Like all writers, I find the best way to process my feelings is to simply write my way to balance. Below are pieces I don’t plan on submitting for publication.
For the next generation
“It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves.” Carl Jung
Will fear take over? Will, we simply create a new generation of safety net minions. Lemmings to go over the cliff?
Will we be afraid to follow our passions? I worry that I’ll meet more and more parents who are pushing for the good serviceable job. The one they feel is so secure. Will all the passion die? Will humanity grow or regress further?
There have been many low moments in the home over the last few weeks. We all take turns. Even Dinky dog has had his bad days. You wouldn’t feel his life has changed much? But he doesn’t understand why people don’t want to say hello. I guess he misses his cafe time too.
One of the hardest conversations I’ve had was my mother crying in angst that we have too much. Will we be struck down in suffering because we do? Her worries that we don’t give enough back. With me assuring all they pour through me, I pour back. And I have over the last few weeks until I couldn’t pour anymore. Till I rocked in the corner.
I’ve been in the odd position of sitting in the middle of the world. Watching and communicating with each country as this has unfolded. I started for Chinese New Year in Singapore. Then my own relations became the epicentre of hell in Italy. Next, I heard the stories of the panic buying from Australia and the UK. I watched on knowing the US was in for the biggest storm imaginable. While those in Singapore seem so compliant they hardly seemed to suffer. The Solomon Islands has remained untouched. Except for a mass exists of the ex-pats threatening the economy. Meanwhile, over in New Zealand, we’ve seen the most personal approach with texts to every citizen and ‘hang-out’ time with the P.M. I’ve watched in pride as Ireland strove to protect their vulnerable early. But equally in horror as those across the water were told to get ready to lose their loved ones. And now I watch as South Africa joins the fry. I never truly appreciated just how global my own connections were until this moment. I see the same patterns of fear; good, bad and ugly. I joke I’ve concentrated on the good and used everything else to write.
Some families have embraced the home. Enjoying the creativity and cooking time. Even in the darkest hours in Italy, we were reminded by one; now you have time to cook all the meals you don’t normally. You can simmer and soak. We suddenly have all the time in the world. I’ve seen a mother teach a child to read a road sign. Another whole family jog the beach. From the littlest of 3.
I’ve spent two years in a writing cave. Now I’ve emerged to talk with more people in weeks rather than months.
But there’s been a dark side too. I’ve never felt so unsafe in every way. I’ve felt pain as I know those I care for suffer jobs loses and financial uncertainty. I’ve worried about the displacement of others from their loved ones. I’ve seen families start out enthusiastically towards the adventure – to only then allow their children to sink into an abyss of TV and Netflix. I worry that becoming a gamer has actually become a viable career choice. While others who offer so much seem to have become worthless overnight. With each countries lockdown, I’ve charted the change in value.
I worry the reset I was so enthusiastic about a month ago – now looks like a really bad recoding exercise that will be based in fear and constraint. Will we be so afraid to be freelance? Will once more the arts sector seem a no hope choice? Will we have gained any more true value for education in all this noise?
Will people be any more in alignment with their lives? Because in all of this the key I’ve seen – it’s irrelevant what your path is providing your life is alignment for you to follow your dreams. You live to live not to work. If your life is simple everything is possible. I know lots of content people sitting out this storm. Beavering away in their passions. I know others with security in turmoil. I know plenty of good serviceable jobs gone. Richness has been redefined.
I want the next generation to not be lemmings. But I worry they will look on in all this carnage and be too afraid to be anything else.
Naoisé March 29th
War in my lifetime
“My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.” George Washington
We all knew we needed to make the world simpler. More local. Less greed. But could we really have imagined before the last few weeks how this would transpire? Humans are best while reactive.
It’s our consciousness that sets us apart from other species. But I often wondered has the gene skipped a few beats?
So it took a virus. Our own perceived importance. And a fair degree of panic to ground the planet. Stop our over complex lives. We’ve seen the best and worst. I made sure my own larder presses were filled three weeks ago. Knowing panic buying would set in and so it did yesterday. I found myself in a supermarket with bare shelves. Buying a few forgotten items for my parents. Feeling prized to buy the last small bag of flour for us to share. The woman working the checkout apologised for the delay and I told her I thought she was coping remarkably well in the madness. She laughed and explained it’s been like this since first thing this morning. “The funny part is I only have one tomato and some ham left in my own fridge.” I offered concern there’d be nothing left for her. She assured me there will be another delivery in the morning. I hope she’s managed to stock her own fridge now.
I joked yesterday as the country closed that people were developing my life. No travel. Working from home. Simpler. Calmer. Meeting people in open spaces for walks. Working online across great distances. At last glimmers of inclusive online interactive education. It makes no odds to me – most who get me are located outside Ireland online. My life doesn’t really look much different. Except now I’m not writing to you from a cafe. I tried earlier in the week but I was so distraught at the lack of care to hygiene I left. I wanted to help keep them open – but not at the cost to my life or others dear to me.
But I’m lucky. My life has already been set up for this reset button. A friend wrote to me yesterday; “introverts have been in training for this for years.” His families life doesn’t look any different today than last week either.
I wrote to another this morning explaining I feel like a proud innovator. His response “Innovators always await their time.” Watching a teacher who did my training, nearly 7 years ago, answer other’s queries on how to make remote learning interactive for really young students. I was more worried about the way the question was put – “how do I work with younger people, for the older ones they can just read on in the books?” The answer made me sucked punch the air. It made 11 years worthwhile in a flash. The response listed all the simple skills at home from cooking to games. This week, I and the teachers I’ve worked with have watched educators grapple to come to terms with what we’ve been doing for years now. I think this is the reset switch I’ve been waiting for. Education will never be seen the same again. It won’t seem strange for me to sit in Ireland and work with people across the globe. It’ll not be questioned that you can “tell enough about them.” Everything I’ve done is now normalised. And the best bit – I wanted parents to feel in control of their child’s education once more. They are since yesterday in Ireland. I’m sure that seems daunting but it’s a change that needed to happen. Families now feel involved once more.
And we’ve not even touched on the diminishing pollution, the lack of travel, the sudden need for less – except the basics. And now we all have a value once more for the basics. How long is it since we’ve felt real gratitude? And our consciousness has been rebooted. Your actions affect everyone. That’s the message over and over. How many people have campaigned for free open health care as a right? How many have seen the need before these weeks? This is humanities reality check.
Of course, there are deep economic consequences on the way. But you know – I can’t help feeling the gap there is going to look a little different too. And if you don’t travel. If you don’t need a holiday from your life. If the world of the future for your children suddenly has different needs. Will there not be a saving? When you go out for coffee you’ll know exactly what you are paying for – someone else’s freedom. You’d forgotten the chain. The links within humanity. Maybe you never even considered them before?
I knew live through a war in my lifetime. If this is it? I can cope. So can you.
Naoisé March 2020
Featured on Motherwell Magazine
Space and despair in the chaos
For the first time in 11 years, I started the week not wanting to help people. Last week, I hit such a wall of despair. I spent much of the weekend crying, simply unable to process most of my feelings. Unable to get clarity on why I feel so disconnected from where others seem to be. To offer the help they sought, would be to just allow them to hide in the mirage of stagnation. Treading sludge in times of such possible upheaval.
More than anything else right now this is a mass culling of ideas. The rules society has felt for too long it needs to follow. This is not an extended study break for students to cram their course. It’s a complete life reevaluation. What life do I want? What life is sustainable? Suddenly careers people once sneered at have become the foundation of a war effort. We don’t all need to go to college to feel whole. This was never the purpose of education.
I’m not prepared to simply hand out study sheets or timetables. I want this to be a whole self-care package. I want to use the time to understand your core self and needs. For those struggling with literacy, it offers the greatest potential to spend the time that has been gained in a really constructive way. We are no longer battling to find a slot in the noise to learn the way we need too. Everyone can learn to read their way. We are not trying to navigate the system to find a way to do this now by stealth. We have space and time. We no longer need to make excuses about who we are and how we learn differently. Everyone does, we’ve just been in denial. We’ve spent so much time needing to fit into the rat race. What’s expected of us. Suddenly nothing is as expected. It’s all been culled. There’s a liberation in that if you want to grasp it. It oddly feels as if we are all emitting the decay of noise from our lives – in order to become more than a half-lived life.
Others find it hard to comprehend why I don’t share my methods with the world. I don’t want to focus on the challenges for each person. Even if I present the best and worst possible for each – I know what you will choose to focus attention on. We have enough ways already to limit people. Those always choose darkness when given options. It’s about helping people see the best of themselves while experiencing as a spectator what wrong turns are possible too. It’s why I’ve spent two years writing in the hopes that others will be able to read their way to their own core.
Now it feels like kicking Pandora’s box open again for everyone. In the legend, she put the lid back on too soon and left hope trapped inside.
23rd March 2020
This is your time
When others tell you what it’d be too pompous to say yourself. When the messages are the same; “It’s your time”, “Everyone will be ready to hear what you been saying.”
I wouldn’t have predicted or wished for such dramatic events. My message has never seemed that far ahead to me. I’m left wondering in a way what has my message been? What have others been hearing?
That having a core sense of self makes you a better human. That knowing who you are and how you tick not only makes you more secure but it stops you hurting future generations. That everyone can learn to read in their own way. That this matters for your core too. That there are no stupid people in the world. That all of this adds to making unconditional love possible. The ultimate truth is that without a core you can’t ever even imagine how unconditional feels.
It’s felt for me that humanity has been outsourcing living for years.
Families have children to not have the time to raise them. I often asked why did they have children? Not a popular question. What values are they demonstrating to them? An even more unpopular one.
Now we are all sitting in our self contained pods in silence re-assesing life.
I feel joy but equal terror too. There are so many dysfunctional pods out there. And innocent lives are at stake. I think dangers within of those isolated are even greater than they are from the virus outside.
My work is nowhere near done. But yes, maybe it’s time for everyone to listen now.
Naoisé 19th March 2020 (Equinox – ultimate balance day)
Writing up 11 years
Getting the keys for my school, The Homework Club, has become a milestone to base my own development. It’s 11 years ago now. If I’d known then what I know now I’m not sure I would have been brimming with enthusiasm that day. It was Chinese New Year too.
As I write this after another session online to the far side of the globe I’m reminded that my biggest purpose is to translate understanding of each other. That it’s almost become my speciality to reward empathy and sensitivity in the world. These skills like me seem currently out of fashion. And I can’t help feeling we will need them more than ever going forward.
I’ve spent not quite two years in a complete frenzy of writing – trying desperately not only to download all I have learnt in 11 years but to find a way to take myself out of the work. 7 books later I think I finally understand me. And now have a tribe of followers who can finally see me too. You have to ditch all those conditioned ideals and expectations to really get me. No wonder so few have until now. I never felt that rare but I guess I’ve joked for years I’m the alien. My biggest lesson has been you can only read me from your own reference point.
One aspect which creates misunderstanding in people about me but which makes me highly accessible to others is my lack of formality. I’ve never needed to hide behind my academic qualifications or speak in high academic prose. One reason I left academia was because of its lack of accessibility which I was a victim of because of my own profound dyslexia. All parents I meet feel intimidated by education. However, this doesn’t mean I have a simple way of seeing the world. And if I’ve created it for others it’s formed by endless research and methodology. I’ve spent my life focusing on how others need to receive communication. How each personality hears slightly differently.
Like me, my books would have been fashionable in the 19th century if philosophy and psychology could have been made accessible. I was delighted to realise recently they do fit at least one box being Novellas in length. Which I love the translation of as being ‘new’ very strong narrative voice. This is exactly what they are but also deeply personal and so open to all. Everyone forgets at some time they are reading a real me and projects. They’ve all grown closer by the end. But every reader tells me they provoke profound thought. Regardless of if they are a farmer, an academic working towards their own doctorate or a parent who dropped out of school at 15. I was fascinated to learn that regardless of their education level many read the books the same way – all taking notes. One person even said they reminded them of proverbs.
I’ve achieved what I set out to do when I started my own school 11 years ago this month after my own doctorate in Physical Oceanography. Independent thought and critical thinking possible for everyone regardless of education status.
To create simple you have to be a true master of understanding. I went to an art exhibition recently where I watched the development of The Irish painter J.B.Yeats’ style. You have to be able to paint to strip back the layers to show the simpler abstract. It was the same for Picasso or Leonardo Da Vinci. In fact, he wrote, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
In a world where we have become so used to a mere commentary on life it hard to sell the idea of how philosophy creates a diversity of thinking or links rather than just a presented finished idea. We have got used to instant in every way. We don’t study to form ourselves we do it merely to tick the box. I would argue a good educator shows and helps people experience rather than tell. This is why I have created journeys for the reader. It’s exactly the same way I work with everyone.
Up until now, the only way to truly know me and understand me has been to work with me – now it’s possible to do this by reading me too.
In writing a series of books I obviously went on a journey myself which gave me two profound lessons. The first, in order to truly have my equals in my life I have to honour who I am. I have spent much of my life hiding this reality as I was afraid of the attention it brought, I can’t live in this way any longer. Hiding such a part of my soul for convention. Never wanting too much attention. I have to live in my full presence and be prepared to show this difference to the world. Secondly, I’ve always known that everyone who works with me has the potential to be my equal. To form part of my soul tribe. For this reason, I’ve never seen myself as a teacher. It always implies a gap and I believe in true equality. It’s the place that has been possible for all my readers to reach. The journey I have gone on in writing my books with my first readers. There are volumes in what it has made possible for others.
I just want to reach the place where I can keep writing. Keep creating change without having to explain me. To finally trash that reference point we all have to judge others from. The place where I can be seen for who I am – the same place my readers have reached with me.
Naoisé February 2020
It’s that time of the year for education in the Northern Hemisphere. A time I always reflect not only on all my student’s progress but my own.
This time last year I’d just really embarked on the journey to a be a writer. To fulfil a dream. To pour myself into books to take the need for a physical me out of people’s lives in order to make a difference. Everyone has always assumed I’d set up more schools. More training. But for me, the deep changes start within the mindset of each individual. Their sense of understanding of themselves. Their potential and how to express their dreams openly which have so often been locked inside. Only when you are strong as an individual can you contribute to the world around. Hense I went on a journey to explain the art of the core to people.
Of course, I’m always still working with individuals and always will be. It’s how I continue to grow, develop and learn myself. But I feel my books have the potential to help many people who may not gain access to me. Even the ones who have seem to have taken themselves to a new place through the books.
These books are the most authentic self I’ve ever been. And as a result, I’ve never felt so content as I approach the end of a cycle in one hemisphere.
It seems fitting that this year I know so many more students who are now able to read too.
I have always liked the number 7. This time of the year always makes me reflective as it was the first time of students flooding into The Homework Club in Blanchardstown in 2009. Many of these first cases turned out to be hugely influential in my own journey.
The first parent to ever ring me seeking help had a teenager who had not attended school for months having dropped out of the system. He took classes with us for 6 weeks and did so well in his state exams the school rang his mother with the results wanting to know what had changed. We worked with him for the next 3 years and hence I found myself taking on a huge number of cases with Aspergers Syndrome. I’m now known internationally as an expert in an area I never expected or set out to be.
By the following September even though I set the school up for second level students I found myself taking on the transition age before you start big school. By the following January a year after my craziness to set up my own school with my own teaching methods the youngest students were now 4.
Within this time, I had been encouraged by people to go for a number of awards. These were important to me personally as the first outside validation of my work.
I guess all along the only judge of my work, research and methods have been the result my students have gotten. From these, I have become a top referral for many organisations. I find it sad that in many cases I’m the person who people are sent to when no one else has been able to help them.
Two years after starting the school I realised I needed to convert all my work, experiences and methods into a formal system. This meant the birth of the Purple Learning Project. I have always felt there is a balance between supporting people currently in the system and making real change for the future.
I remember this odd moment of describing the basic Purple Learning method to someone and them asking who’s work it was? What book could they read it in? The answer was none – my head. It’s always been a bit bizarre to be so outside the box. To work in a way that has not existed before. The Homework Club was for me about proving all the wacky ideas in my own head.
Along the way in those years I developed all these ways of working with people with a whole spectrum of conditions including: ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, Dyslexia, Audio Processing Disorders, Hearing Impairments, Home Schooling, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Confidence, Bullying, Self Harm, Sexuality, Learning Disabilities, Gifted Children, Exam Fears, Child Development, People Development, Team Development, Business Success, Bereavement and so on.
When I started the school I had one main question in my head. Why do no two dyslexics learn the same way? Through working with so many people and conducting interviews which allowed me to create unique profiles for everyone I now have the answer to that question 7 years later.
I now have the recorded patterns of how personality and learning style go together.
I reached the next major crossroad in the school 4 years into the project. The students knew what we did. I collected many of their comments and feedback. It was a magic sense of achievement having created an environment they all loved so much. Hence, the tag line became “Develop Your Love of Learning”. But the parents had no idea in many cases what the project was about. I felt I was missing part of the puzzle. I also felt that many parents had lost involvement in their own children’s education.
Confidence Club was born.
I was also itching to take the projects nationally and internationally. Every time I did a radio interview I would be contacted by all these people rurally in Ireland with no support. Confidence Club has been about supporting students in their own homes, with the support and understanding of their parents.
Along the way, the methods have continued to develop in the background. It feels like a back room factory sometimes. The most significant one being in 2013, Periodic Table of the Development of Results. Nicknamed Purple Success. It brought my science and creative brains together. It is the table of the elements each personality needs to succeed in life. Whether it is a 3-year-old I’m helping to talk or a 5-year-old to read or a business to grow. It always just about people and their personalities.
With all the work I have done to date, my key focus in life still remains to take literacy and intelligence out of the same sentence. Because even after all these years I still remember what the teacher said to me in school at the age of 7.
Dr. Naoisé O’Reilly