This past week brought a kind of harmonic convergence of mindfulness in popular culture. First, Time magazine featured “The Mindful Revolution” on the cover. Then, or perhaps simultaneously, word spread (from ESPN to the blogosphere) that the Seattle Seahawks–then heading for the Superbowl, now winners of the Superbowl–regularly practice mindfulness and yoga. This publicity is a double-edged sword: the Time article is pretty good, and I love the image of meditating football players, but I’m often reminded that my colleagues in academia resist anything that seems suddenly popular.
This resistance is admirable and necessary. A healthy skepticism about new ideas comes from our expectation for evidence, proof, documentation. Innovation for innovation’s sake rarely leads to intended results, much less positive ones. Innovation for the wrong reasons is even worse. We see both far too often, and significant portions of diminishing budgets are devoted to these unproven but “sexy” trends, so our skepticism grows and even becomes cynicism. I fear this rejection of bandwagons is the lens through which some of my colleagues view mindfulness.
Don’t. And don’t let them, if you hear it. There is an abundance of evidence documenting the physiological, behavioral, mental, emotional, and educational benefits of mindfulness.* Browse my previous blog postings. Search your science and social science databases. Browse through the archives and new releases of the Mindfulness Research Guide. Follow this article’s links to the original studies. Don’t consider mindfulness because it’s popular or cool or hip–or the secret behind a Superbowl win. Look at the evidence.
Before I leave the Seahawks too quickly, I have to applaud the motivating force behind the practice. Their coach Pete Carroll has said, “I wanted to find out if we went to the NFL and really took care of guys, really cared about each and every individual, what would happen?” What a wonderful alternative to the “culture of the locker room” espoused by Miami Dolphin Richie Incognito and his supporters. Imagine adapting Carroll’s curiosity to our work: “We want to find out if we went to the university and really took care of students, really cared about each and every individual, what would happen?” Parker Palmer would be so proud.
This week, let’s do a simple, seated meditation guided by Lois Howland of UC San Diego’s Center for Mindfulness. Here, she’ll lead us in a 15-minute awareness of breath meditation. Just click the link and follow her instructions.
* K-12 has been the primary focus in the education research thus far. Quite a few studies address mindfulness in higher education, and it’ll keep coming, but it’s one of the relatively newer areas of mindfulness research. Here’s my post about one of my favorite higher-ed studies.