The Dragon Storytelling Chair

June 29th, 2015

28/6/15
My car is growling. Ouch. It is odd not to be bothered or worried or upset but looking out at the hills, listening to the wind in the trees in the garden and the birds debating in the distance, I just can’t quite manage it.

I get membership of the RAC through Higos Insurance so I’ll find out why my car is growling and until then there’s no point in worrying now is there?

I know exactly how I did it. Yesterday I spent all day writing.
Then I took a notion that I would go to ‘The Magic Land’ after all – having found it on google maps so I would recognise the turning when I came to it. I bought a half share in this bit of land, which I thought was near Aberystwyth but in fact is closer to New Quay( and about an hour’s drive away), years ago. I’ve only been there once, the summer the collective met for the first time. I broke up with the partner I bought the share with and that was that.

Getting to ‘The Magic Land’ involved driving along a potholed road such as I’ve not driven along in years. I can’t say the land looked magic when got there. There must be half a dozen abandoned vehicles along with strange looking shacks and piles of rubbish by the side of the dirt track. Getting there I drove real slow and then, cos the path through the other side looked better than the one I’d just crawled down, I wound up driving another mile or so on poor quality dirt track to find myself at a farm. Not magic at all. The way back is all uphill and if I don’t drive in second gear I’m not going to get up the incline. So now my car is growling at me and the nice man from the RAC will get here when he does and tell me what damage is.

It may not look like much ‘The Magic Land’ but someone has managed to plant oak trees so along with the tree stumps among the scrubby growth of weed and bracken, there are young oak trees all green and healthy and happy. That’ll do for starters. I remember that first meeting I thought that some of the shareholders’ notions of what was possible to do here were, well let’s say ambitious, but I kept my mouth shut. Miracles happen when people have enough faith in their vision to put in the work it takes to manifest it. All I wanted was to ‘re-wild’ the land. What I love is the remoteness. The absence of traffic noise. It’s somewhere I can be very quiet and connect. I ended up doing a bit of a Midsummer Ceremony all on my tod on this land I feel has some claim on me.

I don’t sing to people, or I very rarely sing to people. I sing to the land. I sang to the land as a child and yesterday I sang to the ‘Magic Land’. I sat on a tree stump, basking in sunlight, looking out to the horizon singing ‘Where I sit is holy/sacred is the place/river, mountain, forest/listen to my voice’. There have been phases of my life when I sang every day. Singing I am ‘remembering’ in the sense of all the pieces coming together, a re-collection of who I am. It may not look like much but the land has some magic, especially the trees that will be mature in a few centuries.

Then I drove on to Newcastle Emlyn. I wanted to spend sunset in the Dragon Chair at the castle there. Newcastle Emlyn is where the last dragon in Wales was killed and where Pamela Gaunt lead a project which included making and erecting the Dragon Storytelling Chair. I have been meaning to get to Newcastle Emlyn and sit in the Chair for a few years now. I made it. Whatever the cost, I made it. I sent out a prayer for the friend who told me about it, for the vision he’s now living. I wish I’d written down the Merlin Prophesy that’s there. I read it out loud and, yes, I wept. It’s powerful stuff. And I sat in the chair and sang some more. I said the Mantra of Unification 3 times (binding the spell). I felt like a child sitting cross-legged inside the dragon and oh, does it feel good, looking out over a wide valley bursting with life, full of healing green. Sitting in the Dragon Chair calling in a new story, I felt more ‘at myself’ than I have in a very long time.

The man from the RAC has been and gone and it’s not the engine but the exhaust pipe as I suspect that anyone with the nonce to think of it could probably have worked out. It’s just that the last time something happened the car, it was serious. I have not done what I came for, not by a long chalk, but it still feels like I did absolutely the right thing in coming here for this week.
I wish, I really wish, I could remember what it’s like to come out the other side when the terrain ahead looks bleak. But dark days, my thinking becomes static and the gremlin shouts too loud for me to hear the chorus of hope ‘This too shall pass’.

29/6/15
It cost a sobering £250 and the entire day to get the car fit to drive again. I don’t want to think about it too much. I’m sad to be leaving all this peace and beauty behind. I’ll be back. I will return to the land of the dragon.

Retreat

June 26th, 2015

23/6/15
It’s now three months to the day since I started blogging and six since I stopped working as a psychological wellbeing practitioner so it seems relevant to reflect on the process and my progress since I started blogging. There’s always a gap between fantasy and reality. I started blogging with the notion that by doing so I would end up with readers I’ve never met whose experience resonates with my own difficulties. Instead I’ve ended up with you as my circle of support. You are great. I have ended up publishing very few of your comments (not being sure how you’d feel about my doing so) and feeling apologetic for my failure to respond to you individually when I have so much to thank you for. I want to let go of the sense of failure that I experience because I hoped to reach wider audience. What has happened instead is grand, it’s just not what I envisaged when I set out on this journey.

Looking at the things I said I’d do – I am doing about 20 minutes qi gong practice most days. I’m not convinced I’m doing it ‘right’ but haven’t let that stop me. It was good to hear of someone who no longer suffers the symptoms of chronic fatigue as a result of their qi gong practice as it reinforces my trust that qi gong is worth doing. I’m clearly neither as tired nor as stressed as I was three months ago.

I am still drinking coffee but considerably less than before. I know drinking coffee is a bad idea. It acidic and our immune system works best when our diet is alkaline rather than acidic. I’ve just checked this out on the internet and find that ‘they’ reckon it ain’t necessarily so. However when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I read enough research to convince me that adopting a diet that is mainly alkaline is just about the best choice we can make if we want to be physically healthy. So it’s not information I lack. But when it comes to coffee drinking, I find myself caught in the ‘rebel-tyrant dynamic’. It’s what happens when either we or someone else tells us what we should do. We experience ‘should’ as the tyrant dictating and inside we have a resentful rebel that responds with ‘I don’t want to. I’m not going to. So there!’ When it comes to coffee drinking, I’m up against a very stubborn self who is already feeling pretty deprived so just as you would with a teenager, I’m picking my battles and I’m settling for a reduction rather than none. I have one mug of coffee a day and enjoy it.

So the other thing I said I’d do is work with the invocation ‘Let vision come and insight. Let the future stand revealed’ and what I’ve discovered in the process is that I’m considerably more ambivalent about this idea than I realised. I’m not entirely sure I want to know what the future holds. I have more fear around this than I am comfortable admitting. If the future revealed is ‘The Great Turning Times’ and I find more ways to ‘become Gaia healing herself’ then I would love to see how I can contribute to this future manifesting. But in my current frustration with myself and how that is reflected in the two other stories of this time i.e. ‘Business as usual’ and its dark shadow ‘We’re all fucked’ I reckon I ‘cannot bear too much reality’. Perhaps there’s something to be said for ignorance after all.

26/6/15
You don’t need me to tell you that Glastonbury Festival is on now. You could hardly avoid knowing that. I no longer want to work at the festival – if I find being in a room with 50 odd people overwhelming you can imagine how I find being on a festival site with more than 150,000 people – but I hate the sense of deprivation I go through when most people I know are ‘on site’. Yes I accept I’m contrary but rather than sit around feeling like I’m missing out, I have escaped to Wales.

It is so beautiful here. I’m staying in an ordinary house in a little housing estate on the edge of a village in the hinterland of Aberystwyth with the most spectacular views. I’ve been doing qi gong in the garden in the mornings looking out at the hills on the horizon with my heart singing. I’ve spent evenings in Aberystwyth sitting with the shushing of the sea to soothe me.

There’s magic in the air. I found Milly on the air bnb website one night a few weeks ago and thought ‘she sounds interesting’. The next time I went on the website I couldn’t find her but although there were other places that I could have stayed, the fact that Milly’s a writer and storyteller meant that I wanted to meet her, and with persistent searching I found her again and here I am staying with her for the guts of a week. Every conversation reveals more of a life lived with courage and conviction and like most of the people I find inspirational, she doesn’t realise that she’s exceptional. I don’t like staying in ordinary B&Bs and, other than the fantastic training events that the Open University in Northern Ireland ran, I’ve not enjoyed staying in hotels much either. In contrast, staying with Milly is like staying with a friend and every interaction deepens that sense of friendship.

The plan was to write a book proposal while I’m here but I’m finding it extraordinarily difficult to do. I know that when it comes to non-fiction, received wisdom says don’t write the book until you’ve found someone to publishing it but how can I write a synopsis when I don’t have a text that I’m summarising? I’m reading Marshall Rosenberg’s ‘Nonviolent Communication’ and I want to write with the clarity and simplicity that he does. I believe that if I could write this book it would be worth it but today I am once again in the ‘phase of disbelief’. I accept that it doesn’t matter how much I think myself incapable of doing this so long as I keep going anyway.

If I think in terms of what I most want to do in the time I have left on this planet, publishing a book is top of my list. It seems miraculous to me that I have found myself in this peaceful place with Milly who, as a writer herself, understands and supports me to keep going today when I’m finding it challenging.

And looking up to green hills in the distance is good for the soul.

Turning Point

June 17th, 2015

My life touches other lives
here
in the quiet of myself
rippling out to meet the world.

If I do nothing else in all my days
but send out love on the airwaves
on the wings of wishes
from the heart of the flame
I’ll find blessing in the stillness
of this involuntary retreat
so full of gratitude
for the lives I touch.

I make no claims for this as poetry but what I love about this is the assertion of worth, of value in the ‘fit for nothing’ times in my life. Today’s one of these and paradoxically I’m in grand form. I look out my window at the splash of poppies growing where they shouldn’t be, in the vegetable patch that didn’t get planted. I just love the gift of their cheek. They are loud, exuberant, so full of summer and colour. And I can see them because N. came round and mowed the lawn on Friday. I have such wonderful friends.

It’s a day to count blessings and it was a great time to come across this poem which I wrote a few years ago when chronic fatigue was the problem rather than chronic pain. The truth is I’m glad the CFS morphed into fibromyalgia which may sound odd. With fibro I have more choice – I can ignore the pain and do things anyway at times which is simply not possible with CFS and I have medication for pain-relief that usually works. Today is one of those rare days when moving is so painful that I’ve given up and taken to my bed.

When I last blogged I’d ‘failed’ to finish the article for PCSR. Well that day Kate emailed me and asked me to have a go at finishing it. And I did, I wrote it in hours and enjoyed writing it to boot. It’s about working for IAPT and relevant to PCSR’s current campaign against the introduction of enforced engagement with mental health services for benefits recipients. I love that PCSR is living up to its name – psychotherapists and counsellors for social responsibility. These people mean business. They are writing letters, going on protest marches, campaigning outside Streatham job centre where this initiative is being piloted. I wish I could go on the anti-austerity march in London this Saturday but I can’t walk the length of myself at the minute and I’d already worked out that I couldn’t afford the £30 or so it would cost me to participate. God be with the days when I’d have organised and filled a bus!

I’m somewhat fascinated by the fact that one week I couldn’t write for the life of me and then when I’d gone through the disappointment of not managing to complete the project and was offered another chance, it was totally possible. It helped that I’m re-reading Chris Johnstone’s Find your power’ and had just read about ‘the phase of disbelief’ a journalist friend of his describes experiencing when she sits down to write. Just like his friend, I didn’t believe I could write but I did it anyway. Kate liked the result. I hug that to myself. It means a lot to me.

The week before I moved through a lot of grief, a lot of processing of experience to distil what was relevant to say. There is so much healing in having done so even if it was tough going at times. It’s right in the heart of what I am about in this world – if someone else can benefit from what I’ve learnt it gives meaning to what I’ve been through. It’s why I loved the job, why I found it so hard to let go. I trained as a person-centred counsellor and took the ‘non-directive’ requirement seriously so I never advised anyone. As a PWP (psychological wellbeing practitioner i.e. the job) I enjoyed the freedom to say the obvious and at times I was directive to good effect. It was a role in which, every day, I was using my experiences for the good of the people I spoke with. The bottom line is I cared and they could tell I cared and however it gets dressed up, whatever the successful outcome is attributed to, it is connection that counts.

I am in a bit of a Catch 22 when it comes to returning to work as a counsellor in that I believe people should be entitled to ‘free at the point of delivery’ service and have something of an antipathy for private practice. (That’s why I wanted to work for the NHS.) My favourite clients have always been the ones who walk in the door saying ‘I never thought I’d go to a counsellor and I don’t think this will make any difference’ – no matter how strongly worded their scepticism is and some have worded it very strongly indeed. I don’t madly want to set up in private practice but I need to get accredited again so I need to talk myself into it as a valid next step. I do sound different don’t I? I feel like I really have reached a turning point.

I forced myself to go out to the celebration of our Green Party Mayor on Sunday. It was a bit like making a shy child go to a party. I was positively freaked out and ready to run away but with support from friends I managed to stick with it and even relax to the point of enjoying myself eventually. That is a much bigger breakthrough than it sounds. In having a chronic health problem I always have a bail-out available but I bail-out far too readily and it leads to an ever shrinking world. I don’t fully get why I find large scale social events so difficult. I find other people’s energy overwhelming – that’s such a hippy-dippy thing to say but I don’t know how else to say it. It’s totally irrational – but that recognition doesn’t help. In working with people who avoid situations because of anxiety, the advice we gave to patients as PWPs was to hang in there and the physiological response will over time diminish – which it did Sunday night. I also used to suggest that they rate the experience on 2 scales – the achievement and how enjoyable it was. The logic of separating the two aspects for me is that rarely is anything as enjoyable as it used to be, so it’s important to recognise that it is something to have faced and managed a challenge.

It’s the help from others, all the kind and understanding people who made it possible for me to convince the irrationally terrified ‘inner child’ that it is all perfectly safe and fine, that stays with me. My gratitude to them contributes to this being a day when I am feeling blessed and happy and content and, perhaps most importantly of all, unfazed by the fact that pain is limiting me more than usual.

And today’s my daughter’s birthday and that means that I have happy memories to entertain me. She is without a doubt a daughter to make any parent proud and the love between us is the most precious of all blessings in a life that today feels very blessed indeed.

Keeping going

June 11th, 2015

10/6/15

This is the longest gap in writing this blog since I began and the closest I’ve come to abandoning the project altogether. I don’t want to just write about what’s happening but to identify actions and ideas that help me manage it – the idea being that it’s what I’m learning that could potentially be of interest to others. In the last couple of weeks feeling like I’ve wound up back where I was a few years ago has left me feeling despondent, drained, dull, that I’ve nothing left to say. It hasn’t helped that I finished on such a positive note last time. Does everyone end up a bit trapped sometimes because they want what was true in one moment to continue feeling true but it doesn’t?

Yesterday, by the time I got as far as the qi gong class, I felt so ill I was ready to go home again. But Caroline suggested I get a chair and do what I could of the class sitting. I am struggling to describe what happened in that hour because it feels too intense, too profound, too much to have happened in such a short period of time. I’ve had a lot of problems with my digestive system (and that’s as much information as you need!) and nothing I’ve tried so far has made any significant difference. We were doing exercises that free the joints when suddenly I experienced an intense wave of grief with its complex mix of anger, sadness, pain wash through me and with it the clear understanding that the pain I experience cannot be separated neatly into ‘physical’ and ‘emotional’. The pain in my throat was excruciating, my heart was aching and my guts were screaming. The thought accompanying this was the command ‘Do not cry’ and I wanted to leave. But I didn’t move.

The next qi gong exercise we did was new to me – to generate ‘pure undifferentiated chi’ and then work with it. I don’t remember what it’s called but by the end I wasn’t in pain anymore. Weird. Powerful. And thought provoking. I don’t know if I can truly convey the difference it makes to experience body-mind as I did yesterday, so it shifts from being a useful mental concept into lived experience.

‘Biography becomes biology’ says Caroline Myss. It’s a neat expression and this experience reminded me of it. The digestive system is about processing feelings as well as food and the more I’ve thought about it. the more sense that makes. Emotional states definitely affect my relationship with food – what I eat, whether I can be bothered to cook, how much pleasure there is in eating. So I gather together some books on the subject, from my time studying bio-dynamic psychotherapy. I wake up nauseous and often cannot eat until the afternoon and I’m sure that contributes to the problem. Debbie Shapiro says of nausea (in The Bodymind Workbook) ‘We suffer from nausea when something in the reality being absorbed into our being is creating the desire to throw it back out again. In other words, we are dealing with a reality that is causing great upset, sadness and pain and we do not want to have it anywhere near us’. And of all digestive problems ‘The message is to slow down, take time to listen and absorb one situation fully before moving onto the next.’

(I go online to discover she is now calling herself ‘Deb’ and there’s no mention of ‘The Bodymind Workbook’ on the website. She was a friend of my friend Mandy’s and I met her when she came back from America to North Wales for a visit and taught me the Metamorphic Technique that I love so much. She was such a dynamic radiant woman I’ve never forgotten her.)

Her advice helps me come to terms with all the ‘things undone I would have done’. Last week I was working on an article on my experiences in the job for the PCSR magazine ‘Tranformations’. I didn’t manage to complete it before the deadline and have instead a number of incomplete, unsuccessful attempts to work out what I could usefully say. It was mighty frustrating. I know that the editor will be understanding and supportive but I don’t want that, I just want to be able to write the blasted thing.

I am frustrated with myself for failing to meet a deadline, to complete a task I wanted to. I know I’ve described feeling like I’m pushing bits of broken self around in a shopping trolley but I’m also terrified that if I ever stopped forcing myself to keep going, I’d sit down and never get up again. This is about fear too. There’s lots looming large and scary in my life right now.

Between the job application and the attempt to write about being a PWP (psychological wellbeing practitioner) I have recognised that I want to work as a counsellor again. Whatever I was employed to do as a PWP, I am at heart a counsellor. As they measured success, the quality of my work stood up well but I am constitutionally incapable of ‘low intensity’ working. For me the intensity of the encounter is set by the person needing help and it is in the place of meeting that healing happens. The success I achieved is wrongly attributed to the ‘evidence based’ CBT tools but the quality of the relationship remains, as always, the strongest determinant of a successful intervention.

The next step on this return journey to health and wellbeing is managing fibromyalgia. It’s June and in previous years by June I’d be fairly symptom-free but not this year. My current focus, my next step is working towards being the healthiest me I can manage to be and I’m beginning with daily qi gong and quitting drinking coffee.

It all feels a bit of an uphill slog right now. But one step in front of another and see where it takes me eh?

The power of circles

May 29th, 2015

Monday 25th May

I’ve finished working at the Green Earth Awakening camp and returned to the tearful self. How do I feel about the fact I wound up in tears before I ‘got out’, about the collapse of the competent self? I have spent years so invested in ‘keeping it together’, feeling as if my life depended on it, that when it cracks, it does not feel good.

It’s been an amazing weekend. The eco-psychology conversation was wonderful. I began by saying Descartes got it wrong when he said ‘I think, therefore I am.’ It’s ‘I experience, therefore I am’. I love that I’m ready to take on Descartes, have the confidence to challenge a Cartesian world view. I wondered if I should explain the extent to which they were getting ‘the world according to Dearbhaile Bradley’ because I’ve never read what I’m saying in any book. I am speaking my heart’s truth. I stepped forward into a place where I know what I think – there is a coherence emerging. I am weaving together strands from many different sources of knowledge. What delighted me was what others in the circle said, the sense of this truly being a sharing and ‘education’. What I can do is provide a space that allows people to hear their own wisdom and feel its resonance in their hearts.

I have had many powerfully moving encounters at the camp. My encounter with R particularly touched me. He saw me perform poetry at Sunrise three years ago. On the strength of that, he came and did the Work that Re-connects workshops at Buddhafield, when he saw I was one of the facilitators. On the back of that, he changed his life to reflect his commitment to living sustainably on the Earth. I am looking at him recounting the story of how he ‘took the ball and ran with it’ and can see that he is happy now. I may feel powerless but what happens through me, without my knowledge, without my ‘doing’ anything but being myself and sharing what I am learning with other people, can be powerful.

He’s not the only young man who thanked me with that depth of sincerity. I can hardly take it in, this ‘feedback’. What they don’t know these young men talking to me, sharing their stories, is that I am searching for my son in the echo of their being young. I can’t help it. It is a heart whispering curiosity without my say-so. I do not know young men and am hungry for their views, their take on the world. It is a secret drum beat underneath every meeting. What they share with me is more precious than they could ever guess.

Right at the end though, tired and trudging up the hill pushing a wheel-barrow, I felt alien and excluded. I’d overdone it just by walking up and down a hill more often than I could physically cope with. I am struck by the irony of the fact that my work is about connecting. In the safety of the circles we create doing the Work that Re-connects, I find myself able to connect in a way I find profound and moving. But when I look around the field now I’m leaving, it seems to me that other people can relate in a far more relaxed and natural way than I do. I may assert that the sense of separation is a culturally-induced delusion but I still feel it at times.

So it’s fine that I cried and was comforted, that I left my tears on the Earth.

Friday 29th May

I’m annoyed with myself for not having posted a blog sooner than this. I’m annoyed with myself about all sorts of stuff. I’m tired and cranky and flustered. I ran out of tablets at the weekend and it’s Friday and I’ve still not managed to get the prescription made up. I’m in one of those phases where the things I’m not managing to do are like endlessly rolling credits. Every time I walk towards the front door I think again ‘I must weed the front. It looks terrible’. And every day I think, at least once, that I need to buy a bed but I’ve no money to buy it with. I’ve people I want to see and, weirdly, don’t seem to have time to see them.

What the hell am I doing? I spent 4 days working on a job application because I’d agreed with the employment advisor from the CMHT that I would. Maybe somewhere along the line I will see some benefit in having done so, but today it feels like the most complete waste of time. It’s eaten up my week and I couldn’t finish it. All that time and energy and thought for what? It’s a process that totally did my head in and leaves me feeling despondent.

My youngest brother wrote yesterday to say he’s just got a new job managing a charitable mental health project in Ireland. He’s principled, compassionate, intelligent and hard-working – and I’m in a position to know. It’s quite a combination and I think that the people who selected him over candidates with more experience in management have made a decision they won’t regret.

But the juxtaposition of his news and my failure to even complete an application form has awakened the gremlin. It’s all very fine and dandy that sweet people at a festival tell me I’m inspirational. Return home and I return to trudging through, not managing to keep on top of things, not getting as far as contacting the people on my list of ‘people I want to see’, not completing the application form, not posting a blog, not …….

Count blessings. Fill the well. Be nurturing towards this crabbed unattractive negative self.

The night I came back from GEA, I phoned the friend whose message I got on my return from Ireland. They (himself and his wife) have a ‘speaker phone’ so as they’d their dinner, we three chatted. It was great to catch up with them. It was good to talk about Tunni (a mutual friend who died at Christmas). I realised talking to them why I’m finding Tunni’s death so much more upsetting that Patrick’s. I know Patrick knew I loved him and there is comfort in the contact I had with him as he was dying. Tunni? I don’t know that Tunni knew I loved him because it’s not something I ever said to him. He drifted out of my world a long time ago. And when I mourn Patrick I am part of a community who also are grieving his parting, whereas no-one in my world now knew Tunni. So that was a tremendous blessing, this reconnecting with dear friends who know me from way back when.

Jo turned up like the good garden fairy on Monday and mowed most of the back garden. I was working on that blasted application form. Every time I look out the back I feel a wave of gratitude. Practical help makes a huge difference.

Wednesday I did a poetry workshop with Roselle Angwin. I’ve wanted to meet her for ages and to work with her was a gift. Any creative writing group will yield surprising results but the standard of work in this group was exceptional and I felt honoured to be in the circle. And oddly, I felt like I belonged, did not feel intimidated by them. They liked my work and I liked theirs. I brought two of Roselle’s books for her to sign but in the heels of the hunt it never happened because by the time it was over I was done. And that’s another blessing, Jo saying ‘Go home.’ when I was too far gone to have a titter of wit and leave.

I’ve ended up re-reading Roselle’s book ‘All the missing names of Love’. It’s a great title and titles are one of Roselle’s things – leave room between the title and the poem and let meaning flower in the space. Am I poet again? I feel like I’m now in a similar place to where I was before I took the job. I’ve Priddy Folk Festival performance to prepare for. We’ve 20 minutes between us but the work it takes to produce a themed ‘conversation of poetry’ takes weeks of writing, selecting, deciding, shaping. Then I’ve the workshops at Buddhafield. I’m back doing what I did before I thought ‘a real job’ was the answer and wound up coming a cropper.

Back with more debt than I had to start with, facing the same difficulties I faced then about how to earn a crust. I think there’s value in what I’m doing but there’s no money in it. Last time round I went to a life coach. It opened up more questions than it answered and the job looked perfect from where the life coaching took me. I’ve been engaged in this reflection on the path for a couple of months now and I’m clearly in a different place than when I started but I still don’t know how to get from here to being as well as it’s in me to be. Earning my keep is part of that, I need it for my own self-respect. But if filling in application forms is what it takes, I don’t know that I have it in me. The problem with that specific job application form was that I’ve too much experience, too much training, have done too much voluntary work and at the same time lack the one bit of paper they’re looking for. I am not accredited, not eligible for accreditation and the fact that I’m a skilled counsellor and facilitator is neither here nor there in this crazy world we live in.

I think that the talk I gave at Green Earth Awakening provoked such interesting contributions from the circle that it is deserves sharing. It had the quality of ‘returning to centre’ about it. I remember when I did the international conference in Ireland, before I even got there, I’d already freaked out the organisers by refusing to write one of those ‘I’m all puffed up and successful, so you should listen to me’ bios. My attitude was ‘I am speaking as a bog-standard counsellor who just happened to be in Omagh when the bomb went off. The point is it could happen to anyone and I’m talking as an equal’. I don’t think they’d a baldy clue what I was on about. And then when it came to my ‘seminar’, I got rid of the rows and set up a circle with a candle in the middle. I had my rose quartz heart that I’d used in who knows how many circles before and passed it round inviting people to say why they’d come to an event entitled ‘On learning from the Omagh bombing’ and let the stories unfold and then passed it round again asking people to share what it was like to hear what they had said. The strongest memory remaining, still cradled in my heart as a precious gift, is of someone sharing what it was like when they were caught in a bomb-blast. Healing for them and moving for all of us. It was the talk of the conference because everyone else had done a conventional presentation. The wisdom is in the circle. We need spaces to hear ourselves speak, experience the qualities of a circle that ‘holds’ us. The shape of power matters. We are used to the triangular nature of power in capitalism, to power as something some have and most don’t. It’s not true, or only true to the extent we accept it. To understand our fundamental equality and to work in circle is truly revolutionary.

I am less grumpy when I started but tired, bone tired and the day’s half done.