As some of you may know I’m the father of a 10 year old boy on the autism spectrum. Even without the autism taken into account the caregiving of children can a bit stressful. Plus I now work from home so socialise much less than I once did so do get a drop of cabin fever!
Add to that a bit of insomnia mixed with a rather bad temper. (In my defence at least I know!).
So a few weeks back I registered for a Mindfulness course in South London. I have to say this was at the suggestion of my wife who has been using Mindfulness apps for a few months now. And, I must say, has been very impressed with them!
Now Thursday week was the start of the course proper. The previous week has been a gentle and much generalised introduction to the idea of mindfulness. So I thought it might be fun to run a little diary about the course – what I’m doing and what effects, if any, it has on my life.
(I should point out at this juncture that I’m a fairly hard boiled atheist with very little sympathy for what Eric Cartman refers to as “tree hugging hippy shit.”) (I should also say that some of my best friends are into “tree hugging hippy shit”.) (No really!) The course I’m doing does seem to be a secular version of the kinds of things practiced by Buddhists. So this course would tick the boxes of either a hippy or resolute non-believers. Or indeed a Christian.
The course is delivered by a rather marvellous lady who comes with the most wonderful mid-Atlantic accent. Sort of confirming my prejudices about, well, everything really. She also has that delightful North American habit of being polite at all times. And smiling all the time, when she’s not nodding! This at my age has ceased to irritate. So perhaps I’m mellowing which can be used to prove the course works I suppose.
Okay so what is Mindfulness?
Well Ms Nice North American Hippy Lady used a quote by some bloke called Jon Kabat-Zinn who described it as ““Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.”
Now I have no idea what that means so another part of this Mindfulness dairy will be trying to unravel the mystery. However it turns out that Jon’s father-in- law was Howard Zinn so he might be all bad!
Anyhow what I think it might mean (if it actually does mean anything) is that one should try and cease spending most of one’s time on autopilot (Ms Nice North American Hippy Lady’s term not mine) be conscious of what you are actually doing at each moment.
I’m going to try and avoid going into any depth about mindfully eating a raisin and listening to middle class pieties turned into truly dreadful poetry. (Come back Ezra Pound all is forgiven! Well, actually, it’s not! You are a bastard still and always were). That being said………….
The key take home for me was the practice called the body scan!
The video below outlines what you do.
The Body Scan uses your mind, and to some degree imagination, to move your awareness (or focussed mind) around your body starting at your feet and ending at your head. It uses visualisation to allow your breath to move through your body. With the emphasis is in feeling your body with your mind while at the same time keeping concentration on your breath. Takes about half an hour. Ms Nice North American Hippy Lady has provided us with an mp3 to play at home while we do, what is, referred to as a practice.
So does it work? Well I’m on Day 5 now and I do find it very relaxing. I’m a bit more conscious of waiting a few moments before I speak. So my initial verdict is so far so good. And yes I can put up with the hippy platitudes even if they are patent rubbish just to feel the tension flowing out of on my shoulders each morning.
Anyhow I’ll tell you how this week goes – next week! But for far Mindfulness gets the thumbs up for me!