Thanks to a hunch and a great title, I purchased Sex, Drugs and Meditation on Amazon–and liked it even more than I expected I would. So I wrote the author, Mary-Lou Stephens, to ask if I could interview her for this site and for an upcoming book of mine. She kindly agreed.
Mollie: Do you practice questioning your thoughts in a conscious way with the goal of greater inner peace? When and how did you begin this practice? Does it work?
Mary-Lou: Yes. This is what I refer to as “the witness.” I observe my thoughts and decide whether to engage with them or not. This is a benefit of meditation. In meditation I don’t try to stop my thoughts–impossible! Instead, I watch them as they do their crazy dance. The more I observe my thoughts, the more I realize how funny they are. And to think they used to rule my world. No wonder I was so unhappy. I believed what I was thinking was true when most of it is just reaction and craving. Life is a lot more peaceful now and although peace and happiness might have been my goal when I first started meditating I don’t think about goals at all anymore. So many goals are counter-productive.
Mollie: Can you share the specific techniques that you prefer (i.e., journaling negative and positive thoughts, meditation, etc.)?
Mary-Lou: I used to use specific techniques–journaling, meditating at a set time for a set amount of time–but now acceptance, witnessing my thoughts and meditation are all part of my day. I don’t put them in specific time slots. It’s more like breathing. It just is without me having to do anything.
Mollie: What are a few of your foundational spiritual beliefs? If you are non-spiritual, what are a few of your foundational life philosophies?
Mary-Lou: When I was growing up my parents were heavily involved with the Charismatic Christian movement–lots of speaking in tongues and prophesying, healing and excitement. As a child I was very much wrapped up in that world … a world where God was love but also any negative feelings or misgivings were pushed away and ignored. If you felt bad clearly you weren’t praying hard enough. As a teenager I felt bad all the time and so became increasingly disenchanted with those that were reaching to heaven but ignoring what was going on at their feet.
In 12-step programs I was told I could believe in a God of my own understanding. God could be a color, or the sun or the wind, anything I wanted, just as long as God was a power greater than myself. This was liberating. Slowly, and with a few missteps, I developed a relationship with a God of my own understanding, one that had nothing to do with religion or other people’s beliefs. This God was a God I could rely on, lean on, talk to, be reassured by. I didn’t have to be good for this God to love me, I didn’t have to penance or chant the right prayers, or go to church. This God loved me just as I was, no matter what I did. I’d always tried to be a good girl so that God would love me. In 12-step programs I came to the realization that God would love me no matter what I did but living a life of good thoughts and actions helped me love and live with myself.
These days, God just is. God is in everything, everywhere, a benign, loving presence. This gives me a sense of peace.
To learn more about Stephens and her work, see:
Want to learn how to clean your house twice as well in half the time?
Get The Naked House: Five Principles for a More Peaceful Home on Amazon.
More Stuff to Read:
Some Spiritual Practices Actually Work. It’s Amazing.
There are hundreds of spiritual techniques for overcoming depression and increasing inner peace. Here, stories about the ones that actually work. In some posts, I rate the practices, too. Sort of like county fair pumpkins, but more spiritual.
There’s a Book for That, Too
It’s a great time to get suddenly awesome. So many teachers. So many books.
- Best Spiritual-But-Not-Religious Books for Overcoming Depression
- Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday
I’m a Partner, a Mom, a Friend, a Mom, a Sister, a Daughter, a Businessperson and a Mom. Here’s What Helps.
Don’t read this section. It’s nonsense, mostly.
- My Mostly Ridiculous Self-Improvement Journal
- 150 Life Hacks for Overcoming Depression
- Suddenly Awesome Miscellany (And, Let’s Be Real: Book Promos)