Hanging on in quiet desperation

| September 4, 2015

In Britain, over 100 MPs are already practicing mindfulness, and the concept is currently being rolled out to the 2,000 staff in parliament. Leah Sparkes is hopeful that Canberra is listening.

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way, says Pink Floyd in the iconic song “Time”. Well, maybe not, if former British MP Chris Ruane’s vision for Britain becomes a reality.

As I mentioned in a previous post I attended the Mindful Leadership Forum last week in Sydney. One of the speakers I found particularly inspiring was Chris Ruane. Chris was a MP in the British Parliament for about 18 years.

Chris began his foray into mindfulness while helping his daughter with a school project on Buddhism. He started practicing some of the techniques he read about and then began sharing the benefits with his fellow MPs. From small things big things grow.

Today over 100 MPs are trained and are practicing mindfulness, and it is being rolled out to the 2,000 staff in parliament. From there the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group began. The research and inquiry undertaken by this group has led to the Mindful Nation UK report. The interim reports states in the first two lines of executive summary:

“The Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group has carried out an eight-month inquiry into the potential for mindfulness training in key areas of public life – health, education, workplaces and the criminal justice system. We find that mindfulness is a transformative practice, leading to a deeper understanding of how to respond to situations wisely.”

It goes on to outline some high level recommendations for the implementation in those sectors.

The two specifics that Chris mentioned in his interview was the training of teachers in mindfulness (there is a lot of burn out and drop out in the teaching profession).

Mindfulness would not only better equip the teachers for their demanding roles as educators, but they would be in a perfect position to teach mindfulness to the next generation. What a point of impact on a society!

The other area he mentioned was training doctors not only as a means to inoculate them from stressful workloads but also as a means to encourage mindfulness as a “prescription” for anxiety and depression. The rate of depression and anxiety related health issues have been growing at frightening rates and are at a crisis point in the UK (as I am sure is reflected here in Australia). The research has been conclusive that mindfulness can be very effective in the treatment for anxiety and depression and no drugs would be needed in many instances (sorry, big pharma).

Already in place is the ability for doctors to recommend mindfulness based stress reduction programs in place of medication. The cost of the course will be covered by the NHS. But there has been a low uptake of this option to date.

The full and final report will be tabled in the UK parliament next month.

Chris has been meeting various politicians in Canberra for discussions on mindfulness and public policy. I was practically levitating from my seat with a sense of hope and possibility when I heard this. I sincerely hope Chris finds some political ears that will listen to the possibilities of mindfulness.

My personal experience of mindfulness has led me to experience greater empathy and compassion for my fellow humans. And without out a doubt Canberra could use more of that!

If you want a little inspiration in your day, check out this short little video from Chris talking about this journey.