Active Hope and Stories of Renewal

 

You can listen to a recording of this post here (6 mins)

There have been weeks of whirl. Switch the news on, and this thing called overwhelm has been hitting, hard. I see it everywhere. Walking through Dublin airport last week, I saw a mass of bodies swimming in a sea of overwhelm too. The stress of coming, and going. The stress of all this frantic doing. Then the news comes in from the Kavanaugh case, and the latest IPCC report on our global trajectory. I wanted to bury my face in the sand and just ignore it all for a while. But the thing is, the sand is suffocating too, and it’s no place for a head and a heart which gets broken open from the pain of all that it witnesses. For when the head is buried this thing called cynicism starts to creep in and calcify the openings. It blocks the flow of that which is vital to us: breath and life and connection to something which is deeper and wider and bigger than the pain. This I am realising; broken hearts are also open hearts, and open hearts hold the ingredients of our transformation. 

So, I read an essay by Robin Wall Kimmerer on the plane, about how her indigenous elders respected the annual return of Salmon to their waters, and the beauty of her words stirs me up. As I read I let my tears fall onto the open page, and a stranger across the aisle reaches over and passes me a tissue, in recognition. And I attend a conference called ‘Inner Peace’ in Amsterdam, and sit with hundreds of others, who are each questioning and questing to be part of the renewal of the world. Again the tears come, and another stranger reaches from his chair in front of me, turns around, and touches my arm gently for a moment, in an act of recognition. Then back in Dublin, waiting for a bus in the cold and drizzle, I read in one fell swoop Mary Robinson’s new book, ‘Climate Justice’, and some gentle raindrops falls on the pages in a kind of mutual recognition too. Inside me, I feel the need to dance.

I am home. I turn the music to it’s loudest. Among the stacked, unwashed dishes in my kitchen, alongside all the ordinary, I let my rage and grief transform into something called movement. I dance. And dance some more. ‘Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly… you were only waiting for your moment to be free’. Gregory Porter’s version has all the energy of renewal in it. Then I call a friend in the US. Across the span of time zones and a big ocean between us, we speak of loss, and fear, and this need for connection and momentum. Then we read a poem, from Rilke,

‘Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine….. 

There is a moment of silence, and in the pause we recognise: in the space of the poem, and the space of the tears, and the space of listening for the openings, we are each trying to find a way to stay in the deeper conversation. It’s the one about love and trees, how the rivers move, and how we can build trust between those who are deemed strangers. No, I am not alone in am trying to find the ways to keep my heart above ground. I have never been alone. That was just a story. 

I flip back through the months I’ve just had. It would be easy to focus on the mistakes I have made, and the ways I have been unkind to others, and all that news, but now instead I see flashbacks of the passing of tissues, the dance, the deepening conversations, and all the stories in the books, and the poems too, each showing me that here, just above the surface, rising now and rising more, there is another story being written. It picks up the frayed threads of cynicism and insists that they need not define the map of our way forward. Instead, this story weaves hope right into it’s fabric. But it is not hope as a fleeting feeling. It is a hope defined as presence, showing up to all that is, all the pain and the grief, all the confusion and the fear, and still insisting on action, and in that act, is the thing called hope, offered to us again by Rilke in poetic recognition too;

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they called life
You will know it by it’s seriousness

Give me your hand. 

And so, today, on another ordinary Monday, I turn off the news, turn up the music, and do the work which calling to me. For right now, it’s what I have, it’s my dance, and it’s my offering. In it all, I am learning, that together we can go further, and we don’t have to do it alone. This is the story for our time.

 

Write to Your Truth // Online Circle


Write to Your Truth starts this coming Saturday, 20th Oct. We will be writing, and listening, and sharing poems and stories, and learning some the craft of writing. We will be a small and intimate group. This is a time for you to dive into the story of your own life, find the golden thread, and weave new maps forward. I’d love for you to join.

It’s for 8 weeks and includes four live calls.

Find out more here. 

If you have questions, drop me a line. If you have a friend who you think would love this, please pass on this the link. Thank you.

 

 

Want to stay in touch? Sign up to my newsletter here.


 

I must have been about 11 when I wrote and illustrated my first ‘book’. It was something to do with a penguin up a tree, with a lost and tatty teddy bear. I drew pictures to go with it, and made a cover which now lies healthily in the realms of the cute. No one saw that book, not even my parents. The writing was to be my own, and the book too. Then I discovered journalling, and ever since you can’t get me out of the blank pages. Journalling became my best companion in times of the rough and times of the tumble. It is there through joy and celebration too. But mostly it shows up when I have questions which can’t land anywhere else. Those journals, all zillion of them, store a history of words and memories, and are a map of the muddle and de-muddling of this being called Clare.

When reality got too much I turned to fiction. I was 23 when I wrote my first novel. It came so fast through me that I could barely catch it. I was teaching at Peking University in China, a time in my life that was fraught with challenge and confusion, and the writing gave me an escape route, and a landing pad too. But fiction was easier; I could pretend at least the characters were not of me. But we all know that’s a lie. In any case, the novel didn’t go anywhere but to a drawer for a few years, and then to the bin. Trust me, that was the place for it, because I realised it wasn’t about the book itself, but the writing. The book was mearly a by product of this amazing exploration of creativity, power and words, a power which my muscles and body have never forgotten. I crave and live for that feeling- the feeling of life and ideas, words and language, love and beloning racing through me, as if from a place beyond the beyond. It’s magic, and addictive, and hair-wrenchingly challenging, but it’s what I know to be true to me. It’s like an umbilical cord to the secret knowing, which only words can drip onto the page.

It was while in China that I did have my first book published though. It was an English language textbook for the Chinese market, and I was commissioned to write it. I wrote it fast. It was boring, and not something I am particularly proud of, because my heart was not in it. So, the book, was just thing thing with no soul. I may have been published, but it didn’t mean anything, because the metric of my success was never about publication, but the joy of the process, that aliveness. 

I’ve about 12 years of blogging behind me now, writing which has come from aliveness, in the main, and writing which has taught me the power of practice, and rhythm and showing up even if I don’t feel like showing up.  And I’ve had another published book in that time, One Wild Life, which still carries learning and lessons for me, for it was in that book where I really started to experience the power and potential for story. 

Over the course of a year of travel, I listened to hundreds and hundreds of stories from social entrepreneurs around the world. There were stories of triumph and challenge, heartbreak and heart opening, and stories which still need to be told. I put some of my own story in there too, but I was shy, and afraid almost of sharing too much. I missed an opportunity. I can see that now, because I did not go into the story enough. I did not capture the places and the senses enough. But that is my learning, for a book is just a snapshot in time, and afterwards we grow from it.Writing does that you see; spark growth, and integration and brings the strands of meaning together. If I wrote One Wild Life now, it would be totally different, and rightly so. But the Clare of then did her best, and in this I trust.

For the last while, (er, good while now) I’ve been writing a new book, a memoir, and I can honestly say that the process of writing this book has turned me inside out, and opened my heart to my life and those who has moved across it in a whole new way. The writing has made me ask questions of myself like nothing else has, and it has brought me into deeper and different conversations with my family, friends and those zillion journals. By picking up the strands of my story, and weaving a narrative, I have been finding patterns and connections which help me to see the arc of my life and the trajectory I still follow in greater clarity. It has transformed me, and when I say transform, I mean literally- trans/ form = change form. I am a different person now as to when I started writing that book, and friends have even said that my face seem softer, and my heart is more present in the world too. So whether or not that book gets published (which I hope it does), the writing has already done it’s work on me, and I bow to the door of it’s grace in honour of that.

So, yes 30 years of writing. That’s a lot of words, and I realise a lot of learning too. And so, a while ago, it came to me to offer some of this in a workshop. I did one, and it blew me away. I did another, and it too, showed me the value in the process. And so I went back into design mode and have created a whole programme, to be taught online, to go with it. I’m calling it Write to Your Truth. 

It’s about how we access our stories, then how we weave them. It’s about diving into the power of words, and writing, for the potential and promise of it, and it’s about circle and connection. This part was really important for me. Who wants to do just a plug and play course? But who wants to connect with others, on live calls, and be part of this unfolding. I’ve designed the course so that I record videos as we go- responding to the content and writing about what is taking place in front of us. It’s a lot more work to do it this way, but it makes for a much deeper, richer experience, and I am all for depth and richness.

So, if you are interested, curious, wondering, I invite you over to my website to read more. You’ll find the course outline, and dates too, and if you have any other questions arising, you can just pop me an email.

Find out more here

The programme starts on Saturday 20th Oct and will run for 8 weeks.

I’ve an early bird offer open until noon on Oct 5th. 

And if you think this is not for you at the moment, but you know someone who you think it would be great for share the link to my page. Word of mouth is a powerful messenger, and I’d value your support. Thank you.

Onwards, with love

Clare xx

..

We make our lives bigger or smaller, more expansive or more limited, according to the interpretation of life that is our story. – Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher.

 

..

 

Want to stay in touch? Sign up to my mailing list here. 


Autumn Equinox: A ritual for reflection

As the days begin to fold in on themselves and the nights begin to stretch out their dark and wondrous ways, we have reached the final arc of the Celtic calendar, the Autumn Equinox. In the ancient Celtic calendar, the Autumn Equinox was one of eight points on the annual wheel of the year, mid-way between the festival of Lunasagh and Samhain (Celtic new year).

Like with the other Celtic seasons, the marking of the Autumn equinox can be evidenced in the ancient stones and monuments of Ireland. In Cairn T at Loughcrew, for instance, the sun is welcomed into the inner chamber on the dawn of Autumn equinox, illuminating the back stone to reveal symbols and markings, bringing light to the ordinarily dark places. Which in many senses is what rituals do; they create a pause and point into which to invite contemplation and reflection, focus and intentionality to the places in our lives which we may rush over or abandon due to busyness or the pace of contemporary life.

Like the Spring equinox six months ago, the autumn equinox is a time when day and night are in equal measure. At this time of year, as we enter the darker phase of the year, marking the turning with a ritual can help us embrace the change, and the gifts and offerings of the dark days ahead.

So, as the year turns and we cross this autumnal threshold, we are invited to an inwards motion, a introspection and a re-gathering, calling us to bring ourselves into relationship with our own rhythms and needs, our own equilibrium and to take stock of our resources for the winter ahead.

To support you, I have created the final ritual in the cycle of eight, beginning last October (with Samhain), all the way through the Celtic year, until now. For those of you who completed the Spring (Vernal) equinox ritual, you’ll find parallels in the practices, with a focus on equanimity. In addition there is a new section on preparing you for the winter days ahead.

I recommend you carve an hour for yourself, light some candles, cuddle up with your journal and a hot cuppa, and savour.

 

You can download your free ritual guide when via my mailing list (and for those of you already on it- check your inbox!) Sign up here.

With love, may your day unfold with delight,

Clare. xx

..

 


Dismantling the system with pragmatic hope

You can listen to an audio recording of this letter here (11 mins)

 

Dear friends.

I like to think of you as friends. Or at least that we gather here in the spirit of friendship. It makes writing these letters to you more real, more connected for me. In writing to a friend we are writing to a companion on a journey, a fellow seeker, those who have a listening ear and an open heart. A friend is a companion in adventure, and whether close or distant, an acquaintance or even a stranger, to commune in friendship is to turn towards each other and be willing to see the best in each other, even through the rough times.

So, right now, in order to write this, I’m imagining you sitting nearby, as a companion would, tucked in by the fire. I’m sitting on my sheepskin rug, having just made a pot of tea. You’ve brought the dark chocolate and I’ve put some logs on the flames. We are in for the night.

And so, to begin, I’d want to hear what is bringing you alive right now. I’d want to know what’s in your heart, what’s really in your heart- even the anger, even the fear, even the doubt, even the hurt. You’d tell me things that you’ve been holding onto, and in the telling you can sense that you are passing them over to me for a while, and it would make things lighter. Then, when I pass them back to you, without me having said a word, you’d feel that they’ve changed shape. The worries and fears are less complex somehow, better understood.

And then I’d begin by telling you that the blackberries were beyond generous this year, and how it has amazed me, the abundance. I’d show you my inky fingers, still purple from the morning’s pickings, and I’d promise you a jar of jam from the next batch. And then I’d tell you how I hosted my first solo writing retreat this week, and how it was deep, and intense, and challenging for both the writer, and for me. But I’d also explain that there were moments when life’s clarity jumped from the page, and shed new light on everything, and how we were right in the creative process, even the messy bits, and got to a place where the journey ahead for the writing revealed itself as exactly that, a journey. But I’d also say that I felt I could have done better, and I made mistakes. And, you’d probably tell me to be less hard on myself, but I’d explain that I’m glad, in a way, that it was challenging, because now I can really learn to sit into the imperfection, knowing that it too is part of the beauty, and the growth.

Then you’d tell me about your own dreams, and the ideas you are working on, and this ‘thing’ that you just won’t go away. And both of us can sense that the ‘thing’, is a key, and to lean in there. 

And then I’d also explain that the real issue is that I’m tired. Not physically, but tired of the system. I am tired of how the cultural and social paradigm we are in is being designed to keep us locked in a frenzy of production. And when I say system, I mean it on many levels too. I’d start with ‘social media’, and my opening up to you may also sound like a rant. And maybe it is. Because I am tired of the constant stream of messages and images, the noise, the sharing photos of people’s armpits and last meal. But I’d tell you that I am aware, acutely aware, that some amazing connections continue to happen for me though these channels, like when a ‘stranger’ reached out to me online, and offered to help host a writing workshop in her city. So, on 9th October, we experiment in Leiden. And deep down I know the experiment has already worked, because whether or not I get enough people for the workshop, we both leaned into trust rather than fear, into connection rather than distance.

I’d offer you another cup of tea, and add more fuel to the fire while you tell me about a similar experience, about a stranger reaching out with kindness, and another, and another. And I’d remember more stories, and more. And soon we’d be bursting with remembrance of our humanity, our shared beingness. As the flames of the fire rise again, our faith would be restored. We’d vow to continue. 

But we’d acknowledge too that we are up against this system. And I’d invite you in a little closer, telling you that over the summer, I was fighting an internal battle with the cynicism, with all the things, – the media, business, money, and mainstream mechanisms of power, and the distribution of it too. It felt huge and weighty. So yes, I’d tell you I was feeling so overwhelmed and how sometimes I just didn’t know what to do next. But I’d also tell you that the days I let the cynicism take hold, they were the worst days. But the days I was just was able to sit with all the unknown, and all the grief for everything, then these days, I always found openings, and once I let the tears come, I could feel that behind the tears was a deeper understanding and the space for renewal.

So I’d tell you then that I am beginning realise the urgency of hope. Not hope as an idealised future, not hope as blind optimism, but hope as a pragmatic, active hope. It is a hope which is renewed each time I see the restoration of humanity in the simple daily acts right by my door. Like how a shy neighbour tends to her garden as if the whole world depends on it (and maybe it does).  Or like how, even today, I met a woman by the sea, who told me her husband had died a few months ago, and how we looked into each other’s eyes not trying to change anything, but to accept. Then we turned to the mountain behind us and spoke of how beautiful it is when the cloud’s shadow cross it, before walking each other back to the village.

So, yes, pragmatic hope, we’d define as: to work with the openings; to keep following that which is alive in us; and to keep fighting the old paradigms which keep us trapped.
And suddenly there’d be this burst of energy. So I’d get out a large sheet of paper, and you’d rummage for the markers, and together we come up a list of ideas about what we can do to keep pragmatic hope alive. The list makes us feel giddy, if somewhat nerdy, and we’d relish it. Or at least I would, and you’d possibly be embarrassed for me, but out of kindness would keep that to yourself.

It would take about 10 minutes. By the end we’d each have a sprawling list, marked in coloured pens, scribbles, as every work in process should be. This is what mine would look like…

 

At first, they’d all have a theme

1. If you like and admire someone else’s creative work, don’t just share a link on social media, tell someone else about it, a real, live flesh-in-bones connection. ‘Hey, this interesting and I think you’d benefit from it. Let’s not rely on internet algorithms to spread beauty and hope

2. Let’s not measure worth by numbers of internet followers either. Let’s return to a sense of intrinsic worth. Then let’s value depth of relationship, genuine connection, the quality of conversations over a metric designed by tech companies to quantify as growth.

3. Equally, don’t assume that because someone has lots of ‘followers’ that their work is any better quality than what you can offer. (They may just understand the algorithms better).

4.  Unfollow’ people who make you feel worse about your body/ self/ achievements/ worth. 

5. Introduce a tech shabbat. This is one day a week off screens and gadgets. Let’s be careful with what we are giving our attention too, and create space for quite, reflection, creative stirrings, and loved ones*.

6. Once you start to notice the old hierarchies of the power system, you start to notice it everywhere. So notice it more. Ask yourself how you are unconsciously replicating the system by the structures you are designing in your organisations, business, and communities.

7. Use your local library. These places are magic gardens for creativity and hope. By using the library we are also helping to keep it open for those who don’t have the same access to the resources, means and technology we may have, or a time when we don’t have the means.

8. Widen the parameters of wealth—wealth as friendship, time, experiences. Let’s not chase after the wrong metric of success.

9. Trust in gut. Our intuition is one of our best radars. Let’s trust in what is calling us, and stop second guessing ourselves so much.

10. Reclaim our stories. Writing our stories helps us to uncover the ways we have given away our power and voice. In writing we get to re-author our lives. As a bonus it also helps us find the threads of our purpose and our callings.

11. Let’s value experiences over ‘stuff’. And if we are to invest in things, let’s invest in craftsmanship and things that last. Let’s support local artisans and producers, potters and painters, independent bookshops and makers.

12. Similar to wealth, re-examine what success looks like. Are we still harbouring external expectations and social constructs of what we ‘should’ be?

13. Notice someone who is lonely? Sit beside them for a while, even it you don’t know what to say, perhaps just your presence will be enough. Let’s not reinforce the walls

14. Be still. Let silence in for at least 10 minutes a day, and take back the space in your brain. Let’s occupy ourselves again, fully. 

 

We realise the lists can go on. And you’d read yours to me, and we’d laugh at the way you mentioned about how we should go skinny dipping in public places, and we laugh even more picturing all the naked old people in Schull down at the harbour having a picnic and a dip.

And overall, we’d feel better having sat by the fire, listening to each other. Less overwhelmed, more connected. And I’d realise I’m less tired too, and ready to learn and go on. I’d realise it was the listening that made the difference, and the friendship, and the inner fire which was kindled through presence, and big white sheets of paper and activism.

So we’d realise it was late, and time for you to go home. And as I open the door to let you out, we’d both look up at the clear night sky, dark but luminous, and hear the sound of the waves in the distance, crashing against the rocks and breaking them apart, slowly and steadily over time, until a new shore is made and the landscape forever changed. 

..… *a nod to Vanessa Reid and Tiffany Shlain for this idea)

 

Like this post? Please share my words and work with other people who you think may enjoy it too.

Want to stay in touch and hear about future events, resources and creative tools? Sign up to my mailing list here


A time to harvest your gifts: Autumnal Reflections and Seasonal Planner.

Autumn is on it’s way and I can feel the pull and the turning. I’ve been picking blackberries nearly every day. The bushes are literally bursting with their generosity, and now my freezer is too. Winter will be made all the sweeter by this season’s harvest.

Speaking of harvest, around this time of year, I often run my Living Seasonally Autumn course. It’s a chance to reflect on the year so far and tune in with the rhythms of the seasons. It is particularly a chance to think of harvesting your own life, and then contemplating on what needs to fall away in order to create space for new growth down the line.

The autumn equinox is not for another few weeks, when I’ll share the Celtic ritual for that threshold, but I am aware of the ‘back to school feeling’ at the moment. So many people have been speaking of transitions, and not feeling grounded.

I decided not to run the course this Autumn. I am in the process of reconfiguring my online teaching, but that does not detract from the value of reflection and tuning in at this time of year- and I am feeling the gap too!

I’ve been savouring the book Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer this year also, reading each essay slowly, and sometimes twice. It’s so rich and lyrical, and grounded. She speaks a lot of reciprocity and generosity as nature’s rhythms. The final paragraph sums up so much of my current thinking, which I am seeking to incorporate not only into how I share my gifts, but also the economy in which this operates.

‘The moral covenant of reciprocity calls us to honour our responsibilities for all that we have been given, for all that we have taken. It’s our turn now, long overdue. Let us hold a giveaway for Mother Earth, spread out blankets out for her and pile them high with gifts of our own making. Imagine the books, the paintings, the poems, the clever machines, the compassionate acts, the transcendent ideas, the perfect tools. The fierce defence of all that has been given. Gifts of mind, hands, heart, voice and vision, all offered up on behalf of the earth. Whatever our gift, we are called to give it and to dance for the renewal of the world. 

   In return for the privilege of breath’ 


Wow!

So, for the moment, I have decided to offer you all the option of working through the Autumn planner for this season ahead, the planner that normally accompanies the course. Working through it will be a way for you to calibrate and connect with yourself, your gifts and your intentions for the next few months. There is space to think through your priorities and connect them to actions you might need to take.

Then, if you feel called, and if you feel it is of value, I ask that you make some contribution to the work. This is a way for me to continue to offer my writing and planners in a spirit which feels generous and inclusive, and also a way for you to honour your own commitment and engagement in the content.

If you are on my mailing list already, I’ve emailed you a download link, but if you are not on my mailing list, and would like a copy, please email me clare@claremulvany.ie

And if would like to make a contribution, then here is a link to my ‘Paypal Me’ button. 

Thank you.
Happy harvesting folks, happy reflecting.

May your gifts of mind, hand, heart, vision and voice be offered. We need them now, so much.

Onwards and with love

Clare x

..

(I’m grateful to Orlagh O’Brien for her original design on the planner, which was the result of a gift exchange between us: her design services, for my coaching services— the gift economy in action).


Sile Na Gig and Feminine Power

 

Residing in the Celtic heritage (and thus imagination) there are emblems of feminine power, resilience and guardianship. I met these figures of Sile NaGig in the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork last week, and once again was struck by the strength of the symbolism. The female, open vulva, open breasted, were placed on sacred ground, perhaps representing portals to the otherworld—fertile thresholds into creativity and receptivity, or as empowered emblems of the Goddess. No shame, no guilt, no corporeal covering or body blaming. Here, the feminine as sacred ground too– wedded to the land and wedded to the Gods, — the feminine of intuition, protection, fecundity,  and power.

 

We see the feminine voice rising again, claiming back it’s power through referendum and marches, movements and turning points in our collective history, and now too, I think, a time to deeply reclaim the feminine in not only our institutions and laws but also how we create each day we have been gifted and how we use our gifts. Whether male or female, we can honour the feminine (the intuition and power) by noticing all the ways we are giving it away. The ‘always on’, ‘badge of busy’, is based on linear models of growth and productivity. It comes from the industrial era, where to be productive was to been deemed efficient and thus worthy. But it’s not efficient. It’s eating our land’s resources, it’s constantly selling us things we don’t need, it’s advertising subverts the feminine form and feminine spirit in so many ways.

 

When we are in our creative bodies, tapped into deep core needs of belonging and ‘aliveness’; when we are writing or painting or creating organisations,  businesses, or projects which honour cycles of time, and cycles of growth; when we refuse to define our worth by how busy we are or how much we can produce, this is the reclamation. And that’s a radical thing, because it can topple these linear growth models. A woman in her full power, is not a full-on capitalist consumer- instead she is creating, sharing, connecting, yeilding, resting, opening her body and breast to the land and to the sky, realising her body is enough, and her creativity is her birthright. And as men, in their feminine, their emotions are their path and power, their worth too is not defined by how much they can earn or produce or contribute to the economy, but by their wholeness and their beauty too.

 

We all have so much to (re)learn. For me; it means creating the ‘things’ even when it doesn’t make ‘rational sense’, for the sake of it. Does it make me come alive? Does it connect me to a deeper power and a deeper voice.

 

Then that, follow that…. this is my own personal revolution. And yours?
..
Want to stay in touch? Sign up to my newsletter here for more resources, and news of events and happenings. 

The Immram, the Aisling and Listening to our Quests

Hello all, and hope the summer has been unfolding well for you.
Time for some updates and stories. So, grab yourself a cuppa, make yourself comfortable, as I invite you to dive in. You can listen to this post below (10 min listen)

 

The Immram and the Aisling.

The weather is on a cusp between summer and autumn here in West Cork. Outside the coffee shop window the harbour is still cast with sails and the voyagers are off to seek their pleasure. The sails are bobbing and dancing on the dancing water, letting the wind take them further out. There is so much power in this unseen force.

The sailboats shrink as they get closer to the horizon, leaving my sight as dots, then vanishing across a thin line. What must it have taken back in the day, I wonder, to journey across this line, into what was unknown, uncharted lands. What quest was strong enough to carry these men into the dark sea?

The power of dreaming, and the power of quest, is a power, it would seem bequeathed to men back then, but I can’t help thinking of the women. How did they voyage? How did they quest? So I am searching for the stories.

I turn first to the immrama. In ancient Irish mythology there are tales of men who embarked on heroic sea quests —an immram. They’d set sail on pilgrimages which had no end. It’s wasn’t about reaching a holy place, a Mecca, but the journey itself which held the gold. They didn’t know where they were going but trusted that wherever they landed would offer them clues and some unusual gifts. St. Brendan’s immram, for instance, was an epic sea voyage which took him and his monastic crew into islands of the otherworld, of the mystical and the fanciful, the magical or the surreal — each landing was an island of story and experience. There was the island of sheep and the island paradise of birds. There was an island of grapes- on which they dined for 40 days. Then there was the island on which they lit a fire, only realising it wasn’t an island at all, but a whale. Imaginal or real, the immram was always a creative, almost mystical adventure, the force of which had the power to transform those who dared to journey. One could only return a changed man. Still I wonder of the women.

So, I turn to the Aisling, in search of clues. The Aisling is a poetic form which appeared much later, around the 17th Century, in which a dream or a vision was presented to a bard. The dream was to stir up nationalist or political sentiment, and incite feelings of love and loyalty towards Ireland. The ‘Aisling’, was always in the shape of a female figure who came as spéirbhean, or sky-woman, a heavenly creature who was the carrier of the dream. So, why was it always the men to have the big dreams and the license to sea-quest? So, once again I wonder—What of the women? How did they find their quest? What vision was presented to them? And to what were they called?

I took a boat to an island a couple of weeks, not to quest, but to be in conversation and friendship. It was a Tuesday. The sky was tussled but the sun was promised. So I packed a picnic, rain-gear and my swimming togs, popped Milly on her lead, and then collected my friend Jennifer from the next village over. It’s only a five minute ferry journey to Heir Island from Cunnamore Pier, and by the time we got there, we were already in a different world.

In the two years I have known her, Jennifer has become a dear and trusted friend. She wraps me in listening and helps me see the truth of myself, and the truth of my future-self too. You see, Jennifer is a film-maker. She is one of those people who has a beautiful blend of talent and humility, so when she speaks of her craft and her creative process, she speaks as a learner and a fellow seeker too. She does not proclaim to have the answers. And so we read poems, and talk of open hearts and broken hearts. She tells me of the films she is working on. I tell her of the books I am working on. In between we laugh at silly jokes, drink another cup of tea, then jump into the sea. I am aware that it is a Tuesday, mid-week. I am aware this is another form of wealth. I am aware that this is not considered ‘work’, but I feel alive, and I feel clear, and I feel like I can, in fact, accomplish anything, if only I keep listening to the conversations which are alive in me, then following the conversation into my heart where I will be shown how to keep responding creatively, shown what to do next.

Why am I sharing this with you? Because, I think it has to do with women, and their immram and their Aisling, how we journey, and how we vision. I think it is about how we make our way over the horizon to that place beyond our current sightline, a place we know our hearts are longing to be.

A couple of nights ago I finished the final chapter of a memoir I am working. It is still very much in draft form. There is lots and lots more work to do, but I have made it to a point in the process where I sense there is light. A couple of months ago I wanted to pack it all in. It had been taking so much longer than I thought it would. The timeline of any of our lives is never linear and definitely not straightforward and I was still trying to find the core themes from which I could weave a stronger story. I had hit a part of the process where it all felt chaotic, unruly, even impenetrable. Here was a warren of stories which were not falling into a neat narrative arc, a thing I could easily call ‘a book’, and I was beginning to question the whole venture. ‘Who am I to call myself a writer?’, a little voice nagged, and ‘who was I ever to even begin?’

But that day on the island, something clicked. My journey, my immram suddenly came into focus. I was aware, yes, that it was a Tuesday mid-week, but I was also aware of the choices which had led me to this point, sitting on an island, feeling alive, feeling completely at sea. I have been led to voyage in new ways. It has meant listing to a voice which encouraged me to write, despite myself.  It meant leaving my home in Dublin and moving to an entire new place. It meant asking questions of myself, my mother and my lineage which I have never dared ask before, and it has taken me into a whole new orbit of friendships and connections, on a Tuesday, on an island, speaking of stories.

So, I think I am beginning to see; our dreams, our Aislings, happen through the Immram, the journey. It’s how creativity works. We meet it halfway, and it takes us along for one hell of a ride. It’s not about waiting for the ‘sky-woman’ to descend and offer the dream, but the dream comes from the whispering of the unknown force. Call it a creative urge, the one deep within, which quietly keeps on tugging and says, ‘look here, this is interesting, follow me’.  There is no major fanfare, there is no ecstatic cry, but following the whisperings of our creative urges is like those boats being led to the great beyond through the power of wind and the power of sail. There is a sense of heart opening, an uplift, and a pull to follow the urge out over that thin line of knowing and not knowing.

But here comes the challenge: the whisper- it’s so easy to silence. ‘Oh, that’s just a silly idea’, ‘Oh, that will never work’, ‘Who am I to write, or tell that story, or create that business, or start that thing’. So we sit in the coffeeshop, still waiting for the descent of the Aisling, while looking at others set sail, and we slowly begin to shut down our vital life-force, our creative power, the little voice knocking on the doors of our heart and saying, ‘follow me’.  Little do we realise that beside us in the coffeeshop is a Jennifer, a woman who knows that the Aisling is in the immran, and if you tap on her on the shoulder, and ask her to tell you a story about her journey and her questions, soon you’ll find yourself jumping into the sea of yours. Our guides are always closer than we think.

 

After the island that day, with laughter lines still salty, and my hair knotted with sand, I realised the only way to get through the chaos was to face the chaos. So I got out my yoga mat, I put on some music, I danced until the sand fell out of my hair, and then I wrote. I wrote and wrote and wrote, until I got to the end of what I needed to get to, enough to know I was on the other side of the horizon. I came up for air, to say that yes, this journey, this life, this immram, the feeling, this is the dream that has been seeking me. Yes, it’s always closer than we think.

So I want to tell you, reader, that urge inside, that voice which says, ‘follow me’, no matter how quiet, no matter how silly, this is our gold. Our creativity has a gift of aliveness, a gift of both the immram and the Aisling. We can not return, but changed. So, yes, as those ancient voyagers knew, it’s not about the mecca, but it is about the pilgrimage —the ultimate journey home. No matter who you are, your creativity is ready to take you on the ride of your life. The way is in the whisper. Listen, then listen deeper, then tap the shoulder of the woman next to you, and start the conversation. That may be just enough to begin.

Onwards,

With Love,
Clare. x

Want to stay in touch? Sign up to my newsletter for letters and resources direct to your inbox.

..

 

 


A Lughnasa Ritual: Time to harvest your gifts.

 

 

Hello all,

For those who have been following along this year, you may remember we started the year with an invitation to set our intentions for the months ahead. Then, over the course of the year, I have been sharing rituals, inspired by the celtic calendar, to help us tune into the gifts of the season and stay close to our intentions.

Tonight is Lughnasa in the Celtic Calendar- a time that signals the beginning of the harvest. And so, an offering and a gift from me to you- a short ritual for reflection on your own gifts, that you may honour them, embrace them and have the confidence to offer them outwards and onwards.

You can access your seasonal ritual via my mailing list by signing up here. You’ll be sent a download link directly.

Below, the introduction to the guide, happy reading, and savouring, and harvesting of your wonderful and important gifts.

Clare xx

..

 

From the Lughnasa Ritual

‘The ripening is upon us. Along the roads the blackberries are changing their form, from tight knots to full of summer swell, their juicy bulbous domes are rising for the picking. The thought of blackberries also brings thoughts of poetry, their sight is so coupled with Seamus Heaney’s remembrances that his are also my own. Moving into the memories of when ‘briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots’, ‘Blackberry Picking’, the poem, is now synonymous with blackberry picking, the act.

All year I’ve been collecting jars. What once was filled with pickle is soon to be filled with jam. I’m awaiting the days when the berries are at their best, perhaps a few weeks from now, when a day will be given over to the picking and jam-making. I’m thinking already of who I’d like to invite along and what pot I’ll use. I’m thinking of being able to give the jam-filled jars away, as gifts, and I’m thinking of the winter ahead, when a dollop of sweet jam will be added to warm porridge, to ride the winter tide with sweetness and let the gift of the harvest extend it’s time. For what is a harvest but a gathering of the gifts, in extension.

As the blackberries turn, so to does the season. We have reached another turning point on the celtic calendar,moving into Lughnasa (pronounced Lu-na-sa), a time that signals the beginning of the annual harvest. Lughnasa, a cross-quarter celebration in the celtic wheel, rests mid-way between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox and is named after the sun God Lugh, of the Tuatha De Dannan. Lugh was said to be a God of many gifts and talents, a Master of the Arts and Culture, who yielded a cunning sword and a swopping presence which harnessed the light energy of the sun.

The festival of Lughnasa (July 31- August 1) is a time to celebrate and give thanks and praise for the coming harvest, that which has been ripened by the sun, as if the dance and the joy will aid the final stages of growth and quicken the ripening. After months of tending barren soil, then tending seeds, the land now offers it’s fruits. In the offering is also the gift, and with any gift comes the invitation to rejoice. Yet how often do we see our gifts as offerings, as things to rejoice? How often do we really honour our own gifts so that they may be quickened?

Thinking of Lugh today, we might say that he was ‘gifted’. However if Lugh claimed it for himself, if he declared his own giftedness, we’d perhaps call him egotistic, or obnoxious, or a little bit full of himself! In contemporary society to honour our own gift, to really own it and to declare it, requires a confidence and a defiance. So often we dismiss the gifts we have been given, for fear of being labelled too full of ourselves, or sure of ourselves. Instead, inside we hide, keeping our gifts close, and in keeping them close we don’t reap the opportunity to share them with others.

So perhaps there are deeper lessons from the blackberries too: if they are not picked, shared and savoured- either by humans or animals, their fruit will go to rot, not serving their full potential. Similarly if we do not learn to harvest and share our own gifts, they too go underground, even to rot. And so in reclaiming the festival of Lughnasa we are also given this opportunity to reclaim and to declare our own gifts. It does not need to be a loud declaration, or even a public one, but an inward appreciation of the gifts given, from which we can share and serve, and seed the future we long to create.

So this Lughnasa, let’s take some pause to harvest and to celebrate. Let’s take time to name our gifts, claim them, declare them, so we may move outwards again, with a knowing that our gifts are also our generosity; that our gifts are our offerings, in extension’.

..

Sending love, onwards and outwards from my heart to yours,

Clare. x

SaveSave


Some strange dreams, and letting the future unfold/ a video newsletter

Hello all.

Something a little different today. I decided to do a video update to shake things up a bit, and to share some happenings, ideas and invitations with you.

So grab yourself a cuppa and imagine we are sitting across the way from each other in our favourite coffee shop, sharing the stories of our lives. It’s not polished, it’s not perfect, but it is me, speaking from my heart to yours.

I’m going to share two recent dreams I’ve had and how they are shaping the emerging future for me. Plus I talk a little more about the retreats and workshops I have coming up.

Click here or on image below to bring you to the video… 

Enjoy your cuppa! And hope you are having a lovely July so far.

If you have any questions about the retreats or workshops after watching this, or other enquiries, do drop me a line.

Clare. x

SaveSave


A non-violent approach to time

 

 

I’ve heard several people say that they have ‘melty brain’ syndrome at the moment, finding it hard to focus and ‘push on’. It is high summer. The air is warm and the invitation is to move our bodies and being in rhythm with the summer flow- time to be embodied, present to the delights and offerings of the season. My ‘work’ has also shifted gear with much walking, sitting, swimming, spontaneity, moving inwards to move outwards again. The ‘push on’ mode just isn’t working anymore. The ‘push on’ comes from a linear, patriarchal system of production and functioning, scaling economics and industrial model of efficiency. We are not machines, and linear time models are not functioning any more either. So we need ways to honour the intrinsic cyclical flow of time; the exchange between contemplation and output; pause and response.

This symbiosis or reciprocity is embedded into our ancient time systems, like the celtic and lunar calendars, but also into the creative process. Creativity arises in the gaps- the magic of the space between. It’s when you are out on a walk and an idea pops, or while fully engaged in another activity, a whole inner paradigm shifts. I’ve heard the production driven system of work being described as one of the greatest violences mankind has inflicted upon itself. With little room for pause, how can we expect the creative solutions and responses our world so desperately needs right now?

So what does a non-violent approach to time look like instead? Maybe it starts with giving ourselves some pause, not checking our phones so much. Maybe it starts with paying attention to how we are using our precious attention. If you are having ‘melty brain’, what part of yourself is not being honoured? What part of your being is craving attention? The opposite of ‘push on’ is not necessarily ‘slow down’ but ‘tune in’. 

Melty brain? Maybe it is the best invitation we’ve ever received.

SaveSave