Heather McKay of Head in the Clouds Ireland has just had a gorgeous revamp to her website in time for the Christmas season. If you don’t know Heather’s work then you’re going to want to check it out because her Christmas cards are some of the most joyful things you’ll ever stick in a post box. Your friends and family will be delighted to receive her colourful pictures on their door mat!
I’ve known Heather for (ahem!) a very long time now and a couple of years ago, we sat down and had a chat for the podcast. If you haven’t listened to it already, go and check it out.
Heather’s stunning and unique style of illustration really stands out and there’s an inherent joy and optimism in everything she does. I’m excited to see the next stage of the journey for Head in the Clouds.
Where are your shoulders right now?
Are they relaxed, your neck feeling good, your arms loose?
What happens when I say the ‘C’ word?
Yeah, you heard me, I mean Christmas. CHRISTMAS!!!! CHRRIIIIISSSSTTTTMAAAAS!!!
Where are your shoulders now?
Is there tension in your upper body, maybe your jaw is tight, your tongue stuck to the roof of your mouth?
Are your shoulders sitting up around your ears?
Is your breath caught high up in your chest and does your throat feel constricted?
Maybe this season of the year has you all chilled out and maybe you are organised and sorted with gifts and decorations ready to hand out to all and sundry. Maybe you are the illusive (smug) Christmas unicorn of mythical legend!
Here’s the thing; I am supposed to love Christmas because I love the whole Jesus story. This is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year when I remember how spectacularly awesome is the idea of the Divine coming near and being in the muck and mess of the human story.
But like everyone else, I so easily get snowballed into the commercial blizzard that happens at this time of year and it totally stresses me out. Every year, I say I want to do Christmas differently, I want to focus on the real essence of the story and every year get to the 25th of December feeling utterly shattered and demoralised.
So I have asked myself,
How do you want to feel this Christmas?
How do you want to feel this Christmas?
I want to feel joyful.
I want to feel present.
I want to feel abundant.
I want to feel peace.
If you’d like to join me, I’d like to invite you to come with me via Instagram and FB over the coming weeks as we intentionally create the season we want to experience. I’m going to be blogging and doing live videos over the coming weeks sharing my intentional attempt to Slow. The. Heck. Down. and realign my lived experience of this sacred time with my deep love of the Divine and the beautiful story of Immanuel/God with us. Even if you have no religious leanings or feelings about this, or your religious background or inclination is different, I invite you to join me and take a step out of the madness to discover what #Christmasfeels like for you.
I’m done with the commercial mess of this year, however I do want to support local business for whom this time of the year is their most important. With that in mind, I’m compiling a list of awesome small businesses that you might not know about and who you may wish to consider if you are buying gifts this season. To get the first dibs on this list, subscribe to my newsletter by the end of next week when I’ll be releasing it for #GreenFriday…..
Yes you read that right…. it’s going to be a #GreenFriday this year! Sign up to learn more.
The nights are surely drawing in now. Once that clock goes back, you can really feel we’re heading into the dark. My children are on the half term holidays as I write and are excited about Halloween sweeties and dressing up.
I’m soaking the currants, raisins and sultanas in tea overnight so that we can make our ‘breac’, the traditional fruit cake for this time of year. We’ll hide a ring, a coin and a piece of cloth inside and who ever gets the cloth will be provided for, whoever gets the ring will find love and whoever gets the coin will be rich. Or so the story goes.
We focus on Samhain in our house, more than Halloween and on the 1st of November, we’ll have a feast and party games and share stories of loved ones who have left this side of the story for their adventure on the other side. It’s the feast of All Saints, and in the Celtic tradition it’s a ‘thin’ time. It’s seen as a time when the dear departed visit for a time in the land of the living.
I’ve hustled my children to help clean and tidy as I’ve told them that if my Mum’s spirit stops by I don’t want her to see a messy house! It’s been eleven years since she died from cancer and she never knew my children, never saw me own my own place. I’d like to think of her walking in and nodding in approval, marvelling at my children and proud of how far I’ve come, though I’ve no doubt she’d take issue with my yoga pants and hiking boots; ‘you’ve so many nice things to wear!’
I have been thinking of my Mum recently, dreaming of her quite a bit of late. She’s always pretty much the same as she was in life; practical, down to earth, a Mrs Fix-it if ever there was one. I think of all the people she supported and loved over the years, the wise insights that came from her deep devotion to her spiritual path. I think of her faith, right to the end, her faith in transformation and transfiguration, her hope that all is never lost.
As I embark on this journey as a Desire Map Facilitator, I hope I bring with me some of the wisdom she passed on to me. I like to think I’m continuing her work, forging onward on the journey. Though the path might diverge in many ways from hers and will take in different scenery, the destination anyway will be the same; Love.
Wishing you and yours a very blessed Samhain peace as you go into dark of winter and rest to restore you for Spring.
There’s still time to sign up for my free 6 day online course called Free & Clear which starts on the 5th of November at 11am GMT. You can find out more and sign up here.
About this time last year, an artist friend from Dublin posted a photograph of a gathering she was at with a bunch of creative women. They were in an orchard, wrapped in scarves and blankets. They were smiling, laughing, connecting. And they were in Northern Ireland!
I did a bit of digging and found out that Assembly was the brainchild of one Mel Wiggins and the more I read about this amazing woman, the more I wanted to be her friend. So, and I don’t know to this day how I had the balls, but I emailed her and said ‘I think we should be friends!’ And thankfully she didn’t think I was a loo-laa.
Mel has a passion for women, justice and sustainability and she lives out her passion in such a beautiful way, making stunning spaces for others to shine along with her.
I’m just finishing up her Movements online group coaching course and it has been transformative for me. She is a fierce and gentle facilitator who brings out the best in people.
She is the founder of Freedom Acts, a charity that raises awareness around issues of human trafficking in Northern Ireland. Freedom Acts has just teamed up with Aerende, the life-improving homewares store to make these stunning linen pouches. Every part of the chain of making aims to support and help women thrive through working with different organisations in each area.
Go make a cup of tea and sit down with us as we chat women, creativity, the Enneagram (?! look it up!), Assembly and Movements. It’s a terrific chat and I’m delighted to share it with you.
Head to iTunes to subscribe to the podcast or you can also listen in Soundcloud. Or click play right here.
To find out more about Assembly community and the wonderful gatherings Mel hosts go here.
Click on Freedom Acts for more information on what they’re doing in Northern Ireland.
To buy a stunning ethically made linen pouch bag that supports women in difficult circumstances, check out Aerende.
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.
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.
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.
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;
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.’
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.