Towards a Mad Queer Mindfulness for Everyone

The idea of a mad, queer mindfulness might sound paradoxical. Surely mindfulness is about moving in the direction of sanity, not madness. And, as a spiritual approach, shouldn’t it sit apart from the radical political – and erotic – possibilities suggested by the word ‘queer’?

In this talk, author of the comic books ‘Queer: A Graphic History’ and the forthcoming ‘Mad: A Graphic Guide’ explores why mindfulness needs to be – and perhaps already inevitably is – both mad and queer. They also argue that, while both these reclaimed terms might initially feel threatening or excluding, they can be reframed as friendly concepts which could helpfully accompany all of us on our mindful journeys.

In the first half of the talk, we examine the ways in which mindfulness invites us towards many experiences deemed ‘mad’ in wider culture, and how mad/sane binaries risk keeping us apart from the potentials of mindfulness. We also consider why it’s vital for mindfulness to be trauma-sensitive, and to embrace the diversity of lived experiences of madness.

In the second half of the talk, we turn to how queer offers one approach to swimming against the stream of cultural norms: something that could be seen as essential to a mindful path. We explore what a queer mindfulness might look like at the cultural and relational – not just spiritual and individual – levels, and how mindfulness might usefully encompass gender and erotic diversity.



Minds-fulness? How plurality can help us to be with all that arises

In this experiential workshop we explore how the concept of being plural – rather than singular – can be brought into useful dialogue with mindfulness, and help us in our practice.

Many therapeutic and spiritual approaches suggest that people are plural rather than singular, suggesting that we have an internal system of parts, or selves, rather than being one individual self or ‘mono-mind’. Popular examples include Richard Schwartz’s Internal Family Systems therapy, the voice dialogue approach of Hal and Sidra Stone, and John Rowan’s Dialogical Self.

In this workshop we’ll play with a number of approaches for identifying, observing, and communicating between our plural selves, including drawing, journalling, moving, and sitting. We’ll explore whether a plural parts approach might aid us in befriending ourselves, in noticing our experiences in a less attached way, and in accompanying ourselves compassionately through all that arises in our inner and outer experience.



Meg-John Barker was an academic psychologist and UKCP accredited therapist for many years before focusing on writing full time. They are an internationally recognised expert on gender, sexual, and relationship diversity (GSRD) and therapy, with numerous academic books and papers on the topics of bisexuality, open non-monogamy, sadomasochism, non-binary gender, and Buddhist mindfulness. They co-founded the journal Psychology & Sexuality and the activist-research organisation BiUK, through which they published The Bisexuality Report. They have advised many organisations, therapeutic bodies, and governmental departments on matters relating to gender, sexual, and relationship diversity (GSRD) including writing the BACP document on the topic. They’ve co-organised many public events on sex and relationships, including Sense about Sex and Critical Sexology and co-founded the Culture, Sex, Relationships podcast with Justin Hancock.


I’m a nearly-50-year-old writer, currently living in Brighton in a little studio with a sea view. I went self-employed three years ago, coinciding with a time of ‘things falling apart’ in my life. I’ve been exploring trauma deeply since then, through reading and therapy, as well as developing my spiritual practice drawing on primarily on the work of Pema Chödrön. Daily life now also involves walking the downs, making comics and zines, cooking, and watching superhero TV shows. Beyond that, I’m involved in various projects towards trauma-sensitive, consensual ways of relating, and sustainable communities based around that.