Comedian and Buddhist, Meshel Laurie’s new book Buddhism for Break-ups offers sage but humourous advice on how to survive a broken relationship — and thrive. But we’ll get to that in a minute. Firstly, how does Laurie apply Buddhist principles such as calm, clarity and mindfulness to her day job spent in the raucously loud and the competitively cut-throat world of commercial radio?
Laurie, who co-hosts the breakfast program for Melbourne radio station KIIS, says her working day begins with a five-minute meditation in her car when she arrives at work.
“It really settles me and sends me into the studio with a smile,” Laurie says. Once there, the avalanche of yakking, wisecracking and spruiking is handled with a Zen approach.
“There’s tons of applications for Buddhism,” she explains in a telephone interview with Daily Review conducted fittingly, (and calmly), from her car. “I’m constantly trying to bring a compassionate and respectful approach to what I do. It’s an emotionally disciplined perspective… I try to encourage people to think before they react emotionally.”
She wasn’t born with that calm approach. In fact, growing up in Toowoomba in Queensland she was sent to a Catholic school by her mother who had regaled her with own tales of being taught by frightful nuns.
“I’m still trying to work out why my mum sent me to the nuns, given the experiences she’d had.”
Unsurprisingly, Laurie never had much of a soft spot for Catholicism or Christianity. “I found it all a bit hypocritical. Christians give Christianity a bad name,” she says more than once in our interview.
But in her early twenties Laurie began reading about Buddhism and ten years ago she began studying it seriously when she was living in Brisbane.
“The more I read about it, the more I thought, ‘Yep, that’s what I reckon’.”
Laurie was attracted to Buddhist teachings on how to love without attachment, knowing the difference between loneliness and aloneness and learning how to embrace change, rather than fear it.
Even so, when her own marriage of 19 years to her husband Adrian broke down it was as messy as the next couples. They did marriage counselling, she tried to “buy” his affections with gifts but she finally found a way to mend her broken heart by embracing Buddhist concepts such as its notion of “impermanence”.
She writes in Buddhism for Break-ups: “It took me a long time to fully embrace Buddhism as a solution when my marriage was floundering. I resisted it because I knew the first thing Buddhism would require me to do was to let go of Adrian – and that was the last thing in the world I wanted to do!”
She tells Daily Review: “Nothing stays the same. You can try and force someone to stay the same but then you are fighting the impossible. If you accept the change you’ll be relaxed and happy.”
But like many suddenly single people she had first turned to the self-help section of the book store for guidance but found that almost every book about relationships was about trying to keep a couple together.
“I’d never been broken hearted before but all these books were about keeping the relationship together – there was nothing about successfully separating,” she says. That was where the idea for Buddhism for Break-ups came from and how it got its tagline – “What would Buddha do?”
She says writing the book was quite easy – and therapeutic – to write. “I definitely wanted it to be funny. I’ve learnt through my life that humour is a great way to deal with difficult situations.
Laurie writes candidly about her marriage with Adrian who never expressed any interest in reading the manuscript or the published book.
“Oh, he couldn’t care less. He’s like: ‘Whatever, I trust you’. He knows I’m not going to throw him under the bus”. She describes her ex-husband as “The best Buddhist I’ve met who doesn’t call himself a Buddhist”.
In fact, her only worry about the book was fearing that she might not have communicated some aspects of Buddhism accurately. She sent the manuscript to a Buddhist monk she once worked with in Brisbane for fact-checking and she was given the thumbs up.
It was lucky she knew her material as she says happily married friends have been eagerly reading the book – and none of them have been tempted to leave their partners. Laurie believes that everyone can learn from simple Buddhist principles and apply them to their lives, whatever their situation.
She is now “happily single” and she “couldn’t think of anything worse” than being in a relationship at the moment.
Her ultimate goal when her radio and comedy career is over is to move to a monastery and to work in its kitchen “cooking and sweeping”.
So there’s no vow of silence in a Buddhist monastery?
“Oh no, they’re very chatty.”