Sunday Collection: about love

It having been Valentine’s Day this week, I thought a small collection of links relating to love in some of her many guises would be good.

If you don’t know Jan Richardson’s work, you are really blessed, because you have such wonderful discovery ahead of you. Jan is an artist, writer and poet. Her husband died after not many years of marriage and when her grief was new, she wrote a Valentine’s Blessing for the Brokenhearted. None of us in middle years and later will have reached this age without loss, and Jan’s poem is indeed a blessing. Click here to read it.

We sometimes forget to love ourselves in our hurry to love others or to change the world. As Hecatedemeter says in her post On the Importance of Self-Care, “self-care” is an annoying phrase, but it is important. She talks specifically in the context of activism in the new world of Trump, but no matter where we live we all have external struggles to which we must give attention. And we must “fill the well” by giving attention and care to ourselves as well. By which neither she nor I mean only the occasional bubble bath. As she says,

it will be vitally important not to lose track of what brings you joy

Click here to read her post.

Christine Valters Paintner is always interesting, and this week she’s written a love song to the body. Here’s an excerpt:

The dreams of my body are about breathing so deeply that every cell expands and shimmers; they are about resting into a generous multiplicity of sabbath moments each day, of swimming through warm and buoyant water, walking through a thick grove of trees, feeling wind across my skin, experiencing the fire of my passions kindling within. My body is dreaming of space for all of these and for the yet unknown dreams, the ones that pulse deep within me and with time and space will emerge in their own beauty and power. Our bodies long to be in intimacy with the world around us.

To read the whole thing (including a wonderful poem by Mary Oliver) click here.

And to end, what would Valentine’s week be without a classic love song. Take it away Joan…

 

Lighting the dark

Imagine you are living many, many hundreds of years ago, relying on the land around to sustain you, not buying out of season food air-freighted in from far countries. Winter’s grip still holds you firmly, you and your tribal family worry there will not be enough to eat to see you through the season, that the new crops will not come in time.

But today in the North is Imbolc, a Celtic celebration of the growing light, one of the great cross-quarter days of the year. Both Pagans and Christians celebrate the Goddess Brigid/Saint Bridget, bringer of poetry, healing and the fire of smithcraft. Perhaps, all those hundreds of years ago, you would be gathered close around a fire at the centre of your roundhouse with other elders, swapping stories of the past and the future, or walking out to observe the subtle quickening of the land, its expectant energy.

In these times today, a friend of mine said “it’s our art that will get us through”. And I think that’s true. Our arts, and our crafts and our storytelling will be the light.

Imbolc blessings to you all.

Sunday Collection – Marching

First up, I’ve had many responses here and elsewhere about working through Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way. So let’s do it! I need to work out the format and will plan to start in about four weeks, to free up the decks a little. More soon, but here follows today’s post.

So this was the week. The Presidential inauguration. Then yesterday, amazing scenes from around the world of marching, marching, marching. As Gloria Steinhem said in Washington “This is the upside of the downside. This is an outpouring of democracy like I’ve never seen in my very long life.” You can watch her speech here, it’s well worth it.

I’ve gathered together today a few related links from around the internet.

Women marching: not the first time.

We’re all familiar with pictures of the Suffragette marches in the UK and US in the early part of last century. But what about Pretoria, Iceland, Argentina and others, and what did they achieve? This Guardian article has the information.

Power, not force

I recently “met” Patricia Cherry online. She’s a life coach specialising in Ageing with Vitality, and she writes well here about the difference between power and force. Here’s a snippet: “Somehow for me, the power of the marches say it all. They are like a warm ray of sunshine bathing a cold landscape of fear and panic.”

The beginning of the end… of right-wing conservatism?

Someone on Facebook linked to this article by Peter Leyden. He talks about a transition to a new economy and a new civilization. He has some interesting thoughts on what is happening, not that it’s the beginning of a new conservatism, but that it’s the death throes of the old order. Here’s a quote:

Trump is a symptom of something much bigger and more fundamental going on in the world. So are the people behind Brexit in Great Britain. They are not driving the change, they are reacting to the change. They are not showing the way forward, they are making desperate attempts to cling to the past, a past that is gone forever.

Needing a Goddess

I’m so pleased Amy Palko is writing on her blog again. If you don’t know Amy, she describes herself wonderfully on Pinterest as “Digital Priestess : Goddess Guide : Soul Writer : Selkie”. (She’s not old enough to be a Crone but she has all the raw material.) Last Friday she did a Goddess guidance reading and here she describes the “Goddess we need right now”. She is Gyhldeptis – Goddess of Harmonic Agreement (who I’ve never heard of). And to be honest, when I read about harmonic agreement it sounded a little wishy washy, but not so! Here’s a sample of what Gyhldeptis may be saying to us:

Yes, I hear your pain, I see the chaos, I know the harm – potential and realised – that is present in this moment. And the way forward is going to be through unification, through communication, through collaboration. These threats to the wellbeing of all of us, but especially to the most vulnerable within these inherently patriarchal self-serving systems of global governance, economy, business, media, religion etc. are not about to go away if we turn our backs on them and pretend they don’t exist. You need to address the problem. You need to do that together. You need to co-ordinate action that will make a positive difference.

Great Souls

And finally, some words from Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I don’t know when she wrote them but they apply now more than ever, and I’m going to quote them in full, because we need them:

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

By Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 

What is “creative”?

When I shared my last blog post about some amazing creative Hollywood nonagenarians, my friend and collaborator Lynne commented asking what counts as “creative”.

For me, it’s a really wide definition, but more on that in a minute.

Many Pilgrim’s Moon readers are wonderfully creative in the classic sense: artists, poets, crafters, dancers, writers, cooks, gardeners. I would name some of you here but I don’t want to leave anyone out!

But… what of those who build businesses, who parent or grandparent amazing kids, who keep a warm, welcoming home, who are fierce friends? Maybe you can throw together an outfit in an unusual way, or maybe you’re that quiet work colleague everyone underestimates until you move to a new job and everything falls apart.

There are creative teachers and rote teachers. There are medical staff who minister to the whole human, and there are those who think of the human body as a machine with parts that need fixing. There are public servants and politicians who go against the grain of our cynicism, and there are the others.

Can you learn to be creative?

Can you learn to be creative? My answer to that is no. You are already innately creative, we all are, it is the expression of it and our self-confidence that are the variables.

The better question is: how can you learn to express your creative gifts?

Learning together?

Getting older is a strange animal, don’t you think? Often we feel more confident, but there are sticking points. Having the confidence to live more creatively can be one of them.

One book I’ve found very helpful so far is Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Many of you will be familiar with it (it’s the Morning Pages” book). It follows a 12-week format and I have to confess I’ve never finished the full twelve weeks.

I have the germ of an idea: would any readers be interested in getting together to work through The Artist’s Way?

I’m not sure how it would work yet. Maybe like a reading group, getting together here on Pilgrim’s Moon every week for twelve weeks to discuss the previous week’s reading and actions. Maybe another online format.

What do you think? If you’d be interested, let me know in the comments, or via the contact form.

It might just be an interesting thing to do together…

Breathing again

Well, I really didn’t do very well in my head last year. With everything happening in the world, I allowed myself to become completely caught up in destructive thinking. Inside my mind was a dark, hateful place. Like a series of snapshots from the most violent Grimm Brothers fairy tales. Which I guess matched the outside world, but I got lost in it, it was all I saw. External symptoms: passive aggressive behaviour, sometimes outright aggressive behaviour, overeating, drinking too much. Inside I was judgmental, contemptuous, paralysed and deeply fearful.

But gradually I began to be able to step back, and to realise that the reflective practices I rely on had slipped. I re-started my breathing meditation practice, using the Heartmath Inner Balance app on my iPad. Yes, I could have just sat and tried to meditate, but I needed a bit of an external crutch, and have found this really helpful since I bought it a few years ago.

I went on a Facebook fast. For ten days over the festive period I didn’t log in once. I know that many readers aren’t on Facebook anyway, but it was a really interesting experience not “popping in” to see what people were talking about. I realised it had become a bit of an addiction for me, an automatic action to check in every time I picked up my phone. And it was feeding my anger and fear because of the constant sharing of links or quotes which were inflammatory, often sneering and rarely helpful. But… I love keeping in touch easily with people I rarely see in real life, and many friends share immensely constructive and interesting stuff. So I returned, but far less frequently, and I have “unfollowed” several people who I like but whose updates make me crazy. It isn’t that I only want to see fluffy bunny stuff on Facebook or anywhere else, far from it, but it’s a question of balance.

And I kept up my renewed breathing practice every morning.

I started going to bed early enough to get sufficient sleep. I’ve realised over the years that I need eight hours. All those dynamic entrepreneurs and politicians who can manage on five hours a night or whatever are welcome to it. I like my sleep. I feel incredibly sorry for people who are insomniacs, life must be so tough. To sleep (undisturbed by late night Facebook blitzes) helps a lot.

And I kept space for breathing every morning.

I began eating more healthily and as we speak I’m in the middle of “dry January“. The second year running I’ve done this. Drinking alcohol is habit as much as anything. There are triggers to be aware of. Eating a meal? Why not have a nice glass of red wine with it? Or two? Coming home stressed after the day? Why not a nice relaxing gin and tonic? A lot of people struggle lifelong with alcohol consumption. I don’t think I’m one of them, but it’s as well to be self-aware and to stop every so often. (Talking of stopping, I’m one of those people who finds it easier to stop an unhealthy habit than to cut down. Gretchen Rubin has done some really interesting work on “Abstainers -v- Moderators” – click here for the link.)

And still I keep my breathing practice every morning. Do you see the pattern here? It was re-starting this meditative breathing practice that was the foundation for everything else.

I find it deeply frustrating that no matter how old I get, I still keep falling into the same damn patterns and learning the same lessons. The patterns are often more subtle (although they weren’t last year) and the lessons more abstruse, but still same old, same old. But having the tools to recognise the patterns is priceless – more on that soon.

Meanwhile, there’s work to do this year, and I’m feeling more ready for it.

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Women growing older with grace and gusto