Without wanting to turn my weekly column into an open therapy session, it does seem I’m rather prone to admitting things. Last week I had to hold my hands up and say that I was, in fact, a non-alcoholic. This week I’ve got to come clean and admit that I’m not a hippy after all.
The evidence would suggest otherwise, of course, and that’s why I feel as though I need to own up. Over the course of the last year, I’ve become fascinated by what mindfulness might (or might not) be, and I’ve explored this suddenly-fashionable realm with a steady glass of refreshing kombucha in my hand. (Feel free to hate me. On outward appearances alone, I’m everything I swore I’d never become.)
It has got me thinking, though. Why is it that lifestyle choices such as spending a bit less time caught up in your own mind-mess, or consuming food that has proven health benefits, are mocked so ruthlessly? Why, as a nation in general, are British people so cynical that they’d prefer to scoff at things like this from a distance than give them a go? I ask this as someone who, only a year ago, would quite happily wallow in my own mind-mess and cast aspersions at anyone who so much as glanced at a packet of kefir.
As always, I think the truth is that people simply don’t understand these things, and when we’re not sure of something we get the urge to knock it down, just in case it might be dangerous. I think it’s an evolutional hangover. I suspect that the first time a British caveman saw a wheel he did his very best to belittle it.
The truth is, if you can divorce mindfulness from mental images of yogis and ashrams (assuming that images of yogis and ashrams are what’s making you uncomfortable) you’ll find that it amounts to little more than training yourself not to get lost in endless mind-loops. Imagine having a relaxed brain, free of replaying old arguments, muttering internally about how such-and-such needs taking down a peg or two, dreaming of your next comfort-purchase or questioning why you never seem to get as much out of life as your best friend (who is, unbeknownst to you, asking themselves the very same thing).
Cut away all the wellbeing in white linen on beaches imagery, and you find that a large part of mindfulness is simply recognising that the endless conversation that plays in your head is simply a string of words. You need not attach yourself to them, and they certainly are not “you”. Recognising that is the start of quite an interesting process that, if my example is anything to go by, ends with a slightly less frazzled disposition and the first truly refreshing sleeps I’ve experienced in years. I can’t see anything worth poking fun at there. I imagine most people could do with the same.
In the case of kombucha, the fear of the unknown and the urge to destroy is slightly more self-explanatory. Have you ever seen anything quite so alien as a scoby after several weeks of growth? Not only does it look as though it might climb out of its jar and overwhelm your family, it looks as though it may even have plans for world domination. But again, I’m not sure that that’s such a bad thing. What we’re talking about here is fermented tea – nothing more complicated than that. And since when has tea been exclusively hippy? The UK drinks 165 million cups per day. Drinking a few more, offered up in a cool glass with refreshing beads of condensation dripping down the side, certainly isn’t going to upset the equilibrium. Given that kombucha is thought to have a pleasing number of health-related benefits, you might even find you feel better for it.
I guess you can sum up my point here with the old adage: “never judge a book by its cover (when its cover has a lotus flower on it and you’ve convinced yourself that you’re allergic to lotuses).” If growing up in the UK has left you with an undiagnosed case of ultra-cynicism, it might be worth relaxing a little and looking beyond the stereotypes. And if you can’t do that, you could always grow your hair and partake in free love. After all, If you can’t beat ‘em…