I’m doing an eight-week course in mindfulness, which isn’t the sort of thing I do.
I was brought up (by my mother, my father didn’t really have any say) to think that any attempt to improve my spiritual or psychological well-being would be an act of crass self-indulgence and egotism – a kind of rudeness to other people. This may have been the result of her being of the wartime generation, which had different priorities to the yoga and meditation generation, but probably wasn’t. It was just what my mother was like.
And it’s why it’s taken me over 60 years to have a go at tacking my chronic anxiety - my condition of being absurdly highly-strung (and what a precise and descriptive phrase that is. It explains why people under stress raise their shoulders as if being tugged by puppet-strings).
This highly-strungness lasted all through my childhood – much of it spent hiding in bushes while trying, unsuccessfully, to think of ways to kill myself without inconveniencing anybody. It lifted when I had a young family to think about, then returned, stronger than ever, when I became semi-retired.
My mother’s solution to any crisis of the soul was to tell me to ‘Stop bloody moaning and do something useful’ (I can hear her saying it now, although she’s been dead for some years). I think she had a point. I should maybe spend less time doing mindfulness courses and more time at B&Q, except that I’m exceptionally bad at doing anything practical, being so dyspraxic that crossing the road, or even operating a push-or-pull door, presents a daily challenge.
One of the tenets of mindfulness is that you should live in the moment , paying full and careful attention to what is actually happening, rather than worrying about the past or the future or imagined bogeymen.
Today, I tried to cross the road in this spirit and found myself paralysed – which was probably for the best because my mindfulness teacher told us that on the daily commute to and from work, when we tend to leave ourselves on auto-pilot, it might be better notice what’s actually happening. Although obviously not if this increases your chances of being squashed by a bus.
Still, I’ve only done a couple of session of the course so there’s still time to make a normal person of me. I’ll keep you informed.