Lammas; without expectation

At last night’s gathering in New Mills, a kind soul shared the tale of her difficult day and how she had been forced to spend it in a place she hated, doing things she did not like for the sake of those she loved. The only way to get through it, she said, was to have no expectations and simply see how it would be.

I have written a lot about expectations here, particularly in the early days of this blog, but it never occurred to me until last night how letting go of expectations is such a prominent part of Lammas.

As a celebration of the First Harvest, Lammas always feels to me like the last big blow out before the end of Summer; the big party before heading back to school, that final raucous night before heading home from a holiday. For those in the past who lived by the agricultural cycles, Lammas was a chance to celebrate and relax before the hard work of the Harvest began.

As part of these celebrations they would often perform acts of folk magic to encourage a good yield on the months ahead. They might libate the fields, burn bonfires made of special woods, sacrifice a Corn King (think giant corn dolly, not an actual King!) or bake a loaf to be blessed and shared by the workers. And not just for the fun or the fancy of it all – as we with our supermarkets and seemingly endless supplies might do – but because their survival through the coming Winter would very much depend on the Harvest’s success.

And it occurred to me as we spoke last night of letting go of expectation, that the only way these historical farmers and their families and communities could celebrate at this uncertain time of year, and the only thing that would make their actions feel vital and meaningful as opposed to powerless and futile, would be to release their expectations of what the Harvest could or should be and simply accept the coming of what would be; without expectation of survival or demise but with hope, faith and determination in its place.

Some years it would pay off. Others, maybe not. Either way they had found time to celebrate, to share and to enjoy life and one another, placing their trust in themselves and the cycles that defined them. Which must have made both the rich and the lean times that much sweeter.

Lammas – a celebration of grief

 

For me

, Lammas is about loss.

And not just the safe, sanitised experience of ‘losing’ all those pesky disappointments and unwanted occurrences in our daily lives so we can move on feeling lighter and learned. But the brutal disappearance of something that no one is ever, truly really ready to see go : Life.

In story, the Corn King loses his life at Lammas, sacrificing his love and his later years for the good of the Land. He is cut down in his prime, not when he feels ready or has reached a ripe old age. He is at his peak, with the whole gradual descent of age and decay before him. Years of living, of Life. Taken. Given. Gone.

Sacrificed.

Which is why at Lammas I always honour the sacrifice of Life in the name of our continued existence. I acknowledge all the little deaths that occur in plants, trees, animals so that I, and those I love, might be nourished and live. The Land gives up a great sacrifice at Harvest time; so much of what it has worked to produce through the growing season. Do we ever ask how it feels about that? Do we ever wonder if the sacrifice if freely given?

In story, the Corn King is cut down by his lover, the Goddess, the Queen of the Land itself. This Lammas I have wondered much about her loss – a loss of love and of innocence. How does she accept that loss and her part in it? More importantly how does she grieve?

I imagine her grief as a wild, feral thing. A heavy weight that fuels intense action and intense repose. Just as the World becomes busy throughout the Harvest before finally falling, exhausted into slumber, so too I imagine she dances and wails her way across each empty orchard and fallen field. She works hard and long with blood on her hands to honour her loss, to make the sacrifice worthwhile and to experience the grief in all its violent, jagged glory. So that finally, eventually she can move through it, into acceptance and remembrance and gratitude for Life lived (and lost) well.

And only then will the Wheel turn.

Edges

I’ve been trying for a while now to write a post about flow; explaining what it means to me and how I believe it plays into my life. There are numerous attempts sitting in my drafts folder but none ever seemed to express what I was really trying to say.

This morning it occured to me that perhaps I can’t tell you about flow without first talking about edges.

This past weekend, working on creating ceremonies with a lovely group of people in Matlock, we were all encouraged to try new things and adopt roles and responsibilities we aren’t usually attracted to. A lot of people took up the challenge admirably and in the debrief after our group Lammas ceremony, many people commented on how uncomfortable but empowering it felt to be pushed up against their edges; the parts of themselves they weren’t confident or certain of.

It is neccessary of course to sometimes meet and push against our edges if we are ever to learn and grow, otherwise we remain safe within our comfort zone and never expand beyond that. For some the comfort zone is enough but many of us find ourselves becoming restless and disatisfied if we aren’t able to test our edges every now and then.

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It can be a painful and difficult process though, meeting and testing those boundaries that we have created for comfort or safety’s sake. It is always best to be in the right situation before pushing certain edges; particularly those that challenge you on a deeply personal or emotional level. You do not have to be in this process alone, much learning can be done surrounded by the support of friends, family or even a group of like-minded individuals who are holding space with you. A meditation class, a crafting workshop, a walking group, a group of celebrants… all can offer safe ground for you to test your edges knowing that there is a structure surrounding you that will hold whatever comes of it and bring you back to your Self at the end.

Often however we are forced to face our edges alone, because lets be honest most of us don’t enjoy or feel comfortable with exposing ourselves in such a vulnerable way around other people. There are ways to manage this process safetly – including, but not limited to, being in a safe place, arranging to have contact with someone else at some point afterward and always, always, always being kind to yourself – but often we find ourselves pressed against our edges when we least expect it.

Mood swings are supposedly a woman-only domain but anyone who has lived with a man for any length of time will know that isn’t true! We are all human beings, all feeling and complex creatures, who can be triggered into an unexpected place at a moment’s notice. When I find myself pressed suddenly against an edge – often feeling overwhelmed by everything I have to get done in a day or a sense of low self-confidence – my immediate response is to batten down the hatches. I surround myself with the pre-conceived ideas I have of who I am, what I am and what I should be. This feels like a safe and sensible response; by reaffirming who I am I can better face my discomfort. But in truth by doing this I harden my edges making them rigid and even more painful to press up against.

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What I should be doing is an old chestnut of advice that I’m sure we’ve all heard (and railed against!) at some point: Letting Go.

Letting go can feel impossible when the edges are that close and feel that impenetrable. I used to think it meant letting go of the feelings I was holding within myself – the doubt, the anger, the fear – and as you will probably know this is incredibly difficult when you’re that tightly bound within yourself. What I have only recently come to understand is that it is the edges themselves we should be letting go of. All those ideas about who and what we are and should be in that moment – good and bad – need to be released; only then do we have the space to feel and finally flow through what is happening to us and out of the other side.

I have always assumed that my edges are the thing that will save me at moments when I feel lost and uncertain. Now I realise that they are actually the thing containing me, holding me back and causing me pain as I press up against them with all my human, feeling might. What I need most at times of uncertainty is the total openess of possibility to be and do anything. To let go of my edges and free my Self to be whatever I need to be in those moments. Without the edges I can ebb and flow with the feelings, allowing them to carry me where they need to until finally they run their course and desposit me – safe and sound – on the sandy shore of my Self. When I manage this (and believe me it’s not always!) I find myself refreshed and relaxed, not bruised and broken from the constant battle with my own edges.

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By learning to flow emotionally, allowing my feelings to shift and dance and weave through the whole gamut of human emotion without trying to control them with edges, we come more into line with the nature of the World itself; which ebbs and flows to its own rhythms leaving space for everything and anything to occur. It has no edges, not really, so why should we?

Water in motion

Photo credits:
1) Katherine Dowson, My Soul
2) ephotozine.com
3) 3drecursions.com
4) Huffingtonpost.com

Bless you

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I want you to know that when I say “Bless you” I mean just that.

In those two words and in that precise moment I am wishing, hoping, praying and intending blessings upon you.

These might come from a deity you follow; a spirit you hold sacred or a being you hold dear.

They might be a moment in the future; of joy or pleasure or acceptance or understanding that you truly need.

They might be the gift of a smile, a hug, a kiss, an invitation; some kindness coming your way.

They might be a heart, a time, a space or a person that can hold and hear all you need to say and be… when you need to say and be it.

I want you to know, that when I say “Bless you” I am not being patronising.

I am not saying it because I can’t think of anything else to say.

I am not saying it because I secretly want you to shut up, get over it or change the subject.

I am not saying it because I feel helpless or powerless to aid you.

I am not saying it because it’s what you’re ‘supposed to’ say at a time like this.

In that moment, in those two words, I am actively offering you a gift:

the gift of my hope for you, for your life, for your situation.

I do not bless you for karma or to fulfil expectation.

I do not bless you to win points or to provoke reciprocation.

When I bless you I am doing so out of love,

Freely.

And that should not – and will not – ever be given lightly.

Keli, May 2014

*

The Mindful Mornings I ran earlier this month really got me thinking about the words I use and things I say; particularly to people who don’t know me very well. I’m confident that those closest to me are able to read the intentions beneath my words, even when I’m not at my most articulate (which is rather a lot lately!), and I trust that this unspoken understanding will sometimes (not always) be enough to sustain their faith in me and in what I say.

However when I’m interacting with work colleagues,  acquaintances or new people I meet, I become very aware that they are not tuned in to this emotional undercurrent. Sometimes this is necessary – I don’t always want my heart exposed on my sleeve – but it can also make it difficult to foster a genuine sense of connection.

 One of my biggest bug bears in my early twenties was the “How are you?”/”Alright, how are you?” duologue, that seemed to preface every conversation I ever had, ever. It felt like wasted breath; asking another person how they are – right then, in that moment, how does it feel to be you? – without offering the right space or intention to hold a real, true answer. It also felt insulting, to both parties; a lazy, poorly considered façade of a real conversation.

So as I’ve gotten older I’ve tried to be better at using my words with intention and although I am still guilty of using flippant talk more than I would like, it is less now than ever before. I benefit from it greatly: it brings me alive in the moment and offers me an opportunity to check in with my own responses as much as the other person’s. My relationships have benefited from it too; I know more about the people I meet and like to hope that people feel held and heard when I’m speaking with them.

“Bless you” is a term I struggled against when I was a teen as it inspired all sorts of religious connotations that I wasn’t ready or willing to accept at the time. Now the concept of a blessing is much broader and more encompassing in my eyes; they are unique to every individual, they are the fulfilment of something we need either in that moment or in the grander scheme of things.

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Life itself is a blessing, all its component parts are blessings and being blessed is something we can all be, if we are mindful of what is offered to us.

Giving blessing is also something we can all do, by adopting a mindful presence and offering deep, clear, compassionate intention in everything we do.

So, blessed be.

(and I hope you are)

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Picture credits:
1) google.com
2) the pioneerwoman.com
3) imgion.com

Too Many Secrets

There’s a strange notion in our social consciousness that to make something happen or to make ‘magic’ you must keep your wish or will a secret.

You find it in our fairy tales and folk traditions, with heroes and villains often having to keep secrets that maintain their strength or magical ability. More recently it appears in many beginners guides to witchcraft or ‘practical magic’ (often of the neo-pagan kind). These books encourage clarity and determination in our intentions and desires and usually offer prettily worded scripts to help you in the early stages. This is good advice; of course your inner landscape needs to in line with your intent if you want to see something manifest, hence why we are told to ‘dream big dreams’ and ‘wish with all your heart’. Eventually though the books often urge you to work without words and to focus more strongly on internal/subconscious activity; this being the way to greater skill and thus success. But to focus exclusively on internal work disconnects us from the power and importance of our voice and our words in the outer World and the affect they have over on Self and on the reality we live in.

 

For a long time I clung to the notion that in order to successfully create anything I must keep it secret until it actually exists. As if, by putting my hopes and dreams into words, I risked their safety and eventual success. I grew up making many a silent wish upon a star and then, as a teenager, I began reading books – inspiring, important books – that broadened my mind and my possibilities but also reinforced this old idea; that my greatest strength would come from silent graft on the astral plane and not from sharing openly in the physical World. In fact I’m pretty sure I once read somewhere that sharing an idea or dream too early and to other  people actually disseminates the behind them energy likely causing it to fail.

Despite its good intentions this idea was holding me back and gradually eroding my trust in my own voice and in the listening ears and hearts of those around me. Somewhere deep inside an image was forming of a World that was out to destroy or steal my good ideas and my hard earned wishes and my only weapon against it was to turn inside and keep my words and wishes secret. Only then would I be empowered. Only then might I be able to make something a success. For a girl growing up (as so many do) with low self esteem and confidence issues this didn’t just seem logical, it felt right.

But of course it wasn’t, it was simply adding weight to an already debilitating struggle with social interaction and self image. By ’empowering’ my inner landscape I was losing faith in my ability to access and understand the World on the outside; something which I now count as one of my biggest sources of joy and inspiration. And my dreams and ideas weren’t making an awful lot of headway either because (as the ‘secret and safe’ idea fails to point out) the World they were made for didn’t know about them! Looking back into the (not too distant) past I almost mourn the lost chances and missed opportunities and advice that I didn’t access, because I never knew how to draw them to me.

 

I needed words. Real words. Spoken words. Words out loud. Words offered boldly to the Air with the same determination and trust that I held in my inner landscape. Because its all very well deciding to ‘do it alone’ with nothing but the power of your well-trained mind but the fact is that people aren’t mind readers and its people who will help you get to where you want to go.

To reach people you need to be with them, speak to them, offer them your words and ideas in neat little packages and let them play. I’m not saying you have to be a raging extrovert or an excellent conversationalist (I am neither of those), nor am I suggesting you give all your ideas away without some safety strings to tie them to you. But you do need to be able to speak about your dreams and wishes out loud if you want someone to help you achieve them.

In this World there is very little we can achieve on our own and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing (and goodness knows that’s a whole other strange social idea we could get into!). Last year I watched this amazing TED talk by Amanda Palmer called ‘The Art of Asking’ and it reminded me just that. It covers our difficulty as a species when asking for help and how we might benefit if we got better at sharing our words and sharing our loads; I’d urge you to give it a watch.

 

At the root of our ingrained need to keep our dreams a secret lies a common dragon: fear. We are afraid to lose what is ours, afraid to seem stupid if we do not achieve what we set out to and afraid to be judged on the things we want and the things we do. All these fears exist and are entirely valid experiences; I run through them all, regularly. But what I’m learning (slowly, carefully) is that the fear only exists because I let it, because I believe the old tale about the power of secrets. I believe that if I tell then the bad stuff will happen, why else have I been keeping secrets over every birthday cake I’ve ever had.

But what if I stop we believing that and instead take a chance on a different truth: Speaking dreams will make them come true.

I’ve already seen some evidence to support it.

I’m sitting at home, ploughing through Facebook, pondering on expanding events outside my local area. On a whim I send a message to a friend who lives in one of the areas I’m interested in. He immediately replies, we set up a meeting and after a nice chat over dinner he makes some connections and now I have a new venue to trial in the Summer.

*

It’s a quiet morning at work and the noise from the kids craft event upstairs is filtering down into the cafe.
A customer asks what’s going on and I tell her. “Do you do many things like that here?”
So I tell her; first about the current schedule and then, taking a deep breath I add on the two new ideas I’ve been toying with and considering sharing with my manager.
The woman’s face lights up when I mention one of them; her eyes are bright and her smile says ‘That sounds like my kinda thing’. As she leaves my belly is fluttering but my feet feel grounded and secure. I am joyful: she heard me and her smile has given me faith and confidence in these new possibilities. So tonight I’ll draft a schedule for my boss and see what happens…

 

Words are incredibly powerful things. They move us in ways we’d never expect; novels and poems are fine proof of that. Too often we forget the power they have on other people and even less often do we trust that power in the hands of another. But if we could find the strength to trust them, to awaken our voices and speak up and speak out then perhaps a few more dreams might start coming true.

 

 

Words Are Enough

A large part of my lifestyle and the ethos of Walk The Wheel is devoted to encouraging and deepening soulful connections to Life and the World we live in. My first instruction will always be to get out into the Natural World; there aren’t enough words to describe the positive and inspirational effects it has on our hearts and minds but I will never stop trying. That’s why I follow the Wheel in the first place and why I choose to live somewhere as close to the wild Land as I can.

That being said there are other ways we can experience that same sense of wholeness from within the (relative) comfort of our homes; and in a World where we are often overworked, underpaid and living in the midst of a concrete jungle being able to find moments of connection within our restricted circumstances is a vital part of survival.

 

You might think I am going to start declaiming the benefits of meditation or yoga-in-your-living-room or the latest health food craze? Well, I’m not. My suggestion is much simpler and requires far less time, money and has no requirements for your living room space. While all these popular holistic practices (and others like them) can and do have enormous benefits and act as instigators towards an all-round more mindful way of life,  they also carry something of a stigma. For some they are part of a ‘New-Age’ lifestyle full of crystals and fairies in which they are (quite frankly) not interested. For others who already have elements of holistic practice in their lives (fairies notwithstanding) they can sometimes feel too much like hard work when we need their gifts the most*.

Sometimes you want to feel whole and connected without having to exert a great amount of energy. Perhaps you’re exhausted and simply don’t have the reserves or perhaps you have a scant few minutes before you will  be called back into the line of duty and you simply don’t have time for a 15 minute mega-meditation.

 

If that’s the case I have a suggestion for you…

 

Read a book.

 

I know, I know, not particularly original right?

I am well aware I’m not breaking any new ground here, but coming off the back of a busy few weeks I have found myself firmly in the midst of a classic dilemma; I want to feel better, to reconnect to my heart and to Life but I just don’t have the spoons to get out there and be proactive about it! The thought of walking to my nearest park or Peak makes my tired body quiver. My brain can’t bear the pressure of meditating or holding any sort of solid concentration. My nerves are so shot that all they want is soothing but I don’t have the money to go see a film or an exhibition or even to go see friends down the pub.

So what do I do?

 

I read.

 

Yes it is partly a distraction technique. I am lucky enough to be one of those people who can lose herself in a book at remarkable speed; hours will disappear around me, hours that feel like days or weeks or years depending on the story I’m living inside my head, and reading can be a welcome escape when you’re tired and aching and life seems a little much to bear.

I have often wondered whether this truth makes reading as bad as TV or junk food; is it merely escapism, nothing more? Does it prevent me from connecting and living fully by instead allowing me to sink into a world that is not my own?

 

I don’t think so. In fact, this very morning I decided to let myself off the hook and put that criticism to bed forever. Because it occurred to me that the beauty of books is that they are immersing you in a world that might not be exactly your own but will (in some ways) be modeled upon it. As products of a human mind and soul books are expressions of our lived experience; even the most fantastical of novels with the most outrageous of characters will echo our societies, our relationships, our truths. Books take us on journeys in our mind just as our feet take us on journeys in the great outdoors and the experiences we have within both environments offer us countless opportunities to explore and experience and expand our heart and soul.

 

I imagine everyone will find different authors and different genres that do this for them; just as some prefer to walk in a park whilst others seek windy clifftops above the beach.

At University I was briefly introduced to some French female authors, a couple of whom have stayed with me for many years. Marguerite Duras was the first and the floating lyricism of her language is enough to lull me into peaceful sleep if I am not careful. The other is Anna Gavalda who is decidedly more grounded and (for me) more inspirational.

Gavalda’s books are all about human connections, meetings, relations. What makes them so evocative and inspiring for me is the stripped back nature of her words in direct contrast to the rich and sometimes unexpected meanderings of her characters. She often writes conversations without any ‘he said’ ‘she said’,  just the words in scripts or lists, as they would come from the mouth of any real person. But she will also spend pages giving extensive commentary on the seemingly random thought processes that our hero or heroine flits through as he/she walks down the street. Her characters are often dealing with happenings that are not hugely dramatic (on the outside) but that stir a tumult of memories and feelings and healing within each unique person’s heart.

I’m currently reading Hunting and Gathering (for the second time) and I would heartily recommend it; particularly to anyone who (like me at the moment) wants desperately to feel and to be connected but just can’t summon the energy to risk it in the big wide world. Yes it serves those usual escapist joys; sending me out there to a different land, experiencing new places, new people and new adventures. But I also find that my heart has opened, that I can breathe a little easier and can feel a little more, thanks to the introspection and honesty of her characters. The beautiful way she paints the ordinary has the same healing effect as the green currently painting the landscape; it inspires new life, new energy and an encouraging desire to find one’s place in it all.

 

And that is very much what my life and what the ethos of Walk The Wheel is all about.

 

What are you reading at the moment? Do books lift your spirit? If so, which?

* I spoke about this in my last post. You can also see another wonderfully articulate explanation of a very similar feeling here at Nimue Brown’s blog, Druid Life.

 

Want It All

I’m trying really hard to come up with something meaningful and interesting for you to read.

The Wheel is turning wonderfully, the Land is greening all around us and the days are longer, sunnier and offering up more opportunities for both adventure and repose. Things are growing, gaining momentum and as the energy builds so does the excitement; as demonstrated by the almost endless birdsong that now wakes me in the morning.

I have any number of beauties I could describe to you here; to marvel at and count as blessings to be grateful for. In this bright Spring season I simply can not deny my good fortune… no matter how hard I try.

 

It is hard sometimes to be happy. To always see the beauty and the blessings in things. It seems to take an enormous amount of energy and attention and vulnerability. For the acknowledgement of one wonder leads irrevocably to another and another until suddenly you realise that you can never, will never, be able to know or appreciate or achieve all the wonders that are possible in this wonder-full World.

And there is a sadness in that.

A sadness we don’t talk about and are often encouraged to ignore. To bury deep and hide away or to gloss over with fake smiles and empty words.

Is it a sadness born of greed perhaps; a consumerist inability to settle, to always want more. I am living proof that it doesn’t have to be flash cars or fashionable clothes that you covet, in order to swim in that strange sea of desperation and endless desire. I long for sunsets and sea breezes, vast moorland vistas and the Spring breeze on my skin at all times. I constantly crave the deep connection to earth, sky and sea that I feel when I am in the midst of a long walk, a quiet meditation or a vibrant woodland. I want to feel that full, that aware, that whole all the time.

But I don’t. And there are times when I wonder whether it might not have been easier to never see the World through well-jaded eyes. To have avoided the Wheel and the wonders altogether and found my buzz in television or chocolate or meaningless sex instead; all things I can access with (relative) ease and at a moment’s notice.

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For it strikes without warning this unusual apathy, this longing for less and more simultaneously, and I’ll be honest I’ve yet to discover a reliable cure. It often feels a bit like a systems crash; too many programs loaded in at once (joy, love, gratitude, hope, dreaming) overwhelming the hardware and leaving me with a strange blankness in my head.

Because anything I do or say or think in those moments simply isn’t enough. Can’t be enough. Because it can’t be everything.

So here I am, trying to think of something to say to you.

 

Perhaps…

 

Perhaps the sadness isn’t really sadness at all: perhaps it is actually peace. A peace born of the acceptance of one’s place in the Web of all things. One tiny spark of life amongst so many others, that shines brightly in the light but is a truly cosmic beauty when viewed as part of the greater, grander whole. To be a part of it one can never step out of it, not even to see and marvel at the wonder of it all; so I will never truly experience it fully. Instead I remain steadfast and explore the beauties that are unique to me and try not to mourn those which are not. Perhaps I can appreciate those and trust that they are – in their own way – microcosms of the awesomeness that is everything.

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This awesomeness.

And though everything can not be mine to possess I can claim it as my heritage, my lineage, my reality. Things which will last far longer than the biggest chocolate bar and will bring more comfort than the most mind-blowing sex. And when I recall this, remember this and truly believe it then I perhaps I won’t need anything more than what I already have. For even in my blankest moments I’ll know I am whole, connected, part of It All.

And I can be at peace.

 

 

I tried really hard to think of something meaningful and important for you to read. Apparently I’ve ended up with something meaningful and important for me to read.

 

Thanks for sharing it.

 

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Photo credits:
1) spiritualjounreyguide.com
2) nationalgeographic.com
3) http://peoplesadvocacycouncil.wordpress.com

Happy Women’s Day!

A very Happy Women’s Day to all!

In honour of this International event I would like to share with you the thoughts that formed the basis of my introduction to last week’s Honouring Woman event.

Taking place almost directly after Being Woman, Honouring Woman was quite a dramatic shift in energy; going from holding a space for women to quietly and intimately explore and experience their core self, to creating a shared space where ideas, inspirations and thoughts of Woman could meet and interact and in the open. I like to think we pulled it off and that everyone who attended left with some deeper sense of the importance and beauty of Woman.

Both men and women attended the evening event which was a real blessing, ensuring the space remained balanced and grounded. No room to spiral off into conjecture, prejudice or politics, just a safe place to encounter the energy of Woman and consider how it might manifest in all our lives; the question at the heart of it all:

What is Woman?

It is, in its most practical sense, an energy; or rather how the life energy of over half the human population chooses to manifest itself in the World. It is the ishness, the very nature of all women and influences certain traits and states of being that are shared by them all to one degree or another. Woman is cyclical, emotional, nurturing and protective. Woman is half of human history, of human experience…

But Woman is not restricted to women alone.

Woman is a gift we all inherit for we are all of woman born. Whether we have a relationship with our birth mother or not we still receive the gifts of Woman through her. For we all carry within us a set of DNA – mitochondrial DNA – that passes exclusively down the maternal line and this DNA has allowed scientists to trace the lineage of every person in Europe back to just a handful of ancient women. These women are our Ancestral Mothers and we all – male or female – carry a part of them within us. So we are all entitled to know, experience and benifit from the gifts they created, cultivated and gave: the gifts of Woman.

Most obviously these manifest – in both men and women – as aspects or traits of personality or Self. The ability to nurture and rear, the need to create and sustain, the joy of emotion and expression; all are essential elements of Woman and all can be cultivated by anyone who wishes to live them more fully.

Woman is not all sweetness and light. She is often the parts of us that are unpredictable and unreserved; that encourage us to experience life to its fullest.  She can be destructive in her drive to maintain balance and she is the root of all life itself. Woman dives deep into feeling and emotion and is not afraid to express it. Woman trusts instinct and internal wisdom as much as (if not more than) rational logic. Woman works in circles and waves avoiding straight, logical lines; flowing through life, dancing with the ebb and flow of time and mood. Woman is changeable, adaptable and always evolving.

All of us will recognise aspects of Woman within us. But for many it can be difficult to trust or even access them as Woman’s ways are often discouraged in ‘modern’ society; seen as too fractious, too hysterical, too unpredictable. But by holding and cherishing these aspects alongside the masculine energy within us we might discover benefits not just for ourselves but for the World we live in too.

Because Woman is an energy that inspires and empowers us to preserve and protect life.

Many people will be familiar with one of the most poignant manifestations of Woman: Mother Earth. The idea of our Land being inherently female and imbued with Woman energy feels right because it is the Land that holds, grows and supports all the life upon it. From keeping seeds warm in her Winter womb, to the birthing of shoots and grains on her surface, the Earth is Mother to it all. And (as someone rightly pointed out to be at ‘Honouring Woman’) she is not adverse to a little aggression and destruction to maintain the balance and success of all her progeny (who stretch far beyond we humans).

Woman is often more easily accessed through the abstract than through our self as it is rare for us to clearly see our own true facets and depths. Throughout history there have been recorded instances of the Divine Feminine; some cultures even venerating Her over and above any male deity figure. From Mother Mary to Mother Earth, across cultures and pantheons, Woman has been honoured throughout time as a vital, life-giving force with a myriad of lessons to teach us. And I am glad to note that through various movements (Intenrational Women’s day included!) and shifts in interest and perspective interest in Her is gradually returning.

I would encourage anyone interested in exploring Woman energy to look at images of female divinity – Mothers, Goddesses and spiritual leaders – and consider which ones speak to you? What gifts might they offer you? What traits might they encourage you to develop and explore? This can be a reflective process; the first step to recognising how we embody Woman in our own Self (male or female!).

At this time in our human existence, I believe Woman offers ideas, energies and approaches that our World desperately needs, to redress some of the imbalances that exist between all current life on the planet. If Woman’s energy and traits could take their rightful place beside the energy and traits of Man we might return balance to one another and compliment one another to ends that at the moment we can only imagine.

For now let Woman be something we all embrace, celebrate and cultivate in ourselves and in our lives. I have no doubt it will bring inspiration and growth not just to the individual, but to the World as a whole.

*

To end the evening we all took part in a little folk magic to tap into the energy of Woman that had been generated through our sharing. I asked each attendee to bring a length of ribbon and a flower/leaf/natural object.

Taking the ribbon first everyone chose an aspect of Woman energy (e.g: fiercely protective or nurturing or flowing) that they felt was vital to life and concentrated on imbuing the ribbon with that trait. After a few moments we then wove the ribbons onto a red wheel I had created especially for the event. The result was a web of Woman energy and attributes woven strong in the centre of our circle.

Then everyone was invited to take their natural object and think of a woman/group of women/manifestation of Woman that is in need of support and again imbue the object with that person/persons. Finally these items were carefully laid onto the web where they were held and supported by the web we had woven.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Our shrine for Woman

In the final moments when we gave prayers and blessings to the web and all it stood for I was overtaken by the power – delicate but utterly vital – that the web exuded. It felt sorely needed and yet also strong, steady and supportive.

I hope it continues to be such a symbol – for those who attended and everyone else – on this International Women’s Day.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

The Web complete

The Endurance Trap

December may be the most festive time of the year but it is also a test of endurance for many of us. Mental, physical, spiritual; we all struggle to keep our energy up and our spirits high in the face of an endless excess of people, places and expectation.

This year my desire to escape it all has been stronger than usual, yet I’ve still managed to rope myself into an awful lot of socialising, travelling and entertaining. I am grateful for the opportunities to be with loved ones and to be blessed with gifts and food and comfort, but I’m also exhausted just thinking about it!

And that got me thinking about endurance and how the ability to endure has become an expected part of modern living. We’re all being sold on the merits of endurance at every turn: from energy drinks to extreme sports, from personal trainers to parental advice. Last year London was chock full of athletes who all seemed to prove that pushing the body beyond its limits will result in something spectacular and certainly something to be proud of.

 

Yet despite the buzz of the Olympics and my hardy Northern upbringing, my attitude towards endurance remains rather skeptical. I don’t have much of it, to be honest. I’m not a huge fan of physical exertion or discomfort. I like to sleep, I like to eat, I like to sit and ponder and stare out of the window and spend time with my head in the clouds or in a good book. Then I like to sleep a little more. When I’m tired I want to rest. When I’m in pain I want to stop or seek comfort. And I have learned that meeting these needs allows me to be energetic and capable when I’m doing a job or being with people. If I force my body to do without I start to flake.

And it’s not just my mood that suffers, although that can be one of the first things to go. I lose the colour in my cheeks, I lose clarity in my vision and it feels like my body starts to lose its substance. I become light, a little blurred around the edges and although this can be an interesting state to experience (from a purely creative point of view) it makes functioning in the world a real struggle.

Nouwen modern exhaustion

Ever had one of those days…

(credit)

 

Now just writing that I feel a little uncomfortable. A struggle? What do I know about struggle? Talk about a #firstworldproblem! It carries the same guilt as whinging about having a busy holiday season; it makes you sound ungrateful.

But it’s true! Life feels inordinately difficult – physically and emotionally – when I am lacking in my basic needs. And I would like to be honest about it but I don’t feel like this is something I can say out loud. Not to my family, not to my friends. Sometimes not even to the hubby.

 

Why? Because in the past I have been taught (by people and by presumption) that to find life difficult is the norm and to bear it with anything less than a stoic stare and a stiff upper lip is simply unacceptable. We are prompted from an early age to cultivate and practice endurance; to find ways of convincing our bodies and minds to do more and give more than they are capable.

There is of course a precedent for this kind of advice being very useful, if we think back to those Olympic athletes: none of those gold medal winners would have reached their podium without pushing themselves beyond their comfort zones. But there is a difference between breaking out of our comfort zone and breaking past our ability that I think has become blurred.

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This guy knows he’s reached a limit.

(credit)

 

If an Olympic weight lifter decides to endure the strain of lifting a few extra pounds when his or her body is screaming to stop, back off and wait till it is better prepared, then they might severely injure themselves and perhaps scupper their chances of winning gold or ever lifting weights again. So they do what they can and stop when they have reached their absolute limit. Now, we may not all be potential Olympians but our bodies can and do tell us when we are going too far; but because we aren’t lifting weights or moving mountains, just going about our ordinary lives, we assume that the same fail-safes need not apply.

We think it’s okay to work those extra few hours, to miss that evening meal or to go out for that important social engagement despite the fact that we are dripping snot, feeling nauseous and haven’t slept for three days. We endure.

And why do we do it? Because we believe it is expected.

It doesn’t help that we define the act of endurance as follows:

 

ENDURE. (verb)

1) to suffer (something painful or difficult) patiently

(found at OED online)

 

I can understand why those who choose to “suffer patiently” through life must find those of us less inclined to do so to be lacking. We seem to demonstrate no determination or strength and a poor commitment to making it through the battle that is life. Worse than that, we undermine their suffering by proving that there is another way. Their suffrage is often a source of great pride and pomposity for them and comes with the inevitable slogan:

“You just have to get on with it!”

They are often also good people, kind people who don’t actually want to suffer at all but have never considered endurance could mean anything else.

But there is another meaning, which the OED also offers if we keep reading:

 

ENDURE. (verb)

2) remain in existence; last

If life is a struggle then subconsciously we’re probably wanting it over as quickly as possible. But if we are aiming for longevity, to last, then we open ourselves up to the idea that life is actually enjoyable and something we wish to experience as much as we possibly can. To do that we will need endurance but not the kind involving suffering; otherwise we will fall into survival mode and actually experience very little. Instead we endure by nurturing and feeding our body and mind, respecting our needs and limits; thus ensuring we have the resources to survive the tough times and appreciate the good with equal enthusiasm.

This kind of endurance involves far less pain and discomfort but it doesn’t discount them. Rather it encourages us to recognise and acknowledge them as indicators of a need which our body or mind has and is trying to inform us about. An increased knowledge of the delicate balance within each of us allows us to develop and grow our abilities in a safe and sustained way, rather than dashing for the gold and then burning out.

One might argue that being able to listen to and be honest about our needs and then allowing ourselves to act upon them (despite outside pressures and incentives encouraging us to do otherwise) is a brave act itself and shows a stronger personal endurance than simply allowing our life to become a state of endless battle, resistance and struggle.

 

What do you think? A weak excuse? Or an intuitive alternative?

 

Of course we are all capable of both types of endurance, though it is likely that we’ll favour one. I’m hoping to see a shift in society towards the lasting kind that currently comes most naturally to me; to see endurance cultivated as an act of kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others. I don’t pretend to know what affect that would have on other people or our species as whole but I’d like to think it would give us the chance to experience life and those we love more fully and with more energy than our current social and cultural structures allow.

 

It would also be nice to express my need for a nap, out loud, without being called lazy.

I’m not lazy. I’m just in it for the long haul.

 

Cat-Nap-Time-l

Sometimes we all need a cat nap

(credit)

 

Sometimes…

Sometimes I don’t want you to see me.

I have no need to be acknowledged or accepted. I don’t wonder what you might think and I care nothing for what your eyes might say when they scan my face, meet my gaze and react.

Sometimes I have no desire to be noticed.

I don’t need to sparkle or shine, be all smiles and personality. I just want to blend into the background, fade to grey, blur my edges and become one with the chair I’m sitting on.

Sometimes I want you to ignore me.

Bare-faced ignore me so I can feel angry and resentful without finding the reason in myself.

Perhaps you could just gloss over me.

I could be toaster instructions or the guarantee for that new piece of kit that earns a cursory glance to confirm its existence (and makes you feel better in the knowing that it is there) but isn’t actually looked at or seen at all.

Then I can sit in that stolen space, seen but unseen, and exist (for once) without an audience. And the weight of eyes and expectation might just lift a little, little enough for me to breathe, and then maybe I’ll cry or smile or sing a little tune or make a decision that will change everything. Or nothing. Or not.

Sometimes I am so tired of looking at myself that I need to be invisible for a while.

But I can’t do that while you’re looking at me.

Copyright

All written materials and images, unless otherwise stated, are property of Kelly Tomlin 2016.
We gather together to Walk the Wheel; to share with one another and be inspired.