Mary-Lou meditates her way to calm
by Rebecca A Rose for the ABC.
When Mary-Louise Stephens embarked on her first 10 day meditation retreat, colleagues were taking bets about how long she would last.
Now that she has just completed her 7th – and published a book on how it has changed her life – they are not so quick to scoff.
Above: Mary-Lou at an OB with Annette Hughes
The ABC Coast Presenter is a renowned chatterbox and not even she can believe how much she enjoys staying quiet for so long.
“To be silent – it was a relief!” she laughed.
“When I was forced to be silent I realised how worried I am of the impression I am making, by what I say, by my level of knowledge and interest and humour – how much I want to impress people and want them to like me.
“A lot of (what we) talk is about that.”
Her life has changed so much that she decided to write a book about the experience in the vein of ‘if I can do it, anyone can!’ Her memoir will be launched at Ariel Books in Paddington tomorrow night.
Sex, Drugs and Meditation is the story of how Mary-Lou went from heroin addict with a string of failed relationships behind her to happily married and serene, at one with her troubled past and optimistic about the future.
Meditating in silence for 11 hours a day over ten days, Mary-Lou had some amazing revelations about herself.
Practitioners of mindful meditation focus on being present in the moment – by concentrating on their breathing they hone in on their emotions.
“The difficulty is breaking down the walls between the conscious and subconscious.
“When you get into that state, all of the stuff that really drives you – not the stuff you think drives you, but the internal stuff – comes to the surface.”
The theory that we are the creators of our own misery rang true.
“What I was doing before this was to blame everyone else for my misery. I was blaming my boss, management, old boyfriends. If I had nothing to be miserable about I would make stuff up.”
It is not just the silence, but the physical constraints of trying to stay still and the emotional turmoil of turning the spotlight on yourself so intensely that make meditation retreats such a hardcore experience.
But that doesn’t mean that every thought is on a higher plane.
“Sometimes I let my mind have a holiday and do what it wants to do – I had bought a lotto ticket and was thinking about how I would spend the money,” she said.
“Or I would worry about the house burning down because i had left the iron on!
Mary-Lou’s book covers some hair-raising days from her youth, including an unhappy childhood and drug addiction. It has taken her many years to write as she struggled to be as honest as she had to about how far she has come.
“It is hard because people are going to know all these things about me. Yes, I used to take heroin and I used to steal. I am concerned in some ways – what will people here think of me?”
In the end, her transformation is the story and according to Mary-Lou that was the reason it had to be told.
She has taken ten weeks off to promote the book as well as write the follow up, which will explain the nitty gritty behind the ‘happily ever after’ ending of Sex, Drugs and Meditation.