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.
THE birds they sang at the break of day
MINDFULNESS is greatly missing in our daily lives. We spend way too much time worrying about something that happened in the past and way too much energy struggling with decisions that may affect our future. We also become obsessed with the “Why me?” or the “Why NOT me?” We have to be able to give ourselves permission to just be what we are: human beings, not human doings. We all come with our own biases, prejudices, standards and expectations of others – but also of ourselves. This precludes us from being grateful for who we are at the core and how far we have come despite the many obstacles we face. We don't need to be resilient. We don't need to be brave. We just need to be. That is what mindfulness is. When we become mindful, we allow ourselves to be at peace with where we are at this moment. We can then take the time to see beyond the obvious and note the many things we can be grateful for that surround us, support us, and nurture us through hardships – be it family, friends, strangers, your warm bed, or the sun rising outside. It's easy to be mindful during happy times. But it can be challenging to find the stillness to appreciate our lives in the midst of hard times. Steering our minds from negativity, worry, and anxiety takes practice. The good news is that with enough focus, we are all capable.
“I've lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”Mark Twain. HOW many of us would agree with Twain? Sometimes our heads can be like washing machines. Mindfulness practice allows us the opportunity to slow down to take our foot off the accelerator and experience this moment for the first time. The most important thing is what’s happening now. Are we present or are we time travelling into the future or ruminating about the past?
Mindful awareness is about learning to pay attention, in the present moment, without judgement. It’s like training a muscle – training attention, to be where you want it to be. One of the benefits that we discover, through our mindfulness practice, is best described as mindfulness of speech. We are able to place our attention on our speech.
Who decides what’s good or bad? The great Shakespeare tells us that things are neither good or bad but it's thinking that makes them so. Whether we love him or hate him, I personally feel that he has it nailed.
How many times do we find ourselves looking outside ourselves for the answer, or better still how many times do we feel, that we wish we were someone different, somewhere different, doing something different? Mindfulness practice is our way of bringing our mind home. The great poet Derek Walcott writes in his beautiful poem 'Love after Love':
I love the Belfast saying 'catch yourself on'.
I REMEMBER when I was a young boy the overwhelming sense of fear that I felt when the B Specials parked outside our house in Cupar Street – and alcoholism in our home. There was B Specials outside and Carlsberg Specials inside. I suppose you could say that I was baptised in fear as fear became my way of being. I was terrified of everybody and everything and I swore as a child that I would never ever drink alcohol. Alcoholism is a killer disease, it's a disease that tells us that we aren't alcoholic and we grow up with the disease of perception. My promise of not drinking was short-lived as at the ripe old age of 13, I tasted the magic elixer that transformed my fear and brought out which I thought was the best in me but turned out to be the worst in me. Suddenly I could do all the things I believed that I could never do, ask girls to dance, go to places that I should never go to and most of all not care about anything or anyone, anymore. I became selfish and self-centred to the core. It wasn’t that I was a bad person wanting to be good, I was sick and wanted to become well. My beautiful mother Marie, who passed away 18 months ago at the ripe old age of 90 was 51 years sober one day at a time. She got sober in 1969 and was one of the early women pioneers in AA, sadly my drinking took off about the same time. She had to watch and love me through the hell that I was living in, knowing the disease herself, she was powerless over my recovery. She was also my beacon as I watched the miracle of her sobriety grow and my decanted life diminish. I did all the usual tricks like changing places, people and things. To be honest I was always on the run from me, wanting to be someone else, somewhere else, doing something else. I know now looking back that I yearned to be sober but my head told me that I would die without the booze. That’s the nature of the disease, pride and ego were my jailers. Every now and agin I would check in with my mother and I remember her AA books beside her chair. Deep down I knew I wanted what she had (sobriety) and I knew that the secret was within her AA books but could I look at them? No, the books were like a crucifix to a vampire. Unfortunately I know now that I hadn’t suffered enough. Pain and suffering was my teacher. Of course, I did the usual swearing off the booze, telling myself that I would never drink again. I made promises with myself and others and tried many alternatives but king alcohol was always lurking in the wings. I went on to drink for 26 years and I can honestly tell you, things got worse. The old cliché that you have to hit rock bottom is true. Alcohol removes everything from you: family, friends, jobs and most of all your love for life. You just want to die. Well, I hit my rock bottom and the good news is that AA was there like a harbour in a raging sea and my mum was the beacon that brought me home. Now I can honestly say that only one thing made me happy – the booze – but now that it’s gone, everything makes me happy.Thanks mum.