Romantic love is the single greatest energy system in the Western psyche. In our culture it has supplanted religion as the arena in which men and women seek meaning, transcendence, wholeness and ecstasy. Robert A. Johnson
Last week I wrote about the Celtic energy centres – the cauldrons – and since I have been practising Elen Sentier’s meditation on the Spiral Path through the chakras, even making a recording here on Soundcloud if you would like to try it. This week in particular, I am fascinated by the Cauldron of Motion and Vocation, Coire Ernmae, which some writers say, corresponds to the heart and solar plexus chakras.
This week’s Chakradance class was focused on the heart chakra. As always, there has been much synchronicity around this energy this week. What I teach and what I need to learn seem to flow together quite effortlessly.
In a reiki session at the start of the week, the reiki master, also a dear friend, said my heart was literally shouting “enough!”
This came as no surprise to me, nor probably to anyone who regularly reads this blog. Last year I reconnected with the man I had felt was my soul mate, and then following the well-worn pattern of the previous few years, our relationship imploded. The pain of this has been excruciating for me. Even five months later, I am left with a constant pain in my heart and this sense of not knowing, not understanding.
Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape. Charles Dickens
After my reiki session, as I practiced and then facilitated the heart Chakradance class, I tried to hear my heart, what was she saying to me? It seemed to me she had gone quiet, non-responsive, as if she was sulking, angry at the way I had allowed her to be pummelled so mercilessly.
Reflecting back on my life, I tried to remember a time when my heart felt open and safe. Of course there were times in the early throes of love when my heart blossomed, but these were all too quickly followed by the steely grate of disappointment and rejection slamming down on her.
It is almost always the case that whatever has wounded you will also be instrumental in your healing. Robert A. Johnson
I have always been disappointed in love. I have never been able to love and be loved in equal measure. I think of an animal, who when hurt, will retreat to a remote place to lick its wounds, and I feel this is where my heart is at. So I am trying to honour that.
This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something. Elizabeth Gilbert
Having the week off work, my intention has been to ask my heart what it wants, and try to honour that. Although she hasn’t been very talkative, I know when I find those things. Going back to yoga after a long absence has felt like a balm for my heart and soul. Spending time with a dear friend, back from a long sojourn in India, has reminded me of the necessity to embrace life and seek joy.
My friend has suffered great loss, its not my story to tell, but losing half your family is enough to smother the most robust of hearts. I have witnessed my friend walk through years of grieving, with great courage, candour, and determination.
His trip to India was a magical, mystical tour of, in your face, no holes barred, life. India is like that.
Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could. Louise Erdrich
This got me to thinking about the Celtic concept of the ‘turning of the cauldrons’. In the Celtic tradition, from what little we know of it, the three Cauldrons, or energy centres, are not all upright by default. The Cauldron of Warming, which provides our life-force, is upright in all of us from birth, but the other two, Vocation and Wisdom, must be turned by experience and the accumulation of wisdom. You can read more about the three cauldrons in my last post here.
There is a tendency is our modern, scientific, literal culture to dismiss stories and poems as fantasy. What possible wisdom could they offer us? What possible cosmology can be gained from a poem written over a thousand years ago? Robert A. Johnson answers this concern best:
First we must learn to think mythologically. Powerful things happen when we touch the thinking which myths, fairy tales, and our own dreams bring to us. The terms and settings of the old myths are strange; they seem archaic and distant to us, but if we listen to them carefully and take them seriously, we begin to hear and to understand. Robert A. Johnson
According to the poem, the Cauldron of Poesy, everyone is born into this world containing three centres: a centre of existence (The Cauldron of Warming), a centre of experience (The Cauldron of Vocation) and a centre of consciousness (The Cauldron of Knowledge).
The Cauldron of Warming is that which is necessary for life. The Cauldrons of Vocation and Knowledge are those areas of ourselves that can be changed by our own efforts. The texts describe the Cauldron of Warming as being upright at birth, while the Cauldron of Vocation is on its side and the Cauldron of Knowledge is inverted.
The Cauldron of Vocation seems to correlate to the heart and solar plexus chakras in the Hindu tradition – although as I said last week this is merely a way for me to get traction with these concepts, there is no reason to believe there is an actual correspondence. This cauldron is turned to its side at birth and as the poem that tells of the cauldrons goes:
How many divisions of sorrow that turn the cauldrons of sages? Not hard; four. Longing, grief, the sorrows of jealousy and the discipline of pilgrimage to holy places. It is internally that these are borne although the cause is from outside. Cauldron of Poesy
Reflecting on this passage, on my dear friend’s journey through the most intense of grief and trauma, my own, albeit tame in comparison, ongoing dalliance with grief, longing, and heartache, and it seems to me this is a time of turning. My friend is so open to life and love, stretched wide in the yawning gape of terrific loss, he has allowed his heart to transverse that chasm between despair and joy, to encompass its entirety. I see a man whose heart has turned, and filled with its magic potion of grief, despair, joy, and ecstasy, has begun to bubble and broil with life.
Inspired, I feel a renewed sense of purpose, of vocation, if you will. This heartache is not taking me under, it is turning me.
The Irish are not a culture interested in the white light experience. Transformation in the Irish and Celtic legends is an often painful, laborious process. There is a true sense of balance between the dichotomies of light and dark, joy and sorrow, ecstasy and pain, and a deep sense that you simply cannot have one without the other.
We can see from these phrases that the translation of the word imbas as “poetic frenzy” is not an overstatement of the condition. This Celtic form of enlightenment is no gentle melding with the oneness of the universe. Instead, it is a passionate, sometimes uncontrollable engagement with the fabric of reality. The energies accessed when all the cauldrons are turned into their upright positions does indeed feel like fire flowing through the head, expanding, quickening, and burning, as when Amirgen proclaimed “I am a God who shapes fire for a head.” Erynn Rowan Laurie
As I said, there has been much synchronicity around this awakening, sometimes from the strangest of sources. I am a little nervous to write this, but what the hell, I have shared worse things with you! So this week I have been watching free movies on YouTube, and I came across Shirley MacLaine playing herself in a dramatised version of her autobiographical book Out on a Limb. This book has been canned for MacLaine’s claims of experiences with mediums, extra-terrestrials and past lives in Atlantis. I must admit, I have always written it off as a massive Hollywood, New-Age cliche.
Anyway, disclaimer notwithstanding, I was drawn to this movie. I love Shirley MacLaine as a performer and I was drawn to the opening lines of the movie when she spoke of a time in her life – her mid forties – where she was entwined in a baffling, powerful and tortuous affair with a married man, which defied logical explanation and for which she could only believe there must be a purpose she couldn’t understand.
“Oh hello,” I thought, I’m hooked. So she had me there. It’s an interesting story, it stretches the suspension of disbelief at times, but I resonated to this exploration into the cosmic purpose of this untenable relationship.
I think anyone who has experienced a love like this wonders how something so vast could possibly be contained in a lifetime as fleeting as this.
A true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. A soul mate’s purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life. Elizabeth Gilbert
At the same time dancing the heart Chakradance, where we invite the union of the masculine and feminine energies in our heart, I began to wonder what is the cosmic purpose of where I find myself? Is this all part of a process to turn my heart into a position of receptivity?
The noble brew in which is boiled
the true root of all knowledge
which bestows after duty
which is climbed after diligence
which poetic ecstasy sets in motion
which joy turns
which is revealed through sorrow;
it is lasting power
I sing of the Cauldron of Motion. Cauldron of Poesy
As all of this is brewing in me, my friend gave me the image of an Indian deity, the consort of Krishna. I looked her up, in my goddesses of yoga book, and discovered this was Radha. In Hindu tradition all deities have a masculine/feminine aspect, a shiva/shakti archetype. Radha is Krishna’s shakti energy. Krishna was beautiful, magnetic, loved by all who met him. Young women wanted him, older women mothered and cared for him. He was adored. Radha was completely consumed with him, and yet because of his love for all and by all, she could never possess him in the way she wanted, and thus she is the goddess of unrequited desire and romantic longing.
As I read this out to my friend, we laughed, he could not have found me a more apt goddess!
The lesson of the Krishna/Radha story is the path of parakriya bhakti – enlightenment through erotic love and devotion. When Krishna must leave Radha, she is devastated, but she is encouraged to channel this passion into divine worship, the yoga of bhakti.
Robert A. Johnson writes in his book, We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love, that passionate love in a human is displaced love for the divine. Then it follows that the longing for the lover, is a longing for the divine. The great fire of need that stirs our heart, our Cauldron of Vocation, motivates a reaching, a searching, a yearning, a longing, that begins to turn that cauldron within, and as it turns, it fills up with all that experience of joy and love, of despair and loss, in a great magic brew, and only then can we begin our journey into wisdom.
Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment. John O’Donohue
In the Cauldron of Poesy, we are told that jealousy and longing are part of the magic brew that turns the heart, or the Cauldron of Vocation.
Longing is a familiar concept in Irish stories. In the Settling of the Manor of Tara story, longing is associated with the Oran Mor, the great song. You can read my post on longing here. It is the soul’s longing that creates the music of the world, the great song that sings all into creation. Remembering the Irish were an oral, bardic, storytelling culture, the great song is life to them. Reality and history and cosmology all combine in the songs of the Irish. In their culture there are no true creation stories, in the sense of an absolute beginning of time, the great song is as endless and beginningless as a celtic knot.
The flute of the infinite is played without ending, and its sound is love.
When love renounces all boundaries it arrives at the truth. Srī Kabīrdās
This week in my shamanic studies, we have been connected with a buddy to practise journeying on behalf of others. My buddy is a lovely lady in Mission Beach in Queensland. We skyped yesterday and I was blown away by the synchronicity. We are both studying, as well as shamanism, courses based in druidry and nature magic and herbalism. Our conversation stretched effortlessly for forty-five minutes with an instant connection.
Pondering all the new connections and influences coming into my life, I wondered if I would be so engaged in all this if I still had my lover? When we were together, he was such a focal point of my energy, now I have to channel that energy elsewhere.
The heart chakra, or Anahata, is located in the centre of your chest. I have recorded Anodea Judith’s beautiful meditation on anahata here on Soundcloud. In Sanskrit, Anahata means unstruck, infinite, and continuous. It refers to the vibration of the heart love energy which resonates throughout the universe without beginning or end.
Awake my dear. Be kind to your sleeping heart. Take it out into the vast fields of light and let it breathe. Hafiz
The heart chakra represents our ability to love. In Jungian archetypes it can be either the lover or the shadow aspect of the actor. We can either be open hearted and sincere, or playing at love, whether selfishly or from a place of fear, never really surrendering to its power.
In Chakradance we open the heart by connecting to breath, and the element of air. Dancing into air, feeling air all around, opening the chest and arms and dancing as if we have wings and are soaring through the air, experiencing lightness and freedom. Then we honour the heart through the sacred marriage of the masculine and the feminine, the yang and the yin, Shiva and Shakti. Drawing the feminine energy up from the earth and the masculine energy down from the sky, these energies dance up and down our spinal column before finding union in the heart.
In many shamanic traditions, it is through the heart centre that we journey. The heart is seen as the bridge between worlds, where the corporeal and the etheric worlds meet. As such I have been possibly taxing my heart with the frequent journeying and seeking. No wonder she is exhausted. Sometimes it is the space between that holds the power. We can journey and seek, but we must equally allow time to sit quietly receive and allow the wisdom to simmer and brew. Perhaps that is the quietude in my heart, not sulking, just a silent request for stillness.
Even after all this time the Sun never says to the Earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky. Hafiz
In Irish, the word ‘coire’ means both “cauldron” and “whirlpool.” Thus the cauldrons are both the container and the substance, both contained and uncontained. Unlike the hindu concept of the chakras as spinning wheels of energy, the cauldrons are said to contain many energetic properties, water, ether, fire, symbols, and matter. (Although the chakras also align to different elements, earth, water, fire, air, ether, so I’ll have to meditate some more on this.)
Erynn Rowan Laurie describes the motion of the cauldrons as “an artistic journey” that “bestows good wisdom and nobility and honour after turning.” Gathering knowledge from the Otherworld is sometimes described in tales as similar to shamanic journeying.
Joy and sorrow are the mechanisms for turning the cauldrons within; the poem tells us that the “noble brew” of our cauldrons is that “which joy turns, which is revealed through sorrow.” The cauldrons are even described as “moving toward music.” So the turning, whilst quite an agonising and torturous process at times, is suggested to lead towards a sense of harmony, of concert. To me this makes sense, and I have to make sense of things, otherwise I crumble.
This sky, this sky where we live is not place to lose your wings. So love, love, love. Hafiz
Perhaps it strikes the reader that I am desperately clinging to this notion to give my heartache a meaning it doesn’t deserve. Where Bridget Jones turned to vodka and Chaka Khan, I have turned to the mystics of the ages and my dubious intuition. This may be true. There are two possible retorts to this, one that only broken open could I find the necessary spiritual hunger to accept this quest, or less optimistically, this quest keeps me imbued with a sense of hope where otherwise they might be none.
Again, this post feels like such a strange brew, the elements don’t seem to meld easily, it’s still lumpy and unformed, and yet somehow I know they belong together, that I am on the right track. Somehow I will find the cosmology that sits between my connection with the hindu-tantric tradition, my Irish blood, and my Australian psyche. I believe we all tap into the same source, our methods may vary, but we are all dancing to the same tune, the great song moves us all through our visions, dreams, and journeys. Somehow I know my heart wants me to follow this song. So I do.
Nothing will see us through the age we’re entering but high consciousness, and that comes hard. We don’t have a good, modern myth yet, and we need one. Robert A. Johnson
I am open to love.
All love resides within my heart.
I deeply and completely love and accept myself.
I nurture my inner child.
I am wanted and loved.
I live in balance, in a state of gracefulness and gratitude.
I love the beauty of nature and the animal world.
I forgive myself.
I am open to love and kindness.
I am grateful for all the challenges that helped me to transform and open up to love.
I am connected with other human beings.
I feel a sense of unity with nature and animals.
I accept things as they are.
I am peaceful.