“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 For anyone who has ever experienced self-doubt, whose inner voice has deemed them unworthy, who plays tapes of old outdated stories that have us judging our current circumstances not by what is, but by the patterns and beliefs held inside us, this book is for you.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.”
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.