What can Dr. Who tell us about Mindfulness?
I have a confession to make. I am a bit of a geek. I enjoy science fiction and I particularly love Dr. Who. I admit I am only a fan of the new reboot – I was always too scared to watch the original incarnation. This year, unfortunately, there isn’t a new series, so I have been rewatching the last few series on Netflix. This has got me thinking. What can Dr. Who tell us about mindfulness? The following is some of my reflections.
When we think of Dr. Who, probably the first thing we think of is time travel. The Dr. can travel anywhere he wants to in space and time, an ability that most of us have probably fantasised about at one time or another. If we had a TARDIS where would we go? When would we go? As human beings we spend most of our lives time travelling. We might be physically in the present moment but our minds are often stuck in the past or the future.
Unlike the Doctor, we can’t change the past (unless it is a fixed point in time and then even the Doctor can’t change it!), all we can do is choose how we remember it. We can choose whether to focus on the positive elements of the past or whether to dwell on the negative. We also have a choice about whether to forgive and let go of the past or whether to obsess over past injuries. Easier said than done!
What about the future? Can we change the future? Often we focus on all of the things we think might go wrong, creating the next catastrophe in our own heads. And often we get so focused on what might go wrong that we become a self fulfilling prophecy. However, by focusing on we can change for the better right now, we can make positive changes for the future.
As we get older it can seem that time keeps going faster. Time doesn’t seem to be constant. As the Doctor says it is ‘wibbly wobbly timey wimey’. Do you remember when you were a child and the school summer holidays seemed to last forever? Now I have a theory about this. When we are children, everything is new and exciting, we keep making new experiences and everything is so important that we take notice and remember. As we get older we act more and more out of habit. We do the same things and don’t really notice. The more we stop and notice, allowing each experience to be new, the more we can begin to have a sense of time slowing down. I certainly have noticed that the more I practice mindfulness, the more time seems to slow down. And in the days and weeks when I am frantic with work and activity the more time seems to fly.
One of the genius ideas of Dr. Who is the concept of regeneration. It has meant that the series can continue on and on, bringing on a new Doctor every few series. And not only does each Doctor look different, he also has a slightly different personality.
Now I am not suggesting that us non-Timelords can regenerate quite so dramatically. However we are all regenerating all the time. We are all constantly changing, both physically and emotionally and we rarely stop to notice. When we feel depressed or angry or in pain it can seem as though it is going to be like this forever. Yet if we sit with our experience for a few minutes we can see that everything constantly changes.
Thanks to neuroplasticity we now know that our brains can create new neural pathways to adapt, as it needs. Regular mindfulness practice and meditation supports this process enabling our brains to literally regenerate.
We can also get stuck in old ideas about ourselves, identifying with the kind of person we were 10, 20 years ago. This can lead to self limiting beliefs. For instance, I was never very sporty at school. In fact my PE teacher told me that my legs shouldn’t be allowed out in public! I carried that belief for a long time and yet in the last couple of years I have realised that it simply isn’t true any more. Perhaps it never was. I ran a marathon in 2014 and am back in training for the Great North Run this year. Ok so maybe I am never going to win any medals (other than for taking part) but I have certainly regenerated from my teenage self who would have done anything to avoid running!
Companions and Compassion
The other important aspect of Dr. Who is his companions. In most episodes he has one or more of a series of human companions who accompany him on his adventures. His friends help him to stay kind and compassionate and help him to form his moral compass. On the occasional episode in which he is working alone the likelihood of him going off the rails is greatly increased. This reminds me of the importance of surrounding myself with the right people. We are influenced by the company we keep. If we can surround ourselves with positive, supportive people and avoid toxic relationships then this will have a positive impact on us. And can you imagine what the Doctor would be like if he spent all his time with the Master? (or Missy?)
Mindfulness is not a selfish act, practiced in isolation to make us feel good. Rather it is all about connection with others. It is about developing kindness and compassion to all living beings, and this is surely exemplified by Dr. Who. Regardless of species, he steps in and helps where he can, and he tries to understand. This doesn’t mean allowing the ‘bad guy’ to get away with it but if he can come to a peaceful, compassionate solution he will do. He even occasionally helps out a Dalek or two!
So, next series will be 2017, and with a new companion. I will be sending my audition tape in any day now…!
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