Sex, Drugs and Meditation – A journey to Self!

sex drugs meditation

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” 
~ T.S. Eliot

I’ve just finished reading the most wonderful book. It’s called Sex, Drugs and Meditation – A Memoir, and it’s the debut title of Mary-Lou Stephens, an Australian writer.

Mary-Lou writes about the struggles she endures at a ten day Vipassana Meditation Retreat (for those of you who don’t know, this is a Buddhist practice of ten days of seated meditation and reflection done in complete silence). Ten days of silence and meditation is hard for anyone, but Mary-Lou is a radio host, a musician, and inveterate talker who has actively filled silence her whole life.

I love this book, because not only does Mary-Lou describe the journey that is Vipassana so well, she also takes us on the journey of her life; a life of great hardship. She’s had a crappy childhood, grown into a teenager and then an adult who makes poor relationship choices, self-medicates with drugs and alcohol, struggles with low self-esteem, grief and loss, and doesn’t trust herself as an artist.

All of this, as well as her self-sabotaging inner voice, is revisited during the ten days of her Vipassana retreat as Mary-Lou wrestles with the demons in her head.

This is Mary-Lou’s story, but it could well be yours or mine.  For anyone who has ever experienced self-doubt, whose inner voice has deemed them unworthy, who plays tapes of old outdated stories that have us judging our current circumstances not by what is, but by the patterns and beliefs held inside us, this book is for you.


If you’ve attended a Vipassana meditation you’ll find yourself nodding and smiling and laughing out loud as you recognise yourself between the pages.  If you’ve ever contemplated attending a meditation retreat then read this book!

“One thing: you have to walk, and create the way by your walking; you will not find a ready-made path. It is not so cheap, to reach to the ultimate realization of truth. You will have to create the path by walking yourself; the path is not ready-made, lying there and waiting for you. It is just like the sky: the birds fly, but they don’t leave any footprints. You cannot follow them; there are no footprints left behind.” 
~ Osho

Sex, Drugs and Meditation had me engaged from the very first, and through its pages I found myself smiling, crying, and at times laughing out loud! It’s raw, honest, authentic, vulnerable and terribly brave.

Unlike Eat, Pray, Love the wildly popular and slightly self-indulgent book that defined this self-help ‘woman-goes-on-journey-of spiritual-self-discovery‘ genre, this book leaves you feeling that you can realistically make changes, undergo a journey of self-discovery, and find inner peace.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that when you let go of your story and embrace self-acceptance, it’s amazing how life can change for the better in a heartbeat.

Bravo, Mary-Lou Stephens! Your book is uplifting and wise, and gives hope to us all that we can find a place of peace and forgiveness within us, accept and love ourselves, and open up to the love and goodness available to us here in our ordinary lives.

You can find Mary-Lou’s book at all good book stores, or online at:

Pan Macmillan – book or ebook, shipped worldwide

Amazon – for the kindle edition

* Note: This is not a paid endorsement and I won’t get a brass razoo if you buy Mary-Lou’s book.  I just think it’s a great read with an important message, and I’m into supporting Australian Authors.

Inviting Stillness…

'Stillness' by Aijung Kim

‘Stillness’ by Aijung Kim

“When I dance, I dance, when I sleep, I sleep; yes, and when I walk in a beautiful orchard , if my thoughts drift too far off matters for some part of the time, for some other part I led them back again to the walk, the orchard, the sweetness of this solitude, to myself.”


How often do you invite stillness into your life?

Here I am, finally at home at my little farm, tucked up safely in bed, waiting to feel better. And as I wait, I am reacquainting myself with stillness.

I am finding it hard to read.  My mind wanders and I lose the thread of each string of words and have to start over again.

The glare of the computer tires my eyes.

I have no concentration for games. Conversation’s a bother. I might be awake but my brain may or may not engage.

Frustration.  Fatigue. Overwhelm. At times, panic.

For days, as I’ve been in the city, I’ve struggled with feelings of uselessness.

But now I am home. Yesterday I spent most of my time gazing out the window. But instead of uselessness a sense of stillness came over me.

Here, just at my window, bloomed a pretty bush…

2013-01-24 16.33.54And further across, in the camellia tree, a tiny bird’s nest…

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All around me life went on.  My heart was beating.  Breath filled my chest. I was not my pain.  I was not my thoughts. I was not my body. I noted the texture of the sheets and covers, the grain of the old hand-cut cedar walls of my bedroom, the softness of the pillows and mattress. Nature at my doorstep. I kept on breathing.  My heart kept beating.

My mind emptied out its chatter and slowly I left my head and emerged into the world.  Free of thoughts, the images around me running through my mind like water but not catching hold, I found the deepest peace.

No agenda.  No to-do list. No project to work on. No thinking at all.

It reminded me of some of my most profound meditations, and I had done nothing at all except surrender to the moment.

There’s a lot to be said for inviting moments of stillness into your life.  Stillness expands time. Stillness restores and nourishes. Stillness lets you sit in your Soul, instead of in your head.

It’s easier than you think. Take a moment, find a quiet corner of the world, sit down and breathe, and just let the world carry on around you. Be aware, but not involved.  Let your mind relax and let go.  Breathe. Relax. Be.

Wishing you stillness today, and peace in your heart.  Bless ♥ xx

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When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.

Your innermost sense of self, of who you are, is inseparable from stillness. This is the I Am that is deeper than name and form. ~ Eckhart Tolle

Christmas as a Meditation on Kindness

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“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. 
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. 
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” 
~ Mother Teresa

Christmas is such a crazy time – as much as it can be filled with fun and family and wonder, it can be equally a time of stress, loneliness, hardship, emotional buffeting and misery.

That makes it a perfect exercise for practicing kindness.

This Christmas why not choose to see the day, or the season, as a meditation on kindness. You’ll find that not only will this have positive benefits for you and your own state of mind, the benefits of this practice will also flow out to the world around you.

How to Begin

Start by making a decision to be kind to yourself. Accept that you may have feelings of anxiety, sadness, frustration, anger or overwhelm, that you may have your buttons pushed by the people around you – especially family. Create the intention that just for these few hours you will treat yourself with kindness and compassion – that you will allow the unwanted feelings and emotions to wash over you like a momentary cloud passing through a sunny sky, rather than letting them take root and grow. Remind yourself often to come back into your heart, and live from a place of love.

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How to Flow Kindness to Others

As you meet people through out the day, remember that they may be also experiencing emotions of stress, loneliness, sorrow, grief, worry, overwhelm, anxiety or despair. Smile from your heart – let kindness build a bridge of understanding between you…

In your mind, wish that person well.  Flow good feelings towards them. Keep smiling.

Sometimes you’ll end up in social situations where people’s moods or behaviours may affect your own positive emotional state.  That’s okay.  Begin by sitting in awareness of how the troubles within the other person’s mind may make them act in ways that reveal their inner turmoil and isolation. Instead of being triggered into negative emotions or behaviours yourself, have compassion for their struggle or attitude.  Let it wash over you like a cloud passing overhead on a sunny day. Disconnect from your need to engage in their drama.  Smile, offer words and acts of kindness, or quietly remove yourself from the situation and maintain your own emotional calm and balance.



And if you’re game, I have a Christmas Kindness Challenge for you:

The Art of Bliss Bombing

This is a gorgeous activity, and one of my favourites. Take yourself to a public place, like a mall, coffee shop, or a bench in a park near where people are walking by.  (If you are up to it, do this at the family Christmas gathering!) Sit somewhere unobtrusive.  When someone walks past, shoot a radiant shower of golden sparks from your heart to theirs and silently bless them with love.  You can even send joy and love from your heart to trees, animals, plants, bus-loads of commuters and overhead planes.  You might  want to say to yourself, “I bless you with love.  Know joy today.”  If anyone catches your eye, just smile.

Feel your open heart begin to tingle with energy and joy.  In that place of energetic connection look around you at the world and you will see that it IS brighter and more beautiful because of YOU.

Today you have acted as an Earth Angel.  Your Lightwork has helped contribute to our energetic abundance.

It’s okay to let your face crack open from smiling!  Thank the Universe for this amazing experience we call life.  Expect an outpouring of feel-good emotion. ♥ Don’t be at all surprised at how the Universe will mirror your love and energetic abundance back to you as you become more and more magnetic to the flow of good and grace.

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Be the Stillness

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“Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen – that stillness becomes a radiance.” ~ Morgan Freeman

Just for today

Hold stillness inside you

While the world pulses and races and dances a crazy dance

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Turn inward

Be aware of your breathing

Consciously slow yourself

And be filled with peace


It only takes a moment

And you can be in stillness

Like a Mountain

Strong, stable, eternal

Life going on all around you

With you the silent witness

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There is an expansiveness in silence

An awareness

A connection

And a great calm.

Image - Life in the city by Larry Lourcey

Today my wish for you is moments of stillness to clarify and illuminate your day. Today my wish for you is peace in your heart.  Bless ♥ xx

Image credits:,,,

Rambo, the Celebrity Dog of MBK Thailand

“The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue” ~ Anonymous

Those of you who read my blog will know that I have a soft spot for dogs.  Although I love to travel, I eventually find myself missing my own animals, so when I’m away I seem to notice dogs more, and they always remind me of home.

In 2007 my husband and I were in Thailand, sitting at a cafe outside MBK Centre, a big Thai shopping Mall.  The security guards were out in force for some grand opening of a new store.  They had run red carpet up to the entrance, and used gold ropes to mark out a path for the dignitaries. There were fresh flowers, and it all looked very grand. Except for the scruffy stray dog who was sleeping right in the middle of the carpet.  He was covered in scabby wounds, and his eyes were weeping and sore.  You could see all his ribs.  He was not a good looking dog by any stretch of the imagination.

The Thai security were so patient with this stubborn stray.  They never raised their voice, they never resorted to aggression or frustration.  They just kept politely moving him on.

But no matter how many times the guards good naturedly herded the dog away, he kept coming back and lying down on that red carpet.  Finally, we watched in amazement as the guards pooled some money and sent the youngest man off to a street food vendor.  He bought some grilled meat on sticks, and used it to lure the dog away, just moments before the VIPs showed up. The dog obediently ate all of his bribes, the Official Party moved inside the building, and the dog went back to lie at the top of the steps in the sun, happy with his full belly.

It really made my day seeing the kindness of the guards and the gentle regard they had for the stray dog. Weeks later, safe back at my farm, I looked through my photos and wondered what would become of that MBK mutt – one hungry stray in a city of so many other homeless animals.

Fast forward to 2012, and we find ourselves back at MBK.  As I am walking along one of the overpasses towards the centre, I am stunned to see the same dog.  He is sleek, fat and healthy – busy engaged in eating a bag of soup noodles that a lady has bought from a vendor just for him.

I burst out smiling.  It was like running into an old friend.

I didn’t have my phone or camera with me, but to my surprise, when I googled MBK here was a picture of Rambo – who has become quite the celebrity over the past few years.  He even has his own fan page on facebook.

Hooray for dogs, and hooray for the people who treat strays with love and compassion.  May we all learn to have such regard for each other.

*All images from Rambo’s facebook fan page.

Invisible Acts of Love and the Importance of Uplifting Others…

Image by Michael Leunig

‘Tis the everyday things that really count,

And the everyday people we know;

And everyday kindnesses go very far,

Toward making a heaven below.

Life can be a difficult ride, and each of us at times will know pain, trouble, loneliness and struggle.  That’s why it is so important for us to practice love and kindness.

But when we are going through our own difficulties, when we are tired or feeling taken for granted, we might wonder what’s the point? What’s the point of being kind? What’s the point of continuing to be caring, helpful, polite?

Have you noticed that emotional states are contagious? Hang around an angry person long enough and some of that will rub off on you.  The same goes for depression. Uncaring acts beget more. Selfishness breeds isolation, disrespect, contempt and ugliness.

Just as negative emotions have a negative impact, choosing to stay focused on love, gratitude, positive values and caring will have a positive impact in our lives.

Our emotional state and our thoughts travel out from us like ripples on a pond. They radiate energy that affects everything and everyone around us. Eventually some of that energy will be reflected back to us, perhaps weaker, perhaps greatly magnified…

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What sort of world do you choose for yourself?

Loving others, living from your heart, choosing kindness, and performing acts of service and devotion that may well go unacknowledged or unappreciated are paths that can truly lead us to a better future, influencing and supporting the positive unfolding of history in ways we may not ever know or understand in our lifetime.

No matter what your emotional starting ground, when you uplift others, you also uplift yourself. When you share your heart, it doesn’t decrease your love – it expands your love, and your capacity to give and receive love.

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Our Universe is built upon unseen acts of courage, goodness, faith, optimism, service and great love.

Whether you subscribe to a particular religion or not, whether you believe in God, karma, Universal Law or death and taxes – know that by your own actions, your choices, your values, sacrifices and personal character you contribute to the future unfolding of our planet.

Invisible acts of love, and uplifting others might not provide us with an immediate reward – but through these acts we are gifted something far more precious – they give us the power to positively shape destiny, and to better shape ourselves in the process.

When in doubt about how to act, be guided by the wisdom of the Dalai Lama:

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
Dalai Lama

Places that remind you of who you used to be…

The first time I went to Yum Cha was a revelation. It was a crowded barn of a restaurant in Sydney, and my small table were the only Caucasians in a sea of dark hair. They didn’t even have a menu in English. My friend Geoff, who speaks fluent Cantonese, took us there, and did all of the ordering for us. The place was bustling, and small children played happily amidst the tables, dodging the streaming trolleys of food as they creaked around the room.

Of course the food was fantastic.  But it was more than that.  In that chaotic asian soup of sounds, flavours and faces I felt as comfortable as if I’d been born to it. I sat back in the madhouse din, all smiles. My soul felt nurtured, satisfied, home.

Years later, my sister and I often ventured to Sunnybank in Brisbane for an evening meal in one of the small family-run restaurants in that predominantly Asian suburb. The place we favoured had the worst translation of a menu I’ve ever seen, laminated tables, a clacketty old electric fan that pushed heat-wave summer air around in slow circles, and cheap plastic decorations. It had the ambience of a hospital waiting room. The food was home-style but tasty and the owners got to know us so well that after a while they just brought us a soup, a main, some sort of dessert – whatever was going, without us having to order. We loved the place.  It felt like family.

When my husband was working overseas and I was struggling with a farm in drought, miserable with fatigue and acute loneliness, I would allow myself a fortnightly treat of yum cha on my own. Sitting by myself at a small table, with the routine of trolley, crowds, noise and family chatter around me, I always left feeling calm, comforted and reassured. A standard cafe never had the same effect, no matter how kind the staff or how delicious the food.

Why? Why Yum Cha?

It didn’t make much sense to me until I explored China, and then Thailand. These foreign places felt as familiar to me as breathing. The food, the crowds, the smell of the air. The first time I saw a line of bald-headed buddhist monks in their saffron robes, I was brought inexplicably to tears.

I was welcomed into temples, strangers encouraged me to pray and leave offerings at their family or workplace altars, monks sought me out for conversation. I knew some of the chants and meditations, although they were not in my native tongue, and I had not been taught them. I felt as if I had come home.

I’m sure Yum Cha stirs past life memories in me. They must have been good lives, for I find much comfort there.

How about you?  Have you ever felt a crazy kind of connection to an unfamiliar place?  Or known the place on first visit without having ever been there before?  It’s more common that people realise.

Even if you don’t believe in past lives, you can still find places that take you back to a different time in this life, and to interests, dreams and skills you might have forgotten.

Wishing for you a day of reconnection and positive memories. And maybe some Yum Cha. ♥ Nicole xx