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/

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(You must have been) kissing a fool

You’ll never find peace of mind til you listen to your heart. George Michael 

Happy New Year.

For most of us it is a happy time. Or at least a time of hope for happier times. Yesterday the dog – in her crazed food dance ritual – knocked a candle off my balcony. It was hope. I mean it was a candle with the word ‘hope’ printed on it. It smashed. ‘Hmmmm.’ I wondered. What is the significance of that?

Someone I once knew told me that hope was not the great sentiment so many of us think it is. Hope really is saying that our happiness is in the future, that the now is lacking in some way.

I see his point and I think there is danger is always being in hope, always waiting for the magical future in lieu of the not-so-satisfactory present. Yet when a dark night of the soul hits us, hope is the light that prevents us from giving up entirely.

Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears. Rudyard Kipling

And so I ponder that this time last year I was devastated. I spent New Years Day weeping, bawling, blubbering, wailing… And many more variations on that theme. Honestly I don’t know I could have cried so hard for so long, without my eyeballs popping out. I lay on the grass by my neighbours’ pool (it’s okay, they were away at the time) and just let these waves of grief, sadness, disappointment, rage and heartbreak roll through me.

Even in the depths of my despair there was hope, and a resolution to not repeat the experiment that always led me to this sad and broken place. Heartache and loss are great teachers, but at some point you have to learn the lesson and move the fuck on.

I really don’t want to keep harping on about that moment, but it was rather pivotal for me. After years, a lifetime really, of co-dependent behaviour and love addiction, something snapped in me. And yes, perhaps I swung a little too far the other way in 2016, when my favourite word was ‘no.’ I really pulled away from people, I rarely socialised outside of work and facilitating my classes, and hanging with my son. 

Reality denied comes back to haunt. Philip K. Dick

Not a particularly materially successful or happy year, with the notable exception of my trip to India which just made me want to explode several times daily with the sheer pleasure of being a living, sensory being. It was a year of letting go.

It was mine though. I didn’t squander my time or energy for anyone else, and that was new. I was steadfast.

2016 felt like a hard slog, like I was shedding skin to make way for something new. I’m so glad this new year and its new energies are here.

This blog started as a New Year thing. Three years ago. Wow. Time just rolls on by, doesn’t it?

I had just reread Noelle Oxenhandler’s book The Wishing Year and I was ready to try to approach my life as something I had at least a little say in. 

I liked the idea of setting intentions. I mean they are just ideals to aim towards, not demands or expectations, but it was better than wallowing in depression and disappointment over the past and letting that energy dictate my future.

My seven intentions were deliciously vague, because I think I knew if I got really specific I would kind of miss the beauty of the whole project. Which in retrospect was to enter into a kind of divine partnership. I stated my aims, and let myself be guided as to if, how, what and when they manifested.

I know if I had been specific I would have asked for a man, a house and a spiritual identity (be that a religion, a guru or a sangha). 

Then I may have thought I had failed, because I’m still single, I don’t have my own home, and I’m still searching for my spiritual identity… But I couldn’t say the project has been a bust. 

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. Carl Sagan

Firstly it is a beautiful record of my consistent ability to move though fear, pain and disappointment, to follow my crazy passions, to attempt to live fully, to be vulnerable and powerful all at the same time.

I mean, I can admit it, sometimes I read my old posts and I feel inspired by myself. ‘Who is this brave, honest and slightly kooky woman?’ I think. Only to realise she is me. 

Reading back, I remember how scared I was starting my own business, recovering from depression, traveling alone, studying shamanism, letting myself fall in love again. I know how those things turned out, but I didn’t when I wrote about it. I didn’t know when I wrote about my fears of traveling to India alone just how monumentally empowering and love-filled that experience would be. I had an inkling though, an inkling gained through years of setting intentions, listing my copious fears and then just going for it anyway.

I lie to myself all the time. But I never believe me. S.E. Hinton

Just before Christmas my friend gifted me a Business Soul Coaching session. I had reconnected with her when I was in Bali and she had obviously been brought back into my life at a time when I sorely needed some direction.

After coming down from my India high, I realised that my current lifestyle was not sustainable. Fear of financial insecurity was exacerbated by receiving payment due statements for my son’s school fees and books. Followed by me going into shock after seeing my pre-Christmas payslip which was significantly lower than usual because I missed my Saturday shift to facilitate Chakradance at a Reiki weekend retreat. I did what any grown woman in my position would do, I cried. 

In that moment I had a thought that I have had periodically since starting down this path of living by my intentions, “I am being irresponsible, I need to close down Raw Mojo, give up on all this spiritual stuff, and go full time at work.”

That thought made me feel really sad and unsupported. There was a lot of crying to spirit “I thought this is what you wanted me to do?” 

And for a few weeks I suffered depression, anxiety and self-doubt. Then I made the appointment with Monique, because I knew there must be a better way through this.

This descent into self-doubt was probably a well needed slap in the face. I needed to get real. As the word my friend Monique channelled during the Soul Coaching session suggested, I was “deluded.” 

“What?”

“Deluded,” 

“That’s the word I’m receiving. Does that mean anything to you?” Yeah. Not anything good though.

I was thinking she would channel beams of universal love and support. But instead there seemed to be a whole lot of divine head-scratching. “They seem confused about what Raw Mojo means and what it offers.”

Ouch.

It was a lot to take in. Not surprisingly the lack of definition around my “brand” – the fact I still need to put that in air quotes says a lot – and my lack of clarity around what the hell I do and why I do it was restricting the potential of my business.

The human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe. Voltaire

I needed clarity, focus and to clearly define what my intentions were. No more delightfully vague vision statements…

Raw Mojo was confused and suffering an identity crisis. Like its founder, it seems. I’m no psychic but even I get that for vital life force energy to flow there must be two things, a clear channel and clear intentions.

Monique tested the various offerings of Raw Mojo to see if they were an energetic match. Chakradance – yes (phew!) Shamanism – no! (still digesting that one) Reiki – no (hmmm…) Spontaneous Transformation Technique – yes, and druidry – yes (again, phew!)

After I recovered from the shock and promised to follow up with some writing – and serious soul searching – around my business and what I offer, we ended the call.

Following a pretty serious sulking session, I asked myself ‘why did I call my business Raw Mojo?’ Well for a start, the domain name for my first choice, Mojo Rising was already taken…

It all started with my attachment to the word Mojo, courtesy of Jim Morrison. You know, Mr Mojo Risin’ 

Mojo to me always represented the vital life force, before I even knew what that was. The Doors took the teenage me on deep musical journeys through sound, dance, visions and words. Their music got my spirit moving and made me feel so fully alive. 

After 40, I totally lost my mojo – my vitality and lust for life – and discovering Chakradance helped me get my groove, my mojo back. I have increasingly felt that this is my soul purpose, to guide others to rediscover their lost vitality and passion for life, to reconnect with their divine direction and essential energy. 

A long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile. And I knew if I had my chance, that I could make those people dance and maybe they’d be happy for a while. Don McLean

I know there is an energetic shift that happens for women around 40 and beyond. There’s a need for a new sense of self, as they are entering the Empress energy – that’s a tarot image which represents the archteypal empowered feminine. But how do we manage this transition? There are no rituals for these rites of passage in our culture. Except for binge drinking and online dating, neither of which are particularly helpful.

I believe when we suppress this shift – from caregivers and lovers into fully empowered selves – we get sick. The shift from caregivers into abundant beings in our own right is a challenging but essential rite of passage. The world needs its wise, strong women. And wise, strong men, but for some reason it’s women who are drawn to me.

So that’s the mojo part…

And the Raw part was that sense of natural, unprocessed mojo, like the real essence of my vital power. Sounds good yeah? Raw Mojo. Except no one really gets it and it sounds like an energy drink…

But this word “deluded” has really rocked me. It kind of hurts, I mean really spirit? Really? I try to listen to your guidance, I know I’m not super-psychic, but I try to follow the signs as I see them. Yes, I have had the sneaking suspicion that for a while now I wasn’t really getting a clear connection. Well, in fairness I wasn’t disciplined in my practice so I wasn’t really connecting at all. But telling me through a third party that “I’m deluded?” Wow. That’s cold man.

So I did what any librarian would do. I Googled the dictionary definition of ‘deluded.’

Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself. Ludwig Wittgenstein 

Delude as a verb comes from late Middle English via Latin where it literally means ‘to play false.’ Other definitions include: to mislead the mind or deceive. To mock or frustrate the hopes or aims of. To elude; to evade.

Oh.

Then I saw. It was that moment where a word can cut through all the bullshit and just leave you bare, nerve-ending raw.

You see, I need to come down off my spiritual high horse and admit a few things. I’m in financial trouble. I mean I can get myself out of it, if I am disciplined and smart, but the last few years I have invested a lot into my business and my esoteric studies and travels and quite frankly not seen a huge return. I get very little help from my kid’s dad so I have mounting bills for his schooling and I need to save for his school trip to the US next year.

I may have a little credit card debt, okay a lot. And my business is floundering. So yeah, deluded. I am probably that. 

A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep. Saul Bellow

Not because there’s anything wrong with what I offer, but in the wishy-washy way I have been offering it. Like a kid in a candy store, I kept studying different esoteric teachings and trying to be something I’m not. I keep taking courses and travelling when I can’t actually afford it.

Instead of focused intent and mastery over my practice, I have been spreading my energies too thin. Jack of all trades is a master of none.

When I think back it was after my shamanic training in Bali that my energy became diffuse, from being channelled in too many directions, without real clarity or focus.

My Chakradance classes went from being consistently filled to being cancelled as I shifted my attention to running a shamanic circle.

Now there is nothing wrong with shamanism or reiki, or any other practice I have studied. Nothing is wasted. Shamanism and reiki have only enhanced my other practices.

This is about not spreading myself too thin. Picking those modalities which work well for me, which I love, and which together are an energetic match for me.

It’s always been about what works with my energy signature, that’s what I am meant to channel and deliver here.

The visionary lies to himself, the liar only to others. Friedrich Nietszche 

I went to a guided shamanic sound journey on New Years Eve with Tim Zyphin. It was interesting in many ways but mostly it just confirmed this message that I am not a shaman. 

That’s just not how spirit works through me. And that’s okay. Truth be told I never really wanted to be one. I love journeying, especially the shamanic dance journeys but I can do that in Chakradance. 

In truth I realise my guides have been standing back on the whole shamanic thing. They never really say no to me, I mean I guess from their perspective it’s all wisdom and experience, and like reiki it has fine-tuned my ability to manage and use my subtle energy force, but anyone can do that, that does not a shaman make.

Reflecting back I see the difference between what I am meant to be doing and what I’m not. Either the vital life force is there in what I do, or it isn’t. The results speak for themselves.

We fool ourselves so much we could do it for a living. Stephen King 

With Chakradance I did the training and immediately started facilitating. Yes, I was scared. Yes, I had doubts, but the passion was there. The shamamic techniques I found really beneficial to evolve my Chakradance and journeying practices, but aside from running the journeying circle, there was no passion to practise it.

I have been searching for a spiritual identity, for my own little niche. I love hinduism, the deities and the stories, the mysticism and the faith, but in India I realised as much as I love it (and Ganesha seems to love me) it’s not my religion. I don’t think any religion is.

At the Summer Solstice ceremony of my druid grove I set intentions for the year. And what came through really strongly was that this was it. I have my spiritual community, I have a practice that is nature-based and gives me the freedom to worship whatever I want. It is a perfect ethical and spiritual match for me. It gives me freedom and autonomy along with community, ritual and practice. So I committed to it. In sacred space I commited to serve the grove and resume my druidic studies.

And today on New Years Day I began my druid studies again and redid my initiation.

So my intentions are the same, but as time goes on I see how what I want more than anything is to be real and authentic. I don’t want to play mind games. I don’t want to delude myself or others. I don’t need to impress anyone with my powers. I just do what I love because that’s how I know I’m on the right track.

That’s what came through in the shamanic journey. Loud and clear.

My shamanic spirit guide came in as soon as the shaman invited in our shamanic brothers and sisters. As if he was just waiting for the invitation. I started to cry “I thought I’d failed you.” But he never asked me to be a shaman. He asked me to demonstrate the power of our vital energy force. To carry his wisdom into the world so it wouldn’t be lost. Again he placed quartz crystals on my navel, heart and third eye. As he did the first time we met.

The message from spirit was so clear and in truth, is getting a little repetitive. I think the whole ‘deluded’ thing has made them think I’m a little dense so they have been repeating themselves everywhere I look for the last few days.

Do what you love.
Be what you love.
Be who you love.
Surround yourself with people, places, things that you love and who love you and everything you do.
If there’s no love in something, there’s no vital life force. If you don’t love it, change it. If you can’t change it, let it go, it’s not for you.

Love is the real power. It’s the energy that cherishes. The more you work with that energy, the more you will see how people respond naturally to it, and the more you will want to use it. It brings out your creativity, and helps everyone around you flower. Your children, the people you work with–everyone blooms. Marion Woodman

Love is power. Love is how the power of the universe communicates to us and through us. Love is how we open up our hearts, releasing fear and creating space for this power to flow through.

It’s not meant to be hard. We are not meant to struggle. I do and I will as long as I am incarnate. It is the nature of this density, the density of this human container we are in.

This is the divine partnership, this is divine choice. The only two vibrations are love and fear. The divine communicates to you through love.

Find your truth through love, do what brings you joy, vitality, love, happiness. That’s where the power comes in.

From an oracle reading came this:

Take risks like you’ve never been hurt. Believe wholeheartedly in something. Your divine vibrancy will bring your vision to life. Your courage and passion will see it to fruition.

And just like that. I got clear and the enquiries for Raw Mojo started to come in. The channel cleared and I felt my guides so strongly. The guidance was clear and as specific as “pay for Zak’s books and the Chakradance retreat and the phone bill first, then do Alana Fairchild’s Coaching and pay the deposit for the NASA trip.” Well. Okay then.

All the lights turned green on my way to work. I let a car merge in front of me and the plates were 777 – that’s my numerological equivalent of two thumbs up from spirit.

I know it won’t always be this clear. But thank you spirit. Thank you for making it so obvious. I needed to feel clear and not deluded. Even just for a moment.

Hari Om Tat Sat

Blessings

If you’re interested in Soul Coaching with Monique from Intuitive Freedom click here. It will really rock your world – in a good way.

Art by Kareva Margarita

Hidden intentions of the heart

Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. Mary Oliver

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will be familiar with my free-form, flowing, somewhat leapfrog style of following the synchronicities as they unfold in my life.

I’m not really prejudiced when it comes to guidance. Whether it comes from a teacher, a spirit guide, books, music and even billboards or snippets of conversations I overhear. Usually it’s a combination of sources – sacred and profane. It’s the repetition I notice, the patterns, reoccuring themes, colours, symbols or numbers that occur in my life. I acknowledge what captures my attention.

Ten times a day something happens to me like this – some strengthening throb of amazement – some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness. Mary Oliver

This week as I arrived at an early yoga class, I noticed with bemusement that I had a pink yoga mat and pink leggings on. As someone who has never really been into the colour pink, I found this curious. At 6am I don’t put much thought into what I wear. I’m just grateful I remember to put pants on.

I call these yoga pants my flamingo pants. I bought them in Bali while I was studying shamanism there.  I came across them the day after my friend Niina had done a power animal retrieval journey for me. She found a flamingo – which at the time I thought was hilarious. So I bought the pants to visually connect me with my spirit flamingo. Pink legs will do that, don’t you know.

During yoga class the teacher instructed us into the flamingo pose. In five years of doing yoga with him I’d never done this pose before.

What are the odds on the day I wear my flamingo pants, he does the flamingo pose for the first time in that class?

My curiosity piqued, I googled ‘flamingo totem animal’ and one of the interpretations of its medicine is acknowledging the hidden intentions of the heart.

The idea is that we are sometimes manifesting life from unconscious or hidden intentions, that even so-called mistakes are not wrong moves as such, but instead a manifestation of a hidden intention that we have not yet made conscious.

Hmmm…

This seemed pertinent for me at a time when I am constantly second-guessing my own choices.

It also aligns with a sneaking suspicion that I tend to have conflicting conscious and subconscious intentions. So while I say I want something, sometimes, some deep part of me really doesn’t. And so the thing I think I want doesn’t work out.

There is also the possibility that the flamingo, with its fiery colours, may be the inspiration behind stories of the mythological Phoenix rising from the flames.

In this way flamingo represents a rising up after a fall from grace. And if that’s not the story of my life, I don’t know what is. Flamingoes also love group dancing, in fact it’s their main form of communication. 

Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled – to cast aside the weight of facts and maybe even to float a little above this difficult world. Mary Oliver 

Now I am not saying I get divine messages from my flamingo pants and yoga teacher, that may be so, but I am not so convinced that’s how it works. Which is why I love Jung’s concept of synchronicity.

I accept these things as meaningful coincidences. I need not concern myself with whether there is a wizard behind the curtain, all I know is that my heart knows what is true when she feels it.

Well, I think I do, I guess that’s why I need to see it four or five times, just to be sure.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things. Mary Oliver

One of Carl Jung’s most famous examples of synchronicity in his therapeutic work was with a woman who was failing to make any breakthroughs in her therapy.

She was relaying her dream of the night before to Dr Jung, she had dreamt of a golden scarab. At that moment there was a noise at the window and Jung opened it to find a scarab beetle had landed on the window pane.

Just a coincidence? Perhaps, but a coincidence with enough significance to enable this woman to have a breakthrough in her therapeutic work, which up until this point had been going nowhere.

I see my ‘signs’ in the same way. I’m not suggesting some divine force is manipulating physical reality for my benefit. Although I am not opposed to that possibility, rather from what I have experienced of the divine it seems an overly simplistic explanation.

Instead that these are meaningful, acausal events which have a relationship with my own psyche, and as such allow me to have breakthroughs, but only if I pay attention and are willing to see them as meaningful. Because in the end, we all have to figure out our own way.

Nobody can build the bridge for you to walk across the river of life, no one but you yourself alone. There are, to be sure, countless paths and bridges and demi-gods which would carry you across this river; but only at the cost of yourself; you would pawn yourself and lose. There is in the world only one way, on which nobody can go, except you: where does it lead? Do not ask, go along with it. Friedrich Nietzsche

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For the last few months I have been planning a trip to India.

There are many reasons why this may not be such a wise idea, money is the main one, but there are others that wake me in panic at 3am.

It would take too long here to list the coincidences, synchronicities, freak occurrences and downright weirdness that constitutes the guidance that directed me to take this trip, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Now I don’t subscribe to everything I read about these significances. Of course not. I observe the world, and I read, and I sit, and I see what lands in my heart, what has significance for me.

The point is, if it’s a meaningful occurrence to me, and I notice it at a time when I’m needing reassurance that I’m not making some disastrous life choice, that’s what it gives me. Is that spirit? Is that my unconscious, my hidden intentions? Honestly it’s all much of a muchness to me.

And that is just the point… how the world, moist and beautiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. “Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment? Mary Oliver

flamingo close

It’s funny because I started this post trying to write about the throat chakra, because that’s where I thought I should be up to. Nice and orderly like, one chakra per post – it’s the librarian in me.

But the words wouldn’t come and as I meditated on the synchronicities, including a Sanskrit word that so deeply resonated with me – more on that in a moment – I realised I am still very much in my heart chakra energy.

I don’t want to be. My heart hurts today. But it’s where I need to be. Because it’s where I am. If it were time to move on I would be noticing blue, and my attention would be drawn to associations of the throat chakra. Instead I’m seeing green and pink and lovey-dovey flamingos and reading Sanskrit words that makes me heart sigh…

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift. Mary Oliver

On New Years’ Day this year, finding myself once again curled in foetal position crying my guts out, I made the decision to stop trying to have a relationship with anyone until I could have a loving relationship with myself.

Once again I had abandoned myself to try to bend myself into a pretzel for another person. “No more!” I wailed through snot and tears. Slowly an intention formed that I would do the things my heart desired, and I would not even try to fall in love again until my heart was full with the pure glory of being alive.

(Or at least until I felt that I understood who I was enough to not lose myself in a relationship again.)

In Hindu mythology, the relationships between the gods and goddesses are not romances. Rather they are allegorical tales about the balancing of male and female energies, the shiva and shakti. 

I wonder if my intimate relationships have been much the same, highlighting my deficits, the areas where I need to mature, to grow spiritually. 

How I would dearly love to find a less painful way to grow.

I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything – other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned, that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion – that standing within this otherness – the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books – can re-dignify the worst-stung heart. Mary Oliver

Despite this desire to move on from my heart centre, what really hit me hard and made me sink back into my heart was this line, in fact one particular word, from a book I am reading about India.

In Hindu scriptures, the places that spiritual pilgrims seek are called tirthas. Literally this means the “ford” or “crossing” of a river, coming from the verbal root meaning “to cross over.” Originally this literally meant a place to cross the river. In India these pilgrimages places are on the banks and confluences of the great rivers. But in her wonderful book, India: a Sacred Geography, Diane L. Eck explains that over time this word came to mean a crossing or passage into a world of transcendence.

The tirtha mahatmyas (early travel guides aimed at pilgrims) make it clear that going to a tirtha is not only a matter of the feet, but also a matter of the heart. The “tirthas of the heart (manasatirthas)” are as important as the geographical tirthas. Diane L. Eck

standing woman flamingoesManasatirtha, the crossing of the heart, the pilgrimage of the heart. Ah. Yes. That landed.

Traditionally the tirthas of the heart focused on specific principles that pilgrims were required to covet in order to be pure enough to make the physical pilgrimage.

It’s not enough to simply make ones way to a physical tirtha, the real pilgrimage is always within.

Tirtha are of three kinds,

Jangam Tirtha is to a place movable, of a sadhu, a rishi, a guru. Sthawar Tirtha is to a place immovable, like Benaras, Hardwar, Mount Kailash, holy rivers. Manas Tirtha is to a place of mind, of truth, charity, patience, compassion, soft speech, soul. Skanda Purana

Again in yoga class, the teacher, who is prone to go on rants – which he says are channelled from the spirit guides of his students – made the point that what we search for is within. He has a deep, booming voice like James Earl Jones…

“We don’t need to go anywhere to find it. It is right here.”

He said if you lose your house keys you don’t go to India to find them. I laughed. Is that what I’m doing?

I’m sure I give that impression at times. I’m sure at times I believe that too. My heart has led me here, and is leading me there, but not because there’s something in India that isn’t here.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. Rainer Maria Rilke

flamingo wingsNo. It’s something in the process. It’s what I have to let go of to get there. What India will demand of me to let go of once I’m there.

My comfort zone. My innate desire to hide from challenge or change.

This trip came from that tears and snot-fuelled New Years’ intention. I decided to replace love with travel for the year.

Now I know that’s not very spiritual. That called “doing the best I can with what I’ve got.” Replacing one obsession with another, slightly healthier one, until I find the guts to let go of it all.

You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Mary Oliver

What’s waiting for me in India is the same thing that was in Bali for me last year. My heart at its most fearless. That moment where its just me in the world taking a deep inhale and feeling 100% alive. Knowing the floods of fear and self-doubt I had to wade through just to stand there in all that glory and grace.

And then there will be all the other magical experiences that I can’t even imagine. Those precious memories that will fill my heart with that freedom and aliveness for years to come. The otherness of being in places where the gods and goddesses are part of life, and made constant offerings, where spirit and material connect in daily life.

And all the times when I have to pull myself up by the bootstraps because things get hard or scary, or I’m tired and want someone to take care of me or make a decision for me, and I realise there’s nothing and no one to fall back on but my own strength.

No matter how much I whinged, complained and threw tantrums it was possible… I realised I’d been spending the last few years holding myself back. Terrified of what lay ahead of me. But when you just trust your instincts and let go of the need to be in control anything is possible. THIS is why life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Because you NEVER know what you are capable of until you push yourself to find the answers. Lauren Heyes

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This month I had to run two classes dancing the Heart Chakradance – how serendipitous.

What emerged for me what a clear message to love the world with all your heart, starting with what’s in front of you. What does that mean? That love up close and personal is messy and out of my control. It forces me out of my safety zone. Love as a concept is easy, but in practice? Not so much.

It’s easy to sit with beautiful people in meditation halls and radiate love into the world. But what about the man that comes to work with the ugly growth on his face who just wants some eye contact or a smile? I am reminded of the story of St Francis encountering the leper on the road. Despite his revulsion, he gets down off his horse, gives the man a coin and kisses his hand.

What about my family? Who like me are imperfect and who push my buttons. What about getting up close and personal with that? Not withdrawing, not running away and hiding. 

This year I have shut down and avoided love. I thought it was just romantic love but I see now it was almost all love. Apart from my son I really haven’t opened my heart with anyone. I have operated on auto-pilot, physically present but emotionally detached. I wanted the past to go away. I wanted something new. And maybe it hasn’t just been this year, perhaps it’s just something I am becoming aware of. Perhaps I have always avoided true intimacy with people.

I wanted the past to go away, I wanted to leave it, like another country; I wanted my life to close, and open like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song where it falls down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery; I wanted to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know, whoever I was, I was alive for a little while. Mary Oliver

After the Heart Chakradance the group shared our experiences. A common theme was the discomfort of facing painful memories and acknowledging where we may have closed down our hearts. 

Opening up a closed heart hurts at first.

Anodea Judith says that when we awaken these ‘frozen’ parts of ourselves, there is a thawing out stage. And like the recovery from frostbite, going from numb to thawing can feel excruciatingly painful. 

There is a reason we freeze out our emotions, they sometimes hurt. A lot.

Let it down, let your love flow and astound me. George Harrison

Alongside the thawing is a tingling, very much like that sensation of blood returning to a numbed limb. It brings sustenance and life. It reminds that there is always healing. The challenge is to let go of fighting this process. To resist thawing because it hurts blocks the life force that wants to move through me.

Like a numbed limb, the heart wants us to feel, at first the pain motivates us to do something, and as we tap in and allow it, the heart shows us the beauty of its opening.

Contemplation and action. Spirituality is like this cosmic letting go and at the same time, a microcosmic diving in. Letting go of the big picture and diving in to the here and now – in all its guts and glory. Hard for a big picture, idealistic, reality-squeamish girl like me.

Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Brene Brown

img_3890This is all I have.

This unquenchable desire to live from the heart.

This heart that I have ignored so many times, keeps calling me, challenging me to live, just live.

Grab life with both hands, arms, feet, whatever I have, and just live the hell out of it. Face the messiness, the revulsion, the discomfort of getting up close with life, with people.

In the Celtic tradition they talk of the turning of the heart. The image is of the cauldron being filled up with all the experiences of life. As it fills it turns upright and the magic of the potion of life’s many emotions begins. It is this process that distinguishes the sage, that produces deep wisdom and compassion.

Interestingly, this passage also makes the connection between the inner experiences and the pilgrimage to holy places.

How many divisions of sorrow that turn the cauldrons of sages? Not hard; four. Longing, grief, the sorrows of jealousy and the discipline of pilgrimage to holy places. It is internally that these are borne although the cause is from outside. Cauldron of Poesy

Reflecting on this passage and my own ongoing dance with loss, longing, and heartache, it seems to me this year is a time of turning. If I allow the heart to transverse that chasm between despair and joy, to encompass its entirety, the heart turns, and filled with its magic potion of grief, despair, joy, and ecstasy, begins to bubble and broil with life.

In losing what I thought I wanted, I have been propelled into this pilgrimage of the heart, both spiritual and physical.

I think as Mary Oliver says, it is all about attentiveness. Am I sleep-walking through life or am I paying attention, wide-wake and aware to what a dear friend used to call this “exquisite journey?” 

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

This is the beauty of travel, being uprooted from our safe and secure little rituals of daily life and transplanted into a strange new world. Where everything reflects our awareness. Are we in awe? Are we threatened? Are we numb? 

I think more than many places India is a land and culture that forces you to be awake, the visceral, seething of so many people, so much history and culture, not contained in museums and gallery like in the West but breathing, pulsing and spilling onto the streets. It’s like electric shock therapy for the spirit. Wake up! Wake up!

I’m not fearless by nature. But I am learning to do what I love in spite of fear. And that my friends, is courage in my book.

And once India is done and I’m home. Once this year of trudging though my tear and snot-fueled sadness and relishing in the rewards of being true to my heart has left me with an empty bank account and a full spirit, what then?

Then I continue the pilgrimage of the heart, the mansastirtha. The quest to find these sacred places wherever I am. To pay attention to the synchronicities. And to make peace with love and other people. And myself…

And I say to my heart: rave on. Mary Oliver

Bless!

The places that scare you

When we protect ourselves so we won’t feel pain, that protection becomes like armour, like armour that imprisons the softness of the heart. Pema Chodron

I wake early and sit on the verandah of my little Balinese bungalow. The ocean roars below. Dawn is breaking. A pair of small bats flap around and through the rafters of the row of huts. They pelt past me, ducking and weaving through wooden pillars and trees. I watch in awe.

Blind as a bat, that’s how the saying goes and yet they navigate with apparent ease. I’m pulled between feelings of admiration and a mild fear that one will come crashing into my head.

This torque between awe and fear captures my experience in Bali. Quite possibly it epitomises my reaction to life in general.

There is a contradiction in wanting to be perfectly secure in a universe whose very nature is momentariness and fluidity. Alan Watts

This place is beautiful but a little unsafe. No, not really unsafe. Unfamiliar. There are imagined disasters at every turn. Can I leave my son in the bungalow for an hour to go to yoga? What if something happens to him? What if I get hit by a scooter? What if we get sick? What if I lose all our money? What if there’s a tsunami? A volcanic ash cloud? What if we get stuck here and I run out of money? What if I chose the wrong place to stay? What if we are too isolated here? What if…?

These thoughts have plagued the early hours of the morning. Waking me from a blissful tropical sleep into heart-pounding anxiety. It is said that the body doesn’t differentiate between a real or an imagined experience. And here I lie in paradise traumatising myself with imagined disaster scenarios.

The human ego prefers anything, just about anything, to falling, or changing, or dying. The ego is that part of you that loves the status quo – even when it’s not working. It attaches to past and present and fears the future. Richard Rohr

This same torque exists within me, a strong need for security coupled with an adventurous and inquisitive spirit. There is absolutely no way to quell these needs simultaneously, there are always choices that serve one but not the other. And I feel ever pulled in different directions. 

Anxiety is a strange beast. It’s been with me forever and yet I am only just starting to see its pervasiveness. I think in the past I had a host of coping mechanisms – not good ones it has to be said, but temporarily effective. 

These strategies seemed to mask and divert my anxiety into manageable, material things. I felt anxious but I had a solution, I just needed a drink, a drug, a man, a family sized tub of Haagen Dazs…

The desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet. Alan Watts

Then there is the strategy of control and micromanaging. It goes like this, if I keep my life small, contained and manageable, if I stick to the list of things I can’t do because they scare me, then I keep anxiety at bay. Well, that’s the theory.

Except I discovered none of these things actually works in the long term. Like a hyper-resistant virus, anxiety soon finds a way through all my defences. “Ha ha it says. You can’t beat me!” It’s like the ever confident poker player always willing to raise me one more until I fold.

So what to do then?

Nothing goes away until it teaches you what you need to know. Pema Chodron

So what does my anxiety have to teach me? Paradoxically I think it teaches me to be brave. I know that sounds crazy but bear with me here.

When every day, all day, every little decision, every action scares you, it means you are constantly overcoming fear. Unlike someone who lives in the illusion of security, an anxious person is only too aware of the unstable nature of life, inherent is suffering, misfortune and ultimately death. 

The trick is to be at peace with this awareness. It is how we react to the anxiety that makes the difference, not trying to get rid of the anxiety itself.

What lies beneath this anxiety about seemingly trivial things is the fear of no control, and ultimately the fear of suffering and death. Anxiety is borne of a lie that if things were a certain way, then I’d be okay. But in reality things are in constant flux and mostly out of my control.

The places that really scare us are within and not outside of ourselves. That’s the ruse. Anxiety makes us feel that the threat is out there, that there is safety and security to be found if only we manage well. 

Coming to Bali, leaving my son to go to yoga, all involves acting in face of these fears. The fear turns out to be an illusion. This acting in spite of my fear strengthens me for the next bout of fear. It teaches me to be present in the fear and act with integrity and courage anyway. It teaches me that although I have no control, I do have choice. 

The more we witness our emotional reactions and understand how they work, the easier it is to refrain. Pema Chodron 

Here I have none of my defences. I wear little clothes, no make-up. I have no job, no profession, no role. There is no schedule, no timelines. I am without my armoury. Without my anchors of familiarity and routine. In this free flowing unfolding of life my anxiety runs around like a headless chicken. “What if… What if… What if…”

After centering myself, reminding myself gently that I came to Bali to revisit my spirit of adventure, I say “Wouldn’t it be lovely to walk to yoga in my favourite studio in the whole world, knowing my son is completely safe and so am I.”

And that’s exactly how it goes.

Now I’m not saying bad things don’t happen. That’s not the point. The point is worrying and anxiety are not going to stop bad things from happening. And mostly those things are the ones we never see coming anyway. Like the coconut that fell from a tree missing my head by inches as my son and I walked to the pool. Didn’t see that coming! I didn’t wake at 5am worrying about having my skull caved in by a falling coconut…

The point is not to let fear poison and dominate my life’s experiences and choices. To as Pema Chodron says go to the places that scare you. Be present there, and live heart-fully in spite of fear. To accept my vulnerability in a world where quite possibly anything could happen. To be invigorated rather than petrified by this.

When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation, and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment. Pema Chodron 

All this has emerged as I feel the shift into my heart chakra. This year I have been allowing myself to flow through my chakras very slowly and intuitively. Last month I was enjoying the fiery energy of Manipura. And even as I finished writing my last post I could feel the shift into the heart centre.

The alchemy of surrender is a term used by astrologer Sarah Varcas. She uses it to describe the power that comes from embracing the state of unknowing. She talks about the shift that happens when we stop trying to think our way through uncertainty and begin to feel into it.

Over the past ten days I have remained present through my varying states from mild panic to complete calm and peace. Having just been attuned to reiki, I practiced this on myself and tuned into where the nervous energy was stuck in my body.

Anxiety is awareness without presence, just as fear is excitement without breathing. Russ Hudson

Anxiety is just energy. When you think about it, there’s very little difference between anxiety and excitement except the story the mind tells itself.

In yoga class, the teacher led us through pranayama breathing exercises. He reminded us that without proper breathing the energy cannot flow. Yoga asanas, or any energy raising practice for that matter, without breathing will raise energy but not move it, creating blocks and imbalances.

Anxiety is an energetic charge created by our mental perception. Breathing into the anxiety. Focusing on where it is being trapped in the body – both subtle and physical – allowing a compassionate observation of our thoughts and sensations, creating space for them, is a powerful way to transform anxiety into a mindfulness practice.

This is not something we do once or twice. Interrupting our destructive habits and awakening the heart is the work of a lifetime. Pema Chodron

Anxiety and fear is a call to arms. Without it would I have pursued a spiritual solution? I doubt it. If not driven by my discomfort, what motivation would there have been for me to investigate meditation, yoga, Chakradance? That’s not to say that anxiety is all that motivates me, I have a connection to the spirit world that is precious and wonderful to me, but it was desperation that got me started.

For those of you who haven’t experienced anxiety it begins with a feeling of something running on a mouse-wheel in your chest. There’s a feeling of panic even if there’s no real sense of what the panic is about. It’s like feeling scared. 

People – the ones who don’t experience anxiety – will say it’s all in your head. Yes. Like real fear. That’s in your head too. And your body doesn’t distinguish between the two. For someone in the midst of an anxiety attack, they may as well be tied to the train tracks with the 4:32 fast approaching.

Anxiety certainly gets your attention. It’s hard to ignore that freight train rocking through your chest, the dry mouth, the pounding head, the urge to run. Maybe that’s the point. Anxiety wants me to pay attention. Like a parent who has asked politely twenty times for their child to come to dinner, anxiety ramps it up a notch just to get their attention.

We’re all very familiar with the experience of fear escalating, or the experience of running away from fear. But have we even taken the time to truly touch our fear, to be present with it and experience it fully? Do we know what it might mean to smile at fear? Pema Chodron

Meditation helps. It helps because it is a practice which disciplines us to let thoughts go, to not attach or overly identify with them. It helps because it brings awareness on to the breath, and breathing can become shallow when anxious, and breath moves energy through our subtle body. 

And it helps because it teaches us to just observe whatever state we may be in with loving compassion and a little detachment. In meditation I am present, aware, but not a slave to my thinking.

Someone once told me that the problem it not how we feel, it’s how we feel about how we feel. So when I’m anxious I have the choice to feel anxious about my anxiety – can you see the snowball effect of that line of thinking? 

Or I can choose to accept that I’m anxious, without reacting to it. This was a strategy I first encountered in Russ Harris’ book The Happiness Trap, but essentially it is the basis of many religious and contemplative practices. Begin in the now, with what is, accept it, breathe, refrain from judgement or reaction. Be an impassive observer of your own inner workings. Create a space between the feeling and the observing of the feeling.

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. Pema Chodron

I know it sounds so simple, but it’s also really hard to unlearn years of habitual thinking. So I have found I need to be very gentle and compassionate with myself. Sometimes I react to my anxiety, that snowball starts rolling and I’m out of control.  And that’s okay. It always comes to a head and then I regroup. I meditate, I dance, I run, I do yoga. I sit on a stationary bike and pedal until all the nervous energy has burned out of me. I begin again.

I am sure much of my anxiety comes from a defensive self-protection. I want to be open to life, to explore, to love, to experience. 

Yet part of me feels that in the past when I have opened to life, to love, it has been a Trojan horse, which seemed at first, like a wondrous gift, but once within my walls, once it had me vulnerable, it attacked. After charming itself into my world it let me down in the most spectacular way. My heart hurts from this disappointment and betrayal. 

As much as I wish to be rendered new, these scars linger. But what if that’s the point? What could be more brave than keeping my heart open knowing that pain is inevitable?

A dark night of the soul is some of the most transformative times that we go through in our lives. They are sacred initiations. Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson talks of the modern tendency of pathologising of normal human suffering. Pain and suffering are part of life, we are built for it. As well as a physical immune system we have a psychic immune system. After a physical injury or illness we allow time for the bruises and scars to heal. The same goes for our psychic scars, after loss or sadness or disappointment there is a time when we feel bruised, and are healing. Time and self-compassion and acceptance is the way through this process. 

The thymus gland relates to the immune system in the body and is the gland that is located in the area of the heart chakra. Is it possible that this psychic immune system is also located in the heart centre? 

Just as our physical immunity strengthens from exposure to allergens and bacteria, perhaps our psychical immune system strengthens through these times of fear, pain and grief that so test our hearts.

Marianne Williamson maintains that much of what is diagnosed and medicated as anxiety and depressive disorders is actually the very sane reactions we have to the world we live in. Bombarded daily with images of violence, poverty, disease, only the hardest of hearts could not feel pain. 

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart. Helen Keller

Spiritual malady is often called the ‘dark night of the soul.’ As Buddha and Christ demonstrated suffering is at the core of the spiritual experience. Indeed the need to be happy – that we are so bombarded with – is a set-up for disappointment and despair.

When what we really need is to develop acceptance and resilience to pain, compassion for ourself and others, by understanding and accepting its intrinsic role in our human experience.

The energy of the heart is simple. It is love. It wants to love. To radiate its light. To bring warmth and healing to others. To open to the radiance of life. 

In Sanskrit, Anahata means unhurt or unstruck. 

The heart is always unhurt and unstruck. That sacred centre cannot be scarred. The scars are energetic memories of past suffering. They are not bad, just products of the mistaken belief that closing, hiding and shielding the heart will prevent pain when of course the opposite is true.

Jung described the heart chakra as the beginning of individuation. The place where we begin to experience something beyond our ego-self, something we might call spirit.

When we begin to heal the heart chakra, we create a softening of the heart. This softening stirs the energy of love and compassion and through awareness we can begin to dissolve the hurt we so often bury in our hearts. As our heart awakens to its own loving potential we begin to experience genuine connection with others, and our relationships grow healthy and radiate love. Natalie Southgate 

The heart Chakradance is a dance of integration, of uniting the masculine and feminine energies, the energies of the more dense chakras below, with the more etheric above. As we dance we honour Father Sky and Mother Earth, day and night, light and dark, yang and yin. We experience that beautiful space where all is united and integrated, where all apparent opposites move together in harmonious dance of love.

I remember the last time I led the Heart Chakradance, it was close in time to an experience that had hurt my heart. I was more than a little afraid to be going there, especially leading a class. ‘What if I break down?’ I worried, knowing the pain was just beneath the surface.

Yet in the dance I didn’t experience my pain, I held the space for the dancers, and what I found was the essence of the heart energy, endless, unfathomable, bottomless waves of love and compassion. The room was bathed in emerald green light, as I shifted the energies that people released, yes, there was sadness and grief and disappointment, but it paled in the face of this infinite supply of love. 

When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space. Pema Chodron 

The recent years have marked a shift for me into setting my sights high and acting with self-belief. And while the fear and anxiety are often there, they no longer dictate my actions. Often I see anxiety as an indicator that have stepped outside of my comfort zone, into new territory and I remind myself this is a good thing.

After returning from Bali I met with the leader of my Druid grove and she guided my through walking the wheel. The Druid wheel is both a calendar for the eight seasonal ceremonies of the year and like the Native American medicine wheel, a sacred symbolic and archetypal map for the stages of development and the energies we are working through at a given time in our life. 

As part of a grove or Druid community, it also suggests the ceremonial role that we should hold for that year. While we work through the energies of an aspect of the wheel, we can also hold and represent those energies for the group during ceremony. For me the wheel guided me to stop just North of West, at the position of the knight. 

Don’t move the way fear makes you move. Move the way love makes you move. Move the way joy makes you move. Osho

It a curious position, archetypally the Knight is a young male, still adolescent, who embarks on a spiritual quest, the search for the Holy Grail, if you will. He represents the spiritual warrior. While it seemed strange for a woman at my stage of life, somewhere in the mother/queen realm to be guided to this energy, it also makes perfect sense.

This year I have been guided to make my spiritual journey a physical one, with my pilgrimages to Bali and India, and next year to Ireland. I have very much been called to get on my horse and physically seek. I have also been guided to do so alone. For the first time in my life I am not looking for a partner, if anything I feel I have no space for one right now. I’m the knight on his holy mission and it’s a path I must travel alone.

And how interesting that at a time when anxiety over my life choices has reared up, this warrior energy has emerged for me. It feels like a beautiful integration of the solar plexus warrior energy into the heart. Where my will and passion is channeled through my heart centre. 

It’s exciting for me to see spirit guide me in this way, it’s validating. As I march into the unknown, I have unseen guides alongside me. 

And like the turning of the wheel, my time as the knight won’t be forever, only until I have worked with these energies, gained their wisdom and I am ready to integrate this and move on.

The most courageous thing we will ever do is bear humbly the mystery of our own reality. Richard Rohr


Bless!

Holy crap! This stuff actually works

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Entirely by accident, I conducted a little experiment on myself in the last month or so.

In the lead up to Christmas, I finished up teaching Chakradance and holding shamanic circles for the year. Things were super busy at work and at home, and my yoga and meditation practice waned.

Then we went on a family holiday, which was more family than holiday, it has to be said. And suddenly I found myself in perhaps the worst head space I have been in the longest time.

I was irritable, anxious, unsettled and restless. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be, but it definitely wasn’t where I was and what I was doing.

I knew I should be meditating and exercising and doing yoga, but I just didn’t feel like it. I didn’t feel like doing anything.

Knowing I was a stone’s throw away from a serious depressive episode, I knew I needed to do something about this funk I was in.

When I got back home, I wrote myself a plan for the remaining days of my holidays. I wanted to paint my studio, and prepare for the classes I would be running in the new year. I wanted to complete the online chakra course I was undertaking, that I hadn’t been able to devote enough time to. I also had enrolled in a meditation course on the centering prayer practice. And the garden looked like a jungle so I had to whip that into shape before I had my students come over.

I wanted to write too…

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So I planned out my days, beginning with yoga and meditation, alternating with periods of physical labour, exercise, chores, study and writing. Of course leaving time for my reward activities reading, having a cuppa, catching up with friends and watching the entire seven series of The Gilmore Girls on DVD.

As a result I have been doing several sessions of meditation, yoga, and chakra exercises a day. I have been in the garden, in the sun, reading and writing prolifically. 

It took about four to five days for me to realise I felt calm, I could sit still without my mind racing, I didn’t constantly feel like I should be somewhere else doing something else. I felt present, grounded, content.

More than just an internal shift, I was aware the this presence positively impacted my connection with others, where I had felt irritated with my son, and fallen into near constant nagging, I now found myself able to sit and talk with him – and more importantly, listen – about his latest computer game obsession.

‘Holy crap!’ I thought to myself ‘This stuff actually works.’

Which may seem like a duh! moment to many of you. I mean this is what I practice, what I write about. I suppose I just hadn’t had a chance to compare myself with and without these practices for a while. It really took me by surprise for a number of reasons.

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First, I think it was a great reminder why these techniques are called practices or disciplines, that’s because you have to actually do them, consistently, regularly, with discipline, to get the results.

Second, I have a short memory. And I don’t think I’m alone here. How many of you have either been sick or injured and thought ‘I will never take my health for granted again!’ That may last for weeks or months, depending on how sick or injured you were, but pretty soon the mind is back to complaining about the traffic and being on hold, and why is my coffee not hot enough?

Being in a state of grace is a little like that. When I’m practising my disciplines, I still feel life with all its slings and arrows, I still get heartbroken and yelled at, and upset. The difference is that I get to empty out regularly. So that stuff doesn’t accumulate. What happened to me in the last month is that all the little shitty bits of life had their way with me, and I hung on to the residue, I wasn’t emptying out my bucket. And pretty soon I was overwhelmed and drowning in my bucket of crappola.

Three, having experienced a more balanced and calm state of mind, pretty consistently for a few years now, I find I now have way less tolerance for being out of sorts.

Now, I’d like to say that I am never going to get slack again, but we all know that’s not true. It’s just a really great opportunity for me to take stock and observe the tangible effects of what I do on my state of mind, body and spirit.

I said it before, I’ll say it again, holy crap, this stuff actually works!

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It’s interesting to unpack the components of the daily ‘to do’ list, because I think I intuitively stumbled onto something quite insightful. Without intentionally doing so, I realised my list incorporated aspects of clearing myself physically and mentally – of stresses, concerns, and tension – allowing me to empty out and surrender more fully as I sat in meditation. As I wrote in my last post, it is helpful to smooth and soothe the body and nervous system before we can ‘just be’ in spirit.

From experience I know a day’s plan must balance activities I NEED to do with activities I LOVE to do. My personality disposition lends itself to a ‘work then reward’ system. So I tend to start with something like going to the gym (work) with a period of reading in the sun (reward). 

Interestingly I discovered some of the ‘work’ aspects actually made me feel fantastic. After the gym, I had a endorphin high, after half an hour of weeding I felt the soothing effects of having my hands in the soil (more on that in a minute), the invigorating effects of sunshine as well as the sense of satisfaction at seeing the very apparent results of my labours. 

Seeing the positive results of these aspects of my day certainly made it more appealing to do the work. I think too, I was reminded that procrastinating over uninspiring or difficult tasks is really draining and even depressing. It feels like the elephant in the room, that thing I’m avoiding, a large inert mass sucking up all my mental and physical energy.

When I talked with a friend recently about my procrastination she told me of a system that worked for her. Basically you set a timer for 25 minutes and you do the activity with the agreement that at the end of that time you can switch to something else.

Faced with a week of time off and a massive to do list, I decided to test this practice out, with great results.

Starting a task when you have only a small allotted time is psychologically motivating. I found I didn’t procrastinate because I had a sense that I didn’t have ‘enough time’ to complete the task. Strangely I found quite a few tasks were more than adequately achieved in that time. Even larger tasks were obviously impacted upon in the time. It seems that by launching into action, and seeing results, the effect was very motivating.

After a few days, as my mood improved, my list was getting smaller and my sense of achievement grew, I found myself looking forward to the very tasks I had been putting off.

One of these tasks was the garden. I have a large garden at the back of my place, which surrounds the studio where I teach Chakradance. As last year intensified, I really let go of maintaining the garden. As such it is now overrun with weeds.

Every time I saw the state of it, I felt a range of negative emotions, shame, dread, self-disgust. It was as if the garden was an outward sign of my inner deterioration.

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To be honest, 25 minutes a day seemed like a drop in the ocean of my weedy wilderness, but I knew I had to do something. Once I got past the mental barrier of the overwhelming scale of the task, I really enjoyed the activity. I sat on the earth, I stuck my hands in the soil, the sun was shining, I played music and sang. 

During this time I was writing my last post on the base chakra, and I realised this sitting on the earth, alongside my energetic chakra practices was really grounding me.

As I listened to Anodea Judith talk about the earth, she said that one handful of soil contains more diverse microbes than there are people on the planet. Even though we can’t see it, the earth is teeming with life.

Gardening makes me happy, I thought. And then I stumbled upon this article which put some science into my experience. Antidepressant Microbes in Soil: How dirt makes you happy. Apparently the microbes in soil actually contribute to serotonin levels in the brain, and thus may have similar function to antidepressant medication. Not to mention the uplifting effect of sunshine and fresh air – it’s win, win, win! So get your gloves off, and dig those hands in the dirt.

From feeling completely paralysed with a sense of indecision and loss of faith, I have found myself reconnecting with the simple wisdom of daily disciplines. I picked up the book that inspired this blog, The Wishing Year, by Noelle Oxenhandler, and reread it.

What I always loved about this book was the author’s deep scepticism about much New Age thinking – or its lack of critical thinking. And yet, she practises wishing, setting intentions and following them up with the practical hard work it takes to allow them to happen. Noelle writes that magic starts where the practical leaves off – providing the conditions, the synchronicities that allow our practical actions to take root and flourish.

There’s no point wishing for my garden to be weeded, but somehow by creating a beautiful space for my classes, by gardening and painting the studio, it seems to create a shift in my attitude and an energy around my creative space, and suddenly I was receiving calls and bookings for my classes.

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Noelle had three wishes – a house, a man and her soul. Whenever I read her intentions they strike a chord so deep inside me. Yes! That’s what I want too!

So…

Inspired and spurred into action, I set my seven intentions for 2016. They may look familiar to some of you…

1. A home

2. Community

3. Purpose

4. Vibrant health

5. Abundance

6. Joy

7. Love

Ah, see they are lovely intentions? Aren’t they? These are the original seven intentions for this blog. And as I write them out and reflect on where I was when I wrote them and what’s happened since, well, I feel a bit teary. Because there’s been massive growth in all those areas.

Last year I got so excited by going to Bali and studying shamanism. It was such a pivotal experience, it showed me I really could do just about anything if I set my mind to it. It seemed so unlikely as a single, working mum that I could disappear off to Bali for three weeks to study shamanism. Bali, the land of the gods, that mysterious paradise that always seemed open to others but not to me.

Intoxicated from my foray into this cocktail of travel and esoteric study, I thirsted for more. I got myself really confused, there were so many appealing possibilities. Should I study shamanism or druidry, should I do this course, or that workshop? Should I travel back to Bali, to Ireland, to India, to Uluru? Should I quit my day job and put all my energy into Chakradance? Should I quit Chakaradance and take a big promotion at a work?

This kind of thinking becomes so all-or-nothing, black-and-white, and yet life takes place in the spaces in between the extremes.

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In the end I wound myself up into a tight little ball. A couple of people who know what they’re talking about suggested that if I was serious about commiting to a spiritual path, it didn’t really matter which one I chose, the important thing was discipline and practice. In particular a daily meditation practice. I desperately needed emptying out from this mental maelstrom. 

Getting so wound up in future plans that you can’t be in the present moment is the great trap of the modern lifestyle. Life begins in the now, in this present moment, every moment, surrender to this moment and you find your flow. Otherwise you have abandoned your body in the now, whilst your spirit is tripping off into the future, and there’s no wholeness in that.

I’m not saying don’t make plans, but a plan is just a rudder to plot your direction, then you live the journey out in the succession of now moments.

Hence the daily to do list. Bring it back, keep it simple, do what’s in front of you. The basic Spiritual 101 I learned in my early days of 12 step programs. 

Since then, the storm has passed, some degree of sanity and clarity has descended. I decide to finish what I have started, namely my Druidic studies and my studies and practice of the chakra system, and shamanic dance. I have settled on a meditation practice, with regular times to engage in shamanic dance and journeying. I’m doing regular exercise. I’m making time to socialise and have some fun.

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Oh I know this all sounds paradoxical, making plans and writing lists, setting timers and intentions, yet being in the now and in the flow. And there’s no exact science to it. Some days I’m anxious and out-of-sorts trying to do my list and meditate with a million thoughts raging – a million opportunities to return to God as Cynthia Bourgeault would say. Yet I have found it’s just not possible for my monkey mind to ‘just be’ outside of a certain degree of disciplined practice. ‘Just being’ ends up just lounging around procrastinating and feeling bad about myself for doing so. Or the paralysis of indecision, where to start?

So it is a paradox, but I have also found that sweet spot where it all just works. I’m in my day, I’m following a plan and yet somehow I’m in the flow, things become effortless and enjoyable, my mind becomes quiet. When unexpected things crop up, I allow them space in my day. 

Honestly though, I just don’t believe spiritual practice is meant to feel good all the time, I don’t think that’s the end in itself. Feeling calm may be a pleasant by-product at times, but the end itself is that constant intention to return to God, or source, or whatever you call that deep presence, the rest is icing on the cake.

I am rather fond of the icing though…

I have set the intention to go to India at the end of the year, it seems financially prohibitive, but if the last two years have taught me anything, it is that when I set a clear intention, act is if that’s what’s happening, and work towards that reality, it usually happens. 

Well, I’ve put it in writing now, so let’s just wait and see…

Blessings!

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The Happiness Trap


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We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. T S Eliot

It is always fascinates me watching how my blog posts unfold. It feels like a force beyond me is involved.

At first there is nothing, no ideas, no words. I don’t tend to force my writing anymore. I don’t set targets to write a certain amount of words or publish a certain amount of posts. I know that the ideas come when they come.

This post began with the recurring theme in my life of presence, of the power of now.

Then the magnetic force of intention comes into play and suddenly related ideas are being fed to me from everywhere. I see books, have conversations, things pop up online.

This is a kind of synchronicity. The coming together of meaningful events or ideas that provide significance or guidance. Events that occur coincidentally and with meaning, that cannot be explained by the usual conventions of causality. To me synchronicity is the meeting of intention and attention.

I read a wonderful story about actor Anthony Hopkins and synchronicity. Anthony was seeking a copy of the book of the movie he was making, The Girl From Petrovka by George Fiefer. The book was out of print and so you can imagine his surprise when he sat down at a London Underground train station and saw that very book sitting on the bench.

Years later as Anthony was filming the movie, the author George Fiefer dropped into the set and was lamenting that he had lost his only beloved copy of his book that he had painstakingly annotated. Anthony pulled the found copy out of his coat and asked, is this the one? It was. The very same copy.

Not only had Anthony found the book when he needed to read it, but the author’s notes in this copy had significantly helped him to prepare for the role.

Another powerful example of synchronicity was described by Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl was deliberating on whether to get out of Vienna during the Nazi reign. He had a young pregnant wife, but was also concerned for his parents who did not have visas to leave for America with him.

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Feeling conflicted he went to a cathedral and prayed for guidance. Returning home he found a marble slab that his father had rescued from a destroyed synagogue, it contained a fragment of the Ten Commandments “Honour thy father and mother.” So he stayed.

Frankl helped untold numbers of people during his time in the concentration camp, and after with his powerful work on the importance of life’s meaning.

In the end he lost his parents, wife and unborn child, but he had made the choice based on what he believed his life meaning was, to help others through their trials.

Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself – be it a meaning to fulfil or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself, by giving to a cause to serve or another person to love – the more human he is. Viktor Frankl

I read this story in an article in The Atlantic on Frankl which posed the question of whether meaning is more important than happiness. It suggested that happiness can be a rather selfish pursuit, always focused on our own comfort and needs, and that when these needs are fulfilled there is little incentive to care about anyone else.

Meaning, on the other hand, tends to make us search for our place in the web of life, and on how we can contribute for the wellbeing of others. As a recent psychological study in the U.S. found, the pursuit of happiness is associated with being a ‘taker,’ while the pursuit of meaning corresponds with being a ‘giver.’

So what does all this have to do with my theme of presence and the power of now?

Well, to start with, I think we can only appreciate meaning and synchronicity when we are fully present, in the moment, not rushing around preoccupied with past worries and future fears. And…

Oh well, I may as well just tell you the whole story.

A few weeks ago I was at work, in the library. I found myself in the not-unfamiliar position of finding a task I could do at the back of the library away from everyone as I was feeling pretty upset. Yet again I was trying and failing to have a relationship with the man I love. Yet again I was left confused, gutted, and distraught.

As I wallowed mindlessly in my heartbreak, the stocktake scanner beeped at me, alerting me to remove a book from the shelf.  A book called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

This a book that so many people have told me I should read over the years, and I had tried, but it never really resonated with me.

This time I started reading and it was like a life-support system. I know that sounds dramatic. But the reality is, after decades in and out of suicidal depression, I have some pretty well-worn neural pathways that take me to that dark place very quickly. The only way out is through extreme mindfulness, but it’s not easy to be mindful when you feel that bad.

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There was something quiet and simple about the Power of Now. Tolle wastes no time in telling the reader how to be mindful, so I just kept doing what he said.  Then the dark thoughts came back, then I’d do what he said, then… Well, you get the idea.

Focus attention on the feeling inside you. Know that it is the pain-body. Accept that it is there. Don’t think about it – don’t let the feeling turn into thinking. Don’t judge or analyse. Don’t make an identity for yourself out of it. Stay present, and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you. Become aware not only of the emotional pain but also of “the one who observes,” the silent watcher. This is the Power of Now. The power of your own conscious presence. Then see what happens. Eckhart Tolle

It’s no overstatement to say I was amazed by the contrast between how I felt when practicing presence or mindfulness and how I felt as soon as I slipped back into my pain-centred being. And it wasn’t that I was avoiding the pain I felt, I was feeling the pain, I just wasn’t adding to my pain by dredging up all the ‘whys’ and ‘what ifs’ of past and future focused thinking. In the now I was just very sad. And then I just was. And it wasn’t that bad. To just be, now.

This is not the first time I’ve used mindfulness techniques, and Tolle is by no means inventing anything new here. It was just the right messenger at the right time.

I was reminded of reading a book called The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris. Also focusing on mindfulness, the book describes how our thinking, as tied up as it is in fight or flight parasympathetic stress responses, can add significant suffering to our lives, particularly in the form of anxiety and depression.

Harris advocates using mindfulness to accept and create space for our feelings, whilst allowing our actions to focus on our core values. For example I may feel sad and fearful, I can acknowledge those feelings, breathe and be present, yet still act with dignity and do whatever I need to do today. That may be work, or taking care of children, or even taking care of myself.

Happiness is not a goal. It is the by-product of a life well lived. Eleanor Roosevelt

In a follow-up book The Reality Slap, Harris describes his grief at hearing his son’s autism diagnosis, and his journey back to finding worth and joy in life again. Harris is adamant that his approach is not about avoiding feelings, or affirming away challenging emotions.

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In yoga class, the teacher is taking us through the five niyamas. Last week’s theme was santosha. Santosha is contentment, but not the contentment that comes from getting what we want. Rather santosha is the contentment we find within, that enduring inner flame that continues regardless of outside circumstances.

The second ‘limb’ of yoga, the niyama are contracts with oneself. The practice of these niyama: self-purification (Shaucha), contentment (Santosha), self-discipline (Tapas), self-study (svadhyaya), and self-surrender (Ishvara Pranidhana), ideally create an environment of positive discipline in which to pursue the path of yoga.

Santosha implies a total acceptance of what is, with a particular focus on what is to be appreciated in any moment. It is unconditional contentment. It is an acknowledgement that underneath the hurly burly of life’s ups and downs is a true self that is always okay. The same self that Eckhart Tolle refers to. The self that exists only in the now, not thinking of the past or the future.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Viktor Frankl

Try it for a moment. Take some deep breaths and bring your awareness onto right now. Feel the weight of your body sitting on the floor or a chair. Feel the air around you, listen to the sounds close by and in the distance. Just feel how it feels to be in your body, without judging your body, feeling the heartbeat, the breath, the blood pulsing. Feeling into your senses, into the experience of being alive.

If you feel any discomfort in your body, just breath and allow the discomfort. Observe it. Where is it in your body? Is it large or small? Does it feel hard or soft? Warm or cold? These may sound like strange questions, but it is amazing when we become fully present with our pain and observe it in this way how it does become a tangible thing, just another thing that is a part of us right now, it doesn’t have to totally define us though.

If you had a moment there where you managed to be present and stop thinking about the past or present, how did it feel? Did you feel that you had tapped into a real sense of living in the moment? Of being truly alive?

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So here I am.  Finding myself heart-broken, sad, angry, and all that is around me indicates a focus on presence, on meaning. On contentment. As much as I want to rail against this, experience shows me it’s the way. We always have a choice, life circumstances may be beyond our control, but our attitude towards them is not.

We need much less than we think we need. Maya Angelou

Wayne Dyer says that what you carry around inside of you is what comes out when life puts pressure on you. Like an orange that when squeezed will only ever produce orange juice, because that’s what inside. So the sadness and anger that comes out is from within me, it’s not anyone’s else’s.

Alternatively, those of us who can be present, contented, mindful, and centred in our inherent peace, will radiate that.

We become what we focus on.

When our goal in life is to be happy, anything less that that is a failure. All we can see is what we don’t yet have.

It is also fleeting. While we chase after that person, job, possession, or even that spiritual ideal, which we think will bring us happiness, we make our contentment external and conditional.

We also set ourselves up for a neverending cycle of chasing the ‘next thing’ to make us happy, we may even experience anxiety and depression when these things don’t work out, or don’t bring us the feelings we crave. This is the happiness trap.

When we focus on what meaning our life has, it is possible we can be quite unhappy with our external life circumstances, and yet by living a value-driven life, we can experience the true contentment that comes from doing something meaningful and lasting. Acting from values tends to create a lasting sense of worth, which in turn positively influences our inner contentment.

I learned this… That if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours… In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. Henry David Thoreau 

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Mindfulness is certainly the buzzword du jour. Its benefits continue to shine in research studies. Yet just how easy is it to practice?

My experience is that it’s only when my thoughts are problematic that I have the incentive to detach from them. Hence my mindfulness practice can wane somewhat when I’m feeling good.

Somewhat paradoxically, if I do not maintain a mindfulness practice when I am feeling good, when the bad times hit, it can be harder to start practising then. Who wants to be mindful of painful feelings? Like any practice, it takes time and consistency to train the mind. Being fundamentally lazy, I tend to fall back into old habits and well worn neural pathways pretty quickly.

Happy thoughts and projections for the future seem harmless and often quite pleasurable. It’s only when my thoughts turn to the dark side, as they have this last few weeks that I really recognise the need for me to be the master of my own mind.

Stuck at home with the flu, no TV, and very few distractions, I began to see how desperately I wanted an escape from my own mind. Social media was filled with the disasters of the world, which I felt both devastated by and powerless over.

Instead of escaping the present, I stayed with it. Left with little distractions, I made that choice to stay present, even though the present seemed pretty crappy.

What I found there was my true self. My essence. That part of me that is unchanging, unaffected by the external. The observer, the witness, my spirit. She goes by many names. I call her home.

For when we tap into this presence, all else falls away and our power, our awareness is brought into a state of oneness. We are centred and it truly feels as if all our disparate parts have come home.

We are fragmented into so many different aspects. We don’t know who we really are, or what aspects of ourselves we should identify with or believe in. So many contradictory voices, dictates, and feelings fight for control over our inner lives, that we find ourselves scattered everywhere, in all directions, leaving nobody at home. Meditation then, is bringing the mind home. Sogyal Rinpoche

I realise I have not been meditating so much, or journeying, of late. My spiritual practice has been entirely about my classes. Somewhere along the line I had lost that fearlessness that allowed me to delve deeper within.

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By attaching myself to external needs, I had neglected the internal ones. When those external needs weren’t met, I was left alone in the awareness that somewhere along the line I had abandoned myself.

What seemed like an external crisis became a necessary wake up call to reconnect with the power within. The power of presence. The power of now. It’s time to come home.

Little by little as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice, which you slowly recognised as your own, that had kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper. Mary Oliver

Blessings!

Sources:

There’s More to Life Than Being Happy from The Atlantic

The Mysterious Power of Synchronicity

Images from Facebook. Sources unknown.

The Shaman’s Blues

 The Doors - Full Circle - Cover 1

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? 

Love and letting go

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I’ve been love-bombing nature.

After two magical weeks spent by the sea, walking in the national park, collecting stones and shells. Lying under the dappled shade of a gum tree reading, my love for nature became irrepressible. So I expressed it, all over the place. Messages of love to nature in nature.

The last two weeks have been unspeakably beautiful. I have lived in the ocean’s echo, woken to bird-sounds and waves and sunshine.

I have walked through forests of ti-tree to the ocean shore where I swam and crashed with the waves and the ocean inspired me to sing my own special soul-song.

This year of intentions has come full circle. It all began on my annual beach holiday last January. I reflected on all that has happened in this year – such a wild and wonderful journey. I reviewed my list of intentions and decided that they have all taught me something, some things to aspire to and some to let go of.

I have been blissfully happy at times, lost in the moment, absorbed fully in a ray of sunshine or floating on an ocean wave.

And yet, the waves of sadness and grief at times have had me standing by the ocean’s roiling dark depths wanting to surrender my body to that force, to be done with these lessons of human existence.

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I have been angry for my sadness, my grief, my sensitivity. “When, oh when, will it be done?”

I want to be past it. I want to be hard and strong. I judge these emotions as undesirable, not spiritual. As self-pity and self-indulgence.

And yet here they are. Even amidst such beauty.

As I read more about the celtic spirit wheel, I realise everything can be seen as a gift. Even my sensitivity is a gift.

Ah! So here I am desperately wishing away my true gift. I am sensitive, painfully sensitive, but it’s not something to be rid of, or to be waiting to pass. It is the same sensitivity that allows me to hear the trees and the oceans, to feel the touch of the air like a lover’s caress.

It allows me to feel the pain of others, all of life, the birds, rocks, trees and the humans.

It is a gift to honour, to hone, to respect. To attend to. When I feel that pain, not to berate myself for being overly sensitive but to ask “what is your message for me?”

I am what I am being right now. The only way to shift is through the doorway of complete acceptance.

In some traditional cultures there are special people, usually women, who are so sensitive and empathetic, that they are brought in after a great loss to tell the story of the loss in a way to make the community cry. Their role is to bring the healing tears.

My sadness and sensitivity feel like a gateway, a place I must walk into to claim my unique power. It feels like an initiation into my shamanic powers. These are not the gifts I would have chosen for myself, so I know they are real.

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Knowing that the sadness will pass in its own time, like the seasons, allows a space of being in the energy of sadness. Instead of judging it and trying to be rid of it, I practice experiencing the sadness. How does it feel? Like a heavy stone in my heart and chest. It tugs and constricts at my solar plexus, heart and throat. I want to cry, but I don’t want anyone to see me cry, hence the tightness when I hold it in.

So I am full of water and stone. What better place to be assimiliated than in the ocean. Lying in its rock pools with its powerful waves of water washing over me, kneading me, pushing and pulling at me until the dam bursts and the tears flow.

The ocean is seductive at times of grief. It pulls at me, I know it would carry me away from all this pain, and in its depths I would be at peace. But what would be the lesson in that? Am I not here to experience this precise experience right now? Am I not here to open to this moment and be washed clean of all that blocks me from being myself?

So another instinct makes me hang on tight to the rocks and not be swept away. For the sea has no judgment on such things, it would carry me away and thrash my body against the rocks, or drown me in its waves. I am just a part of the ebb and flow of life. Like the coloured glass that washes up on the shore, smoothed and buffed by the pounding on the ocean’s floor and the rocks. Ground into sand to be made again into more glass.

We are all made of the same ingredients as the rocks, the sea and the stars. The web of life that binds us all in a flow and exchange of energy and matter cares not whether I am a living human or shark food. There is no judgement here, only a sense that when my time comes, it will come and not by my own hand.

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So each day I make the commitment to the living.

I commune with nature, sing to the waves and the moon, touch the leaves and trunks of her trees, express love and gratitude for the air I breathe and the bountiful sustenance I reap from her soil.

I express love to my family and friends, I cook, I wash, I laugh, I talk, I care. I spend time with my son, coaxing him to come for walks and swim in the sea with me, but also engaging in his world, of games and movies and sport.

Observing nature’s cycles helps me to see how all living things exist in a cyclical way. There is give and take, love and loss, joy and sadness. I try to ride these waves and bend myself to them, instead of my want to bend thing to suit my needs.

And yet each day I awake with this stone in my chest. Sometimes it grows into a sword that gets twisted and yanked by people, and the things they say, and the pain becomes excruciating. But I don’t want to lash out anymore – its not them causing the pain, the pain is in me.

It’s so overwhelming I just want to scream and shout, it’s too big for my body, its uncontainable.

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So I go to the sea, go to the forest. In the wildness something changes. As I trek through the forest to the ocean there is an expanse of sky, there are trees and stones, then sand and sea. I lie on the rocks covered in spongey, air-filled seaweed as if it’s a bed made for me.

The waves wash over me, they push and pull with force but the brunt of the ocean’s power is broken by the rock ledges between the wild ocean and the rock pools I lie in. I know the sea would take me, churn me up in its wild machinations. This is not a friendly place, it is a wild place. And in its wildness my emotions are diluted. The wildness in me is literally a mere drop in the ocean. Its not that my pain is taken away, it just finds its proper container, a container big enough, spacious enough for it to roam unconstrained. It finds its home.

Tonight I took my anger to the beach. To experience again this release. But there were too many people. Everywhere I looked for wildness there were people on jet-skis and boats, drinking and playing loud music. I felt affronted. “This is MY wilderness!” I wanted to scream.

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I see how my sadness and my emotions propel me. In this way they are a gift, they drive me to find solace and comfort. This drive has led me to a consistent spirutal seeking for that past 15 years, it has led me to Chakradance, shamanism and druidry. What I need now is to deepen my practice and understand these pathways take time, a lifetime to unfold.

When I walk to the National park there is a sign that says we acknowledge the traditional land owners. I think of them. I imagine this place before white man came. The sea is still full of fish after years of plundering, but back then, with the sustainable living of the koories, it would have been paradise. Forest meets seas full of fish and shellfish, abalone, mussels, scallops, crabs. Kangaroos and plenty of bush tucker. The air was fresh and filled with the sound of birds and wind and sea.

I wonder how to reconcile these two extremes. I long for wilderness and solitude, yet I know all this is not worth its salt if I can’t integrate it into my human life. Somehow I have to fall in love with humans as part of nature, somehow I see them as separate things, and yet we are nature too.

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On my last night I decided to honour the full circle of this year of Seven Intentions by holding a releasing and intention ritual under the moonlight at the beach.

It was a stormy night, pitch black bar the flashes of lightning. I sang my power song, shook my rattle and chimes, called in the elements and spirits. I had spontaneously written out my list of letting go, commitments, and intentions.

At the beach ceremony I consecrated the page with fire, earth, air and water and surrendered it to the sea. There was an almighty fork of lighting and a large wave that sprayed my body with salty, cleansing water. And it was done.

Seven Intentions of 2015

I release my attachment to ‘romantic love’. I release my attachment to ‘outcomes’. I release my attachment to ‘home’.

I commit to not loving anyone more than myself. I commit to honouring and respecting myself as part of the beauty of nature. I commit to love as my driving, creative force.

Love myself
Love the (super)natural world
Love animals
Love people
Love my work
Love my space
Love my spirit

They are still a bit rough, a work in progress. Just like me.

Bless!

 

(Images by Me)

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

Ocean sized

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Wish I was ocean size
They cannot move you
No one tries
No one pulls you
Out from your hole
Like a tooth aching in a jawbone… Jane’s Addiction

Last week I was a Chakradancing shaman-priestess of the Goddess. This week I am a librarian huddled in the Romance section of the library in the midst of a nervous breakdown. Why? Heartbreak, disappointment. You know, the usual suspects.

I thought, nay, I was dead-sure, that I was training in shamanic ways in Bali in February. It was all a happening thang until work said ‘no’ to me taking leave at that time. And then, I just lost the plot. I mean emotionally, I didn’t go postal and shoot up the library or anything. My rage is within.

As such, I really haven’t wanted to publish a post until I ‘felt better.’ I’ve been procrastinating, not wanting to write what I was feeling. I was in such a positive frame of mind last week. This week, not so much.

Feeling that I’d be contradicting my “I’m not broken” statement by, well, having a breakdown, I just wanted to hide away and not write anything.

But then the clouds cleared enough for me to realise that being unbroken is not the same as being unaffected by life. Of course disappointment and heartbreak will affect me deeply. Of course I feel devastated when things I have proclaimed to love and want don’t come to fruition for me.

That’s not broken, that’s the opposite of broken. That’s real.

It ain’t easy living…
I want to be
As deep
As the ocean
Mother ocean. Jane’s Addiction

So I realised this week that I have some odd ideas about how I ‘should’ be – and how I ‘should’ react to things. Just because a relationship isn’t working doesn’t mean I’m not devastated when it ends. People, many people, told me when my marriage ended that I was “better off without him.” And perhaps I was, didn’t mean it wasn’t the most painful experience of my life.

People also tend to say “it’s not meant to be” when we miss out on opportunities that we have set our hearts on. It may be true, but it doesn’t diminish the sharp stab of disappointment.

I was made with a heart of stone
To be broken
With one hard blow
I’ve seen the ocean
Break on the shore
Come together with no harm done… Jane’s Addiction

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And if, like most people, you’ve weathered your fair share of loss, grief, and disappointment in your life, that latest hurt is inevitably going to feel like one more cut, along with the other thousand you are in the process of healing from.

So after beating myself up for crying at work, crying in the shower, crying in the car, listening to Adele very loudly, and crying some more, I finally gave myself a break.

Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us. Brian Jacques

And I thought, so what if you’re overreacting? So what if it’s not meant to be? So what if it’s not the right time for you to study shamanism in Bali with a man you love dearly? So what if there’s plenty of fish in the sea?

It hurts. It really hurts. So pump up Adele and sing along as loud and with as much tears and snot as you need to get through this and honour your feelings.

And what I found when I surrendered to the feelings of loss, sadness, disappointment, rage and grief was that they were like waves. They’d come in and ‘whoah!’ Whoosh off I’d go. It would feel intense, overwhelming, literally like I was dying of pain. And then. It would subside.

It reminded me of my dear friend, G. I reached out to her in solidarity in the late stages of my pregnancy. I knew her, but not very well. But I had no friends who had had babies and I was scared. She had traversed that magical, mystical rite of passage into motherhood with such grace.

When I asked her what labour was like, I think I said. “Is it painful?” And she laughed. She said. “It helped me to see that it came in waves. So I’d ride the wave and it would get really intense and then it would break and the next wave would build.” That made the pain manageable.

I am the wind which breathes upon the sea, I am the wave of the ocean. Amergin

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I’ve used that analogy a lot since then. We also rang each other everyday during our divorces. On any given day, one of us would be an absolute cot-case and the other would be doing a bit better. That’s why friendship works, don’t you know, because we are not all crazy on the same day!

We were like wounded soldiers leaning against each other for support, staggering away from the battlefield. Sometimes we’d miss each other’s calls and just a simple text “the storm has passed” to let the other know we were okay.

I find it fascinating, these analogies of storms and waves. Jung believed water, particularly the I ocean was an archetype for the subconscious.

Nature is the only place I feel sane this week. I’m practicing being in nature with all my senses. Closing my eyes. Hearing the sounds. Feeling the breeze. Smelling the earth. Tasting the air.

I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.” Sylvia Plath

Sensing removes me from thinking and brings my focus into the present moment. It’s also incredibly lovely. We miss so much when we are stuck in our heads, thinking, ruminating.

Nature is ever expansive. When we observe the horizon and the vastness beyond, when we listen to the sounds the go on infinitely beyond the audible. When the smell of flowers and leaves and salt-sea air fills our noses and mouths with scent and tastes that stir the deepest most ancient recesses within us. Everything expands. Our vision, our senses and our spirit.

In nature, our spirit pulses and resonates to this throb and thrum of life. The mental chatter becomes just a small part of a greater cacophony. Thoughts drift away. Emotions are soothed. Our bodies calm down into the steady, strong heartbeat of the earth.

The hard thing, I think. Is trying to decide what to do when my head starts hurting, and my emotions rage out of control. Take this Bali trip, for example. I was so sure it was ‘meant to be’.

There are many tangled threads of want, need and desire. I want to do shamanic training, Bali is the closest place to do the training I want to do. I’ve been wanting to go to Bali for years. I haven’t been away without children for 15 years. My ex has been to Asia at least 10 times in the last 5 years. The most recent time was for his honeymoon a few weeks ago.

My ex getting married rocked me more than I had anticipated. It was not the usual kind of jealousy – I don’t want to be with him. It was just the reminder that in the five and a half years we have been separated he has travelled extensively, bought a house, and gotten married. And I, well I haven’t.

Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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My love was going to Bali with me. So it seemed like such a golden thing. Shamanism, love and Bali sunsets. So when work said no to leave, I was gutted. All these different disappointments came into play simultaneously.

I kind of lost the plot. I needed to cry and all I could do was crouch at the back of the library pretending to shelve the romance novels. And cry. Yep. Pretty pathetic.

I mean I thought, to myself, ‘you could quit your job.’ I really thought about it. I mean if this was my destiny, that would be the right thing to do. But I have a child. Taking those kind if risks seemed crazy. And what if it wasn’t my destiny? What if it was just my wilfulness?

There are no easy answers. My friend also says God’s will should be effortless. Meaning it should unfold without angst. Do I believe that? I used to. I’m not sure what I believe anymore.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on. Mary Oliver

So I didn’t get what I wanted. Instead I’m trying to get to a different shamanism course. I applied for a great role at work, and went to an interview. Because life goes on. It just does, so I may as well too.

And I’m teaching Chakradance! It is the most wonderful, nurturing experience. I really feel like I am a shaman when I lead a class.

Last night in the third eye Chakradance, where we dance our dreams into reality, I saw myself in a – fabulous feather outfit, complete with head-piece – leading a huge group of people in a dance journey, standing on a lush green hill. And I just couldn’t stop smiling. It’s okay. It’s all okay. It’s going to be okay.

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Just now I received an email from the Shamanic teacher. He lives in Bali, he does courses there year-round.  ‘It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay.’ Whispers the universe.

So why do I create such big waves in my life? Why can’t I just be calm? Why can’t the ocean be calm all the time? Because things need to be churned up sometimes, a good shake up allows the detritus to rise to the surface and be dumped on the shore. It’s part of the cycle.

Divinity is in it’s omniscience and omnipotence like a wheel, a circle, a whole, that can neither be understood, nor divided, nor begun nor ended. Hildegard of Bingen

It reminds me of that scene in the movie Parenthood. Steve Martin’s character has just discovered – after losing his job – that his wife is pregnant with their fourth child. He’s sitting at his kid’s school concert, which goes haywire, and he begins to feel as if he’s on a roller coaster. At first he’s panicked, but then he remembers his grandma saying “Life is like a roller coaster, just hang on and enjoy the ride.”

Surfing the waves is like being on a roller coaster, it’s out of control and terrifying but simultaneously exhilarating. A calm ocean is peaceful, but there’s no movement.

In this way, experiencing emotional suffering can be a healing opportunity. Events can trigger an emotional response, say sadness, anger and grief, these emotions may be stored in our subtle body, our energy meridians and even our physical body, and as they are stirred up by this fresh experience we can release them.

So re-feeling of the old pain of our lives is a vital opportunity to address old patterns, thinking and emotions and to let them go.

To do this we must honour the feelings, we must let go of judgement and criticism. For me this means not berating myself for being over-emotional, over-sensitive, and over-reactive.

The reality is I grew up in a home where expressing emotions was discouraged, then I spent the next twenty years suppressing my emotions in various ways, of course I have a surplus of emotion ‘stored’ in my system. I’m I the process of a massive emotional detox. The truth is, in our culture, if you have embarked on a spiritual path, most of us are.

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Our culture doesn’t support emotional expression very well. We don’t have appropriate rituals and support for trauma. In traditional shamanic cultures, if someone suffered a loss or trauma, after three days the whole community would gather and the shaman would perform a healing and soul retrieval.

Can you imagine? Every car accident, assault, medical procedure, break-up, loss, grief, trauma you have suffered in your life, being acknowledged and healed at that time, so your body didn’t have to bear the accumulation of this pain.

But that’s okay. I don’t live in a shamanic culture, that doesn’t mean I can’t use their wisdom and practice to heal and release these emotional wounds.

As such I have been journeying this week, going into a state of non-ordinary reality to seek guidance on how best to work through the things that are coming up for me.

Gentle nurturing support is what I received. Guidance to take baths and ground myself in nature. The body and spirit will process this, given time and the space to do so. By honouring the work of my soul, by listening to what emerges for me in my life, I get to release off baggage and clear space for my true spirit to emerge.

This is what Frank MacEowen, in his book The Celtic Way of Seeing, calls “the conscious process of soul refinement.”

Affirmations about nature from bmindful.com and healingwithcrystals.net.au:

My spirit is nourished by spending time in nature
I am blessed to have the richness of nature around me.
When I commune with nature, my own blessed spirit is renewed.
Today I will spend time alone in nature.
I live naturally in all ways.
I live in harmony with all that is around me.
I am completely refreshed after communing with nature.
I accept, release, and allow space for the exchange of energy.
Natural diversity inspires wonder and awe in me.

Nature is always in flux. Waves crash on the shore. Leaves fall from trees. Nature always letting go and coming together anew. Let go. Rides the waves. It’s okay.

The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful. e.e. cummings

Bless!

 

Art by Robin Mead Designs