The Mindful Opening And Meeting Of Minds

Sometime around the end of the last century, a TV journalist I knew reported a news story on a school that was teaching meditation to its pupils. She was personally skeptical. The resulting piece was controversial. I gather the class was discontinued.

Fast forward, to last year, when came across a cover story about meditation in a national magazine which used an illustration of a blonde, white, woman in peaceful posture. The controversy this time was not about meditation per se, but that the article was illustrated with an image of a cliché too far it seemed; the audience was broader than that. Not the subject matter, then, but what was seen by some as a narrow portrayal of it.

For transparency, I am also a blonde, white, woman who has practiced meditation for 20 years. For much of that time I hesitated to admit it. I came to it as a postgrad working on an unfunded interdisciplinary thesis. Fizzy with discoveries in the fuzzy zone, I needed to corral my brain if I was to defend my argument as both art, and science.

And somewhere along the way, science got more interested in meditation. So now I can openly discuss having had my brainwaves sampled, and what the results looked like on a graph.

But my point here is not to make an argument for meditation, using scientific reports of proven benefits, or those that might prove otherwise.

What I find interesting and newsworthy is the very existence of a broadening dialogue between what was, until relatively recently, a subject on the fringe, engaging with the rigorous realm of verification, and repeatable experimentation.

CP Snow's 1959 argument about the gulf between science and the humanities—of course—hits home in this Edge context. The current blurring of lines is encouraged by online media, even as meditation is being investigated as a salve to the digital age. The dialogues aired north, and digging south, of the publication line strive for poise in a liminal state. 

In my example, a story about meditation reports the result of experiment, cites academic papers, draws conclusions and suggests causes, the audience below reports effects and experiential data from another form of experimentation—practice. The flow is as two-way as the attentive breathing at the center of meditation. And, continuing with the subject, it has the potential to enlighten both scientist, and practitioner. They can, of course, be both.

That is what is newsworthy, I think. The counter-culture of science in the many stories—catch line "mindfulness"—streaming through the media this year at a confident pace. Those stories gathered in parks, prisons, offices, hospitals, care homes, hospices—and schools. Moving betwixt and between, and towards an interesting new stillness.