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Young People Meditate to Deal with Facebook Stress

posted by Patrick Groneman

Picture 2.pngA recent Boston Globe article points to a trend of young adults turning to Meditation as a means of dealing with the speed up of life that comes from becoming an adult in the age of the internet:

“At a time when homework or job
pressures and the likes of Facebook and Twitter compete for attention
throughout the day, meditation groups say an increasing number of young
adults are signing up for retreats and classes, seeking a temporary
escape, a haven to reconnect with their thoughts.

people are much more stressed out than people 20, 30 years ago,” said
Rebecca Bradshaw, one of the retreat leaders who also works as a
psychotherapist. “We have a fast-paced and alienating culture.”” — Link to Full article Here

A month ago I blogged about my first week long retreat, which was a “Young Adult Retreat” aimed at the 18-32 demographic.  At the end of the week we had an opportunity to discuss with fellow retreatants what our experience was like.   Many of the conversations centered around how helpful and relevant our practice has been in the face of crushing potentiality and swift cultural change.   One friend told me, and I would agree that,  “In the past five years pretty much the only thing that has remained consistent has been my meditation practice”.  

I mean, I don’t even use myspace anymore…

Comments read comments(11)
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Benjamin Darfler

posted September 8, 2009 at 3:38 pm

YA 2009 Retreat, simply amazing. Keep spreading the gospel Patrick!

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posted September 8, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Thanks for sharing Pat. I actually interviewed with the author of the article for a good hour, and find it interesting that the angle taken for it was about stress relief. I mean, I suppose that Buddhist practice is about stress relief, if by that we means the ending of suffering in all forms. :)
I’d say that I know more than fifteen percent of the people that went on that retreat, and I can’t recall any conversation with any of them where they say that stress relief is what they’re practice is about and what they go on retreat for. Seeing their minds clearly, becoming better people, developing compassion, and *gasp* aiming to actually awaken to the reality of life as it manifests moment by moment are what I hear young people say when they talk about why they practice.
I’m curious though, I am just in a little enclave that’s somehow not representative of young people that practice? Is the article actually telling the story accurately, or just giving a plausible narrative?

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Patrick Groneman

posted September 8, 2009 at 4:29 pm

I think of stress as a pretty valid translation of suffering (the part of pain that we have the ability to work with). When I am stressed, I’m not necessarily busy, but just worried about what still needs to be done and not focusing on the present moment.
Like you said, we are “aiming to actually awaken to the reality of life as it manifests moment by moment”
That seems to me like one way of describing a path to stress reduction.

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posted September 8, 2009 at 4:38 pm

I guess, just seems like using the term “stress reduction”, as opposed to “elimination of suffering and ignorance and seeing reality as it actually is” kind of undersells the whole potential that buddhadharma has for people’s lives.

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Patrick Groneman

posted September 8, 2009 at 6:14 pm

The heavy Buddhist stuff is there for the people who are ready for it. Anyone can take out a book on Buddhism and then find a place to study and go for the “elimination of suffering and ignorance and seeing reality as it actually is.”
What I find helpful about articles like this is that it’s not about Buddhism with a capital B. They’re not selling the whole package, or really any package at all. This is an inventory of effects of meditation practice in a language that is entirely American. This is a direct interface with buddhadharma as it is being expressed without its cultural outerwear.
If you’re concerned about people not experiencing or having access to the full potential of the buddhadharma, I would remind you of one of my favorite quotes from Thomas Mann:
“There he stood, suffering embarrassment for the mistake of thinking that one may pluck a single leaf from the laurel tree of art without paying for it with his life.”

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posted September 8, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Empathetics, when I read the article this morning in the Globe I had an instant annoyed response to “stress reduction”. It seemed more clinical and more “what’s in it for me” than what I see in the intentions guiding the young meditators I’ve met. I’m glad the article’s there, but I heard the same thing.

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posted September 9, 2009 at 4:03 am

The more people try to find happiness in technology, the less happy that they become. Happiness lies inside of them and that is where they must look to find it.

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Anan E. Maus

posted September 9, 2009 at 7:59 pm

I think the work to attract young people to meditation and spirituality is extremely important.
It is nice when younger folks assert their freedom and independence.
I hitchhiked across the country back in the day…
But, leaving a generation rudderless is not a wise idea…for anyone.
The new generations, just as with all previous generations need leadership to guide people to aspire towards higher things.
If this blog serves that purpose, then you have indeed done vitally important work.

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Patrick Groneman

posted September 10, 2009 at 12:32 am

@ Chuck – Happiness can’t be found in technology, but can’t we be helped finding it through technology?
@Anan “But, leaving a generation rudderless is not a wise idea…for anyone.” I agree! It seems the challenge is to find ways for youth to come to the rudder on their own accord.
@Sarah – “What’s in it for me?” Freedom from the oppressive guilt that undermines a dignified presence. Reducing my own stress is a great way to benefit all Sentient beings.

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posted September 10, 2009 at 12:06 pm

I probably mis-communicated. I’m all for stress reduction. There was just something minimizing about the language they used, I thought.
three cheers for relaxed meditators with no guilt about self-care~ dignified wellness sounds great.

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Ahmad Sultan

posted September 7, 2010 at 6:56 pm

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