‘Slow down your think­ing. Feel the seren­ity that comes from re­al­is­ing you’re the bore you’ve al­ways thought’ ht’

The Guardian - G2 - - Arts - John Crace

Ti­tle Ten to Zen Au­thor Owen O’Kane Pub­lisher Blue­bird Price £10.99

Hi. It’s me, Owen, and I want you to know that I’m here for you. Thank you for pick­ing up my book. It means a lot that you have cho­sen to put your trust in me. I’m guess­ing that, since you have man­aged to read this far, you are prob­a­bly feel­ing some­thing has been miss­ing from your life. That some­thing has been me. With my work­out you can be the per­son you have al­ways wanted to be.

My ap­proach doesn’t de­mand you waste years in ther­apy try­ing to un­der­stand why you are so use­less. In­stead I can get you to be­come per­fectly com­fort­able with the fu­til­ity of your ex­is­tence in just 10 min­utes. That’s why there is Ten in the ti­tle. And don’t be put off by the word Zen. I’m not try­ing to turn you into a Bud­dhist monk. The publishers just said I needed a word that rhymed with ten.

Be­fore we start, I want you to lie down and re­lax. Per­haps you are feel­ing stressed about not be­ing able to com­plete the work­out in 10 min­utes. Don’t be. Ten is only there to rhyme with zen. Deep. If your work­out over­runs by a minute that is OK: 11 also sort of rhymes with zen. And ten. That’s the sym­me­try of my psy­chic world. Ten to Zen is based on my work with my pa­tients. Some of whom are A-list celebri­ties. And some of whom are com­plete no­bod­ies. Like you. Wel­come.

My work­out is based on the lat­est cog­ni­tive be­havioural ther­apy and mind­ful­ness re­search, much of which has been dis­cred­ited by other psy­chother­a­pists. Which only goes to prove that they should also be do­ing the work­out to set them on the right track.

This de­mands com­mit­ment. You may find the go­ing tough. You may feel like giv­ing up. There have been times when I have been do­ing this work­out and my own amyg­dala has been play­ing up. These are the times I needed to hang in. You must too. Try to imag­ine me as the Joe Wicks of the mind. Only less shouty.

Your thoughts are not who you are. Su­san, an in­ter­na­tional PR con­sul­tant, used to be anx­ious about be­ing an hour late for every­thing. By en­cour­ag­ing her to be­lieve she was liv­ing in New York, I man­aged to re­pro­gramme her think­ing so she was al­ways four hours early. Try to slow down your think­ing. Write down your worst fears. Feel the seren­ity that comes from find­ing out you are the bore you’ve al­ways thought you were.

We’re ready to start. For the first minute, I want you to stop what­ever you are do­ing and take time out of your busy life. Al­low your­self to feel the plea­sure of be­ing in­ert. Once you are per­fectly still, use the sec­ond minute to check in on your emo­tions. Tell your­self that what­ever emo­tions you are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing are per­fectly nor­mal. One pa­tient, Chris, a trans­port sec­re­tary, used to tell me that he couldn’t pre­vent him­self from feel­ing as if he was fail­ing at every­thing. I set his mind at rest by telling him it was per­fectly nor­mal and he re­ally was as use­less as he feared.

Dur­ing min­utes three and four, you have to find your per­sonal calm space. It can help to name your calm place. Mine is called Ian. To find your calm space, place your arms across your chest and start tap­ping with each hand al­ter­nately 20 times. This may sound a bit new age but it is based on hard science, known as eye move­ment de­sen­si­ti­sa­tion re­pro­cess­ing, patented by some­one who op­er­ates out of a back room in Colin­dale.

The next step is to spend two min­utes con­cen­trat­ing on your breath­ing. Breathe in. Then breathe out, think­ing about where the air is go­ing. It’s eas­ier than it sounds. I once had a pa­tient called Jeremy who was con­vinced he never breathed. Af­ter sev­eral months I was able to con­vince him he did.

Once you have mastered breath­ing, I want you to fo­cus on mind­ful thoughts. To ac­cept your­self as you re­ally are. Theresa was a prime min­is­ter who used to worry she was do­ing a ter­ri­ble job. I was able to tell her this was a per­fectly nor­mal feel­ing – she re­ally was do­ing a ter­ri­ble job and she needed to em­brace her in­ner shit­ness. Once she had learned to do this, she felt much bet­ter about ruin­ing the coun­try.

Lastly, I want you to wear a cloak. Do­ing Ten to Zen can make you chilly and it’s im­por­tant to keep warm. You can imag­ine the cloak is pro­tect­ing you from all bad things that might hap­pen. Like dy­ing. Un­less you re­ally are dy­ing, in which case there’s not much I can do.

And that’s about it. Try to do this all at least once a day. Even if it’s only for a cou­ple of min­utes. But don’t give your­self too hard a time if it all gets a bit too much and you give up en­tirely. At the very least you’ve made me feel good about my­self by buy­ing the book.

Di­gested read, di­gested: Zeno­pho­bic

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