'Well,"'said Owl, 'The customary procedure in such cases is as follows...'
'What does Crustimoney Proseedcake mean?' asked Pooh. 'For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words Bother me."
"It means the Thing to Do."
'As long as it means that, I don't mind." said Pooh humbly.
Procedures, traditions, customs - they are all so helpful. Most mornings I stagger out of bed, drink a cup of tea and have a bowl of porridge with some raspberries. It saves me having to think about breakfast choices while I am half asleep. I always hang my bag on the same hook in the same corner so I can reach for it without looking. Whether we are at home or away, I invariably sleep on the right side of the bed, while my husband sleeps on the left - it means I know where to kick when he starts snoring. Most of us tend to do things in a certain way because we have found it works for us, it makes us efficient and it helps us feel secure.
But perhaps it is worth checking out our customary procedures from time to time. Maybe in always doing stuff the same way we are missing something. Leave a well trodden path to hack about a bit in the undergrowth and we may discover something wonderful that those who trod the path before us overlooked. Are we choosing the way we live, work and think because to the best of our current knowledge it is the right way, or just because that's the familiar pattern?
Perhaps the most treacherous tradition in mindfulness is to follow leaders without questioning. They may have more experience than us, can talk about it more knowledgeably and have other followers that we respect. In following them, we may be be following mere tradition; something as peripheral to their practice as whether I have porridge or toast for breakfast.
A couple of years ago I attended a lecture by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I had read his books. I had (and still have) the utmost respect for him as someone who brought mindfulness into mainstream medical practice, through developing the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. During the question time someone asked, 'Why does the course last eight weeks?' Before I share with you Kabat-Zinn's reply, I need to share with you how iconic the 'eight week' aspect of the MBSR and other mindfulness based initiatives has become. In some settings it seems to be the chief characteristic of the course - a six week course or a week long course won't do, it must, it simply must be eight weeks. Kabat-Zinn looked a bit puzzled and then replied that as the course was developed in the medical school it made sense to follow the semester length - and of course, the semester length in this school was eight weeks. Much of the research into the effectiveness of mindfulness based initiatives is based on eight week programmes, so for researchers it makes sense to use the same format. But should that restrict us from experimenting with new arrangements? If we don't know why we are doing something, then why are we doing it all?
Looking back over the last three years when I have been teaching mindfulness, I recognise how much my teaching has changed from the structure of the classic MBSR. It remains absolutely true to the underlying principles and methodology, but it has been tweaked here and there; the content has been expanded in some areas and reduced in others. It's changed as I have grown, as I have questioned, as I have stepped outside convention and abandoned my own comfort zone. Most of all, it has changed as I have adapted to meet the needs of my pupils. And therein, I suggest, lies progress, as George Bernard Shaw said:
'The reasonable man (sic) adapts himself to the world. while the unreasonable man adapts the world to himself, therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. '
I intend to be a bit unreasonable from time to time on this blog - I hope you don't mind. And maybe tomorrow I will through caution to the winds and fry some eggs for breakfast.
 From the House at Pooh Corner, by AA Milne