Thursday, 4 July 2013

Not writing but painting

I have been doing a mindfulness course in the last few weeks.

It has changed my life.

I no longer do any writing at all (agonized or otherwise). Instead I have painted our front door.

Life has become extraordinarily easy.

I float through each day, doing only the task that is right in front of me, planning only the amount I need to get the next thing done. I am kind, open and generous, even to my husband. I am able to control my temper, impatience and feelings of inadequacy. I walk the children to school and back at their pace rather than my own. I smile and ask questions. I ensure the house is harmonious. I no longer listen to the news — Egypt may or may not be on the brink of a military dictatorship, or a civil war, and that is terrifying, fascinating, worrying, but ultimately there is so little I can do except be nice to people here (since no one has invited me to become a diplomat), that I might as well try to grow peas, bake chocolate cake and sit doing maths problems with my child.

Life is, in short, perfect. In the slightly less than best of all possible worlds we have colonized.


This week, the theme of the mindfulness session was about befriending. I expected this to be about befriending my problems, and was quite looking forward to it. However, it turned out to be about befriending myself (and a few others). That was quite another matter. I ended up impatient, cross, critical, analytical, sceptical and suspicious.

In every other respect, mindfulness is quite an extraordinary discipline.

You practice your capacity to occupy your conscious mind, noting its teeming preoccupations and unpredictable, relentless activities so that you no longer get caught up in them.

You learn to apprehend your intuitions, arising from the body, paying careful attention to its flux and flow.

You learn to move from hearing sound to 'hearing' thought, and see how thoughts behave like rumours — made of nothing, but building into apparently ungainsayable truths.

You learn to pay attention to your other senses — tasting your food, rather than fuelling yourself, noticing exactly how you walk, just washing up, rather than multi-tasking with your mind elsewhere on the next problem to solve.

You learn to entertain more difficult thoughts, things you habitually shy away from, and start to see where those thoughts imprint themselves in very strange places in your body.

By paying attention to what your body, rather than your mind, is doing, you learn simply to be with your tensions and aversions, dancing with them rather than fighting or trying to change them.

You learn that you have it in you, quite literally, to calm yourself in any situation, simply by focusing on your breathing.

Who knew?

All of this is ABSOLUTELY SENSATIONAL and every person alive ought to be given a free mindfulness course. It would reduce hospital bills and road rage, improve productivity, ensure more food and clothes were bought, mean that children are happy, and parents kind. It would allow Conservatives to understand that it is their repressed infantile rage and neediness which drives their politics of avarice, thrift and exclusion. It would enable Nick Clegg to disband his party, instead of wasting his valuable active years propping up a socially divisive and uncharitable government. It would allow theocrats to understand that monotheistic religions and religious organizations rest on rigid and fearful thought patterns, which, in and of themselves, crush the object of their devotion.

But I draw the line at liking myself.

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