By Dana Gornall
As a child of the late 70s and early 80s, I can remember when the workout trend was a thing.
I grew up hearing Olivia Newton John sing Let’s Get Physical, watched as the teenage girls next door donned colorful headbands across their foreheads, and saw my mom go to Jazzercise.
Many may remember the Grapefruit diet, the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, Fat-Free everything and some may even remember when Olestra hit the market. Each one is replaced by something new—something better. Now we have Paleo, Vegan, Gluten-Free and Raw friendly menus. We have detoxes, veggie juices and smoothies, heavily laden protein mixes and bars. We have gone from bottled water to stainless steel, PVC-free water bottles, filled with filtered, vitamin and mineral-infused water.
Trends seem to peak, plateau and then die out eventually, like anything else of course. It’s a typical phenomenon and sometimes we can’t help but look back and laugh at some of the silliness.
Strolling through TJ Maxx one day, I walked by a bin full of yoga mats. I flipped through them even though I already own a few, curious of the different colors and patterns, and then made my way down the next aisle, only to be greeted by a shelf full of Buddha statues. My inner Zen shopper silently exclaimed, Ohhh, ahhh, pretty…and as I picked up each statue and gingerly turned them over to get a peek at the price, a thought occurred to me: Is Buddhism trending?
Of course, I don’t mean only Buddhism.
Just like the workout-craze of the late 70s and early 80s became a culture of fashion, music and lifestyle and was more than a surge in gym memberships, has Eastern-inspired spirituality also become a thing? While it is clear that religion and spirituality is not at all the same as Jazzercise, one could also argue that Yoga is so much more than the asana-focused classes that have popped up in almost every YMCA and local gym, and that there are studios in almost every city (sometimes one on every corner), and yet yoga and the yoga “lifestyle” seems to be a trend.
And it hasn’t stopped at yoga. Mindfulness has seeped into our businesses via corporate, watered down, meditation classes, into our media and television shows, movies and entertainment, into our closets and clothes and even into our government.
This is a good thing, right? Certainly the culture of awareness and being present in our daily lives is beneficial to all, is it not? So what if the dollar store now carries yoga mats and TJ Maxx has a shelf full of $7.99 resin Buddha statues, it’s all about peace, love, compassion and how to cultivate our inner-zen, right?
Or is it?
Numerous studies have been conducted about meditation in the brain.
Findings are that, yes it is true, meditation does change the physical aspects of that brain and that yes, by forming a regular practice, people that meditate are generally less-stressed, which in turn has many health benefits such as lowered blood pressure and heart rates, lowered production of stress hormones, and improved concentration. These findings have encouraged businesses and schools to look further into incorporating stripped-down mindfulness techniques into their mainstream trainings and offering yoga and massage during the workday.
Thinking back to the leg warmer and workout headband wearing, Olivia Newton John wannabes of the early 80s, I wonder how many simply wanted the image of what that represented. Trends are great when it comes to taking something that normally gets little attention and shining a spotlight on it so that it spreads outside the proverbial choir, but at what point do the important foundations of that trend get lost in the mix? Does that matter?
While I can agree that any goal that brings a more mindful attitude to a group or situation (whether that be in a corporate office or a preschool) is a beautiful thing, I have to wonder how much of this is an image that we are striving for—a trend—and how much of this is truly a change in lifestyle and way of thinking. Looking at myself, I know that I can own 100 buddha statues and books on Buddhism, I can wear mindful phrases on T-shirts and wear OM jewelry, but none of that matters if I allow my temper to run rampant when dealing with my teenagers.
Perhaps the chocthkies and jewelry act as reminders to cultivate our OM-mentality in times of stress, and that can also be a good thing. Any reminder to be more mindful is always a good thing.
I just can’t help but wonder if possibly Buddhism is the new black?
Editor: Ty H. Phillips