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Minding the Mind
With exam term looming unpleasantly on the horizon, the university powers that be implemented some much-needed TLC this week. To be honest, it seemed like a wise precaution to put in place - anything to prevent the general destruction of souls and minds that occurred this time last year.
As far as I can remember, the 2010 exam cure-all de jour took the form of shots of Relentless (the most hideous of all energy drinks) stocked behind the college bar to help everyone through the tough times with only minimal risk of collateral psychological damage. Perfect. Take one stressed student with absolutely no time and absolutely everything to do, ply him/her with e-numbers until s/he gets the shakes, and cross your fingers that s/he makes it through Extra-Tricky Mathematics Part 1b before dropping unconscious. This year's approach, however, is slightly more unorthodox.
'REDUCING STRESS AND MAXIMISING FOCUS IN EXAMS.' The helpful email plopped into inboxes all over college, screaming our inadequacies at us in resolute capital letters. WHY ARE YOU SO STRESSED? YOU ARE CLEARLY INCOMPETENT. IN FACT, YOU'RE SO INCOMPETENTLY STRESSED THAT WE HAVE TO SET UP SPECIAL CLASSES TO CHILL YOU ALL OUT. Stupid undergraduates. Yes, the era of the Mindfulness classes has begun.
"Mindfulness?" you may well be asking. Basically, it's "non-secular meditation" that builds self-awareness, intensifies focus and happy thoughts. As far as I can tell. Based on Buddhist teachings, the whole thing sounded "really quite fruity" as one good friend put it, but the minute you get wind that monks are coming into town to balance your karma and spruce up your aura, it's an offer that just can't be refused. Especially if the most exciting part of your original evening plan was attempting to assemble a 1000 piece puzzle of Machu Picchu.
Admittedly, when I arrived at the appointed room expecting to commune with the spirit world at some juncture, I wasn't quite expecting to be met by a chartered neuroscientist and a chartered psychologist. These were not fruity monks. They looked smart, efficient and, dare I say it, normal. That was until, after some introductory spiel, they began to spoon raisins into our hands.
"Imagine," says the scientist, "that you are an alien being experiencing your raisins for the first time." This, I think, is fruity on more levels than I had anticipated. We squeezed our raisins; smelt them; examined their blotches; listened to their distinctive sounds. (Yes, you did read that correctly. Not a lot of chat from a raisin, if you haven't tried yet.) Then we went on to close our eyes and imagine breathing through different parts of the body. Through the fingers and toes. Through the top of your head, like a whale through a blowhole. I can categorically say that I have never before contemplated my kneecaps so very intently. It was surprisingly nice and really quite relaxing, even if I did almost choke on my chakras when they told us to breathe through our genitals.
When I arrived at the appointed room expecting to commune with the spirit world at some juncture, I wasn't quite expecting to be met by a chartered neuroscientist and a chartered psychologist.
All-in-all, I think I quite like Mindfulness. Despite raising a slightly skeptical eyebrow from time to time, a lot of what they said made sense; in today's crazy, hectic, mixed-up world, hardly anyone has time to take a moment to be still and calm. We're so busy concentrating on what is next, we so rarely take five minutes to just be, rather than do. Excuse me. I'll just take five minutes to ruminate on my raisins.