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HuffPost UK - Athena2 - All Entries (Public)

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Published: Mon, 23 Apr 2018 11:16:39 +0000

Copyright: copyright AOL 2018

Is Mindfulness All It's Cracked Up To Be?

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 11:16:39 +0000


Mindfulness is everywhere. The internet abounds with inspirational Buddha memes and bumper sticker quotations, all underlined with the hashtag #Mindfulness. A quick Google search readily returns ads for books by self-help celebrities and well-heeled gurus advocating mindfulness through breathing, eating, journalling, art and even sex. If the hype is to be believed, mindfulness can make you a better lover, a better boss, a better photographer and even a better skier. HR departments are coaxing Buddhist monks into the workplace and headteachers are bringing mindfulness sessions into the classroom. Even MPs in Westminster are adopting the lotus position!And then of course, gracing every supermarket book aisle, there are the ubiquitous mindfulness colouring books!I work as a consultant psychiatrist and I’ve been hearing a lot about mindfulness, from the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programme, which originated in the US to its domestic successor, the eight-week Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy course, here in the UK. In the NICE Guidance for Depression this therapy is described as “A psychological treatment that helps people with depression to become aware of negative thoughts and reduces the tendency to react to them. The aim is to encourage people to feel differently about their negative thoughts rather than to change the content of their thoughts”.Long before I was a psychiatrist, I was a Buddhist. As a child of Sri Lankan heritage I was regularly dragged to the temple by my parents. So my mindfulness baptism at the age of thirteen came courtesy of a saffron-robed monk in a Northumberland monastery. Mindfulness was not so sexy back then but I was easily hooked as the monk who gave me my very first lesson was, in his life prior to ordination, a US serviceman who had served in Vietnam. Having my very own Rambo revealing his mystical secrets about how carefully observing the movement of my breathing might help me attain inner tranquillity was quite something. He regaled me with tales of other Western monks who, blissed-out on the hippy trail in the 70s, serendipitously found themselves in the forest monasteries of Thailand. I guess the bliss that they found on their meditation cushions beat the lure of the psychedelics hands-down and many stayed in Thailand until they eventually journeyed home to their native countries to found their own monasteries.I have mixed feelings about the Western mindfulness revolution and I can definitely identify with those who roll their eyes at its very mention. It is far from the life-changing panacea that some claim it to be and in reality it was never meant to be the answer to all of life’s woes. Buddhism is a lifestyle choice, not a therapy, and mindfulness is just one aspect of a Buddhist’s life.It is certainly true that mindfulness alone can change one’s perspective. Being fully in the present moment, we are much better able to notice the transitory nature of our existence. The knowledge that life is always changing can not only help us to endure the tough times, it gives us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the pleasures that we are lucky enough to encounter without becoming overly attached to them. However, mindfulness is but one facet of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. The other steps include cultivating a clearer view of the world around us and forming an intention to work on our thinking, speech and actions, to generally live a life in better harmony with others.There is no God and no commandments but Buddhists sometimes undertake “precepts” to refrain from behaviour which is harmful to themselves and others. It is by trying to live well and avoiding these five behaviours - hurting others, lying, stealing, getting drunk or stoned and having affairs, to put them bluntly - that we hope to avoid negative karma, a much-misunderstood word which simply means “the sum of our actions”.And at the heart of Buddhist practice there are some very simple values. These include love for others, compassion for those who[...]

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Justine Greening’s Proposals Are Not Radical Enough - Past Generations Of Graduates Should Contribute Too

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 11:12:51 +0000


The Government is consulting on its ‘major’ review of tertiary education and while it is seems that Justine Greening opposed the idea of a review when she was Secretary of State for Education, she certainly believes that significant reform may be worthwhile.On Conservative Home she argues that universities should be funded through a ‘Higher Education Fund’. This would consist of future graduates’ repayments and, through a ‘skills levy’, employers’ contributions. She also suggests that all graduates should pay into the fund for 30 years – even if they have paid off their university costs before then. Twenty to thirty percent of higher-earning graduates would pay more.Justine Greening’s recommendations are radical. Graduates would no longer owe a fixed amount; they would simply pay a fixed percentage of their salary for 30 years.There would no longer be any ‘debt’ that could increase and there would no longer be annual loan statements – the source of much distress and resentment. Justine Greening’s recommendation is for no less than the abolition of the student loan system and the creation of a ‘graduate contribution’ scheme.What problems would Greening’s proposal solve? Arguably the biggest problem with the current system is caused by the word ‘loan’. As MoneySavingExpert’s Martin Lewis repeats ad nausem the current system is not really a loan system.There is no direct link between what students ‘borrow’ – more accurately what universities receive to teach them – and what graduates pay. Government could cut fees to £7,500pa but, if that is all it did, most graduates would repay exactly the same amount while seeing less invested in their education.But no matter how many times this is repeated it does not register. The current system looks like a loan system, including the paraphernalia of annual statements, interest rates and the fact that it is administered by the Student Loans Company. Greening’s recommendation would simplify the system and make it clear that universities are funded through a graduate tax, not student loans.Students may still object to paying 9% of their salary or to paying for 30 years especially when graduates from previous generations pay nothing (a point I return to below.) But whatever force these objections have, neither has anything to do with ‘loans’ or ‘debt’. They are about the degree to which it is fair for graduates to pay higher tax for the privilege of university.There is also a great deal of force in employers contributing. Higher education benefits the individuals who go, society at large, and employers. In combining student repayments and public subsidy (the ‘RAB charge’) the current system involves no payment from employers. If they benefit, it is reasonable to expect them to contribute.Asking employers to pay would be politically difficult but as they are already being compelled to pay into the apprenticeship levy, Government might need to do no more than divert some of this money into the Higher Education Fund.Employers could be given the choice between using their levy money as they do now or putting it into the Fund. Their choices would reveal whether the Government is right that employers want more people with vocational skills or more people with general higher-level skills.Overall, there is much to be said for Justine Greening’s proposals. But one recommendation that requires serious consideration is missing. Young people are experiencing an acute set of pressures. House prices are high, pension are becoming more expensive, wages have been slow to increase, and there is economic uncertainty.There is an older set of graduates who have benefited from their past education and who feel these pressures less. I am one of them – you probably are too. Our tuition at university was free (to us at least).If it is fair to tax future graduates to fund higher educa[...]

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Avicii’s Death Not Being Treated As Suspicious, Police Say

Police in Oman have stated that Avicii’s death is not being treated as suspicious, with no evidence of “foul play” having been found.

The Swedish DJ, real name Tim Bergling, was on holiday on the Arabian Peninsular when he was found dead on Friday (20 April). When the news was announced that evening, a cause of death was not confirmed.


In a statement issued to CNN on Sunday (22 April) night, Royal Oman Police said: “Two postmortems were carried out ... and we can confirm that there is no criminal suspicion in the death.”

Avicii’s parents, sister and brother arrived in Oman over the weekend and the police added that the family are “completely devastated”.

Stars from the music world paid tribute to the ‘Hey Brother’ hitmaker in the wake of Friday’s announcement.

Calvin Harris and Nile Rodgers were among the first to share their condolences and Rita Ora, who worked on a track with Avicii last year, also posted a message on Twitter.

After years on the road and over 800 live shows, Avicii announced his decision to quit performing in March 2016.

Telling fans that he wanted to focus on music production, he said: “I know I am blessed to be able to travel all around the world and perform, but I have too little left for the life of a real person behind the artist.

“I will however never let go of music — I will continue to speak to my fans through it.”