Sunday, 29 December 2013

Home



How many times have I said,'I don't really get journalling...it's not for me...'? Turns out, it is.

Every morning, after the dogs have been out and before the child wakes up, I make a pot of redbush tea and I sit and write. It is a transformative process and one I hope to stay within. It is taking me into powerful shadow work that is long overdue and as a result I am simultaneously staring the hard stuff in the eye and feeling a sense of comfort and 'home' within myself. I feel no need to write about it here and bore a handful of people with it. Heh.

As usual, the outside mirrors the inside and we are swinging from clear, sunny blue sky days when I can see for miles and sound is crystal clear, to gales and rain and floods and mud mud mud. On these days all I want is to shut the doors and stay in by the fire but my lovely dogs ensure that I don't get to define my conversation with nature...we meet her in all moods, on all days. That is just part of their gift to me.

All is well in my little family. Christmas was quiet and relaxing and full of happy. I am a lucky, grateful woman. I hope yours, or any variation on the theme of time off that you may have been enjoying, was the same.

I'm trying to clear my head from the food-induced toxicity so that I can start contemplating Things of the New Year. I'm looking forward to 2014 but I think, as ever, I will be at least a few days behind. Maybe the first new moon will be a marker for me.

I have two words jostling at the front of my head for Word of the Year status. Both a little, er, 'odd' but they've made it clear they're staying. I had two words last year - joined by a third in the spring - so I think I'll stick with what was a winning formula for me. I may keep last year's too. Start to build a word tower.

Elsewhere in here I'm thinking and feeling my way around how I balance being a part of the whole, a thread in the tapestry, a note in the song and part of All That Is, with being a unique, individual expression of All That Is. Where and what are the boundaries? How can I define my Self while still being connected to and part of everything else? It is clear that I need to but at the moment it's a bit beyond me. The solution seems to require more dimensions than I am able to envisage. Perhaps the thing to do...is just to do. The thing to be...is just to be. Trust.

I've no idea when I'll be here again but hello. Happy new year!

x

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The way through

A month ago I finally came off anti-depressants. It's meant - despite a gentle withdrawal period that lasted many months - a lot of change for me but all in a positive way. My ability to get to this point was helped a great deal by being able to find online the voices of others who've gone before me and so it feels important to me that I write a bit about this process. Even if one person reads it and feels better informed and able to move forward themselves, then it's worth it. I know there are issues that others deal with waaaaaay beyond the situation that I found myself in and I am not for one minute suggesting I have answers for them. This is about my experience with anxiety, depression and SSRIs.

A bit of background. I first took antidepressants (citalopram or Cipramil) in 2002. I came off them about 18 months later and stayed off until early 2007. That winter was a hard one. I was buoyed by the arrival of Evie but physically I was exhausted and SAD hit me particularly hard. Despite my deep happiness at being a mother, I fell into the black hole. Cipramil got me out. I tried giving it up a couple of times but went too fast and - as is typical in such circumstances - rebounded into an even bigger black hole. Back on the pills I felt safe, functional and disinclined to repeat that last mistake.

My depression takes the form of anxiety. Intolerance. Despair. Loss of all hope. Withdrawal. Disconnection. Topped off with a big old dose of apathy. It was a combination of reaction to events in my life - and a perceived lack of control over them - and, I truly believe, my naturally low levels of serotonin. This is implicated in migraine, SAD, PMS, anxiety, OCD, depression...all things I'm familiar with to varying degrees. I am exactly the type of person SSRIs were invented for.

I'm not going to write the thousands of words it would take to outline how I built myself a structure that supports me without SSRIs. Or rather, how I discovered that it was there all along. That's a whole other thing and probably far too subjective to be of use. What I want to talk about is what happens when you stop taking them.

I cut my dose from 20mg a day to alternating 20mg/10mg about six months ago. Maybe even longer. I was in no hurry so I didn't have a time limit and I wasn't watching the calendar. When I was certain that I was absolutely fine on that dose, I cut back to 10mg a day. I went back to 20mg a day for a while and repeated the process above. My doctor trusted me to know what I was doing and knew about all the changes I made. After three months on 10mg daily, I cut back to 10 mg every 48hrs. I stuck with this for about two months before going to 10mg every 72 hours. I think it would have been better to keep cutting the dose not the frequency but I worked with what I had and stayed aware. This lasted for about a month and I began to feel as if I were simply renewing the cycle every three days. I felt stable and strong, so I stopped completely.

There are three levels of side effects when you come off SSRIs: physical, mental and emotional. Physically I experienced the typical 'brain zaps' - little buzzing feelings in your head as if your brain is short circuiting, which in effect it is. I had them quite badly despite my long tail off period but I knew what they were and knew they would fade. I'm still getting them now, a month later. Mostly if I'm very tired and nowhere near as frequently. I also experienced quite extreme light-headedness. The first two or three days I might have been better - and safer - to just stay in bed and wait it out but life goes on and so did I. The physical stuff is annoying but if you're aware of the causes and their temporary nature, it's not a big deal. It's a bit like being very slightly drunk while totally sober. Which is clear. Sorry.

What was most important for me this time was a better awareness of what to expect mentally and emotionally. A common occurrence is that you feel incredibly anxious. Naturally, the tendency is to mistake that for your new/old normal and go running back to the pills. But! Wait up! Turns out, coming off these things makes you anxious and it passes. I read this on many forums so I was ready. It didn't make it any easier to get through but I was able to grit my teeth and do it.

It was bad. Every time I left the house WAS my last. I WAS going to die in a car crash and/or so were Charlie and Evie. Probably as they accidentally ran over both dogs as they tried to get away from our house which was going up in flames. All my family were in mortal danger. Even the ones I haven't seen in years. I was almost certainly riddled with various terminal diseases. My mantra concerned my imminent departure from Evie's life and went,"BUT SHE'S ONLY EIGHT!". Over and over. Day and night. My brain's reaction to this was to get all OCD. People needed to UNDERSTAND that if they didn't do things the way I understood they could safely be done then people were going to DIE. Or be horribly scarred. Or spill something. My way or the highway of doom, Dude. Seriously. WTF? If it wasn't my way of doing things I was thrown into a spin of panic and intolerance. Inbetween times I was mostly crying because OH...it's so SWEET, so SAD, so HILARIOUS, so AMAZING, so TRAGIC. You get the picture. One day I'll look back and laugh. And probably walk straight into a lamp post BECAUSE WHO DOES THAT??? Don't look BACK and keep walking. Oy. Your lizard brain is superb at protecting you. Give it chemical superpowers and it will protect the heck out of you. Take away those powers and it freaks out.

So yes. That. That happens. And then one day you wake up and it's gone. Mostly. It's only been a month and I am almost entirely non-ridiculous (for someone with my basic personality which is INFR - The Ridiculous Idealist).

Here's the thing. I would go back in a second if I felt I needed the help. I am always a supporter of SSRIs as a tool for recovery because for most people, they work. Of course they're not to be taken lightly and anyone using them needs to monitor themselves and keep their doctor informed at all stages, but they just work. They saved me when I felt as if I was beyond saving. Twice.

The way I have described it is this: if I see life as a house on four floors, including the basement, I fell into that basement. It was dark, cold, damp and entirely lacking in light or hope. I have never been suicidal but I already felt as if life were over. The apathy is the worst. I had no motivation to try to reach the stairs out of there because I KNEW they had rotted away. I was stuck. And I didn't care. About anything. I could pretend to my nearest and dearest by shouting extra loud so they thought I was just in the ground floor kitchen and okay. But I was not okay.

Cipramil came along and gave me some extra serotonin and one day I just woke up in that kitchen. It was light and airy with lots of windows and cupboards full of goodies and a radio playing happy songs. I wasn't ready to try going upstairs to the next floor and certainly not the one above that but it didn't matter. A good life was to be had in that there kitchen. Occasionally I would think about sneaking a peek into the basement but I couldn't find it. It had been filled in and the door bricked up. Going back was no longer an option. The sense of security that gave me was immense. I had metaphorical new foundations.

In these early days I am experiencing some really good things. For a start I appear to have regained a good 20 IQ points. My brain is functioning - steadily - in a way it hasn't in years. I'd put this loss of ability down to age but no, it's back. I can do tricky sums again and this week at work I grasped and used a concept in data navigation that has eluded me since forever. Being a bit of a geek (I know, I cover it well. Ahem.) this made me very happy.

Emotionally I am stable. I believe my timing has been good. I'm looking into getting hold of another SAD lamp to help keep the blahs away and I'm taking Vitamin D and a very good B-Complex.

What I didn't expect was that I can feel....more. I wasn't aware that the medication was limiting me and yet of course it was. It was holding me safe, wrapped in a cosy blanket. A blanket that restricted my movements and stopped me hurting myself. Suddenly I have a whole new/restored range to my emotions and it's kinda fun. For a week or so I was a bit mad...running around the new space like a dog with the zoomies. 'WOO HOO!' and then 'Oh nooooooooooooooo!' and then 'SHE HULK SMASHES PUNY HUMANS!' and then 'SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEE!'. All the colours in all the sizes.

That passed too. And I wasn't arrested even once.

So look, if you think you need help - and many MANY of us do from time to time or even permanently - science has good guys and they found this stuff and maybe you do not need to feel hopeless. These pills will not fix your life, they will not make you rich or happy or find the love of your life or the best job ever or make you thin if you're not already (in fact be prepared to gain 20 pounds and that often just falls off when you stop taking them so don't worry). They can get you out of that damn basement.

The rest is up to you. And you will be good with that.









Thursday, 28 November 2013

Gratitude


For all the love, laughter, magic, nature, truth, comfort, wisdom and wonder.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The S3 Edict

I'm moving at a gradual pace through this training that will take years. As someone who historically has zoomed through assignments, throwing together something semi-respectable - and thus semi-respected - at the strike of the last moment, working steadily and mindfully is a revelation. And bloody hard.

What I'm doing now is the deepest work we've done yet. Past the basics into some serious business. Our teacher warns us that this is where things can get life-changing. Where you don't always have a whole lot of choice. Where you may be surprised. And I have been.

In a Miyagi-esque turn of events I have been told that I should be sewing. By hand. Needle, thread, go. Don't argue. Shut up. Sit down. Sew. Henceforth referred to - somewhat snarkily and no doubt I'll pay for that attitude - in my head as the S3 Edict.

One morning this week I woke up remembering Jude Hill. I was mesmerised by her Magic Feather Project when she launched it in 2011. I think I ambitiously added a button link to it on whatever the hell blog I was writing at the time, planning to take part. Surprise, surprise...I didn't. The time wasn't right. I wasn't right.

Rediscovering her blog fit like a missing jigsaw piece into the Edict. I spent hours following threads to other places, other women who seem to have made their way to a place Tracie and I have talked about wistfully for years now: the clearing in the woods. Kindred women with scruffy clothes, a good dusting of fur and feathers, distracted expressions and deep roots reaching down into the dirt beneath their feet. Of all the things I thought I'd bring to this place, a needle and thread weren't among them.

I have other things I want to write about here. Things very much of this world, not the woods, because I think it may do some good to share. But today I have a head full of weave and thread and a powerful dose of Shoshin.

Darned by Susanna Bauer



Saturday, 9 November 2013

A constant act of creation

Altar.

In her most recent post, my friend Tracie asked,'Is survival an act of gratitude to the universe?' and it tipped me right back into the internal philosophising that I am (always) doing. As I work towards if not defining, then streamlining my own practise and beliefs I constantly refer to other schools of faith and thought as metaphysical landmarks of a kind.

What I'm always trying to do is chip away the man made parts of the story of the truth and discover the core. The essence. I can't say I've got there or that I would know if I had, but I feel closer. It's a strange thing, a possible paradox. How will I know if what my mind arrives at is pure truth or just my version of the truth and does that make it any less than the truth? Is there one single truth?

What can I tell you? This is my idea of good time. Ha.

My current view (far from unique or new but I'm one of those people who needs to learn her own way) is that all belief systems, religions, philosophies are purely interpretive tools for us to use and enjoy in our physical form. Some are more popular than others. Some are nicer than others. Many are abused. You get to choose or ignore. They are stories. Sacred, beloved, treasured, important stories but stories. What they interpret is the simple truth and for the purposes of this post I'll call that truth Life. Your language may vary.

If we live our lives to serve the highest good of all and everything, we are living to perpetuate Life. Life - at least this time around - arguably started with the big bang. The ultimate creative act. And just as we are all made of stars, we are all made of that creative force. It is what drives us. It is us. From social behaviour, to art, to sex, to scientific exploration, to gardening, what we are doing is enabling the continuation of the source/force that began it all.

It's that simple and that profound. It's love, creativity, innovation, nurturing, compassion, prayer, protection, any single thing that is good. All smoothing the way. Life...it goes on, they say. And yet it doesn't. Time is our invention and there's nothing linear about Life. The nearest I can get to conceptualising it with my teeny human brain is to see Life as infinite and constant. It is just IS. And has a desire to always BE. We, being 'of Life', share that desire.

Once you've seen (that version of) the truth then all the stories I mentioned earlier seem like quite good fun as long as you're not twisting them. It's all a bit potato/potahto and I for one am not about to go to war for a vowel sound.

Also, it kinda takes the pressure off if, like me, you feel as if you should be finding The Right Faith or indeed deciding on an absence of same. What if the Sikhs were right while I was busy with my Hail Marys/Druidry/Sun worship/sneering?!

Now I think there is no 'right'. That *whispers* it doesn't really matter. If the story that works best for me, speaks to me, sings to me, fills me with power and light, is shamanism then that's the one for me. Doesn't make it right or better, just the one for me. The one that supports me in supporting Life.

So survival, I believe, is the ultimate act of gratitude. The ultimate prayer. The ultimate offering. The ultimate confluence of individual consciousness with the source.

But one thing is clear to me: Life is a constant act of creation. Repeating the big bang with teeny tiny bangs, over and over and over.

What am I creating with my strands of Life force? What are you creating with yours? Is it smoothing the way for Life? That is what matters.


Friday, 8 November 2013

Grounded


Around my neck are a holey stone from the land where I live, and a piece of carved Irish bog oak from the land where some of my ancestors lived. I carry them in an attempt to hold my centre and stay grounded. To stop myself flying away.

Hormones, post-migraine stupor and the last stages of oh-so-slowly weaning myself off the SSRIs I've been taking for way too long have me feeling spacey, light-headed and very occasionally subject to those weird, buzzy little 'electric shocks' in my brain that any of you who have also done the SSRI waltz will recognise. Thankfully I know that the answer is in the dirt, the earth, the mud that is plastered all over everything at the moment. It's come at the right time for me. This is not a big deal, this space in the head. A couple of days of bare feet on the earth, and plenty of water and I'll be fine.

It does me all kinds of good to be at this level for a while. Mindfully bringing my attention to the literally mundane, in its 'of the earth' sense, channels all this spinny excess energy back to the ground. I am going to spend a day or so keeping busy in domesticity. Several loads of washing, cooking, floors to be cleaned and a bathroom to be scrubbed will help. As will moving this body as much as possible in fresh air and yes, that mud; heading out into the woods and fields and trying to stay with the five bodily senses. The others will take care of themselves for a while.

Early this morning, bundled up warmly and standing in the starlit mist, I reminded myself of what I know: that any extreme anxiety I might feel is not based in truth; it's what happens when you come off anti-anxiety medication. It is not real.

Then an owl called out from the woods behind the withy bed to the east and reminded me: 'Sweetie...none of this is real. Enjoy.'






Sunday, 3 November 2013

Morning practice



In the weeks since longer nights and darker mornings stopped me taking sunrise photographs every day I have purposefully developed a new habit. The dogs and I go to the same hidden field. Surrounded by trees, with the woods full of waking rooks and jackdaws at the south side, it's a small, open space - actually an unused paddock with a collapsing barn in one corner and a pleasing squareness to the fencing that lies in disrepair all around it.

Here, every morning, I call in the directions and have a little chat with the spirits of East, West, South, North, Above and Below, and the All-Spirit. Most days I keep it short and sweet: honour, love, gratitude, an intention. Other days I might ask for support in staying on my path. Occasionally I put in a request for some specific guidance. It's my morning prayer.

I've been doing the latter for a couple of days. I needed some inspiration. A little clarity on something. And this morning...bam...every direction was waiting with a gift for me. Clear as crystal. The best team of expert advisers ever. This, and my tendency to lose the good stuff among the endless clutter of the average day, in turn inspired me to sit and write it all out. And now I think I might try to do that every day. Even if all it says is, 'Said thanks, sent love, got rained on. Look up water from the south-west.'

These are the things that set the path of the day. And in my case that path begins just north of the woods.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Of old years, new years, crows, sheep and a Kid Shaman



Samhain. It's become a kind of alternative holy day for Wiccans (did you know that Wicca was created and launched in 1954 by a British ex-civil servant called Gerald Gardner?) and is a day/night of note for anyone who identifies as pagan in their beliefs. For those of us of the shamanic persuasion it could almost be said to be business as usual - the Otherworld and communicating with spirits and all - I enjoy the idea that on this day, those spirits may be nearer.

My ancestors are all Celtic/Gaelic and their calendar names today as the end of the year. In her book Earth Wisdom, Glennie Kindred says:
All of life is withdrawing inside itself now...Once we accept this and let go our attachment to [the old year], a new set of possibilities is revealed. There is a new power to life as we nurture new dreams and new seeds in the dark. By accepting this period of rest, we find rejuvenation and renewal.
This is not a time for action but a time to drift, to dream, to vision and remember. It is a time for meditation and welcoming inner stillness, for long term plans and for nourishing our spirit. 
So while I'll not be giving today big high holiday status with ritual and ceremony, I am celebrating the start of a new year tomorrow and wishing farewell to the old one tonight. And if the ancestors and others from the other side choose to show up... excellent. Party on, ancient dudes.

Evie will be partying on with her best friend's family as they like to do Hallowe'en to the max, with pumpkins and skeletons and cobwebs and stuff. It's fun. And they don't go round knocking on people's doors. We talked about Samhain this week and old/new year and thin walls. She decided to go to the party dressed as a crow. That's my girl (and that's her headdress above which goes with black 'wings' cut into feathers and real crow feathers sewn onto the neck. \m/ ). Yesterday we were walking in the woods, looking for storm damage and came across an old tree who had a branch - still living - bent over the the floor where it touched a fallen log. The log, in turn, lay between the bent branch and the tree's trunk, creating a beautiful archway we needed to step up and through.

'Imagine,' she said,'That this is a portal into the spirit world (I did a quick context leap from the Marvel superheroes conversation we'd been having up until this point) and on the other side we turn into the animal we really are. I'd be a dog. Dad....Dad would be a fox (and I feel I should say he is always a fox). Zoey would be.."A CAT!"' we shouted together. So that's clear.

"Dooley would be a hare, definitely." I have to say he probably would.

"Mum you'd be a red-tailed hawk. Because they're intelligent and quite powerful."

One day, when she's 14 and hates me, I will remind her of this moment. Or maybe just hold it in my heart for solace.

We've never talked about Shamanism as such. It's not a word or concept she knows anything about so I figured this was a good time to introduce it. I told her that seeing people as or with spirit animals is shamanic and explained what that meant, with a little help from 'that old lady in that film Brother Bear'.

'Well,' she said. 'I'm a spirit-teller. Perhaps that means I'll be a shaman when I grow up. Or maybe I'm one now. But I'm not wise yet. Kid shamans don't know much so they're not wise but when I'm an old lady I'll know loads more.'

'Spirit-teller'? Really? Where does she get this stuff? Is Minecraft a secret online Hogwarts?

Anyway, then we went to see The Sheep in the Woods but that's a whole other story.

Happy new year. I liked this.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Nothing to fear



At times we all, I think, have a sense that the internet can be both a blessing and a curse. Of course it's neither, it's a mirror, and our use of it and our reactions to the people there can cause all sorts of issues to come to the surface.

I have one particular challenge which stares me down again and again. It manifests initially as anger and despair at the way something I care deeply about, something I consider to be vital soul work, becomes fashionable. Suddenly everyone I read is name-dropping the same names, referencing the same books, posting identikit photos, claiming a passion where there was none just days before. It makes my stomach clench, my heart hurt and my throat close painfully tight as I swallow my righteous indignation!

Crazy. And yet for years I didn't see that this reaction is all about my ego. My attachment to the concept that I exist in splendid isolation. And that in that isolation I DO NOT WANT PEOPLE. People doing exactly what I'm doing. Wearing my favourite most comfortable 'clothing' and making me look like a damn clone. I say 'for years' as if it doesn't still happen some days when the truth is it's happening here and now! This morning I want to throw a total diva fit, shout some long words and mean things at my laptop screen and cancel my broadband subscription. I am Angry of Wiltshire. I feel my loves debased by fashion and shallowness. I feel my beliefs turned into parlour games. I feel like too many people are jumping on the bandwagon when there IS no bloody wagon. Ever feel like this? Just me (irony)?

So I sit and breathe. I sit and feel where this is in my body. Where it's roots are. The work I did over the full moon weekend has illuminated the old stories and reactions enough for me to be able to examine them sans anger and indignation.

Here it is...the beliefs I have are important not just to me in this individual, physical form but to the whole of Life. I absolutely believe that Life needs as many people as possible to return to a sense of oneness, connection and kinship with Nature and Spirit. The Universe - for want of a more comfortable label - needs as many people as possible to learn and teach the ways to make that connection, be that through traditional rituals or modern interpretations of them. Evolution, baby.

That is the truth. People will dabble and play with it the way I have dabbled and played with hundreds of things. The things that are in harmony with who they are will stay, the rest will fall away to be picked up and treasured by another. This is how it goes. There is no threat or malice in a trend. It is attraction at work and that is exactly how it should be. This is how we all find our truth, our 'language'.

See? See how I talked my bad-tempered self down? Ha. Throw in a long walk through fields and woods to shake it out of my body and I'm good.

Today I saw something new in my reactions. I feel deeply threatened by the way a crowd pulls a spotlight on to a place where I may have been feeling safe and secure in the comfortable half-light. Suddenly I have to choose whether to step into that spotlight with others and be seen to be present which for me is 100% not safe, or...leave and look for a new safe place. So this fear of lost security, of enforced eviction, of having my home stolen and played with...ACK. No wonder I fall into emotional crisis and get all angry, defensive and possessive.

So this is the work I'm doing at the moment. Until this weekend I would not have believed I had the resources to stay and not run for cover but there was an unbinding of power that has changed that. I don't doubt my inner diva will rear her shadowy, defensive head again - she's a powerful piece of work - while the spotlight sweeps across my soul ground, but I do know that now I'm established in my spiritual home, my safety and security are always with me, that I am not under attack and that when I first got here, I was playing too. Playing is fun.

There is nothing to fear.








Sunday, 20 October 2013

Surrendered



I've been home almost alone. Charlie is working in Chile for a couple of weeks and, during the day, Evie is in school. I had enough annual leave left over to be able to take off most of this two weeks. I had plans for decorating and deep-cleaning but then decided that I needed the time for myself. It's been a long time since I could spend hours alone and in natural silence, letting go of shoulds and coulds and just letting life flow through me, doing its own decorating and deep-cleaning.

The effect has been profound. So when this weekend's full moon and lunar eclipse came along I was more than ready for a releasing ceremony. I've had some people ask me what's involved in this so here it is...something I found two years ago, thanks to Pixie and then Meg, who led a bunch of us through it around a log fire at a cottage retreat. I think its power comes from its roots in personal truth and so it's only right that each of us creates our own version. Certainly the backlog of things I wanted to let go this time called for a ritual that was 'bigger' than my usual practice.

The moon is technically still full today and has been since Friday. Tomorrow counts too. I knew that the bundle I would give to the fire would contain plants and words so I started early. On Friday I pulled out my flower essence and herb books and found what I needed in my own herb patch and garden, among them honeysuckle, cat mint and sage. Later I smudged the living room with sage and lit a candle to help me focus. I sat and let my hand write. I got to about three pages of stream of consciousness before a list started to appear.

Yesterday evening we started, Evie and I, with her gathering all our crystals - she has her own - and smudging them before setting them outside to sit in moonlight overnight. We smudged each other - doing this with my eight year old daughter is so special - and talked through what she'd choose to leave behind. We walked in the dark across the fields to see the rising moon and came home to set the fire and then settle her into bed.



In the quiet, I took my list of things to release and cut them into individual strips. I read through them and discarded a couple that were already history. I added two more that had come to me early that morning. I'd been mourning Jackson, whose 15th birthday it would've been yesterday, and the opening of my heart had triggered a flood of emotion and release leaving me with palms burning like torches in a way I haven't experienced since I learnt reiki in '98. This was deep, like shedding a skin from the inside. Stories, beliefs and coping strategies that had supported and protected me for years flowed out of me like lava. These were added to my list, ready to be blessed and released.

Wrapping plants, words and tobacco - as a thank you - in red cloth tied with string, I sat and dropped into a contemplative space, lowering my physical boundaries to feel my connection with all that is. In this place I gave thanks for what had been and for what will come, then gave over the bundle to the fire.






Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Don't mess with the old ones


I should have known better really. I wrote the post below with something less than the respect owed to the really old ones. The Edmund Hillary line was probably a bad idea. I stand corrected.

The night before last I had heard the horrible sound of a fly, buzzing like crazy, trapped in a web. On impulse, I grabbed him and set about unwinding the silk that he'd been partially wrapped in. I used a small pin and my best reading glasses. Finally, he was free and flew off leaving me feeling really smug and good deedy.

Big mistake. Huge. As the line goes.

So last night after the last of Evie's birthday visitors had said their goodbyes I took her up to her attic bedroom. For the first time in ages it was a bit cooler so I pulled the window shut and pulled the curtain. We never pull the curtain during the warmer months because the direction and size of the window mean very little light comes in but a curtain blocks fresh air, so this was the first time it had been moved in a while. I pulled it across and to my extreme horror was faced with thousands - I'm not kidding - of flies. Layers of them, snuggled up in the folds of the fabric, from top to bottom. Thousands of bloody flies. Something back in my lizard brain yelled,"DEAD BODY!" so I screamed and ran downstairs, with a confused Evie, in t-shirt and knickers, running behind me. Spiders aside, I'm not afraid of any insect but THIS MANY?! That's horror movie stuff!

Charlie took his time to get up there with a vacuum cleaner thinking, he later admitted, that I was exaggerating. I waited (downstairs) as he crossed the room and heard him shout,"Holy crap!".

He was our hero. It took him more than an hour and a half to clear the room of flies. Comic relief was supplied by the resident newly eight year old who insisted on helping out, dressed in t-shirt, knickers, swimming goggles, wild hair, knee pads, elbow pads and wrist supports. She brandished a big stick and charged about. Periodically she'd run downstairs to me and yell,"BEST. BIRTHDAY. EVAH!" before disappearing upstairs again. Weirdo.

We've lived here for four years now and never had this happen before. It was utterly terrifying and disgusting in equal measure. I kept thinking, 'I wasn't respectful. I messed with the system and stole from the old ones having just accepted their offer to guide me. Just because I think something is the right thing to do, does not mean that it is. I need to step back and mind my own business. Remember my place. Grandmother Spider said,"You want a fly? You think you're in charge of the flies? Okay. Here you are. Have All The Flies. Knock yourself out." '. Shit just got real.

We looked it up. Cluster flies. They hatch out from the lawn. Last week we had unusually mild weather so they hatched and then went looking for their hibernation spot. They favour attics and dark corners. They found a dark and cosy attic bedroom. They are harmless to humans and don't carry disease. They're slower moving than the usual fly but look enough like them to freak you the f*** out.

So there you have it: the ordinary explanation and the non-ordinary explanation. Personally I think the two are interwoven; but then everything is.


Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Weaving



Once I've written something here, I tend not to ever read it again so forgive me if we've had the spider conversation before. Clearly I wasn't listening or, more likely, was singing loudly with my fingers in my ears.

The last time I gathered with a circle of friends, I got into a conversation about personal power with Sas and Meg. They know a little about this stuff. They were giving me the very gentlest, kindest form of a telling-off pep talk. As I was explaining myself, Sas looked slightly to my right and said,"Heh...a spider just climbed onto your shoulder." At which point I found myself on the ceiling yelling,"WHERE? HELP! WHERE? GET IT OFF ME!" while frantically waving my arms about. Yes, I'm very brave.

Ahem.

After I'd returned home they were everywhere. Cellar spiders. One particularly forceful individual even slowly lowered herself from the ceiling in front of me, stopping at my face level and just hanging there, giving me the old eight-eyed stare. I met not spiders but a scorpion in my journeying, only to find out that scorpions are also arachnids. For a while I came as close as a phobic could to embracing the eight-legged as a spirit guide, wondering if perhaps she would help me with the mountain of shadow work I have to do.

Gradually, I let her go.

Since then I've been braver around them but this autumn our little crooked house is full of them. And I mean full. Charlie does a sweep now and then - not literally - and escorts them all outside but still, on any given day you can find maybe seven or eight or fifteen thousand in each little room. They don't frighten me one at a time, but en masse..shudder..my spidey senses go all weird and nauseous.

Earlier this week as part of my new morning practise, I was standing in a field asking for the support of the spirits and some advice as to who I should look to for guidance in this and other realms. As you do of a morning. I asked for a message from the spirit guide I need. At this point Dooley came running and took me to the nearest blackberry bush - no surprise there - and after finding him some juicy berries I glanced up at the rising sun and saw that between us were a thousand beautiful, dew-covered webs. Oh surely not..?

Denial.

The next day I'd begun to feel guilty about walking away from what I'd asked for. Sitting in the bath, I looked over at the pile of clothes I'd left on the floor (what?) and there, sitting on top like Sir Edmund effing Hillary, was a spider. Staring me down. We chatted. I caved. Said okay...I was in...I'd do as I'm told. At which point he casually turned and disappeared who knows where.

Back in my bedroom, I reached for a hairbrush and there on my outstretched arm was a small house spider and I am truly terrified of those. All the reaction I could muster was a resigned sigh as I let her run off me onto the bookshelf.

There's so much to be learnt from the spider but here's a nicely-wrapped summing up from druidry.org:

The spider is associated with its spiral energy, the links with the past and the future. The spiral of the web, converging at a central point, is something to be meditated upon by those with spiders as a guide. Are you moving toward a central goal or are you scattered and going in multiple directions? Is everything staying focused? Are you becoming too involved and/or self-absorbed? Are you focusing on others' accomplishments and not on your own? Are you developing resentment because of it - for yourself or them?
If a spider is a guide in your life, ask yourself some important questions. Are you weaving your dreams and imaginings into reality? Are you using your creative opportunities? Are you feeling closed in or stuck, as if in a web? Do you need to pay attention to your balance and where you are walking in life? Are others out of balance around you? Do you need to write? Are you inspired to write or draw and not following through? Remember that the spider is the keeper of knowledge and of the primordial alphabet. The spider can teach how to use the written language with power and creativity so that your words weave a web around those who would read them.


Thursday, 3 October 2013

Preparation



The wind blew strong today for the first time in a long time. There are leaves everywhere and the horse chestnuts trees that are so common here are covering the ground with their jewels.

I'm feeling similarly stripped bare. What I initially mistook for anxiety was actually more a feeling of vulnerability. I've dropped a lot of beliefs and stories lately. This left me feeling loss of comfort, and vulnerable because so many of the ideas I've clung to for support, so many of the tales I've used to protect myself have also fallen. Some of them are precious too - good, truthful and loved - but I've come to see that they are overly complicated. The same idea presented over and over again in different costumes. Over-dressed. Much duplication of effort going on. So I'm stripping it down to the core truth. To the essence.

This is a slow, sensitive, mindful process - a first for me - and I'm making sure that I'm witnessing and understanding it, step by step. Peeling back the layers and rediscovering the bones. I'm learning that with less to carry, I am more flexible, more free. And far from being vulnerable, I'm stronger.

I'm constructing an internal checklist from my living truth and life really is simpler as a result. If something doesn't meet the criteria, it's a no. For me. Might be a big fat juicy YES for someone else and hurrah for that, but for me...no. What might seem a monumental waste of time for someone else might be the very essence of life purpose for me, and vice versa.

Despite my tendencies to navel-gazing and my understanding that 'the unexamined life is not worth living', I'm actually really rubbish at doing this stuff. Every e-course I was ever tempted to start, I dropped as soon as if it got deep. I don't journal and never have, despite spending a fortune on stationery in various attempts to get myself started. I love to philosophise and theosophise. I've done my turn in therapy. I know you have to love yourself before you can truly love another. But when it gets deep and personal I find a reason to be somewhere else. I can't look myself in the eye. Couldn't. Past tense.

I'm reading about the Crone. I'm trying my best to embrace her. As my body and mind start to turn to butterfly soup it is important to me to be the co-creator of the woman I am becoming. I want the third season of this life - potentially the most exciting and fulfilling - to be on purpose. To have simplicity, clarity, abundance and gratitude.

Right now this feels very natural and easy. I seem to have fallen into rhythm with the seasons. I am in my autumn, looking back with thanks at what grew through my summer. I am contemplative and still. My intuition tells me that the Crone doesn't chase the way the Maiden and the Mother sometimes love to. She sits and waits for what is searching for her. Something is coming and I am cleaning and clearing for its arrival.



Thursday, 26 September 2013

Mantra



I am deep in a pool of stillness at the moment. Maybe it's the weather which has been similarly settled and quiet. Now and then I'll feel an habitual twinge of 'Shouldn't I be fretting about something I haven't done or haven't achieved?' but it lasts a single second and is dismissed. I have done, I am doing. I have achieved, I am achieving. In my own way on my own path.

In the space of this stillness my perspective has improved. I have distance from the worry and cause of those worries. What I am seeing is what so many have seen before me, that we create our own lives.

In the quiet I have heard my internal voice and the mantras I have repeated a billion times:

I'm broke.
I'm so tired.

How many times have I said,"I don't want to be rich, I just want to have enough. To be able to pay the bills and eat. That's all I want." Well guess what? Wishes do come true because that's exactly how we live. With just enough. We pay our bills - sometimes miraculously, because my core mantra, whatever else, has always been 'It'll be okay'  - and we eat and that's it. And I feel 'broke'. And 'so tired'.

If just enough is really what I want - and many days it truly is - then I need to stop complaining about it and be grateful! If it's not then I need to create something more because clearly my manifesting powers are pretty damn good.

In this space and clarity (which always happens when I switch to a vegan diet by the way) I am thinking about 2014. A full three months ahead because I've learnt, finally, that I can't hurry me. I'm trying out new mantras.

I'm whole.
I'm inspired.
I want to have more money to play with and enjoy.







Saturday, 21 September 2013

School Prayer



In the name of the daybreak
and the eyelids of morning
and the wayfaring moon
and the night when it departs,

I swear I will not dishonor
my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly
as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.

In the name of the sun and its mirrors
and the day that embraces it
and the cloud veils drawn over it
and the uttermost night
and the male and the female
and the plants bursting with seed
and the crowning seasons
of the firefly and the apple,

I will honor all life
—wherever and in whatever form
it may dwell—on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.

~ Diane Ackerman





















Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Round and round my head



"I could see by the way you were living
You had gone to the other side.
You were the flash in the wings of a swallow
You were the light in a lion's eye.

And you were standing there alone in the river
Where do you go when the well is dry?
Like you could summon up another religion
Like you could summon another life."

-Shearwater, Pushing The River








Monday, 16 September 2013

The power of three

I overslept on Sunday - phone battery was flat so no alarm - and I didn't get out of the door with the dogs until nearly seven. As we walked up the garden I could hear very loud and raucous (raucous is the perfect word for corvids, almost onomatopoeic) calls from beyond our gate. They sounded like crows or magpies. I couldn't see anything but feared the worst. In our early days here I once opened the front door to find a mortally-wounded, screaming magpie flapping around on our doorstep, dropped by a sparrowhawk. As I had watched in powerless horror, the hawk did us all a favour and came back for its prey, flying off to finish the job. I was scared this was something similar.

As we went through the gate, dogs on leads, I saw it on the ground. A wood pigeon, way too young to fledge, probably fallen from its nest in the yew tree branches above us. I couldn't reach or even see the nest and anyway, this little baby was badly wounded. S/he had pin feathers just coming through on her wings but otherwise was still covered in pigeon fluff. Her eyes were closed and she was too weak to stand but was breathing heavily, clearly very distressed.

You can imagine how it felt to see her. She couldn't be saved. She wouldn't survive. She was slowly, painfully, dying. There was no sparrowhawk waiting to whisk her away. I knew I couldn't finish the job and even if Charlie were capable, he wasn't home to ask. There was only one thing I could do to help this sweet soul and that was to ask another sweet soul, my dog Dooley, to release her.

The tangled, traumatised, panicky energy of Life, still holding on to this body couldn't be left. Quickly, on my word, Dooley released her spirit from the physical. I know he would have done the same had I not been there. He's a dog. He did it efficiently and probably with more thought of breakfast than healing this thread of Life. He carried the empty body away and ate it, as I stood a few metres off and cried. I looked up and saw that, being later than normal, we'd come out at sunrise for the first time in a couple of weeks. There was a beautiful blue and pink sky and I sent a blessing and a prayer with that young soul, witnessing her return to the All That Is in all its beauty.

For the rest of the day all this circled in my heart. There was an element of shame that I'd asked Dooley - such a gentle boy - to kill but also a strange feeling that we had 'done the right thing' together. That we had acted as a team, my canine familiar and me. I was proud of and grateful for him, as sad as the whole thing made me. I felt as if my relationship with him had profoundly changed. I'll be honest, I have a new respect for him that I hadn't realised wasn't already there.



Later, I listened to the latest audio class from my shamanic practice teacher. This one covered two topics: ethics in practice (at least, an introduction to this vastly important area) and also building a deeper relationship with spirit guides (including so-called 'power animals'). The overlap of these subjects involved looking at how the power that a shamanic practitioner can access is not theirs, but is 'borrowed' from spirit animals and other guides who live in non-ordinary reality. The practitioner is the 'hollow bone' who can use that power and is responsible for what it does at his/her behest, but we need our spirit guides in order to reach it. As humans, living in ordinary reality, we bring our societal and cultural ethics to our work - not to mention our human emotions and sensitivities. Meanwhile, we should always remember that animals don't share most if any of these ethics and emotions. They have their own. We can't project onto them and we can't judge them. Healing is not about getting things to go the way we subjectively believe they should; we are ethically responsible for doing the right thing, however hard it may be. And the right thing means returning Life to smooth flow, removing obstacles that throw shadows in the way of the light. Sometimes those obstacles will be too big or too heavy for our human form, even in non-ordinary reality. This is why we have helpers who allow us to access their power, skills and vision.

Clearly, these helpers...co-workers...are here and available to us in this reality too, as Dooley was for the baby wood pigeon and for me. It was a sad but graphic lesson for me in the power of the shamanic triangle: practitioner, guide, situation.

I left a flower and a blessing at the spot where she left her body. The sun was shining.

Friday, 6 September 2013

What summer gave me

Sunrise.
From top left, clockwise:
June in Scotland; July, August and September in Wiltshire.

There are people, from all sorts of spiritual backgrounds, for whom the act of walking upon the earth is an offering. My wanderings around my little sanctuary here in Wiltshire hardly compare with miles trekked over mountains, deserts, coastlines and more but still, I can relate. The sense of reconnection, realignment and renewed commitment to Life is almost unavoidable.

Ten or so years ago Charlie brought some South Korean monks here to lead an environmental protest. They practised the offering of samboilbae - three steps and a bow - and with their dedication to Won Buddhism and cultural history of animism, it fascinated and spoke to me. They left a gift of a mala with me and I treasure it still.

I think that for many busy people - I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest women feel it more because of the many and varied demands and roles they deal with - the idea of tranquillity and simplicity is a seductive one. For me, the thought of a quiet life of contemplation, service and devotion appears to be the highest path I could walk and - perhaps a contributing factor - an easy one for me and my ultra-introverted ways to travel.

Back in 2009 a course I was doing prompted me to distill my values down to seven words. The first six were predictable, although no less true for that, but I was aware from the start that I had no Seventh Word. I played with the ones I already had, attempting to eke out a simile, but it was clearly not going to work. I procrastinated. Then I gave up trying and in that moment my hand wrote 'devotion'. Before the cynical 'yeah right' could pass my lips I felt how deeply that word was rooted in me and for how long it had been there. Forever.

Living my daily life while remembering that I long for that simple, devoted, contemplative life led to waves, tsunamis of resentment over the ensuing years. Until very recently I could regularly be found stomping around a field, taking deep breaths, attempting a calming affirmation but still cursing like a sailor along the lines of,"How the f***ing hell am I supposed to have a tranquil spiritual life when every single f***ing day I have to put up with this crap? I'm just a f***ing unpaid housekeeper. Our whole lives are f***ing CHAOS and I get to clear up the f***ing MESS. Again." Ever been there? Yeah. Fun. And usually, in my case, not entirely accurate.

But that messy, chaotic life with its ceaseless demands, zero job recognition and generally crazy-makingness IS my life. It's the world where love lives in all its embodied glory and the world that I've chosen again and again. Even when I'm not entirely sure why.

So this summer I decided to have if not the best of, then some very good bits of both worlds. The crazy bit is fairly self-perpetuating these days; I don't need to work on it, it just happens. I know, it's damned impressive. The spiritual, peaceful bit needs more attention. And that's why my alarm goes off at 5 AM every morning.

Now that it's still pitch dark at that time out here in the land of no street lights, I'll admit I probably don't get out of bed until 5.30 and out of the door about 20 minutes later (if Dooley will stop the Staffador opera he likes to indulge in when he wakes up). But from that point I am wide awake and present. Through the summer, my days have started with glorious sun rises and as lovely as the photographs of those are, nothing comes close to being there. The temperature of the air, the freshness, the waking birds, sometimes deer or a fox or even the Fugitive Four (sheep who escaped their field and roamed all over the estate for a couple of weeks, appearing in the most random places and always making my day). Most of all the sense of being in the presence of All That Is. Of being part of All That Is.

It's that which heals me and will always heal me. It's that which has led me to shamanic training, to renewed meditation practise, to appreciation of the place as I live as home and place of learning. And yes, as temple.

I've loved this hot, dry, perfect summer and my heart hurts to see her leave but hopefully autumn will share with me the deep, earthy magic I know she carries with her.

Friday, 16 August 2013

It's a new dawn, it's a new day



Earlier this week I wrote a post about some things that have been happening to me. And then I didn't publish it.

I didn't publish it because I thought most people who read it would think I'm crazy and even though I can't actually see them from the safety of my living room, the very thought of them rolling their eyes and muttering about how I've lost my mind was enough to make me stop short. It's not as if I haven't done my own share of that when a blogger I've followed has suddenly changed path into an area where I don't belong. I know how it goes. So instead I spent time suppressing what I wanted to say. Convincing myself it was ridiculous and that I was probably just a bit hormonal.

If someone else did that, to my face, I'd probably deck them.

But this is what we do isn't it? Especially if we're British, it seems. We put ourselves and our beliefs down before someone else can. We apologise in advance when we've done nothing wrong. We deflect imagined pain by being the first to throw stones. It's all very 'umble and Hugh Grant and charming. Not.

I'm not breaking new philosophical ground when I say it's pretty damn obvious that we can't please all the people all the time. But for some reason, us 'Brits' (by birth, adoption or random personality defect) feel we have to try. We try not to offend anyone. Anyone at all. Even the serial killers out there. Because really...how rude. And it might draw attention to us and we don't deserve that. We don't deserve anything. Our dads told us.

I had the pleasure of spending some time with my partner-in-Britishness, Susannah this week and we talked about how we both dilute our most powerful beliefs. And not only does that leave a bad taste in our mouths, but the negativity spoils it for everyone else too. It takes the joy and power and the momentum out of everything. It breaks All Of The Magic.

As we discussed this further, each naming examples of people who are a) non-British and b) super-positive, it became apparent that while we're both very good excellent at doing the internal work (Introverts Unite! [But only online!]) we're pretty rubbish at standing up and bloody well staking our claim, flying our flag, making a public statement of commitment. Gosh, even typing it sounds a bit attention-seeking. More tea, anyone?

Anyway. I'm not doing that anymore. I'm done with the dilution and the omission. And to those who have read my blog for a long time but can't relate to the way it's about to go, I say thank you. I love you. I am grateful for your time and friendship and you will always be in my heart. Live long and prosper.

And I'm feeling good.



Friday, 9 August 2013

Wide open spaces



I took this today at about 5.30AM while the dogs ran about like lunatics (there's a black one in the distance that you may just be able to make out). I instagrammed it, of course, and then kept being drawn back.

This is how the inside of my head feels. As if the years and years of thinking things through and forming opinions and trying to understand stuff and plan stuff and have ideas and stuff just got cleared away. Harvested. I'm not quite sure where they are, just that they are somewhere, and I am left with a pared-down, simplified mental and spiritual landscape. I've cut away the complexities and the convoluted theories, mine and others'. There is so much that really no longer has any relevance. Even when I would like it to. It's too late. I can't unknow what I know. Or perhaps relearn what I've unlearnt. Whatever.

This is not me being all superior and triumphant, this is me actually being a bit lost. I am here, out standing in my field, heh, with no clue what to do with it. I have seeds - that far I've progressed - but exactly how are we going to eat (I mean literally) while I nurture this crop and wait maybe years for the harvest? What can I use to keep me and my family healthy and happy in the short term and not take me too far away from tending the long term abundance I'm working towards?

This is what is on my mind in the early mornings. And the rest of the day. But look at that space, look at that potential.


Thursday, 1 August 2013

What can I tell you?

my path

Where do I even start?

How about the times I saw the end of the rainbow, not once but on two days running, rooting itself down into the paddock at the side of our home? I didn't think it was even possible to see this so I suppose it made itself clear by doing it twice.

As I shifted my focus - looking out of bedroom window - from the field back to the house I noticed that we now have a community of wasps living in our roof and there were many, many of them hovering in front of my eyes. How about them? We haven't called our landlord. We're waiting to see if they stay. We don't want them killed and that is what will happen if we tell him.

How about the sudden need to create something special to celebrate the power of the feminine and its increasing presence in my life as a guiding light? This is something I've battled against almost all my life and I can literally feel the tension and aches as I bend and stretch myself out of old habitual stances. It feels good, so good.

The lessons I'm taking in ritual and shamanic practise continue to feed a part of me that has been a long time hungry. How about that? I believe it is the recognition and acceptance that satisfies me. I've practised before but always kept one foot outside the circle. Now I am IN.

I could tell you about how I now see my home in two, not-really-separate ways: as the place my family and I live and feel safe, loved and relaxed, but also now as my place of learning. There's such magic here and so much life from the deer and foxes and crows and toads, to the trees and the plantain, self-heal, nettles and yarrow thriving in our little garden, overflowing from the fields beyond it. It is the perfect home and perfect classroom. In both places I am the Firekeeper. No wonder I was pulled back here.

Or my 5AM mornings and chance to sit and be with this place and the day ahead while the human family sleep and the canine family explore?

How about - on a lighter (darker?) note - the wonders of machine dye and a whole 'new' wardrobe, upcycled in the turns of our washing machine? Back to black and loving it!

How about the horrors of growing out cropped hair? I've been here so many times and yet...every day is a fresh hair hell. Heh.

Or the fact I rewrote my about page?

How about I simply say that I am happy? We five are happy.


sunrise




Sunday, 14 July 2013

The post that isn't actually about jars

My sense of humour, to which I am lovingly attached by thick, genetic, red cords of joy, is very firmly rooted in my shadow side. I imagine it originates in the 'gallows humour' of previous generations laughing rather than crying through some extremely tough times. Maybe that's what humour is in all of us. I just know that there are times - not the 'ohmygodI'mcryingandmyfaceHURTS' times but more the 'raiseaneyebrowandpolishmytiming' times - when I am most definitely not coming from a place where I am My Best Self. Yes dear reader, I have been known to snark with the best of them.


When my buttons are pushed, especially the one labelled Affectation Alert, I can be wicked nasty. My current, self-appointed role as the Chief of Jar Police makes me spit snarky feathers whenever I see anyone drinking out of a damn jam jar. Unless you're out all day and can't afford the 'essential neo-vintage thermos' or even a water bottle for your homemade juice/soup/tea, it's surely the stupidest trend since the duck lip. Poverty is not glamorous. Fake is not admirable. I saw yesterday that that bastion of style over content, Jamie's restaurant, now serves some drinks in jars. It makes me want to Hulk out and smash his puny clone eateries (including the artfully worn wallpaper) even though I actually really like the bloke.

And yet...

I am woefully obsessed with my own physical image. I mean, tragically. I have changed my hairstyle and colour more times then I've changed my blog header (gasp). I almost always - except when I'm dog-walking at 5am - think about what I'm going to wear and what it 'says' about me that day. I am utterly depressed about the state of my neck and the lines on my face. My snarkiness over the image-obsessed carries a hefty dose of projection in its poisoned arrows.

I suppose, if I were to be charitable, I could say that it matters to me that my outside is in alignment with my inside. That I am authentic and honest. That I want people to see who I am because while I appreciate that most people have far, far better things to think about than what my choice of shirt or anything else says about me, I do believe we all quite innocently assess people in part by how they appear.

The last three or four years have been tough for my family and our roles were considerably changed. As a result, I think, I have let the more (traditionally seen as) masculine side of my personality (which is quite a lot) take the lead. I felt the need to be responsible, practical, strong, independent. Of course women are also all those things but for me at this time it was a case of being the old skool Provider. This meant my physical appearance took on a decidedly androgynous form - a favourite of mine anyway - and I've been all cropped hair, jeans, plaid shirts, tough boots and pretty much one hardhat short of a lumberjack. Love it. But life moves in circles. What came from inside to the outside, flowed back in again and strengthened the whole androgynous vibe. I lost contact with my feminine side, my sexuality, my vulnerability, my creativity.

My power.

Oh the irony.

It's possibly the easiest aspect of myself for me to give up, like pulling a weed with shallow roots, as my  primary female role model was not a good one or at least, not one I aspired to emulate in any way. As I find myself now - for reasons I might write about another day - looking not to rediscover my femininity so much as discover it for the first time, I'm using some online tools to help collect clues.  My Pinterest is getting some heavy use. I'm also listening to wise women, Pixie and Athena talk about managing energetic boundaries over at Sacred Grit, a topic that is essential for me as the daughter of a woman who has never had healthy boundaries herself. In fact it was in one of Pixie's other presentations, maybe this one, that she mentions her own search for a healthy, feminine role model and how (paraphrasing) she has found one in Nature. This has been where my search has led me too. As I said, life moves in circles and the more I know and understand and love Nature, the more I am able to offer those same things to myself. Not simply as a practical, useful, responsible do-er of what needs to be done, but as the spiritual fire tender I feel emerging. Stronger but softer. I may even resign from the Jar Police.*




*Who am I kidding? Never gonna happen.





Friday, 12 July 2013

#amlearning

The Office


The Desk


The Work


This learning is bringing up some challenges for me, as it should. But while summer is here and I have time to sit in the green and the fresh air, no work ever felt better. (Look at my 'familiar' sunning himself. How is he not a pool of melted dog?)

Friday, 5 July 2013

Animal life



Wolf, always with me, and pounamu, treasured gift from Leonie
Feeling wordless and untamed today.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Clearly



Remember that Word of the Year thing that some of us do? Mine this year were 'love' and 'life'. I may have thrown in 'peace' for good measure. And so far so jolly good with all three. I am experiencing all of them in far greater amounts.

So if I was to be feeling all gung-ho about my WOTY power I might choose one for the halfway point. Which is today. Today is the halfway point, not the word. Although...I could choose worse.

Clarity. That's going to be my halfway word. I get terrible brain fog thanks to migraine (and its meds), fatigue, too much coffee, hormones, SAD, sugar, my actual personality. These days I find myself craving sharpness of mind. I sometimes feel my mental clarity has degraded along with my eyesight. I need contact lenses for my brain. I long for a razor-sharp thought the way I sometimes long for citrus flavours to cut through the general blah of carbohydrates.

And that is not such a random analogy because carbohydrates are how I have always self-medicated, sedating myself and my anxiety. That way of eating, of living, plays a huge role in my brain chemistry. Also, my month or so of being totally dairy-free earlier this year was a revelation - I swear I gained at least 10 IQ points. Then I drowned them in chocolate and cheese and cappuccino. (By the way, if you're thinking, 'Chocolate, cheese and coffee? No wonder she gets migraine!' I respectfully ask you to back off. I've studied my brain chemistry for forty years and long ago discovered that my cravings for those things are a symptom of my migraine, not the cause.)

So, I'm making an agreement with myself to lose the dairy again, however strong the cravings may become. I know where to find good dairy free chocolate and cappuccinos don't need cows. Cheese is still an issue for me - I have yet to find any cheese substitute that didn't make me gag - but I will find it.

Water is a wonderful ally in the search for clarity, after all, it embodies it. A kinesiologist who did wonderful things for me, once described my body as having a reversed reaction to water, probably due to having watched helplessly as my baby brother nearly drowned right beside me and no one came to help us (he didn't, he's fine and 48 years old now). I know how to work on this and turn it the right way around once I'm aware it's flipped again.

Lastly, but by no means leastly, I'm going to attempt to cut back on some of the mental clutter I carry. I have this theory that the reason you get more 'absent-minded' as you get older is simply that your hard drive is nearly full. The processing becomes slower and slower and now and again it just times out. Whereas I can look at Evie with her mere seven years of up/downloads and see how fast and sharp her brain is. All new and shiny and full of space. I blame the fact that my memory was always superb for the fact that my head is now almost overflowing with information the way my dad's shed overflowed with piles of old newspapers and magazines. Some, a lot, of it can go. I can't delete but I do believe that a process of slowing down further input (amount and quality), and meditation in order to defrag the files already there, will help a great deal.

So...clarity. Looking at this I think it's obvious I have a way to go yet.

Friday, 28 June 2013

On reflection



Being away from home, even for just three days, was a bit of a mind-blower. Stunning scenery and encounters with wildlife aside, it was odd. Bear in mind that I don't have holidays away from home. The last time I was on a plane was when we flew to China in 2006. So I found myself disconnected from much that constantly helps me identify myself.

I live on the land where I spent my childhood and merge with it effortlessly. I am reflected by those around me as mother, partner and whatever the dogs see me as. My close friends are experienced mostly online with occasional inspiring meetings with some, but not all. I had no freaking idea how much I rely on these reflections to define myself but without them I felt totally adrift. So much for the independent introvert.

I was left only with what my work colleagues know of me. We've worked together 10, 7 and 3 years and our office is a small room in an old building. We have our own little world away from the rest of the building and, being women, we talk about our lives a lot. Except we don't. Not all of our lives. My colleagues know all about Evie and her adoption and her school career and her every funny line. I am the only mother. We are all dog freaks so our dogs are discussed at great length. We complain about our partners but also brag when it seems appropriate. They know where I live. They know a fair amount about my history, my politics and my opinions on (un)popular culture. I know the same things about them.

But that's not all of me. They know I used to 'do reiki'. I never talk about it. They have no clue about anything else in my life that I consider 'magical'. They certainly have no idea that I'm training to be a shamanic practitioner. In their presence, with a part of me - a definitive part of me - hidden, I felt depressed.

Have you seen X-Men: the last stand? (We're big on Marvel in our house) At the end, the mighty Magneto (Sir Ian McKellen) has been stripped of his powers and is sitting, scruffy and forlorn, like a homeless old man, alone at a chess table in the park. For a moment, he's a sad pathetic creature and that's how I felt. For the record, I have no superpowers to lose and no plans to take over the world. But the person I saw in the mirror of a Scottish hotel was a sad, pathetic old woman and she was me, even if she wasn't all of me. I guess I have chosen not to see her.

I sat facing a window where the light was harsh and took a self-portrait on my camera phone. No duckface, no filters, nothing but my face in relaxation and no make-up. I looked at the picture with my glasses on (hyperopia is Nature's botox and I love her for it) and tried to really see what I looked like from the outside. Must've been the influence of Rabbie Burns.

I saw heavily-lined, fair skin on a middle-aged woman who carries too much weight and doesn't eat well. She has bad hair that her 71 year old mother has exactly copied and that freaks her the f*ck out because they already look alike and suddenly she feels very, very old. She's tired and thinks too much about all the things that could go wrong with all the things. She has a lot of stuff to worry about. She is one of the oldest members of staff in her work place and people are beginning to react to her in that way we do with middle-aged, over 50 women. As if they're probably very nice but really a bit pointless and certainly no longer interesting. She is sad. However, her work colleagues seem to expect her to be the one who'll stay up late in the hotel bar, telling hiLARious stories when in fact she's the one who finishes her dinner and heads back to her room, exhaling for the first time that day, exhausted from the effort of not being her whole self. To them she is funny, scattered, opinionated, stubborn, changeable but possessed of a tendency to melodrama when things change suddenly around her. She is a mother, a partner, a daughter and someone who watches Dr Who and loves her dogs. She is a bit rubbish with databases and forgets deadlines. She's not that interesting. She's alright. They quite like her.

They are correct about all of that. But not all of me. They didn't see me doing cleansing rituals in my room. They didn't know I packed crystals and sage. They do not know I'm a fire tender. They do not know how powerful I am. I doubt they know how powerful they are although I'm certain they each have their hidden stories, equally as magical.

For a couple of days I struggled. I wondered if the truth might be that I am actually just that woman. The way someone once described a 'barman who is an actor waiting for his break' slowly, but surely, becoming 'just a barman'. That possibility hurt my heart. Is that my legacy beyond my family and friends? And when the hell did I start wanting to leave a legacy? I realised that I have shapeshifted again and my outside no longer matches my inside and that this is a common state of affairs for women my age.The years leading to menopause are 'the flip side of puberty' and we do that weird caterpillar soup thing again. A caterpillar is cute, a butterfly is beautiful, a chrysalis is neither. A chrysalis is, from one perspective at least, stuck. Trapped. Waiting.

But here's the wonder...the magic...the butterfly becomes the butterfly because of intention. Somewhere, even before the cells physically take new shape, there is the idea of the butterfly. I know this concept has been held up as a metaphor for personal transformation many times but hell if it isn't a good one. A magnificent one. The imago, the imaginal stage, is the mature stage. I am becoming mature. From here I can fully imagine who and what I want to be for the next stage, what form my unique expression of Life will take and it will happen. I will weave in all those things above so that I am real and solid and grounded. I will understand that I see myself in others not just because they reflect me, but because I am them and they are me. It's connection. It's a good thing. Connect all of yourself to see all of yourself.

For that handful of you who have followed my blogs for years, news that I am undergoing change will not actually be news. You will probably expect a name change here, a new banner, some other new stuff. You might be right. I don't know yet. This is about life, not just blogging. I have chosen the colour of my wings but not yet much else.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Seeing what is

It occurs to me that if there were such things as blogging archetypes I might well identify as The Malcontent. I only seem to blog when I a) have a perceived obstacle to overcome or b) have overcome an obstacle and want to talk about it. Ha.

At times such as now, when I'm happy and fulfilled and looking at a clear, sunny path in front of me...tumbleweed rules. There's nothing new here for weeks on end.

I'm actually debating whether or not I have anything useful, entertaining or interesting to say here anymore. I think I do. I would like to blog this next stage of my life that is becoming more clearly defined. It's different to what's gone before and yet, the same. That sounds ridiculous but it's not. It's what happens when magic comes back.

Evie and I like to fossil hunt while we're out walking with the dogs. Beneath the farmland here is the edge of a mid-Jurassic era ocean bed. So, here in an inland field, hundreds of miles from the sea, we find endless fossilised molluscs, anemones and other ancient sea life. It never fails to thrill me.



While we're visually skimming the surface I'm always drawn to the stones with holes. The hag stones or holey stones.

These stones have various meanings all over the world, some use them for meditation, others believe they contain living spirits, some say they offer protective power and for others they offer a window into other worlds.

They are believed to hold the wisdom of the ages, representing the doorway between the physical and spiritual world. It is said that if one looks through the stone during the light of the full moon, the realm of faerie can be seen, along with ghosts, visions, and the 'other world'.

The most powerful attribute of a holey stone is thought to be its protective powers. Worn or carried, it would ward off evil spirits and protect the wearer from harm. Stones were hung from bedposts to prevent nightmares. If a stone broke, it was thought to have used its power to protect a life.

They are also known as Witches Amulets, Adder Stones, Fairy Stones,Seeing Stones, Seer Stones, Hag Stones and Odin Stones, from the Viking legend that  Odin transformed himself into a worm and crawled through a hole in a stone to steal the 'mead of poetry'.

Native Americans would call them Watai and believed they were inhabited by the Inyan, the Stone People. Wiccans and Pagans believe the hole in the stone is a symbol for the Sacred Womb of Earth, the triple stone being the most sacred of all. 
It is said that proper care of holey stones consists of cleansing them in the same manner as most other gems, by soaking them in salt water or recharging them through sun or moonlight.



I have a huge collection of these now and I love them. I especially love the idea that when you look through the hole you can see 'the other world'. In shamanic terms, this is 'non-ordinary reality'. This is how I see my home and my life nowadays. It exists happily and beautifully just as it is: a good life in a good place. But look at it with magic in mind, through the holey stone, and it is also my place of learning. A magical, sacred place full of spirits ready to teach me what I need to learn. I'm an eager and committed student and now that I've also found my human teacher I'll spend the next couple of years developing my knowledge and abilities. I can think of no better place to do it.