Today’s a Gift….Celebrate it !!!
I’m worried. It may be coincidence but I’ve been nominated at work for a mindfulness course. Is it because there’s something in my behaviour or performance that’s worrying those few colleagues who know about Helen’s death? I’ve been back only a short time but I thought I’d made a good show of things — I say “show” as what lies beneath is definitely less commitment and respect for what-I-do’s importance. So I check out who else is going to the six workshops. Pleasingly, it’s a broad cross-section of colleagues none of whom look like the collection of emotionally strung out, hollow-eyed hand-wringing lost souls that I’d feared I’d be matched with.
I ask fellow nominee Roger why he thinks he’s attending. His reply has the characteristic bluntness of bearded media youth, “God knows – I’ve got no time to waste on a load of bull, it’s probably to help them win a ‘great places to work’ nomination. I don’t need a course now or ever. It’s not like anyone’s died or got cancer.”
I smile thinly. Roger’s words rub salt, pepper and chilli oil into the bloody maw of my emotions. It was right to tell so few colleagues of Helen’s death from cancer but it doesn’t insulate me from this sort of unintended verbal evisceration.
But I do feel better about the course. In fact, I started to think mindfulness might help. I’d embraced Eckhart Tolle’s thinking some time before the word itself became a badge of trendy self-awareness. Living in the “now” and suppressing my “inner monologue” had helped me to live alongside Helen’s illness for nearly two years. During those difficult yet rich months, I hadn’t wished to look towards an uncertain future and it had been too painful to look back to times before her deadly diagnosis.
My understanding of mindfulness is still summed up by the homily, “The past is history, the future’s a mystery but today is a gift — that’s why it’s called the present”. These words, hopefully based on some ancient maxim, are spoken by the truly wise Master Oogway in Kung Fu Panda. OK, he’s a fictional tortoise but has probably done more to shout-out the philosophy than any unwilling participants in corporate training.
So reading the course-joining instructions my eyes widen, “In the past 12 months have you experienced anything that could be termed stressful?” Ouch. I email back, “Mother died, new job, child injured by barbed wire needing plastic surgery, wife died.” I suspect this reply will be as welcome on someone’s screen as a pile of well-rotted manure. Sure enough within minutes the phone rings.
“Hello, is that Adam?”, asks a gentle female voice in a tone you’d use to a man whose heels were the only contact point with the ledge on top of a very tall building. In what follows I do my best to sound as calm and well balanced when she advises, “To be honest, Adam, I don’t want you to come on the course. With your level of stress it might just tip you over into a darker place.”
“Darker than what? Surely it’ll help me deal with embracing the daily normality of family and corporate living?”
“Mindfulness can do that,” she soothes, “but sitting in a circle with others whose biggest stress is that their supermarket order never gets delivered in the timeslot they’ve booked, may provoke some deep emotion that won’t help.”
What she means, I suspect, is “Won’t help me run a training course if one of the participants breaks down or beats the hapless online grocery shopper to a pulp with his own A4 pad.” But I let it pass and withdraw from the course.
“Their loss not mine. Waste of time anyway,” I later tell Jo, my single mother friend, with an arrogance born of pique.
The truth remains that I do believe in the “power of now” as expressed not by trainers but long ago by a terminally ill Dennis Potter to Melvyn Bragg on Channel 4, “But the nowness of everything is absolutely wondrous… you have to experience it… the glory of it, if you like, the comfort of it, the reassurance… not that I’m interested in reassuring people – bugger that. The fact is, if you see the present tense, boy do you see it! And boy can you celebrate it.”I suggest you read the interview and avoid the need for a course and so save yourself six days of your own “present tense”.
— Guardian News & Media Ltd
Adam Golightly is the pseudonym of a recently widowed father of two.