The Price of Slowing Down: What Has Caused the Increased Interest in Buddhist Practices?

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An article, entitled “Buddhist’s Delight” is the number one most e-mailed article in the New York Times this morning. This is fascinating to me.

We live in a time where technological advancements have required us all to become multi-tasking masters, enslaved to the pings of smart phones and e-mail. But clearly, many people seek new ways to regain a simple focus on the here and now.

The irony, of course, is that the focus of Buddhist practice is meditation, whereby people sit in silence and attempt to empty their minds to listen to the voice within. There could be nothing less technological than this. And yet people are willing to pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars, to go on spiritual retreats to work on cultivating this silence and emptiness.

I, too, seek the peace that comes from meditation and yoga. I savor the moments at the end of a yoga class when we lay still and listen to our bodies and feel the softening of the mind. But soon after I return to my everyday life, this peace quickly dissipates.

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We live in a fast paced world where instant gratification has become the norm. Perhaps this is what causes many of us to seek a religious philosophy which encourages us to slow down.

Imagine a long distance relationship, where you run to the mailbox every day to see if there is word from your far-off lover? Or disconnecting from work every night and waiting until you get back to the office to see if there is anything pressing which needs attention? Really, would this be so bad?

What do you think? How do you explain the interest in Buddhist philosophies and practice? Do you think this is related to the hectic pace of everyday life? Do you practice meditation or yoga or otherwise find ways to try and remain aware and present? Have you found any strategies that help carry this peaceful state into your everyday life? Do you think that interest in these practices will grow or do you think that this is just a fad?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!


Filed under Culture, Health, International, Peace, Religion, Technology

28 responses to “The Price of Slowing Down: What Has Caused the Increased Interest in Buddhist Practices?

  1. Dear News,
    I think we are all hungry for a slower-paced world.
    When my husband and I went to Italy, we couldn’t believe the stores that just close down for the afternoon. 12-2….or 3…or whenever they felt like coming back.
    We were looking at a painting at a small gallery, and the painter himself knew it…but he did NOT get fussed about getting back to his store on time. I think he was taking a nap. And that came first. haha!!
    Dinners take 2 hours at the least, and everything is just so laid back.
    My husband couldn’t believe their mentality….and says they are in trouble economically because of it.
    Maybe so. But, I really doubt they have tons of folks on zoloft, or other anti-anxiety medications. I noticed how few of them battled excess weight. And many other things that made me wonder…here in the we really have it all figured out?
    Thanks! Good post!

  2. This kind of relates back to your other post about taking vacations! 🙂

    Multi-tasking is not as great as people seem to think. We’re getting overloaded and need to step away from the machines, the hustle of our jobs, the urgency of our Blackberries and just breathe deeply. I’ve been taking Tai Chi and the slow pace of the moves is a great way to get these old bones moving and leave the stress of the world behind me for an hour at a time. I really ought to do it more often than I do, practicing the techniques at home, too. We definitely need to take time for our own peace of mind. 🙂

    • You are so right! I must have a break on the brain. 🙂 Tai chi sounds like a wonderful outlet. I should do yoga more often too, but at least we are trying to do something to down the carousel! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Having a balance between speed and a slower pace of life seems optimal to me. There are times when it’s fun to get our blood flowing and work hard for something worthwhile. But most of the time we are running around for questionable reasons. I enjoy Buddhist and yogic practices and other spiritual practices because they help me to calm down and focus on what is truly important.

    • Well said. I couldn’t agree more. I have a bit of a love hate relationship with stress and a fast paced life. I don’t like to be bored, but there has to be a happy medium! Thanks for your comment!

  4. I think you put your finger on it: the fast pace of this life demands an alternative. In addition, we are a very materialist culture and Buddhism offers a spiritual alternative. Jung wrote a book titled “Modern Man In Search of a Soul.” It was written in the 30s but his message is still relevant: we want more than just stuff — whether we admit it or not.

  5. Great story and provocative questions! I think what you and I live is mostly related to the 1st world. In countries less developed (and I use that term loosely) people still take the time to meditate, pray and be present in the moment. I’m glad you do yoga and make time for the things that are essential for your well-being. Thanks for writing this post!

    • Thanks for the comment! I was thinking after I posted this about the organization where I worked doing fundraising, before I took my current job, called Amigos de las Americas which sends US youth to Latin America to remote villages. Forced slowing down and disconnection. I guess “development” comes at a price, huh? Thanks so much for reading and for your thoughtful comment!

  6. Yes, people are yearning for something still and if Yoga does it… go for it. If moving to Italy does it … do it. Party is 100% right about the medication…for god sakes even the kids are medicated, which is insanity.

  7. I know as a Buddhist myself that meditation really helped me when I was a student in High School. It allowed me to think more clearly and my mind was a lot more calmer. And it does sadden me that I gave it up during University because I just couldn’t find the time. But even I want a slower paced world and where people are less focused on instant gratification and more focused on relationships and other delights that life has to offer. My grandpa always told me to “hurry slowly” when I was younger. I think I only understood the true meaning of it when I started to grow up 🙂 Great post again Jen!

  8. I’m definately into meditation. Meditation leaves me feeling peacful and calm. I am able to better focus during the day, which helps me to work better. I’m not up to date on the Buddhist philosophies and practice, but if they advance the practice of meditation, then I’m all for that.

  9. I try to meditate at least once a week. But it’s hard finding time for yourself. I think we take a lot of things for granted, on both sides of the argument.

  10. Great post and comment stream as usual. I was just about to write a blog instigated by LadyRomp.wordpress. She noted younger women are stressed more than anyone. My belief is the fear of missing out obligates them to stay connected at all times and costs. My advice was too disconnect more. That freedom will reduce their stress. The Buddhist meditation reminded me that we need to “just be” at times – whether that is being alone with your thoughts or trying to flush out your thoughts while you meditate. My “meditation” occurs while I walk in the woods or around the block. I purposefully do not take music with me, so it is just me and whatever nature I see.

    • You have such a good point. I remember when I used to think that way. I don’t think that way now – in fact, quite the opposite – but I still feel pulled in many different directions. And I am with you on walking in nature – that is always the best way for me to disconnect and clear my mind. Thanks for the comment!

  11. I think the fast pace is one contributing factor, but so too the sheer complexity of life. I think people are yearning for something which takes them back to the basics and buddhist practices do exactly that. At it’s core there really are only a couple essentials to life – breathing, eating and connection.

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