Finding Peace in a Frantic World

Before I start, I should say that in no way am I taking credit for the title. That belongs wholly to Danny Penman and Mark Williams and their practical guide to mindfulness or, as I like to call it, my life bible.

I hijacked the words because they seem entirely fitting to what I, and I imagine my fellow teachers are currently trying to achieve in the short half-term break.

I should also confess that I am writing this blog as I stand in the toilet queue at Birling Gap, a picturesque South Coast beauty spot. Yes, the queue is that long. I’ve just hiked up and down all of The Seven Sisters and back again. The weather, scenery and overall experience was amazing - see photo as proof. This day so far has ticked all the boxes: relaxing and tranquil (tick), mindfully connecting with nature (tick), as far away from work and routine as possible (tick).

Except now, as I stand in this long queue with children shouting, dogs barking, cars polluting, social distancing seems alarmingly like a faint memory to my fellow queue-mates. And I can almost feel my boxes unticking. Is this about to demolish the calmness I have only just found? Can my sense of relaxation unravel so rapidly? 

Using this moment as a school holiday analogy, it raises a pertinent question that affects us all. How can we be sure that, no matter how much chill we manage to capture over the break, that the positive effects will make it past the end of the first staff meeting? 

The unfortunate answer to this question is, “we can’t.” I fully appreciate that’s not what we can’t to hear (or read) but, hand on heart, we probably were already aware of the depressing reality. 

However, all is not lost. There is another way. At the risk of sounding didactic, the secret is not in trying to prolong these moments of calm and tranquillity, but to be present in them when they happen. In fact, being fully present in all moments, positive or negative, can allow us to ‘ride out’ the less appealing times (think noisy, hot toilet queue) before they trigger the perpetuating cycle of frustration, annoyance and anger.

It’s very tempting to expect our ‘best life’ moments to power us through times of frustration. And it often seems impossible to avoid wishing that our most treasured experiences last longer than they actually do. 

But just like my hike, this experience, in the queue, is the same any other. It will pass. 

One of the key components of mindfulness is recognising and accepting the impermanence of everything. Admittedly, while that means resigning ourselves to the impermanence of near perfect moments, it presents the advantage of embracing the impermanence of the stressful moments. 

So, as I’m standing in the queue I have a choice: despair at the fact that my perfect moment is over, or celebrate the fact that, while this queue feels endless, it’s only as long as this blog.

Do you have a good mental wellbeing? Here are 8 relaxation tips by Mind (the Mental Health Charity) to help you look after your wellbeing and help you to manage the stresses that life can throw at you.
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