- 06 Dec 21
Minding Creative Minds is Ireland's first 24/7 (32 county and our Irish overseas) wellbeing support programme for the entire Irish creative sector. Ben Glover added mindfulness and meditation coach to his lengthy CV, beside the Nashville-based singer-songwriter's musical skills, during the pandemic. Here, he speaks to Hot Press about his experiences of helping others with their mental health during such a turbulent time for all artists.
Early in 2021, a mutual friend introduced me to Dave Reid, the founder of Minding Creative Minds (MCM). We began having a dialogue about the possibility of me facilitating virtual mindfulness meditation to the MCM community. I joined their monthly virtual Meet and Greet Sessions and, through talking to Dave and finding out more about the organisation I quickly realised this was a hugely unique group that offered valuable resources to the Irish creative community.
Though I am a County Antrim native, I currently reside in Nashville. The fact that Minding Creative Minds were offering their services to Irish creatives both and home and abroad also felt significant and welcoming to me. Just being part of their monthly Meet and Greet Sessions gave me a virtual connection to the arts community back home in Ireland at a time when my travel outside of the US was restricted.
In June of this year, I facilitated the first series of weekly mindfulness meditation sessions.
Mental health journey
I began formally practicing meditation about 15 years ago, in my late 20s. Even though I incorporate elements from other traditions, mindfulness meditation is the one that works best for me. I can’t imagine what state my mental and emotional health would be in without it. My mindfulness practice allows me to come home to myself, to recalibrate, to remind me that I am not just who or what I think myself to be, and how to be present in a chaotic world.
I come from a creative background, being a singer-songwriter and touring artist for over fifteen years. My artistic path very much runs alongside that of my mindfulness journey, as both are rooted in self-exploration and the intention to connect with and express what feels most real to me.
As any artist knows, this way of life can be precariously unpredictable as well as stress and anxiety-producing.
The first real fruits of the practice became apparent when I was touring a lot My daily practice of meditating (be it in a tour van, a hotel room or backstage at a gig) was the sole thing keeping me steady and balanced amid all the activity.
It gave me tools and skills to help untangle difficult emotions that accompany the highs and lows that are inherent in a music career. Mindfulness taught me that stress and anxiety are natural parts of life, and that it if we can accept that we can then learn how to bring compassion and wisdom to difficult emotions and mental suffering, rather than be caught or stuck in it. There is a quote from Viktor Frankl that helps to explain this: “Between the stimulus and the response there is a space, and in that space is your power and freedom.” Meditation helps us drop into that space.
The chaos of Covid-19
The pandemic has changed things completely for me. In 2020 I had to cancel three tours. Right now, I don’t see myself getting back out on the road anytime soon. I want to wait until the ground settles a little more before I even start thinking about touring again. Financially it transformed everything, as my main income stream was gone overnight. My sense of purpose was completely rocked. For 15 years or so I had identified as a gigging, touring musician and now that was blown asunder. However, as the first few months of lockdown passed I began to realise that this was actually an opportunity for me to do some re-evaluating and some serious reflection on who I am.
Again, this is where mindfulness kicked in as it gave me the tools to work through this. Now, nearly two years after Covid hit, I honestly feel that - asides from the loss of touring opportunities - I will see these last two years as a time where I awakened to the truth: I am a singer, a songwriter, a performer, but it’s okay not to be those roles as well.
For so long, I held on so tightly to the belief that I had to be an artist 24-7 and that it was all or nothing. The last two years have taught me that being an artist doesn’t mean it's all or nothing. It’s so easy to self-objectify and get caught up in the story of who we think we are or who we think we should be. During the lockdown, I could no longer be that thing I thought I had to be (ie ‘the touring artist), but this allowed for other parts of my entire self to start to come through. There was time and space for that to happen.
On a practical level, I was very lucky as I was just finishing my training to be a meditation teacher when lockdown hit, so I was able to start offering classes online. I also trained this year to become a hypnotherapist. Nearly two years on from when things changed utterly I am spending my days on Zoom teaching meditation, doing hypnosis and of course still writing songs here in Nashville.
Hope for fellow artists
The creatives that I am friendly with are mostly musicians who have to tour to make a living. The greatest concern is when and how will the live sector get back to being in a state where they can be confident they can make a steady income again playing live music.
When the thing you have done most of your life get taken away from you it can deeply affect your sense of purpose and identity which of course affects your mental health. I strongly believe that community is vital for creatives right now. In fact, I would say it is a much-needed medicine for these times which are marked by feelings of anonymity and isolation.
And that’s why an organisation like Minding Creative Minds is so important right now as many artists are experiencing stress, anxiety and depression. They are the epitome of a community for creatives as they offer counselling, financial and legal advice, and career guidance. MCM truly is a fully integrative well being and support programme.
For more information on Ben’s meditation and hypnosis work visit bestillawareawake.com.
- Minding Creative Minds services can now be contacted by texting ‘Hi’ to 087 369 0010 for SMS & WhatsApp Support (standard rate applies) with a qualified psychotherapist / counsellor.