Monday, December 29, 2014

Solstice Ashes

This morning on my walk I have a special mission:  to complete a winter solstice ritual.

I'm carrying a zip-lock bag of ashes in my pocket. These ashes are are all that remain of the obstacles to happiness that went up in flames on the longest night of the year.

We gathered that evening to celebrate the return of the light.  Although we still have a New England winter to navigate, at least the days are growing longer.  We welcome the gradual return of the light after the darkest days of the year.

According to ancient wisdom, when the sun appears to stand still on the winter solstice -- that pause when one cycle ends and another begins -- our choices are more potent than at any other point in the cycle.  So we made some  deliberate choices.

First: What to release?

We looked back at the year, assessing what hadn't worked for us.  This could be personal or professional, like a troubling relationship at home or work.   Anyone dealing with an impossible teenager, co-worker or boss?  Yes, heads nod.   Are we holding onto old grievances?  We looked at frustrating circumstances and asked ourselves: What, in me, is contributing to the problem?  Long silence. Can I let that go? Am I holding onto an inherited belief like, Good things happen to other people, not me?  Because really, is that true?  Or maybe I neglected to draw up a strategic plan, to ask for assistance or to follow through.  Did I procrastinate, make excuses, or rationalize? Uh, maybe, smile.  

Quietly, in the candlelight of our solstice altar, we wrote what we were willing to release on slips of paper.  Then we went outside and each one struck a match, igniting her intention to let these things go. The darkness of the longest night of the year was interrupted by the dancing flames of our willingness to shift, the same way the earth shifted, in that very hour, to winter.

Our next deliberate choice?  What to embrace in the new cycle.

We left the papery ashes in the bin on the deck, went back inside and settled ourselves around the candle-lit room -- sitting cross-legged on cushions, lying down on blankets, in chairs or against the wall with pillows supporting the lower back -- and went into deep meditation. 

Soothing music weaved around the room as I led the group in releasing tension from soles to scalp. Then we traveled within, divine light illuminating the way, to the deepest level of our being, where the light of our core essence resides. Emerging from this space of inner light, we articulated our intentions for the upcoming cycle.  

To encourage daring and expansion I read: 


The Self is not a known territory
But a wilderness
Too often we forget that.
Too often we reach the boundaries of what we know 
About ourselves and turn back.  Now is a time to push past those boundaries,
And begin a quest for the unknown genius
That lives within you.*

We wrote out big dreams and down-to-earth practical steps necessary to bring them to fruition.  We noted that not just the solstice but the lunar and solar alignments of this night support new beginnings.  The new moon in Capricorn and the sun moving into Capricorn are decidedly not airy-fairy.  These energies are ambitious, responsible, efficient, disciplined and practical.  

Then we planted literal seeds, a quiet ritual, to ground our intentions.  Gently embedding the seeds in the fragrant potting soil, fingers in the loamy earth, reflect the creation tenderly taking root within each of us.

This morning I released the powdery ashes into a sunlit stream, completing the ritual as promised. Some of them went with the rushing current; some got caught in a small spiraling eddy, a branch and some leaves, but I watched until every last fine particle joined the larger flow, bobbing over rocks and around delicate crisps of ice. 

These ashes, I thought, represent something troubling, limiting or sabotaging that had once been an active, perhaps even destructive energy.  Maybe it was judgment wreaking havoc in relationships. Maybe it was procrastination, causing one missed opportunity after another.  Maybe it was chronic people-pleasing, undermining self-worth. Perhaps one of us in the solstice circle determined to pry loose the grip of an addiction, to take back her power over her own choices.  Perhaps someone decided to seek help in overcoming her fear of intimacy, committing to self-awareness around why she mistakenly defends against the very thing she wants.  I honored all the unknown choices made by our circle. These negative patterns that had been active in each of our lives had been transmuted in the fire, reduced to ash, dormant like the earth. Now they're washing downstream to fertilize the earth, enabling buds to burst forth along this stream bed in the spring. Releasing the old makes room for new dynamism to flow in.

Our willingness to uproot these, and to supplant with our aspirations, grounded in practical action, were the potent choices we made on solstice night.  It's not too late for you to do so too!  On the solstice, the new moon was dark.  As it waxes, join in -- releasing what you're so tired of struggling with and embracing your dreams and desires. As the moon swells toward full, feel your own fullness.  

What will arise from your ashes?

*The Vision Quest by Paul Ferrini.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Owl Wisdom at Halloween

On the night before meeting with the Moon Goddess Circle, contrary to my usual practice, I decide to prepare for our gathering.  Usually I wake up fresh and put together a loose agenda the morning of our meeting.  But tonight I feel like settling down and perusing various sources so that this meditation -- prior to Halloween -- is just right for our group. During this time of shorter days and longer nights apprehension rises; many of us are affected by the waning light from Halloween until Christmas. From Samhain (Sa-ween) to the Winter Solstice.

So I gather up some favorite resources and delve in.

First I consult my calendar.  Elizabeth Barrett writes, in Samhain -- Divining the Unseen: [now] the veil between worlds is thinnest.  The ordinary and extraordinary meet. (I have always been fascinated by this juncture!) Death and life touch at the edges. Mysteries drop hints.  

Next I open Create a Dynamic Year 2014:  The Divine Feminine Way to Rhythmically Create A Rich and Fulfilling Year by Lisa Michaels.  Samhain, she says, is a medieval Irish word for summer's end. Despite the mellow beauty of fall, many of us mourn the loss of sunlight, the warmth and abundance of summer. We're anxious about darkness falling early and the long cold winter.  Indeed, the six weeks from Samhain to the Winter Solstice are the darkest of the year.  Lisa also notes that the veil between the worlds of life and death is thin and traditionally ancestors are honored by displaying photos and lighting candles on their behalf.  I notice that All Souls Day is the day after Halloween.

In The Path of Druidry:  Walking the Ancient Green Way, Penny Billington notes that physically Samhain is a time for settling down to winter, preserving food, and clearing the garden.  Here the goddess takes the form of the crone, winnowing away the old and outworn and scouring the earth before it's winter sleep.

What a potent image.  It makes cleaning out closets -- putting away summer clothes and sorting out winter things, passing on what's no longer useful -- feel almost ... archetypal!  All of a sudden I don't mind putting my modest garden to bed -- collecting the last flowers, gathering up the stones I scattered about in the Spring, now lost underneath overgrown plants and fallen leaves. Tidying for winter is the task of the crone, smile.  Mundane chores are infused with meaning.

Having soaked up all these rich associations, I pile up my books, grateful for time spent today with our oldest daughter and her boyfriend who came over for our traditional pre-Halloween dinner and pumpkin carving. Paul carved a scary Scrooge and Meredith an awesome owl.  Joey pulled out his phone, found a recipe and roasted the seeds. We lit our creations and took pictures that were posted within the hour.  After a pleasurable  day and my bedtime research, the world felt enchanted.  I slipped easily into sleep ...

... only to be awakened hours later by the hooting of an owl!  Paul jokes that Meredith's pumpkin conjured this owl.

Drifting back to sleep, listening to these calls of the wild is like being in a dream.  The voice of the owl is strangely muffled but deeply resonant, thrumming through tattered treetops.

I wake up early with a vision -- flaming wings in the night sky -- etched in my psyche. In the dream I was with a group and we were watching for a signal.  This vision was far more portentous than we expected -- V-shaped wings aflame in the navy nightscape.  It confirmed something:  All is well.  All will be well. Fear is unwarranted.

With that strange feeling of having one foot in each world, I pad downstairs and pull out Animal Speak. Of course it turns out Owl is the perfect totem as we navigate Samhain to Solstice -- symbolizing The Mystery of Magic, Omens, Silent Wisdom and Vision in the Night (!)

I marvel at the synchronicity but Spirit is not done yet.  Today's lesson in A Course in Miracles? There is nothing to fear.  Despite the assurance of my dream, my mind veers toward:  OK, but what if you are, in fact, anxious, apprehensive or fearful? Or prone to worry?

The presence of fear is a sure sign that you are trusting in your own strength.  The awareness that there is nothing to fear shows that somewhere in your mind, though not necessarily in a place you recognize as yet, you have remembered God, and let His strength take the place of your [apprehension].  The instant you are willing to do this there is indeed nothing to fear.

This penetrates my defenses like rays of light filtering through chinks in ancient armor.

How many times do I need to be shown that accepting what-is, as it flows into the moment --without fuss, fear or worry -- is the only sane way to be?

As I set about arranging an altar for the moon goddesses, to say I am inspired is a bit of an understatement.

When our circle gathers, I share how these events unfolded because they remind us of the themes that weave through this closing arc on the wheel of the year:  letting go, turning inward, scouring out what's no longer needed, honoring our ancestors, preparing for winter, the potency of prophecy and acute vision in the dark.

As we settle onto our cushions, I lead us on an inward journey to a clearing in the woods.  We sit under a starry sky and crescent moon, encircled by pines.  Our guardians are solemn owls, sentinels along the path and perched in the branches around us. Some are just over our shoulders; others are hidden in the shadows.

These owls lend us their nocturnal vision so we can see our way clear through this dark cycle. Their ability to hear the subtlest movements teaches us to attune to what's not being said. They lend us their resonant voices as well as their skill of silent flight, for times when flying below the radar is best.  Their predatory accuracy teaches us how to sustain ourselves, even when resources seem scarce. They bestow their healing power, prophecy and wisdom.

May you hear the call of your wild soul this Halloween.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Autumn Meditation

I'm sitting on the dock overlooking the reservoir.  The foliage is radiant in the late afternoon sun -- brilliant red, opulent orange, glimmering gold.

I breath softly, merging with the quiet.

Leaves drop lazily, their pliant bodies alighting on the lake with a sigh. They radiate ringlets like auras.

Gliding like tiny sailboats, they crisscross the mirror-like lake.

A warm gust shakes loose a shower.  When swirling hues catch the sunlight, tarnished yellow transmutes into gold, faded orange ignites into flame, mottled red bursts into radiant ruby.

These falling leaves take flight with abandon! They yield graciously to gravity. They surrender with aplomb.  They bob on rolling wavelets until they eventually slip under, in the ever evolving cycle of birth, death and re-birth. 

This is falling into grace -- letting go when the time is right, trusting in life's ever-shifting currents, seeing the beauty in sun and shadow, engaging with unseen forces.

Like these leaves on this fall day, may I embody the wisdom of Autumn.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Equinox Oracle

In keeping with my tradition of drawing a rune on the high holy days of the wheel of the year -- the Solstices and Equinoxes -- I pull out my little bag of oval stones and pour them onto the kitchen table.

When I place my hands over them, both thumbs rest on the same smooth stone, Kano -- the Rune of Opening and renewed clarity.  The message in The Book of Runes is so validating that it makes me catch my breath.

Earlier in the evening, I invited the Moon Goddesses (smile) of our meditation circle to draw a rune if they felt so inclined, after coming out of meditation.  I was visiting but I noticed some of the women drawing stones and going into the study to copy their messages.  I had invited them to do this so they could quickly pass the little book along to the next one looking to interpret the glyph inscribed on the stone. Because I was not paying close attention, I wondered later, as I drew my own rune, whether I had adequately introduced this self-reflective practice -- other than describing it as heavy duty!  The runes don't fool around; they often come right to the point and may not be as feel-good as the angel cards, for example.

This moment of doubt threatens to pull me in like quicksand.  The meditation itself, was it too complicated?  Did I try to do too much in one sitting? Self-healing and Earth-healing?  The pranic body we discussed -- might the new people have thought that was just too weird?  A spirit twin? An etheric double of my physical body that needs clearing and strengthening to create balance and clarity?  Tuning into the central pranic channel -- was it reasonable to expect this on the first night? To ask them to imagine themselves in the very center of the earth, drawing in celestial and terrestrial energies and radiating them out into the body of the great mother earth? OMG. Moment of panic: was it all just too much?

Apparently not.

Recognize that while on the one hand you are limited and dependent, on the other you exist at the perfect center where the harmonious and beneficent forces of the universe merge and radiate.  You are that center.

Exactly what we had done in meditation!

The author of this little book, Robert Blum, says that the Oracle's reply will always be timely and instructive.

Uh, yeah.

Forces converge when women gather.  Remember this, I tell myself, noticing how doubt has been effortlessly vanquished by the sea of prana pervading our sacred space.

Thank-you Spirit.

Friday, September 19, 2014


Today I was visited by heartbreak.

Not mine but a client whose tender heart was raw with exposure and rejection.

As he told his story, his eyes became even more vivid blue, washed with tears.  I listened deeply as he unwound the wound -- a friendship grew into deeper feeling on his part, but not on hers.  Crushed, he kept bringing his hand to his heart.

As I placed my hands, I found swirling tension in his head, as he had been replaying his situation over and over in his mind.  In time, it calmed a little, clearing a path toward the hurting heart.  I tentatively placed my hand on the middle of his chest and found the energy there contracted in pain. I withdrew my palm, lightly placing fingertips instead, inviting Spirit into our healing circle. Soon celestial energy was pouring in through this young man's crown chakra and encircling his protected heart.

It spun like a galaxy of stars, scintillating green light. While the physical heart remained protected, the energetic heart space opened to circulate this celestial light energy, soothing and assuaging the constricted area like a warm whirlpool.

I heard the word confidence in connection with this inflow.  In my head, I'm wondering, Confidence? We seem to have the opposite here....  And yet I was given to understand that this beautiful soul, if he refused to let this experience defeat him,would emerge intact.  If he took very good care of himself, boosting his immunity against further emotional inflammation. If he expressed his feelings -- with friends, into a journal, or playing an instrument.  If he refused to withdraw into isolation and instead chose to extend himself to others -- to find or create community.  If he attended to the practical matters of his life -- getting out for groceries, engaging with his students, hanging out with his housemates -- perspective would be restored and he would emerge from this dark passage with ... confidence.

As I spoke of this he looked doubtful.  I acknowledged  that some time under the covers is allowable, smile.  It's OK to mourn what might have been.  But be on guard against self-pity and retracting into isolation.

Be aware of that celestial energy of divine love swirling within.  You are loved without condition.

I instructed him on how to activate this for himself when needed and to honor this gift of Spirit.

We embraced, truly heart to heart, and as he pulled away, I imagined I saw the light of that love already glimmering in his sky blue eyes.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Intimations of Autumn

Upon awakening, I reach for the lightweight down coverlet and pull it up around my shoulders.  The morning is crisp and fresh.  Light slants through the blinds at an end-of-summer angle,  beckoning me out of bed.  I pull on a sweatshirt, knowing that time has come.

On my walk, I find a smattering of orange leaves floating serenely on the pond.  Overhead, leaves on lower branches are tinged.  Across the water, the vibrant green of summer has begun to mellow.  The cattail grasses are drying to straw.

Last night around mid-night I stepped outside to check the northern skies.  There had been reports of northern lights and I was on the look-out for the waving luminous curtains I'd seen online.  It was a rare clear night with clusters of stars usually not visible amidst the more familiar summer constellations. By then the big dipper had set. Craning my neck in awe, I inhaled the late summer sky, breathing it into my being.  At the same time I felt it inhaling me.

In another late summer ritual, I emptied our front porch urns of their leggy petunias and scrappy salvia, replacing them with farm stand finds.  Ornamental millet looks like a glossy brown corn stalk, with fronds waving on top.  It's halloween-ish!  I surround these with a spiraling heads of silvery- green kale, yellow, orange and red ornamental peppers and  tiny purple mums.


I've been sitting outside at in the evenings after dinner, reading and soaking up the last light of the ever-shortening days.  The air is dusky.  One knows that the earth and sun are shifting in relation to each other as one season comes to a close and another dawns.

I notice myself not mourning the passing of summer.

This new season of harvest promises riches of its own.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Happy Lammas!

August first is Lammas or Lughnasadh, the day we honor the first harvest.  Named for the Celtic sun god, Lugh, this day celebrates the grain harvest -- or whatever you are blessed to reap over the next few weeks.

The wheel shows us the larger rhythms and cycles we are enfolded in.  We started the year with the winter solstice, which marks the incremental return of light, lengthening the dark days of winter. Yule is a time for going within, planning -- for germinating in the dark womb of the Great Mother as well as within our psyches.  As we move around the circle, through mi-winter, spring equinox, and Beltane, an idea gestating within may begin to take on a life of it's own.  We may feel it stirring in our belly, nudging us to usher its way through the birth canal into reality.

What plans did you make in that quiet, reflective time?  Have you nurtured your seedling vision? Tended it lovingly and purposefully?  Have you watched it sprout despite an obstacle or two?  Has your cherished dream taken strong root in reality, manifesting in the full light of your attention ? Are you poised to reap the rewards of your full-fledged commitment?

How might this look?  It could be a literal harvest, like my modest herb garden, inspired by my friend Pat's recent post.

Or a lovely annual.

Or a Lammas-eve cherry crisp, baking the abundance into a sweet treat.

Or displaying my growing healing practice at Wethersfield's Farmer's Market.  It's been such a pleasure, the last few weeks, to meet so many people interested in energy work and our meditation circle.

My daughter Michelle recently graduated with a degree in visual arts, a notable culmination for our family. She designed the banner that draws the curious over for a chat.

A few months ago, none of these things existed!

Such is the power of the creative impulse.  It may be just the tiniest seed, the most fleeting thought, but we draw it into reality with our focused vision and spirited follow through.  By tending to our plans and projects despite discouragement and distractions, we bring the the wisdom of the wheel to bear in our lives.  It's momentum pulls us forward; we feel a part of something larger that our separate selves.

Remember, Lammas is first harvest.  There's still time to tend to your creations!  What will you do today in service of your passion?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Solstice Omen

I get up quietly, pull on sweats and tip-toe downstairs.  It's only 6:30 but the sunlight has been filtering through the leafy canopy out back for awhile, casting lacy shadows, inviting me to wake up.

I slide open the back door, careful not to stir the wind chimes, and toss my cushions out onto the porch. It's refreshingly cool. On the  porch rail some crystals are infused with sun and starlight.

It's almost the exact moment of alignment -- 6:51 -- when I sit down, facing east, arranging myself cross-legged on the cushions.  I imagine the gentle rays of the rising sun christening my brow on this, the longest day of the year -- the Summer Solstice.

Despite the fresh new day, troubling realities distract like cawing crows.  Chaos in the Middle East. Legislative battles just to get GMOs labeled. Corporations usurping the people's power. Heart-breaking gun violence. Weather anomalies. Streets are flooded, forests aflame and homes left in twisted piles of lumber in the wake of another tornado. They're blowing the tops off the Smokey Mountains to extract coal.


Obviously I'm having trouble  settling into meditation.

I turn my attention to beacons of hope:  strong voices calling for a radical shift in the thinking that got us here. Gregg Braden, in The Turning Point: Creating Resilience in Times of Extremes, says an evolutionary leap in awareness is the only practical way to meet current challenges.  Marianne Williamson is shaping a new paradigm that combines the power of prayer with sustainable solutions as a way toward peace. Leaders in the New Consciousness movement urge us to snap out of the malaise that makes us want to opt-out of the mess we've made (or has been made right under our noses). They urge us to take up a cause we feel passionate about and not let up until it's fixed.  Like the fact that special interests are a malignant cancer destroying the ideal of public service from the inside out.

OK, breathe.  Connect to earth and sky.  Let all this percolate into perspective.

On this day the solstice sunrise is framed by ancient structures around the globe built to honor it's life-giving light.  Pyramids and megalithic ring stones reflect the wisdom of our ancestors, who blended science and spirituality for a wholeness -- holiness -- that we are on the verge of re-discovering.   These exact alignments serve to bring us into alignment with the great rhythms and cycles of the earth and sky.

Now I'm breathing softly.  The cardinal whistles. Squirrels rustle in upper branches.   Illumination comes.

May I come into alignment with my deepest truth.

May  humanity come into alignment with its deepest truths.

May we find ways to co-exist with each others' truths.

May we honor the truth that Nature teaches.

Later, on my walk, a gift from Hawk -- messenger of portents and omens.  I take this as a good one.

On this day of light, may we  be the bringers of light.