list of “wellbeing” services offered to employees in most organisations, large and small.
  10. Sadly, other forms of meditation have yet to get traction. Meditation can take many forms. The amount of testing and research that has propelled mindfulness to the fore of public consciousness is yet to be replicated to other forms of meditation.

For those who are new to mindfulness, here is a definition that may help to catch up with this meme. From Jon Kabat Zinn in his article for the Guardian, 20 October 2015.

“While the most systematic and comprehensive articulation of mindfulness stems from the Buddhist tradition, mindfulness is not a catechism, an ideology, a belief system, a technique or set of techniques, a religion, or a philosophy. It is best described as “a way of being”. There are many different ways to cultivate it wisely and effectively through practice. Basically when we are talking about mindfulness, we are talking about awareness – pure awareness. It is an innate human capacity that is different from thinking but wholly complementary to it.

 

It is also “bigger” than thinking, because any thought can be held in awareness, and thus looked at, known, and understood.”

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