Creative Islanders: Miceal Murray

Miceal Murray Creative Islanders

The Creative Islanders is a blog series showcasing creative and social entrepreneurs and practitioners in Ireland who are stepping into their dreams, purpose and passions and choosing to do ‘business as unusual’ while being based in Ireland. The series aims to be a ‘behind the scenes’ look into their creative practices, process, motivations and mindsets, shining light of what makes people tick, and how, collectively Ireland is alive with creative possibility.

Next up in the series is Miceal Murray, a forager and cook who has recently founded ‘Taking A Leaf’, a new business running creative food events with a focus on wild and local foods. Inspired by the celtic cycles, Miceal has created a series of seasonal dining experiences and coupling them with music and art. With over 25 years in the cafe and restaurant business it was time for him to step onto his own path, combining his passion for sustainable enterprise with his love of nature and the wild. Miceal is also a Thrive School participant. And so with great pleasure I hand over to his lovely and kind self…

What keeps you in Ireland?

What keeps me in Ireland is the sense of home I get from here. It’s in my bones. Being from the country the connection is strongest felt from the landscape and the wild. And it is specifically the Irish landscape and whatever magic emanates from it. It seems to hold a mystery and a richness that I can’t find elsewhere. Obviously there is beauty all over the world but I find something else here; something hard to put into words. It is a distillation of many things, history, stories, art, music and memory. And of course my husband, family and friends.

What makes you tick? What motivates you?

A deep and heartfelt desire to live more in tune with the natural rhythms of nature and self, and to express these in a creative and meaningful way.  It is also the desire to live in a way that is more connected to nature in an urban setting.

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Why do you do what you do?

I think that part of me might shrivel up and die if I didn’t. It keeps me vital.

What do you do just for the love of it?

Discovering new things, be it music, food, books, magazines or places. Plus, jumping over a wall or crawling under a hedge to get to a new patch of land.

What does the creative process teach you?

Be open to change. I can visualise an idea or concept but to actualise it I must be open to change. Ideas can change or they can grow into something completely new, or they can be shelved and returned to at a more appropriate time.

What were some of the key moments along your own journey that helped you to get where you are today?

I learned so much from a wonderful lady called Judith Hoad. She is a teacher, healer and author and she introduced me to so many plants and explained their medicinal and edible properties. She inspired me to think differently.

DSCF4056Where do you find inspiration? Any hidden gems?

Inspiration comes from all sorts of places. I recently watched a film called “Juliette of the Herbs” it stayed with me for days, as did “Embrace of the Serpent”. Although the content doesn’t directly inspire me the magic of the characters involved does. But you can’t beat a good walk to get you out and get the juices flowing.

How do you get through tough times? What sustains you?

It is pretty simple really: get outside and walk the dogs.

What key lessons have your learned about doing business or being a creative practitioner along the way?

It is strengthening to know that everything changes and nothing is constant. Whatever you are going through, whether good or bad, it will come to an end and change into something else.

Do you have a morning routine? 

Ideally I like to do an early Astanga class. It really sets my day up and I am more determined to get on and get stuff done. I have an on/ off relationship with meditation but this too helps. But most of all walking the dogs first thing through the very wild Liffey Valley park gets me going.

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What books have inspired you?

The Global Forest by Diana Beresford Kroger

What advice do you wish you had received as you were stepping onto your own creative path?

Make lists. And then make more lists.

Be kind to yourself if mistakes are made. I am learning all the time and am very new at this game so I have a long way to go and many mistakes to make.

And what advice would you give to your future self?

Work less, garden more.

What is coming up next for you?

On the 13th of August I am completing a cycle of dinners inspired by and connecting with the ancient celtic festivals. So this time it will be Lughnasa and the beginning of harvest. Simple local food with foraged elements. After that I will be collaborating with the composer Hilary Mullaney to create an immersive dining experience. Also a series of walks to get people out and introduce them to some plants.

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All photos by Vivienne O’Brien.

Find out more anout Taking A Leaf over here on the website and also over on Facebook here.


The sea, the sea and a West Cork Calling..

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‘I want to live by the sea, not die by the sea’.

Sometimes you’ve just got to dive in. In diving you can’t but go under.

It’s not what I had been expecting, the radio silence on my writing and creative output but that is exactly what’s happened. You see, I have been literally swimming in a world of newness.

For years I have been talking about a vision of mine- to live in the countryside while running a creative school or venture. I always saw the sea and a dog by my side, yet it always seemed in the future. But as the years move on, I realise the future is now, and the future is not coming any sooner unless I act upon my dreams.

It is such a hard thing to give up something that is going well for the risk of something better, deeper, that may or may not work. The questions and doubts are hard too- How will I sustain myself? Will I be lonely? What about my yoga classes? What about my friends? What if that dream was all but an illusion and I will come out the other end with no other dream.

But my body knew. Back in January while on a retreat in the UK, it became clear to me that, for the sake of my very being, it was time to move and the time was soon. I did not feel ready but I knew intrinsically I had to immediately take action. There was a particular part of Ireland calling too; a place I knew well as a teenager, and a place which over the last few years had re-planted itself deep in my heart. West Cork.

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Once I made the decision it all happened pretty fast, which is often the case with these things.

The day I returned from the UK I sent a message to one of the few people I knew living in West Cork, asking if she knew of any housesits available. She told me that they are hard to come by but then said that her mother was actually looking for a someone. So I immediately contacted her Mum, and yes, I could bring my dog, and yes I could borrow her car.

It only took one email.

Flow is a sign of the right course of action. This almost seemed too easy.

But what about my room in Dublin? I sent an email to my friends wondering if anyone would be interested in subletting while I tested the Cork waters. Immediately I found someone.

That only took one email too.

So, ten weeks ago I found myself in Schull, West Cork, with a sea view and a dog by my side. This had been the dream for so long there were days I had to pinch myself. Has it really been that easy?

Sometimes we can be led to believe that what we really are called to do is not the right thing unless it is hard and challenging. Yet this whole experience shows me that the ease is a signpost too. The ease is permission and a gateway. ‘Follow’, it says.

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Ten weeks ago I took that housesit in Schull, really knowing only one person in town. Now, ten weeks on, I find myself walking down the street constantly stopping to chat. One day I went out for milk and came home seven hours later- there was the milk, and then the many many many conversations I had with people along the way. They stop to say hello to Milly and then the conversation opens. It is that kind of place. People have time and space and it is leading to very interesting connections. I am not sure where they are heading, but what’s important is the time and space.

There have been many surprises. I had thought in moving that I would have so much more time for writing, painting and new creative projects, but instead, the silence. Over these weeks there has been a lot of quite and a lot of listening. I have walked and walked and walked the coastline. I have listened to Spring turn into Summer and watched the clouds shift in an instant. The landscape offers its daily gifts. It is a landscape which thrills and embraces and it is a landscape which is alive and supportive. Even when the weather is bad it offers its wild intimacies and the unexpected turns of its stormy ways. The sea is in constant dialogue, the birds and wildlife too. It’s never a dull moment out there. The aliveness of it all envelopes and invites me into a deeper conversation too with my own particular wildness and aliveness. I indeed feel I am living by the sea.

When I first left Dublin I knew it was a trial run of a bigger and more substantial move. Ten weeks on, the housesit is over but I’m still here. I’ve a new friend has kindly offered to let me stay with her from the summer and am looking for a longer term house, trusting that the right one is out there for me. I gave notice on my house in Dublin and packed my bags last week. I’ll miss my yoga classes, and my friends, and all the good things that Dublin has to offer, but I knew I just had to leap.

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And so in the time and space, another aspect of that long held dream has evolved, with relative ease too. I launched Thrive School, and with a bit of marketing effort and conversations with people interested, it is now up and running and fully subscribed. The flow was there, telling me to keep on moving and developing it.  And so, with such gladness, I can say that my vision of the school is alive and evolving too. My plan is to launch Thrive School again in Dublin in the Autumn and a new class in Cork too. How exciting is that!

Diving in, I’m sinking deeper into beingness, into an exploration of what it means to track a dream. I feel lucky, so very lucky, to have the sea and my little dog by my side, and how can I ever be lonely with the wildness outside and the bit of wildness I am rediscovering inside too.

To be continued…

 

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Thrive School is here!

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From the age of about 12 I’ve had notions to set up an alternative kind of school. It would be a place of learning, but not traditionally. It would be a place where we could bring our whole selves- our head, hearts and hopes. It would be a place of skill building, and a place of strong community. That dream has taken several iterations over the years and now is emerging in real time, big time. It is a dream which is born from experience and born with the deep desire to serve others on their own creative and entrepreneurial paths.

And so, with this message I welcome Thrive School into the world. (I am launching this on my birthday too- a day I have always cherished as I shared it with my father’s birthday also- so it feels extra special!)

Thrive school is a different kind of school- one for dreamers, creatives, entrepreneurs, start-up-ers or people who really want to make a difference. It is about doing business, and life as unusual and giving us the support we need along our undulating journey.

I have been a freelancer/ soletrader for over 8 years now. It has been a journey full of learning, adventure, failure, progress and challenge. I have had huge highs and huge lows through it all and there have been so many times when I have wanted to give up because it felt too lonely or too difficult.  One thing I know for sure is that I would not be doing what I am doing without the support of friends and a network of other creative and entrepreneurs globally who lend support and advice. Their input has been invaluable.

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The kind of learning which we need to create a life we thrive through I know can be accelerated with the right structure, people, resources and community around us. Thrive School is that- a place to connect and learn from others on their entrepreneurial journey, and hone valuable personal and professional skills along the way.

Before Christmas I reached out to my network and asked what they were seeking.  Above all, people wanted a place to gather, connect, learn and find in-person support, which I know is so necessary and vital when working alone. And so I realised it was time for Thrive School to emerge.

We start on 17th May! 

Thrive School Dublin will take place from May- Oct (with a summer break built in).  It combines an in-person gathering once a month with an online learning component packed full of resources and tools. There will be an internal accountability support as part of the programme and it includes a private one to one coaching package for each individual who unrolls.

This is going to be very very special…
Thrive School Dublin EventsI am delighted to be teaming up with Emmet Condon from Homebeat and Cafe Thirty Four, who has offered his beautiful cafe space to be our Dublin HQ, and also very excited to welcome to the team Claire Faithorn, a fellow coach and current programme manager for the Suas Volunteer and Leadership programme- she is a bright star and brings such fresh energy and insight to the process.

Want to join? Read more over here, come along to our open evening on May 3rd or drop me a message.

Know you are ready you apply? Application form is here and applications are now open. Application deadline is Tues 10th May.

It’s time to Thrive! 

 

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A Little Tale of Failure, or is it?

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Failure, I have come to realise, looks very different when added to with time.

Yesterday I had a realisation that what I once thought as failure was actually a massive blessing in disguise. Twenty years on, almost to the day, the memory hit me hard.

I was walking through University College Dublin and passed the admissions building. Twenty years ago, in that very same building, I had signed myself out of college. I will never forget the feelings. I was so ashamed, so embarrassed, and thought I had utterly failed, especially my parents.

I was 17 and had entered UCD with the full intention to complete an honours Science degree. My first year subjects were Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths. I had loved Biology while in school, got an A in my Leaving Cert, and somehow thought that it qualified me to sign up to all the rest of the sciences! I was mistaken, gravely so. By Christmas I was so off track I was about to fall off. I was overwhelmed, stressed, and falling far behind. I had never failed an exam in my life but I failed all my Christmas exams, except Biology. I remember getting 18% in my Chemistry exam which was returned to me covered in red corrections. I didn’t even understand the corrections. ‘What on earth was I doing? Why was I here? And why was I feeling so utterly lost?’ Mostly I remember the feelings of shame.

I knew I needed to tell my parents. I was fearing it because they had already paid my admissions fee and in leaving college it would not be reimbursed. I was so embarrassed. I don’t remember the moment I told them I wanted to leave but I do remember the response. It was filled with so much love and compassion; so much understanding. They could sense I was on the wrong track too.

The day when I had to sign out of college my father accompanied me too. He walked me up to the admissions building, took me by they hand and told me that it would all be OK, that I’ll figure it out. Afterwards, when I had signed what felt like release papers, he gave me a hug. That was that. He didn’t say much but his actions meant the world to me. He was giving me his blessing for whatever next and in those moments I knew he trusted me. I had no idea what impact this would have on my career, I was terrified and yet I was utterly relieved. I knew I would never have to sit another Chemistry exam in my life and the thought of that shifted and lifted my very being.

My strongest sense was that I needed to travel, move away from Ireland and learn on the road. Yet I had no money. So a few days after signing out of UCD, in possibly the most embarrassing career move of my life, I took a job in McDonalds. The shame radar escalated. I mopped floors. I cleaned toilets. I flipped disgusting fish cakes. I burned myself on greasy oil. I was told I did not hustle enough. I was told I need to up-sell. I hated it, I hated it so much I would cry every day, but I was determined to get out of there quickly. Three months later I had enough money to buy myself a plane ticket. I had organised a volunteer role in Tonga, South Pacific, and so, at 17, my parents, in yet another act of selfless devotion, brought me to the airport and with tears in their eyes waved me off to literally the other side of the world. The older I get the more I realise what a remarkable gesture of trust (again) it was on their part- entrusting me to the world, and to myself.

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Tonga was a revelation to me. Here I found myself in the middle of the Pacific- literally and metaphorically. I spent nine months in Tonga and three in Western Samoa (which is a whole other series of blog posts), and while there a world of possibility awakened in me; indeed the world awoke in me. I became more interested in education, learning and international issues. I realised that lack of resources does not equate to lack of imagination, and that sometimes the best innovations happens on the edges, on the margins. Travel, I have found, enriches as it shakes. In the challenges I was tested and invited to see more of myself. My so called failure had indeed been a doorway.

394725156_9ae5b0779e_o I realised that had I remained in UCD I would have been utterly crushed. I got out just in time, thanks to the love and support of my parents, and to some toilet cleaning. So when I returned to Ireland I was ready to re-enter university with a deeper sense of my interests and of my callings. I entered Queen’s University in Belfast and after three years there got a scholarship to Oxford University, staying as far away from Chemistry and Physics as I could.

Walking through UCD yesterday I was reminded of that 17 year old- full of shame, full of fear, but knowing she needed to step off track. In doing so, the world had revealed itself, and by entering into the world I entered into myself. That failure was a gift. As I walked passed the admission building, a tear swelled in my eyes, remembering my late father’s words, ‘All will be OK. You’ll figure it out’. He was right- all is OK, and while in many ways I am still figuring it out, I have learned to trust that the failures are just learning in deep disguise. My only wish is that my Dad was around so I could thank him, for walking me to that door, and unbeknownst to me at the time, opening a much deeper, richer one for me. It is a door that keeps on opening, one failure at a time.

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Fearless Freedom

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I decided to do a little experiment with this post, and include a recording of me reading it. Some people love to read, others love to listen. So to all those listeners out there, this is for you. Click on the bar below to play. And for others, read on!

 

I write it in bold across my diary.

I say it in my head, out loud, repeatedly.

I let the words rest on my heart, to move me.

It was one of my yoga teachers, Cara, who planted them there last Saturday. ‘Fearless Freedom’, she said, ‘they are our words for the year’. Our practice together was an exploration of what it means to move from that place- with an intention to flow with grace and ease; to let go of what we know to discover what we don’t; to act through power with an unfaltering, unquestioning belief in our capacity for joy and our right to it from the inside out. Our practice was our offering. Our practice was prayer.

They are two beautiful words. Fearless. Freedom. Together they pack a powerful punch. I have been sifting through the words over the last few days and it feels like they are here to stay. As signposts; as maps.

I am making some big decisions at the moment, those big life altering ones, and fear has been visiting, frequently. It is the kind of fear that keeps me small; the fear that makes me doubt myself and the fear what swells procrastination to the point that it too becomes powerful.

So what to do?

‘Fearless Freedom’, I say again to myself. What would ‘Fearless Freedom’ look like right now? What would Fearless Freedom do?’ It is as if Fearless Freedom is personified, taking a life of its own. I learn that it is a warrior at heart. It knows its own answers. It locates the cracks of courage within, sounds them out so as to amplify them, one little step at a time. Courage comes when given space to rise.

The question alone is the key. ‘What would ‘Fearless Freedom’ do?’ By asking it, I am finding that the fear itself is diminished and possibility is allowed back in. You see, the questions we ask of ourselves make a difference. We ask bigger questions so that we get to expand into them. The bigger the question, the bigger the response. Then, with warrior words alight within our hearts, there is less room for procrastination, less room for the small, questioning self. Words matter. Questions matter.

So, when I ask myself, ‘What would Fearless Freedom do?’, my inner self talks to my outer self, telling me it looks something like this:

It means writing the email to the person you admire.

It means asking for help.

It means saying no when your gut tells you so.

It means saying yes, over and over, to the dream, the vision, the place of possibility.
It means go.

It means doing it, even if you don’t feel ready.

It means placing value in what you offer.

It means showing up, repeatedly, even when part of you wants to retract, calcify because right now it feels safer. Deep down, long term, you know it is not.

It means I believe in you.

It means let fear be your ally, keeping you moving, onwards.

It means I love you.

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Fearless Freedom.

Let’s wave that flag and let the questions fly.

May the responses carry us, unfold us, unfurl us, yield us to the warrior within. Let them define us, refine us.

Fearless Freedom.

Let the words enter us, to move us, to clear our way, to make us believe again. Let them be our offering. Let them be our anchor. Let them be our prayer.

I say ‘us’ here. For the ‘we’ matters too. Together we can pack a powerful punch. Courage comes when given space to rise, and it is easier as a pack. So I’ll take your hand, if you’ll take mine.

Fearless Freedom.

Amen.

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A Furry Kind of Vision

 

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Dreams can manifest themselves in multiplicitous ways. Sometimes they may be big ones, or sometimes small. But whenever one of your long held dreams comes true it can seem like a miraculous thing. I’ve had one particular dream for a very long time which happens to be furry.

Since as long as I can remember I have wanted a dog. In vision boards, visualisations, and when day dreaming of future times there has always been a furry friend at my side. I have visualised us walking on the beach, playing in the sands, exploring the wilds and cozying by a fire. I have imagined doggie companionship as I work at my desk or go about my daily tasks. However, the timing of me getting my own dog never seemed right and the commitment felt too huge. Could I really take care of another being? What would that mean for my travel and work plans? Will it restrict me? Taking on a dog is a huge commitment and until this point having one of my own seemed like a commitment I could not quite make.

But things can change quickly. Last year the little and lovely Finn came along- my housemate’s dog who I readily adopted as my own, loved as my own, and treated as my own. However, she was never quite my own and the longing in me to have my own little creature grew. So I knew it was time… I dreamed it up again and started searching. Last December the search resulted in Milly, and as I write this she is sitting by my side.

It is been a full on few months with a new little puppy- at times very challenging but mostly amazing. She is so very sweet and a lively little thing, full of love and huge personality. But she has also shifted things; my work pattern and the demands on my time, and has tested my patience at other times too!

It reminds me that our dreams and visions aren’t always pretty packages (although in fairness, Milly is pretty high on the cute scale!) . Dreams take effort, engagement, work and often patience. They can test us and challenge us and expose parts of ourselves which we have not necessarily explored before. A vision is there to expand us into our possibility.

I’m glad I listened, and I am glad I responded too. Because now I have a little Milly, and a little Milly has me. Each day I get to know her better, and fall in love a little bit more. And for the challenging parts- we’ll figure it out. Together, and each with a wag in our tails.

Woof.

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Living Seasonally: Spring Session

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It is really only now that I feel like my year is beginning. As the season starts to shift into longer and brighter days, I feel ready to get going. Ideas which were planted months ago are starting to take shape, and more seeds are being sown. Emerging from the winter, there is an energy of growth around; an energy that needs support, fostering and nurture.

I am soon to launch the Spring cycle of Living Seasonally, and I must say I’m excited- because it is exactly about that- nurturing ideas, fostering community and supporting people to find what is really  bringing them alive right now.

This will be the third time I have run this course, and by now I am getting a sense of what people really gain from it. They gain new perspective I see, and it provides a structure for thinking through ideas, reframing challenges and plotting a map for making their visions tangible. But what it also offers is a tight time frame- we look at the next season ahead, and ask what vision we have of ourselves for this chunk of time.

So often I find when we dream, we dream of a distant future. I am all for dreaming but sometimes we also get addicted to the dreaming, and there is a blockage from drawing the dream down into daily reality- right here, right how. Plus it can be hard to do it alone, so gathering with like minded people, and sharing perspectives and insights can not only accelerate the process but make it clearer, and more fun too.

The course is online, over 8 days. Shared through video, audio and written medium will be a host of visioning and planning tools on a private online learning platform. There is a ‘Living Seasonally’ Spring planner to go with the process and participants are given access to a private facebook group following the course, where we continue the connection and conversation.

 Interested?  You can read more and register for the course over here. 

We start of Feb 10th and it will run until Feb 17th.

Would love to have you on board!

Clare xx

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Being led through a major transition through Clare’s Seasonal Planer was a joy – artistic, beautiful, simple yet highly effective in its approach. It helped me to kick-start working on my new projects. I was looking forward to the vidoes every day, also for the community of likeminded women through the FB group, the sharing, the safe exploring of openness. For weeks the files were a great help to keep me on track and still are.

Clare in her wonderfully down-to-earth way is a coach you can trust to guide you with focused, gentle kindness. I am looking forward to the next segment.

Esther Moser, Autumn 2015

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Let go to let come

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Expectations aren’t always met. What we think we need can be rattled into what we actually need, and this weekend I was rattled.

There were five of us. A small but potent elixir, gathered around a fire, to convene with our business ideas, unravel a problem or challenge and see if our collective mind can shed some light on the issues.

The cottage was the essence of quaint, buried in the Cotswolds, complete with adjacent stream and interior design straight out of a country living magazine.  Outside horses trotted by and a flurry of springer spaniels had the look of pheasant in their eyes. This was hunting territory and I too had entered with my hunter mantle on. I was in search of direction, focus and answers- clear, direct and fast ones.

We were all women, each with our own businesses who wants the best for ourselves and those around us. There was a very healthy dose of entrepreneurialism in the mix, but what surprised me, a raw, rich and at times a radically cutting honesty also. It is so easy to hide our true selves from each other but somehow that was not available this weekend. Good thing though that giggles helped to ease the edges.

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We called it #ladybossretreat but in so many ways we weren’t retreating from anything. When we take some time out and when the questions are right and the conditions are safe, what we need to see gets amplified.

For all of us, our choice to run our own businesses is a choice too to plot our own path, but being the boss of ‘moi’ is not without its challenges. When working alone we don’t always see what we need to see and we need need others to help us look around the corners.

Over the weekend, Sas was driving one of those hybrid cars with a fancy rear camera which beebs when you are about to hit something or are close to a corner. The closer you are, the louder the beep. The metaphor strikes me as apt. Without the rear view, you can do the manoeuvring but it is tricker and the risk is higher. It can take more time and be more frustrating. But while the beep can be annoying at times, it can speed up the process. The things around you tend to say intact too. Which in a way is what coaching is like- someone who has ‘got your back’, offers an appropriate beep and guides you to a safe and faster path.

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We sat around the fire and visioned. We called in the future and questioned how were are in alignment now with that vision. Then the was the literal, ritualistic burning of some limiting beliefs and then the calling in of the things we need to take us there. Over the course of the weekend my own buttons were pressed on several occasions. I did not want to hear the beeps, especially the warning ones. But I know they were offered with love.

As I returned home, the hunter in me lies dormant. I did not hunt down anything in fact, because in the way the realisations were in me all along, my body knows and it just took some space and beeping to get me to listen. I come away like a spaniel though, with a different wag in my tail, a slighted altered course and an insight into myself which I had not expected just a few days ago. As for strategic plans and financial maps? Well.. they will have to evolve, but now on a slightly different track. And as for my dawning it was a deep sense that I need to let go in order to let come. We exhale to inhale. We ebb to flow again. It is all part of the cycle and the unfolding. It is all part of the real hunt.

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(Thank you to Sas, Tamsyn, Dee and Shauna who were my #ladyboss companions, fellow beepers and retreaters. Onwards, to us all… )

 


Creative Islanders: Michael Gallen

Creative Islander Michael Gallen

(Headshot Photo: Daire Hall)

The Creative Islanders is a new interview series showcasing some of Ireland’s brightest creative talent and enterprise. It is about people who are stepping into their dreams, purpose and possibilities and embracing their one wild life. 

The interviews give a rare ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse into creative practice, motivations and mindsets- shining a light on what makes people tick, and how, collectively, Ireland is alive with creative possibility.

Michael Gallen is next up in the Creative Islanders Series, the first of 2016. A composer, multi-instrumentalist, singer and maker, Michael exudes many layers of  brilliant talent.

I first came across him through the band, Ana Gog, for which is pianist and lead vocalist. I simply love the richness and lightness of their work, its breath and depth too.  Since then it has been wonderful to follow his other compositional work for film and theatre, equally rich and even more diverse. It seems like things are just about to take a leap for Michael, with a new large scale compositional work for the National Concert Hall in the pipeline and with 2016 seeing him being awarded the Trinity College Long Hub residency.

Plus, beyond his music, he is also a gent as his words below so evidence.

So over now to Michael Gallen, and when you are finished reading I highly recommend diving in his music and videos. You will find links below.

What keeps you in Ireland? 

The answer to this question keeps changing. I lived in France for a few years and I moved home primarily to be closer to family and to the band. Returning to that intimate space made some aspects of life and work more difficult, in that there’s less of a sense of freedom, but it also brought so much richness into my everyday life. When I got back to Dublin I was very taken with becoming a part of the arts scene here – but in truth I think that I’d probably get that feeling in any city if surrounded by people whom I admire and whose work I enjoy. I think that I feel closest to Ireland when out in the countryside, away from it all. I tend to do most of my composition work in quiet, isolated places, and I get a lovely sense of belonging when I’m out for a ramble and stumble across some ruin or sacred site – or even just a beautiful view.

What makes you tick? What motivates you?

Once I’ve managed to get started on some music (which is definitely the hard part), I think I’m only really motivated by the next note, bringing the idea to life and doing it justice. I tend not to be able to think of anything else. I love performing and it’s amazing to imagine how other people might feel when listening to my music – but everything grows from that itch when I feel like I have the beginning of something in my head and life won’t be right until I get it made.

What do you do just for the love of it? 

I’ve been doing a lot of driving over the past year, and one of my favourite things is to take random turn-offs when I see a sign for a holy well or wedge tomb or the like. They’re never as close to the main road as you hope and I invariably end up trudging through several fields or spending ages trying to turn the van when a road unexpectedly just ends. I love the spontaneity of it, not knowing what you’ll find, if anything. I also love swimming in the sea – this was my first year swimming all the way through winter.

Ana Gog promo shot

(Ana Gog)

What does the creative process teach you? 

That there are parts of myself to which my everyday, conscious thought doesn’t have access. I am always surprised by the way that music sometimes pours out of me, and I often look back on periods of creation in a bit of a daze and wonder where it all came from. I know that so many aspects of the piece are shaped by my decisions, but the substance of the work seems to come from a part of myself that is much wiser than the one that regularly botches things up – burns the toast, forgets the keys, etc!

Why do you do what you do?

I have no idea. I love music, and both listening and writing have been hugely important to me from a very young age but I never made a decision to become a musician – it’s always felt like something that was already decided. I couldn’t come up with reasons for it without sounding cheesy, and because I honestly never thought about it – there was never any question of why, it was just already what I was doing.

What were some of the key moments along your own journey that helped you to get where you are today?

Ah, so so many. I’ve been very lucky in terms of some of the people I have met quite randomly who have given me direction and support – beginning with the fact that I was born into a very musical family. I remember being given some minidisks of Arvo Part and John Adams’ music by my physics teacher at secondary school-  hard music to come across in pre-Youtube Monaghan – and that was definitely around a time when music became bound up with all my ideas about adulthood and work. Meeting the band was a massive moment of course;  they’ve been by far the biggest influence on my musical life. And then all of the times when things didn’t go according to plan, when I didn’t get certain opportunities or commissions that I was sure I would; those are always the times when I’ve had to figure out whether success is necessary to why I make music. Each time I’ve gotten back to finding joy in the work itself has been a key moment.

How do you get unstuck? Any secret tools? 

I go to the quietest place imaginable and wait!

Tardigrade Action Shot

(Photo from theatre production TARDIGARDE)

Where do you find inspiration? Any hidden gems?

In the past I’ve found inspiration in a multitude of places, – other people’s music, books, nature. For the most part it in happens in solitude – I think that it’s probably just that I’m more observant when I’m off on my own, or that I’m able to devote more of my awareness to the world around me. I’m a bit of an extremist in that regard; when I’m working I shut off from the internet completely for a few weeks and ideally go off to some hideaway where I can have space. With larger work, like the orchestral piece that I’m finishing at the moment, I find that it takes a few days of silence before my mind becomes capable of hearing what it needs to or slowing down to the pace of thought that the composition requires.

How do you get through tough times? What sustains you? 

I try my best not to let myself become stagnant. I don’t think that I can say anything meaningful about sad events such as the loss of love or loved ones, in that each of those situations has been so unique in itself, and I don’t think that any of my experience of dealing with them will make me any better prepared for the next one. I have a wonderful group of friends, and they’ve been the biggest support in times like those. But I know that in terms of depression or periods of low mood, the big thing for me is to try to keep moving, to stave off the feeling of total inertia. I have one of those overactive minds that can start to turn in on itself if not kept active, so if I can, I try to weed out the tiny bad habits that I know can eventually turn into more substantial thought-knots.

What key lessons have your learned about doing business or being a creative practitioner along the way? What have you learned from your ‘failures’? 

As I mentioned above, I think that the moments where things haven’t worked out as planned have probably been the times when I developed a proper sense of vocation. I love meeting older artists who have lived entire lives of those ups and downs, and who, despite the madness of choosing so unstable a career, have also fallen in love, had families, found a myriad of different roads to happiness and still maintained a healthy relationship with their creative work.

Do you have a morning routine? Or other creative habits or rituals? 

No, I’ve never been good at keeping routines, much as I’d love to. Every now and again I make out a timetable that has me up early and keeping regular hours, and then two nights later I’ll end up staying up til 5am working on something and it all falls apart! I make big maps of all of my pieces before starting to score them out – that’s about my only regular creative habit.

What books have inspired you? Or what websites do you turn to? 

I read quite a lot, so it’s hard to whittle them down – The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Roberto Bolanos Savage Detectives, The Lover by Marguerite Duras – I don’t know whether I’d say they inspired me but I remember the reading of each of those (and a few others) as  types of events, similar to things that happened to me in “real” life. I love poetry too – starting from an obsession with Patrick Kavanagh and leading everywhere from Sylvia Plath to Rilke to Shakespeare. Actually, Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet were quite inspirational in the way that they spoke about the creative life and the challenges that it might present. I’m not really a website person I’m afraid!

Michael Piano © Sharon Murphy

Photo: Sharon Murphy

What advice do you wish you had received as you were stepping onto your own creative path? 

Practical advice, about how best to balance a life where your work is unstructured and self-disciplined. Not to worry too much about the future, and to enjoy little successes for themselves and not as pit-stops on the way to bigger things.

And what advice would you give to your future self? 

Just the same – to enjoy all things, including work, for themselves. Not to let the stuff of life pass by without being fully experienced.

What is coming up next for you? 

At the moment I’m finishing a piece for the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and Cór na nÓg inspired by Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales called Wilde Stories – that’ll be recorded in April and broadcast on Lyric FM in May, with some live performances on the cards for later this year. Over the next few months I’ll be working on a new choral commission, an installation and two dance collaborations – it’ll be fun to work with a team again for a while! We’re also mixing Ana Gog’s second album at the moment, with a view to a release either late this year or early in 2017. So lots on the cards…

Thank you so much Michael for your contribution to this series.

Here are LINKS below: 

You can read more about Michael over on his website here

And listen to some of Ana Gog’s music over here

There is also a selection of Michael’s own compositions over on SoundCloud. Here is a sample, ‘Difference in Clouds’ from TARDIGRADE. 


And the year that was… 

 

Milly Dec 13, 2016-9

Hi Folks,

This post comes a little later than hoped as my website was hacked and it has taken a few days to get it back on its feet- which I am so grateful has been accomplished. Thanks to all those people who have offered advice and support.

So now over to this… (mailing list subscribers, you will have already received this in your inbox, with thanks)

There is the doing, and then there is the being.

2015 invited a lot of doing for so many of us. Looking back now it reminds me how much can be done in just a year. But before we swing into the new, it is powerful to pause. In review can come insight and if we are lucky it can inform our doing, and further still, our being too.
So tonight I pause.

For myself, I entered 2015 in a bit of a haze, lacking focus and feeling the depths of the doldrums. But something inside me urged me to sit with that shadow and question what really wanted to be born. I sat (sometimes reluctantly). I cried. I wrote (a lot). I sat some more and thankfully within a few weeks the doldrums shifted and the darkness stepped aside. There followed a blast of a year in which my ‘doing’ had a boost of inspiration. I launched two new websites, a new coaching practice and a new business. I set myself the task of learning to drive and passed my test by May (I am still pinching myself on this one and so utterly delighted that I have finally done it). I also faced a long held dream, and fear, of teaching online and have hosted two very rewarding online courses. I created a series of seasonal planners and set up my own Etsy shop.

 

Then there was my first trip to Morocco, some additional yoga teacher training with one of my role models, Elena Brower, photographing a wedding in Turkey and a wonderful trip exploring the South West coast of Ireland. The year was also punctuated with my first art exhibitions- a group show last January and my first little solo exhibition in the summer- and some artwork delightfully sold. There were public speaking engagements, seminars and workshops which I hosted, and curating the Creative Islanders series on my blog with a corresponding live event. My camera took me places too, with photoshoots and portrait sessions and a few beautiful weddings. Most surreally there was even a live painting experience at a festival. Beneath it all, like my bedrock, I taught my regular weekly yoga classes and continued exploring my own practice, which seemed to fuel it all.

 

So, with reflection, the doing of 2015 was vibrant and diverse bringing me into new territory and opening doors which twelve months ago were unknown to me. And of course, with the newness, comes fresh questions and fresh challenges- and it is these which I think are key.

In a way I measure growth and success not with the amount of things I have done but the quality of new questions I carry as a result. I am interested in the way in which my being navigates those questions and how, in asking them, I am carried to the things I need to learn the most. The doing then is the vehicle.

The ‘being’ of Clare found 2015 an intriguing one-  at times exhilarating and other times tough. Reviewing my own learning I can see that this year I was confronted with having to let go of variants of control, namely, loosening the hold on perfection and releasing the need to be right all the time. ‘Right’ in fact, seems to present itself as more nuanced now, while the need for perfection has been exposed for what it really is- the fear of failure, ridicule or being truly and deeply seen.
We are many layered beings and when our ‘doing’ is activated it can bring us closer to our deeper self, our vitality and the base layers which govern us. To ‘do’ our true work in the world or to show up as our true being is to be raw with vulnerability. But most brilliantly when our doing aligns with our true longing it brings us closer to our own edges and to the questions we most need to ask ourselves.

So, as we move into 2016, I am welcoming the new questions, particularly ones which probe to my being; the ones which challenge how I am showing up, how I am being of service, and how I am in relationship to others through it all.

I have many ‘doing’ plans for the coming year but beyond them all my intention is to ‘do’ with aliveness, warmth, generosity and authenticity, so that my being may be strengthen and and my doing take on a greater depth, reach and vibrancy.

Now,  as I give 2015 a nod farewell, I give thanks too to those people who have helped to shape these last months into what there were. To the people who supported me, challenged me, questioned me, inspired me- thank you. And I give thanks too for a little being who has come into my life as this year draws to a close- to little Milly, my new canine companion, my new friend, and my new little teacher. Thank you for choosing me, and I you.

And to each of you, dear readers, as you transition into 2016 may your doing be blessed by your true being, and may your questions lead you to insight.
Happy New Year.

Clare. (And Milly) x