Friday, 24 June 2011

A Heart Centred Solstice

Having welcomed in the Solstice sunrise alone and naked in the morning, I saw the Sun to bed celebrating with friends in the evening. I went to a celebration organised by Sarah Line of The Field of Healing. Sarah and her husband have built a full-size 11-tier Labyrinth in a field at the bottom of their garden in a small village close to the Cambridgeshire border and at special times throughout the year, Sarah invites people to come and walk her labyrinth and share in various celebrations. This time it was the Summer Solstice.

I’ve been lucky enough to walk several labyrinths before, but none have affected me the way Sarah’s does, so I made sure I was there early enough to walk it alone. I arrived at 6.30pm and walked the Labyrinth before everyone else turned up (what I experience when I walk Sarah’s labyrinth is story in itself, so I’ll cover those experiences in another post soon – I promise). By the time I had finished my walk other people were arriving and I joined them in making our way up to the village hall for the evening’s proceedings.

Sitting in a circle in the hall, with a lovely log fire to keep us warm, Sarah started the evening off with some spiritual philosophy followed by a meditation, accompanied by a young chap called Clinton who played the Native American flute. We then sang a few chants and drummed until it was time to go back down to the labyrinth again. This time we all walked the labyrinth to the sound of shamanic drums and the flute. Afterwards we collected around the fire pit situated next to the labyrinth and a few people threw offerings of herbs into the fire while intending a few blessings and the odd spell or two. We then made our way back up to the hall to be treated to a group channeling by Glendra Duffy.

Glendra channels the language of sound and light, something I had never experienced before. As she stood and dropped into a trance-like state (she says she doesn’t go into trance, but is slightly altered – watching her, I beg to differ, but I guess it depends on your interpretation of trance), the most amazing thing happened. A voice something close to an opera star mixed with what I would imagine an angel’s voice would sound like permeated the air as Glendra opened her mouth. My whole body fizzed as words I did not recognise, but at a deeper level somehow understood, filled the room. Glenda then went on to interpret the messages she had sung into a meaningful message for the group and humanity as a whole.

Glenda’s messages and Sarah’s main theme of the night turned out to be the same – the need to engage the heart in everything we do. With all the changes we are going through and the chaos and upheaval we are experiencing – consciously and subconsciously – the message was that if we can operate from a position of love, then all will be OK. For me this echo’s the message that all the spiritual practices and religions were originally set up for before they engaged in their dogmas – that of compassion for our fellow man and all life.

To engage in the heart centred practice that the spiritual realm suggested through Glendra, and which Sarah spoke about, we apparently need to devote 20 minutes a day in meditation with the intention of opening up our heart area. This, for me is not some wild fancy idea, but is grounded also in science – by engaging our heart during meditation we also activate beneficial hormones and switch on the brain in a special way which brings about a change in consciousness (see the HeartMath research). All too often in our day to day lives we make decisions based on our brain alone. Surely this is a time when more is called for – a change of heart as it were? Reaching out to others in the process.

Our evening ended fully grounded with copious amounts of cake provided, as ever, by Sarah’s mother. Nothing like a sugar rush to ground the spirit and give that good all over feeling – as if we needed anymore after the evenings celebrations!

I finally crawled into bed at well past midnight. No wonder they call it the longest day! Today (24th June), I have been on my second 'date with the artist’ only to hear the same message from the local Buddhist centre: to operate from a position of love and compassion at all times. So I’ll end this message sending out love to you all. With Love, Theresa xx

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Skyclad Solstice!

Following my post about whether we should bother going to a Sacred site to celebrate the Summer Solstice this year (see post: A Magical Summer Solstice), I nearly missed the sunrise altogether! What’s more, I even watched it naked! This is what happened… (We decided to stay at home, by the way)…

I woke up with a start - it was already light outside! “I must have missed it!”

I checked the clock. “4.35am, bugger! Still, maybe the bedroom clock is fast?”

I leapt out bed and grabbed my clothes. Not wanting to wake everyone, I thought, “I know, I’ll get dressed downstairs”, and so I tiptoed down the steps as fast as I could. The kitchen clock read 4.31am - I had one minute to spare! “Bugger. No time to get dressed - just grab a sleeping bag and get outside.”

…And so I welcomed in the longest day in true Pagan style, Skyclad! (Not something I could ever experience at a Sacred site!). I had still rushed, racing against the sun, swapping our usual last minute winding country road race for hopping barefoot over our shingle drive and dodging the thistles and sheep poo out in the field. But I made it in time to see the sun peek over the edge of the horizon before it was lost in amongst the clouds.

It was my first solitary solstice and it was magical. I was treated to my very own light show of golden yellows, orange, red and blue hues as the clouds danced across the face of the rising sun and cast rays of light up into the sky. The wind was warm and gentle against my skin. Birds provided the sweet music and I had the smells of nature all around me (sheep poo included!).

Did I miss the drumming and the celebration that I would have got at a Sacred site? Yes, but I still had an evening celebration to look forward to… Labyrinth walking, drumming, chanting, channeling, friendship and cake, lots of cake! A truly fabulous night, but I’ll tell you all about that tomorrow… Theresa xx

What did you get up to? And where did you celebrate your Solstice? Were you with friends or alone? Share your experience by leaving a comment. I’d love to hear from you! Txx

Monday, 20 June 2011

My First Date with an Artist nearly fell at the first hurdle last Friday, but my husband saved the day.

I had my first date all planned. The artist and I were supposed to be visiting the local Buddhist centre to spend a serene hour meditating followed by another pleasurable hour sitting in the retreat's beautiful garden sipping at a free cup of coffee and getting to know each other. When my husband checked the times for me though, we found out that the Buddhist centre was going to be closed that day for a private function. I was really disappointed and had resigned myself to staying in when my husband suggested I take the artist somewhere else.

So leaving my husband at home with the kids, the artist and I set off for the local town in search of spending quality time together. It felt a little weird and self-indulgent at first, but eventually we had a wonderful time. We did a bit of retail therapy, we did some people watching in the library, explored why the artist had become a recluse in the past and ended the afternoon by touring a fabulous collection of paintings by local artists, which my artist positively drooled over.

By now, you may be wondering why my husband would let me go off on a date with someone else? Perhaps I ought to explain who the artist is and how we met...

Recently, I came across a book called, The Artists Way. Well, actually ‘came across’ it is not strictly true - it feels as if the universe practically forced it upon me! So, let me start again... I first came across the book mentioned in one of my emails. I subscribe to Julia McCutchen's e-newsletter and that week she was featuring a teleseminar about both the book and the author, Julia Cameron. While the book sounded interesting at the time, my thoughts were, 'I’m not an artist' and so I ignored it. Then I came across a reference to the book when I was looking through some trance research notes I’d printed off from Wiki and I remember thinking, ‘I wonder what’s so special about this book, maybe I should take a look at it’, but I didn’t. Then a couple of weeks ago I was flicking through a book about trance when I saw The Artist’s Way mentioned again. ‘There's that damn title again. Why is everyone quoting it and what has it got to do with trance?’ I questioned.

Well, three times a charm they say and so I took the hint and decided to look it up on Amazon, but even then I still thought, ‘It’s really for artists (which I’m not), so why should I get it?’ Anyway, I duly put it on my wish list, as you do, thinking I’ll get it when I have some spare cash or if need to make up an order to qualify for Amazon’s free-delivery. The universe though obviously had other plans and two weekends ago literally dumped the book in my path.

That fateful weekend a local home-education group that we used to belong to was holding a craft fair and we decided to take an impromptu trip to it to support them. While I was standing chatting, catching up with old friends, a small second-hand bookstall caught my eye - and there it was, The Artist’s Way, sitting on top of a pile of tatty old books, just waiting to be found. (Even now, after all this time I still find I get a tingle when I experience moments of sychronicity like that.)

It cost 50p. So I picked it up and paid for it there and then, and started to read it as soon as we got in the car. I’ll no doubt share more about what’s inside over the next few weeks, but I just wanted to let you know about the artist… One of the tasks listed in the book is to find two totally self-indulgent hours in a week to go on a date with your own inner creative artist. By artist, Julia Cameron doesn’t just mean people who paint, but everyone. We are all creative, and all have an inner artist, but many of us have buried that aspect of ourselves and the goal is to bring that side of us back out into the open.

At first my thought was, ‘Yeah right! Where am I going to find two hours spare?’ But once I committed to the programme, I found it. After much creeping to my husband, he agreed to let me go off on my dates alone with my inner artist while he looks after the kids. I’m not sure what will happen each week, or where the tasks laid out in the book will ultimately take us - me and my artist - but after last Friday's experience, I’m already looking forward to my second date this Friday. All being well, the Buddhist centre will be open and we’ll get our meditation followed by a free cup of coffee sitting in the sunshine and I’ll hopefully get to know my artist a little bit more. I’ll keep you posted as to how we get on…

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Using the Pentragram for Meditation

Not only can you psychically protect yourself with a pentagram (see blog post, 3rd June), but I also think it can be used as a teaching aid to explain the meditation process, maybe even as a visualisation tool.

Take a look at the pentagram below and you’ll see what I mean:

Starting at the bottom at the ‘earth’ point and going clockwise around the pentagram in a circle we find the meditation progression:

  1. Firstly I settle down and relax my body, which is made of matter
    (i.e., Earth)
  2. Next I concentrate on my breath (which is the Wind point)
  3. By concentrating on my breath and where it comes from, I activate the heart chakra (which corresponds to love/compassion/emotions/blood/thymus = the Water point)
  4. I then step into the gap/silence/space, or whatever you want to call it, and connect with Spirit/universe/God (the Void or Spirit point)
  5. In turn I receive pure energy as knowledge, inspiration and healing from Spirit - often in the form of heat either in my body, up my spine or in my head as in "fire in head"- and I am transformed (Fire)…

… Which in turn is reflected in me/my body (Earth). And so the cycle is complete.

The use of imagery to impart an idea or concept has been employed by various spiritual groups for hundreds of years. Visual cues, such as symbols, mandalas, and other objects such as crosses, have the power of shifting us into a certain mind space in an instant. They are very powerful. If you doubt that just think for a moment about the power of logo's to express an idea or concept. Try it now. Think of a logo. I'm betting your already hearing the advertising jingle, watching the TV ad in your minds eye or running through their product list. Whoops, the one I'm thinking about has just morphed into sick looking, oil covered, seagulls! OK, so perhaps not the most positive one to choose, but you see how it works. Pick a powerful image, attach a concept to it, and bingo, your mind fills in all the gaps. It sets up a method, idea or belief system that can be accessed in an instant.

So, if you’re struggling in your meditation practice, try the pentagram symbol as an aid to the process. If you find that your mind starts to wander, or it starts chattering away as soon as you shut your eyes, visualize the pentagram in your mind’s eye and start to work around the symbol, starting with yourself – Earth.

“Abandon the search for God…
instead, take yourself as the starting place”

f you find it hard to visualise, print out a copy of the diagram above and pop it on your lap when you sit down to meditate. You can either look at the image until you feel you want to shut your eyes, or use it as an icon and keep your eyes focused on it as you settle into the meditative state. Eventually, with time you’ll find that your mind will remember what to do – Earth (start with your body), Wind (focus on your breath), Water (engage with your heart chakra), Void/Spirit (move into the silence/gap/communue with Spirit), Fire (be transformed from within).

As I was thinking about this post earlier, I found myself singing the Native American chant (thanks J for reminding me!)...

Earth my body, Water my blood, Air my breath & Fire my Spirit.

…Chants work, too, as a trance, or meditation induction process, but that’s a different blog for another day!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

A Magical Summer Solstice?

With the Summer Solstice (21st June 2011) fast approaching, I find myself questioning again what it’s all about? Every year I drag my family off to a sacred site at solstice time where we join with others and hang around the ancient stones until the sun rises. And after each time I am left feeling a little disappointed. Shouldn’t it feel more magical on this ‘special’ day? I mean what else are sacred sites for if not to feel something sacred and why do we migrate towards them at the Solstices? Perhaps, I’m looking too deep and I should treat the Solstice purely as a celebration. But a celebration of what exactly? I mean we’re not like our ancestors where we have to rely on monitoring the seasons and giving thanks to the Oak King for providing a good harvest. Modern-farming methods and food processing have done away with our reliance on honoring the gods for perfect crops! Let’s face it, very few of us even acknowledge Nature for the fruits it gives us. So hardly the reason for most to make a pilgrimage off to a sacred site to watch the sunrise.

As each solstice approaches I find myself questioning whether it’s even worth the effort of going. Our pilgrimage normally involves us getting the kids up at 2am to travel halfway across the country by moonlight in the car. It sounds romantic, but the reality is often entirely different! Our journey is usually fraught as we rush the last 10 miles, watching the sky getting ever lighter by the second and panicking that we will be late - by which time my daughter starts to feel travel sick due to us going full-pelt round winding country lanes and often culminates in my husband lambasting me about not getting my act together and that we should have left earlier, and how we’ll miss the sun coming up altogether!

On other occasions, we’ve made the effort of travelling down the evening before, only to have a cold and uncomfortable sleepless night squashed between the kids in the back of the car - the smell of bonfires permeating the air and the sound of drumming and drunkenness in the background all adding to the heady mix. And that’s aside from the actual days spent standing frozen in the rain, frost and snow (and I’m not just talking about the Winter Solstice!) without a hope of seeing the sun coming up over a cloud ridden horizon, and the kids whining that they want to go back to the car to get warm. Ah, I can almost hear my dad saying, “and you thought you had it bad being dragged off to Sunday mass every week!”

Yes, sometimes the magic seems in short supply. Occasionally though, I have felt something special. Only it’s been on the day before the actual solstice! One year we passed the stones a day earlier on the way down to see my mother-in-law (we used to combine visiting her at Winter Solstice). As we passed Stonehenge, I looked over and the stones were positively buzzing. I could feel the vibration from the car! It was as if the stones were singing. They also seemed to be encased in a blue hue. I remember thinking, 'wow, tomorrow's going to be really good one', only to be disappointed to find the energy had dipped on Solstice morning.

On another occasion, we turned up early, and according to the site security guard, on the ‘wrong’ day. However, we weren’t the only ones and after much discussion with him, we were all allowed in. That morning our small group chanted and held hands and we danced a spiral into the centre of the stones and I felt something truly magical happen.

So what happened then that made it different? Could it have been the lack of lager louts and hoards of people? Don’t get me wrong, I really love the large crowd atmosphere that occurs on Solstice morning – what with the drumming, the throaty didge playing, the pageantry of the pagans and the collective exhilaration that occurs just as the sun peeps over the horizon. It’s a great experience - it just lacks the ‘something special’ that I experienced on that ‘wrong’ day.

Maybe it is to do with choice of day? After all the Druids keep a three-day vigil over the Solstice period. They surely must experience a sacredness – the magic within? And perhaps therein lays the answer – finding the right times and space to move within.

I wrote this note to myself in my journal last year:

Solstice – Summer 2010, Rollright

I did it again today. I was waiting for the magic to happen as I watched the sun come up, and whilst it was beautiful to watch and felt special, if I’m honest the magic didn’t happen. But I was in a happy mood.

Once I crossed over to the stones though, and wandered around the circle both in and outside the perimeter, the magic started to happen. My head felt heavy and full of energy. If I had continued it would have been easy for me to go completely out of the game.

Now some will say I should have grounded myself, but I wonder whether that’s where everything goes wrong. Instead of listening with our heads and trying to control the reaction, we should go with our heart and see where it takes us. The more I think about it the more I think the stones were designed to channel energy to get us into an altered state. That’s why we have so many legends & myths attached to each sacred site. Because the magic happens once you learn how to use the circle correctly. It is a tool to get you out of your box – i.e., out of your logical head and into your heart – to find your Self.

So, having re-read my journal words I have a choice. Should I stay home this coming Summer Solstice and watch the sun rise over the fields out the front of our house? Or should I venture out and combine the power of a sacred site to help me go to the magical place within? I’m guessing that knowing me I’ll decide the night before. And if it’s the effort of pilgrimage that I choose, you’ll probably see us screeching into our destination minutes before the sun rises, playing out our biannual competition with the sun called “See who can get there first – us or the Sun!”

Friday, 3 June 2011

Psychic Protection – The Pentagram

I've been away this last week staying with my mum. She makes me laugh. She asked me if there was anything she could do to help protect herself at night so she could get a good nights sleep. (In her last house, mum suffered several nights of psychic attack and has been sleeping badly ever since. She now sleeps with a crucifix under her pillow).

Anyway, I suggested drawing a pentagram around herself and proceeded to draw one on her bedroom wall to demonstrate how to do it. To which her first comment was “Isn’t that the sign of the devil?” I ask you… she’s either watched too much Charmed or else it’s her Christian upbringing!

I explained that yes, in the past an upside down pentagram has had some dark connotations, but that when it’s the right way up (point at the top) it is not a sign for evil. In fact, it is very far from it. For many it represents the connected-ness of Life. It has symbolic correspondences (earth/wood, water/metal, fire, wind/air, void/spirit) that are not only used by various religious groups, such as Wiccans*, but often by tai chi and other martial artists, in Chinese medicine and acupuncture, and also by space clearers and Feng Shui practitioners. It is also a mathematical geometric shape that is all around us. So hardly bad!

How to draw a pentagram round yourself:

Either standing upright or laying flat on your bed, imagine drawing a pentacle in front of you. Starting at your right hand, ‘draw’ a line in your mind across to your left hand. Then take the line down to your right foot, then back up to your head, down to your left foot and finally back up to your right hand to complete the star.

To draw one behind you simply start with your left hand, draw a line across your back to your right hand, then down to your left foot, up to the back of your head, back down to your right foot and then back up to your left hand.

Having completed both pentagrams, fill them with gold light. If you have trouble visualising, try actually tracing the shape using your index and second finger across the front your body. You’ll find it really helps to set your intention.

(Thanks to my recently qualified Crystal Healing friend, Richard for teaching me this technique. Don’t know why I hadn’t tried it before!)

How does the Pentagram protect?

I have no idea. Perhaps it has to do with energy - bringing in the forces of nature (earth, water, etc.,) - tapping the fundamental power of the universe as it were. Maybe it’s more to do with intention – not just mine, but eons worth of use. I suspect it has a lot to do with the pentagram and all it’s correspondences focusing the mind and reaching the subconscious in an instant. All I know for sure is that it works. I recently tried it out on my husband. When he was having one of his rants I planted a pentagram between us. This resulted in him getting angrier as his 'bad' energy was bounced back to him. Then suddenly he became totally exasperated and eventually walked off saying he couldn’t get through to me! Pretty good protection I’d say! ;)

* Upright the pentagram is often used for banishing. Inverted it can represent the second level of initiation depending on which tradition is followed.