The Mindful Breath

Hi Everyone, I did say I would attempt to blog about this growing phenomenon that everyone seems to talking about, ‘Being Present’  otherwise know as, Mindfulness. (I’m attempting to keep this short and as clear as possible)

I’m just back from my Mindful Walk (very icy but crisp and clear), it’s the highlight of my day, every day, and I have my Mindfulness teacher along with me, via the power of my smart phone, WAV Files and Podcasts, guiding me wisely. An insightful and amazing Teacher and if you can get on one of Catherine Sutton’s courses, you will be blessed.

Got this YouTube link last night and it’s perfect. You may have seen it already. It’s a brilliant animation that gets to the heart of what mindfulness is about. Mindfulness is not easy, but it’s simple

One way of understanding this now ‘ubiquitous’ term Mindfulness, for me anyway, is to see the focus on my breath as a way of giving me a bridge over the continuous  flow of the minds ‘ thought processes’.  The breath is like a ‘Bridge over troubled Waters’

Tommy Fleming recorded his now very successful album ‘Voice of Hope’ in the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, including this classic song which is appropriate for this small blog. Tommy is a unique singer and if you have the time to listen to him on youtube I think you might be softened on a very tough day.

I am not the most religious person but back in April 2013 I had reason to travel a 600km round trip with some good friends to offer condolences to one of our good colleagues. We stopped to take a break on this drive at Knock to visit the Basilica at the Knock Shrine. The incredible presence and spirit of this place of pilgrimage for countless millions of people, who visit for faith, hope, peace, solace and relief from suffering for themselves or loved ones. I felt it’s power deeply and if ever you get the chance to journey there I do believe you may too feel this presence (It would be my hope that you do). First for everything.

And hence I think Tommy’s rendition which was recorded in the Basilica at the Knock Shrine of ‘A Bridge over Troubled Waters’ is particularly relevant in that Mindfulness is being practiced by many millions of people to live in the present, focusing on the breath, while letting those troublesome thoughts flow continuously (as they always will, it is the brain’s function) under the bridge. You are aware of the constant stream of thoughts but your meditation and focus on the breath means you choose to stay on the bridge and not be in the river of thoughts. You are not your thoughts.

For me the Bridge is a good analogy. Have a great day, my friends and fellow travellers on life’s road.

Knock

Remember I spoke of the ‘Fork in the Road‘ well I have just accepted a new exciting position, starting next Monday and then off for a global meeting. All go and stomach knotting just the same. I’m making 2016 my mindful challenge, and I’ll hopefully find a little time to write about it on this little blog.

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A Terrible Beauty is Born

This very short blog is a play on the words of our famous poet William Butler Yeats.

Floods3 Floods4Floods1 Floods2

 

It’s been a very rough December and into this new year for a huge number of people here in Ireland. The flooding has been catastrophic across huge swathes of the country and it will take a long time to recover. Fortunately, looking out at an incredible sunrise this Friday morning, 8th. January 2016, we are reliably informed by our forecasters that the worst is over and many farmers and homeowners will now have to start to rebuild their homes and farms. Good luck to them all for a quick recovery.
Ireland sits on the edge of Europe and mother nature can exact a very big price when the seasonal storms visit our beautiful little Island. The water that surrounds our beautiful island, that pounds our coastline and drenches our green fields has shaped the most incredible landscape. Our Terrible Beauty.

Found some incredible footage (5 minutes) shot this year by a visitor to our shores and using a drone he captured our beautiful Atlantic shoreline and landscape in Kerry and Clare, and the words of WB Yeats immediately spring to mind.

2016. Here in Ireland we also celebrate the centenary of the birth of our Republic of which this link will give you all the details. Our beloved Poet William Butler Yeats, living in England at the time, observed as he looked back at the destruction of our Capital City of Dublin and wrote the poem Easter 1916. To look at the ‘Terrible’ destruction of the city, the many deaths of Irish volunteers and of the leaders of the rising who dreamed of a free Ireland, while also appreciating the significance of Ireland becoming an independent state, breaking free from the oppression and imperial rule of the Crown. (The beauty rising from the destruction).

Easter 1916

Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse–
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

 

Have a great weekend

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Change it Yourself

Life has no remote, Get up and change it Yourself

I am wise

Here is a Ted Talk worth listening to, 3 minutes 20 seconds. I’ve been listening to Matt every other months since 2011, just dawned on me I should really share this. It being that special month of the year. January, Happy ‘Change it’ New Year.

Nothing grandiose or earth shattering here, but you never know where it leads,  might just change your life.

 

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The Millennium Bug was 16 years ago.

It’s 1st. January 2016. The very best to everyone for the year ahead.

Rose Tinted Glasses

It was a mere 16 years ago where many thought Y2K was the end of the world.  And indeed many people, probably me also, were slightly anxious as the clock ticked from 11.59 on December 1999 to  12.00am January 1st. 2000 but hey, we made it and in the blink of a eye we are here in 2016. I simply articulate this fact for two reasons, A. Where have a full 16 year’s gone, they flew by. and B. We just don’t know what the future holds. Much has changed since and indeed the pace of change has accelerated to ‘Head Spinning’ speed that has chronically stressed out a generation. (My next blog is about living in the present)

This 53 year old song is eerily relevant today as it was in the Hippie period it was written in. Rising waters, a lost and frustrated generation through emigration and recession, serious discontent with politics and politicians. But our memories are very tricky, short and often viewed through Rose Tinted Glasses. We have an election looming here in Ireland, interesting few months ahead. I wonder what will be said to those Senators, Congressmen and Political Elite, standing in our doorways and blocking the halls in the coming weeks.

Bob Dylan wrote and sang this song in 1963/1964.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xerE0pbJKQ

 

 

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Aloha, It will cost you nothing.

To All My Blog Readers, Before I start posting for 2016, take a look at this.

Having made it this far I bestow an Honours Degree 1.1 on you all, from the University of Life. Go forward to 2016, and keep doing what you are doing, but even better. Have a beautiful 2016

Watch this 9 minute clip. It will lighten and lift your heart. There is no point in reinventing the wheel and this Graduate speech by Mayor Billy Kenoi is some of the best advice given to us travellers on life’s journey and is just simply heart warming. If you are not smiling from ear to ear after this, I advise bed rest for 2016.

Being compassionate, sharing and giving costs us nothing and it will be returned to you throughout your life.

Mayor Billy mentioned Maya Angelou and here is another piece of her wisdom.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

It will cost you nothing. Just mean it.

 

Aloha (pronounced [əˈlo.hə]) in the Hawaiian language means affection, peace, compassion, and mercy.[1]

Back Very Soon

 

 

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The Turkey’s driving home for Christmas!

turkey_driving

Thank you for your emails and comments about the blog.

Well we are nearly there, there was a mad dash to the supermarket today to pick up the fresh turkeys. Christmas would not be Christmas without that incredibly delicious bird sitting there, centre table, bronzed to death. I mean we love this bird so much we only eat it once a year. The shelves of the supermarkets around the country are, today, bulging with Turkeys of all shapes and sizes, organic, free range, happy birds,  all oven ready, more or less. That was not always the case. In the not so distant past we collected our birds from the various small suppliers , who had started the frenzy of wringing necks and plucking in yards all around the locality in the week running up to christmas and it hung somewhere cool in the house.  I was reminded of this by ‘the brother’  who recalls one hanging somewhere near the top of the stairs that being a very, very cool spot in the houses back then without central heating. This tradition nowadays can be seen away from the sanatised  supermarkets, in the artisan butchers and specialty markets, like Cork’s English Market. So we discovered on our walkabout in the last few days. Much to Jessica’s, ahem, bemusement.

Turkey1

It was also pointed out to me how the hanging puddings became the new ‘punchbag’ for us budding Muhammed Ali’s and were capable of taking the occasional haymaker,  if our small hands were capable atall  of doing any permanent damage to the magnificent  Plump Puddings.

pudding punchbag

Other treats at Christmas remain engrained in the vaults of the mind was the appearance of our Nan’s bottle of Bols Advocaat which if I’m not mistaken was occasionally sampled  by someone other than Nana. It did get put away safely for a lot of the time however.

There was also the delivery on Christmas week of two crates of minerals from Shannon Minerals, one of orange and one of white lemonade. The weekly budget of most families in the 1960/1970’s would not stretch to buying such indulgences and therefore Supermarkets had not yet installed the now familiar gargantuan isle of Coke, 7Up, Sprite, Fanta, etc. Suffice to say two things here. 1. Our Glass Bottles of Shannon Minerals barely made it to New Years eve and 2, We were never in danger of developing a diabetic disorder in getting a sudden dose of minerals at Christmas. Unfortunately our improving standard of living over the years has made the picture below an essential feature for every supermarket and a few gallons of the inappropriately named ‘Soft Drinks’, a must on the weekly shopping list.

soft drinks

Finally, for this post, wherever you are may you have a peaceful and content Christmas. Given the chance, try to smile and greet all those around you and if you have someone to share this holiday with then have a loving and sharing Christmas. I want to wish a safe journey to all of you who will be making the long trek home via the roads, rail, airports and high seas as you make the journey home. Of course we all know it is a fantastic time for the family and getting home is such a huge part of Christmas. It is very special to return to your family and celebrate this holiday together, to get back to the towns and villages which hold great memories, friends and places that have huge significance and special meaning in your hearts and minds. Safe travelling.

Many thousands of families won’t be able to do this due to the vast distances that now divide our families. We can take to technology to bridge that gap with Skype and a plethora of Apps that allow us see and speak over the internet. Not the same I know and tinged with a little homesickness but this too will fade.

To all of my family and friends not able to make the trek home at this time of year, I ask the universe to give each and every one of you,  joyful hearts this Christmas, peace and contentment and the satisfaction of knowing ye are dearly loved here in this wee, wet and damp little Island of Ireland tucked away, slap bang on the gulf stream in a corner of this fragile planet. 

And definitely the final word. In our eagerness to know what would be under the tree for us at Christmas, me and the brothers, undertook feats of superhuman sleuthing that on occasion included screwdrivers to remove locks, doors and anything that got in the way of inquisitive minds. The ‘Timex’ watch being pointed to below was found in a locked wardrobe in Nana’s bedroom. We got the lock off but never succeeded in refitting once we sneaked a glimpsed of the treasures inside. I wonder if Mam noticed. What do you reckon.

Xmas 1972 Small

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It’s Christmas Eve, let Christmas begin.

Dad always worked on Christmas eve when we were younger. There was always the last minute panic from one of the Crescent Clothing Company’s customers for a suit, jacket or slacks, even an alteration or something as simple as a steam pressing, (some strange terms there). The Crescent Clothing and Cyril Benson for that matter were renowned for their incredible Customer Service, it was their hall mark.

By lunch time Dad was home and in great spirits, simply because Christmas proper had started for him. The wage packet was in the pocket, a few days respite from the job. Mam however had been mixing Christmas magic, hard labour Christmas magic it should be acknowledged,  behind the scenes for a couple of weeks now. The house had incredible smells as huge Christmas Pudding’s boiled, windows steamed up and the Christmas Cakes baking in the oven,  we all knew it was approaching but unlike today, it was not the commercial juggernaut it is today.

Thepudding

Much of these Christmas puddings and cake made their way to Mam’s brothers and sisters across the Irish sea. I remember the sheets of brown paper, sellotape and quiet a few stamps on the finished packages. The Limerick Christmas magic was exported to London, Lincoln and even up to Dublin. Imagine the postage.

singer

The singer sewing machine had been burning the midnight oil for weeks now in the run-up to Christmas. No Primark or Penny’s back then so the Christmas clothes were made by hand across Limerick by the many gifted seamstresses that had grown out of Ireland’s busiest rag trade town. And my Mam, was and still is one of the cream of the crop when it comes to turning a simple roll of fabric into Christmas, Wedding, Holy Communion, Conformation, and Special Occasion Majesty.  Those incredible fingers made the difference in our happy household, on how we were turned out and the added support to the household budget.

Anyway, Christmas Eve, Dad arrives home, to a very busy household, floors had been polished by the joyriding boys with old socks on their hands old jumpers under their knees. The girls  hands  had potatoes peeled, sprouts prepared, carrots scraped and everything ready for the evening and day to follow this very busy Christmas Eve morning. Guaranteed, all of this work was completed before the Dad arrived home as the most important event had to happen.

Polished shoes, new pants and coats and the girls in their Christmas dresses were all ready for Mam and Dad to take us to town to soak up the Christmas spirit, and the most important task, to have one last look at the magical toys that were fast disappearing off the shelves. We were walked about Cannocks in O’Connell Street to see toys we would never dream to own and hope that Santa, might, just might conjure something really special for his visit later that evening.

One truly amazing fact, for us children anyway, was that if we lingered for more than a few minutes on one of the demonstration models or maybe even a toy out of its box, the ever ubiquitous eyes of Santa’s helpers made sure that that was the toy for us. After our walk about in the big people’s world we ventured back out into Patrick or O’Connell Street and invariably made our way to Thomas Street, often through another of Limericks department stores (The ‘Santa Photo’ Store) Todd’s  and out the Thomas Street door to Geary’s Hotel on Thomas Street. It was here we had another of our Christmas Eve treats of minerals and crisps, Tayto to be precise. Then home to put up the Christmas Tree (Yes, on Christmas Eve) and the excitement grew, so much so that you thought your chest would explode in anticipation of the Big Man’s visit after mid-night.

Fairy Lights2

Today,

It’s that wonderful time of year again where for the most part we have a pretty good time, over-indulge, over-eat and us Irish might over-drink a tad. I’m not going to rain on anyones parade, we can do that in January, but Christmas 2015 started a good 46 days ago at least. November 1st. Started the onslaught of Christmas ads on TV, Radio and in print.

Back Then

Back then, these memories are from Christmas in the 1960’s and 1970’s,  for my Mam and Dad, and for many Mam’s and Dad’s in Limerick City around that time, Christmas was a time measured by what you had managed to save, or the wages paid out that week, sometimes on Christmas Eve itself. Christmas really did not start until Christmas week, and for a lot of folks it was Christmas Eve when Christmas started. They were lean times but such incredible memories. Happy Christmas memories readers. Love to you all.

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