Stage Review: Ruby Wax, Frazzled

What a privilege it was to be part of the audience last night for Ruby Wax’s latest book tour performance called Frazzled – a guide to mindfulness, at the Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre for the Arts on the South Coast of the UK.

Capable and inspiring; her new command of mindfulness – recently obtained thanks to her Oxford University Masters degree in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy – is a heartfelt, hysterical hula that carries a strong message.

Performing to a full house, Ruby Wax was on fine form; opening with a succession of fast-paced stories in response to questions previously asked online about mindfulness.

Well known as an orator of mental health awareness, in the past I have felt that despite her profile, many interviews and talk shows on the subject, she neglected to explain clearly what mattered. But at last she shines bright to her full potential and we have an articulate, authentic ambassador; rich in wit and sharp of mind.

With just a clipboard for company, this one-woman show took place in a winged armchair on a red rug. She expertly crafted comedic illustrations of mindfulness throughout the show, initially of her mother’s parenting skills, which were met with continuous eruptions of laughter and applause. Poole loved her, and so did I.

Using her own experiences of depression, she framed her view on the darkness of depression and how it disables, asserting that, “There is no self; but you do hear your own loop tapes…your brain will snare you…Mindfulness is like wearing two condoms!”

Surprisingly, Ruby Wax began her guide to mindfulness with explaining what Cortisol is (A hormone produced by the brain’s Adrenal Gland in response to stress), how it is harmful to our cognition and behaviour in large doses and by practicing mindfulness – preaching omitted – stress and racing thoughts can be relieved.

This should be the stuff that accompanies English, maths and science lessons at primary school don’t you think?

Frazzled poster

She even, with no visible resistance, enticed the audience to participate in two mindfulness exercises. We were all with her. You could hear a pin drop and the atmosphere was intoxicating and respectful. We all wanted more. And we got it, in bucket loads.

Ruby’s understanding of brain biology continued throughout her performance and this did not make the audience glaze over. In fact, it personally filled me with giddy joy when she continued to mention the importance of the brain’s Amygdala, (Part of the Limbic System responsible for emotional connections, memory and decision making). She also championed one of my favourite subjects, neuroplasticity and mindfulness, in neon lights (This is the brain’s ability to learn new behaviours, no matter what our age, by forming new neural pathways). Highly recommended.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is referenced in her book and considered one of the world’s most respected mindfulness authors and evangelists, as well as being Executive Director of the Centre for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in America, would have been proud. As are the rest of us in the mental health community, here in the Dorset area.

Frazzled goes a long way in demystifying mental health and mindfulness. Voodoo is long since dead. Long live fact over fiction and helping people to understand that they are not their mind. Recovery and managing mental health can begin in understanding brain biology. No Masters required.

Post interval and book-signing frenzy, the second half was an open question and answer session, akin to ‘an audience with’. Ushers just about kept up with audience questions and microphone availability. She handled this part of the show with expertise and entertaining quips, quick as a flash and kept everyone fully engaged.

Interestingly, most of the questions raised by the local audience involved how mental health affects families and young people and whether mindfulness could benefit individuals. She called mental health an epidemic and how educating children and young people at an early age is paramount, as their brains are more malleable.

Ruby has also partnered with Marks and Spencer to create Frazzled Cafe‘A safe, anonymous and non-judgemental environment where people who are feeling frazzled can meet on a regular basis to talk and share their personal stories.’ I strongly recommend signing up at www.frazzledcafe.org so once a Frazzled Café at your local Marks and Spencer opens in your area you can join in. Marvellous idea.

This woman knows comedy, the foibles of family nature versus nature and explains clearly the dangers of overdosing on stress and how to connect with senses that anchor.

A wise mindfulness prophet, claiming that the greatest gift is somebody giving you his or her fullest attention and yet we forget to give ourselves this attention we need every day with mindfulness, Ruby Wax is equipped with all the relevant metaphors and anecdotes of an everyday neuroscientist and psychotherapist, I would invite to dinner at the drop of a hat.

Frazzled is more than just funny and Ruby Wax is well worth your undivided full attention, as mindfully as you can muster. Especially the finalé that involved her adorning colourful garlands for a slapstick Hawaiian Hula to Cindy Lauper’s Girls just want to have fun! Bravo!

A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled by Ruby Wax is available from all good bookshops.

Benjamin R Sewell is Campaigns and Fundraising Volunteer at dorsetmind.uk and Co-facilitator at Poole’s Bipolar UK Support Group – bipolarUK.org

Thanks to Hazel, Hazel and Michelle from Poole’s Bipolar UK Support Group for getting my mum and I a ticket, and to Dee from Dorset Mind for fundraising during Frazzled and purveying the message with a smile.

This article originally appeared at http://dorsetmind.uk/review-ruby-waxs-frazzled/

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