The Major Trend In Meditation For 2015—And What This Tipping Point Means For You.


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I lead a large global academic project that looks at what have traditionally been referred to as higher states of human development.

People are often surprised by how many atheists and agnostics are part of our study. These states of consciousness, and the meditation and other techniques that can lead to them, are usually regarded as religious and spiritual. They shouldn’t be, and they are part of a broad trend that will strongly emerge in 2015.

Looking at today’s yoga environment, it’s hard to imagine that only a few decades ago it too was primarily considered a religious and spiritual practice. Today, yoga is widely regarded as a form of exercise that brings other benefits, such as relaxation and stress reduction. That same change is in store for meditation in 2015.

In 1979, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn secularized a form of Buddhist meditation and renamed it mindfulness. Over the next 30 years, that simple act successfully spread meditation into hundreds of hospitals and other medical facilities worldwide. Recent years have seen it begin to move into business environments, insurance coverage and even the wider public.

During the same period meditation in the public sphere was primarily being popularized with a religious and spiritual basis. The Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement claims to have taught millions of people their Vedic-based form of meditation over this time. Other influential organizations, such as Insight Meditation Society, were doing the same from a Buddhist perspective. Traditional and new forms of Christian meditation also grew in popularity. And, Islamic and Judaic meditation were in the mix, but only to a minor extent in the West.

In 2014 the tide began to turn, and it will make 2015 the beachhead year for the secularization of meditation. Studios like The Path (NYC), Ziva (NYC), and Unplug (L.A.) are emerging as its early exemplars. These companies target urban professionals and upscale consumers, offering them carefully cultivated networking opportunities along with stress reduction and increased well-being.

On another part of the spectrum, Sam Harris is busy creating a new secular spirituality within the sizable new atheist movement he helped to found—with meditation at its heart. And, each week a new celebrity or cultural influencer adds her or his name to the already long roster of A-listers who publicly advocate meditation. The lengthy list already includes: Oprah, Ray Dalio, Russell Simmons, Dr. Oz, Hugh Jackman, Ellen DeGeneres, Jim Carry, Clint Eastwood, Haley Berry and Katy Perry.

The military and VA are bringing secularized meditation in to help combat PTSD. The health care industry continues to use it to fight addiction and create better health outcomes. Initiatives that are increasingly led by the CEO are driving it deeply into companies, including Google, Intel, Aetna, Ford and hundreds of others.

Our children’s schools are increasingly adopting it and seeing a range of remarkable behavioral and performance improvements. These initiatives are often promoted and spread by organizations with a traditionally religious or spiritual bent, such as Transcendental Meditation or Buddhism. However, the versions these organizations teach in schools are very carefully redesigned to meet strict secular standards, as the legally mandated separation of church and state demands.

It’s also being made more widely available on the internet. Chip Wilson, the billionaire co-founder of LuLuLemon, is simplifying online mediation to an extreme taking it down to just a minute-long session. This is the same person who made a fortune in spotting the emerging need for surf, ski, and snowboard apparel before playing a key role in the secularization of yoga. His new focus on secular meditation is another indication of what we’re in store for this year.
Finally, technology will make it all much more accessible and effective. Today guided meditation apps like Headspace and support apps such as Insight Timer dominate smartphones. Soon we’ll become accustomed to apps that do much more for us.

They will integrate the sensors on your smartphone to provide feedback that significantly helps to improve your meditation practice. The first apps will also emerge that integrate with external devices, such as the Spire that tracks breath, and bring all these data streams together into a helpful guide. They will let us know where we’re falling down, and incredibly detailed specifics about how we can improve our sessions. All of this information will be sucked up into the cloud and combined with others’ information to provide even more useful insights.

Why This Is All Very Good News (For You)

Less than 1% of the United States identifies as Hindu or Buddhist. Over 75% consider themselves Christian. The secularization of meditation will allow it to have a much broader reach, bringing the benefits of meditation to millions of additional people. Most likely, this includes people you love who currently have hesitations about it.

It will also provide a wider menu for you to select from. In our global research study, we refer to so-called higher states of consciousness by the academic terms persistent non-symbolic experience (PNSE) and ongoing non-symbolic experience (O.N.E). The former is for people who have experienced it for more than a year, the latter for those who have not year reached the 1-year mark.

Many people in our study reached PNSE and O.N.E. through meditation, but they discovered along the way that not all meditation worked for them. Being stuck in a religious tradition without enough options for how to practice sometimes held them back. And, some traditions only have a single method.

Imagine going into a yoga studio and only having access to one kind of yoga. If it wasn’t for you, you wouldn’t come back. As the new trend in meditation studios grows it will not only free people up to be more philosophically comfortable, but also to try a variety of approaches and techniques. This will allow them to find the best one that works for them.

Technology will also continue to make meditation more accessible, as apps like the Buddhist inspired Headspace become increasingly secular and incorporate many more meditation styles and options. The support apps will hop on the trend and secularize as well. Online classes will continue to grow and proliferate, following this same trend.

At Sofia University in the heart of Silicon Valley, our Transformative Technology Lab is hard at work taking this to the next level. We serve as the epicenter for the emerging technology space that ties together hardware and software, industry and academia, engineers and end users—all in the pursuit of deep and lasting well-being.

Our consciousness hacking events have exploded over the last year, and the first Transformative Technology Conference is on the slate for June 6th. We can barely keep up. In truth, we can’t and neither can anyone else because things are moving so quickly. Meditation, well-being, and technology are blending at breakneck speed and the implications for all of us are incredibly exciting.

2015 is going to be a remarkable year for those of us with an interest in meditation. Quieting the mind, reducing stress, and even reaching persistent higher states of consciousness like O.N.E. are going to get a lot easier—for everyone. The growing secularization of meditation will lead to more choices, greater effectiveness for existing practitioners and bring many new people the benefits of a regular and empowered practice. Happy New Year!


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Author: Dr. Jeffery Martin

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Wikipedia






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Dr. Jeffery A. Martin

Dr. Jeffery A. Martin is Director of the Center for the Study of Non-Symbolic Consciousness, and a Research Professor and Director at the Transformative Technology Lab at Sofia University in Palo Alto, CA. He is a leading international expert on non-symbolic consciousness and specializes in rigorously researching transformational techniques that have strong anecdotal support. A bestselling author and award winning educator, he has authored, co-authored, or co-edited over 20 books and numerous other publications; appeared in a wide variety of media; and lectured broadly in both academic and public forums. In 2014 his Finders Course experiments became the first academic research project to reliably and safely lead over 70% of participants to O.N.E. and PNSE.


16 Responses to “The Major Trend In Meditation For 2015—And What This Tipping Point Means For You.”

  1. Peej says:

    Do you want to get off the old treadmill? Are you a man, or a woman? Do you like triangles? Well boy howdy, with my seminar which has never been offered at this low low price, 2015 might just be YOUR year into the future year of 2016! And beyond!

  2. Richard says:

    As far as I can tell the only "Tipping Point" that matters is the one where we start to see that we are the cause of our own suffering. I suspect we will never see an app for that as it wouldn't be very good for business.

    • Hi Richard, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Admittedly so far app developers haven't been having much luck with this, but there are quite a few who are trying! I expect that we'll see some major advances in this direction this year.

  3. So nice to hear what I teach in Gendai Reiki-ho classes and through my guided meditation CD supported in such a good way. Our subconscious is so powerful, and something we can change as we change how we view the world around us.
    My journey began when following a serious accident my relatives were advised to put me in a nursing home because I would never be able to walk or talk care of myself, let alone my two young children. After five months of trusting in what I believed I walked out of the hospital with my two children by my side, and continued my personal evolution.

    • Hello Roberta, it's always nice to hear from you. I agree that the peripheral effects that lend support to practices like Reiki will be quite interesting. Shamini Jain has created a sizable new initiative that is working to bring together an early version of this trend in the energy medicine/healing community called the Consciousness and Healing Initiative (for example). And, I think even the major digital health initiatives at companies like Samsung, Apple, and Google (and insurance companies) will be in the mix. There's so much going on! It's exciting!

  4. Dawn says:

    What an inspiring article! Growing up in China, I learned qi-gong (a form of yoga/meditation) as a teenager. When I first came to the States in early 1990s, I quickly learned not to talk about it after responses like "What's that?" or even "Who?!" As Jefferey stated, things have been changing. In the past decade, living in the Silicone Valley, many of my friends have interest and experiences in yoga, meditation. Topics related to non-dual, enlightenment are common theme in our conversations. What's even more encouraging is that I can freely recommend yoga/meditation to my patients including high school students to benefit their dental health without sounding so "foreign" 🙂 Definitely all good news for me, my friends, and my patients!

  5. LOVE Your VISION Jeffery, Beautifully Clear and So Inspiring. I'm UP for an app. that popularizes unity consciousness.

  6. Charles says:

    Sorry, but Kabot-Zin didn't rename vipassana meditation mindfulness. He was using the term for the larger Buddhist concept of "sati" first translated by Pali-language scholar Thomas William Rhys Davids in 1881 per the sacred tome Wikipedia. Vipassana is a Theravada Buddhist practice derived primarily from the Satipatthana Sutta, (Discourse on the Establishing of Mindfulness). And actually the full Buddhist concept is "samma-sati," which is 'right mindfulness.'

  7. Hi Charles, thank you for your comment but I'm not sure where you picked up Vipassana meditation in relation to Jon Kabat-Zinn in the article. The article doesn't mention Vipassana, or describe practices like it. For the interested reading this comment, if you search on mindfulness and Jon Kabat-Zinn you'll come up with lots of great information on the practices he drew inspiration from and created his secular-oriented Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program from. He also discusses this in his book: Full Catastrophe Living.

    • Hi Jeffery – I think you missed Charles point above – Mindfulness meditation, as popularized (Westernized) by Zinn, is in fact, a very simple export of Vipassana, which has been taught for thousands of years, and which he (and others like Sam Harris who you mention in your article above) make abundantly clear are the same basic practice.

      I think you may be adding a bit too much import to contemporary thinkers (secular or otherwise) and their "pioneering" position with regard to the growing influence that meditation is having on our culture. TM, while practiced in a secular way by many, is still a very spiritual practice at it's core – as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (with TONS of metaphysics to boot 🙂 and even Sam Harris goes to great lengths to describe why "spiritual" is the appropriate word, in his view, for a practice that opens up a window of experience that transcends words like "awe" or "beauty" or "wonder".

      I think, in full – while I appreciate your wanting to export meditation practice to the masses, you may be missing something critically important to the practice that is a bit beyond what I've heard you describe thus far.

  8. I DO appreciate that there is now a yoga studio on every corner. They do a lot of good. However, I worry that with these meditation helpers too many will be attracted by the lure of spiritual materialism (Chogyam's Trungpa's phrase– describing how the ego can latch onto anything, including spiritual practice). Meditation might make people better at a lot of things — stress relief, focus, etc., and so they can have better relationships, be healthier, and make more money. But will they open their hearts, learn to serve, and give up their egos? To fully do these things takes time, experience, and (usually) a guide who is somewhere ahead of you on the path.

    • Kay says:

      Chogyams trungpa's spiritual materialism and entangled ego is from a certain view point of coming out of a certain type and approach of life and meditation. The elimination of the ego is also an ego thing, that is one of the big mistakes many of the spiritual approaches and meditation forms make.

  9. Andrew says:

    I agree that there is a huge materialistic focus that is not a good thing. I now know the war in my mind over the need to make a living vs my belief that wealth corrupts us has had a major negative impact on my life & health since childhood.

    Something is wrong with my belief.

    My awareness tells me that we should be able to live at peace with allowing wealth AND living for the highest good of everyone.

    Eckhart Tolle has changed so many lives and has used his wealth to spread immense good. So have others.

  10. dawsonchurch2 says:

    Fascinating article, I could not agree more. I helped develop EcoMeditation, a completely physiological method devoid of spiritual or metaphysical trappings, and the response to it has been extraordinary. Rooms full of failed meditators find themselves deep in just 90 seconds after using physiological triggers. I believe meditation should be accessible to everyone. The health benefits alone are many.

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