Meditation centers in demand for peace, chance to disconnect

Local meditation teacher Ronya Banks believes anxiety is on the rise, and recent data support her hunch. On May 20, for example, the American Psychiatric Association reported the results of a new poll which showed that, “For the second year in a row, about two in three Americans say they are extremely or somewhat anxious about keeping themselves and their family safe, paying bills and their health.”

And on the same day, the APA flagged another trend in how Americans view factors affecting feelings of psychological well-being: social media use. In another of the group’s polls, the majority of adult respondents said social media have a more negative than positive effect on mental health.

“People are not looking up, and they’re not taking in the beauty and the miracles and the gifts,” Banks says. At the same time, hours spent online every day produce “a lot of negativity and drama surrounding politics and a lot of fear around the environment,” she says.

Putting our cellphones down is hard; after all, we don’t describe those frequent peeks at our screens as an addiction for nothing. Maybe that’s why local centers report that the silent meditation retreat business is booming. Ranging from a single day to a full two weeks off the grid, the retreats eliminate unnecessary external stimulation by emphasizing meditation, maintaining an inward focus — and, yes, disconnecting from all tech devices.

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