Looking For Enlightenment? Mindfulness Becoming A Booming Market In China.
A group of Chinese friends get together. Food is ordered. Silence ensues: they are staring at their phones, engrossed in WeChat, perhaps even messaging the person next to them.
What is so difficult about having an in-person conversation? Warped with emptiness, many are searching for answers to questions they cannot even articulate. Mindfulness is the current panacea, and some have found ways to bring these practices back to the Middle Kingdom adapted to the local population – and without (just) aiming for profits.
Back to our roots
Despite rapid economic progress, many Chinese people are scrambling for meaning in their lives. “They do not want to face their loneliness, boredom, and anxiety, so they use their phones to cover it up,” observes Bo Shao, founding partner at the renowned Chinese venture capital fund, Matrix Partners China.
Mindfulness With Chinese Backdrop at Zenflo
Shao notes that many Chinese are “suffering,” and so he set up an independent venture fund with his own money, The Conscious Accelerator, to encourage self-awareness. One company Shao funds is Wiseheart, a combination of meditation apps, online and offline mindfulness teachings, and workshops aimed to destigmatize and alleviate mental health in China.
One could say mindfulness has deep roots in China, threaded through different forms of philosophical thinking, martial arts, and calligraphy practices. Wiseheart uses modern technology to take this invaluable practice back to the mainstream in China. “People in China are open to working on themselves, I believe mindfulness practices will take flight faster here,” says Shao. “It is a doorway to realization, a core part of our awakening.”
Mindful, and practical
Mobio Interactive has joined the effort to define the Chinese mindfulness market. Apart from the obvious requirement for their app, Am, to be in Chinese, the co-founders, Bechara Saab a neuroscientist, and Mark Thoburn, a user-experience expert, are consistently testing to ensure that the analytics provided by the app are what Chinese people want.
One argues that mindfulness is about being in the moment, which is one meaning behind the name, Am – present tense of the verb “to be” and thus a linguistic embodiment of mindfulness. However, one must start somewhere, so if the Chinese market is attracted to mindfulness to enhance performance, then it is a start.
Saab says, “ Of all our users, the Chinese are some of the most interested in knowing more about their minds and bodies, and mindfulness is a perfect way to improve focus and to enhance stress-resilience. While meditation has deep roots in China, re-adoption is accompanied by modern technology, including objective mind and body measurements and machine learning-derived personalization.” These data analytics tell Chinese users how mindful they have been, tracking performance.
Housed at the Shanghai-based Chinaccelerator, Am takes advantages of the connections with local research institutes to test and scientifically validate its products. Thoburn explains, “Chinese users have a greater expectation that products provide tangible benefits. Am allows users to measure their mindfulness experience within the app without any external wearable device. We also leverage in-app gamification and social interactions to cater to the sharper competitive mentality here.”
Perhaps sharing how mindful one is on WeChat is one way to engage the dinner table with some meaningful conversation…
Some hand holding needed
The co-founders from Zenflo, Wayne Silby and Qing Chen have created a sensory-deprived floating experience with appropriate guidance that does not take away from the mindful experience. Silby had his first flotation experience 30 years ago – complete darkness, void of sound, simply afloat in pristine water and Himalyan salt – and he is now bringing these sensory deprivation tanks to China to help strengthen overall wellbeing.
Silby’s long-time experience in U.S. and Chinese markets as an investor has helped him gear up for this new venture. “Chinese need more guidance because they are not sure what to do with their own minds. Instead of sitting with reflections and letting experience emerge, they want some tools to keep track of how they did, and how to proceed.”
Users can watch a pre-float video to reduce anxiety of anticipation. Zenflo has also adapted their tanks with guided meditations and created 3D optical images to complement the flotation experience. Using brain wave devices, users can track their meditative states.
Chen adds that they are looking at how to make tanks more affordable and accessible locally, financing franchises and having the technology built in China. Situated in the Beijing hutongs, Zenflo is on a mission to help the Chinese be more in touch with their inner selves in ways that are appropriate for each individual through these tanks of serenity.
As Shao says, “People like us (who have started on this enlightenment journey) have a responsibility to bring to fruition, methodologies that will help others find themselves.”