Rory O’Connor – I Can’t Do This Anymore
Interview by Iain McNay
Iain: Hello and welcome to conscious.tv, I'm Iain McNay and today my guest is Rory O'Connor. Hi Rory!
Rory: Hi Iain.
Iain: Rory is part of a triad we are doing this morning, with Debra and Heath. Just three people who have written to us on conscious.tv and in themselves they're not teachers or written a book, they don't do seminars, but they've had an awakening and in their own way they feel they're free. So I want to explore their lives and their breakthroughs and the integration of those breakthroughs in a very practical way. It's not famous people this morning, but it's people who have had - in our view anyway - really important experiences. So what we're going to do is we'll talk to Rory for 25 minutes or so and then afterwards there's going to be discussion after this programme with Rory and Heath and Debra, so do stay tuned for that as well.
Iain: Rory, you were telling me last night that your parents were the first trigger for you in the challenge of the status quo of society, so to speak?
Rory: Yes, very much so. Yeah, I don't really remember a time where I was entirely asleep - you've got to use some terminology - it struck me, I'm sure before the age of ten, looking at my parents' life it was just hellish to me - at least to me. The one word that I would use is frustration. Frustration, that's the one thing that came across. Trying to do the right thing, trying and pushing and frustration, as if there was a set of rules written in stone - which there kind of was because we're catholic -so there was a set of rules, literally set in stone, certainly that my mother took very literally and that weighed heavily on her very much, and as far as I think she was concerned, took away her options as to how she could manoeuvre this complicated... I mean, you know… I'm one of eight children.
Iain: Exactly you're the youngest of eight children - that's a handful isn't it?
Rory: Yeah, but that's not all meant as a criticism of my parents. I just remember quite young, I'm sure I was in primary school, thinking that I definitely don't want to do that - that just seems awful and I just sort of felt that I didn't have to do that if I made the right decisions, you know what I mean? But I could see my parents felt they had to, and in some ways, I suppose, they kind of had to, having eight kids and feeling attached to them. They felt they would have to do their best for them and they did, you know?
Iain: So in your teenage years you kind of had this thought that you didn't quite fit, that you didn't understand how it all added up?
Rory: Yes. I've made the comparison over the years to… I don't know if you've ever seen the movie Donnie Brasco where Johnny Depp - it's based on a true story - pays an undercover FBI agent in the mob? And I felt like that so many times in my life that if people find out that I'm not like them, then I'm in trouble, if you know what I mean? I definitely played a role for a lot of my life, trying to fit in, trying to bend myself and appear normal.
Iain: I think so many people do that as well. They run with it because that seems to be the only game in town.
Rory: Yes, well the other alternative is to… I mean, it's lonely for a start and I don't know, it didn't seem like an option to completely just cut myself off. It just didn't seem like an option - I became a people pleaser you know... And it started to make sense to me that it was an integral part of my awakening. And, you know, I was very close to my mother and she placed a lot of expectation on me and there was that thing of 'don't disappoint me' and, I didn't want to disappoint her, and I definitely became someone who wanted to please people and help people, you know?
Iain: And then you became a drummer? Because you loved music, you loved playing the drums... that kind of saved you to some extent.
Rory: Yes, that certainly bought me time. I loved playing drums. I was doing piano lessons as a young child and I remember seeing a sparkling blue bass drum in the corner of the piano room, and it was like the clouds opened up and the sun shined down on it, and I just remember I heard Adam and the Ants and it was so drum orientated. I was smitten, but it also struck me... I saw a band that played in my school, you know 'school thing', and the guy playing the drums was just magnetic, he was about a year younger that me, but he was really good and I thought I can do that and look at this guy, like, he knows who he is, and I just thought that sort of sense of identity it sort of almost bought you a pass… you got a pass through all the social awkwardness because 'yeah that's Rory - he's a drummer, he's a musician'...
Iain: Rock and roll you're allowed to be off...
Rory: Kind of yeah. Not so much from an egotistical point of view, but you could just be that bit odd and it was okay and I could see it was just a way of... I don't know... it was like having a backstage pass, you know. In the social game it helped, it certainly helped.
Iain: But then you had depression. It came into your life, which was quite intense at times. That must have been hard?
Rory: It was all encompassing at one point. It started… I remember how it started. A fellow I knew, a really nice guy I knew from the town I'm from, I'd heard he got badly beaten and attacked, you know, which happened, in the town I'm from, every now and again. It just really hit me, I could not understand why anyone would want to do this and I'd been in a couple of things myself, but I could never be physically aggressive... but I had been picked on a couple of times and assaulted if you like, and I couldn't do anything other than restrain the person. I have no capacity to channel violence, or understand it, which makes you very helpless even though I'm a big guy and I could subdue most of these people that were bullying, is very psychological. So I had a trouble understanding violence and this guy that just seemed to me such a ray of sunshine, I just couldn't understand how someone would do that to him and it really hit me. The madness of the world really hit me in that event and I suppose I got scared, I got confused. And the more I thought about it, I got into that cycle of what's the point? If people are like that, what's the point? What's the point? What's the point? And when you start asking that, it's a spiral and I definitely got to a place where everything everyone did was selfish, and that's kind of the truth in a way, but at that age when you're idealistic at about 17 or 18, the world seemed a very black place and I got to a point where I thought nothing… you could have handed me a million quid… nothing, I could have done with that, could have helped me. I remember thinking that.
Iain: And then, I think you had a really good friend who actually did commit suicide?
Rory: Yeah, a couple of years later. We were very close... he was my best friend, and I remember talking to him at the time about 18, 19 and he was experiencing very similar things, maybe for different reasons - he had a difficult childhood, his parents split up - but, you know, we were in a similar place, he was conflicted, he was studying science and he just wasn't sure what he was doing. You know, when you leave school and there is this void, and you start to realize that a lot of what you were told wasn't really true and you're just thrown out into the world? And I think we were both idealistic and open and both creative guys, but we talked… but I found we weren't much use to each other. A couple of years later he ended up in an institution and that didn't help and he took his own life then. In a way, that was a turning point for me as well, because that almost gave me a licence to get on with my life… that could have been me so what have I got to lose? What have I got to lose? You know what I mean? It's not me, but it didn't solve where the depression is coming from, but it kind of gave me… I felt almost the right to be selfish and look after myself because I thought if the end result of being depressed is you end up in the ground, then nobody benefits from that. Feeling bad for the world and other people means I just destroy myself, then who gets anything out of that? You see there's this notion that - particularly in Catholicism - that 'good people feel bad about things' which is nonsense. It doesn't help anybody if I feel bad what's happening at the other side of the world -how does that help them? How does that help them? It's a learned thing that good people feel bad about things. There's no shortage of things to feel bad about, do you know what I mean? You know?
Iain: Anyway, your sister recommended a couple of books Feel the Fear by Susan Jeffers and a book I've read too, The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts and they helped you, didn't they?
Rory: Absolutely. Fear, the Fear was a very practical and logical book that just kind of said it is what it is. Don't add to what's happening, and even try to see if there's something good in whatever is happening, and where it might lead, and why it might be happening. It was like a reassuring, kind of sensible, practical, someone who had been there, talking basically about fear but in a very… um… accepting way, just saying look this is your life, you know what I mean? Like, when a kid just freaks out in the supermarket, eyes on the ground throwing a tantrum? That's what people do when they come up against things, they go, "I just don't want this to be happening, why is this happening to me?" That really doesn't help; it just compounds everything ‘bad’ that happens to you, so that really made a lot of sense to me. The Wisdom of Insecurity is an amazing book I have to say and I've read it many times since. I awoke at 5 o'clock this morning in my hotel room, I couldn't sleep so I started reading it again. It's just like having a really interesting conversation with a really insightful guy, but in very ordinary language I think, you know? Alan Watts was a great guy I thought, just had a way of cutting straight to the point. The central point, the thing I really took away from that book was that the only real security, if there is such a thing, is to accept that there is no security. Accept that life is completely insecure. There is no form of security, and in a sort of perverse way, that is a form of security.
Iain: There's a relaxation that can happen when you understand that, isn't there?
Rory: Absolutely. Acceptance… acceptance is such a powerful thing.
Iain: Yeah. Well I won't go into too much detail about your professional career, but you actually made a living out of being a musician which is brilliant because it's really hard to do. Then you picked up a book by someone who has already been on conscious.tv, Brad Warner, who was a punk musician and he was a great guy and you read his Hard Core Zen book?
Rory: Yes, a friend of mine gave me a lend of it, another friend we had had discussions over a number of years and he was interested in these things, probably even before I was. It was a fascinating book and it very much mirrored my life and it very much went on to mirror it where, basically, he was in a band and, you know, was going out to get what he needed in life and, ‘when I get exactly what I want I'll be happy’. He was really obsessed with the Godzilla movies and he ended up going to Japan and getting his dream job, actually being in these movies and helping make them, and of course, when he got there, he was still going, ‘this isn't it’ and then he went on to go into Buddhism. Even the Buddhism he took with a pinch of salt, even becoming a monk, getting the robes and all that, he just - again maybe putting that western, ordinary guy slant on it - he just really spoke to me. And my life went on to mirror that, because after I read that book I very much got to, what I suppose was where I wanted to go professionally and it felt equally pointless and empty when I got there. I suspected it might anyway, but it did very much do the same thing, you know?
Iain: So within the notes you sent me before the interview, you talked about a paragon shift that happened. Talk us through the paragon shift as you saw it.
Rory: Yeah, there were many small ones. Funny enough I remember Oprah Winfrey talking to Dr Phil and they were talking about this idea of interpreting experiences and making yourself a victim - that really started something in me, that idea that you put a twist on something that happened to you, so that would have been a shift of sorts. But I suppose the most significant was at the time of the 150th anniversary of The Origin of the Species. I was watching a programme on Darwin and the theory of evolution, and I was reading A New Earth at the time as well and I was just getting right into it - an amazing book - and if I had to name one book that I think might hold the key for a lot of people is A New Earth and The Wisdom of Insecurity very much as well, but I'm not saying that if you buy that book that it guarantees it, but it certainly puts it in layman's terms the nature of the ego. I think it has a lot to offer anyway. But I was reading that at the time and I watched this programme on evolution which I had always had issues with evolution theory and I just wasn't sure. The fact was that I just didn't really understand it - it just kind of hit me. I watched a couple of programmes about evolution and it wasn't so much about the, you know, apes becoming man and all that, the sort of nitty gritty of it... it just sort of struck me that evolution is just an unfolding, it's like an idea... it's like as if... That thought was, is possible, and literally went out in all directions to see what is possible and the universe is THAT... it's everything possible happening simultaneously… it's just "What if?" That's what struck me, God if you like, or creation had the potential to be everything and anything and it just went, "What if?" And everything came from that and the "What if?" It's like a feedback loop where each moment goes, “Well it can be this”... and then it goes, "Oh what if we take that moment a little further?" So that's where - it seemed to me anyway - I seemed to see that had to be one thing just happening - which put myself into perspective as just part of that one thing.
Iain: So it was a mental realization that shifted something on an energetic level as well?
Rory: Yes, it did. It just cleared up... you see, what struck me with Debra's talk was that I realized that really my journey, if you like, has not been about issues I've had with myself. It's not been about that, it's been what is all of this about? I didn't really struggle with issues of myself, I was you know, the last, the youngest, I got plenty of attention, I didn't lack self esteem, I didn't lack confidence and I tried from very early on in my life, I remember thinking that a clear conscience was a very valuable thing - you know ‘the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind?’ So I did, as much as it came across as being a 'goodie goodie' or whatever, I really did try from an early age to navigate away from doing things in life I just knew would not sit well with me. And that helped and I'm sure there were things that I might have regretted at various times of my life, but I didn't feel I was carrying that big bag of bricks that a lot of people are carrying, so the quest for me was just more "what is this about?" and "why are people the way they are?”
Iain: After this shift, in the info you sent me, your desire to write songs - because you were trying to write an album of your own songs - that disappeared?
Iain: And then your ego came back again and then you kind of had a breakdown/breakthrough moment?
Rory: After the first shift, I think I did what a lot of people do, and thought before I completely go from the kind of... I could feel I was sort of leaving whatever connection I had to the real world - that sounds ridiculous but it's the only way I can put it...
Iain: I'm not sure the music industry is the real world!
Rory: Well it's all the real world, there's nothing that isn't. I said I'm going to make… and this was a decision made by the ego: I'm going to make an album the way I haven't been allowed to make, up until this point, because once you get into the industry, there's an awful lot of hands that touch your material and change it to how they wanted it. I tried to do that, I put a lot of money and time into that, but ultimately it destroyed me and my personal life was very difficult at the time as well… um
we lost a family member and it wasn't handled well and there was just a lot of chaos and so it culminated in a moment when I just... I just freaked out I suppose and that was a brief explosive moment and then I just sat in the rubble saying I can't do this anymore.
Iain: You broke a kitchen table with your bare hands?
Rory: I hit it with my head first… yeah! [Laughs] it sounds like I'm a nut case, but I just did. I did that as a child - I used to bang my head off things yeah, and I just pulled the legs off it and sat in the mess.
Iain: And you kept saying "I can't do this anymore"?
Rory: Yeah, and that was a moment of surrender. If you don't get to that moment voluntarily, life will bring you to that.
Iain: So what did that mean to you: a moment of surrender? What did that mean practically and emotionally?
Rory: Practically it meant I finally gave up trying to please people. I just gave up. I went [shakes his head] because I realized as I say, Debra's story and that, I wasn't really conflicted within myself. What was causing the conflict was confusion with what was happening, what life was like and why people were they way they were, but also I spent a lot of my life trying to please people and just be what they wanted me to be and you can't do that, it's never going to work and it just broke me ultimately... in a good way. And again that is why what came across to me then - I would definitely say that the worst thing that happened to me is the best thing that happened to me, so I would be very careful about intervening in other people's suffering because I do think a very comfortable life - although it seems nice - can just be kind of lived and you never quite realize you were alive at all, you know? Because there's nothing, there's no stone in your shoe kind of make you stop and look inside your shoe and go, what is that?
Iain: So you went on to, again intentionally, to read quite a few books? Science books, quantum physics…
Rory: That was more really out interest, I was just fascinated with… again quantum science, metaphysics... I read all kinds of stuff: Tolle, I read the Conversations with God, I read Bruce Lipton. Bruce Lipton was fascinating because he went right in literally, to how your body is created from proteins and I found that fascinating and all these other viewpoints just gradually, expanded my mind to the point where I'd stopped trying to grasp anything in a way, you know? But yeah I investigated quantum physics and that was sort of another paradigm shift a few years before what I described, where I remember feeling what I read about Buddhism and what I'd learned about TM… I remember the talking about that everything emerges out of nothing, and that seemed very mystical and ‘Mr Miyagi from the Karate Kid’. But quantum physics says the same thing, so everything essentially appears out of nothing, and it is the observer that causes it to appear… The world is in you, heaven is in you, God is in you... it's coming from within you as kind of nebulous as that sounds. I saw the parallels - they seemed to be saying the same thing.
Iain: And is that a realization now - that heaven is within you, God is within you?
Rory: Heaven is simply an experience… and hell is an experience. You can be in heaven... being at peace is heaven, just being at peace, being okay with everything as it is - it is heaven, I would say.
Iain: And are you at peace?
Rory: Most of the time yeah...yeah… I’m not looking for answers anymore at all, I don't. I'm not struggling to understand anything… there's nothing to understand… there is nothing to understand! [laughs] It just is what it is and it's incredibly simple, but it's really hard to articulate. So yeah, I mean… you can get drawn into it... life has its way of drawing you into it, but it happens less and less. And what's interesting to me, you know what they say 'wherever you go, there you are'? If you watch yourself - I've always lived by the sea all my life - I've loved the sea all my life and I've always loved the sea but, you know say ten years ago, I'd be standing looking at the sea not quite able to appreciate it because I was having this, 'Oh why is this happening, why is that happening, what's it all about?' in my head and while I'm looking at the sea. I'm on the beach thinking this is beautiful, but it doesn't feel like it, you know? It's like that song...um… James Morrison "It's a wonderful, world but I can't feel it right now." Brilliant lyric and now I know… I know from experience. I experience times of complete and utter ecstatic... just standing there, and it's the same beach I've stood on for a lot of my life, you know what I mean? I went back living where I grew up, but there's nothing getting in the way of me. I'm not there basically! There's just the sun and the beach and the dog... the dog...
Iain: I laughed when we talked about your dog last night... you love your dog! [Laughs]
Rory: He's a little Buddha, you know what I mean? He really is, he really is… my partner is the same, we've become completely besotted with dogs, but animals in general... I don't know… there's just something… Alan Watts said - in the chapter I was reading this morning - he said, “If something can be described, it's just an idea” and I think that’s a very profound statement, if there is such a thing as being profound, because I cannot describe the amazement I experience and the joy sometimes - well a lot of the time - just looking at the dog being himself. I'd be sitting on a chair and he's looking out the window and you can see his ears doing this and that when there's people passing, and it's just brilliant to watch. He's just doing his thing, completely unselfconscious you know? And he'll sit there and he's looking at me and I'm looking at him and I can’t describe what's happening there. I can't describe it... it's indescribable… it's… it's... I don't know what the word is. As lofty as it might sound, it feels like the universe is looking at me, because what else would it be? The dog doesn't know he exists in the way - well I assume - I know I exist, or I sense my own existence. So there's an unconscious, but completely conscious life form just there.
Iain: I'm going to stop you there. It's a brilliant place to finish - the universe is looking at me - I might call the programme that actually!
Rory: Cool - I'll expect a royalty!
Iain: Okay Rory thanks very much. Stay tuned because we are now going to have a discussion with Rory, Debra and Heath which is part of this programme. See you later.
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