meditation makes you like a rock


Meditation, Motherhood

‘Answer the why, and we’ll naturally find more courage when it comes to following through on the how.’

Light Watkins wrote this and as soon as I read it, I wrote down why I needed to seek out a particular meditation teacher at a particularly inconvenient time. All the logistics were against me – I was still bruised from the birth of my third son, breastfeeding incessantly, the teacher was in another country, it seemed insane to pay someone to teach me silence, my husband was working 20 hours out of every 24 – but when I made the decision to do it, everything fell into place. Briefly, my life became like a Disney movie, where the heroine clicks her fingers and her desires appear in technicolor across the screen.

It was snowing and viciously cold outside, but I strapped my baby to me and got on a plane. The tiny, mewling little thing stayed cocooned close to me through the next three days, where I learned – through to my bones – how to meditate. Or how to stop telling myself that I was doing it wrong (there is no wrong).

An invisible cord attached to me umbilically, hauling me over to the person who made me understand the simplicity of meditation – and the complexity of what it could unravel.

Two years on, I found my why, scrawled on the back of an old bill. It says: ‘To be the best mother I can be to my children. To be a more loving and supportive person and wife. To love myself after so many years of not liking myself. To turn into a rock. In a good way.’

I’m not the best mother I can be to my children – yet. I’m not the most loving and supportive person I can be – yet. I don’t love myself after years of not liking myself. Yet. As for being a rock, I balance precariously on shifting sands, every day. But in time, I trust these things will happen.

So, what’s your why?

meditating is like flossing your teeth



I dislike anything to do with dentists. That’s dentists, hygienists, dental chairs, that swirly thing you spit in. All of the sounds. But after three back-to-back pregnancies and their affect on my teeth, I am vigilant about getting my teeth cleaned.

Yesterday, as I lay back in the chair getting them scaled and polished, a rhythmic mantra pecked around in my head, ricocheting to the scrape and tap of those sinister metal tools. It went like this: ‘Yep, this sucks. I hate this. Wow, this, I hate this. There is nothing pleasant about this.’ Repetitive, unhelpful and relentless, this cheery ditty droned on and on until the hygienist had finished.

Meditation can be like this.

I don’t skip down to it wearing a floaty silk kaftan, my obedient neurons all set to be plugged in to the universe. Often, I sit there and think: ‘Yep, this sucks. I hate this. Wow, this, I hate this. There is nothing pleasant about this.’ But I do it every day, and I don’t think much about the action itself anymore, otherwise it wouldn’t get done.

I leave the dentist with teeth that are cleaner, shinier. Whiter. And each time I finish meditating, I know that some cleaning has taken place, too. However unremarkable – like the absent-minded sweeping of fallen leaves – or monumental, like the grunting, sweaty pull of a gnarl of poison ivy, my brain feels different after I meditate.

Cleaner, shinier. Whiter. Ready to flash its new-found freshness onto the world.

being stable as a parent


Meditation, Motherhood

‘You, the unstable, must become a tree’

This is what we have to do as parents.

No matter what has happened in your life, no matter where you are, how often you have messed up, how many bad choices you have made, your roots come down when you have children. You stop letting the wind carry you here and carry you there. You stop looking over your shoulder.

You are the shoulder.

Before my three babies arrived, I was like a dandelion clock. I was fragile. I let life blow me around on its violent and gentle whims. I allowed my past to fully dictate my present, like a childish bully desperate for attention.

In the long months after my first son was born, as I clawed my way through a dark and stifling cloud of post-partum mental illness, I began to understand that I had to get stronger. A lot stronger.

I started to meditate.

By increments – and it took a few years – I started to see that the strength was already there. It is there in all of us. The tree had been planted. All I had to do was let it grow, let the good green leaves breathe in the cold fresh air. Sense its solid, immovable trunk. Observe its leaves fall and peek out again triumphantly, marking Spring. I already was the tree.

So are you.

The hum


I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert this morning talking about The Curiosity-Driven Life, and it blew my mind a little. I didn’t run out to the world and shout Hallelujah, but something popped in me. A recognition.

The talk spun off a reader who had posted a comment on her Facebook page. Elizabeth had offered her inspirational call to arms on creativity, another urge to ‘follow your passion.’ And the reader was like, right, that’s it, I’ve had it with you passionate people talking about passion. Shut right up about passion! I don’t know what my passion is and it’s making me really distressed that all you passionate people do.

Elizabeth, being the magician that she is, was right on it. She totally got it. Put down the word passion, she said, and follow your curiosity. What a relief! Like that reader, all my life I have flitted from one thing to the next, feeling incredibly guilty about it. I always knew I would write but I became confused about the process. Where was the burning passion? Why wasn’t I leaping out of bed in the morning to pursue this passion? What exactly was the passion anyway?

I became fascinated with people who had a singular purpose. I sing. I’m a doctor. I’m a gardener. I’m a carpenter. I’m a lawyer. You meet these people who have never questioned what they are doing in life. They seem born to do it. They are at ease.

Elizabeth Gilbert calls them jackhammers – early on, they have identified what they are good at and they get about it like jackhammers. Newsflash: these people are fairly rare.

The rest of us, she says, are hummingbirds. We flit from one thing to another, weaving ideas here and there and, as she puts it so brilliantly, we end up cross-pollinating the world. Just like those blessed people who are sailing on their passion, we are blessed too – we have rich lives too.

We follow the hum of the universe, and we don’t feel bad about ourselves for doing it. We are the goddam hummingbirds!

The hidden poets


I’ve been writing this blog for the time of dot in the infinity of the universe (that’s precisely four days) and already, it’s freed something in the ether.

Opening up in this infinitesimal way has lit up something for other people too. This tap on the shoulder from my soul has unconsciously touched at other people’s inner whispers.

In this time of pinpoint-on-a-dot, someone has given me their memoir to read (it’s electric), someone has given me their short stories to edit (they fizz) and someone else has shown me their poems (they are life, set to music).

This is not coincidence. This is what happens when you begin to open yourself up to the consciousness within. We are all connected to something so pure and so unsullied that when we even venture near it, in however small a way, our world starts to explosively bloom, like the first fierce flowers of spring.

Like bees to honey, people cannot help but be attracted to someone else who is connecting to their soul. They don’t know why they are giving up their glorious goods now, they don’t know why that now is the time to start telling people about their work and to start talking about it, but they feel compelled to. Gently.

The hidden poets come out. The people with stories they need to tell, the people whose music is being pulled into the universe.

Our songs to the world.

I’ve got no more brain left


I’m referring to the 3-year-old again. This is what he says precipitating a meltdown, and I think it is a perfect way to describe how the adult brain feels pre-meltdown. Of course, as adults, we are not allowed to let it all go like this. Instead of releasing all that stress and confusion into a glorious, freeing tantrum, we have to swallow it back down again. Ugh.

It will come out somehow. Either immediately as a more decorous display than a toddler could throw up – some tears, a few words of rudeness to whoever is closest to us, two fingers up to the driver who wouldn’t let us in to the lane – or later, in those few glasses of wine we will pour ourselves or (if we are wiser) in that exercise class or solo run.

What I aim for now is not getting to the stage when I’ve Got No More Brain Left. I want to pass this on to my sons too. That doesn’t mean suppress anything, God, no! It means trying to let it out in the healthiest way possible. And for toddlers, that can be a tantrum, absolutely. That’s just what they do, and sometimes you have to let them at it – for a while anyway.

For me, it’s meditation. I’m working on doing that exercise class or run too, but for the last few years – since I began to take meditation seriously – I haven’t even touched the place where I’ve had no more brain left.

Before I started a meditation practice, I lived in that place. And it was painful.

Big problems


Lately I’ve been attempting to do loving-kindness meditation, where you let your mind rest on phrases such as may you be happy, may you be peaceful, may you live with ease.

There’s a lot to do in the world, isn’t there? You can’t look away from what’s happening and say: well it’s nothing to do with me, I personally have not done anything wrong.

I feel over-whelmed with the onslaught of news right now, and the world really does seem broken; and the world really does seem like it’s broken open, and finally change will happen. After watching the video of George Floyd being murdered by a white police officer I was outraged and didn’t know what to do about it. I’m just a small white woman living in a terraced house in Dublin city. Can I help change the world?

I go back to doing these loving-kindness meditations because they are tools laid out by the Buddha to connect with compassion, to amplify this quality in yourself and therefore radiate it out into the world. Sitting at home meditating is not going to correct the injustices out there but if you start to do it, even just a tiny bit, you will find it is a refuge from which you can re-enter your little community a kinder person.

For my part, if I’m kinder to myself, I am to my children too. If I am kinder to them, then they in turn are kinder to others. I can’t change the world or fix racism – although yes it is not enough to not be racist we must be actively anti-racist – but I can tend to my corner of the earth and make sure that the ideas and actions that grow here are the right ones.


Creativity, Motherhood

If left to his own devices, my eldest son – sociable, wonderful – would lock himself away upstairs to ‘tell himself stories’. Of late, he wants woken up early to make sure he has time to tell himself a story before the freneticism of the day slaps him in the face.

After school, he drops his bag and shoes in the hallway and sprints up, picking up the story where he left off that morning. He can’t really write or ‘read to level’ yet (what level? The world level of eight year olds? Damn it, I hate levels) but he tells himself intricate tales of dragons and moons, bears and knights, mountains and spaceships each day, creating magical worlds where his imagination is clearly having the time of its life.

Recently, when he would not comply with one of my strict diktats (some such earthly thing as pick up your shoes, or don’t shout at your brother, or we will have to wash your hair before bedtime) I said to him ‘Ok, that’s it, I’m going to take away your storytelling privileges.’

Ok-kaaaaaaaaay, I thought straight after, wondering how I could roll back from this one. I’m going to take away one of the most basic things that makes you human? I’m going to take away this most beautiful and nourishing thing you have all to yourself? I’m going to put limits on this magical and sacred entity, this swirling amalgam of your soul and the mental snapshots you have taken of the world so far, this vortex which syncs with other peoples’ creative innards, this – this intangible gift that all of us have for ourselves, to share with others?

Right. He began to moan, please, please never do that, but I stopped him as quickly as he started, telling him that, holy jeepers good god above, of course no-one could ever take away his ‘story-telling privileges’ from him, and it was wrong of me to say so.

The part of parenting I hate the most is that frustrated, futile ‘I’ve got nowhere to go now’ feeling I get when I can’t get my children to do basic things. I detest my current method of ‘If you don’t do X, then you can’t have ‘Y’, but I don’t have a more sophisticated one in play at the moment, mostly because I am just a limited human being myself.

‘That’s a blackmail,’ I’ve heard them recently telling each other, poor little mittens that they are because that is now what they have learned works as a quicker way to get things done. (If you don’t let me play with your Lego, I’m going to tell mummy – that’s a blackmail. If you don’t give me one of your jellies, I’m not going to let you play with my fart Ninja – that’s a blackmail).

Is everything a blackmail? Is life itself a blackmail, or quid pro quo? If you don’t go and tidy the mess you left downstairs then I’m taking away your storytelling privileges (refer above). If you don’t go to GAA this morning then you won’t be able to watch TV this evening. If you don’t eat your vegetables with dinner then you won’t be allowed an ice-pop for dessert. If you don’t do your homework then you won’t be able to go out and play with your friends.

Ugh. As they get older, and they are so tiny still, I see them start to drown in obligation. Obligations that I put on them and obligations that society puts on them.

Do you want to know a secret? I’d love to just let my eldest tell himself stories all day long. Soon enough, I know, he won’t be doing it and he will be scrolling through his phone or whatever. I’d love to let my middle child paint all day long, as his wont. And my youngest? I’d like to let him loose on the kitchen. Allow him to tip all his ‘ingredients’ into a bowl, on the floor; smoosh the butter through his hands, mix the strawberries with the grated cheese as he did yesterday when he insisted on making himself lunch.

I’d like not to wrestle them into clothes every day, force them out of the house before they feel ready to leave, make them go to football training in the freezing, petulant drizzle when they would rather snuggle up with a book, make them wear coats to keep them warm, make them eat three different kinds of vegetables or make sure their reading is getting up to ‘level’. (Again: what level?)

I’d like to go rogue, go feral. Hell, smear myself in Nutella, run around the house with them and call that a good day.

Sigh. I won’t though. Neither will they.

Good morning, muse

Creativity, Meditation

‘Who knows anyway what it is, that wild, silky part of ourselves without which no poem can live.’

This is the late poet Mary Oliver talking about the creative part of us that resembles a quivering deer in headlights. It can be vibrant, tangibly pulsating from someone, or painfully elusive, moribund – in desperate need of sustenance. Until recently, mine was neglected like this. Now, I’m feeding it again.

Mary talks about the necessity of making an appointment with this muse, this ‘part of the psyche… that works in concert with consciousness.’ If you give it this due, it will stop hiding. It will start to trust you again.

The creative part of ourselves and what it is capable of producing seems complex yet I know it’s the same thing that makes my toddler lift up a crayon and start scribbling swirls and crooked lines everywhere (usually on the walls). It is wild and silky, and it makes me think of that Dylan Thomas poem, too: The force that through the green fuse drives the flower.

The creative force within us all is phenomenal. It is Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman, that ‘inner mystery’ inside us all. Each one of us is searching for it in every single thing we do, whether we are aware of it or not. The force that drives the flower through the stem is the creativity of life itself, the daily unfurling of the beautiful planet and all it gives us. We grow babies. We build. We plant. We design our lives.

To bring it down a notch – we choose socks. We wear nail polish. We arrange our toast a certain way on the plate.

What is it? Something big. Something wild. Something silky.