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Is meditation good for everyone?

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Difficult to escape: meditation seems to have become an unavoidable practice for coping with daily stress. Scientists have demonstrated its benefits. Meditators give us their point of view.

Anne-Laure Gannac Joséphine Lebard

Everybody goes there. Alone in his living room, at the wheel of his car, at the hospital, with his colleagues at Google or Transport for London (to name only the most famous companies), hundreds in front of a charismatic master or with some novices gathered in a gym, chaining yoga postures, or cooking, eating. Millions of us now engage in this "deliberate exercise of paying attention to what is happening moment by moment, in the living present - without any attention or conception" (In Fabrice's Meditation Midal (PUF, "What do I know?", 2014)).

If the wave took shape in the United States about forty years ago, it only flooded France recently. Collaborator Jon Kabat-Zinn, American biologist, the first to have proposed meditation as a remedy, Danielle Levi Alvarès, author of The Repair (JC Lattès, 2014)) tells that when she met the master Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh at the Village des Pruniers, in the Dordogne, in the 1980s, she did not understand: "On the other side of the Atlantic, he was a star, his books on mindfulness were a huge success, but in France, where he lived, he was not even published! When I asked him why, he replied: "It does not interest the French." "In question, a strong attachment to traditional medicine, a domination of psychoanalysis on the psychotherapeutic field, and a mistrust of practice tinged with spirituality, quickly suspected of sectarianism.

Multiple benefits

But times are changing. In a context of economic-ecological-societal crisis that no one sees the end, everyone goes in search of a way to keep their head out of the water. For that, the big consumers of anxiolytics that we are looking for alternatives. Admittedly, there is psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, but it is often expensive, takes a long time and is difficult to find a place on the agenda.

Meditation? It's free, without equipment, it can be done at any time. And the testimonials of "transformed" meditators are multiplying, with supporting evidence: in addition to their personal satisfaction, a sum of scientific studies demonstrating the benefits of mindfulness on the brain and on health. In Descartes' country, it was enough to convince even the most dubious doctors.

If meditation finds so many followers, it is also because it stands out as a counterpoint to the "entertainment" of our time. Entertainment, first, in the sense of show, of appearances in which everyone can have the feeling of not finding themselves again. As a remedy, meditation offers a radical return to what is seen and felt here and now. Entertainment, too, in the sense of diversion: in a culture of hypersollicitation and self-multiplication between screens and social networks, meditating invites to "gather" by exercising one's spirit to be present in the only present. Hence his promotion to young people with attention disorders.

Being alone with oneself and one's thoughts

According to the philosopher Fabrice Midal, founder of the Western School of Meditation, this practice responds to a "major crisis" engendered by "a constant resort to abstraction scientist ": convinced of the superior power of science and of reason, we have come to abstract ourselves from reality and to consider it only as a sum of measurable objects. Faced with this phantasy of control, meditation promotes letting go and the return to its place of being alive among others - which, moreover, resonates with the ecological movement.

Fabrice Midal also evokes the "crisis of knowledge": to those who no longer want to believe in the great lessons taught at lecture halls, meditation shows that knowledge of the world and of oneself is the result of an experience personal; even if the figure of the master is unavoidable, the experience lived by the meditator remains his only point of reference. Then, although compassion and altruism are the corollaries, meditation is first of all to be alone with oneself and one's thoughts. Aspects that seduce in the era of individualism and narcissism.

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