bring mr Duffy back into the body!

I’m sitting in the classroom, laptop before me. It’s 8:54. The lesson starts at 9. An email pings through. Can I phone Cindy X's mother, asap? Suddenly, I’m in frozen mode: abstracted, dazed. I'm gazing at a 12-foot poster of Gavrilo Princip, his sunken eyes gloze back. There's a sensation at the back of my head like a throng of pins and needles. Hot. Prickling. Tingling. I make my way out of the classroom and down the corridor. It’s 5 minutes (less, now) before the lesson. My mind is goo. I’ve got Rick Hanson’s ‘the brain is Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon good.” reverberating in my head. I'm muttering it like some demented John Malkovich hamming it up as Lennie in Of Mice and Men.

For all the mindfulness training I can’t stop the ‘hair-trigger readiness’ of my brain's default to the sticky velcro stuff: it’s propelling me down the corridor. I've got a picture in mind of the student the email is referring to; there’s an assemblage of images here. They are the ‘lighted scrolls’ of Utterson’s dream. Why Utterson's dream? Ah yes, the Year 10 extract I’m teaching later today. Here it comes too, cavalier-ing to mind. Then it's Joyce’s Mr. Duffy, who lived a short distance from his body.

Just bring Duffy back into the body
! I scream inwardly. Bring him back into the bloody body!

But I can’t. He won't come back. He's doing a Magical Mystery Tour of Ruminative Locations.

The student’s name is Cindy. Yes, Cindy. I taught her yesterday, didn't I? We read Heaney’s ‘Mid Term Break’. God, she looked miserable. Did somebody die in her family? Is that it? Did I say something inappropriate? About death? Did I wax lyrical about the nature of impermanence? God, I’m always doing that! Bloody mindfulness! You’re supposed to be teaching them, not proselytizing, cross-legged, like a Lama in a monastery!

Now my mind’s going to the future. I’m on the phone with her parents:

Why are you teaching my daughter mindfulness, you’re supposed to be teaching her English?

By now I am - as the saying goes - a puppet being yanked on the strings of its impulses. 

I get to the Pastoral office. John faces me.

“Yeh”, he says, all nonchalant. “The mum sounded OK to me. Said she just wanted to ask some question about English.”

It’s a different Cindy. It’s not the Cindy I’m thinking of. It’s a different class group. A different Cindy from a different class group. Why didn’t I just come back to the body?

I reflect upon this moment with my Mindfulness Supervisor, Helen.

“It’s interesting”, she says, “ just how much your reaction is about how much you have been depriving yourself of just noticing what is in the body; noticing what has been there for you all your life. Noticing what you have been pushing away.”

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