At One With All That Is :: Jill Bolte Taylor’s Stroke of Insight

Painting by NotKeith

Painting by NotKeith

This TED Talk  has already been viewed almost 17 million times, but the fact that I only saw it for the first time a few days ago means that you might not have seen it either. And it is tremendous. So I’m putting it here.

It is, furthermore, hugely moving and has utterly profound connotations for the way we live our life. It made me realise – not for the first time but in a way which I felt ran deeper than it ever has before – how I spend far too much time in the left hemisphere of my brain and that I need to do a lot more about that.

If you haven’t seen it, please watch it. If you haven’t seen it for a while, please watch it again. It can only do you good.

 

Jill Bolte Taylor‘s talk ends with these words. I’m putting them here so that whenever I see this page, I can quickly read them again…

So who are we? We are the life-force power of the universe, with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds. And we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world. Right here, right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere, where we are. I am the life-force power of the universe. I am the life-force power of the fifty trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form, at one with all that is. Or, I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere, where I become a single individual, a solid. Separate from the flow, separate from you. I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: intellectual, neuroanatomist. These are the “we” inside of me. Which would you choose? Which do you choose? And when? I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner-peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world, and the more peaceful our planet will be.

Moonlight, Magic & Macabre :: Three Reasons to Be Grateful for Dominique Christina

This is for anyone who hasn’t seen it before, and for anyone who has. It’s for anyone with daughters, anyone with sisters, and anyone with a mother. It’s for anyone with a girlfriend and anyone with a wife; it’s for anyone with a boyfriend, a husband, sons, brothers and of course, a father.  It’s for anyone who doesn’t brand him or herself a feminist for any reason he or she has concocted in his or her so-called mind. It’s for anyone blessed with a menstrual cycle and for anyone not so blessed. It’s for anyone who appreciates poetry, for anyone who appreciates performance, and for anyone who appreciates people and all of the passionate, heart-breaking, heart-repairing things that they can do.

It’s also for the 58 people who thumbed it down on YouTube. You really need to switch on your hearts and your minds and to switch off whatever it is that is making you so afraid and so unconnected, and you need to watch it again.

And if this is the first time you are witnessing this miracle of verbal dexterity and mental dexterity and artistic achievement, please share it with the rest of the people in your life. Because they deserve it too.

 

Work that Stands Out from the Rest

outstanding

Outstanding. Image by notkeith at notkeith.com

 

So I’m applying for jobs, and obviously, because I need to find work, I’m applying for all kinds of jobs. Jobs I’ve done before like teaching and sub-editing and proofreading and whatnot, and other jobs that I’ve done very little of or haven’t done for a long time.

And it’s got me thinking a lot about which jobs I’ve really enjoyed and why.

Teaching English is great when it’s fun – when your students want to be there and really want to learn, and when you feel that they actually get a kick out of learning a language and they’re not just doing it to get a raise or because their boss is pressuring them.

Hmmm. I realise I’ve got to be careful what I say here, lest some potential employer happens along…

What I was about to say was that I find office jobs rather oppressive. But then … actually, no. I’ve changed my mind. Obviously, it depends entirely on the job you’re doing in said office. Years ago, I spent 18 months working for Liberty (the civil rights people, not the shop) and that was great for the simple reason that you felt like you were doing something worthwhile, and you were working with a bunch of people who really cared about what they were doing. It was more than just a job. The fact that it took place in an office didn’t really come into it. But then of course, it didn’t always take place in an office. There were also events – festivals, club nights, demos – where you’d go raising money and awareness, selling t-shirts, collecting signatures. I loved that work. And then there was Wine Club every Friday evening, which when weather permitted, took place on the roof.

Thinking about it, that was probably one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. And I wasn’t even paid! Imagine that.

Aside from that, and aside from getting paid to write a novel, which didn’t really feel like work, I think I’d have to plump for the outdoors work I did in France.

Week One :: white skin, clean boots, shiny helmet

Week One :: white skin, clean boots, shiny helmet

 

Working on my sister’s place in the woods was great, but as it was time spent predominantly alone, I can’t really say I enjoyed it as much as I did the three months I spent working on Le Gite Fantastique last summer.

What was great about that – aside from working with other people – was that it was hard, physical work that yielded satisfying, tangible results. For example, turning a ramshackle knackered old barn into a place with a new roof and floor where people could play music and table tennis and dance like seahorses was a wonderful thing. Even just digging up the land and planting flowers that people can then take pleasure in is extremely satisfying.

flower

SNIFF IT!

 

Speaking of satisfying, there’s a job I found this morning that I’m in the process of applying for and that I really hope I get. I’m not going to say anything about it here, because that would be foolish, but it would be working with people again, and that’s what I really need now. If I’m going to get a job that I actually enjoy, rather than one that I tolerate because I have to pay rent, then it has to be dealing with people and – even if it’s just in a very small, very basic way – bringing them pleasure. And that’s what this job would be.

Wish me luck.

In the meantime, I beseech thee, tell me: what the best job you’ve ever had? Go on. I really want to know.

 

Forcing a Smile

smiles

Image by notkeith at notkeith.com

 

So how do you stay up when you’re feeling down?

How do you force yourself to be happy when things all around you are making you feel sad?

Because that’s the real trick. That’s why self-help is such a giant industry, despite being a complete misnomer. If it was really self-help, it wouldn’t be in a book written by somebody else. But of course, when people feel sad, they do need help. We all need help once in a while.

I’m going through a difficult period at the moment – more difficult (much more difficult) than I’d anticipated. Because I’m naïve, unrealistic and wholly impractical, I had just kind of assumed that, once I’d moved into this little house in the country, things would fall into place a lot more easily than they have. I’m talking workwise primarily. Moneywise.

But they haven’t. And now I’m struggling and scraping around looking for morsels of unappealing employment like someone half my age. And it’s at times like this that your whole life comes back to haunt you. You begin to think of everything you’ve ever thought and done as a ghastly mistake. You begin to think of yourself as a colossal fool and a mighty, mighty fuckwit. The old self-loathing creeps back in, surprising you with its intensity. It seems like while it was away, it was working out, sharpening itself, just waiting for an opportunity to march back in and poke you in the guts.

So how do you stay positive when the whole world is screaming misery and failure in your face?

Fortunately, I do know the answer.

Unfortunately, it’s hard work at the best of times, bastard hard work at the worst.

And it’s that same short list of daily activities that you see absolutely everywhere these days:

• Exercise
• Socialise
• Be grateful
• Be generous
• Learn new things
• Look outside of yourself – which is to say, cultivate your awareness of being part of something bigger than yourself – meditate, chant, whatever it takes…

And that’s it. A simple matter of training your brain to be resilient and generally more positive.

Piece of cake.

Except it isn’t a piece of cake. Like any long-term training, it’s damned hard until it becomes a solid habit, and even then it’s damned hard.

So.

Resilience. Determination. Two little mice.

I am now going to cycle to the doctor’s surgery so that ultimately I may learn if this recurring pain in my left testicle is really merely stress or actually something much more serious. However it turns out, I’m hugely grateful to the NHS for not charging me a fortune to find out.

I hope you’re having a good day, whoever you are.

Thanks for popping by.

x

Making Magic, Creating Change :: The Story of Aaron Swartz

aaron

 Aaron Swartz is now an icon, an ideal. He is what we will be fighting for, all of us, for the rest of our lives.

– Lawrence Lessig

 

I’ve been away. Some of you will know, I’ve spent much of the past four years in France, almost two whole years in a shack in the middle of a forest without electricity, without internet. I read a lot of books, so it was a good, worthwhile time, and I wouldn’t be where I am today (wherever that is) if I hadn’t been there, so I have no regrets. But I’m realising more and more that I missed out on a lot of stuff, important things happening in the world.

Actually, being in France is a feeble excuse. I just wasn’t paying attention, and I missed stuff.

But I’m catching up. And one of the most astonishing, heart-breaking stories I missed was the death of Aaron Swartz. I missed most of his life too, to my shame.

If you missed it too, I urge you to watch the documentary embedded below. It’s important.

In his tragically short life, Aaron Swartz achieved an incredible amount, but at the heart of everything he achieved was the campaign for freedom of information.

He co-authored and put his name to something called the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, reprinted below. For that and for the many acts of civil disobedience he perpetrated in enacting the manifesto, he was persecuted – rather than prosecuted – by the American government. He was persecuted because he was dangerous. This is not a conspiracy theory by the way.

Watch the documentary.

As well as lots and lots of other stuff, Swartz’s story is one of those that makes you think, What on earth have I done with my life?

His legacy makes you want to do more.

Watch the documentary.

 

Here is the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, authored by Aaron Swartz when he was 22 years old, five years before his death. The fight for free access to scientific research is something that’s particularly close to my own heart at the moment as everywhere I go of late in my desire to read various psychological studies, I’m faced with something like this…

blocked_2

Or this…

blocked

So yes, here (bold text is my own)…

Guerilla Open Access Manifesto

Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.

There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost.

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.

“I agree,” many say, “but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly legal — there’s nothing we can do to stop them.” But there is something we can, something that’s already being done: we can fight back.

Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.

 

Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends.

But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.

Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies.

There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.

With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?

Aaron Swartz
July 2008, Eremo, Italy

 

Will you?

Will I?

I’m trying.

Feel free to help me.

I keep thinking of this line, spoken at the end of the documentary, by Swartz’s girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, who found his body after his suicide:

Aaron believed that you literally ought to be asking yourself all the time, “What is the most important thing I could be working on in the world right now?” and if you’re not working on that, why aren’t you?

It’s a damn good question.

Anyway, on we go, grateful, and learning.

Good day to you.

 

Giving and Receiving Fiercely :: Three Reasons to Be Grateful For Amanda Palmer

palmer_love

Those of you who know Amanda Palmer won’t need reminding of the good work she does just by living her life so passionately and creatively. But what the hell. You can be reminded anyway.

I just came across her TED talk for the first time a couple of days ago, so I thought I’d put it here, along with another two examples of her work that have moved me deeply in the past.

First, the TED talk, entitled The Art of Asking, in which she discusses the relationship between artist and fan and offers alternative models to the traditional ones touted by record companies and publishers and other erstwhile facilitators, agents, bloodsuckers, whatever you want to call them…

 

Second, her response to a prurient article in the Daily Mail – a review of her performance at Glastonbury that totally failed to mention her performance at Glastonbury. Instead the unnamed journalist focussed solely on the fact that one of her breasts had become visible as she performed…

 

Third, everything she wrote about bullying on the internet on her website in January 2013. It starts here and if you haven’t already read it, find something to wipe your face on and read it now…

palmer_hate

 

And when you’ve stopped weeping and cheering and weeping again, have a splendid day.

Spring is coming!

 

Bring Back Borstal :: Daring to Give a Damn About Delinquents

line-up

Over the past couple of nights, I watched ITV’s entertaining and very moving ‘social experiment’ Bring Back Borstal online. This morning I read a couple of reviews in the Telegraph and the Guardian with critics sneering at the artifice and lack of originality of the format. This made me feel sad, because to my mind, their objections were irrelevant and entirely missed the point.

The programme, in a nutshell, sees fourteen young offenders volunteering to become ‘borstal boys’, spending four weeks in a 1930s-style institution to see if it helps them change their ways. These boys are aged between 18 and 23 and most of them have a criminal past, having spent time in Young Offender Institutions (YOIs) and/or in some cases, adult prison. Their crimes range from shoplifting and drug use to actual bodily harm and smashing in someone’s eye with a golf putter.

Critics sneered because the boys, having volunteered, were then allowed to leave at any time and could often be seen smirking and treating the whole thing like a joke. This is because borstal was abolished in 1982 and, for better or for worse, you can’t legally incarcerate anyone in the name of televisual entertainment. However, that didn’t stop the programme offering some extremely valuable insights into our current punitive system and ways in which it might be changed for the better.

In four hour-long episodes covering the four weeks of the experiment, these young men, most of whom had been in and out of care homes since they were very young, were forced out of bed at 6am every day and made to do useful stuff. The question was, would this regime of physical exercise, education, hard work and discipline be better for the boys and for society at large than the current system of YOIs and prisons, where inmates are allowed, if they so desire, to do bugger all.

Overseeing this experiment and taking on the role as governor of the borstal was Professor David Wilson, a former prison governor and Professor of Criminology at Birmingham City University.

wilson

Wilson’s areas of expertise include sex offenders, serial killers and young offenders. He knows his onions. Of the borstal system to which the fourteen volunteers would be subjected, he says:

This is a tough regime. It’s relentless. We are not locking up these young men and allowing them to sit in their cells watching television or playing Playstation. We’re saying that being active on the sports field, or in the classroom, or at work, will ultimately help them have a better stake in the community when they return.

The thing that really gets me about all this is that it’s all so bleeding obvious.

We all know prison doesn’t work.

We all know that without guidance, the only thing most young offenders will learn in jail is how to be old offenders.

We all know that telling people they’re bad will make them act badly, whereas telling people they have the potential to be great will have the opposite effect.

We all know that when we consistently treat people with kindness and respect, eventually they reciprocate.

We all know that there’s no such thing as evil and that every human being has the potential to be good and decent and caring and loving. Don’t we?

Well, we should, because it’s the only way forward.

Bring Back Borstal acted as a reminder that we have a responsibility of care towards every member of our society, especially towards those of us who, for whatever reason, behave badly. And for those people, caring means education, rehabilitation, and absolutely crucially, helping to raise their own opinion of themselves.

exercise

Borstal in its heyday was always educational rather than punitive, and it worked. Seven out of ten young people who went through the borstal system never reoffended.

The alternative does not work. Currently, four out of five young offenders reoffend within three years. As Professor Wilson put it in the final episode of Bring Back Borstal:

There was a phrase in young offender institutes and in prison generally, that happiness is door-shaped. In other words, it’s better to put prisoners into their cell, locked up, sleeping on their beds or watching the telly. But frankly, in the long run, it doesn’t do anything to change those young men, and it doesn’t do anything to reduce the levels of crime.

I’m not going to pretend that these boys are some kinds of angels, because they are not. But you know, they weren’t monsters from outer space. They didn’t have dreams and ambitions that you and I don’t have. They had exactly the same dreams and ambitions. What we’ve done here in this borstal is unlock these young men, let them out to do work, to do education, to give them books to read, to keep them active, to tell them they should learn a trade skill.

Of the fourteen original volunteers, only five saw the month out. The rest either couldn’t hack it or were asked to leave because of violence.

However, it’s worth adding to those ostensibly poor statistics some other numbers. This quote is from an excellent interview with Jenny Molloy, an author and care leaver herself, who took the role of the matron in Bring Back Borstal

Change in these lads’ lives came slowly, but the experiment wanted to offer a positive start. Even for the lads who did not complete their stay, the majority report good things. The current facts from the cohort of fourteen are:

  • There has been no reoffending since the boys left the borstal
  • 2 lads are now in college
  • 5 lads have new employment
  • 1 lad is in voluntary employment
  • 1 lad was supported to find stable housing
  • 1 lad is setting up his own charity

In short, it works. Instilling hope in people and giving them a sense of self-worth makes for happier, better adjusted members of society. Who knew?

matron

That interview with Jenny Molloy ends with the question, Should we bring back borstal? Molloy’s answer is as follows:

My views towards youth justice have always been that the sentence is the punishment and any period of incarceration must be a time of opportunity. It sickens me to continue to meet young people who are not able to read, write or perform even the most basic of work tasks.

It equally appals me that young offenders are written off so quickly, with any trauma from their past being seen as ‘excuses’ by adults rather than reasons, which can help understand their offending behaviour and be worked through in time.

The question is, of course, should we bring back borstal? I am not qualified to answer that, but I am qualified to state this: As long as we deny young people vital interventions in their chaotic family lives, and continued aspirations for their futures, we will continue to see YOI’s and adult prisons full of people devoid of hope for the future.

Should we bring back borstal?

I guess I’m not qualified to answer it either, but yes, we absolutely definitely should. Of course we should. We won’t call it borstal this time, and we should make sure the brutality that we saw in Scum doesn’t creep back in, but yes, implementing a penal system based on genuine rehabilitation is something that we should definitely do. Obviously.

In the meantime, if you missed it, Bring Back Borstal is on ITV Player. Watch it.

 

Yer Old! Live With It. The Beauty Industry Is Not Your Friend

I’m doing translations for beauty products this week, and therefore reading a lot about hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is apparently the anti-ageing nutrient, the application of which to the face and neck will actively and visibly reduce lines and sagging and combat the signs of ageing. It will make you appear younger than you actually are.

Here’s some pictorial evidence from a press release put out by a company that sells the stuff…

You too can pretend you are your own child.

You too can pretend to be your own child.

 

So there it is.

Now let’s go out on a limb and say it works. Let’s say hyaluronic acid, in a cream, serum or spray, really does make you look younger than you actually are. Is that really such a good thing?

I’m 46 years old and my face has got more lines than an ill-structured limerick about WH Auden

'If that's his face, what must his scrotum look like?' - David Hockney on meeting WH Auden for the first time.

‘If that’s his face, what must his scrotum look like?’ – David Hockney on WH Auden.

 

But would I therefore like to apply some painless ointment or tincture to make my face look noticeably younger?

Of course I would! At times I would like nothing more.

At times I feel as insecure and miserable as the next man or lady about the fact that my face screams out my years like an embarrassing cacophonous gramophone.

But then, how long would it last, this miracle serum?

Will I have to keep applying it?

Will it be enough?

When will it be enough?

I’d worry that once I gave in to one product, I’d be easy prey to others. Of course I would. I’d be on a slippery slope to the land of nip and tuck, haemorrhaging money and time like a man half my age. The older I got, the more desperate I’d become. Pro-Collagen Marine Cream! Revitalift Face Serum! Nutrismartworld Anti-ageing Rice-derived Phytoceramides with Ceramide-PCD! Snail slime! Emu oil! Hose me down!!! CUT ME!!!!!

I don’t want that. Life’s too short.

Looking old is a lot less hassle. And a lot less frustration.

I’d like to see a comparative study of people who have an active anti-ageing regime and those who just smile and shrug as they sag and line and droop and fade, and see which group are actually the happiest. It’s a loaded question I know, but I suspect it’d be the ones who accept the fact that people age and eventually die, and see no shame in the outward signs of that process. I’d be surprised if it were any other way.

Here’s how we should age…

Naturally. And with wind.

I know you know this already but you’re hearing it again.

The beauty industry is not your friend.

It’s my friend at the moment because it’s paying me to translate some of its glorious guff. But it’s not yours. This is the beauty industry right here

totalbeautyheadline

Well, I say balls to that.

I want old lady skin!

And so should we all.

 

Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now

Maddie the kitten dozing on Stumbling on Happiness.

Maddie the kitten dozing on Stumbling on Happiness.

Writing in the Huffington Post’s blog a few days ago, a psychologist with a PhD called Steve Taylor pointed out that ‘Happiness Comes From Giving and Helping, Not From Buying and Having.’ That was the title of the piece.

You knew that already though, right?

I mean, I’m guessing everyone knows that, and on the one hand it surprises me that an article with such an obvious proposition could be published anywhere, but then on the other hand I figure that really, the fact that it’s obvious and that certain people have been positing this simple truth for thousands of years is actually kind of irrelevant.

Because although we may roll our eyes at the obviousness of it, few of us live our daily lives by it. Which is to say, it’s not front and centre in our collective brain the way it clearly should be. The way competing for more and more money and gadgets and cars and houses and soft furnishings is. So I guess it has to keep being trotted out, as often as possible.

Plus there’s always the chance that there’s someone out there who didn’t know, and is reading all this for the first time. So if you think it’s obvious, just think of that person, the one that didn’t know, the person whose mind has just been blown apart like a slack plum, the person who’s now under Waterloo Bridge giving out soup and sandwiches like a benevolent loon, heart fit to burst, face positively garlanded with the joy of being lovely.

Well, it’s possible. It’s always possible. So I applaud Steve Taylor, and I applaud the Huffington Post, and while I’m about it, I applaud the Dalai Lama.

And you can’t stop me.

This is from the article, about halfway through:

While possessing wealth and material goods doesn’t lead to happiness, giving them away actually does. Generosity is strongly associated with well-being. For example, studies of people who practise volunteering have shown that they have better psychological and mental health… The benefits of volunteering have been found to be greater than taking up exercise, or attending religious services – in fact, even greater than giving up smoking. Another study found that, when people were given a sum of money, they gained more well-being if they spent it on other people, or gave it away, rather than spending it on themselves. This sense of well-being is more than just feeling good about ourselves – it comes from a powerful sense of connection to others, an empathic and compassionate transcendence of separateness, and of our own self-centredness.

I know it’s difficult in a short article such as this, but I wish the authors of such pieces would talk a little more about the experiments that have been done. ‘Studies have shown’ always sounds a little vague to me. But these studies do exist and they’re well worth looking onto. There are a lot of them in Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness, for example, a book I would heartily recommend.

I would lend you my copy, but, like the adorable kitten that lounges atop it in the above photo, my copy is still in France.

Bugger.

Taylor goes on to point out what yet more studies have shown, which is that the best thing you can do with your money if you want to be happy is – you guessed it; or at least you’d better have – give it away.

So if you really want enhance your well-being – and as long as your basic material needs are satisfied – don’t try to accumulate money in your bank account, and don’t treat yourself to material goods you don’t really need. In an interview last week, Bill Gates stated that rich people have a responsibility to give away their money. But you don’t have to be a billionaire to follow his example. Be more generous and altruistic – increase the amount of money you give to people in need, give more of your time to volunteering, or spend more time helping other people, or behaving more kindly to everyone around you. Ignore the “happiness means consumption” messages we’re bombarded with by the media. A lifestyle of generosity and under-consumption may not suit the needs of economists and politicians – but it will certainly make us happier.

Piece of cake.

And because of that mention of Bill Gates, I just found out about the Giving Pledge.

Well I never.

How on earth did I get this far and not know about the Giving Pledge?

Ha!

Life just gets better and better.

Doesn’t it though?

Sure it does.

Up up!

Meditation in Schools :: Why Isn’t Everybody Doing It?

Image from @actionhappiness

Image from @actionhappiness

This article is just over a year old and tells of how the introduction of twice-daily meditation in San Francisco schools yielded astonishing results in terms of improved attendance, achievement and mental state of many previously troubled children.

In years past, these students were largely out of control, frequently fighting in the corridors, scrawling graffiti on the walls and cursing their teachers. Absenteeism rates were among the city’s highest and so were suspensions. Worn-down teachers routinely called in sick.

Unsurprisingly, academics suffered. The school tried everything, from counseling and peer support to after-school tutoring and sports, but to disappointingly little effect.

Now these students are doing light-years better. In the first year of Quiet Time, the number of suspensions fell by 45 percent. Within four years, the suspension rate was among the lowest in the city. Daily attendance rates climbed to 98 percent, well above the citywide average. Grade point averages improved markedly. About 20 percent of graduates are admitted to Lowell High School – before Quiet Time, getting any students into this elite high school was a rarity. Remarkably, in the annual California Healthy Kids Survey, these middle school youngsters recorded the highest happiness levels in San Francisco.

So why doesn’t something similar exist in every school, everywhere?

Of course, it may be much more common than I’m aware. I’m looking into it. In the meantime, if something similar is practised in your school, do let me know in the comments.