The queen of mindfulness

Ruby Wax talks to Liz Parry about her new book and show, Frazzled, and offers her tips for living mindfully

Comedienne Ruby Wax is best known for her razor sharp wit, but in recent years she has been crowned the queen of the mindfulness phenomenon in the UK. She has written two bestselling books on the subject: Sane New World and A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled. The latter, her newest title, offers advice for relationships, parents, children and teenagers on how to cope with the pressures of everyday life through mindfulness.

©Image of Ruby Wax courtesy of Steve Ullathorne

Q: You have done a great deal of work to get rid of the stigmas associated with stress, anxiety and depression. That must be very rewarding

Ruby: Absolutely. It’s different to just being a comedienne. I’m just making it more accessible. With Sane New World I was doing a show about depression, but with Frazzled it’s a whole different ball game. Frazzled is like burn out or high anxiety, and now I’m trying to get rid of the stigma behind that.

Q: You’ve recently opened up your first Frazzled café. Tell us about that.

Ruby: It’s not a walk-in; we call it a talk-in. You write to us and we then form groups of 15 where people can meet up every two weeks with a facilitator and it’s totally anonymous. The idea is that it’s a little tribe and you give each other support. It’s for getting things off your chest, because speaking is half the cure.

Q: In 2013 you obtained a Masters degree in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy from the University of Oxford. What did you enjoy most about your studies?

Ruby: Learning about how your brain works is probably the biggest deal in a lifetime. To me that’s the most interesting thing on earth. Just understanding how the mechanics work and how you can play around with them so that things are not so stuck.

Q: What’s your own personal definition of mindfulness?

Ruby: Well, it’s like a cognitive therapy except you do it on your own. Eventually you notice how you think. You look inwards, rather than just being passive aggressive. So you practise the idea of having a kind of observer view; you’re not so caught up in endless thoughts. You notice that there’s stress but you’re not completely stressed – you stand back and it helps you to focus your attention. If you have depression, which I had two years ago, rather than being hit by it overnight, you can see it coming. You can notice that your thoughts are changing and you can do something about it. Once you notice something you have choices.

Q: Tell us about your own mindfulness practice.

Ruby: Well, I get up in the morning and do it; it’s like brushing my teeth. It’s so that I can clear out the garbage. It doesn’t clear out everything but at least I’m making an attempt. If I’m doing a show then I’ll do it before the show, or if nothing is going on and I’m in a taxi, then I’ll do it in the taxi. There are moments in the day when you’re not doing anything, so it’s like putting money in the bank. You can work on your pelvic floor when you’re sitting on the tube; you can also develop this part of the brain. It’s physiological. It gives you more and more strength to be able to be in charge of your focus.

Q: You were awarded an OBE for services to mental health last year. How did that feel?

Ruby: Well that’s a buzz. That’s a high. I’m not going to turn that one down! But again, the journey doesn’t stop. I have to stop and be grateful, which isn’t my milieu, but ok.

Q: What tips can you offer for living mindfully?

Ruby: Just try and notice what you’re doing, when you’re doing it. So if you’re drinking coffee or whatever try to taste it. If you’re on holiday, try to notice it.

Ruby Wax: Frazzled, her sell-out one-woman show, will be at Leicester Square Theatre in London for a month from 30 May to 24 June 2017. For further details visit www.rubywax.net/tour

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