Frank Liddy was a driving forces in the Twinbrook Residents Association in the seventies and eighties, taking a break for a short period to try his hand as a saxophonist in a punk band, before embracing the study of Zen Buddhism and mindfulness.
He has over 35 years’ practice-based experience with mindfulness programmes that have helped to transform the lives of many people across Ireland.
Frank is the co-founder of the Black Mountain Zen Centre and Compassionate City Belfast. He now lives in North Belfast but a return to Twinbrook is on the cards.
I was asked by a friend one time about a course he was thinking of doing at Queen's. He told me the only reason he wouldn’t do the course is because it takes two years. I replied, 'How long will it take if you don’t do it?'
One thing I love and treasure about Zen are the meaningful and insightful stories. Here’s one of my favourites about two monks.
MY good friend and compassionista, Rev Dr Bill Shaw OBE, was lucky enough to attend the Bob Dylan gig in Dublin last Monday night, and by all accounts from Bill and other avid fans it was a legendary concert by the 81-year-old legend himself.
I REALLY believe in the saying that I’ve heard from many a good friend: “If I can do it anybody can do it”.
MY grandfather Tommy Liddy was born in Dublin. He met my Granny, Annie Blake, in Dublin, fell in love. got married and moved to Belfast. Tommy was a tailor and a musician and he opened up his own tailoring business in Union Street Belfast. This was the same building that housed the Musicians’ Union.
I WAS listening to a beautiful radio programme on Radio 4 the other day and they talked about an early religion called the Lion Man. The presenter believed that this could well have been the first religion and was based on our need for belonging and purpose.
I RECEIVED a phone call from a good friend in LA asking if I would interview one of the leading figures in the world of compassion and psychotherapy, Professor Paul Gilbert. “What an honour,” I replied to my good buddhi Patrick in LA, followed by a very quick yes. Prof Gilbert is the founder of what is called compassion-focused therapy and leads the way in research into the benefits of self-compassion. It’s a no-brainer this, a practice designed for our planet on many levels and the good news is that it can be measured both individually and collectively. I might be wrong and I might even be called naive but when I recollect early years on the Falls I picked up on this sense that we had for each other and what was evident throughout our struggle was we looked out for each other. How we knew and felt injustice and were willing to risk our lives in the face of the tyranny of injustice. It’s as simple as this: the more we looked out for each other the more we experienced oneness and unity. I must add that I was also aware that this oneness and unity transcended divisions of us and them, and I would name that which divides us as ignorance. There were and still are visionaries that guide us towards that unity and here I must add that the unity that I see is informed by compassion. I was lucky to attend a meeting in the Waterfront Hall last Wednesday evening to hear great speakers transcend that ignorance and what I picked up and brought away from that meeting was hope. Hope for a new future for all, jobs, housing, benefits, travel, education, and health for us all. I felt that everyone within that arena shared that experience. This is reality and this is now. In what appears to be an insane world, I picked up sanity.This is the theme of my conversation with Prof Gilbert tomorrow night. How can we become a compassion-focused Island. An island for all, a place that transcends division, inequality, hate and greed. An island where the other no longer exists as that is where the separation begins, when focus through the eyes of division rather than compassion. I can’t wait to hear what Prof Gilbert has to say. I personally believe, from what we all have been through, the suffering, the heartache, that now is the time more than ever to wake up to the possibilities of a bright future for all. This is our task, we know what to do and we know how to do it. Let’s practise compassion in all our affairs, remembering that it starts with you.
WHAT an honour it was for me to conduct the Silent lecture in the beautiful surroundings of the Duncairn Arts Centre on the Antrim Road. If you have never visited the Duncairn arts centre you're definitely missing out on a venue that is the jewel in the crown of North Belfast. As a venue it is superb, the acoustics are second to none and the decor has been restored to its natural beauty – a combination of wood, stone and light. There is also a beautiful café on site and the food is to die for, homemade and just what the doctor ordered (plus they have a vegan menu). Our group arrived early for the 10am start, we used the main mezzanine room upstairs, a perfect setting for the Silent Lecture. The room was floored with solid wooden panels and the sunlight filled the room via the magnificent stained glass windows. The scene was set as we sat around in a large circle of tables for two people.For me the beauty of the Silent Lecture is that the silence is the teacher and we are the students – if we care to open up and listen. The day consisted of a number of exercises that can be challenging as we settled into what was described by one of the participants a deep cauldron. I began by guiding the group into silence, where we become grounded in our own being and we then sat in pairs to explore our journey from the womb to where we are right now. This exercise was followed by the group sitting in pairs, looking into each other’s eyes as I introduced the question, how do you suffer? One of the pair would be the interviewer, and the other the interviewee. I then opened this up to the large group and I can honestly say the room filled with compassion. After lunch we continued and this time I introduced the question, What makes you happy? Once again the room was filled with the rich joy of humanity and human kindness. I find that this exercise always allows us to dig deep into what makes us happy and I’ve always found that what makes us happy are the simple things in life: family, friends, walks, sunshine, movies, good food, seeing others happy – and the list went on. We also agreed that happiness is contagious. The day ended with the group deciding where our one-hour Silent lecture should take place on the 15th of October. Lots of places were mentioned that held suffering: Kincora, Buoy Park, Milltown Cemetery, Lanark Way, the Crumlin Road Gaol and many others, too many to mention. After lots of discussion we decided on our City Hall for its centrality and it’s inclusivity as the people’s City Hall.
I’m forever being asked if I believe in God, a question which always gives me a good giggle as it reminds me of the numerous times I was asked if I was a Catholic or a Protestant. It seemed to me as I was growing up that somehow people were interested in who I am.
This attractive signage on the front wall of a beautiful terraced house on Bishop Street, Derry, announces the sanctuary of Cúnamh. I would call it the heart of Derry.
Some 40-plus years ago I had the privilege of meeting and befriending the performance artist Alistair McClennan.
'Fight or flight' and 'freeze and please' are the four signs that our antenna is up. This behaviour usually lets us know that there is perceived danger and when these guys begin to operate, adrenaline is released into our bodies to prepare us for fight or flight with a side helping of cortisol.
AS I was out cycling along the towpath on Friday from Stranmillis to Lisburn, I could not but notice the autumnal shades appearing all around me, pebbledashed with the stunning light of the sun.
A friend was telling me the other day that he is just back from walking the Camino and told me of what he described as an epiphany that he had as he walked the mountainous paths of the Basque Country and Northern Spain.
THE Celts knew how to have fun and celebrate at this time of year known as Lughnasa. And I’m pleased to say that, as a native Celt myself, the festival spirit remains strong – and is truly demonstrated in Féile an Phobail.