A couple of years ago I went on a retreat to Plum Village Buddhist Monastery in France with about 100 other people from Ireland. It was a wonderful experience but one thing stood out for me from the overall peace and mindfulness practice. I had a conversation with a sister there who was studying trauma counseling for, in particular, scientists and ecologists who are traumatised by years of sounding the alarm and being ignored. She told me that Hawaii is called the extinction capital of the world as it witnesses the greatest number of annual species extinctions. We know now that we are witnessing the Sixth Extinction and there is little debate left to be had about the cause.
Photo by Louise McGrath
I wanted to compose a space for sorrow. It isn't easy to let ourselves really feel emotions that touch into the enormity of our current reality. We risk overwhelm, burn-out, helplessness and hopelessness. I think it's important not to be afraid to feel. Perhaps, from a truthful feeling place we can find new much-needed resources. So here is a recording from our Carole Nelson Trio gig in Dublin a few weeks ago. In a normally loud bar you could hear the proverbial pin drop. (you might need to turn up your volume as the recording is quiet)
On a happier note, I spent two amazing days in HellFire Studios in the Dublin Mountains, with Cormac O'Brien, Dominic Mullan and Ivan Jackman (engineer) It was an extraordinary experience, despite my dose of bronchial asthma, as we put eleven pieces down in an atmosphere of openness, positivity and connection.
A recent Blindboy podcast on coping with climate anxiety. (it takes about 10 minutes to get into it) I love Blindboy and have been listening to him for a while. He's sound! On politics, mental health, climate chaos. (If you can't cope with his uninhibited limerick lingo...move along :)
Ar Scáth a Chéile translates from Irish into something like 'We stand in each others shade, or shelter'. Nothing and no-one can exist independently. In this week of Extinction Rebellion actions around the world it seems a good time to be reminded of this obvious truth. No bees? No food. No insects? No pollinators. No trees? No protection from desertification, erosion, global warming...the list goes on and on.
My favourite poster from the Dublin students strike
I was walking in Clashganny Woods feeling the life beneath, around and above me. Everything connecting - the upper canopy giving shade for younger trees and smaller plants, creating habitats for myriad beings, wind and rain and sun and seasons in endless cycles. Here was a deeper time, a holy place. In these days when so much life is threatened, I breathe in the joy and beauty of the natural world.
Connecting the activist and the spiritual, here's a link to a conversation between an London XR activist and two monastics from Plum Village Zen Monastic Community.
In a few days I'll be heading into HellFire Studios with my good friends Cormac O'Brien and Dominic Mullan to record our next trio album. I'm excited to see how the tunes I've been writing these last few months will develop. I know we will bring our most open and receptive selves to creating something new.