Summer Solstice and finding the wild within…

Arriving into Gougane Barra Hotel today a sign at the door seemed to read the language of my soul. ‘Not all who wander are lost’.

I’m wandering today, but I don’t feel lost. It’s summer solstice. It’s a turning point in the year, when – in the northern hemisphere- the light is full and the days are at their longest. As a day to celebrate, it did not feel like a day to be sitting at the kitchen table, so I packed my bags and drove the hour or so up here, laptop included, swimming gear too.

Gougane Barra is a special place. Surrounded by high mountains, it’s an ancient monastic site where St Finbarr said to have built a church in the 6th Century on a little island in the lake. The river lee- the main river running into Cork city has its source close by too. The water here is clear and today calm as glass. With summer is in its full, the foxgloves are necklacing the shore; wild daisy and buttercups too. And there is a quiet here that can only happen inland; a kind of quiet that was calling.

I like to mark each solstice. Ancient as the rituals are, the solstices seems like a brilliant chances to place some pinpoints on maps: the map of where you are now and the map of where you want to get to. I find that wild places are the best facilitators of such conversations. It’s out in nature when I can think more clearly; tune into my deeper voice and shut out the noise.

So, arriving here to Gougane Barra this afternoon there was only one thing for it; to jump into the lake and let her dark waters embrace me. Below the surface, there is a different quiet too; the one that feels so alive, so vital, so energising. Sometimes we have to dive deep to really find our way. It’s only after jumping in that I can write, set the intentions, do the work. It’s through that wandering that I find my way.
So today/ tonight, the invitation: 

To wander. To find a wild spot for yourself, and see you can find a wild spot in yourself too. To celebrate all that you are and all that you are becoming. To write some intentions. To feel your body move in the light. To inhabit more of yourself and therefore the world. And do whatever it is you need to do to feel enlivened. And may the long day is here to be your guide… your inner wildness too.

(The photo above with from a recent Whale Watching trip… but more on that soon… I don’t quite have the words yet)

summer-sessions-thrive-schoolA reminder too that midnight tonight is the last chance to book the Summer Sessions package- 3 months to blast your projects with insight and momentum, and harness the energy of the season ahead. You can read more and book online here. 

 


Transforming procrastination into progress…

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Longer days, brighter times. There is a buzz which summer brings.

Which got me thinking about harnessing this energy with my own creative projects and through my work. And so it is that The Summer Sessions are here.

As the days are alive, why not utilise this time of year and bring your ideas to life too.
So, maybe it is time to finally start that project you have put on hold for ages- a book? a film? an exhibition? a new business? Maybe you are already running a business but need some fresh direction and momentum? Maybe you are feeling stuck and long for some clarity on the next steps to take. Or maybe you are busting with ideas but struggling to put some form and structure to them.

Yes- it is time to turn procrastination into progress, and I can help.

Let’s use the summer to shine some big light on your creative power and potential.

3 sessions. 3 months. 1 season of momentum.

Find out more and book online here. Limited spaces available. Book by June 21st.

Onwards we go… into the light.

Clare. x


what to do when you don’t know what to do

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Figuring out what to do with our one wild and precious lives; that seems to be a universal eternal quest.

What a beautiful gift we have, the questions. But sometimes the questions seem so dense and impenetrable that they seem to turn us away from the very things that bring the wildness and preciousness to our life in the first place. We get stuck in a loop asking ‘what next?’ We think we are far removed from our own answers. We become disillusioned, and when the going gets really tough we get tired of asking the question, and so we stop. Yet the questions are our lifeblood, and the questions raise the quest.

So instead of letting the questions push you aside, can we learn to invite them to come along for the ride, step by little step. If you you are struggling to know what to do next- with your life, in your job, in your relationships, remember that there is always the invitation to do the simple things; and as you are doing the simple things, you can ask for some clarity; for that next elegant step that would be good for you to take.

The ‘Simple Things’ list is beautifully individual and remarkably universal:

Journal. Go for a walk. Spend time with an animal. Walk along the beach in bare feet. Star-gaze. Have a bath. Sit in silence on your mat. Exercise. Mend a bike. Bake a cake. Garden. Paint. Sing. Dance. Scribble. Sit some more. Write a letter to someone you admire. Help a stranger. Share your lunch. Share your knowledge. Share your joy.

The challenge is this: the simple things are often labelled as ‘procrastination. They can be seen as keeping you away from the thing that think you need/ should to be doing. Do enough of them and some may even deem you as wayward, lazy, unfocused, unsettled, misguided. But what if we flipped all of that? What if deep in the heart of the simple thing there was a clue or a signpost which has the capacity to carry you onwards, into your own deep clarity of knowing what to do next. The simple thing then becomes a map.

There is one secret ingredient though which you’ll need to apply, consistently. It’s the raising agent otherwise known as intention.

Our intention is what refines our action. Without intention our actions can indeed fall in towards procrastination, but by focusing our intention we start to be able to use the action of it, the doing of it, as a way into the deeper knowing of what to do next. The answers are within us and our intention takes us there.

That may sound abstract but I suspect we have all experienced this. Head in a muddle- go for a walk and later the idea pops in the shower. Frustrated and annoyed? Dance that dance and the anxiety dissipates too. In the space of the doing we make room for the next step to reveal itself.

So here’s the little practice:

Next time you are feeling stuck, take your question on a walk or to the bath or to the trees. Kneed it into the dough or onto a canvas. Dance it out. Scribble it out. Plant it deep in the veggie patch and watch it evolve.

And the added bonus is this: Piece together enough simple things- the walks, the wanders, the star-gazing, the frenzied nights at an easel, the shared meals, the shared gestures, the secret letterbox goody drops, the silent moments on a mat- and it makes for a pretty wild and precious life- filled with moments of intention and questions and evolutions- intentionally.

If you want to take this #toolsforthriving practice to your journal, here are a few steps.

Step One.
Make a list of the questions you are carrying with you. Keep going. You likely have many.

Step Two
In a different coloured pen circle the questions which are really niggling. The ones that are waking you at night or the ones that are particularly entrenched.

Step Three
Make a list of your go-to simple things. (they are likely free or inexpensive, easily accessible and things that bring you joy)

Step Four
Do that thing! As you are doing it, bring just one of the questions you have circled with you. There is a discipline to this to keep our intention, and attention, focused on that question. If you find your thoughts going astray, bring them back to the question. As you are doing the ‘thing’, you can internally ask for clarity or insight. And for your next step.

Step Five
Jot down any next steps that come to you. It may not be the obvious thing. You may think of a person you have not been in touch with for a while- maybe that person has a clue for you too. Or you may think of resource which will available to you which you have not thought about for a while

Step Six
Take action quickly on the thing that popped. Write that email that day. Phone that person as soon as you can (this is the key difference and way to utilise the thing- otherwise the circle of questions will spin and spin.

Step Seven
Repeat for another question. This is a practice as much as a process.

#toolsforthriving

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To be an individual drop in the tide of change…

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As news rolls around the world of deeply turbulent times, it settles uneasily in our hearts. It can indeed feel like we are on very shaky and uncertain ground. It can be so easy to feel overwhelmed, uncertain, even cynical. Where to turn? What to do? What difference can I make or will my work make?

The questions are understandable and legitimate. But let’s lay it down on the line: what we choose to pay attention to matters. What we choose to create, support, honour and do with our time, talent and attention matters more than ever. Our kindness, our compassion, our empathy, our trust in strangers, our courage to keep going, our hope and our actions, send out ripple effects. Individually they may be small but even a small act can welcome a stranger, or see the beauty in the broken bits.

You see alongside the turbulence, there is another a rising tide- a tide of people stepping up to their dreams, visions and values. We have seen the rise of creative leadership, a whole new field of social entrepreneurship and investment, the tech for good movement, the environmental movement, and those reaching out a hand to refugees, those choosing not to give into hate or fear, those willing to see beyond the black and white headlines. This rising tide knows there is always a choice.

So, today, as the sad news enters into a deep chamber of the heart, let’s all do something small for another person. Something kind and compassionate; something simple that signals that there is always another way. It’s not to deny what is happening but it is to be part of the countercurrent.

So maybe there is a person you have not been in touch with for a while- give them a call and say hello, tell them how much you have missed them. Maybe there is a cause you care about- make a donation. Maybe a loved one really needs a hug- offer your arms as a home and a haven. Yes, they are simple things, but each act, no matter how small are the individual the drops in the tide of change.

With that in mind I have listed a few things in the resources and shared some happenings which are part of the tide too.

Onwards, with hope

Clare. xx

Resources & Happenings

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Street Feast is happening again, with the big hearted Sam Bishop at the helm. Sunday 11th June. Time to get the tables, chairs and neighbours out..

This Fund It Campaign: My friend Libby set up this wonderful dance company, Traces, which challenges perceptions of dance and disability. Now her daughter, Jessie Rowell is putting together a new show in collaboration with Downs Syndrome Ireland.

I’ve never met Bill Megalos in person, but our paths online paths crossed years back and I have been tracking his beautiful initiatives. This time he is in Greece, making a documentary, Stuck in the Doorway’ about the refugees who are stranded as Europe continues to close its borders.

The indefatigable Ruairi Mc Kiernan is also at it again, this time with his beautiful podcast, Love and Courage. 

I turn, over and over again, to the work and words of Krista Tippett. Her On Being radio show is solace and balm. Dive into the archives. This episode with Joanna Macy is rich with spirit. 

I have been studying the work of Diane Muso Hamilton via her book ‘The Zen of You and Me’– A Guide to getting along with just about anyone (thank you Mari Kennedy for making the link). Both  Diane and Mari are wise women, and the book feels globally timely.

I find a tribe of beauty and compassion gathering around the work of Elena Brower. Her Teach.Yoga site has beautiful resources and connections to great teachers around the world.

I loved this interview on Design Matters with writer and illustrator Maira Kalman. Mario’s curiosity and quest for the extraordinary in the ordinary served a great reminder that inspiration is everywhere.

This TED talk with architect Siamak Hariri, who was the designer of the first Baha’i Temple in South America, speaks about designing for sacred space, taking inspiration from the swirls, twists and texture in nature. It too is a story of hope.

And if you fancy a bit of fun this weekend, and you happen to be in West Cork, the Fastnet Film Festival  in Schull is starting tomorrow. I’ll be hopping over to Long Island to see The Crash Ensemble perform at dusk. Magic in the making..

In Memory

the-softness-sleeps_1777538457_oI would like to make a special mention in the post to the late Eamonn O’Dwyer. Eamonn was a mentor of mine in the early days of Suas when he voluntarily offered his time and impeccable facilitation skills helping us design the leadership training for our volunteer programme. He later became a board member of the organisation and I subsequently became a family friend, getting to know his beautiful wife, Tessa, and his three children. Eamonn sadly passed away earlier this month after a graceful and deeply open hearted struggle through cancer. As much as his life was an inspiration, his death has been too. He was one of those people who sent major ripple effects into the world by his very presence, compassion and insatiable zest for life. He was one of tide changers. His inspiration lives on. May you rest in beautiful peace, dear Eamonn and thank you for all, always.

STAY IN TOUCH…

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Morning questions.

 
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How we frame each day is how we’ll live our lives.

Some morning questions to guide us: 

How will I nourish myself today?

Who can I support today?

How will I listen today?

What can I offer today?

How can I honour my dignity today?

What can I let go of today?

How can I amplify the sacred today?

What can I learn today?

Where is my attention required today?

….


Two of the best teachers of all…

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It has been just over a year now since I moved to West Cork. There was a draw here, certainly. I came in many ways in expectation that I would find my next teacher- a yoga teacher? a body worker? a meditation master?- somebody that would lead me deeper into my own practice and therefore into myself. I did find my next teacher, actually I have found two, but they are not what I expected. In fact, they don’t even need to speak, or at least not in a language that needs words.

Teacher One: aloneness.

There have been many hours spent in my own company. There have been long dark nights filled with questions and many hours walking the shoreline and the ridgelines, noticing the calligraphy of a falling leaf and the poetry of open skies. I have spent hours tracing the course of streams until they have become river beds or walking country lanes until they fade into fields. I’ve sat on beaches waiting for the stars to arrive. Storms have come in, and cracking winds, and sometimes the sun set the world aglow. All that time alone but it never felt right to say I was lonely.

I suppose I have learned that aloneness has a richness, depth and a range of qualities to it, each offering their own teachings. At times the aloneness has felt comforting, even sensuous, and at times rigid and difficult. It has been a mirror to my joy and my challenges. It made me face myself like no other teacher could, and in doing so it has been taking me across a threshold into the understanding that all I really have is myself, and when I listen close enough, the boundaries start to melt away to a place where ’I’ becomes ‘each other’ and the breath that links us is but one joyous and lingering dance. The dance makes it’s way into the ebb and flow of the tides, or the current of my mood, offering a remembrance too that emotion has it’s own motion, never static and always available to change.

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Teacher One has been generous. As I walked those mountain ridges they became an extension of an inner challenge, reaching into me to break open resistance and invite me to climb higher, or at least onwards. The meandering streams offered a sign that the journey to the open sea, the expanse, is never straight. I’m less afraid of the dark now too, for as you wait for dusk to turn to dark you sit in the knowing that the darkness is just one aspect of light’s full spectrum. And I am less afraid of taking the hidden path, or the wrong turn, or diving deeper, for it’s in those places where wildness and aliveness inhabit their fullness. I’m still not so keen on the cold atlantic waters though, so I know I have a way to go yet. And woodlice. Not so keen on them either.

Of all the places the hours have taken me, it is the edge that I love the most- those places where the sea shifts into sand and then to shore. The place where rugged, hardened rock is putty to the wind or where a cliff suddenly falls to meadow and then back to cliff again. I love how the edge havens colonies of birds and harbours in its nooks and crannies even the most vulnerable of life. It is at the edge where I have felt most at home.

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All along the clue was in the word. Aloneness : all/one/ness. Not separate, but part of. Not different, but extension. Not singular but syncopated.

Before me, all around me, in the air that I breath and the land that I stand on, my second teacher was with me all along too. Nature has a way of revealing herself to us in gradual, medicinal doses. Her magic this time has been her intimacy and her disguises. Those little robins who visited me each day in winter showed up to tell me that lonely is but a fallacy I have been colluding with.  And that song in the wind, that too had a story of belonging to tell. And, of course that four legged being who has been a shadow to me, with her unfailingly waggy tail and zest for life- espically when it involves walks and even better when it involves the sea- well, she is love, in all it’s finest and tenderest and most innocent of guises. In fact I think she has a special ‘teacher’ status too, but I’ll not tell her yet because the training books tell me that I am meant to let on that I am her master but I’m not so convinced of the order of things.

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In a few days time I will be moving house again (still in west cork, but more town based… for a while…) There is a time for all things and the time of this particular phase is ending. The tide will go out, but a new tide will come in and carry me over. Thanks to Teacher One and Teacher Two, I trust this more now; this coming and going and the life on the edge of knowing and not knowing. For this, I will be forever grateful and so forever will I pledge to be a student to the best teachers of all.

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For the ones…

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In my work as a writer and photographer, I have been blessed to meet the most remarkable of women, each who carry their own light, each to have a gift to bring to this world. I have met them in the best of times and in the most challenging of times. I have witnessed their deep pain and experienced their enduring joy. The strength of these women and girls is the backbone of the world. Their stories are the life-giving source of healing and hope. Today, on International Women’s day, I remember and honour them, for whether man or women,they are us, and we are them. This is for you.

 

For the ones who love. For the ones who carry us onwards. For the mothers in us. And the lovers.

For the ones who endure. For the ones who sacrifice.

For the ones who give birth;  to children, dreams, desires, pain and progress.

For the ones who grieve for us all. For the ones who don’t give up.

For the ones whose voices are never heard. Them. Always for them.

For the womb which was your first home in the world, and the woman who held you.

For the ones who resist. And persist.

For the music makers. For the artists. For the schemers.

For the activists and the changemakers. For the homemakers and the breadwinners.

For the ones who trust in another way.

For the fighters. For the jokers. For the paradigm shifters.

For the learners and the educators, the teachers and the students. For the guides, leading from the heart.

For the one who plant and the ones who tend. For the carers and the givers.

For the ones whose voices are never heard. Them. Always for them.

For the ones leading the way and the ones laying the paths. For the bridgemakers, the weavers, the dancers. For those who are catalysing a new level of conversation and therefore connection.

For the ones whose voices are never heard. Them. Always for them.

For my great-grandmother, who was silenced and shut away, for being the woman that she was.

For my grandmother, who worked until her bones bore the weight of her caring.

For my mother, who gave birth to all this, and more.

With love.

………….

 

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A note on starting the things that bring you closer to your dreams… 

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It takes time. It takes intention. It takes iteration after iteration. It takes pushing at the limits of what you know to discover what you don’t. It turns you inside to confront your inner demons and blindspots. It offers moments of grace, descending like gifts from another place. There are moments of exhaustion. There are moments of exhilaration. You question pretty much everything- who am I to do this, why me, why now, will it ever work, I love this, I can’t stand this, this is amazing, this is rubbish, oh, a breakthrough, this is brilliant, let’s keep going….

This is learning and creativity on full force.

This week, I hit it all, full on. Now, to keep going, I have realised this: 

To keep going is a daily practice and a choice

To keep going is to keep your vision high, your gaze directed, your heart open and your focus near

To keep going is to breath deep and listen for the openings

To keep going is to to ask for support

To keep going is to pause, review, invoke, and learn, again and again and again

To keep going its to trust that the learning will bring it’s own strength, making it better next time.

To keep going is to keep the future close and friends dear

To keep going is to find the thresholds, the ones that beckon like invitations, and to take a graceful step across them, onwards.

………

Want to stay in touch with news, updates, stories and resources? Sign up over here for happenings. 

……….


Wondering if Thrive School is for you?

Tomorrow (Monday 6th March) is the final day to apply for the next Thrive School Dublin programme, and I want to share a few updates and offer a little nudge!

ts west cork -14I’ve just finished up the West Cork Thrive School programme, and have really seen such brilliant results from the participants- who have all take huge strides in their ideas, confidence and skill set.

Yesterday was pitch day, where the participants had a chance to pitch their new ideas, products and services while practice giving presentations. We had an artist who has got her website up and running and is launching her first public teaching workshops; a participant who decided to train as a celebrant and pitched her new business offerings; a designer who has developed a new service to help young people make sense of their career choices; a furniture maker who is now ready to launch an outdoor furniture rental business, and a yoga teacher who has transformed how she is structuring her classes  (and is now booked out) and is planning new yoga products and educational videos.

Needless to say we were all so so proud of each other. There were also a few tears, as for many yesterday represented a new marker in their lives. This is transformational learning.

So maybe you are wondering if Thrive School is for you or you are sitting on the fence a little. I’ve made a new video to explain more about the 3 types of people who really benefit from the programme and answering some of the questions which are coming in.

And if you have additional questions feel free to email me – clare@claremulvany.ie

The application deadline is tomorrow Monday 6th March at 9pm.

Find out more and apply online over at:

http://www.claremulvany.ie/thrive-school-core/

Thanks all

Clare x


Transforming the comparison trap into the compassion trap…

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I want to let you in on a secret folks. They don’t. Trust me. They don’t.

Who don’t? What don’t they? I hear you say.

Have it all figured out. I add. And ‘they’? Well they are all of us. 

Ah, a sigh of relief.

More and more, this is what I see: people trying, people struggling, people fearing and so many people thinking they have to have it all figured out and worrying that they don’t.

In the world of fast paced social media it is so easy to look around at other people and think they have it all sorted. We can look at their websites, glam shots, followers, comments, media coverage, products, services, sexy lives, sexy bodies, sexy friends, sexy everything and think… they have it all. In doing so we can feel so far removed that we think we can never ‘get there’, and so we don’t bother, or we stop believing, or we feel like hiding under the bed covers and never coming out.

I am not fully sure where ‘there’ is, but one thing I am sure of is that it is not a fixed place, or number, or a bank balance. Ask any one of those people is they think they have it all sorted, or figured out and I am pretty sure that they’ll say no. How could they?

And why do I know this? Because by virtue of the fact that life is a creative act and art, living it is a creative process, and, at best, the creative process is messy. In many ways, the messier the better. The mess is so much part of the process that it is the process. It is by navigating the mess that new ideas and connections can emerge. The mess offers us a chance to explore and make non-direct linkages, which leads to new pathways. The mess is not negative, but necessary. 

But I also suspect this: that behind the scenes of every glam shot, or every instagram tally, or every six-figure business owner, is a person desperately willing themselves on to navigate this messy and complex and beautiful thing called life. Behind the scenes, in fluctuating waves, there is also doubt, uncertainly, fear, courage, love, trust, pain, resistance, self love, self loathing, persistence, frustration, joy, anger and hope. Those feelings are there because they are intertwined in the human condition; they are all part of the natural emotional and cyclical journey of life.

When we start to look over our shoulders it is all to easy to fall into the comparison trap. And it is exactly that- a trap. It snares us and stops us from making progress and building traction. It keeps us looking over our shoulder, forgetting to look within and making the next move which is only ours to make.

Sure we can be inspired by others and learn from others, but let’s not assume they have it all figured out. It’s not fair on us, and it’s not fair on them.

So, here’s another little secret from behind my own scenes: I am writing these words today because I needed to hear them myself. I so needed to hear them. All morning that comparison trap had its jaws wide open and was leaning in to pounce. Much as I hate to admit it, I found myself flipping through instagram, on websites, making judgements. Beyond the judgements, at a deeper level, I was criticising myself which went something like this: ‘you should be doing more, you should have it sorted, you’ll never get there, ‘X’ can do it, why can’t you…’  Pretty soon there were tears, pretty soon I wanted to give up on it all, and pretty soon I was in a darker state of affairs….

WOAH. WOAH. Slow down there woman, steady up” Another saner part of my brain chimed in.  I suppose I could see what was happening.

So, what to do? Well today, knowing that a break of scene was required, this is what I did:

I turned off my phone.

I went for a walk to the post box and then delivered the post to the elderly man who lives beside me. We had a chat about daffodils and chaffinches.

I had a very hot shower.

I lit the fire. Then a candle. Then some incense.

I made some tea and sipped it slowly looking out at the rain.

I cuddled my dog. And then again.

I took a deep breath and I realised I need some reminders of the progress I have been making, and so I got out a bunch of journals and read back. Then I took out my computer, opened a blank document and started writing, as a reminder that I am just trying to figure it out, one step at a time. We all are.

So let’s give ourselves some slack and wiggle room, and see if we can transform that comparison trap into a compassion trap. For us. For them. For each other.