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Tom came to teaching with one goal in mind – to be an inspiration. He continues this mission by providing workshops for students and teachers in all aspects of learning to learn.


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Musings on mindfulness

Tom Barwood

I am beginning to wonder if my mind is full of mindfulness. It seems to be everywhere. Those that aren’t doing it are admitting that they have been doing so for ages but keeping it quiet for fear of being ridiculed. Steve Jobs did it and look what he achieved.

Never one to miss out (actually I was desperate) I enrolled on a one to one course of eight sessions with a very affable Swede by the name of Per. So when people now ask what you are up to then the reply is  ‘I have been doing a mindfulness course’ to which they then invariably ask ‘I have heard of that, what exactly is mindfulness?’.

So to be specific we are talking about using meditation to achieve mindfulness in the hope that,  in my case, it can make you more bodily aware and less locked in your thoughts and therefore less anxious.

However despite the prominence of the current ideas I realised that I had met the concept many years before when I was travelling. To cut a long story short I met a German by the name of Frank who I ended up going swimming with. He invited himself along on my trip (to the pool they built for the Pan Asian games in Jakarta) and told me that he had been undergoing rehabilitation at a Bhuddist monastery for heroin addiction. Despite my shock at this he didn’t seem like my idea of a ‘junkie’ but he had still gate crashed my swimming trip!

Whilst I was swimming I noticed him walking round the pool very slowly. I eventually asked him what he was doing and he explained it was mindful walking. Swimming trip over we returned to the hostel and I never saw or gave much thought to Frank again – until a few years later when I had to  invigilate an exam.

Invigilation is boring enough for most people but for someone as lively as me it was like a living prison. So desperate was I for something to do that I thought back to Frank and started to slowly pace up and down the aisles. It wasn’t that enlightening but anything was better than standing there waiting for someone to need the loo or some more paper.

What was really interesting was one of the students asked me afterwards what I was doing. I explained and then apologised if I had distracted him. He stated that to the contrary it had actually helped him to calm down a little and he found it quite soothing and so did a few other students!

I was both amazed and delighted. I then set out on my plan to see if I could walk mindfully enough to  do just one full circuit of the sports hall during my 40 minute stint. I started to look forward to invigilating and even offering to do other peoples for them.

I did manage it in the end but soon forgot about the technique when I moved into consultancy apart from the occasional pace up and down a train platform or hotel car park.

So here we are over twenty years on going back to something which I had learned for free. So look forward to invigilation this summer – just make sure you see it as more of a free mini retreat than an onerous chore.