Really mindful escapes
The BBC Four Mindful Escapes programme seems more an annoyance than an exercise in mindfulness. Voiceovers of films of tropical animals and landscapes seem inappropriate in a time of national lockdown.
Mindfulness is meant to be about that which is immediate, about living in the present moment. What would seem more useful to those weary of restrictions and prohibitions would be meditations upon the things that everyone encounters, upon the things they might see from their own window, things they might see in their own gardens, things they might experience in the walk they are permitted or on the visit to the supermarket that they are allowed.
Even in extremis there are people who have the capacity to live in the present moment, people who can find delight in the ordinary and the everyday.
Victor Frankl, the Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor wrote of a young Jewish woman who was with him in a concentration camp:
This young woman knew that she would die in the next few days. But when I talked to her she was cheerful in spite of this knowledge.
“I am grateful that fate has hit me so hard,” she told me. “In my former life I was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplishments seriously.”
Pointing through the window of the hut, she said, “This tree here is the only friend I have in my loneliness.”
Through that window she could see just one branch of a chestnut tree, and on the branch were two blossoms.
“I often talk to this tree,” she said to me.
I was startled and didn’t quite know how to take her words. Was she delirious? Did she have occasional hallucinations? Anxiously I asked her if the tree replied.
“Yes.” What did it say to her?
She answered, “It said to me, ‘I am here — I am here — I am life, eternal life.'”
It is a strange and remarkable story.
In the beauty of two chestnut blossoms, on a single branch of a single tree, in that hideously awful place, that young woman found spiritual reassurance.
If someone in a concentration camp can find a mindful moment, a sense of the beauty in something that might not have been noticed, then the opportunities in England in 2021 must be infinite.
BBC Four would be more engaging if the images it used were not of the sort that the majority of people will never encounter, but instead were those things we might see on a February day. Orange and purple crocuses blooming on a patch of muddy ground seem more rooted in my reality than footage of a sloth swimming a river and climbing a tree.
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