“My limbs are like palm trees

Swaying in the breeze

My body’s an oasis

To drink from as you please

I’m not seeing what I’m meant to believe in

Your non excuse for human being

“The image is no images

It’s not what it seems”

Soixsie and the Banshees, Mirage, 1978.


It was 1978 and the punk scene was exploding and my first ever gig was Siouxsie

and the Banshees. You were either after cocaine and money or you were angry

about apartheid, Thatcher, racism, whaling, sexual abuse or just men in general

and usually pissed or stoned or both.

I was more a psychedelic anarchist and moved into the border-lands of

subculture and student life. I wasn’t just interested in busting the system, I

wanted to bust up the illusion of reality that created the system in the first place.

In my final year I graduated to psychiatric hospital with Honours in acute


It wasn’t just dope that did it, although it never happened without quite a lot of it.

Early childhood trauma, mistrust of authority, self-reliance, and a harshly

reckless analytical mind are probably equally to blame.

As a child I had been taught to pray using simple mantra-like phrases. I came to

the conclusion that the machine of the Universe was Love because it was the only

thing that wished to be. Everything else was shadow and so long as we have

some kind of concept of “God” out there we must always be separate from “Him”.

Ultimately connection with whatever you want to call it had to be in a state of

awareness of “reality” unobstructed by some kind of idea about it or prayer to it.

So I learned how to develop nonconceptual awareness but I didn’t know this was

called meditation. Over time I learned more.

It is only through learning; through practice especially at times of mental

torment, contemplation, reading, listening to teachings, in discussions that this

practice has developed and I have found a purpose in life. This practice takes you

to a place where you cannot live unless you see the only valid life as a life

dedicated to understanding, kindness and compassion to oneself and to others.

Once you have taken the “red pill” nothing is the same again. Once you have seen

the madness of it all you have only three choices. Go mad yourself, sedate

yourself, or try to change the world. How do we do that? We have no choice but

to work out how.

In days gone by, we could become a monk or hermit, shamen or healer, but today

this means we have to step up to the challenge to make a better world because

society has taken us to a place where we are destroying the planet that gives us

life itself. The world has not really gone mad. The world has always been mad in

some sense or another.

Mental illness is an epidemic but the cause of the problem is not depression,

anxiety and stress caused by some kind of new virus of “madness”, it is society

itself. Something has not so much gone very wrong, it has just got worse and

worse over time. We are at a threshold of change. We have to face this change or

face our own destruction. The planet will survive.

Human sadness in our society is connected to the way we are fouling up the life

support systems of planet. It is caused by the way we drive ourselves to acquire

things that give us a sense of who we are. We are driven by our need to find

meaning and security in our own achievements and our ability to store up

wealth; to safeguard our individual futures, rather than share what we have with

our fellow human beings. Social injustice creates fear of social disadvantage and

so we all become sheep protected by the mindless shepherd of profit and


To save the world we need to learn to give “just for the hell of it”. To save

ourselves we have to learn how to love. To save the world we have to start by

understanding our own minds and relearn what actually feels good in our

bodies. We must be true to ourselves and be smart about it. This takes courage

and understanding and mindfulness is the key.

This is why I gave up my work in environmental management. I gave up trying to

make a more sustainable world by raising awareness, policy and politics and

became the midwife of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. I helped to establish it

and then became its Development Manger, taking evidence-based mindfulness

into the Oxford University for students and the workplace.

In the end though, mindfulness as therapy, self-help and performance

enhancement are only a Trojan horses for change. They can become social

control or navel gazing at best. If it doesn’t empower each one of us to make to

make a difference mindfulness could just help us fuck up the world faster than

we are already. “Making a difference” is the cure for madness both for ourselves

and others in this crazy world. This is what mindfulness4change.com is all about.