Personal Transformation

I had a conversation recently with a fellow celebrant about why people celebrate the seasons. She felt that as well as honouring the cycles and seasons of the World it was vital to include personal work/transformation within the ceremonies she undertook. To utilise ceremony without the intention to grow and change oneself or the World was – for her – somewhat meaningless. To raise such power and connection and not make use of it in a transformative way was a waste.

I understood where she was coming from and have to admit that most of the seasonal ceremonies I hold include some aspect of personal development work within them; often in the form of a meditation, pathworking or a simple act such as setting goals or intentions. And as readers will know from my Musings, I often expound on how each season can be interpretted as part of our mental/emotional landscape and how we might use the seasonal energies to help ourselves in some way.

I include these aspects because I know they are often expected and because they are a good way of reaching out to the individual in a group setting. Allowing a person the time and space to consider how the season is living within them is an important part of all Walk The Wheel circles and I don’t see myself backing away from these acts of personal transformation anytime soon.

 

That being said, when I work individually – connecting and celebrating the seasons with just myself and the World – I find this self-help aspect a little uncomfortable. In fact, sometimes, it feels downright wrong. This has a lot to do with my relationship with Flow and my desire to trust more. I have never considered myself fatalistic and yet in recent years I have come to honestly believe that the World knows and offers what is best for me and that I am better off working on trusting that and following my intuition than trying to mould and shape myself into a specific shape or way as I see fit.

This trusting is very difficult and can be interpretted as ignorance, laziness or a refusal to accept responsibility for oneself. And perhaps for some people a ritual or ceremony conducted without a transformational intent is just that. I’m not sure I agree.

 

I firmly believe that celebrating for the sheer joy and pleasure of celebrating is enough! More than enough in fact it is vital; as a way of reconnecting to the Land and the Web of Life that we are all of us on this planet a part of. Through celebration we acknowledge our place in the cycles that balance and control all Life which in turn encourages us to be more aware and live more mindfully.

My favourite part of a Walk The Wheel circle is often near the very start, when people share aspects of the season that they have noticed over the previous week. These insights are always so personal and yet so totally universal that they create connection and unity without any real effortbeing undertaken. And perhaps that is where why I don’t relish as much the transformational work that comes towards the end; because in order for it to be truly effective we must draw into ourselves and away from the others in the group. This is not what I’m looking for when taking part in group celebration or ceremony.

 

But why then do I avoid transformational work when I celebrate alone and don’t have to worry about drawing away from other people? Well for starters I don’t like the idea of drawing away from the World in order to find or fix something inside myself. When I am celebrating I am always trying to be with Life, as it is in each exact moment. This, for me, is the easiest way to celebrate and far more important than changing myself or even trying to change the World.

I trust that the World has the power and knowledge it needs to grow and develop as necessary and I dare to believe that my Spirit and my Self can and will do the same thing if I give them the chance. I feed them and encourage them to do so by deepening my connection to Life and its power and its knowledge and I do this through honouring and celebration; anything else feels a little too close to ego and a little too much like trying to control the Flow.

 

That said I know that we all have our own needs and wants and ways and I am in no way trying to claim that my way is right and that my fellow celebrant was wrong. We are doubtless all right and all working towards the same end, just using slightly different lexicons and slightly different maps. In fact I am grateful to her for sharing her needs and opinions because they have helped me to clarify my own.

 

Personal Transformation

There is magic in every moment, in every being, in every thing.
By choosing to celebrate this magic I hope to draw some of its power and potency into my life.

What Life then does with that power I do not try to control.
I trust that by loving and celebrating and honouring I will change and grow.

Silently, inevitably;
Like rivers and mountains and tall trees.

Transformation is not something that happens because of me, but in spite of me.

My role is to allow it, accept it and explore it with curiosity and trust.

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In The Air

The weather has been all over the place today, dashing from one type to the next, reminding itself of all the variations it can (and will have to) manage in the months ahead. There was warm sunshine brushing my skin in butter-yellow, followed by a sharp winter breeze dragging storm clouds in its wake. Their raindrop cargo fell in fast fits and sudden starts making the asphalt glisten in the returning sunshine. The glare was blinding and the grey sky smudged with the remnants of an almost rainbow.

I'd almost forgotten what a rainbow looked like.


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(credit)

As small as it was, that rainbow looked how the world smells right now: like life, like action, like…

Wet woodland and shivering green grass after a sudden sunshine-y shower.

My feet treading bare and brave on the green earth, hands pressed against 
bark that is mossy and damp as it crumbles beneath my fingers.

Days lounging on the hard ground, head pillowed on blankets or a human knee, discussing ritual and magic and why we're all here in the first place.

Standing in circle, seeing friends and fellows and fairy magic gathered all 
around us in certain celebration.

It smells of the tent and the sun-hot shadows it cast over us as we slept,
exhausted and exulted and Summer under our belts.

Of walking, of movement, of taking steps along a path that might
not be visible on the map but that stretches strong and sure on the map of my 
soul.

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Image by lord-hellbunny @ deviantart.com

When I first began walking the Wheel I would never have guessed that my nose would be the thing to tell me when the season had truly turned, but gradually I have come to trust my olfactory sense more than any other.

I tend not to expect any true changes in energy or experience until my nose tickles with the scent of the new season. Only then do I allow myself to start feeling the excitement and pleasure that comes from feeling the turn of this timeless cycle. And only then will I start to take steps into that new season; moving myself forward instead of just dreaming and planning for what might be.

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(credit)


Right now, the world smells of Spring and so many wonderful days and wonderful things I’ve experienced and found that I am bursting with anticipation for more.

But I won’t let its succulent scent weave a spell of forgetfulness over me. I want to live the Spring of here and now, appreciating it and enjoying it in this moment, not losing myself in scents of the future or snifters of the past.

Outside four walls
I walk swift and sure and scent Spring on a Winter breeze.
It reminds me that life is so much more than all this.
That work is hard but that life, 
life is free.


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(credit)

Hands

My hands have always been a good indicator of my general well being. When I’m tired or low on energy they tend to dry out, the cuticles fray and even the bones start to ache a little. This could be genetic (arthritis is rife in my family) or it could simply be because my hands also act as a barometer for my mood.

When I am tense, my hands curl into fists, becoming solid lumps that hang from the end of my arms, weighing me down, unnoticed for hours with the joints often creaking in protest.

When I am anxious or worried they curl and uncurl, slowly, the fingers rubbing and writhing like restless serpents or affectionate cats. If I become nervous, or skirt the border of panic then those cats grow teeth which they turn on my poor nails and cuticles.

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Sometimes my hands can tell you my mood better than I can.

Years ago, at University, I would pick and peel my fingernails and tips till they were raw and bloody. I would wear plasters for weeks to cover the damage or eventually as a precautionary measure if I knew that something stressful was coming up; those plasters were shields not against germs but against my own anxiety.

Thankfully I kicked that habit a while ago and it’s been a long time since my fingertips have been stained red. But they are still the part of me that suffers first and most when I’m feeling in any way threatened or under pressure.

My hands also reflect the good times in my life. I gesture frantically when I’m talking about things that make me passionate, so to see my hands in motion, fluid and frantic in front of me, is a sign that I am engaged and enthused by life in that moment.

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Hands as a symbol of commitment. Photo by Alice Roskams

My nails have never been as healthy and strong as they were in the weeks around my wedding and on the day we were married I bound my hand to my husband’s as a promise and a commitment. Now my hands are dressed with the symbols of that commitment (my wedding and engagement rings) and if you ever see me with nail polish on then I must be up to something exciting because, dammit, I’m too lazy to wear it otherwise!

For years I have hidden these hands or tried to forgot about them. They were not a part of me I particularly liked or appreciated because they have always appeared older than I actually am. The skin was never clear and smooth, the fingers not tapered or graceful. There is age in these hands, a feeling of time that I can not escape. Sometimes I think I have ‘Old Hands’ instead of (or as well as?) an ‘Old Soul’.

I inherited these hands from my mother and my maternal grandmother. I see both of them clearly in the shortness of the bones, the wrinkles in the skin and the knuckles that are freckle-covered and carry an unexpected strength within them. My hands are not delicate or graceful, never have been; they are working hands and they serve to remind me that life is often a struggle but that I have the means to survive it all here, waiting, at the end of my (conversely) thin wrists.

I am tied to history by these hands, family history, the good and the bad. I see the skin crack and dry and I fear that I will live out old patterns, suffer the same problems, fulfill unwanted fates. I worry that these hands are signs of all I cannot escape. But then I remember how soft my Grandmother’s hands felt when I was a child and how pretty my nails looked on my wedding day and I realise that these hands do not bind me to anything (except my husband, by choice and choice alone). They offer change and a means to create that is shaped by the strength and determination of my ancestors, but that reveals itself in swirling gestures and shapes as intricate and unique as I am.

 

“If you ever need a helping hand you’ll find one at the end of your arm.”
Yiddish Proverb

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The hands in question. Photo by Jon Rouston

Which parts of yourself speak loudest to you? Do you have features that connect you to your family or ancestors?

“Back to life, back to reality…”

Song quote from Soul II Soul, Back To Life (However do you want me)

It always comes with a bump, the return to ‘reality’ after the suspended animation of Solstice/Christmas/New Year. My festive season stretches out to 3 weeks, to incorporate all three, which is the better part of a month and quite frankly far too long for me to be living on the cocktail of excitement and anxiety that it brews in me. My nerves feel shot and I’m craving crap food and fresh water in equal measure. I’d also like to sleep for the better part of this month to properly recover my senses… but no such luck. I was back to work on the 2nd, dealing with crabby customers by the 3rd and it has quickly become apparent that despite last weeks festive cheer we are all now suffering from festive withdrawal.

What frustrates me the most is that we have no choice but to accept this sorry state of affairs; to strap on a smile, pick up our feet and plunge back into life, pressing ourselves into the same mundane cycle that we have been working so hard to escape these past few weeks. I feel like an escaped convict returned to her cell, breathless and desperate. The proverbial stuffing being forced and cajoled to fit myself inside the turkey’s arse.

I know I’m not the only one; thousands if not millions of us will have felt the same way over the past couple of days or will (if you’re lucky) have that joy waiting for you on Monday. This is not some sort of childish pity party I’m attempting to throw. I simply want to shed light on the fact that I (and so many others) am being forced to suppress my needs – physical, emotional, spiritual – not for my own good, not for survival, but in the pursuit of something I can’t eat, can’t drink, can’t breathe and that doesn’t give me warmth or shelter or love.

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My Mum swore by these when she was giving up cigarettes

If I had a New Years wish I would be able to give up Money as part of my New Years resolutions. It would be a dirty habit that I could kick given some perseverance and a jumbo packet of Fisherman’s Friends. Then I would be free to rest my weary brain, relax these strained muscles and allow myself and my home to recover from the December madness and make way for the possibilities of the year ahead.

Instead I have already started selling my time and my mood to people I’ve never met in the hopes that I can scavenge together enough pennies to keep myself in food, water and warmth – things we are told are part of our basic human rights.

I didn’t think I’d be starting 2014 in such a grouchy mood but the sky was grey this morning, my nose was cold and my hubby far too warm and cosy to leave on the train when we reached my stop. For a while I did feel like a petulant child, one who hoped that enough ranting would get her what she wants, even if that is a new version of reality. Perhaps I spent a little too much time with my 18month old niece these past few days? Or perhaps I’ve been listening to too much 90s pop? Either way I am here, there’s a whole year ahead of me and I’ve got 363 days to kick these withdrawal symptoms.

“Back to life back to the day we have
lets end this foolish game
hear me out don’t let me waste away…

… back to life back to reality
back to the here and now yeah”

(lyrics)

***

If you would like a more uplifting New Years read I can heartily suggest checking out the wonderful Janie Rose at Beeswax and Broomsticks. This post is a heartfelt and uplifting call to shine in the year ahead.

The greatest gift of all…

Tomorrow is the Solstice and I find myself sitting here shaking my head, utterly disbelieving that we’ve reached Midwinter already. The last month has flown by and suddenly I’m faced with a solid fortnight of visits and celebrations, people and presents that I have (in all honesty) been somewhat dreading. Not because of the people or the absolute joy and blessing it is to spend time with those I love, but for all the extra reasons to expend energy I don’t have and the struggle to somehow maintain a sense of Spirit amidst all the tinsel and turkey and talk.

It can be hard at the best of times to find opportunities for quiet reflection and deep thought. When playing host to friends or being a house-guest for others it becomes almost impossible. So I find myself staring through the darkness towards Solstice day and worrying that despite all my talk of taking notice and walking the Wheel I might not be able to fully appreciate this still moment in the year.

Now, starting the new year feeling disappointed in myself does not sound particularly appealing. But nor does the prospect of barreling into 2014 without taking some time to assimilate and rest; I can’t fully explain why but it feels important to do so, this year more than in years passed.

It has been a year of growth and change of new titles and new connections that all need some settling. And as I said before my energy levels are depleted and need a chance to refresh. More than that though it feels like I need some time in a dark and undetermined space to dream the dreams that will somehow shape my upcoming year. I feel a little lost at the moment; but not the fun kind of lost where you have a compass and daylight and a sense of adventure. More that heavy, sinking feeling when the compass is broken and you are surrounded by mist, unsure whether your next step will touch land at all.

I am desperate for some dream time and some dream food to feed it. I want to let my mind wander and my heart sing, to be soft and silent and still…

Instead – in the coming days -I will become some desperate, demented diva who skirts the edge of over-controlled madness and a rather messy nervous breakdown. She’s the one who writes lists, makes schedules and loses sleep over room plans. She so desperately wants to ensure that everyone has a great time, is happy and well fed and has all their needs met that she blocks out her own. An impossible task you might say, but this crazy lady doesn’t let such paltry things as possibility hold her back. She’ll dance in circles and jump through hoops and try her hardest (and then some) to be everything everyone wants or needs her to be.

But the Solstice is a time for the Self at its most stark, most bare. The land – if we dare to look – is revealed in its most basic forms: stone, wood, water, warmth and brutal cold. The trees silhouette against crisp winter skies and we breath air honed to a knife-edge and know that Death is clean and close; and that Life feels all the more vital and vibrant because of it.

In the face of such clarity we shouldn’t be spending energy on making mockeries of ourselves. That energy can be used to nurture the seed in our soul that carries our truest thoughts and deepest desires. In the winter darkness our simplest, most basic truths can be unearthed and the beauty of our unique self can be revealed if we let them. Right now we should be focusing on who we are regardless of the expectations, others’ or our own. Only then might we see where our dreams truly want to take us.

So perhaps this Solstice, instead of wishing for silence, stillness and solitude in my environment, I can cultivate them within me. I’ll carry them inside myself, to all my encounters and allow them to feed my soul with the energy of the season. And knowing that they are there, held safe within, I will wrap the seed of my Self in winter darkness and sit with it through a long night, trying to trust that even though my attention might not always be with it, that seed will will stir, it will absorb. Finally I will take a (fallen) leaf from the deciduous trees that stand so bare and so beautiful at this time of year and dare to expose my bare self to those around me. I’ll let them see the delicate connections, the startling similarities and the determined differences that make up my snowflake Self and allow them to meet me without the ditzy diva causing distractions.

Perhaps this is the best gift I could offer anyone this Solstice.

I only hope it is well received.

***

This will likely be the last post of 2013, so to everyone who has read or followed this blog over the past month: Thank you! I hope you have a merry festive season and look forward to walking the Wheel with you in the New Year. 

Be blessed 🙂

UPCOMING POSTS IN 2014:

* Why I Walk The Wheel... – How following the Wheel of the Year has impacted on my life for the better

* How I Walk The Wheel – Looking at the core practices behind my Wheel walking

* Small StonesWriting Our Way Home is running a Mindful Writing Challenge throughout Jan 2014; see my input here

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.

Enough

I’m sitting here, staring out of my brightly lit concrete box (aka. the office) at a cool, blue sky. The night is drawing in fast and a procession of dark clouds are marching along the horizon. And perched just above them – like a mascot of sorts – is the New Moon; brand new in fact as the Dark Moon or no Moon* was only yesterday.

It’s not often I get a glimpse of the New Moon so soon after the Dark, but when I do it always steals my breath with its beauty. Such a thin sliver of light is carved out of the sky and it always brings to mind the sharpness of steel and the sound of ringing metal. The curve is more pronounced than usual; for that is all it really is, a delicate shining curve that grows brighter and stronger as all around succumbs to darkness.Image

It is a simple beauty, but a striking one. And tonight it brought a single thought to mind:

“Just enough.”

This New Moon gives just enough to satisfy the need for light and beauty without being excessive or overwhelming (as the Full Moon can be). Its flavour isn’t rich, it is tart and tempting. It offers a tantalising glimpse of the richness and fullness ahead, in the months to come, if we commit to looking for it. It is a delicate spark that can fire the heart to feel great love, great awe and great joy if we are willing to tend the flame.

In our world, we are often encouraged to be ‘more’. To try harder, to do better, to surpass expectations and to give more of ourselves than is asked. For creative people it is considered gospel that in order to be worth noticing we have to bear ourselves, fully and without reservation; we must be open to anything and everything, all the time. The people who do so are the ones most likely to succeed, to be chosen or praised, the ones who will shine.

I’m wondering tonight if the New Moon might have a different message for us: that, actually, as long as we are being true to ourselves and our nature we don’t always have to strive to be more than we already are. Sometimes – particularly on cold, dark nights – it is plenty to offer just a slice of ourselves and to keep the rest hidden in darkness, for another time perhaps, or simply for our own pleasure.

And that slice will be just as beautiful, will shine just as brightly as any other.

Because sometimes it’s okay to be just enough.

* The term Dark Moon refers to the time when no Moon can be seen in the sky, a period that might last anything from 1-3 days. Although lunar calendars often only include three stages in the Moon’s cycle – Waxing, Waning and New, with New encompassing both the time of no Moon and the first sighting of the new crescent – it has become popular in some circles to refer to the Dark Moon as its own phase, leaving the term New Moon to refer to the new crescent only. See this short page for more.

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.