Just like nature is beginning to awaken after its dormant period, we too are re-awakening with new dreams and plans for our lives. Here are 3 important tools to help you nourish your soul/soil
February 1st and 2nd mark Imbolc, the mid-point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It is a celebration of the first first stirrings of new life, the earliest signs of Spring, in the northern hemisphere, even though there might still be snow on the ground or freezing cold outside. It’s significance to the human experience is the very earliest hints of spring rising in our spirits. After months of turning inward, of hibernation and rest, life is beginning to stir again.
From what I understand, Imbolc is a celebration not only of this moment in the earth’s annual cycle, it is a celebration of the same in ourselves. It is a moment when we honour and nurture our own capacity to bring something to life in ourselves and our own experience. Just like nature is beginning to awaken after its dormant period, we too are re-awakening with new dreams and plans for our lives.
Sounds fantastical? Perhaps. Or perhaps it is just the way things are supposed to be, a way of being that is in alignment with the Earth herself, a way made superfluous by a 9-5 way of thinking and being. But let's set aside that and go with the lessons of Mother Earth here for a minute. Let your spirit begin to stretch and shake off the restful sleep of winter. For with this awakening comes a much needed clearing.
When those lovely spring flowers start poking their heads up through the dirt, it’s time to clear the ground and cut back dead growth in the garden before new growth starts sprouting. The same kind of care is needed in our internal gardens, to clear out internal clutter and the things that died within us during the winter, in preparation for exciting new growth to come. Winter is a time of turning inward and descending into ourselves, identifying the things within that we were ready to let go of, be they thought patterns, behaviour habits or limiting beliefs. It is also the time of dreaming what we see for ourselves, what we would like to experience.
Imbolc marks the time to really let go of all those things, for once and for all, and embrace transition and change in real, lived ways. It’s a time to leave your comfort zone in order to grow more fully into yourself by creating the kind of experiences that will take you there. Sounds kind of exciting and pregnant with possibilities, right?
Yet it is also really, really hard. Because while we love the idea of change, humans are also creatures of habit who like the safe and comfortable. Real change, letting go of things that no longer serve us and stepping into new ways of being and doing can be a long and daunting process. And that can feel super uncomfortable.
Nature shows us that everything has a time and a reason. Think of Imbolc as a time of facing challenges, of taking your own measure. Do you have the strength required to make lasting changes? Can you leave what is safe to grow more fully into yourself? Can you breathe life into your winter dreaming? And how can you set yourself up for success?
This is where tools come in to help you clear out what no longer serves, nourish your soul and lay the initial seeds of what you want to bring into your life this year. I’m sharing with you the ones that I am using at this time. Hopefully, they will be of use to you in some way.
1. Ho'oponopono - Getting Things Back into Balance
I use this meditation frequently. Ho'oponopono has its roots in Hawaiian culture; it’s intention is to maintain and sustain equilibrium in chaotic circumstances. Roughly translated, the word ho’oponopono means, “cause things to move back in balance” or to “make things right.” It is an ancient spiritual practice that involves learning to heal all things by accepting that we are all connected and so hold responsibility for everything that surrounds us. Responsibility. Not fault. It's a subtle but important difference. While we may create or invoke a certain kind of experience, it is usually for the purposes of learning. We are not victims in some kind of cause and effect blame game.
Within this framework, none of us are powerless or helpless, something I really appreciate. It acknowledges that we are each a contributing part of a whole. When there is disturbance in the force of the Whole, the ho'oponopono meditation is a graceful, loving way of restoring the balance for everyone involved. In short, you are calling the spirit of universal love to heal in you that which is creating the discordant outer circumstance you may be experiencing.
The meditation itself is a repeated mantra or set of words potent with intention. These are: I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you. Spoken in succession, the meditation becomes is a way of declaring a willingness to take responsibility for our thoughts and actions and express regret for any harm caused; to forgive oneself and others, asking the same in return; to live and walk in gratitude and appreciation; and to acknowledge the juice that makes the universe run–LOVE-- flows through each of us, holding us in Oneness.
I do the meditation whenever I feel out of balance, when I'm feeling fear or anxiety or anger. It helps level out those feelings of fear, doubt, anxiety. It brings me back to what really matters to me–personal responsibility, heart-mind coherence and choosing from Love. I also do it when I'm feeling relaxed and calm, like when I am falling asleep. There's never a bad time for some balance healing.
2. The Gratitude List - What nourishes your Soul/soil
If the Ho'oponopono meditation sets the overall energy framework for sustaining and maintaining equilibrium, the gratitude list lets you know what awesome foundational things are in your life inventory that are currently nourishing your soul. The very fact that you are grateful for these things tells you are being nourished by them. And your soul nourished is the soil in which you plant the seeds for what you’d like to create in your life this year.
Your gratitude list doesn’t have to be stellar or metaphysical. It just has to simply be populated by things that make you feel good, happy, joyful, peaceful, loved; that give a sense of meaning and belonging, that make your heart glow or skip a beat or two in sheer excitement. In reflecting back on my own list, I see that I have in my life an abundance of love, meaningful relationships and work, and a sense of purpose. This is my soul nourished and feeling truly blessed.
3. The Experiences List - Sowing the Seeds
This is a list of what you want to call in for the year to grow and evolve. It's not really a list of stuff (not just yet anyway--that will come later in the year) Rather, it is a list of the experiences you want to have that will support, encourage and facilitate that growth. For this list, give yourself some time to feel into a number of things in your life. Feel it from a place of love, not fear. You might, say, be really grateful for the family and friends in your life. And you would like to grow your relationship with them. So on this list, you might add, "Fun" as an experience you want more of with them. List item complete. It's an experience that is heart-centred rather than fear-centred.
But what do you do for things that bring up a lot of fear? Even though it can scare the crap out of us, Fear is not an enemy, really. It's a natural part of us that raises a red flag around an experience we no longer wish to have. So, for example, you might be feeling a little financially pinched right now, an experience that commonly holds fear and worry. It might be tempting to just add, "money" to the list, as the overall solution. "I want to experience having money or not worrying about money," takes the issue of finances into the experience realm. It's almost ready for your list. You know what do you don't want to experience, but what DO you want to experience? How can you shift perspective on that you can transform " worry" into a more love-centred experience?
Before you write anything down, feel into your financial fears. Notice any body sensations that come up. Is your heart clenching? Your stomach churning? These sensations are your body letting you know it is NOT enjoying this experience. It's in survival mode, as we all are in the face of a fear. We've been trained to swallow it down and white knuckle it through these fear experiences. Or to avoid them altogether. What if there was a kinder, gentler way? There is, and we all knew how to do it when we were children, before the world broke our spirits so that we'd fit, belong and obey.
So let's go back to finances. We know what it feels like when we are scared about money, worried about lack. Now, let's try to feel finances from a more abundant, loving place. What would it feel like to have no worries about money, that you had everything you needed (need, not want)? Imagine what that would experience be like? Bring your mind (thoughts) and heart (feelings) into coherence, working together to create that experience in this moment now. Think about all the aspects of the experience that would feel so wonderful, all the things you might do, the relief you might feel, the joy you might feel. Feel the experience as though you’re having it right now, in this moment. Notice any sensations your body might be having in response. Don't judge what you're imagining or yourself for imagining it. It's your dream. Enjoy it.
And that experience you just generated? That's the intention seed you just planted. In it was not "money". It was the experience of relief, joy, fun, pleasure and anything else that came up for you while you were dreaming. Add these experiences to the list.
While it may not solve immediate financial problems, it is a way to shift your perspective on finances from fear to love. You can use the same process for anything else you would like to experience in your life this year. The fears will come up, they never really go away. But they can become more diminished in your personal operating system. And anytime you feel out of balance, go back to the Ho'oponopono meditation.
I hope we are all able to embrace this time of new beginnings and change, as this is how our spirits grow and evolve, especially when we push out from our comfort zones. Here’s wishing you the brightest of Imbolc blessings. I hope all our winter dreams come to life this year, taking us to the most exciting, empowered and balanced places.
GALENTINE'S DAY: SELF-LOVE AND WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT
I've been looking up the roots of Valentines Day. There are a lot of stories, but I'm sharing the one that spoke to me.
Apparently (actually no surprise here) Valentine's Day may have its roots in pagan cultures. At the beginning of February, halfway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, the Celts would celebrate Imbolc to mark the beginnings of spring and the stirrings of life in the ground in the Northern hemisphere. This was also a day to clean out your home and invite in Brigid, goddess of creation, sustenance and wisdom into your home to ensure fecundity and prosperity in the land, the animals and yes, people too.
This was also a time when the worst of the winter had passed and women no longer needed to rely on a man as a source of life saving body heat at night. Mothers and daughters would gather their boyfriends’ animal pelts, set them on fire, and feast on winter squashes and root vegetables until the fires burned out. Then they would go on a little road trip together, grieve and release the death of old relationships followed by rituals of spiritual renewal and growth.
Enter the Roman church and its habit of co-opting pagan rituals for its own purposes--mainly expanding its power over the lives of its followers. Due to the high death tolls in the wake of its many wars, purgings and plague, the church needed to do something to compel procreation. So they thumbed through the Saint Files and extracted the traumatic, crisis filled story of St. Valentine and his beloved to overlay on an existing women’s ritual based on independence and the right to choose one’s own mate. Another moment in history when religion has actively gone out of its way to control women’s freedom and their bodies.
Here’s Valentine’s story: It came to pass that Emperor Claudius II banned marriage for his soldiers because he thought their attachments to wives and family would distract them from ”bringing it” in warfare. Valentine felt this was unfair, so he broke the rules and arranged marriages in secret. It’s said he wore a ring embossed with a cupid by which couples seeking him out could identify him.
When Claudius found out, he had Valentine thrown in jail, tortured and eventually sentenced to death. While awaiting death, he befriended a guard who’s daughter was ill and needed some healing. Valentine provided this, and she got better but, you guessed it, one thing led to another and they fell in love. When he was taken to the chopping block on the 14 February he sent her a love letter signed "from your Valentine".
At the same time as pushing this co-opted story of Valentine, the church also declared it heresy for any woman to leave her boyfriend or husband, thereby systemically tightening the noose on love and a woman’s freedom to have an active choice in it. A culture of men conquering passive women through courtship was created, shot through with Cupid’ arrows, and laden with sweets. The flowers that women once lay on the symbolic graves of relationships they chose to end were now laid in their laps, symbolic of the death of their pro-active right to choose.
A woman’s role was now to sit and wait. This is cross-cultural by the way, which means that it is a program of patriarchy in general, not just the patriarchy of the Roman church. My parents’ marriage was arranged. This is a transaction in which love is not a thing. It’s about class, caste, education, religion, shade of skin and any other thing that could divide, conquer and control, right down to a woman’s weight or eye colour. My aunt used to quote a Bollywood movie (or was it Merchant Ivory and Ruth Prawar Jhabvala?) line to me when I was a little girl. “When we were young, we put flowers in our hair. Then we would sit by a window and say, Has he come? Has he come?” This, in essence, was my education in dating. I would love to say that this message was eradicated, culture and society-wide, in the Free Love of the 60’s and women’s rights movement in subsequent decades. But, sadly, I can’t. It’s still there. Just have a look at V-Day advertising and the countless Bollywood and Hollywood movies (made mostly by men) that continue to valourize men and objectify women.
But what if we took some Ancient women’s wisdom and put it back into Valentine's Day? That means reclaiming this time of the year for self-love and self-care. There has been a movement for such a reclamation, popularized through a 2010 episode of the US sitcom, Parks and Recreation. Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler explains its meaning while throwing an annual Galentine's Day bash for her friends, but it's still tainted with patriarchal ideas of womanhood. There are elements of poking fun at women's gifts to each other and the event ends with her mom's hook up story. I imagine that on that ancient women's road trip, such stories might be shared also, along with stories about relationships ending.
Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks Galentine's Day is a good idea. Google Galentine's Day and you'll get a lot of links to many things self care. In addition to listings of multiple events for a girl's night out, I also found a self-love song playlist from The Tempest. And I just got an email from my local bra shop inviting me to a Galentine's event at their store.
I love the idea of this time of year being about self-love and self-care. It's the first step to being able to claim your own power and effect the change you want to see in the world. Evaluating aspects of your life that work (and don't) is very much a part of self-care and nurturing.
To have a period of time set aside in the quite winter months to consider your relationships and decide which ones support your life's journey makes complete energetic sense. You can take the time to evaluate and decide which ones you'll keep and nourish and which ones are toxic and need to go. Or you could choose which ones need work and look at what you’re willing to do to breath new life into them, come spring. This means that any relationship could be up for review, not just intimate ones. Also, I love the idea of going on a little road trip with your girlfriends to grieve, let go and have your process witnessed as you do the same for others.
Imagine how much healthier our psyches might be if we actually took the time to consider our own needs, the needs of our loved ones and nourish these relationships the way we might nourish the soil in our spring gardens, before planting? And imagine if this was something both genders did on a regular basis, clearing out the old, revitalizing what remains and making room for the new?
And what if we took this time to plant some seeds of self-empowerment and positive dreaming for our lives, instead of just waiting? Ooh, I’m getting goosebumps!
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team