…the path is made by walking…

…the path is made by walking…

“The path is made by walking” 

This phrase has been running around in my head in the last week.  I have been reminded of it a few times, initially by poet David Whyte when he spoke in Dublin last week. In the midst of an evening filled with sublime reminders to stop and witness the magic that is life unfolding itself, he referred to the lines of the poem by Antonio Machado. I was just back from a few days in one of my favourite places: the Burren in County Clare, and his words, and those of Machado, landed with a real sense of delight for the reminder of how our paths are creative, iterative, unique and blessed with the unknown.

I was reminded again a few days later in a chance meeting of an friend; an artist and photographer. When I saw him, his name slipped my mind; I just remembered the words ‘the path is made by walking’: the title of a beautiful book he created filled with his photographs recording his journey on pathways through Europe.

And again I was reminded this morning, when I found a piece of paper in the back of my notebook;  a hand written note from a friend; this poem:

Caminante no hay Camino


son tus huellas el camino y nada más;


no hay camino,

se hace camino al andar.

Al andar se hace el camino,

y al volver la vista atrás

se ve la senda que nunca

se ha de volver a pisar.

Caminante no hay camino

sino estelas en la mar.

Pilgrim there is no way


your footprints are the pathway and nothing else


there is no pathway.

the path is made by walking.

By walking the path is made

and to look back you see the path that

you will never return to walk again.

Pilgrim, there is no way

Only wake-trails on the sea.

 A pathway through the Burren in Co.Clare. A landscape of pathways that hold stories of the Tuath De Danann and a time when the people of this land lived in intimate relationship with the land.

After spending time in Findhorn eco-village (Scotland) in early 2016 I set off on a mission to explore how ecovillages might provide clues as to how we create better ways of living. I followed that ecovillage path until July 2018 writing here as I went. It is now the end of September 2018 and I note that  I have been very quiet on these pages over these last few months. Since last posting I spent a month in the UK working in a garden and watching over spring lambs. In May I returned to the lovely eco-community of Los Portales in Spain for three months. Since the end of July I have been in Ireland, recognising that my project of exploring eco-villages has come to an end in its original form. So, I have been listening for the whispers of what is to come next on this path of mine: for the next creative evolution. There is more to write about my second visit to Los Portales and I will share that soon, but this post is mostly to give an update on how it is to be in this place of transition. A place that we have all been from time to time.

This journey has been absolutely inspiring, eye opening, mind expanding and challenging (still) in ways that I could not have anticipated. I have been thinking back over the various steps that I took, and found some notes from when I began: from September 2016 when I was in Cloughjordan Ecovillage (Ireland) at the very beginning of my pathway. I feel very moved by these words and remember the strong intention I set for this project: 

“I am going to live in eco-communities acting as a bridge and a source of information for people who want to make changes in their life towards more sustainable ways of living. There are many problems on the planet right now and we all know that something needs to change, but how do we initiate changes in ourselves? I plan to take a leap of faith and make some major change in my life and in so doing use my own creativity as my life jacket. I don’t know if I will succeed or fail but I am doing this as a way of putting my belief that we are all capable of amazing change. I’m forcing my own hand, to make change in my life, and I hope that my journey can be an inspiration for others who feel stuck, fed up or in need for something to kick-start something new in their lives.

My dearest wish is that my actions can be an inspiration for others to trust their hearts and dreams and make the changes they need to make.

…I am not advocating what I am doing per se (visiting ec0villages) but rather I am advocating listening to your Heart, I am advocating creative change, taking leaps of faith, getting out of your comfort zone, listening to what change is absolutely right for you.

I believe that we are so much more than employees, consumers, citizens, statistics… and I don’t believe we can wait for our governments to make the necessary changes that our world now requires to survive. I believe that we all have a part to play in response to what is happening globally – and that our creativity is what we all need to harness. Great change is required: global issues of plastic pollution, climate chaos, the elimination of indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands, the race to extract fossil fuels, the battles for justice and human rights, can all feel huge, daunting and beyond the scope of just one person. But change happens one step at a time; so my first step is to put my own creative skills into practice in eco-villages and share with you how you can take steps right at home where you are. Every thing we do has an effect let the things we do be actions to create a better world for all our future generations”

I didn’t know where I was heading when I set out on this journey. I didn’t know where the path would take me, but I followed, one village at a times, one blog at a time and here I am now looking back at a path that I will not thread again. 

In some ways I am disappointed that I have failed in some way to make a ‘bigger’ impact, that people have not rushed forward with all sorts of amazing project inspired by my words..  but, of course,  that would be my ego talking 😉 Overall, I am proud of my journey and my sustained passion for what this project can yet do. I recognise that it is still evolving and I see how much I have been learning and how much I can still distill from it. The intense travelling may have slowed down for now, and I have needed a complete break from writing for a few months.

I wish to honour that journey and find my next steps and to do that I have been sharing my paintings and eco-postcards inspired by my journey and I wish to share my experiences in a series of talks; recounting inspiring people, projects and actions, and opening to discussion about them and what small changes we can make in our day-to-day lives.  This is part of a process of distillation, or integration, and I realise that I am back to a familiar place in my creative process. I feel that I have gone almost  full circle and am  in a time of harvesting… or dissolving and entering into a time of transformation: from random ideas to a new seedling project or iteration.

So far I have spoken in Cloughjordan Eco-village, The Tara Building: a co-working and creative workspace and ECOUNESCO.  From the talks so far I have loved the conversations and connections that have emerged, allowing new perspectives on my experiences and opening to new possibilities for future pathways. 

The creative process

The path isn’t a straight line; its a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths.” Barry H Gillespie

(Image ource: Linda Naiman http://www.creativityatwork.com)

In continuing I hope to further understand and explore my own creative process and share about the potential  and the power within each of us, that can be harnessed when we take leaps of faith and create something new in our lives.

And other than that (which is actually a lot) I don’t know what comes next. These days I have chosen to take my cues from poets and artists, from nature and from the words of people who have done the same; like time spent in silence walking in the Burren and from the words of David Whyte, John Muir and from John Burroughs: “Leap and the net will appear”

It seems simple when I stop. Breathe. Feel the earth beneath me … be brave! Leap. Keep on breathing.

Title and source unknown

I am trusting that as I follow my heart to speak and share my experiences that the net will appear, that support and currently unforeseen events will take place. “The path is made by walking” and thats what I plan to do; wholeheartedly and in good company. Do come and join me for some of my upcoming talks: I will be in Common Ground in Bray on 19th October and will be posting soon about an event I will be hosting in November.  

‘Windswept’ (2018) 32 x 28cm Ink and watercolour on water colour paper (Sinead Cullen)


I will be talking in Common Ground in Bray on Friday 19th October all are welcome. Eventbrite page.

If you would like to receive my monthly newsletters you can subscribe here.  I will be giving updates on ecovillages, talks, discoveries and my next steps. 

If you know of any organisation or group that would be interested in hearing about my journey place do get in contact with me. sinead.a.cullen@gmail.com

And if you are interested in support my blog and my creativity you can help by purchasing some of my art on my website.  I have recently released a new set of eco-postcards which are copies of 20 paintings from nature, inspired by my journey.

References and links 

David Whyte

Global Ecovillage Network 

Our Common future 

Paul Gaffney Photographer