I chose epilepsy as the topic for my major final year project. My aim was to highlight the general lack of knowledge in the UK about epilepsy and the problems this causes sufferers.
The Wall Street Journal recently claimed mindfulness-based meditation’s health benefits were limited. However with mindfulness recently on Time’s front-cover, and Mindfulness Apps available for mobiles, this apparently contradicts other publications and many people’s experience.
Adrian Rides, mindfulness practitioner and teacher for over 10 years based at The Now Project, describes mindfulness as a meditative way of observing your own thoughts while still fully engaged in daily activities: “It’s about waking up – being as alert, alive as possible to this moment so your attention is 100% in the present. When you do that, something happens: your thinking quietens – it creates a quiet space called thoughtless awareness…,
“Accessing thoughtless awareness allows you to engage fully – free of the dialogue in your head. For many people that dialogue’s not altogether comfortable and it could be downright destructive and painful. So to be able to consciously choose to step out of the dialogue in your head’s quite a nice ability to have.”
Doing this without judging or trying to change your thoughts you discover nearly all your emotional discomfort – guilt, fear, anger etc., proponents claim. This isn’t caused because of what’s really happening but by our own thoughts. Once you see this you can decide to just withdraw your attention from the discomfort. Because you wouldn’t choose to be in discomfort, things change and you begin to feel better.
Medical News Today criticised limited research supporting The Wall Street Journal’s and similar articles, downplaying mindfulness’ benefits. That doctor believes the medical profession must update its awareness of the benefits mindfulness based therapy offers.
Paul Vallins, a client of Mr Rides agrees. A cocaine addict for ten years, he’s been clean for seven – something he attributes to mindfulness.
“It’s a completely different reality I’m living in,” he says.
“It takes practice. It’s difficult. Your mind doesn’t want to give up. There’s the ego in the pain body you must deal with. The ego’s your false sense of self… who you think you are.
“I was in a lot of pain then so at first practising was easy for me because there was no way out and that happens to lots of people I find. You take mindfulness on, it comes from a place of: they need to surrender.”
Mr Vallins now has a roofing business and teaches mindfulness himself. Mindfulness continues growing in popularity – even MPs take mindfulness classes in Westminster. It seems anyone really can benefit.
A seriously disabled Hoxton man claims he’s unable to obtain the benefits he feels entitled to, as his local Jobcentre insist he’s fit for work.
Jay Pacer, 37, a scaffold worker from Arden Estate, was born with two different curves in his spine, causing him constant back-pain, a condition known as kyphoscoliosis.
Unemployed for seven years, Mr Pacer claimed incapacity benefit until September when, due to Government changes in the benefits system, his benefits stopped.
“I’d had a full medical and passed my Personal Capability Assessment (PCA), letting me claim incapacity benefit from Hoxton Street Jobcentre,” he said.
“Then, because of changes, I had to be reassessed but failed. I may wear my pain well but just because I can touch my toes, doesn’t mean I’m fit to work.”
To look at, Mr Pacer doesn’t seem disabled but his condition means his symptoms are difficult for anyone but specialists to measure.
“I had another assessment by my doctor three weeks ago and [have] done everything the Jobcentre asked, but haven’t received any benefits since 22 September.
“I was told to send the forms to Glasgow but now they can’t find them. I’ve been in there loads of times but it’s still not sorted and I’m surviving on air. If I don’t get help soon I’ll need to turn to crime just to survive.”
The situation illustrates criticisms of Government benefit changes by disability rights campaigners, including Disability Alliance and SCOPE.
Hoxton Street Jobcentre refused to comment when asked about Mr Pacer’s case.