Self Help Book Parade: Sex, Drugs, and Meditation.


Discovery: I read Mary Lou’s interview on the Numinous blog and obviously the interview of this cool lady as the title of her book sparked my curiosty. Mary Lou Stephens is an Australian writer (born in Tasmania! How cool!) and her book “Sex, Drugs, and Meditation.”

So, for the first time EVER, in my LIFE, I emailed an author with my compliments and a hopeful request for a book so I could review it. Mary-Lou was supersweet — two weeks later a package from Australia dropped on my doormat. HELLO.

If you want it you can get it here on Amazon for 16.93 (Kindle!)

Subject: Mary-Lou writes about her choice to go do a 10-day Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat and her experience there, triggered mostly by her shitty boss. You get an insight in the practicalities as well as her complete personal experience.

She writes how much her knee hurts when she sits in the hours of meditation, the thought patterns she keeps getting stuck in, memories that come up (bonus points for the honesty of her childhood, addictions and the interesting part about love triangles and complicated relationships) and how she experiences the whole thing.

Kookiness (1-10): Amazingly, 1. This is a profoundly down-to-earth book. Seriously. This is an account of a regular person on meditation and a silent retreat. If you’re even slightly interested in meditation but you’re not sure about the potential woo-woo of it, this is perfect for you.

Favorite quotes from the book: 

  • “Synchronicity is a gift for those who are brave, or foolish enough to catch it by the tail. Right now I’m not sure which one I am.”
  • “The teacher says we must fight our own battles. Work out our own salvation. Only I can rid myself of the mind: anger, fear, hatred, resentment. I have made this mess. Only I can clean it up.”
  • “[In Twelve Step programs] they say resentment is the number one killer.”
  • “Exactly, said Buddha. ‘Many people come to me saying they want enlightenment. I tell them how to achieve it. I don’t hide anything from them and they nod their heads and say oh, what a lovely path, what a lovely destination, but it really is too much work. How can such people ever reach the final goal? All must walk the path themselves. All must do the work.”
  • “I am on the path. I may have taken only one, imperfect, stumbling step, but I am on the path.”
  • “It’s a wonderment, the gifts we’re given along the way, the lessons we learn, if we’re willing to be taught.”
  • “Do what is being taught, experience it for ourselves, and keep it if it works for us – that’s what we have to do.”
  • “We are being trained not to react, but instead to observe, be aware and be equanimous.”
  • “As the teacher says, I have been sliced open and the infection, pus and putridity of my thoughts have been exposed. It ain’t pretty but it must be done.”
  • “I wasn’t insane. I had been right. My instincts were flawless.”
  • “Love is a choice, not a commandment.”‘
  • “In fact the more you meditate, the more joyful life becomes.”
  • “I can be free. I can recover. But first I must master my mind and that’s proving to be a big ask.”
  • “I create my own torture. I can liberate myself from it too.”

Self Help Hipster’s Stamp of Approval: Essentially, yes.

However, I completely disagree with the whole tag-line about how this is ‘the new Eat, Pray, Love’. I don’t think it’s like a new Eat, Pray, Love, and I recommend you don’t go into it expecting that.

See, in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ Elizabeth Gilbert literally writes about Eating in Italy, Praying in India and Loving in Indonesia. In ‘Sex, Drugs and Meditation’ Mary-Lou writes about Meditation. Granted, there is some flashbacks involving previous drug use and relationships, but if you go looking for saucy Sex and Drugs stories*, you will not find them.

In terms of style, Mary-Lou writes beautifully, just like Liz Gilbert. Some of her quotes are really poetic. But Mary-Lou’s style is more simplistic, sweet ‘n short, more real, telling it like it is. This actually makes it a very easy, pleasant read, which may be great news for some of the Dutch readers who want to try some new English books!

To me personally, the only similar thing to Eat, Pray, Love is that you will get some beautiful insights as you read this book, the same you might have had with Eat Pray Love. Additionally, I feel Mary-Lou is funny and shows amazing, honest insight in herself, her life and her experiences, which is always a courageous thing to do.

Read this book if…

  • You want to learn more about Vipassana Silent Retreats.
  • You want a read a really honest human account on 10-days of meditation (at one point she envisions murdering the whole crew and to be fair after a few days of only meditating I feel this is something I would relate to)
  • You want a nice and easy read this summer!
  • You want to vicariously learn from someone else’s meditation experiences (legit reason).

*Don’t know but I’m on the look-out for those pretty much always.

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