Updated: 10 hours ago

How does a little girl who witnessed domestic violence, who's body shook uncontrollably with fear whether watching her father physically attack her mother or lying in bed with hypervigilence waiting for a drunken father to put the key in the door (as I describe this the cells in my body say hello, tremble with the memory and thank me for re-membering and inviting them back into a warm belonging) EVER imagine that life is in any way safe and can be allowed to flow of it's own accord? And so I learnt to control my breathing so it wasn't too loud, I learnt to pretend to be asleep in case he came into the room to caress my head, which he sometimes did when he was drunk (sensing the love now that he could only access when numbed by alcohol). Yes I learnt to live through the portal of control for fear of consequences as a child. That same lens is with me daily, except now it has become a system of messages and alerts, the flashing lights on the dashboard to invite me to cultivate self compassion, a 'no wonder' state that explains so much and brings so much softness, love and life.

Ungripping into the flow of life...

Gracefully moving from noticing the controlling and gripping, waiting for life to 'get better', outer circumstances to be different, waiting for the emotional pain to go away in search of happiness - towards a compassionate receiving of the signals from what Matt Licata calls 'a holy limbic system'. And so I am learning to create a holding container within myself which provides a spaciousness, a place of allowing life to impact me, saying YES! to life. A place that brings choice and agency.

Weaving A Thread Of Compassion

This process of ungripping can feel life threatening as you re-enter and experience these sensations. They are the very tide you may have kept at bay for fear of annihilation. This process feels counter intuitive from the get go. In my experience, the warmth of compassionate presence, particularly when naming what we are longing for which floods the felt sense with validation, creates a connected thread to that time so that a homecoming in the present moment can take place. Not through the practice of 'discharge' but through the practice of 'feeling'. Thus arrives a moment of being lovingly held by things that we cannot fully name or identify. (Though I have a sneaking suspicion the grace of trees have something to offer. I feel their presence like a blessing to my nervous system. And my friends the ducks at the garden centre where I have breakfast and work, the little noises and scuffles and bathing and resting bring so much joy to me.) And so these moments upon moments accumulate until they interconnect more and more and bring wellbeing and agency. A continuous compassionate thread.

My workshops are a blend of sharing practices that allow this homecoming process to take place and learning the compassionate language established by Marshall Rosenberg to support agency in our lives. Compassionate Communication (NVC) is a mindfulness practice of attending to the way we use language -- not just in speaking, but in how we listen, the meaning we make of our own experience and of what people say, especially when they express pain and blame.  My intention is to support you in building the life you long for according to your values, one conversation at a time, one day at a time, for that is all that is allocated to us.

Book your place on the September Workshop here.

Clare O'Sullivan

September 2020

It's not sustainable to live at the edge of 'not knowing' all day every day. There needs to be some terra firma. How do I know that? Because we now have scientific evidence that we are hard wired for love, intimacy and belonging.

I did not imagine this for my life, and yet, this is it. To have been cast out of all my familiar belonging and nothing in my daily life reflecting the long held dreams and images of what I hungered for in early adulthood. The nest I didn't often have growing up (I say 'often' because my mother held such love and care for me when she could). The effort to have children of my own (several miscarriages ending the 'Duffy' line through my body), and a loving partner and companion. Where is the chain of a self-created somewhat reliable family where I might be held in someones consciousness all the time, where I could lean into mattering to someone. I believed that marriage might give me that, finally. (Most of that seeking was done unconsciously, and by following the impulse of my natural longings). I thought I would be tucked up with all that little lot to comfort me in life, given the harshness of my early years, almost like I had earned it.

Seems that's not how the story goes, not in that straight line, no matter how hard I have tried to keep a straight line. And yet, as part of the pattern of my life, there is and always has been a powerful undercurrent ( from the moment when I was about 6 years old and I tried to pull my Dad off my Mother when he was attacking her), that has now become a tsunami. A longing for peace, inner and outer and a sense of a calling to contribute to the growth of this in the world. I'm even getting a bit stubborn about it. Sorry!

I didn't picture this ending/birthing in my life at this time, this threshold. There is a mixture of exhaustion and exhilaration. Then if those dreams haven't come to fruition, what is happening? Read on....

Hope and Terra Firma

I wonder about hope. Join me in my wondering. Could hope be something I experience when all hope seems lost? Just at that threshold, is that when I experience hope? A minty fresh sense of life in my heart and limbs, that visits, that keeps me stepping out of the door, arms outstretched for the life that has been bequeathed to me again today. And is it that on that courageous threshold I am more visible and therefore found by those who 'get' me and cheer me on and comfort me? And tell me, who can I thank for the experience of this in my bones?

Mucking About With Pigs

I sat near the pigs on my little camping stool in an attempt to soothe a tough day. This was pure medicine for me. Their peaceful slumber, their surrender to the earth with their bodies, their fumbling about together for space and physical connection at the same time. Oh how I long for that belonging and I even wondered if it would be possible to lie right next to them on the ground. To blend in with their pack. I could think of nothing sweeter or more soothing for my soul. I thanked them for sharing their community life with me, for their being willing to connect and be curious about me. For all the troubles I was carrying that day, no other medicine would have done the trick. I know why they are there and I can't even begin in any way to hold that reality in my system with any ease, and next to that my work is about allowing myself to be impacted by life (something that was unbearable when little) and so I invite myself to hold both realities and the grief inside and breathe in their healing power. To be with them was the sweetest gift that day, in the mud and the wind and the drizzle as they nibbled the bark off a tree branch. The pigs brought me Terra Firma. I came home to ground, through sensing their breathing and hearing their voices. Here they are, turn up the volume!:

A Silent Working Group (In A Sandwich Of Compassion) via Zoom

To support the flow of my life, to lean into the hope that lives in my blood and constantly surprises me and mystifies me, to give birth to my work, I have set up 2 Silent Working Groups. I was inspired by Lauren Sapala's work where she mentioned the power of this type of container. Lauren is a writer and supports and coaches writers, in particular 'sensitive intuitives'. (Her work and her courageous presence keep me going.) I also want to let you know about Mark Pierce who wrote 'The Creative Wound'. (This book gave me a further empathic 'kick up the arse' to keep saying yes to my creative flow).

I have discovered that I need a holding container when being creative where I am not alone so that my body can relax, where the balm of presence and the consciousness and passion for work and service to the planet is in the air. Otherwise the layers of protection (translated: tightness in my muscles restriction in my throat, panic, a wondering am I safe to soften into that dreamworld space) rise and ask me to check if I am ok, it's like being locked in a straight jacket of iron, and this protection now eases when it has been reassured that I am not alone. Now whilst I am putting words on this to tell you, this has been a bodily felt discovery of trial and error, like dipping my toe in and out of the water, this works/that doesn't work and finally through this deep listening to my nervous system and sensing when my right brain capacity is engaged, I am finding strategies to help me to lean into hope and come to life. During the Silent Working Group Zoom Call, in between the sandwich of empathic check-ins and empathic check-outs, people do whatever they need to do to bring their work to birth, read, dance about, make a coffee, interact with their family, the time is ours. Here is feedback from one of the group participants, so it's not just me banging on about it!

"The silent working group is an authentic space for us to work together, be vulnerable together and for creativity to flow freely. It gives me a sense of hand-holding and allows me to accomplish in a short amount of time what is otherwise out of reach. A space for check in allows our inner worlds to be seen and witnessed, so often a sigh of relief and a sweet ‘moving on’ happens, and I am ready to work. It helps me get ‘unstuck’ and create with joy, knowing the faces on the screen witness me as I am, and I them. It is magic!"

Silent Working Group Participant

So, today, listen to the softness when it arises in your being and notice what is happening around you that is restoring your presence on earth, and repeat it, whenever you feel fear, anxiety and panic calling to you. This is the portal your system is using to ask you to take care of your vulnerability, something that may not have been done for you by your caretakers when growing up. It's your turn now, to take care of you and to make your mark in the world.

With love in my heart whilst I have tea and toast (half price) at Highfield Garden Centre, Gloucestershire, where the warmth of the team here help me to feel at home.


What feeling state will you do just about anything to avoid?

How can I ever thank you dear doggies, for the warmth I feel welling up in my heart and body, for the peace that descends into every cell of my being, as I say yes to this invitation to spend time here together without demand, without expectation, without names. You permit me to be here in shared space with you and I invite myself to just 'be', to not rush in to connection with you with my affection or demands, but to allow you to connect with me, if and when you would like to and permit myself to do the same. To allow you to somehow let me know if you would like a rub or a pet or a few words or just the quickest of glances and acknowledgement of your beauty and mine. I do feel beautiful here with you, full of beauty, my persona drops away and brings relief, a presence of non judgment. A deepening mood of contentment.

I sense that what you like most is for me to breathe and receive life and offer life. Looking at these photos now I am in direct bodily memory of this time together so the gift continues to flow for me weeks later. I have met other dogs since this day and cows and pigs and I offer them this same accompaniment, and receive theirs. It's as if my body is plumped up with water and love.

Don't just DO something, SIT THERE!

I have been blessed to be surrounded by teachers in one form or another to support me to breathe into and embrace the things I don't want to feel, the things that I fear I will never return from 'sane' if I feel them. Just want to say this is the most direct 'method' I have found so far. A place of 'not doing anything' and allowing myself to be in the presence of animals, insects and plants and mosses and rivers. I believe that through the path I have taken with the embodiment of compassion a portal has opened and softened the walls that have kept me from this interconnectedness that has been waiting to embrace me fully, all this time. I was embraced and held by all of this as a child, I am coming home again.

So, my friends, if this touches you, if some cells in your own body are sparkling with a yes to what you are reading. I am here offering my work in different ways, choose one and come and join me.

With so much love in my heart today and a visceral experience of gratitude in my body for this 'resilience' whatever that is, whatever my ancestors have bequeathed me, that I am growing capacity to feel my feelings and access my life force and creativity and my 'product' of service for the world.