Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Today's Medicine: Stillness

Tonight is Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year and for the first time ever I feel the turning of the light within my skin, my bones. This is a new sensation for me and one that makes me pause in wonder. It also brings a desire to dance and laugh aloud. I can't explain why this year it feels different, yet there it is. It does. No need to fuss about the why of it, really. I'm just glad I feel that way.

I have also come to realize that the turning of the light truly feels to me like the New Year. I've tried to do New Year practices with Samhain in October or keep to the regular New Year celebrations on January 1st. I think that as I've become more aligned with the turning of the seasons, it makes more sense for me to place New Year here for me. It feels right. Will I feel the same next year? I hope so. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

My prayers for the longest night? May I allow myself to be still and listen this Winter. May I find a way toward healing those parts of myself that are stubbornly holding onto my old ways of being, ways that may no longer serve me. May I honor the journey instead of checking items off my to-do list. May I continue to open to the light that is all around me each day instead of dwelling on the shadows. May I continue to bring balance and kindness into my life and into the lives of those around me. And may there be much heart-filling loving, laughter and joy in the coming quiet months.

Although I did consider staying up to meet the dawn tomorrow, it won't happen. I wasn't sensible enough to plan ahead this year and ask for the day after Solstice off work, though I believe I will do so next year for sure. For now, I will be content with a cuppa tea, a burning fire in the woodstove, a fresh baked cookie chocolate chip and oatmeal cookie and stillness.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Today's Medicine: Compassion and Community

If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. - Jack Kornfield

North – Earth – Building Compassion and Community

Last night, I had people over for a Fire ceremony, where they had an opportunity put into the fire something they were ready to release. I find that the people who come are exactly the ones who are supposed to be there and this time was no different. It was an intimate ceremony and by the end of the evening there was such a sense of lightness, and although I could say that was mostly due to the home-made hot chocolate we had after, I know otherwise. It was because of the lowering of barriers and softness of heart that we gifted one another. And for this I am really grateful.

I bring this up because I often view myself as a community-phobic person. I am solitary by nature, not often joining in large groups for ceremony or ritual, preferring to work in smaller groups or alone. I don't like drama, and I don't mean the theatrical kind either. I don't like the struggles for dominance, power and attention that I've experienced in many larger group settings. It's only been in the last couple years that I have participated in community events that actually feel healthy to me, and this thrills me beyond words. I truly believe in this quote, which I found not too long ago:

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. - Jane Howard

This is so very true! The funny thing is that it took me finding a community to make me realize how much I missed not having one in the first place. Community to me provides not only a safe place for me to let it all hang out (and let me tell you, it's not all pretty!), it also makes me accountable. If I invite others to join in a Fire or Despacho ceremony, then I'd better follow through on it. It's also a good way for me to check in with myself about how I am viewed by the others around me. Having that pool for reflection is a Really Good Thing (tm). Especially when I really don't want to look at those shadowy bits of myself, it's good to have people in my life that make me peek at them every so often.

One of the other questions from Trauma Stewardship is really helpful as well: Ask yourself what your ancestors and those who raised you have done, throughout time, to heal themselves and others. When they experienced trauma, how did they go on? I found this helpful because it reminds me that I do indeed have allies who want to see me do more than just survive: they want me to thrive. And they are there for me to call on whenever I feel at a loss with how to work through something. I'm never, EVER, alone. Maybe I should have that tattooed on my arm; it might help me remember it better.

The North also reminds me the power of compassion. I realized this week that I truly ought to focus first and foremost on having compassion for myself. After all, if I judge myself harshly, I am more likely to judge others the same way. I have a bad habit of setting huge expectations of myself and of others, and this really does me no good. It's not a competition, for goodness sake! Everybody is living their lives the best that they can. Everyone suffers. If you are living, you are exposed to suffering. And it's really not my job to point out to others that their whinging on about their lives doesn't really make their lives any better. I can only monitor my own whinging and my actions upon said whinging. (I love that word, whinge. What can I say, I like odd words.)

I guess all I'm saying is that if I can't be kind to myself, how can I be kind to others? And maybe, just maybe, if I practice it often, I can show others that kindness isn't all that bad after all. Lord knows the world would be a better place if more of it was being actively practiced...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Today's Medicine: Gratitude

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” — Albert Schweitzer

Today I am truly grateful for:

... my kitty Imp, who insists I just be still. All she requires of me is a warm lap and a few moments of being present to the moment. I cherish this, even though I complain often about her timing and the level of her insistence.

... really good chocolate. It can come in many ways, be it bar, cookie or hot sipping. This small decadence is sometimes all I need to bring rightness back into my world.

... reall good tea, for the same reasons as chocolate.

... long conversations with loved ones. The best ones include a pot of tea, much laughter, wry kvetching, deep philosophising and an equal exchange of energy. I'm often humbled by the fact that I have people in my life who provide not only support but a loving mirror of my shadow sides.

... the birds outside my back porch. When I watch them flit and feed, I am completely absorbed by the scene before me. It is balm to my spirit to have them share my home.

... tending to hearth and home, so that it feels like a sanctuary for myself and others. Although some days it feels like the chore list never ends, when I take time to be fully engaged with hearth tending I realize that it's nourishing my soul in some mysterious way I cannot explain.

All these things, and more, enrich and enliven my life. And I need to remember to take a moment to reflect and honor the blessings all around me...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Today's Medicine: Expansion

Make me sweet again fragrant and fresh and wild and thankful for any small event

West - Creating a Space for Inquiry

For me, West is a place of reflection, a place to begin to pause and take a long look at what my life has become. It's a liminal space that leads to letting go of that which no longer serves me. Turning towards the West, I ask myself what shadows do I cling to, what brings me wholeness and joy? And is what I'm doing working for me? It's also a place to reflect on endings in life and how I am working with the reality that my physical form has an expiration date.

One of my favorite sayings is printed on a banner in my living room:

In the end, what matters most is
How well did you live?
How well did you love?
And how well did you learn to let go?

It pairs well with the something I got from a presentation for class this year. It's on my fridge:

If it works,
do more of it.

If it worked once,
do it again.

If it doesn't work,
do something else.

Both these sayings are blessedly simple and to the point. Not a lot of wishy-washyness in there, really. And I need the "in-your-face" reminder that sometimes I don't need to make things as complicated as all that. They also both fit in nicely with sitting in the West, where I reflect on my past, be in the present and muse on the future. I need that reflection right now. The the days before Winter Solstice bring me closer to the Void, that space of deep inquiry that I don't often choose to visit.

I will be spending the coming week getting more in touch with the silence within, the wisdom that can only come with dreamings and non-intellectual ways of being. I will give myself the gift of solitude if I wish it. I will walk at least a couple times this week, letting the rain pour down all over me. I will choose to journal with my shadows in the light of candles burning brightly and bring forth my hopes for the coming of the light.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Today's Medicine: Change

And the day came
when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful
than the risk it took to blossom.
- Anais Nin

South - Fire - Choosing our Focus

I was thinking today about the power of resistance and avoidance and how both are completely tied in with where I focus my time, energy, emotional and spiritual resources. I tend to be a bit on the stubborn side, and although some of the more kinder folk might say I'm persistent or determined, the truth is pretty clear. My stubbornness is a tool I've used to keep myself from being influenced or manipulated by others and it's served me well enough over the years. HOWEVER, I have to take a closer look now and make a choice of whether or not this stubbornness truly serves me. If I take a hard look at the situations I get stubborn about, I often see that it is directly related my resistance of some action that needs to be taken. It is also often linked to my desire to avoid a situation or task that needs doing. Neither of these behavior patterns are the healthiest and realistically I'm the only one who can change them.

I guess I'd best break out my tool box and see what might be helpful:

Re-framing. How can I shift my perception around so that I can see a different perspective on the situation? What needs to happen so that I can loosen my grip on stubborn self-righteousness so that I can shift the energy toward something more fruitful? I am reminded that in order to re-frame things, I need to drop the ego down a couple notches. It's difficult to re-frame my view of the world if I'm focused on being right, being in control or being insistent that there is no other way to see things.

Create Compassion. I need to be able to soften the hard edges so that I can be kind to myself and others. It doesn't do me any good to beat myself (or anyone else) up for not being "enough." I need the reminder that everyone is a spiritual being having a human experience. There isn't much that's going to change that reality during this turn of the Wheel, so why struggle with it all the time? I'm going to make mistakes and I'm going to learn from them. Sometimes I have to make the same mistake more than once in order to really figure something out. It doesn't make me stupid, it just takes a while for the lesson to absorb into my psyche. I know that once I get it, I GET it and that's what matters.

Choice. I have free will, I have the ability to choose my way in the world. I also need the reminder that choice is very seldom good or bad, right or wrong, one thing versus something else. Black and white are not the colors of my life: I live in the misty gray areas along the fringes of things, so why insist that it's otherwise? I can choose to be negative, to be apathetic, to be world-weary and cynical. I can choose activities that support those beliefs. Or I can make different choices, ones that help me expand into the world rather than retract from it. I can choose to go to sleep at a time that allows my body the right amount of rest and dreamings, or eat foods that make me feel more alive rather than sluggish. I need to remember that choices lead to changes and that change is life's only constant. The more fluid and resilient I can be, the better I'll be able to manage the unpredictable nature of daily living.

I think I will focus this week on the proper care and feeding of my body and soul. I will do those things which make me happy, as well think on and sort out some of the things that make me feel prickly and small. Not the easiest task in the world and not the hardest either. It will be interesting to see how things stand when I turn to the West next week...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Think Like a Tree

by Karen I. Shragg

Soak up the sun
Affirm life's magic
Be graceful in the wind
Stand tall after a storm
Feel refreshed after it rains
Grow strong without notice
Be prepared for each season
Provide shelter to strangers
Hang tough through a cold spell
Emerge renewed at the first signs of spring
Stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky
Be still long enough to
hear your own leaves rustling.

This poem reminded me that I've not done my weekly gratitude posts in a very long time, a practice which often helped alleviate some of the heaviness that I collect during my daily living. And since every day is indeed a new day, I begin to practice again.

Today I'm incredibly grateful for my ongoing good health. I'm grateful that I have a home that is a sanctuary for myself and others and that I have learned that hearth tending is healing instead of yet another task that needs doing each day. I'm grateful that I don't always feel that my life is nothing but a lesson in endurance. I am grateful for those who have gone before, clearing the path for me to walk or dance as I see fit. This includes not only my living blood relatives and my blessed ancestors but the women who fought women's rights, the indigenous folk and traditions that honor the life around us all, the trees and mountains and other wonders of nature that continue to thrive despite humanity's effort to bend and break and consume. I am truly grateful for the folk who share my life, kindred in spirit, thought and feelings, be they blood relatives or chosen companions.

My life is always filled with blessings. It's up to me to be still, take a look around and listen for them falling all around me.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Today's Medicine: Action

Bring me all of your dreams, you dreamers,
Bring me all of your heart melodies
That I may wrap them in a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers of the world.
-The Dream Keeper, Langston Hughes

I was given a book to read this quarter called "Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others," written by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky with Connie Burk. The quote above is from the cover of said book. It's a powerful and thought provoking book for anyone who works or lives in service to others. I highly recommend it. This week I started working actively with the ideas in the the section called Integrating The Five Directions into a daily practice.

Because my spiritual foundation is pagan in nature, I have different associations for the directions than what is discussed in Trauma Stewardship. I flowed with the differences, yet I kept coming up against the “it doesn’t feel right” thing and eventually I did some tweaking and managed to put them together in a way that resonated with me. I honor and respect the differences in the various traditions and this is how it makes sense for me:

East – Air – Finding Balance
South- Fire – Choosing Our Focus
West – Water – Creating a Space for Inquiry
North – Earth – Building Compassion and Community

I would add Spirit (as in Great Mystery, All That Is, God/ess) in the center with me as I find a daily practice for myself, alongside all the other helpful guides and guardians and ancestors that stand beside me.

It came to me during the Winter that was last week that I could create a ceremony to bring these concepts more into my life. I had a Yule log from last year’s tree and wanted to do something with Advent candles. Then it came to me that I should use the log with five advent candles, one for each direction and one for the center. For an hour each Sunday until Winter Solstice on the 21st, I would light a candle for each direction, consciously holding the intent of each direction for the duration of the hour. An example could be things like writing letters to friends or e-mails about community events, as well as journaling about how I’m doing with loving kindness for the North time period. Or writing about ceremony and how I’m going to incorporate balance into my life for the time allotted for the East. Optimally, I would give myself a half hour each day during the week of each direction to focus on how to bring that energy forward into my life. I know myself well enough to realize I may not do that, yet I’m hopeful that it will be so. I start today with the first direction:

East - Finding Balance

I like that gratitude is one path to balance. It’s too easy to focus on the negative and I know I fall into that trap more often than not these days. Taking that deep breath, feeling grateful that I can do so without too much trouble, allows me to see the blessings all around me. It is quite possibly the simplest way for me to banish the attitude of scarcity that plagues me during my worst moments. I know that the "attitude of gratitude" movement seems light and fluffy to many in our more sophisticated times, yet it simply works for me. Yes, I will most likely always feel a desire for more than I have. And yes, I am incredibly blessed for all the beings and wonders and delights in my life.

Another idea that is intriguing to me right now is dream work, especially as we move into the shorter days and longer nights. Looking back, I see that I’m less likely to daydream than ever before. Why is that? I decided to remedy this and I partook in one of my favorite idle day dreamings: I spent about forty-five minutes or so perusing http://www.savills.co.uk/, which lists properties for sale in the United Kingdom. I found a Scottish castle for sale for a measly 2.8 million pounds, not much eh? Yet the delight I had from looking at the photographs lifted my spirits, as I imagined what it would be like to live there. I had not realized until now how much I’ve shut off that type creativity, feeling that the dreaming was a “waste of my time.” As if! We all need a dream or two or fifty to cling to, especially in today’s world. So paying attention to my active dreaming and day dreams is a focus for me in the coming weeks.

Writing is another way for me to regain balance. I tend to process my challenges quietly, in that stoic Norwegian or English way of my ancestors. Only when I’ve reached a limit do I put on my crabby pants and go on a rampage. Yet I have not been writing much at all during the past several years. I have to wonder: is there is a correlation between my more frequent outbursts of irritation with the pettiness of the world and not using my writing to release? Most likely. A better question is how to shift my daily routine so that can allow time and energy to do the writing that is most definitely needed. And that is sure to be one of my main focuses during the coming week…

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Today's Medicine: Every Day is a New Day

Stand up all you lovers in the world
Starting up a brand new day
-Brand New Day, Sting

And here I am again. I set my blog as my homepage many moons ago. Each day I open my browser and here it sits, patiently waiting for my return. There have been many moments of, "Oh! I should write that down!" or "I've got to post about this when I get home" over the past several months. Yet I allow myself to be distracted by e-mail, reading articles about Bigfoot on www.anomalist.com or I update my profile on Facebook. Other days, I feel utterly weary of all the unrelenting daily routine or worn out by having a really good day with friends and family and just need to take a long, hot bubble bath, followed by a nap with many cats. In any case, I have not given myself the space to write much of anything of note since Spring. My cup runneth over and mostly it's been a Really Good Thing(tm).

Maybe it's because the evenings are closing in earlier that I feel the draw to return to a regular musings on what each day brings. I also find that I am more apt to return to writing in the late Autumn and early Winter months. In any case, it feels good to sense an internal shift into self-reflection, self-adjustment and integrating the lessons of the past year. This Winter I hope to give myself the time I need to rest, to be in my body and listen to what it needs during the cold months and to process through the experiences this year has brought to me, for they have been many and rich gifts indeed!

I am grateful that the words are beginnng to flow again. I did not know how much I missed writing, tasting the words as they flowed from thought into form. The sensual feeling of a favorite pen between my fingers, the gliding of hand across paper and the clacking of my fingers across the keyboard are a forgotten delight. For me, writing is therapy. It's a way for me to see what's really going on in the shadowy depths of my brain and helps me to figure out why I react instead of respond or make the choices that I inevitably do. It's a creative process that brings great joy to my being. It's also a way to share with others, who might have a moment of, "Yeah, what she said" when reading my posts. Every once in a while it's nice to know that we're never, ever alone and that we all have ways to connect and relate to one another.

So today I'm celebrating my return to writing. I'm not entirely certain I will be writing daily, weekly, sporadically or even by the moon. I do know I'm more likely than not to write regularly, usually posting the thoughts and blessings and challenges that I face throughout my daily living. The other options are to either delete this blog, which is not something I'm ready to do yet, or change my blessed homepage so I'm not constantly reminded of what would really help me live the life I want to live...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Today's Medicine: Forgiveness

I used to have a terrible relationship with the word “forgiveness.” I used to think it was all about justifying bad behavior and that if I forgave someone, including myself, then there were no consequences, no recognition of wrongs done to me or others. It was like saying, “It’s OK you hurt me like hell. You’re free to live your life without considering the havoc you wreaked in my life. Go along now, it will all be just fine.” It felt like I was giving permission to be harmed again. And I am SO not into that.

I realize now that I can work with forgiveness much easier now that I shifted the energy to include acceptance. I don’t need the other person to accept that they did wrong by me, although I’ll take it gratefully when it happens. I needed to accept that something happened, that I was harmed or did harm to another, and make my peace with that. If that means I say I’m sorry and do what I can to take responsibility for my part in the situation, I try my hardest to do so. If I sit and stew on what wrongs were done to me then I’m kind of stuck. And we all know what happens when things stay stuck too long- it hurts like hell when things start moving again. It eventually feels good to release that pain that I’m holding so tight- it’s MY pain and nobody can make me give it up!! And yet I’m often puzzled at how long I hold onto that pain and how exactly it’s serving me….

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Today's Medicine: Surrender

So I'm reading through a book called Shamanic Breathwork: Journeying Beyond the Limits of the Self by Linda Star Wolf. A couple friends and I are doing the section Thirty Shamanic Questions for Humanity, one for each day of March. Today I had to write a prayer of surrender, written to connect with the Divine. It was harder than I expected (gotta love it when expectation comes into play.) I think my blessed English ancestry, with it's stiff upper lip, comes into play. "Never give up, never surrender! Endure and you will be victorious!" Now I know better but it's interesting to see how much I resisted when I read that one little word: surrender. So I took a deep breath and started typing. This is what came out:

Divine One, Light of the World, King and Queen of All That Is, I yield to your Wisdom. I release my control over those things I have no control over: other people’s actions, thoughts and feelings, the suffering of all beings on the planet. I accept that I have only control over myself, my responses and reactions, my choices, thoughts, feelings, actions and how much I allow my ego to be in charge. With great gratitude I ask for your help in trusting that what comes each day is guided by your Wisdom and Love. Open my heart and make it Holy.

Funny what comes through when you disconnect that little thing called the ego...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Today's Medicine: Love

This is Kazul, using Annabelle as his pillow. Why choose this picture to talk about love? The look on his fuzzy little face says it all. He's comfy, Annabelle is quite obviously asleep and comfy and the bliss is apparent from a mile away. They don't question the love they have for another, they just live it. What a fantastic concept. And of course they are cats, so their self-love cup is pretty full to begin with and they are unapologetic about it being so.

It makes me consider what kind of world we would live in if every single being BELIEVED they were loved as much as they really are. What would that look like? Would people choose to respond rather than react? If each and every one of the beings on the planet could feel the love that is directed at them, could accept that they not only deserve the love but could embrace the reality that they are DEARLY LOVED and CHERISHED, would there be as much violence? Maybe, maybe not. I do think that many people have no idea how much they matter to the other people in their lives and cannot tap into the power of that love. I also realize that most people's shadow selves will not allow for this miracle to occur, yet it's a nice thing to ponder.

I long for the day that every shining being can see the light that comes from within, even if it's hiding beneath self-doubt, self-hatred and a pile of unresolved issues. And my feline companions remind me each and every day how to touch that light and direct it out into the world. For that, I am immensely grateful...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Blessings of Imbolc upon us all...

Day darkens, night brightens;
Candle flames, soul lightens;
Day behind me, dreams before:
Open now my soul's door.

Turner of the World, I rejoice in the blessing of your presence. You have been with me during the day even as the stars have been in the sky, obscured by daylight; although I have not remembered you, you have remembered me. Now, may the peace of your silent blessing enfold me as I enter the companionship of night. From the womb of silence, I emerge refreshed and encouraged. May the riches of revelation be seeded in my soul as I turn to contemplate the mysteries of life.

-Celtic Devotional, Caitlin Matthews

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Today's Medicine: Going with the Flow

I woke up feeling pretty rested and thought about all the things I wanted to get done. Hah. Should have known that the Universe was giggling at me. I got up and puttered around for a bit, getting my daily chores done: water for my altars, a pot of tea brewing, the bird feeders topped off. My intention was to get some loose ends tied off, including my long overdue New Orleans travelogue and a letter to my German pal Andrea finished. The biggest thing hanging over my head was some homework from my Human Sexuality class, including a professional journal entry and a quiz. After much procrastinating, I finished the journal entry and tried to find the quiz. I wanted to sit at the comfort of my kitchen table so I had the birds to keep me company.

It wasn't there. And the e-mail from my instructor that told us where to find it had gone missing too. Needless to say I was peeved. Irritated to the point where I snapped at Paul when he tried to joke at me. Twice. (When apologizing to Paul about it later, his friend Eugene said that he imagined I must have looked like Braveheart. Apparently that's what an irritated Angela looks like to him. I find this endlessly amusing.)

After stomping around the website, I finally decided lunch was probably a good idea. Food soothes the savage beaste and all that. Of course, as soon as I finished lunch and took a peek online, there was the quiz. I printed it off and settled in to do it. And that's when the phone started ringing.

To make a long story short (too late!), I ended up spending the afternoon and evening shifting gears between doing my quiz and visiting with various people, both in person and on the phone. I just now finished the last short answer question (What is sexual intelligence? How would you assess your own sexual intelligence?) and I'm ready to bury myself in bed for the night. I don't think the cats would mind so much: they've been clamoring for my attention all day today.

I will say that I am pleased that I didn't really put the quiz off until the last minute (it's due Monday) since it wasn't available until today. So I can't beat myself up at all about that, which is a nice change. And I'm amused at the fact that I just read today's Simple Abundance, which is all about ACCEPTING WHAT IS. *snort* Funny, that.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Today's Medicine: Clearing the Deadwood

One of my favorite cards from Susan Mrosek, whose art I adore and can be found at http://ponderingpool.com/, is this one. It seems fitting to put it up here right now.

It's a balmy 53 degrees F out today, tho it felt more like lower 60's most of the day. I spent my morning having scones, hot chocolate and conversation with my friend Penelope and when she left about 12:30, I headed out to the gardens.

Two hours later I had a huge pile of holly branches and now anyone taller than me can walk the pathway to the front door without getting prickled. I cut back the other hydrangea bush that needed trimming and moved some plants around. I also cleared a bunch of dead leaves out of the flower bed so I could see what has survived my neglect and was pleased to see many of my primroses still thriving. On a side note, I didn't know that some primroses can live up to 25 years! That's an awesome thing though I can't understand why they are considered an "annual" if they live that long. *shrug* Ah, the mysteries of life. Gardening this time of year is such an exercise in cutting back on what is outgrown, overgrown or just plain dead in order for new life to spring forth. It's about inventorying and sorting out which plants get to stay and which really need to go. And to daydream about what new plants to bring into the space I share with the other living beings here. It's so rare that we get such a beautiful and warm day in January that I had to get out there and just do something. Add to it that today was an unexpected and unplanned day off and there is much to rejoice about.

In the past I have spent much of my time and energy trying to make sure I get everything done that needs doing. Today was a delightful experience in letting the day unwrap as it will and don't bother too much with the details. I know that I'm not ready to live every day of my life in such a fashion but it was good to remember just how delightful it can be on occasion.