Saturday, 2 November 2013

Huffington Post News: MPs Slow The Westminster Treadmill With Weekly 'Mindfulness' Meetings

The Huffginton Post ran an article on 1st November 2013 in the Politics section titled: MPs Slow The Westminster Treadmill With Weekly 'Mindfulness' Meetings.

Here are some key quotes:
"Chris Ruane has a treadmill in the corner of his office. But judging by the boxes of loose paper piled high on it, the machine does not get used too often. The Labour backbencher points to it as a rather neat example of his mission to get his colleagues to slow their lives down.

The Vale of Clwyd MP is parliament's leading advocate of mindfulness - a form of meditation he describes as "the breath that allows us to anchor ourselves in the present". And the technique for battling stress has a growing fan base within the walls of the Palace of Westminster, where under-pressure politicians are being taught to spend less time focusing on the things that drain them.
So far 50 MPs and peers have taken part in weekly mindfulness sessions in parliament. And another round of the eight-week course is due to start in February, with a further 25 signed up. Of course not every MP and peer attends every week.
..Ruane's office is also proud that within five minutes of sending out a speculative email to MPs and their staff advertising the mindfulness classes, they got 40 replies expressing interest.
"Although initially sceptical," one MP who has attended the course says. "I am a convert. I'll be recommending it to all those who work with the young people in my constituency."

Mindfulness is now also offered to parliament's employees as well as the staff at the Department of Health. And Cabot Zinn [sic], the author of many a mindfulness book, has been to Downing Street to press the cause with the prime minister's policy unit. Ruane has also taken the meditation guru, although he dislikes the word, to try and persuade his senior Labour colleagues in the shadow cabinet.

Ruane, a former teacher, came across meditation in 1997 while teaching primary school children. And he hopes that with the increase in the number of MPs taking it up - it will start to inform policy. "The more we can develop mindfulness in the heart of parliament and in the heart of government the more mindful policies we can develop," he says.

He adds: "It's cheaper in the long term, the science is proven, it puts the individual in control and there are no long term consequences."
Statistics that show 32% of people aged 16-24 suffer from psychiatric conditions also deeply worry Ruane. He says this suggests there are mental health problems of "almost epidemic proportions" among young people - and that it may only get worse. "It's one of those issues like national security, like care for the elderly where you could develop consensus on it. Mental health is a massive issue with huge financial costs. There are societal issues that I think mindfulness could help to address.""

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