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Mindfulness

 

I attended a conference recently that addressed the big question of how education can prepare children for a future in which the majority of jobs do not yet even exist. What are these jobs of the future that everyone is talking about? Of course, nobody knows. I imagine in an increasingly automated world, there will likely be a whole service industry set up to care for our robots.

Perhaps a better way to look at this conundrum is to consider the jobs that exist now that hadn’t been invented at the time that I was asked the question ‘what do you want to do when you grow up?’ I certainly hadn’t considered being a social media influencer or a fast food delivery driver.

Recently I have been bombarded with speculative emails from mindfulness coaches, offering their services to improve the wellbeing of both teachers and pupils. This is certainly a job that didn’t exist in 1973 – a year I remember well, with countless evenings spent sitting in a dark room watching a burning candle. Alongside the baby boom, the energy crisis did wonders for our collective mindfulness.

With necessity being the mother of invention, there was probably a reason why mindfulness coaches didn’t exist. Mindfulness was our modus operandi. Pretty much everything we did in the 1970s involved being mindful.

Every trip – car journeys, the train up to London or the bus to school, involved endless hours looking out of the window. And when we weren’t on public transport we walked everywhere.

In the pre-digital world, there were only three channels on TV, which only occasionally broadcast real programmes. My sister and I spent whole days watching the trade test transmission, and we never missed Jackanory, a simple show where a grown-up (mostly Bernard Cribbins or Kenneth Williams) sat in a chair and read a story. And at other times we even read real books ourselves.

We played games like ‘I-Spy with my little eye’, and ‘hunt the thimble’ and enjoyed board games like, ‘Frustration’. We played ‘noughts and crosses’ and ‘boxes’ – and were never without a jigsaw puzzle. My sister knitted things whilst I assembled Airfix models; and pocket money was spent on comics that included things like join-the-dots, word searches and spot-the-difference.

Pre-‘pre-prep’ and the advent of the microwave, we cooked real food, every day, from fresh ingredients (with, admittedly, the occasional Angel Delight). The 1970s was perhaps the heyday of mindfulness, with simple things done at a slow pace, but I never remember being bored.

So, fifty years on, in a very different digital world, do we need mindfulness lessons in schools and staff training to help us all to slow down? I see this as another thing to fit in to a schedule that’s already far too busy, but receiving mindfulness emails is a good reminder to do less, turn off the screens and enjoy doing real things in the moment. Between us, I think we could make ‘mindfulness practitioner’ a job from the past.

William