Reboot your body + recharge your life

The soft animal of our body knows what it loves. It feels our pleasure and our pain.

The body contains truths unique to our being. We are similar, but not the same and neither are our bodies. As you embrace this, you can settle into a beautiful relationship with the unique body, the exquisite system of flesh and senses, that is you.

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Your biography becomes your biology. Caroline Myss

In the Vedanta – the ancient Indian wisdom writings – it says that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Our body is what allows us to have this experience.

The yogis have always known this, that the stresses of the body must be smoothed out and soothed with yoga poses before the mind can be still and spirit can be heard. The yoga tradition is all about purifying the vehicle to achieve union of body and spirit.

The first chakra, located at the base of our spine, is called Muladhara in Sanskrit, meaning root support. Like the root system of a tree, our root or base chakra energetically grounds us in the physical world. This chakra balances our physicality, sense of security and stability in our body and in the world.

Linking the chakras are a series of energy channels that, in their purest and unimpeded form, constantly flow and spiral up and down the spinal column, keeping our energetic system in connectivity to both the earth and ethereal energy above, with the chakras like little hubs in between.

Anodea Judith calls the chakras the ‘architecture of the soul.’ She says a chakra is a centre of organisation for the reception, the assimilation and the expression of life force energy. The chakras are the portals, the mediators, between the inner world and the outer world.

Chakras can be described as processing centres of energy and information, as well as gateways for this energy and information to flow into, out of, and through. Note that when I refer to ‘energy’ I use the term to describe the concept used in many esoteric traditions of the vital life force energy, or spiritual energy, also known as prana or qi.

Many of us have sustained emotional and physical traumas in life which may have affected the formation and flow of our chakras. This biography of experience is energetically recorded in our chakra system (as well as the cells in our bodies.) This can cause our chakras to compensate by either restricting energy flow, becoming deficient or under active, or by becoming over active and excessive. Or even a combination of both.

‘So what?’ You ask, ‘it’s only energy,’ read on, and I’ll tell you why this kind of imbalance can have deep and far reaching effects on your life.

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The land is my backbone. Galarrwuy Yunipingu

Linked to physical realities of life – security, shelter, sustenance, family, tribe – Deedre Diemer writes that the first chakra is associated with primordial trust. It is the chakra associated with our basic instincts for food, shelter, sex and survival.

If we have ever experienced a lack in these needs being met, we may have an overreactive first chakra, that is out of balance and causes us to compensate in a variety of ways.

Natalie Southgate writes that when your base chakra is balanced, you feel connectedness with the world and those around you, in a state of safety and stability. The balanced base chakra gives you a focused sense of your place in the world. As it is your root chakra, it is vital to allow your other chakras to be in balance.

Like the foundations of a house, or the roots of the tree, the base is essential to the stability of the whole structure.

If we are imbalanced in this chakra it can manifest as a lack of physicality, being underweight, spacey and anxious. Or it may manifest as an excessive physicality in being overweight and overly attached to the physical by hoarding, over eating and indulgence in pleasure, or over-accumulation of stuff.

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To lose our connection with the body is to become spiritually homeless. Without an anchor we float aimlessly, battered by the winds and waves of life. Anodea Judith

I often wondered how I could be both spaced out and have a tendency to over-indulge. Anodea Judith points out that as these extremes are both compensatory behaviours to address an issue in this chakra we may experience symptoms of both.

If you imagine the root chakra like a plant in a pot, it needs a degree of support to keep the soil and moisture in, but too tight a restraint will not allow it to grow.

In the same way a deficient base chakra contracts too tightly into its core, not allowing enough room for energy to come in, to have, to hold, to manifest. In this scenario we are literally strangling our energy flow, the earth energy that needs to flow up and through our base chakra is restricted and bottlenecked, creating blockages that may literally prevent us from manifesting or maintaining physical things, including our own healthy robust body, as there is no room to receive. This kind of person can be literally disembodied, spacey, anxious, ungrounded.

The person who compensates for an unbalanced base chakra though physical over-indulgence, allows excessive earth energy into their system. They may feel heavy, lethargic, they may be overweight, overeat, hoard and covet possessions, money and power. It is as if they use physical things, including their own body weight to compensate for deficiencies in this chakra, perhaps to literally compensate for a lack of maternal holding in their formative years.

Again this results in a blockage. Too much energy, when it is held and hoarded in this way impedes the flow just as much as constricted energy. It’s akin to the Buddhist concept of attachment, it is the attachment to our desires that causes suffering. It causes us to get stuck in a unmanageable mess of our own making.

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Looking back you realize that a very special person passed briefly through your life and that person was you. It is not too late to become that person again. Robert Brault

The base chakra is very much about grounding, stability, and security, and I have learned the only lasting stability and security available is that which I provide to myself, through being present in the body, in the now. My intention now is for balance and health. I no longer want to shield myself in weight, nor do I want to starve, or define myself by some ideal so manipulated that not even today’s models actually achieve it. My intention is to love myself, to protect myself without needing layers of flesh to do so. To be whatever size and shape my true being is, healthy, comfortable, happy. My intention is to rediscover joy in my body, my life.

The lesson of Muladhara chakra is grounding, a full inhabiting of our physical bodies as the embodiment of our connection to the element of earth. To cease existing primarily in our heads and inhabit our bodies. To cease grasping onto people, places and things as the source of our security.

Here we can experience pleasure and pain, connect with our feelings, and release these accumulated emotional energies through our connection with the physical.

Movement through our bodies allows energy to flow, it can trigger blockages to shift and cause accumulated energies to be released or redistributed and balanced.

Movement brings us into our physicality, brings our energy down from our heads into our roots, allowing a real connection with not only our physical selves, but the physicality of the world around us.

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

To encourage our vital energy to flow freely we must let go of our attachments and defences. The chakras can be blocked by our learned defences, either something we want to keep out or something we don’t want to let out. What kinds of things would cause these defences? Toxic energy, fear and violence are all things we may shut down to avoid. Similarly we may repress our own ‘negative’ emotions – anger, sorrow, exuberance – having learned it was unsafe to express these.

Sometimes the residue from trauma gets stored in our body and our energy system. While traditional psychotherapy may assist at a mental and behavioural level, we also need to release these wounds energetically, in order to release the attachments and defences they cause us to act out – often unconsciously – in our lives.

As in all things balance is the key. An over-amped base chakra may cause us to be frozen in fear or rushing about in a heightened state of anxiety. What we ideally want is movement that is grounded and purposeful. We need to reconnect with the nurturing aspects of Mother Earth.

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I thought the earth remembered me, she took me back so tenderly, arranging her dark skirts, her pockets full of lichens and seeds. Mary Oliver

To ground we invite this energy back down through our body and reconnect ourselves energetically with the earth.

Traditionally humans spent most of their lives in direct contact with the earth, walking, living and sleeping on the ground. In the modern world we are so disconnected from the earth in layers of buildings, shoes, vehicles.

Anodea Judith says that the best way to restore balance to the base chakra, is to open the leg channels. The legs connect us to the earth and the energy flows up through our feet and legs and into the base chakra. Our legs are like two prongs of an electric plug – we need to plug in to the earth energy to ground.

In Chakradance we reconnect our base chakra to the earth by dancing to earthy tribal beats, moving powerfully through our legs and feet. We may visualise ourself as a seed planted in the earth, provided with all the sustenance, support, and security it needs to grow. We see ourselves setting down strong roots as we grow into the world, like a giant majestic tree firmly rooted in the soil, so our branches can safely reach up and out into the sunshine.

Plenty of earthing, feet in the earth, sitting crouched on the earth, visualising mother earth’s energy cleansing, grounding, and balancing me. All very tribal, this earth-based, primal dance of the base chakra, and so liberating for a cerebral girl like me.

Join me on my next retreat (see below) if you feel inspired to reboot your base chakra.

Hari om tat sat. Namaste. Blessings.

Upcoming events at Raw Mojo Chakradance

Base Chakra Journeying

Reboot Your Base Chakra Retreat

Chakradance – Rhythm for your soul

All Artwork by Melina Del Mar – all rights reserved

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Dancing in the shadow

The self of my dreams came the day I found out that there was gold hidden in my darkness, that there was light shining in my bad behaviour, and that there was power hidden in the traumas of my past. Debbie Ford

One of the less obvious influences on Chakradance, often overshadowed by the more apparent influences of the Hindu-Tantric chakra system and shamanic trance-dances practices, is Jungian psychology.

While the Chakradance facilitator is all too aware that his or her role is to ‘hold space’ for the experiences of the dancers, a very Jungian concept, as is the use of mandala art to ‘contain’ the numinous experiences and energy of the dance. These Jungian aspects are often not obvious to the dancer.

I often refer to Jungian archteypes that people may encounter in their dance journeys, these will often manifest as visions of scenes that play out as interactions between archetypes like mother and victim, warrior and servant.

I have written about archetypes in these other posts. 

The experience of Chakradance is described like a ‘waking dream’ where the dancer lets go of their conscious, thinking mind and allows the unconscious mind to communicate through images, feelings, colours and insights.

This week another Chakradance facilitator posted about Chakradance as a way to interact with our shadow, a Jungian concept for the aspects of self that we are either unaware of or actively suppress because we are ashamed of that aspect of ourselves.

At a time when my shadow, in the words of Led Zeppelin, looms taller than my soul, and having just read a truly awe-inspiring post by a Jungian writer – see here – I felt one of those lightning bolt moments.  (Like a lightbulb moment but way more dramatic.)

Something’s coming up. Let’s see if it can articulate itself here…

Chakradance is a journey within. Using the chakra system as a map to consciousness, we dance beyond the everyday, five sensory awareness into a deeper experience of ourselves. With our eyes closed and our imagination as a guide, during Chakradance we experience our inner world as a waking dream. Many people see visions in their mind’s eye, encounter beings, ancestors, animals, different landscapes which all tell a story about the disposition of our inner self.

In the new Chakradance cycle, called Freedom, we have a different guide for each chakra who takes us on this journey. But I have found many people intuitively find their own guides in the dance as well, be they humans, ethereal beings or animals.

After participating in a Chakradance cycle, many people are surprised at the visions and experiences, not to mention the insights and transformations in their real lives, that they encounter.

It is so astonishing to uncover this unconscious aspect of ourselves, and to realise our conscious, day to day self is like the tip of the iceberg in terms of the multitudes we all contain.

So when we immerse ourselves into the sound and movement of chakradance, what will often arise is aspects of ourselves that we have not been aware of. This can be visions, emotions or insights that are experienced in a loving and beautiful way. Sometimes we are ready to shift and release less attractive aspects of ourselves. These might be long buried memories, strong emotions, or even aspects portrayed as menancing creatures who come out of our subconscious dark zones. 

Like a deep-water diver, encountering sharks or other prehistoric and primal creatures that we may be afraid of, our first reaction to these is often fear or repulsion. But just as sharks have a vital role in the ecological wellbeing of the ocean, so our own shadow has a purpose. 

This is what I believe: That I am I. That my soul is a dark forest. That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back. That I must have the courage to let them come and go. That I will never let mankind put anything over me, but that I will try always to recognize and submit to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women. There is my creed. D.H. Lawrence

For me, when I began my Chakradance facilitator training, and I was dancing and studying the modality intensely on a daily basis, I had a number of powerful experiences. The most profound for me was an experience in the Solar Plexus Chakra, which not only happened in the dance but also in my dream life. This showed me something was shifting at a deep level in my psyche.

I was awoken from a dream, quite literally, with a bang. In my dream, a large metal pot or cauldron blew its lid with a loud explosion. As a result of reading Jung and experiencing Chakradance, I was becoming more curious about the messages my subconscious communicates to me in my dreams.

After waking from this dream, I felt quite agitated and unable to go back to sleep. There was the strongest feeling that this dream was an important message from my subconscious and I intuitively felt it was somehow related to my solar plexus chakra. So after discussing this with my Chakradance teacher, I moved on to this chakra. During the dance, I had a very powerful experience.

The dance of Manipura (the solar plexus chakra) begins with a flame, and as the music intensifies, the fire increases, and I danced like wildfire. I became one with the fire, I was fire, flickering and wild. It felt incredibly liberating and powerful, and then all of a sudden my perception shifted dramatically.

The experience transformed from being elemental fire, to being ON fire – being burned, encased in flames – and all the powerful emotions that came with it. Horror, fear, panic. Even knowing it was just in the dance, the emotional reaction was profound. 

I had flashbacks to memories of being hurt as a child, and a great rage rose within me. Ending up like an animal in all fours, I growled and raged, releasing suppressed emotions held within me since I was a powerfless five year old unable to fight back against her abuser. 

It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses- and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster. Carl Jung

Recovering in child’s pose, I found myself saying to myself, “that was then this is now, it is safe to be powerful now.”

As I incanted this affirmation, came a vision of a fiery cauldron burning away the hurts of the past, all those experiences where I was persecuted, shamed, or abused for expressing my power.

I would love to report that since then I have never been less than powerful in my life, but it doesn’t work like that. In my life aspects of my shadow, like that scared and angry child, the one who was unable to be powerful and speak up, are still there.

The difference is that I know she is there, and I can see when that energy emerges, when I get petulant or sulky, when I over react to perceived criticism or rejection. These days, I am more mindful, more aware.

And I have made a sacred place for her, where she can be safe to express whatever she needs to. It’s my way of integrating her, without annihilating her. Because she’s part of me. If she hadn’t taken on all that rage and shame for all those years I may not be here today. Today instead of wishing her away I try to honour her. She’s a feisty five year old who screws up her face when she’s not happy and I love her!

I have also tapped into an inner wellspring of power that I never knew I possessed. Now when I dance the Solar Plexus I embody the energy of a fiery God – Shiva Nataraj – or a powerful warrior and feel these numinous qualities flow on into my life.

We need more people who are not ashamed of, or embarrassed by their pain, but who can instead respond to their own and others’ suffering – as an unavoidable facet of the human condition – with love, patience, sympathy, nurturing and respect. True happiness, after all, does not exclude sadness, but rather embraces it within the living paradox which personal wholeness demands. Maureen B Roberts

So what is this shadow? And why do we have it. And yes, you do.

Renowned psychologist Carl Jung believed that on the journey to discover your inner secrets and mysteries, you will encounter the dark, hidden crevices within your psyche. He called this place the “shadow self.” It is also called the lower self, animal nature, the alter ego, or the inner demon – the place where the unowned side of your personality lives.

The shadow is the parts of ourselves that we may try to hide or deny. According to Carl Jung, it can be said to consist of energy patterns, known as selves or sub-personalities that were disowned — pushed down into our unconscious in childhood, as part of our coping strategies.

Jung created the Archetypes model, a concept to describe how our unconscious minds are fragmented or structured into different “selves” in an attempt to organize how we experience different things in life.

Your shadow self is the part of you that stays unknown, unexamined, and out of the light of your conscious awareness. It is the part that is denied or suppressed because it makes you uncomfortable or afraid. Whatever doesn’t fit your image of your ideal self becomes your shadow.

Jung asked, “Would you rather be good or whole?” Many people choose goodness, or more accurately ‘correctness’ as a means to belong in society, and as a result, are internally fractured. There is your persona, the part you want the world to see, and your shadow, the part that you don’t.

What we call civilized consciousness has steadily separated itself from the basic instincts. But these instincts have not disappeared. They have merely lost their contact with our consciousness and are thus forced to assert themselves in an indirect fashion. This may be by means of physical symptoms in the case of a neurosis, or by means of incidents of various kinds, or by unaccountable moods, unexpected forgetfulness, or mistakes in speech… modern man protects himself against seeing his own split state by a system of compartments. Certain areas of outer life and of his own behavior are kept, as it were, in separate drawers and are never confronted with one another. Carl Jung

Jung believed that what you resist in life tends to persist and even become stronger. If you resist your dark side, it becomes more solid. Hence by trying to be good and suppress our shadow side we actually make it more powerful.

As Jung often said what we refuse to face in ourselves, we project into others and onto life creating an external world that seems to reflect our own worst nightmares. We create self-fulfilled prophecies of the stuff we least want.

I think I first became aware of my shadow 18 years ago. Having hit, in 12-Step parlance, my rock-bottom through alcohol and drug abuse, I found myself sober in a 12 Step program. Suddenly I had no Dutch courage, no medicine, no anaesthetic, and no buffer between myself and reality. I had started using alcohol to numb my feelings at age 15 so at age 25 I had acquired zero emotional maturity or coping mechanisms that didn’t involve a drink, a fix or a pill.

I found myself sitting in cold and dank church halls and community centres – where many AA meetings seemed to be held – with hideously bright fluorescent lighting – “ve have vays of making you talk.” Even though I had spend much of my ‘drinking years’ in dank bars, the veneer of alcohol always made everything sparkle, it gave me a warm inner glow, and the dim lighting covered a multitude of sins.

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. Joseph Campbell

Now I felt exposed, transitioning from a creature of the night to an attempt at daytime normalcy, I found myself squinting and blinking at the brightness of the world, like a mole forced out of her hole. Supermarkets were particularly painful. The combination of the bad Muzak, over-lit endless aisles of stuff and people was pergatory for me.

Especially the people. Early detox from alcohol is defined by it’s combination of the physical shakes and extreme paranoia. I was sure every person in the place was watching me trying to wrestle control of my hand to pick up a packet of cereal or extricate money from my wallet. If someone actually spoke to me, it all became too much, the walls would start closing in and I had to abandon all my shopping and leave.

It was a shock to see what a ‘shadow’ person I had become, more comfortable in the dark, shadowy side of life, invisible, afraid of the most ordinary things.

In the AA program I was forced to confront my ‘defects of character,’ another ways of describing the shadow aspects of my behaviour. For someone who had meticulously avoided any emotions, or difficult aspects of myself, this was a hideously confronting process. On a daily basis I was faced with the choice of facing my shadow or facing complete annihilation. It was not a happy time.

We approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations. It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle. Sigmund Freud

But, through this process I learned to be increasingly more comfortable with myself, all of myself, and embarked on a path of self-awareness and self-acceptance as I had never known before.

It was to be my first of many experiences, where I discovered that facing my shadow, no matter how painful or undesirable, brought untold gifts.

Eventually though I found myself again at a rock bottom. Having crashed and burned emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually not long after my fortieth birthday, again I was searching for answers.

As appealing as it was when I was happy, from this depressed state I found much of the New Age stuff very shallow. Wishful thinking, affirmations, faking it until we make it, are sometimes helpful to get out of the rut, but they cannot be long term life plans. True authenticity comes from facing the shadow. That stuff that lurks just beneath the surface that we push down with a myriad of avoidance strategies from sedation to excess busyness.

I am highly suspicious of any practice which focuses only on the light or positive aspects of our being. We are all made up of dark and light. A really simple way to uncover your shadow self is to see what really irritates you in others, what drives you bonkers. Is it disrespect? Arrogance? Greed? Inconsideration? Guaranteed the stuff you most resent in others is stuff you deny or repress in yourself. This is called projection, we literally use others as a screen to project our shadow traits onto.

Our journey of Self-Exploration is a bit like Dante’s Inferno. Before making our way out of “hell” we must walk through the depths of our inner darkness. Many religions symbolize these experiences well. Two famous examples include the case of Jesus who had to face Satan in the desert, and Buddha’s encounter with Mara (the Buddhist Satan) before his “awakening”.  Mateo Sol

We all do this, so there’s a couple of options, suppress it and keep frantically chanting OMs hoping that no one realises our murderous rage within, or acknowledge it. Take a look at it. Next time you judge someone else, either for the positive or negative – even jealousy often is us projecting our unowned good qualities on another person – witness that.

Be curious. Dive into it. Ask yourself, can I be disrespectful, arrogant, inconsiderate? Maybe sometimes these qualities are actually useful. Especially when used consciously.

When I stumbled upon Chakradance, something lit up inside of me. Here was the best of the New Age. A practice that combined ancient wisdom with modern psychology. It drew upon the Chakra system, shamanic dance and Jungian psychology. All practices which resonated with me. And best of all, it was music and dance! I had always found great freedom and liberation from my difficulties by pumping up the stereo and dancing myself silly. Chakradance gave me a framework to use this for my healing.

Any practice which takes us out of the conscious mind and engages with the unconscious, be it dance, creating art or music, meditation, immersing ourselves in nature, will help this more primal side of ourselves to emerge.

In Chakradance we dance into our unconscious, and then we create a mandala drawing so we can express all this beautiful untapped energy, and all the powerful images we encounter which help us to recognise these hidden parts of ourselves.

Showing the best and dividing it from the worst age vexes age. Walt Whitman

Because the shadow is often made up of primal instincts and urges we have repressed, as well as tribal and ancestral traits we have rebelled against, I feel that the base chakra is particularly relevant to this work.

When I was in India last year I took the opportunity to see an Ayurvedic doctor. In Ayurveda all aspects of self, mind, body and spirit are addresssed. So as part of the consultation, he discussed the state of my chakras. He felt that my physical and emotional symptoms indicated my base Chakra was weak – almost non-existant! – and needed activating. I have been practising the mantras he gave me and the chanting practice. When the Chakradance Reboot Your Base Chakra eCourse came up I immediately signed up.

I am a great believer in divine timing. As my shadow self seems to be bursting out causing me to act, think and feel in ways I find very overwhelming and challenging, I have this beautiful practice of Chakradance to ease me back into my body, to help me integrate all these aspects of self. Chakradance is gentle like that, it doesn’t force things to come up in the psyche, Jung believed that could be counter-productive. But when stuff is ready, it rises, and it feels so good to be able to dance through and integrate my shadow work.

In the base Chakradance we connect with our power animal. Dancing our power animal is one of the most powerful shamanic practices to revitalise and strengthen our spirit. Each animal brings its own strength, wisdom or medicine, and a connection to our primal, instinctual nature.

Mine is an animal who hibernates seasonally, and as such as we head into Winter here, I am reminded of the restorative power of cave-time, time to withdraw from the world, rest, nourish and replenish the body.

The work of the soul is not always sparkly and full of surrender-gasms. As Caroline Myss said the truly powerful and great spiritual moments are usually accompanied by great humility or suffering, as the metaphor of the birth of the messiah in a stable illustrates.

In my eyes, indisposed. In disguises no one knows. Hides the face, lies the snake. And the sun in my disgrace. Chris Cornell

During this time of increased shadow rising, I became increasingly depressed. Perhaps instead of something rising up, it was a place I descended into.

Weirdly my darkest nights of the soul coincided with the tragic suicide of my musical hero Chris Cornell. I felt that right there was my shadow, I so empathised with the darkness that took him on that lonely night in Detroit.

I drew on my love for my son to get me through, like a candle illuminating the dark I knew I had to survive the darkness for his sake. It sounds melodramatic I know, but when you are hanging on by a thread, you use whatever power you can.

Depression can be seen as a descent into shadow. It certainly feels dark, and as though every negative and undesirable aspect of self takes front and centre stage. However there is also a palpable shift in awareness as if a doorway into a previously hidden part of life is opened.

Depression is a wilderness where nothing makes sense or has meaning. As long as it doesn’t take me out completely, this mental blackout can be helpful. It often forces me to challenge what truly has meaning in my life, what has substance, what brings vitality and joy. And similarly to recognise that which does not.

Leading up to this bout of depression I had done some work with a spiritual healer that included soul retrieval. In fact I could pretty much pin the beginning of my descent to that time. I became curious about this link between soul loss, soul retrieval, shadow and depression so I began to read more about it.

Soul loss is the idea that parts of our soul or spirit break away during traumatic life experiences, leaving us less vital. In psychology this idea is known as dissociation, where a person may have no memory of the trauma or seem disassociated or overly detached from their current life.

In psychology they are not concerned with where these lost parts go, but in many shamanic traditions, there is an understanding that these parts have gone to places in non-ordinary reality or the ‘spirit world.’ Shamans are experts in tracking down and coaxing back these lost soul parts to be reunited the body of the person they were splintered from. This is soul retrieval.

Many years ago when I was studying shamanism in Bali, I had a conversation with a friend about this. As a psychotherapist he pointed out that the mind is always trying to find balance or equilibrium, and as such rejects anything that threatens this. Bringing back soul parts after many years, especially soul parts that were splintered off on account of trauma, must throw this balance of the psyche into turmoil.

I wish that soul retrieval were safe, simple, and filled with the white light of love and light that people think it is. But something cannot be powerful and safe at the same time. Mary Shutan

Interesting alongside this deep suicidal depression, I also had other old dysfunctional behaviours crop up. And I craved cigarettes so badly I actually asked a drunk guy for one, fortunately he said no. I haven’t been a smoker for over sixteen years.

What I began to intuit is that some of the soul parts that had come back were pretty dysfunctional when they left.

Whether you see these parts as repressed aspects of self or lost soul parts, the effect of bringing them back into consciousness is the same, they are strangers to the psyche who has been getting along just fine – or so it thinks – without them. Sometimes it is not a happy reunion.

And seemingly they had brought some of their old dynamics back into my psyche, throwing me into turmoil. In a way my shadow selves were ignited and fueled by this process, and I was left in a frightening shadow world where all I could see was darkness and hopelessness. Much like the teenage addicted and suicidal me.

You will have to stand someplace you’ve never been willing to stand before. Go to places you have deemed off limits. This is the time to take off the shell of your past and step into the rich possibilities of your future. Debbie Ford

Fortunately, weeks ago I had signed up for a Spontaneous Transformation workshop on stress and overwhelm. Spontaneous Transformation is a beautiful technique that addresses this very issue by dialoguing with these soul parts and helping them address the trauma in order to find a resolution, recognition and integration.

Through this daily practice and through Chakradance, I have found peace with myself again. And beyond that, these angry and hurt parts of myself actually taught me a lesson or two about how I could be kinder and support myself better in my life.

In India, the Hindus practise Aarti, which literally means an illuminating light in the darkness. I believe by bringing the light of awareness onto our shadow we can find gold there. Don’t throw away the treasure in your cave because  you’re scared of the dark – light a candle and see the gold in there.

Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.) Walt Whitman

Hari om tat sat. Namaste. Blessings.

Try Chakradance – Rhythm for your soul



Over-amped and insecure? Get into your body

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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

I love this quote. Reading Mary Oliver feels like lying down on lush, damp grass, taking a deep breath and sinking in. But how often do we take the time to sink in and really inhabit our body?

The modern lifestyle creates a disconnect with the body, we become like a head with hands, thinking, thinking, doing, doing. Unless we habitually stop and practice meditation, dance or yoga, or spend time in nature, we may never really arrive in our body all day.

The wisdom of the body – with its endless and varied cacophony of signals and mechanisms – is our projection of spirit. This is our vehicle for incarnation. And like any vehicle, our body provides a stream of signals to guide and inform us. It provides the physicality, the flesh, the medium though which we interact with our physical, emotional and spiritual world.

From the soft lub-dub of our heart beat, to our churning guts, our racing pulse, our cold feet, the body conveys a series of messages, if we would only listen. 

From the cold knife-to-the-heart sensation of heartbreak and shame, to the butterflies of excitement, the soft animal of our body knows what it loves. It feels our pleasure and our pain.

The body contains truths unique to our being. Just as one person may enjoy eating peanut butter by the spoonful, another may fall into analphylactic shock at the smallest trace of nuts. We are similar, but not the same and neither are our bodies. As you embrace this, you can settle into a beautiful relationship with the unique body, the exquisite system of flesh and senses, that is you.

The yogis have always known this, that the stresses of the body must be smoothed out and soothed with yoga poses before the mind can be still and spirit can be heard. The yoga tradition is all about purifying the vessel to achieve union of body and spirit.

The spirit likes to dress up like this: ten fingers, ten toes, shoulders and all the rest… It could float, of course, but would rather plumb through matter. Airy and shapeless thing, it needs the metaphor of the body… To be understood, to be more than pure light that burns where no one is. Mary Oliver

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The first chakra, located at the base of our spine, is called Muladhara in Sanskrit, meaning root support. Like the root system of a tree, our root or base chakra energetically grounds us in the physical world.

Linking the chakras are a series of energy channels that, in their purest and unimpeded form, constantly flow and spiral up and down the spinal column, keeping our energetic system in connectivity to both the earth and ethereal energy above, with the chakras like little hubs in between.

Caroline Myss describes these channels and the chakras as our ‘energy anatomy’ and a ‘blueprint for managing spiritual power’ and that the purpose of most spiritual teachings – though often misunderstood – is to teach us how to manage this system of power.

Anodea Judith calls the chakras the ‘architecture of the soul.’ She says a chakra is a centre of organisation for the reception, the assimilation and the expression of life force energy. The chakras are the portals, the mediators, between the inner world and the outer world. 

Chakras can be described as processing centres of energy and information, as well as gateways for this energy and information to flow into, out of, and through. Note that when I refer to ‘energy’ I use the term to describe the concept used in many esoteric traditions of the vital life force energy, or spiritual energy, also known as prana or qi.

Many of us have sustained emotional and physical traumas in life which may have affected the formation and flow of our chakras. This biography of experience is energetically recorded in our chakra system (as well as the cells in our bodies.) This can cause our chakras to compensate by either restricting energy flow, becoming deficient or under active, or by becoming over active and excessive. Or even a combination of both. 

‘So what?’ You ask, ‘it’s only energy,’ read on, and I’ll tell you why this kind of imbalance can have deep and far reaching effects on your life.

Your biography becomes your biology. Caroline Myss

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Linked to physical realities of life – security, shelter, sustenance, family, tribe – Deedre Diemer writes that the first chakra is associated with primordial trust. It is the chakra associated with our basic instincts for food, shelter, sex and survival.

Developmentally this chakra emerges between conception and eighteen months, and is informed by our environment during that time. If we felt safe and nurtured and our needs were taken care of, if we were held lovingly by our mothers, and picked up when we cried, chances are this chakra is embedded with a core sense of security.

However up to 50% of people report that they either suffered birth trauma or there were significant stressors in their family of origin or community – war or poverty, for example – to inhibit this secure bonding from occurring. Not mention subsequent life trauma that can affect our sense of security. As such, we may have an overreactive first chakra, that is out of balance and causes us to compensate in a variety of ways.

If we are imbalanced in this chakra it can manifest as a lack of physicality, being underweight, spacey and anxious. Or it may manifest as an excessive physicality in being overweight and overly attached to the physical by hoarding, over eating and indulgence in pleasure, or over-accumulation of stuff.

I often wondered how I could be both spaced out and have a tendency to over-indulge. Anodea Judith points out that as these extremes are both compensatory behaviours to address an issue in this chakra we may experience symptoms of both.

This very body that we have, that’s sitting here right now… With its aches and pleasures… is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive. Pema Chodron

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If you imagine the root chakra like a plant in a pot, it needs a degree of support to keep the soil and moisture in, but too tight a restraint will not allow it to grow.

In the same way a deficient base chakra contracts too tightly into its core, not allowing enough room for energy to come in, to have, to hold, to manifest. In this scenario we are literally strangling our energy flow, the earth energy that needs to flow up and through our base chakra is restricted and bottlenecked, creating blockages that may literally prevent us from manifesting or maintaining physical things, including our own healthy robust body, as there is no room to receive. This kind of person can be literally disembodied, spacey, anxious, ungrounded.

The person who compensates for an unbalanced base chakra though physical over-indulgence, allows excessive earth energy into their system. They may feel heavy, lethargic, they may be overweight, overeat, hoard and covet possessions, money and power. It is as if they use physical things, including their own body weight to compensate for deficiencies in this chakra, perhaps to literally compensate for a lack of maternal holding in their formative years.

Again this results in a blockage. Too much energy, when it is held and hoarded in this way impedes the flow just as much as constricted energy. It’s akin to the Buddhist concept of attachment, it is the attachment to our desires that causes suffering. It causes us to get stuck in a unmanageable mess of our own making.

As Albert Einstein once said, the most fundamental decision we make in life, is whether to see this world as inherently good and beneficent or not. This worldview informs everything we think, feel, and do. How we perceive and thus operate in the world. The base chakra question, is this world safe for me to embody?

Erik Erickson wrote that this first stage of psychosocial development – from birth to eighteen months – is a time when either trust or mistrust of the world around us is established. This informs our behaviour at the most fundamental level. If I can trust the world, I can allow myself to have it. I’m not suspicious. I am accepting.

If something is not safe, we won’t allow ourselves to have it, you wouldn’t drink poison, in the same way if your inherent world view is of an unsafe place, you won’t fully allow yourself to engage in it. You may stay detached, non-committal, risk-avoidant, and fearful.

We either master the fundamentals of survival or we become one of life’s victims. Ambika Wauters

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So much of our sense of our body and our self comes from the initial holding experience provided by our parents. Anodea Judith says that this initial holding wires up our brain body interface, it literally teaches us awareness that we have a body, we are in a body. This all comes through touch. Here we get imprinted with a cellular message of safety and security. Our instincts are quietened, not alarmed. This is a good grounding in the first chakra.

But what if you didn’t get this. What if you grew up in fear uncertainty, violence, instability? What did you have to do to yourself in order to survive this fundamental stage? If our needs are not met, our survival instincts start freaking out, our central nervous system is wired in a permanent state of anxiety, our body gets over-amped. We become over-vigilant, fearful, unable to settle, insecure. This kind of person doesn’t know how to calm down.

This may explain why so many people depend on alcohol, drugs, sex, food and shopping to self-soothe. They simply have no mechanism to return to a state of calm without external stimulus. Hence researchers into addiction like Gabor Mate suggest there are significant and demonstrable links between unresolved childhood trauma and addiction. His TEDX talk is a fascinating insight in the causes of addiction.

Nothing records the effect of a sad life as graphically as the human body. Naguib Mahvouz

The lesson of Muladhara chakra is grounding, a full inhabiting of our physical bodies as the embodiment of our connection to the element of earth. To cease existing primarily in our heads and inhabit our bodies. To cease grasping onto people, places and things as the source of our security.

Here we can experience pleasure and pain, connect with our feelings, and release these accumulated emotional energies through our connection with the physical.

Movement through our bodies allows energy to flow, it can trigger blockages to shift and cause accumulated energies to be released or redistributed and balanced.

Movement brings us into our physicality, brings our energy down from our heads into our roots, allowing a real connection with not only our physical selves, but the physicality of the world around us.

For those who, like myself, have a lifetime’s accumulated negative body issues, this takes patience and self-compassion. Making peace with the body I have despised, abandoned and abused for many years is a process that does not come overnight.

After two years of Chakradance practice, alongside many years of yoga and mindful meditation, I have found a degree of peace and comfort in my own skin that I have never before known. At times my body even brings me immeasurable joy. 

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

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To encourage our vital energy to flow freely we must let go of our attachments and defences. The chakras can be blocked by our learned defences, either something we want to keep out or something we don’t want to let out. What kinds of things would cause these defences? Toxic energy, fear and violence are all things we may shut down to avoid. Similarly we may repress our own ‘negative’ emotions – anger, sorrow, exuberance – having learned it was unsafe to express these. 

Sometimes the residue from trauma gets stored in our body and our energy system. While traditional psychotherapy may assist at a mental and behavioural level, we also need to release these wounds energetically, in order to release the attachments and defences they cause us to act out – often unconsciously – in our lives.

As in all things balance is the key. An over-amped base chakra may cause us to be frozen in fear or rushing about in a heightened state of anxiety. What we ideally want is movement that is grounded and purposeful. We need to reconnect with the nurturing aspects of Mother Earth.

To ground we invite this energy back down through our body and reconnect ourselves energetically with the earth.

Traditionally humans spent most of their lives in direct contact with the earth, walking, living and sleeping on the ground. In the modern world we are so disconnected from the earth in layers of buildings, shoes, vehicles. 

I thought the earth remembered me, she took me back so tenderly, arranging her dark skirts, her pockets full of lichens and seeds. Mary Oliver

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In Chakradance we reconnect our base chakra to the earth by dancing to earthy tribal beats, moving powerfully through our legs and feet. We may visualise ourself as a seed planted in the earth, provided with all the sustenance, support, and security it needs to grow. We see ourselves setting down strong roots as we grow into the world, like a giant majestic tree firmly rooted in the soil, so our branches can safely reach up and out into the sunshine.

Anodea Judith says that the best way to restore balance to the base chakra, is to open the leg channels. The legs connect us to the earth and the energy flows up through our feet and legs and into the base chakra. Our legs are like two prongs of an electric plug – we need to plug in to the earth energy to ground, receive and release.

Grounding exercise by Anodea Judith

This exercise will work whether your base chakra is deficient excessive or both, even if you feel your base chakra is balanced, grounding is always energising and restorative.

1. Stance

Stamp your feet a little to get the energy moving, then stand with your feet shoulder width or even a little further apart.

Make sure your feet are pointing straight or even slightly pigeon-toed, bend your knees slightly so your knee sits directly above your second toe.

Press down and out with your feet, as if you are trying to push apart two floorboards with your feet. So you want your feet firm and active.

2. Exercise

As you inhale gently bend your knees deeper, keeping your upper body upright, shoulders above hips.

As you exhale, slowly push down and out through your feet to straighten your knees, ensuring you do not lock your knees at the top. Do this very slowly.

Remember to keep the tension and engagement, the pushing sensation through your legs and feet.

3. Visualisation

As you exhale and push down, visualise energy from the base chakra in your pelvic floor pushing down through the core of your legs and feet and down into the earth.

(if your legs begin to tremble this is a good sign – you are shifting blockages and allowing energy to flow. If there’s any pain, stop)

If you feel you have deficient energy visualise drawing energy up through your legs and into your base chakra. 

If you feel you have excessive energy, visualise pushing that excess down into the earth.

If you’re not sure, just visualise both. Releasing in the exhale, receiving on the inhale.

4. Affirmation

As you exhale say ‘I am in here’ then ‘I am in here, and this is mine’ – really feeling yourself in your body.

You can do this up to 10 times. Trust your body, stop when you’ve had enough. You will build up your strength over time.

Practise this exercise daily and notice the difference after a week. Ideally this exercise will clear your channels, allow you to ground, release and receive energy through your base chakra.

I am one with the source, in so far as I act as a source, by making everything I have received flow again. Raimon Panikkar

Blessings!

What is love anyway?

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How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of being and ideal grace. I love thee to the level of every day’s Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Finding myself bemused by my New Year intentions, that one repeated word intrigues me. Love. What does that even mean?

These are my intentions, by the way. I can’t even remember them, so I certainly don’t expect you to!

Love myself, Love the natural world, Love animals, Love people, Love my work, Love my space, Love my spirit

I don’t know if it’s the Valentine’s Day hangover, but that amount of love is making me feel a little nauseous.

Love is a word so overloaded with meaning, both societal and personal. Poems and songs are written about its lofty heights. It’s the word used to describe both our most precious relationships and how we feel about a good cup of coffee or a new dress.

What did I really mean when I wrote these intentions to love so widely and completely?

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close. Pablo Neruda

To love myself or love nature, is that the same kind of love? Does it need to be? Could these intentions be an exercise in stretching my ‘love muscles’ – and you can get your mind out of the gutter, right now. There’s more than one kind of love, y’know.

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There are so many different kinds of love. Love can mean like, adore, adulate, care for, worship, cherish, yearn for, hold dear, pine for, enjoy, like, delight in, savour, fancy, admire… you get the idea. Other languages and cultures are much more nuanced in their expression of love – with words for which you need a whole sentence in English.

Saudade (Pronunciation: saw•’day•djee – Portugese) n., a strong feeling of missing someone you love.

In his wonderful article on the subject, philosopher Roman Krznaric, writes that the Greek language distinguishes at least six different ways as to how the word love is used.

The ancient Greeks were just as sophisticated in the way they talked about love, recognizing six different varieties. They would have been shocked by our crudeness in using a single word both to whisper “l love you” over a candlelit meal and to casually sign an email “lots of love.” Roman Krznaric

The first kind of love was eros, named after the Greek god of fertility, and it represented the idea of sexual passion and desire. Something the Greeks saw as a frightening loss of control, not the desirable state of constant arousal our modern society views it as.

Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. Neil Gaiman

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The second variety of love was philia or friendship, which was valued more highly by the Greeks than the sexuality of eros. Philia describes the deep friendship that developed between men who had fought side by side on the battlefield – it epitomised loyalty, sacrifice and the sharing of deeply affecting experiences.

We’d never know how high we are ’till we are called to rise; and then, if we are true to plan, our statures touch the sky. Emily Dickinson

Ludis was the Greeks’ idea of playful love, such as the affection between children or young lovers. Think of flirting, teasing, bantering and light-hearted fun.

The fourth love was agape or selfless love. This was a love that you extended to all people – compassion, charity and an empathy for all people (and all living things).

Pragma was the deep understanding between long-married couples, who demonstrate compromise, patience and tolerance.

It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages. Friedrich Nietzsche

The Greek’s sixth variety of love was philautia or self-love, of which there were two kinds. One was a narcissistic self-love, where you became self-obsessed and focused on selfish ends. The second type was the idea that if you have a healthy self-love, you will have plenty of love to give others.

Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them. Leo Tolstoy

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Krznaric suggests there is a correlation between the lack of attention given to these non-sexual, non-romantic forms of love and the modern obsession with romantic love, and with finding ‘the one’. The Greeks clearly articulated that expecting one person to fulfil all our love needs was completely unrealistic.

So it makes sense that there are different kinds of love, and perhaps we are designed to experience them all. Like getting all our nutrients, perhaps this longing for the ‘one’ is a manifestation of unfulfilled love in other parts of our life. Too much focus on the meat and not enough vegetables. (Okay, that pun was intended.)

On a recent shamanic journey, I was shown another aspect of love, receiving. One of my regular animal guides, the wolf, took me on a journey that showed me how resistant I am to the love and support all around me.

Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love. Rainer Maria Rilke

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As the western world celebrates – or commiserates – Valentine’s Day, I wondered why we laud the romantic love above all else?

Feeling triggered by the ebbs and flows of my own heartbreak, I found the constant emphasis on that kind of love demoralising. A guy from an online dating site asked me ‘what had reduced such a beautiful, intelligent woman to this?’ I found that strange. I didn’t feel reduced. I wanted to meet single men, it seemed like the place to do it, was I missing something?

Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are. Arthur Golden

And then, after some last minute cancellations, I found myself waiting for the last remaining Chakradance attendee who was a no show. Abandoned on Valentine’s Day. Uh oh.

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Then tears came. I wish they didn’t. I wish I could write that I’m all strong and warrior-like, but I’m not.

As I sat in my beautiful studio, feeling alone and abandoned. Opening my eyes a sliver of light from the red candle flame was kaleidoscoped by my tears. So unexpectedly beautiful – the outlines of angels and holographic tribal images. I began to play with my tear-filled eyes. It’s a fine line between pleasure and pain…

Love is so short, forgetting is so long. Pablo Neruda

Unable to reconcile the Valentine red hearts, roses, and chocolate idea of love; the light and sparkly new age all-embracing love; and the love that has left me so bereft,  it occurred to me that love is so much deeper than the use of word suggests. The love of mother at her child’s sick bed. Of a husband as he holds his dying wife’s hand…

Love is a risk. The risk of the loss of that which we love. Love walks the razor’s edge between unconditional love and devastating, debilitating attachment.

What is to give light must endure burning. Viktor Frankl

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Love is an act of courage. The courage to remain open after the heaviness and shards of hurt rain down on us. In the birth/death/rebirth cycle, grief is an inevitable part of love.

Grief reunites you with what you’ve lost. It’s a merging; you go with the loved thing or person that’s going away. You follow it a far as you can go. But finally, the grief goes away and you phase back into the world. Without him. Philip K Dick

Martin Prechtel is the author of Secrets of the Talking Jaguar, an autobiographical account of his initiation as a Mayan Shaman. His lecture series on Grief and Praise is a simple yet profound insight into the false distinction between love and loss, positive and negative emotions.

It is an interesting reflection on our modern desire to both suppress grief, whilst simultaneously expressing it in unhealthy and unhealing ways, on Jerry Springer, Facebook, from a bar stool. Most of us lack the real community which would hold us as we safely grieve.

It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses. Colette

Prechtel talks about grief and praise as part of the same continuum, as a yin/yang process where one always contains the other – it must or it is devoid of any real depth. Love and praise are only of substance if there is a connection involved where the loss would be felt deeply.

I love my cup of coffee but if I spill it, I’ll be upset for a moment and annoyed, but there’ll be no real grief. My dog on the other hand… The same goes for grief. We only grieve that which we have deeply loved. If there is no grief, there was no real love.

The darker the night, the brighter the stars,
The deeper the grief, the closer is God! Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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Perhaps this kind of community, Pretchel speaks of, where people can bear witness to our pain and our joys is something we have to create in the modern world, we don’t live in extended families and tribes, and if we break down in the street we are more likely to be carted off to the psych ward than given a cup of tea and a friendly shoulder to cry on.

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break. William Shakespeare

In a society where it is not safe to grieve, we abandon ourselves before anyone can abandon us, and withhold emotions because we fear it is unsafe. This repression and denial of grief manifests as all kinds of psychosis and physical symptoms, passed down as psychic wounds from generation to generation. These tribal and ancestral wounds are energetically lodged in our base chakra and can make us feel unsafe and insecure.

You won’t find these wounds on an x-ray or ultrasound, yet they will emerge from within when it is safe, if the timing is right, and you have the tools to process and honour them, if you give them the words they need to take flight, you can finally grieve them.

Each of us has his own rhythm of suffering. Roland Barthes

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I was fifteen the first time tried to take my own life. That wasn’t the last time. That medicine cabinet still stands in my mother’s bathroom. Whenever I see it, I can still feel the ache of that girl.

As she emptied the pills in her hand. Her tears as she swallowed them, really thinking it was the end. Of what she thought she would find there. Relief, escape from the burden of an open heart.

Instead of a white cadillac to the clouds, I vomited until I bled, and there were tearful confessions, remonstrations, and resolutions.

It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. Joseph Campbell

I don’t know what makes someone that thin-skinned. I don’t know why things never bounced off my skin the way the did off other people’s. Why the stings and arrows all got wedged in my heart.

This has been my journey. Being born with an over-full, ever-open heart. Experiencing shame at a too young age. Learning that people would stop loving me if I wasn’t good enough.

Someday you’re gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You’ll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing. Elizabeth Gilbert

Open heart. Broken ever wider. Yet when I journey there I see a beautiful garden growing in the ruins.

Maybe it’s okay to be alone in my garden. It’s beautiful. It lives. I am grateful.

So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love. E.A. Bucchianeri

I am grateful for my body
I am grateful for my heart
I am grateful for my spirit

Bless!

Images: http://www.jamesreads.com/

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps they are only extreme to the modern reader.

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

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

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

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

Let’s get wild

anitaanti41

We need the tonic of wildness… At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature. Henry David Thoreau

There’s a half-written blog post languishing in my drafts folder, intended for this week, but as often happens, some thing burns a hole in my soul and I just have to write about it instead.

The soul-burning issue this week is self-restraint.

Now I’m a fan of self-restraint to a degree. I accept that we learn to keep our hands out of the fire and to not blindly walk across the road in the face of a Mack truck. Not to mention the restraint of pen and tongue that is so vital to peace in relations between family, neighbours, and nations.

However, when self-restraint tips over into stifling our wild nature, well, I have a little something to say about that.

As I resume teaching Chakradance for the New Year, I have been fielding lots of queries from interested people. And there is a disturbing trend emerging. Now I want to make it clear that this post is not based on any one individual, but on what seems to be an overwhelming reaction to the idea of dancing without inhibitions.

The refrain I keep hearing is that you would love to do Chakradance but…

You think you can’t dance

You think you’ll look foolish

You’re feel insecure and self-conscious about your body

You are worried what will people think of you

After one gorgeous person after another laid these concerns on me, I began to feel really sad. I mean it’s possible that these are excuses, that they really don’t want to do Chakradance, and that’s fine. I’m not trying to evangelise here!

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But you see, I know they’re not just excuses, because I have had them too.

For years, I was a party animal, I would get drunk or high and dance the night away. When I gave up all that, I felt like I had lost the ‘fun’ button. I didn’t know how to relax into my body, how to move freely. When I danced, I feel like I had wooden legs.

And the irony is that the only cure for these inhibitions and insecurities – for me – was to dance in spite of them. To dance harder in the face of them, to thumb my nose and stick my bum out and wiggle my hips at them.

You see, they are a barrier to my wildness, and once I opened the door to my wildness, she came and whooped those fears right away.

Wild child full of grace
Saviour of the human race. Natural child, terrible child
Not your mother’s or your father’s child
You’re our child, screamin’ wild. The Doors

The idea of me being a Chakrdance teacher seemed ludicrous to me. I mean, I’m the one always turning the wrong way in dance class, I stumble a lot. I don’t look like a dancer…

So many mental barriers.

Writing this blog has given me the freedom to follow my wildness. Because, you see, my heart wanted me to dance. And maybe I thought, I can encourage other people who would love to express themselves in some wild and creative way, but hold themselves back for fear they don’t fit the bill.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver

As I practice for the Chakradance Journeying classes, I dance to the themes of the Earth, trees, and animals. These are dances that focus on connecting with your wildness, your deepest primal nature. Dances that transport you into the ancient energy of your ancestors and the spirit of the land.

I connected with a wolf spirit in the power animal dance, and afterwards I was drawn to pick up an old, favourite book, Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women who run with the Wolves.

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I was given my copy of this transformative book 17 years ago by my first husband. He often lamented how uptight and restrained I was, he could see there was a wild woman in there just itching to get out, if I’d only just let her free.

Over the years I’ve re-read parts and the entirety of the book and it always has great wisdom for me.

I’ve also been drawn recently to books and stories of women who literally go into the wild, like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Robyn Davidson’s Tracks and Nomads.

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.John Muir

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating a wholesale Thoreau-esque return to nature here.

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

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

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

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

It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way. Cheryl Strayed

Sandra Ingerman says, from the shamanic perspective, we dream our world into being, and we can’t keep dreaming the old dream, we need a new one. I keep thinking of Robert A Johnson who writes in The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden: Understanding the Wounded Feeling Function in Masculine and Feminine Psychology, that the feminine psyche tends to solve problems by focusing on reducing the differences between opposing sides – mediating and peace-making – rather than in out and out battle.

In some ways this has lent itself to the feminine being always accommodating to her own detriment. But wildness is not synonymous with aggression. We can be wild and let our wildness shine and radiate its effects on those around us, without any force or aggression.

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Most of us exist for most of the time in worlds which are humanly arranged, themed and controlled. One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes. They induce, I suppose, a modesty in us. Robert Macfarlane

Think of the Mother bear archetype. I remember after years of trying to advocate for my son with autism, and being consistently made to feel that I didn’t know what was best, because I was a mother not an expert, my maternal ire rose up in me and I started being a mother bear. When something was against my maternal instinct, I stood my ground.

This internal shift has made me a much better mother, as I now have a steady internal compass for my parenting. I am not always looking to others to tell me what I should do.

Wildness in parenting, in any aspect of life and relationships means using instinctual intelligence – trusting our gut. Doing what we know is right even though the ‘powers that be’ – both internal and external – may not approve.

We may have to step out of the dynamic of being good and polite and nice. Perhaps like me, you had these qualities drummed into you as a child, as virtues. Perhaps being polite has also left you defenceless and vulnerable in dangerous situations. Situations your instinct would have warned you from, if you had been brought up to be attentive to it. Situations where sometimes the only way out with your life was to give up a piece of your soul. And bit by bit these woundings deplete our wildness. But the wild spirit is regenerative. The soul wants to heal and it will, given the space to.

Though the gifts of the wildish nature come to us at birth, society’s attempt to “civilize” us into rigid roles has plundered this treasure, and muffled the deep, life-giving messages of our own souls. Without Wild Woman, we become over-domesticated, fearful, uncreative, trapped. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

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Chakradance is described as a dance practice for the soul. The intention is reconnect to our true essence or self – to tune into that deeper part of us and hear what it has to say.

In our forests
part divine
and makes her heart palpitate
wild and tame are one. What a delicious Sound! John Cage

These days there is an epidemic of challenging symptoms in our modern lives – depression, anxiety, addictions, compulsive behaviours – the list goes on. In traditional shamanic cultures, it is believed that these symptoms arise from loss of connection to the soul.

Oh, I’m burning! I wish I were out of doors! I wish I were a girl again, half savage and hardy, and free… and laughing at injuries, not maddening under them! Why am I so changed? Why does my blood rush into a hell of tumult at a few words? I’m sure I should be myself were I once among the heather on those hills. Open the window again wide: fasten it open! Emily Brontë

Fortunately, the soul has a natural instinct to heal. It communicates with us through our bodies, our feelings, our relationships, our dreams, our art. And once we listen to our souls language, we find the path to wholeness, we align our inner and outer lives.

Chakradance workshops are a journey inwards. But they are by no means the only way to make this connection.

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We can reconnect with our nature self, our primal self, our wild self, by reconnecting with mother earth, and the elements of water, air, sunshine, moonlight, starlight. This can be as simple as:

Walking on the earth with bare feet

Singing with all your heart

Dancing with abandon

Standing beneath the moon and the starry night sky

Sitting in silent solitude

We can model wildness for future generations as the way to integrate modern life with our inner instinctual selves. A balanced way of life for both the natural ecology and the internal ecology – toward an individuated and balanced psyche. For a balanced person will want to protect what it loves, the wilderness within and without.

What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another. Mahatma Gandhi

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Root Chakra Affirmations from Chakra Anatomy 

I feel deeply rooted.

I am connected to my body.

I feel safe and secure.

Just like a tree or a star, I have a right to be here.

I stand for my values, for truth, and for justice.

I have what I need.

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 in the goodness of life.

I make choice that are healthy and good for me.

I trust myself.

I love life.

Bless!

Images:

Anita Anti & Margarita Kareva

For more information on Chakradance

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.

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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.

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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

Courageous intention

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

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

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

Courage is grace under pressure. Ernest Hemingway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Affirmations for the base chakra and mother archetype:

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

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

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

Bless!

 

Images of Found Objects Mandalas:

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Persephone Sunset on Tumblr

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Matt W Moore Utah Mandala Mosaics

Louise Gale Mandalas

Matt W Moore Utah Mandala Mosaics

 

Overwhelming abundance

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Once we make our decision, all things will come to us. Auspicious signs are not a superstition, but a confirmation. They are a response. Deng Ming-Dao 

Six months ago, I was feeling flat, and a little lost. Despite my best efforts to give my all in this race of life, somehow I had tripped over on a lumpy patch of ground and fallen flat on my face. Not only that, I really couldn’t find the energy or motivation to get back up.

Something had to give.

So I started this blog as an experiment to see what would happen if I put my intentions “out there.” To be honest, I wasn’t a hundred percent sure what I even meant by that, exactly what was I putting out where? But as the saying goes, ‘when you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.’

Or maybe, as I said to myself, maybe, you could even end up like Elizabeth Gilbert, when she wrote her book Eat Pray Love… Just without the trip to Italy, and India, and, well, any exotic locales.

Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed by a situation – when you’re in the darkest of darkness – that’s when your priorities are reordered. Phoebe Snow

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It was a bold move, I admit that, I was pulling no punches, from my very first post I rather optimistically asserted:

I intend to blog my way through the experience of manifesting my seven intentions. Me

It was a kind of challenge to the universe – to God, to the gods, goddesses, angels, Higher Power, whatever you wish to call it or them.

I was standing my ground, saying to whatever it is ‘out there’, “Show me how to create the kind of life I yearn for. I mean it. Now’s the time to put up, or shut up.”

Yeah, I know you shouldn’t really talk to supreme beings like that. I mean I did all the respectful things too, candles, incense, pretty words, but my intention was clear.

It was an experiment, the hypothesis was that by focusing my energy on my intentions through a variety of techniques, I could create positive changes in my life. And if it didn’t work, well, I was no worse off for trying, now was I?

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When you follow your bliss… doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors; and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else. Joseph Campbell

So I just acted as if there was some creative intelligence, and tried to hold my intentions up to it. Like a little girl with a flower in her hand. Is it looking? Is it listening? And does it want to help me?

I had heard about the law of attraction, but I didn’t really want a Ferrari or a multimillion dollar business, I just wanted to be happy, to be useful, to be whole.

So, I articulated my intentions for my life, I listed them, I wrote about them, meditated on them, chakradanced around them…

And?

Well. Something definitely happened. I went from a sense of nothingness to a sense of everythingness.

Lots of everything, an abundance of everything, everywhere. Abundance coming out of my eyeballs. It’s a little overwhelming. I don’t wish to complain or be an ingrate but…

My life has become so freaking abundant, I don’t know how to fit it all in. It’s all very well having it all, but where are you supposed to put it?

He was swimming in a sea of other people’s expectations. Men had drowned in seas like that. Robert Jordan

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Let me break it down for you. I’m a mum, I work, I have ageing parents. I’m starting a business, I’m a freelance writer. I’m doing a course. I just started a new relationship. I have lots of friends.

These are all wonderful things. It’s just this week I was also filling out paperwork to register my business, my domain name, applying for a grant at work, commissioning a graphic designer for my business, negotiating quotes on freelance work, finalising my business plan, preparing for running a chakradance session, clearing out my studio space…

Yes, all gloriously abundant things, but they all take time and energy. And it is as easy to get overwhelmed by the good stuff as any other kind of stuff, it’s all stuff…

Not to mention driving my son to sporting commitments, helping with homework, going to work. I’d say housework, but seeing as my house looks like it’s been ransacked by Vikings. Perhaps not.

And all this mindfulness stuff. Meditation, yoga, chakra healing. It all takes time. It can stress me out, trying to make time to be mindful. And I’m pretty sure that’s missing the point.

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Many of us feel stress and get overwhelmed not because we’re taking on too much, but because we’re taking on too little of what really strengthens us. Marcus Buckingham

And the more I race around worrying about getting things done, the less efficient I get and the more time seems to pass without me achieving anything.

Well. That’s not true. It’s just my to-do has doubled so I’m only getting through half of what I’m supposed to.

I was laughing to my friend about my first world problems. But really stress, the kind I’m describing, does seem to be a first world problem. Many countries with far worse living conditions have far better mental health than we do. Maybe it’s the difference between abundance and accumulation. Abundance is a mind-set of receiving great blessings, accumulation is a mind-set of do more, be more, have more.

On top of all this day-to-day stuff, I have a deep compassion fatigue. It feels this week as if the sorrows and ills of the world have been paraded across our eyes daily.

The result of seeing this horror playing out in the world is we often feel emotionally shut down and become desensitised or depressed and disillusioned – where to even begin? The problems of the world seem too big to make a difference in anyway. And then our little victories can seem shallow, insignificant and pointless.

Business planning reminded me of the beauty of combining long term goals and producing short term micro actions. So I decided to commit to doing one thing a month to make a difference in the world, then once I’ve incorporated that, I can bring in another new thing.

The faster our lives spin, the more things tend to fly apart. Richard Paul Evans

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One of my greatest assets is my deeply probing, ever-churning mind. But it can also be a liability. I’m always trying to figure stuff out. Or worry – it’s a fine line.

I think it was Marianne Williamson that said all we can really take from the past is the love. Our experiences, while meaningful to us, are subjective and circumstantial. No two points in time can ever contain exactly the same ingredients of people, places and things, and even if they did, the possibility of variable outcomes is, while not literally infinite, close enough. Thus trying to generalise our experiences into greater principles to live by can be problematic.

For example, if your life experience has been one of trauma and hardship, it would be reasonable to assume that is the nature of life. Literally, you will be primed for more of the same. And you could say the same for someone who’s life has been pleasant and abundant. One person expects difficulty, the other none. Does this change our perception and therefore experience of life?

Try to love and live the question itself. Don’t search for the answer. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. Rainer Maria Rilke

This is where a daily discipline can be helpful. A morning routine of prayer or meditation will cleanse the mind and reset it for the day. It gives the mind a base point of calm and openness. And focus.

Intention requires focus, yet my mind sends thoughts in 20 different directions, diffusing and scattering my power, sending out contradictory intentions, which is obviously not going to be effective.

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To me, a large part of opening my life to abundance is the perception that I can have these things I desire, even if I haven’t in the past. Despite failures or difficulties in the past, there’s no reason I don’t have exactly the same possibilities open to me now as anyone, except what my perception tells me.

Now I’m not trying to be ridiculously fluffy here. I know there are some realities that are not merely perception: war, famine, poverty, disability, there are real obstacles in this world. But I don’t have them. And I think sometimes these physical barriers are not what stops us, it’s the mental patterns, the old repetitive ways of thinking about the world and what is possible.

It is this very thinking, now that I have all the things I wanted flowing into my life, that experiences this abundance as merely more problems to be solved. “Once I get my business set up, once my love and I settle into our relationship, once I have more income…”

Then I will be happy.

Nope. I see it now. More stuff in my life doesn’t actually change my attitude about life or how I feel about myself. The more abundance I get, the more of whatever I have already I get. If I have fear and worry I get more of that, if I have love and gratitude, I get more of that.

It’s time to let go of my mental baggage!

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Every oak tree started out as a couple of nuts who stood their ground. Anonymous

For me, feeling overwhelmed and stressed leads me to a place of mental exhaustion. I literally cease to function. I can’t be around people, I can’t enjoy anything. The stress becomes the main attraction and I stop seeing anything else, it’s all I can focus on. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that it’s not an enjoyable place for me.

Relaxing is one of the hardest things to do when you’re stressed, but ironically, it works like magic. As soon as I relax. As soon as the stress response in my body subsides, I can see life in perspective again.

When we are stressed and overwhelmed by life, all our energy goes out in our thoughts of what we have to do. As such our energy is not in our body, and not in present moment awareness. This has a depleting effect on our energy levels. We may operate reasonably successfully on adrenal stress for a while, but this will eventually lead to exhaustion. Far better is to spend 5-10 minutes reconnecting with our body and the present moment.

Grounding is a fantastic exercise to achieve full body and mind calm. Try this wonderful guided meditation to reconnect with your body.

Somehow, when I reconnect with my body and my connection to the earth, everything slows back down to a manageable pace. Overwhelm occurs in my thinking, yet my body has its own rhythm, aligned with the earth itself, which I can tap into any time I choose.

Affirmations for calming the overwhelm by Che Garman:

A quiet mind oversees everything I do.

All my muscles are becoming more and more relaxed.

All negativity is evaporating from my body and my mind.

All the muscles in my body are releasing and relaxing.

All the muscles in my body relax and let go.

As I relax my body immediately feels better.

Being calm and centered is one of the top priorities in my life, and I practice this feeling every day. 

Being calm and relaxed energizes my whole being.

Calmness washes over me with every deep breath I take.

Every breath I take fills me with harmony and peace.

Every day I allow myself a few moments just to be.

Bless!

Images:

Totems Series by Alain Delorme

Back to basics, a meditation on the body

womantreebranchesTo lose our connection with the body is to become spiritually homeless. Without an anchor we float aimlessly, battered by the winds and waves of life. Anodea Judith

Have you ever seen Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore? As an ex ice hockey player attempting to putt a golf ball, he is told to visualise the ball going into the hole, as the ball ‘going home’. Becoming more and more frustrated, as the ball continuously misses its mark, he yells “What, are you too good for your home?”

For some reason that came to my mind as I read Anodea Judith’s quote. Random, yes. I know. But many of my thoughts contain pop culture references, often from Waynes World. Mike Myers is The Guru, after all. Hey! Don’t judge, there’s wisdom in pop culture too – Socrates was hugely popular in his time.

And yes, like Happy’s golf ball, I think my ego-mind does think it’s too good for its home. Or more to the point, it doesn’t think its home is good enough for it. I’ve certainly spent an awful lot of my life avoiding my own body, choosing to live in my mind, or sometimes just out of my mind in escape and fantasy, and I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Take the Willow Smith photo in the media this week. I tend to stay away from mainstream media, but I did read Belle Jar’s amazing post about this. For those of you like me who live under a rock, Willow Smith is the 13 year old daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith – famous actor type people  – who was posted in a photo with a 20 year old family friend. The media sexualised the photo and all kind of mudslinging ensued.

What occurs to me is how very frightened our mass media – which is in some way a reflection of the zeitgeist of the time –  is of our bodies, and how so many people reacted in fear to what is obviously a photo of two young people who are very relaxed and comfortable around each other. Of all the hideous things people do to their bodies, why is a boy and a girl hanging out together so shocking? Yet it is generally accepted in this same culture that bodies are cut, injected with botox, waxed, lasered, radiated with artificial UV, photoshopped into some bizarre ideal, which seems to get younger, increasingly hairless, spotless, thinner, and less human every day. Geez, no wonder so many of us have a dysfunctional relationship with our bodies.

A cultural fixation on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty but an obsession about female obedience. Naomi Wolf

I have been guilty of great abuse to my body. Overeating in puberty as a way to shield and nurture myself. Starvation, bulimia, obsessive exercising. I put on weight during puberty, as a protective layer between me and the world, then lost weight because I was told the world didn’t love me that way. Constant swinging between the desire for nurture and protection, to denial and approval seeking. Followed by a lifelong see-sawing between two extremes of thinness and excess weight. My relationship with food, which ideally is to provide nutrition and nurture our body functions, became very distorted at times.

It’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me. Stephen Fry

Control has been a major issue, along with denial. I read recently that the raw food trend is a guise for eating disorders in many people. During my time eating 100% raw – although its health benefits were many and it transformed my eating in a positive way – I also became more and more limited and controlling in what I would eat. Today I eat raw food, but the excessive desire to be 100% raw is tempered with listening to what my body wants, and the compromise of living with other people who don’t share my raw, vegan vision.

You are not a mistake. You are not a problem to be solved. But you won’t discover this until you are willing to stop banging your head against the wall of shaming and caging and fearing yourself. Geneen Roth

Somewhere along the way I learned to loathe my body and the ‘curse’ that came with it. As a side note, please people can we teach girls to see the amazing miracle of their bodies, as well as boys of course? And NOT tell them – as I was by women who were told the same thing – that the process that it the pinnacle of all creation, whether of actual life or creativity itself, is a curse. It’s a travesty. It has to stop. It’s time to honour our bodies in all aspects. Not as the glossy, photoshopped cover of a magazine, but as real bodies, that have hair and blemishes and scars, and emit all kinds of fluids for various functions. It’s miraculous, let’s bless this gift!

To lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself. Simone de Beauvoir

Body love is the essence of my base chakra practice. My body is my physical home, as much as the earth and the universe. Your journey into your body is one in a lifetime, in the sense it is unique, and it takes your entire lifetime. To the Western mind the body is a finite thing, but to the Eastern mind, with its understanding of chakras and meridians, and the vortices of energy they represent, the body is vast, infinite, ever expanding, according to your intention to make the journey within. It is only through making this commitment to body-understanding and love, that you can access the full gifts of your being, and your healing capabilities.

Dance in the shadows of your fears and they will turn to light. Aine Belton

So what do I mean by back to basics?

My son who I love with all my heart, has gone to spend the night with his dad for the first time in three weeks and I am so grateful for the me time.

My health crash last year taught me a valuable lesson in filling up and protecting my energy reserves, by not allowing myself to get depleted. I observe that as soon as I have energy, I want to share it. Naturally empathetic and giving of my energy, my shaman told me to practice keeping my energy stores and instead asking the infinite, divine source to send energy to others, so I am not drained all the time. Caroline Myss believes these kinds of energy-draining dynamics – people-pleasing, co-dependency, control, and resentment – cause disease as body tissue start to bank the energy debt.

On the rare days I have to myself, I treat myself to a home retreat. Meditation, chakra healing, healthy foods and herbal beverages. Rest. Reading inspiring things. Writing. By allowing my body rest, rejuvenation, and activities that I love, I heal and recuperate. Your body has powerful self-healing energy if you allow it to calm down to a state where it can shift from the sympathetic (fight or flight) to parasympathetic (rest and digest) tone in the nervous system.

Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care. Buddha

This morning, I was having some old, familiar thought patterns – not so nice – about my body so I decided to go all out Louise Hay. As I  massaged coconut oil into my body after my shower, I said “I love you, I really love you” repeatedly. My intention is to love my body unconditionally. I’m not there yet, but I have come a long way.

I am so beautiful, sometimes people weep when they see me. And it has nothing to do with what I look like really, it is just that I gave myself the power to say that I am beautiful, and if I could do that, maybe there is hope for them too. And the great divide between the beautiful and the ugly will cease to be. Because we are all what we choose. Margaret Cho

For me it is helpful to focus on the great things my body does, for a start I grew a human being in there! As I watch my dad lose his mobility, I am reminded what a precious gift I have, I may not love how my body looks, but I love what it allows me to do, run, walk, dance, yoga, make love, sing, laugh, hug.

Just as our houses our homes for our body, our body is home for our spirit. Anodea Judith

Even if your body is not in the pristine condition you would like it to be, think of those ancient monuments, like the pyramids or the sphinx, that have stood so regally for centuries. Your body has a history, a story inscribed into it, love your story. And unlike the pyramids you are not made of stone, you are ever changing flesh and blood. Your cells are being recreated every seven minutes. Your thoughts and emotions about your body influence this creation. Quite literally self-love and self-care is the key to the body you want. The trick is not to say ‘I will love my body when it is this..’ but to love it now, and that love will transform your body and spirit.

If your body feels unhappy in any way, Anodea Judith suggests using “I feel” or “I am” statements, with you speaking as that part of your body. If your back is sore, tune into that part of your body and speak its truth “I am burdened. I feel overwhelmed.” Your body reflects your life and has powerful messages for you, if your knees hurt, you feel unsupported, if your neck is stiff, you feel inflexibility. If you can learn to listen to your body wisdom, it provides wonderful healing opportunities, when you don’t listen, the messages will get stronger, as illness or disease.

This morning in meditation and chakra healing, it occurred to me that what I have called energy blocks or chakra imbalances, are actually messages from my body and energetic system. When I feel a ‘block’ it is a sign to begin a dialogue with that part of my body and being, once the message is received, the disturbance shifts.

Practising yoga is a time I feel deeply connected to my body and a profound sense of what my body can do, its innate wisdom, the way when I truly let go, my body adjusts itself organically with each breath into the pose. In this state I can easily feel where the tension and discomfort in my body is.

Louise hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Body, is amazing to start to get a sense of the kinds of messages your body is sending. Last year when I had my health crash, I began to use her book and I was consistently amazed at how my body was reflecting the issues that were arising in my life.

My body is a beautiful partner lovingly resonating my life’s path in light, life, and love. Mary A Hall

Sound self-indulgent? Well, yes. That’s the point. This is where I fill my cup to overflow. For many years I had three boys to raise, I was working, studying my masters degree and giving of myself to people in manifold ways. The focus was always on what other people needed, on wanting to please and get approval.

I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself. Rita Mae Brown

It’s not that I have ceased to give, I just have become more discerning and aware of my own needs.

That’s not to say this is easy for me. With a whole 24 hours to myself, my mind went straight to to-do list mode. There are so many things to be done: housework, paperwork, shopping. My mind makes these things seem urgent, like emergencies, they are not. If I was attached to one of those heart monitor things, it would have gone throughout the roof. I felt stressed by my thinking about all I had to do! Yet, I know when I centre myself they will get done easily and effortlessly.

The base chakra is very much about grounding, stability, and security, and I have learned the only lasting stability and security available is that which I provide to myself, through being present in the body, in the now. My intention now is for balance and health. I no longer want to shield myself in weight, nor do I want to starve, or define myself by some ideal so manipulated that not even today’s models actually achieve it. My intention is to love myself, to protect myself without needing layers of flesh to do so. To be whatever size and shape my true being is, healthy, comfortable, happy. My intention is to rediscover joy in my body, my life.

Looking back you realize that a very special person passed briefly through your life and that person was you. It is not too late to become that person again. Robert Brault

Natalie Southgate writes that when your base chakra is balanced, you feel connectedness with the world and those around you, in a state of safety and stability. The balanced base chakra gives you a focused sense of your place in the world. As it is your root chakra, it is vital to allow your other chakras to be in balance. Like the foundations of a house, or the roots of the tree, the base is essential to the stability of the whole structure.

My body is a living temple of healing, rejuvenation, and joy – a living temple of spirit and the full expression of my juicy life. Mary A Hall

I wrote about the base chakra in a previous post, Reconnect with your roots. Now I find myself looking at my seventh chakra and my seventh intention love, and finding myself going back to basics, back to my body and its wisdom of self-love.

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

So it came as rather perfect timing to be doing the introductory course to Chakradance this week, which is all about the base chakra. As part of my retreat at home, I practiced some base chakra awakening techniques. This has included me crawling on all fours – which has the added bonus that it aligns brain hemispheres by the cross patterning movements, it’s very balancing.

Plenty of earthing, feet in the earth, sitting crouched on the earth, visualising mother earth’s energy cleansing, grounding, and balancing me. All very tribal, this earth-based, primal dance of the base chakra, and so liberating for a cerebral girl like me.

The land is my backbone. Galarrwuy Yunipingu

I am finally finding joy and ecstasy in my body. I am home. I can’t wait to share it with others. And now this is written, I’m having a nap. In the garden. That is my next intention.

 

Healing thoughts by Mary A Hall

I am a divine being of love and light.

I am here present and safe.

I can breathe knowing I am going to be okay.

I am beloved with a deep sense of knowing that I am loved.

I am free to love openly and fully.

I am connected with the divine and the flow of life, light, and love.

I am connected, free to live and love fully and completely.

Life is good. Good things are coming my way.

I am perfect whole and complete in who I am.

I can stand and shine my light freely, fully, and confidently, into the world.

I can stand up and be seen.

I can relax and flow with the infinite possibilities that are before me.

All good things are present now, in my awareness, and I embrace them.

I can stand and declare my truth in grace, love, and compassion.

I am connected with the divine oneness.

My body is a living temple of healing, rejuvenation, and joy – a living temple of spirit and the full expression of my juicy life.

My body is a beautiful partner lovingly resonating my life’s path in light, life, and love.

Bless!

 

Further reading:

The Body is not an apology thebodyisnotanapology.com

Learning to Love Your Body: 4 Steps to Self-Care tinybuddha.com/blog

Self Abyhanga theresekerr.com

The 50 Best Quotes on Self-Love psychologytoday.com/blog

53 Inspiring Self-Esteem and Self-Love Quotes positivityblog.com

Self Love Series: 101 Loving Yourself Quotes abundancetapestry.com

 

Title image: theresekerr.com