Feeling creatively stuck? Here’s 55 quick things you can do to unstick! All in less than 5 mins. GO.
Write a note to your inner artist.
Write a haiku.
Mimic a bird.
Draw a self portrait in 60 seconds.
Take a photo of an item that inspires you.
Find a new recipe and commit to making it this week.
Write a Limerick.
Tie your shoelaces with your non-dominant hand.
Make a paper airplane.
Dance on the spot to silence for 60 seconds.
Hand write a letter to someone who you admire. Post it.
Describe your favourite colour without using that colour’s name.
Write down a word that you really like the sound of. Sing it.
Rub your head and belly in opposite directions.
Draw the letter ‘A’ in 10 different ways.
If you could circumnavigate the globe, what route would you take?
Sit in silence for 2 minutes and listen to the music of your breath.
Close your eyes. Place your hand on your head and feel the texture of your scalp.
What colour would you be if you were a colour?
Draw your favourite childhood toy.
List 20 uses of a tea pot, other than for tea
Set a timer for 5 minute. Keep writing without stopping until the buzzer sounds.
Write your name with your non-dominant hand.
Take a picture of your feet- what surfaces do they touch?
Sing out loud for 3 minutes. Don’t stop.
Take a picture of the ‘essence’ of something in front of you. What is its real beauty?
Memorise a poem you love.
Draw a picture of snakes and ladders.
Look up: take a picture. What do you notice?
Shake your body for 2 mins. Yes, shake it.
Drink a glass of water from the opposite side.
List your top 5 of your favourite things. Now list them backwards. Now alphabetically. Now backwards alphabetically.
If you could be an animal, what would you be? Make that sound.
Pretend to be rain falling.
Think of the word ‘black’. Now dance the opposite.
Conduct an imaginary orchestra.
Bark like a cow. Moo like a dog.
Draw somebody standing on their head.
Set a timer for 5 min. Invent a board game. Go.
Spell your full name backwards.
Make up an alphabet.
Draw the best slide you could ever imagine sliding down.
Draw a pattern with circles and triangles.
Write down 10 things you used to love to do when you were 10. Do one of those.
Set a timer for 5 mins. Invent a robot. Go.
Mimic a dawn chorus.
List 5 textures you really like.
Think of the word ‘good’. Now sing the opposite.
Invent a new game using a piece of fruit.
Create on paper the best day of your life. Draw the details.
If snakes could draw, what would they draw. Draw that….
Walk backwards in a circle
Use your camera upside down.
Set a timer for 5 mins. Make up your own ‘Get unstuck list’. Go.
Need a bit of extra support?
I am currently taking creative coaching bookings. The Winter Sessions is open. 3 months to gain momentum and traction on your creative project. Time to get that book written? Time to finally launch your thing?
‘Those people’ were a different, alien, species. They were the ones with an extra gene to bolster against the Atlantic cold, and, at birth, were born with added doses of bravery and physical stamina. No, I have never been one of ‘those people’
There is a chill in the November air now- not biting cold, but nippier. The wind has a bit of a whip in it too. I look at the sea though and still I hear an invitation: dive in.
The thought of the cold plunge sends butterflies to my nether regions, followed by nervous energy which could be labelled as ‘fear’ under certain lights and ‘madness’ under others.
I’m not one of the turbo clad wet suit slick swimming elite. I like headstands and handstands and strange yoga twists, sure, but ask me to swim out to sea, in November? That’s for ‘those people’.
I have to make my decision to swim before I leave the house, otherwise the excuses start to accompany me to the shore and prevent my passage. I put on my togs underneath my clothes. On good days I even remember to pack my knickers in my swimming bag, and my courage too.
I check the tides. The tide clock is not even a clock I had really been aware of before, but here I find myself, checking for the swell. High tide in Schull is the best. The water seems richest then, enriched with seaweed minerals and curiously dark, definitely at its most inviting.
Yesterday was calmer, sunny even. I’d seen some of ‘those people’ dive in earlier in the day braving the depths as if their life depended on it. No excuses. The kickers got packed. The togs were already on. Walking to the shore the decision was made. No backing out. No backing out.
And then: the sea. There is something about the water; all glitter and roam, a touch of sparkle and a hint of mischief. The fronds of seaweed were waving, the light dancing as it if was at the best party in town. No excuses.
I strip down to my togs. I nearly slip on the wet stones. I remember the trick: no dawdling, just straight in. Before I have time to think about it, 1-2-3. In the space of a breath I am actually one of ‘those people’ now, swimming wild and into the Atlantic, in November.
The sea will do that to you: break you and remake you all in a breath.
The fear tends to leave as the the water welcomes. The cold embraces every pour but has a touch of unconditional love in it. I have a random thought: If I can do this, become one of ‘those’, well, what else can I do?
Swim by swim, I tell myself. The first step is to become a December swimmer, then a January one. It’s not brave after all, it’s just a becoming, entering into a reinvention of what I thought was possible.
I return home. I make a coffee. I open the blank pages of my journal. I pick up my pen. I dive.
Then I wonder: where will this tide take me? Break me and remake me all in the breath of a page? I have been learning: it’s time to take on these wild words too. Finally.
What is your equivalent of wild swimming? Is it time to take a plunge?
A little treat for you today, as we move into Samhain.
I had a sense to create a Samhain Ritual, one to help me tune in with this powerful time of year. And so, I stayed up late last night creating a planner and working my own way through the questions. It was a beautiful experience, helping me to appreciate old wise ways of this land of Ireland and the power of reclaiming rituals. Its part of my own quest to live more seasonally and in connection to the cycles which inform our lives.
As I mention in the introduction:
‘In ancient celtic times each year was marked with moments of pause, celebration and ritual. As the modern secular world gets noisier and we are more connected to our devises than each other, the reclamation of these rituals can help us tune into our inner voice, power and wisdom at a time when we need it the most.
So, whether you are craving space in your business life, creative projects or personal relationships these pages will offer questions to help you tap into your own insights and point you towards your deep inner world of intentions and dreams’
The planner is 11 pages, with space for journalling and reflection.
January seems like a long time ago. All that talk of new years resolutions and the push for ‘a new you’.
You know that feeling: January arrives, the planners come out, you look at the year ahead and think, this one will be better. So you set goals, and intentions. You do great for about 6 weeks and by mid- February you are back to your old tricks. We’ve all been there, done that, back to the drawing board.
The challenge with the year-long planning mindset is multiple.
Firstly, it’s a timing thing. What brain actually works in 12 months cycles? Plus, at the beginning of January – at least in the northern hemisphere- we are right in the thick of winter. June is but an aspiration, and as for October, well it’s moons away.
Secondly, it’s to do with goals. Well, not goals per se, but the factors we take into consideration when we set goals.
So often we set goals based on an external sense of what success ‘should look like (a certain weight, a certain salary, a certain number which think we should attain). We work to attain this external validation, but when we get there it is never enough and so we choose another number to reach for. The striving is endless, and exhausting…
So, what if there was another way? What if we could introduce points in the year for celebration and reflection, moments for recalibration and checking in with our goals incrementally. What if we took time to tune inwards, to listen deeply to what our inner selves are craving, sense into our dreams and visions, and plan from that inner place? And what if there were other rhythms and cycles which we could harness to help us to all through all of this.
Well, thankfully, there is another way, and it’s been under our noses for centuries helping the world spin from time immemorial. Simply put: the seasons.
For a long long time, before time was regulated with clocks and mechanical things*, our ancestors used the natural turning of the earth to set their patterns. They knew when it was time to harvest, and time to rest. They learned when it was time to sow, and time to wait. They knew that every season had a rhythm to it, and to live well was to honour that cycle. In between these seasons there were points of pause, celebration, and sacred moments give thanks for the world’s spin.
In the old celtic calendar, the four points of winter and summer solstice, and the spring and autumn equinox became markers in the year, plus each mid-point between the season, making 8 points on the yearly cycle.
For the last number of years I have been working much more with this celtic calendar- both on a personal and a professional level. By creating my own planning ritual on each of these 8 points of the year, and tuning in with the intention of each season, I have found an new/ (and old!) way to set learning objectives and check in with my business and project growth.
Now as I turn inwards to listen, I find that my planning cycles have shifted significantly. I use winter as as time of quiet and reflective creation, the spring as a time to nurture new projects, summer leaves room for play, and autumn has time for allowing what’s not working to fall away. I create project deadlines and targets within this structure too- so, for example, I have set the winter solstice as a writing deadline for myself, and Imbolc (early Feb) as another. In this sense the cycle of the year has become a way to understand and navigate the creative process too- particularly when it comes to allowing new projects and ideas time to percolate in the unknown (winter), and then, in their own time, to germinate (spring).
So by reclaiming these old cycles and honouring the points of ritual throughout the year, I have found a way to break the year into ‘chunks’, creating projects and rhythms which feel much more in sync with the wider systems in nature, and therefore in myself. Things tend to flow better this way, and I’ve more energy too because I have come to appreciate the value of rest and the value of the unknown. So, come January, there’s no need for new year’s resolutions- instead, I look forward to the points in the year when I mark each season with ritual and intention, and create goals and plans from there.
Interested in finding out more and taking part?
Living Seasonally is my online course where I share my process. Over 10 days we tune in to the wisdom each season has to offer, learn more about the celtic calendar and, using a seasonal planner and a series of creative and reflective practices, set our goals and intentions from an inwards place. Along the way there will be poetry, journalling, meditations and time to contemplate and recalibrate.
My intention for the course is to create an online sanctuary- a gathering place, a watering hole- where we can learn new skills and creative practices and where we can share our own insights and stories while soaking in some nourishment for the season ahead.
The Winter 2017 edition is now open for registration and starts on Nov 1st.
How are you all doing out there? It’s been a swirling time. Ophelia made the force of nature very much known, and with more storms forecast for Ireland, the inward pull is even more alluring! So I am feeling very grateful to be back in the creative den, working on my new book, Home on the Edge, but also enjoying updating my online programmes, particularly Living Seasonally.
The first flower bulb I ever planted was a hyacinth. I remember needing to leave it in pot under a dark shelf at the back of our primary school classroom. For a long while, nothing. I wondered if the bulb was ‘broken’, or if I had done something wrong. My teacher insisted on leaving it in the dark for longer. I waited, getting down on my knees to peer deep into the low shelf, ‘Are you alive in there?’
I waited some more, and more. Then suddenly, one day, the growth. A shoot appeared, taller and taller until the bloom appeared, slowly at first, but then finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the opening. I had expected the bloom, but not the fragrance- the magnificent perfume that wafted into the room like an unexpected, welcome visitor. It was one of the closest things to magic I had ever experienced.
It left an imprint: first the dark, then the blooming.
For a long time after though I used to hate the winter. I hated how it slowed me down. I dreaded the long, dark evenings and I particularly wanted to avoid the commercialism of Christmas (especially when it all started to kick off in October)
However, when I first started learning about the Celtic calendar, and the seasonal wisdom of my ancestors, there was a remembering and an inner awakening to the knowledge that the celtic new year begins just after Hallowe’en, or Samhain, in the darkness. Just was it was for that hyacinth, the darkness is the beginning. Yes, first the dark, then the blooming.
It’s these learnings and more which I have taken into Living Seasonally, designing a course to help us all cope with the increasingly busy and stormy days- internally and externally.
Over the course of 10 days we work through a seasonal planner, accompanied with journalling practices, creative exercises, reflections, meditations and questions which help us to harness our own inner wisdom. By the end of the course, participants have a clear plan for the season ahead, based on their inner dreams, callings and longings.
I am delighted to say that the next Winter edition starts on Nov 1st, and registration is now open. I’ve made video to explain some more. Please get in touch if you have any questions- I’d love to have you on board!
(For those of you who have already taken the course, I’ve made a few developments to this one- the course is a bit longer, and also will incorporate fresh meditations, reflections and creative activities- in all a deeper and more robust process- plus fun too!)
Until soon friends.. I’ll be sharing more creative practices and tools with you over the coming weeks, so stay tuned.
I met him last year, and we struck up a friendship. He’d tell me stories about being a filmmaker and photographer, crossing India and Asia with reels of film in the 1950s and 60s. There were stories of strange airport encounters, kind people he met along the way and insights he still carried; traveller tales. He took out an album of black and white stills and recalled the moments each frame had frozen in time. There were staged photos of a hollywood actress, a portrait of Eamonn DeValera and other political figures whose names are now in the buried annals of time.
Some days he read me poems, other days we just sat and watched the garden birds. He’d hang out nuts in bird-feeders by the large kitchen window and counted the passing robins, chaffinches, blue tits and the precious rare sightings of goldfinches. There was a little bird identification chart beside the window to check he was correct, for John was a man of principle and exactitude. His days had an order which gave rise to a freedom within. Or so it seemed that way.
In this last year John knew his body was failing- he was in a wheelchair now, and in need a lot of nursing care- but as his limbs gave up, his mind resisted. Instead it was a treasury of memories which he added to with scrabble, sport scores, headlines, stacks of biographies, a book about the life on the Blasket Islands, contemporary fiction, other stories. When it all got too much, when headline after headline became too intense (American politics, Brexit, refugee crisis, housing issues) , it was to poetry he turned, more and more as the days passed. He had read a book review in The Sunday Times about a new poetry anthology, and ordered it immediately. He particularly liked a poem about a cockroach, or was it a turtle, I can’t remember, but he did, and asked me to read it twice. He loved the turn of words, the way the description left space for the imagination and the poetic exactitude of each line. Once, he read me one of his own poems, a short simple one, about an overcoat and an umbrella- the kind a gentleman would use. I could picture him standing right in the centre of the poem with space and sentiment entwined.
John was polite in that old gentlemanly way too, never refusing my baking and cooking attempts. He tried everything from the courgette fritters with tzatziki, to the spelt lots of things, to the floppy sponge. The flop did not seem to matter, but the gesture did, which in turn made me feel good.
For his birthday I gave John a little squirrel print, one of my watercolour drawings. He didn’t wait around, had it framed, and hung it among his other artwork- some from his mother, which she had bought in China in the 1920s and some paintings by his brother Patrick. My little squirrel became part of the furniture, and in doing so brought me happiness too.
‘I’m too emotional’, he’d confess to me, with tears streaming down his face, remembering the days in the past, or appreciating his two children. Still, he let the tears come, wiping them away with a handkerchief and returning it to his breast pocket, as a gentleman would.
When I visited him in hospital a few weeks back he was distressed. ‘I’m afraid I’ve made a show of myself Clare’, he said. He had been up during the night, in a lot of pain, and had been shouting. His body was failing and his mind was kicking back, loudly. His son wheeled him out into the lobby of Bantry hospital, overlooking the carpark. There were no little bird visitors, but there was sky and light and that seemed to help. We filled the gaps with tea and presence. It was enough for the moment.
I saw him one more time after that, briefly, last week. He was at home, sitting up in his chair, in pain; the cancer in his spine was moving and shifting and darting aches and discomfort around his failing body. ‘It’s difficult, this dying’, he told me. He did not want to return to hospital and was willing to make some compromises in his medical treatment to keep him at home. ‘I’m not afraid of leaving’, he added, with another tear… ‘this earthly plane’, and in those moments all the truth and pain and courage and knowing that the life he had was leaving. His mind had accepted it now. You could see it in his face.
The local Church of Ireland minister arrived, to give him solace, and I stood up to leave. I was about to walk away, but turned back and planted a soft kiss on his cheek, accompanying it with a ‘smooch’ sound. We both laughed. A little friendship sealed. ‘Goodbye John’, I said, ‘I’ll see you soon’.
I’m not sad that he is gone. I’m touched, and moved. My heart is full for this little friendship that came into my life in his last year. No, I’m not sad. He knew it was time, and there was living in his dying. Our friendship was full of the simple things of floppy cake and goldfinches and poetry. It’s the simple things that we move our way towards in the end, that, and friendship. In his dying John opened a door to those things for me, and for that I’ll carry a little pocket of this year of friendship with me on my own travels. I also want to get a bird identification chart, to help me remember.
It has been nearly a month since I pressed send on an email to my mailing list which nearly turned me inside out. Since then I think I have literally turned inside out, in the good kind of way.
Let me explain.
The email was a leap into the unknown and a simultaneously declaration of faith- in an idea.
The leap was to finally and publicly fully commit to a hunch/ calling/ feeling that had been following me around.
For a while the idea was a shadowy figure which tracked me like a fugitive. It followed me on walks, popping out from behind trees and from under the waves. It followed me into the shower, tugging at my heart as I was standing bare. It crept into my dreams and deposited it’s wrappers in signs and symbols which would later pop out from behind trees and from under the waves. Yes, it was one of those ideas which was more than an idea; it was a feeling. It was more than a feeling, it was a gut feeling, which is a demanding thing in that it comes from a place deeper than our heart and inhabits our whole self. You could call it a soul thing.
When our ideas are our soul things, then not listen to them is to give part of ourselves over to a death. I knew that if I didn’t do something, even a small thing, about this calling then something in me would die. I also had a sense that the thing that would die would be intrinsic to my sense of self: hope in myself, or trust in myself, or even belief in myself, and when those things go, it’s a dark place to find oneself. I had been there before and I didn’t want to go there again. So, you see, I really had no choice, but to write, but to press send, but to walk out to the edge of the cliff and say, ‘I am here, listening, take me’.
It has taken me, this soul thing, and it has been a beautiful, and wild, and soft, and difficult and demanding and luscious thing. So, this idea: to write a book. Yes, that is it. Words and blank pages. Something that has been going on for years and years. Who knew it could be so revelatory! I had written before, so why was this to be so different.
As I write, I am learning: it wasn’t the book, it was the stories to be placed in the book. My stories.
You see, part of the calling was to gather my own stories, the dark and the light, and to bring them into constellation with each other as my own rite of passage, in time for my 40th birthday next year. The writing was to be my ritual, my honouring of my own cycles and a way to move into the next phase of my life with intention and with hope. My stories.
(But who are you to have your own stories? Who do you think you are? Do you think you are special, or something? And what do you even have to say…) That critical inner voice was quick on the scene, pushing harsh words into my ear. I turned my head. It shouted in my other ear.
Then, one evening, a friend, one of those soul friends, looked my in the eyes and said: these are the stories we all need to hear Clare. Write’.
Sometimes we need soul friends to speak to the place below our hearts, so that we can really hear.
So, I wrote and wrote and stayed up late, and wrote, and woke up early, and cried, and wrote, and I am writing, and I am listening, and I am crying and I am writing, and I am laughing and I am dancing, and I am writing, and boy is it a precious and beautiful process, this writing.
I’m not done yet. The stories are coming in fragments. I am letting them fall, one by one, some with a thud, some that need coaxing. I have yet to weave them. That comes later. First, the falling.
As they come, I am learning a few things about the way it is happening too, which I am working to capture, to remember, to share. So here are a few thoughts on this work in progress: the book, and me in evolution in between.
It feels something like this:
This book is a tunnel. A dark one. But by virtue of it being a tunnel, I know that there is light at the end of it. This particular tunnel has a bend it in. I enter into the dark, not knowing when or where this bend is, but I trust that the light is around the other side.
To enter, things need to squeeze a little. Some stories just don’t fit and will get left behind. Some things feel more intense. I take one step in front of the other. I enter.
Right now, I’m somewhere in the bend, yet to come up for light. The dark has it’s secrets for me, and it’s silences. However it’s only now that that I am in there that I realise it is not the scary kind of dark after all (I have yet to meet bats, or even ghosts) but the womb-like dark- warm and fertile and feeling like a home I forgot I once belonged in. Step by step, word by word, story by story I make my way through, nudging the sides and making marks on the skin of pages. The black ink is my tunnel.
Creativity and Wellbeing are wedded.
There’s this myth: that to create is to loose your mind; to be a good artist is to give yourself over to the madness that is art.
Some myths still linger because they feed a fear, and where there is fear, there is ground for exploitation. It’s in someone’s interest to keep the myth alive.
I want to blast it with this: that deep creativity, the soul kind, may touch on dark places but doesn’t have to become it. To create is to be well. To be well means to be listening to intuition, to the body, to gut feelings, to the creative spirit which shows up in the shower and under the waves. It is not linear. It can not be measured in quantifiable, predictable patterns. It can not be sold in pills. Creativity is just intrinsic to our human-beingness. To create is to be fully alive. Creativity wedded to wellness is matrimonial bliss.
When stuck, dance.
Still stuck? Paint.
Still? Then stay… write the rubbish until the dirt has a chance to reveal its gold.
I pinned this note up to keep me writing even when I didn’t know what I was writing.
Which brings me to…
Our stories tend to settle like sediment. The ones we tend regularly (the stories we tell others about, or the stories in our heads with we use to define ourselves) are the ones we feed. Below them are many layers. Hidden stories. Forgotten stories. Silenced stories. We can pick the ones at the top, but to get to the bottom, we must be willing to write our way through the layers and layers until we hit the gold. Once we are there, the stories on the top tend to make more sense again. We are all many layers deep.
To be silent is to surrender to the possibilities of the silence.
To enter the silence we must make some choices. Turn up. Turn off the phone. Tell the internet to go away for a while. Create a parking zone in ours head where all the negative voices can hang out while we get on with the work. It takes conscious commitment to give ourselves the gift of silence. When we do, we will discover that the silence is an expansive place, leading outwards, beyond the boundaries we have placed upon it and into the place that has no name. Our creativity can take us there, if we let it.
Your story = Your power.
When I say yours, I mean it. When I say mine, I mean it too. These stories from the deep, I am realising, have the thread of humanity in them. What is hard for me, is hard for others too. What is challenging for me, others have faced also. What brings me joy is a bridge to another’s freedom. When we share from there, we have the power to weave a new story- for ourselves, for each other and for the world we want to live in. I write to figure out the stories I need to leave behind, the ones I need to heal and the gold ones to add to the cauldron of our emerging world.
More than ever I believe that our stories matter. Mine and yours. …
I’ll be adding to this list. Maybe changing it. Maybe not. It is all a work in progress.
Many of regular readers here will be familiar with my monthly newsletter where I share some reflections on the month that passed, news of updates and happenings and links to resources from around the web to inspire, cajole and education us on our own path. I’ve recently added an audio section to the letter too, called Notes from the Edge. For for those not familiar here is a sample of this months below and you can listen back to last month’s here. I am excited to see how all this evolves. It feels like a beginning.
Click on the image below to have a listen and/or continue reading to the text format
Notes from the Edge// September 2017.
‘There should always be a healthy tension between the life we have settled for and the desires that still call us. In this sense, our desires are the messengers of our unlived life, call us to attention and action while we still have time here to explore fields where the treasure dwells’ – John O’Donohue
I have the above quote scrawled at the beginning of my current journal. I like to inscribe the words in my own hand, hoping that the re-writing of them will endorse their memory, drawing their wisdom deeper towards where their essence can touch; which is inwards.
I reread the quote aloud a few times then circled the word ‘tension’. It seemed a peculiar choice. So often we are sold the notion of ‘life balance’, and in many body practices we are instructed to ‘release the tension’, or ‘let go on the tension’. It is an instruction I have both followed, and in turn given.
Writing the quote down a few weeks ago almost feels preemptive now, given the turn of events in my life. But it has certainly made me think; what is the role of tension- in our bodies, our lives and our dreams; and what is a healthy version of it.
Let me explain.
I’d followed the marketing book: word of mouth, testimonial, posters, newsletters, Facebook Ads, Instagram posts, linked in updates, other networks and all several times over. I was promoting a new round of Thrive School in Dublin aiming find the next cohort. It’s a powerful programme, and the content and connections among participants had been powerful too. I was looking forward to this round. But the raw truth is, not enough people applied, this thing I had poured my heart into. And so with the same heart, a little heavier, I need to cancel it.
I have learned not to take it personally. It’s never personal. It’s to do with timing, and price, and offering and cultural context and where people are in their lives. All that said, it doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging, or the day I realised I needed to make the call, I didn’t shed a tear. It’s usually emotional for me- whatever I am doing, because, well, I care. I know the tears are cleansing, a way for the tension to transform. You see this was a thing that I was building. It was going to be my core income for the coming months, and the way to channel my skills. And the core truth of it is that, yes, sometimes it is tough.
The irony is not lost on me either. Here am I running programmes called ‘Thrive’ and I am absolutely deep in the question of how. To Thrive, in some sense is an aspiration. Thrive School is very much my own schooling too and I have much to learn.
And yet, I have been here before- with other programmes, and ideas, and things I put out into the world which didn’t land the way I thought they would. And so I have learned too: it is never the end and it is never back to a blank drawing board. Looking along the trajectory of our lives the essence of our callings or what it is that drives us is usually there from early on; its just the form that changes. Now I know the form needs changing. I don’t think this is the end of Thrive School- (I have a one day workshop coming up soon)- it’s just the model of these longer programmes needs to shift.
We hear the phrases, ‘one door closes and another opens’, ‘what’s for you won’t pass you’. Bantered around we can dismiss them for their familiarity. But Seamus Heaney knew of these things too. He wrote about them, with a twist, making me pay attention.
‘Getting started, in art and in life, seems to be the essential rhythm’.
He’d said the words to a group of graduating students, as commencement advice. They were words I scrawled years ago, and returned to them again and again.
‘Getting started, in art and in life, seems to be the essential rhythm’.
Heaney knew the path is never linear but filled with the mystic poetry of the journey; the potholes; the undulations; the points at which you glide and the point in which you ditch. The essential rhythm of art and life is punctuated with texture, if we are lucky.
There seems equally to be a secret symmetry in the folding and re-folding of our lives. It is to do with this essential rhythm and this healthy tension. There is power in maintaining the quest, and there is power in letting go in order to build again. It’s between these folds that we can seek the balance. The balance may then be this bridge between where we are now and where we aim to go, holding both with a soft focus and a loose tension. Focus too hard, we squint and go off track anyway. Loose focus, and we loose traction. But find that point of balance between present and future, and our focus is both guide and companion. It’s how we stay attuned to this unlived life within us, as John O’Donohue speaks about. So with each iteration, our resilience is strengthened and, like an elastic band when pulled, it never goes back to its original shape. Even in our failings we are forever altered. It is the essential rhythm; the healthy tension.
And so, my friends, while I find myself re-entering this gap of not knowing a little sooner than I hoped, I know I am working my way through this rhythm. Sometimes I jump to solution too quickly without staying in the unknown a while, to listen for what is really needed. Autumn is coming, the blackberries are ready for the picking, and there are lessons and learning to be harvested. I’m telling myself not to jump ahead too quickly. I’m telling myself to listen.
So I am going to take some time to walk the shoreline, to mark this essential rhythm with my feet. Tomorrow I move into a new house, where I will be writing, and writing some more (yes, there is a new book brewing) and then to find my way into the next phase of the form, until it too will change, as surely as it will. Yes, I know I’ll start again. Just writing these words is starting again, and that, is both comfort and commencement, for his is the way of a lived life. So I lift my head, I brush off my heart, I pick up my pen, and I’ll take the next step on this camino, as always, onwards and with love,
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A trip to an island, meandering the shoreline, noticing how the internal questions shift from large to small and back to large again, but carry on with deeper meaning and more perspective. There were the swims, of course, and a boat trip circumnavigating the island, and friendships kindled, and a love of the wild which swelled to new heights and set the heart a flame.
A photo essay meditation, from Inishlacken, Connemara- to pause, to take in the light, to carry that light onwards.
(This post is dedicated to my aunt, Annie Meehan, nee Mulvany, who passed away, aged 86, earlier this week. She was a bright spark, a woman of the flame, and I always remember her as being the last person on the dance floor. As I was taking these photos, she was being laid to rest; with the light beaming and the birds soaring. Our memories carry)