Instagram? Check. Snapchat? Checked, again. Facebook? Not much happens on there anymore, but let’s check it anyway. Emails? Now I’m really getting desperate.
Did you know that 16-24 year olds have an average of 8.7 social media accounts, according to the latest statistics (1)? It’s no wonder that when a task calls for our attention, our own need for attention can swiftly tempt us away. As the final generation to grow up without mobile phones and laptops (did you do your homework on a typewriter too?), we millennials did get a brief glimpse of “the simple life”. I almost can’t wait to tell my children stories of using public telephone boxes, OHP projectors, and staying late after school just to use a computer, because to them it will literally sound like the Victorian times.
But nowadays, there are ample opportunities for distraction and our attention seems to flow wherever our thumbs want to go. This is why meditation is becoming more and more popular as our subtle saviour in a noisy world. We are bombarded with online distractions enticing us to click, buy and share, and our willpower is weak against the Silicon Valley geniuses who are paid to design insatiable devices that we won’t want to put down. The data says that Millennials touch their smartphones around 45 times a day (2) and our touching of tech has filled those gaps in time which may have once been used for contemplation and reflection. Of course, the development of technology is a wonderful thing – if not only for giving us the chance to navigate with Google maps instead of paper ones…
But our offline list remains as long as it ever was for the generations preceding us, and this is where the big problem lies. Our needs to do household chores, work, travel, socialise and shop for food have not changed – but the demands on our focus and attention have increased. Meditation can provide a peaceful getaway for mentally-overloaded millennials and allow us to steal back precious moments of uninterrupted tranquillity. When peace cannot be found in the outside world, there is always somewhere within where we can find peace. Yes, sometimes we will have to look harder for it than others, depending on what is running around our mind at that specific moment. But when we make the decision to dedicate time to our meditation practice, then the bright lights of the outside world will soon dim in comparison to the inner world which illuminates itself. This is why more people than ever are turning to meditation as a free and convenient spiritual refuel.
Growing up in a wave of globalisation and entering the internet information age has also changed the way that millennials like to spend their money compared to previous generations. As home ownership has got harder and travel has got cheaper, experiences are now a top priority and millennials acquire social capital through claiming a variety of experiences and – dare I say it – sharing the most enviable content from them with faraway friends on social media. Not to mention a new awareness of the environmental burden that those weekends of yesteryear spent clothes shopping have taken on the ozone layer. There was a time when plastic packaging and throwaway fashion wasn’t thought of as a huge issue in the zeitgeist, but we are all now paying the price for this massive period of massive consumption. As a result, it is making millennials and post-millennials more waste-conscious consumers than ever before, and many millennials are choosing to invest their money in their wellbeing instead.
Enter the new class. Regular Yoga and Pilates classes have become the norm for many millennials, and it’s a trend which continues to grow with the wellness and spirituality genre in general. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of Americans doing yoga grew from 20.4 million to 36 million (3). More recently, meditation classes are also becoming increasingly prominent within this trend too. Everyone who has been to a yoga class knows that the Shavasana at the end is the best bit, so why not devote a whole class to it? After doing a whole day of guided meditations as part of my meditation teacher training, I can confidently say that we will never get enough meditation – it only gets deeper, richer and more fulfilling as we dive between the deepest layers of ourselves.
Of course, there is no room for ageism when it comes to meditation – or anything else associated with spirituality for that matter – because we are all here together sharing this experience of humanity. But the reason that I’m talking about millennials specifically is because they are the ones who have crossed over into a new frontier; one which will be even more topical for the generations which follow. Mobiles, meditation, Macbooks – how will it all fit together, and how will the mind cope and compartmentalise in order to maintain focus when it needs it most? There have been so many times when I’ve heard CEO’s talking about meditation being their tool of choice to train their brain for success, and with millennials being the adults who are at the highest risk of app-induced attention-deficit, we are forever indebted to meditation for being able to give us back the skill of focus. What our tech takes from us, meditation is able to restore tenfold. By calling us to lean on meditation and mindfulness more than we would need to otherwise, is this just part of a wider plan to shift us towards a global spiritual awakening? If you have read Steve Jobs’ biography, then you will know that he was an actively spiritual man, so maybe he knew that the iPhone would force us to turn to meditation. I realise that this is far-fetched, but either way, we can be thankful for anything which gives meditation and mindfulness a bigger platform in our society.
There may be many things vying for our focus in the outside world, but the greatest treasures really are waiting to be discovered deep inside of us – regardless of the year we were born! Most meditators, yogis and spiritually inclined people are aware of this, and the fact that its popularity continues to grow shows a beautiful shift in culture which we can all feel grateful for. We just need to invest a little time to search inside of our mind and soul to see what is waiting for us in there. None of the amazing technology that we have at our fingertips can do this for us. Meditation is the tool which more and more people are now intuitively reaching for, because we know that it will always give us better answers than a quick Google search ever could, and more serenity than we will ever be able to find online.