Archive for February, 2010


Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Weight is a funny old thing. I think I heard somewhere that aircraft don’t so much go from A to B, say from New York to Dublin, in a straight line. Instead, it seems they zig-zag their way across the Atlantic. They veer off a bit, take new coordinates, then refocus, adjusting direction, zig-zagging to their destination. Body weight is a bit like that. We put on a few pounds, realise it; then cut down a bit, shed a few pounds, achieve a healthy weight, then put some more on again.

Here are some tips if you need to shed a few pounds: for a two week period, eliminate biscuits, cakes, and chocolate and instead snack on fruit. Cut out the booze for the fortnight too. It’ll give your liver a break. Reduce your dairy intake to a minimum, so bye bye to cheese, milk drinks, full-fat yogurts, etc. Talk to your pharmacist about taking a calcium supplement while you’re off dairy stuff. And do at least 20 minutes physical exercise a day. Nothing very radical there but if you do it, essentially cutting out bad fats (biscuits, cakes etc.) and reducing dairy (cheese, milk etc.), you’ll lose two or three pounds. What’s more, if you keep it up, such as if you’re very overweight, in time you’ll shed excess weight and you’ll do it in a sustainable way. If you’re self-disciplined enough you can reintroduce a small amount of chocolate and a glass of wine. All the above is good for your health, your wealth and the environment – not a bad hat trick!

Finally a simple detox like the above can invigorate you. I did it for three weeks in January and I was full of energy. I’ve been a bit self-indulgent since then and could do with doing it again for a fortnight. The old zig-zag!


Friday, February 26th, 2010

Laughter, they say, is good for the soul. They’re right! If I’m ever diagnosed with a serious illness, I’ll treat myself to, and with, comedy DVDs. It’s great to laugh. Laughter is from the gut. It gets us beyond logic, rationality, constraint, prudence. Even in the most boring of work tasks, we might look for opportunities for laughter. The funny side offers a different perspective. It can give us courage to take whatever step we might be being invited to take. Huh? Well, I did a firewalk once. I was scared and was unable to walk barefoot onto the burning embers. (By the way, I very much do not recommend you try this at home – people do get burned and burned badly doing firewalks!) My rational mind told me it was dumb, stupid, irresponsible, senseless, potentially painful, even debilitating. The guy organising the firewalk suggested that the next time I laughed, that then was the time to take my first step onto the burning embers. It’s the shift from head to gut, from logic to the funny side. And so, when next I laughed, I went for it. And I was glad I did. Facing one’s fear, but not acting on the basis of fear, is a good thing. Feeling the fear but doing it anyway, as Susan Jeffers so wisely put it in the title of her book. I guess the idea I’m looking at here is that laughter can help you to ‘do it anyway’. And it makes life so much more fun!

A Shot across the bows

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Every so often in life we get a shot across the bows. It could be we lose a job or a major client. Maybe we get a health scare. Or someone we love becomes ill or is diagnosed with something we prefer they hadn’t. Something life-changing occurs. Unbidden. Uninvited. Unwelcome. We’re shocked. Numbed. Perhaps angry, outraged, confused. We don’t know what to do. Our plans are put on hold. They may even be torn up. Maybe we don’t get a place on a course we wanted. Or we applied for something and didn’t get it when we thought we would. Or we’re unemployed. Or an unexpected legalistic or bureaucratic procedure intervenes, giving us a smack in the face but also causing us to rethink what we’re about.

Such shots in the bows, these flares that cause us to rethink, are never welcome. But they are often good for us. They can jolt us from our complacency. They can be helpful injections of reassessment. Maybe we’re coasting along oblivious to a life outside the boundaries of the box into which we have placed ourselves. And we are forced to contemplate life beyond that box. People often talk about how the unexpected blow turned out to be a boon. The loss of a job leading to a creative and far more fulfilling career. Some legalistic shenanicans leading to a mature adult choice to change one’s life and its course for the better. A health scare that led to personal insight and a reassessment of one’s priorities and values. A death that resulted in our choosing a new and more fulfilling life for ourselves and our loved ones.

While the instinct to a shot across the bows may be to fight back, and there are times when that is the appropriate thing to do, recall that we always choose our response to everything. Choose to be radically open to the opportunities offered by the seeming blow. Of course, you may not see any opportunities. All may seem dark beyond the box into which you had confined yourself. But you are more than any box, more than any current job, course, plan, or seeming security.

Your security lies within you. Believe in yourself. The seeming slings and arrows of outrageous fortune always carry with them the opportunities for new and personal growth. As I look back at the various shots across the bows of my life, every single one of them led to opportunities, delights and personal fulfilment that I couldn’t have imagined at the time would come my way.

Returning home

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Returning home  is a powerful theme. I’ve been away (hence my silence) and I just love being home again. Sure, it was great to travel. They’re right to tell us travel broadens the mind. But, a bit like a monk out of his cell, the battery runs low away from base – at least it does for me (to mix my metaphors!).

Coming home is a great theme of humanity. The return of the emigrant. The return of the prodigal son. And, of course, return to earth – coming home, our race run, our life spent, reentering the dust from which we came. The Celtic Tenors sing a beautiful song called Caledonia which anchors around the words ‘I’m going home’. I associate it with my late and much-loved father-in-law Eugene Cassidy, a farmer from county Meath, who, while he had terminal cancer and his death was approaching and his mind was affected by his illness and medication, and he wanted so often to ‘go home’. ‘Let’s go home,’ he’d say. In fact, he was in his home and died in his home. Perhaps he yearned for the home of his childhood: maybe he was confused thinking he still lived there. (Once, he scared us and astounded us by leaping out of bed – he needed assistance to move! – yet he managed to spring from bed and make it half way down the stairs before we realised what was happening and he was ‘going out to milk the cows’.)  I associate that song, Caledonia, with Eugene RIP for his wanting to ‘go home’, this powerful draw of the human spirit to go home, to return to the place we started.

Long after I’d left home, I used occasionally to drive to the house in Donnycarney in Dublin where I grew up. The place that shaped me. The building that formed the contours of my life and world as a boy. I haven’t lived in that house since I was a boy of 18, and headed out into the world to grow and live my life, making mistakes and changes of direction. But all that’s for some other day.

For today, I’m glad to be home. Back in the house that my wife and I dreamed up and built. The home that fits us like a glove. The place we love and the place I’d be more than happy to die in. Sure, home is within us. But it’s also a physical place. When home is a place of misery, of paralysis, of constriction, it is time to move on and out. But when home is a place you love, a place you grow, a place of love and acceptance and happy relationships and healthy interchange, a place of play, a shelter from our wanderings, an engine for recharging us and a place we call our own, how very lucky we are!

Apologies for my silence these past days. As I say, I’ve been away. But I’m back! Thank you for you kind comments, which I appreciate.

Celtic Women also do a gorgeous version of Caledonia on YouTube.

Life is good

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Enjoy this day!


Monday, February 15th, 2010

Life is full of surprises. We never know at any moment what might happen within the next hour. A life can change in an instant. One day, I had a coffee beside a woman I’d never met before. Within a week I had met her friend. Within a few very short months I asked her friend to marry me. She said yes. Had I not attended the course at which I met her friend, had I chosen tea instead of coffee, had I sat in a different seat, my whole life would have been different. Let’s live this day attentive to the extraordinary possibilities of every moment.

Setting out on a journey

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

There’s an excitement in embarking on many a journey, akin to the adventure of life itself. Indeed, life it often seen as a journey. When I studied English at university, I remember being struck by an Old English poem about seafaring. In Ireland, the story of St Brendan taking to the seas and discovering America many, many years before Columbus, appeals to that sense of adventure, exploration and embarking into the unknown. As we set out on any journey, we cannot be sure of the outcomes of that adventure. Boats are safe in a harbour but that’s not what boats are for. So, wherever you may be heading today, if anywhere, enjoy the adventure! Bon voyage!

Valentine’s Day

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

Yes, I know it’s tomorrow and not today. But Valentine’s Day offers us a moment to pause and be thankful for love. We aspire towards love. We desire it. We search for a soul mate and, when we are lucky enough to find the love of our life, it is only fitting that we put a little time aside to celebrate our love. Some people live and die without finding love. Those of us lucky enough to find it should see it as a gift. Those of us still searching could do better than to start off by being true to ourselves. Only when we are true to who we are can be prepare the ground for flourishing and self-fulfilment. Be yourself. Dare to be you. Seek counselling if you need it. Clear the ground. And, when you are ready, remember that chance favours the prepared. So prepare yourself. Dig deep. Chuck out some weeds. Till the soil. Brush yourself up, dust yourself off and get out there. For those of you who seek, good luck. For those of you lucky enough to have found your soul mate, love her, or him, and show it.


Friday, February 12th, 2010

Anger is a tough nut. It is neither right nor wrong. Anger can fuel us. Many an injustice in human history has been righted by justifiable anger. Even the holy books record their heroes being angry, such as Jesus taking up a whip and chasing merchants from the Temple. It’s what we do with our anger that matters. First, though, we need to be aware of it. We need to have an inner radar which alerts us to anger brewing within us. Once we cop on that we are angry, we then need to try to discern what we are annoyed about. Sometimes the ‘presenting’ issue isn’t the real issue. For instance, if I find myself snapping at my children it is often that I was angry beforehand and it’s important that we trace back to the original source. Happily I’m of an age that I readily apologise to my children and I’ll say: ‘Sorry. It’s something else I’m annoyed about.’

Now that we backtrack to the original cause of our disquiet, irritation, displeasure, annoyance – all politer words for the one emotion of anger – we can at least deal with the actual issue. We need to deal with our anger or it will deal with us. We need to have our anger or it will have us. We need to own it or it will own us.

Some people are irredeemably irritating to work with. They will never change. I refer again, as I think I did before, to a gorgeous piece of calligraphy on a simple card that I have on the wall of my office. One line says: ‘Have nothing to do with people who put you down, depress you or say you cannot do it.’ (The only attribution is ‘Your Philosophy’)

Life is too short to become embroiled with dysfunctional people.  And yet why do so many people remain in relationships, whether personal or professional, with people who do just that: depress them, put them down and say they cannot do it? It is surely fear, a bedfellow of anger. We may fear what may happen if we walk away. We need to have faith in ourselves. I have walked away from situations in the past that cramped me, depressed me and disrespected me. We can but speak our truth. And if no change results, we need to trust ourselves enough to walk away.


Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

I’ve written quite a bit before in various published columns in the print media about the ‘gratitude attitude’. Thankfulness is an attitude, an awareness, a way of looking at things. When we lose sight of the gratitude attitude, we tend to have lost our balance. This minute, right now, you and I have so very many things to be thankful for that, were we to enumerate even a tiny fraction of them, we would be here forever. People spend their lives wishing they could see yet not once today before now did I pause to be thankful for my eyesight. I myself spent many years longing for a home of  my own yet, before this second, not once today did I pause to consider how lucky I am to now live in a home that I love. For years of my life I longed to find a life partner, someone I loved and who loved me yet how easy it is for me to take my wonderful wife for granted. And then there’s breath  and a beating heart, the wonder of life, a wondrous thing and my one and only life, a heart beating that one day will stop, lungs that will cease to inhale and exhale, my life spent, yet not once before now did I, this day, become aware of, let alone thankful for, the transient gift of my life.

Let’s pause to be grateful for all that we have and all that we are. For those we love and who love us. For this moment. For literacy. For sight and light. For the Internet. Electricity. Our senses of hearing and touch, for taste, for the sense of smell. For colour, mobility, intelligence, consciousness. For sex and relationships, for our bodies. For music and books and art. For sport and passion and love. For time and healing. For serenity. For growth. For now. For all we are, all we have been and all we may yet be. For hope. For humanity. And again, for love.