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Spiralled Edges

February 1st, 2017

Spiralled Edges – New Beginnings and Imbolc Chaos and Change

I had an entire idea for a nice article about Imbolc and how it symbolises new beginnings in our lives. But I’ve torn that all up, in a figurative sense, because of all that is happening around the world in recent weeks.

The US has a new president, Great Britain is poised to leave the European Union, and refugees are fleeing yet another war in yet another country. Right now, the whole world is really chaotic, and really rather scary.

As human beings, we tend to not like chaos and change. Change can be dangerous our subconscious tells us. People who study such things can tell you that there is even a part of the brain, located in the amygdala that makes us feel really uncomfortable when there is too much change too quickly in our lives.

But change is also an inevitable part of living, and of dying. We are always in a constant state of change, as is the world around us and everything in it.

She changes everything She touches, and everything She touches changes.”

Sometimes, change is subtle, and we don’t realise what has happened until we look back. Sometimes, change is in your face, drastic, and painful. It’s chaotic.

Newsfeeds online are filled with headlines designed to grab our attention and instil the greatest amount of fear. Clickbait we call it. Designed purely to get your attention and get you to click a link. It’s only when you’ve read halfway down that you realise the headline in no way matches the meat of the story

That chaos has to happen in order for change to occur. That is what we are seeing around the world today. Incredible chaos, scary chaos.

All of this chaos, all of this hatred and fear, the backlash against women and people of colour, against those who are disabled, those who follow a different religion or come from a different economic background? It’s not new. It’s always been around us, like an infection hidden deep within.

You don’t get rid of infection by burying it deeper in the body and pretending it doesn’t exist, which is what people have tried to do the past 50+ years, since the last time of massive global change in the 1960s and 70s. No, you get rid of infection by bringing it to the surface and removing it from the body.

That is what we are seeing now, and what we have been seeing in pockets for some time now. Pockets of stagnated slimy nasty hate-filled fear coming to a head and being released.

What does any of this mean for those of us who are Pagan?

It means making sure this infection deep within society continues to be expelled. It means taking time to hold sacred space around those who are being directly impacted by these changes. It means standing up and saying “No!” to prejudice and hatred. It’s doing what energy work, or magic, or healing we can do, not to bring order, but to help the deeply embedded, institutionalised infection be revealed and eradicated.

It means keeping our mouths shut, especially those of us who follow a Western European Pagan tradition, and allowing those from other traditions and cultures around the globe to speak their truth. People of colour, people who are Native American, people who have systematically been silenced in order to keep that infection hidden away have their stories to tell and we all need to actively listen.

We can’t take an attitude of “it isn’t happening to me” because we don’t know that it won’t be us tomorrow.

Spiralled Edges – Disconnection

A persistent sinus congestion that has rather overstayed its welcome moved into my middle ears last week. I’m not deaf, I can still hear, but everything is somewhat muted.

It has left me feeling cut off from most of the world around me though, or at least from the sounds in the world. This in turn has caused me to have trouble focusing, and has made following conversations near impossible.

spiralled

 

I tell you this, not to garner sympathy, but because it reminds me of a discussion that I had this week about ways of re-establishing our connection to Spirit when we feel disconnected. For those who follow any deeply spiritual practice, whatever their belief, experiencing this feeling of disconnection can be scary. We can hear a faint buzzing, maybe a few words here and there, but just cannot seem to fit them together well enough to make a full conversation. Sometimes, it just seems to be too much hard work to try to listen.

Those who have either not felt this disconnection, or who are busy projecting an outward mask of spiritual perfection (and so deny ever feeling this disconnection), are quick to place blame back on others. “You just need to have more faith.” “Have you tried doing a better spiritual practice?” “Maybe you’re doing it wrong.” Worse, when we feel this disconnection, we tell ourselves these things! Some people call this the “Dark Night of the Soul”, for good reason.

I do not know of any person, of any faith, who has not at some time or another experienced this feeling of disconnection. Spiritual and religious leaders are not miraculously immune either. Actually, they are even more likely to experience this sense of disconnection at some time.

Expectations of spiritual perfection that we place on ourselves, or have placed upon us by others, make it more difficult to admit to ourselves that we sometimes have doubts, that we sometimes don’t feel connected to Spirit. Sometimes, we feel like our Gods have forsaken us, that they have left us, or maybe, we drove Them away.

Sometimes, this disconnect comes about because we have gotten ourselves in a rut. We are doing the same old ritual, the same old way, using the same old words. They have become meaningless. Words we say but do not hear. Actions we do but do not notice. Rituals we perform but do not feel.

If everyone goes through this, then how do we fix it? How do we re-establish that connection?

We can find it by remembering that the connection was not lost in the first place.

This is our call to let go of the need to control the outcome and force a feeling of connection. We need to spend time looking inwards, connecting with the Spirit that is within us. We need to trust, and to have faith, that the connection is still there. Even if we do not feel it in the same ways that we felt it before.

Sounds of people speaking, of music, and of the world seem muted because my middle ears are congested. The sounds have not ceased to exist. They are still all around me. Once the congestion clears, I will be able to hear clearly once again.

Image in public domain: Hildegard of Bingen, Liber Divinorum Operum

Spiralled Edges – Finding Balance

It may be because I was born with Libra Rising, but for most of my life I have been a person who likes balance.

One doesn’t walk a balanced path though. Instead it is a constant fluctuation between extremes. Sometimes that fluctuation is very tiny with minute changes most people never notice. Other times, these fluctuations can be huge, with massive changes that send you reeling back and forth for some time.

 


When we think about walking in balance, our vision is that it is somehow a static event. We reach balance and then we are in balance. This could not be further from the truth. The scales of Libra are not a modern set of digital scales that automatically display a number. And neither are our lives. These are, instead, an old-fashioned set of apothecary scales. Balance doesn’t come immediately, weights are placed on one side, or taken off, weighing heavy first in one direction and then the other until finally, for a brief moment, perfect balance is achieved.

Even a simple task like walking gives us a clear example of how we are constantly making slight corrections in order to stay in an upright position. A teacher many years ago told me, walking is nothing more than a series of controlled falls. My leg lifts, my body moves forward. Before I fall, I set my foot down and bring my other foot forward. Both feet meet briefly at the centre, then the second foot moves forward and once again I am falling forward until I set my foot down again.

Move my foot forward too far, and I am off balance and fall. Set my foot down too early or too late and I am off balance and fall.

This doesn’t stop when we are standing still either. We constantly make minute corrections in our balance, moving first one way and then another slightly shifting a foot leaning slightly forward or back.

As much as I like balance, my life has been one of extremes. I’ve dealt with heartbreak and loss, depression and anxiety, PTSD. Finding balance here has meant taking prescription antidepressants in order to keep my emotions from swinging too far into the suppressed position. Finding balance in my physical body means taking more prescription medications. There is no shame in needing medications for managing mental illnesses or physical illnesses.

Finding balance does not mean you never experience extremes, and moving away from the centre does not mean that you are out of balance. Remember that apothecary scale, swinging one way and the other.

Living on the spiralled edge means constantly making slight corrections, first to one side then the other, sometimes leaning a bit too far one direction or the other in order to bring life back into balance from the opposite extreme.

As a Pagan witch I strive to find a balance between the extremes. I’m not always successful, but as I remind myself, balance is the journey not the destination.

See page for picture [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Spiralled Edges – Just Be

I recently read a blog article talking about the necessity, and great difficulty, some have in holding sacred space without actively doing something. So much emphasis on our self-worth is placed on doing, on being productive. We downplay and devalue the place and purpose for just being. We use the practice of doing to hide from our selves.

Sometimes the greatest act of love we can provide is to just be and hold Sacred Space for someone without trying to do for them.

Sometimes, we become impatient when growth and change or knowledge doesn’t come as rapidly as we want it to. We mistake times of dormancy for stagnation or even a movement backwards from our hoped for goal. We forget, that sometimes the seeds of change need to lie hidden within, buried within us, just being without doing, growing in strength while the outer world moves on.

There can be power in stillness. This isn’t a time when nothing happens, it isn’t a time of death. It is a time of being without doing.

A few years back, when going through personal difficulties I went to Spirit to ask “What do I need to be doing? What can I do to become well again?” They responded by telling me, “Don’t do, just be.”

Finally, they told me to stop doing shamanic journey work even to go into my Sacred Garden, and to practice being fully physically present in my body. I didn’t realise how much of my life had been spent mentally outside my physical body until I started trying to be more fully aware and more fully present within it. Psychologists would call it disassociating. Shamans might call it journeying. I called it feeling out of sync with myself.

A lot of my work over the past few years has been towards rediscovering what it feels like, both the good and the bad, being fully present inside my own skin.

I by no means make any claim to having fully learned this lesson yet. But, I’m getting better at it and find that I am more aware of when I love outside of my physical body, and more easily able to move back into sync with my physical self. Sometimes, I do fall back into that state of thinking I should be doing… something. If I could just find that one thing that I must do. And Spirit tells me, infinitely patient, “Don’t do, just be”.

Right now, we are moving ever closer to the final harvest in the Wheel of the Year, Samhain. The veil between worlds has thinned and our focus is on the dying God who will soon be journeying to the Underworld.

Then He, and the world itself (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), will naturally move from a state of doing into a state of being. It is a time for inner reflection. It is a time for being, the most sacred and loving practice that we can do for ourselves, and for others around us.

As you sit in this time of being, let yourself just be without trying to hurry back to the Earth’s stirring and awakening. Practice being with a friend who is going through difficulties without trying to do for them, without trying to fix them, without trying to change them. Practice being inside yourself as you go through difficulties without trying to do, without trying to fix, and without trying to change. Allow yourself to just be, with acceptance and understanding.

The time for doing will come round again, in its own time.

Everything Changes

 

Years ago I learned a chant in the Pagan community which went

She changes everything she touches

And everything she touches, changes.

One of the basic tenets of any nature-based religion is that things change. Those changes may be subtle, they may be difficult to see, but over time as we move through the seasons everything changes.

I am not the same person I was a year ago. And neither are you. I’m carrying a lot more grey hairs, a few more wrinkles. And a lot less emotional baggage.

Sometimes, we hang on to ideas or beliefs or emotions that don’t serve us, and don’t allow us to grow. That fear of change is what keeps us in abusive relationships, keeps us from finding a new job, and keeps us from pursuing a dream.

I found myself in just one of these ruts in recent years. When I separated from my ex-husband in 2012 my world was turned upside down. I had become so firmly entrenched in a life that was mentally and emotionally abusive that I couldn’t even recognise it as such.

I knew I was unhappy. I knew that I sometimes had strong urges and a desire to escape. My resistance to change kept me from doing something about it. Better to be unhappy in a marriage I knew than face an unknown.

saying

created by NanLT

 

If my life hadn’t been shaken up, there’s a good chance I would still be there. Even then it wasn’t until I had been out of that marriage for over a year that I was able to recognise and admit that there had been abuse. And now, 3 years later, I am beginning to embrace life once again.

I’m not doing this without structure though. Because while I may be embracing changes and finding new understanding of how very constant change is, I am also becoming more fully aware of how important structure and routines are for me. It is these routines which provide the foundations and scaffolding through which change can occur.

woman

public domain, Wikimedia commons

A good analogy which I have come across relates to weaving. Handmade woven cloth can be very colourful and creative. Weaving can be done on anything from a small table-top loom to larger looms taking up a room. Each works in the same way. Strong warp threads are placed lengthwise on the loom, and the creative weft threads are woven back and forth across the width.

If the warp threads are not strong enough to support the weft threads, the weaving will break apart.

This is how I am striving to create my life today. Daily routines for personal care, and personal spiritual practises provide the warp which supports my emotional and spiritual weft.

The result is an ongoing process. Sometimes, the warp breaks. Usually because I have neglected my routines. Sometimes, I realise that something I am weaving for myself isn’t what I want and I need to discard it.

This is where one of the biggest stumbling blocks would have been for me in the past, and I need to be aware of it in my present and future. That inability to step away from something that isn’t working because I am afraid of change.

I’m not doing all of this alone. Over time I have been pulling together an assortment of tools and support. I’ve been releasing trapped emotions and discovering my voice through various complementary and alternative healing techniques: shamanic journeying, Dr Bradley Nelson (Emotion Code), EFT and Reiki. I have been advocating for my needs and discovering my truth through the daily exercises of HeatherAsh Amara (Warrior Goddess Training), daily morning pages (The Artist’s Way) and David Hamilton, PhD (I {heart} Me: The Science of Self-Love). Most important of all though is I am learning to be more forgiving and gentler towards myself.

What are you weaving in your own life today? Are there broken and unwanted threads that need to be snipped away or replaced?

The weeks leading up to Imbolc are perhaps some of my most favourite in the year. While the Northern Hemisphere may still be in the grips of winter, everywhere you look there are signs that the Earth is beginning to stir and awaken from sleep.

Imbolc is a time of new beginnings, new life, and new birth. And it begins with the Earth itself.

The first week after Yule the earth continues to be shrouded in long nights. Where I live, the sun begins to set before 4pm in winter, and doesn’t fully rise again until close to 8am. Gradually though, from mid- January I begin to notice that the sun is staying up just a bit longer in the afternoons, and rising a bit earlier in the morning. Instead of turning my lights on at 3:30, I can leave them off until 4:30. Instead of leaving the house in total darkness at 7am, I notice the faint glimmer of sunrise to the East.

 

crocus

 

 

This week, I saw the second sign of the Earth’s stirrings. Peeping up from the ground can now be seen the shoots of crocuses and primroses. These earliest flowers bloom in February, and for me it is their arrival which signals the arrival of Imbolc. We may yet have snow this season, but even that doesn’t keep these precious blooms from coming. They push up through the snow to display their colourful flowers on a background of white. Winter is not yet over, spring is not yet come, but there is a promise of new beginnings which can be seen and felt.

It is not just plants that are awakened at Imbolc. In people too there is a restlessness, and urge to break out and grow, to push past that which is holding us down so that we can display our worth and beauty.

This is an ideal time of year for doing initiations, and also for doing work focused on new projects and new endeavours. Over time this has been somewhat pushed back into New Year’s Day at the beginning of January, but in some ways I feel that the promises and resolutions we make at the New Year when the promise of the Earth’s re-awakening is not yet felt, become part of those old and dying things which we discard in the dead of Winter. Far better to make these vows and begin these new endeavours at Imbolc.

If the promises you made at Yule/New Year’s Day seem far away and your enthusiasm is beginning to wane, why not use this season of awakening and new life to re-make those resolutions.

Here is a very simple bit of spell work that you can use to breathe life into your upcoming projects.

You will need a pot of soil (or compost) and some seeds. I suggest a lovely flower from a bulb. That way you’ll have something to hold in your hands and really focus on for the next part.

Place the pot and the seeds on your altar and create a circle (or not) as you usually do. Focus your energy first on what it is you want to accomplish in this upcoming growing season. What do you want to grow in your own life? It may help to write things down on paper.

Once you have in mind what it is you wish to grow, hold the seed in your hands and focus your intentions into it. Speak your intentions either out loud or in your mind. If you wish, you can assign a specific project to individual seeds.

 

soil

 

Now hold the pot of soil in your hands and focus what it is that *you* need to do in order to bring these projects into being. It’s all well and good to say you are going to learn how to dance, become healthier, read 10 books, complete a course, or what have you. If you don’t actually go to dance classes, eat healthy foods and exercise (however that is defined for you), pick up a book, or do the coursework, your seeds will be trying to grow on barren soil.

Having focused your intentions and your desires fully, take any bits of paper you may have written on and bury those deep within the pot of soil.

Speak your desire into each seed and push it into the soil to plant it. Cover it over and water it.

Keep your seed and pot in a protected environment. Nurture and water it over the coming weeks. As the seed grows, so too will the things you are growing in your life.

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