Sep 27, 2021
Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash
I am fascinated by the work of Ronald Epstein. Epstein is a practicing family physician, a professor of family medicine, psychiatry, and oncology. He has used mindfulness to transform physicians’ views of their work. Here are four questions he uses to help you transform your assumptions. Read more
Jun 15, 2021
Look at the image. The mobile has been removed and in so doing shows how our connection to our devices is disconnecting us from our most intimate moments. It's like we're learning a new intimacy. An intimacy where we equally love the device that disconnects us from the one we’re with. Read more
Dec 1, 2020
Dec 1, 2020
Rumination arises for the teacher at about 4 pm on a Sunday. Pedagogical miscellanies are mulled over, usually assuaged by a glass (or two) of (self-righteously poured)) bio-dynamic, low sulfite, Bordeaux. However, to my surprise, I’ve started attending a mindfulness class instead.
And here I am, doing a sitting meditation on an early Sunday evening, causing me no little amount of bodily discomfort: sitting astride a cushion, lower legs and soles of feet tucked under my arse. There's a grinding discomfort at the cuneiform bone pressed against the impressively polished yoga studio floor. There's a dull intensity in the lower back, just above my right pelvic bone.
I want to flinch, react. I want to get up. I wanna get out. Fuck this mindfulness malarkey!
But at this moment I choose instead to ‘settle into’ (would you believe it) the sensations, just noticing the particularity of their changing nature, or impermanence. I try to welcome them. Then I have a realisation: that my body doesn’t need my mind’s rumination; that the body (in this moment) is wiser than my thinking mind; that it can gently guide me away from such modes of thought as well as guide me through physical discomfort with simple, patient, awareness; especially when it is aligned to breathing with and into each arising discomfort. At this moment I find the mind’s ruminative tendency dissipates – albeit momentarily – and that it is replaced by an embodied intelligence that taps into something called 'kindness'. Kindness towards sensations arising, and kindness to myself for experiencing sensations in the way I am.
Way to go.
Dec 1, 2020
I am asked to attend an 8 am meeting on Tuesday mornings, in the interests of ‘team-building’, apparently. There’s irony afoot: cultivating collaboration through coercion. Nice. But I let that go. I don’t want to come across as a mindful smart-arse. However, the reality of my teaching day is 3 x 2-hour lessons with only a total of a forty-five-minute break. I see the request as enculturated (if you will) by performativity’s driven-doing mode. It will lead to no small amount of disequilibrium: not good for my well-being, and most certainly not good for long-term productivity, even when – especially when – viewed through the lens of performativity. To me, this managerial request comes from a place of reactivity – it is strategically unsound. My pre-mindful, conceptual, doing-mode response to this would have involved full mobilization of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS); with the amygdala doing its flighty thing.
But now I ‘find space’ to respond. In the words of Shinzen Young, I ‘track the components’ of my direct physiological response: there’s a throbbing sensation in my temples, a quality of pressure in the eyes. It moves into the shoulders before arriving in the palm of my hands as a kind of tingling moistness. I’m aware of a pounding heartbeat. None of this is good, and it all happens in seconds. I know I need to increase my heart rate variability to access higher cortical function. I breathe in on 6 seconds, hold the breath for two seconds, then breathe out to the count of eight. I repeat this until I feel a sense of embodied calm.
I can now give a response that politely re-articulates my initial interpretation:
Can I say “No”?
There you go: a mindful riposte, marinated in equanimity and reasonableness.
With due thanks to J.P. Flintoff.