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Susan Mullane Close your eyes. Feel the oxygen flood your core, flow into your limbs and cleanse feature writing articles examples of unclear mind.
Focus your mind, slowly, on your feet… calves… thighs… abdomen… hands… arms… chest… shoulders… neck… head… face. Listen to the sounds in the room. Allow your thoughts to wander and as they appear, let them flow away. Focus on the now. You are, I am, we are.
For some, buying into the promise of mindfulness seems like a Volkswagen camper van too far. For others, it is the infiltration of mindfulness into the popular consciousness that they find unforgivable.
If it had remained a minority pursuit, imported after one too many trips to Buddhist temples in Nepal, at least it would have retained some essence of its roots. But, critics argue, divorcing mindfulness from the quest for a moral life makes it an exercise in accepting the status quo, something that plays into the hands of the very forces, mostly corporate, who have popularised it for their own machiavellian purposes.
But if mindfulness has made self-help gurus rich, as they pump out books promoting their expensive residential courses, does that in and of itself negate the benefits of a craze that has penetrated so deeply into our communities, reaching into schools, prisons and nursing homes?
For me, the logic here is absurd. Just because something is popular, does not make it worthless. I spoke to Karen Miles, a staunch advocate of mindfulness and founder of popular website meinmind. Rather than grandiose claims, simple messages dominate.
Nor is mindfulness a new concept, despite what the cynics would have us believe. Perhaps the enduring appeal of every approach that embraces the now, from yoga to pilates; and from meditation to massage, is that it allows us to forget our anxieties, our worries, our fears and to enter into that state of flow which allows us to unconsciously feel at one with the universe.
If all of that feels a little saccharine, perhaps now is an opportune moment to turn to science for some truth. Or are we just wasting our time, handing over our hard earned cash to men in expensive suits who simply re-package the wisdom of the ancients for our modern secular age?
Whatever the original source, research by the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality concluded in that mindfulness does indeed have an effect. Following a mindfulness programme reduces many of the most toxic elements of stress, including anxiety and depression.
To which I reply, who cares?
If I can find something that I can work into my daily practice and build into my life, that makes me less anxious, less stressed and less likely to become depressed, then hallelujah, bring it on. If you can afford behavioural therapies, by all means do that too.
She also handed me a plastic bag and a dustpan and brush so I could tidy up after myself. I will never forget the liberating joy of willful destruction I experienced that day.
I was aware of my body, aware of my surroundings, caught up in the present moment and relieved entirely of my despair.
Remember, also, that a societal focus on positive mental health is a wonderful development for a country whose wellbeing has been severely challenged by years of austerity, high unemployment and emigration. Embracing mindfulness is not a pretence that all is fine; rather it reflects an awareness that when all is not fine we need to build our resilience; to learn strategies that help us to cope.
As we emerge into better, more hopeful times, retaining our hard earned wisdom to stay connected to that which matters should stand us in good stead in the future, provided me remember to focus on the now. And how does it work?Learn to write like a professional (or a professor).
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