A fog of war blankets the undiscovered world. For every part of it you uncover in the world around you, you uncover in the world within you

Image by enriquelopezgarre from Pixabay

When I was young there was a computer game I loved playing called Age of Empires. It was a strategy game where you took control of one of the great civilisations of history — Romans, Aztecs, Mongols, etc. — and had to build their empire up from scratch. You started by foraging for materials, hunting animals for food and building simple shelters. You quickly progressed to mining resources, building towns and developing different technologies. Then you came across rival civilisations trying to do the same thing as you and — inevitably — you go to war.

When the game starts…

Just chillin’. Photo by Kiril Dobrev on Unsplash

“Boredom is the desire for desires” — Leo Tolstoy

Following on from what I was saying about mindfulness, meditation, and those surges of energy we call emotions — what are we really doing when we’re meditating on these feelings? Why do we feel uncomfortable with this energy rushing through our bodies?

The problem is that our lives are so full that being bored is no longer an option.

One way to look at meditation is practicing being bored.

We’ve all lost the ability to just sit there and do nothing.

But even the idea of sitting and meditating for five…

Carrowniskey beach, Co. Mayo, Ireland

“Adventure is the discovery of the self, it is both feared and desired.”

Joseph Campbell

In these times of restricted movement, it’s good to remember that travel is not just about the places you go. Although unique cultures and natural beauty are worthy of our attention, there is always a common denominator in your experience of them: you. It is impossible to separate your experience from yourself, and so everything interesting and beautiful must be interesting and beautiful to you (leaving aside for a moment ideas of objective uniqueness and beauty).

Although the inherent characteristics of a place are…

Life is not all about suffering, as some of the greatest philosophers have told us. In life’s greatest and most blissful moments, we find not only joy and happiness, but wonder, awe and transcendence.

Being open to experiencing the peaks of life can change your life. Photo by Paul Gilmore on Unsplash

“Experience always means ‘bad experience’, doesn’t it?” quipped Nietzsche, though Nietzsche probably never knew what it’s like to snowboard through a deadly-quiet whited out forest at high speed, and Nietzsche probably never rode a motorbike in the sun with the wind in his face, enjoying life as it must feel for a dog with his head out the window of a car.

Photo by Erik Witsoe on Unsplash

“Time is the mother of all stressors” — Nassim Nicholas Taleb


Time is beginning to lose all meaning now, if it hadn’t already at some point in the last year. I’m guessing it’s because, unlike the last lockdown, there is no Christmas to look ‘forward’ to (or worry about, depending on your view of Christmas). Either way, it’s a future attachment, and in a sense, Christmas provided just another deadline by which we had to have this, that and the other done, completed, sorted out, figured out, or otherwise accomplished. …

Ba Bể Lake in northern Vietnam with surrounding mountains stretching out forever (Photo: author’s own).

The Rock

I count to five.

Then I count to ten.

Every so often I open my eyes and turn around mildly concerned that a stray tourist was making their way through the woods behind me, but it’s just a breeze rustling over the fallen leaves and branches that have littered around the small clearing. I was safe on this side of the lake, no access other than from the lake itself, my kayak safely wedged against a small rock, the water too still to carry it away.

Each time I turn with my safety reconfirmed to face again across…

It gets cold in Ireland. Photo by Chris Marquardt on Unsplash

We are still locked down and Claremorris hasn’t drifted any further towards the sea, so I’m still reminiscing on pre-Level 5 surfing days. The sunny respite today from this strange series of storms reminds me of one of my last day’s out, and yet despite the fine weather, it wasn’t the best day for surfing. So it goes with these things, the worst days for the everyday are often the best days for more alternative pursuits, and vice versa.

It was to Enniscrone, my last trip over county borders before the arbitrary boundaries withdrew but before the full-on suffocation of…

Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

There’s a brilliant passage in Anthony de Mello’s book Awareness, itself a brilliant book and highly recommended reading, where someone asks a guru (a legit spiritual teacher, not a ‘guru’) what he needs to reach enlightenment, or improve his life, or be a better person or something like that. One of those innocent questions one might enquire about to a religious or spiritual figure, especially if it’s being told to you in a story.

The guru simply replies ‘Awareness!’ The enquirer follows this up with further questions, logical enough follow-ups to get to the root of the issue: “Awareness of…

That’s not what this is about. Photo by MARK ADRIANE on Unsplash

A note on the word ‘positive’. There’s an assumption many make that ‘positive mental health’ or ‘well-being’ are about being happy all the time, or expressing or feeling happy all the time, or ‘chilling out’ more. Which isn’t true. Or, that the concepts are have been cynically appropriated by corporations to make workers more efficient, under the guise of caring. This is probably true.

Such assumptions inspire feelings of resentment: there is genuine uncertainty and injustice in the world, and there is evil to be fought that is causing it, and how dare you tell me to just ‘stay positive’…

Carrowniskey, Co. Mayo. Always a bit crazy, as summer turns to autumn it gets that bit crazier. The hump-backed Clare Island sits on the horizon.

Carrowniskey — October First

The waves were big today.

Carrowniskey — Ceathrú an uisce — is Irish for ‘washing machine’. This isn’t true, but it’s what comes to mind any time I think of this beach. It lies out on the far fringes of west Mayo, where an uneven and shallow beach receives a large and unpredictable swell.

The relentless onward nudge of the waves blankets the shore quickly and repeatedly. They carry sizeable rocks with it with surprising force — each time pulling back and the lo, the assortment of hundreds of thousands of large stones has been rearranged…

Gavin Brennan

Psychology | Well-being | Travel | Writing | Flânerie.

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