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
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…
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.
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.
We see life from different perspectives. The view from your top floor window is different from that of my room next to the front door, which is different again for the person who looks out onto the branches of a tree.
And although in a house I can go and look at your view, in life we cannot get inside each other’s heads and really experience another perspective. The best we can do is try to understand it.
Hence the difficulties so many of us have with relationships.
I was inspired to make a collection about relationships by a series Alison Wiley at Diamond Cut Life has been writing. Her most recent post Tips for living happily with others is about… well you don’t really need me to describe it, do you? Click here to read, and while you’re there, catch up with some of her other articles on the topic of relationships.
The introvert/extrovert divide
Perhaps one of the biggest areas for potential communication confusion is around the fault line between introverts and extroverts.
I enjoy Sophia Dembling’s writing on being an introvert and, being one, had a good giggle at her latest article You say “Friendly”, I say “Annoying”. I identify with pretty much every one of these, perhaps especially:
“Since you’re not doing anything…” Sitting quietly and staring into space is doing something. It does not mean I’m waiting for a nice chat.
Now in fairness and to redress the balance, I went searching Google for an extrovert’s perspective on how to get on with them. Didn’t find any, but assuming about half my readers are extroverts, would be delighted to hear some tips in the comments.
However I did find another article by Sophia, who has gone to the trouble of seeking out some extroverts, and has asked them their advice on this question:
…what if [you’re an introvert and] you’ve got your heart set on a very special extrovert? How do you wow that person?
Whether it’s letting that person know that you’re not comfortable talking about a particular subject or giving them rules about when it’s appropriate to call you (e.g. “don’t call me unless you’re bleeding”), you need to let this person know where your limits are. When they cross them, let them know in a respectful manner. Don’t let them bully you, but don’t be a jerk either.
I really like “don’t be a jerk either” – seems to me that’s around the difference between being assertive and being aggressive. If we bottle up our needs and desires for too long, they are likely to burst out as aggression.
Caring for others
As each successive generation lives longer, many of us will find ourselves in the position of caregivers, often for parents or a spouse. Those of you who have been or are in this position will know all too well the challenges.
When you approach an Alzheimer’s patient with respect, forgive the past, and celebrate the present, you’re more likely to have a positive encounter. Even if your history with the patient prevents you from connecting with a sense of love, exploring and encouraging connections can still create opportunities for untold joy.
And it gives a lot of solid advice, for example:
I only wish I’d known about this during my brother’s long death (five years ago tomorrow).
Caring for ourselves
I’ve always remembered Maya Angelou quoting an old African saying:
Never trust a naked man who offers you his shirt
We can’t hope to communicate well or to understand others without first understanding ourselves.
There are various systems which can help us do this. One which will be familiar to many of you is the Myers Briggs typology, based on Jungian personality types. You can take a version of the test here. (I’m INFP.)
Another is the system I teach, known as the Enneagram. You can take a test here, although I’m not convinced that online testing is that effective for this system. The Enneagram is a very subtle personality map in which mis-typing is common. Better to see if there’s a course being taught near you.
But I believe, and know from experience, that the single most important piece of self-care we can undertake is daily meditation.
This doesn’t have to be a religious or even spiritual practice, although it often is. There’s masses of research to show that regular meditation is hugely beneficial in numerous physical, emotional and mental ways.
How do you do it? Well Mary Jaksch at Goodlife Zen has an excellent starter article – click here.
And if you’re still not convinced that meditation will help you, and therefore everyone in your life, check out the following short video, which I found via my sometime coach, Sally Lever, herself a relationship expert.
(Reading this on your mobile and can’t see the video? Click here.)
So let me know in the comments what your ideas are for having happy and creative relationships, and meanwhile, have a great week.
Original photo credit above: pvderic My customisation via Photoshop texture tutorial from the brilliant Gavin Hoey
Why a spirituality for women? Isn’t spirituality simply that, spirituality? Well perhaps. None of us can really share what spiritual experience means to us, no matter what gender we are. What I’m talking about in this week’s collection is spiritual practice and expression.
And there are many reasons, some obvious, some more subtle, for spiritual practices focused on women.
One reason is to counter the essentially patriarchal nature of most of the major religions.
I was brought up Christian, and my main practice today is as a lay Benedictine monastic. But of course Christian history is patriarchal in the extreme. And its emphasis has been largely on conquering nature, rather than regarding the earth and her gifts with awe and wonder. Which is why I’m drawn also to Pagan expressions of spirituality.
The Divine Feminine
Less easy to define. What is it that makes us female, and how is this expressed in our spiritual practices? Is it merely fluffy bunny stuff to say that as women we are more intimately engaged with the creative pulse and interconnectedness of the earth? Indeed is that another way for women to be discounted by men?
So with those thoughts expressed, here are some links I’ve found this week around women and spirituality which I really enjoyed.
First up is the prayer found at Feminism and Religion by regular commenter Sarah, a reworked dreaming of the Hail Mary and the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Mother whose body is the Earth,
Blessed are you,
And blessed are all the fruits of your womb.
You give us this day our daily bread,
And we share it with others.
Our Mother whose body is the Earth,
We love you with all our hearts,
And our neighbors as ourselves.
You may have noticed that the Catholic Church has a new Pope! Before the election of Francis I, Claire Bangasser posted a poem called If I Were Pope by Jan Philips (together with the same writer’s The Real Woman’s Creed).
If I were pope…
I’d ask half the bishops and cardinals
to replace themselves with a thoughtful woman
and complete their ministries in a prison or homeless shelter
If I were pope
I’d pay the mystics to write poetry all day
and have their words read at the Sunday Masses
Creativity is one of the most spiritual forces there is, and artist Rima Staines (who painted the banner art on this site for me) always amazes me with her words and her art. Her latest piece is for a record cover, entitled From the Mourning of the World:
The Woman of the Earth weeps. Her sorrow for The Dying is heavier than we can know. Into her garment are stitched the ghosts of extinct species.
But from her tears grows music: music to wail and sing out and bow and strum and beat out the thrum of our griefs. And from the music grow green leaves, spiralling their new life from the alchemy of tears.
Click here to read the rest of Rima’s words and to see her painting.
And finally, a video called Woman Shaman by Max Dashu (a female Max), whose site The Supressed Histories Archive is here.
Is it me or is International Women’s Day losing its meaning? Last Friday, I felt a certain ennui reading all the self-serving contributions from political and business leaders. Are we turning our backs on what the Day should represent?
The official site is sponsored by BP, another energy company, and financial institutions, with “gender equality” pages published by accountancy firms, media businesses and government (as well as charities and special interest groups).
I know the arguments: the involvement of big business is crucial because it’s the only way women’s interests won’t be sidelined, because only big business has the klout to make policies which give women equal opportunities and pay. That women who are successful in business will make their effect felt in politics and boardrooms around the world.
But “family-friendly policies” make not one iota of difference to the basic premise that multinationals are not person-friendly or planet-friendly, let alone woman friendly.
Perhaps I’m just hankering after the heady idealism of the days when the personal was political and we were going to reform the world, not join the enemy!
Left-wing media in the UK didn’t disappoint on Friday, with a couple of interesting contributions from The Guardian which particularly caught my eye. The first was an interactive timeline map of the world showing when each women in each country got the right to vote, to stand for election and when the first woman was elected. It’s very interesting. Click here to take a look.
The second Guardian piece was a series of interviews with women and men around the world on the topic of gender violence. I haven’t read them all, but there are some incredibly moving stories, told by courageous people.
It seems I’m not the only party pooper on the topic of International Women’s Day.
Echidne of the Snakes begins a really interesting post (with some good links) thus:
The meaning of this day seems to be changing to something a little like Mothers’ Day. I spot people congratulating women on this day and such. That’s not the intention of the day. It also feeds directly into the argument that having a day for women but not a special set-aside day for men is sexist.
And Emily Lakdawalla has this to say in the same context:
For me, celebrating me or any other woman today only serves to emphasize that to be a woman is still considered to be “other.” It should not be exceptional that I am a woman in science; it should not be something worth celebrating. It should just be. The fact that it is still considered exceptional and something about which awareness needs to be raised with a special day is something I want to mourn, not celebrate.
On a lighter note, British feminist blog The F Word tells us the story of early 20th century Liverpool footballer Lily Parr, “the woman with a kick like a mule, a chain-smoking habit, and as many career goals as Pele…” I love hearing stories about women like this. Read it here.
And finally, at Feministe I found the song One Woman – singers and musicians coming together from around the world to sing with one voice. Here’s the video
(link here for email subscribers who can’t see it above)
That’s all for now. Let me know what you think of International Women’s Day, and have a great week everyone!
I really do believe that living more simply is a big part of growing older with grace and gusto. Several readers have commented to me over the months that clutter seems to collect effortlessly as we grow older (well for some of us anyway) and that getting rid of it frees up enormous reserves of energy and creativity. That’s certainly been my experience, which is why this week’s Sunday Collection covers the topic of living more simply.
It’s not just “stuff”
It’s important to remember that simplicity is not only about having less physical “stuff”.
It’s not even about having less digital “stuff” (and some of us know all too well the temptations of hiding books on the Kindle, of subscribing to too many digital newsletters and blogs, of being a member of online communities we have no hope of keeping up with).
It’s also about thoughts and emotions. Worry and guilt are two particularly stubborn mental residents for many of us. And they’re useless, except on the rare occasions they actually spur us on to take some necessary action. I wrote about the clogging-up effect of thoughts and emotions here last year, with a few suggestions on how to deal with them. Click here to read. I particularly enjoyed, by the way, Norma’s suggestion in the comments of that post about the use of toilet paper to acknowledge then flush away unwanted emotion.
But it is a lot about “stuff”
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful
I suspect there are many reasons we collect clutter – and let’s be honest, downright mess and occasional squalor in some cases. Some of them are to do with depression and some connected with fear – of failure, of success, of loss and many other things. And I’m sorry to say that most of us are never going to process all those emotions fully.
What we can do is work from the outside in and begin clearing clutter, because the effect on our emotional landscapes of simple beauty around us can be transformational. I know this from hard experience.
Although it can be a trap to get lost in reading books about simplicity and clutter-clearing (you read the book rather than clearing the clutter!), they can be useful, both practically and inspirationally.
Two of my favourite inspirational books I’ve already reviewed on Pilgrim’s Moon:
However if you tend to be paralysed by ambitions of perfection DO NOT yet tackle Home Comforts: the Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson. I bought this book then laundered linen table napkins while dishes lay unwashed in the sink. I bought and fitted under-slips for my pillowslips and under-covers for my duvet covers while my clothes lay on the bedroom floor because I had too many to fit in the wardrobe. It’s a wonderful book, but it’s PhD level in a world where some of us haven’t finished High School!
The blogs I read about simplicity tend to be more inspirational than practical, although a bit of both.
Let’s be inspired by the beauty shared online instead of shamed or envious. People that eat pretty food, or live with less, or strive for more are still people. They still experience ups and downs and set backs.
I refer above to Pen Wilcock’s book In Celebration of Simplicity, and I also love her blog, Kindred of the Quiet Way. She’s been running a series called 365 in which she posted a photograph each day over the course of a year of one unneeded piece of stuff she recycled. I enjoyed her latest post, Aggregating Marginal Gains, in which she talks about the beauty of what some would call a marginal life, and the connections we make:
If one walks the badger tracks rather than the highway, the whole lot is marginal – all gains are marginal! Income is low, status is minimal or non-existent, one has no platform, nothing with which to impress, no strings to pull.
But the aggregation of one’s gains here in the margins amounts to a life of contentment.
Josh Becker’s Becoming Minimalist is another excellent blog. In a lovely moment of serendipity, a friend posted a link on Facebook yesterday to my favourite post of his, which I had planned to link to today. So here it is: The Life Changing Nature of Gratitude.
Gratitude will never be a result of your next purchase, success, or accomplishment. It is available in your heart right now. And you will never find gratitude in life until you intentionally decide to choose it.
And Alison Wiley’s blog, Diamond-Cut Life, is consistently great. Here’s her 64-word guide.
People sometimes think that owning less is being less, and nothing could be further from the truth. Having what we need and paying attention to life is full of joy. As Mary Chapin Carpenter says:
Is it too much to ask
I want a comfortable bed that won’t hurt my back
Food to fill me up
And warm clothes and all that stuff
…Is it too much to demand
I want a full house and a rock and roll band
Pens that won’t run out of ink
And cool quiet and time to think
And of course she also wants Passionate Kisses. Here’s the song:
(For those of you reading this in email and unable to see the YouTube video, click here.)
Have a wonderful week everyone, whether simple or complicated!