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An Irish encounter as an anecdote to war.

Updated: Mar 30, 2022

Are we at a Threshold? I never thought that I would personally bear witness to the horrors of the past, as was seen in WWII, or the waves of people fleeing war in this past decade. But here I am. There is so much to be desperately sad about: the senseless suffering of the Ukraine people, the overwhelming floods in Australia, CO2 at threatening levels and new Covid strains still emerging. How can we cope with all of these huge problems? Surely we were not born to simply bear such weight on our collective shoulders?

Eckhart Tolle points out that when we have such adversity, humans rise to the challenge and together we surge forward somehow, expanding our collective consciousness. And indeed we have seen acts of incredible bravery, kindness and compassion and simple expressions of profound sorrow in music and art. So perhaps we are experiencing this emerging consciousness and we are trying to hold hands as we walk through the door. But how?

Thresholds come in many different forms. But essentially they are portals to step through, or step. They can be physical or metaphysical. Threshold for me involves the process of separating the husk from the grain or sifting out the things that are important in my life from the aspects I want to leave behind. We are all of us trying to balance ever shifting plates, sometimes week to week and quite often, moment to moment.

Recently, I had an opportunity to go to the far away ancient land of Inis Mor (Ireland) with two women to stop and reflect on where we were in life. It was an incredible gift, to stop and create a space to listen to myself, to Spirit.

I came to the realisation that I had allowed myself to feel like I was tied to things. I felt helplessness in response to everything I saw on the news, on social media and even on the local streets. Covid restrictions had amplified other parts of my life that I was holding on to. So I imagined that I could put all the ‘hats’ I felt I was wearing into a Viking ship and watch it float away on a slow moving river. I then had a challenge: to name what I felt was limiting me and hurting me and set it aside at least for a while, perhaps forever.

The Irish people I met helped me regain my connection to myself, by showing me their good things; caring for one another in small communities, intimate conversations, a ‘she’ll be right’ mentality, singing, soup, and drinks around the fire, swimming in the freezing ocean and demonstrating an intimate relationship with the landscape and their ancestors.

I heard and listened deeply. I cried, laughed and eventually sang. I gradually reopened my heart. Four areas of ‘inner work’ came to me as I walked through the 1500 BC stone doorway through to the Fort that embraced the cliffs. The women invited me to speak them aloud, “Self Value, Music, New Friendships and Humility.” they didn’t need to be profound nor perfect. But they were the words that came to me then and stay with me now.

The beautiful late Irish writer John O’Donahue speaks of his love of the landscape in an interview with Krista Tippett on his website. He shared this sense of what I experienced on Inis Mor. O’Donahue reflected “if we see nature as just dead space, as in walking from one place to another without any real significance, we miss something. But if we see a living universe before us, then our walk in it becomes a completely different thing.”

I had also started to ‘pay attention’ in a different way, without judging my experience as it was happening.

One of the many takeaways was his notion of contemplating beauty — it was kind of unexpected as I wondered how this could help us all face the huge problems apparent in the world. In fact it made me mad at first. My head was saying how airy fairy and unrealistic it was to simply enjoy the flowers in the face of people suffering so much. How privileged! Well, after being physically in that space I realised I was listening to that annoying inner voice again, call it the ego or the ‘conditioned’ part of me. The Judge. Yet with contemplation my process found its conclusion in bringing forward beauty as an antidote for these stressful and soul destroying days of war and uncertainty. Beauty resides in the faces we love, in the landscapes we walk, in the art we appreciate, in the bravery we witness, in the music we hear and of great acts of love and kindness. It fills us up, heals us and diminishes the darkness.

But there’s more. I also discovered it was about allowing my body to connect in those moments of found beauty, and then I can feel my whole being soften and become receptive again. With that connectivity I feel most alive, able to balance the plates and be hopeful again for better days, and can offer support and genuine peace in a productive way. A running practice if you like of being one with the inner beauty we hold and the beauty we experience around us. It kind of lines up with many of the teachings of spiritual leaders to work for inner peace or practice in order to influence the world.

I’ve since began to whisper those four concepts to myself nearly every day to keep that inner well in my heart gushing with life. Yes it was special to walk and pray at the Irish Well but there are I feel, so many places we can stop and draw from in our own spaces. Being able to see the beauty around me and being able to draw from it little by little, is helping to steady me, and in the midst of the chaos of family life, I am beginning to see it flow to them too.

I am still standing in a chaotic world but I can now allow myself to be part of it in a fuller sense and those older repetitive behaviours seem to have vanished. I am being seen and I see myself as a being of beauty, as I do to those around me. I’ve moved over the threshold, from one way of being into a fuller way of being. When I focus on the good things, and notice even the smallest glimpses of beauty I seem able to face the global chaos and still feel hopeful, and only then does my songwriting start to flow. May we all dance and sing and move in ways that we need to. Even if it means singing a song of sorrow, holding the hands of those in trouble or being an ear to those who must be heard.

My sense is that we are all going through a collective threshold and that it is beholden on each of us to create moments to discover our personal thresholds in order to be available to tackle the larger issues around us. So the good things are important after all, especially when I allow myself a little time to go a little deeper.

'Good Things' will be released on Spotify - May 8th, 2022.

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