Tag: Ireland

Top Sacred Journeys for 2015

Whether your yard is still buried deep under snow or those first buds of spring are starting to peek though, February is a perfect month to start your vacation planning.  Here we round up our 2015 sacred journeys: from a writer’s retreat in Ireland to an Ayurveda program in India, we’re sure to have something to nourish your spirit.

Women’s Spiritual Art Journey in Bali with Mooh Hood and Lori Goldberg: A Transformative Travel Gift to Yourself, March 12 – 23, 2015


Women’s Spiritual Art Journey is a rare opportunity to participate with a small group of women to engage with the local Balinese, explore the lush landscapes, pray at the Mother Temple, immerse in the Holy Springs and tap into your creative process and create a daily art journal (no experience needed). You will be travelling with Bali expert Mooh Hood and artist Lori Goldberg on this journey of profound connection and discovery. Read the full journey details on our website. 

There are a couple of spots remaining on this life-changing journey – book now to secure your place! 

A Spiral Journey into the Heart of Ireland with Phil Cousineau: Explore the Mythology, Arts and Spirituality of the Ancient and Modern Celtic World, September 19 – 30, 2015 (with a Dublin Extension, Sep 30 – Oct 3)


Join writer and filmmaker Phil Cousineau as he leads you on a journey that spirals into the heart and soul of one of the most unique cultures in the world seeking the presence of Ireland’s great trilogy of “myth, poetry and magic” through its incantatory storytelling, hypnotic music, and the sheer beauty of glorious countryside. The journey includes visits to the Aran Islands, Cliffs of Moher, Yeats’ Tower, Galway, Croagh Patrick and Donegal Castle as well as the vibrant cities of Belfast and Dublin (extension). With special guest appearances by local writers scholars and cultural leaders, and dedicated time for daily discussions and journal writing, this is a culturally and spiritually rich tour not to be missed. Discover more here.

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The Holiest Mountain in Ireland

I’m currently lucky enough to be in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where Saint Patrick’s Day – Paddy’s Day as it’s known here as elsewhere – is an unofficial holiday, not least because it often falls mid-way through lent giving those who observe this fasting period a “day off” and time of celebration before Easter. While winter still lingers in Newfoundland and the Shamrock green has yet to burrow its way up through the snow, my thoughts today warmly turn to memories of Ireland, with its rich folklore, inspiring landscapes and shrines connecting its spiritual past with our present pilgrimages.


Croagh Patrick, Ireland

Phil Cousineau, best-selling author, teacher and TV host, has been taking pilgrims to Ireland with Sacred Earth Journeys for some years now, and one of the places he will again lead a group to this September is Croagh Patrick, the holiest mountain in Ireland. It was on the summit of this mountain that Saint Patrick fasted for forty days in 441 AD, and the tradition of pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick in honour of Ireland’s patron saint stretches back over 5,000 years from the Stone Age to the present day without interruption.(1) For the 2013 Sacred Earth Journeys tour Phil will lead the group up to the first prayer station – around a half hour walk – and will there share a fascinating history of St. Patrick and the tradition of pilgrimage.
Colloquially known as The Reek, Croagh Patrick also presents one of Ireland’s most breathtaking vistas from all stages of the ascent. Located close to the picturesque town of Westport, the mountain stands tall and proud distinguishing itself from its neighbouring rolling hills by its stature (2,500 ft above sea level) and conical presence. The place where, according to legend, Saint Patrick banished snakes from Ireland forever! Today, a pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick is a fitting place to banish our own – more metaphorical – snakes and breath in that lung-expanding pure Irish air while absorbing the spectacular views over County Mayo.
There are still some places on the 2013 sacred journey to Ireland: The Mythic Heart of Ireland with Phil Cousineau if you’d like to experience for yourself the majesty of Croagh Patrick as well as discover Ireland’s stunning landscapes and vibrant cities. Until then, as the old Irish blessing goes, “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
Visit the Press section of the Sacred Earth Journey’s website for a couple of recent fascinating articles by Phil Cousineau about the art of pilgrimage and what it means to be a pilgrim: http://www.sacredearthjourneys.ca/sections/about-us-x.htm
(1) Factual information taken from the Croagh Patrick Visitor’s Centre: http://www.croagh-patrick.com/visitorcentre/holy-mountain
~ Kim Bridgett

Ireland Forever

As I try to wrap up my thoughts, I realize there is so much more I can write about. For brevity sake, I will encourage anyone who reads this to visit Ireland and discover her many wonders. And I would direct you to the poetry of W.B. Yeats, the writings of John O’Donoghue, and the music of Christy Moore and Seán Tyrrell, just to name a few.

The last stops of our tour end in Galway and Dublin ~ urban, sophisticated, yet with a lyrical ambience. How serendipitous that we should be in Dublin for the misty full moon of autumn equinox, and the following day, September 23, 17:49 to raise a toast to Arthur on International Toast Arthur Day! For those of you who don’t know about Arthur Guinness, he is a revered man who founded his brewery in Dublin in 1749. He provided us with plenty of refreshment during our pilgrimage.

I write this last blog in the wake of Black Thursday, September 30, which feels all the more devastating after seeing Seán O’Casey’s play, The Plough and the Stars at the Abbey Theatre. Such a tumultuous history! But I leave with a bright vision for Ireland from atop the Hill of Tara; panoramic vistas, as far as the eye can see, and feeling the surge of energy coursing through the land as I joined hands with my roommate, Susan. This is a country that is no stranger to adversity, yet survives with a strong spirit.

At our farewell banquet, a final feast after days of consistently excellent meals, my fellow pilgrims and I are filled with gratitude – For Helen, who organized all the logistics and attended to every important detail. For our attentive driver Gregory, who took care of us with his unfailing hospitality and good cheer. For the great chemistry of our group; all of us undoubtedly have been changed by this experience. We are anam cara. For our extraordinary leader, Phil, who brought us soulful magic, mystery, literature, and music. And for all the people we met along the way who touched our lives.

What a blessing this pilgrimage has been. We can create our own Book of Kells with these rich memories and new understandings of the understory that is Ireland.

Suaimhneas (deep peace),
Joan Ishibashi

Highlights of Ireland Tour

George Bernard Shaw said, ‘We spend our lives circling around what we really want to say.’ That seems to be the story of my life. But the Celtic swirl has propelled me into new self-awareness, sometimes welcome, sometimes not. And also with thanks to a small kick in the behind from Phil’s pilgrim insights and pointed questions. That being said, I want to send a couple more blogs and feel like I’m circling the Hill of Tara, wondering how to wrap up a royal and epic journey. There is enough to fill a book, so I’ll merely mention a few more highlights.

• Coole Park – beautiful and serene, home of Lady Augusta Gregory, and inspiration to W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, and Sean O’Casey, to name a few.

• The Abbey Theatre – a fitting birthing place for a true national theatre, in the heart of Dublin, near the O’Connell Bridge, site of creativity and revolutionary unrest.

• The lovely town of Clifden – where we experienced jaw-dropping visual arts and music at the Clifden Arts Festival, while mingling with the local artists. Once again I am swept off my feet by the romantic Irish. ;)

• A brief visit to the picturesque town of Westport – where I wanted to roam the streets and look for my new friend Aisling. Our conversation about her life, hopes and dreams was too short and I wanted it to continue. I didn’t find her shop, so I’ll have to e-mail her from the States, and hope I see her again one day.

• Who would’ve thought there would be a coral beach with pristine aquamarine waters? But there we were in Derrygimla, with most of our group dipping their toes in the ocean. I never saw such lush beds of kelp in all my life, so I had to sit in them while contemplating the starvation of millions of Irish. I was surrounded by opihi (cockles, I think), mollusks, and piles of delicious-looking kombu, a veritable feast already seasoned with ocean minerals and ready to eat. Here was an abundance of food, out of reach, and perhaps unknown, to the starving victims of English oppression.

• Images of the coffin ships are now seared into my consciousness. Entire villages, cleared of inhabitants, people sold into slavery or starved to death – these images haunted me as I stared out at the Atlantic and dug my feet into the kelp and coral. The dichotomy of our tragic human history set against the breathtaking beauty of land, sea and sky is jarring.

The beauty of this part of Ireland, the joy de vivre of the people who are embracing the fall of the Celtic Tiger as an opportunity for rebirth, will continue to speak to my soul.

From here we move on to city life, as we head for Galway and Dublin, and some final farewells. Guinness evenings help us on our way…

~ Joan Ishibashi

The magic continues

Along the pilgrim way we have been journaling, drawing, writing poetry and musing as we listen to voices, ancient and modern, and try to make sense of what is being evoked within our souls.

Each day Phil gives us another nugget, another layer to add to the mosaic that is Ireland. I love St. Brigid and the bold pirate Grace O`Malley ~ they encourage my sometimes flagging womanist loins. I am inspired by St. Ciaran, founder of the monastery at Clonmacnoise, who infused it with his vision, faith in God, and love for his people.

Each day is rich with poetry and music – how lucky to experience an intimate session with Sean Tyrell, singer of gravely intensity; a serendipitous opportunity to hear the great Christy Moore in concert, his songs and passion for justice continuing to reverberate amongst our Sacred Earth pilgrims; and breakfast with the poet Tony Curtis, who saw a group of beautiful pilgrim women and wanted to be a part of the dawning conversation. What a delightful flirt!

I must share, however inadequate my words, the luminous sessions we had with P.J. Curtis and Dara Malloy. We were blessed to have these men share their wisdom, their “mana’o” as I would say in Hawaiian, since I can’t find an English word to describe the utter totality of their being, soul, person, and depth. What a privilege to sit at their feet.

P.J. is one of Ireland’s foremost ethnomusicologists and musicians. He introduced us to the history and power of Irish music and its far-reaching influence beyond its native shores. He enabled us to appreciate the music we have been hearing throughout our pilgrimage. I’m inspired to pick up the accordion after so many years of silence! It is hard not to feel smug, going into the pubs and thinking, “I’m not just another tourist who has no understanding of the soul of Irish music.” Thank you, P.J.

And Dara Malloy – Celtic priest, scholar, and holy man – met us on Innismore, the largest of the Aran Islands. By the time we arrived at Innismore, questions and longings that have been submerged within my soul have started spiraling out. The spectacular island landscape, the numinous light, the crystalline waters, and Dara’s soul-sharing stirred those long dormant questions and questing. Mary Chapin Carpenter has a song called “Twilight” and I finally understand what she means by that magical time of day and the gloaming. The island pulsated with this sacred time and energy. I think I am going to swoon!

People go on pilgrimage around the world. I never expected Ireland to be anything more than just a beautiful country with friendly people. But Phil is showing me it is so much more. And as I get to know a bit of the soul of Ireland, I get to know a bit of my own.

Joan Ishibashi