Meditation brought an inner sunshine back into my life

Tue, Dec 4, 2012, 00:00

Health: My Experience:Learning transcendental meditation helped John Corcoran deal with panic attacks, depression and insomnia

I had a double life as a child. I had a miserable family life as an only child of parents who argued and fought 24/7. But, I had a really good childhood outside of the house – cycling my bike, making go-carts and enjoying the summers in the village of Kilmacow in Co Kilkenny where I grew up.

From about the age of 12, I felt a darkness come over me – especially in the winter time – and my home life got more and more miserable. I felt it in my digestive system. I felt it in my bones and I had no interest in going outside. I hated school but I did well in music and was good at the piano.

I was in different bands while in school and then became a professional musician when I left school, touring with different bands throughout Ireland and Europe.

However, all was not well. I started to get panic attacks and suffered a lot from insomnia in secondary school. Since I was a child, I was fascinated by religion and health and read all kinds of books by people such as Deepak Chopra. My father used to buy me lots of second hand books.

Feeling lost

My parents broke up when I was 20 and that was a terrible experience. I can honestly say that for much of my 20s, I felt really lost. I was overweight. I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome but realised only much later that I had some food intolerances which made me feel very unwell.

When I was about 26, I began to realise I should do something to help myself.

The doctor suggested I learn stress management techniques and I learned some muscle relaxation exercises which helped a bit. I started doing yoga around this time which helped relieve the huge stress I felt before gigs. I also started to kick-boxing and recently I got my black belt in kick-boxing.

Really, throughout my 20s and early 30s, I was living the rock ‘n’ roll life – at home with my girlfriend and our young children from Monday to Thursday and then on the road from Thursday to Sunday. The money was great during the Celtic Tiger years but the relationship between my girlfriend and I was breaking down. Performing was the antidote to the misery I felt much of the rest of the time.

Family patterns

I vowed that when I had children, they would not have the same experience as I did and here I was repeating the same mistakes.

I now believe that even if you are consciously vigilant about not perpetrating the same negative family patterns, it can still happen because these patterns occur at a level below your everyday consciousness.

I hit a wall when I was 32. I told my girlfriend that I couldn’t live with her any more and she told me she was pregnant. It really was like a plotline from Eastenders. I stayed with her throughout the pregnancy but I wasn’t with her emotionally.

When the baby was born, I moved out but felt even worse having destroyed the family unit. At that stage, I had met my current girlfriend but initially I decided to live on my own for the first time in my life.

I felt my life was completely broken. I couldn’t get up in the mornings. I couldn’t think straight. I was still performing but spent about half an hour crying before I went on stage. I really couldn’t cope. The only time I felt any relief was when I was asleep.

Transcendental meditation

Over the years, I had thought about learning transcendental meditation (TM) but thought that I couldn’t afford it. So, I decided to take out a Credit Union loan as my last chance option and learn TM. The way TM works is that you make a once-off payment and then you spend one and a half hours on a one-to-one basis with a teacher over four days. Then you can meet your teacher every three or four weeks on a one-to-one basis or in a group for up to a year.

On the first lesson, I spent the first whole hour crying. Then, as I was taught the technique, I found myself laughing and laughing – wondering is this what I’ve paid my money for?

My teacher said, “welcome to bliss consciousness”. I spent the next three hours giggling which I now know was a way of letting go the high levels of stress in my body. Then, over the next few days, I found this beautiful space inside my head. I started to get scared of losing the feeling and getting a panic attack but instead I found this extremely deep peaceful feeling.

From that time onwards, I have practised TM almost every day – for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening. People often ask me if it’s a religion but basically it’s a step-by-step psychological technique that you learn through coaching and then you practise. I think it’s the most cost-effective thing you can do for your health.

After about three months, I felt my life was at peace for the first time ever. All the animosity and hatred I felt towards my ex-girlfriend left and a love for her started to grow. I felt so strongly about it that I encouraged both my ex-girlfriend and my girlfriend – who I now had a baby with – to learn the technique. The amazing thing is that since they have both learned TM, they have become good friends.

I hated winter for as long as I can remember. When the clocks went back, that was the start of hibernation for me. I even hated Christmas. I endured these feelings of winter depression for years but the November after I started practising TM, they were gone.

I enjoyed Christmas for the first time. I got into the spirit of it. I found myself singing Jingle Bells as I brought the children to school. All those reminders of Christmas used to set off depression for me. I realised that I can be happy in winter like I am in the summer time and I realised that TM had brought back an inner sunshine into my life. It’s not that everything is perfect but we all feel like we are one family unit.

I’d recommend to anyone who has relationship issues to consider learning TM before they break up.

I still work as a musician and I do a form of stand-up comedy and I teach kick-boxing. The challenges don’t change but what has changed is my ability to meet those challenges.