difficulties

Does My Life Belong to Me?!

April, 2018

DOES MY LIFE BELONG TO ME?!

 

We are on Easter Break. My 17-year old son needs to do revisions for his upcoming A Levels in Physics and Further Maths. He works best alongside someone so we divide up the kitchen table between us. I decided to write this piece because I had been pondering the question for some time. My son decides to play some music to help things along. “Is that Shakira?!” – “No Mum, it is Fat Rat! That is a DJ by the way. I doubt you know anyone I listen too…” I adore silence when I am writing but, as usual, it was not to be!

 

This may sound like a weird question with an obvious answer! Of course my life belongs to me, right?!

In theory it does yes, but being alive means making choices and choices bring commitments. The moment I choose to have children, those children are entitled to a large chunk of my time, energy and life force. The moment I choose to get married, a new unit with an overarching spirit all of its own comes into being: The Marriage (as well as two separate individuals). This is why the sum is always more than the parts combined. The dynamic multiplies again once a couple has children: there is now a Family, as well as two, three, four or five individuals…. There are now five people having relationships with four rather significant others.

The moment I choose a profession and invest in training in that profession I need to accept the demands and boundaries of that profession. Being a medical doctor, nurse or midwife will mean working night shifts in hospitals. Even a plumber will get phone calls about emergencies at all hours. An undertaker cannot so easily take time off either as people will not stop dying over major holidays.

As a shamanic practitioner I, too, used to get emergency phone calls at all hours. As a mother of young children working from home (with no hospital and no team to divide the workload) I eventually learned to take my home phone number off-line and to make an agreement with myself regarding what “opening hours” I operated and how many emergencies a week I can fit in at short notice (if any!) This is called drawing lines and operating healthy boundaries! (By now I also have a team of three people dividing up work in my practice).

So yes my life belongs to me but for my life to belong to ‘me and me alone’ I would need to stay single, not have children (or elderly parents) and perhaps embark on a life as a self-sufficient recluse in a very inaccessible area. (And when emergencies occurred I would have to deal with those on my own – or not be able deal with them and perhaps suffer serious illness or injury without receiving medical attention or loving care from another person). Yet, these are choices some people make to get away from the maddening demands of modern life. (A percentage of people have always done this, long before “modern” times, they have become trappers, sailors or “desert saints” and walked away from their communities). My own husband has one brother who went to sea at age 16 and reappeared years later with a Japanese wife (he then abandoned to raise three children completely on her own in Sweden). Today we call this commitment-phobia and yes, commitment is scary!

Yet, there is a level even beyond this web of social interactions, beyond being a member of a family and community. This is the point where people who follow a spiritual path may well see things differently from what is considered the norm in our society. Since western society embraced science as ‘our new religion’, the Church and priests have lost the control they exerted for many centuries. We no longer believe in Hell or live in sin. We don’t go to confession either. Only few people today believe that a male fearsome god will judge our souls once we die. In many ways this has liberated us and allowed a much higher level of individual expression, which can only be a good thing (to my mind). Having said, that: collectively speaking we have also lost the concept that we owe gratitude to our Maker and that we did not incarnate on this planet just to please ourselves and inflate our egos…

It is my personal belief, shared by many people following a committed spiritual path (of any description and not necessarily a religion!) that we come to Earth to be of service. That we all have unique gifts, our own unique energy, that is required at this time. This is because we all vibrate and operate in a larger Web of Life where all sentient beings are connected and together create (co-create) both reality and the future, the world our children’s children are to inherit.

Therefore I believe that I am here to serve and to evolve (meaning to learn, to grow in awareness) but I am also here to play my part in a larger whole. This means that I am currently wearing a human coat here on Earth for reasons beyond the personal level of relationships and raising children and so forth.

I have an on-going dialogue with my helping spirits about this and they say that I am here to be a spiritual teacher and teach others about living from a place of profound creativity and joyful creation. Along the way I also turned out to have a bit of a “freak talent” for healing work – but personally I see that as the journey back to creativity and living in joy. Being ill or dis-eased is the flip side of that coin. Once people re-discover their innate ability to create they can create healthy vibrant reality (as well as art, poetry or music etc.) and this will trigger the process of self-healing (activating the Inner Healer). Once I became aware of this key principle I switched my focus from offering one-to-one healing sessions to teaching larger groups.

The spirits making my life purpose crystal clear has been helpful because it has allowed me to focus and drop many things that are not my cup of tea in this lifetime. Out with dinner parties but roll on classes and powerful ceremonies!

The fly in the ointment is that “the hermit gene” runs strong in me. Before I fall asleep I fantasize about retreating to place far (FAR) from civilization and turning my back on the world. I am a profoundly solitary person, happiest alone in my studio or alone in the Forest. My idea of heaven is to be dropped in a completely inaccessible place with enough food supplies, fire wood and art materials for months – so I can immerse myself in creative process without distractions. It is when we are truly alone, without company, without internet, without external noise that we hear the voices of the spirits more clearly. So yeah, that is my dirty secret! I find it hard to always be on call. As a mother of three teenagers this is and will remain my reality – and I actively (happily!) chose it! The contradiction runs deep in me and this solitary trait runs in my family. My middle son has got a bad case of this “affliction” as well!

Having many students (and some clients) as well as children means working long hours every day again (often including weekends). I often look around me at people I perceive to have “easier lives”. Hang on! Let me rephrase this: lives with less pressure and way more leisure time. Here I am thinking of women who call themselves a “full time mother” of two teens aged 16 and 18 (with one about to leave home!) Or a woman whose children left home 20 years ago but she never returned to work (in the conventional sense). She shuttles between her garden and her yoga lessons. To my mind these are ladies of leisure. You may of course disagree.

On one level you could say: they raised their babies and their husband earns good money (so there is no financial need to work) – why not settle into a life of gardening and coffee mornings? Or another level I think: but aren’t they uniquely positioned to really make contribution to larger society? They have good health, many skills and financial security… they HAVE IT ALL! Why not use these things for the larger good of others than themselves?

Am I being judgemental here?? I know this is and remains one of my shadow aspects, (the flip side of being visionary) so it is a definite possibility. Not everyone has my driven personality and (what some have called) a supernatural energy level). Not everyone feels called to grapple with the bigger issues in our world (such as clearing family lines of centuries worth of accumulated trauma or contributing to paradigm shifts – or at least imagining that one is doing so!)

Cycling back to where I started, I think the question this article poses can only be answered by individuals in a very individual way. We all have different personalities, different star signs and different circumstances and dreams too. What I do know is that in my own life I continue to learn (fast and furiously) because I am a teacher, because I am in constant interactions with students and teens from a place of holding responsibility. It has been said that we teach what we most need to learn and probably my greatest passion in life is learning and becoming the best person I can possibly be, by the time I die. (And what I am in the process of becoming is not going to please everyone!)

I also truly believe that if everyone embraced life in this way – the world would be a better place. I am not going to apologise for thinking that! So… to answer my own question: my life force belongs to me (meaning I choose what – and whom! – I spend time and energy on) but my life ultimately belongs to Mother Earth and Spirit as much as it belongs to me personally. I am in service to Life – not the other way around. I would not have it any other way…

 

My son has decided to go on break. He says: “Mum, could you please take over as my dragon slayer for a moment because I need to nip out for a moment?!” Fat Rat has gone silent. Outside the window snow is falling upwards…

*Imelda Almqvist, Sweden, Easter Sunday 2017

***

About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of Norseshamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon in 2016.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit  2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. Her second book SACRED ART, A Hollow Bone for Spirit : Where Meets Shamanism will be published in December 2018.

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www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk  (website)

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/  (blog)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=imelda+almqvist  (Youtube channel: interviews, presentations and art videos)

 

 

What your Pagan Teacher wants you to know … About Meditation

December, 2017

What your Pagan Teacher wants you to know …

 

 

About Meditation

Meditation is a weird thing. It is seen as this perfect thing that a few people can actually do. In reality even after 30 years of meditation there are days I struggle. Not because I’m bad at it but because life happens!

Much like falling asleep (a different kind of brain activity) there are layers and stages to meditation.

I am sure they have proper names and titles somewhere. This is how I experience them, still.

Brain Radio.

Brain radio is the weird ambient noises inside my brain often a mix of 80’s cartoons, toy advert jingles, and random chunks of some song I heard and didn’t like on the radio 20 years ago, along with odd question and ideas.

Brain radio can be a distraction. It can give you colours and shapes for your attention to chase. It is actually useful sometime too. If I am “stuck” for an idea or creative thought just sitting in this stage and watching the random chatter can produce what I’m looking for without looking.

If you get past this phase you can go into the next phase.

The Itchy Fidgets.

Suddenly everything is itchy. Your clothes are made of burlap. Your bra is digging in. Your knee hurts. You struggle to get comfortable. The clock is too loud. What is that smell?

The itchy fidgets is actually you being aware of something you usually ignore, your body. In this sense while irritating breathing through it and ring your attention to it can give you a new understanding of how you are feeling.

The truth is your bra was digging in long before it bothered you. Your knee always hurts. You are just more in your body than usual. It is a stage not the end point. There are days when I get stuck here. I give myself permission to let it go. To breathe through it. To soften. This state is its self a meditation, just like the previous one. It is a place that yoga, tai chi and dance dwells. Movement can help. Sometimes the reverse, stillness. It’s a stage not where you need to end up, but if you do, don’t berate yourself too much.

The Nothing.

This a peaceful and pleasant place for many people and for other terrifying. It is like almost sleep. It is soft and calm and relatively empty. Sometimes images or thoughts come but they have a different quality from other states. This is a balance of dreaming and awareness. This is the place most people think of as “meditation” lives. The thoughts often symbolic, paradoxical and beautiful. There may not be any thoughts at all.

The Nothing is the place people seem to aim for without understand all parts are part of the process. It is also a place that people fear. I have seen students struggle like they are drowning after working so hard to get into the water! I don’t know if it is fear that is usually there and they suddenly discover it. I don’t know if it is feel of voids in general (must fill everything with light and bright). Fear of death (is the nothingness like death?) This place is one of peace for me. I know “I think therefore I am” is not true for me. I am comfortable and happy in thought-less nothingness. In a book I read it was described as heart stone. I like the weight of that idea. A sense of drawing one’s self into a core point.

Lucid Dreaming or Journey Work.

While it is possible to move into this state other ways it is underneath the Nothing. The Observer self or awareness become less tethered. You can journey inside your inner landscape (you are a universe after all) or outside of yourself. You may find yourself in a pleasant or significant landscape. If your journey often enough you may have a starting point you can come to easily and return to easily. Yet the quality of the journey, and how tactile and “there” you are will be down to your own psychic muscles and ability. Practice as always makes better. Still there is no guarantee you will find your Narnia a peaceful beautiful safe place. There may well be terrifying and conflicting part in this space too. That doesn’t of course make it less worthy or valuable. What we fear, what we loathe dwells within us too. True spiritual and even magickal progress comes from working inside our own darkness as well as our own light. Sometimes it can be difficult but that makes it no less worthy. Being present and breathing through what you experience and allowing it to teach you is important. Beyond this is another place.

The Everything.

If you have never experienced this state you can not understand it in words, mine or other peoples. Connection. Infinite. Tapping into the cosmic brain. Light. Love. Everything.

Meditation is a journey. One to try and take every day. Much as it would be amazing to walk around touching the infinite everyday it doesn’t get your food shop done. Different stages on the path are just as valid and important as each other. Yes it is bliss to touch deep within and without the self. Yes it is amazing but you must also be a messy human too! One who likes dirty jokes and food and dancing.

Meditation is like mentally and spiritually going to the gym. If you didn’t get as far as you wanted try doing more later. Don’t give up or berate yourself if one of the stages is sticker than usual. It shows you where you might need to do more work. That’s all. If your thoughts are distracting, look at them. What are they trying to tell you? Are you itchy? Does your knee always hurt? Maybe see someone about it! Is the Nothing your only goal, or terrifying? Examine that.

When I teach I work a lot on person growth, and meditation. I have caught a lot of flak over the years. “Oh it’s just meditation, teach me something exciting/magickal/proper/” and all I do these days is shrug. Scrying, divination, astral and journey work all come this place of altered consciousness. Meditation is one of the 8 paths to ritual magick. There other ways to attain different consciousness, but in terms of reliability, legality and safety it is by and far the best. Meditation is an amazing tool, with a diverse and complicated array of effects. After thirty years I can still see only a fragment. The practice is not for any one kind of person or group. It doesn’t make you perfect. However it does give the space and tools to heal ourselves in deep, changing and profound ways. Imperfect practice and bad days are going to happen. That doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong or that you haven’t meditated. Show up. Give yourself the attention you need. Forgive your bad days.

Keep breathing and work through it.