Stressed Out by Brexit, MPs Try Meditation
In the shadow of London's Big Ben, members of parliament weary of the endless commotion over Brexit head into a chimney-stacked building to meditate and recharge.
The stressed out MPs do not fold themselves into the lotus position on yoga mats but instead sit at desks and breathe inside polished offices.
And their special instructors come from a center in Oxford that promotes "mindfulness" for dealing with mental strain.
"It's basically giving you a technique to be able to settle and, you know, pause and get that sense of where you are," Nic Dakin, an MP from England's industrial north, said in a phone interview.
"It might only take five minutes or it might take 30."
Nearly 200 lawmakers have attended the Oxford Mindfulness Center's courses this year and anywhere from a handful to a couple of dozen drop by meditation sessions each week.
Many are seeking solace from a turbulent time for the UK.
Asked about the impact of Brexit, Dakin agreed that parliamentary life had got tougher but added:" there's always a lot to do and it goes with the territory."
Britain's split from the European Union -- a long, bitter and messy process -- appears to often subsume much of London's political life.
MPs in the House of Commons take turns firing insults at each other during debates about how to avert economic meltdown once Britain strikes out on its own.
The appointed peers from the House of Lords are more philosophical but still bitter in their own discussion about the country's leap into the great unknown.
The Oxford center aims to take MPs and peers to another place.
The center’s mission statement sets out to achieve "a world without the devastating effects of depression, where mindfulness enables people to live with awareness, wisdom and compassion."
The center first began offering courses to MPs and peers in 2013 and the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group -- where Dakin is vice-chair -- was set up a year later.
So what exactly is mindfulness?
The Oxford center defines it as "moment-to-moment awareness of one's experience, without judgment."
MPs find their solace in mindfulness at Portcullis House -- a building across the street from the Houses of Parliament to which some MP offices were relocated because of a space shortage.
"I think it's quite useful for giving you techniques for calm and to settle," said Dakin.
But he admitted that Brexit duties took priority for the time being.
"It's good for me if I go along. But I'm not good at attending -- the very opposite happens when a busy world interrupts," he said with a laugh.