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The Brendan O'Connor Show on Auti, Radio one with all care pharmacy discover a team that's always here to support you at all care taking care of communities across Ireland.


You'll know both of my next guests from TV and Radio Bernarda. She is a broadcaster and comedian and star of Brigitte and Aimen. And you have seen him in Dancing with the Stars. And he's often found on screen partying with his good pal and mine, Marty Morrissey. And Dermot Freeland is also a broadcaster and comedian and you know him from Republic of Telli and Today FM. And they're good friends and they're good buddies and they share something in common. And I suppose, lads begin with you, Bernard.


It's something that we all probably need at this point in time. And that's some mindfulness, some space, some spirituality, something to just get us away from, you know, all our worrying thoughts and all our anxiety. You turned 40 last year and you found yourself hurtling towards a midlife crisis, which you called at the man who opposed you and you wrote a book about it. Are you getting over all that anxiety, Bernard?


No. Simple answer. No. Like like so many people, everyone like, you know, I thought I was unique, this unique little unicorn that was anxious about life and things and kids and bills and mortgages and the self-employed person. So this lockdown is having an extreme effect, of course, on me and other people like me. And, you know, but you realised then you talk to somebody in the real world and you realise everyone has the same, I suppose, anxious problems.


You know, like the way I think about it was if you look at, like, a big purchase, like, say you want to change your car.


So I just read a little bit quickly from the book. If I think about buying a new car, then I think about the cost and I think about the person selling it to me, then I can't afford it. Then they'll say, well, why are you wasting my time? Then I'll have no answer. I'll have to apologise. Then I have to buy the car and credit. Then I can't find the money each month to pay for the car.


Then I start thinking my family's going to go hungry while a new car sits in the driveway and we can't even eat. Then I have to go back to the man who sold it to me and he'll buy it back off me for half price. Then he'll tell everybody he knows that my family is starving and we have to give back the car. Then I'll be a laughing stock. My pride will be hurt, my ego will be hurt, my family starve and my wife would be on the phone talking to our friends, crying her heart out.


It will end up in social media. My mother would be calling me crying as well. I'll eventually have to move out of the house because I can't be trusted with anyone. I'll be pictured living beside a train station and eventually I'll contact rabies. 20 seconds ago, I was just thinking of a change in the car.


And these are all that what you said there is. Just as you sit down, these were the sort of thoughts racing through your head at any given time of the day so that if anybody bonkers about anything, it could be about, you know, I was up it was up yesterday.


I was at the shop. I was buying underarmed roll things, antiperspirant.


And I said, God, I should play the cheap one because I've no work. So what have you got?


So you're you're you're a worrier, Bernard.


Oh, always have been and always been told. And, you know, God bless the people who have worked with me, Keith and Jan and Lartin, because I would just worry about everything. I always feel I'm being attacked or someone's going to come after me in. Yeah.


And you realise that, you know, everyone has these thoughts. Everyone has these feelings. Everyone, you know, you know, I suppose have been exacerbated over the last year.


Oh, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, I was I went for a walk. I'm very, very lucky person. I have a house that we have a mortgage and a bit of a house. And I live near the Phoenix Park. And you meet I bump into people and it's mostly born with married. So it's like but you get talk and small talk with people and everyone's mind in this lock down particularly hard. But, you know, it's very hard for Bernard.


I wonder, does it come with the territory of being a comedian? Are you more susceptible to anxiety and and mental anguish as a comedian where, you know, you're constantly having to think of original material and it's always going around in your head and you're worrying that when you go on stage, people are not going to laugh at your jokes and you have to be chirpy and you have to be, you know, bobbly when you're on stage. Obviously, that's sort of high, obviously is balanced out with a lot of lows.


You kind of know the only thing I will say when you were on a stage in the last couple of years, they're there to see you, which is a fantastic, you know, starting point.


I mean, you don't have to win anyone over, you know, whereas in the clubs, when you're starting off, that's where the groundwork is put in. You have to try and win people over and not win people over. But you have to be it's almost very Colosseum like whereas, you know, if you're in a hotel room and there is a couple of hundred people there, it's much easier because they they like what you do. They're into what you do.


There will always be people that hate you, you know, and you know, and now they have a vehicle where they can use on Twitter, on social media. And, you know, that's fine, too. But when you're in a room, actually, that's where I feel safest on the stage, you know. But the the thing for me was that I was so sceptical of mindfulness.


I like I would every time I'd hear the word or are we even going to talk about it on our show at the time? We're like, oh, here we go again. And if I heard how. The word happiness, it would do me head in it really well, now you're happy because I grew up in Ireland. I bet you're happy now, you know, like so but and I was so sceptical of mindfulness because I always thought of like like this kind of like I, you know, incense and and and hugging each other and, you know, you know, blaming your parents or whatever while they are like, you know, you know, kind of running naked in a field.


I don't know.


I I'm I'm a big suppose ignorance of it, you know. But it was only when I was I decided that it was mass. That's what I decided mindfulness was. I said that that's mass, you know. I mean, that's what I like. You know, you go for an hour, a week and you think about other things. And I went back with an open mind, genuine open mind. And, you know, I just found it odd because I wanted it to give me all the answers.


I wanted this higher power to come down and say, you're all right now. You will get over this down. You'll get over this. You'll be you'll be fine. And it didn't come. And somebody came up to me one day when I went back and said, what are you doing here?


You know, which was fair enough.


And I told her and she said more, but what are you doing here? And I said, I'm I'm I'm here at Mass. And she said, Are you doing a skit now? A skit would be something my father would say years ago. Like, you know, he was from Little Place outside Dublin called Kerry. And he'd go like and I said, no, I'm not doing any skits. And just here and I didn't get you know, I didn't get anything from it.


But it wasn't anything it wasn't anything new to burn because you grew up as an altar boy masker. Traditional was typical 80s Irish child in rural Ireland.


Yeah. And I loved all that. You know, like I always say, I probably had the worst upbringing for a comedian ever because I had a fantastic I loved it. You know, it was idyllic, you know, like, you know, you know, give us, you know, a car out the front and better road and it's basically house.


And so did you find your form of mindfulness or solace in the church and going back to mass, whether you believed or where they but by just spending that half hour in silence inside once a week.


Did you find it? Yes and no.


I found it helpful in as much as that. I loved the bit when they said, now think about people who have gone in your past. Felt quite emotional because I went, oh, my God, it's like, what a great, great idea.


But then I'll never give you enough time, you know? And I came out thinking, well, maybe that's it.


Maybe of guilt and classic, you know. And it was only when during the thirty second lockdown, I was coming home in the car and I heard Dermot Weedon, who used to say who's on the show with Dermot and Dave, and he was the host Republica Telly. I heard him talk about mindfulness and went, Oh God, here we go again now. And he was talking about meditation and and he was very serious.


But I was expecting a punchline or a gag or they were doing something fun with it. And then I got home. And that night I Googled him and I saw he was this meditation master, this mindfulness master. And I kind of went, that's so odd and funny. And I let it go for a couple of months. And then eventually, like, you know, the anxiousness, the fear, I'm going to be attacked. The the whole comes back again and and you can't enjoy yourself.


And I said, maybe I'll just give him a buzz. And when when the restrictions were lifted, I went in and met him and and dream.


What happened next. Well, I knew the world was in a strange place when comedians started asking other comedians to help with their mental wellness.


But yeah, it was a real pleasure to sit down with Bernard.


And I suppose he had some questions. I think the first question, Bernard, you asked me was, is mass mindfulness. And, you know, that's there's a kind of a lot to unpack there, but I suppose not directly.


But I think what I was trying to say to Bernard was and maybe it's something that we have lost a lot of over time, you know, since people maybe drifted away from from going to mass every week like they might have done when they were children. But it's that setting aside of time, whether it's five minutes in the day or an hour on a Sunday, you know, to sit with yourself and maybe a sense that there's something bigger than yourself, you know, whether that's for people, a sense that there is a God or maybe it's just deeper layers of yourself.


So I suppose that's kind of what I shared with Bernard. And obviously, as as comedians, a lot of us tend to have been altar boys in our past because I guess Mass was the only show in town. It was the only stage.


It's interesting. I know. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was a stage to show off. Maybe by being.


So could you could you identify with a lot of what Bernard is talking about there in terms of your mind racing and that it needs just to be stopped with something, be it mindfulness or mass is mass like? Is it mindfulness with church bells on?


Well, you know, mass creates an environment, I suppose, for you to to sit down in relative silence and maybe detach from a lot of the things that may be hovering around your head. But, you know, as a meditation teacher, you know, my main goal is to debunk a lot of the myths around meditation, the same ones that Bernard was just talking about there. You know, the the incense, the crystals. You know, it annoys me whenever I see supposedly spiritual people on, say, the likes of Instagram or Facebook.


They're always wearing white flowing clothes, you know, and if we, you know, as Irish people, we can wear them. You know, if we if we dress like these spiritual Californian types in these sort of, you know, white flowing clothes, we either look like we're in our pyjamas are we've escaped from an institution.


So where how do you practise mindfulness, Dermot, on a daily basis? Does it take a lot of work, a lot of effort, a lot of time? And what are the net results of it for you?


Well, could I could I answer that?


It's I don't I don't quite go for it, because when I sat down, again, very highly sceptical of it and a 16 seconds of of a breathing exercise, which Dermot said, you know, breathe in for four seconds, hold it for four seconds and release it. And they said, congratulations, you've just meditated. And I was like, OK, really?


I was just sitting on a plastic chair. I was like, God, do not get in the lotus position and, you know, have a flame go out the back of my head. It's like, no, that's it. And to be honest with you, that simple 16 seconds when I when everybody has days that you can go, I'm going to lose it here. I just can't take anymore. This isn't that simple. Simple little thing, whether you're I found out I was grieving very heavily over time.


But that simple, simple thing of just breathing in for four seconds, holding it and releasing it kind of changed.


I would yeah.


I would go as far as, say, kind of changed my life. It maybe turned down another avenue, not saying I'm some guru, but Dermot can probably explain as to why it works. But I don't I don't second guess the workings of it any more. I just do it and like, it's amazing what that little breathing exercise can do. You could be listening to me right now, and I hate that. And you know what? Breathe in for four seconds, hold it and release it.


And it's amazing what that can do. That would be great advice from people on Twitter, wouldn't it? Yeah, everybody was able to take a breath before they commented if I could just break it down, because I know when I started to get into this, I had all the same preconceptions, you know, and as a stand up comic, you know, there's nobody more cynical in life generally as a stand up. So I had a lot of preconceived notions about it.


So and I wish someone had explained it to me in simpler terms before I had to read 10 books on the subject, some of which were written thousands of years ago. So if this makes it any easier for people to get their head around because the terms, mindfulness and meditation can be confusing and it's hard to tell the difference between the two.


So in the simplest way, mindfulness is anything, any activity that brings you into the present moment. Now, I know the term present moment is sounds quite Oprah esque to a lot of people, and it can be a bit of a turnoff. But all that means is that when we're in the present moment, we're not in the past worrying about stuff that we did or that was done to us, or we're not in the future worrying about things that might happen when we're in the present moment.


It's very, very hard.


In fact, it's impossible for your brain to be anxious or to be fearful, you know, are be worried about stuff that's happened to you.


So if we can introduce any activity, whether that's playing an instrument, are playing with your young child or, you know, wrestling with your poppy or your cat or any activity that pulls you into that present moment, it's going to give your brain a break from those hoarding thoughts.


And meditation is essentially a form of mindfulness. It's an activity where you focus your attention on one thing, say, for instance, your breath. So meditation is focussing your mind on your breath. And when your mind wanders off, which it will, because that's what minds do you just realise that it's wandered and you bring it back to your breath so your attention might wander 50 or 100 or 200 times in a five minute meditation where you're just trying to focus on your breath.


And people experience this and they go, oh my God, I'm thinking about how itchy my leg is. I'm thinking about how I never rang Deirdre and thinking about I never sent that email. And they think because they're having those thoughts that they're doing it wrong. Are there something necessarily wrong with their brain? And that's not the case. All we're doing in an exercise like meditation is trying to focus our mind on one thing.


So keep your breath or it could be a word or a phrase, or it could be a candle or a piece of music.


And whenever your mind wanders, which it will, because our minds are crazy poppies, you just go, Oh, I'm not thinking about my breath anymore. And you bring it back.


And there's amazing science around why this stuff works, because it's not just a nice feeling. Ah, I'm no, I'm more relaxed now. There is so much science that has emerged over the last ten years in particular, that that is showing people that this not only makes us feel better, but it is literally changing the shape of your brain even as a beginner meditator.


How many times how many thoughts do we have in a day?


You will have between 60 and 80000 parts a day, so, you know, it's another myth that we're meant to when we meditate, ah, get relaxed or feel mindful that we're meant to like some monck. Are Mr. Miyagi and The Karate Kid suddenly clear our mind of all parts? And we're not going to do that. In fact, we don't want to you know, parts are good. They're keeping us alive. If we don't have thoughts, we're dead, so.


Well, what is it with the like the last year I keep going back to last year. The last year, last year. But the last year has changed all our lives for many different reasons.


And a lot of people are probably having a little more difficulty sleeping at night, whether they're worried or the change routine. And people are having bad dreams and nightmares and all of that. Maybe people listen to us now are quietly smiling and nodding at that notion and maybe other people are fine with it.


Is it is is that one of the benefits of meditation and mindfulness that we have a good night's sleep?


Well, for me, it definitely was absolutely 100 percent definitely was, because I was not sleeping for two years, you know, just not sleeping and in a dance competition. And I couldn't dance.


I was sat down to worry. Or was it everything? Everything. Everything. Get a thousand likes a thousand people saying you're great and one person hates. Oh, Jesus, are you could you get a flat tire or. You know, I said let nature man was dry in a very, very nice flat. Dry in his. He's a.


Appearance with a hair dryer driving me mental, you know, and everything, everything, and I just like a hamster wheel flying and then you don't sleep on top of that and you're a ticking time bomb, you know, and and then other things in life as well. And so so my major thing was to kind of do that breathing exercise. And then Dermot sent me on a kind of a longer ten minute. Now, I haven't gone further than that.


Ten minutes. But but I remember the first time I did it properly, I fell asleep and my wife came in, said, listen, can you come down? Because I have a meeting at a meeting and I slept for five hours, you know, and that night I slept again.


And it was and we you know, we do that classic bed hopping thing with three small kids. And, you know, you end up with a foot in your head some mornings. And what you know, they go all over the place. But, yeah, it definitely helps my sleep, you know, just that little bit of meditation, that little bit of breathing. Yeah.


Particularly that's what it was, is what the science is telling us. I mean, there's a great study that I try and tell people about because it really describes what's happening in the brain and shows that it isn't just all, you know, woo woo crystals stuff. You know, there was a study done in 2012 in from Harvard with the Massachusetts General Hospital.


And what they got was they got 16 people and they got them to meditate, never meditated before. And they did it for less than half an hour a day for eight weeks, all so less than two months. And they scanned their brains to the whole process. But what they found at the end really shocked them because obviously they expected to find the things that they knew meditation did, like lower blood pressure, lowered heart rate, lowered stress hormones.


But they when they looked at the scans of their brains, they found that the amygdala, the part of our brain that's responsible for angry, fearful, anxious thinking that had actually shrunk in size in less than two months in these beginner's brains, the fear centres in their brains had shrunk. And conversely, parts of their brain that are responsible for logical thinking and self-awareness and memory, those had actually strengthened and grown and a lot of cases was literally more grey matter.


So it literally physically changes the shape of our brain and that's measurable, you know, in scientific studies. So what's happening, you know, when you talk about sleep, Damien, is and that's such an issue for people and has been for the last year or so. And people definitely know what you're talking about there.


If you think about it, our stress response is being triggered a lot more, whether that's news reports or conversations. Everyone seems to be talking about covid and vaccines and all these kinds of things. So we're in a naturally heightened state of anxiety anyway, so that amygdala, the part of our brain, is more active than usual. And what happens in that when it is active is that we send out a lot of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol into our system.


And what's happening is that because of the nature of the of the times we live in, people are arriving to bedtime with a lot of this stuff still in their system and the natural things that maybe they would have done normally, even a commute home from work, you know, would have lowered those stress hormones. So when we have a small technique like a guided meditation or a breathing exercise, what we're doing is we're saying to our brain, OK, look, we need to lower these stress hormones now so we can prepare for sleep.


So your brain goes normally. You know, if you're stressed out, it'll go OK. I can see you a high level of cortisol in your system at the moment. So there's obviously a threat in our environment. So I'm going to let you go to sleep for two or three hours. But I'm got to wake you up then, because I need you alert for this threat. So when we introduce an exercise like this, like a breathing exercise is very simple technique.


What happens is we lower the stress levels of hormones in our system. Our body goes, oh, I know this. You're nice and relaxed. This is the rest and digest it. So you're ready for sleep. Now you can have a full night's sleep. And that's like very, very simplified explanation as to why a lot of us might be feeling challenges at present with our sleep.


That's that's really interesting. Listen, before both of you go, Bernard, like churches are closed at the moment, but when they do reopen, will you be tiptoeing back in for your weekly half hour of silence? Depending on the priest, you could go for an hour, you could go for twenty minutes or whatever church you decide to go to.


But will you continue with that routine? No, I didn't. I kind of did the three or four times.


And I just felt that, you know, that I was kind of, I suppose, taking up time that that I that others that I didn't feel when when I got when I got the technique, basically I've dreamt about just, you know, a little bit of time to yourself, breathe that kind of that basically kind of fulfilled that part of it in me, know.


And that was like, you know, that kind of like just being able to come. Now, don't get me wrong, I can do the exercises that gave me like I was left to myself when you when he said, you know, people have between 60000 and 80000 straight away, my mind went, oh, God, I hope I have 60000. I hope I'm not under over, you know, so, you know, so, you know, like to a certain extent, nothing can kind of I've tried to control my mind and control who I am for Jesus since I can remember.


And most people try and do. And, you know, at those times I wish I could have kept my mouth shut where I didn't.


But, you know, that's you know, there is a certain amount of acceptance that you have to do. That's you. That's who you are. But don't don't negate the fact that you don't have to go to Dartmouth. You don't have to go to you can have that simple thing that Dharma taught me that breathe in for four seconds. So hold it for four seconds and let it go. If you're under a bit of stress, you would be amazed what that can do.


You know, if this thing catches on, the fresh air might actually be taxed as free at the moment anyway.


But Cranwell taxed the windows and the time. Well, listen, we're good. We're going to leave it there. It's been great chatting to you, really insightful, particularly in these tough times, just to get a breath of fresh air. So I was going to say, God, you should write a book, which you are your art, and it's called Mindful, and it can be pre-ordered now on Addisons AdCom. And thanks for that. Lovely, I suppose.


Twenty minutes there of solace and getting away from all the troubles and teaching us how maybe we can be better in ourselves. And Bernard O'Shay, the very best of luck to you and thanks a million for chatting to us. And of course, Bernard's book is called Menopause Available as well in all good bookshops and bad ones too.


Yeah, email Brendin at RTG.