Tuesday, 30 April 2013

                                          on the great sea
                                         there are no islands

                                         on surging waves

                                         on the ocean plain

                                         stand white clouds

                Anonymous Japanese tanka with Áine's photo.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Some ideas on dealing with Feelings of boredom from Gretchen Rubiin

One of the patron saints of my Happier at Home project, Samuel Johnson, wrote, “It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible.”
One “little thing” that can be a source of unhappiness is boredom. Waiting in traffic. Waiting for the subway. Doing the dishes. Waiting in a doctor’s office. Listening to your thirteen year old talk through her different clothing options for the day.
Here are seven tips to re-frame the moment. Even if you can’t escape a situation, by re-framing your emotions about it, you can transform it.
1. Put the word “meditation” after the activity that’s boring you. (This is my invention.) If you’re impatient while waiting for the bus, tell yourself you’re doing “bus waiting meditation.” If you’re standing in a slow line at the drugstore, you’re doing “waiting in line meditation.” Just saying these words makes me feel very spiritual and high-minded and wise.
2. Dig in. As they say, if you can’t get out of it, get into it. Diane Arbus wrote, “The Chinese have a theory that you pass through boredom into fascination, and I think it’s true.” If something is boring for two minutes, do it for four minutes. If it’s still boring, do it for eight minutes, then sixteen, and so on. Eventually, you discover that it’s not boring at all. If part of my research isn’t interesting to me—like the Dardanelles campaign for Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill—I read a whole book about it, and then it becomes absorbing. The same principle holds when doing boring or irritating tasks, like laundry.
3. Take the perspective of a journalist or scientist. Really study what’s around you. What are people wearing, what do the interiors of buildings look like, what noises do you hear, what do the ads show? If you bring your analytical powers to bear, you can make almost anything interesting. Paradoxically, I found that understanding the theory of why waiting in line makes me crazy made me much more tolerant of waiting in line.
4. Find an area of refuge. Have a mental escape route planned. Think about something delightful or uplifting (not your to-do list!). Review photos of your kids on your phone (studies show that looking at photos of loved ones provides a big mood boost). Listen to an audiobook.
5. Look for a way to feel grateful. It’s a lot better to be bored while waiting in a doctor’s office than to be in agony of suspense about your test results. It’s more fun to sit around the breakfast table talking about clothes than to be away from home on a business trip. Maybe the other line at the drugstore is moving even more slowly. Etc.
6. Consider: “Am I the boring one?” La Rochefoucauld observed, “We always get bored with those whom we bore.” I remind myself of this when I’m having a boring conversation with someone!
7. And of course, always bring a book (in physical or virtual form).
What strategies do you use to combat boredom?

Saturday, 27 April 2013


Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.

- Rainer Maria Rilke

Be inspired by the powerful work shown in this video what wonderful hope for transforming our fear and hurt into Love and Healing.

Guiding Rage To Power

Friday, 26 April 2013

Áine's photos evoking warm memories

Here are some great views taken by  Áine one of my T'ai  Chi students.  

       On the Sea from  Newfoundland  to Stavanger in Norway

This is sunrise on the approaches to Stavanger.

I'm off to London later today ( YIPPIE ) and  Áine's great 
photos remind me of my first trip to London. 
I was eight years old at the time and my Dad's work 
 (he worked for the B&I shipping line) sometimes took
 him to London . We had a great time .  We sailed down Cork
 harbour on a night crossing.  As the Innisfallen  moved out past 
Cobh we  dined with the Captin I was in ' heaven ' when the 
radio operator showed me how to send messages.

During our stay in London we went sight seeing
 ( when he wasn't working  ).
 London Bridge, the Tower,Buckingham Palace, and to visit cousins 
who lived 16 floors up in an apartment block  (this was a shock for 
me never having seen such a high building before ).
This was Dad's final trip as he died  later that year. 
I always feel blessed that he took me with him  and  gave me
my first taste of  ' foreign ' adventure. The thrill of hearing
 different accents of new smells and sounds and the excitement 
and wonder at what might be around the next corner.

So now I'm off on another adventure to learn some more and visit 
a city that holds some of the best memories of my life so far.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Good Vibrations

Still on the theme of energy and energy bodies. How do we nurture our loving senses?
 Ways that keeps me in  ' love ' with life are, learning something new, taking a trip ( more about that soon ) and seeing something amazing. The video on the link below made me smile and filled me with awe at the wonders of vibrations.

Guitar Oscillations Captured With iPhone4

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Nourishing the Energy Body

We are more than a physical body and because we are more than the physical body we can perceive more than the physical body and world.
The physical body appears to be solid  to our physical eyes , however it is in fact made of vibrating atoms and molecules which are anything but solid or rigid they are in fact in constant motion .
This physical body is nourished by food and water , and in general it is this aspect of it's nourishment that is addressed and focused upon.
Often the Energy body  (which also nourishes the physical body ) is not known or valued as an aspect which needs nourishment in order to keep our whole system in good order.
The energy body surrounds and interpenetrates our physical body.
We  can develop an awareness and love of this body through practices such as Tai Chi and meditation.
These practices awaken our sensitivity to this aspect of our nature , once awakened we can begin to learn through experience what nourishes and sustains this body.

The Energy body absorbs energy  ( through our chakras and nadis ) from our surroundings , our practices,  our interactions and our thoughts. The energy body greatly affects the health and vitality of our physical body. One cannot have a strong vibrant physical body if the energetic body is weak and undernourished.

All forms of Tai Chi including partner work are great ways to energise both the physical and energetic bodies.
Time spent in nature ,  in the woods, by the sea , high in the hills or mountains also recharges the energy body.
The thoughts we think also have a very important influence on the health of our energy body.

Positive creative thoughts nourish whereas negative or complaining thoughts and speech drain all our energy.

But  most important nutrient by far for all aspects of us is LOVE.  We can do all the right practices , eat properly , spend time in the most amazing places with the most enlightened people , but if we cannot LOVE we remain undernourished. \
No physical or energetic nourishment will function fully without this vital ingredient.  So let's practice LOVE  and thereby nourish all aspects of ourselves.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The singing plants at Danamhur

Following all the positive feedback about ' the life of flowers" and the ' cricket choir ' I decided to share this one about how plants can 'sing '

 The singing plants at Danamhur .

Hoping you find it as interesting as I did.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Blackwater walk with Suzie

                                   We haven't been here for a while .

                          The flood is out Su we can't go that way.

                            Let's climb to the upper path.

                                    No way it's too high for me!


Hurray I did it .

What's keeping you ?

Come on !

I just want to see the spring flowers.

Off  home now for a nice coffee.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Open Focus & the first few lessons of the Mini Form

Open Focus includes the " how " and the " what " of attention. What this means is we become aware moment to moment of the content of our attention and also of how we are attending to our experience.  Are we tightening our muscles as we  'narrow focus ',   we often do this when trying to figure things out . We can become aware of this tension in open focus and enter into it,  this ' welcoming ' of the tension into our experience helps it to dissolve. And so when these attention skills are applied to everyday activities the optimization of one's function results.

I loved introducing people to Open Focus exercises yesterday and it was great to hear how effective they proved to be in dissolving tension and anxiety.

It is also really interesting to practice t'ai chi in open focus I feel that this aspect of the open focus  practice is especially useful as it really helps transfer the practice to daily life .
Dr Fehmi's book the Open Focus Brain is a great place to start if someone wants to get an understanding of attentional skills and how to use them in daily life. here is the link to his website .  Open Focus

Friday, 19 April 2013

End Of Term At Davis College & Barbara Fredrickson Professor of Psychology on Love

I had such an enjoyable term with you all at Davis and it is great to see how much ye learned in a few short weeks.

 Barbara Fredrickson is the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology and director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of the new book on love.
Here are 10 lessons she learned writing the book  "Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become,".

1. It can be hard to talk about love in scientific terms because people have strong pre-existing ideas about it.
The vision of love that emerges from the latest science requires a radical shift. I learned that I need to ask people to step back from their current views of love long enough to consider it from a different perspective: their body's perspective. Love is not romance. It's not sexual desire. It's not even that special bond you feel with family or significant others.
And perhaps most challenging of all, love is neither lasting nor unconditional. The radical shift we need to make is this: Love, as your body experiences it, is a micro-moment of connection shared with another.

2. Love is not exclusive.
We tend to think of love in the same breath as loved ones. When you take these to be only your innermost circle of family and friends, you inadvertently and severely constrain your opportunities for health, growth and well-being.
In reality, you can experience micro-moments of connection with anyone -- whether your soul mate or a stranger. So long as you feel safe and can forge the right kind of connection, the conditions for experiencing the emotion of love are in place.

3. Love doesn't belong to one person.
We tend to think of emotions as private events, confined to one person's mind and skin. Upgrading our view of love defies this logic. Evidence suggests that when you really "click" with someone else, a discernible yet momentary synchrony emerges between the two of you, as your gestures and biochemistries, even your respective neural firings, come to mirror one another in a pattern I call positivity resonance. Love is a biological wave of good feeling and mutual care that rolls through two or more brains and bodies at once.

4. Making eye contact is a key gateway for love.
Your body has the built-in ability to "catch" the emotions of those around you, making your prospects for love -- defined as micro-moments of positivity resonance -- nearly limitless. As hopeful as this sounds, I also learned that you can thwart this natural ability if you don't make eye contact with the other person. Meeting eyes is a key gatekeeper to neural synchrony.

5. Love fortifies the connection between your brain and your heart, making you healthier.
Decades of research show that people who are more socially connected live longer and healthier lives. Yet precisely how social ties affect health has remained one of the great mysteries of science.
My research team and I recently learned that when we randomly assign one group of people to learn ways to create more micro-moments of love in daily live, we lastingly improve the function of the vagus nerve, a key conduit that connects your brain to your heart. This discovery provides a new window into how micro-moments of love serve as nutrients for your health.

6. Your immune cells reflect your past experiences of love.
Too often, you get the message that your future prospects hinge on your DNA. Yet the ways that your genes get expressed at the cellular level depends mightily on many factors, including whether you consider yourself to be socially connected or chronically lonely.
My team is now investigating the cellular effects of love, testing whether people who build more micro-moments of love in daily life also build healthier immune cells.

7. Small emotional moments can have disproportionately large biological effects.
It can seem surprising that an experience that lasts just a micro-moment can have any lasting effect on your health and longevity. Yet I learned that there's an important feedback loop at work here, an upward spiral between your social and your physical well-being.
That is, your micro-moments of love not only make you healthier, but being healthier builds your capacity for love. Little by little, love begets love by improving your health. And health begets health by improving your capacity for love.

8. Don't take a loving marriage for granted.
Writing this book has profoundly changed my personal view of love. I used to uphold love as that constant, steady force that all but defines my marriage. While that constant, steady force still exists, I now see our bond as a product of the many micro-moments of positivity resonance that my husband and I have shared over the years. This shakes me out of any complacency that tempts me to take our love for granted. Love is something we should re-cultivate every single day.

9. Love and compassion can be one and the same.
If we reimagine love as micro-moments of shared positivity, it can seem like love requires that you always feel happy. I learned that this isn't true. You can experience a micro-moment of love even as you or the person with whom you connect suffers.
Love doesn't require that you ignore or suppress negativity. It simply requires that some element of kindness, empathy or appreciation be added to the mix. Compassion is the form love takes when suffering occurs.

10. Simply upgrading your view of love changes your capacity for it.
The latest science offers new lenses through which to see your every interaction. The people I interviewed for the book shared incredibly moving stories about how they used micro-moments of connection to make dramatic turnarounds in their personal and work lives.
One of the most hopeful things I learned is that when people take just a minute or so each day to think about whether they felt connected and attuned to others, they initiate a cascade of benefits. And this is something you could start doing today, having learned even just this much more about how love works.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

It always seems impossible until it's done. - Nelson Mandela -

I saw this on Karma Tube   Jessica Cox: The World's First Arm-less Pilot
 Be  inspired, be sure to watch it.


Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Opening The Doors Of Perception Workshop on T'ai Chi and Open Focus April 20'th Short Form lessons 12&3 below.

The workshop will be held in Blackrock Community Centre on April 20'th  from 9.30 am - 1 30 pm
We will investigate some open focus attention exercises and then explore how this way of paying attention can enhance our T'ai Chi practice.

 Dr Fehmi of the Princeton  Biofeedback Centre developed these training exercises based on his biofeed research. Dr Fehmi  noticed that when he asked people to imagine space or silence their brains produced large amounts of alpha frequency waves in both hemispheres simultaneously.
 Alpha frequency waves are associated with meditation and deep relaxation. When the brain is in an alpha state the body relaxes  due to the production of hormones that relax the muscles.
 These attention exercises can become second nature so one can operate in daily life in a relaxed yet fully aware state and so be more present and productive without becoming stressed .

Practicing these exercises has greatly enhanced my own T'ai Chi practice.
 In T'ai Chi we work with space , the space in and around our bodies, the space between us and our partners , the space in the group, and the space where we practice.  Learning to feel these spaces greatly enhances one's ability to connect fully with the practice and to ones life.

Really looking forward to the morning delighted to have time to share Open Focus and show how it enhances the practice of Tai Chi

For more information or to reserve a place at the workshop email me @   taichimcilraith@yahoo.co.uk

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Sympathy and Love

We are more than our physical body , and yet this physical body is a precious vessel we use in this lifetime to grow and learn.

My heart goes out to my American fellow travellers in this lifetime .

 I don't know why yesterday's events have shaken me so much. Such premeditated violence is  deeply upsetting.
 One cannot imagine the unfortunate  state of mind of the perpetrators .

All of us who have lost loved ones know only too well that grief and loss  felt by the victims loved ones and the journey back to finding one's  centre once again.

Peace will come again ,

 Joy will come again ,

Life has it's way of healing,
especially when we allow the pain to be consciously felt and shared and heal each other with love.

The see and the mountains have witnessed all of human life the joy and the sorrow .

This too will heal with time.

In Love and fellowship.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Stunning! Angelic Cricket Chorus & Ps

The recording below has been ' playing ' in my mind since I heard it a few days ago. And it kept reminding me of my experience on the night following part 1 of my Reconnection by Elsa in Galway  May 31'st last year
Here is what I wrote in my diary .
Back at my hotel I read the Keys of Enoch. Then around 7. 50 pm got an urge to go out and get a coffee. Passed a church and heard music that called me . Hyden concert with amazing choir and orchestra .
My energy responded to the music it was as if it  ( the music ) was playing my energy. Whenever  I noticed that ' I ' had started to try and control it , in other words make it happen 'it'  would stop. As soon as I would let go it would start again. The ' registers ' happened in my body just like  when Elsa worked on me earlier then they stopped,  a lot of internal rocking and then a sense of being pulled up as  if I  was being lifted. Strong feelings of my spine being elongated , filled with Awe . Huge sense of Gratitude .

From Animal Spirit Communication .com --

The story behind GOD’S CRICKETS.

This unusual recording contains two tracks:
1. the natural sound of crickets chirping
2. the sound of the crickets slowed down to match and mirror the length of the average lifespan of a human being.

The angelic chorus you hear accompanying the sound of the crickets is NOT a synthesizer or a chorus singing. It’s the crickets themselves (slowed down) creating the effect. Really an amazing thing they’ve accomplished here. This recording can be played continuously in the background to create a natural soothing atmosphere for calming and healing.

This recording is an extended digitally remixed and mastered version taken from the original 1992 recording entitled “Ballad of the Twisted Hair” from the album “Medicine Songs” by David Carson and Little Wolf Band produced by Jim Wilson and released on Raven Records.

 Here is the amazing recording hoping you enjoy it too.

Choir Of Crickets

I'm reading SQuire Rushnell's When God Winks  (about the power of coincidence ) at the moment.
I was concerned about the above blog  was it a bit to personal etc. Anyway as you can see I posted it .
Just opened my emails now and got this from a reconnection and tai chi friend   who doesn't know what I'm reading or thinking about.

 " Had v interesting experience last night.  Was v tired after challenging ascent of Carrantuohill yesterday in strong wind & rain.  Played your wonderful Aum music  was asleep 9.30 but wide awake at 10.30.  Played your wonderful Aum music.  It induced same feelings as Reconnection healing but most of my body movements were big sudden jerks in my legs & right shoulder.  No wonder I slept till 10.30 this morning & amn't the slightest bit tired.  Am so deeply grateful.  Life is so amazing & everything so interconnected. “

I guess SQuire ( he says the Q is meant to be capitol) would say God just winked at me .

Saturday, 13 April 2013

He who knows nothing, loves nothing. He who can do nothing understands nothing is worthless.
But he who understands , also loves, notices , sees . . . .  The more knowledge is inherent in a thing, the greater the love . . . . Anyone  who imagines that all fruits ripen at the same time as the strawberries knows nothing about grapes.


Friday, 12 April 2013

The Life of Flowers

Watching this video  I was filled with awe and Love.
What an amazing world we live in.
What a gift to have been given.
What could I have ever done to merit this life.
This opportunity to open and grow like these flowers.
I hope it inspires and amazes you too .

The life of flowers

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Opening The Doors Of Perception Workshop on T'ai Chi and Open Focus April 20'th

The workshop will be held in Blackrock Community Centre on April 20'th  from 9.30 am - 1 30 pm
We will investigate some open focus attention exercises and then explore how this way of paying attention can enhance our T'ai Chi practice.

 Dr Fehmi of the Princeton  Biofeedback Centre developed these training exercises based on his biofeed research. Dr Fehmi  noticed that when he asked people to imagine space or silence their brains produced large amounts of alpha frequency waves in both hemispheres simultaneously.
 Alpha frequency waves are associated with meditation and deep relaxation. When the brain is in an alpha state the body relaxes  due to the production of hormones that relax the muscles.
 These attention exercises can become second nature so one can operate in daily life in a relaxed yet fully aware state and so be more present and productive without becoming stressed .

Practicing these exercises has greatly enhanced my own T'ai Chi practice.
 In T'ai Chi we work with space , the space in and around our bodies, the space between us and our partners , the space in the group, and the space where we practice.  Learning to feel these spaces greatly enhances one's ability to connect fully with the practice and to ones life.

For more information or to reserve a place at the workshop email me @   taichimcilraith@yahoo.co.uk

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Why wait for the loss of hearing to appreciate sound? Turn off the white noise of your thoughts and start to listen. (Beginners lessons posted below the article )

This is a really long article by Bella Bathurst I found it very interesting.

It seems a bit daft, wondering how to listen. Sound, after all, enters us involuntarily — the dawn chorus, the car alarm — and there’s only so much we can do to screen it out. If someone starts lifting the roads or sends the Heathrow flight path directly overhead, then obviously the problem is not how to listen but how to shut the bloody thing up.

Still, there is a difference, strong but not always noted, between listening and hearing. You hear the pneumatic drill, though you would rather not listen. You listen for your children’s voices in the playground, but you can’t always hear them. In urban environments, there’s usually a surplus of sound — so much, in fact, that it often becomes difficult to hear anything at all. But if we become too good at filtering things, have we also damaged our capacity to listen?

To understand listening, it helps to understand hearing. Physically, the process is broken up in three ways. Firstly, in mechanical form through the ear, the nervous system, and the brain. Secondly, in the form of high-, mid- and low-frequency sound-waves. And, finally, there are two different sorts of hearing: conductive (the vibrations made by sound travelling through the body, the clearest example being what you feel when you hear a cathedral organ) and sensorineural — the messages fed through and processed by the inner ear and cochlea.

To appreciate fully the impeccable splendour of the human auditory system, the best thing is to go deaf for a while. In my late 20s, I developed a genetic condition called otosclerosis in which the bones or stapes of the middle ear start to calcify and thus to stop transmitting vibrations to the inner ear. After 12 years of using digital hearing aids, I had operations on both ears to replace each stapes with a prosthetic equivalent, and now I hear perfectly again.

I was very unusual in having an operable condition, but my experience of hearing loss wasn’t unusual at all. There are 10 million people in Britain and 48 million in the US with some form of hearing impairment, yet very few of them will have lost all sound across all frequencies. Instead, they will have lost a bit more of one and a bit less of another. Their sensitivity to low frequencies might be on the right side of normal, while their mid and high are through the floor. They might not be able to pick up individual words perfectly, but they’re probably fine at picking up all the other clues that come through speech — pitch, intonation, tone, inflection, cadence, rhythm. They can hear the difference between a question and a statement, or the variation between English and German. One well-known test involves the classified football results. The pitch of the announcer’s voice on the first score will tell you whether the second was a win or a loss. Celtic One (rising), Hibernian Nil (down); Chelsea Nil (even), Arsenal two (even or rising). It works great — until there’s a draw.

For those with more serious loss, the decline of one sense often strengthens others. Watch anyone who has had hearing problems for a while and it’s obvious that they are listening differently. They listen with the whole of themselves, bodies turned towards the speaker, drinking in cues. They don’t hear so much as inhale, taking in everything from the expression in the other person’s eyes to the story told by their hands. At a sign language class or a deaf pub night, people — British people, even — will be listening and communicating with everything they have: gesture, expression, if necessary grabbing the other person and physically manhandling them into understanding.

Edinburgh has a very particular acoustic — tyres on cobbles, seagulls, the smutty exhalations of buses

Katrina Burton started to lose her high-frequency hearing about 15 years ago, halfway through her undergraduate degree in music. She went on to do a Masters, then a PhD in Composition, and then became a lecturer at Napier University in Edinburgh. Initially, the reduction in her hearing meant only subtle changes in the way she listened. She would find that she was turning her left ear towards people even when they were sitting on her right, or looping round people in the street to hear them, or grabbing at words in a sentence in an attempt to predict the full meaning.

Over the years, she has learnt to listen visually. ‘I do read facial expressions a lot. I remember being in a taxi with a friend, and when we got out she said, “Wow! Could you hear the driver?” I said, “Not a word.” She said, “But you were following the conversation.” I wasn't — I was just watching his face in the mirror, and when he said something serious, I’d go “Oh dear,” and when he said something a bit more animated, I’d go, “Oh right!” I could catch the tone of his voice and if he was moving his hands, and I was using that. It’s like people speaking in a foreign language — you don’t know what they’re saying but you can follow the mood of it, whether it’s a good conversation or they’re having a fight, and you can pick up on the body language.’

Burton lives and works in Edinburgh, a windy city built on hills. Like all towns, it has a very particular acoustic — tyres on cobbles, seagulls, the smutty exhalations of buses — and she has learnt to adapt her listening accordingly. Some 450 miles further south in Suffolk, the noise consultant Rupert Taylor has been writing, lecturing and advising on acoustics since the 1960s. Unsurprisingly, and despite some tinnitus, he has extremely highly trained hearing — trained enough to detect the difference in each place he goes to. ‘I told someone a long time ago that I could tell what station I was in by the sound of it,’ he said. ‘Certainly on some mainlines, it’s easy to tell which station you’re in just by listening — you could do it with your eyes shut. On the east coast mainline, you can tell the difference between York, Doncaster, Newcastle. They’re all Victorian buildings, but they’re all very distinct. York has a huge barrel-vaulted, fairly symmetrical building, so you can hear the focusing effect of reflections from the roof, as does Newcastle, but Newcastle is not so regular — it’s curved.’ And can he hear home? ‘Yes, I think so.’

When Taylor published his influential layman’s guide, Noise, back in 1971, the field of acoustics was so undeveloped it still hadn’t been established that too much sound could have an impact on hearing. In many industries, loudness was simply seen as standard. In Scotland, the 19th-century Dundee jute mills were so noisy that the whole town effectively became deafened, and in places like the Clyde shipyards workers could communicate with each other only by using sign language — specialised listening in a place where hearing itself was painful. Today, awareness of the effects of sound has risen to the point where Taylor rarely needs to advise on workplaces.

The one area that has not improved, Taylor suggested, is the one in which hearing probably matters most — music. And, perversely, it is often those who love music most who are most inclined to obliterate their sensitivities at festivals or gigs. Hidden behind the problem of volume is the issue of amplified music. Most people are so used to hearing boosted or electronically remastered music that they’ve rarely heard it in its natural state. ‘It’s like the difference between instant coffee and coffee made with beans,’ says Taylor, ‘It’s a spatial difference. The experience of listening to acoustic music in a hall is a three-dimensional thing and there’s virtually no 3D in electronically reinforced music. It’s an unfortunate metaphor, but our hearing is being dumbed down.’

‘As you learn to play your instrument better, you learn to listen better’

What are the long-term consequences of that dumbing? ‘You lose a dimension from one of our senses. Or two dimensions.’ Everyone ends up with an unspecified sense that something’s missing, but they can’t work out what it is? ‘Yes. And if they had enough hearing left, and you took them to the Wigmore Hall in London and gave them an experience of a chamber orchestra playing in a place like that, they’d suddenly realise, God, there is more to this than I realised.’

Audiences might not be fully conscious of the change in their listening, but musicians certainly are. So how does the way musicians listen differ from the way non-musicians do? Alex South, a member of the Scottish Clarinet Quintet and a research partner at the Science and Music Research Group at Glasgow University, put it like this: ‘There’s listening to yourself and listening to others, listening for tuning and your place in the harmony, feeling the beat and feeling your rhythms and how they synch with others. Listening to the beginnings and ends of notes within your section in the orchestra, listening to accents, degree of separation of notes, listening to dynamics and phrase shapes. Listening to tone colour and attempting to match your sound to it, listening to the intake of breath of your section principal or the French horn player sitting next to you, listening to any or all of these things holistically or “atomistically”.

‘As you learn to play your instrument better, you learn to listen better. Your ability to produce distinct kinds of articulation goes hand in hand with the ability to distinguish them by ear. But more than this — your ability to distinguish by ear is felt in your body as a set of kinaesthetic responses, memories and anticipations.’ As a form of listening, ‘it’s probably more active, detailed, precise [than that of a non-musician]. You listen for cues, you’re aware (consciously or unconsciously) of tiny fluctuations in tempo and tuning. You might be more aware of the structural aspects of the piece. Perhaps the flip side is that it’s harder to lose yourself in the music, to be swept away by it.’

True music, South suggested, occurs when the individual listening of each player harmonises with the whole, and all the other elements — the players’ skill, their familiarity with the piece, the condition of their instruments, the gap between what they’re feeling and what the music is trying to express — reach a point of perfect synchronicity.

Sometimes what that music is trying to express is deafness itself. Katrina Burton had already decided to give up performing and concentrate on composition when she first started to lose her hearing. One of her solo piano pieces, Moon Palace, is in part an attempt to listen to the sound of her own tinnitus, which was particularly troubling her at the time she was writing her PhD. ‘There was one day when I went to the piano in the music department and thought right, I’m going to investigate these sounds. So I just wrote down the pitches that I could hear right at that point in time. So the very start of that piece, which is quite high and delicate, is actually just the sound of my tinnitus on one particular day, and then it grows and grows and it does become quite dissonant and loud. That was the expression of my frustration when sometimes the tinnitus is really overpowering.’

Others have expressed their troubles in different ways. The inventor of the phonograph Thomas Edison’s hearing began to degenerate from an early age. Discouraged by his failure to make an acceptable hearing aid, he approached the problem from another angle. By trapping sound within the phonograph, he could at least replay it whenever he wanted, even if the only way he could hear his own invention was by placing his head against it and biting into the wood as it played — a technique he also used on pianos. ‘The soundwaves thus come almost directly to my brain,’ he wrote. ‘They pass only through my inner ear. And I have a wonderfully sensitive inner ear.’ That sensitivity made him a temperamental arbiter of musical taste. Because the frequencies of certain instruments and voices were uncomfortable for him, he often refused to issue them on his record label, and always insisted that the best way of judging a piece of music was by examining the shape of the grooves on the disc.

A century on, Burton has been doing the same thing in a different way. ‘Occasionally there are pitches that I will struggle with,’ she told me, ‘but it depends on the instrument. So something might be inaudible with the violin because it’s such a thin sound — it just becomes a white noise. The same with the flute, but that’s painful, the particular timbre of the flute. It’s got to the point where I just don’t want to write for it, or (if I do) to keep it in a low register. It’s incredibly uncomfortable with certain instruments the higher up they go, which surprises people — their reaction is, I thought you had a hearing loss, so how could something be loud and painful?’

There’s a whole force-field of difference between a couple unspeaking in anger and a couple unspeaking in love

As Burton suggests, listening can sometimes be hard. It doesn’t matter what degree of hearing loss people have, or how long they’ve had it, every single one of them says the same thing: it’s tiring. When your ears and your brain are having to work much harder both to get the sounds in and then to turn them into a comfortable and comprehensible form, then you’re using up a lot of energy. If your listening is as skilled and nuanced as a musician’s, it can be exhausting.

In fact, those who have trouble hearing are often highly skilled listeners, fluent in acoustic variation and the power of sound in a way that few fully hearing people ever are. Most of them also have a different relationship to silence. All silences have their own personalities — contented or meditative, empty or replete. If there’s a whole force-field of difference between a couple unspeaking in anger and a couple unspeaking in love, then there’s also a huge variation in the silence generated both by lots of people silent in a space such as a Quaker meeting or a Buddhist meditation practice, and the silence of space itself.

True silence outdoors is as rare as it is inside, especially in a place like Britain, fizzing with people and movement. Even if there is no road or aircraft noise, then there are the susurrations of trees, leaves, grasses, birds, insects — the sounds of life in the process of living. These are the sounds that are probably most endangered and least listened to. It isn’t that we can’t hear them; it’s just that, so often, they’re hidden by the white noise of our own thoughts. More than anything, more than planes or drills, it is that soft blanketing snowfall of our own intelligence that blocks our ears. Go for a walk in the country and what you hear is not the clank of geese or the cows on their way to milking; it’s your own head.

But even that is very different to an active desire not to hear. The most extreme examples of the body’s ability to shut out unwanted sound occurs during conflicts. ‘Psychogenic’ deafness first came to widespread attention after the First World War when many of those exposed to shellfire didn’t just go deaf afterwards, they became mute as well. It was as if, somewhere on the battlefield, they’d misplaced the will both to receive and to transmit.

Modern warfare has only exacerbated the problem. The US army now calculates that nearly two-thirds of front line troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered hearing damage. Goaded by the expense of treating or pensioning off so many deafened servicemen, the military has started to give the subject their attention. That in turn has led to the science of psychoacoustics or, in its more sinister form, ‘white torture’, overloading suspects’ senses by playing drills or death-metal music at extreme volume for hours on end. They say the shamans can sing a man to death; now the government is having a go, too.

But if sound is a thousand times more powerful than we give it credit for, then so too is the power of being heard. Most people are used to the idea of using music to alter their own mood. Less common is the idea that just being listened to is itself a harmony, and a balm. The last time I took a London cab, the driver told me that many of his fares are so desperate to have someone hear them that they actually get down on their knees and confess into the little slit in the window between the driver and the back. So what is it they need to say? ‘Men brag, women want a shoulder. Men want to talk about affairs, deals, cars, and women want to cry about the children they never had.’

Almost everyone has things they don’t want to hear: their son’s fights, their partner’s rants, the high-stakes stuff about debt or divorce or mortality. But there’s a difference between offering someone a better connection and knowingly taking another man’s poison. And sometimes it takes a lot more energy not to listen to someone than it does to hear them out. If you completely listen, then you completely open yourself. And that, in the end, is probably the scariest and the most exhilarating thing you’ll ever hear.

  by Bella Bathurst

Monday, 8 April 2013

New Class at ARC Beginning Lessons

Welcome to T'ai Chi for today's beginners at ARC House. I'm looking forward to our work together over the next weeks.

On to Glenbeigh

                  Heading west to Glenbeigh and the sea.

                       Miles of open space.

                               Kerry mountains

In both directions.

All sorts of textures and colours. 

To delight the senses.

Heading back to the village. 

We climb the hill to have a birds eye view of the beach.

Crossing the bridge to begin the homeward journey. 

                     One last stop in Killarney to view the lakes.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Another Trip West

                        First stop Muckross Gardens.


     Where has the Arboretum gone with the Camellias I love ?

                   Up the steps still searching !

                      Ah the Camellias


                    Soooo Perfect


                                                     So tender !


             So beautiful could stay all day but longing to see the Sea .  .  .  .  . .  .  .  .

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Mini Form the first few lessons for Friday's Class

Here are the first few lessons of the minli form . I just taught the first lesson tonight but even listening to the next lesson or two is a good way to prepare for our next  session .
Welcome to this magical practice . Be prepared to surprise yourself with sensations in your body that you have not been conscious of before embarking on this journey of self discovery. Look forward to a new and deeper level of awareness , to greater energy and more fun in your life.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Figure 8 heart exercise little finger version

Here is the solo exercise leading with the little fingers . In this version of the exercise we circulate the energy in the opposite direction to this exercise when done leading with the thumbs.  This time we direct the energy down and out the lower centre of the body into the earth   where it can be  refreshed or  cleansed   .  Then we draw this energy up into the heart, and direct it from there up and out the crown of our head and send it out to the ' ends of the universe and beyond ' , where this energy is recharged and comes back into our hearts revitalising us.

When we do this exercise in a group we begin as above to establish the energy circuit,  once established we widen our attention to include the whole group in our circuit. This helps to expand our energy and connect us in an even stronger way to each other.

When practicing alone I like to begin with my own circuit and once it is established to expand my attention  firstly to loved ones , then to neighbours , people in my town , everyone in Ireland , Europe , the World , Then all living beings ,animals,  plants, water, finally the universe and beyond.

This is a circuit of Love and it's good to do both versions  so I'm posting the thumb version again here so you can practice both if you wish.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A story from G.I. Gurdjieff


I must tell you that in our brotherhood there are two very old brethren; one is called Brother Ahl and the other Brother Sez. These brethren have voluntarily undertaken the obligation of periodically visiting all the monasteries of our order and explaining various aspects of the essence of divinity. Our order has four monasteries, one of them ours, the second in the valley of the Pamir, the third in Tibet and the fourth in India. And so these brethren, Ahl and Sez, constantly travel from one monastery to another and preach there.

They come to us twice a year. Their arrival at our monastery is considered among us a very great event. On the days when either of them is here, the soul of every one of us experiences pure heavenly pleasure and tenderness. The sermons of these two brethren, who are to an almost equal degree holy men and who speak the same truths, have nevertheless a different effect on all our brethren and on me in particular.

When Brother Sez speaks it is indeed like the song of the birds in Paradise; from what he says one is quite, so to say, turned inside out; one becomes as though entranced. His speech purls like a stream and one no longer wishes anything else in life but to listen to the voice of Brother Sez. But Brother Ahl's speech has almost the opposite effect. He speaks badly and indistinctly, evidently because of his age. No one knows how old he is. Brother Sez is also very old, but he is still a hale old man, whereas in Brother Ahl the weakness of old age is clearly evident.

The stronger the impression made at the moment by the words of Brother Sez, the more this impression evaporates until there ultimately remains in the hearer nothing at all. But in the case of Brother Ahl, although at first what he says makes almost no impression, later, the gist of it takes on definite form, more and more each day, and is instilled as a whole into the heart and remains there forever.

When we became aware of this and began trying to discover why it was so, we came to the unanimous conclusion that the sermons of Brother Sez proceeded only from his mind and therefore acted on our minds, whereas those of Brother Ahl proceeded from his being and acted on our being.

Yes, professor, knowledge and understanding are quite different. Only understanding can lead us to being whereas knowledge is but a passing presence in it.

--G.I. Gurdjieff, in 'Meetings with Remarkable Men'

Monday, 1 April 2013

Fun with Ruth

                             In the woods with Ruth

                       Great to have someone to push on the swing !

                                            Finally my turn .

Come on we can't wait any more .

Let's go .

Just a little deeper . 

Before we head  back   . . .

And view the roosting crows.