Friday 20 September 2019

Brendan O'Connor: 'Why does everyone hate me for being calm?'

‘There is only so much calm to go around, and I have more of it’
‘There is only so much calm to go around, and I have more of it’
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

I've rolled out the big guns on the meditation app now. '21 days of calm' no less. And let's face it, if a man can't be calm in 21 days then he will never be calm.

I'm undertaking this mammoth 21-day task because I think my practise, as we call it in the trade, needs a shot in the arm. I feel that having got great benefit from the meditation initially, when even my wife conceded that there was something different about me, I haven't noticed enough extra calmness recently, and it's making me a bit het up.

As much as the lady on the app assures me all the time in the meditations that we are not seeking to get to any particular place with this carry on, that we are just trying to step back and observe our thoughts, I beg to differ. I am trying to get to a particular place with the meditation app. I am trying to get to the place where I am calm.

I want to be calm dammit and if I'm putting in the work by lying on my bed every day for approximately 14 minutes - sometimes twice a day if I need a bit of peace and quiet in the evening - then I demand that I see results, that I feel and act visibly calmer.

So having had a spike of calm at the beginning, if there is such a thing, I'm experiencing diminishing returns now.

Not that this is necessarily bothering anyone except me. I actually think the people who live with me, as much as they were enjoying the increase in calm, were finding that they were paying a heavy price for it.

The sermonising was fairly hard to take, I'd say. I was around as if I was the king of calm, encouraging the girls, in a special calm voice, that I never use normally but that I adopted for these situations, to let things go. They might all be going at it over something and I would waft in and encourage them to see these things just like clouds in the sky, and let them drift past.

In my defence I would argue that my interventions usually had the effect of ending whatever minor hostilities were going on, as they all ganged up against me and my smugness. My calm, you could say, was coming at a terrible price in terms of their calm. Because as we all know, there is nothing as detrimental to a person's calm as being told to calm down.

So I'm trying to keep this 21-day journey into calm to myself, apart from putting it in a national newspaper. I certainly won't be boasting around the house about it. I will wear my calm close to my chest this time. It's going to be a roller coaster 21 days.

I'm only six days in and already I'm cured of or expert in, in this order: non-reactivity to body sensation, non-reactivity to sound, non-reactivity to thinking, non-reactivity to emotion, the judging mind and mental noise as addiction.

You might question, as I do, whether you can truly be cured or have mastered all the above areas in just one 14-minute session per topic. But it's all the same thing really, so they all feed into each other. The destination is always the same. Non-reactivity, as you might have noticed, is the major goal.

Can you imagine how annoying non-reactivity is to other people, especially the people living with me? Everybody wants a reaction. In many ways you could say it's all they want from you. If you stop playing ball on reacting to stuff, you're playing with fire. It makes you realise that in general calm is a zero-sum game. There's only so much of it to go around, and if I have more of it, others are likely to have less.

The big challenge for me in the first six days has been trying to fix my judging mind.

Am I judgy?

Put it this way. My name should be Judge. Judging is essentially what I do for a living, and even though I like to think that I judge others a bit less as I get older, all that judging has to go somewhere, so you tend to turn it in on yourself.

I've usually conducted a full hearing, an appeal, sentencing and possibly an execution on myself before I've even got out of bed. And I'm reluctant to let it go. Shure if you didn't judge yourself you'd lose the run of yourself entirely.

Anyway, 15 days to go, and then I'll be a new man.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Brendan O'Connor's Cutting Edge is on RTE 1 on Wednesdays at 10.05pm

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