Unbecoming everything you thought you were

What if the journey of life wasn’t about becoming anything. What if the real path is actually unearthing and then unbecoming everything that isn’t really you? What if the true course was to unravel so we could be who we were meant to be in the first place?

It’s a beautiful and awe-some thought isn’t it? Do you feel it too? It’s so compelling.

Last week I had a short psychic message offered to me, in which the reader interpreted an image that didn’t feel quite right. When we investigated further he said he’d seen a rope fraying or unravelling. We agreed, that while it could very well mean I was mentally unravelling, which is highly probable given where my head is at right now, we were comfortable (and relieved) it was something different. It was, we discovered, about unravelling from old, long-held behaviours, beliefs and routines that had defined me for much of my life. Beliefs, behaviours and actions that I had allowed to define me based on expectations of others, circumstances I was in, and roles I had held. The image of the unravelling rope was about letting go, loosening up and unbinding.

There was a deep realisation that we’d hit on the truth of what was happening for me. There came not only a realisation but a joy in the freedom and liberation this new stage of my life held for me. There was also a respectful gratitude for the possibilities and a cautious excitement at what I might find once the unravelling was done.

Then, quite randomly, several days later I came across the quote above and the synergy of the two fit perfectly, like a hand and glove and I so wanted to share my rambling thoughts with you.

The beauty in the symbolism and essence of these two signs have captivated me. I wonder if they speak to you too.

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She aches and yet she heals

The most we can do is write – intelligently, creatively, critically, evocatively – about what it is like living in the world at this time.  Oliver Sacks

She aches and yet she heals

A warm bath
Frothing
Bubbles gently exploding
around her tense form
Soothing taught muscles

Honeyed chai
fragrant and sweet
Soothing the inner aches

Billy Hayes, Insomniac City
Propped above
Bringing tears
The exquisite love expressed
wrenches at her anguished heart

Tracy Chapman
Mellifluous, softening the harsh silence
Filling the empty spaces
gently softening the edges of pain

She needs no more
Right now
She is whole
She is complete
She aches and yet she heals
She will not be undone

When reality challenges image — how do you present to the world?

“I was like a chocolate in a box, looking well behaved and perfect in place, all the while harboring a secret center.” ― Deb Caletti, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart

“I am looking for the one I can’t fool.” ― Kamand Kojouri

How we are and how we are perceived often differ. There are many reasons for this, but the striking truth is that image and reality are often skewed

I have written before of the labels we place on ourselves and those others bestow upon us. This idea of image versus reality arose again in my conversations and thoughts and has me asking a few questions.

A friend and I struck upon a shared observation recently, that we’d met people who (and this is not limited to this field mind you) label themselves as spiritual and dress the part. We observed the wearing of certain adornments, clothing of a particular style, adopting coiffed dreadlocks or making radical statements by being unwashed or going unshod in public.  This attire and this façade of course have nothing to do with the level of spirituality one possesses but I wonder if it has more to do with aligning oneself where and how one wants to be perceived.

Let me explain.  For many years I have marvelled at the disparate views people hold of me compared to my own view of myself. Yes, yes, I know we judge ourselves harshly but that’s not what I am talking about here. Mostly everyone I come into contact with draws the conclusion that I am quite prim and prissy (yes, it’s a burden). Once they get to know me they can’t quite match my potty mouth and my beliefs with the external presentation.  I’ve never understood it, I don’t see the disparity.  People have repeated things like:

“I can’t believe you can say that word and get away with it.  It seems so unexpected coming from you. If it was me people would expect that language and be offended.”
or
“I would never have thought someone like you would have a faith.”
or
“Really, you have crystals and signing bowls?” (If only they knew the half of it.)

I’ve never understood it. I’ve looked but can’t see the elegance and poise I hear described.  Now, I certainly dress in a particular way to go to work that is far different to how I choose to dress at home.  But even in social settings people have shared the same opinions.  I don’t see the façade they do. I feel the inner messiness is clearly reflected externally.

So, back to our friend with the dreadlocks presenting as a deeply spiritual, connected person, and hey, maybe he is, who am I to judge?  Apart from personal choice and comfort, on some level the projection is a façade.  A costume. A symbol.  Yet, look around the room at the grandmother in her twin set and pearl earrings and that big dude dressed all in black with the tattoos they are not projecting an image that screams “I’m spiritual” but they’re both highly skilled channels and mediums and have a deeper grasp on universal and metaphysical truths than most.

As I ponder these scenarios the questions rise.

Why do others interpret our image in particular ways? 
I guess that’s conditioning. Labelling seems a natural human tendency. The need to pigeon-hole creates a level of certainty and comfort. Certainly, some of us adorn ourselves in ways that help others identify us how we want to be identified rather than misreading us and forming beliefs about us that don’t align to who or what we are. In both of these situations we draw upon some very strong and often unconscious archetypal symbols here.

Why do we/ how can we believe one thing to be true of ourselves, yet others see us in a totally different light?

This one stumped me for a bit then two more questions dropped in and I suddenly realised something I hadn’t before.

Do we create an image to reflect who we are? Or do we create an image to protect who we are?
And there it was. I have done the latter. My wise friend’s words came flooding back – he was curious about how I present to the world and what lay beneath the surface.  He touched on things being undiscovered and undisclosed.  I realise I have made an unconscious effort, from a very early age, to project a certain image to the world to protect myself, believing and knowing on some level others wouldn’t understand the truth of me.

It’s a curious and interesting concept to ponder and one we should all be aware of.  There is so much more to a person than their external image. We know that and often forget. Reality often challenges image. In your meeting of people remember the iceberg effect —the little bit we see does not adequately reflect all that is under the surface. Similarly, is the little bit you reveal reflecting what you want the world to know of you?

 

 

Drawing from the moon ― two rituals to get you back to flow

“The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished.”
― Ming-Dao Deng  

Getting in tune with the moon is a long forgotten ritual often relegated to the strange ceremonies of pagans or ‘weird spiritual’ people. Judge not too soon, I beseech you. Being aware of the phases of the moon and how they can help us get in tune with ourselves is a lovely ritual to begin or re-establish. No, it doesn’t require you to bathe naked in the moonlight though, as I’ve said before, you are welcome to if you please. I understand it’s quite lovely. Being a little body image shy I prefer a more subtle approach.

Reading about upcoming phases of the moon and lunar events can reap rewards for even the most practical minded people. Often significant moon phases pose an opportunity to focus on an area of life you’d like to clear, enhance or move into. These special times are prime opportunities to set new goals with no special props required, no incense, no crystals, all that is necessary is to create a space to contemplate or write your new plan/path.

Two rituals I have used in the past include meditating on the moon and treasure mapping, sometimes known as vision boarding.

The meditation requires you to look at the moon and meditate to relax the mind. You can focus on your breath. If you can’t go outside or the moon is clouded in, see yourself bathed in silvery white light. In the mediation you can plant the seeds of intention by focusing on one or two key things. When you feel ready to end your meditation it is nice to complete the ritual with a small ‘thank you’, ‘amen’, ‘this or something better’. Put your trust in the universe and see how things unwind.

To create a treasure map during celestial events is a fulfilling experience also. You’ll need a piece of cardboard or a scrap-book, some old magazines, scissors and glue. Center yourself before you begin, flip through the magazines and identify images and words that stand out for you or that represent what you want to see I your life. Don’t think, just feel what’s right. Format your images and words on your cardboard or scrap-book page so they appeal to you, glue them in and you have a nice visual representation of your goal. Again, I like to round out this exercise with some words such as ‘Blessed be’, ‘so it is’, ‘thank you’ or ‘amen’.

Last month, on January 31, we were privileged to experience a rare event with the rising of an exceptionally rare ‘super blue blood moon’ that hasn’t been seen in the Western Hemisphere since 1866.

The energy from the moon was amplified. Full moons always make me jittery, emotional and sensitive whereas a new moon is soothing to me. So this moon was a cracker involving three lunar events, each significant on their own, but combined are truly remarkable. A super, blue, blood moon.

A super moon occurs when the moon is closest to Earth in its orbit  and appears 14 per cent larger and 30 per cent brighter and it is so pretty. While the moon doesn’t actually change colour and become blue, a blue moon refers to the second full moon in a month. Then we have the eclipse which marks the moon’s movement into Earth’s shadow. It is referred to as a blood moon because of it’s rusty colour during the transition.

Moon events like this one are rare but any of the phases of the moon offer a lovely time to take advantage of this gift from nature. If you don’t believe in the idea of moon rituals, simply stepping outside and appreciating that beautiful glowing orb in the night sky can raise the spirits.

Wherever you live you can readily access a list of new and full and eclipses for the year ahead. Try Moonmessages.com

A year of inspiration. Inspired by Yasmin Boland

Inspired by ritual – setting an intention that welcomes mystery and wonder

Inspired – Of external quality, as if arising from some external impulse.

Inspired. That’s my word for the year. It came to me on a hike across the top of the Blue Mountains on New Year’s Day.

Selecting a word of intention, of direction, guidance or positivity as a focus was once an annual ritual of mine. I can’t remember when I let the habit slip. Perhaps it was several years ago that I selected a word and it trickled through my fingers like sand and was forgotten. Thanks to my friend Gay, from Create, I was reminded of this lovely New Year ritual and was overjoyed when the word came to me while out in the Australian bush.

With the beating sun upon me, cicadas chirruping above and the open track ahead, I mulled over possible words. Productive came to mind instantly. I pondered, “would I set myself up for more of the same? Could the intention here see me manic and stressed, as I had been in 2017, refusing to rest?” It didn’t feel quite right. Purposeful rose up as a butterfly hovered across my path. That’s a good word. I have always wanted to live a life of purpose and authenticity. Grace, I’d selected before. Ease rated a mention. To glide through life with a sense of ease would be delightful. Words alighted momentarily, like the butterflies, then flittered away. I was not perturbed. I walked on, the intention still in mind.

Then it came to me – inspired. This year my intention is to be inspired. This word is a guiding light, it will help me navigate the way forward even in the heaviest fog. After a hiatus; a time of feeling adrift, bored, directionless. A time of isolation and limited social contact I felt a new energy and desire to move on. Inspired is perfect for me now. After many years of being goal driven and focused the last several years have seen me beached. I’ve found it hard to identify the niggling need inside me, I’ve found it hard to know what direction to take, what action to fill the gaping hole, how to satisfy a tormented mind and itchy fingers. I’ve been on the edges of a terrifying chasm and longed to step back but wasn’t sure how.

The lack of ritual tore the chasm wider. Routine helped a little but too much structure only made me more rigid. Something was missing. There was no mystery or magic. No celebration of belief or faith. Selecting a word for the year is a step away from the edge and a return to myself. It’s also trusting the universe, a higher power.

Establishing this word for the year ritual allows me to drop the resolutions, the need to create lists I won’t refer to and the anxiety from not ticking things off the list. A single word sets a positive intention. It encapsulates how I want to feel and what I want to experience in the year ahead.

There is no one way to choose a word. I let mine float up on it’s own. I will either meditate or go for a walk with the question – ‘what might my word for the year be?’ You might make a list or do a search for positive words or adjectives, find a theme or link among the words and then identify one word that sums up a particular theme. You might spend several days simply noticing what words stand out as you go about your daily tasks. Thoughts about how you want to feel or not feel can help. Sometimes the way we don’t want to feel is a good pointer to identifying our true north. For instance, if you keep feeling bored perhaps your word might be inspired or capable or inventive. Look at the goals you want to achieve. How would you sum them up – aligned, bountiful, complete?

I am keen to see where this year’s word and all it’s connotations take me. I am excited to see where inspiration arises and the form it will take. Do you select a word for the year to live by, to focus on, to lean on? Do you have an alternate ritual that acts as a compass to steer you toward the mystery and magic of life?

 

A year of inspiration. Inspired by Gay Landetta, 

Finding your true north in a crowded world

Ritual is the passage way of the soul into the infinite.   Algernon Blackwood

In our society many of the old rituals have lost much of their power. New ones have not yet arisen.    R.D. Laing

Each year it’s the same. The new year rolls around and the tabloids and media are brimming with the latest trends, top ten things to help you get fit, be happier, smarter, more likeable. What we really need is less input. What we really need is less information, fewer overwhelming statistics, fewer fads to follow, superfoods to eat or workouts to try. What we really need is some simple rituals.

Rituals? I don’t mean dancing around naked under a full moon. Though you could if you were inclined. I refer to small practices that hold meaning for us. Small truths we can return to daily, weekly or when needed to replenish us. Practices or customs that allow us to step away from the constant focus on the physical and material. Everyday rituals act as compass points that bring us back to ourselves, not our personas as mother, executive, fitness fanatic. But truths that help us shrug off all the labels and hats we wear and remind us of who we are under the layers of societal silt. Small, everyday rituals allow us to settle into our skin and know who we are.

I have written before about the void a lack of religion has created in our daily lives. Many of us would not recognise or admit this. But I believe the constant seeking, looking for more, trying to have more, be more, do more is a result of a shift in our society away from community, ritual and ceremony. If you aren’t particularly interested in returning to dogma inspired worship you can enrich life with some everyday rituals.

Ritual is not to be confused with routine. We have routines that help stave off chaos: we rise and eat breakfast at the same time each day, we catch the bus from the nearest bus stop, and we go to the gym or yoga on certain days of the week. Routines keep us on track and make us feel in control. Routines provide structure and order and allow everything to run like clockwork. Routine is good; it reduces decision-making and ensures things get done. It can also strangle and constrain. Rituals, while also offering a stabilising anchor in the craziness of an overcrowded life, are gentler, less rigid and bring a sense of mystery and, dare I say, magic to life.

Ritual strengthens me spiritually. You may prefer to think of ritual as providing a sense of belonging and stabilisation. Ritual brings the beauty of life back into focus. Ritual reconnects us with the natural world, the inner world and rewards us in ways status, money and the latest HIIT workout cannot. In essence, ritual provides time out from daily routine, it helps us re-evaluate our path and provides us with ways to author our own lives.

Certainly some rituals may become habits and thus thought of as routines but the distinction is always there. Rising early to watch the sunrise could become a habit but the ritual comes from being present and enjoying the sights, sounds and the emotion of the moment. Soaking in a bubble bath each Friday could become a routine but the ritual comes with the intention for the week’s worries and stress to recede as the bubbles pop. Other everyday rituals might include investing in our loved ones by setting the table, serving a meal without television, phones or distractions but a focus on conversation and listening. Lighting a candle on the anniversary of a loved one’s passing. These small practices enrich us.

Like many, I suffer when my inner world is ignored. I love tarot, astrology and psychic stuff. I am also a realist. I work in the mainstream, need to address people in a range of settings so I understand and respect conventional societal norms and boundaries. I don’t have the luxury of casting off and living atop a mountain to brew my potions and commune with the elements daily, though I am invested in developing spiritually because it makes me whole points me toward my true north. With this in mind I’ll share a couple of rituals I have been practicing in the following posts that aren’t too ‘woo woo’ or freaky that help create balance in a crowded, information driven world.  Do you have some you could share?

A year of inspiration. Inspired by: Sunday Telegraph January 7, 2018

Scaling new heights in Rome

Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world the way they’ve been told to.  Alan Keightly

I’ve climbed a few mountains in my travels. I’ve scaled the 1237 steps to the Tiger cave temple in Thailand and made my way up several other steep staircases to magnificent temples, castles and rooftops all around the world, but the hardest climb I’ve ever made was up just 28 wooden steps in Rome.

My journey up the Scala Sancta, the Holy Stairs, also known as Pilate’s Stairs was one made on my knees.

The Scala Sancta are housed in one of the most important papal sanctuaries in the Roman Catholic Church. I grew up indoctrinated in the Catholic faith but was never aware these stairs existed. By luck and a Lonely Planet guide-book, I discovered them on a trip to Italy some years ago.  Early one morning I set off on foot to locate the very unassuming building that houses this treasured relic.

It is thought Jesus climbed these stairs, once part of Pontius Pilate’s palace in Jerusalem, on the day he was sentenced to death. The stairs were later transported to Rome by Saint Helena, she secured a number of other holy relics also. The Holy Stairs were housed in a few places before the current sanctuary. The marble has been covered with wooden treads to protect them from wear and at certain points there are little glass windows that offer a view to the marble beneath and to stains, thought to be the actual blood of Jesus.

The truly devout will think poorly of me, for I had not worshipped in a church for many years nor had I knelt in prayer for some time, though my faith was strong. Having travelled across the world and appreciated the peace and quietude of other sacred and blessed places, I felt moved to join a small number of morning visitors up the stairs.

What I didn’t realise, despite my sincerity and solemn approach, was that to truly pay homage, to honour and respect the sanctity of the chapel and the man to whom it stands in remembrance of, one had to go slowly, with deep reverence. Each of the faithful climbers offered a prayer on every step. Not a short and sweet prayer but a decent, well-considered prayer. Many worked rosaries in their hands. I later discovered many climb the stairs to be forgiven for sins and seek favour with God.

With a genuine respect I proceeded, offering some long memorised prayers alternating with personal prayers of gratitude and thanks. It was a humbling and moving experience.

At the top of the stairs is a private, papal chapel adorned with 13th Century frescos and a 4th century painting of Christ, thought to have been begun by Saint Luke and completed by an angel. This Sancta Sanctorum, is viewed through a grated opening.

Descending is much easier with a set of steps on either side of the Holy Stairs. These can also be used by those interested in viewing the chapel who do not wish to or cannot ascend the Holy Stairs on their knees.

Once reserved as a place for popes the Scala Sancta and the Sancta Sanatorium are now open to the public for a small entrance fee. When visiting ensure appropriate and modest attire is worn. Arriving early in the morning there were no tourists in sight. In fact the whole piazza was empty.

It is easy to be critical and questioning when faced with monuments of faith. Is the story true? Did a man called Jesus climb these stairs? Were they once part of a palace in Jerusalem? Are they stained with blood? Whose blood is it? Regardless of faith, regardless of belief or facts; historically and anthropologically this experience made my mind buzz with intrigue. It served as a gesture in humility a chance to count my blessings and reflect on the sweetness of life. I hobbled away more enamoured with life than before my visit, which is saying something — I was in Rome after all.

Have you been somewhere that moved you to experience the world in a different way?

This is meditation

20161126_060731

If it weren’t for my mind, my meditation would be excellent. – Ani Pema Chodron

Jumbled thoughts,
A plethora of images;
An old-fashioned movie reel playing at high-speed.
Silence where are you?
Chatter
Flash
Picture
Chatter
Image
Sound bite
And on and on the reel goes.

This is meditation.

Today I got nothing, went nowhere
Could not find solitude.
Events of the week came crashing in
an explosion of colour, shape and sound.

Alas.
What is one to do but observe,
Watch
Notice
Accept.

And now the day dawns
A crisp and clear morning
Perfect for a walk, to shake off the detritus of the week.
Time to centre
Regroup
Energise.

This too is meditation.

Visiting the heart of my country

“Central Australia has an inner wisdom and knowing that permeates into the soul with every breath you take. Words cannot do it justice.”

                                                                       Karin Schuett

I’ve been struggling to put into words the beauty, the majesty, the wonder I experienced on a recent trip to the heart of my country.  I can’t seem to find the right words to describe how I felt, what I saw, heard and touched. My beloved and I often found ourselves in tears at various times such was the all-encompassing  nature of our experience. It’s all locked inside me, I feel it immensely in my very being but can’t quite describe it.

A wise friend of mine summed up my lack of words very aptly when she said that “Central Australia has an inner wisdom and knowing that permeates into the soul with every breath you take. Words cannot do it justice.”

I cannot profess to understand how the Anangu, the traditional owners of Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park, feel about their land, but if what I feel is even a tiny bit similar I have a deeper and more profound respect for them, their culture and the land they love so very much.  This place is more than just land, it is a living place, a special and sacred place, a place to be protected and a place to be honoured by all.

Uluru and Kata Tjuta are World Heritage areas for both cultural and natural values. The listing of the park in 1994 for its cultural landscape honours the traditional beliefs and recognises it as one of the oldest human societies on earth. Anangu culture is strong and alive today.

Uluru draws millions of visitors a year.  The rock is a sacred monument, one can feel it’s power on approach.  My beloved and I chose to walk the circumference of the rock, a three hour walk of approximately 10.2 kiometres. What an awe-inspiring experience. Every angle, every step was so very different.  The diversity of plant life around the rock, the features of the rock and the bird life were stunning.  We especially enjoyed learning about the ancient beings who shaped the landscape as we walked.  I remember, many years ago, an aboriginal elder told me that wherever I go in this country to ask myself whose footprints I walk in.  This advice has followed me on every journey I make around my country and was especially poignant on my walk around Uluru and then later Kata Tjuta.

Our journey into one of the most astonishing landscapes in the world continued with a visit to Kata Tjuta. This landform is about 50 kilometres from Uluru and again it is a sacred site. Visitors are reminded to be respectful and to stay on the tracks provided.  We enjoyed two walks here; the Valley of the Winds walk; a spectacular steep and rocky walk in places that took us into valleys and creek beds, the views along the way were breathtaking; and the Walpa Gorge walk, a short walk in comparison.  The gorge is like a sanctuary.  It was a cool place between high russet walls ending at a stream. The plant life was rich and varied. Again, we enjoyed learning about the ancient traditions, the significance of the area, the qualities of the plants and how they were used.

More than ever, I have come away with the certainty and conviction that we are all responsible for looking after the land upon which we live. I thank the Anangu people for the privilege and honour of visiting their land.

The great human endeavour

purpose

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.  Albert Camus

Have you noticed a preoccupation with discovering the meaning of life? Meaning making is a great human endeavour. We witness people go on soul journeys, sea changes or pilgrimages to discover themselves and their place in the world, to seek answers and meaning.  We hunger to be part of something. There exists a gnawing unrelenting need when we lack community, a sense of belonging and purpose. The sense that life is meaningless could be the most desolate of thoughts. Desolate is the one who finds themselves alone, unattached, adrift in life.

This phenomenon, I imagine, has always existed though there seems to me to be an intensification in recent times, a swell of seekers.  My limited view and observations lead me to believe this is a side effect borne mainly by those in western cultures. Could it be due to a lack of traditions, of ritual, of religion, of an intimacy and belief in story and myth? Professor of sociology, John Carroll suggests there is an emerging poverty in western cultures due to a move away from myth.

Myths have been central to all cultures. I recently listened to Saga Land, a radio podcast by Richard Fidler, about the Icelandic sagas. These stories have endured for centuries and link the people to their ancestors and heritage. My childhood was full of the stories of the Australian Dreamtime. The stories, songs and dance of the traditional owners of the country I call home still captivate and educate me.  I was educated in catholic schools and am familiar with many Christian myths.

Why are myths important? Why might a lack of myth in our life affect us so very much?

Myths are enduring, they are rich with metaphorical weight.  Myths give us a sense of ourselves in relation to others. Hugh Mackay, author and social researcher, deduces that myth and story help us identify where we place our faith and that faith unites us and equips us to live with doubt and uncertainty. Through his research he has found that humans yearn something beyond the material, something other than themselves to use as a reference point to draw strength from, something that inspires them.

Religion and attending church used to fill that yearning, satisfy the hunger, give us something to inspire us and provide a sense of community. The role of religion has been to provide potent narratives to guide us along our journey to discover meaning. Interestingly only 8% of Australians are regular church goers. Why have so many turned away from the church? Perhaps it’s because the myths and narratives are served up as doctrine and often expected to be swallowed whole. For me, my move away from the church was the incongruence between doctrine and the behaviours of those most strongly advocating it. Mackay has found that dogma definitely divides us. He advocates faith beyond dogma.

I can attest that faith can exist without a literal adherence to dogma.  I can also attest to the desire for community. While my faith is strong I do not worship in a church and I do at times crave to be part of a community.  For a time I found it in a group of like-minded souls. We learned together, we practiced ritual, we communed and we grew individually and as a group. It was quenching. It was so deeply satisfying I wanted for nothing more. We eventually drifted apart, each to go their own way to continue our individual journeys. I miss that gathering of minds and souls. I miss the kinship.

It’s fascinating this hardwired need in humans to have a story that keeps the darkness at bay and to satisfy our longing to belong.  It is, I believe, the impetus for the great human endeavour – to seek meaning and purpose in life.