No action required by Neil Midgley
"Here's the thing: in every moment of our lives, we humans find our experience pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. We then crave more of the pleasant, we want to push away the unpleasant – and we zone out from the unremarkable"
No action required. No action is required
Every week, I take a skating lesson at Romford ice rink. (I am the worst figure skater the world has ever known, but that’s another story.)
I go early in the morning, so the staff in the almost-empty centre are just starting their daily routine. Last week, an announcement over the PA system jolted into my skate: “We are about to test the emergency alarm system,” said the woman from the front desk. “This is just a test.”
And then she added: “No action required. No action is required.”
I was the only person on the ice who grinned at this, even as the klaxon started to blare. Because, without knowing it, the lady on the PA had just broadcast a pivotal bit of mindfulness wisdom.
“No action required” is a key phrase from the new 8-week course that Professor Mark Williams, the founder of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, has devised. Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to take this new course, taught by Mark himself to a group of OMC teachers.
This Mindfulness Frame by Frame curriculum is intended for graduates of introductory mindfulness courses (such as MBCT, MBSR and Mindfulness for Life). It offers an opportunity to deepen and expand mindfulness practice, by focusing on an aspect of human experience that is well-known in ancient meditation teaching – but which is seldom highlighted today.
Here’s the thing: in every moment of our lives, we humans find our experience pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. We then crave more of the pleasant, we want to push away the unpleasant – and we zone out from the unremarkable.
We then tend to be driven, often without really making a conscious choice, to do things that are unskilful or even harmful – like gobbling down too much cake, or shouting at someone who gives us road rage.
It’s as if our lives are full of little fire alarm klaxons, but we don’t have a nice lady on the PA telling us to chill out.
Mark’s new course encourages us to live “frame by frame”. To really hear every single klaxon. To be fully aware of that “feeling tone” in each and every moment, whether it’s pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Then to let it be – allowing ourselves to like things, or not like things, and even to be bored.
And then, crucially, to remind ourselves that “no action is required right now”. In other words: to take a pause, and then to make wiser, kinder choices about what to do next – rather than being jerked around by our cravings.
For me, the most eye-opening thing during the course was to realise how often I’m caught up in klaxons that went off ages ago – or which I’m worried might go off in the future. Agonising about work and money the whole time, even when that means missing things in the present that could really nourish me.
And where do I notice this the most? Well, on the ice rink, of course. It’s amazing how much more I get from my skate when I’m fully present, feeling my feet in my boots and hearing my blades on the ice, instead of being lost in planning the day ahead.
Skating becomes a whole new experience, one with a renewed power to lift my spirits and soothe my soul. Except, of course, if the fire alarm suddenly goes off.
The first OMC Frame by Frame 8-week course runs from 11/01/2022 to 01/03/2022 17:30pm – 19:30pm (UK time) with Tim Sweeney
Click here to book onto a course.
Watch introductory video clips with Mark Williams and Sharon Hadley
More about Neil Midgley