Yoga and meditation have gone mainstream, and it seems psychedelics are on their way too. Now all we need is an authentic spirituality.
Yoga and meditation, once considered to be relics of the 60s, are now practiced throughout the country. Google offers classes for its employees. Nike, Yahoo and HBO offer classes. It’s being offered in prisons and schools. It’s everywhere. And its no secret why. There are obvious benefits of yoga and meditation. They can help us to de-stress, relax, focus, raise productivity and increase creativity. There is a growing body of evidence that it can help develop emotional intelligence, strengthen empathy, and offers endless therapeutic benefits.
Even psychedelics are finding a wider audience. Besides the many notable therapeutic uses, micro-dosing is now all the rage in silicon valley, where it is seen as way of improving memory, cognitive function, mood, and creativity.
How could anyone see a problem with any of it? I think it is great that these practices, once relegated to the fringe counterculture or some caricature of the mystical “East,” are finding relevance for mainstream society. It’s for everyone, and no one should be left out. If anyone told me they wanted to take LSD so they could be more creative at their tech job, I might even gift them the great book by James Fadiman, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide.
But I am seeing a troubling trend. Not only are these practices benefiting society, but they are being changed by it as well. Some of this is reasonable and expected. We are westerners engaging in practices from the East, and thus we are going to adapt them to fit our needs. This is not the first time this has happened. As Buddhism spread throughout the East, it assimilated with various cultures to produce the wide spectrum of Buddhism we see today. Tibetan Buddhism is very different in form than Zen, and western Buddhism is developing in its own unique way.
Change is natural. And yet, I can’t fathom in any way that the values of our dominant, neoliberal, materialistic culture can actually coincide with the values of compassion for all sentient life, with our inherent interconnectedness, or the sacredness of everyone.