Melting into divine desire

But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin. Aldous Huxley

Somewhere along the line, I learned the idea that desire was a bad thing. As a child I was told I was being selfish and greedy to express my desire for things. “You’ll get what you’re given. Like it or lump it” was the general philosophy.

Like Oliver Twist asking for some extra gruel, some authorative voice boomed at my requests “More? Who dares to ask for more?”

I do. I dare. Having played the cards of meekness, detachment and acceptance for many years – and although all these qualities have their place – I realise that this desire is what fuels me. Desire, passion, yearning have been instrumental in my evolution. They stretch me beyond my safe zone.

The fear that was instilled in me is that desire and passion makes us reckless, makes us take risks. Yes, it does. And that’s exactly its power.

I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become. Carl Jung

When I began my experiential journey into the chakra system through Chakradance, there were three chakras that were obviously underactive. My base or root chakra, which reflected a belief the world was an unsafe place. My solar plexus chakra, which reflected a suppression of my own power, and my throat chakra, which reflected an inability to speak out, and to express myself.

This last year I have held the position of the knight on the druid ceremonial wheel. In the tarot the knight is the somewhat “young, dumb and full of cum” archetypal youthful male energy. He has much passion but sometimes lacks the forethought and planning that comes of experience.

So why would this archetypal energy be something I needed to embody this year? I think because I have generally played it too safe. After a somewhat disastrous rebellous streak that left me burnt out and washed up at 25, since then I have been too afraid of self-destruction to really live passionately. 

Often the wisdom of the body clarifies the despair of the spirit. Marion Woodman

It was time for that to change. Now in my forties I have plenty of insight and experience but I often lacked the conviction in my passion and the ability for wild abandon. There are some aspects of life that just aren’t meant to be played safe.

You’d think I wasn’t someone who played it safe. I spent years walking the razor’s edge of drug and alcohol addiction, last year despite being warned off continuously, even by total strangers, I made a solo trip to India. I do try to live by my heart’s passions, but that doesn’t mean I find it easy. 

Taking even a small risk often involves a great leap over a mountain of anxiety. Like most addicts, and contrary to popular belief, I am not a naturally hedonistic thrill-seeker, but rather someone who found ways to compensate for my fears and insecurity. Now stone cold sober I have to find other means to fuel my courage.

An addiction to anything we do to avoid hearing the message the body and soul are trying to send us. Marion Woodman

In love I see this polarity most obviously. I want to dive into love with an open heart and mind. But as soon as all my emotional baggage, from past hurts and rejection, starts to be triggered, I find myself in a somewhat schizoid state. One day easy-going and open-hearted, the next anxious, needy and suspicious. It’s no fun for my love interest, I’m sure. Even less for me as it’s completely beyond my control.

The trick seems to be allowing this emotional pendulum to swing with a degree of compassionate detachment, and without acting out on the extremes. And I am so not there yet…

I have written much about my first week in India, when I travelled solo to Rishikesh. The time was marked by a sense of being welcomed and supported by the divine, particularly in the form of my beloved Ganesha and the river goddess Ganga Ma.

I can tell you that it takes great strength to surrender. You have to know that you are not going to collapse. Instead, you are going to open to a power that you don’t even know, and it is going to come to meet you. In the process of healing, this is one of the huge things that I have discovered. People recognized the energy coming to meet them. When they opened to another energy, a love, a divine love, came through to meet them. That is what is known as grace. Marion Woodman

Surprisingly writing about the second half of my trip – travelling to Varanasi to connect with a large group of women led by Alana Fairchild in the Grace of the Golden Goddess retreat – has taken longer to percolate into a post.

I had been so excited about this week of moving meditations and rituals devoted to various Hindu deities, so I was surprised when on the first day I felt subsumed by a sense of unworthiness and shame. 

Alana had requested we bring something for the altar and I had brought my wedding ring. I wanted to hand over to the divine my lack of success in love. I also wanted to make some kind of atonement. I had made a solemn vow to God and another person in front of all my family and friends, twice, and twice had been unable to keep that promise. 

Living by principles is not living your own life. It is easier to try to be better than you are than to be who you are. Marion Woodman

It had seemed like such a grand idea to seek this ritual of completion in Varanasi, the sacred Hindu cremation ground. As such I had worn the ring in India as a kind of deterrent to men – which admittedly didn’t work! But it did stir something in me, a desire to experience a committed loving relationship again. 

As I sat in this room preparing to place the symbol of my failure in love on the altar, I felt wretched. I could have happily got on the next train back to Rishikesh. 

Instead I took a big breath and during a short break I faced Alana and told her how I was feeling. I didn’t know her then, I didn’t know what a deeply caring and compassionate woman she is. I just saw a glamazon in a fabulous silk kaftan. It felt like a risk to admit my vulnerabilities to such a powerhouse.

But she was calm and smiled and told me that of course, as I was preparing to open myself to divine grace and blessings of abundance, that all my doubts and insecurities would bubble up. She said “That’s good. The work has begun.” It was all part of the process.

At the very point of vulnerability is where the surrender takes place – that is where the god enters. The God comes through the wound. Marion Woodman

As she said this I knew she was right, although the the feelings were still overwhelming, I was able to stay and participate in the ritual. Later something dropped for me, one of those head-to-heart moments, something I had known but not really understood the profound implications of. That whatever I open myself up to in life, love, success, joy, the very blocks inside of me to all those things will instantly rise up. That booming voice “who are you to ask for more!”

Dance is a powerful way to move and shift our energy, allowing blocks to surface and be healed. Moving meditations combines the power of the shamanic dance journey with guided meditation to create a space for our subtle energy to move, for blocks to release, for spontaneous soul healing to occur. Like with Chakradance, in a sacred space with intention and resonant sound, the soul will find its healing, it’s equilibrium.

The drop excavates the stone, not by force but by falling often. Ovid

In the moving meditation that followed, I made my offering to the altar and was ritually blessed by Shiva’s trident. The ritual involved offering and opening ourselves upon Shiva’s sacred ground, in readiness to be purified to receive the grace of the golden goddess, Lakshmi.

There were many tears, so much grief, as I released my flawed attempts at love. In the dance I saw all my failures in love, my first boyfriend, my marriages, my last – still deeply held – love, at first with sadness, shame, grief, but then as I moved, it shifted to compassion for them and for myself. 

I began to see that in the face of many obstacles, youth, immaturity, inexperience, addictions, dysfunctional and abusive childhoods, the valiant attempts we had all made to love each other as best we could in spite of our respective wounds. I saw the lessons we had learned, the healing that had happened in amongst the pain. 

The right way to wholeness is made up of fateful detours and wrong turnings. Carl Jung

When I reached the review of my last love, the tears were pouring down my face. I saw the immensity of our love, the sheer capacity of my heart for love and passion. It was exquisitely beautiful.

The feeling of shame and failure left me, replaced by a sense that everything had happened as it needed to, for me and for them. It was time to let go and create space for the beautiful energies Alana was calling in for us.

This emptying out was necessary to receive the divine gifts that Lakshmi, and the other deities would offer across our week of dancing rituals. Lakshmi brought the golden light of choice, receptivity and grace. Letting go of what has completed knowing there is new energy waiting to come in.

For many of us being dragged towards wholeness happens precisely through the mysterious process of wishing: through the gaps it exposes, the new edges it drives us towards, the deeper layers of longing it reveals. Marion Woodman 

After many years of profound religious experiences in Chakradance, in nature, and in sacred ritual, I know better than to try to capture the experience in words. During the week working with Alana, I felt direct and powerful connections with the deities we invoked. I had profound realisations, releases, and shifts. And yet like many other experiences I have had, I know there is a long period of integration. A time where these shifts that happen at the spiritual and energetic level slowly manifest into my physical reality. This work of the soul is not magic. Although it certainly feels like magic at the time. 

The journey I had with Lakshmi and Vishnu where I offered myself for a marriage, a true partnership with the divine, was as elaborate, joyful and decadent as a Bollywood grand finale. But the grand vision is not the point. The point is that in this sacred space I made a vow to live in divine partnership, to make my life out of a constant prayer to the divine of “show me.”

What I have come to understand, or think I understand, is that these shifts, these experiences are real and profound but subtle. That is, they occur at the level of our subtle energy. In order for real change, over the weeks and months that followed, I was repeatedly tested. Would I fall back into old ways, or deepen these new subtle energies into lasting change.

What this often means is that when faced with a choice, I have one foot in either crossroad, and I have to ask myself which is my true, courageous choice, my true heart’s desire. Not always easy when old neural pathways of fear and unworthiness run so deep. But oh how I long to embody this fearlessness of heart.

There’s a point at which one must start caring where one fixes one’s vision on high. Don a mantle of vision and daring. Tis where the water meets the sky. David Whalen

Longing, ah, that’s what drives me. A desire, a yearning for some deeper and more satisfying experience of life. 

I used to think this tendency for yearning was, at best, a quirk of my Irish DNA, and at worst, a serious design flaw, that never allowed for true contentment or satisfaction.

“You’re never happy.” My mother would say to me as a child, and now I realise she recognised that because it mirrored her own stifled yearnings, she felt it too.

In one of Alana’s sessions, we went around the room and gave a word to describe how we were feeling, I said “longing, yearning.” It was true, the work thus far had shifted much grief and sadness, but left me with a great hunger for something to fill the gap. It was a deep desire from my heart. We were about to embark on a ritual to call in the divine masculine, and as much as I quake at times in the presence of the masculine, I longed for it.

Alana validated this yearning of mine for the first time. She said the divine is drawn to our longing for it. Like a person who greets you with open arms and great excitement, the divine is drawn to those who truly desire it. 

In the dance I tapped into this great yearning, this desire to be truly seen in all my passion with the multitude of love I have inside me, that I have held back because it always seemed like too much for people. I was never happy because I was never truly seen, valued, held. How could I be loved when I was invisible? Or just a blank screen for others to project their shadow or desires onto?

When I show my desire to the divine, it matches it with love, grace and power. 

In your body is the garden of flowers. Take your seat on the thousand petals of the lotus, and there gaze on the infinite beauty. Kabir

During this somewhat magical week in Varanasi, where we alternated between deeply profound rituals and raucous bus trips to explore the city, I really connected with shakti, the power or energy that is the attribute of the goddess. Shakti is the strong life force that animates all action, or as Diane Eck describes it the “can-do capacity for any activity.” 

Primarily through Lakshmi, but also the myriad of other expressions of divine shakti – Radha, Kali, Saraswati, Parvati, Durga, Ganga – I finally tapped into the full expression of my power. 

Shakti is what we harness in Chakradance, and even prior to going to India, I had increasingly had visions of Hindu goddesses, especially around the energy of my throat chakra, Vissudha, or purification. 

Now I am not talking here of boundless passion so unchecked that it bypasses all reason and respect for real limitations. Instead this is the desire that produces creativity. This is the spark and the subsequent electricity that propels thought into movement and action. 

Even the gods are powerless without the kinetic energy of shakti. Diane Eck

Shakti begins as the kundalini energy coiled up at the base chakra, once she is activated she moves up the energetic column along the spine, connecting with the shiva energy at the crown chakra. Shiva represents consciousness and shakti the activating force that brings consciousness into action. Once activated these energies continue to flow up and down the spine, activating and enlivening our chakras and our subtle energy body.

Fear is the great block of the base chakra, feeling unsafe, insecure in the world. For me, this fear had very much stifled my shakti. By continuing to work with my base chakra, through yoga, chanting, grounding practices and moving meditations like Chakradance, gradually this energy has begun to move and become vital once more.

A life truly lived constantly burns away veils of illusion, burns away what is no longer relevant, gradually reveals our essence, until, at last, we are strong enough to stand in our naked truth. Marion Woodman

When I danced in the energies of my past loves in Varanasi last year, I felt a deep sorrow when I reconnected with the depth and intensity of the love I felt for the man I have loved for the last seven years. Having gone our separate ways for a year I truly believed our time together had gone, and I mourned it deeply. 

But spirit had other ideas. As the power of the rituals and my time in India percolated within me, as my intense longing grew, so within him a great healing began. And in the New Year, tentatively, we reunited.

I would like to say it has a fairytale ending, but we all know fairy tales never ended that way until Disney got a hold on them. And like a traditional folk tale, our union is one that challenges us both. For me, this has been a true test of my ability to let desire guide me, to melt into it. Becoming vulnerable to this love has raised all my demons, my insecurity, my fear of betrayal and abandonment. And yet we stumble on, blinded by the light of this great electric pull of our desire.

Given our story, and the ways in which we have reconnected after our many times apart. I cannot help but believe this is a divine desire. 

So I let myself melt.

This is the point where love becomes possible. We see the other with the eye of the heart, an eye not clouded by fear manifesting as need, jealousy, possessiveness, or manipulation. With the unclouded eye of the heart, we can see the other as other. We can rejoice in the other, challenge the other, and embrace the other without losing our own center or taking anything away from the other. We are always other to each other — soul meeting soul, the body awakened with joy. To love unconditionally requires no contracts, bargains, or agreements. Love exists in the moment-to-moment flux of life. Marion Woodman

Hari om tat sat. Namaste. Blessings.

Try Chakradance – Rhythm for your soul

If your interest is piqued in attending one of Alana Fairchild’s transformative sessions, you can find her here alanafairchild.com/

The Shaman’s Blues

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Before I sink into the big sleep. I want to hear the scream of the butterfly. Jim Morrison

Recently, at a party, someone asked me about the Shamanism training I’m doing in Bali. As I fumbled my way through a rambling answer, it made me think, I really need an ‘elevator pitch’ to answer these questions.

The truth is, shamanism isn’t really something I can explain succinctly as a concept, rather it is something I practice, something that is unfolding to me. It is highly experiential. It’s outside of the comfort zone of the modern western mindset. So far outside of that zone, it’s like it grew wings, and flew to Neptune. To explain it, I have to ask you to set aside everything you think you know.

That said, I think its worth exploring. What do I mean by shamanism? What is my practice? Do I even want to call it shamanism. If not, then what?

And how do I convey all that to people without sounding like a complete looney?

“Oh yes, I commune with spirits, and I don’t mean a martini”

Enter the eminently eloquent Frank MacEowen, to save me from my tangled tongue (and unintentional alliteration) to describe it to y’all.

Shamanism – the practice of entering into a non-ordinary state of consciousness and leaving ordinary reality to acquire knowledge, guidance, or healing energy. Shamanic spirituality is one way of listening deeply to ancient powers in the land and within the human soul. Frank MacEowen

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Okay. Got it? Not really? Alright, I’ll explain it some more. But to be perfectly honest, I can describe it until I’m blue in the face, which would be entertaining yes, but you really have to experience it to understand. Here goes…

Essentially, shamanism describes the oldest living paths of spirituality and healing, dating back tens of thousands of years, found in cultures all around the world from ancient times up to the present day, and yet many people don’t know what it is or are confused about the practice.

Part of this confusion stems from the term ‘shamanism’ itself, which is used describe a group of diverse traditional cultural and spiritual practices, even though they are not all one and the same. However, the remaining practices that continue in the world today do share many common approaches to healing and living in commune with the natural and spirit worlds. Hence the use of a common word to describe them.

Anthropologist Mircea Eliade in his book, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, wrote that shamanism underlays all the other spiritual traditions in the world, and that the most distinctive universal feature of shamanism—but not the only one—was the journey to other worlds in an altered state of consciousness.

It all sounds rather fanciful to the Western mind. Journeying to commune with spirits? Why, just hand me that crystal ball and hit the smoke machine… Woo-woo!

Michael Harner makes the important distinction that shamans do not ‘believe’ in the world of the spirit, they actively engage there.

In shamanic cultures, where shamans interact with spirits to get results such as healing, it’s no surprise that people believe there are spirits. But the shamans don’t believe in spirits. Shamans talk with them, interact with them. They no more “believe” there are spirits than they “believe” they have a house to live in, or have a family. This is a very important issue because shamanism is not a system of faith. Michael Harner 

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While shamanic practices vary across cultures, there are many ‘core’ practices that are universal or near-universal and these constitute ‘core shamanism’.

Shamanism is a spirituality rooted in the idea that all matter has consciousness and that accessing this ‘spirit that lives in all things’ keeps the natural world, including us humans, in balance, healed, and whole. A shamanic practitioner seeks to be in relationship with the spirit in all things – a path to sustainable harmony not only with all humans, but with each and every plant, animal, and spiritual entity that is a part of our world.

The anthropologist Michael Harner, who established Core Shamanism, writes that “the word ‘shaman’ in the original (Siberian) Tungus language refers to a person who makes journeys to non-ordinary reality in an altered state of consciousness.”

Michael Harner says that using such a term helps people to understand the type of healing being undertaken, and avoids the often negative connotations of other culture specific terms like “witch doctor”. Although the term is originally from Siberia, there is evidence that the shamanic practices existed on all inhabited continents. So it’s essentially an umbrella term for similar traditions found the world over.

Shamans are often called “see-ers” (seers), or “people who know” in their tribal languages, because they are involved in a system of knowledge based on firsthand experience. Shamanism is not a belief system. It’s based on personal experiments conducted to heal, to get information, or do other things. In fact, if shamans don’t get results, they will no longer be used by people in their tribe. People ask me, “How do you know if somebody’s a shaman?” I say, “It’s simple. Do they journey to other worlds? And do they perform miracles?” Michael Harner 

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A shaman is a man or woman who uses the ability to see “with the strong eye” or “with the heart” – according to different cultural interpretations – to travel into hidden realms. The shaman interacts directly with helping spirits to address the spiritual aspect of illness and perform soul retrievals, retrieve lost power, as well as remove spiritual blockages. The shaman also divines information for the community. Shamans perform a multitude of roles in their communities, acting as healers, doctors, priests, psychotherapists, mystics, and storytellers.

Shamanism teaches us that everything that exists is alive and has a spirit. Shamans speak of a web of life that connects all of life and the ‘spirit that lives in all things’. Everything on earth is interconnected and it is the shaman’s role in the community to keep harmony and balance between humankind and the forces of nature.

Shamanism is a system of direct revelation. One of the major ceremonies a shaman performs is called a shamanic journey. In a ‘journey’ a shaman enters into an altered state of consciousness and travels into the hidden realms that many describe as non-ordinary reality – like a parallel universe to ours.

The Otherworld is the interiority of place, just as the human soul is the interiority of an individual. This is not to say it is “inside”, but rather that it is hidden and invisible, and its depths cannot be penetrated by ordinary means. Jason Kirkey

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The Australian aborigines call non-ordinary reality the Dreamtime. In the Celtic traditions it is referred to as the Otherworld. In these hidden realities there are helping, compassionate spirits who offer their guidance and also their healing help. There are also some not-so-helpul ones and the skilled shaman knows how to avoid those ones, with the assistance of their personal power animals or spirit allies, who act as guides in non-ordinary reality.

Tori McElroy writes that this specialised, sacred role of the shaman exists in many cultures, and the accounts of shamanic trance-journeys are remarkably similar around the world. The ecstatic trance seems “to open the human mind to archetypal experiences transcending cultural boundaries.” The spiritual realms are almost always experienced in three layers: the middle world, equivalent to the physical plane of the earth, the upper world, equating to the heavens above, and a third that lies below the earth, or the lower world.

Certain psychologies might tend to identify the Otherworld with our psyche; the inner realm of the human mind and soul, and that the going-ons there are reflective of our own processes. Other people might lean towards the more spiritual or mystical understanding of the Otherworld as an actual place, a spirit-world, inhabited by very real beings. What is actually important is that no matter how we understand the Otherworld, in all the stories in which it plays a part, those who experience it are transformed. Jason Kirkey

Each culture interprets these realms a little differently, but there are such strong similarities of experience it suggests that the pattern of imagery arises from the journey process itself, rather than from cultural expectations.

There is even evidence that the shamanic journey may have been part of the development of all religions, and although the practice has all but vanished in many cultures, remnants of it exist in myths and traditions. This is where core shamanism can assist in the reconstruction of these practices, for example in Celtic shamanism and druidry.

There are a variety of ceremonies that shamans perform. Like priests, they lead ceremonies to welcome children into the world, perform marriages, and help people transition at the time of death. They lead ceremonies to mourn the death of loved ones. There are important initiation ceremonies performed to mark certain transitions in a person’s life such as from moving from childhood into adulthood.

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Typically shamans use some form of percussion, especially drumming or rattling, to go into an altered state that frees the soul of the shaman to journey into the invisible worlds. Many traditions also believe that music, drumming, singing, rattling, helps to attract the helping spirits.

Because it is not an organized religion as such, but rather a spiritual practice, shamanism cuts across all faiths and creeds, reaching deep levels of ancestral memory. As a primal belief system, which precedes established religion, it has its own symbolism and cosmology, inhabited by beings, gods, and totems, who display similar characteristics although they appear in various forms, depending upon their places of origin. John Matthews

Indigenous Australian shamans use the didgeridoo and click sticks. Some traditions use bells. The Sami people of Lapland and Norway also use monotonous chanting called “joiking”. My mother heard a recording of women chanting and told me it reminded her of the way the women sung, usually as they performed group tasks, in Ireland where she grew up.

So why bother journeying? Shamans journey to assist their community and its members, whether to transition through stages in life, or out of the living realm, or to heal illness. Shamans look at the spiritual aspect of illness. An illness might manifest on an emotional or physical level but the shaman is looking for spiritual imbalance or disharmony, which can cause the illness and prevent its healing.

I am a traveler of both time and space, to be where I have been
To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world has seldom seen
They talk of days for which they sit and wait and all will be revealed. Led Zeppelin

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Sandra Ingerman, my teacher and experienced shamanic practitioner, has found that most shamanic cultures around the world believe that illness is due to the loss of the soul. It is believed that whenever we suffer an emotional or physical trauma a piece of our soul flees the body in order to protect itself and preserve the integrity of the overall soul. The soul is our essence, life force, the part of our vitality that keeps us alive and thriving.

In modern Western psychology, this is understood as dissociation and post-traumatic stress disorder. In either case, a fragment of the psyche (meaning “soul”) breaks off to preserve the integrity of the whole.

The helping spirits who inhabit parallel worlds to the human world have a perspective that often cannot be seen by a practitioner in ordinary states. Therefore shamans work in partnership with the helping spirits in performing healing work, including soul retrieval, where these lost soul parts are coaxed back ‘home’. In many hospitals in the United States, Native American shamanic healers work alongside Western doctors to heal patients.

Inevitably when journeying, shamans become extremely connected to the spirit in nature, the the land spirits, and to the local plants and trees, and receive information about their potential healing properties. This is a more sensible explanation of plant medicine than simple trial and error. The plants themselves have wisdom and a willingness to share this with us humans.

To live life from this sort of truth would require us to acknowledge the needed reciprocity between this world and the Otherworld, inner and outer, humans and nature. However, this sort of recognition of the interconnectedness of all things is exactly what is needed to heal the perceptive split between these realities. To do this we need to cultivate the ears of sacred listening that can hear the profound music of the Otherworld and bring our fragmented soul back into the wholeness of the soul of life. Jason Kirkby

creamSo why do I find shamanic journeying so very appealing? I think it’s because I have been inadvertently doing it all my life.

Music is a doorway into the realm of the soul. Jason Kirkey

My dad is to blame for my passion for music, he ignited an insatiable fire when he gave me Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band for my 8th birthday. Now I wonder if I should blame my love for the esoteric on him for the same reason.

There is a song on that album called ‘Within You Without You‘. It was George Harrison at the height of his immersion into the Maharishi’s following. In 1967, The Beatles — along with actress Mia Farrow and musicians Donovan and Beach Boy Mike Love — made a pilgrimage to Rishikesh, India, the headquarters for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the bearded, long-haired guru who gave the West a somewhat toned-down form of Hinduism called Transcendental Meditation.

I knew none of this. I just listened to the song, the lyrics. It blew my little eight year old mind.

Can’t you see you’re really only very small and life flows on within you and without you. George Harrison

This album also marked the Beatles descent into psychedelia, both in the form of psychotropic drug use and the ensuing art and lyrical shift that emerges as a result of opening that particular ‘door of perception.’ For a young child, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was not a great imaginative leap, akin to the journey down the chocolate river in the Roald Dahl classic. And yet that imagery left an indelible imprint on my mind.

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From there I leap-frogged into what I see now was a shamanic love of music. Music took me on a spiritual journey.

Eight miles high and when you touch down
You’ll find that it’s stranger than known
Signs in the street that say where you’re going
Are somewhere just being their own. The Byrds

I loved the psychedelic sixties. I emulated its art and fashion. Its mindset. I loved the sit-ins, the peace rallies, the flowers, the unbridled hope for peace and love, man.

And the music. Oh my. How I loved the music.

Holed up in my room, draped in batik fabrics, incense burning, posters of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Jim Morrison adorning my walls. I listened non-stop to The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, The Rolling Stones, Donovan, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Cream…

Led Zepplin and Deep Purple sang songs of Mordor and Taliesin, steeped on the Druid-shamanic tradition of Britain. 

The Byrds sang the words of the Book of Ecclesiastes, which describes the natural cycle of life and death, the ebb and flow of the seasons and of life itself.

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven. 

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Jim Morrison channeled his Native American spirit in those epic songs that really took me places – “ride the snake, to the lake, the ancient lake, the snake is long, seven miles…” More recently, these lyrics came to me in a journey and guided me along to that very lake.

The Doors were perhaps the most unashamed to embrace the shamanic roots of their lyrical inspiration. Being named for the Aldous Huxley book The Doors of Perception, Jim Morrison was no stranger to journeying, and his songs can take you there.

The Doors of Perception is a short book by Aldous Huxley, first published in 1954, detailing his experiences when taking mescaline. The book takes the form of Huxley’s recollection of a mescaline trip that took place over the course of an afternoon, and takes its title from a phrase in William Blake’s 1793 poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

Of course I found this book on dad’s extensive bookshelves, along with a beauty of a book by Colin Wilson called The Outsider which introduced me to many authors of his ilk, and of course the entire Beat generation of writers. Whilst providing a context for my own sense of outsider-ness.

There’s a whole other post in the connection between plant medicine and shamanism, but suffice to say the sixties were a hotbed of opening the ‘doors of perception.’ But like my own experience with psychedelics in my twenties, without sufficient intent and reverence for the plant spirits, it is easy to get lost there.

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Did I love this music because it sang of my spirit’s yearnings? Or did the music shape me? Probably both.

I was a star-gazer, a collector of special stones, shells, and leaves, an animal lover. A nature child, happier up a tree or in the ocean than anywhere contrived by humans. Listening again to The Doors perform The End, I hear the undulation of the journey process.

Music is your only friend. Dance on fire as it intends. Jim Morrison

The surrender to the rhythm and vibration. Shamans dance to shake off the anchor of the ego that binds them to this reality. I danced to these songs by candlelight and incense smoke and lost myself to the lyrics of nature love, rocks, stones, flowers, talking to trees and animals.

 Do you believe in rock ‘n roll? Can music save your mortal soul? Don McLean

The songs and art, inspired as it was by Indian art, found a seeking soul and guided her home. It was a rocky road at times. My teenage years were a journey through hell. Depression and addiction marked my soul journey through the initiation of the shadow. I sought chemical escape, but without a guide or a clear intention, I merely lost myself. I emerged bruised, broken, and emptied out to be a hollow bone.

It was not long after our early human ancestors developed the capacity for language that music began to develop as well. There is something about music that connects us more deeply to each other and the world than language could ever articulate. Jason Kirkey

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You may think it’s a stretch of the imagination that the psychedelic music of the sixties led me to shamanism, but to a person of a shamanic culture this would not seem strange. Music, both as sound and a storytelling device plays a major role in shamanic cultures, especially in the oral transmission of stories in the European culture.

The presence of the spiritual in music is something recognized by all ancient cultures. Celtic mythological sources are full of references to music in relation to the spiritual and the Otherworld. Music serves as an archetype in the sense that it is a recurring mythopoetic theme or “image” pointing to a collective experience of the human soul. In Celtic mythology this theme is music as a doorway or threshold to the Otherworld, and the transformation towards wholeness that comes with such an encounter. Jason Kirkey

The first grade of druidry is the bardic grade, where the initiate learns to recite stories, poems, and songs as a way to convey knowledge and evoke a blurring of the boundaries between this world and the other. The Australian aboriginals have their song lines, where they literally sing the land. And the Irish had their place name stories called the Dinnsheanchas.

Ireland has a great store of traditional music and there is a great diversity of style and nuance. Each region has a distinctive tradition. One can hear the contours of the landscape shape the tonality and spirit of the music. The memory of the people is echoed in the music. John O’Donohue

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So while it’s a stretch , it’s not a completely unfounded one.

In shamanism an important journeying tool, used to connect with one’s spirit allies, is a power song. My power song came after keening an Ani De Franco song repeatedly while the ocean’s waves crashed over me. I was utterly heartbroken at the time, and the complete annihilation of ego brought on by this devastation opened me up to the elements in a visceral way.

This experience could be seen as sacrilegious to some – a spiritual awakening via popular music, indeed! – or as a demonstration that music still carries at its essence the transformative power to shift us into another world.

Music plays the central role in Celtic soul-restoration, forming the most subtle net to help the soul parts reassemble. Caitlin Matthews

The music, the foray into mind-altering chemicals, was all part of my initiation into spirituality.

My dad, who has been such a powerful influence in my life, is in and out of hospital now. He has such strong will, but I know that won’t keep him going forever. In shamanism, there is a great many practices that address all of life’s transitions, inducing death. So this morning I listened to the most recent lesson from the Shamanic Journeying course I am doing online with Sandra Ingerman.

Words cannot express my gratitude that I will have these skills to assist dad. How beautiful that I have already done a power animal retrieval for him, I told him what his animal was and he grinned from ear to ear – he bears an uncanny resemblance to said animal. He doesn’t have a clue about this stuff, and yet at some level his spirit knew and was gladdened.

Your head is humming and it won’t go, in case you don’t know,
The piper’s calling you to join him,
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind? Led Zeppelin

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Now I can tell him that when his the comes there’ll be a loving spirit there to guide him across the boundary between worlds. It will be someone who has passed over that he loves and trusts. How beautiful is that? And I don’t say it from blind faith or wishful thinking. I say it because I have met these spirits myself. And because for tens of thousands of years, spirit has been helping us make these transitions, if we only knew how to connect with them.

Death as a rite of passage, a conscious transition, in comfort and peace. With loving guidance.

In the Celtic traditions, spirals symbolise so many aspects of life, and the circle is a metaphor in almost all shamanic cultures. Nature moves in cycles, seasons, days, shamanic cultures have always revered these cycles, for survival yes, but also the wisdom of recycling life, not becoming fixed or attached to anything, “to everything turn, turn, turn…”

As I share my Dad’s last years on this plane, I have reflected much on all he has shown me. He has always been a man who embraced all the abundance of life. Wracked with disability and health issues from birth, his irrepressible spirit saw him make a dream life for himself, travel, education, family and a heart-led career. He became editor of his own journal, the only option for a frustrated writer in the pre-blog world!

Now, it is my turn, all that he has shown me has contributed to who I am today. My responsibility is to be courageous, to not hold back on the burgeoning worlds I am experiencing. To be brave and open and trust that I can can use these otherworldly guides to navigate this transition.

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So in answer to my own question, I guess I’m okay to call this shamanism. It seems a little arbitrary to name it anything, given that it has been a part of me long before I knew it to even name it. I have always bucked against organised religion, and naming this feels a step in that direction. However naming it also opens me up to a wonderful community of fellow practitioners. The important thing though, it not what I call it, but the very tangible results it produces in my life, and the lives of others.

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you. Gaelic Blessing

Cead Mile Beannachta! (One hundred thousand blessings)

Images:

Album cover and poster art from 1960’s and 1970’s

Sources:

Sandra Ingerman, Walking in Light

Shamanism by Tori McElroy

Jason Kirkey, The Song of the Earth. Music and Healing in the Celtic Tradition

Shamanic Healing: We Are Not Alone
An Interview of Michael Harner by Bonnie Horrigan

University of Minnesota, What is shamanism? 

Things that makes you go Om

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Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought. Basho

People often ask me, “what are the chakras?” And rightly so, I do teach Chakradance.

In truth, probably like all ancient systems, the chakras just ain’t what they used to be. And for good reason, the world ain’t what it used to be. Any system worth its salt must be adaptable to change. Nothing stays still for thousands of years, particularly not whirling vortices of energy.

The more I read and learn about ancient systems, be it the Hindu chakra system, druidry or shamanism, the more I begin to understand that there is no one ‘standard system.’ These systems were highly localised and steeped in the culture and traditions of the people who developed them.

So where does that leave a woman of Irish descent, living in Australia, with an innate fascination for Indian mysticism?

Good question. Can you let me know when you figure it out?

The ancients created a profound system. We can now marry this wisdom with modern information about the natural world, the body, and the psyche, to create an even more effective system. Anodea Judith

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Seriously though, it leaves me where most of us seekers are these days… Trying to find meaning in a world where culture has been stripped away, appropriated, and misrepresented. Most of us have not been raised in a lineage of a cultural spiritual tradition, some of our cultural traditions barely even exist anymore. Due to mass migration, many of us have been raised in lands far removed and alien to those of our ancestors.

Even though I have lived in this beautiful land all my life, I am not one of the First People and as such I am not privy to much of their sacred law. Nor should I be, I respect that. In addition to that, our education system has largely ignored indigenous history and wisdom, so what I could have been taught, I haven’t. I intend to remedy that now.

So, I find myself walking a fine line between research and direct experience. I keep an open mind, I read, I look out for interesting people with like-minds, I journey with spirit. And somehow, as I continue to follow the next obvious step on this path, I am guided to the things that illuminate my way.

Every breath is a sacrament, an affirmation of our connection with all other living things, a renewal of our link with our ancestors and a contribution to generations yet to come. Our breath is a part of life’s breath, the ocean of air that envelopes the earth. David Suzuki

It’s a patchwork journey. A zigzag path. A bit of this, a bit of that. Sometimes I get lost in all the competing avenues of interest. This week in particular I have had moments of indecision paralysis because I have “homework” from my druidry course, my nature magic course, and my shamanic journeying course. What do I do first?

Then I remind myself, they’re just different pathways, the destination is the same. And I try to find pathways that are meaningful to me, that make sense together, for me, as a Western woman.

I just keep connecting, and trust that spirit will guide me.

And I see connections everywhere. The similarities between the druidic path and the shamanic path, and many ancient belief systems continue to astound me. The representation of spirit as something that can be mapped and worked with, appears across belief systems.

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At the heart of most eastern philosophies lies an understanding of the mystical channels of energy that flow through our bodies. The word ‘chakra’ is an ancient Sanskrit word, which literally translated means ‘wheel’.

Just a quick note here on the use of the word ‘energy’. I refer to the subtle energy as described so well by physicist F David Peat:

Many of the biochemical processes within the body involve exchanges of physical energy, but these grosser forms of energy are not what I take the terms healing energy and subtle energy to mean. Rather, the latter are like the activity of a conductor of an orchestra or the choreographer of a ballet, that integrates and coordinates into one cohesive movement all the bio-chemical and energy processes of the body. F David Peat

The chakra system is a system of energy and information. The chakras are part of the subtle energy body, which means they can’t be seen with the naked eye. Some highly sensitive people can perceive the chakras, which is why the original information recorded by the earliest Indian mystics is still proving to be pretty accurate today. All people can learn to attune themselves to these subtle energy channels.

Here in this body are the sacred rivers, here are the sun and moon, as well as the pilgrimage places. I have not encountered another temple as blissful as the body. Saraha Doha

The chakras are part of the yoga tradition. Yoga meaning ‘yoke’ or union is the practice designed to yoke the mortal, physical self, to the divine nature of pure consciousness. Yoga and the early concepts of energy centres first appear in the Vedic texts of India from about 4,000 years ago. Following the Vedas were the texts of the Upanishads and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

The idea of the subtle vital force (prana) and the channels along which it flows (nadis) appear in the earliest Upanishads. The heart was said to be the centre of the 72,000 nadis or subtle channels.

Within these Hindu scriptures, the chakra concept became a part of a complex set of ideas related to esoteric anatomy, or as Caroline Myss refers to it, the ‘anatomy of the spirit.’ What we may be learning to manage here then, is our soul.

Subtle energy is like the underlying meaning and coherence which remains implicate in the phenomenal world. Jason Kirkey

These texts mention varying numbers of chakras. Over time, one system of six or seven chakras along the body’s axis became the dominant model, adopted by most schools of yoga. This particular system originated in about the tenth century, and rapidly became widely popular. It is in this model where Kundalini – divine feminine shakti energy – is said to “rise” upward, piercing the various centres until reaching the crown of the head, resulting in union with the Divine Shiva energy.

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It was the tantra tradition that moved from the dualistic worldview of the ancient Hindu texts, of matter and spirit as distinct things, that earthly desires should be renounced in the pursuit of enlightenment, to a non-dual idea of integration of body and spirit, to be in the world, not apart from it, a weaving together of the previous traditions, that included the chakras, and saw the body as a sacred temple for spirit.

The practice of tantra is about inner-transformation. The energy involved in the process of tantric transformation is the energy of our own bliss. Prana Gogia

In the tantric texts, the Sat-Cakra-Nirupana, and the Padaka-Pancaka, the chakras are described as emanations of consciousness from Brahman, a spiritual energy which flows through the crown and gradually becomes denser, creating these distinct levels of chakras, and eventually finds its rest in the Muladhara, or base, chakra. Another text, the Gorakshashatakam gives specific instructions for meditating on the chakras.

The word tantra, which has a dubious reputation in the West as predominantly sexual practices, actually means ‘loom’ and denotes this weaving together of the principles of yoga, the kundalini energy, and deity worship, including practices for mastering our spiritual energy.

The soul… is the primary organizing, sustaining, and guiding principle of a living being. Thomas Berry

The chakra system was popularised in the West by Sir John Woodroffe (writing as Arthur Avalon), in his book, The Serpent Power, which was an English translation of these tantric texts.

Theosphists Charles Leadbeater and Alice Bailey investigated the connections they saw between the chakras and the biology of the human body – associating each chakra with particular endocrine glands and nerve ganglions or plexii in the sympathetic nervous system. According to their clairvoyant perception, the chakras were seen as energy vortexes in the each of the subtle bodies – or layers of the aura. This is quite different to the Indian traditions, where the chakras are subtle centres of consciousness, but have no independent energy status.

Carl Jung and Rudolph Steiner further integrated Eastern spiritual concepts with the evolving theories of Western psychological development. They believed the chakras develop from conception as we age physically, emotionally, and spiritually, starting with the base chakra and moving up into our individual energy expressions and finally up to our connection with the source energy. Jung saw the chakras as an analogy for the progression towards individuation.

To gain that which is worth having, it may be necessary to lose everything else. Bernadette Devlin

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Many New Age writers, such as Anodea Judith in her book Wheels of Life, and Caroline Myss in her book, Energy Anatomy, have written about their experiences with the chakras in great detail, including the reasons for their functions and associations.

Anodea Judith points out that the associations of the spectrum colours to chakras is a Western addition, attributed to Christopher Hills who published a book entitled Nuclear Evolution in the early 1970’s. The addition of the rainbow colours has hugely influenced Western thinking about the chakras.

According to the Eastern texts, the chakras are formed at the junctions of three connected energy channels, or nadis, that ascend the spine, one on each side, and spiralling around, the central channel, the Shushumna. The two lesser channels of energy – the Pingala on the right and Ida on the left – run parallel to the spinal cord. Chakras both take up and collect prana (life force energy) and transform and pass on energy. This system can be seen as a road map for energy transmission and organisation throughout the subtle energy body.

Chakras are organizing centres within the body for the receiving, processing, and distributing of life energies. Anodea Judith

In the Western approach, which is less esoteric, and more holistic, than the traditional Hindu concept of the chakra system, each chakra is associated with a certain part of the body, and a certain organs and endocrine glands. The endocrine system is a collection of hormone-producing glands, which act as the body’s chemical messengers, and instruct the body in the bodily functions attributed to each chakra.

In the West the chakras are often seen as analogous to ‘computer software’ programmes which relate to our safety, sexuality, power, love, communication, intuition and self-realisation. They have the power to affect our health, emotions, thoughts and behaviours in a positive or negative way.

This is seen as the energy exchange of the mind-body-spirit interaction, and as every organ in the human body has its equivalent on the mental and spiritual level, so too every chakra corresponds to a specific aspect of human behaviour and development.

The lower chakras are associated with fundamental emotions and needs, for the energy here vibrates at a lower frequency and is therefore denser in nature. The finer energies of the upper chakras corresponds to our higher mental and spiritual aspirations and faculties.

Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. Chief Seattle

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Chakradance incorporates the concepts of the chakras as interpreted by Western thinkers, particularly influenced by Carl Jung, Arthur Avalon, and Anodea Judith. These writers extensively studied the Hindu texts, and then incorporated them into a conceptual framework that was meaningful to the Western mind.

The chakras regulate a field of energy called the aura – a dynamic, energetic matrix, which includes the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of our being.

Whereas the original Indian texts associated sounds – mantras – and deities with each chakra, a practice followed by Anodea Judith and Chakradance, Jung presented the chakras as a system of psycho-spiritual awakening, and used developmental stages of the psyche and archetypes to convey this system. 

As long as we’re in a state of confusion, overwhelmed by the three conflicting emotions, trapped in cyclic existence, we’re not happy and we can’t benefit sentient beings. Even though we think we might be benefitting them, ultimately we’re not. Ngagpa Yeshe Dorje

The chakras are often described in the West as energetic ‘gateways’, which connect the various layers of the aura. They move like wheels and open like petals of a flower, allowing the subtle energies to flow freely. Each chakra was believed to vibrate to a certain sound frequency, as well as, in the modern Western concept, a certain colour frequency.

The founder of Chakradance, Natalie Southgate, came upon the practice intuitively when she was studying Jungian psychology and ancient and shamanic dance practice.

She describes her experience. As she allowed herself to dance freely in the dark of her living room, music filled the darkness and her intuitive movements started to guide her into the inner power ignited within her chakras. She began to notice certain music carried a unique resonance with different chakra centres. Free flowing movements born in spontaneity brought her home into her inner dance of her true self.

Chakradance awakens each chakra, starting with the base chakra and flowing effortlessly from one to the other, up to the crown chakra, with unique musical vibrations. The combination of music, movement, and guided imagery allows the dancer to journey through the chakras, focusing attention on a particular chakra, allowing the centre to open, and releasing any blockages.

Emotional, spiritual and physical energies are released. Natalie Southgate describes dancing the seven chakras as like dancing through seven different worlds, each with its own lessons, meaning, and stories.

Chakradance draws on many ancient systems from around the world to find the common elements of those culture’s dances with the chakra system or its equivalent. Dance has long been used in shamanic cultures to connect to our spiritual source, to commune with our gods, to find healing and answers about life.

Let’s just say I was testing the bounds of society. I was just curious. Jim Morrison

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In Hinduism, many of the great epics are taught through dance, whilst in Sufism, the whirling dervishes surrender their individuality and dance into spiritual “oneness”. One of the oldest recorded references made to religious dancing comes to us from the Old Testament -“Let them praise His name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre” (Psalms 149:3).

Chakradance combines the elements of this spiritual journeying process through dance and rhythm, with the rich exploration of the chakra system.

To Carl Jung the study of chakras was a study of symbols encountered as we develop our individuality and awareness of the unconscious. Jung likened this individuation process to a spiritual quest or journey, with the aim being to achieve ‘wholeness’.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. Edgar Allan Poe

Natalie Southgate describes the process of individuation as a series of phases and manifestations, which include: encountering the unconscious (inner unknown life), insight into our shadow (reclaiming parts of ourselves we reject), encountering anima and animus (inner feminine and masculine), experiences of the Self (glimpses of our total being). During this process, we begin to integrate the opposites within us (flesh and spirit, reason and emotion, extravert and introvert, saint and sinner). What is not integrated is projected out, so we perceive the unconscious parts of ourselves in others rather then recognising them in ourselves.

In addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal nature… there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. Carl Jung

From a Jungian perspective, when we enter the chakras through dance we enter not only our individual selves but also a collective experience passed through the ages, culture to culture.

Another Jungian technique used in Chakradance is what he called ‘active imagination’, which feels a bit like a waking dream. In active imagining, we use self-expression – be it drawing, writing, or dancing – with the aim of assimilating and integrating our unconscious.

In Chakradance, we use the chakras to journey into our different aspects of consciousness, using specific music and creative visualisations relevant to each of the chakras such as physical elements, colours, or archetypes. This triggers a chain of associated images, ideas, sensations, feelings, or insights to rise from deep within us to the surface of our consciousness. The process of ‘active imagination’ sets up a line of communication between consciousness and the unconscious.

Chakradance is a beautiful example of a sacred dance practice, which uses ancient and modern wisdom to connect our spirit with the divine, both within ourselves and with the universe. The intention of Chakradance is to bring all seven chakras into harmony and balance.

Each of us is born with a treasure, an essence, a seed of quiescent potential, secreted for safekeeping in the center of our being. This treasure, this personal quality, power, talent, or gift (or set of such qualities), is ours to develop, embody, and offer to our communities in acts of service—our contributions to a more diverse, vital, and evolved world. Our personal destiny is to become that treasure through our actions. Bill Plotkin

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This week I got to thinking about sacred knowledge and cultural appropriation.

I went to a rally to protest the closures of the aboriginal communtities in Western Australia. Thousands of people sat in the city centre, outside the main train station at Flinders St, in the middle of Friday night peak hour. There was a fire and the sacred leaves were burnt, creating a smoke that smudged the entire gathering. My friend and I, both pale redheads, are never going to pass as indigenous to this land, and yet we are passionate about standing beside our indigenous brothers and sisters as they fight to stay on their lands.

I didn’t bring a flag or even my click sticks, it just didn’t feel appropriate. I was standing in solidarity, not trying to be a token aboriginal. I haven’t had their experience, I don’t have their songlines and dreamings in my psyche and DNA, and it would be shallow of me to pretend I do.

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them. Henry David Thoreau

What I do have is a deepening connection to this land, and a greater respect and understanding for the continuous cultural traditions that have been maintained here over the last 50,000 years.

As I do with shamanism and druidry and the Hindu chakra system. I respect this wisdom.

I didn’t have the privilege of growing up in a cultural tradition like that. As many people these days, even our indigenous peoples, do not. This is, in part, my passion for this protest. Believing as I do in the interconnectedness of land and people, I cannot abide the idea that in this day and age we would still force our First peoples from their land. Enough damage has been done, I cannot stand by and watch more.

I absolutely believe to the core of my being that these land-based traditions hold the key for our sustainability as a human race. Not that we need to revert to the past, but we do need to acknowledge wisdom that has stood the test of time, that works.

There is no reason why ancient tradition and science and technology cannot support each other, cannot be mutually enhanced by interacting with each other.

Jason Kirkey writes in his wonderful book on the ecology of Celtic spirituality, The Salmon in the Spring, of the need for integration. We know our technological life is inherently lacking in spirit, and yet who of us wants to live without electricity and running water – only a small few.

The goal then is to integrate our technological advances with a renewed spiritual connection with the wilderness. Intrinsic to our soul is a deep need for this connection and only by honouring this can we bring the vision of a truly modern world – one that respects science, technology, nature and spirit – into being. Kirkey argues that evolution is the key, we cannot go backwards to a more primitive life, nor should we.

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Our evolution and continued viability as a life-enhancing species on this planet requires our ecological integration into the cosmos. The human being is at its most creative wholeness when it freely and effortlessly mediates its own realized wildness into the world. Jason Kirkey

The mantle bestowed on humans in collective evolution is our ability for self-reflective awareness. This is not ‘our’ intelligence per se, but rather the evolutionary process has blessed us with this capacity to be a “particular expression of an intelligence and subjectivity” present in the cosmos from the beginning. In the scheme of things, of nature, humans got the job of self-reflection.

Our purpose now is to integrate this reflective consciousness into a mode of living that is in harmony with the evolutionary functions of all life – and not contrary to it.

So, I am wondering, I am thinking aloud. How do we honour and respect traditional cultures, allow them to operate according to the sacred traditions, accept that some knowledge will never be ours because of tribal law, and yet be thankful for the knowledge that can be shared to further our development? Can we defer to the experience and wisdom of our First peoples, without the typical modern Western arrogant demand for proof and evidence first? (As if 50,000 years of practical experience isn’t enough evidence.)

Sure, let’s invite science in to learn more about why these practices work, but let’s not wait for science, but rather accept that there is a demonstrated body of evidence already to the veracity and power of indigenous wisdom.

Western civilisation needs a complete overhaul or it will fall apart one day or another. It has realised the most complete perversion of any rational order of things. Reign of matter, of gold, of machine, of number, it no longer possesses breath, or liberty, or light… As long as we only talk about economic classes, profit, salaries, and production, and as long as we believe that real human progress is determined by a particular system of distribution of wealth and goods, then we are not even close to what is essential. Julius Evola

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And for those of us who long for a framework within which to practice, can we incorporate the core principles of ancient wisdom, the ones that is is appropriate to share outside of strict tribal restrictions,  into a synthesised practice, one that acknowledges both the traditions and the reality of the modern world?

I too must be an estuary of confluent tides—
this earth-body of antlered thoughts,
the decay of leaves: my branching mind.
Tumbling with stones and salmon toward the sea,
the rivers of the Earth move through me. Jason Kirkey

Yes. I think we can. It’s already happening. It’s time to change the channel. To recognise that the money economy is only one possible construct of a limitless number under which we could live. And if it doesn’t work, we get to choose another.

Affirmations for the chakras:

I am grounded and connected with Mother Earth

I am in the flow of sensory experiences

I am taking up my rightful space in the world

I am open to love

I am expressing myself authentically

I am clear sighted and intuitive

I am experiencing my divinity and the divinity of all life

 

Bless!

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Images by RebelBam on deviantart

Sources:

Wheels of Life by Anodea Judith

Chakradance.com

Arvan Harvat’s Introduction to the Chakras

Embracing the dark

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How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also If I am to be whole. C.G. Jung

Sometimes I wish my brain had a flip-top and I could lift the lid and just pour in all the wisdom of the ages. That, or a plug-in upload, Matrix-style.

I know, I know my brain would explode, my mind would be fried…

It’s just, sometimes, let’s face it, most of the time, when I go to write a blog post, I feel so fired up about the subject, and yet so awed and humbled by all that I don’t know. It’s almost enough to stop me from writing. Almost, but not quite.

My time is limited, as a working mum, running a small business, writing blogs, and studying online courses, my research is dillentantish at best. I know, I know, I could just do less and research one thing and not get fascinated by new aspects of my journey every week, but, pfffft… Have you met me?

This is the pile of books I’m trying to absorb by osmosis as I write…

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As such, I find myself madly trying to absorb information and write and meditate on my subjects. I’m sure in time I’ll reflect back on this mess and chaos in bemusement, I hope I’ll be kind to myself for attempting all that I am, and remember that from chaos all things are born.

In fact, many of the dark mother goddesses, Sekhmet, Lilith, Hecate, and Kali were ‘born’ from variations of the concept/deity/state of Chaos. It is a force present at the conception of most ancient creation stories. Chaos is the great void, the un-manifest. All potential but no form. (Much like this post.)

So please accept my mental meanderings, they are definitely not the results of years of scholarly research and practice. They are the musings of a woman on fire.

A woman who has glimpsed her true nature and power. A woman who intends to waste no more time being small and meek and silent. A woman who is not afraid to get things wrong and make mistakes and ask obvious questions, or even write ill-conceived blog posts, if it opens a sacred door inside her and others. (Okay, well maybe she is sometimes afraid, but she’s doing it anyway.)

the way to create art is to burn and destroy ordinary concepts and to substitute them with new truths that run down from the top of the head and out of the heart. Charles Bukowski

So in my quest to understand the dark mother archetype, I plead to the goddesses for mercy, I mean no offence, my heart is pure. I want to know you better.

Crone-Goddess-© Susan-Seddon-Boulet-247x300

Chthonic “in, under, or beneath the earth”, from “earth,” The literal translation is ‘subterranean’. The translation of meaning discusses deities or spirits of the underworld, especially in Greek religion. The Greek word khthon is one of several for “earth”; it typically refers to the interior of the soil, rather than the living surface of the land (as Gaia or Ge does) or the land as territory (as khora (χώρα) does). It evokes at once abundance and the grave. Wikipedia

Chthonic. One of my most favourite words. That conglomerate of consonants sounds so dense and seductive. Like the earth herself. The wisdom that comes from deep, within the earth. We all come from the earth, from the raw materials that make all of life.

We are all mothers, creators. Even if we don’t reproduce actual humans, even if we don’t consciously create, every thought, breath and action is co-creating, contributing to the world.

And we are destroyers too. We bring death and destruction with our every breath, as our body shifts and transforms, cells die and are jettisoned to make way for new life.

Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction. Pablo Picasso

Why then do so many of us deny this aspect of humanity? And what effect is this denial having in the world?

The distinctions between the ideal attributes of the mother, and the attributes of the dark goddess seem, to me, to be a by-product of civilisation, of taming the natural cycles of life into nice, neat pigeon-holes. This delineation is certainly exaggerated in modern western culture, to the point where we whitewash, malign, or deny the dark mother archetype entirely.

Whatever is rejected from the self, appears in the world as an event. Carl Jung

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Yes. It’s a repeat of the first picture, I know. Just to save you have to scroll to look at it again…

Look at Kali Ma, isn’t she sexy? Can you imagine thinking the Virgin Mary was sexy? How many hail Marys and eternal damnations would that invoke?

Many religions have completely separated the ideal of the ‘good’ mother from the real woman, who actually has sex, who must balance light and dark, who may be loving and nurturing but also ready to destroy and battle at the drop of a hat. The mother who has a libido, who is lusty, luscious, and lascivious, whose sexual energy pours forth from her innermost being.

And when I say mother, I think of her in the sense of the maiden-mother-crone archetype. She is indicative of a phase of the feminine psyche, not the direct result of bearing children as such, although those attributes may also come into it.

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Kali is the goddess of empowerment, or shakti. It is said that after drinking the blood of Raktaveeja, Kali was so aroused by the battle that she could not stop her dance of destruction. The only way Shiva could stop her from destroying the whole universe was by lying down in her path.

In one version, as Kali stepped on his chest, he was in her way after all, she managed to arouse him enough to receive his seed and bring about his rebirth. In other versions he appears as a baby to arouse her maternal instincts and placate her.

Some say Shiva here represents the manifest, the stable. Kali comes along to destroy the status quo allowing change, transformation, regeneration. Kali is the creator of life, the destroyer of that which has served its purpose, and the re-creator of new life from the seeds of the old. Like a bushfire burning out old growth and triggering dormant seeds to grow.

Other interpretations read the scene as Kali and Shiva – the masculine and feminine energies – needing each other for balance. Gopi Krishna proposed that Kali standing on the dead Shiva symbolised the helplessness of a person undergoing the changing process (psychologically and physiologically) in the body when the Kundalini Shakti energy is awakened.

The urge to destroy is also a creative urge. Pablo Picasso

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Mother and destroyer. Nurturer, life-giver, and the taker of life. How do we reconcile these extremes of the dark goddess?

Perhaps they are only extreme to the modern reader.

In ancient times the great mother birthed us, we took refuge in her womb-like caves, and then returned to her earth when we died. Life and death were not seen as distinct and separate things, life to be sought after and death to be avoided, they were part of the natural cycle.

The human body is not a thing or substance, given, but a continuous creation. The human body is an energy system which is never a complete structure; never static; is in perpetual inner self-construction and self-destruction; we destroy in order to make it new. Norman O. Brown

Many of these ancient goddesses were conceptualised as triple-goddesses, manifestations of the various aspects of the feminine life-cycle and attributes, usually in the form of the maiden-mother-crone archetypes.

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I’ve been afraid of the dark. I have been raised to associated dark with evil. But that’s a dirty, rotten lie. We came from the dark of the womb and we return to the dark of the earth when we die.

And as I get older I am more fascinated with the dark goddess. Not satisfied at a soul level by just being a ‘good’ wife, mother, daughter. I feel compelled to investigate the full depth and breadth of my being. And I need to find a way to integrate and honour all aspects of being in a spirit of wholeness.

Life is fury, he’d thought. Fury — sexual, Oedipal, political, magical, brutal — drives us to our finest heights and coarsest depths. Out of furia comes creation, inspiration, originality, passion, but also violence, pain, pure unafraid destruction, the giving and receiving of blows from which we never recover. The Furies pursue us; Shiva dances his furious dance to create and also to destroy… This is what we are, what we civilize ourselves to disguise — the terrifying human animal in us, the exalted, transcendent, self-destructive, untramelled lord of creation. Salman Rushdie

Darkness can be beautiful, whilst excessive light can bleach out all nuance, shadows play with light to create the otherworld. It is only in the dark that we can see the spirit world, in the light there are too many distractions. In the dark our inner eye, our third eye, or ‘strong eye’ as the Australian aboriginals call it, can see with clarity.

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As someone who has been conditioned to believe in the light, in goodness, it has been a challenge for me to acknowledge, let alone accept, my shadow aspects.

Yet as I spend time in a darkened room journeying by candlelight, dancing the dance of the base chakra, following the roots of trees into the moist, dark earth, dancing with spirit animals in caves, and sitting in quiet meditation in the dark, I have been pleasantly surprised to find deep solace and respite there.

Think of the taoist concept of yin and yang. The nature of change, constant interaction, balanced in an infinite manner due to its relative nature.

I know, I know, I’m drawing on a hotch-potch of cultural influences here. But my point is that all traditional cultures recognised the natural way of balancing the energies of dark and light. There is not judgement about what is ‘better’ merely the recognition that balance is essential to the flow of life.

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When people see things as beautiful,
ugliness is created.
When people see things as good,
evil is created.
Being and non-being produce each other.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low oppose each other.
Fore and aft follow each other. Tao Te Ching

And as I research this blog, as I tried to find meditations and affirmations of embracing the darkness, I was not surprised to find a dearth of such things. There’s plenty of stuff about turning darkness and shadows into light, but what of embracing the dark and the shadows, of seeing what it has to teach us. Not so much of that…

If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth. Carl Sagan

I have been drawn to the images and stories of the dark goddesses; Sekmet, Kali, Morrígan, goddesses who revelled in blood and battle, and the fiery transformation of death.

In reading these myths and stories, it helps me to think of death, not only in the literal physical sense, but also in the sense of a dying to self. That process where we let go of old ideas, old versions of our self, to be transformed into something more vital, more alive with life-force.

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In my limited experience with these goddesses, that is the energy they bring. It’s a no holes-barred challenge, are you ready to face your fears, to grow, to let go of life’s detritus, to battle the forces of stasis and entropy?

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come. Joseph Campbell

A few moons ago a friend asked me to assist in a ritual to The Morrígan. I was a little wary, I mean I’m a white-lighter from way back, give me Brigid or Danu any day, but The Morrígan, she scares me. The ritual was both powerful and enlightening (en-darkening?) for me. I saw that my fear came from the suppression of the very qualities The Morrighan evokes.

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The Morrígan is a goddess of battle, strife, and sovereignty. The Irish sidhe (varieties of spirits) were shape shifters. Morrígan sometimes appears in the form of a crow, flying above warriors, and in the Ulster Cycle – one of the main stories that inform Celtic mythology – she also takes the forms of an eel, a wolf, and a cow. She is generally considered a war deity, although her association with a cow also suggests a role connected with the land.

She is often depicted as a trio of goddesses, all sisters, although the names vary, most commonly used are Badb, Macha and Nemain, or Badb, Macha and Anand.

In the Irish tradition, Miranda Green write that there is a very direct relationship between goddesses, sovereignty, and warfare, and that warfare and fertility seem closely aligned, suggesting a concept of giving and taking, birth and death and “the opening and closing of life.”

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Attending a Shaktipat ceremony last week, where we performed powerful pranayama (breathing) exercises, followed by an awakening of the kundalini energy, I found myself experiencing a powerful rising of energy from my belly, in a roomful of people who sounded as if they were having spontaneous orgasms! The energy was electrified with primal and ecstatic cries. I have never experienced anything like it, well, maybe once, but we won’t go there right now.

There is a time in my life where this would have completely freaked me out. However my chakra work allowed me to ride these waves of energy, and allow my own waves to undulate with snake-like grace through my energy body. It was truly blissful.

Since then, and with the constant preparation for the base chakra and sacral chakra dances for my Chakradance classes, I have been investigating the ‘belly’ as a primal and vital feminine energy centre.

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The belly contains our lower three chakras. The base, our instinctual and primal centre, the sacral our sensual and emotional centre and the solar plexus, our centre of will and power.

Of course, wanting to extend and expand on this experience, I have been reading about the belly, belly-dance, breath work, and tantric exercises. The belly is the birthplace of the body, but also our connection to the earth, to our sensual natures and to our powerful warrior natures.

By awakening the kundalini energy, we can experience flow through these chakras, uniting the earthy, dark, sensuality and fire of the lower chakras with the airy, light and etheric nature of the upper chakras. We can balance our dark and light energy and nature.

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Guided cave meditation – take a journey into a cave and see who you meet there…

Affirmations and reflections for embracing the dark goddess

Contemplate the Dark moon, the Great void, places of potential, of creative intention, not so much nothingness, but the space from which all creation comes.

See the darkness as a space of infinite possibilities. Visualise a force that creates, that transforms, and re-creates in a continuous cycle.

Imagine the darkness of a cave, of the womb, as a sacred space to explore hidden aspects of yourself.

Ask yourself:

What part of self am I denying?

What burdens am I carrying? 

What is weighing me down?

What can be burnt or destroyed?

What detritus is lurking in my heart?

Where am I stuck?

What is stopping me from living out loud?

Affirm:

I embrace the darkness within

I am unafraid to bear witness to my shadow self

I honour my pain, my grief, my scars

I am in the natural cycle of death and rebirth

I release all that is no longer needed to the fire of transformation

I honour my sensual, sexual, animal self

More than any other goddess, Kali has the power to free you from what keeps you stuck…. She appears fearsome to those who fear letting go of their veils, but when we’re open to her power, she is the mother, the teacher, the Lover. Sally Kempton

Bless!

Spider woman post

Read more…

The Manifestation of Kali as an Astrophysical Anomaly

Images:

Kali

Kali Breasfeeding 

Kali Dancing on Shiva

Lilith by Susan Seddon Boulet

Dark Goddess

Beauty and the Beast 

Morrigan

Moon Goddess

Crone Goddess by Susan Seddon Boulet

Diana by Susan Seddon Boulet

Oshun by Susan Seddon Boulet

Spider Woman

Patience, patience, patience, and faith

Nautilus-Shell-36The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea. Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

Ah the sea! Such a great teacher. If only I could be more like the sea. And herein lies my problem with life. I don’t wait patiently, openly, I’m always grasping, searching. I’m rarely choiceless. I almost always know exactly what I want, and what everyone else should want too, if I could just get my way, everything would be perfect.

I have never been ‘empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.’ I am always digging, wanting more, cutting open the goose that laid the golden egg.

Someone who resides deep in my heart called me on this behaviour during the week.- giving me great cause for reflection. And although it is always hard to be shown one’s shortcomings, I am grateful.

You see, I finally understand where I go wrong with the things I love. Not just with people, but with everything.

When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern. Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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I haven’t seen the gifts in my life as gifts from the sea, as serendipitous presents washed upon my shore. I have seen them as a Christmas present to be opened and devoured in one sitting. And even then found wanting and greedily exchanged for more stuff at the Boxing Day sales.

I haven’t just allowed things to unfold to me in their own time and way, I have always cajoled, pushed, pulled, manipulated, controlled, forced, or tried to anyway.

I’m like the proverbial kid in a candy store. Shovelling in as much as I can. There’s no savouring or appreciation of the bounty. There’s no faith that it will be there if I slow down and appreciate it, and that I don’t need to be so greedy.

But I am glad of the lesson, of truly seeing how my problem is, not so much in manifesting gifts in my life, it’s the lack of respect and faith I show them once they do appear.

I would like to say I’ll be different now, but it’s too soon for that. All I can hope is that I’ll be more aware, more conscious.

Don’t wish me happiness
I don’t expect to be happy all the time…
It’s gotten beyond that somehow.
Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor.
I will need them all. Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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As I reviewed my last post, through another’s eyes, I saw this greed and grasping. It wasn’t pretty. Here I was commanding that the universe must deliver my intentions, in my way, on my timeline or I would, what? Lose faith, give up?

In the face of a year that has brought gift after gift after gift, my arrogance, my lack of respect and appreciation, was astounding to me.

And in the past I would have beaten up on myself, but that too is not appreciating the gift. This insight, this perspective into my subconscious driving forces is a huge gift. And I won’t disrespect it. I won’t expect it to flood me and change me overnight into some more spiritual version of myself – whatever that means.

I know I can walk through the world, along the shore or under the trees, with my mind filled with things of little importance, in full self-attendance. A condition I can’t really call being alive. Mary Oliver

Even as I write there is the awareness that in a month, or a year, or an hour, this realisation will again shift and break apart into infinite drops of seaspray and become something else. And at some point I’ll hold on too tight to it, I’ll decide it could be improved somewhat, if it was more like this, less like that. And then it will slip through my fingers, like trying to hold onto water. But that’s okay too.

Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl?
Who has it, and who doesn’t?
I keep looking around me. Mary Oliver

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Scott Alexander King writes that spiritual knowledge, and the power that comes with it, must be approached with a committed, objective mindset. We cannot learn true wisdom in a weekend workshop, or a degree course. He says, “Before questing for spiritual attainment we must first dedicate ourselves to becoming a whole person; a process that involves surrendering our familiar self to Spirit, so our authentic self, hidden deep within, can emerge reborn.”

I think this is the real learning I am receiving from this year of intentions. I have been set on a course, but of course I was never going to reach my destination in this year. So rather than trying to tick off the boxes of my intentions, a greater gift is to see where those intentions have pointed me in new directions, where they have allowed my heart and mind to open to new and wonderful experiences, to where I have been fundamentally altered as a human being.

True wisdom must be deserved. It must be gathered over a lifetime of study and embraced as a way of life.  It must become a path of the heart explored with absolute devotion. We must be prepared to face our fears and conquer them and turn our weaknesses into strengths and our darkest hours into gifts of power.  Scott Alexander King

This week in our shamanic community, we have been journeying to connect with an element of nature. As I saw myself stepping outside onto my balcony, in my mind’s eye, a great tidal wave of water rushed toward me.

I was shown how water has always been with me, in childhood dreams I would lift a latch door in my bedroom floor which led me to the ocean, I would swim and meet water beings. I have many dreams of tsunami waves, of being engulfed, claimed by the sea.

This wave took me to the ocean where I swam with fish and sea turtles, and then to a river where I splashed and played with a group of otters. It was a very loving, healing, energy. The message from this water elemental is to be light and flow and play.

Water does not resist. Water flows. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does. Margaret Atwood

Nautilus-Shell-34I had a similar message from my upper world guide, who is a light being who took me to the farthest star in the universe. He took me to a crystal cave where there was a pool of water that was swirling in emerald green and azure blue healing waters.  The light being had me swim in the healing waters and told me to play, so I somersaulted and played with other light beings. It was so refreshing to my spirit!

In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans; in one aspect of You are found all the aspects of existence. Kahil Gibran

Spirit is telling me to lighten up, to be the light I want to see in the world, to play and laugh and be joyful. There is a time to be serious and solemn, but there is also the need for light heartedness.

In a subsequent journey with water. Water again came up onto my balcony and sucked me into it’s undertow. This time I became water. From water I evaporated into the sky. Raining down into a river, then emptied into the sea. Moving fast this time, I felt a little fearful of the power of water in full force.

Deep and rough ocean waves, huge and gray-green with dark depths beneath, crashed around me. Fear arose strongly in me, and as if in response to my fear, I was washed up on a beach where I sat and talked with water spirit/deity.

They communicated to me that there was no more fear to be felt in rough waves than calm waters. Water doesn’t fear the deep ocean more than the tranquil bay. Ego, attachment to form creates fear. Water has no attachment to form. It flows. It lets go. It trusts. I went back into deep ocean with this sense of trust. The experience became more excitement than anxiety. Deep, dark ocean depths roiled beneath me, and I sensed my unconscious there – there was much more of myself, of life, to explore. I felt a fear of my deepest darkest depths, and yet sensed its untapped power.

The sea can do craziness, it can do smooth, it can lie down like silk breathing or toss havoc shoreward; it can give gifts or withhold all; it can rise, ebb, froth like an incoming frenzy of fountains, or it can sweet-talk entirely. As I can too, and so, no doubt, can you, and you. Mary Oliver

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The weekend heralded the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. Solstice literally means ‘standstill’ and for three days the sun appears to rise at the exact same point on the horizon. This week leading to the Summer Solstice has been overwhelming for many. A reminder that the powerful solar fire energy can be harnessed for good or evil.

The idea of a standstill is a powerful one. So often, and particularly at this time of year, life becomes so busy and so focused on getting through the end of the year. and surviving Christmas, that we forget to slow down, to breathe, to check in with our emotional state. If the traffic on the roads are any indicator of this, we are all being thoughtless, impulsive and selfish.

The Solstice is a time when the energies of nature, of the otherworld are closest in communion to our ordinary reality. As such it is a wonderful time to commune with nature. In this way we can stop and stand still and breathe. We can experience that there is more to life than our fabricated sense of reality.

All night I heard the small kingdoms breathing around me, the insects, and the birds who do their work in the darkness. All night I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling with a luminous doom. By morning I had vanished at least a dozen times into something better. Mary Oliver

I celebrated the Solstice with a dance ritual on the Friday, Chakradance on Saturday and a druid ritual on Sunday.

We met at the grassy plain atop a cliff overlooking the ocean. Communing with the sun, earth, air and water we honoured the elements, the nature spirits and our own divinity, we made vows for the year to come. Then we feasted and swam in the ocean. It was a beautiful celebration of life’s rich bounty.

Coming home I took a bath and a deep sadness overwhelmed me. “Oh for God’s sake, when will I be free of this grief?” I exclaimed to the water.

I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable. Anne Morrow Lindbergh

My heart is opening. What greater gift could love bring me?

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Affirmations for healing your heart chakra by Natalie Southgate, founder of Chakradance

I am open to love and kindness.
I give and receive love freely.
My heart is full.
I forgive myself….
I have so much to be grateful for.
The love that I give comes back to me many times over.
I am connected with other human beings.
I am at peace.

Affirmations are positive messages for our inner self. It is always best to make affirmations personal, so use the affirmations above which really resonate with your inner self or create some of your own. Spend some time each day, either silently or out loud, saying and feeling these positive messages for your heart. Natalie Southgate

Bless!

Images by Kathy Morton-Stanion

Longing is so very long

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We can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them. George Eliot

Longing can be rather pleasurable when it’s for something nice that is coming our way. For a lover out of town, for a holiday, for Christmas, or a birthday. We call that anticipation.

Longing for things lost or seemingly out of reach is usually painful, sometimes poignantly so, infused as it is with memories or desires of something desirable, something loved.

If some longing goes unmet, don’t be astonished. We call that life. Anna Freud

There is another kind of longing. A ceaseless nameless variety that lurks in your soul like a spectre. Invisible, unseen, but always active, whispering inaudible desires. It is the sense of waking from a dream, not remembering its substance, but knowing it affected you greatly. A knowing, just out of reach.

I would love to live

Like a river flows,

Carried by the surprise

Of its own unfolding. John O’Donohue

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This longing is formless, nameless, seemingly for nothing in particular. And yet it comes in waves, crashing through your heart like the sense of a lost loved one. It is a deep yearning for something, as if the soul itself it crying out for what it so desperately needs.

They yearn
for a return
to the tender-heart
of earthy childhood loves;
of timeless days
dreaming within the lilacs,
soft toes touching
cold water flowing by. Frank MacEowen

Six weeks since my lover and I ended our relationship and I still wake most mornings with his phantom self nestled beside me in bed, cocooning by body, hands between my breasts. I have cried rivers over the longing I feel for him. Last week I thought I would drown in this emotional storm.

There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it. There is only an eternally new now that builds and creates itself out of the Best as the past withdraws. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

And yet I wonder if I had my memory erased, would I still long for him? No. Surely it’s a mental construct, based on an attachment to a memory.

There is the heat of Love, the pulsing rush of Longing, the lover’s whisper, irresistible—magic to make the sanest man go mad. Homer

Or is it? The Irish are renowned for their poetic sense of longing. It seems to be embedded in our DNA. Where does this longing come from? Is it the mind only, or is there a deeper soul longing? And if so, what can we do about it? It’s driving me a little nuts…

Although surrendering to our sacred longings can sometimes be quite a painful soul-stretching and soul-tempting process…our longing, with its unique quality and energy, is also a magical state to befriend, for it is a trustworthy guide. Frank MacEowen

Frank MacEowen, author of the Celtic Way of Seeing and The Mist-Filled Path, writes that longing has ‘an ancient allegiance to the evolution of our souls’. And that in our modern, particularly Western world, so many of us our cut off, are ‘exiled’ from our ancestral spiritual practices that would allow this soul longing a voice.

Exile is that undeniable sensation of being cordoned off from what is most essential to our souls. For many of us a kind of exile may lie at the very heart of our lives. It is an exile many people feel in the twenty-first century. It may express itself as an exile from nature, from ancestral traditions, from cultural homelands, or from spiritual lineages. Sometimes these lineages and traditions appear to be lost forever without the potential of reclamation, so the exile feels even more poignant. Frank MacEowen

Longing can be a gateway into a new world, or even the Otherworld, the realm the Celts believe the hidden folk – the fairies, elves and nature spirits dwell in. The realm from which poets, seers, and dreamers receive their fantastic visions and while away time living life through their hearts and imaginations’  eye. It’s only there the Otherworld can be glimpsed.

There is an unprecedented spiritual hunger in our times. More and more people are awakening to the inner world. A thirst and hunger for the eternal is coming alive in their souls; this is a new form of consciousness. Yet one of the damaging aspects of this spiritual hunger is the way it sees everything in such a severe and insistent light. The light of modern consciousness is not gentle or reverent; it lacks graciousness in the presence of mystery….When the spiritual search is too intense and hungry, the soul stays hidden. The soul was never meant to be seen completely. John O’Donohue

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I think for me, it’s about keeping the balance of longing in that lovely, dreamlike state of infinite possibility, but not allowing it to tip over too far into a grasping, desperate need.

At one stage last week, as I was putting away clothes and saw the dress I wore for my love’s birthday, I dissolved into yet another bout of weeping and I said to myself – you’re turning into DuckFace! You know, the character Hen from Four Weddings and a Funeral? Hugh Grant’s ex who dissolves into tears and remonstrations every time she sees him or someone mentions his name. Not really the vibe I was going for!

The soul is not in the body, the body is in the soul. This is not easy to understand or to live. But we must try. If we don’t, we circumscribe our life and greatly reduce the ways we know our souls, we strengthen the Great Split between us and creation. Tom Cowan 

I confessed to my love that I was feeling this anguish and longing. His practice is to offer his pain and hardship to the goddess as an offering, as an acknowledgement that we owe a great debt of life, for life itself, and this can be our sacrifice to that debt of gratitude.

This really resonated with me. I didn’t want to wail and moan like a child who didn’t get her way. I want to navigate life with this kind of grace and dignity and acknowledgement of being a part of the Great Song, and only ever getting glimpses of my part in this, but having faith nonetheless.

In the initiation to the Bardic Grade of the Druidic Order, we are asked if we accept both life’s hardships and suffering and life’s blessings.

Holding my suffering out to the Gods as an offering felt noble and honourable. It feels that I was honouring the work of the soul, to be expansive and allowing of life.

Following our soul-longing deep into the underworld is the path of seeking a vision of our dán (soul-gift), and opening ourselves to more expansive and conscious ways of life, rooted in the mysteries of soul. Jason Kirkey

Many heart meditations later, the grief shifted and even though my phantom lover is still with me, the hurt and suffering has lessened considerably.

Dancing the Heart Chakradance is a beautiful release of this love-longing energy.

The dance unites the masculine sky energy with the feminine earth energy, uniting through the bridge of our human form, in the heart chakra. I believe the soul expresses itself through our heart, well, through our whole energetic system, but I feel the longing of the soul manifests in the heart.

Louise Hay says “your longing is your calling.” My longing has called me to write this blog, to publish seven intentions I long for:

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1. Home

2. Community

3. Purpose

4. Vibrant health

5. Abundance

6. Joy

7. Love

 

And this journey to follow these intentions has brought a multitude of blessings into my life. A sense of place and purpose, a community (or two!), health and vitality, abundance, joy, and love. My longing propelled me to discover Chakradance, shamanism, druidry. To experience the sovereignty of self that is only found journeying to the soul.

The soul possesses an ineffable intelligence that cannot be controlled. Like the mist, the soul, we might say, has a mind of its own. It cannot be forced, directed, or squeezed into a box where it does not belong. It cannot even be fully seen or perceived, for the soul is a timeless, feathered thing that flies in more worlds than one. Frank MacEowen

My soul called to me through my longing to reconnect with my love. Yes, we are no longer romantically involved, but we have a beautiful and rich friendship that nurtures and sustains us both.

So instead of gnashing my teeth and wailing in the face of this longing, I embrace it. I climb aboard that boat on the mist-filled river and let it take me where it needs to go.

So come to the pond,

or the river of your imagination,
or the harbour of your longing,
and put your lips to the world.

And live
your life. Mary Oliver

Affirmations on longing by Dee Walters:

I give thanks that:
I am fulfilling my longing for spiritual attainment
I am fulfilling my longing for a healthier existence with exercise and a good diet
I am living in the present moment and I shall not waste it on the days gone by

End your affirmation by saying:

“I give thanks that this or something better is in the Divine
flow of my life and is manifesting perfectly for me now
according to the Divine will of [the Universe].” by KG Stiles

Bless!

 

Images:

The Mists of Avalon by prairiekittin

Paintings by Herbert James Draper

You’re not broken

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We are the sum of our ancestors
Our roots stretch back to blue-green algae
They stretch to the stars
They ultimately reach the void
This history is inscribed in our psyches
Silence and solitude enjoin us to remember
Our whole and great body. Joan Halifax

You’re not broken. You don’t need fixing. There’s nothing wrong with you. If you could just sit with yourself, and feel your true nature, and love yourself as you are. If you could love yourself so much that all the fragments, all the broken off pieces of yourself would come flooding back to be in the majesty of your being.

Find what is natural, not what is normal. Panache Desai

I am fascinated at the moment with the Arthurian Legends, the priestesses to the Goddess, the knights, the shamanic magic of Merlin, I am currently reading at least different three books about it.

The ‘Mists of Avalon’, as with all Arthurian Tales, present many archetypes of woman. The difference in their fates appears to be an issue of power. Those who felt abused by life ended up in the convent finding peace in God’s forgiveness. Those who acted in the service of the Goddess stayed powerful and active in the world. Then there were those who were destroyed by a selfish desire for power.

How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also If I am to be whole. C.G. Jung

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Is is possible that we can reframe trauma to be seen as a service to the Goddess? Not the inflicting of the trauma itself, but the life force that keeps us going on, striving towards wholeness. Or if you prefer a less religious version, as a pathway to individuation of the Self.

For me, when I feel hopeless and broken this idea brings great comfort. It is becomingly increasingly apparent to me that I have reached a fork in the road where I can see myself as damaged and in need of constant healing, and suffering in irredeemable pain. Or I can walk the path of power, that there is nothing wrong with me, that all this pain and healing and awakening has led me to a place where I can guide myself and others along the path to wholeness.

When I stand before thee at the day’s end, thou shalt see my scars and know that I had my wounds and also my healing. Rabindranath Tagore

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As is my want, I am reading several books at the moment. It is a strange practice that walks a fine line between powerful cross-pollination of ideas and total confusion.

I have picked up Vagina:A Biography by Naomi Wolf where I left off – namely at the part where it ceased to be an “oh wow!” journey into the wonder of the female sexual nervous system and forayed into some – truly frightening – anecdotal evidence of the degree and longevity of the effects of sexual trauma on physiology and psychology. Not to mention on mental wellbeing, sexuality, and creativity.

Simultaneously I am reading Jungian and mythological accounts of the Arthuriam legends, and about shamanic soul retrieval.

The discipline of creation, be it to paint, compose, write, is an effort towards wholeness. Madeleine L’Engle

As such there is a melting pot of ideas in my mind – which fuelled by some celtic inspired rituals to the triple goddess has inspired me to purse this nexus of goddess power/shamanic soul retrieval and psychic healing from sexual trauma, and all it’s associated long-term issues for a person’s mind, body and spirit.

There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness. Thomas Merton

Naomi Wolf travelled to Sierra Leone in 2004 at the height of the civil war. She visited a camp where literally hundreds of women – who had suffered brutal sexual trauma at the hands of soldiers – were housed. Jimmie Briggs – founder of the anti-violenece organisation ‘Man Up’ – wrote that the victims of sexual trauma seemed more affected in some ways that any other trauma of war, he says, “It is as if the light has gone off in their eyes.”

grilmirrorwolfWolf also writes about a condition called Vulvodynia – a condition I suffered from for many years during my late teens and early twenties, undiagnosed beyond being told “it was all in my head.” Turns out it was in my head, not psychosomatic as the doctor suggested to me, but a condition of the nervous system, which affects the pelvic nerve, causing painful sex as well as affecting general wellbeing.

Wolf writes that sufferers of this condition also present as if the “light has gone out of them.” Often expressing a lack of will to live.

Wolf hypothesises that damage to a woman’s pelvic nerve has an effect on their neurological function, affecting vitality, depression, and even their will to live.

Why do we describe a distraught person as being ‘beside himself’? Because the ancients believed that soul and body could part, and that under great emotional stress the soul would actually leave the body. When this happened a person was ‘beside himself. Dictionary of Word Origins

I wonder if it’s possible to heal these women, whose “light has gone out of their eyes”, even those who have been so damaged by rape and sexual trauma that the very fabric of their being has been torn?

This description of the light going out of their eyes, speaks to me of soul loss, and I say that as someone who has experienced trauma and depression and a loss of hope. I also speak as someone who has found healing and path to wholeness again.

As twee as it may sound – to those who haven’t experienced the journeying practice – I wonder can shamanic healing and dancing life into their souls through Chakradance and moving meditations help these victims of trauma? I believe it can. I believe Chakradance can be a gentle, loving, and self-managed soul retrieval process.

So what is soul retrieval?

Shamanic journeying varies slightly from culture to culture but it is a system of healing that has been continuously in use for over 40,000 years.

Shamans divide the spiritual cosmos into three worlds; the Upper World, the Middle World, the Lower World. A missing soul essence may be found in any of these worlds. Shamans most often use the beat of the drum to take them into an altered state of consciousness and carry them in spirit flight into the hidden universe of these worlds. Once there, they meet with their helping spirits, power animals and spirit teachers. It is the spirits who then lead the shaman to the places where lost soul essences are found. Working hand in hand with their spirits, the shaman retrieves the lost soul and carries it back to the person who is awaiting its return. The soul is sung back, blown into the body and welcomed home in a beautiful ceremony. Beth Beurkens

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Journey work is done by entering a meditative or trance-like state, a theta brain wave state, through the use of repetitive drumming or other percussive sounds, singing, chanting, bells rattles or dancing. In this state we can journey to non-ordinary reality, to the realms of spirit, where we can communicate with guides, power animals and reclaim lost parts of our spirit.

Being able to engage with the realms outside of what we call our life is the role of the shaman. Our vast Universe and our expansive life is made up of layers upon layers of energetic realms. It is within these realms that energies can get lost, trapped, bogged down or wounded. Our soul, when faced with tremendous pain, suffering, loss, trauma or fear, can often retreat in an effort to protect, to hide or to grieve. The roots to our soul loss can go deep into our life story and often we find it challenging to trace them to the cause of our unbalance on our own. Lisa Meade

Soul retrieval, one aspect of journeying, addresses the idea of soul loss. The idea being that those of us who have experienced trauma, particularly early childhood trauma, especially where our physical body was violated or threatened, may have had a soul-splintering experience, where parts of our soul literally fled to the far reaches of the universe, and stayed there.

Soul loss deepens when we fall into depression or addiction or make compromises with the world as we understand it, giving up on our big dreams of life. Lacking the courage and confidence to make that creative leap, or to trust ourselves to love, we wimp out – and part of our bright spirit, disgusted with us, goes away. Robert Moss

Sandra Ingerman writes that in psychology this state is called disassociation, but little attention is paid to where the self goes, or how to get it back. Rather it is viewed more as a psychological pattern of coping with trauma.

The main symptoms of soul loss are issues with personal power, difficulties with healthy boundaries, loss of vitality, or even loss of the will to live.

When we talk about soul we are really talking about light. In returning the soul parts and lost vitality to the client we are really returning light. Sandra Ingerman

One of the many techniques a shaman uses – in addition to singing, chanting, howling, yipping, dancing, stomping, waving leaves around, and smudging you with smoke and essences, it’s a very noisy, vibrant experience – is to blow the spirit into your being. As a passionate devotee of yoga and the Vedic wisdom that ‘breath is life’ I really like this idea.

If you’re not familiar with the practice of shamanic soul retrieval watch this explanation and demonstration by Daniel Leonard:

Try this soul retrieval practice for yourself on Tai Carmen’s blog post on Soul Retrieval – you’ll have to scroll down for the practice, but the whole post is worth a read.

When you pray, you visit the kind innocence of your soul. This is a pure place of unity which the noise of life can never disturb. You enter the secret temple of your deepest belonging. Only in this temple can your hungriest longing find stillness and peace. John O’Donohue

dreaming-with-horse-spiritAffirmations for wholeness by Trina Brunk:

I welcome all my feelings. I am willing to receive my soul’s communication through my feelings. I am whole and my feelings are part of my wholeness.

I give thanks for the blessing of life and all the loving support I receive from my forebears. I give back what is not mine.

With every breath I easily release attachment to emotions. The emotions of others have no effect on me. I experience balance and wholeness on all levels of my being. I am at peace.

I release my attachment to being right. I trust the flow of life and I effortlessly, joyously allow it to carry me. I empty my mind and enter the silence and here I am blessed, replenished and healed.

I no longer defend against knowing what I know, seeing what I see, experiencing what I experience. I accept my wholeness. In my undefended innocence I am whole.

Forgive me my blunt assertions in this post, forgive my contradictions. I mean no offence to those who suffer – all these ideas are nascent and unformed. They spring from a hope and a desperate desire to believe there is the potential for wholeness for myself and all people who desire to be restored to their true vitality, no matter how great their suffering.

Bless!

 

Sources:

Soul Retrieval by Sandra Ingerman

Soul Retrieval by Tai Carmen

Vagina: A biography by Naomi Wolf

The Shaman’s Way by Michael Harner

 

Images:

Spirit Of Fire

Shamanic_Soul_Retrieval_Reiki

shamanic-soul-retrieval

dreaming-with-horse-spirit

mending

women in mirror

 

Courageous intention

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I want to get the words “Courage” and “Bravery” tattooed across my back, so people could associate me with those things, as they read them while they chase me. Jarod Chintz

My friend who does reiki has me choose an oracle card at the end of a healing session – she and I have a big thing for oracle card decks – and I chose ‘Courageous Intention.’ I still get excited when things have the word intention in them. Since I’ve been writing this blog, anything to do with intentions feels like synchronicity and it has to get a mention.

I have talked a lot about intention in this blog already. So then, what of courage? It’s easy to think of physical strength, of bravery, or acts of valour. It’s easy to think of saving people from burning houses or dangerous waters, but what of us ordinary folks? Are we not courageous too? Those of us on the other end of the spectrum from the adrenaline junkies, whose hearts race when a door slams, or a harsh word is spoken, what does courage mean for us?

Courage is grace under pressure. Ernest Hemingway

One of my biggest fears all throughout my life was being discovered as a phoney. Apparently it’s a very common fear for people to have – wish someone had told me THAT sooner. Basically I judge myself via an internal filter of all my past experiences, doubts and insecurities, whilst others judge me by my external actions.

When I was younger, in my rebel-without-a-clue phase, I had great, lofty intentions, but shitty actions. Now my actions are, generally, pretty commendable, but because my thoughts and insecurities don’t match up, I feel like a fraud.

In fact, when people compliment me, my most common reaction is to think “if only they knew…”

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Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu

If they knew what? That my (clean) laundry pile nearly takes up a whole room? That I yell at my kid sometimes, that I slack off at work at times, that I’m really quite lazy, that no matter how good I do something, I always know I could have done BETTER?

As a kid when I’d show my folks something I’d done – cleaned my room, polished my shoes –  the family joke was to say “the army wouldn’t accept it, but I will.” Or my dad, when I got 98% on my English exam, quipped “Where’d you lose the two percent? There’s some room for improvement right there.” Now my brother grew up in the same house and his self-esteem is just fine, so I’m not blaming my parents. I’m just primed too take things way too personally and seriously.

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow. Mary Anne Radmacher

Yesterday, I had a difficult conversation with someone I care very deeply about, someone I love. And they told me this constant self-pity about how I could have done better, not only does it damage me, it also denies the other person any chance to have their own feelings, because I make everything my fault.

When I heard this, I felt a familiar reaction. It’s a reaction I have to feeling I’ve done something bad, that I’m not good enough. I call it ‘retreating’, some may call it disassociation. It’s like I start to disappear.

Recently, on the night of the lunar eclipse, I was posting on Facebook that the original Greek word for ‘eclipse’ comes from the word for ‘abandonment’. Literally the ancients thought the moon has abandoned them. A friend told me of a Clarissa Pinkola Estes recording that covered this concept, so I downloaded it. Warming the Stone Child:
 Myths and Stories About Abandonment and the Unmothered Child by Clarissa Pinkola Estes Ph.D.

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Estes describes the effect I described as ‘collapse’ – it’s the best description I’ve ever heard for what happens to me in these situations.

Collapsing is a syndrome where when someone is angry or being negative towards you, instead of staying strong and present as an adult, you go into a psychic regression, get hooked into old feelings, feeling worthless, unprotected, not knowing what to do next, wishing to be invisible, even wishing you would die to avoid the pain of rejection and separation that you feel, the abandonment that is triggered. Instead of acting sanely in relation to the present circumstances, you journey to a horrible place in the past and react from the feelings of that place.

I should point out that being an ‘unmothered’ child is not always about ‘bad’ mothering. It can be due to illness, either the child’s or the mother’s which results in physical or emotional separation or affects bonding at pivotal developmental stages in the child’s life. It can be due to traumatic childhood experiences. Whatever the cause, the effect is often a gaping need, an insatiable desire for love in adult life.

That psychic secret is – in order to grow the internal mother, you have to be willing to be decent and good to yourself. The more you are willing to accept self-love, self-respect, it doesn’t matter if your ears stick out or your hair stands up or if you’re too short or too wide, too tall or too fat, it doesn’t have anything to do with that. It has to do with caring about all the things that you are, you can have favourites, you can have some lesser parts then others, but a caring for all the things you are. THAT is what develops the inner mother and you can actually feel her grow and see her grow, before your very eyes–to accept your own love and your own respect, and regard for yourself. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

So yesterday I made a pact with myself not to ‘collapse’. I breathed deep into my chest and focused on being fully present in the moment. I was proud of myself for that. And I thought of this idea of mothering. I mean who has been perfectly mothered? Sometimes our personalities just don’t lend themselves to being nurtured.

Is there even such a thing as perfect nurture? Jung argued that effect of our personal mother on us stems from the power of the mythological mother archetype, not just our own mother’s nature.

So how do we engage this mother archetype within us? What will bring out the ‘inner mother’ – that nurturing force – in our psyche?

What will is to have guidance, the guidance of intuition, the guidance of common sense, the guidance of consciousness. Consciously knowing what we’re made of, what we’re capable of, what our good points have been- what our bad points – and guiding ourselves through life with that knowledge. That is the deepest internal mothering that you can ever have. And if you are an unmothered child THAT is what was missing in your upbringing. But have heart. No matter what happened to you – that light still lives inside of you. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

The Mother archetype is embedded within all of us. In it’s most primal and nurturing form, it is Mother Earth, the sense of homecoming, of nurture, security, love and the root of life itself. She holds great power over our sense of security, for the mother can also be devouring and destructive – her storms may leave death and destruction in their wake. The Mother can provide sustenance or deny it.

Just as Corn Mothers smite the land by withholding crops (which results in death), so do some Mothers symbolically “smite” their children by withholding love, attention, and communication. The Mother who gives the “silent treatment” or isolates their children as punishment withholds their nurturing, life-giving love. Symbolically, this is much like the famines in the Corn Mother mythos. This withholding stunts the emotional growth of children and—if severe enough—damages them irrevocably. Janet Boyer

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When we lose our grounding in life, and collapse into our ‘Victim’ archetype, we have lost contact with the self-sustaining power of the Mother archetype. Many people go through life believing they have to have someone, or something, take care of them and their needs in order to survive. At it’s extreme is the victim mentality.

For me it was chasing the feel good, as an addict, I sought the soothing warmth of escape. Alcohol, drugs, food, sex, anything to dull the raging storms. Feeling the world was unsafe, I cocooned myself in an all consuming chemical hug.

These issues – seeking security and stability – are very much at the core of the base chakra energy. Here we can connect with the mother archetype through connection with Mother earth itself.

Located at the base of the spine at the coccyx bone, the Root or Base Chakra is said to govern your energetic expression of self-preservation, personal survival, integrity, and your identification with the physical world, including your own body. It represents your sense of security and safety in the world. It influences your adrenals, kidneys, muscles, and arterial blood. It is the foundation of energy in the body. It manifests strongly in the motivation to ensure personal survival by way of food, rest, shelter, and sexual expression.

Called Muladhara in Sanskrit, which means root support, the base chakra is like the root system of a tree, the foundation of your entire chakra system. Without a strong base chakra, your entire chakra system can be compromised.

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The root chakra reflects your inherited family and societal beliefs from your formative years. Think of it as your tribal chakra, connecting you with the collective wisdom and vibe of your tribe. If there was instability or trauma during your formative years, and you learnt to view the world as an unsafe place, then issues of survival, emotional dysfunction, fear of abandonment, fear of letting go, scarcity, poor boundaries, anxiousness, and restlessness, may affect you. You may feel as if you have no real home, that you cannot settle in and feel safe in the world. Or you may have a fear of any change to your sense of security.

The upper chakras in most people were waiting for the foundation below them to be strong enough to support their opening. The wounds to the lower chakras were common: physical and sexual abuse, oppressive power dynamics, betrayal of the heart. Anodea Judith

When our root chakra energy is in balance, the Mother – the nurturer – is balanced with the Victim – the one in need of nurturing. The root chakra concerns itself with our basic survival needs, food, shelter, warmth, care. It defines the grounds of our basic well being. It is the foundation of our being. It is our anchor.

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It takes courage…to endure the sharp pains of self discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives. Marianne Williamson

I think it’s all too easy to expect perfection as the reward to doing inner work. That’s not my experience. the more I look within, the more murk I find. The courage then, comes from continuing the work knowing this. From not avoiding those “sharp pains of self-discovery.” For some of us, for whatever reasons, life is incredibly thorny. It’s sharp points catch us as we move along, sometimes they are small nicks, other times we can become hopelessly entangled in thorns and need a lot of help to get free.

For me it’s time to stop judging my progress. I’m not a total phoney, nor am I perfectly authentic. If I were, where would be the courage? Courage lives in the face of fear. I fear being exposed and judged and found wanting, and yet I keep putting myself out there. Writing this blog, launching my Chakradance business, the more I expose myself, the greater the risk of rejection, but also the greater the chance of connection and intimacy.

Besides what choice do I have? I have already put myself out there, and now I just keep trudging ahead.

Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads. Erica Jong

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Affirmations for the base chakra and mother archetype:

I am strong, safe, and secure in the world. All my needs are being met for my ultimate wellbeing. I am fully integrated in all aspects of my being. My body supports me. I love every part of my body. I am filled with energy and vitality. I am home.

Abandonment is a common pattern we all carry. Humans have a primal need to be safe and secure. Traditionally, abandonment by the mother or the tribe meant certain death. We are primed to protect ourselves through inclusion by the family and the tribe. When the tribe has failed to protect us in some way, the psychic damage continues to resonate in our lives, consciously or unconsciously. It may not be a big factor for some, but for others it feels like an overwhelming burden.

Going within, doing inner work, it is so easy to feel self-indulgent and self-absorbed. I mean, what good does this bring to the world? I’m not saying what I do is the apex of courage, nor is it the quintessential journey for everyone. But for whatever reason, for me, it has been, and continues to be, my journey. I intend to honour this inner journey and trust that in some way I don’t have to understand it will be of service to others. This is my courageous intention.

Bless!

 

Images of Found Objects Mandalas:

Matt W Moore Utah Mandala Mosaics

Persephone Sunset on Tumblr

Matt W Moore Utah Mandala Mosaics

Matt W Moore Utah Mandala Mosaics

Louise Gale Mandalas

Matt W Moore Utah Mandala Mosaics

 

Calling in your community

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Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. Franz Kafka

The older I get the more amazed I become at how crude our attempts at communication are. And by ‘our’ I mean humans, in general. I mean, we’ve been doing this communicating thing for a long time, and yet there is still so much misunderstanding in the world. Sometimes, this is a result of blatant misinformation, say in the worst of advertising or politics, where obscuring the truth for personal, political, and monetary gain, is rife.

But what of the majority of us people, out in the world trying to be the best we can, and often finding ourselves baffled by how much people misunderstand us. Or is that just me? Please say it isn’t so!

I have often felt misunderstood by other people, when in fact, it was my communication that was not clear. A lack of clarity which seems to stem from inner confusion and lack of integrity to my truth. My communication becomes wobbly and unclear when I am internally conflicted about what I am saying.

Obviously I am a good communicator at times – hopefully you understand what you are reading right now.

For me, it is in the deeply personal, emotionally-charged issues, or in areas where I feel insecure or doubtful, that my communication wanes. It is literally as if the power goes out of my self-expression, and I am speaking in dull whispers that people just don’t hear. As such I realise the power of communicating resides in me. When my personal power, confidence, and self belief is strong, my communication is clear. When my inner energy is weak or unresolved, my communication becomes like static white noise and it is indecipherable.

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I had a perfect example this week, where I felt other people had either not heard something I had expressed, or had failed to grasp its importance and consigned this – deeply precious – knowledge about me, in a file marked “extraneous stuff about…”

Fortunately I have done enough personal work in this area to no longer assign blame to the other person. I may feel hurt, that’s fair enough, then I ask myself if perhaps the communication block originates in me.

Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.William Faulkner

I think very few people are great communicators, but gee, you know it when you meet one. They clarify everything, and you just know they hear what you meant to say, and you heard what they meant to say. It’s magic. And not coincidentally, they are usually people of great integrity and clear inner vision.

We all have our programmed communication nuances, from our culture, our families, our schools, even the TV we did or did not grow up watching. Add to that issues of shyness, depression, various buried neuroses, prejudices, and shadow aspects, and whoa mama! It’s a whole melting pot of murky and mixed signals out there!

Possibly we are not clearly saying what we think we are saying, and even if we are, the other person is probably hearing what they think they are hearing, not what we are actually trying to say. Did you get that? Geez…

This is why I love the dance of the vissudha, the throat chakra. The dance of communication, self-expression, and truth. In some ways it is the chakra I have had the most powerful awakening in. As someone who would have preferred to hide from the world and its rough edges, having the dharma of a writer and teacher has not allowed that. I had to learn to communicate better.

This is a great visual and sound healing for the throat chakra. It’s quite hypnotic!

Speaking of communication, I launched my Chakradance business this week. YAY! Which consisted of me finishing my website and promoting my chakradance classes. Check it out here: http://www.rawmojo.com.au

All this is very consistent with the throat chakra, and its theme of communication. Bringing my business vision into the world happens through the gateway of communication. So I am writing, publishing and talking about my venture.

In my chakra-based business plan, I explored the throat chakra with the following themes and question:

Throat chakra – Communication – Creativity – Expression. How can I authentically express my vision?

It is becoming really clear to me that business is about two interrelated things: providing something that fulfils a need in your community, and relationships. Relationships are about communication. So the ability to communicate clearly is vital to success in life at the personal and vocational levels.

As I said before, I am seeing how vital it is to my communication that I am clear and clean about my intentions and desires with myself. When I speak from my genuine enthusiasm for Chakradance, people connect to that energy and are enthused.

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To cram in as much practice for when I start Chakradance classes in a couple of weeks, I’ve been chakradancing almost every day. It’s not a chore, in fact, the more I do it, the more excited I become at the prospect of this being my service to others.

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. Buddha

My passion for Chakradance has many positive flow-on effects. This works at a number of levels. It begins with my personal practice, and the benefits I receive from Chakradance. Then, it involves me communicating this from a place of enthusiasm. I teach for the sake of enabling others to experience the joy and healing that I have.

Removing profit motives from my business vision, I focus on calling in my community. What does that mean?

The concept of calling in my community came to me as I danced the throat chakra. It feels like good old-fashioned word of mouth. I talk to and teach people, and then they talk to others about their experience, they bring their friends out of love and a desire to share something beautiful.

My insight in the dance was very strong – I must not push or force my vision into reality. I must allow this to grow at it’s own pace. People will come to classes when it is right for them. The very next day a friend messaged me to say she had booked herself and three friends into the class.

I am also beginning to see Chakradance as my main spiritual practice. I have always longed for a practice that consolidated all my disparate beliefs and rituals and techniques. Chakradance does that really well.

Its combination of Indian Vedic wisdom – which I have been drawn to since I was a child listening to the Beatles – Jungian psychology, colour, crystals, plants and flower essences, shamanic dance and vision journeying, and recognition of angels, guide and gods, and goddesses. It really has everything I have ever loved and found useful and healing for myself.

I am also seeking a clarity for my spiritual practice. For so long I have taken bits and pieces from many disciplines and traditions, but I have a strong yearning, a calling, if you will, to find a discipline I can call my own. I have the breadth, now it’s time for the depth of practice.

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So I am using my chakradance practice as a kind of vision quest. I am actively asking to be shown my spiritual path, and I am receiving lots of visions.

After last week’s vision in the third eye meditation class, I have been very aware of archetypal images cropping up in my life.

After I asked for this guidance, for 3 days straight I kept seeing a business van with the name ‘Celtic’ painted on it. I literally saw it twice a day, going to and from work, in different streets each time. It was not until I said aloud “okay, I get it, Celtic” That I stopped seeing it.

My visions in the past around the throat chakra have been three women in robes chanting, and three pillars or columns.

This week I have been seeing these images a lot. As is always the case when archetypal images emerge. Like the Celtic van, suddenly they are everywhere. It makes sense to me, since the brain functions as a filter to information – so we literally only see a small percentage of the stimulus around us.

Yet when our subconscious is speaking to us – especially when we have expressed a conscious desire for that to happen – these archetypal images are registered in our mind, and become like a constantly beating drum, reminding us of some vital information our subconscious wants us to have.

I discovered Artemis is associated with three pillars. Three pillars – representing the triple Great Goddess – maiden, mother, crone, and the phases of the moon. She was also a virgin goddess, which ties in nicely with the theme of purity, associated with the throat chakra.

As a read more about shamanic practice, I have a feeling that much of this information that comes from our subconscious is retrieved  at a level our conscious mind doesn’t comprehend. So even though these images may seem disparate and meaningless to my mind, that doesn’t mean they are. It may be information that is being stored and will become meaningful to me at some future time. The famous ‘AHA!’ moment.

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Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is. Joseph Campbell

Vissudha, the sanskrit works for the chakra literally means purification.

In the throat chakradance, we chant and sing to cleanse the throat chakra, and enhance our ability for self-expression.

Recently, I have been investigating the interplay between the chakras and the endocrine system. Whilst some of the connections seem a little nebulous, the link between the throat chakra and the thyroid glands is quite established.

The thyroid gland is located in the lower neck, and helps to regulate the metabolism.

An overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, is caused by an overproduction of thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones. Both conditions have serious health implications.

According to Anodea Judith, when issues of self‑expression and communication cause the throat chakra to be imbalanced, thyroid problems can result.

Triggers as subtle as noise pollution, criticism, an environment of dishonesty, and stifled creativity can cause imbalance in this chakra.

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Just as the thyroid assists in physical metabolism, the throat chakra metabolizes and moves energy between all the chakras.

Tracey LeBeau says the signs of imbalances in the Throat Chakra are – depending on whether the chakra is over-active or under-active – are either talking too much, or not speaking up. So either listening more, to sounds that soothe this chakra, or speaking up more, sometimes by practicing difficult conversations aloud, will help realign this chakra.

The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud. Coco Chanel

Chanting and humming, listening to vibrational sounds are among the best ways to clear and balance this chakra.

This is another beautiful meditation to clear away chakra blockages. I suggest just listening to it with your eyes closed, it’s not very visually exciting!

Enjoy exploring this chakra with colour and crystals too. Anything in the light to mid-blue range will resonate with the throat chakra. Wear a bright blue scarf. And get outside under that blue sky, imagine your vissudha expanding to the far reaches of the sky, resonating with the blue light of purity, harmony, truth and creativity.

Affirmations on the throat chakra by Chakradance founder Natalie Southgate:

“I can speak freely”

“What I say has value”

“I can express myself”

“I am heard.”

“Creativity flows through me.”

“It is my essence to create.”

“When I listen I hear the truth.”

“I am able to speak to others clearly and eloquently.”

“It is good, right, and safe for me to express my true essence.”

“My truth is necessary.”

“I allow my essence to express itself in my life.”

 

Bless!

 

Sources:

Stressed Thyroid Glands and Yoga

The Throat Chakra and the Body

 

Title Image: Throat Chakra Vissudha by Rebelbam

Blue Lady

Vissudha

Light Blue Lady

Lettera Amorosa by Georges Braque

Blue Mandala

 

Third eye blind

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Reality leaves a lot to the imagination. John Lennon

I’m conducting a little experiment. It’s 6:30pm. I’m in bed with the laptop – “writing” – and I don’t want to go anywhere. I especially don’t feel like driving across town to sit in a group of people, and meditate on my third eye chakra.

I feel grumpy and hormonal. Anti-social even.

I don’t like the world today. It’s full of petty bureaucrats and mean tram drivers and freak accidents happening to lovely people. (And that’s just my life, I know there’s a whole world of problems out there. Do not go there.)

I just don’t wanna play.

And I’m just coming down from the heady emotional highs of the week. You see, I fell deeply in love, with my newborn niece. Alba.

She’s exquisitely beautiful, and triggered an outpouring of love quite uncharacteristic of my family. And well I rode that love tsunami for most of the week.

Somehow, amongst such joy,  my monkey mind started on the whole idea of me and babies. I mean I thought I was done, done, DONE with that. But holding that precious new life, well, it got me thinking.

I’m nearly 42. I’m still fertile, I think. But not for much longer. Soon I won’t have the choice. And that made me feel sad. Like life and all it’s opportunities were just racing past too fast to make the most of them.

While I believe pretty much anything is possible, not EVERYTHING is possible. Maybe I could have another baby, but probably not in addition to doing all the other great stuff I have in mind. I have to make a choice. A decision. I don’t like decisions, I always feel I’m missing out on something.

Anyway, I digress, ah yes, the experiment…

Usually when I write this blog, I do so after meditating – when my chakras are open and I’m beaming frigging rainbows out of my orifices. I like to be inspired when I write.

But that’s not life is it? Life doesn’t happen on a meditation cushion or a yoga mat. It happens in traffic, and chaos, and at the mercy of petty bureaucrats and grumpy tram drivers (I should really let that stuff go, right?)

So I decided, being in a right old grouch, that I would start writing now, and finish writing after my meditation group. A little comparison, if you will.

Why? (I know what you’re thinking. Why can’t I just go to meditation already and save you from reading about my grouchy mood and petty grievances?)

Because I know I’ll be transformed, I always am. Meditation transforms me, of course. But this particular group of women is so awesome. There’s no bullshit, we just sit – and often fidget – and meditate. And sometimes we cry and have a rough time of it, but it’s so real and so worthwhile, and I always go home transformed.

And really that’s what this whole blog is about, transformation.

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The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision. Helen Keller

I didn’t start writing this blog because I had delusions of being some kind of enlightened being. I wrote because even though I was really struggling in my life, I believed that I could transform that struggle into something meaningful and beautiful. Because that’s what I do.

Suffering from eating disorders and depression and addictions propelled me towards seeking something else, something to fill that void in me that is always famished – starving and screaming for filling. The void I tried to fill with food and chemicals and love.

So tonight I feel fractious and disheartened. If you ask me what my vision is for my life, I’d probably say ‘nothing.’ I just want to stuff my face with junk food and watch crap TV. I don’t even want to think about my business, or the work to be done on my studio, or my website or anything like that.

This is why I need a discipline and a practice. Because left alone in my head for too long, this is as good as it gets.

Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world. Oscar Wilde

Life can be hard, even when it’s not that hard. I know there’s many, many, many people who’d love my life and my ‘problems.’ But I really struggle, I always have. I make ‘heavy-going’ of life. I’m too sensitive. I suffer more than is required. I get tired and disillusioned. My energy flags and I want to hide away.

In some ways this blog was a shout-out to the universe. If you want me here, show me. Show me how to live better. Be better. Do better.

The universe didn’t talk back in so many words – probably a good thing! But the message I do get is that what the world needs is, not more enlightened people, but more real people talking about their difficulties, their struggles. Their attempts to improve their character even when it feels like life is just chipping away at their veneer and baring their raw skin to the elements.

I don’t think chakra meditation practice is about become a ‘more special’ human being. I think it’s more like playing with the gifts we all already have. It’s actually very ordinary. Beautiful, powerful, but ordinary.

Caroline Myss says the modern discussion of intuition as a ‘special gift’ is a furphy. We are all highly intuitive. It’s just we often don’t want to hear what our intuition has to say. We want our intuition to say “you’re doing great, you are special, you need never do anything you don’t want to, or feel any pain, and everything will be fine.”

When really it’s saying. “Leave this situation. It’s sucking your will to live.”  “Yes this will be a hard choice, and it will hurt, a lot, but it’s necessary to your spiritual evolution.” Or “No. You won’t get accolades or awards or recognition, just do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

Nup. No one wants to hear that.

Where there is no vision, the people perish. Proverbs 29:18

Intuition is our sixth sense. It is that sense of knowing without knowing how you know. It can mean everyone around you disagrees with your choice, it may even seem crazy, but it feels right.

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So I’m back from meditation group.

Tonight we focused on the third eye chakra, which is handy seeing as that’s the chakra I am writing about this week.

My visualisation was strong, as I suppose I should have expected from this chakra. The images I experienced were rather archetypal, and may mean something or nothing, a bit like a dream. It was a guided meditation so some of the vision was prompted, but the details were entirely my own.

In the beginning of the meditation, I was taken to a forest were I encountered a squirrel by a gnarly, black-trunked, giant oak tree.

As I knelt before the tree, a hard exoskeletal shell – like a crab shell – was removed from my back. My hair came off with it and I was temporarily like one of those aliens from Cocoon, consisting entirely of light, until my features and hair ‘regenerated’.

I know, weird right? I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried!

The squirrel led me through the forest to a table in a clearing, where a group of people were feasting. My lover was there and greeted me warmly. We sat and shared food and a honey drink. One of the women then gave me a gift – a crystal crown.

When it was time to go, the squirrel led my back to the tree where an old man in a hooded cloak with a staff – the image from the Led Zeppelin IV poster I had on my wall as a teenager – stood.

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Apparently this image is taken from the Rider-Waite tarot and is the Hermit, whose lantern represents the third eye. Which would mean nothing, except for the fact that I didn’t know this. I don’t own that tarot deck, nor am I especially familiar with it.

Somehow my mind used an image I was familiar with to convey this archetypal image to me. For what purpose? I’m not sure yet.

Our imagination flies – we are its shadow on the earth. Vladimir Nabokov

According to Lisa Fredeborg from Tarotize, The Hermit card corresponds to the Third Eye. The Hermit archetype calls us to connect with our inner wisdom and to shine our light within.

Afterwards I had a strong localised headache, which is common when this chakra is shifting.

Your head is humming and it won’t go, in case you don’t know,

The piper’s calling you to join him,

Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know

Your stairway lies on the whispering wind? Led Zeppelin

Perception, insight, wisdom, psychic energy, visualisation, dreams, sleep, moods, imagination, concentration, and self-realisation. These are the elements governed by the third eye chakra, or Ajna – “command centre” – as it is called in Sanskrit.

I felt tremendously invigorated after the meditation. I think primarily because such experiences remind me that there is the world of the seen, and the world of the unseen.

Which basically translates for me into a sense that just because I can’t see a lot of hope right now, doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s just not yet unveiled.

If your attention is in the third eye, just imagination is enough to create any phenomena. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

I feel re-engaged with life and with a desire to explore the chakras again. I mean really, how could I not after such a vision, who wouldn’t want to delve further into THAT world.

The Third Eye chakra is linked to both the pineal gland – which I wrote about in my last blog post – and the pituitary gland.

The pituitary is a pea-sized gland – situated between the eyes – that is co-located and works closely with the hypothalamus. Known as ‘the master gland’ its basic function is to tell the other glands what to do and when – namely the thyroid gland, adrenal glands, ovaries, and testes.

The pituitary’s main function is to regulate body chemistry, regulate emotion and intellect, and work in partnership with the pineal gland, and the hypothalamus, to achieve overall hormonal balance.

Given the importance of the pineal and pituitary gland, and their co-location with the sixth and seventh chakras, the importance of balancing these chakras for whole of mind, body, and spiritual harmony is vital.

Seeing as the pituitary controls hormone output from the other endocrine glands, including the ovaries, it was probably a very good time for me to balance this chakra.

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The third eye chakra is a subtle energy and is very sensitive to stimulants, like coffee, chocolate, alcohol, drugs, and even spices. Low dose stimulants can awaken the third eye chakra, but this energy centre is adversely affected by addiction to mood-altering chemicals. So too much, too often, can end up inhibiting the natural balance of this centre.

And any woman can tell you how connected hormones and chocolate are. Never mind coffee. I don’t need to see scientific studies on that one.

Pictures in your mind’s eye lure you toward your destination. Are those pictures real? Imagined? Purposeful? Intuitive? Are they illusory magnets – power, fame, fortune, or glory – that attract the ego? Or are they the whisperings of your soul, speaking of your life purpose fulfilled? Anodea Judith

In her book on manifesting – Creating on Purpose – Anodea Judith calls the action of this chakra Vision Vitalizes. She writes that the steps for vitalising your vision in the sixth chakra are:

  •  Imagining possibilities
  •  Discovering your life purpose
  •  Dreaming big for your life
  •  Designing your vision vehicle
  •  Visualizing your path to fulfillment

The sixth chakra aligns with my sixth intention, joy. And in my chakra business plan, the Third eye chakra focuses on vision, insight, imagination, intuition, and  the big picture. I asked myself, what vision, insight or intuition do I bring to this endeavour? For me, it is my life experiences, my journey into Chakradance, self-exploration, and healing.

Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning. Gloria Steinem

As I have said before, and will continue to say, I make no claims to being a spiritual giant. I am a very flawed human trying her best to navigate her way through this crazy world, and hopefully give a helping hand to other people along the way, should they want it.

Chakradance has been an extension of my meditation and energy work into a whole new realm of joy and self-expression through dance, sound and movement. As I have written ad nauseum in this blog, I have had profound awakenings as a result of practising chakradance and meditation and I just want to offer that to others, share it with others.

My imagination is fired when I visualise rooms of people dancing, experiencing the unbridled joy of arriving into their being without judgement or fear.

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. Mark Twain

I am reminded of the beauty of the third eye chakradance, a dance of ecstatic and altered states of consciousness through trance-dance. The dance of the third eye is the dance of the intuitive mind. In this dance we let go of the physical world and take the journey into the psychic world of our imagination.

We journey in order to see, to understand, or to touch our intuition at its essence. And we can bring that clear sight back into reality with us.

In our visions, and our dreams, in the archetypal images that resonate with us, our unconscious speaks to us of a deeper truth than our physical senses perceive.

The nature of the third eye chakra is spacious and vast. It feels like anything is possible, the energy is so light and free-flowing.

The challenge is always in transferring the insights of this chakra into form in physical reality – whose nature is so dense and compact.

Sometimes the contrast between these meditative states and the ‘real world’ can be harsh. For me, a little reminder that such transcendence is possible goes a long way in my day.

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I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if I should have a baby or wrap up my uterus for good. I don’t know how my lover and I are going to live together, when our children are settled at schools at opposite ends of town. I don’t know what’s going to unfold with my chakradance business. Part of me would like a guaranteed outcome before I make these choices, so I can make a proper comparison.

But then that would be a bit boring, wouldn’t it, if we always knew what was coming?

I just have to hold these visions in my mind’s eye, and set the intention for what I do want. And trust. When the time is right, and it’s the right thing, amazing – nay, miraculous – shifts can happen.

It’s easy to go through life third-eye blind, with our focus entirely on the physical nature of reality. But, to me, that’s a little like being colour-blind and thinking you comprehend the beauty of a rainbow. Sure it’s something, but there’s so much more to see.

And yet, I can’t live there exclusively, in an imaginary world. So I need to bring my imagination into my physical world, rather than trying to follow the squirrel further into the forest.

I can bring some of that ‘imagical’ third-eye sight back into the world with me. Yep, I just made that word up. From my imagination into form, just like that.

Affirmations from bmindful.com:

Colourful imagination makes my world more interesting.

My blessed imagination is fertile ground for blessed, life-ward creativity.

I have a beautifully intricate and wondrous imagination.

I use positive mental images to create the positive changes I wish in my life.

The stronger the imagination the less imaginary the results.

Imagine the future and make it so.

Bless!

 

Title image:

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Third Eye by Baby Doll

Third eye chakra

Led Zepplin IV Poster

Imagination Tree 

Sources:

Chakra Foods for Optimum Health: A Guide to the Foods That Can Improve Your Energy, Inspire Creative Changes, Opne Your Heart and Heal your Mind, Body and Spirit By Deanna M. Minich

Hormones Demystified, by Amanda McQuade Crawford, Yoga Journal May-Jun 1997

The Third Eye Chakra – the Key to your Intuition by Natalie Southgate