Walk Inniú | Editorial
Walk Inniú Counselling Psychotherapy Outdoors is David Staunton’s response to provide people in Ireland with an introduction and access to Ecotherapy.
Counselling, Psychotherapy, Dublin, Outdoors, David Satunton, Grief, Stress, Anxiety, Sexuality, Low Mood, depression, relationships, bereavement,
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Editorial

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‘Giving up’ biscuits?

Why are you are ‘giving up’ biscuits?

Wednesday the 18th of February, 2015 – is known to many millions as Ash Wednesday.  I have no idea how many Christians will make ‘Lenten vows’ today after their pancake splurging last night.  However Christian or otherwise, old habits, traditions and culture seeps far and deep into the psyche of a nation.

 

I overheard some very young kids on their way to school the other morning checking in with their friends as to the veracity of their proposed sacrifice.  They were sizing each other up and making running adjustments to their own vows and I believe I could hear cogs turning as one of them worked out that it was ok to ‘give up’ crisps but continue with a well known energy drink and what seemed like a very complex but not all together concrete junk food plan until Easter Sunday.  How very innocent it all seems and how very like children us sensible adults are.

 

“We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.”
Advent, Patrick Kavanagh

I am quite fascinated with abstinence and fasting.  The opening lines of Kavanagh’s poem Advent has for decades resonated with a personal desire to simplify and live a more mindful life.  It is no accident that most religions in the world use abstinence in some form or other as a method of communicating their ideology. It is highly effective. Without the distraction of or the fleeting and false comfort of a large doughnut or glass of wine, we may actually begin to tune in to ourselves – our real selves and just be, rather than do.  We can begin to really listen to ourselves and check-in and in so doing, relieve ourselves from the constant clamour and expectations which rain down on us like a never-ending shower.

 

The subject of abstinence is highly evocative.  Many, including myself for various reasons take care to separate their fast and abstinence from that of the traditions of the Christian and other religions.  Blind faith combined with fasting and abstaining does not, I believe serve the humanity of the individual and may well leave us as feeling powerless and vulnerable.  Signs of a similar tension and unease are currently being played out by the controversy over the alcohol giant, Diageo funding the ‘Stop Out-of-Control Drinking’ campaign and those at ‘Ireland Unlocked’ who believe that the drinks industry has no business telling us how much or how little we drink’.  I welcome that many respected people on both sides are daring to look at the subject of alcohol abuse in Ireland as this raises awareness and subsequently creates solutions.  I suspect a rational and valid fear or anxiety around ‘the element of control’ is present and I believe that this is a healthy discussion and debate – with great dynamic depth.  The Ireland Unlocked campaign are asking ‘why’ and ‘who’ – and these questions are both vital, necessary, honest and healthy in order to introduce an element of healing with real and lasting societal change in Ireland.

 

Some years ago, in a conversation not totally unlike the aforementioned children’s discussion on the way to school, a friend of mine was speaking about ‘giving up a particular brand of biscuits’ for lent.  She was an adult at the time and she was speaking with great conviction and sincerity.  I listened.  She then stopped mid-sentence and started to crease with laughter.  I think it dawned on her that perhaps working out the ‘why’ she was giving up her favourite snack was more important than the ‘what’ or the ‘which’.

 

We will never really get to know ourselves if we don’t attempt to abstain from a substance or behaviour.

 

Only ourselves can work out what substance (biscuits, coffee, heroin, alcohol, hash, marshmallows) or what behaviour (overeating, gambling, pornography), if removed from our life will assist us most in becoming centred and whole.  In Buddhist Vipassanna meditation, the term ‘annicha’ is used to remind us of impermanence and that whatever ‘craving’ we are experiencing following the loss of a behaviour or substance from our system – will pass.  However, we will only experience this warm and healing consolation if we actually sustain our fast and stay with the challenge.

 

Good ideas are usually simple ones.  Good ideas last the test of time.  Fasting and abstinence may sound ‘old hat’ because they are… they are approaches as old as the hills.  However, own your fast, own and take responsibility for your choice.  Make sure it serves you well and that the reasons ‘why’ you are committing are clear to you.  Fasting and abstinence may be used to ‘self-punish’.  Questions and reflections are key.  Are you being punitive with yourself?  Why are you being punitive with yourself?  What are you really feeling when you are experiencing a craving? Who are you doing this for?  Is somebody expecting you to fast or abstain?  I know…far more questions than answers.

 

This abstinence stuff, although at times may seem like a nostalgic nod to an Ireland of the past with black tea without sugar and a meatless 40 days – is a powerful way to find inner peace and develop loving kindness towards ourselves and others.

 

So no matter what you ‘give up’ take some time to work out ‘why’.  The results may astonish you.

 

For further counselling psychotherapeutic support and help with issues around addictive behaviour and recovery, click here.

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blessington

Green in the Blue

Green Spaces in Dublin’s City Centre

We have some wonderful city centre parks in Dublin.  St Stephens Green, St Patricks Park, The Iveagh Gardens, Merrion Square, Mountjoy Square and a few other hidden green gems.  We are fortunate beyond belief to have the vast expanse that is the Phoenix Park allowing nature to wander right up to the Liffey quays.  These places of green beauty are a credit to the forward thinking minds that conceived them as protected pockets of urban breathing space, but also to the many knowledgeable men and women who tend and work directly and lovingly in preserving and maintaining such enjoyable public spaces.

 

However, when it comes to having local parks and green areas in which to enjoy, there are highly populated entire communities in Dublin’s city centre which are poorly served and have been desperately ignored by the local authorities – arguably for centuries.  Parks or ‘green lungs’ in a city are not a luxury, they are a holistic necessity for a healthy population.  It could be said that areas such as Dublin 8 lost out over the centuries in the ‘municipal park lottery’ for a combination of historical, industrial or indeed socio-economic reasons. Whatever the reasons, we are where we are, and swathes of Dublin lack the necessary reviving green of grass and rustle of trees, where local kids can play outdoors (unplugged) and off the streets.

 

Dublin, has it’s commuters, pressured executives, traffic pollution, delivery drivers, busy people distracted by the incessant frivolous chattering and demands from social media, in-your-face billboard, bus or bus stop advertising, or the frenzy of pale and drawn multi-tasking parents dropping off and collecting – yeah it’s all go in any town or city. These days however, due to our over usage and dependence on communication technology, we can often feel every bit as distracted and sapped of energy in the countryside.  And yet, it all amounts to people who are just doing the best they can to complete their daily tasks and get safely to the end of their day.  But it can sometimes feel like an empty, tiring and imprisoning day, that leaves little time or energy for real and meaningful living.

 

But are things changing?

 

The announcement of recently proposed parks at Bridgefoot Street and Cork Street are to be welcomed and the Granby ‘pop-up-park’ at Dorset Street raised our awareness of what is possible when imagination is fused with creative thought and energy.  The construction of a geodesic dome incorporating a hydroponic garden on Reuben Street in ‘Flanagan’s Field’ is particularly inspirational and a mini-green belt or ‘linear effort’ on North King Street (near the Bolton Street end) is a welcome addition to what was a previously a poor vista for residents or any passers-by.

 

The welcome 'Linear' Green space on Dublin's North King Street

The welcome ‘Linear’ Green space on Dublin’s North King Street

 

 

The melding of art and compost at the community garden in the National College for Art and Design on their Thomas Street campus, is producing not alone amazing organic food, but encouraging traditionally separated elements within the diverse local community to get to know each other.  Every Tuesday morning I don my ‘urban farming boots’ and weed, chat, grow food and create a space and community with people I would never ordinarily get to socialise with over cups of strong hot tea.

 

Any parcel of nature in a city helps people to mingle as a community, improve their health and fosters resilience amongst the local inhabitants.  We as citizens, have a responsibility to help imagine and insist how our parks and corners of urban nature could be improved and protected.  As land and property prices are rising again, I fear that speculative landowners in the city centre will hold on to their vacant crumbling lots in the hope of a financial killing and sadly for another generation the men, women and children who live and work in the inner city, will gaze out on and walk by the miserable unkempt hoardings identifying unused land and ruinous buildings.

 

Imagine increasing the number of trees in Dublin’s city centre by ten or twenty thousand!  Too ambitious?  The city of Chicago in America has increased the number of trees in its city by well over three hundred thousand since 1989 – an amazing gargantuan greening feat.  It’s great to see that Dublin City Council encourages and supports the greening of otherwise irregular and unattractive sites and the small but effective linear plantation along North King Street is particularly worthy of note and praise to all concerned.

 

It is possible to find nature in Dublin’s inner city where locals and visitors can have relaxing strolls whilst enjoying the birds singing in the trees, indigenous plants and wildflowers growing, sustaining an inner city butterfly and bee population.  Nature is all around us – but I admit, it can be a challenge to experience and enjoy the leafy refreshing greenness of a tree or the swaying rustle of tall grass amongst all the noise, the concrete and brick.  Illegal dumping and vandalism detracts further from our desire to experience the healing effects of nature.  Due to the heartbreaking Homeless crises in the city, parks may often provide a home to many and I do not believe that this should be the function of a city park.  It is our responsibility as a society to take better care of those that need our support.

 

The amazing geodesic dome in Flanagan's Field Community Garden

The amazing geodesic dome in Flanagan’s Field Community Garden

 

 

The optimist in me (albeit the sometimes deluded and highly ideological optimist), holds out for the day when city officials and inner city landowners meet together and create hundreds of ‘mini parks’ all over town.  Vacant sites which will provide sanctuary for a couple of Irish Oak trees, some indigenous shrubs and plants and perhaps a bench to sit on.  Each community gets involved in the planning, sowing and managing of their mini park.  I had the great luck, whilst out for a walk to happen upon the inauguration of such a park recently at the junction of Arran Street and Mary’s Abbey, where an inspiring attempt to encourage nature to flourish in a disused vacant site, has resulted in a community garden which allows passengers on the red line Luas to rest their eyes on an attractive pocket of inner city green.  The people involved in such ecological attempts are the citizens of Dublin whose actions impress me most.  People, who with little connection or resources prove that local creative thought in communities can achieve great things.

 

Undeterred by the confines of time or space the successful annual Park(ing) Day Dublin results in “elevating and celebrating public space” by creating ‘parklets’ on city centre parking spaces.   However, if ‘parklets’ or ‘mini parks’ sound a bit ‘too mini’ to you – remember the old adage about lighting a candle rather than cursing darkness.  Nature, even the double-deck bus battered, traffic and pollution weary tree outside my window, can encourage quite compassionate mindfulness and healing of the self.

 

There are a number of vacant sites in my neighbourhood – some have been vacant for decades.  Although I fully accept that land and property owners have the right within the law to develop their property, do we really need more tanning salons, phone shops or nail bars? When I think of the word ‘develop’ I wonder could we as neighbours in dear old Dublin town begin to ‘develop’ mini parks.

 

Picture it, in a few short years we could pride ourselves on our unique and intriguing lush reviving local pockets of inner city nature.

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Clothes Drying In Dublin

“Me Good Clothes Line”

I have a clothes line.  There, it’s said.  Probably not the most interesting or sexiest of statements for an adult male to make!  Nor did clothes lines or indeed any other household implements feature prominently in my early teenage fantasies of my future maturity and adult life ahead.  However, I do recall having particularly detailed daydreams of me imagining in adulthood owning a ‘wall-hung’ orange telephone in my kitchen with a really long cord- the type you would see in American soaps such as Benson or Silver Spoons.  On the rare occasion that Sue Ellen in Dallas or even Alexis Morrell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan in Dynasty (I googled that one for her on-screen surname), were in the kitchen barking orders at staff, they often had to take a call on such a phone.  To see Joan Collins removing her earring as she brought the receiver closer or Sue Ellen dramatically wandering around the kitchen with the extra long phone cord trailing behind her, wrapping chairs and servants as she meandered – all illustrated a stylish, luxurious and affluent life.  A lifestyle that was a far cry from a phoneless house in Mayo where the nearest P&T (that’s Posts and Telegraphs to any younger readers) telephone pole was over a mile away.

 

The technological revolution that hit the 1990’s made phones with long cords seem about as modern as Morse code machines. Thankfully, my coming of age brought some inkling of realisation that there would be more important lessons required for life and living other than owning an orange wall-hung telephone.

 

I am proud of my clothes line.  It was in situ when I moved in and it is a practical no-nonsense affair, probably designed by an Irish Mammy who knew instinctively what was required from a functioning, effective, out of doors, clothes drying apparatus.  And indeed it reminds me of my own mother and her knowledge of clothes lines.  Of course she had a life which did not always revolve around the drying of laundry, but I recall how she seemed to spend a lot of time at the clothes line and had this innate ability to read the weather and know which days were most suitable for drying.  This knowledge was shared and discussed with neighbouring women and women only, as it was back in a place and time where laundry was viewed as a female orientated task.  When you take into consideration the amount of rainfall that Mayo receives and the absence of powered clothes dryers back then – it was no small achievement to provide a family with fresh dry aired clothes, fragrant with the intoxicating west wind.

 

Drying blankets was some task, a job not to be undertaken lightly or on a day when grey clouds were beginning to slyly gather over the Neiphin Mountains.  It was a military operation, usually one which spanned generations.  My grandmother, mother and sisters were in the middle of such manoeuvres one dry day and I was sent clipping our whitethorn hedge.  It was midsummer and although the day was fine, it had rained the night before and the garden was muddy in patches.  Looking back, I must have felt left out or perhaps envious of the female only exercise which was progressing with pride and enthusiasm.  The long, strong clothes line was filled with heavy Foxford woollen blankets awaiting sun and wind to lighten their load.  My mother was doing her usual pegging and re-pegging, fixing and fussing when I could not resist it.  With the trusty old hedge clippers I chopped the line and left my mother – pegs in mouth, holding another peg in mid air where up to a second ago the clothes line used to be.  The blankets lay in the wet grass and mud and when they fell, it was as if a great theatrical curtain had opened to reveal me standing on stage, the villain frozen to the spot, hedge clippers in hand.

 

This was a prank too far and I knew it instantly.  Mam looked straight into my eyes – she knew I knew that this was serious and her gaze reached into the pit of my soul which was now melting with excitement and fear.  My Grandmother came on the scene.

 

Grandmother: “What happened?”
Mother:           “He cut me good clothes line.”
Grandmother: “Well the pup!”

 

And that was it.  Scene over.  There was no recrimination or punishment.  I helped them to tie the line as best we could and laundry day continued as happily as before.  I went back to clipping the whitethorn hedge with a mixture of curiosity as to what just happened whilst letting out the odd snigger as I pictured the utter disbelief in my mother’s face.

 

What has happened in Ireland over the last twenty years?  Was it an increase in wealth and years of TV subliminal messages and advertisements which told us we must have orange phones with long cables and electric or gas powered clothes dryers?  I don’t have a clothes dryer now but I was glad of one when I lived in an apartment.  I had a great balcony but of course the apartment bye laws forbade any drying of clothes on balconies.

 

Why is this?  Are we ashamed that others will see that we require clean clothes?  Does it evoke memories of poverty?  Is it seen as too working class?  Dublin and indeed many other Irish cities and towns, sadly have far too many examples of apartment blocks and other forms of accommodation which do little to provide and sustain healthy, liveable, family-friendly homely environments and communities.  People struggle to dry clothes in small apartments, which of course is just plain bothersome at best but can adversely affect ones health at worst, through the breathing in of excessive condensation and dampness.  It annoys me that for years our electricity provider encouraged us to save energy and out of the other side of their mouths tried desperately to sell us yet another clothes dryer.

 

What is the problem with stringing a clothes line on an apartment balcony? What about the courtyards that exist in many blocks, many of which are quite under-utilised in their present guise?  Could they incorporate some communal clothes lines?  Or is that part of the problem, do we not want to mingle with our neighbours, particularly if we are handling our unmentionables?  If we have any environmental concern giving the startling evidence of global warming due to our energy consuming lifestyles, why would we not want to use a clothes line?  Imagine all the money alone we could save on our painful energy bills?

 

Varanassi Clothes Line

My clothes drying on the street in Varanasi

 

I spent some time in India a few years ago, witnessing how clothes-washing is often social and ritualistic in nature as well as functional – not totally unlike the social element involved in drying clothes here in Ireland in the past.  I feel it important to add at this point that I am not blind to the fact that in many situations, the washing of laundry is oftentimes also extremely poorly paid, back-breaking, thankless work.  I was surprised at my high levels of mortification and how the Victorian prude in me was evoked when I looked out the window of a little tea shop in Varanasi to see a woman hanging up my socks and jocks to dry on what was the main thoroughfare.  I had left them with a small hotel for washing earlier and was not expecting to see my travel-weary worn rags blowing in the hot breeze from the Ganges at this busy city street junction.

 

Some of the more miserable, non-architectural apartment blocks on somewhat boring, lack lustre streets which are dotted about our own city, could, I believe benefit greatly from the colour and flutter that full clothes lines provide if the residents decided to utilise their balconies.  Our continental neighbours don’t have the same ‘hang ups’ (pardon the pun) when they stretch their garments across the streets of Lisbon, Paris or Rome.

 

Last week, I was hanging the last of my shirts on my very full aforementioned clothes line… when it broke.  The lot fell on the back yard and most had to be rewashed.  I was not annoyed, I stopped, I smiled and the karma was not lost on me.  I had a moment of connection with my Mam, who although no longer of this world was right beside me as I retied the clothes line.

 

If she was still alive and I had an orange wall-hung telephone with a long cord I would have rang her with the story.

 

Clothes lines forever.

 

Want to save money?  Are you on for changing some flawed thinking and unhelpful attitudes at your next Apartment Complex Residents Meeting?  Want to meet and socialise with your neighbours doing laundry like they do in India?
Change your world and tie up a clothes line today.

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