She’s one half of the successful business partnership Jason Shankey Grooming.
But two years ago Derry woman Brenda Shankey found herself on prozac after suffering a breakdown. Brenda’s now found her way back to inner peace using the ancient art of meditation.
And she recently spent a week in complete silence on retreat in the Black Forest with no facebook, no television and no books. She told Journal reporter Erin Hutcheon about her experience and why she now feels fabulous
“I’ve been doing meditation for two years,” explained Brenda. “It all started about two years ago when I was quite high profile. I ended up having a breakdown and suffered from stress and exhaustion.”
It’s only now that Brenda has decided to speak out about what she went through.
“The pressure on women today is immense,” she said. “The stress of being a mother, being a wife, trying to stay trendy and trying to stay slim. And I think in some ways the Derry nature can be quite soft.”
Brenda went to Derry where her family live, for a week of respite, where she was prescribed prozac.
“A couple of weeks later I remember going power walking with the girls and I lost the power in my legs,” she said. “I thought it must have been the medication that was slowing my legs down.
“I decided there must be a better way to recover and that’s when I started buying self help books to deal with stress. I started to look into the mind and how to deal with stress and how to deal with stress in the modern world.
“I wanted to know how I could keeping all the plates in the air as well as actually trying to find some inner happiness and peace.
“Every self help book I bought came back to one thing and that was meditation so I started to do courses.
“A year down the line and I was a new woman
“Now I work the high profile life, look after the family but I can look after me as well.
“The irony was that the more meditation I did, the more that good things started to happen to me.
“And I became more capable, even when a disaster struck.”
Brenda said that pressures on men and women today can be immense.
“Most of us now have to hold down a full time job,” she said. “After work at night you are running round to football, drama and dance, you make the dinner, then the lunches and when you sit down the night is gone.
“Before this I would have been out 2-3 nights a week networking. The parties had to stop.”
Brenda took a five day course called: “how to get deeper into medication.”
“I just thought you can’t get enough of something that is good for you,” said Brenda. “We never say no to a night out with the girls or a new outfit, so why would we say no to something like this, My mental health has to become more important than anything else.”
It was for this reason that Brenda embarked on the Art Of Living Happiness programme which will come to Northern Ireland for the first time this summer.
“I had to go for it properly so off I went to the Black Forest Headquarters in Germany,” said Brenda. “I thought - there’s no better time than the new year.
“The days were made up with a mixture of meditation and yoga, walks in the Black Forest and working on emotions.”
But part of the deal that there was no speaking, no coffee, no meat, no sugar, no gluten, no phone, no reading, no TV and no Internet.
“Not one person spoke except for teachers, “ said Brenda. “I was in a dorm with five girls and none of us broke the rules. We had no facebook for a week either. I switched my phone off because I was going to be there over new year. Can you imagine what that would have been like? And I didn’t want to peak because I thought that would make me too emotional.
“Not having access to the digital world was unbelievably liberating. We are all addicted to our phones. There are times when the four of us are sitting in the house and we are all on the phone at the same time. I just have to say - right - put those phones down, we are going to have an hour of family time.”
Brenda said that on her return she was astounded by the reaction on facebook and how many people got in touch to learn about her experience
“Everyone wants inner peace and happiness but we don’t know how to get it,” said Brenda. “People think meditation is for hippies and gurus but it really is the key to the mind. To be able to train the mind is the most powerful thing of all.
“Since I have been back I feel almost floaty, like I’m not on the planet, just the feeling of being free.”
Based on her own experience Brenda is now starting her own mediation course ‘Be Fabulous’ which is focused on reducing stress, goal setting and finding happiness.
“The course filled up in just six hours,” said Brenda. “That gave much inspiration. I have been doing meditation for two years and I feel so driven and focused now with no anxiety and depression in my stomach.”
Brenda’s course is now full however she is considering putting one on in her hometown if demand is high enough.
However the Art of Living Happiness programme will run in Belfast from Thursday, 23rd Apr - Monday, 27th Apr’15. REgister at https://register.artofliving.org/gb/civicrm/event/register?id=350
To find out about Brenda’s up and coming classes and meditation sessions contact Bshankey@gmail.com for further information or join Brenda Shankey on Facebook.