When two Kildare men get to talking about life, the universe and everything, the results can be interesting for anyone listening in. So, it was when Ray D’Arcy spoke to writer Conor Creighton about his new book, the meditation memoir This Is It. Although they had some things in common, there were definitely many things they came at from very different places. They started talking on more or less common ground – Ray said he grew up in a very tense house and Conor could empathise:
“And I think, Ray, to be honest, you know what I mean, that was also just 80s Ireland. There was a lot of like – there was a lot of uncertainty. And people didn’t know – I mean, there were times when my Dad was on the dole, do you know what I mean? Times were hard and we didn’t have the emotional fluency that I think we do now.”
17-year-old Conor left Kildare and went to the Swiss Alps, where he worked in a hostel and had a crush on a German girl with dreadlocks, who smoked roll-up cigarettes. He travelled a lot, doing what he says are the clichéd things young people do, growing his own dreadlocks, smoking too much dope. And he also suffered from anxiety and depression. Looking back on it now, Ray wants to know if everything in his life has been leading to the point he’s at now, having written what he calls a meditation memoir.
“In the murky years of my 20s and early 30s I had no idea where I was heading. I just felt like I was heading from one anxious spiral to another. I suppose that’s the great thing about hindsight, and when you do kind of finally emerge with some sort of learning, you go, ‘Ah, that was necessary and that was necessary,’ and there was some sort of greater plan.”
Like a lot of people who hear about meditation, Conor was very cynical about it when he first encountered it. It took the breakdown of a serious relationship – what he thought of at the time as his road to happiness – to make him take another look at meditation.
“I remember just lying on my carpet. I was age 33. And I’d had a panic attack. And just had this moment where I was like, ‘I’m 33 years of age, like what is going on here? How come I haven’t got this together?’”
As if by magic, Conor remembered he’d seen an ad for meditation app Headspace that day. He downloaded the app and listened to the introductory guided meditation about 60 times that same day.
“Because every time I did the meditation, Ray, there was a tiny brief second where I felt, oh – maybe it’s not all that bad.”
That was the hook that led Conor down the road to becoming a meditation teacher and publishing his memoir. But, Ray wanted to know, what is meditation? Conor’s answer:
“I feel that meditation is kind of like a radical encounter with yourself… Meditation is sort of the technique for learning how to just become aware of what you’re doing.”
In the book, Conor writes that meditation is an alternative to thinking. Rational Ray wants spiritual Conor to explain himself. And he does, focusing mainly on the fact that our brain is not designed to make us happy, but to keep us alive. Not having to believe every thought that comes into our heads gives us, Conor suggests, “a beautiful freedom”. Ray is unmoved. The enjoyably antagonistic discussion ends with Ray making a date to talk to Conor again in a year’s time, when he (Ray) has had a proper chance to read and digest the book. Put a reminder in your calendar.
You can hear the full conversation between Ray and Conor by going here.
This Is It by Conor Creighton is published by Gill Books.
Niall Ó Sioradáin
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