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"MiSt" book cover

Just published: A New Approach to Mindfulness: Mindful Stories – MiSt

Professor Simon Bell with his new publication. Mindful Stories: A Parable

This book provides a new and innovative approach to mindfulness using short stories. Written for individuals and for groups, the book encourages readers to examine their lives, past, present and future. The 100 stories, written in 25 quartets, ascend from the ‘Base Camp’ of self-awareness, through the various levels of the ‘Slope’, and the ‘Crest’, to the ‘Summit’ of a new personal and collective understandings.

Simon Bell. A New Approach to Mindfulness: Mindful Stories – MiSt. Cambridge Scholars, 2020. 

Mindfulness Through Fiction: A Parable is something of an introduction to MiSt. It is available to download as an e-book on Amazon. It contains 20 of the 100 stories in one single story. If you want to explore Mindful Stories, it might be a good idea to take a look at Parable first. 

Are you worried or anxious? Here is a mindful story to consider

By Simon Bell

Take your time, read the story and let the ideas wash over you.

Pan

In the green years of the world, in Homer’s Greece, when hero’s and deific intelligences regularly came together in sunny warm madness’s of colloquy and love, a god of hooves and horns played a pipe to dancing nymphs and dryads in mythic praise of the Lords of all that was. Pan. Descended by confusing paths from Dionysius and the Lords of Misrule. Pan in Greek means: ‘all’. Everything, involving all. The years passed and with it passed the green and sunny age of heroes and gods. The age of steel and concrete found no need for Crazy dancing Pan with his pipes, but still wanted the all and, so all and everything became pan, the all: Pandemonium, Pantheistic, Panchromatic, Pantechnicon, Panegyrical, the confusing list goes on. Eventually you come to Pandemic – all the demos, all the people. 

Maybe drunken and pipe playing Pan would not have been that happy with this development. Pan was the bringer of joy to all the people. All the people. Now, as his name and nature evolved, the trouble begins, and disease is carried to each and every one.

A pandemic can be a terrible weapon to attack people with but in this story, the pandemic is not the weapon. It is the story around the pandemic which is the weapon. A pandemic is defined as “a disease prevalent over a whole country or the world”. Some consider a disease to be pandemic when it is established on all continents. But this is academic. A pandemic is when the mind says it is and this is often determined by the ways in which the news is broadcast, and the story is told. The pandemic of the mind rather than the pandemic of the physical disease. Not an adjective so much as a horror story. Here is a story:

Jane and Paul and Karl are friends and they share a flat in London. They work in the city and have a nice 20-something lifestyle. It’s good. Then the story begins.

Weapon.

The story is told that there is a new killer virus let loose in China. Irresponsibility is the story. Here is a version of the story: The virus should never have existed but for bad thinking and bad planning by bad actors in a poorly controlled situation.

And, the story is told, this is the disease or could be the disease, it does not matter which, that may well be the disease that some people in some places have been talking about for a long time and it could be the disease that may develop into a global killer. Because, the story goes, it may evolve and become much more lethal and then it could kill millions.

Target

Jane and Paul and Karl have jobs in offices with lots of people. They talk, touch, sneeze and cough in the office. Everyone does. A case of the disease, moving invisibly in the air between China and maybe Italy, is found in London.

The story is that the case is potentially fatal, could be the first of hundreds if not thousands. An expert on the internet says that this is likely to produce the worst possible outcome.

Emotion

Jane and Paul and Karl feel fear. Fear is now a thing. It is real and alive. Fear begins in the small dark places of individual thoughts and the conversations between friends. It pops into life in the space between worrisome words. People find out that people are worried. The need for, and wisdom of holidays is questioned, “do we need one?”, and then, they are cancelled. Food is hoarded and social situations are shunned. Strangers are seen as threats. Friends are avoided. People are driven to isolation and suspicion. It all becomes too much. The fear of fear is worse than the fear of the virus. Something in the dark places of people’s minds breaks.

State

Jane goes home to her family in the country, safer out of the metropolis. Paul and Karl decide to stay, but for different reasons. One is determined to ‘stick it out’, the other is determined not to appear weak. They both stay but increasingly confine themselves to their own areas in the flat. They meet and talk less and less.

Now the story becomes the carrier of the greatest power of the pandemic. Not the disease which kills a few thousand people in a world where millions die every week from a whole range of totally avoidable causes, but the story told about the disease, this has the potency to debilitate entire continents. The real enemy is one which Pan would have recognised. The real enemy is the story about the disease. This is spread by doxia, a Greek word meaning opinion. Now doxia is weaponised and out of control. Opinion needs no facts or truth. It lives in thought bubbles on the internet, isolated chat rooms and news silos feeding the fires of selected opinion. It has been given licence by the most powerful man on earth. Doxia feeds doxia. In the spaces retained by the voices of those who know least, doxia is spread and with it the untruth. This is a disease of the mind, manifestly vaster and more dangerous than any disease made by nature.

Jane, at home with her parents and Paul and Karl, in their separate parts of the flat are now in uncontained states of anxiety, an anxiety caught as surely as any virus is caught, by human interaction. From this point the story goes in one of two directions, amplification or attenuation. There are two scenarios to explore. In scenario 1 we see the consequence of amplification.

To amplify is easy, doxia produces division and chaos in society leading to a break down in civic and collective norms. Food hoarding, animosity, fighting at petrol stations. This eventually results in the reduction of individual personal and collective responsibility. No surprises that the outcome feeds back into the bonfire of the chaos. Our three find themselves isolated and isolating, lost and losing, helpless and unhelpful. So, we need to consider scenario 2. Attenuation.

To attenuate is not so easy, requiring an act of will to move against the flow of amplification. If the will is present, then contained collaboration at scale can lead to new and innovative collective norms feeding an upgrading of personal and collective fear-facing qualities. Feedback leads to a new and sustainable normal which allows scope for cure and correction, hope and improvement. The crisis does not ‘go to waste’. Here the three friends have other alternate ways to proceed with their lives. Better, more hopeful ways.

The green years of the world are long past. But Pan can still pick up his pipes and play the tune of the turning of the years. The mad dance of life, the life lived and living. Living does not care about the quality of the dance. But humans do. Which path will the dance follow?

(© Simon Bell)

Consider, what is the Meaning of the story? Next, what is relevant to you in this meaning? What value do you place on the relevance? Does this give you any insights? Finally, what might you do differently as a consequence of considering any insights? 

Artwork © Rachel Furze

Using Mindful Stories – reading, reflecting, renewing – how is it done?

By Simon Bell

Mindful stories as explored on the Bayswater site are intended to help with the renewal of the self and the group. If the idea of the stories in the first place is to help individuals to find peace with themselves and groups to find harmony, then maybe more needs to be said to explain how? How do we find peace and harmony? Surely, if this could be achieved by simply reading a story now and then, the history of human progress would be rather different?

True.

There is more to it and the stories are not an answer. Rather they are a means to gain insight and agency.

What does that mean?

Well, the stories are fictions. They are not strictly true in the literal sense of the word. They are fictions written to illustrate a number of points. Points which on inspection, lead to other points. I would argue that the stories can be read at four levels and each one allows for a different perspective, a different insight and a different opportunity to grow. The stories occupy a space which allows arms-length assessment to take place, assessment at arms-length from lived reality.

Take the last four audio stories on the Bayswater site: The Child, The Walk, Commuting and Going. Each one might be listened to at any one of four possible levels.

  1. As a story or fable. Things happen and then they stop.
  2. As a story pointing to things behind the story. Things happen, puzzling things maybe, unusual things which point to other things, and then they stop.
  3. As a story within and governing the story. Things happen and the cause of those things, the motivations behind the things on the surface are considered, then they stop.
  4. As your story. Things happen and these things indicate ideas and concerns in your own life. You make links and drawn out some inferences maybe, then it stops. 

Not all stories are appropriate for fourfold analysis, but it can help to try in most cases.

Reading the story in a mindful manner can lead to useful reflections. These reflections once considered for meaning can result in renewal of interest, passion and engagement with tricky items.

By Reading, Reflecting and looking for Renewal peace and harmony for individual and group can become.

Artwork © Rachel Furze

Going – A Mindful Audio Story

By Simon Bell

Going

Let the story sink in. When you are ready, here are the questions for you to consider:

Question 1. What is the main meaning of the story?

What message or core or essential meaning does the story hold for you? Can you set them free? There may be many meanings which occur to you but for now try to prioritise just one.

When you feel clear on this, hold it in your mind and read the next question:

Question 2. How is this meaning of relevance to you?

How does the story impact on your life and your challenges right now? Why is it important to you at this point in your life? What element emerges as being most relevant?

Again, give yourself time to think of your response and when you feel prepared try the next question:

Question 3. Think about what is the main value that you can draw from this relevance of the story. What does this value bring to the concern you identified earlier?

Don’t rush your response. Take time to think about the value. The word ‘value’ has connotations for us. What do we value and what of value is here? When you are set try this:

Question 4. What insight does the identified value provide for you?

Finally:

Question 5. What action might you engage with as a consequence?

Feel free to listen to the story several time and don’t expect instant results from considering a mindful story. The whole point is that the story can act as a gateway to another level. Give yourself time to let the ideas which come from the story settle down. Each time you reconsider you may get to a deeper level of meaning and this could result in new ideas.

I would be really pleased to receive your comments and thoughts.

Artwork © Rachel Furze

Commuting – A Mindful Audio Story

By Simon Bell

Commuting

Let the story sink in. When you are ready, here are the questions for you to consider:

Question 1. What is the main meaning of the story?

What message or core or essential meaning does the story hold for you? Can you set them free? There may be many meanings which occur to you but for now try to prioritise just one.

When you feel clear on this, hold it in your mind and read the next question:

Question 2. How is this meaning of relevance to you?

How does the story impact on your life and your challenges right now? Why is it important to you at this point in your life? What element emerges as being most relevant?

Again, give yourself time to think of your response and when you feel prepared try the next question:

Question 3. Think about what is the main value that you can draw from this relevance of the story. What does this value bring to the concern you identified earlier?

Don’t rush your response. Take time to think about the value. The word ‘value’ has connotations for us. What do we value and what of value is here? When you are set try this:

Question 4. What insight does the identified value provide for you?

Finally:

Question 5. What action might you engage with as a consequence?

Feel free to listen to the story several time and don’t expect instant results from considering a mindful story. The whole point is that the story can act as a gateway to another level. Give yourself time to let the ideas which come from the story settle down. Each time you reconsider you may get to a deeper level of meaning and this could result in new ideas.

I would be really pleased to receive your comments and thoughts.

Artwork © Rachel Furze

The Walk – A Mindful Audio Story

By Simon Bell

The Walk

Let the story sink in. When you are ready, here are the questions for you to consider:

Question 1. What is the main meaning of the story?

What message or core or essential meaning does the story hold for you? Can you set them free? There may be many meanings which occur to you but for now try to prioritise just one.

When you feel clear on this, hold it in your mind and read the next question:

Question 2. How is this meaning of relevance to you?

How does the story impact on your life and your challenges right now? Why is it important to you at this point in your life? What element emerges as being most relevant?

Again, give yourself time to think of your response and when you feel prepared try the next question:

Question 3. Think about what is the main value that you can draw from this relevance of the story. What does this value bring to the concern you identified earlier?

Don’t rush your response. Take time to think about the value. The word ‘value’ has connotations for us. What do we value and what of value is here? When you are set try this:

Question 4. What insight does the identified value provide for you?

Finally:

Question 5. What action might you engage with as a consequence?

Feel free to listen to the story several time and don’t expect instant results from considering a mindful story. The whole point is that the story can act as a gateway to another level. Give yourself time to let the ideas which come from the story settle down. Each time you reconsider you may get to a deeper level of meaning and this could result in new ideas.

I would be really pleased to receive your comments and thoughts.

Artwork © Rachel Furze

The Child – An Audio Mindful Story

By Simon Bell

THE CHILD

The Child

Let the story sink in. When you are ready, here are the questions for you to consider:

Question 1. What is the main meaning of the story?

What message or core or essential meaning does the story hold for you? Can you set them free? There may be many meanings which occur to you but for now try to prioritise just one.

When you feel clear on this, hold it in your mind and read the next question:

Question 2. How is this meaning of relevance to you?

How does the story impact on your life and your challenges right now? Why is it important to you at this point in your life? What element emerges as being most relevant?

Again, give yourself time to think of your response and when you feel prepared try the next question:

Question 3. Think about what is the main value that you can draw from this relevance of the story. What does this value bring to the concern you identified earlier?

Don’t rush your response. Take time to think about the value. The word ‘value’ has connotations for us. What do we value and what of value is here? When you are set try this:

Question 4. What insight does the identified value provide for you?

Finally:

Question 5. What action might you engage with as a consequence?

Feel free to listen to the story several time and don’t expect instant results from considering a mindful story. The whole point is that the story can act as a gateway to another level. Give yourself time to let the ideas which come from the story settle down. Each time you reconsider you may get to a deeper level of meaning and this could result in new ideas.

I would be really pleased to receive your comments and thoughts.

Artwork © Rachel Furze

Summing up the Quartet

By Simon Bell

The need for Mindful Stories

The need for Mindful Stories

I really hope you have enjoyed reading the Mindful Stories. Maybe you found them challenging too?

You may be asking yourself; “What are the stories for and what are they intended to do?”

Well, in my experience there are lots of triggers which can lead people to want to make use of the stories but at a general level, if you have difficult issues in your personal, professional or group/ team lives, working with the Mindful Stories can help you by providing you with creative thinking spaces to reflect back upon your actual experiences.

This process of assisted meditation can open up all kinds of new avenues of opportunity. Just by working by yourself with a story. 

If you would like facilitation with reflective learning processes, the Bayswater Institute has Mindful Story Master Classes, Workshops, Open Readings and personal coaching that can help you navigate your way from difficult places to greater clarity.

But this blog began by querying what the Mindful Stories are and what do they do?

For my suggestions, read on…

Over the past four weeks I have been sharing a quartet of stories, one a week. Prior to this I had been distributing stories on LinkedIn but, over the last month the stories have been presented in the pattern intended by my method. Less random and more an intended sequence. 

To understand the pattern, you will have been very persistent and patient and read the blogs of the two weeks prior to the last quartet. Just in case you have not done that, or you have forgotten, let’s recap.

Six weeks ago, I described the primary method for interpreting the Mindful Stories, the MRVIA method. About this I said:

“Meaning, Relevance, Value, Insight and Action or MRVIA.

This is a learning cycle of sorts with action feeding back into the review of meaning. … The idea is that the five stages provide a journey into depth and out again”.

Then, five weeks ago I set out the quartet cycle for the stories. I said:

“MRVIA is intended to be a relevant approach for considering any Mindful Stories but the stories themselves are specifically intended to attend to the subliminal issues contained in four realities, The Quartet, which we all find ourselves in. The Quartet refers to:

  • Me and Myself
  • Me and My World
  • My Group and My World
  • My Group and Me

I have written stories which attend to issues in for each of the domains of The Quartet.

The stories are stories and can be used for any purpose which a story is appropriate for but, the specific intention behind them is to resonate with one of the four realities set out in The Quartet.”

For the last four weeks, I have been presenting you with a story a week. The stories were: Look, Point, Seek and New Normal.

  • Look was intended for you to ponder Me and Myself
  • Point was more about Me and My World
  • Seek really focused on the issues and potentials of My Group and My World
  • New Normal related to My Group and Me

Each story is written to be read addressing tasks. Some stories address many tasks, but all have at least two.

  • Task One, the presenting task, is all about a thing that can be done, is done or has been done.
  • The second Task is about the subliminal behind Task One and the doing it usually involves and requires.

Most people and organisations spend almost all their time dealing with Task 1. I like to think of Task 1 as being synonymous with the weather. Most of us focus on the weather. It is important to be weather-wise, but Task 2 is more like Climate. Dealing with the weather without thinking about the deep climatic issues which govern and control it can be thought of as being a little short sighted. 

You can read any of the stories at face value, as Task 1 or, you can read them and look for the Second Task. Looking for the Task 2 may well help you to deal with an issue or potential in your life (or the life of your group) which is deeper, more complicated, more important but hidden by the bustle of Task 1. Task 2 is often subliminal.

The seeking for Task 2 is a major intention behind the Mindful Stories and an intention for you to carry forward into your daily life.

I very much welcome your thoughts and correspondence about the Stories and would love to talk to you about how they might be used in your situation.

Not convinced? Well, hearing is believing maybe.

Starting next week, I will be presenting another quartet, but as audio files for you to listen to. All you have to do is click on the post on LinkedIn. This will take you to the Bayswater Institute news feed. From here you can access the audio file of the story, listen to it and then review it with the MRVIA process.

So, from the 10th June 2019, an audio recording of a Mindful Story will be appearing weekly on the Bayswater Institute homepage under our ‘News’ feed. I hope you find them interesting.

I am intrigued to hear from you. Your reflections about each of the stories. I look forward to your thoughtful comments and questions.

Simon Bell, CEO of the Bayswater Institute – simon.bell@bayswaterinst.org

All Artwork © Rachel Furze

Taking normal for granted? A Mindful Story

By Simon Bell

NEW NORMAL

New Normal illustration

It had been blowing for days on end. The wind had been raging for so long now no one could remember quite when it began. Unusual? Certainly. An emergency? What would an emergency for lengthy periods of wind mean? What would it mean in terms of the reasons for it and what would it mean in terms of the lives impacted? These are braided questions.
“Just the new normal”, Ken at the corner shop had suggested in his deep, jovial voice. “No need to worry, we still get the dog-food delivery!”
Trying to reassure her, he added with a wink:
“We’re not going to run out of bread and milk in the near future Jenny”.
He did not say anything about the regular shortages in fresh veg, paper, cooking oil, potatoes. Fruit. The list went on. She did not think it wise to spoil his optimistic mood. She had smiled uncertainly as he helped her with her bag and then took time to open and close the shop door for her, lest it whip from her hand as she angled her body out into the wind-blown street. Some-how his easy kindness and smiling assurances were not convincing.
As she laboured up the hill towards her small semi, she realised just how tired she was of the wind. It was constant and inescapable. Moaning around her house, slamming the doors, making it impossible to open windows, it was a constant presence but a symptom of what?
The dog was not keen either. Walks were short and sometimes plain dangerous. Falling branches had claimed many lives and falling trees a lot more. Not that there were too many trees around her bit of town anymore. Even so, getting from A to B was a nightmare. Recreational walking was a hazard. Her dog was not happy and nor was she. Who was?
It had been months ago that the TV news had noted the dip in the jet-stream. She had not even known what the jet-stream was until then. In conversations with her neighbours it appeared that there was to be a threat of a prolonged period of gales. Of course people had begun talking about the windy autumn and some said it was the windiest on record. But, the older members of the community poo poo’d the idea. It had been much windier in 1987 they said. But surely that was not right?
It had begun innocently enough. Certainly, the leaves had come down early and in great abundance causing all kinds of issues on road and rail but, you expected winds in the autumn. But then, there had been no let up. Days of high winds had turned into weeks. Autumn came and went; winter began and now the winds howled with a new ferocity. Snow and sleet made all kinds of event impossible. Winter fairs and sports events were cancelled or indefinitely postponed. Visits from friends and family were scratched from the calendar and still the wind keened and wailed.
Now it was Spring and ‘new normal’ just about summed it up. Winter receded but as the warmth began to build a new threat emerged in the form of a protracted heat wave. The inverse of an Indian Summer. Summer before summer. And the wind showed no sign of abatement. The gales continued and this brought to the public mind a new challenge. Tempests and heat. An evil combination. New words and phrases were appearing on the news. Gone were “flood” and “tree-loss”. The new vocabulary included; “desertification”, “massive soil-erosion”, “dust-bowl”. Was this new normal too?
Turning on her television and clicking the volume up to combat the never-ceasing racket from outside, Jenny settled down to try to take her mind of things. Outside the wind continued to howl and moan, a mindless cypher of the change inherent and emergent from the human achievement. A kind of marker of a unique inflection point. The moment had come and gone five months earlier without fanfare or even much notice, other than comments from a few worried looking scientists whose dire prognoses did not make it onto the prime-time news.
But the die was cast and ‘he who sows the wind’… as they say.
A consequence emergent from complex interactions, each of them as unremarkable as the fluttering of a butterfly wing but the outcome scaled and geared on a spring of titanic, possibly civilisation-breaking inevitability.

Let the story sink in. When you are ready, here are the questions for you to consider:

Question 1. What is the main meaning of the story?

What message or core or essential meaning does the story hold for you? There may be many meanings which occur to you but for now try to prioritise just one.
When you feel clear on this, hold it in your mind and read the next question:

Question 2. How is this meaning of relevance to you?

How does the story impact on your life and your challenges right now? Why is it important to you at this point in your life? What element emerges as being most relevant?
Again, give yourself time to think of your response and when you feel prepared try the next question:

Question 3. Think about what is the main value that you can draw from this relevance of the story.

What does this value bring to the concern you identified earlier?
Don’t rush your response. Take time to think about the value. The word ‘value’ is an interesting word. What do we value and what of value is here? When you are set try this:

Question 4. What insight does the identified value provide for you?

Finally:

Question 5. What action might you engage with as a consequence?

Don’t expect instant results from considering a mindful story. The whole point is that the story can act as a gateway to another level. Give yourself time to let the ideas which come from the story settle down. Each time you reconsider you may get to a deeper level of meaning and this could result in new ideas.

Artwork © Rachel Furze

Seek – A Mindful Story

By Simon Bell

Most of the time we are looking for something. From a lost key to a new career. Seeking. I know I am often seeking. To seek: a verb meaning to attempt to find something.

Seek illustration

Here are some definitions. To start with an example of seeking: “they came to seek shelter from biting winter winds”. To seek includes the idea of looking to find. Or seeking might be articulated as an: attempt or desire to obtain or achieve something. For example: “the new regime sought his extradition”. We might go further, seeking means to ask for something from someone, e.g. “he sought help from the police”.

The seeking process implies two things. A seeker and the sought. Subject and object. But, there is more to it than that. Between the seeker and the sought, in the gap inbetween, is the seeking, the finding, the obtaining, the asking. The quality of the seeking.

Finding, obtaining and asking are the quality requirements for the seeker to find the sought.

Now, generally speaking, we do not think about all of this. When I am looking for something I do not consciously hold in my head: “I am the seeker wishing to find, obtain or ask for the sought”. I just go and seek. Maybe that is why I often don’t find what I am looking for? Maybe I could be more precise in my seeking? Maybe it would help?

Problems abound in any seeking process. Here are a few questions which regularly arise.

  • Who is the seeker? Is this clear?
  • What is being sought? Is there one thing or many?
  • Do all the seekers agree on what is being sought?
  • How is the process of finding, obtaining and asking being organised?
  • What is the process?

Here are two short examples which may help to make a case for some qualities of seeking.

Example 1. They had set out but had no idea of what the destination looked like. All of them were fearful of what they might find but they had not talked about their fears. There was an iron leader, and his direction of travel had emerged as a consequence of past failures.

Example 2. They had all agreed on the destination, means and route and how they would know when they arrived. The various tasks which the journey suggested had been allocated to members of the team and there had been debate over who was prepared to do what. 

Who found the South Pole?

When you have finished the story give the following questions a little thought:

  • How is the story meaningful to you?
  • How is this meaning relevant to your life?
  • What value does this relevance have in terms of how you may change?
  • What Insight follows from the sense of value to change?
  • How will you change?

Of course, it is good to think, how will you know if your change has worked?

Artwork © Rachel Furze