Have you ever worked in a business that looked professional and successful on the outside, but turned out to be dysfunctional on the inside? Maybe there was a destructive culture of office politics and complaining. Maybe the company simply didn't care about its people, or it was a chaotic, high-stress workplace, with low morale and high burn out.
It's the only illness where you get - absolutely free with the package - a real sense of shame. I've heard people say, "I know people with real diseases, show me lumps show me X-Rays", and of course you can't so you begin to feel bombarded with self-disgust thinking," I'm not being carpet-bombed, I'm not living in a Township, how dare I, who has everything, be depressed?"
I have been sitting in a hospital bed in an isolation room for the last five days... Being mindful allows me to notice thoughts and feelings as they arise - this is an incredible evolutionary ability of the human brain. Observing and accepting sensations and thoughts for what they are allows me the opportunity to pay attention to, and choose my responses based on, what is most important.
An hour teaching teenagers who don't want to be there something they don't want to learn is never pleasant... A few things tend to raise their curiosity: that they can physically change their brain; that mindfulness is used by top sportsmen and musicians; that it might help with their exams or, at the very least, help them worry less about their exams.
Most of us in the UK have an idea of what an American summer camp is like: swimming, hi- jinks, Patrick Swayze in 'Dirty Dancing'. So when I was approached to teach Mindfulness in Schools Project's '.b' at a family camp in New Hampshire this August, I was intrigued... How would the two experiences mix together?
I'd been toying with the idea of meditation for years. As a health and beauty journalist, I knew all the benefits - from better concentration and sleep to stress reduction - but I just couldn't get my head round actually doing it. I'm a working mum so my spare time is limited. Yet though I could find time for exercise, I could never quite shape up to just sitting still and doing what seemed like nothing.
If you have ever spent 48 consecutive hours doing nothing but nourishing your body and soul, you know the value of stepping away from routine and taking a deep breath without the distraction of responsibility. A getaway built around an ambitious itinerary may be a great escape when you are looking to shatter monotony, but it can also leave you longing for a vacation from your vacation once you return home.
During the miserly search for a journo job I held down a nannying job as well as poking my way through different freelance gigs. I didn't get it. I was freelancing, actively applying my training and doing it but I didn't manage to get an actual in-house job. Freelance is a schizophrenic lifestyle, symptomatic of a range of highs and gutter lows.
Knowing how my own mother felt, one of the worst products of suffering from depression or addiction is dealing with the social stigma attached to it. Embarrassment, shame and humiliation are some of the shattering emotions our society has smeared on a very real problem. Who deemed it so, that a person suffering from depression should be less deserving of recognition and compassion?
Why is it such an 'out of the blue' experience for everyone that Robin Williams killed himself? Is it because we think if someone's funny they must spend their lives, head thrown back, wheezing away? I know very few comedians who in their real lives have their heads thrown back, it's not funny being funny; it's a killer.
People like you and me, who have been committed to grow in consciousness throughout the millennia, have always practiced various forms of mindfulness in community. Today's fledgling "shared mindfulness" movement is both a continuation of a noble tradition, and at the same time, a timely response to our life conditions in the 21st century.
Once we are more readily in touch with or conscious of the thoughts and feelings that trigger an anxious response, it may be that we are in a better position to start voicing them to someone we can trust. Often even just the verbal acknowledgement that we are feeling a negative emotion can have a hugely healing effect.