Free and Clear

I used to hate Hallowe’en.

The scary masks, the fake blood, the over-sugared children – it really is the stuff of nightmares. I was brought up in a home that didn’t celebrate Hallowe’en. We were taught that it was linked to the occult and therefore was evil. Ghouls, ghosts, witches, spells and scary stories were banned in my house. It wasn’t even the consumer, E number fest that it is today when I was growing up and let’s be honest, if anything is evil it’s the amount of sugar in haled by small kids in one evening.

Then in October 2016, I went to the Cliffs of Moher Retreat centre where I attended a Sovereign Woman Samhain retreat with yoga teacher and life coach Mari Kennedy. I was at the beginning of deep shift in consciousness and was beginning to emerge from the spiritual box I’d built for myself.

Mari incorporated yoga practice, Sacred Feminine teaching and the Celtic Calendar to explore issues of emotional and spiritual growth in women. To say I was out of my comfort zone would be an understatement. I was deeply invested in a patriarchal religious system while, at the same time, outgrowing the structures that surrounded me. I craved a connection with a more feminine spiritual authority but was stuck in the ‘good girl’ role of not wanting to rock the boat.

There was lots about that weekend that was transformative but the thing that resonated most strongly and which I’ve carried with me since is the profound importance of seasons and how the Celtic Calendar can be helpful to understand the ebb and flow of life.

Mari used Dolores Whelan’s excellent book Ever Ancient, Ever New as her textbook. She taught that the Celts charted the year by four seasons and were goverened by the lunar cycles. The four seasons are Samhain (winter), Imbolc (spring), Bealtaine (summer) and Lughnasa (autumn). Each season corresponds can correspond to a stage in life, a stage in a creative process and has connection with either lunar/feminine or solar/masculine energy. (I’d highly recommend getting Dolores’ book if you’re interested in further reading as it’s so accessible and engaging.)

Samhain (which incidentally is the Irish word for November) is the beginning of the Celtic year. In ancient Celtic culture, the three day Samhain festival was a pause for breath between the old year and the new, a time when people could relax after all the work of the harvest and preparation for the winter. It was a ‘time out of time’ when the veils between the seen and unseen were thought to be particularly thin, when ancestors were remembered and honoured. This is where we get the name All Hallow’s Eve, because 1st of November is still the day when we honour the souls (hallows) of those gone before. It was a time when normal societal rules were relaxed and tricks and pranks played on neighbours and friends.

It initiated the time of letting go, and allowing the body, soul and the land to rest in the darkness before the sun began it’s strengthening in the spring.

Understanding the true origins of this weird festival we call Hallowe’en, helped me reclaim it for myself and I now embrace the energy of fun and laughter, while at the same time using the time to reflect on what I need to let go in my life in order to continue to grow. It’s allowed me to keep a better physical rhythm, understanding that my body needs more rest during the cold months, more nourishing warm food and snuggles by the fire. More importantly, this is the time for the gaimos or feminine energy, the archetype of the crone in all her old age and wisdom.

It’s therefore the perfect time to take stock and reflect on all that the previous year has brought and start to gently feel out what the next will bring once energy is renewed ready for the spring. And with that in mind, I’ve decided to offer my first introduction to Desire Mapping as a licensed facilitator. (Whoop whoop!)

Starting on the 5th of November, I’m offering FREE & CLEAR – a prequel program to Danielle LaPorte’s highly praised and well-loved Desire Mapping process for soulful goal-setting. This is guided introspection to look at where you’re at in your life, what’s in your heart of hearts, what’s rubbing your spirit the wrong way, and how you define “free”—before you create your great plans. With that kind of clarity, manifestation becomes a super- charged process. And you can really put your Soul into your goals.

FREE & CLEAR incorporates six daily live videos and worksheets, private Facebook group and the chance to win a gorgeous 2019 Weekly Desire Map Planner (valued at £40).

The best news is that it won’t cost you a penny. This is a free offering, a taster if you will, to get you thinking about where you are so that you can begin to think about where you want to be.

The week of the 5th of November is also the week of the new moon, the official start of the Samhain season, so it’s a perfect opportunity to let your hair down, take some time out and snuggle into your soul’s embrace.

Sign up now for the course and let’s get Free and Clear together.

Aspire

Ever since I saw Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, I’ve wanted to be an actress. I can’t remember what age I was but it left a strong impression and a kind of ‘aha’ moment, that this was what I was going to be when I grew up.

In the film, Streep plays the forlorn and melancholic red haired beauty in 19th century England, who becomes fixated on a man (played by the tortured and stunning Jeremy Irons) who tries to help her and who, despite her reputation as a ‘fallen’ woman who had had an affair with a French soldier, falls in love with her. But she also plays the American actress making the film of the story who has an affair with her co-star. It was the fact that Streep plays two characters in the same film and with two different accents that was the light bulb moment. Doing voices, using my imagination to create characters was what I did very naturally already. There was a use for this gift, I reasoned, in acting.

And so, I aspired to become the ‘Irish Meryl Streep’.

I didn’t do too badly for a while. I got roles that enabled me to play characters with different accents, I got to play characters with complex stories. I’ve had a small measure of success as an actress. I got to work with Jeremy Irons’ wife Sinead Cusack and have his son Sam do my headshots, so I guess I’m a couple of degrees away from La Grande Dame du Cinema but I’m a far cry from achieving my goal.

If anyone deserves the title of ‘Irish Meryl Streep’, it’s the stunning actress Saoirse Ronan who I love to watch almost as much as the great actress herself.

The dictionary definition of the verb, ‘to aspire’ is

To direct one’s hopes or ambitions towards achieving something.

And it comes from the French word aspirer meaning to breathe.

Our hopes and ambitions can become the air we breathe. When we have a goal to strive for, it can become all-consuming. There’s not a thing wrong with ambition, indeed I’d like to see more women speak about their dreams, visions and ambitions but it’s really important that we direct our energies toward something that is going to be ultimately for our good and the good of those around us.

If I’d been determined to have ‘becoming the Irish Meryl Streep’ as the end goal of my life, if that had been my life-breath, then I think I’d be a fairly embittered, jealous and dissatisfied person right now. And, if I’m truly honest, I have wasted time and energy over the years coveting other people’s success and bemoaning my perceived lack of it.

What was engaging about seeing Meryl Streep in that film all those years ago was seeing someone thrive and excel at what they did. Seeing her switch from playing the frail and romantic red haired English woman to the autonomous, modern American actress. Here was a woman who was really good at what she did, and getting to do it as a job and also getting to reflect on the role, the industry, the role of women within the very story of the film itself. Her talent was recognised, she was seen.

The feeling of getting to do something you’re good at, getting to do work that you love, of being  seen, that’s what I really wanted. And there’s a really important differentiation to make at this point; there’s nothing wrong with aspiring to being recognised for your gifts and talents. It’s only when that core desired feeling isn’t met that the ego will turn to attention seeking and we make choices that are not in our soul’s best interest.

If all I wanted was to become the ‘Irish Meryl Streep’, I might have made choices that diminished my spirit. In knowing that what I really aspire to is to use my gifts, get to do what I’m good at and be seen, then I can direct my energy on working on my craft, becoming someone people enjoy working with, being professional in every aspect of career. But I can also derive satisfaction from writing a blog post and having a good friend write and say ‘I liked that, well done.’ I can get the same feeling when I make a meal that results in my children’s empty plates. I don’t need to be a famous, award winning actress to feel like a success. I don’t need that to feel enough.

When I’m on a stage, or a set, I feel more at home in myself than anywhere else. I love it! I love the energy that zings between me and the audience. I love the electricity that ripples between the other actors and I when we are being our very best. I aspire to being the best I can when I’m given the opportunity to play a character. But I don’t need to rely on it to feel whole. My desire can be fulfilled in other ways that allow my spirit to soar and my soul to breathe.

And for that I’m very grateful.

Longing

It’s been a week of a nasty viral bug that has knocked my energy for six and sent me crawling back to bed and sleeping the sleep of the dead. It’s only to be expected; the change of seasons, children back at school bringing home all manner of snot and phlegm encrusted germs.

Today is a teacher training day and so the children have a day off and I have promised them all a ‘jammy day’ at home. That includes me. We will get out to walk the dog early, then bring duvets down to the sitting room and stick movies on for the rest of the day. I’ll make soup, popcorn, maybe bake some wheaten bread. We’ll light the fire. We won’t budge for the day. Bliss.

So when it comes to desire I’m not that aflame with it this week. Desire speaks to me of fire, passion, something active.  I’m low energy, sore with headaches and stuffed sinuses. This week I thought I’d focus on ‘Longing’.

Longing speaks to me of an ache, a wound that has not fully healed. Longing speaks to me of missed opportunities, regrettable choices, lost chances that all build to leave us with a sense of a life not lived or half-lived. Longing speaks to me of time stretched thin, troubling dreams that hang on through the daylight hours, reaching back for what might have been and unable to see beyond a fog of melancholia.

Living in a state of longing is living in a state of unmet need and it can make us collapse in on ourselves. Like I said last week, when we don’t acknowledge our feelings, our sense of longing or desire, then we cut off a vast store of energy for change in our lives. Very often we don’t even know what we’re longing for. Just something, different to what we’re experiencing, somewhere, other than where we are. But if aren’t clear on what we’re aching for, then how can we take steps to move in the direction of our soul’s longing.

Here’s how I long to feel; strong, abundant, wild and free.

It has taken me a long time and good deal of patience to figure this out. I came across The Desire Map a couple of years ago when I was in the aftermath of a breakdown.  I had attempted to anaesthetise myself with activity, with lists of ‘to-do’ and even longer lists of ‘to-be’ and the heavy feeling in my chest was all I wanted rid of. I didn’t know how I wanted to feel, but I longed to stop feeling shit. It was utterly exhausting to be in a constant state of ‘not enough’, lack, scarcity, on a hamster wheel running from the truth of my own emptiness. I ached. I ached to the soul. The body can only take so much. My body broke down.

I was reading back over a journal from a year and half ago when I was six months into rebuilding following my breakdown. I was gifted with the opportunity to spend some time with friends in California to write and rest for a week amongst the redwoods. The journal entries from that time are full of longing; I was a mess of achey need. I couldn’t however identify the path through the fog.

On my return home, I bought the digital version of The Desire Map. I had read Danielle LaPorte’s White Hot Truth and found her no-nonsense, grounded approach to wellness and personal development refreshing. I loved that she poked fun at her own search for meaning and the various permutations of spirituality she had tried on for size. I loved that she called Jesus her ‘homeboy’.

I’m not going to lie and say I did the Desire Map process and it changed my life overnight, no. But it started a path that helped me understand why, when I seemed to have everything I still felt empty. It helped me begin to see that I was often chasing goals that were not the ones that truest to me and why my ambition felt so in conflict with my spiritual life.

I was going for external results, things that ‘looked’ like success but that felt like lack. I needed to turn it inside out.

Over the past year, I’ve changed my focus with the help of The Desire Map. I’m far more in alignment with my True Self, my Spirit. I’ve been able to let go of things I was clinging to and in the space has entered so much more than I could have hoped or dreamed.

I’m still very much at the start of the journey, but I’m excited about where it’s taking me. And I’m excited that I get to share the process with others now. The ache of longing has been replaced with a spark of joy, it’s been a healing process. I am profoundly grateful.

Desire

It’s a word that makes me instantly uncomfortable. 

Perhaps it’s because of my evangelical Christian upbringing. Perhaps it’s just my Irish DNA. Perhaps it’s the reinforced message from the patriarchy that to be a woman and to desire is a bad thing. 

When I first came across Danielle LaPorte and The Desire Map, all my alarm bells rang. What was this woo woo shit that she was spouting? Feelings? Desires? Goals with soul?

Listening to her soothing Canadian drawl on podcasts was very alluring though and I was enamoured with her down to earth approach to ‘wellness’ and ‘light work’ (those phrases though! Ick!) But feelings? Desire?

No, no, no Miss LaPorte, we Irish women don’t have feelings. We learn from a very young age that you cannot do anything substantial if you base it on a woolly thing like feelings.

There are rules. There are morals. There are lines in which you firmly stay put. Feelings muddy the water. Feelings are messy things that spill over and affect other people if you’re not careful. If you have a lot of feelings, you’d better find something productive to do so that you can avoid them or at the very least keep them contained.

Here’s the thing. Feelings are messy but as anyone who has dealt with depression or addiction knows, feelings that aren’t felt and carefully dealt with can become toxic, even carcinogenic.

As women, particularly if you have been brought up in the Christian church, we’ve been told to sublimate our feelings, to sacrifice them on the Altar of Everyone Else. I think this is why as Irish women, we have a very special, very powerful super power;

Passive Aggression.

There’s an old joke that I think is funny but painful at the same time.

How many Irish mothers does it take to change a lightbulb?

‘Ah sure, don’t you be worrying about me, off you go and have fun,

I’ll just sit here in the dark.’

 (c) Anne Taintor

Feelings that aren’t felt and expressed in a healthy way become resentments. Feelings that are ignored and denied become anger.  Feelings are messy but as anyone who has dealt with depression or addiction knows, feelings that aren’t felt and carefully dealt with can become toxic, even carcinogenic.

Behind every desire is a feeling and feelings will lead you to your soul.’

Danielle LaPorte

But what if you could choose how you wanted to feel and in choosing how you wanted to feel, you were able to make choices in your life that lead to deeper sense of fulfillment.

This is where The Desire Map comes in and I’m looking forward to sharing more about it with you in the coming weeks.

If you’d like to hear more, then why not go here to get information on when I’m starting workshops delivered straight to your inbox.

I’m back…with a woof!

Hi there,

I know, it’s been a while. I’m not even going to go into the whole ins and outs and the whys and wherefores of why I’ve not been blogging or vlogging or podcasting. Suffice to say, life.

I wrote the last post ‘How to survive the summer’ and felt really pleased with myself for how I was going to nail creativity and parenting and be able to share my amazing success come September.

Then we added a puppy into the mix…

Everyone told me that having a puppy would be like having a new born baby and I did that scoffing sound (pshaw!!) you make when you’ve already had 3 babies and how could a dog be anything like that. I mean, I won’t be breast feeding for goodness sake!

Yes well, they were wrong. It wasn’t like having a new born baby in the house.

It was worse.

Because a new born baby doesn’t nip and chew and wee all over the floor and run away from you when you know she’s got a piece of lego in her mouth and she’s determined not to let you have it.

Summer 2018 will be forever remembered as the summer we didn’t go anywhere because we couldn’t leave the puppy. It was the summer that the ‘real’ children found the cuteness wonderful until her tiny, innocent, playful puppy teeth grabbed their flesh. It was the summer when all my plans for getting them out of the house and in to nature on lovely walks with the dog were dashed and they spent more time on screens than ever before. Gah!

In fairness, the puppy is fab. She’s a little clever clogs and she’s settled in really well. Yes, it took a lot of adjustment. Yes, some plans had to be shelved but all in all, it was the best idea to get her when we were all at home to mind her and teach her.

We found her through Sophie’s Dog Foster Rescue who don’t have a centre as such but rather a network of foster carers who look after the dogs until their forever home can be found. Our wee pup was found in a hedge with her young mum and 3 siblings when she was two weeks old. A fabulous woman in Antrim took the whole family in and cared for them until the pups were big enough to find homes. We met all four of the litter and our little miss was a firm favourite. We’re delighted that every one of the family have found loving homes. A true happy ever after.

Sure, this all sounds like ‘my dog ate my homework’ but hey, it’s true.

And now we are back into the autumn term with a bang and I have lots of fabulous things to share and one big announcement which subscribers of my newsletter will hear first – so if you want to get ahead of the crowd, sign up!

The children are back at school which means I’ve more time on my hands than I’ve had in nearly 8 years!

I’ve sooo much to share. Stay tuned!

 

Shout Out Friday – Tara Doolan

 

 

When Cerstin Mudiwa emailed to say she was working on a project with an up and coming female director I wanted to know more. Today I got to chat with Tara Doolan who, with her partner Pius McGrath has created Honest Arts, where together they create theatre (writing, directing, designing) that deals with the issues we’re all facing today.

Their latest collaboration is Punt, which runs at The New Theatre in Dublin from 2nd of July for two weeks.

Listen in to our chat and be sure to check out the show if you’re in Dublin over the summer. It’s gathering momentum and is sure to be a good night out.

Honest Arts and The New Theatre present

PUNT

A story of gambling culture and the adventures involved with a life investing in chance

Written and Performed by Pius McGrath

Written and Directed by Tara Doolan

Composed by Aine Doolan

Video content creation by Mario Beck

The New Theatre

43 Essex Street

Temple Bar

Dublin 2

July 2nd – 14th @7.30pm

Opens July 3rd, Preview July 2nd

Tickets EUR 16/13 (conc.)

Booking www.thenewtheatre.com  or 01-6703361

Please note this show is suitable for audiences 14+

 

Shout Out Friday – Go BIG

There was lots to talk about in today’s Shout Out Friday.

Angela Josephine’s new album Daylight went LIVE this morning. Check out her dawn chorus live on Facebook!

You can listen to Angela and I chat about the album on the Strut and Bellow podcast.

Karen Hickey’s solo exhibition Clothed launches tonight at the Signal Arts Centre in Bray, Co. Wicklow, my home town. Definitely worth checking out.

Isabelle Gaborit from Wildfire & Wax is exhibiting as part of As Na Studioeanna at Secret Garden Gallery in Kinvara, Galway.

Lorna Watkins’ exhibition heartfelt will be on later in June at the Hyde Bridge Gallery in Sligo. More details nearer the time but gosh, I love her paintings.

And Mel Wiggins is doing some mighty work with Assembly Gatherings – definitely worth checking her out if you love some soulful, soothing women centred creative community. I feel so excited to be part of her membership circle. We’re all going to do some exciting things together, I can just feel it.

Apologies to my newsletter subscribers, April’s newsletter and ebook are a bit delayed but both will be in your inboxes soon.

It’s a bank holiday weekend here in Northern Ireland so I’m looking forward to chilling with family. Hope you have a great one too.

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The why.

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Never underestimate the power of women, friends.

At the beginning of this year, I couldn’t have imagined that in a mere 4 months I’d have a sell out show on my hands and a demand for it that right now feels daunting considering the size of the cast. But each of the women in the photo above, as well as our director Jo Egan, (not to mention our male assistant director Colm Gorman and two crew members David Willis and Stephen McVicker) have given their time and energy without compensation for this play. The box office receipts for Friday’s show have yet to come in and hopefully there’ll be a small amount for each of us but it’s nothing near what they all should be paid for the work they’ve done.

Friday night was very special. We arrived at the Black Box in the afternoon and walked through some of the play to get adjusted to the more limited performing area. There was no time for a full dress nor technical rehearsal. We hadn’t all been together in the same room since the show in February. We’d managed ad hoc rehearsals working around people’s full time work, child care and family commitments.

At one point, the twelve of us crammed in the tiny dressing room back stage, moments before we started the show, someone said what we were all thinking,

‘Why do we put ourselves through this?’

There was an outburst of nervous laughter, an admission of nausea, a crampy tummy, an irrepressible need to pee and at least one of us asked quietly ‘Do you actually think I can act?’ Someone’s babysitter was not following the plan at home, someone else’s elder child had been left in charge, someone had had to leave work early, someone else had exams looming. We all had other places we could have been that would not have needed us to go out in front of over 100 people and perform a show about vaginas, that would not have needed us to remember lines, overcome fear, expose ourselves to criticism, risk making a mistake and looking foolish.

But we lined up anyway, and on the word from the stage manager, we marched on stage and began;

TVM APRIL‘I bet you’re worried. 

We were worried.

We were worried about vaginas….’

It turned out to be a great show. The bar was raised high and every actress gave her all. There was laughter and tears and sounds of agreement and affirmation. It was with great relief that we bowed to a standing ovation from the audience who had been engaged and respectful throughout. It was good to leave the stage on a high.

At the interval, before we showed excerpts from Eve Ensler’s documentary film and hosted a post show discussion, a woman came up to me and introduced herself. Her name was Karin and she was my contact from Woman’s Aid, to whom we had donated the proceeds of the last show. This was her first time seeing the show and she loved it.

I want you to know,’ she said ‘that all of the money you raised from the show in February went towards creating Northern Ireland’s first rape crisis helpline.’

There it was. The why.

I was approached by a young guy in his twenties who seemed visibly moved. He talked about his mum and how she had instilled in him a respect for women that he was grateful for but that the show had really touched him and made him realise how important this conversation was for men as well as for women. He said he was going through a transition time in his life and had recently moved back to Belfast. He was questioning the model of masculinity he had grown up with and seeing some of its toxicity.

There it was again. The why.

In the post show discussion, a woman rose her hand to share that having been the victim of a violent attack in the past, she had ‘shut up shop’ but that the show had made her think that perhaps it was time for a ‘refurbishment’.

The why.

In the light of recent swinging cuts to arts organisations here in Northern Ireland, and a patronising attitude towards practitioners where we’re accused of being bad at business and incapable of managing our resources, Friday night proved to me how vital and valuable a show like ours can be.

Right in the heart of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, on a Friday night, we packed out a top venue and talked about issues central to women’s experiences; menstruation, birth, body shaming, the male gaze, sexuality, violence and rape. At one point two audience members left after collapsing in giggles during the monologue inspired by the rape of women as a weapon of war during the Balkan conflict in the 90s. We later discovered that each of them had been victims of rape and that the piece in question had triggered a nervous reaction that manifested as laughter, a very common reaction to trauma.

With the #metoo movement highlighting just how prevalent sexual assault is and with numerous women all over the world rising to say enough, there was never a more important time to talk about these things in the public arena. We are proud to be taking the conversation out of the kitchens and behind the closed doors and into the heart of public discourse. Come with us as we continue our journey.

The Vagina Monologues will be returning to the Lyric Theatre in Belfast for two nights on the 1st and 2nd of June. Tickets will soon be available from the Lyric box office. Spread the word and sign up for the email to keep updated on news about the show.

 

 

 

 

 

Shout Out Friday – Angela Josephine

angelajosephine

I’m so thrilled to be able to share with you this wonderful recording artist who I had the pleasure of talking to back in October of last year. Her new album Daylight – Stone, Bright, Solid Vol 2 is out on May 4th and her latest single, Got to Believe, which she sings on the podcast, releases today. You can hear the single here. And pre-order the entire album here.

Based in North Michigan, Angela is a folk musician and songwriting who began her career in 2002 and has since recorded three albums. She has been compared to “a modern, female Nick Drake” (David Faulkner, CRD), while Northern Express reviewer Kristi Kates cites “a more jaded Sarah McLachlan.” She’s going to be performing next month here in Belfast as part of Pete Rollins’ WAKE Festival so I’ll be sure to keep you informed of details nearer the time.

Angela’s album Daylight is at once a folk-rock opera and personal exploration. A project spanning seven years, from its demo inception in a pole barn in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (2011) to a fully produced album recorded in Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan (producer Chris Bathgate) (2018), Daylight delves into themes of darkness and light .  The cinematic prelude “This Light” invites one into an expansive landscape that unfold with unexpected beauty and lush discovery, culminating in the haunting finale “Face to the Wind”.

Check out the video for “This Light” here. For more information on Angela and her tour dates.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud and sign up for the newsletter to be the first to hear about new events and opportunities. 

angelaandmepodcast2

Shout Out Friday – Vicky Blades

Here’s the video of my Shout Out Friday chat with Vicky Blades. Details of the event she mentions, Investing in me, in Belfast next month are below.

 

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Investing in Me – An insightful and inspiring day of mindfulness, coaching and learning to support good mental well-being for those involved in the Arts in NI.
We will be hosting a variety of workshops, classes and talks on the subject of Resilience and Self-Care. Come along and learn practical tips on how to build self care practices in to your life, including yoga, mindfulness, EFT and coaching. 

12 April at 10:00–16:00

Accidental Theatre   12-13 Shaftesbury Square, BT2 7DB Belfast

Other helpful links:

Aware NI

Inspire Well Being

Theatre NI

Lifeline  Dial 0808 808 8000 All of the people who take calls from this number are trained counsellors and there is free crisis counselling for anyone who has the need.

Samaritans – you can call 116123 from anywhere in the UK or Ireland for free and you’ll get an compassionate voice on the other end.

But don’t forget if you or anyone you know is in immediate danger from self harm, or in need of urgent medical attention, please call the emergency services on 999.