Eve Kelliher talks to Keith Barry about life in lockdown, from gardening to teaching new tricks.
Getting into people’s heads is what Keith Barry has built his career on and in these lockdown times, getting us out of our own heads is a useful trick the mentalist and magician has learnt.
Techniques like self-hypnosis, neurolinguistic programming and meditation can help children and adults alike cope with these times of isolation and staying home, according to the Waterford-born illusionist, but a major secret to Keith’s success in facing lockdown with equanimity is turning to his favourite pastime: gardening.
“I have a small back garden, with two vegetable patches and hanging baskets with strawberries. I have, in all, about 10 containers,” he told the Irish Examiner.
“You don’t need a big garden to enjoy the benefits of gardening, just a small or regular-sized one will do. “I’ve taken an old dustbin that I just threw compost into and so converted that into a container for spuds.”
Pointing out that even if you live in a tiny apartment, you can dabble in potting and planting, he says: “I don’t have a glasshouse, but I have two trays with everything in them, from salad to broccoli, just inside the back door where the light gets in.
“You can recycle some of your milk cartons or egg cartons and you can grow in those. You don’t even have to leave your house. There are great websites where you can buy seeds.”
His green fingers he attributes to his grandfather Johnny Howlett. “My grandfather had maybe a half acre and he used to grow all his own vegetables.” Keith adds: “Another reason I think gardening is important is I like the kids to know where food comes from.”
The great outdoors is key to enjoying life for the father-of-two. Like many a parent around the country, he’s finding his homemade assault courses outside are helping keep cabin fever at bay for younger household members.
When the world is open again for business post-lockdown, the main activity he is looking forward to is spending hours on the banks of the Blackwater.
“I am an outdoors person and one of my favourite things to do is fishing. It’s meditative and cheaper than therapy. My mind works 24/7 so I try to switch the brain off and when you’re fishing, all you’re wondering is where the next fish is,” he said.
However, as he would say himself: “Back in the room!” Because right now, you can reel in a creative haul by using your imagination. “I am the type of person who can adapt to any given scenario, tragic or weird, and you can either sit and wallow or sit and take stock,” he says.
“The first thing I’d advise is to sit down, get a notebook, and write down your ideas on how you can structure your day. Putting a structure on your day is important, especially if you’re housebound.”
Keith is following his own advice and has used the past few weeks to realise a longheld ambition: “I’ve been writing an ebook. I will be giving it out for free to people who are interested, you just go to my website keithbarry.com/peak-performance,” he says.
Use this time to follow dreams where possible, he says.“I’m doing the things I’ve always wanted to do but I didn’t have time to do,” says Keith.
Taking up meditation or self-hypnosis can help, as can reframing our thoughts, he adds: “Think of the situation in a different way and not only stay positive but stay busy. We need to engage in actions that benefit not just us but the people around us.”
The multitalented magician has, for many years, been a sought-after performance or mind coach for athletes, rock stars and business leaders.
During sessions, he helps them unleash the power of their subconscious to unlock their hidden potential, says Keith.
He has now penned advice he hopes will help people thrive in the situation we now find ourselves in: “The goal is to help people become the very best possible version of themselves. The ebook was something I should have done a long time ago but I put it on the long finger. It will give an insight into what I think people need to do right now.”
He has spoken of how getting a magic set for Christmas as a child sparked his own interest and Keith has not forgotten his younger fans, entertaining them during lockdown by giving free online magic lessons every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 12.30pm on Facebook live @Keithbarryofficial.
Keith’s ebook will be available shortly and people can sign up for it at keithbarry.com/peak-performance.