There’s a feeling that comes before any challenge. Something that stands between us and what we could be. I feel it right before I’m about to launch into things that I know will be difficult but that will also help me to grow.
Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s one of those mornings where you’ve shown up to yourself, you’re about to get on your yoga mat, or lace up your shoes for a run. And there’s a minute where you pause. A moment’s hesitation. A feeling less of excitement, and more of what if I just didn’t? There’s a struggle to show up to yourself.
You’ve scheduled in your week’s plans, commitments to yourself and to others. Then the day comes, the minute comes, and sometimes, the hardest person to show up for is yourself. We all know the feeling of working to meet a deadline in work, for a boss, for a client, for someone else. What about the goals you set for yourself? The dreams you hoped to make a reality.
There was a little period of a few months in my life that I spent living out a little dream of getting to climb all day every day without any other obligations. I saved up some money and stripped back all my expenses (by living in my van) so that I could devote each and every day to just being immersed in nature and showing up to climb.
And even then, there were moments, right before we set off for the day, where sometimes I would get that feeling of just not going. What if today I just stayed under the covers? Luckily I was surrounded by an amazing group of people who inspired me to get up and get out anyway.
When I shared my experience with my peers I found that many of them too knew this feeling. We imagined that even professional athletes must know this feeling. The difference isn’t that they don’t get it, it’s just that when they do, they know how to move forward through it to the other side.
Because what’s on the other side? A commitment to yourself. The accumulation of weeks, months, years of showing up. Every time you decided to be there for yourself, you add to the growing pool of experience, endurance and time spent with the best version of yourself.
What about that other feeling, when you let that moment’s hesitation arise, and then you move forward anyway. Once you’re in the flow, you remember how good it feels to have taken that step. To have gotten out the door, to have jumped in the water, put pen to paper, press publish, whatever it is. You’ve channelled perseverance, dedication and courage to get past that moment’s inertia.
I believe that a helpful way to frame our experience is as a kind of vessel. Like a ship at sea, we choose our direction by the winds that we harness. So as not to lose ourselves being tossed around by the waves of our emotions, that can change so easily and quickly, but instead to choose with intention the winds that will propel us forward. What is it that you will allow to drive you, doubt, uncertainty, fear? Or belief, courage, willingness to try? Sometimes I imagine the vessel more literally, as if my life is a container for something, and I have the power to choose what it’s going to hold.
Reflective exercise: take a pen, a journal, and 20 minutes of uninterrupted time.
What part of your life would you like to renew your commitment to at the moment? Try to be specific.
Let’s define in more detail, why is this important to you? What intentions lie at the foundation of this aspect of your life?
Now that your intentions are clear, can you name one thing that you can do this week that will help nurture this part of you?
Can you do that right now?
And if not, can you stick that on a piece of paper where you’ll see it every day until it’s done?
A couple of years ago I began experimenting with making my own skincare products. I really think anything you put on your skin should be good enough to eat. And that some of the post powerful skincare ingredients are already in your kitchen cupboards. Remember that a lot of the ingredients in shop bought products are added simply to preserve the product, rather than for their benefit to your skin. Also, good skincare doesn't have to be expensive! So light the candles, run a bath, put on your favourite music and treat yourself.
I like this particular mask for winter as it restores a lot of the moisture lost by skin exposed to extremes of cold frosty air and dry central heating. The soothing smells also feel in harmony with that sense of cosiness that accompanies winter. If you suffer from acne, the antibacterial and soothing properties of this mask could be really helpful for you.
* little note, just like when I cook, I kind of do things by feel, but I got a good consistency with about 2 tablespoons of oats, 1 of a mix of rose petals and chamomile flowers, 2 tablespoons of honey, and 1 of oil. If that doesn't give you the consistency that you like for a face mask, you can play around with the quantities, but I like to keep the chamomile & rose at 50% or less than your oats. Overtime, the oats will absorb some of the oil & honey.
1. Oats - 2 tbsps
Use a skincare ingredient dates back to Ancient Egypt, especially prized for its moisturising and soothing effects, particularly suited to dry, sensitive or eczematic skin. The fat content in the oats is effective for binding moisture to the skin. I also like the gently exfoliating texture when rubbed on the skin after the mask has been left to sit.
2. Dried Rose Petals & Chamomile flowers - 1 tbsp
Rose is a prized ingredient in skincare for good reason, it has antiseptic and astringent (tightening) properties (hence rose water is a great toner), and for most people helps to soothe redness and inflammation. The scent of rose has been found to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Chamomile tea is known as a wonderful drink to promote calm and help you sleep. So it follows that it has similar benefits for your skin, like the rose petals, it is antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory.
Blend the Rose, Chamomile and Oats into a powder, it doesn't have to be too fine at all. I did this in a nutribullet, but if you don't have a blender a good pestle & mortar would do the job.
3. Honey - 2 tbsps
My favourite ingredient in this mask! Making it yummy enough to eat. Honey's antibacterial properties are well-know and documented, and it also helps to make your complexion glow. Of course, make sure you get the best honey you can, I recommend shopping in the Dublin Food Co-op or at a famers market to buy single origin raw honey.
4. Avocado Oil - 1 tbsp
There are actually lots of recipes out there that recommend the flesh of an avocado for face masks, and while I do love my avocados, sometimes I prefer to eat the flesh! Putting it in your hair and skin can start to get a little messy, so we'll save that one for another time.
By using the oil your mask can last longer, and cold pressed avocado oil is one of the richest sources of oleic acid, which basically means it's an extremely effective moisturiser. If your skin type is quite oily, you could substitute this with another oil, for example jojoba.
For the ultimate beauty treatment, prepare your skin by gently cleansing, and then opening the pores with warm face cloths. Ideally, have a lovely bath with candles lit to soak in while you apply the facemask and give yourself time to soak it up. After about 10 minutes, I like to gently exfoliate with the mask itself. Afterwards, tone with cooled chamomile tea and seal in moisture with some rosehip oil.
Let me know if you try it!
Back in 2014, I spent 4 months living in my converted Citreon Dispatch van. From a conventional perspective, most people might be embarrassed to admit they live in their car. For me, and I know for others out there, living in your van represents the ultimate freedom. No fixed abode, no plan to adhere to, just allowing friends, weather conditions and desire to dictate your next move.
I count myself lucky to have had the time and opportunity to commit to this lifestyle, even for a short period. I know that for most people, commitments to work and family mean that it is simply not possible to pack up and roam around on a whim. However, even with 4 walls and a roof over our heads there are valuable lessons to be learned from living with less. I'm not saying I find all of the below easy, but I am saying that bearing them in mind as much as possible has the potential to shift your mood for the better on a daily basis.
You don't need more space, you need less stuff.
I struggle with this one because I love stuff. Cute teapots and cuddly blankets and colourful scarves and kitchen gadgets. I'm not known for my minimalism, even though it's an ideal I aspire to. I have to admit though, there's just not that much you can fit in your van. Even if you're me and you try and hide some extra things in corners, you still can't bring that much. So you realise pretty quickly what's essential and what's not.
Now is a great time to spring clean, and for birthdays or times when you give a gift, you could make deals with friends and family to exchange "experiences" as presents instead, like a day out together somewhere, a trip to the cinema, a massage voucher (personal favourite), or yummy food.
Turn off the tv. And the wifi.
I never miss tv. I do however, crave wifi. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one out there, right? It's amazing to think that even a few years ago wifi was not at all the norm, and yet now we can't imagine living without it. So even though when we were in the van we got the chance to log on every few days, we still spend big chunks of time not connected. Use plug-ins like mindful-browsing.com to limit the amount of time you spend on websites that are a time-suck. Edit your Facebook newsfeed so you only get updates from your nearest and dearest, or things that really inspire you. When you meet your friend for coffee, leave your phone in your bag. Replace one of your tv watching evenings with a listening evening, there are so many good podcasts, and of course audiobooks out there.
Spend time outside.
When you live in your van you're outside all the time, because there's just not enough space to stay inside for too long at a time. In Ireland, we do have that rain to contend with, but I came across a quote, from none other than Bob Marley, that said "Some people feel the rain, others just get wet" so maybe even on rainy days, when you don't have to worry about anything else, throw on some wellies and a rain jacket and go feel the rain. Jump in puddles. Bring your kids or borrow someone else's so people don't think your crazy and you can pretend it was their idea. Then of course there are those gorgeous crisp winter days when you get that lovely dry air and blue skies. Drop everything and go outside, it really is that important. And when you get there, listen closely.
Look at the stars.
Even better, drive out of the city and then look at the stars. Try to spot some constellations. Just like sitting cross-legged in meditation, this is one of those activities that spans distances across space and time to connect humans with other humans. Just think how many other people have looked up at that sky, that are looking at it right now, and that will look at it in years to come. Look up there and remember how small and tiny we all are.
Follow nature's rhythms.
In the van, when you don't have electricity, you go to bed really early. You try and cook before it gets dark, and after that, you hit the hay. A lot of the time in the van we were in climbing areas where there might be a bar or something, and we'd spend a few hours there after nightfall. My sleep was so much better in the places where we couldn't do that. In the "real world" it's not that easy to do this all the time, your life schedule probably means you can't follow this that strictly, but there are little things we can all do. I installed flux so that the display on my computer changes colour as the evening goes on, giving me a cue that it's late and time to go to bed.
Ok ok I'm biased on this one. But try out some sport that puts you in close contact with the elements. Hill-walking, kayaking, surfing...there are so many. Recently, in conversation with a good friend, it came up that climbing wasn't really something you should dedicate your life to, but "just a pastime". Not on par with a job or profession. But, one of my climbing heroes, Lynn Hill said recently in an interview that "...climbing is just a pretext to understand ourselves, get closer to the people we’re with, and learn how to work together, learn how to become a better person through that process." As pretexts go, it's a pretty rewarding one.
Find something to be grateful for.
You don't have to live in a van to figure this one out! Gratitude seems to be a big buzz word at the moment, to the extent that it may start to become cliche. But I think it's on everyone's lips for a reason. It really works and makes you realise you don't have to sweat the small stuff. Try this next time you're having some trouble nodding off to sleep: think of everything you're grateful for that day. You can take this really far, like not just immediate gratitude, but also have it extend as far as gratitude to the people who picked the coffee beans that eventually made their way to your coffee cup, after having been carefully separated, roasted, packaged, ground and then brewed, all by different people in a whole chain of events. When you thank people during the day, really mean it when you say it. Humans are really good at sensing authenticity, and your gratitude will be reciprocated by the person who's day you just brightened.
Share your experience on living with less and the shifts it sparked for you.
This is the first in a series of posts for creating self-care rituals at home. Being kind to yourself is a vital element of your well-being, and helps you to be kinder with others.
I think most people love to get massage, and the appearance of the practice across so many cultures attests to that. Swedish massage, Shiatsu, Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage, Thai massage and the list goes on.
Abhyanga is the Ayurvedic practice of self-massage, where the person applies warm oil (e.g. sesame, sweet almond, coconut) from head to toe, carefully massaging it into the body. It is a practice to promote and maintain overall wellbeing and can be especially calming for anyone experiencing anxiety or stress, or suffering from dry skin or stiff joints.
I've always enjoyed the therapeutic benefits of getting massage but found it was sometimes unrealistic to go on a regular basis. So a few years ago, I took matters into my own hands and began Abhyanga. It's kept my skin, muscles and joints feeling really supple, as well as being a nice way to slow down in the evenings. When I don't make time and the days and weeks build up without it, I can really notice the difference. To put it simply, Ayurveda sees ageing as a drying out of the body, so the application of oil is an action to slow this process, to keep the body full of moisture.
The beauty of Abhyanga is it's almost completely free, you only need the oil, you can do it even if you've only got 5 minutes and it always improves how you're feeling. You can even add a few drops of essential oil depending on how your mood and what your needs are on that particular day.
Come and soak up more of the lovely vibes that are already there in Andy’s studio. I love the AM Fitness philosophy and these yoga classes will be about learning yoga from a modern, movement oriented perspective.
I want you to tune into your own strength, to actually being here right now, and to the buzz that comes from learning and progressing with a bunch of good people. We like to move so there’ll be less of an emphasis on holding static poses, although the postures will be there, we’ll also look at all the spaces in between. We’ll string together sequences, balancing, twisting, inverting and learn to turn up the volume on our sensations. Life whispers so listen closely.
Being strong is also about being soft. We’re thinking Bruce Lee and water metaphors, slipping through fingers and holding up ships. This is the kind of strength, grace and mobility that we will develop and learn to embody. This class will make you feel good.
Play keeps you happy. If you’ve forgotten how to do this let this class help you to remember. We are all about falling over, picking back up, trying again and keeping it light. Drop old stories, drop negative self-talk. Those things that you thought you weren’t capable of. Say yes in your head and it will happen. If you think you’re not flexible enough or not strong enough sssshhhhh just come to class and surprise yourself.
This stuff works. And then you’ll know how to keep your mind and heart open in every situation. How to see the best in yourself, and in everyone else. It's not naive or fluffy, it's solid gold for your happiness and for your health. This class will make you feel good.
Get in touch to book your space.
Drop In €12.50
10 Class Pass €110
This is an exercise that I began doing in Bilbao on my walk to my office job. At 8.45am in any city you pass many hardened faces, people dragging burdens behind them and carrying worries across their foreheads, stressed because they’re late or they spilled their coffee that morning or whatever. One particular day, I had a great soundtrack playing on my ipod and a good morning routine, so I was feeling pretty positive on my walk to work, enough that I was smiling away to myself. I started smilling at people I passed, and it was like a little secret was shared when someone smiled back. Ever since then I try to do this as much as possible and I feel as though it's really brightened up otherwise banal moments of the day.
Often when we bump into someone, or get cut off, or whatever, our immediate reaction is agitation. So now I try to substitute that with something kinder. I often think of the saying:
"Anger is like grasping a hot coal to throw at someone else, you are the one gets burned."
We have no idea about the battles that other people are fighting. You can never know what that passerby might be going through at home, at work, wherever. Offer them up some kindness. And when you are feeling low, open up to the kindness and compassion that other people might be trying to show to you.
Here in Margalef, a sleepy town in Catalunya, it's noticeable how friendly the locals are, in particular the shopkeeper and the lady who runs the bar. They are constantly in good form and greet you as if you were old friends. They have the most infectious smiles and personally I always feel better after an exchange with them. That's something to aspire to I reckon, that the people you meet in the day walk away feeling better for having met you.
“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh
I am so excited to bring together my two passions and invite you to join myself and MCK Outdoor Experiences for an unforgettable holiday on the island of Kalymnos.
See here for the full details.