Trauma and Resilience Land in Our Bodies

strand of barbed wire against a meadowThis is more of a long listen than a long read but you can do both thanks to the On Being website.

I have listened to this podcast conversation between Krista Tippett and Prof Bessel van der Kolk three times and am not done yet. I am fascinated by the interest of neuroscience in our experiences of our own bodies.

In the chaplaincy at Imperial we are not working with people with severe traumas. But many students and staff tell us that they come with high levels of anxiety, fatigue or diagnosed depression. Many have been referred by the Student Counselling and Mental Health Advice Service or the psychotherapy team at the university medical centre.

For all of us practicing meditation there is a whole turn towards paying attention to the sensations of being ‘in our bodies’. Seems obvious, but as van der Kolk puts it “Western culture is astoundingly disembodied and uniquely so.”


I used to be a human being too.


“An endless bombardment of news and gossip and images has rendered us manic information addicts. It broke me. It might break you, too.”


Here is a very long read by Andrew Sullivan.  He starts by describing how he detoxed from constant digital activity and distraction. Things had got serious (the full url for the article  is “technology nearly killed me”).

Sullivan describes learning to meditate and use mindfulness. He gives a good description of the process of slowing down and moving away from his frenetic online life. I think this will resonate with many of us. It is something we have conversations about in chaplaincy work with students and staff.

What surprised me, coming after this description of Mindfulness, was  his complaint about the lack of silence in contemporary Christian worship. Fair point. If you are interested in Christian mediation and contemplation keep going to the end!

This is a good long reflection on what silence, presence and connection could mean in the digital age.

The article first appeared in the New Yorker Magazine on 18th September 2016.

Long reads

I want to share some longer articles that I and my colleagues at the Imperial College Multi-Faith Centre are finding useful.

While much of what we read digitally are bite size posts, news items and tweets, here are some long reads (and long listens) that ask for our time and attention. No ‘listicles’ here!

“When we pray for our enemies… we are also less able to demonize another human being.”

“I used to be a human being too.” by Andrew Sullivan.