February started with gorgeous mountain hikes followed by long distance travel to a superb writers conference in San Fran. But it then gave way to a ridiculously drawn out bout of jet lag that bled into being snowed in for a week and gorging on Pringles and wine before graduating to an even fatter ass, a loss of fitness, an injured writing mo-jo so by the time mid-March arrived it’s not surprising that I felt more stodge than sparkle. Never in my life, have I wanted to feel Spring in the air as much. And with the melting snow, and bursts of spring colours in the awakening flower beds, this year above all others, was the one in which I decided to embrace the idea of doing a massive ‘Spring Clean’. There are three main areas I’m targeting.
Tolstoy said that “Spring is the time of plans and projects” and by God is that the case for me this season. I recently undertook a 90 Day Challenge, which more or less is a fancy way of saying I’ve given up drink. It will take me to June 24th with a healthier system and an intention of continuing beyond then to expand into One Year No Beer. So far, so good. I feel great, have carved out additional time to read or do whatever tickles my fancy. I have always been more sociable as a non-drinker and have recently undertaken a rake of social engagements that I definitely would not have agreed to had I still been taking a jar. There are multiple benefits, some of which I won’t make you jealous with, and I’m only getting started into week three!
But I didn’t think there was much point in just undertaking one challenge in isolation, so I decided I’d do a 30 day clear out of unwanted, unneeded, excess stuff. So far, I’ve furnished the charity shop with ten bags of things and have (unknown to my family) thrown out a fair bit of junk from the attic (that they didn’t really need and will never look for anyhow…I hope. I set the chimney on fire and almost burned the house down last week trying to burn some stuff, but I’m just over the shock of it, so I’m still not fit to elaborate. Though, before you think I’m a total gobshite, it was just one item I threw on the fire that I just hadn’t bank on being so flammable! The smoke from the chimney was seen from a mile down the Greenhills Road – no joke.)
I am a hoarder but a sensible one. I don’t keep things for the sake of keeping things and am ruthless with how I use my space and time. I keep some college notes, just in case I need to refer to them. I keep special cards and letters because they are symbols of goodness. However, I am a divil when it comes to books (and shoes, but mainly books). My current abode is a box room. My current library stocks over a thousand books. Any grasp of basic maths will tell you that a thousand books (and umpteen pairs of ‘good’ shoes, housed nicely in their boxes) will not divide into a box room (along with a desk and a hundred or so healing crystals). So I made the decision to shed some of the biblio-load. It was painful at first, and there are titles and collections of favourite authors that you’d have to fight me to part with. But there were a few ‘aspirational’ books there that made their way to the charity shop. By ‘aspirational’, I mean those books that I hoped to someday get time to read. The ‘get around to it someday’ books. The Origin of the Species was one. I can catch up with Darwin in a library any time. Peter Clohessy’s autobiography was another – the ‘someday’ would probably never come for that one, no offence. Stephen Ferris’s was another. That day would almost certainly never come and if I’m honest, I’m still unsure as to why my father thought I’d ever read it. The day he gave it to me he’d said “here, I picked you up Stephen Ferris’s book”.
“Stephen Ferris has a book?,” my reply.
“Yes.” Dad looked mildly happy, thinking he’d just given me a great surprise.
“Stephen fricking Ferris… wrote a book?”
At which point we both fell around the kitchen (no disrespect to Ferris or anything but come off the stage like). Suffice to say that it was consigned to a shelf beside Bernard Jackman’s book. Another ‘gem’ Dad had given me. Messers Ferris, Jackman and Clohessy now reside under the roof of Vincent and dePaul in Firhouse, in case any of you care to foster them.
So I’ve liberated the shelves somewhat, though they are still jammers. Currently, I’m reading at a decent rate and am being indiscriminate in what I read, seeing as how there are now gaps appearing on my shelves. My newfound shelf awareness has me seeing titles I’d forgotten I had, some good ones at that. Unless a book is a definite re-read or an absolute gem, (like Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way), it’s not remaining in my custody. I will continue the 30 day clear out, with the same vigor as I started and will create space to enjoy what I have.
Ever walk up into the clouds to find some proper headspace? Getting out and hitting the hills and woodlands is one of my favourite things to do, in all seasons I might add. Living in a hiker’s paradise like Ireland, with its majestic mountains, I have few excuses to stop me. I cherish being out in nature and having the opportunity to really feel and breathe and think properly. I love when the great noise of nature hammers needless thoughts from my mind and filters in a sense of oneness. That cacophony can be anything from a gentle birdsong in a forest up in Crone Woods to the silent stillness of the path up Slieve Donard, where only your steps and the regular chorus of wind might reach your ears, yet just beyond those sounds is an eternity of calm and life from which we draw healing and solace.
For those of you who feel I’m guiding the lily a bit, go and do it and then you’ll get what I’m on about. If you don’t find that sense of connection when you’re out in nature, then go again, and again. Turn off the apps that are on auto-pilot in your mind and just be. Then you will find it. And then you’ll permit me choose the floweriest of language or the most romantic of descriptions when I refer to the bliss of a date with nature, because you’ll understand that it is a divinely pure and blissful experience.
I have found that the key is not in the location itself, rather in the process of letting go in order to allow life in. We all have our favourite places to walk or visit of a Sunday afternoon. I have my favourite mountains and forest walks and although life doesn’t always afford you a full day of commute time to get to Croagh Patrick or Errigal or Slieve Donard, it does give you a few hours here and there so that you have to make use of the areas that are more local. I’m blessed living at the foot of the Dublin-Wicklow mountains, so Lugnaquilla’s not too far (though I find it a haunting hill at times), Djouce is nearby and a lovely stroll and Crone and Cruagh Woods are all less than 25 minutes drive from me.
Regarding books, people often say that it’s not about how many books you get through, it’s about how many books get through to you. I find the same with mountains, it’s not about hiking (climbing/strolling/walking/dawdling up) a mountain once and ticking it off a list, it’s about using that mountain as a platform from which you can learn so much. You’ll learn from the process of challenging yourself in nature (especially in adverse conditions) but you’ll also learn about what it is that is motivating you. You’ll slow the rattle and hum of the mind, so that only the thoughts you need to process will filter through. As I mentioned earlier, you will truly ‘BE’. At one with the divine beauty of nature, instead of a human doing, you’ll revert to a human being, as mind, body and spirit are welcomed into the arms of the great outdoors.
Rather than map out my ‘where to’ list for the weeks ahead, I’ve given myself a credit of hours to spend. I’ll work out where I hike based on how I’m feeling on any given day and will debit the ‘hike bank’ hours. I can tell you now that I will definitely be in overdraft by the end of the month, but it’s an overdraft I can happily reconcile with.
I was 17 when I did my Reiki 1 course and in the two decades that have since passed, I have practiced regularly and gone on to become a Reiki and Seichem Master and teacher. Reiki, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, is a beautiful gentle healing energy that can assist with achieving greater balance in life. Reiki enhances the body’s natural healing ability and can aid people in living more in tune with their divine purpose. For me, Reiki has been and will remain one of my most valued and precious lifelong journeys. We are constantly renewing, regenerating, changing and evolving through life, and Reiki is the energy that helps me life a fulfilling life positively. There is no greater gift, as I see it, than the ability to help and make a positive difference in the lives of others (in whatever way we can). Being a Reiki and Seichem therapist enables me to work with others to empower them to find the healing they need and regain the balance they seek in life. Reiki, just like love, is a natural healing energy and is open to all. Helping people to learn about the practice and helping others to heal through practice, is a blessing.
There are three main levels in Reiki training, levels 1, 2 and 3. On completion of training for each level, students are given an attunement which sensitises them to interpret and channel Reiki energies more profoundly. After each attunement there is a 21 day cleanse period, during which one may experience changes as the body and spirit receive and make way for the channeling of Reiki energy. As part of my ‘spring clean’ or ‘catharsis’ or whatever you’d care to call it, I reattuned myself to Reiki Level 1, (after which I’ll do 2 and then 3) so at the moment, I’m undergoing a cleanse, and am consciously spending more time meditating and practicing Reiki every day, than I normally would. I feel a million times more powerful and happy in myself than I had in ages, not that I was grossly unhappy or anything, but I am reaping the benefits of the practice hugely. I’m almost finished a Certificate Course in Mindfulness which will enable me to also teach that, but I will declare that Reiki is my first love.
The Darling Buds
If I’m being honest with you, there may be a fourth ‘KPI’, and it may concern
love (too potent?), romance (too sweet?), flirtation (very palatable!), but any writer’ll tell you, you’ve got to keep something on reserve. So I’ll conclude with the words of Pablo Neruda “I want to do with you what Spring does with the cherry trees.”