Meditation Apps and the Gospel of Self-Optimization

The Gospel Coalition | 6/11/2019 | Staff
LordLord (Posted by) Level 4
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Stressed at the thought of my anxiety-inducing to-do list, I decided to test the popular meditation and mindfulness app Calm, which has been downloaded 12 million times to help people de-stress. I click on the “chasing wonder” thumbnail and am soon immersed in the sights and sounds of a gushing lake, surrounded by trimmed fir trees and dwarfed by snow-capped mountains.

Meditation-via-app has become fashionable recently, popularized by the likes of Lionel Messi, Novak Djokovic, and Katy Perry, who practice it to boost their performance. Historically, however, meditation had different purposes. The practice was tethered toward encountering the transcendent.

Use - Meditation - Change - Age - Ease

How has the use of meditation change in our secular age? And why, despite its ease and popularity, does it leave us impoverished?

The proliferation of meditation apps like Calm and Headspace has become a $14 billion business because it addresses a bigger societal problem: Work is stressing us out more than ever. The increasing pressure and burnout we face at work stems from a new religion that Atlantic journalist Derek Thompson calls “workism”—the doctrine that work is “not only necessary to economic production but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work.”

Work - Centerpiece - Existence - Harder - Exhaustion

When work becomes the centerpiece of existence, it will inevitably beckon us to strive harder and will set us up for exhaustion. This is the trap I fell into, in my late-20s. Hustle-Eat-Sleep-Repeat became the pernicious beat I marched to as I chased the secular standard of perfection in London. Days felt like a race to the finish line, such that even lunch breaks were tinged with guilt.

Times are changing. Today it’s common to find a crowd of hipster employees sitting in zen-like poses, meditating on the boardroom floor during lunch breaks. This is no longer...
(Excerpt) Read more at: The Gospel Coalition
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