Could the Internet lead us all to nirvana?

More than a year ago, we reported on the growing trend of mindfulness training in Silicon Valley, led by Google.

Things haven’t slowed down since then.

Last week, Wired magazine ran a piece that describes how “quiet contemplation is seen as the new caffeine, the fuel that allegedly unlocks productivity and creative bursts. Classes in meditation and mindfulness—paying close, nonjudgmental attention—have become staples at many of the region’s most prominent companies.” Link to it right here.

The crux seems to be — at least from Wired’s point of view — that these old traditions suddenly are at the heart of companies that have made millions of people want things they didn’t even know existed. Or things that didn’t exist.

The Internet.

The iPhone.


You get the idea.

These companies are doing more than simply seizing on Buddhist practices. Entrepreneurs and engineers are taking millennia-old traditions and reshaping them to fit the Valley’s goal-oriented, data-driven, largely atheistic culture. Forget past lives; never mind nirvana. The technology community of Northern California wants return on its investment in meditation. “All the woo-woo mystical stuff, that’s really retrograde,” says Kenneth Folk, an influential meditation teacher in San Francisco. “This is about training the brain and stirring up the chemical soup inside.”

It can be tempting to dismiss the interest in these ancient practices as just another neo-spiritual fad from a part of the country that’s cycled through one New Age after another. But it’s worth noting that the prophets of this new gospel are in the tech companies that already underpin so much of our lives. And these firms are awfully good at turning niche ideas into things that hundreds of millions crave.

Enlightenment for the masses. Really. Here’s what Google’s lead trainer in this area has in mind:

Despite the language of neuroscience and business advancement, Search Inside Yourself is ultimately an attempt to replicate Meng’s elevated mind-state—first in Googlers and then in the rest of us. “We can all become saints, because saintly habits are trainable,” he tells the class. “I hope you all do.”

And if we start such training, Meng insists, we won’t just be helping ourselves. “My dream is to create the conditions for world peace, and to do that by creating the conditions for inner peace and compassion on a global scale,” he writes. “Fortunately, a methodology for doing that already exists … Most of us know it as meditation.”

So, maybe the way to nirvana is via iTunes? If it comes, does it matter the avenue?

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

3 thoughts on “Could the Internet lead us all to nirvana?”

  1. These are all very interesting ideas for contemplation. It would be wonderful if all this “mindfulness” practice made people happier, more content, and compassionate. The World would be a better place. Namaste’

  2. Companies only think about their bottom line. If t.v.’s, workout rooms and coffee bars increase productivity companies will make them available. If the new trend is yoga, meditation and mindfulness to increase productivity and the bottom line companies will provide them. Companies want the employees to be happy only to the point it doesn’t effect the bottom line and production. It’s really brain washing just like the advent of the daycare system and 24/7 production. We are so far away from european countries where people get 5 weeks of paid holidays, doctors make house calls etc. Oh the nice corporations….

    1. On another note I guess they have to do this to compete with a country of a billion people, the worlds largest middle class, and more geniuses than in the u.s., already steeped in the tradition of mindfulness. U.S. vs. India. Score India 1 U.S. 0

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