By Benjamin R Sewell (Dorset Mind Campaigns and Fundraising Volunteer).
What a privilege it was to be part of the audience last night at The Lighthouse for Ruby Wax’s latest book tour performance called ‘Frazzled – a guide to mindfulness’.
Capable and inspiring; her new command of mindfulness is thanks to her Oxford University Master’s degree in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy.
It’s a heartfelt, hysterical hula that carries a strong message…
Performing to a full house, Ruby Wax was on fine form. She opened with a succession of fast-paced stories in response to questions previously posed online about mindfulness.
Ruby is well-known as an orator of mental health awareness. In the past I have felt that despite interviews and talk shows on the subject, she neglected to explain clearly what mattered. But at last she shines to her full potential and we witnessed an articulate, authentic ambassador; rich in wit and sharp of mind.
With just a clipboard for company, this one-woman show took place in a winged armchair on a red rug. Ruby expertly crafted comedic illustrations of mindfulness throughout the show. These were initially of her mother’s parenting skills, which were met with continuous eruptions of laughter and applause.
Poole loved her, and so did I.
Using her own experience of depression, Ruby framed her view on the darkness of the illness and how it disables you. She described it that, “There is no self; but you do hear your own loop tapes…your brain will snare you…Mindfulness is like wearing two condoms!”
Surprisingly, Ruby Wax began her guide to mindfulness by explaining what Cortisol is (a hormone produced by the brain’s Adrenal Gland in response to stress). She explained how it is harmful to our cognition and behaviour in large doses. By practicing mindfulness – preaching omitted – stress and racing thoughts can be relieved.
This should be the stuff that accompanies English, maths and science lessons at primary school don’t you think?
Ruby even, with no visible resistance, enticed the audience to participate in two mindfulness exercises. We were all with her. You could hear a pin drop and the atmosphere was intoxicating and respectful. We all wanted more. And we got it, in bucket loads.
The science behind mindfulness
Ruby’s understanding of neuro-science continued throughout her performance and this did not make the audience glaze over. In fact, it personally filled me with giddy joy when she continued to mention the importance of the brain’s Amygdala. It’s the part of the Limbic System responsible for emotional connections, memory and decision making.
She also championed one of my favourite subjects, neuroplasticity and mindfulness, in neon lights. This is the brain’s ability to learn new behaviours, no matter what our age, by forming new neural pathways. It’s highly recommended.
‘Frazzled’ goes a long way to demystify mental health and mindfulness. Voodoo is long since dead. Long live fact over fiction and helping people to understand that they are not their mind. Recovery and managing mental health can begin by understanding brain biology. No Masters required.
Post interval and book-signing frenzy, the second half was an open question and answer session, akin to ‘an audience with’. Ushers just about kept up with audience questions and microphone availability. Ruby handled this part of the show with expertise and entertaining quips. She was as quick as a flash and kept everyone fully engaged.
Interestingly, most of the questions raised by the local audience involved how mental health affects families and young people and whether mindfulness could benefit individuals. She called mental health ‘an epidemic’ and how educating children and young people at an early age is paramount, as their brains are more malleable.
Dorset Mind’s Youth Services
This subject carries a great deal of interest locally. Dorset Mind’s Youth Services campaign concentrates on supporting young people with mental health challenges. £55,000 will pay for one year’s provision of local services. You can find details of how you can donate here. To stay tuned for more information, follow @DorsetMind on Twitter and Facebook.
And the local focus does not stop there…
Frazzled mental health cafes
Ruby has also partnered with Marks and Spencer to create Frazzled Cafe – ‘A safe, anonymous and non-judgemental environment where people who are feeling frazzled can meet on a regular basis to talk and share their personal stories.’ I strongly recommend signing up at www.frazzledcafe.org – so once a Frazzled Café at your local Marks and Spencer opens you can join in. Marvellous idea.
A wise mindfulness prophet, claimed that the greatest gift is somebody giving you his or her fullest attention and yet we forget to give ourselves this attention we need every day with mindfulness, Ruby Wax is equipped with all the relevant metaphors and anecdotes of an everyday neuroscientist and psychotherapist, you would invite to dinner at the drop of a hat.
‘Frazzled’ is more than funny and Ruby Wax commands your undivided full attention, as mindfully as you can muster. Especially the finalé that involved her adorning colourful garlands for a slapstick Hawaiian Hula to Cindy Lauper’s ‘Girls just want to have fun!’ Bravo!