Arnold's World

29th May 1998 at 01:00
A fortnight ago, Friday contained one of those articles which hits an educational nail so squarely on the head that it should be clipped out, enlarged on a photocopier to A3 size, and pinned on every staffroom noticeboard. But that's enough about Arnold's World.

Another piece, under the headline "Let's come clean about the S-word" on the Talkback page, merits similar treatment. In it a deputy head, bravely and frankly, admits that stress is keeping her off work - or as she precisely puts it, "I have run out of 'me' before we've run out of term." That, of course, is exactly the mistake too many teachers make: they are irresponsibly profligate with their me-ness. They treat it like an old banger, ignore its MOT, never treat it to a chamois or a peep under the bonnet, and are then surprised when it comes to a grinding halt.

That's one criticism that could never be levelled against the visitors who flocked to The Natural Health Show at the Watershed Media Centre in Bristol earlier this month. As well as a smorgasbord of miracle medicaments, visitors had a chance to brush up on the latest thinking in shiatsu, reiki, crystal energy, tai chi and a range of other fool-proof therapies that your local fund-holder has probably overlooked. Visitors could experiment with everything from the opportunity to have their fragmented souls reunited by a friendly shaman to the joy of discovering their inner being through the medium of improvised song. For a small fee, an expert would read their horoscope, Tarot cards, irises, aura or feet; for a larger fee, they could have every wobbling pound of their too solid flesh massaged.

Whatever your preference - quackery, white magic or pseudo mysticism - the New Age therapies on offer have one thing in common: they encourage you to take your emotional and spiritual health seriously, to entertain the unashamedly selfish belief that your me-ness matters. If you missed the show, there will be others at Bristol and other venues in the south-west (tel: 01934 813407 for details).

In the meantime, you may be interested in my own New Age antidote to stress, which might not lead you to Nivarna but certainly beats anything you'll read in the Celebrity Stress Buster column which appears on the Mind and Body page in Friday.

First, I assume the correct posture. After a brief flirtation with yoga and the Alexander Technique, I rejected both in favour of the classic "sprawl", which can be mastered with a little practice by any devotee who has ready access to a sofa. Next, I empty my mind of all thought. One method of doing this is to repeat a sacred mantra for several hours; the other is to switch on Jim Davidson's Big Break.

It is at this phase that I feel ready to re-unite my fragmented soul and to merge into oneness with the circumambient universe. I achieve this by the liberal use of an ancient organic remedy; it is called Tesco's Valpolicella. After 75 to 100cls, I generally feel sufficiently motivated to embark on a little therapeutic singing. I tend to opt for the Slave's Chorus from Nabucco, Paul McCartney's "Yesterday" and the Beach Boys' "The Sloop John B". Sometimes I become so relaxed that I am able to sing all three simultaneously. It is then only a matter of time before I arrive at a state of suspended consciousness, where I remain for many hours, blissfully unaware of life's petty trials and tribulations.

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