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/

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!

Within you and without you (or how The Beatles taught me everything I know)

We were talking about the space between us all, and the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion, never glimpse the truth, then it’s far too late, when they pass away. We were talking about the love we all could share. When we find it, to try our best to hold it there. With our love, we could save the world, if they only knew. Try to realise it’s all within yourself, no one else can make you change. And to see you’re really only very small and life flows on within you and without you. The Beatles, Within You Without You

Exactly what listening to these lyrics at the tender age of 8 does to a psyche, I really don’t know. I tend to think if my mind had not been somewhat open to the sentiment of these words,  I would have dismissed my father’s rather unusual birthday gift to the exile of discarded things and never thought of it again.

Either that or I’m completely justified in blaming dad for my being such an anachronistic freaked-out flower-child.

But I did not discard it. In fact I listened to that cassette of The Beatles Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band until it wore out. And then I bought the record. And not just that record, but every Beatles record, and any other psychedelic 60’s band I could get my hands on, but more on that musical journey in this previous post, The Shamans Blues.

My dad loved the Beatles and he loved India. He went to India well before the whole 1960s psychedelic, Maharishi Yogi ashram, hippie craze, but in my mind – thanks to The Beatles – these were all inextricably linked.

I happened to mention recently to a friend that the reason I am making a pilgrimage to India is because my dad gave me the Sgt. Peppers album for my eighth birthday. He looked at me askance. And rightly so. I know. It makes no sense, but I’ll try to make some sense of it here anyway.

Because really and truly, The Beatles pretty much taught me everything I know about life.

As a child I lived 90% of my life in my imagination, I read voraciously, I loved magical realism, The Faraway Tree, The Water Babies, The Neverending Story, C S Lewis, Celtic fairy tales. I had no doubt that although Santa and the Easter Bunny were definitely made up kid’s stuff, these magical realms beyond ordinary reality were absolutely real.

So it’s no wonder really that the psychedelic visions of Sgt. Peppers were, quite literally, music to my ears.

Picture yourself on a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies, somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly, the girl with kaleidoscope eyes. The Beatles, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds


It’s a little sad loving a band so much after the fact. For starters, I was absolutely devastated when I found out that John Lennon had already died.  It would have happened only months before my eighth birthday – before I really knew what it meant, what he meant.

The Beatles sang about love. 613 times to be exact. In some archetypal way, to my mind, they each represented an aspect of love.

Paul’s love was romantic love. Boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy wants girl to hang out in slippers when they are 64. Ringo was the jester who made us smile and laugh. He sang songs about underwater worlds, and often with a mock Western twang or some other funny voice. Well, let’s face it. His normal voice was a funny voice.

Nothing you can know that isn’t known. Nothing you can see that isn’t shown. Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be. It’s easy. All you need is love. Love is all you need. The Beatles, All You Need is Love

George’s spiritual love was subtle and esoteric, and beyond my understanding at this age. And in truth, he was often overshadowed by the dynamic duo of John and Paul. But once you listen and understand the impact of his burgeoning spirituality in the band, his influence is always there.

But John’s love I could relate to, it was an idealist’s love – that uncompromising, unconditional dedication to the principle of universal love. “Why can’t we make love not war?” He asked. I tended to agree.

John’s murder seemed a brutal answer to that question. There were forces in the world that didn’t come from love and would do anything to silence that love in others. That was a dark lesson for a child to learn.

But The Beatles taught me everything. Even the hard things.

My best friend in high school was as fanatical about the Beatles as I was.

We poured over the songs, listening endlessly to George Martin’s layered, chopped, and backwardly arranged lyrics in order to try to decipher some secret message. Back in the day when you could play a record backwards to hear the lyrics.

They even helped us learn French and German, She Loves You was translated and recorded into both languages.

We spoke a ‘secret’ language of Beatles lyrics. We sang in our best Liverpudlian accents.

We had deep and meaningful conversations about who really was the walrus? And more importantly, why?

Well, she was just 17. You know what I mean. And the way she looked was way beyond compare. So how could I dance with another (Ooh). When I saw her standing there. The Beatles, I saw her standing there

My first teenage love was a boy I knew for only one night. He escorted me to my high school dance. He was a few years older and had a reputation for smoking weed and deflowering virgins so I had high hopes for the night… But instead we sat up all night, as the fumes of Southern Comfort leached from my pores, and we sang Beatles songs and shared our deep love of them.

He was a fan of their early stuff, while I loved the psychedelic later years. He was a musician and by about 3am had convinced me of the genius of their early song compositions. He sang And I Love Her. To me.

At the dance they had played I Saw Her Standing There and we had danced. And I was just seventeen, you know what I mean.

By the time I started experimenting with drugs I was well and truly prepared for the ‘trip’. After all I’d been singing along to psychedelic experiences for 10 years already.

But life was not always a Magical Mystery Tour.

The Beatles were torn apart by conflict. Charles Manson stole Helter Skelter as his demonic signature for the Tate massacre. John was murdered. He and Paul who’d once lived and breathed each other, had not even been on speaking terms for years.

It seemed that love was not enough after all.

In my own descent into nihilism, from my late teens to mid-20s, I lost that psychedelic light entirely. I drugged and drank not to see and seek anymore but to stop from seeing, to escape.

She’s not a girl who misses much. She’s well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand. Like a lizard on a window pane. I need a fix ’cause I’m going down. Down to the bits that I left uptown. The Beatles, Happiness is a Warm Gun

The Beatles went to Rishikesh in 1968, along with their partners, Mia Farrow and her sister Prudence, and the British musician Donovan, and much of the White Album was written at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Ashram there.

The White album is incredibly diverse – random even – and signals the disparate ways the band members were heading. Perhaps it was also a reflection of each member’s reaction to going within during that transformative time at the ashram.

The White Album is a soul-searching album of disconnection. What happens when we go within and things are not all peace and love? What do we do with the anger, the disappointment, the nihilism.

It was only in researching this post that I got a true sense of how bad things were for the band after the ashram trip. When they went to record The White album back at Abbey Road, the band fell apart. Yoko was always there, Ringo left the band for a period, and the other members even filled in on drums on some of the tracks. In fact, only 16 out of the 30 songs on the album were recorded with all four members in the same room.


There’s something about hearing music that you’ve been listening to for 35 years. The sounds trigger layers of memories and associations, the music plunges deep, like an arrow through the memory skin and this variegated essence of me across the years is exposed.

From these familiar sounds dance a prism of memories, an augmented reality, in which I can simultaneously see the various projections of my self across the years. The eight year old me, the fourteen year old, the seventeen year old, the young adult, and the middle aged me, all bopping along together.

No matter where I have found myself, what dark places, the music of The Beatles has always been a lifeline back to my true essence.

I too descended into a place of dark nihilism during my “White Album” years. But I came from that dark place with a hunger and a thirst for spiritual connection. Again there was something in George’s sitar and those words that kept drawing me back to Indian mysticism.

We were talking about the love that’s gone so cold. And the people who gain the world and lose their soul. They don’t know, they can’t see, are you one of them? When you’ve seen beyond yourself then you may find peace of mind is waiting there. And the time will come when you see we’re all one and life flows on within you and without you. The Beatles, Within You, Without You.

George Harrison was most permanently transformed from the ashram experience, for the other Beatles it was a more transitory phase, although they all remained convinced by the benefits of meditation and continued to practise in one form or another.

John Lennon in particular was put off by the somewhat dubious practices that went on as the Western pop culture came crashing into Eastern mysticism.

The energy that I’ve found doing meditation, you know, has been there before – only that I could access it only during good days when everything was going well. With meditation I find that it could well be pouring down rain; it is still the same amount. John Lennon

George however found a spiritual practice that would strengthen and sustain him all his days. He connected with musicians such as Ravi Shankar, who became an inspiration and mentor, George felt he could see how music was an expression of spirit, a call to spirit.

The Beatles connection with India goes back further than George’s interest in transcendental meditation. The first time I heard the names of the Hindu goddesses Kali and Lakshmi was in The Beatles movie Help! Where the band are on the run from a crazed Hindu cult after Ringo inadvertently steals their sacred sacrificial ring.

In various interviews around the time The Beatles became interested in the Maharishi Yogi, they describe how they came to know of him and his practice.

All of us, except Ringo, attended the lecture given by Maharishi at the Hilton Hotel. I got the tickets. I was actually after a mantra. I had got to the point where I thought I would like to meditate; I’d read about it and I knew I needed a mantra – a password to get through into the other world. And, as we always seemed to do everything together, John and Paul came with me. George Harrison

Recently I watched the wonderful Martin Scorsese documentary film, Living in the Material World, on George Harrison.

It struck me that his trajectory into the spiritual was similar to mine and many others I’ve known.

When he met the Maharishi Yogi in 1967 he was lost in a world of booze and drugs.

Cocaine especially had taken hold and his life was on a roller-coaster of empty highs and lows.

With drugs, you are still on the relative level. Just waiting and dreaming – all this is relative, only on this grosser level. Whereas when you meditate, it is all on a subtler level. So really you cannot compare them. With drugs you do have a glimpse of a few things, they heighten your experience. But if you take a drug and hope that it will bring the subtlety out of this grosser level – well, it will never work. George Harrison

In transcendental meditation and later the Hindu faith, George found a means to access spirit and all the higher realms of consciousness without drugs. In the same way, I found the journey within and connection to spirit was way more of a psychedelic trip than any hallucinogen I’d been on. And this time it had meaning.

The Beatles inadvertently taught me my first meditation mantra, jai guru deva OM जय गुरुदेव ॐ. It was in the song Across the Universe. I thought it was French and John was singing “I’m a guru already.” I’d been singing it for years before I understood what it was. In sanskrit it means “Glory to the Heavenly teacher.” Guru Dev was the Maharishi’s guru.

img_3805OM is the vibrational sound used to resonate with the vibration of the universe. In Sanskrit, these sounds have a vibrational resonance that has great power, the effect of reciting this mantra is to lull the mind into a state of higher consciousness. I remember having this mantra floating around in my head for days after listening to this song.

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million suns. They call me on and on across the universe. Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box. They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe. Jai Guru Deva OM. The Beatles, Across the Universe

This blog has always been about intentions. I have watched this intention for India bloom from a deep, but nebulous, wishing “wouldn’t it be lovely to go” to a shift where it became a vague possibility, to the multitude of signs that cropped up almost every day once I had said to myself “I really want to go to India.”

First, I kept seeing pictures of Alana Fairchild everywhere. She was promoting her Lakshmi Invoking the Goddess Retreat, during Diwali, the Festival of Lights, in Varanasi.

Diwali is the celebration of the inner light over spiritual darkness, knowledge over ignorance, right over wrong, good over evil.

In addition, the first day of Diwali is seen as the birth day of goddess Lakshmi, born from “the churning cosmic ocean of milk,” and the night marks the union of Lakshmi and Vishnu.

During the five day festival, the Ganges river comes alive with lanterns, fire offerings, and floating lights, every dwelling is lit up as the whole city is festooned in light.

It is said that, in Varanasi, an aarti, or devotional ceremony, has been offered to the Ganga morning and night for five thousand years.

Although logically I knew I could do India a lot cheaper on my own, every time I read the description of this week of full immersion in Lakshmi worship, in one of the great holy cities in the world, beside this river that represents the spiritual and literal lifeblood of India, my heart would leap up and pant, “please, please, please.”

During this time of deciding, the signs popped up everywhere, every newspaper and magazine I picked up seemed to have India on the cover. The Taj Mahal was everywhere! So I said to spirit “Okay, you want me to go? Show me the money.” The $500 deposit was due in a week and I was broke.

As I prayed at my altar I noticed it was pretty dusty so I gave it a good spring clean. I opened a special jewellery box I call my God box, where I place little notes and symbols of people and things I want to pray for or get help with, and out popped $250. (More on God Boxes in this previous post.)

It was the day after my entreaty to spirit.

At first I couldn’t understand where the money had come from, then I remembered my cancelled trip to Bali. I had exchanged money at the airport and had to get a refund when my flight was cancelled. I had come home and put the money in my god box, ostensibly for Bali. But here I had half my deposit.

Within a week I was offered a professional blog writing job, the Chakradance bookings were coming in and so I paid the deposit. When the intention is right, the money comes. I just had to trust my heart on this stuff.

I can’t remember when the Rishikesh idea came to me but once it did it took root immediately. A pilgrimage to the place the Beatles, well at least one of them, had got connected with their spiritual destiny? How could I not!

Looking a photos of this glorious town in the foothills of the Himalayas, I realised that this was near the source of the Ganges. The very same river I would be engaged in worship with for a week in Varanasi. Was this river calling to me?

Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream. It is not dying, it is not dying. Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void. It is shining, it is shining. Yet you may see the meaning of within. It is being, it is being. Love is all and love is everyone. It is knowing, it is knowing… The Beatles, Tomorrow Never Knows

Since then I have read books and watched numerous films about this sacred river.

In Hindu traditions the Ganges, or Ganga is divine, part mother, nourisher and sustainer of life, part goddess incarnate in elemental form, she is worshipped and revered.

According to Diane L. Eck in her wonderful book India: A Sacred Geography, 

Her true headwaters are not really in the highest Himalayas, but are said to be in highest heaven, emerging from the very foot of Vishnu. She was carried in the water pot of Lord Brahma, and when she plummeted from heaven to earth, her cascades fell first on the head of Lord Shiva. It is no wonder the most famous hymn to the river calls her “the embodied goodness of the gods.” Diane L. Eck

To go to her waters and be blessed by mother Ganga is a great privilege. It is the pilgrimage of a lifetime for many Hindus, and I feel honoured and humbled to have this opportunity.

The river certainly called George Harrison, he had such reverence for her and the Hindu traditions surrounding her, that his ashes were scattered in the Ganges at Varanasi.

When I say I am going to India because of The Beatles, I don’t mean to flippantly disregard millenia of Indian mysticism. Of course my fascination with the Hindu Tantra tradition is the reason I am drawn to this place. The role of The Ganges in that religion makes my destinations particularly pertinent. I trust this is the beginning of many Indian journeys for me.

img_3820I guess the point is, at a very young age this wonderful band came into my life and shaped me in a fundamental way.

Through The Beatles I was exposed to Indian mysticism at a formative phase of my psyche.

Not everyone who loves The Beatles develops a fascination with the Hindu spirituality, so I think for me it sowed a seed for something that my soul longed to be part of my incarnation at this time.

Or not. Who knows, really? All I do know is that when I wax and wane with indecision, as I am wont to do, this journey keeps cycling back to the sound of that sitar on that first album I ever owned.

There have been times over the last few months where I have questioned my decision to go to India. I can’t really afford it, the day after I paid for my retreat I found out my car needs $1400 worth of repairs.

But The Beatles taught me to live from the heart, to live as love would have me do. So I drive around with a noisy muffler, and play The Beatles really loud, and every time I hear that sitar, well don’t you know…

Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright, alright, alright. The Beatles, Revolution

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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Turning the heart

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

Romantic love is the single greatest energy system in the Western psyche. In our culture it has supplanted religion as the arena in which men and women seek meaning, transcendence, wholeness and ecstasy. Robert A. Johnson

Last week I wrote about the Celtic energy centres – the cauldrons – and since I have been practising Elen Sentier’s meditation on the Spiral Path through the chakras, even making a recording here on Soundcloud if you would like to try it. This week in particular, I am fascinated by the Cauldron of Motion and Vocation, Coire Ernmae, which some writers say, corresponds to the heart and solar plexus chakras.

This week’s Chakradance class was focused on the heart chakra. As always, there has been much synchronicity around this energy this week. What I teach and what I need to learn seem to flow together quite effortlessly.

In a reiki session at the start of the week, the reiki master, also a dear friend, said my heart was literally shouting “enough!”

This came as no surprise to me, nor probably to anyone who regularly reads this blog. Last year I reconnected with the man I had felt was my soul mate, and then following the well-worn pattern of the previous few years, our relationship imploded. The pain of this has been excruciating for me. Even five months later, I am left with a constant pain in my heart and this sense of not knowing, not understanding.

Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape. Charles Dickens

After my reiki session, as I practiced and then facilitated the heart Chakradance class, I tried to hear my heart, what was she saying to me? It seemed to me she had gone quiet, non-responsive, as if she was sulking, angry at the way I had allowed her to be pummelled so mercilessly.

Reflecting back on my life, I tried to remember a time when my heart felt open and safe. Of course there were times in the early throes of love when my heart blossomed, but these were all too quickly followed by the steely grate of disappointment and rejection slamming down on her.

It is almost always the case that whatever has wounded you will also be instrumental in your healing. Robert A. Johnson

I have always been disappointed in love. I have never been able to love and be loved in equal measure. I think of an animal, who when hurt, will retreat to a remote place to lick its wounds, and I feel this is where my heart is at. So I am trying to honour that.

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This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something. Elizabeth Gilbert

Having the week off work, my intention has been to ask my heart what it wants, and try to honour that. Although she hasn’t been very talkative, I know when I find those things. Going back to yoga after a long absence has felt like a balm for my heart and soul. Spending time with a dear friend, back from a long sojourn in India, has reminded me of the necessity to embrace life and seek joy.

My friend has suffered great loss, its not my story to tell, but losing half your family is enough to smother the most robust of hearts. I have witnessed my friend walk through years of grieving, with great courage, candour, and determination.

His trip to India was a magical, mystical tour of, in your face, no holes barred, life. India is like that.

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could. Louise Erdrich

This got me to thinking about the Celtic concept of the ‘turning of the cauldrons’. In the Celtic tradition, from what little we know of it, the three Cauldrons, or energy centres, are not all upright by default. The Cauldron of Warming, which provides our life-force, is upright in all of us from birth, but the other two, Vocation and Wisdom, must be turned by experience and the accumulation of wisdom. You can read more about the three cauldrons in my last post here.

There is a tendency is our modern, scientific, literal culture to dismiss stories and poems as fantasy. What possible wisdom could they offer us? What possible cosmology can be gained from a poem written over a thousand years ago? Robert A. Johnson answers this concern best:

First we must learn to think mythologically. Powerful things happen when we touch the thinking which myths, fairy tales, and our own dreams bring to us. The terms and settings of the old myths are strange; they seem archaic and distant to us, but if we listen to them carefully and take them seriously, we begin to hear and to understand. Robert A. Johnson

According to the poem, the Cauldron of Poesy, everyone is born into this world containing three centres: a centre of existence (The Cauldron of Warming), a centre of experience (The Cauldron of Vocation) and a centre of consciousness (The Cauldron of Knowledge).

The Cauldron of Warming is that which is necessary for life. The Cauldrons of Vocation and Knowledge are those areas of ourselves that can be changed by our own efforts. The texts describe the Cauldron of Warming as being upright at birth, while the Cauldron of Vocation is on its side and the Cauldron of Knowledge is inverted.

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The Cauldron of Vocation seems to correlate to the heart and solar plexus chakras in the Hindu tradition – although as I said last week this is merely a way for me to get traction with these concepts, there is no reason to believe there is an actual correspondence. This cauldron is turned to its side at birth and as the poem that tells of the cauldrons goes:

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

Reflecting on this passage, on my dear friend’s journey through the most intense of grief and trauma, my own, albeit tame in comparison, ongoing dalliance with grief, longing, and heartache, and it seems to me this is a time of turning. My friend is so open to life and love, stretched wide in the yawning gape of terrific loss, he has allowed his heart to transverse that chasm between despair and joy, to encompass its entirety. I see a man whose heart has turned, and filled with its magic potion of grief, despair, joy, and ecstasy, has begun to bubble and broil with life.

Inspired, I feel a renewed sense of purpose, of vocation, if you will. This heartache is not taking me under, it is turning me.

The Irish are not a culture interested in the white light experience. Transformation in the Irish and Celtic legends is an often painful, laborious process. There is a true sense of balance between the dichotomies of light and dark, joy and sorrow, ecstasy and pain, and a deep sense that you simply cannot have one without the other.

We can see from these phrases that the translation of the word imbas as “poetic frenzy” is not an overstatement of the condition. This Celtic form of enlightenment is no gentle melding with the oneness of the universe. Instead, it is a passionate, sometimes uncontrollable engagement with the fabric of reality. The energies accessed when all the cauldrons are turned into their upright positions does indeed feel like fire flowing through the head, expanding, quickening, and burning, as when Amirgen proclaimed “I am a God who shapes fire for a head.” Erynn Rowan Laurie

As I said, there has been much synchronicity around this awakening, sometimes from the strangest of sources. I am a little nervous to write this, but what the hell, I have shared worse things with you! So this week I have been watching free movies on YouTube, and I came across Shirley MacLaine playing herself in a dramatised version of her autobiographical book Out on a Limb. This book has been canned for MacLaine’s claims of experiences with mediums, extra-terrestrials and past lives in Atlantis. I must admit, I have always written it off as a massive Hollywood, New-Age cliche.

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Anyway, disclaimer notwithstanding, I was drawn to this movie. I love Shirley MacLaine as a performer and I was drawn to the opening lines of the movie when she spoke of a time in her life – her mid forties – where she was entwined in a baffling, powerful and tortuous affair with a married man, which defied logical explanation and for which she could only believe there must be a purpose she couldn’t understand.

“Oh hello,” I thought, I’m hooked. So she had me there. It’s an interesting story, it stretches the suspension of disbelief at times, but I resonated to this exploration into the cosmic purpose of this untenable relationship.

I think anyone who has experienced a love like this wonders how something so vast could possibly be contained in a lifetime as fleeting as this.

A true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. A soul mate’s purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life. Elizabeth Gilbert

At the same time dancing the heart Chakradance, where we invite the union of the masculine and feminine energies in our heart, I began to wonder what is the cosmic purpose of where I find myself? Is this all part of a process to turn my heart into a position of receptivity?

The noble brew in which is boiled
the true root of all knowledge
which bestows after duty
which is climbed after diligence
which poetic ecstasy sets in motion
which joy turns
which is revealed through sorrow;
it is lasting power
undiminishing protection
I sing of the Cauldron of Motion. Cauldron of Poesy

As all of this is brewing in me, my friend gave me the image of an Indian deity, the consort of Krishna. I looked her up, in my goddesses of yoga book, and discovered this was Radha. In Hindu tradition all deities have a masculine/feminine aspect, a shiva/shakti archetype. Radha is Krishna’s shakti energy. Krishna was beautiful, magnetic, loved by all who met him. Young women wanted him, older women mothered and cared for him. He was adored. Radha was completely consumed with him, and yet because of his love for all and by all, she could never possess him in the way she wanted, and thus she is the goddess of unrequited desire and romantic longing.

As I read this out to my friend, we laughed, he could not have found me a more apt goddess!

The lesson of the Krishna/Radha story is the path of parakriya bhakti – enlightenment through erotic love and devotion. When Krishna must leave Radha, she is devastated, but she is encouraged to channel this passion into divine worship, the yoga of bhakti.

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Robert A. Johnson writes in his book, We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love, that passionate love in a human is displaced love for the divine. Then it follows that the longing for the lover, is a longing for the divine. The great fire of need that stirs our heart, our Cauldron of Vocation, motivates a reaching, a searching, a yearning, a longing, that begins to turn that cauldron within, and as it turns, it fills up with all that experience of joy and love, of despair and loss, in a great magic brew, and only then can we begin our journey into wisdom.

Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment. John O’Donohue

In the Cauldron of Poesy, we are told that jealousy and longing are part of the magic brew that turns the heart, or the Cauldron of Vocation.

Longing is a familiar concept in Irish stories. In the Settling of the Manor of Tara story, longing is associated with the Oran Mor, the great song. You can read my post on longing here. It is the soul’s longing that creates the music of the world, the great song that sings all into creation. Remembering the Irish were an oral, bardic, storytelling culture, the great song is life to them. Reality and history and cosmology all combine in the songs of the Irish. In their culture there are no true creation stories, in the sense of an absolute beginning of time, the great song is as endless and beginningless as a celtic knot.

The flute of the infinite is played without ending, and its sound is love.
When love renounces all boundaries it arrives at the truth. Srī Kabīrdās

This week in my shamanic studies, we have been connected with a buddy to practise journeying on behalf of others. My buddy is a lovely lady in Mission Beach in Queensland. We skyped yesterday and I was blown away by the synchronicity. We are both studying, as well as shamanism, courses based in druidry and nature magic and herbalism. Our conversation stretched effortlessly for forty-five minutes with an instant connection.

Pondering all the new connections and influences coming into my life, I wondered if I would be so engaged in all this if I still had my lover? When we were together, he was such a focal point of my energy, now I have to channel that energy elsewhere.

The heart chakra, or Anahata, is located in the centre of your chest. I have recorded Anodea Judith’s beautiful meditation on anahata here on Soundcloud. In Sanskrit, Anahata means unstruck, infinite, and continuous. It refers to the vibration of the heart love energy which resonates throughout the universe without beginning or end.

Awake my dear. Be kind to your sleeping heart. Take it out into the vast fields of light and let it breathe. Hafiz

The heart chakra represents our ability to love. In Jungian archetypes it can be either the lover or the shadow aspect of the actor. We can either be open hearted and sincere, or playing at love, whether selfishly or from a place of fear, never really surrendering to its power.

In Chakradance we open the heart by connecting to breath, and the element of air. Dancing into air, feeling air all around, opening the chest and arms and dancing as if we have wings and are soaring through the air, experiencing lightness and freedom. Then we honour the heart through the sacred marriage of the masculine and the feminine, the yang and the yin, Shiva and Shakti. Drawing the feminine energy up from the earth and the masculine energy down from the sky, these energies dance up and down our spinal column before finding union in the heart.

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In many shamanic traditions, it is through the heart centre that we journey. The heart is seen as the bridge between worlds, where the corporeal and the etheric worlds meet. As such I have been possibly taxing my heart with the frequent journeying and seeking. No wonder she is exhausted. Sometimes it is the space between that holds the power. We can journey and seek, but we must equally allow time to sit quietly receive and allow the wisdom to simmer and brew. Perhaps that is the quietude in my heart, not sulking, just a silent request for stillness.

Even after all this time the Sun never says to the Earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky. Hafiz

In Irish, the word ‘coire’ means both “cauldron” and “whirlpool.” Thus the cauldrons are both the container and the substance, both contained and uncontained. Unlike the hindu concept of the chakras as spinning wheels of energy, the cauldrons are said to contain many energetic properties, water, ether, fire, symbols, and matter. (Although the chakras also align to different elements, earth, water, fire, air, ether, so I’ll have to meditate some more on this.)

Erynn Rowan Laurie describes the motion of the cauldrons as “an artistic journey” that “bestows good wisdom and nobility and honour after turning.” Gathering knowledge from the Otherworld is sometimes described in tales as similar to shamanic journeying. 

Joy and sorrow are the mechanisms for turning the cauldrons within; the poem tells us that the “noble brew” of our cauldrons is that “which joy turns, which is revealed through sorrow.” The cauldrons are even described as “moving toward music.” So the turning, whilst quite an agonising and torturous process at times, is suggested to lead towards a sense of harmony, of concert. To me this makes sense, and I have to make sense of things, otherwise I crumble.

This sky, this sky where we live is not place to lose your wings. So love, love, love. Hafiz

Perhaps it strikes the reader that I am desperately clinging to this notion to give my heartache a meaning it doesn’t deserve. Where Bridget Jones turned to vodka and Chaka Khan, I have turned to the mystics of the ages and my dubious intuition. This may be true. There are two possible retorts to this, one that only broken open could I find the necessary spiritual hunger to accept this quest, or less optimistically, this quest keeps me imbued with a sense of hope where otherwise they might be none.

Again, this post feels like such a strange brew, the elements don’t seem to meld easily, it’s still lumpy and unformed, and yet somehow I know they belong together, that I am on the right track. Somehow I will find the cosmology that sits between my connection with the hindu-tantric tradition, my Irish blood, and my Australian psyche. I believe we all tap into the same source, our methods may vary, but we are all dancing to the same tune, the great song moves us all through our visions, dreams, and journeys. Somehow I know my heart wants me to follow this song. So I do.

Nothing will see us through the age we’re entering but high consciousness, and that comes hard. We don’t have a good, modern myth yet, and we need one. Robert A. Johnson

 

Heart Chakra Affirmations by Chakra Anatomy:

I am open to love.
All love resides within my heart.
I deeply and completely love and accept myself.
I nurture my inner child.
I am wanted and loved.
I live in balance, in a state of gracefulness and gratitude.
I love the beauty of nature and the animal world.
I forgive myself.
I am open to love and kindness.
I am grateful for all the challenges that helped me to transform and open up to love.
I am connected with other human beings.
I feel a sense of unity with nature and animals.
I accept things as they are.
I am peaceful.

Bless!


Further reading:

http://www.summerlands.com/crossroads/library/Turning%20the%20Cauldrons.html

http://www.obsidianmagazine.com/Pages/cauldronpoesy.html

 

Images:

Images by Surbhi Grover

Krishna and Radha 

Alok Porwal New Life

The sweet spot

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She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails. Elizabeth Edwards

This week marks both the four month anniversary of my break-up with the one I thought was ‘the One’ and the six year anniversary of my marriage ending. My second marriage, that is.

It would be easy to just fall in a heap of ‘woe is me’ weeping. Truth to told my heart is heavy and raw, but I feel that the time has come to just launch myself forward and embrace life as best I can.

The time has come to shake off the doldrums, and what better way than the Sacral Chakradance. The moon is new, the celestial energy is ripe for a rebirth of fresh, vital energy.

The sacral chakra, based in the lower belly, is the colour of a vibrant orange sunset, the centre of femininity, sensuality and feeling, the dance expresses itself through the traditional belly dances of the East.

It’s element is water, so the imagery of the dance is of flowing rivers, and the ocean, and the full moon. It is the chakra of emotions, of feeling, of the senses.

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As I have written previously, I feel that igniting the belly chakras is a great way to move through difficult emotions and replenish the lust for life, that can become depleted after prolonged illness or times of grief and sadness.

Last week I cancelled a hot date becuase I was feeling so down and disillusioned. I am hoping that moving through this sad energy and revitalising my belly chakras will shift me into reclaiming my inner goddess energy. Into feeling alive with the energy of the senses, feeling the flow of sacral energy through my belly.

In her amazing book, Vagina, Naomi Wolf describes the connection between female sexuality and creativity, she calls this the Goddess energy.

Calling to mind writers and artists like Anais Nin and Georgia O’Keefe, whose creativity skyrocketed during their passionate love affairs, Wolf uses both anedoctal evidence and medical science to support the theory that an orgasmic women is a women in full force of her energy.

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The tantric tradition supports this notion absolutely, for both men and women, a healthy and satisfying sexual and creative life is a integral part of their vitality. Fortunately for many of us, tantric breath work and practices can be done alone as well as with a partner, so being single doesn’t preclude anyone from accessing this aspect of their spiritual vitality.

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do. There are many ways to kneel and kiss the ground. Rumi

The sacral chakra is connected to our creativity, our flow. That there exists this connection between emotion, sensuality, and creativity, makes perfect sense to me. The grief of the past few months has had a dulling effect on my vitality. Making a conscious intention to revitalise my sensuality has created a shift, and as a result I am smiling more, singing, feeling lighter. Feeling in the flow of my energy.

The sacral chakra – or Svadhisthana in sankrit – means “sweetness” or “one’s own place”. I like to call it “the sweet spot.” This alludes to the sensual bliss of an awakened sacral chakra, but more broadly to the awakening to a place in our own lives where we can embrace bliss in every area of our life.

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What makes you smile? What makes you happy? What makes your heart sing? What are you passionate about? Is there any reason not to follow your bliss? For many of us the secret to success in life lies in following our heart and doing what we love, living in alignment with our natural gifts and talents.

There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fountain of action and joy. It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being. Thomas Merton

The sacral chakra resonates to the colour orange – the colour of positive emotions, pleasure and success. The colour of flame that represents your true nature, and refers to the true and pure essence of the real you.

Svadhisthana is the seat of sexual desire, pleasure and nurturing. The sacred art of tantra uses divine energy, including this sensual, sacral energy, to propel Kundalini energy up the spine, inspiring bliss and enlightenment.

The Svadhisthana allows you to find pleasure in self-expression. Whatever that may mean for you, it may be writing, painting, dancing, singing, gardening, parenting, being of service to others – we all have our innate gifts to share with the world.

The self-respect that comes from doing the things we love and feel gifted at, flows from our sacral chakra – if you’re enthusiastic, sociable, energetic and self-assured, your sacral chakra is strong.

Here a little video to show you how to balance your sacral chakra:

After discovering Sally Kempton’s wonderful book, Awakening Shakti: The transformative power of the Goddesses of Yoga, when I was attracted to the energy of Kali, I have continued to read about the hindu goddesses in their myriad forms.

Yesterday feeling depleted and lacklustre, heading out on a date when I had absolutely zero confidence in my appeal to anyone except the dog (you know they love us unconditionally), I picked up this book and began reading about Lakshmi. I kid you not, after about ten minutes I felt my mojo begin to return. Rejection hadn’t made me undesirable, it had just made me feel that way.

Lakshmi throws the spell of the intoxicating sweetness of the divine; to be close to her is a profound happiness and to feel her within the heart is to make existence a rapture and a marvel; grace and charm and tenderness flow out from her like light from the sun and wherever she fixes her wonderful gaze or lets fall the loveliness of her smile, the soul is seized and made captive and plunged into the depths of an unfathomable bliss. Shri Aurobindo

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Prayer to Lakshmi:

O mother

Deeply embedded

Is my fear, my insecurity

Have mercy, O mother, on my wretched state.

Uproot it

With the joy that arises from your sweet and compassionate glance

Plant in us the seed of auspiciousness

As we make our way in the world.

Of her many names, one means lotus, the sacred flower that blossoms in the waters and roots itself in soil. The lotus represent the manifest world, so Lakshmi’s power can be seen as the manifestation of this flow, the energy of the waters and the fertile soil into life.

Lakshmi is beauty and life. When Lord Shiva inadvertently disrespects her, she withdraws from the three realms, and all the flowers wilt and the crops fail. She doesn’t create mass destruction like Kali, she simply withdraws her luscious, life-giving energy from the world. And the world is a drier, colourless place for her absence.

Lakshmi represents the fine balance between giving and receiving. The cycle of the natural world. As we enter into the Chinese New year of the Yin Wood Sheep, a very feminine, receptive, and nurturing time. After the strong yang energy of last year, this year is a time for nurturing, for reflection, for reestablishing our flow.

The energy of Lakshmi is the perfect meditation to restore balance and harmony to our depleted bellies. Here’s to finding your sweet spot!

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Sacral chakra affirmation by HealingJourneysEnergy.com

As I focus on this orange light that radiates from my sacral centre, I feel radiant, alive and strong.

I am able to feel all the positive emotions, I embrace them as they allow me to stand in power.

I am able to feel all the negative emotions, feelings of fear, anxiousness, doubt and I truly understand what causes them, I accept them as they bring about feelings of joy, dignity and peace as they teach me lessons of growth and truth.

I am at peace and I lovingly release any negatives feelings that cause me any discomfort and pain.

(A deep breath in) I lovingly acknowledge, accept and appreciate.

Bless!

Images:

Tantra Goddess

Khajuraho

Lakshmi

Tantra healing

Tantra Art

Further Reading:

http://www.originmagazine.com/2012/10/23/free-your-sacred-belly-by-shiva-rea/

https://sensualblissvoyager.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/imbalance-in-the-sacral-or-sex-chakra/

http://www.chakrahealing.com/blog/sacral-chakra-healing/

Embracing the dark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ma kali dancing on lord shiv

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps they are only extreme to the modern reader.

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

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

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

beauty and the beast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morrigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Affirmations and reflections for embracing the dark goddess

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

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

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

Ask yourself:

What part of self am I denying?

What burdens am I carrying? 

What is weighing me down?

What can be burnt or destroyed?

What detritus is lurking in my heart?

Where am I stuck?

What is stopping me from living out loud?

Affirm:

I embrace the darkness within

I am unafraid to bear witness to my shadow self

I honour my pain, my grief, my scars

I am in the natural cycle of death and rebirth

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

I honour my sensual, sexual, animal self

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

Bless!

Spider woman post

Read more…

The Manifestation of Kali as an Astrophysical Anomaly

Images:

Kali

Kali Breasfeeding 

Kali Dancing on Shiva

Lilith by Susan Seddon Boulet

Dark Goddess

Beauty and the Beast 

Morrigan

Moon Goddess

Crone Goddess by Susan Seddon Boulet

Diana by Susan Seddon Boulet

Oshun by Susan Seddon Boulet

Spider Woman

The spirit that lives in all things

copyright - Séverine PINEAUX

Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It’s a dream already ended. There’s nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born. Jack Kerouac

Ah! I needed to read that. Thanks Jack.

Last post I put some serious intentions ‘out there’ for my year. And now I’m back in ‘reality’ – pfffft! Whatever that means. And I feel like I’m stuck between worlds. The world of jobs and bills and traffic and the world of nature and spirit. How on earth do I practice these intentions in a life chock-full of distractions?

Was I being a little rash? I mean those intentions popped into my head, literally seconds before I wrote them down and raced to the beach, between violent thunderstorms, to do a ritual – out with the old, in with the new. Whooosh.

It was all rather spontaneous and spur of the moment. It was my last night at the beach. A night of the full moon, all dark and stormy, and I just had this urge to harness all that wild, electric energy to make my new year’s resolutions.

Later, after re-reading my intentions I thought, hmmm… I’m not sure where all that came from. Obviously, I was on a bit of a nature love-buzz.

But you know what? I’m just going with it. Those intentions came to me for a reason and I am going to just let that unfold. Even if it turns out the reason is to teach me to put some forethought into my rituals…

To refresh your memory here are my intentions as they spilled out of my pen that fateful night… (Drum roll please)

S_verine_Pineaux_1960_French_Fantasy_painter_and_Illustrator_Tutt_Art_29_Love myself
Love the (super)natural world
Love animals
Love people
Love my work
Love my space
Love my spirit

So there’s nothing too outrageous. I didn’t commit to chasing down Johnny Depp or becoming a bestselling author or bringing about world peace or anything.

It occurred to me late last year that my intentions, and the whole theme of ‘putting it out there,’ was rather outcome focused. It was all about bringing stuff in, manifesting great things in my life. And yes, it worked, undoubtably. But it also tapped into a part of my personality that is a little, ahem, shall we say, insatiable.

As the buddhists tell us, the greatest source of pain in our lives is the state of dissatisfaction that comes from our attachment to desire.

So when I came to the end of last year, despite its many great blessings, in a state of grief and pain, I knew I had to go within and see its source.

Now I do believe that pain has its purpose. Grief breaks my heart open, promotes compassion for other’s pain, highlights thought patterns that no longer serve me, and is a release of held emotion from my body. I don’t think we can or should avoid grief. I think we can certainly learn from its expression though.

Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance. Osho

On the night of my ritual to the ocean, I was driven by this pain to let go of my attachments, especially in relation to the ideals of romantic love and home. This was motivated by a nagging sense that somehow my intentions ‘hadn’t worked’ in these areas of my life just because I didn’t get the house or the man I wanted.

As soon as these ideas were articulated in my heart and mind, I realised the source of my pain. Being single and renting my gorgeous little place is not painful. It is the attachment to the idea that things should be different that creates pain. Of course, there was also some legitimate heart-ache and grief thrown in there too, but while those emotions will shift and move, attachments stay stuck and often become so embedded, like a veruca burrowing deep, down inside, causing more and more pain.

samhain copyright - Séverine PINEAUXSo I wrote out my list of letting go, my commitments to practice, and some new intentions.

Originally my intentions were going to be very specific. Like a shopping list of desires. “I want to go to Bali and study shamanism” “I want to go to Ireland and see the sacred sites” “I want to study celtic tradition and herb lore and sound therapy and tarot and …”

First it was becoming a long and exhausting (and rather whiney) list, second I could see I was setting myself up for disappointment again.

What if these things didn’t eventuate? Would that leave me with a sense of failure and disappointment? Would I become so fixated on these attachments that I would miss the appreciation of the gifts that did come my way? I suspected, yes.

As a student of druidry and shamanism, the consistent message that comes through these traditional practices is a reverence for the wisdom of the natural and spirit world, or what I have come to call the (super)natural world. Studying these traditions, we learn there is not a clear distinction between these worlds. Nature is inherently imbued with spirit and spirits. All things have the ‘spirit that lives in all things’ and nature is rife with the ‘hidden folk’ sprites, faeries, and other elemental spirits.

the lady copyright - Séverine PINEAUX

When I get attached to physical outcomes, I lose sight of this nuance and numinosity, that is such a gift in my life. Even in my grief and pain of the past few weeks, I was acutely aware of how the ocean held me, and the presence of spirit all around me in the rocks and sand and sea-plants and animals. As I hummed an Ani DeFranco song about heartbreak, suddenly the tune was alive with spirit and the words came – and I had my soul-song or power-song, a great gift in shamanic practice. This is a song I sing to connect with my power and spirit for the purpose of healing myself and all living things.

All this became a cacophony of voices reminding me of, possibly the key principle of all spiritual practice, “practice not outcomes.” The practice itself IS the point. The gifts are in the practice itself. Intentions are the focal points for my practice, not means of searching for goodies from the universe. Although great blessings do come from this practice, that should not be the incentive. I saw I had the cart before the horse.

So I am sticking with these intentions that came to me so intuitively. This time with the focus on the means, not the end. They are a commitment to practice. I want to reconnect with my study of the subtle energy bodies, the chakras, and the chakradance journey as a practice for integrating all that I am learning in my druid and shamanic studies.

This year I intend to take a slightly different process in exploring my intentions. Last year I aligned each intention with a chakra and examined them independently. This year I intend – who knows what will actually happen, or what wonderful tangents this will take me on – to look at my seven intentions through the perspective of a different chakra each week.

titaniacopyright - Séverine PINEAUX

I intend to look at each intention through lens of the seven chakras. As well as developing my sense – which I touched upon last year – of the correlation between the chakras other energy systems, in native Australian indigenous practice and the probable Celtic energy system of the ‘cauldrons’.

The cauldron is a great analogy for this blog, as this will be the melting and magic pot where all my practices come together.

These are my intentions, but spirit will guide me so it’s a fabulous journey of discovery, let’s see where it goes!

I am rediscovering the beauty of spontaneous ritual in working with nature instead of imposing our will and structure on nature. While there needs to be a basic structure to ensure practice and intentions, and a reasonably informed approach, there is always room for interaction and spontaneity. This is where the majority of my guidance comes from. A spark of inspiration in meditation and then I follow up with research.

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. e. e. Cummings

So, we find ourselves back at the Base or Root chakra – Muladhara. Intricately linked to our survival, our instincts and our primal, tribal nature. This chakra holds our ancestral memory bank. Our base chakra influences feelings of grounding and being supported. Most children, by the age of seven, have decided whether the world is a safe place, and this informs our vitality in the base chakra. However, we can strengthen our sense of security through energy work and affirming living practices.

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The base chakra energies are earthy, dense, physical. Feelings of being grounded and supported, like the roots of a tree… How does that manifest in my intentions? What can I do this week to bring the earthy, grounded energy of the root chakra into my intentions?

It feels to me as if there is a lot of shadow work to be done in this chakra. Inherited behaviours, thought patterns, beliefs, ancestral patterns encoded in our DNA that often lurk in the darkness of the soil beneath our roots. There is also the sense of a great unearthed ancestral wisdom of both our familial lines and the ancestry of the land itself.

I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses. Friedrich Nietzsche

In Chakradance we also draw inspiration from the natural movements found in the animal kingdom. Animal dances are deeply entrenched in shamanic ritual. Shamans believe that each animal can teach us the power of their instinctual energy through dance. Dancing the base chakra you may encourage a tiger, a snake, a dragon, or a bear, to join you.

As you intuitively choose an animal and begin to move along to the Chakradance tribal beats, an incredible spontaneity of movement is unleashed. As I danced the Base chakra journeying dance, a wolf came to me. I thought “how on earth do I dance like a wolf?” Through letting go of my judging, rational mind, I simply moved to the music as I imagined wolves in the wild.

Soon I found myself laughing and moving on all fours, then dancing with wild abandon. Wildness, that was the wolf’s message to me. To tap into that wildness that gets so repressed in our society of conformity and restriction of our instinctual natures.

Dancing into my roots, another part of the Base Chakradance practice, allows me to connect with the imagery and energy of the tree. Trees are a powerful symbol of the dimensions of life used in many cultures. In celtic druidry the ogham is a communication and divination system of tree symbols, based on the nature of specific trees. I intend to learn more about traditional druidic sacred plants and trees, but to also link in with local practitioners to learn and study our native Australian power plants.

l'ancetre copyright - Séverine PINEAUX

Dancing the base chakra brings a sense of wildness and strength, but also a sense of support and groundedness. I intend to bring a sense of groundedness into my work-life – I will be mindful, stable and practical at work. I will bring a plant to work to enhance the work environment.

I will create harmony in my space through decluttering and letting go of what I no longer need, handing them on for others to use. I will declutter the space through energy cleansing rituals.

Sandra Ingerman, a shamanic practitioner and teacher suggests that rather than viewing shamanism as a set of complicated practices to achieve personal spiritual advances, it is quite simply a practice based on an authentic desire and attempt to commune with nature and the non-physical world. The ultimate end in this, is that we can become of service to the planet and all the life interwoven with it.

And the beauty is, the practice is a simple as sitting under a tree, taking a deep breath of air, drinking fresh, clean water, enjoying an open camp-fire or candle flame, swimming in a river or ocean. Bringing our selves, as nature beings, to nature without any need to get or change anything. Just being. And then the change happens. We become a little more aligned with the heartbeat of the earth. We walk a little lighter on her belly, with our feet bare and our hearts full.

the seed woman severine

Tree Meditation by Natalie Southgate:
Begin by standing with your feet in line with shoulders, close your eyes and gently straighten your spine. Take a few moments to focus on your breathing…

Imagine you are in a tropical jungle. You are standing under a canopy of lush foliage; you can smell the moist, rich earth. Sink your feet down into the wet earth. Imagine the bottoms of your feet are gently opening and beginning to grow roots like a tree. Push your feet into the ground and imagine the roots travelling down deeper and deeper, reaching for the red core of the earth. Breathe in through your body, and down through the layers of the earth. You feel secure; grounded to the earth.

After a few minutes of grounding through your roots, begin to draw the pulsing energy from the earth up through the layers of rock and soil, up through your feet and legs and into your base chakra. Fill your base chakra with the red vibrant energy from the earth. You feel secure, grounded and energised.

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Affirmations by Chakra Anatomy:

I feel deeply rooted.
I am connected to my body.
I feel safe and secure.
I am grounded, stable, and standing on my own two feet.
I nurture my body with healthy food, clean water, exercise, relaxation, and connection with nature.
I am open to possibilities.
I am grateful for all the challenges that helped me to grow and transform.
I trust myself.

Bless!

Images by Severine Pineaux

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

Too much of a good thing

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E-motions are energy in motion. If they are not expressed, the energy is repressed. As energy it has to go somewhere. Emotional energy moves us, as does all energy. John Bradshaw

Yeah well, MY emotions are certainly energetic this week. I should have known, that on the week of focusing on the sacral chakra, I’d be hormonal and emotional.

I was emotional even driving to work this morning. The dog threw up on the carpet right before I had to leave home, I forgot to (a) brush my hair (b) bring a hairbrush. I limped into 7-Eleven (my foot is hurting again), after dropping my beautiful new fluorite crystal on the road when I got out of the car – it smashed to smithereens.

Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course. William Shakespeare

7-Eleven was out of hairbrushes. The girl just stood there looking vacantly at the empty drawer saying “they’re usually here.”

By this stage my emotions had reached boiling point. I limped back to the car and drove in tears, raging against all the deities I’d ever prayed to, that they were no friggin help at all. And despite realising that on the scale of world issues my hormonal morning probably rated pretty low, I was not happy with the level of service I was receiving.

Tears are a river that takes you somewhere… Tears lift your boat off the rocks, off dry ground, carrying it downriver to someplace better. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

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I stopped ranting and crying when I realised the cars around me were giving me a wide berth, “stay away from the crazy/road-rage lady.”

Now let me say, there was more behind my emotionality than I have mentioned here. I am still very affected by seeing my dad so unwell lately and my relationship is… I don’t even know what it is. We are either having a break up or a break through – I’ll keep you posted as news comes to hand.

The sacral chakra is all about feelings, emotions, inhibitions, connectness with others, sexuality, sensuality, femininity – all the warm, soft and gooey stuff of life.

Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it’s beauty. Albert Einstein

The main function of this chakra is emotional flow. The sacral chakra is located at the lower belly. Its Sanskrit name is svadhisthana, meaning sweetness. It is associated with our connection to other people, creativity, energy, confidence, and sexual health.

A person may be disconnected and cold towards others if this chakra is under-active. Or if its overactive, they may seem needy, overly emotional, and co-dependent. Yes! I realise I have an overactive sacral, I see that too, thanks for pointing it out through.

I had thought that over-active chakras were a good thing, I mean you can’t have too much of a good thing, right?

We all begin the process before we are ready, before we are strong enough, before we know enough; we begin a dialogue with thoughts and feelings that both tickle and thunder within us. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

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Mostly I try to keep my emotions under wraps. It’s better that way, they scare people. After years of learning to ‘act better than I feel’ and ‘fake it til I make it’ and other such stoic affirmations, I now – mostly – project the demeanour of a very calm, together person. People say it to me all the time “you’re so calm.” Yeah. Except when you are behind me in traffic on a bad hormone day.

Physically, the sacral chakra governs our sexual development, our reproductive and urinary systems, including the kidneys and bladder. The sacral chakra corresponds to the ovaries and testes, the endocrine glands which regulate sexual development, reproduction, and the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

The sacral chakra is about feeling and sexuality. When the sacral chakra is open, your feelings flow freely, you can experience intimacy with others, your creativity flows, and you can express yourself without being over-emotional.

The gesture of the amorous embrace seems to fulfill, for a time, the subject’s dream of total union with the loved being… A moment of affirmation; for a certain time, though a finite one, a deranged interval, something has been successful: I have been fulfilled. Roland Barthes

According the Curative Soul common psychological symptoms of an unbalanced sacral chakra are: eating disorders, addictions, low self-confidence, dependency issues, low libido, and unbalanced emotions.

Common physical symptoms of an unbalanced sacral chakra are: kidney problems and urinary tract infections, chronic lower back pain, sexual disorders, infertility, gynecological problems, dysfunctional menstrual cycles, and problems with the intestines, spleen, and gallbladder.

A healthy woman is much like a wolf: robust, chock-full, strong life force, life-giving, territorially aware, inventive, loyal, roving. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

According to Caroline Myss, “The challenge of the second chakra is to learn what motivates us to make the choices we do.” This centre governs our need to control other people. We are connected via our sacral energy to everyone and everything we want to control. In this way we both ‘invest’ our energy in the need to control others, and are affected by others who desire to control us.

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All our sexual desires, memories, competition, shame, and envy are recorded in this chakra. Sexuality, power, money and creativity meld together in a melting pot of desires in this centre.

The sacral chakra energy holds the power of choice to create your own reality. The creative potentiality of the sacral chakra can be moved by trust and love or by fear and negativity. Our emotions can impact the choices we make and thus the consequences we have to deal with. Feelings of blame, shame, guilt, unattractiveness, insecurity, neediness, dependency sap our energy through this chakra.

Sacral chakra is where ideas come to be born, if our creativity is aborted the scars are recorded in this energy centre. Health issues of the reproductive organs can be as much linked to stifled creativity as to sexual memory.

Wherever thought goes, energy and life force follow. Caroline Myss writes that the second chakra gets unbalanced by stifled creative energy, money and sexual conflicts, power struggles, life energy directed into dead-end relationships or jobs, and control tactics that do not follow the spiritual rule to “Honour One Another.”

How do we disconnect our energy circuits from people or objects that sap energy? The first step is awareness. Check in often and notice where your thoughts are. Are they with you in the present, or have they drifted off to the past, the future, or with some person or object? Next, mentally cut the connection and literally call your spirit back. Calling one’s spirit back is not a one-time event; it’s a practice. Jule Klotter

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The term ’empath’ seems to be a new age buzzword of the moment. It basically describes a state were folks, like me, are strongly affected by their own and other people’s emotional energy. Clarissa Pinkola Estes talks about this as a need to grow a thicker skin. Instead of walking around with our nerves jangling in the breeze, it’s important to be able to feel an appropriate and manageable level of emotions.

Caroline Myss explains that this chakra yearns for a connection with the sacred. It is a fundamental need of this chakra to have a daily nurturing rapport with the sacred.

Try this morning meditation by Caroline Myss to balance the sacral chakra.

Allow the truth ‘Honor One Another’ to penetrate your body.
Move your attention gradually up your spine to your lower back, hips and genital area.
Feel the fire and vibrant energy of this area.
Focus that energy toward the key areas of this chakra:
Relationships: Who am I going to be with today?
Work: What am I going to do today?
Money: How do I feel about it today?
Creativity: What am I going to create today?

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Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires. Lao Tzu

Deedre Diemer, in her book, The ABC of Chakra Therapy, writes that when are chakras are open and balanced, it means we have the ability to be more or less open as the situation warrants. In a room alone with our lover we may choose to be very open, not so much at work.

The chakradance of the sacral chakra is my favourite. Dancing with my hips and belly to middle-Eastern influences music, I feel this chakra flow. Using the imagery of a stream flowing through me, I can finally let go of the build up of emotion and be cleansed. I connect my the divine feminine. I become divine and glow with my sensual nature. I feel my creativity flow.

Last night I ran a bath. The sacral chakra resonates to the element of water, to the flow of water. I poured wild orange and geranium oil in, added some sea salt and let the emotional storm melt away. I asked that this excess energy flow down the drain with the water. Then I slept.

It seems to me, the name of this chakra ‘sweetness’ alludes to its proper balance. When we are sane and calm, when our emotions flow gently and appropriately, when we are neither bitter nor naive. When our desire for love and creative thirst is sensual and pleasurable, but not grasping and needy.

There is a time in our lives, usually in mid-life, when a woman has to make a decision – possibly the most important psychic decision of her future life – and that is, whether to be bitter or not. Women often come to this in their late thirties or early forties. They are at the point where they are full up to their ears with everything and they’ve “had it” and “the last straw has broken the camel’s back” and they’re “pissed off and pooped out.” Their dreams of their twenties may be lying in a crumple. There may be broken hearts, broken marriages, broken promises. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

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Affirmations by Natalie Southgate:

I relish the sweet exchange of intimacy and connectedness.

Pleasure is a good and valuable part of my life.

I give myself permission to fully enjoy my sexuality.

I allow abundance and prosperity into my life.

I allow my emotions to flow through me in a healthy way.

I am open to experiencing the present moment through my senses.

The universe is full of sweetness and beauty.

 

 

Bless!

 

Read more at:

http://www.myss.com/library/practice/morning.asp

www.eclecticenergies.com/chakras/introduction.php

http://www.chakra-anatomy.com/sacral-chakra.html

http://theresekerr.com/the-sacral-chakra-the-key-to-your-emotional-well-being/

Images:

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Jiali Ji Embrace

Embrace Your Heart

The Embrace Estefan Gargost

Embrace Andrea Barbieri