Imbolc: the pregnant Pause
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.
Happy Solar New year, Hello Spring!
Reflections on the past year; reality check from Krista Tippett in conversation with clinical psychologist Christine Runyard; and imagining a future based on cooperation and care
Happy Vernal Equinox, 2021 everyone. In my culture, this is actually New Years Day, called Navroz. Traditionally, it’s a time for communal feasting, dancing and letting go of all the unnecessary and dark while calling in light, peace and prosperity for the new year. And Dancing...did I mention dancing? This year’s Navroz has gone slightly differently than in the past. All the feasting, dancing, letting go and calling in has been more contained, more personal “bubble” sized. Such is our current reality.
The other day I was reflecting on the past year and the pandemic situation, with my friend and artist, Norma Jean McCallan. One of her observations was that this year has felt like tiptoeing around an abusive relationship. In such a situation, we are in fight or flight and survival mode, rolling from one crisis to another until such time as we have a moment of relief to process, and make choices as to how we want to proceed.
One of those moments came for me in January of this year. While my head recognized that “normal” is not something I can (or want to) return to, the rest of me needed some time to catch up. I disappeared into a bit of Cave Time to deal with the depression feelings that seemed to overtake me after the holiday season. My physical energy was low, I slept a lot and tried to focus on facing the fears with some heart tools - like appreciation, grounding breath work and visualization.
It was more challenging than I thought it would be. Then last week I came across an interview with clinical psychologist Christine Runyan on Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast. Here’s the blurb that introduces the interview.
“The light at the end of the COVID tunnel is tenuously appearing — yet many of us feel as exhausted as at any time in the past year. Memory problems; short fuses; fractured productivity; sudden drops into despair. We’re at once excited and unnerved by the prospect of life opening up again. Clinical psychologist Christine Runyan explains the physiological effects of a year of pandemic and social isolation — what’s happened at the level of stress response and nervous system, the literal mind-body connection. And she offers simple strategies to regain our fullest capacities for the world ahead.”
Christine Runyan put words to what many of us around the globe have been feeling this past year. Her coping strategies are simple yet effective. It was a valuable hour spent. I realized that I use many of these strategies already, but it was really necessary for me to have them confirmed and validated. Equally important was the confirmation that I’m not crazy or alone in this experience. Naming it, talking about it and doing the work to come back to a grounded, balanced center, are crucial to moving forward.
It all comes down to the story we tell (meaning believe) about ourselves, each other, our world and our place in it. When I was at school, Science taught us a story about the earth and the relationships between all living beings. It was essentially that the earth is based on competition, the survival of the fittest, a win-lose story. If you think about it, this is the story upon which our world, our economies and our lifestyles have been crafted in the past few millennia. But we are seeing that story crumble around us as our impact on the Earth has exacerbated the climate; as our economies are slowly failing, as the nation state system created by conflict slowly falls apart.
Science is revising its approach. It is now saying that the earth and the relationships between all living things is cooperative. In this model, one that aboriginal peoples all over the world have known for millennia, we all survive, thrive and evolve when we cooperate and work together. Its a part of Nature, right down to our very cells. According to evolutionary biologists, without cooperation we wouldn’t be here.
It's easy to see how we might flourish in such an environment. The stresses we experience of survival and isolation just wouldn't be a thing. Within a cooperation model of human organization, our individual talents and gifts would have more chances to be expressed and flourish. See it as a group of intersecting circles, as in the Flower of Life design, as opposed to a pyramid scheme model. In the pyramid model, there is only one peak, one “best” of anything. But in the intersecting circles model, there would be more opportunities for sharing and collaborating. Every circle, or community, would have a possible place for your specific talents and gifts and many places and opportunities to be your best self in what you do.
Imagine a human world in which cooperation and care of self and others was the governing principle. Oh but wait! We’ve had glimpses of what that world could be this past year. Health professionals pulling together in crisis situations to help others, often at personal cost; entire cities of people following masking, distancing and other protocols to help flatten the virus curve; many people sharing their skills online to help others in various areas of self-care and personal growth--from online courses to exercise programs to Arts experiences; the growth of online communities that transcend borders; governments releasing funds to its citizens and cooperating on vaccination acquisition; communities of people doing the very difficult work of naming points of trauma that need healing in our society so that we can do the repair work needed to come together; the continued commitment of so many of us to repair the damage we have done to the Earth; and the Earth herself showing us it wouldn't take much time for her to repair, if we would only stop our destructive behaviours. There will always be those who have difficulty cooperating. As oceanographer Danny Grunbaum says, “Cooperation never means the absence of conflict of interest. It means a set of rules for negotiating conflicts of interest in a way that resolves them.” I would add, “for the highest good of everyone involved.”
At the start of this Solar Year, we are on the cusp of huge changes, which can be both exciting and scary. How we meet them will depend greatly on how we change the story we believe about ourselves, our relationship with the planet and with all living things. I, for one, hope we continue to choose the win-win options.