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.”

anticipating difficult emotions


After experiencing a number of cumulative health concerns I decided to see my headteacher – on my doctors’ advice – to reduce my hours. I know that sitting in her office will induce a shift in my autonomic state. I will experience hotness in the body; perhaps a dryness in the mouth which will then impair my ability to articulate what I really want to say. I feel the heaviness of my body as I sit there. This is then accompanied by images of Year 11 students (for some reason two particular students are presented in my mind’s eye) who I will no longer be able to teach if I reduce my hours. This heaviness manifests itself in the jaw – it has the quality and weight of a yawning sensation that serves as a kind of prelude to a hot, stinging sensation of tears. The tears arise ever so briefly. I don’t know where this emotion has come from, but I accept it; I just let the tears be there: my own beaded bubbles winking at the brim. My body then relaxes – seemingly melts – into this sensation of sharp hotness. Then I notice a flutter of muscle movement in the jaw. Then heat and prickliness fade. No more than momentary, but a real healing submission to an energy wave.

little girl lost


Amy says, ‘Sir, I don’t think I’m going to pass.’ I notice anxiety in her posture, in her eyes. She’s the little girl lost. Read more

approaching mindfulness


A few summers ago a sunflower emerged in front of two weary, dilapidated sheds. It had pushed itself out between a crack of paving slab, and some scabrous weed. Read more

know your neurobiological narrative


I might be misguided but isn’t an ‘intervention’ (you know, of the academic variety) primarily concerned with manipulating emergent properties of cognition? But then, isn’t cognition linked to neurobiology? If so, isn’t it cognitively dissonant to assume that manipulations (interventions) can only be confined to just cognition? Read more


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