We are shaped by our experiences……

 

Getting off the hamster wheel - StrategiesAs I sit in my house in the Maamturk mountains watching a shower of rain approaching and listening to the sound of the wind rising, I am reflecting on the fact that we are all shaped by our experiences in life, be they good, bad or neutral. Looking at the trees and shrubs around my house I see they are all shaped by continually being blown by the West wind.  Thus they all have a slight incline towards the East in their orientation.

It is the same for each of us I believe and having taught mindful movement for nearly 30 years now I have watched all my students and myself continually changing shape as we explore the experiences that have shaped us. This pandemic has truly shaped all of us in ways we may never have imagined or believed possible.

For most of my life I have been shaped by an inner restlessness, which has manifested itself in a nagging sense of being in the wrong place all the time. On the positive side, this restlessness has allowed me to find a work life that meant travelling all over this country and lately to Greece, France, Belgium and Holland.  Almost every weekend I found myself waking up in a different bed; groping  for a different light switch if dark; switching on a variety of kettles for tea or coffee and trying to figure out the workings of numerous electric and gas cookers!!! All of this felt normal to me.

Packing and unpacking a suitcase was a regular habit and leaving bits of myself all over the place a common occurrence.

On the negative side, that restlessness made it very difficult to rest and relax as a part of me was continually ready to go…….

And the mental side of this restlessness meant I was continually fighting with the part of me that is quiet, introverted and doesn’t want to keep reaching out, being out, going out….

For many reasons I grew up with this part of me being unacceptable to the people around me and in the end I  saw that part as flawed and unacceptable. That push and pull between being out and being in  has shaped almost every interaction of my life to date.

Until now. Covid 19 put a total stop to me travelling anywhere further than my house and the local supermarket. I have walked no further than a couple of metres from home to work this past year. And I have come face to face with the depth of the restlessness within.  No more than the trees in my garden I am clearly seeing the way the strong winds of restlessness have orientated all of my being towards going, reaching out, going, reaching out, like a hamster on a cartwheel.

Covid pulled the brake on that cart wheel and sent me flying to a full stop. When I got my bearings all my energy went into creating another version of  restlessness, go on zoom, text, write cards, letters, emails, make WhatsApp calls- the voice inside said “just keeping going, keep reaching out, keep busy, you can do it,”.

Yet slowly but surely the winds of change were blowing in the background. More days of absolute silence allowed the restlessness to reveal itself, and somehow after two weeks of self quarantine on my return from a work trip to Belgium last September, curiosity began to take over from criticism.

Why was being quiet and introverted wrong and outgoing and extroverted right ?????

Was there any possibility of both being ok ?

Was there a possibility of recognising under the restlessness was a very young part of me seeking acceptance and belonging and that years of practice had taught me how to be extroverted and outgoing?

At this stage in my life could they co-exist?

Is there a mid point where these two shapes can build a bridge of connection with each other?

I don’t know yet, as they are just beginning to get to know one another, learning to recognise the shapes of each other and most importantly not to be scared when they meet…..

All I do know is I went into Covid 19 one shape and am coming out of it a different shape -even if it is all inside at present, like a chrysalis awaiting something new, something different to be revealed….

Shaped by yet another experience.

And now as I end this little musing the trees are quiet as the wind subsides and the sun emerges to warm their new found buds,- awaiting the right time to reveal themselves, to blossom……

ᐈ A cocoon stock images, Royalty Free cocoon pictures | download on  Depositphotos®

Change ………

 

 

As we transition from 2020 year to 2021 I find myself reflecting on the nature of change. In bringing this subject to the forefront of my thoughts I realised how change is a constant flow of energy in the background of our lives. Day follows night which follows day;  morning passes into  afternoon that passes into evening; one year follows another as time goes by; in our hemisphere Spring leads to Summer, that leads to Autumn, that leads to Winter that leads to Spring; endings contain beginnings that seed endings that contain beginnings; each year we grow a year older; hair grows, gets cut and grows again, to name a few silent constants in life.

It seems to me we really only notice change when it comes with a force that awakens us to its existence. And so often that meeting is filled with resistance. Change comes in the guise of illness; accidents; births; new relationships; deaths; losing a job; getting a job; leaving home; buying a house; becoming homeless; addiction; recovering from addiction; facing our demons; embracing our goodness; losing an ability; discovering a latent talent; learning a language; moving country; entering a new culture; gaining riches; entering into poverty; becoming famous; becoming infamous; and all the various ways each and everyone of us has been challenged in one way or another to face the reality of change. As the Buddha said many years ago” Nothing is forever except change”.

Having spent the past 10 years exploring the link between the movement practices I teach and neuroscience in the Embodied Presence courses I notice so often that the first response to change is to resist. It is almost like we will embrace the change if we can be guaranteed the outcome.  As if we could “magic” the change to happen overnight and without any challenging impacts on us. Yet my experience of change is the complete opposite.  Change is a process and to enter into the process I have to  give up the idea that I can control the outcome. Yes I can allow myself to imagine how I might wish to be, but making that wish be a fixed outcome may lead me to resisting the various opportunities and challenges that the change process will inevitably throw up. I recognise the human condition of  needing to feel safe, to be secure and to know what is ahead of us. We are creatures of habit – even habits that cause us pain, at least we know them and are in a perverse way attached to them.

” Change is hard at first; messy in the middle and gorgeous in the end.” Robin Sharma

Detaching from old ways and patterns is hard and there is often a part in the process where we truly may not know where we are going or even why we embarked/embraced the change. We hear the mantra ” we want to go back to normal”.  Yet back to normal is no longer an option. As to go back to what we called normal would mean we would have to bury or deny the process we are in. We cannot unknow something we have learned- we can “forget”; we can pretend; we can deny but all that takes energy.

This time of the year we are often full of promise  and resolutions for change without the knowledge that the change will take discipline, consistency of purpose and most of all positive support. It takes one foot in front of the other day after day until there is a space between the old way and the possibility of the new. That space for me is to be valued, nurtured, tended with care and most of all patience, like I would a plant where the possibility of growth shows its head above the soil.

If I have learned nothing else this past year it has been the profound difficulty of change and how to find ways and means to work with it rather than against it. I think this is one of the most profound collective change processes that this generation has engaged in and I believe we can never “return to normal” if normal means how it was before.

From listening to friends and students the change for some has been devastating, for others it has produced a positive fresh way of being, others are somewhere in between.

I am still in the messy middle of wondering what this huge upheaval is all about. I know it has offered me new ways of working -using zoom, something I appreciate but still do not like; a new way of experiencing what it is to live in the one place day after day, to stop travelling; it has taken me to the depths of loneliness and the strange new ways to connect;  it has forced me finally to look into a part of my way of living that I have manged to avoid all my life, or at least skirt around the edges, and that is truly messy inside me at present.

Even still each morning as I awaken I know a sliver of hope lurks in the shadows that I will hear it is all over and I can pack the car, take off and teach in person. Then I awaken fully to the reality of the day and I know the only thing I can do is put my foot on the floor and step into yet another day in this messy middle, bringing with me the knowledge that I am being shaped and changed by this experience.

I have stepped far enough thru this year to see the space between the dreams and wishes I had at the start of 2020, how they got blown out of the water and where I am right now as I write these words. I can sense less clinging to how it was in my life and a growing sense of moments of tolerance for the not knowing what is ahead. I can see more clearly the positive resources that are available to me to stay steady and keep putting one foot in front of the other as I grieve the loss of life as I knew it and turn towards this new year, this new opportunity to finally accept that the only constant in my life is change- both the tolerable and intolerable ones.

.

I never imagined……

As I sit here on a windy, damp, grey, with a white sun trying to shine through the clouds day, wrapping gifts and writing cards for Christmas, I find myself reflecting on the past 9 months and I notice I keep saying to myself “I never imagined…..”

I taught my last 5 rhythms in person class on Thursday 12th March in Westport, Co. Mayo. We discussed at the end of the class that if the schools were closed we would not meet the following week.  Little did I know that by the time I had the car packed we were on our way into our first lockdown.

I had a few bits and pieces to buy in Castlebar so off I went as I was so close. The start of “I never imagined…” was to begin as I entered the supermarket and was confronted by queues of people with trollies filled to the brim! I stood in the queue for 30 minutes with a handful of yogurts and wondered had I fallen asleep and  woken up in a disaster zone!! No I hadn’t. I was now into an unimaginable territory and time in my life.

Manic busyness took over my life as I tried to learn how to teach via zoom and the landscape of ” I never imagined” was  to be carved out over the next 9 months.

I never imagined that :

I would teach from my office in Connemara for 9 months;

I would not see a group of people in a room in person in Ireland the rest of 2020;

I would not drive my car for for weeks on end;

I would look for any excuse to cycle as often as I could to shop in Clifden (a 40km round trip, with permission from the Gardaí!);

I would teach mini movement sessions via Connemara Community Radio and offer a Mindfulness practice every Monday;

I would transfer my ongoing groups to weekend zoom sessions;

I would mainly talk to my friends on zoom or phone;

I would sit face to face with a friend in a coffee shop only 4 times this year;

I would stand in Dublin and Brussels airport and wonder was I part of the last few people left on Earth;

I would end up with 5 vouchers from Aer Lingus for flights cancelled to my ongoing group in Belgium;

I would do 2 weeks in self -isolation on my return from the one opportunity to teach in Belgium;

I would sleep in  the same bed, switch on the same kettle for breakfast day after day;

I would no longer wonder what house and what part of the country I was in, on awaking;

I would have time to study online;

I would feature on The Ray D’Arcy  RTE radio; Radio na Gaelteachta; BBC radio Ulster; Clare FM  show talking about my book Against the Wind;

I would leave Connemara only once for a week camping in Kerry;

I would cycle 100 of kms round and round in circles;

I would be spend more on postage than diesel as I post all my Christmas presents rather than hand deliver them around the country;

Being older seemed to automatically mean being vulnerable;

“being all in this together” could sound so meaningless at times;

We actually could have the opportunity to live in a country /world were we are all valued members of society???;

I could go on and on with all the things I never imagined as we come to the close of 2020.

I am left with wondering  in 2021 “What Can I Imagine” or even dare to imagine for our future?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

 

 

 

My tuppence worth

What do you see??????

“We live in a time when science is validating what humans have known throughout the ages: that compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity for our well-being, resilience, and survival.”  Roshi Joan Halifax

I have been noticing lately each time I hear “we are all in this together” I have a very strong visceral reaction. And with years of practicing mindful movement I decided to investigate this visceral embodied reaction. I noticed my mouth was clenched, my throat was dry and my shoulders were tighten up around my ears. As I stayed with the shape this made in my body, I began to feel a scream come from deep inside. As I let it out I heard a scramble of half formed sentences emerge,” What are you talking about…who is in this together…what does that even mean????”

As I took a step back from this reaction I realised that I truly do not know what “we are all in this together” actually means. It makes no sense to me and I begin to feel a confused cascade of thoughts going off in my head usually ending in ” I must have it all wrong, I must be missing something or finally I must be very thick!!! ”

As with so many times in my life I was planning the next workshop for my Embodied Presence/Embodied Brain group and integration was one of the main themes. It is the work of Daniel Siegel a neuropsychiatrist I have studied with. I have incorporated much of his work into my movement work.

He talks about Integration as being the “linkage of differentiated parts.” This was like a “light bulb” moment for me in the midst of my chaotic thinking and reacting.

So I began to look at pulling apart-differentiating-  ” we are all in this together” to see if I could come up with to some ability to respond rather than react.

I am not living in a high rise apartment with no balcony; I live on the West coast of Ireland with the 12 Bens mountain range or the Atlantic Ocean as my landscape. I have a huge sense of space even within 5km both visually and physically. So I have never felt ” Locked-in” whatever the restrictions. I have not lost my job – I have been challenged to adapt, to embrace zoom with all the challenges that brings.

I thought of people homeless and still living in hotel rooms; people in direct provision sharing rooms;  people owning two homes which can allow them to  vary the part of the country they choose to live in depending on the restrictions; people owning multinational online corporations making millions from this pandemic, and their workers barely receiving a living wage ; people still living in war zones that we rarely hear about nowadays and on and on……..

I wondered if it was possible for each of us to fully own and embrace our circumstances, and rather that thinking it is the same, could we honestly differentiate and then ask the question ” how can we support each other, how can we be in solidarity with each other”?

How can I fully listen to another whose circumstance are  so different from mine and ask the compassion question “how can I be in solidarity with you” without any taste of being patronising or denying our differences. How can you wonder what might I need in ordered to keep going and venture to ask?

This began to allow my nervous system to settle a little more, to wonder a little more about the people who seem to have a great need to keep saying “we are all in this together”  and maybe ask “what do you mean by that”  “What do you need  ?????”

 

Musings in the time of Covid 19

 

The personal is political

The Road Not Taken
BY ROBERT FROST

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I began these reflections by re-reading the poem “The road not taken”. It was a poem I loved when I was in school as it seemed to give permission for life to offer different possibilities at every crossroads. I could chose to remain on the road I was familiar with or I could risk taking the road less travelled.

I have recently heard many talk of “when we return to normal “. I began to wonder what returning to “normal” meant before Covid 19.
I began asking myself, do I want

to go back to rampant homelessness?
to children being brought up in a tiny hotel room where their development is stunted?
to a two-tier health system where money can dictate your access to health care?
to direct provision being our only response to asylum seeker?
to billionaires paying their workers less than a living wage?
to a society where men do not openly challenge each other about the role of patriarchy in domestic violence and rape?
to a society that sees rampant capitalism as the only way to live?
to where thousands of people’s lives are dispensable by power hungry warlord?
to where positive, creative leadership is becoming non-existent?
to where “Them vs Us” is an acceptable way of being?
to where likes on social media, decides my self-worth?
to where the person who has the business idea is more valuable than the people who implement the idea?
to where valuing justice and equality are seen as old-fashioned values?
to where inane celebrities are deemed more valuable than health workers, domestic cleaners or the rubbish collecting personnel?
to where killing the planet is ok as long as there is a profit?
to where loneliness is becoming an epidemic for all ages?
And on and on ….

If that is returning to normal, I wonder what all the pain we have suffered has been about?

I am wondering can we actually dream of another way of being in the world? Where we see and acknowledge our absolute interconnectedness; our dependence on each other; our care for each other: our wish for the planet and all aspects of it thrive…….
I want to believe that we are now being asked to find the courage and creativity to take the road less travelled in the wake of this Covid 19.

A quote from Mahatma Gandhi has guided me many times when I thought what I was doing was not worthwhile:
“Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you, but it is most important that you do it.”

Thus, I believe the challenge now, with courage and compassion is to open to another road, the road not yet travelled. The road where we do not know the signposts or even the direction it will take us. The road that encourages us to reach out and connect with others who are willing to take on this struggle even if their version is different. The road that is willing to tap into resources like kindness, patience, humour, compassion, courage, and most of all choices made with awareness.

“In Auschwitz, we never knew from one moment to another what was going to happen,” says Eger. “I couldn’t fight or flee, but I learned how to stay in a situation and make the best of what is. I still had choices. So, when we were stripped and shorn of our hair, Magda asked me, ‘How do I look?’ She looked like a mangy dog, but I told her: ‘Your eyes are so beautiful. I never noticed when you had all that hair.’ Every day, we could choose to pay attention to what we’d lost or what we still had.”
Choice by Edith Eger

Even when we crave the old road, we can learn to ground ourselves, to centred ourselves and to recommit to our choice over and over.
I believe this is exactly what the world needs now. People who are willing to explore the habitual patterns that have brought us to this point in time and are willing to take the first steps on a new journey for the planet, the people and all the animals who share it with us.
It will take huge courage to keep making new choices, taking the roads less travelled over and over until a new more sustainable way of life has been found. To tap into our adult selves even when the old ways seem easier, so that sometime in the future, our adult selves will be in charge and we will move from surviving to thriving.

“To be sure, many of the steps that lead to growth …… go against our natural inclinations to avoid extremely uncomfortable emotions and thoughts. However, it is only through shedding our natural defense mechanisms and approaching the discomfort head on, viewing everything as fodder for growth, that we can start to embrace the inevitable paradoxes of life and come to a more nuanced view of reality.Transcend by Scott Barry Kaufman,

 

Let me end for now with a quote from one of my long-time heroes Viktor Frankl

“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.Man’s Search for Meaning

Bewildering Times

Change can be exhausting. At least that is my experience.

I often think of making changes yet when I am faced with radical change as we are in this moment in time I see my pattern of excitement, let’s do it , become manic with activity and finally face the one thing I don’t want to face -change takes time, takes step by step movements, can feel awkward, and is truly exhausting.

Since my work came to a shuddering halt a month ago I have been trying very hard to find alternative ways of connecting; setting up zoom meetings with on- going groups, learning painfully how to do online movement classes, staying in touch with friends and family, making radio programmes for our local community radio on movement and its link to positive mental health and on and on.

I don’t think I have experienced such busyness in a long time. Nor have I spent so much time in the one place for at least 20 years. I have been bumbling through a maze of technology that each evening has left me in a state of total bewilderment.

As an embodiediment practitioner I have noticed my shoulders have been up near my ears, my lower back aching, my fingers tired from using the keyboard and my breath being held more often that released.

Trying to find some simple routine has proved elusive until now. When I finally named my uppermost feelings as one of exhaustion at the pace that had suddenly come upon me, followed by bewilderment at the situation we have all found ourselves in,  I sensed I could begin to breath again. Daniel Siegal’s motto “name it and tame it” never felt more true.

I have begun slowly, to sense my feet coming back down to earth, to allow myself the fullness of the outbreath, to look around at all the beautiful views I have from the windows of my house, to recognise that my brain has needed to catch up with the massive pace of change. And most importantly my mind has a new mantra “I am enough”.

I have been practicing a little practice called G.L.A.D from Donald Altman. It is a way to honour each and every effort I make to meet this challenging time.

G= One gratitude that I am thankful for today – keeping it very simple.

L= One new thing I have learned today- which can be something about myself; a new insight or a new fact. It keeps me open and curious.

A= One small accomplishment today – a new skill or an act of self/other-care/compassion

D= One thing of delight that touched me today-anything that made me smile, laugh or brings a micro moment of joy to the day

I bought myself a new notebook so I could record these 4 aspects of life in the time of Covid  19. To remind myself that in the midst of great pain and danger other aspects of life are also  available. And I thought I would like to share it with you.

 

That’s about it from a bewildered and bumbling human learning to be Enough❤💕💖

 

Against The Wind-The Book

 

“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer

 

 

Since I finished writing the blog I have not felt inspired to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard until now. In mid 2018 my dear friend Sinéad Mannion set up her publishing company Plasma Publishing to publish a beautiful book of essays written by her late brother Gearóid. After completing that task she announced to me she was now setting about publishing my blog so to go and “get my act together”!

After much humming and hawing and thinking who am I to write a book, I finally got my “act together” and set in train the work involved in making the blog into a book and printing it.

It all came to fruition yesterday 15 June when we launched “Against The Wind from Endurance to Enjoyment”.

The 2670 km cycle  brought me face to face with profound loneliness and what is means to try to fit in as a way to belong.

The writing of the blog helped me make sense of the cycle.

And now the book has brought me into the experience of support and belonging. Whereas the cycle was done on my own, the book has been a community effort.

The people who made it possible are: Sinéad Mannion the publisher; Úna McKeever did the first edit in order to turn the blog into book form; Philip Darling supportively  and beautifully designed the layout; Sadhbh O’Neill painted the stunning covers and front and back insets; Barbara Egan wrote the most warm hearted and elegant Foreword; Geraldine Fitzpatrick did the final edit and Clodoiri Printers produced what is a beautifully textured book: Karen Mannion MC for the launch and Aileen Foran who gave us the beautiful venue and organised the lovely food.  If these where the ingredients that made the book happen Manchán Magan was the icing on the cake as he launched it.

Words cannot portray the level of gratitude I felt throughout the launch. At times I truly felt overwhelmed with the warmth and love I experienced for me and the book. Talk about turning what originally was a devastating experience prior to the cycle into the most amazing experience of my life.

And now I want to extend a huge Thank You to all of you who read and commented on the blog.

The book is available on my website www.embodiedbrain.ie    http://embodiedbrain.ie/against-the-wind/

 

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ― Melody Beattie

Against the Wind – Epilogue

Everything changes –
although this may not seem so now.
Listen into silence
– that which is most difficult
is our shy soul’s preparation for
Some new adventure
Far beyond
what we may imagine.

Sarah Frances

 

This cycle on the WAW took me to many stunning places on the West coast of Ireland, and  more importantly it took me on a journey inwards that I was not expecting.

It is 9 months since I completed the Wild Atlantic Way (WAW) cycle in Kinsale, Co.Cork and  can finally acknowledge what an epic trip it was, all 2650KM.

I have spent the last 9 months cycling through my inner Wild Atlantic Way. I have ventured deep into the mountains and valleys of the inner life. And it has been as hard if not harder than the actual physical cycle.

I realise changing a core belief system -even if it does not serve one well- is a profoundly difficult experience.  Wishing life was different is radically different than engaging in the process of making that change happen. It is the difference between looking at a film of a cyclist on the WAW and being the cyclist.

I have gather a number of core beliefs throughout my lifetime, which I may have to tackle before I die,  this time round it was the issue of Doubt.

Doubting myself has been with me for as long as I can remember. Almost every thought, action, decision has been plagued by doubt.

Should I do that? What about this? Why did you say that? You should have said this….You should have taken the other road…the other outfit…the other food, the other job, workshop etc., etc.; people don’t really want to hear your opinion; you should give your opinion; you should join that group, you should not join them, they want you, they don’t want you. They are thinking this ..no they are thinking that…..you need to be careful; you should be spontaneous….and on and on until at times I have doubted my existence on this planet or my mind was about to explode.

Turning away from this deeply held doubting habit left me at times truly wondering who could I possibly be if I did not doubt my every move/thought/feeling? What was the alternative? It was like cycling without a map or signpost as to the direction I was going in…navigating without a compass.  The only thing I really knew and did not doubt was my need for help and support.

I had physically cycled the WAW on my own and swore I’d never put myself mindlessly through such loneliness again. This time as I embarked on the internal WAW I sought out and found an excellent therapist. One who could help me see new signposts and stay with me especially at the times when I could hardly tolerate being with myself. We delved into my dream life -which is actually quite sparse-, my body sensations -which are very accessible and rich- my thoughts, my feelings and anything else that was deemed helpful for this internal odyssey. I wrote, I danced, I cried, I cycled pedal by pedal, and step by step until I could sense something new and different occurring within my mind and my brain. I was entering the territory of  a new belief system -one based on trust. One where I had to learn a new language and way of being.

I was reminded of a time when I was in Peru years ago and walking in the mountains. We had drunk all our water and were thirsty for some juicy fruit. An old woman gave us a bag of lemons as we passed her house in the middle of nowhere.  My immediate reaction was to thank her and to think “oh no I really don’t want lemons and now we also have to carry them !” A mixed bundle of gratitude.

After awhile the thirst got the better of me and I decided that maybe the bitterness of the lemon juice would cut through my thirst so I bit into a lemon bracing myself for the bitter taste. Instead of bitterness I was met by the most lovely sweetness I could imagine. For a moment I thought I was hallucinating but no I was tasting sweet lemons for the first time in my life. We easily made our way through half the bagful. Each time expecting to meet the bitter lemon taste I knew and expected, yet each lemon produced the surprising sweet taste. I kept looking at the yellow of the lemons expecting it to change to some other colour to reflect the taste. I was totally taken by the familiarity on the outside and the complete surprise on the inside.

That is how I feel a lot of these days. Ostensible on the outside I look the same and the external circumstances of my life are more or less the same . Yet internally all is different most of the time. Like the lemons I still keep expecting the bitterness and am being met over and over by the strange and unfamiliar sweetness.

I know doubt inside out and upside down, I know how it shapes me and rules my thoughts, desires and actions. Now I am getting to know the territory of self trust. How it could shape my movements especially as I learn to feel it strongest in my back; how it adds spaciousness and confidence to my mind and thoughts. How it steers me away from perfectionist thinking into the territory of enoughness, excellence, delight and most importantly joyful relaxation. It is like cycling with the wind at my back.

To undertake the WAW cycle I called on the one resource I have had for as long as I can remember -endurance. And this internal journey has also relied on my endurance.

“Endurance” was the name of the ship that embarked on Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic expedition of 1914-1917 where all the sailors survived one of the most incredible adventure stories of all times. I loved reading of these adventures as I grew up and especially of Tom Crean’s involvement on this and many other Antarctic expeditions. And I always loved the name of this ill fated boat, as I had made the name of the ship be the description of the quality these men embodied to live to tell their tale- ENDURANCE.

I am glad to give myself credit for also embodying this quality in my external and internal cycle of the Wild Atlantic Way.

I am ending with this photo from the WAW on the South Connemara coastline. I did not take any photos the day of the real cycle as my head was down battling the wind and heavy rain and there was nothing to be seen. This is it on a day when the sun shines dry and bright:)

!

THE END.

 

What are you feeding in 2015

I heard a story once about a Native American elder who was asked how she had become so wise, so happy, and so respected. She answered: “In my heart, there are two wolves: a wolf of love and a wolf of hate. It all depends on which one I feed each day.”

As many of you know I have been studying much of the neuroscience that has come on stream in the last decade or so and especially how it can enhance our experience of the movement meditation practice. One of the interesting things I have found is how the brain is velcro for negativity and teflon for positivity. This basically means that we are so much more orientated towards the negative and it takes commitment, hard work and a willingness, to orientate towards the positive.

The oldest parts of our brains evolved when survival was the most important thing for our ancestors. When they had to be constantly on alert for danger whether it was in the environment or from other bands of hominids. Therefore the part of our brain that saw others as different from ourselves and to be feared was very well developed. Because of this, our inheritance is, that we are also hardwired for negativity. Although as humans we have the most advanced brain-the neocortex- in that we can imagine things being different, we can pause and notice our impulses. We can plan, pay attention, develop compassion and question our beliefs. In order to use this newest brain to our best advantage we have to own our propensity for negativity and its power to control us, and we need to pay mindful attention to the habits each and everyone of us has to feed the wolf of hate.

I think it is vital now that we each begin to take seriously our ways of feeding the wolf of love. In my mind with all the hate that seems to be circulating around the world at the moment we need to apply our imagination to changing this hardwiring in the same way that we need to take global warming seriously or our grandchildren may not be able to enjoy this beautiful world we live in.

I have always kept in mind Mahatma Gandhi’s saying that “whatever you do may seem insignificant , but it is important that you do it” especially when I feel helpless in the face of so much violence and pain in the world and I become convinced that the wolf of hate is running the show. Although it may seem very little in the big scheme of things, each time we pause, notice what we are doing, which wolf we are feeding (and this also includes hurting ourselves by our thoughts or actions ) we are making new neurological pathways in our brains and making a change in the world. Again to quote Gandhi “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”.

I do not believe any one can stand and act as if the wolf of love and the wolf of hate do not live inside each of us. We only have to take the time to look at the parts of ourselves that we project on to others, the parts we disown- the ways we speak about people; the ways we compare ourselves to others and either come up better or worse; the instant and sometimes wrong judgements we make and then operate out of; the ways we put ourselves down; the times we thing we have not enough and need …..when in actual fact we have more than enough; when we deem some people’s lives to be more important than others; when being different is about making the other wrong or less than, or not worthy of equality and on and on……

Some people seem to be feeding the wolf of hate to the point that they are obese with hate these days and thus justify every action they take as there is no room for doubt.

I really believe there is such a thing as “healthy doubt”. By this I mean taking a moment to really notice the direction I am heading. To become interested in what I am about to say or do and to have enough space between my actions to ask the question -Which wolf am I feeding?

This may seem like curtailing my spontaneity, but I don’t believe that. At first like the creation of any new habit it will seem odd, awkward and unfamiliar. Yet what we know about creating habits tells us that some day it will become the norm, the familiar. We will have learned to pay mindful attention to how we live and will be taking full mature responsibility for our action and speech and the consequences of them. We will be well on the road to feeding the wolf of love, of kindness, of justice, equality and true happiness.We will learn to use our great skill of empathy to feed compassion both for ourself and others. Right action can become more the norm and we will openly own when the wolf of hate, criticism, jealousy, fear is rearing its ugly head in our actions.

Maybe this may seem like utopia. Even so I believe if we do not strive for such life on this earth now we will be offering our beautiful earth and the great beauty of being human to the wolves of hate to eat and destroy. I do not want the latter part of my life to be oriented in that direction. I’d rather do insignificant things than do nothing, or say nothing.

I will end using the powerful poem by Thich Nhat Hanh-

 

Call Me by My True Names

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to
Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and
loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my
people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

 

Against The Wind Part 6

September 6th: I awoke to a lovely sunny morning in Tralee. I went on a walk about before breakfast and met up with the group of cyclists I had spotted last night. I got talking to one man about their cycle. They were heading to Lahinch and then Galway. They were fundraising for cancer. He was a mixture of impressed and disbelieving when he heard I had cycled from Donegal into the wind and on my own. I almost felt as if I was a child in confession “bless me father I have sinned, I cycled into the wind and on my own”!!!

I waited as they all gathered to take off. I felt a tinge of envy as I saw the outriders, ambulances and pick up cars as back up.

After breakfast I met Geraldine again for a coffee and a final check in as I headed out on the last stage Kerry/Cork of my odyssey. Dingle here I come.

The sun shone as I cycled through Blennerville and out the road to Camp. I love this cycle with the Atlantic on my right and looking across at Ballyheigue and Ballybunion. This was one of my practice routes last year up and down the Conor Pass proving to myself I could cycle up the highest pass in Ireland. I achieved this feat again and stopped to take in yet again this amazing cycle route. As steep as the cycle is uphill the downhill into Dingle is spectacular free wheeling all the way.  I felt a broad smile sweep across my face as  I arrived in Dingle.

I stopped for a coffee and scone and just enjoyed being there watching the world go by, before wandering out by Slea Head. As I approached Dún Chaoin the sun disappeared and a dull grey sky accompanied me to Campail Teach an Aragail my favourite place in the world. Gráinne was there to meet me with our new tent and equipment. I was greeted by TP and Sorcha the owners of the campsite as if I had circumnavigated the globe! I could feel a surge of pride run through me as they questioned me about the trip so far. This couple have made our regular visits a source of delight and joy. I also get to brush up on my Irish as they are native speakers.

After tea and chat we pitched our tent and drove into Dingle for a bit to eat and an Irish music session. We intended to stay for a few days and chill out but if I thought the weather was bad up to now it was set to deteriorate rapidly. Rain, rain and more rain fell and the forecasts were getting worse for storms and high winds. I reassessed my plans and made a decision to cut down the distances and to stay 2 days in some places from now on.

September 9th: We took down the tent, packed the car and  Gráinne drove to Castlemaine. We had a late breakfast and I packed the bike, set the Garmin and hit the road for Cahersiveen.

” I am in the Sive Hostel tonight with the intention of getting up early tomorrow to arrive in Sneem before the wind gets too bad. I am reduced to watching each weather forecast as I enter the last week of this odyssey. I am getting tired of each day having to worry about the weather- Will I make my venue? or will I get stuck? …its just exhausting. I was so very lonely leaving Dingle and then Gráinne …this trip has me all over the place….I love the physical aspect of it and the simplicity of pack, eat, cycle, take a break, back on the bike, find my accommodation, shower, eat, write my diary, bed. As I get physically fitter each day I get mentally more and more challenged…. this ingrained habit of doing everything myself is showing up all the sad and lonely aspects of it that I have been able to keep under wraps until now…….. “ A quote from my diary which I wrote as I sat in the dining room in the hostel. The place was quite full with tourists some who had come to Cahersiveen in order to visit Skellig Michéal. I felt very sorry for them as the landlady had to break the news to them that no boats would be travelling out the next day because of the storm approaching. It is very hard to get on to the rock so they were very disappointed as there was no guarantee they would get out the next day either.

September 10th: After an early breakfast and a chat with a woman from Canada who was telling me she had raised her kids and was now doing all the things she had wanted to do up to now but couldn’t, this included a visit to Skellig Michéal. She was sanguine about not getting there today. It was a lovely way to start the day being inspired by another.

I packed up and left Cahersiveen in dull misty not yet too windy weather. It is a beautiful cycle from Cahersiveen via Skellig Ring, with views out to Valentia Island,  Commaciste, Waterville to Sneem. This is part of the ring of Kerry and full of spectacular scenery especially the view from Commaciste. Today was turning out not to be the day from admiring the scenery. As I made my way up to Commaciste the wind began to get stronger and the mist heavier to the point that I had to get off the bike and walk a few times as the gusts were knocking me all over the place. The irony of this wind was it was actually at my back!!! But because it was so strong and gusty it was of absolutely no benefit. At one stage I heard myself screaming at it ” You are behind me now but you are worse than ever….of no use whatsoever except to keep knocking me off……GO AWAY…….” but of course the wind completely ignored me and just got stronger and stronger as we battled with one another until I finally reached Sneem.

I had a very welcome lunch before looking for my B&B. It was lovely and I was given the Donegal Room” a bit ironic!

After changing out of my wet gear and having the needful shower, I ventured out into the stormy wind -the rain had stopped- and sat in the local hotel reorganising the rest of my trip and booking some accommodation ahead.  With the weather warnings the plan now is Kenmare tomorrow night, Castletownbere Tuesday and Wednesday, Bantry Thursday and Friday, Drimoleague Sat and Kinsale Sunday.

September 11th: I left Sneem after a hearty breakfast and enough to make a lunch for later on. During breakfast I  had a conversation with  a couple from Holland who were walking the Kerry Way. They decided to give up as the ground was so wet underfoot and get a lift to Kenmare and then back to Cork. I didn’t feel so bad with all my complaining about the weather after listening to them.

The wind eased up as I approached Kenmare. I saw a sign for Kilgarvan and had an idea in the back of my head that I ought to know this place- it is not part of the WAW. Off I took to check it out and look what I found-this is the kingdom of the Healy Rae’s the infamous T.D.s for South Kerry. They are true characters. Jackie Healy Rae is perched on the first poster and now dead . His son Michael has taken up the mantel. I had landed in the heart of their kingdom so what could I do but buy a few bits and pieces in the supermarket and contribute to their economy.

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I returned to Kenmare in and out of showers and the wind which had returned. I checked into my hostel room, unpacked, showered and changed out of my cycling gear. This is truly a beautiful little town with lots of interesting cafés, shops, pubs and restaurants. I wandered around in and out reminding myself I could not buy anything as I’d have to carry it for a week. I settled for a new pair of waterproof gloves. Believe it or not it is actually very hard to find a pair of fully waterproof gloves as I found out each day I had heavy rain. I also bought the makings of my dinner and returned to the hostel to put it all together.

I met a lovely young man from Belgium-his girlfriend was not feeling and was in bed-. We sat drinking tea as he told me about his life in Belgium. He is training to be a doctor We had a lot to compare and contrast about the two health systems. I’m sorry to say the Irish system came out badly. But we came out on top for friendliness and ordinary caring as he recounted to me some of the experiences they had as they walked the Kerry Way. At one stage he fell as he crossed a stream and all his clothes got soaked. The B&B they were booked into took them, washed and dried them free of charge. He was truly surprised and I was surprised that he was surprised- sure what else would we do????

The landlady had told me earlier that there would be music in many of the pubs around 7.30pm. I really didn’t believe her as so far all my experiences of music in pubs had started after 9pm and more like 10pm. By that time at night I was only fit for the bed! My doubts were short-lived as I wandered down the town. Passing one pub the music sounded good so in I went. It was full of tourists having dinner and enjoying really good traditional Irish music. And lo and behold it finished at 9.30pm. All I could think was how well the Kerry people know how to cater for tourists that do not want to stay up all night. Actually Kerry is the stand out place for tourism in my estimation.

I sat up at the bar ordered a drink and started on my diary. I was so engrossed in writing that I didn’t properly hear a man a few seats down from me ask was I writing a book? I looked up when I realised he was addressing me and saw two Americans  finishing dinner. I replied no, not a book just my diary of the cycle so I’d remember it! We got into a great chat. This was their first trip to Ireland and so far they were thoroughly enjoying themselves. I was delighted to be able to encourage them to visit different parts of the WAW as they had a hired car. They filled me in on their ever so interesting life in Pennsvlanyia. They were now into retirement and travelling to places they had had on their bucket list for years. We had a drink together and by the end of our conversation they had a plan for the rest of their holiday! I have become so much more comfortable chatting  with strangers in pubs and having very interesting conversations to brighten my cycle. Each and everyone of them have been so encouraging about my adventure- hopefully it will begin to rub off on me by the time I end.

September 12th: I left Kenmare at 8am with the intention of getting to Castletownbere before the weather deteriorated again as was being forecast. I decided to take the coast road and it was a good decision as it was truly beautiful from Touist to Lauragh. The road had overhanging trees and then spectacular views across to the Iveragh Peninsula. I was leaving Kerry and entering Cork the final county on the WAW.

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I stopped in Ardgroom for the coffee and scone break. Yes I was finding my lovely coffee shops in all the towns and villages of Kerry. The village was  painted in such beautiful colours as were the villages of Eyeries and Allihies. The were undoubtably the most colourful places so far, I came to my own conclusion that some very creative and courageous people must live around here, who were willing to risk creating villages full of delight. I decided as the weather was good -maybe the weather forecast was wrong?????-I’d take in Allihies instead of taking the main road. Well I was no sooner out the WAW when the weather suddenly changed- as it can coming in off the Atlantic Ocean. The wind swept in from the sea and the rain lashed down. I saw nothing of the area and had to pass through Allihies with my head firmly down and focussed on staying on the bike. I passed Dzchogen Beara Meditation Centre. The only way I could identify it, was seeing some Buddhist looking flags blowing in the wind.

I had no idea how much further I had to go to reach Castletownbere as there was not a sign to be seen anywhere. Finally I saw a poster for a café so decide I must be near. I was praying it would be easy to find my B&B as  by now I was like a drowned rat. Much to my delight the first B&B sign had the name of mine on it. Oh such joy to be at my destination. I was met by a lovely man who had no problem with me walking through the house dripping wet. Off with everything. I was thrilled to find I could put on the heat and dry everything. I collapsed on the bed and fell asleep for an hour.

When I came to, I donned the now dry wet gear and headed off to check out Castletownbere.

 

My landlord explained to me later that he thought the town was caught between Bantry in Cork and Kenmare in Kerry and tourists only used it to stop off. He was delighted I was staying 2 nights. It is an actual working fishing town on the Beara Peninsula. Some boats had come into the harbour sheltering from Storm Aileen. At last an official storm! I bought a few bits and pieces returned to the B&B and watched TV for the evening listening to the wind and rain hitting the bedroom windows.

September 13th. It was an unusual experience to get up have breakfast and not pack up for my next destination. I felt a freedom to just explore the area for the day. The storm had passed and we were now back to normal wind and showers in the morning. Off I took to the Healy Pass another nice climb with stunning views of both Cork and Kerry from the top.

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I decided to go up  and down the same way as I wanted to visit the Dzchogen Beara Meditation Centre after all I had heard about it. I honestly have to say after my experience of Mamór Pass in Donegal no other climb has felt as difficult and I give myself full permission to enjoy the freewheeling downhill. I don’t think any photograph can ever give the full experience of the height of these hills. I returned to Castletownbere and continued on to the Dzchogen Beara. By now the showers had stopped  and the sun came out. I spent two of the most calm and easy hours there.

I had lunch in the café and a lovely chat with the man serving. I then sat in meditation, walked in meditation and generally gave myself permission to enjoy my time there. It was so good for me. The quiet, being alone yet not lonely. Sitting looking across at Sheep’s Head was so beautiful and calming. I felt an ease descend on me as I sat and contemplated this journey I was on. How it had become a cycle out of one life that I knew well and was now a cycle into the unknown. I knew as I sat there I could not return to life as I had know it in Recess for 27 years…something had to change and right now I did not know what that was. Dzchogen Beara seemed to lend itself to this kind of contemplation being ok. I sort of felt many people had passed through this Centre looking for something new, something meaningful in their lives. I had the sense of not being so alone in my quest for meaning, belonging, mattering.

As I cycled away I took something with me. I was not a stupid person to have the feelings I was having. I was having a very difficult time, I was grieving the loss of a life as I had known it and somehow I was not alone in this. I began to feel grateful for Storm Aileen otherwise I would not have stayed 2 nights in Castletownbere and I would have missed this place.   “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.” MAYA ANGELOU  sprang to mind.

My cycle back to town was so beautiful as now I could see all I had missed yesterday.

 

Back to my B&B. Shower, change back into my “civies” off to the local hotel for dinner, and my diary date. Back to B&B, packed my bags ready for the morning and then bed.

September 14th: After breakfast and a nice closing chat with my landlord I packed the bike, set the Garmin and checked the Gopro for batteries. Left Castletownbere in nice sunshine and the odd shower, cycling through Glengarriff, Ballylicky and Whiddy Island in the distance.

 

Yet again this is a very beautiful part of the country. It has a micro climate which allows plants and trees not common in the rest of Ireland to grow here. I very much enjoyed the trip to Bantry my destination for the night. Again I had my fair share of lovely coffee shops to choose from, for my now almost compulsory coffee stop!

I arrived into Bantry round lunchtime. This was a bustling busy town and I received many different directions to my Airbnb. I think I saw an extra amount of the town as I was sent up and down streets that were nowhere near my destination. One woman confessed to having lived all her live in the town but could not figure out how to give me directions. Eventually I found it. Airbnbs can be harder than normal B&Bs to find as they do not have signs outside their houses.

I was greeted by two very friendly people who had just started their Airbnb a few months earlier. They were fascinated by my trip and very keen to get the details of where I had been. This is my final time staying with friendly strangers and I’ll be here two nights.

After my chat which at moments veered into a kind of interrogation about the trip, I unpacked my saddle bags, repacked a small bag and took off to explore Sheep’s Head Peninsula. This cycle was again spectacularly beautiful, up and down some steep little roads, sunshine all the way and my usual companion -wind.

On my outward trip I met my second cycling group. There was loads of them all dressed the same, with cars to the front and to the back. They were in bunches or alone all heading into Bantry. I’d find out later that they were cycling the inaugural WAW Cycling Sportif. This seemingly will become an annual WAW cycle in September for cycling clubs from abroad and Ireland. It looks very well organised and people are well taken care, and a good idea to extend the WAW season.

As they passed me by I did feel a twinge of longing for their organisation and the company of other cyclists. The longing actually grew inside as I cycled towards Seefin Point.  When I got there I decided to let my cycle to Sheep’s Head tip go, as I was truly tired of being in beautiful places with no one to share them with. Just another few days of my own crazy-making company. I thought I’d try maybe something different this day-kindness. Yes it would be ok to let this part of the cycle go. I could return here in the future. I’m constantly amazed at how hard I find it to practice self-kindness. But today it was top of the agenda! So I circled back to Bantry enjoying the views, the whooshes down the hills and the sun on my face.

I decided to have dinner before I went back to the B&B as it is a bit up above the town itself. The hotel I chose happened to be the same as the Cycling Sportif riders. They were all in the bar having drinks and meals, now my longing had turned to envy and a stronger resolve not to take this trip again without company to share it with.  With that I decided to enjoy being on the edge of many people while I ate my dinner and wrote my diary. I had a nice walk around Bantry as I walked my bike back to the Airbnb.

September 15th:  After another very chatty breakfast I packed a little bag  for my trip to Mizen Head and back. There was a farmers’ market starting up as I went through Bantry town. I stopped and stocked up with some lovely brown bread, rye bread and cheese. Stocked up for lunch for the next few days.

I cycled via Schull. When I was a teacher in the VEC in Cobh, Co. Cork being sent to Schull was like a “threat” if you misbehaved! As it was so far away those days -I had no car and Carlow where my family lived was days away I tried my best to behave! Years later when I visited Schull for the first time I was kinda sorry I had behaved!!!!!! It was and is a beautiful town in West Cork. I took a few moments to visit some good memories I had of the area before continuing on towards Mizen Head.

On route I passed Barley Cove where a film was being shot. Such a beautiful place and day for it. This looked like a very popular place for holiday makers. But today other than the film crew the stunning beach was deserted.

I

I continued on some tiny little roads to Mizen Head. There was lots of traffic to contend with as many people seemed to be visiting Mizen Head as well. I was amazed at the difference between the development of Mizen Head in comparison to Malin Head. Mizen Head has a big restaurant. You can sit inside or outside; a large car park; a playground for children and a walk along the cliffs. Such a contrast to Malin Head with its mobile café!

I sat and took in the beauty around me and because the day was so clear I could see Fastnet Rock in the distance.The Fastnet Lighthouse is known as The Teardrop of Ireland, the last sight of Ireland for emigrants sailing to America. I had also heard about it in reports from some sailing competitions as it has very dangerous seas around it and numerous people have been rescued there. My lunch from the market in Bantry tasted so good as I sat outside watching all the various people meander around the complex. At this point I have cycled from the most Northerly part of Ireland to the most Southerly on the longest cycling route possible.

After a very pleasant break I turned to face into a fairly hearty wind on my way to Bantry. I was able to return on a different road so had more new views to take in. I stopped in Durrus and had a pint of cider as I was beginning to wilt a little. This gave me the lift I needed and I arrived back in Bantry feeling physically quite tired. It was a 100km round trip. I showered, had a bit of a rest and went in search of dinner. I found another nice hotel bar and had a very tasty dinner. This is my last night on my own. My last dinner on my own. My last B&B on this trip. I am so glad  I have actually reached this far and have so many mixed feelings about it ending. I want to keep cycling but I do not want to spend any more time on my own.

September 16th : After breakfast and farewells I hit the road for Ballydehob. I had quite an unexpected climb from Bantry to Ballydehob so I decided I had earned a stop and a very nice coffee in a the local health food shop and café. The next part of the journey took me to Skibbereen. I really like this town and had to keep reminding myself I could not buy anything as I was still on a bike!

I decided to add in Baltimore as it is part of the WAW and I had plenty of time before I met my friend Margaret. Off I went on one of those round trips out and back. I don’t know what I was expecting but for some reason Baltimore did not live up to my expectations. Maybe I’m just tired and also the day was getting very dull.

I sat outside a nice pub and finished off some of my bits from the farmer’s market in Bantry. I returned to Skibbereen in the rain and wind. Rarely have I managed to have a fully fine day. I eventually found the road to Drimoleague as it is not part of the WAW. My friend Margaret lives there and as it is only 10km from Skibbereen I was thrilled to go and visit with her for the night.

I waited in one of the local pubs for Margaret to arrive and was entertained by a man who was walking around West Cork relaying his adventures to the lads at the bar. On Margaret’s arrival she gave me directions to her house and I cycled out ahead of her. She got some shopping for our dinner.

Again I was stuck by the depth of my appreciation for my friends and the warmth of the welcome. I unpacked all my bags and was able to dry out my wet gear. Dinner, wine and a great catch up made my night.  I slept soundly on this the final night of my WAW Cycling Odyssey.

September 17th: The final day has arrived. It is bright, sunny and at this moment no wind-yippee. I chatted with Margaret over a healthy breakfast, packed my saddle bags for the final time, set the Garmin to record my final stage and I was ready for off.

My spirits were high as I returned to Skibbereen and this time took the road to  Clonakilty. This part of the cycle took me to Union Hall and Glandore. As it was early on Sunday morning I had these small roads to myself. When I stopped in Glandore to take in the view I met two women out for an early walk. It was such an enjoyable experience to cycle up and down the roads with no wind. I was fascinated that this last day was looking as if it would be one of the best weather-wise. I stopped in Rosscarbery  and took a look around at the town my parents had spent their honeymoon in 61 years ago. I’m sure it has made a lot of changes since then-I found it bright and cheerful on this sunny morning.

On I continued to Clonakilty. The last time I was here all the streets were dug up as they had suffered very badly in the flooding earlier in the year. They did great job and the main street is so very pleasant to walk through. I stopped to ask group of young men the correct road  to Timoleague, as yet again the sign posting was not great. The road to Ballinspittle is along the edge of the sea and very beautiful. But much to my profound disappointment/annoyance the wind arrived to accompany me the rest of my trip. I truly wondered did it think I was missing it too much. I almost cried.

By the time I reached Ballinspittle I was ready for a break. Ballinspittle is the town associated with the moving statues of the 1980’s. For a few months back then people flocked to this little town to see or not see the statue of Our Lady moving in the grotto on the outskirts of the town. Well I can honestly say nothing moved today!

I had a most lovely hearty bowl of soup sitting in the sun outside a café I remembered visiting before. A young couple with two kids were having their lunch. We struck up a conversation about the cycle. I was almost impressed myself with it as these two young people couldn’t imagine doing it!!!!

After they left I had a conversation with myself and the wind. Would I continue on to Kinsale Head or let it go and make straight for Kinsale itself. I finally surrendered to the wind. It won. I had to acknowledge its superior power, bow down to it, stop fighting and head straight for Kinsale. My sister and brother-in-law Geraldine and Don were waiting for me there. I texted to say I was 10km away. 10km from the finish-2660km behind me…..

On the edge of the town I was met by two cheering, mad looking people running towards me- my welcoming party. I imagine the people nearby must have been wondering what was going on as we hugged and cried. I had completed the Wild Atlantic Way from top to bottom, and they were so proud of me. Texts came flying in as the completion photos were sent around to the rest of my family and friends. They were all so thrilled for me…….I didn’t know how I was feeling….

It was also All Ireland Football Final Sunday and Mayo were out to see if they could break their 51 year drought by beating Dublin. We unpacked the bike, locked it up and headed for a pub with a TV. Unfortunately Mayo lost in the final kick of the match. I truly felt so sad for them.

Back to the car. Hitched the bike on to the bike rack and off we all went to Kanturk on this the final day of my odyssey.

My physical cycle was over but my emotional and mental cycle was to continue.