30 November 2017

‘First They Ignore You’

Until recently, it was barely conceivable that mindfulness would find any substantial role in western healthcare. In 2007, when I first started running MBCT courses, it was a niche endeavour.

In my city, which normally prides itself on being ‘ahead of the curve’, the only course providers were two small centres and a lone psychologist in the local NHS.

Within the psychotherapy world at the time, we professionals were considered rather dubious, strange even, to be advocating silent meditation practices for psychological wellbeing. Therapy is, after all, usually about talking – lots of talking.

But there we were, shamelessly encouraging clients and patients to quieten down and watch what shows up. As the old saying goes: “Don’t just do something, sit there.”

Then They Laugh At You

Ten years later, it’s all change. The popularisation of mindfulness is a phenomenon. My city is now awash with mindfulness courses, instructors and practitioners. The lone psychologist may have retired but she left behind enough seeds for the local NHS to sprout its own mindfulness centre. The UK’s ‘mindfulness mega-trend’ continues its breathless pace. Here and beyond, the m-word is used for selling everything from colouring books and scented candles to being cool and looking good.

We have come so far that mindfulness is now the subject of parody, as exemplified by the hilarious Ladybird Book of Mindfulness and Modern Toss’s Mindlessness Colouring Book – much-needed splashes of comedy in a genre of few laughs. For me, these are reminders of how much has changed in 10 years. They’re also a useful prompt for not taking myself too seriously.

The Power of Practice

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