Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Descent

I think there's something to be said for this Venus retrograde.

The astrologers I follow have been keeping track of her path as she disappears from the night sky. Ancient Greeks mythologized the descent of Venus with the story of Persephone, the beautiful daughter of Zeus and Demeter, who was abducted to the underworld by Hades.  While she was trapped there, winter lingered on the Earth.


These archetypes -- Venus and Persephone -- resonate in our bones.

Venus is the planet of love, associated with beauty, refinement, relationships and union.  She has the energies of art, balance and harmony. When these go underground, we feel bereft.  The kidnapping of Persephone, daughter of Olympian God and Goddess, leaves heartbreak and barrenness.


Even hardy New Endglanders are weary of winter, with her overcast skies, her chilly drizzle and her mantle of snow still blanketing the shady corners of our lawns.

Around mid-march Venus disappears from our night sky.  By the 25th she is in the underworld. During this time, several strong, talented, sensitive and optimistic women -- including me -- have hit the wall, so to speak.  Our store of inner resources has dwindled. Our muses are silent.  Low-grade anxiety that simmers over the winter months comes to a boil and screams like an untended teapot. Depression steals in like early-morning mist clinging to the forest floor. Our usual magic doesn't dispel it.


The descent of Venus below the horizon mirrors our descent into the shadow psyche, where we see all our hidden motivations and mechanisms -- the below-deck dynamics that often rule our actions and choices.

As we peer around in the dark, we see that the engines are cumbersome, outdated, grimy -- and fueled by our tiresome, outmoded beliefs.


It's a mess down here!

Slogging in these damp dungeons, I'm privy to the secret psycho-emotional-spiritual machinery that powers my very being -- ceaselessly operating below the level of my awareness and undermining my best intentions. Derailing dreams and visions.  Sabotaging plans.  Disrupting relationships.



So it is with reverence that I honor these days in the underworld.  I send out blessings to my friends near and far who have shared the shadowy state of their souls.  I  marvel at the sheer courage of the women in our JOURNEY TO SELF (anxiety and depression) group -- examining their automatic thoughts by inquiring, Is it true? 

They share stories of loss and anguish. At first they were reluctant; now they're candid.  Together, we're dismantling the below-deck machinery, the unconscious belief systems that have not always steered us toward happiness.  We're learning to formulate alternative thoughts in response to challenging circumstances.  We're becoming skilled at tracing our thoughts back to beliefs that no longer serve us and choosing new beliefs that relieve suffering and feel truer that what we grew up believing about ourselves and the world.



This is the work of the spiritual warrior.  We're not battling something out there; we're taking steps toward self-mastery.

We're cleaning up below deck.  Overhauling the engine room.

Visiting the underworld is not for the faint of heart.  Peering into the shadow aspects of our selves requires bravery and compassion.  Our circle of women provide these generously when one of us falters.  As we re-work our inner dynamics, we feel the ship of self begin to sail on it's own power, inspired, toward what we may not have thought was possible.


But here's the real magic about Venus, that sparkling star who ventured through hell -- on March 31 she emerges in the morning sky!  The evening star rises with the sun.

I expect all of us who are doing our shadow work -- willingly or not -- will feel the shift as Venus graces the pre-dawn skies at the beginning of a brand new day. Maybe then it will finally feel like spring.



Persephone promises to return and when she does the earth flourishes. May we align with the great creative forces of the earth and sky and do the same.



*If you're interested in JOURNEY TO SELF:  Beyond Anxiety and Depression, a therapeutic group for adults combining cognitive behavioral therapy and holistic healing, look for us on Facebook.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Shooting Star!

Last night fourteen women and one (brave and lovely) man gathered around the fire for meditation.

I trusted that the best way to serve the circle would arise.  Signs and omens abounded.

On the pond, glassy ice covered the inlet, but further out there must have been open water because two stately swans presided.  So I chose their image for our altar.


Since I planned to introduce some new attendees to Energy Medicine -- specifically the second chakra, the realm of emotions and movement --  I chose this snowman, created by my daughter in elementary school.  Intuitively she gave him an orange low belly, just as it is when you tune in to the energy body.


I also planned to mention Imbolc, the cross quarter day at 2 o'clock on the wheel of the year -- indicating we're half way to the Spring Equinox.  We find solace in this.


Our meditation immerses us in an etherial mountain-top hot spring, surrounded with snowy pines. We inhale the healing vapors and let them circulate around and through our bodies, releasing tension, fatigue and stress.  Ahhhh!  Through the soles of our feet resting on a smooth stone, we anchor into the Great Mother Earth and let ourselves be deeply replenished by her strength.  From our hearts we send gratitude into the fathomless depths of her body, humbly returning the favor.

We allow the bubbling, swirling waters to cleanse, clear, balance and heal, with gentle emphasis on the low belly, seat of emotions often lodged deeply in the dark.  Inviting them to bubble up, we can reclaim their power.


I guided everyone to imagine a gentle snow falling out of the sky and melting into the mists of our mountain retreat.  I almost didn't place this sign on the mantle because there has been no sign of snow but I planned to invoke it in our meditation, so....


And today, here it is in the material realm.

This lush little bouquet was sent by my daughter -- one of three -- because we both have difficulty with this time of year.  By way of check-in last night, I shared with everyone that I was having trouble meditating of late, speculating on the shortage of sunlight.  Day times, I need the open sky; at night, I long for the spaciousness of the stars.  Overcast makes me feel restless, claustrophobic.


These little bouquets, and the impulse that sent them, give me joy.

After our meditation I notice the sky is clear and bright with stars so I offer to show everyone Orion, the prominent winter constellation.  A few of us bundle up and go outside.  As I'm pointing to his belt -- a falling star!


Orion, the hunter, aims at the Pleiades, seven sister stars.  Women gathering in winter, gazing at sisters in the heavens?  Priceless.

Synchronous events like these tell me that the animating force of the universe is at work and blessing the soul sisters and brothers of our circle.

How else could  it be so powerful?









Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Celebrating the Return of the Light


December 21st marks the longest night of the year -- the Winter Solstice.  The sun "stands still" at the lowest point on the horizon for three days and then changes direction, granting us longer days from that point forward. Festivals of Light around the world celebrate the  re-birth of the sun and Christians honor the birth of the Son of God, Light of the world.




Join us around the (indoor) fire as I share perennial wisdom associated with the Winter Solstice. We'll have an evening of reflection, candle light, music, guided meditation and (optional) hands-on energy healing.



Wednesday, December 21, 2016
7:00
Blue Heron Healing
43 Amato Circle
Wethersfield, CT


The fee is $20 or $15 if you let me know you're coming by Sunday, December 18.  You may contact me at julie.montinieri@gmail.com or 860-614-0747 to let me know if you plan to attend.

Gift yourself with the peace of the season.  You'll leave feeling clear, grounded, cared for, blessed -- and decidedly less stressed!







Tuesday, August 2, 2016

First Harvest

Can you feel the shift?

High summer has come to a close with the arrival of Lughnasadh (loo-nah-sah).  Named after the Celtic sun god, Lugh, it's time to reap the bounty of fields and gardens.

Farmer's markets are brimming with corn, zucchini and greens.  Bouquets of flowers grace our kitchen tables and window sills.




Lughnasadh falls mid-way between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox on the wheel of the year.  How are you feeling as the days grow shorter?   Have you noticed the summer stars shifting in the sky?




I set intentions on the winter solstice, seeding them in my awareness during the dark days of winter. I felt my ideas germinating through the early spring.  I nurtured them with practical steps until they burst through -- from fertile ground into tender seedlings.  Actual evidence this might work! During the long days of summer, I've  been tending my plans the same way I tend my plants, doing what I need to do to help my ideas thrive.  I'm weeding out what doesn't fit in with my evolving vision.

I had the idea of teaching energy medicine.  I mulled it over during the long winter.  I began to envision it.  I talked it over with a trusted mentor. Friends offered to help.

Bringing this idea into reality required action on my part.  Dreaming about it was not going to make it happen.  I placed ads in local publications.  I drafted copy, solidifying my ideas.  I pulled out my calendar and chose seven weekends over the next year, with consideration to the phase of the moon, of course. For on-line advertising, I was asked to convert a word document into a JPEG.  How to do this? I had no idea! But I learned.  Lo and behold, there was my ad, in The Door Opener e-blast -- it looked good!  I posted my offering, Opening the Channel:  Introduction to Energy Medicine, here on the blog.




At the time of this first harvest I have two students paid in full.  

Still many blessings of the summer to treasure -- Meredith, our oldest daughter, will be married this month!  All our planning will culminate in that day of joy for our families.  

Yet as the Earth turns toward autumn, so do we. Earlier evenings, pulling out the tea pot, resuming our Monday night meditation circle -- I look forward to these familiar rituals of fall.  But I'm not in a hurry to have them yet.




Instead, I'm savoring the bounty of the earth using fresh ingredients straight from my modest garden. Herbs sprinkled into salad.  Wondering what to do with lemon balm.  Our current favorite is blueberry zucchini cake with lemon buttercream. (http://iambaker.net/blueberry-zucchini-cake-with-lemon-buttercream/)



I hope you savor whatever you are in the process of creating in your home, business, career, relationship and spiritual life.  My friend Mary is nurturing her relationship with her precious first grandchild; Kathy is piecing together an art quilt to take your breath away, and Michela is seriously considering retirement to make room for her many talents as a healer.



And don't forget to weed!  That painful relationship?  Is is time to let it go?  That situation that's always fraught with drama?  How can you step away from it? Or shift your perspective so it no longer triggers you?  Has some illusion shattered?  Embrace clarity.  

Just as the garden is even more vivid after a good rain shower, so is the inner landscape more vibrant after being tended to in ways like these.



If you haven't been consciously aware of this creation cycle that began on the winter solstice, it's not to late to set your intentions now.  Today is the last day of the current lunar cycle -- the balsamic phase -- the exact time for going inward and reflecting on your dreams, goals and priorities. Tomorrow, August 2nd, is the new moon -- the exact time for setting your intentions for this lunar cycle.  Use the power of the shorter lunar cycle to jump into the larger solar cycle of creation.  Aligning with these cycles within cycles  attunes you to the powerful rhythms of the the great forces of the cosmos.  Navigating with these energies puts you in the flow of creation.


Why paddle upstream when you can have the wind at your back?


May your first harvest be as delightful as a pint of freshly-picked strawberries -- bursting with flavor, nurtured by light, and tenderly harvested by your very own loving hands.


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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer Solstice Around the Fire

In the couple of mornings since our solstice gathering, I've awakened with images from our evening floating on the edges of my consciousness.

I try to follow these, like a trail of breadcrumbs through the woods, back to the deep well they emerged out of while I slept, but the trail is misty.  The sun-infused leafy canopy out my window beckons.  A new day awaits.

In preparation for our solstice evening, my co-facilitator (partner in crime), Jen,  journeys inward to receive messages from her spirit helpers as to exactly how we should conduct our ceremony.  In this case it was somewhat detailed, complete with instructions to make 22 prayer ties connected with a string.  These were to be placed around the fire and put into the fire at a specific time. These spirits kept Jen busy! She's prayerfully placing tobacco, infused with healing intentions, into red bundles and tying them up with string while I'm pulling up chairs around the fire pit, arranging a medicine wheel, and infusing water with mint and lemon for our guests.

Before journeying, Jen asked if there was any information I wanted her to seek in the realms of Spirit. Since the sun reaches the peak of it's annual arc across the sky on the solstice, I wondered if there might be a message from the Sun. Or the full moon. This rare and powerful alignment of a full moon on the summer solstice hasn't happened since 1967 -- the summer of love -- and will not happen again until 2062.

This morning, upon awakening, it was the message from the sun that I remembered.  In the spirit world, Jen learned that the sun welcomes our greetings each morning.  We are advised to energetically root into the earth and open to the sun -- just as we have been doing in our meditation classes!  We may even give our burdens to the sun!


So before I sit down to write about my dream snippets, I step outside onto the patio.  The stone pavers are cool beneath my bare feet.  I face east. The strong white light of the sun filters through the leafy backyard trees.  This morning, rays of the sun feel like arms slanted downward, offering to take my burdens.


What if I offer gun control legislation to the sun?  One mass murder on top of another -- it's too much.  What if I offer poverty?  There's a young family in my life for whom poverty is causing suffering.  As usual, my prayer extends beyond them to include everyone across the globe who languishes in poverty.  I especially include every mother and father who needs food for their children.  Faces flash across my inner vision as I ground my feet into the earth and open my arms to the sun.  Returning the gesture.

With these and myriad intentions tumbling around in my mind, I do seven (modified) sun salutations, asking the sunlight to help me see clearly.  I'm blessed with it's elemental light to illuminate my path today.  I allow it to  infuse my being so that I may share it with my clients today.  With everyone I meet today.

Never have sun salutations felt so powerful!  I've always done these beautifully choreographed asanas to honor the sun, the new day, and to energize my body, but never have I felt communion with the sun itself.

This is only one gift from our solstice celebration!  I'll share more over the coming days.


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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Ushering in the Storm

After tuning in to early morning scenes of Winter Storm Justin making it's way up the east coast, and after helping Kerri decide to cancel the winter women's retreat day we had planned, I bundle up and head out for a walk before snow overspreads the land!

Outside the air is still but for a flock of ravens making a ruckus in the treetops.  Not one snowflake, for all the fuss.  When I was a kid in upstate NY, three to six inches of snow fell without comment.


It is remarkable that it's the 23rd of January and we have yet to accumulate any snow. I'm wearing long johns under my sweats, ski socks with toe warmers, sweatshirt, jacket, headband, gloves and a scarf wound up to my chin.

Quiet Saturday morning.  Paul went for coffee and then off to a budget workshop with the rest of the council and the board of ed.  Oh, how I do not miss those days.

The muted colors of winter seem more precious with the knowing they'll soon be under cover of snow. Gnarled bark, laced with silvery lichen; tarnished coppery leaves littering the ground around the massive oaks.  The trees themselves, with their arms outstretched, awaiting the snowfall. Do they know, like the ravens, that snow is coming?  Can they tell from the pallor of the sky?


The evergreens are fatigue-green; some have a blue cast.  The grass is a rolling collage of faded green, earthy brown, and pale yellow.  The only shot of color is a lone basketball left out on the soccer field; it looks like a leftover pumpkin the distance.  And here's someone's (loud) bright red snow-blower, warming up for later use.

I feel the tiny flakes on my cheeks before I can see them.   I have to look very carefully -- they're scarce, random.  Materializing before my eyes and disappearing in an instant like micro shooting stars.

When I arrive at the pond there's no speculating about ice -- it's frozen solid.  A pearl gray sheet from shore to shore.  A wind-swept dusting of snow looks like a sheer curtain being pulled ashore by some playful winter sprite.




I stay for awhile on the dock, grateful to be outside in January in sneakers.  I breathe in the cold fresh air and let it work it's head-clearing magic.  I let the hush settle around and within me.  I wonder about the turtles, swans, and geese -- all the waterfowl that live here -- and imagine them burrowed in somewhere as I'll soon be, sipping tea in my long johns, typing the sentences that  are composing themselves in my head.  A whole day unexpectedly open.  Life is good.

Back on the street there's a tableau of evergreens that bring the finely blowing snow into focus.  It seems the storm is arriving on schedule.  I'm blessed to usher it in.

Stay warm and safe!


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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Flying in the Dark

It's January 10th in Connecticut, a Sunday afternoon, and so mild I decide to take a walk, despite the gloom.  I consult my weather app to check sunset  (4:39) even though there's been no sign of sun all day.  It's now 4:26.  I decide to do my neighborhood loop and end at the pond, per usual, even though it will be dark by then.  The dock faces northwest so at least that part of the sky won't be completely drained of light by the time I get there.

I've got my umbrella looped around my wrist and only a cotton t-shirt under my oversize sweatshirt. The treetops scrape the damp sky with their bony fingers, swaying back and forth.  It's strangely warm and good to be outside on a January evening.

I've taken up yoga.  I've discovered the joy of easing tension away under the guidance of my teachers. Eagle arms, circle of joy -- these  asanas let it all go.

I love the yoga but my walks give me fresh air, and today -- in January! -- it's warm and windy. Perfect for a thorough aura cleanse. I imagine the gusty breezes getting into every nook and cranny of my energy field -- the unseen cocoon that surrounds and interpenetrates our bodies -- metabolizing all our stuff (and I don't mean food here).  Like a stiff breeze through gauzy curtains, shaking loose the dust and cobwebs.

Rounding the corner onto Highland, I open my umbrella because now it's drizzling.  I hold it at an angle so I can still see the sky and the occasional jogger coming my way.  It gets caught in the wind, so I hold it steady as it pulls me this way and that.

On the dock is John, the owner of the property, who graciously lets me sit and gaze out over the reservoir whenever I want.  Tonight he's smoking a sweet smelling cigar, like sage, smudge.

Hey John.

Hey Julie, I had to step out and get some air.  I've been in the car all day.  We chat.

Do we have ice?  Out on the pond the geese are standing on the surface of the pond, and since they're not Jesus, John jokes, we have ice.  Here in the inlet, there's a thin glaze.  Further out, ghostly fog floats.

Unseasonable.  Warm like Spring, but the last few days have been cold enough to create ice.  Down the way, the waterfall is swollen and rushing from overnight rains.  Although the solstice is weeks behind us, it still doesn't feel like winter. The grass is green, unmarred by snow.  Christmas lights strung on bushes and around front doors await a return to normalcy.

John and I are saying good night when we hear the croak of the heron. I've never seen one in the dark, but there he is, flying low overhead, tracing the shore of our little inlet but not venturing over land. John says it's because we're here, that he does cross through the back yards if no one's outside.

The voice of great blue heron calling out in the fallen darkness reaches into my soul.  He doesn't have to say anything; we might not have noticed him had his flight remained silent.  Yet he cries out in his distinctive voice, his neck stretched outward, wings beating like laundry snapping on the line, his long beak pointing the way.

Like this bird, I, too, am flying in the dark in this new year.  Trying to get a feel for a direction of my own. The new year always feels full of possibility and potential, but where to focus?  Where to expand? What to let go of?  Like the fog hovering over thin ice, the future feels etherial, difficult to peer into, and ultimately -- unknown.

Yet we meet it like the heron.  Hanging out in the border-lands between earth, water and sky -- the realms of the material, the emotional, the spiritual. The dimensions of stable ground, movement -- flowing or frozen, and the mental realm of air.  The only element missing is fire -- not even one streak of light across the western horizon to light the way for us.

In this way, my pond retreat is like the aura I was consciously cleansing earlier.  In the human energy field, all these elements converge -- earth (body), air (mind and spirit), water (emotions) and fire (passion and creativity).  Our beliefs run along invisible threads of light, colliding with our feelings, spinning and wheeling like the very wind.  Spirit opens its wings to fly. Our inner fire ignites our creative self-expression.

Nightfall is complete.  I make my way home without stars or slim moon, only clouds scudding across dark skies, grateful for my feathered totem -- flying with confidence into the mists, calling out for us follow.


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