Somehow, somewhere, across those six weeks, something happened inside me – in my head? my body? my soul? – and I began to understand. Sitting still became a boon and a comfort, even a luxury, rather than a threat or an irritation. And the present moment, right here, right now, began to seem a very comfortable (and comforting) place to be, bereft of dread and full of the possibility of peace and calm.
Mindfulness has generated much excitement over recent years – and won many admirers, including the novelist Julie Myerson, writing above in The Guardian. A twenty-first century reworking of traditional Buddhist meditation, mindfulness teaches us to develop what Myerson calls a “new relationship” with our thoughts: “I could see that they were simply that: thoughts. I did not have to judge them, act on them or indeed do anything very much about them. Sometimes they were interesting, sometimes less so, but they were no more than “events” that arose in the mind and then dispersed again. They did not, as I’d previously imagined, have the power to undo me.”
There’s certainly evidence that mindfulness can help with anxiety, low mood, and stress, but can it play a part in preventing recurrent clinical depression? This is a key question, not least because recurrence is a hallmark of the problem. If we look at those with a history of repeated depression, more than 50% who’ve recently recovered from an episode will relapse over the next 12 months. And with every relapse, the more likely it is that another will follow.