Disagreeing better?

Amidst the usual Brexit back-and-forth, Theresa May fielded a question about mindfulness during Prime Minister’s Questions last month. It was probably a welcome break from the usual topics of discussion. But it also served, too, as an indicator of how far mindfulness has become normalised within policy circles.

I recently spoke to Jamie Bristow, Director of The Mindfulness Initiative, a charitable policy institute which works with politicians in the UK and internationally to explore the case for mindfulness-based programmes across a range of spheres of public policy – in health contexts, in schools, in the criminal justice system and in workplaces. I’ve been working with Jamie recently to make the case, in a policy context, for thinking about training our capacity to pay attention to our present-moment experience of mind and body as more than just a fix for specific policy issues; to think of mindfulness more holistically as a fouundational capacity to support our development, quite broadly, as human beings.

In my recent interview with Jamie, though, we reflect back on how all of this started: through an eight-week mindfulness teaching programme for politicians in the British Parliament, which was first run in 2013. Over 200 politicians – MPs and Members of the House of Lords – have taken the course. Jamie tells me how, running these courses, they found that politicians started practicing mindfulness for personal benefit—to focus better, for example, or to deal better with stress —but quickly moved into thinking about the kinds of benefits that the practice of mindfulness could have at the wider level of society. What’s more, there emerged interest in how mindfulness could have a positive impact on the political process itself, by recognising that what matters in the business of debating policies, agreeing on legislation, and so on is not just the ‘what’, but the ‘how’.

“Mindfulness, it seems, might help elected official to disagree better”, he tells me. You can read in full here.

Dan Nixon leads Perspectiva’s initiative on ‘Paying Attention’


Image of storm clouds: cjohnson7 via wikimedia. Creative Commons

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