London based Dave Corrigall has been an ADI for 17 years. He talks to San Harper about what he’s learned about himself over lockdown and how he has discovered something he wishes he’d known right at the beginning of his working life.
San: Good to see you Dave. Thanks for talking to me today. So tell me, what did you do before you became an ADI?
Dave: Two things. I worked in casinos. I was a croupier for eight years. Left that and tried several different things which I didn’t feel happy with, so I tried a course in IT support, and then consultancy and sales. From there, I moved into being an ADI.
S: If you had all the money and time in the world, what would you be doing right now?
D: Probably on a beach, somewhere nice and hot. A very quiet beach… a private beach. (laughing).
S: So besides teaching people to drive, what else are you passionate about?
D: Music, I really enjoy listening to music. I’ve got over 700 gigabytes on my iTunes library. So, a couple of thousand albums and I have been collecting since when I was a teenager. In the last year or so during COVID I found audiobooks very satisfying, I like football and hobbies that are sort of my sustainers if you like.
S: What three things would you say that you’ve learned about yourself during lockdown?
D: I think I realised how much time is spent just sort of working and going through things on automatic pilot. I gave myself more time, and I did things I always wanted to do in the past, which I hadn’t allowed myself the time for. I read up on Greek mythology and classic books that I’ve always wanted to read. I realised that I hadn’t given a lot of me time to myself in the past and that’s something that I felt that I wanted to address when lockdown finished.
S: What kind of things do you do to help with your wellbeing?
D: Meditate. Meditation is my main sustainer now. Since I finished the mindfulness course with you, I make sure I meditate every day. Exercise has suffered over the last couple of months but now I’m meditating and exercising more regularly. I struggled with it to begin with but now I set the clock early, so I can meditate before I start my day. I’d rather get a little bit less sleep, but find the time to meditate, rather than hit the snooze button!
S: What kind of person can you be, if you aren’t doing things to support your wellbeing?
D: Maybe more irritable and anxious about things which I can’t control. Since I’ve been meditating, I’m less anxious about the future and what that might hold.
S: And do you have any physical difficulties that aren’t helped by the job that we do? Like sitting in the car all day?
D: As well as having four slipped discs in my back I was diagnosed with diverticulitis and stress isn’t good for that. It hasn’t played up since doing the course and that’s the most noticeable thing physically.
S: What was your impression of mindfulness before you’d done any courses or learned about it?
D: I had an open mind, because meditation is something that I tried previously, which hasn’t really worked for me because I couldn’t get on with the voice! The voice is very important, because if you haven’t got the right guide…it didn’t work for me. But as soon as I heard you on the DIA webinar, I tried to contact you, because just that little bit of meditation that you did with the DIA, I found so helpful, and I could really relate to it. I was looking for something.
The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course (MBSR) came at the right time, the week before I went back to work and I started noticing the benefits of it straight away.
S: How would you explain it to somebody who’d never heard of mindfulness?
D: I’d compare it to teaching someone to push pull with the steering as opposed to someone who crosses their arms. Everyone has their own ways of dealing with stresses, trials and tribulations of the world but it’s how effective it is and whether it’s sustainable. So crossing hands may work to an extent but the push pull gives you the precision and it gives you the control. It’s very effective and it’s safe.
S: I like that analogy. So you’ve done two of my courses, the eight-week MBSR and the six-week Mindfulness and Compassion for Driver and Rider Trainers. Were there any things that really hit home for you?
D: After learning about compassion it made me realise that I’ve never really given myself comfort for the severe physical pain I endured after a serious accident, I’ve just sort of got on with it. I mean, that was the eureka moment if that makes sense. I felt emotionally drained and very strange and vulnerable immediately after but after that there was a realisation. I’ve found the courses enjoyable and I’ve enjoyed the benefits of mindfulness. I’m feeling much more relaxed and much calmer and probably much happier in myself.
S: Why do you think some people are sceptical about the word ‘mindfulness’?
D: It’s a defence mechanism, isn’t it? If I ridicule it, I don’t feel threatened by it but if I embrace it, then I’m going to have to look at certain aspects of who I am, what I am, how I live my life. Like tree huggers (laughing) if I ridicule it, I don’t have to take it seriously. I’ve already made my mind up.
S: Have there been any aspects of mindfulness that you’ve been able to integrate into your lessons in order to support your pupils?
D: Yes I think this is going to be a gradual process as I want to feel comfortable that I’m doing it correctly. With your guidance I can start doing more. You know yourself when you’re teaching people to drive, the main thing is the stress involved. So if you can reduce the stress, then it’s gonna flow much more and it’s going to cut down their anxiety
I’ve censored myself on occasion, maybe thinking, you could have done that differently.
S: What would you say to people who felt unsure about the cost of doing a mindfulness course?
D: I think it’s the benefit that you gain from it, and the benefits that I’ve gained from mindfulness have more than covered the cost of it. Someone might know the cost of everything but the value of nothing.
S: Good point, I like that. Why do you think other ADI’s should give mindfulness a go?
D: Not so much why they should do it, why shouldn’t they? Anything that’s going to potentially benefit you and benefit the way you live your life is useful. It reduces stress. And that’s got to be the biggest thing, I mean, we live in very stressful times, and it’s worth doing anything that is going to reduce stress and give you things that can sustain you.
Because this isn’t just sort of doing an eight week course, thank you, got the certificate, and yeah, that was fun… but now this is how to live your life. I would have liked to have done it at the beginning of my working life, rather than now.
S: Some real pearls of wisdom there Dave and everything you’re saying just resonates with me. What’s the nicest thing a pupil has said to you?
D: It was something that happened to me last week. It wasn’t for my ego, but my soul if you like, without trying to sound pretentious, but I had a new pupil, and she said at the end of the lesson, “you bring a good energy to the lesson”. And that was more satisfying than all the “thank yous, you’re a great instructor, I passed first time”. That meant as much to me as any of the other comments, if not more. It gave me a warm feeling inside.
S: Okay, here’s a question, if you could have two superpowers, what would they be and why?
D: You might have to give me a while to think about it! I’ve never been into Marvel comics or things like that but being able to fly… that would be good!
San runs the DIA Mindfulness & Compassion in Driver Training course. The next one starts on 28 July. Visit diaacademy.co.uk/product/mindfulness-and-compassion-in-driver-and-rider-training to find out more.