Máire O’Higgins, the founder of Cultivating Compassion Mindfulness Courses, has come to know the simplicity of meditation and its profound effect on her life. Máire has had a thriving career for thirty years; working in the arts and teaching young people from areas of socio-economic disadvantage. She has loved her work.
However, for several years Máire carried a restless sense of sadness and frustration. She immersed herself in her commitment to social justice, civic engagement and academic studies. She also trained in meditation practices in the Christian, Buddhist and secular traditions. But the sadness and frustration were always there, and sometimes overwhelmingly so.
In 2014, a few weeks before a visit to Thich Nhat Hanh’s home in Plum Village in France, Máire was diagnosed with a lung disease called sarcoidosis. Máire is a swimmer and feared that this disease would affect her ability to swim well. She also believed that an illness in the chest area was a manifestation of grief.
Máire took part in hours of silent meditation in Plum Village, sitting and walking and eating mindfully. She cried a lot and it felt like mourning. The monks in Plum Village picked up on Máire’s grief and at the end of her stay they surprised her with the gift of a Buddha name - ‘Easeful Breath of the Heart’. Something in this gesture from the monks opened a door of acceptance and self-compassion for Máire. She realised that the way to release her sadness, acknowledge her frustrations and be present with kindness to herself and to others, was through a habitual and intentional connection to the spirit of stillness.
The awakening to this spirit has led Máire towards a profound sense of peace and connectedness.
Presence comes from turning up to practice and just ‘BE’, again, and again, and again. Every day that Máire turns up to just ‘BE’ is a better day.