Sane New World – Why we need to wake up and smell the coffee
Star rating: *****
Saturday 29th March 2014
Wake up and smell the coffee
Shopping. Get hair cut at barbers. Calls to make. People to see, Newspapers to read. Books to finish. TV to watch. Keep abreast of the latest news. Have they found the missing Malaysian plane MH370? So much too do. So little time. Busy busy busy. Busy bees are we.
Welcome to my world! Welcome to ‘Sane New World’, Ruby Wax’s current show. The show is based on Ruby’s latest book of the same name and focuses on how our brains function in this fast paced world we live in. But does life have to be so busy?? What are the consequences? Can we get off the treadmill?
This show follows on from Ruby’s last talk based tour, ‘Losing it’. Based on her own battles with depression and the fact that an astonishing 1 in 4 people in the UK do, or will at some point, have a mental health problem, the show explored this and depression.
Busy. Busy. Busy
At a sold out talk at North Finchley’s ‘Art Depot’, an audience, including author Kathy Lette and ‘the Lady’ Editor, Rachel Johnson (sister of London Mayor, Boris), heard Ruby complain that too many people are busy saying they are “busy, busy busy,” almost as a badge of honour. She questioned whether we are living life to its fullest and getting the best from our brains.
As if to emphasis the point, Ruby starts doing pilates exercises mid-show … according to her, she had no time to fit it in prior to the show! Very funny and somewhat odd, but the point was well made.
Ruby is convinced that we need to slow down, allow ourselves to switch off and “just be.” We are human beings, NOT human doings. The vital point she made is that there was a time when as human beings we were primarily concerned with merely staying alive and being. Fight or flight. When there were no distractions like TV, radio, newspapers, telephones and mobile phones. Now we have such a plethora of distractions and work commitments, that, in Ruby’s view, we are losing our minds. “I’m sure we will find that in 20 years time stress is the biggest killer we’re facing. People are losing their minds. Alzheimer’s is and will continue to become more prevalent in modern society.”
She talked about the science of neuroplasticity. Neurons refers to the nerve cells in our brain. Our brain consists of neurons which are linked together by synapses. The brain is constantly connecting to neural pathways. New neural pathways are created when we experience something different. This is referred to as the hardwiring of our brain. Brain development is not in fact static. Therefore we can change the way we think, feel and respond to life. Ruby urged that we do not need to live on auto-pilot. We can change our experiences; we can and should switch off and “be still” in the moment. Get in touch with our bodies, our inner self. Be in a state of “mindfullness”. She got the audience to do an exercise to try this for themselves. I did and it was enjoyable and calming. Meditational almost. Well, as meditational as you can feel in a packed theatre! It worked though.
The point is we can train our minds to not be constantly thinking about a million and one things and “be in the moment”. For example enjoy the show and think of nothing else. Read this review and think of nothing else.
Ruby constantly referred to their being neuroscience experts in the audience, by way of a prop for her in case she got anything wrong during the Q&A and lo and behold, fate would have it that I happened to be sitting next to one. None other than Professor Russell Foster, Head of Neuroscience, Oxford University. During the Q&A session Ruby handed the mic to him (metaphorically and later physically via a steward) as he spoke about sleep patterns and how to address insomnia. He impressed upon the audience the necessity to take a break from technology up to two hours before going to bed (to allow the mind to start to switch off). If people do wake up at 3/4a.m. he advised not to panic, but to relax and think relaxing thoughts. Years ago it was perfectly natural for people to have interrupted sleep like this. It was part of the circadian rhythm of sleep.
D- for Schools
Ruby was very concerned about the over emphasis as she sees it on getting bag fulls of GCSE’s and ‘A’ level A *’s. There is so much focus on studying and passing exams that students minds are constantly cramming, learning, whirring around learning new facts that it will be messing with their minds. The result of this will be an increase in mental health problems which will be all to clear when these students reach aged 50.
When asked if she felt the NHS was in the dark ages when it came to issues regarding mental health, Ruby threw the question back at the audience as the questioners was reluctant to answer. The audience gave a resounding yes!
Ruby’s journey from popular TV show host to gaining a Masters degree and now doing popular tours on mental health is astonishing. As impressive as millionaire Comedian Lenny Henry going from popular TV star of 30+ years standing to Shakespearean actor and student. Both are rich and successful and didn’t have to go back to the classroom. Ruby’s gained her Masters. Lenny’s gone on and earned himself a degree, Masters and is currently working towards gaining a Phd!
Well, I say neither really had, but I’m not so sure that’s strictly true. Maybe in Ruby’s case, she did it to retain her sanity. Her previous book and tour talked about her hellish Jewish upbringing with horrible parents who damaged her self-esteem, creating the woman we know and love as Ruby Wax. Their studying is proof that you’re never too old to learn and that we can still keep learning, developing and changing for the better as we get older.
The ‘Sane New World’ book and tour are a beginners road map to understanding the brain. It is a joyous and very funny, but serious show, that provided the lay person with a basic understanding of how our brain functions and how if we overstimulate this important organ and our bodies as a whole, our body and mind can and will eventually go awry and malfunction. We can individually and collectively choose to re-configure our brains and our minds.
The over riding message is quite simple really. To stop yourself from literally going mad and becoming or remaining one of the 1 in 4, people leading over stimulated, fast paced lives, …….slow down a little. Do one thing at a time. Do it to the best of your ability. Just be in the moment. Wake up and smell the coffee.
© Tiemo Talk of the Town
The Sane New World – tour runs until 22nd May 2014
- How do you want me? – Ruby Wax
- Man’s Search for learning – Victor Franklin
- Sane New World – Ruby Wax
- Sleep – A very short introduction – Lockley and Foster
- The Boy who was raised as a dog – Bruce D Perry and Mary Szalavitz
- Why Love Matters – Sue Gerdheart