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.