Our former editor has just published This Is It, a marvellous meditation memoir, on Thursday April 2nd. Here’s the story behind it.
What was the starting point for the book?
I had always thought about writing a book about meditation but I never imagined it would be a memoir. I guess that’s just what happens when you’re living alone in a lockdown in front of blank screen.
Did you have a writing process for interweaving your personal narrative along with your insights through meditation?
Not really. The book is relatively timeline free – luckily I got away with that one. I think I just wanted to cover topics and themes and then picked from my past to supply examples.
Did writing and finishing the book during the pandemic shift an emphasis or focus on aspects of it?
I think I was more attuned to empathy than at any other time in my life. I think that was the case for many of us. It was the first time I can remember where everyone on the planet was scared at once.
You were editor of Totally Dublin from 2006 to 2008. Can you briefly fill us in on your time with this magazine and what happened next?
I loved working for Totally Dublin, and I was very lucky. I came in as an intern with zero experience, no academic qualifications and a kind of will I / won’t I approach to grammar and somehow ended up with the editor’s position. I did that for about two years. We were naive but we tried in our own clumsy way to create a progressive freesheet publication. Then I went to Berlin for a decade, worked in a lot of bars and published three books.
At what stage did you pivot into thinking about self-awareness, mental health and how men are relating to it and discussing it?
I’ve experienced cyclical depression and low to high level anxiety since I can remember. My go-to remedies were find a new country or a new relationship. It wasn’t until I tried ayahuasca that I began to even consider that I had agency over my own feelings. It was really empowering, and opened me up to therapy, more psychedelics and lots of meditation. Some time later I realised that many of my ideas about how a man should be, my conditioning and so on, were preventing me from living an authentic life. The version of masculinity I’d come up with was a set of rules including, don’t cry, don’t tell your mates, don’t show any weakness – basically, a recipe for isolation and misery. I figured I wasn’t alone so I started a club.
Have you found contentment and satisfaction from the journey in writing this or will you be riddled with nerves around reviews, feedback, criticism and sales?
I was most nervous about my parents. I spoke a lot about them and my upbringing. I wanted to be honest but also didn’t want to hurt them in any way. They have been amazing though. I’m less concerned about other criticism, but very simply would just love for the book to be of some use.
Has the last year changed any aspect of your own personal trajectory in life or reinforced your belief to be on the right path?
It has. I’ve become more aware of what’s important. I use the word love much more. I tell my friends I love them as much as possible.
Have you any tips for someone reading this who may wish to delve into their self-awareness and emotional intelligence right now?
Start with two minutes. There’s a two minute meditation on my website. And if you enjoy it, try and find other meditators. Take courses. Join a community. Really go for it. What have you got to lose? The benefits are subtle, but seriously if you notice even one second of benefit from meditation, keep going. It’s so good and so practical, and there’s so much science backing it up these days. I say this at the beginning of every class I teach: all the happiness and peace you’re looking for are already inside you, you just need to pay more attention.
Is there a pertinent question people overlook asking about meditation when interviewing you?
Hmmm… I think people often forget that as well as being a meditation teacher, I’m also just a meditation student. So sometimes it’s nice when people ask me what area of my personality, or what struggle i’m working on at the moment. If you had asked that, I’d have admitted it was probably a sugar addiction. I quit five weeks ago – I know, I know, what idiot would quit sugar in the middle of a lockdown – and, you’ll be happy to know it’s been hell.
€14.99, Gill Books