Thinking mindful – geriatrician asks his followers to ‘get high’

I haven’t mentioned Mindfulness in a while.

There has been so much mindlessness of late that I haven’t had time to stop and think. This blog predates Trump and had transited through the Tory-decade into the Covid present.

Mindless environmental degradation, political wrangling, and profiteering – that kind of thing.

One of my first blogs discussed Mindfulness and Patient Safety – this is still close to my heart although has been subsumed by recent events, principally the madness affecting the NHS, health and social care, what we are doing to poor people, the disadvantaged, the elderly (sic) and the, well… sick (non-sic).

Mindfulness has returned through a recent reimagining of my dog walk.

I’ll come back to this in a minute.

First, ill mention Benjamin Zephaniah and getting high.

Benjamin, Professor of Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University, often visits schools to talk about his poetry and experiences, the tough times he encountered growing-up, at times down-and-out in Birmingham.

Something he discusses is getting high.

You have to imagine his avuncular bariton talking to a class of 10-year-olds, ‘Everyone needs to get high. Drugs get you high, crime gets you high, these are not the only way to high. I get high in Kung Fu and poetry, for someone else it is running, football or art, we all need to get high.’

Benjamin didn’t say this, only words to this effect, I have paraphrased from various interviews and his recent autobiography The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah.

My problem, and I think the problem many of us have faced lately is that we don’t get high, or, if we do, we resort to maladaptive behaviours, alcohol, drugs, sugar, over-doing-it at work, that kind of thing.

These are what you might call self-destructive, maladaptive highs. They are non-sustainable highs, and they don’t satisfy any deep or significant sense of meaning.

Getting high is flow. It is total absorption in an activity that is in some way creative or self-enriching.

How do you get high?

Walk in the park?

Getting high is essential, you can’t do it once a year. A fortnight summer break is not a sustainable high for it is finite, too infrequent.

I am not knocking summer holidays, just refocusing.

High, which could be defined as flow, or a state of Mindfulness must become part of your routine to have any meaningful impact on your experience and quality of life.

And this is the dog walking.

Regular readers of this blog will know I have two pups – Stella, our 2-year-old Pointer x Springer (we think) and Blake, seven months old Cocker.

stella

blake

Neither have been very good at walking on the lead.

Stella is actually pretty good when I have her in a ‘Halti’ this is a German head device a little like a bridle, and Blake, well, he only really behaves for his mummy when she has tasty treats.

halti

I’ve been working with Stella.

You might think, hey, Rod, you’ve had Stella for a while, why just now the working?

And yes, I confess, I have taken her on daily walks for the past year, long and short trots across South Yorkshire and she has, for the most, been a good compliant hound – avec Halti.

I have taken her walk after walk, mostly with my head in the clouds – Mindless. Not, completely unaware, rather, occupied either with worries about work or listening to the latest edition of Adam Buxton, Hardcore History or Audible.

My mind has been in a Japanese meta-reality rather than on Wong Lane (street near me).

And yes. I have taken myself in hand.

I have for the past month put the Podcasts to one side (the car) and walked Stella without distractions; just me focusing on her and the walk.

I have used positive reinforcement, ‘Yes, Stella! Good Girl!!’ when she turns her head and walks in step.

Avoidance and an occasional gentle tug when her focus wanders.

I still lose-it. I think about the ambulance waits, old folk being taken to hospital, how our staff will manage. My mind wanders. When my mind meanders – the contra of mindfulness, my dog does too.

I don’t tell her off on these occasions – it’s not her fault that my thoughts are not focused. I return to the moment, make a tongue click and with a brief eye-contact give her a Nutty-Butter Bite.

Denzels-Nut-Butter-Bites-final

She now walks fine on what is called in the textbooks a ‘loose lead’.

I have become more focused.

In a 30 minute walk my mind still wanders, but much less than a month ago. Every minute of Mindful focus enriches me, strengthens healthy neural networks and is an investment in the bank of Happy Rod.

Life has improved.

Stella is happy.

I even wake happy.

We all need to get high.

Folk don’t realise I am high walking down the street.

I am my own man, my dog is her own dog and there are unimaginable troubles in life that can be parked for 30 or 40 minutes until I move-on.

How high or low are you?

IMG_6220

Thanks to the Copper Pot Coffee-Kitchen-Bar, Division Street, Sheffield – latest blog-site venue.

Pictured, full-English vegan with a little too-salty Halloumi 

IMG_3073

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