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Beginner’s Mind: Cello Lessons

Nov 14-16

So often we don’t begin things because we are expecting perfection from the get go. We set standards high and expect to reach there in an instant (speaking very much from personal experience). We look for the quick fix, the fast route. But sometimes things take time, and rightly so.

This year I took up the cello, learning play it from scratch. I had never done music before and other than a few chords on a guitar I had never learned how to play an instrument or read music. But the opportunity arose for me to join a beginners community orchestra set up by my dear friend Ciara Cavanagh. ‘You are a cello player Clare’, she repeatedly said to me, giving me a loan of an instrument and arranging for me to have some lessons with her, in exchange for some yoga classes. How could I say no.

There have been so many interesting moments with the cello so far, and I know there are plenty more to come. One of the biggest has been learning how to fail, and fail again, and being absolutely comfortable with that. The very nature of learning an instrument means that you are going to make mistakes, and make them often. If I began expecting perfection, I would never have started. But even if I began to berate myself for my mistakes, I would never have moved on. The mistakes, you have to quickly realize, are just an integral part of the learning process and if you aren’t making enough of them, you’re not practicing enough!

Playing with an orchestra adds a unique spin to this- when you make a mistake you just have to keep going. The rest of the orchestra will be ahead of you and you learn very quickly to let go of the failure in order to keep up. If you let the mistake get the better of you, it will get in the way of future success and also have a negative impact on the other players. And so, you instantaneously have to get going again, and fast. Over and over and over again.

As in art, so in life.

So often, particularly as adults, we don’t allow ourselves to be beginners. We expect excellence from the start, and we don’t give ourselves the time to experiment, to learn or to be practitioners who show up, day in, day out to craft our particular thing.

I knew setting out to play the cello that I would fail. Each time I sit down to play, I fail. Things go wrong all the time, but gradually, though all the errors, things are slowly starting to go right. I am still making lots of errors but after months of practice, I am finding I am making different ones now, perhaps more advanced ones, and somehow the basics are falling in place.

This is learning. Through practice and through the embrace of failure, over and over, until one day you start to actually sound like you can listen to yourself. And you realize you are falling in love with the instrument which a while ago you thought would never cooperate with you. It now seems to respond, sometimes even with grace, and sometimes even with melody.

I am far from ready for any solo renditions, but one day, maybe. So long as I keep beginning and so long as I keep failing. Over and over and over again.



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From the Inside Out- A Yoga Journey

‘Oh, are you the yoga teacher?’, said with a quizzical look and tone of surprise.

‘I’m here for yoga, where is the teacher?’, said with a glance that moved beyond me.

These are genuine comments I have received just before I’ve been about to teach a yoga class. When new students arrive, I understand that I may cause a few curious looks up and down and I suspect a few internal judgments may be cast my way. I have come to expect them but I have also had to let them go.

I know I don’t look like a typical yoga teacher. I’m not tall or skinny or have perfect skin. I’m short and curvy and carry a bit more weight than I’d like to. But I have had to learn that this does not make me a bad yoga teacher, in fact, I think it may even have helped me. You see, every time, and I mean every time, I step up to teach a class I feel vulnerable and at risk of judgment. I feel on edge, and because of this edge I think I can relate to students who don’t feel comfortable in their own skin, or who don’t think they are strong enough or flexible enough to even begin. I know this because I’ve been one of them.

If you told me even a few years ago that I would using my body as a teaching tool, and that people would be looking to my limbs (and curves) for instruction, I would have laughed in disbelief and shuddered at the thought. But yoga, I have experienced, does something to you- it helps you to connect with, and even love, your body from the inside out. So I may have a belly, but I have learned to love the feeling of moving into a headstand unaided, holding it for minutes and minutes. I may not look like a typical yogi (or at least what the yoga industry continue to promote on their glossy magazine covers), but I love being able to move into deeper consciousness and awareness of my body, sensing into my organs and even feeling the difference between my right lung and my left, feeling the changing pulse of my heart and the shape of my pelvis. And I may not have perfectly sculpted muscles, but I love that I can hop up into crow pose and balance all my weight on my hands. Most of all, I love that it has been a journey of discipline and a hell of a lot of hours of practice to get me there. It did not start that way. It started with feeling unworthy but it was the practice, more practice and the wonderful support from my own teachers that helped me along my own path.

I remember the week before I decided to train as a teacher. I had a coaching session with my good friend Mari Kennedy and we sat down and faced the fear. I really could not see myself getting to the point where I’d be able to get up in front of a class of people and have them look at my body, curves and all, for instruction. But while the fear spoke loudly, Mari helped me to hear beyond it. Behind the foreboding I discovered deep vulnerability. Something clicked. I realized that the vulnerability was the gold. It was the key to connecting with others. This is what would make me a teacher, not being two stone lighter or six inches taller, but the ability to connect with another person’s journey, wherever they are along it.

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A while ago a new student arrived into my class, looking very nervous. She told me that a previous teacher had said to her not to come to class any more because she was overweight and would not be able to do all the poses.  My heart sank as I heard this, and annoyance flared- I wanted to have a word with that teacher and highlight some of the damage that had been done. Yoga is for everyone- tall, thin, male, female, young or old. It is not about being flexible or strong (these are just some of the by-products), but it is about the journey inwards, to the home of the infinite within. Yoga offers a promise- not necessarily that you will fall in love with your body from the inside out, but that it will offer you the chance to. It is a doorway to experience the inward self, the authentic self, the real and the actual self. It is breath and depth and beauty and grace. This is the journey. It starts with vulnerability and from there it moves to possibility. Along the way it is peppered with imperfection, doubt, challenge and change.

So over the years, as the hours on the mat have clocked in, I have learned to connect and constantly reconnect with my body from the center to the periphery. It is a continual journey. There are still days that I do not like what I see in front of the mirror but yoga has taught me to look beyond the skin and instead to experience the truth of my body.

So this is the real invitation and it is open to all; curves, fears and vulnerability included.  Mine are no exception, thankfully.

Recently I listened to two wonderful podcasts from On Being, a US radio show taking about yoga.

The first with Matthew Sanford, a yoga teacher who has been paraplegic since the age of 13. He speaks wonderfully about the essence of yoga, irrespective of the body which it works through. You can listen here.

The second was with Besel Van Der Kolk, a psychiatrist on trauma treatment and the role of body awareness, including yoga, in recovery. Here



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The Homing Instinct.

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I’ve been homing. In a big sense of the word. For as long as I remember I’ve had my eye on elsewhere, always plotting my next physical move- to a new home, a new country, a new adventure. I’ve made home in mud huts and fancy universities. I’ve felt at ‘home’ while wild camping or overnighting in the back of pick up trucks. Home has been global, at times transient and generally somewhere else. And even though I have been in Ireland for the last few years, it has all felt transitory. My travels have been wonderful and I’ll be forever grateful for my nomadic streak but something has shifted, big time. Home, in the deep sense of the word, is being recalibrated.

The recalibration came somewhat unexpectedly. In September I had planned to pack up shop again and move to the UK. An amazing opportunity had presented itself, I had felt a strong ‘yes’ in me and the lure of elsewhere loomed large. But as I was preparing to leave, an unusual thing happened, my body flared up in pain. I ignored it and pressed on. But then it got stronger and I decided I needed to listen.  Two days before I was to move out of my home, my gut sense was on uber alert and a sudden realization hit me. ‘What am I leaving for?’ I listened into the pain, and into my body, and asked it, ‘What are you trying to tell me? My answer came not from my brain, my expectations, my sense of loyalty to others, or some wanderlust gene in me but from the uncomfortable sensations in my body. A visit to the doctor re-iterated the issue, and quickly I knew what it was telling me-  to stay. Then the critic voice crept in- ‘Sure, haven’t you told all in sundry that you are going? Sure, won’t you let down others? Sure, isn’t it all just in your head and aren’t you just letting fear take over?’ But still my body was saying ‘no’. I knew I had to ring my landlord and put a halt to the move. ‘Stay’ was the loudest answer. Within a couple of days the pain had gone away.

Looking back now, just a few months later, I feel blessed. In listening to the inner knowing, I feel I have moved into a much wider sense of home, a deeper home within my own skin and a stronger connection to ‘here’. Here happens to be Ireland, and by making a commitment now to place, a whole range of possibilities are opening up. My perspective is lengthening. I find myself talking about 3, 5 and 10 year business goals, and my commitments to the people around me are strengthening too. In committing to making a home, I am doing things I have longed for but never quite gave myself permission to do because home always felt so temporary. I have been painting my walls the colour I want them to be, and framing and hanging pictures. I’ve been making time again for my own drawing and cello practice, cooking and baking. They may seem like simple acts, but for me they are highly symbolic. Most significantly I have made a commitment to a four-legged being by the name of Finn. My housemate got a dog, on the condition that I will help to look after it. Ever since I remember I have wanted a dog, and now she is here, sitting by my side as I type. Finn is revolutionary.

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So, in creating boundaries and deeper commitments, I am finding a whole other level of space. By removing the ever tempting question, ‘Where should I be?’, it has opened up the powerful questions, ‘How should I be, here?’. It does not mean that my travel spirit is no longer present (I was in Paris last weekend and I have trips I would love to take), but it does seen to have transitioned from wanderlust to curiousity. ‘What can I build from here?’, I am asking myself, ‘and how can I create  a solid base from which I can then explore?’.

Perhaps it is a symptom of my age that home is calling more strongly but in hearing ‘stay’, what I have also been hearing are the questions, ‘How are you really showing up to yourself, your body, your friends, your family and your deepest desires?’. And in creating a strong base, I realize too that it is a place people will come to- already there have been poetry nights, dinner parties and visitors from around the world.


In all, the experience over these last few months has been a strong reminder to listen in. It took pain for me to listen this time, next time, hopefully, it will not so dramatic. But this is the stuff of learning and growth. This is the ground for maturation. The body knows. When we choose to listen, paths clear and ways are forged, not necessarily the ones we expect but the ones that can create genuine freedom, expansion and wellbeing. At home in our bodies, we can create a true home for ourselves. Mine has physically manifested with a turquoise wall, framed pictures and a little Finn. The thought alone make me explode with delight. ‘Welcome home’, I hear my internal self say, ‘my doors and heart are open’.

Finn Oct 2014-1


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Ten books that have stayed with me…



Around the interwebs over the last week I saw a list of books with the title:

 Ten books that have stayed with me long after I have read them.

 It got me thinking, in the most bookish and wonderful of ways.

Here are mine, in no particular order. I’ve bundled fiction, non-fiction and poetry together. A book is a book after all.

Some of these were read in my childhood, some I read during my early twenties and greatly influenced my work, and others are more recent reads.

  1. The Hours by Michael Cunningham.
  2. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimananda Ngozi Adichi
  3. Benedictus by John O’Donoghue
  4. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  5. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  6. Common Fire: Lives of Commitment in a Complex World, by Sharon Daloz Parks
  7. Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
  8. Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership by Joe Jaworski
  9. Riverboat Adventures by Lucy Kincaid (this was my favourite book as a kid – I would look at the illustrations for hours!)
  10. Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Vol II. (or any of her works)

(ah, is the list really over… I am going to cheat a bit, here are a few books I read recently which I also know are going to stay with me:

11. When Women Were Birds, by Terry Tempest Williams

12. In the Body of the World, by Eve Ensler

13. Americanah, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichi

And the poetry of David Whyte should be there, and also Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman and The Story of Art by E.H Gombrich. (So, yes, I am really cheating now).

And and and…


And yours? (This is a great way to get book recommendations I am realizing. I have got rid of my TV and plan on some extended reading time over the winter- so recommendations welcome).

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Home, via Greece.


Axladitsa -57The tides come and go. The moon waxes, then wanes. An inhale follows and exhale, or even the other way round. The wave is the way of things. Each coming and going reveals a new pattern, a new current, a new marking on the shore. For it is a certainty that the tide will turn, yet where it takes us we can never quite tell.

I thought my own current for a while was taking me offshore to the UK for a stint, but life’s twists and turns have brought me back, to a home in Dublin, where I feel a new wave of life about to swell. The time for the UK turned out not to be for now, and so, Ireland, once again I am happy to say I have a home in you. And aren’t you a splendid and curious thing.

I have emerged from my weeks in Greece, where I camped out with the stars, under the shade on an ancient olive tree, the owls and crickets offering their nightly cacophony for company, alongside a myriad of ants and insect descending to my tent. We had a few skirmishes, me and the multi-legged creatures, but I am thankful to say that we all came out unharmed. Overall I loved wild camping- being out under the twinkling sky with the space and expanse of the view of the Aegean to greet me in each morning and the occasional feline visitation by way of Hammoudi and Tarzana, two of the resident cats.

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I was in Greece to visit Axladista, the home of my friend Maria Scordialos, where we together with some other friends (Vanessa Reid and Benedict Rousseau) hosted a collective inquiry into new forms of learning, or what learning is needed for now, given the times of chaos and complexity we are living through. Joining us was a wonderful, diverse group of practitioners who each hold an interest in learning and social change. There was a contemporary dancer, a Capuchin monk, a filmmaker, educationalists, artists, social entrepreneurs, environmentalists and activists. We experimented with each other’s practices- from meditation to body movement, exploring how we can learn from each discipline and apply it to this crazy world, with all its edges and challenges, while still staying focused and working on some of the big issues and opportunities of our time.

In all the inquiry was an interesting experiment that I am still digesting, and an experience which I have a sense will evolve over time, particularly through the new connections which were made and the themes which arose during our conversations and questions. One area of in particular which was very strong was the area of rites of passage, initiation and eldership, and how as societies we have lost so much of the initiation into cycles of life, manhood and womanhood and the skills to navigate the transitions. Coming with me too is the question of how we can hold the chaos within us in order to hold more of the presence in the world around us, and how the skills of yoga, meditative practice and good communication skills have an important contribution to make to the process.  The word practice and discipline came up strongly for all of us, whether that be spiritual, bodily or artistic as a way of grounding so as we can continually align ourselves to our true core and serve from a deeper, steadier place.

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The other night I was reading back over my journals from the last few years and tracking the themes and lines of enquiry I have been following for the past while. I could see some of the seeds of my work and interests now that were sown way back when, without knowing at the time where they will lead. In a similar way I have a sense with the learning gathering that some important seeds were sown. What will germinate I have yet to tell but whatever the outcome the experience of asking powerful questions with a group and watching the process unfold was a learning experience in and of itself.

Our learning gathering then moved into a week of body practice, where I hosted a yoga immersion, ‘Awakening the Wild and Wonderful Within’. It was again powerful stuff, especially to be surrounded by the wisdom of the wild. Over the course of the five days we grounded into our beings and from this rooted place were given reign to explore our own physical, emotional and mental edges. We were a small but intimate group which I simply loved teaching and particularly learning with the group and from the landscape. Nature knows while we participate. It was my first time hosting an immersion of this length and really relished having the time and space to dive deep into the practice with others. So, ideas already brewing for some more…

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In between all this and for some days which followed, with the memory of the yoga in our bodies, there was swimming and more swimming, 40 degree heat, olives, conversations, challenges, connections, more yoga, eating (lots of yummie things, including fresh figs from the tree) and some moonlit dances. Plus I got to hang out my one of my favourite beings in the world- Freddie the dog.

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Axladitsa never fails to offer her lessons. Mine are still unfolding and I feel fortunate to be able to have these opportunities in my life and thankful for the network of friends and colleagues who help enable it. Thanks in particular to Maria Scordialos for opening her home to us.

From Greece, there was also a two-night stop over in Italy where the flaneur in me had a chance to wander freely, soak in some views (and gelato) and dive into a novel- which I had not done for a very long time. (Thanks to Federica, my wonderful wonderful AirBnB host- if you are ever going to Bergamo, look up this).

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Italy, Bergamo 2014-22Italy, Bergamo 2014-35And now, here I am back in Dublin, where the light is still bright but with a chill in the air and the rain making a comeback. But it is a curious thing indeed, this place and this city, and I am curious too about the adventures and experiences which are to unfold here.  I have lots of new ideas and lots of hatching plans for a new phase of life and living. So, for now, it seems, I am home. Amen.

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Remembering Jimmy…


 It has been 10 years. And yes, it is true, time flies, and yes, it is true, time can help and time can heal. But it doesn’t mean I don’t remember. I remember every day.

Ten years ago today my father Jimmy died suddenly while pushing a little boat out onto a lake, surrounded by people who loved him. My mother was at his side, handing out strawberries to a group of kids, fruit which only hours earlier was picked by them in their garden. It was a typical scene: lake, kids, boats, food, friendship.

Jimmy collapsed suddenly. My mum asked if he was ok, and he uttered, ‘Yes’. Friends, one a nurse, rushed to help. They tried to revive him but he was gone from us. Just like that. No fuss. This again was typical- the last thing he would have wanted was a fuss.

Ten years is a long time. And not. I remember so well. I remember at the time of his death how hundreds came, telling us how much he meant to them. I remember how, in particular, the children came- the kids of friends, and friends of friends, standing by his coffin, some holding his hand, some tucking little notes under his corpse, saying that he was like a grandfather to them, and they will not forget. I remember how we stood out on our lawn, a bright July evening, sharing stories, singing and playing music as his body lay in wake. I remember the guard of honour which the kids made with oars when his body was being taken from our home- they understood that this was someone to honour. I remember too the moment I saw his body, laid out, serene, still and cold. This was not my father. I ran out of the house, ran and ran, down to the lakeshore beyond the house, and sat there, just looking at the life around me. It was mid-summer. The lake was alive with life. A heron soared. Dragonflies hovered. Rushes and reeds swayed with the lightness of summer. The water was still and glistening, a silver shimmer appearing every now and then as the breeze released of its gentleness. It was far from cold. There was nothing but life here and in that very alive sense of life, I felt my father.

There was grace in that moment and I think that it was this feeling of aliveness, of abundance, and of the wild, unadorned pageantry of nature, in even its most subdued variations, which brought me to acceptance. Somehow I never struggled with a ravaged grief or an angry grief. Mine has been softer; instead a hushed tone of sadness wrapping the knowing that he will never know his grandchildren, or that he has not been there at my mother’s side. I have missed him, missed him so much, but I have celebrated too that he was released from his body painlessly, quickly, with only his life, and not his decline, to be remembered. For a man who gave so much this, in some respects, was life’s gift to him. He died at one of his favourite places on earth: Acres Lake in Letrim. A seat, erected by friends, now sits there, under some trees and simple reads ‘Jimmy’s Seat. 2004’. No fuss.

 So, he is gone, but I ask myself, does he live too?

 There is not a day goes by when I do not think about him. I search my brain for more memories, and only good ones come. That is all that is there- at least for me. My father was the closest thing to a gentle giant I have ever met. I have always felt lucky, beyond lucky, to have had him as a father- we had a special thing, me and him, a bond I cherish still. Is that a life, in the memory of him, lived now in how I act out the knowing of him?

 Or maybe the life now is in the lives that he saved, or helped or brought into the world? Jimmy was a fireman. He joined Dublin Fire Brigade in 1961, when he was 21, and did 34 years of active service. He saved countless lives and helped many others. He delivered a few babies along the way too.  Fire, he knew, could take lives in an instant: young ones, old ones, poor ones, rich ones. Life, for all, was that fragile. All it takes is a spark and the right conditions for the flames to flare. He knew this intimately.


Every person has their dark side, their shadow, and I have no doubt that Jimmy had his too. But somehow, he turned quickly outwards, allowing the light in, so that it could come out again, transformed and more resplendent. His was the light born from the dark; the one that knows the grief, the one that has seen pain and witnessed deep tragedy; the one that appreciates the speed of it all.

In his spare time, Jimmy was, for want of a better word, a hobbyist. He had many hobbies, which over the years included boatbuilding, parachute jumping, canoeing, painting, bee-keeping, stained glass making, photography, sand-castle making, deep sea diving, motorbike racing, swimming, grape growing, wine-making, sailing, picture restoration, koi-keeping, bird watching and gilding. Water fights also featured heavily. And pulling funny faces. And bad jokes. Yes, lots and lots of bad jokes. Jimmy taught me how to cut stained glass and make Tiffany lamps, how to smoke bees from a hive, how to develop a photographic print in a bathroom, how to tie up boat ropes and thread different kinds of knots. He taught me how he mixed his paints, how to spot a zebra finch and a wagtail, how to start an outboard engine, how to gild gold leaf onto an old frame, and, importantly, how to instigate a water fight. He taught me many many things, not least, the most valuable lessons of all: how to be spontaneous; how to have fun and how to love. To him, yes, there was nothing but life.


There were some missing parts to him too- the ends of four of his fingers, which he had had chopped off in two separate accidents. He had also, on one occasion, badly burnt his hands in a fire (when he had given his gloves to another firefighter). His hands were forever being cut and scrapped and were layered with various years of scaring, markings of age and giving things a go. Yet, despite his difficulty with his fingers he still he got on with making things with them, always adapting and finding a way to do what he needed to. His pens, for instance, had a wad of selotape wrapped around them so that he could grip them better. In typical fashion, he also found a way to make a joke out of it all, telling kids that he bit nails too much as a child, and, see look what happens!

I remember the moment I heard the news that my father had died. I was sitting in a park in Dublin, with the sounds of Simon and Garfunkel, who were playing at a concert nearby, carried on the wind. As the news came, immediately so did three things, or a knowing or clarity.

I am really lucky to do the work that I do.

I really want to have a family.

Love is the most important thing.

 Maybe this was his parting gift to me; an edict to live by and strive for. I have carried these with me ever since.

So, he is gone now but he lives too. He lives in the lamps he made and his paintings on the wall. He lives in DNA of my brothers and I, now and my niece and nephew- his grandchildren, pumping through us with the tales of a life well lived. Somewhere, in the memory of the world, he is there, having played his part, well and with little fuss.

Ten years on, we will gather by the lake where his ashes are scattered. We will gather – me, my mum, my brothers, my niece and nephew, to celebrate again, and mark a moment, a passing, and a life very well lived. I intend too to dive into that lake, between the rushes and the reeds, into the dark undergrowth, and swim in her deep depths for while. I will swim there for a while in the knowing that there will be an upwards breach, into the light, into the fullness of summer and the freshness of air.  For that is where life wants to take itself – back onto the lakeshore, to continue, if only to admire it all, for there is so much to admire. And, if I can come even a fraction close to ripple effects of his memory, then, yes, that too may be a life well lived.

Thank you Jimmy. I miss you. I love you. You were the best.


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Enough is Enough.

Today, the world changes and turns, as it does everyday. It is the natural revolution of things. But today something very uneasy revolves in me.

The news in Ireland has been taken up with talk of Garth Brooks cancelling his concerts here- making front page headlines. The Taoiseach (prime minister) was even going to intervene. Excuse me, but really? Really? Is this what governing a country is boiling down to? Is this the value we place on our headlines and what deserves our attention?

Meanwhile in Gaza today, the lives of innocent civilians are under threat from rocket attacks and militant extremism. The treat continues and escalates.

Meanwhile in Srebrenica another 175 bodies will be laid to rest, on this the 19th anniversary of the genocide. And still the pain continues.

Meanwhile in Syria and Afghanistan and The Congo and Darfur…

Meanwhile in the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives, the threat continues and escalates.

Today, I feel angry and frustrated. These words are not enough. These thoughts are not enough. My good intentions are not enough. I am on the side of solution, but right now, that is not enough.

I am crying as I write these words. Because I feel so fucking frustrated and powerless right now. But tears are not enough and giving up is not enough. Pessimism is not enough. Ignorance is not enough. Turning aside is not enough. Blame is not enough. Taking sides is not enough.

And yet we need to find a way to say ‘Enough’. Not just one of us, but all of us. ‘Enough is enough’.

There has to be a way.

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Why I write…

turkey journal

I recently came across a series of pieces from writers about why they write. It got me thinking out my own reasoning. I have been keeping a journal since the age of 11 and haven’t really stopped since. My journal comes with me everywhere. Sometimes  I write just small private pieces, something much larger public ones. But the reasons remain the same. This is why…

I write to come to a knowing. I write to connect to a source. I write as a practice. I write as a craft. I write to uncover and awaken. I write to connect to myself, to others, to the mystery.

I write to come closer to beauty. I write to reveal my truth and allow it to evolve. I write to capture moments. I write as a record. I write because I can. I write to unblock. I write to provoke. I write to find my voice and sing my song. I write because I believe in words and the power of our voices, our songs, our stories.

I write to make something last. I write to celebrate. I write because I don’t want to knit.

I write because it is a doorway, a path, a way, a movement. I write because my brain wants to dance. I write so words take on a new form, through me. I write for me. I write for others. I write to connect myself to others. I write because it brings a part of me to life. I write to find meaning and make meaning. I write because it brings me closer. I write because there are so many stories and I am still writing mine. I write because we depend on stories.

I write to find love and belonging. I write to build bridges. I write to marvel, pay homage, express awe.

I write to find the right questions. I write to find my way to new answers. I write because I love to fill pages. I write because words come. I write because I’ve been overwhelmed with lonliness and overrun with grief. I write to knock and be found. I write because it is magical and frustrating all at once. I write because the voice of the world is rising and it needs catchers. I write because it brings me back to myself.

I write to find the songlines and the storylines. I write to ride a magic carpet, bringing me closer to home.

I write when on one is looking. I write when no one else can. I write because it is a privilege. I write because sometimes all you can do is pick up a pen and make your way down a blank page.

I write because I do and I must and I will. I write for the love of it.

And you? Why do you write? Or dance? Or sing? Or paint? Or do what your heart tells you to do?...

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Life in Flux


This year has been one rolling wave of change, challenge and chance. This is life in flux, ebbing and flowing as if it has been seeking a new pace and a new place. Flux, it appears, is the texture of my current time in the world. The wave is turning once again. Some days it feels so strong that it is like an entire new tide has arrived.

I have recently moved house but change and chance are packing my bags up again. There is choice in the mix too, my own. My choice to follow these new currents, not knowing where they will take me, but knowing I need to listen. Later this month I leave for Greece for 6 weeks, then with a short hop back to Ireland in between, I will move on to Devon in the UK where I will be taking up new residence in Hazelwood House, an 18th Century hunting lodge, now run as a guesthouse by my friends Anabel and Janie. 65 acres of beautiful land await, a river, an old chapel and so much potential it feels somewhat surreal. I’ll be there for an initial three months, and then we will see how life unfolds and whether Devon will be a resting spot for a while longer. If nothing else, there will be much learning- in fact, there already has been.

I met Anabel and Janie last March, via my good friend in Greece, Maria Scordialos. I had heard much about them, and Hazelwood, so when I got there, it had the air of the familiar and friendship was already a given. We then travelled to Bosnia together where not only did I get to see some of their work in action, but I also got to hear more about their own stories and how Hazelwood came into their ownership. The place has been a gathering spot for over 20 years, and much more than a just a guesthouse. There has been music, learning gatherings, concerts, food events, dance workshops, yoga, theatre and many, many, many conversations where people from all across the world have mingled, shared stories and celebrated life together.


Initially, there was more than Anabel and Janie though. There was another, Gillian Kean, who by all accounts was a remarkable woman, and who tragically died last year in a car accident. Gillian’s legacy has extended far, not just to Hazelwood, but in her work in conflict and post-conflict zones, showing up around the world in friendship and solidarity to bridge divides, bring people together and do the work of peace. With Gillian’s death comes a big gap, and in a way that death can also bring a clearing, it has inspired a new conversation about what Hazelwood can and wants to be. I now seem to be a part of that conversation.


I have taken many a leap in life, sometimes moving continents or sometimes just re-orinentating a mental model so I can recapitulate myself into a new way of seeing the world and myself. I have made mistakes along the way, of course, but I have never regretted any of the leaps for they are what has taught me and what continue to teach me. And honestly, I feel so lucky to have these opportunities.

But what of Ireland? I find it even hard to ask myself that question. This place, this land and these people- my friends, my family, my community, my pulse. I know my connection is strong here, but I also know it will travel with me. It feels too deep in me not too. All I can say is that leaving here both breaks my heart and opens it up again. There is something so special about this little island, a bit of magic which grows all the more fonder at the thought of leaving shore. But that is where the listening has been taking me, and so the body follows.

And what of The Trailblazery?

Well, The Trailblazery still indeed has a pulse. We have turned it to some fallow ground for a little while for some r&r, while listing to its beat, and will respond when we feel the pulse is right again. Kathy remains involved, and Ciara too. Over the summer months we are releasing more videos and some new ideas are brewing, so stayed tuned.

And Be Retreats? It too is alive and well. Mari, Jenny and I are planning a retreat in Ireland early next year (watch this space), and some pop-up events also in the mix. You can keep track of happenings here.

And yoga? Well, fortunately that goes where my body takes it too. I’ll be hosting a yoga immersion in Greece from 3-9 August at Axladitsa, and there are still spaces remaining. There are lots of other summer happenings at Axladitsa too, including an Art of Participatory Leadership training at the end of August. Find out more here.

Also over these months I will still be taking on freelance work- both writing assignments and documentary and photographic work. So, please do keep me in mind. You can keep track of my photographic work via my photo website.


I was down in West Kerry last weekend, in indeed the magical kingdom. My tent was pitched with a view of Ventry Beach sweeping a very fine brow below me, and above me, knitting the sky with delight, the calligraphic markings of swallows and swifts as they were busy making the seasonal warmer air their home again. Observing their flight I was thinking of the distances they traverse, some having flown from as far away as South Africa, with a song on their wing and a mind for good places. Each year, when the swallows return, a little part of my heart sings too, knowing the cycle of the year has spun, the days are longer and the pace of things- these comings and goings of the migratory patterns- have not lost their way either. There is a swallow in us all, I think, and a swift too.

So, l too take to the sky again, marking out new migratory patterns, knowing there will be coming and goings, change and challenge. It feels part of the way of things, connecting me to the very nature of flux and life itself. And am I a bit scared? Hell yes. And do I get the wobbles? Frequently. And do I doubt myself? Yes. And do I know where this will all lead? Hell no, but do we ever?

I had thought my bags would remain unpacked for a while. But no, out comes the rucksack again. Yoga mat, camera, open mind and heart will again be in tow. Plus a handful of hope, and a whole lot of friendship that has come packed up in the support I’ve had from my community and family here.

So, Greece, is open. You are more than welcome.

And Devon too. Please come and visit!

Onwards and Outwards. Until soon. X


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Awakening the Wild & Wonderful Within- Greek Style

Awakening the wild and wonderful within sm

The summer countdown is on now before I head off to Greece for some weeks during the summer.

Axladitsa Avatakia, home of my friend Maria Scordialos and The Living Wholeness Institute is opening its doors again for  a summer dedicated to ‘Life Like Art’. As part of the programme of events I will be hosting a yoga immersion from 3-9th August called ‘Awakening the Wild and Wonderful within’.

Axladitsa is a wild and wonderful place, and we will be have a chance in our yoga practice to dive deep too- opening up to the wild within us, and the wild outside us. But it is not just yoga we can expect, but a host of experience and entering life with perhaps a new perspective or way of being. The words below are from Bénédicte Rousseau, and Maria Scordailos who are co-hosting the summer of living art:

Writing in Resonance -8138

What is Axladistsa:

A Place of Partnership: At Axladitsa, one is invited to authentically partner with the land, the people, the animals and oneself – with the intention of joyfully embracing life and welcoming whatever wants to happen. It is not a place of consumerism.

– A Place with a Learning Ecology: At Axladitsa, we build a strong collective learning ecology to allow the individual to be contained by and transformed with the collective – we believe this is how learning and systemic transformation happen whatever the system might be (oneself, family, group, etc.). Our learning ecology embodies practices and knowledge such as the Living Wholeness Institute Route Map, Participatory Leadership and the Art of Partnership and Protection

– A Place of Emergence: At Axladitsa, we aim at living life with emergence. It is not about living life in chaos (or in control) – it is about being grounded yet developing the capacity to dance with what life shows us in the moment … It is a life of stability and change, it is a life of knowing oneself and allowing transformation to happen. It is a life striving for wholeness !

– A Place of joy and Parea (i.e. Greek word for good company): More than anything, at Axladitsa, we enjoy fun and laughter, good conversations, music and dance. It is a place for the soul to smile, in simplicity and openess to the world. I like to think that the gates are always open, because I see no point in closing them! I also believe that  is a place where one can cry and resource when needed.

– A Place of Diversity … in background, nationalities, experiences, practices, beliefs, knowledge, art forms, age and generations …

Alongside the yoga immersion is a range of other programmes. You can find out more on The Living Wholeness Website:

Interested in joining us? Bénédicte Rousseau, for more information.

Fees are on a sliding scale. For the yoga immersion they range from 300Euro- 450Euro. Accommodation is in local guest houses and hotels. Limited camping accommodation is available on the land.

Autumn at Axladitsa-8024

Autumn at Axladitsa-7953the elements-9079Immersion 2013-8628


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