Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Check out my new piece in Rhythm of The Home

The Spring issue of Rhythm of the Home is out today - and I have a piece in it ...

Labyrinths of sand – a walking meditation

Circling inwards, eyes down, the sweeping lines of the labyrinth guide me. Though my mind wants to make sense of it, and plan ahead, I quieten it down. All I need is trust: follow the pattern, go with the flow.

My feet follow the spiral path which will lead me to the center and out again. I breathe deep: inspired.

The waves dance in and out on the beach beside me, whispering their song as they lap on the shore. The lines of the labyrinth ruffle the smooth beige sand, cool and damp beneath my feet. I rest in the center. Looking out on the vast ocean, wave upon wave into infinity – I enjoy the sense of my own smallness. The gentle breeze caresses my cheeks; the warmth of the sun soaks through my skin. I drink in the sounds of the seagulls wheeling overhead and my children filling buckets with sand, somewhere far off a dog is barking. But here I am, quietly centered in the midst of the busy world. I feel myself fully rooted in the present moment, connected to the flow of life. For the first time all day my thoughts slow down to near stillness, I can feel myself breathing deep into my belly. I am here.... Read more...

I wrote this piece about 9 months ago for the Rhythm of the Home book, which will sadly no longer be happening. So I thought, once I had gotten that news, that it still needed to appear in Rhythm of the Home magazine. Oh, and whilst we're talking Rhythm of the Home - they always run a giveaway when they launch a new issue - to be in with a chance to win an e-copy of my most recent book, Moods of Motherhood, be sure to enter.

The labyrinth has been getting stronger and stronger for me. It has become the central motif in my third book,  The Rainbow Way to describe the creative path. And then it has just touched me again from Sue Monk Kidd's wonderful, Dance of the Dissident Daughter, which I read this week and has quickly become one of my all time favourite books, where she uses it as a symbol of a woman's journey - I adore her interpretation of the Ariadne myth.

Does the labyrinth call to you - do you find yourself drawn to  walk them, draw them, do you like to make them from clay or sand? Or are they a new discovery to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Virtual Mother Blessing

This post is one of a series of posts from the Irish Parenting Bloggers to welcome two baby girls to two of our Irish Blogger Mamas,  Lisa and Aine, and is also dedicated to two other mamas who are close to my heart and due any day now, Lydia and Erin. 

We live in a baby-centric world which is delighted to pat your belly and coo over your baby. 

We offer baby showers. To shower the glowing mama-to-be with gifts of nappy cakes and baby bouncers, vests and toys. But somewhere, in the midst of it all, something rather important is often lost....

That's right. YOU. Dearest mama.

We ask how's the baby? What's the baby up to? When are you due?

But not the most important question of all - how are you?

How are you mamas? In the complexity of it all, can you share your longing, your worries, your hopes, your boredom, your excitement, your multiple discomforts, the love which pierces your heart and makes it feel it might explode,  your bone shattering exhaustion, your need to be held and cared for, and your tigress desire to be left alone...

In our community of women, we offer something different to the traditional baby shower: a mother blessing. Something which is dedicated to caring for you. Nourishing you. Holding you. Loving you. Listening to you. 

A sacred circle surrounding you. Sharing our wisdom. Hearing your fears. Massaging your hands, soaking your feet, painting henna on your belly, brushing your hair, lighting a candle each for you wishing you blessings on your birth and new child. Sometimes we string a necklace with wishes or birth stories, we burn fears on the fire, other times we make a belly cast and paint it, or trace clay labyrinths with our fingers. And finally feasting with you and filling your fridge and freezer with nourishment for the weeks ahead.

This I offer you here. And I light a candle for you.

Blessings on our children, for they have a long way to go,
Blessings on our elders, for they have travelled far.
And blessings on those of us in between, for we are doing the work. 

Please accept this virtual mother blessing to nourish your body and soul, which never for a second stops nourishing that precious life within.

May it sustain you during the birth, and in the days and weeks after. 

May you learn the art of surrender with grace. May you be humbled in the face of your immense power. May your heart be broken open with tenderness. May you be held up on wings of love.

Blessings on you, dearest mama. 


Check out yesterday's post at The Clothesline             

And be sure to check out tomorrow's at The Nest                                      

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Gathering: A Hundred Thousand Welcomes to the Land of Broken Dreams

2013. The year of The Gathering.

"The what?", I hear you ask, if you're not from these climes...

The Gathering...

"Cead mile failte." The traditional Irish greeting of a hundred thousand welcomes is being proffered by the Irish tourist board and government, as an initiative to tempt rich Americans and anyone lucky enough to have escaped the country, recently, or centuries ago, back for a holiday, to show off our cultural finesse, gloss over the economic meltdown and then turn them upside down, so the gold falls out the bottom of their pockets and plugs a hole in this sinking ship of a nation (is that enough mixed metaphors for you?!)


Gabriel Byrne referred to it as a "scam" and a "shakedown". And he'd be right. And it is shallow. It says, we want you if you have money, but not needs.

In reality this is not the year of the gathering, but a Leavetaking, or Scattering. Last year 238 left our shores. Everyday. From a country of only 4 million.

And it's not just European immigrants heading home now times are tougher. 53% leaving are native Irish. 87,100  of our population left in the 12 months to April 2012, according to the Central Statistics Office. They are expecting the same figures again for 2012-13. 

This is the land of the hundred thousand goodbyes.

Phew, fewer kids to pay for, you can hear the government sigh. Fewer sick people to deal with. Fewer on the dole. Fewer people in need of services. Yes but less taxes, less diversity, fewer families together. This is a brain drain as our youngest and brightest leave these shores. And many young married couples who had studied abroad, intending to head home to start their families, stay away because of the lack of prospects.

I don't know of anyone coming to the Gathering. But I know of families leaving. Posting their house keys through their doors, because they can't sell, because they're in negative equity, and they can't pay their mortgages. Families who came over to work for companies which are now barely surviving. Who have taken two pay cuts in a year. Every family I know lives under the constant stress of their main wager earner losing their livelihood. Families going to Australia in their droves, leaving behind grandmas and parents and siblings.

We came home to Ireland 8 years ago. After years of living in the UK and travelling. It truly felt like a home coming. It was my dream come true to be finally living in the community of my birth, close to two sets of parents. But now I'm not so sure, almost everyday I wonder would the grass be greener elsewhere?

Welcome to the land of a hundred thousand broken dreams.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Singing in the background

I had a call out of the blue two days ago. A US publicity company wanting to sell their extortionate services to me as a self published author.

Don't you want to get your message out to a wider audience? The robot-like calls rep wanted to know.

It's a no brainier surely? Or at least it was for her. Cos as an author you want your voice to be heard everywhere, right?

Ummm, no.

My soul sister challenged me on this too when I launched Moon Time. She didn't get my reticence, my lack of confidence to share my creative baby. My level of self doubt.

It's still there. I am so happy with each woman who discovers my work and loves it. So happy to share my work woman to woman. But reaching out into the big wide world beyond, the mainstream, full of critics, nay sayers, cynics, people whose job it is to knock people down and ridicule then. No thank you!

So on the back of my sharing this call on Facebook I was contacted by a woman who does media training for women. And I really like the look of what she does. But still the assumption that I would want to put myself out there to everyone was there. And the response in me was still no.

I feel like a newborn meerkat. All pink and hairless. Blind and weak. And the world feels full of hyenas that eat things like me for breakfast.

I love doing what I do. But it scares the hell out me. It's very niche. And its powerful. And it's finding its audience. But it takes every ounce of my courage to do it. I am so far out of my comfort zone it aches. But it's flowing. And it's healing me, and my friends and women I've never met. So I trust. And I carry on, deeper and deeper into my work, sharing it woman to woman. No big media shows here.

And then last night I had a powerful dream.

I was asked to help at a friend's wedding, and of course volunteered. Then she said what she'd really like was me to sing. I said fine, even though I get really nervous singing in public. But it was just a small wedding full of friends.

But then, because her mum is pretty famous, all these A List celebrities started turning up, and performing, and I was shitting it. My turn was coming. I was too small, my talents too meagre for a big stage alongside such heroes. But then a small wise voice from somewhere said, "we want you to sing, it's important to us that you do. You don't have to be on the big stage, but sing. As the action is happening just sing your words."

So I started to sing, standing at the back of the room, quietly at first as I found my confidence, then richer and louder. My words were: All is love. I wove my melody. And people turned from the main stage and looked my way. One by one. And I kept on singing. Not centre stage. Not the main event. But a voice which drew people in. And I knew I was playing my part, honouring my promise.

And that's what I'm doing with my work too.

And I am allowing for the fact that this too might change. That one day I will be on the main stage. But that is not my intention or my overriding aim.

And so I stand, singing at the back of the room, delighted by every head that turns my way, drawn in by my voice.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Buried treasure: The Thought Birds

I am tired. I am busy. I have sick kiddies, again. It's moon time. It's raining....

For all these reasons and the fact that I have a dozen drafts that I can't knock into shape, instead I am unearthing buried treasure from the Dreaming Aloud archives to share with you... This is one of my favourite posts...ever... I only wish I'd kept it to submit to Tiny Buddha!

Sending you LOVE for Valentines Day. 

Sometimes we get our knickers in a knot about our thoughts. They seem to fly round and around. We are told to control them by the self help movement. They're only thoughts, so stop thinking them.

But what if you can't?

Because what if YOU are not thinking them?

What if they are not YOUR thoughts?

Listening to Byron Katie's Loving What Is (of which I have mixed opinions), and she says. You can't stop thinking your thoughts... they come to you, you do not create them, nor can you stop thinking. Your choice is not to attach to them.

Buddhist thinkers including Thich Nhat Hanh talk of thoughts as like clouds, floating over the clear sky of the mind. We need to not focus on them, or attach to them, simply observe as they float by.

But like much in Buddhist thought I find this too bland and beautiful an image for my jingly, jangly, chattering mind.

And then it came to me.

They are not clouds, calm and serene. They are birds. The thought birds. Flying over, squawking and chattering to each other. Migrating to warmer climes. There, on the chimney of my mind, they alight to refuel from my brain juice.  The collective unconscious becoming manifest within the consciousness of an individual. And so I feed them with my own life force. They are wild things and soon ready to fly on, sustained for their journey to another soul. But I, being human, seek to hold on to them, imprisoning them in my head.  I put them in cages in the zoo of my mind. See, people, these are MY thoughts, look at them all here on display. And so they sit and pine, their heads droop, and so does mine as the task for caring them all overwhelms me. I am tired and sad from being their keeper. Their colours fade. They begin to bang their heads on the walls of my mind. Let me out, let me out! The noise of the rattling cages is overwhelming. I become angry, depressed.

But wait. The answer is simple. Open the doors of the cages and let them fly free. The thought birds are wild creatures. They are not my burden. Let them fly free. To visit another soul with their messages, to sing in another ear. Let them fly free. Welcome them to stop by for a moment, then watch them fly free.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Rocking the big P! Making Pinterest work for you!

Listen, I love Pinterest. I've made no secret about that.
But I know a lot of people who managed to get themselves an account, but then just follow from the side lines. 

If you're one of those it's my self-proclaimed duty today to get you all fired up - and getting the most out of Pinterest.  After all, you joined cos you liked the look of it. But then maybe you got all flustered or overwhelmed. We're sorting that out right now! 

And if you've started but want to build your following, these tips helped me quadruple my followers from 120 to 500 in less than 3 months.

Why does Pinterest matter?

  • It is a virtual mood/ vision board for anything you are dreaming up
  • It will fire up your creativity. Guaranteed.
  • You will discover loads of like minded foodies/ creatives/ mamas all around the world.
  • It's cheaper than buying magazines and books. It's free!
  • Looking at your boards is like bathing in beauty, it gives you a great beauty boost.
  • It's a great way to archive links that you love so you don't lose them.
  • It's a great way of sharing your own links to your creations, blog, shop etc.
  • It is, in the words of Suzanna Conway, a magazine of you.

So first things first.

What lights you up? What are you obsessed by/ What makes your heart beat faster. (These things do it for me...) Set a timer for 5 mins, free-write everything down.

1) Now create new boards for each of these. This will help you to categorise, and make sure you are passionate about what you're pinning. Make them niche ... and give them curiousity-piquing titles. Be funny, be clever. Be precise. Be particular. When I say niche I mean don't just have "art" - subdivide it into genres, artists. I recommend mixing it up between specific genres, like spirals, peacocks, full moon, sumptuous cakes and more compilation type story boards, like Woman of the Woods, In the Red Tent...

2) Make gorgeous board covers. People will TOTALLY judge your pins by your cover. Pick your most favourite pin. Which works cropped to cover size. To do this, on your profile page hover over a board cover, then click on "Edit board cover" press the arrows to go through the possibilities, click and move the image to centre it as you want it.

3) Be a curator. Imagine your Pinterest boards as a museum. Or be an editor, imagine them as a magazine. Rearrange your boards to walk people through them in a way that makes sense. Some choose to group them alphabetically by title. I choose to have my most popular at the top, and then group by similar interst, so I have all my craft ones together, all my recipes together. Cos the chances are if someone's into cakes, they'll probably be into pies and donuts too. But they might hate moon time. This way I keep them near what they want.

Handy hint:To move your boards, at the top of your profile page next to "Edit profile" is a picture of a computer monitor with two arrows. Hover over it and it'll say "rearrange boards". Click this, it'll go red. Click and drag. And then click that button to save. Save regularly, if you move off this page all your hard work will be lost. I speak from experience!

4) Follow people who have similar boards. This means that their feeds feed into your personal fee, so you get lots of what you love and little general stuff that you don't. To get into your personal feed press the Pinterest logo in the top centre of the page. This alone will make your Pinterest experience infinitely more fun and beautiful. On this page, on the lefthand sidebar you will see the "recent activity" column. Here you'll see who's repinning and following you recently. You can click through to any of them.

How else do you find people to follow? When you repin a pin, a little box flashes up telling you another board that it is pinned to as well. This is a great filter. You can either click follow right then and there, or click on their name to go through to check out their boards. Do this!!!

Handy hint: Every image, (unless it is "uploaded by user") is linked to a website. To get to the website click on the image, and then when it opens up in a separate window click on that image and it will take you there. 

5) Choose carefully!! When you are choosing people to follow, go to their profile page, focus on those who have less than 800 followers, as they will still get email notifications and will notice you pop up in their control panel. They will then come and check out your boards, see you are a kindred spirit, follow you, and a beautiful Pinterest love affair is born! If you follow Pinners with massive (usually bought) followings, they will NOT follow you back.

REMEMBER, you can follow individual boards rather than follow a Pinner. Just follow what you love!

6) Make a good profile page. Put up a nice pic of yourself, share a few words that tell people about your interests and passions. Share your blog/ website.

7)  Pinterest etiquette: don't pin 50 things on one board on one go, it puts people off and they will unfollow. So mix it up.

Handy hint - In the past, every pin went out onto the main boards, now only one pin every eight hours goes onto them, so the more followers you have,the more possible repins. Why does this matter? Platform building... and ego boosts!

8) Get techie!! Go to to "About" menu in the Pinterest header, and select the second option from the drop down menu "Pin It button". This gives you lots of goodies:

  • A "pin marklet" to download onto your browser's navigation bar to make adding new pins easy as pie.  Then whatever website/ blog you are on when you're going about your daily websurfing, you hit that button and it will show you all available images to pin, and opens your boards straight up.
  • Apps for i phone and i pad
  • Badges to add to your blog/website so people can follow you easily.

9) Upload good quality new pins from other sites, label them well - with the name of the artist/ author/ website and a few key words. Places like foodgawker and etsy are great places to get new images from. Do not upload images from google image searches, this is a rookie mistake. Be sure you link direct to the original site. Introducing original images will get you out there and get lots of repins with your name

10) Be wary of group boards. If you follow them you will be bombarded with lots of mediochre pins, and the occasional bit of spam advertising too.

11) Change your email notification settings. Do this. You do NOT want to know every time someone repins a pin. But it's great to know when you get new followers.

12) Share your boards on Facebook, Twitter and your blog, especially in groups! If people don't know you have boards, they won't know to follow them!!

13) Pin regularly. The more you pin, the more you get the hang of it, and the more repins you get.

Hope this helps! Do share your pinterest accounts below! And follow me!


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