Mindfulness Meditation and the Evolution of Secularity

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 09:15
Oral Presentation
Alp ARAT, Cardiff University, United Kingdom
This paper draws on a three-year project sponsored by the Leverhulme Foundation entitled 'Mapping Mindfulness in the UK' (Steven Stanley, Alp Arat, Peter Hemming, and Richard King) and examines the significance of the recent popularity of mindfulness meditation for the evolution of secularity. In an effort to expand current scholarship into this field beyond matters of health and wellbeing alone, this project entails the following four stages of empirical research: 1) GIS mapping of all publicly available mindfulness providers in England and Wales; 2) survey of aspiring and prominent teachers, trainers, and advocates of mindfulness; 3) personal interviews with key stakeholders in the UK; and finally, 4) participant observation of five popular sites of mindfulness implementation (religion, health, education, business, and politics). This paper argues that contemporary mindfulness presents a ubiquitous illustration of how the secular in late modernity is undergoing pivotal transformations in its capacity towards the transcendent. In light of Charles Taylor's definitive account of our secular age, these findings raise important questions as to whether they merely indicate yet another expression of novel forms of belief, or whether they go further in signalling more fundamental changes in the very conditions of belief in our contemporary secular age.