COMEDIAN and DJ Dermot Whelan felt like a lot of us feel sometimes. Keeping all the balls in the air, he felt highly wired, highly-strung and a bit burned out, and he also felt meditation definitely wasn’t for him.
He wasn’t one of those people.
In his book Mind Full, the Limerick man tells us how he was performing stand-up comedy and hosting a breakfast show while trying to be an attentive husband and father. He also burned the candle at both ends on occasion.
“I knew what it was like to wake up in the morning and feel crap,” writes Dermot.
“I know what it’s like to feel uncomfortable at work and worse at home.”
He knew what a pounding heart felt like in the middle of the night, and a frantic mind that he likens to the guard dog or the alarm system in a house that never turns off.
Dermot needed to slow down and turn off all the systems that were constantly going, constantly in his head.
“The first time I tried meditation, I was embarrassed,” writes Dermot.
“I remember saying to my wife, Corrina, ‘I’m going upstairs to ‘mumble mumble’ to um meditate’.”
And he did, discovering an inner peace as he did so, and discovering that yes, he was one of those people who could be mindful and meditate for 16 seconds or for 16 minutes, thus changing his manic thoughts and his manic unorganised lifestyle, and learning to manage everyday things better.
Who is Dermot Whelan?
Cork actor Cillian Murphy, who is a close friend of Dermot’s, writes in the foreword of Mind Full: “Let me tell you a little bit about him if you don’t already know him from the radio or telly; he has always been funny. I mean funny to the point of thinking you might not be able to breathe because you are laughing so much.
“He is also an excellent conversationalist, an average drummer, a dad, a middle-aged skateboarder — and someone experiencing the same stresses and pressures of being alive that we all experience.”
Dermot is a curious human being.
“I think it is that curiosity that led him on the journey that you will read about in this book,” writes Cillian.
“If, like Dermot, you have a curiosity about meditation, about how it works, and about how it can be a very gentle and helpful addition in dealing with the day-to-day, then I reckon you’ve come to the right place.”
Dermot takes us to a place where we can practice a 16 second meditation, which is doable for all of us.
Simply breathing and listening to our breath makes us be in the moment, pausing between past and future. We are present.
“One of the greatest thing about the 16 second meditation is that you can bring it anywhere,” writes Dermot in Mind Full. “You can use it in the queue for a chicken fillet roll or while filling your car with fuel.”
You can do it during a boring conversation.
“I’ve often done that and it appears that I’m listening intently!” writes Dermot.
Dermot says there are many forms of meditation; some where you can use mantras; all the time focusing on the breath.
“The breath becomes an anchor for our attention and helps stop our mind flying all over the place like a rapidly deflating balloon,” writes Dermot, who smatters the book with his own brand of humour and wit.
“Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”
In Mind Full, Dermot, now a qualified teacher of meditation, explains guided meditations, breathing meditations, belly breathing, body/mind meditations, mantra meditations and the body scan.
He guides us through various breathing exercises and meditations that help us through stressful situations like public speaking, meeting the in-laws for the first time, or a job interview.
Because Dermot has a lovely writing style, almost like he is having a one-to-one conversation with the reader, we are reeled in and we take on board what he is proposing to make us less anxious, less frantic and more mindful of the here and now.
He tells us to give ourselves a break.
“Life is unpredictable,” writes Dermot. “Just ask Tiger Woods. Things change. We change. Shit happens.
“If you don’t get to meditate on a given day; it’s fine. Start again the next day. It’s not a race. Just be kind to yourself.”
Dermot says his own life changed when he discovered meditation.
It had a huge effect on his mood, his relationships changed for the better, his drinking habits changed and his behaviour changed.
“My celebrations look a lot different now,” Dermot writes in Mind Full.
“My favourite way to reward myself is to wake up buzzing from the night before.
“You get to learn that celebration is not about the drink in your hand but the friends that surround you.”
Dermot’s book is laced with sound advice on how to meditate, calm down, and stop the guard dog barking incessantly.
The Frequently Asked Questions at the end of the book will answer any queries you may have even after reading this entertaining, enlightening account of how a performer should have it all, but yet can’t enjoy his celebrity status.
The missing link was being happy in his skin, discovering how to switch off from all the pressures and distractions of everyday life.
Cillian Murphy sums up Mind Full: “This is a lovely, funny, honest book. Like the fella who wrote it.”
Mind Full: Unwreck your head, De-stress your life by Dermot Whelan, published by Gill Books. Available now