many people meditate?
Net is flooded with links about the benefits of meditation on physical health,
emotional stability, addictions control and everything else that helps us to
live in harmony. If meditation is so valuable and it only demands us sitting
down to observe our inner world, a couple of obvious questions arise: How many
people meditate? Why are not there more meditators?
we barely found data, we decided to carry out our own survey on the subject (sorry
it is in Spanish). According to the results (<- click here), one-third (30%)
of the 119 participants meditate regularly. Another third (37%) have attended a
few meditation sessions, have taken formal courses, or practice with low
frequency. The final third (33%) reported reduced or zero interest in this
practice. (In two other parallel surveys we conducted in English, with very
limited participation, 9 of the 17 respondents consider themselves to be dedicated
percentages so obtained about dedicated meditators seem on the high side. Many
of those who answered the survey are regular readers of my writings and likely
to be formal meditators who could be skewing the sample. According to a more
comprehensive 2012 study on the same subject
(<- see here) carried out by
the US National Institutes of Health, the world's largest biomedical research
agency, 8% of American adults (some eighteen million) reported to practice some
form of meditation.
could not get more recent figures, but the proportion of meditators in the contemporary
world, echoing the current media noise on the subject, is sharply on the rise
and should have increased significantly over the past five years.
additional problem affecting this kind of analysis is the very meaning of the
word. Meditation, in addition to the common connotation of "the activity
of thinking carefully and thoroughly about something", is any practice in
which the mind is appeased in some way. Here are, for example, hatha yoga, tai
chi and the walking meditation of Tibetan Buddhism. For the purposes of our
survey, however, we focused on those methods that promote body stillness,
sensory isolation and mental calm.
this differentiation in mind, meditation is an exercise during which its
practitioners, sitting in a comfortable position, in silence and in a quiet
environment, with their eyes closed, adopt a passive attitude and maintain
attention in some mental device (certain instructions, mantra, image, sound...).
The meditation thus defined took its first large surge in the West after the
Beatles' well-advertised reclusion at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Retreat Center
in Rishikesh, India, in February 1968.
meditation, a variation even more clear-cut than the one described in the
previous paragraph, is the way of meditating in which the mental device is some
place or function of our organism (e. g., the breathing, the sensations or the
area under the nose). This technique, of Buddhist origin, is the one that has generated,
in the 21st century, the second and extraordinary boom of meditation in the
Americas and Europe. As a consequence of the possible variations in details
between the different modalities, it is difficult to specify through a
questionnaire the exact technique that someone is using.
in general, are interesting and persuasive, but ... The British Brexit, the
plebiscite on the peace agreement in Colombia and the election of Donald Trump
in the United States showed that surveys can be misleading. In the subject of
this note, therefore, we can conclude that the questions to consider would
prove more useful if they are self-formulated, even if they cannot be compared
as it is possible to do with the results of open studies.
for the trivial enthusiasm that would be generated by being with the trend of
the moment, we should have little interest in the exact data of how many people
do meditation; the order of magnitude is good enough: high and growing. The
benefits achieved by others are not of our concern, except when they are close
to us. If other people reduce alcohol consumption, become more efficient,
decrease their aggressiveness, or recover from digestive trouble… excellent for
them. So what? The questions we must ask ourselves and whose answers do
indeed affect us importantly are rather "how often do I meditate and whether
I could do it more assiduously."
Author of 'INNER HARMONY through MINDFULNESS