The Sound of Stone -
Come a little closer
And feel the pulse
Of this perfumed Earth,
And the heartbeat of these ancient stones.
P.J Curtis, The Music of Ghosts
Home to Selkies and Moher.
On the 10th of June I set off on my first ever solo adventure.
Headed for The Emerald Isle, a place I have felt beckoned by for many years.
This rugged ancient land, wrapped in lustrous seas, with wild meadows and lyrical accents, I knew instantly when I stepped off the plane that this was exactly where I was meant to be. After taking a wiggly journey across the country, I arrived at the West Coast: County Clare. The Cliffs of Moher.
Greeted by the barks of Moher, (unknowingly to become my new best friend over the next month), I approached the old stone cottages of the retreat.
Situated amongst dry-stone walls and working farms, the site is perfectly distanced between the swimmable rock pools of Clahane and the irresistible sunsets of The Cliffs.
Everyone here feels distinctly connected to the land, you can hear it in the bird-song. Everything breathing, giving, receiving.
The overwhelming vastness of the sky that never makes up its mind. Daily storms, sunshine, silver rain and shadowed rainbows, all sharing the landscape at once, painting an idyllic backdrop for our Yoga Teacher Training.
On our first evening we met in the studio, overlooking the fields and down to The Ocean. Michelle and Dearbhla our teachers, Maggie, Maren, Dee, Sarah, Kris and I. Seated on bolsters around a candle, wild flowers and St Brigid’s Cross. The energy in the room was abundant and full, silently weaving us together.
What followed was three weeks of intense training. 7am–7pm days of yoga practise, yoga teacher-training, cliff walks and daily sea swimming.
I was not prepared for the emotional intensity of this experience. Fully exposed as we shared our most heart-felt thoughts. Opening, listening, releasing. Letting go to make space. As I shed back the layers I could feel myself returning. Taking down the guards and beginning to accept my reflection in both external and internal mirrors.
We started each morning with a strong, energising practise, followed by classes exploring anatomy, the fundamentals of teaching and the history and philosophy of yoga, constantly rewriting and unravelling what yoga really is.
Our teaching was led by Michelle Moroney. To describe Michelle as inspirational would be an immense understatement. Her warmth, wisdom, honesty and authenticity, (plus her brilliant sense of humour), made every class one of a kind.
We also had classes with Dearbhla Glynn, guiding us to become better teachers through her warm, radiant and calming presence.
And of course our third teacher - Moher. Lion-Dog. Half black-lab, half golden retriever.
Watching us from the meadow throughout our morning class, he would loyally wait in the tall grass as we flowed through downward dogs and warrior poses.
On my first walk alone to the sea, Moher showed me the way, constantly checking back over his shoulder. Coming from a family of cats, (and sassy cats at that), I was unused to being able to tell Moher what to do, and him actually doing it! He walked me down to the rock pools on the night of the full moon, chasing pebbles whilst I ungracefully dipped in and out of the icy water.
There is something so wonderful about being able to go somewhere on your own but not on your own, especially at night. I need a golden retriever.
One evening we lay out on the terrace watching the moon turn from a ghost to a spotlight. Moher barking into the darkness, seeing things our eyes aren’t attuned to. We then curled up on the lounge floor in the moonbeams, falling asleep to the music of Aisling and Pangur Ban.
The sea felt different in Ireland. Like glass, impossibly clear with a sharpness to it, unlike the soft milkiness of the sea at home. With dramatic tidal changes each day we found ourselves with our very own ever-changing rocky swimming pools, carpeted in kelp and anemones. At home I am not a fan of seaweed, however, that swiftly changed. This was influenced largely by the pleasure of experiencing the Wild Atlantic Seaweed Whisky Barrel Baths (but more on that at a later date).
Our daily ritual involved regular escapes to the sea in-between classes, encouraged by Maggie that it wasn’t that cold, and always accompanied by Moher, paddling around like a seal.
Last but not least - the food the food the food. I’ll be honest, anticipating three weeks of being vegetarian and only having set meals made me apprehensive. Having a poor all-or-nothing attitude at home and consuming way too much sugar, I was nervous to how my body would react to this detox.
But my goodness, never in my life have I eaten such phenomenal food. Grown in the garden and prepared by Jaime or Martha, our delightful private chefs, amongst others. Each meal was abundant with colour, creativity and truly mouth-watering flavours. Ingredients I would never choose to combine myself, all so fresh, vibrant and full of Irish sunshine. A few personal favourites included the Sunflower Burgers, Green Goddess Soup, Chocolate Beetroot Cake with Cashew Cream, often finished with edible flowers from the garden. Oh, and the Porridge Bread, topped with too much butter (basically cake for breakfast).
Anyway, I could waffle on about this magical trip for pages and pages, but I’m approaching my station stop.
There’s been a lady sat opposite me as I write this, and she has literally just picked up her phone and started chatting away in a strong Irish accent. I think that must be a sign to head back there pretty soon.
TTFN, Florence x x x