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I have just started an evening course on mindfulness. This is a contination course: level 2. I took my first course in mindfulnesss two and a half years ago and the impact has been immense, and far-reaching. Returning for this course is partly to refresh what I learnt then, and to travel deeper.

How can I describe the importance of mindfulness in my life? It is hard to remember how it felt before I attended that first course. My daughter was in hospital, my family life was in chaos, I was barely in work. None of this was changed by mindfulness: at the end of that eight week course my daughter was still in hospital, it was still a battle to do something as simple as get to work, or attend a parents evening at school. But I was coping, I was making sense out my predicament, and I was starting to move forwards.

Two and a half years and a huge amount of lived experience later, I still use my mindfulness techniques every single day. I don’t always use them consciously (one reason I wanted to attend this course) but they are woven into my response to life. My family still lurches from crisis to crisis – I can’t alter that – but I don’t forget to breathe.

I can imagine that for a number of people, mindfulness is rather repellant. It can look terribly like a cult. My original course was run by buddhists at the Buddhist Centre and I know that for many people this is too unfamiliar, too alien, too weird. But although the connection to buddhism is not accidental, mindfulness is not a religion, it is not a challenge to religion. There is no need to sign up to a particular world view, to take part in religious services, or to feel reverence for particular things. It is a technique, a skill like swimming. It is as if mosques had a special relationship with swimming pools, and you had to track down an iman if you wanted to learn how to swim.

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At the end of every working week I like to try to make a rough guess at what the shape of my next week will be like. Which days will I make it into the office, and which ones will I work from home? I think this is only fair on my staff – and there is the little matter of booking a parking space!

Until a few months ago, there was no variation from week to week – I worked from home four days out of the five, and I had a brief visit to the office once a week, which was necessarily jammed full of (catch up) meetings. It was not a great way to work.

But over the last few months, my daughter’s recovery has finally reached the point where she is going to school most days. I now visit the office three, and sometimes four, days a week. I love this! I get to pick up a coffee from my favourite coffee shop to drink at my desk, I get to speak to my staff face to face, and I get to leave it all behind me when I trundle home again. Who would believe how much you could look forward to working in my shabby rundown office in the centre of town!

Next week is a bit of a gamble, though. My daughter’s recovery has experienced a bit of a set back – she is struggling to get through the days. The staff at school have suggested she spends more time at home for a couple of weeks. Does she need me to cancel my plans and work from home again? We tentatively agree that she will try staying at home alone,and we will monitor how this goes. This has proved a failure in the very recent past – with me having to abandon everything at work and rush home – but overall she is improving, and we will only know if we try.

It is, I know, completely impossible to explain to my colleagues at work why next week I will be a little jumpy, and sometimes a little short tempered.

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