Saturday 22 September 2018

Washing up is good for mindfulness: book review

The real title of this book is Washing up is good for you and it is published by Aster, a division of the Octopus Publishing Group. I was happy to find a copy in Waterstones in Cambridge, UK, on a weekend visit there, and to know that my sister had been attracted by the title in the listings of her monthly book club offering. See

Why was I happy? Because one of the contributors to the book is my friend and colleague Annabelle van Nieuwkoop-Read and anything that she is part of has to be good.

Annabelle writes a chapter called Meaningful Messabout where she explores the importance of letting our children play freely, including taking risks, and letting the inner child in ourselves as adults be free. There are two separate issues here: playing as children and play in adulthood.

She is right to insist that our children grow healthy by taking risks and that a few scratches and bruises are worth the price if it makes our children strong and resilient. Numerous writers are expressing concern about the current generation of youth who are reluctant to face challenges, be they emotional, philosophical or physical. You only have to google Why is everyone so sensitive these days to find a plethora of articles. One of the most recurrent themes is that children who were kept indoors and prohibited by anxious parents from playing in the street or local outdoor spaces, typical of the early 2000´s, are now at universities and colleges where they find themselves unwilling to accept criticism or correction because they see it as a personal attack. The rough and tumble of early childhood knockabout is a vital preparation for young adult life. If we don´t learn that we cannot have everything our own way as children, how are we to deal with setbacks in adulthood?

One of the many great things about the Netherlands is that adults are actively engaged in play: adults typically arrange their working week to be able to take part in a huge network of activities, they play sports and they play in orchestras or sing in choirs. The positive impact of this active participation in playful activities, be they in sports or the arts, certainly contributes to the high position of the Netherlands in rankings of happiness indicators and quality of life. Here is a symphony orchestra in The Hague that I am happy to be a member  of, a great example of citizens playing and improving the quality of life for themselves and for their community.

Of course Annabelle is not the only contributor to Washing up is good for you. I really enjoyed Meredith Whitely´s  chapter What´s on your plate, my life washing up which charts her early life in Perth, Australia and the lessons she learnt while working in a bakery there.

Mindfulness has become a trend in life and in education. I am not convinced that all the implications have been fully dealt with regarding the introduction of Mindfulness, capital M, into schools. Even so, we can all take some tips from the various writers here and find that life´s mundane tasks can be a source of peace and inner harmony. Maybe it´s true, after all, that Washing up is good for you.     

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