Shibori to soothe the soul

“Go wide, explore and learn new things. Something will surely have a kick for you”
― Mustafa Saifuddin

“Happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for your life to begin and start making the most of the moment you are in.”
― Germany Kent

Shibori, a form of Japanese cloth dyeing, dates from the 8th century.  A variety of techniques produce some stunning designs on fabric.

I recently attended a short Shibori inspired workshop and walked away with two, once snow-white, beautifully patterned pillowcases in varying shades of blue.  Traditional Shibori dye is indigo but due to the cost of indigo and the smell (the workshop was in a shopping centre believe it or not), we used instead a commercial blue dye.  Having visited an indigo dye facility in China many years ago I can vouch for the smell being quite pungent and permeating.

Traditionally, particular Shibori techniques were used with different types of fabric and the pattern one wanted to achieve.  The fabric can be bound, stitched, folded, twisted or compressed before the dyeing process.

One of the techniques in the workshop was similar to tye-dyeing, where sections of cloth are gathered and bound using either rubber bands, twine or string.  The pattern differs dependent on where and how tightly the binding is tied.  The tighter the binding the whiter the fabric underneath.  This is most similar to Kanoko Shibori.

Pleating and folding the fabric before binding produces not the nice circular patterns of Kanoko Shibori but patterns more in line with Kumo Shibori. I concertina folded my pillowcases, one lengthwise, the other along the short edge. I used a combination of pegs and string to bind.

The preparation of the fabric was quite quick.  First it needed to be dampened.  Then bound in the desired manner before being submerged in dye.  After a twenty-minute wait, an unbinding and quick rinse the patterns were revealed. I’m quite pleased with the effect.  My final products are by no means works of art but the process was fun.  I got to spend an hour and a half with a group of men and women from diverse backgrounds, we chatted and laughed and sipped coffees, iced chocolates and tea and nibbled on fruit and cheese.

This simple act of creating something, time spent with strangers and stepping out of routine buoyed my spirit and gave my mind a break. The act of making patterns on fabric is a great analogy for the act of reimagining and recreating the patterns of my life. A process I have just recently begun.

A year of inspiration: Inspired by the need to give my brain a break and the necessity to recreate the pattern of my life.

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Contemplating the lines life has marked into my skin

 

“I wear my wrinkles like battle scars, having earned every last one slaying life’s dragons. They boast of my victories and some defeats while their beauty is a wealth of wisdom gained.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich, Slaying Dragons

I caught sight of my face, now aging, the fine lines and the not so fine lines criss crossing once smooth surfaces.  Some I dislike, others worry me not.  Those emerging, vertical puckers above my top lip repel me (can I say they are from a lifetime of kissing and thus portray myself as a passionate woman? I think not). Am I past my used by date?  Washed up, damaged, diminished?

According to the pagan stages of womanhood I am on the cusp of Crone; no longer a Maiden and leaving behind the bounty of Mother. You know what? I am not associating with that label any more.  Once it did not concern me.  I embraced the wisdom of Crone but now, standing in this place, I reject the western connotations of Crone being dried up, past a used by date.  Instead I step into the Maga phase and embrace it.

Jane Hardwicke Collings explains that now women live longer and that motherhood begins later an additional phase of womanhood has emerged; that of Maga.  This is the extended Mother phase, after Mother and before Crone. Maga is the autumn season of a woman’s life, the harvest, an integrative place. The Crone is the winter season, the season of “retirement”, life review and letting go. The Crone’s life is inwardly focussed, she is in contemplation mode, a distillation of her life lived. She philosophises, tells stories, prays, gardens and gathers with other Crones. The changes to her body and brain necessitate a quieter existence, which enables a ripened access to spirit. She is the wise woman.

I’m not yet Crone and recent upheavals have helped me see I am not ready for this stage. Very recently I have been sent spiralling (when I know how I will write about it). The path before me and the environment around me changed suddenly, through no choice of my own, and while fearful, there is a future I have yet to create and I know am far from the retreat of Crone.  I am seeing a strength I had forgotten. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I have and continue to collapse into tears of heartbreak and eddies of despair but I glimpse an inner fortitude that is shining away – ready to light my path.

I reflect on my earlier questions – “Am I past my used by date?  Washed up, damaged, diminished?”  Oh, for sure, I have been damaged along the way but I am fuller and more sturdy as a result (or soon will be). Diminished – hell no.  Life throws many things at us and we can choose how we respond.  I am choosing to place delight and mystery, joy and love  of self back on the shelf.  I will no longer be sucked dry of them.  I allow the hidden order and secret meanings of my life to reemerge, into full view, and explore how that feels. I choose to bring my life into better alignment with my values and beliefs.

Am I past my used by date? No way. I sense already, while not fully transitioned from my old life into the new, that I am arriving at myself.  I can see a freedom that comes with a developing confidence; a lightness at shrugging off imposed (many self imposed) boundaries, routines and habits that kept me from being my true and authentic self. I kind of like the idea of recreating my life (deep breaths to stave off panic). Like Salvador Dali, I am open to life teaching me, even if that means more of those fine lines and wrinkles but if I never look in a mirror perhaps they don’t exist. Right?

“Let the labyrinth of wrinkles be furrowed in my brow with the red-hot iron of my own life, let my hair whiten and my step become vacillating, on condition that I can save the intelligence of my soul – let my unformed childhood soul, as it ages, assume the rational and esthetic forms of an architecture, let me learn just everything that others cannot teach me, what only life would be capable of marking deeply in my skin!”
― Salvador Dalí

A year of inspiration: Inspired by the daily prompt; wrinkle” and by my loving son who helps me to see the light.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

WENDELL BERRY

Suddenly

“Sometimes life takes you into a dark place where you feel it’s impossible to breathe. You think you’ve been buried, but don’t give up, because if truth be told, you’ve actually been planted.”
― Karen Gibbs

I suddenly found myself unable to breathe.  My heart ached from the pain of the news just delivered. I’ve been crippled by it, weighed down and tormented by it for a month now. It’s like no pain I’ve ever felt. It feels like my heart is expanding beyond its borders, about to explode and yet, it feels gripped, pinched and constricted, tight and throbbing. I look down and can see it frantic through the fabric of my dress.

My heart may well be broken. It aches so.

And yet, in the midst of the pain,  I realise there may exist that silver lining they speak of. I glimpse the opportunity to restart and rejuvenate, to renew. I try to focus on the opportunities that lay ahead and of the freedom to grow and expand and to revel in life again.

Suddenly, I realise I’ve been planted and breathe a little easier.

Assayed by the Universe

Indeed, this life is a test. It is a test of many things – of our convictions and priorities, our faith and our faithfulness, our patience and our resilience, and in the end, our ultimate desires. Sheri L.

I have to admit, I’ve not used the word ‘assay’ and had to look it up. It’s used quite a bit in Pharmacology and Metallurgy but the definitions were intriguing and have a wider reach.

Assay (əˈseɪ,ˈaseɪ)

  • To analyse for one or more specific components to determine its ingredients and quality
  • To determine its purity; to judge the worth of
  • Examine (something) in order to assess its nature.

Every now and then life tests us in dramatic and unexpected ways and we are exposed to an analysis that reveals our inner essence. We face trials that bring to light our true nature and we get a deeper understanding of the ingredients that form us.

Why does the universe assay us? The universe doesn’t need to do this to inform itself. It is, I suspect, for our own growth and development. For us to truly see ourselves—to see the shiny parts, the precious parts, the components that make us unique; the ingredients worthy of celebration, of honing, of sharing.

If the universe is testing you it has a lesson it wants you to learn.  It may be a difficult to navigate through the obstacles of the test and it may be an emotional and challenging experience but there will be a lesson—one you’ve missed before. The part I find hard about learning lessons is to trust and have faith that the universe has my back.  I find it hard to surrender. I find it hard to relinquish control and allow the unfolding of what is.  I want answers, I want to see the outcome, I battle against the discomfort. I guess that’s normal.  Three cheers to you if you can surrender and have faith.  I want some of what you have.

In small moments, amidst the turmoil, there is clarity where I can see what I am meant to see.. Where I understand the lesson to be learnt.  These snippets are worth holding onto. These small awarenesses will help me to find my way again when the clouds have cleared. Look for them if you too are in the middle of a perfect storm.

 

A year of inspiration.  Inspired by the Wordress Daily prompt

Change can be uncomfortable

“Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.” ~ Richard Branson

Several years ago I moved house after being in the same house for 17 years.
I chose to move but it was a hard move to make. The house I was leaving was the first house I had owned. My son grew up there. My beloved and I celebrated our marriage there and over time we renovated it and made it comfortable.

I cried for weeks as I was packing up, moving into the new place and cleaning the old ready for new owners.

At first it was difficult to adjust to my new surroundings. I had to stop and think how to get to the places I frequented after using the same routes for 17 years. I had to find a new supermarket. I kept reaching for the third draw in the kitchen, which was no longer there. In short, there was an adjustment period.

The change was uncomfortable because I didn’t think I could be as happy or as comfortable in a new house as I had been in the old. I had to change some habits and routines to suit my new environment. I underestimated how good the move could be. The new house was lighter and brighter, it had a yard and I could start a vegetable garden for the first time. While I had to shop at a different supermarket, I was familiar with the one in the suburb, not too far away, and it was a very good supermarket. So that was a big bonus.

The travel stumped me for a while and each time I jumped in the car I had to really think about how I would get to where I was going. I soon realised I had better access to many destinations from my new home.  So I stopped using the old ways to get around. But even through this I realised much stayed the same. I was still travelling in my own car, I was still using the road system, a GPS could help me navigate if I really needed it. I just had to build some new habits and tweak others.

The curious and intriguing thing about change is that it isn’t change itself that is so hard, it’s the thought that we have are expected to change that causes discomfort. When I reflect on all the difficult changes I have encountered in life I’ve made it through. It comes almost as a revelation with hindsight that it wasn’t really as hard as initially thought. I guess it is part of the human spirit to endure.

Change can feel uncomfortable for a while but it’s good to remember that often times much of what you do now will remain the same. Look for the familiar structures, the commonalities, the shared routines. You might use slightly different paths to get back to a sense of comfort though you may well draw on many familiar strategies too.

Like my move, I overestimated how good what I had was and underestimated how good living somewhere else could be. Similarly too, when going through changed work conditions, physical, emotional or social change it’s to be expected there will be a pinch. We become comfortable in our routines and the familiarity of our surroundings, so it’s to be expected that there will be some discomfort for a while.

It helps to reflect on our own habits, practices and routines to consider what we will stop doing, start doing and keep doing to negotiate ourselves through the discomfort of change, to emerge confident and operational on the other side.

A year of inspiration: Inspired by Queensland teachers preparing for a new curriculum and assessment system in the senior phase of learning.

Postscript

I wrote this post before receiving some wrenching news that will change my life in  inconceivable ways and I feel much of what I wrote above is trite in the face of the changes I am about to undertake. I am currently in a mire of pain, despair, confusion, anger, sadness, loss and desperation. At times, when the tears stop and the ache in my heart lifts, ever so slightly, I can see the promise of new opportunities but first I must walk through the hellish pit of despair dragging the weight of sorrow and suffering to reach acceptance to emerge. My intention with this post was not to trivialize anyones great pain due to major life changes. I hope this experience of mine helps to make me more aware and compassionate in the future. I have too many words and not enough to share with you where I am at right now. I hope to gather myself enough to find something worth expressing soon.

“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realise space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

 

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

Journaling – an everyday ritual performed everyday

I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. Anne Frank

There is something enriching about watching the sunrise and set. There is a sense of wholeness to a day when you witness both the sunrise and the sunset of a single day. To top and tail each day and create a deeper sense of wholeness, I have introduced a daily ritual that has been as enriching as seeing the rising and setting of the sun. I guess you could call it journalling.

Journalling conjures thoughts of laborious daily entries and the need for a descent amount of uninterrupted time. This daily ritual is not an arduous or lengthy practice. It’s an everyday ritual that devotes some intentional consideration and reflection at the beginning and end of each day and takes no more than five minutes at each sitting.

I began in mid December. Feeling gloomy, a lack of connection and a general malaise that had no root in the physical body I knew I was not feeding my spirit. Beginning at the end of the year I hoped to make my new ritual a devotional practice, one that would treat the symptoms and cure the ailing spirit and help me to begin the new year much improved.

The foundation of my journalling is based on the Five Minute Journal. Each morning I identify three things I am grateful for, three things that will make the day great and I write three affirmations for the day. At the end of the day, before bed, I list three great things that happened during the day and three ways I could have made the day better (I love this accountability and reflection).

Since the new year began I have included a couple of extras. Each morning I read the daily slip from You are a Badass calendar, gifted to me by my son for Christmas (I so love his endearing encouragement of me). Often times the calendar provides inspiration for my affirmations.

I include a short tarot reading in the morning or draw an oracle card. This part is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, though for me it’s part of stepping back into ritual and reconnecting with my intuition again.

Why I like this morning and evening ritual.

Gratitude: – even when things seem bleak there is always something, even if it’s small, to be grateful for. I find this raises my spirits immensely.

Making a great day:- listing several things that would make the day great establishes an expectation that inspires action.  It also means that even though not everything may go as planned, if those small things you list are achieved, it’s been a day well lived. I like the sense of achievement that comes with this. I haven’t focused so much on making sure everything on my list is achieved but bonus points if they are.

Affirming yourself:- there is much written about affirmations that speak to their potential. I am currently enjoying this practice because it helps me to fill my head with positive thoughts. We reap what we focus our intention on. My head easily fogs up with the negative so spending time with positive intention is good for me mentally and spiritually.

Acknowledging the greatness in the day:- it’s like gratitude. Finding three good things in the day salvages even the hardest day. It elevates the heart and the mind.

Accepting responsibility:- this is awesome. It is easy to blame others or just file the day away as being shitty but when you reflect on how you could have made it better it sets you up to do better another day or in similar situations or, if you had no control over anything that happened, this part of the ritual helps you realise you can do something to make things good for you – it could have been to go out for a walk, drink more water, eat a healthier lunch.

Added bonus:-I was interested to learn the practice of journalling can improve your physical wellbeing by strengthening immune cells, decreasing symptoms of several common ailments and reducing stress. So far I am finding this daily ritual a pleasing practice.   I look forward to it each day and I will be interested in a month or so to read back over my entries to see if common threads appear.

Journalling – an everyday ritual performed everyday. Have you tried it?

 

A year of inspiration: Inspired by Tim Ferriss and The Five Minute Journal

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