Sunday 25 September 2016

Joe Brolly: Mindfulness gurus put my bulls**tometer in overdrive

Joe Brolly

Published 20/12/2015 | 16:30

Sports psychologist Enda McNulty
Sports psychologist Enda McNulty
Irish singer Bono speaks to guests before the unveiling of a tapestry honoring John Lennon at Ellis Island in New York...Irish singer Bono speaks to guests before the unveiling of a tapestry honoring John Lennon at Ellis Island in New York July 29, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz...E

At this special time, it gives me great pleasure to address you as the next President of Ireland. At 9/1 in the bookies, this is the easiest money you'll make since the Celtic Tiger.

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Though not quite as easy as the money made by sports psychologists, who continue to make fortunes from dressed-up statements of the obvious. The trick is to repeat them in the manner of Moses arriving back down from the mountain with the ten commandments.

It is only a matter of time before gullible county boards are persuaded to allow feng shui experts to rearrange the changing rooms to help our footballers and hurlers "connect better with their inner selves." "Jump higher, run faster" they tell us.

Or "the best dreams happen when you're awake" or "failure is victory in disguise". The doyen of these absurd self-help gurus is Deepak Chopra, who has come to be treated with God-like awe, presumably on the basis that he can keep a straight face when he says things like: "People grow old and die because they have seen other people grow old and die. Ageing is simply learned behaviour."

In his book Creating Affluence, Chopra writes: "B stands for better and best. People with wealth consciousness only settle for the best. Go first-class all the way and the universe will respond by giving you the best." It might be added that B also stands for bullshit. But before you start sniggering, that particular book earned Chopra just shy of $10m. Forbes estimates that he earns $30m a year from his motivational seminars, books, CDs and DVDs. His website is filled with toe-curling banalities like "When you make a choice, you change the future" and "You must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible".

This genre of the mindfulness industry is booming in Ireland like never before. All you need do to get started is put yourself into Bono's shoes when he's penning the lyrics of a U2 song, then begin. "I have climbed highest mountains, I have run through the fields." Or "Through the storm we reach the shore" etc, etc. Once you get into the habit, statements that appear to be vaguely high-minded and mystical but are in fact twaddle will drip from your tongue.

The thing is to come up with meaningless stuff that sounds inspirational and cannot be disproved. For example, "You can't stop the waves. But you can learn to surf". Or, "The wise man sees that when things are falling apart, they are actually falling into place". Then, practice saying it with the confidence of a TV evangelist curing a member of his congregation with HIV. Most importantly, never, ever overestimate the intelligence of your audience.

Our self-help gurus are all devotees of Chopra. Perhaps the most famous of these at the moment is Enda McNulty. I checked his tweets this morning (@Enda_McNulty), as they never fail to put a smile on my face: "Sometimes life is about risking everything for a dream no one can see but you." There is a quote from Bruce Lee: "The successful warrior is the average man with laser-like focus." Then there is a quote from Enda himself: "Your I Can is much more important than your IQ." I'd like to see him try out that theory on University Challenge. On a daily basis, The Oracle at Enda provides us with captivating insights: "As I read and draw breath in a Dublin café . . . I reflect that your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development." Might I retort Enda? As I read and draw breath in my kitchen . . . I reflect that I have absolutely no idea what the f*** you are talking about.

My favourite, which actually broke my bullshitometer when I made the mistake of reading it aloud, is "the biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams."

Then, there is the adoration of Chopra/God ("Deepak shares four ways to be mindful like the most successful people on earth"), and super wealthy self-help devotees like James Dyson, the bagless hoover king. "Consider that Sir James Dyson developed over 5,000 prototypes before patenting his best-selling vacuum. Giving up is the enemy of creativity." You may prefer to consider that Sir James is the self same billionaire who at the height of his success sacked 865 workers in his factory in Wiltshire and moved production to Malaysia.

One of Enda's recent commandments is, "To make profound changes in your life, you need either inspiration or desperation. So choose which one." Sir James was neither in despair nor inspired when he sacked all those people. Although it certainly made profound changes to their lives and those of their families. It is a pity that, as they swallowed hard and signed on the dole, or visited food banks for the first time, they did not have the wisdom of Enda to guide them: "Remember - Failure is merely an opportunity to start again more intelligently."

At this yuletide time, The Oracle at Enda tells us that, "The best dwelling place is the now".

I have decided to set aside my scepticism and follow his commandments. As a disciple of Enda, my New Year resolution? That I will not grow old and die. I will dwell in the now forever and be forever 46, and in due course, I will turn my experience into a worldwide best-seller, with accompanying audio CD.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

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