Reblog: Lughnasadh and the State of Grace

Here is a reblog of my post on SageWoman’s channel at Pagan Square. Blessings of the first harvest to you all! (To see the full original post, click HERE.)

_MG_9378 Lughnasadh is upon us, and the farmers are anxiously looking to the skies for a few clear hours when they can harvest their crops of wheat in my area. It has been a hot, dry summer, and of course, just when the harvest is due to come in we get changeable weather with rain showers every day; not ideal when you need to gather in a crop like wheat totally dry, or else it will rot. So just like our ancestors, we look up and hope and pray for some dry weather, and for the farmers, that they’ve rented the combine harvesters on the best day for it, and not when it’s going to dump it down halfway through their work.

Things are unpredictable in life. It’s just something that we have to accept. With a little grace, we can face the problems and triumphs, the highs and the lows with equanimity. Grace is a word that is little used today, but one which I think is important, and one that I’ve been trying to live each and every day.

It’s not easy, to live with grace. Acceptance does not come easily when things don’t go your way, or when people don’t behave the way you think they should, or the weather turns unexpectedly, or you suddenly find out that you need a root canal, but hey, that’s a good thing, at least they can save the tooth and not have to extract it. (Yes, I’m undergoing quite a bit of dentistry this past month, having cracked a tooth at Gatwick airport on my way to a three-week visit to my family in Canada last month. Not ideal.)

So how do we deal with life’s upsets with grace? By being open to change, to what comes, and not to dwell too much on how we think things should be. Because however much we think we know what’s best, or that we have total control over a situation, the simple fact is that we just don’t; we are viewing life through a single lens of perception, and we have absolutely no control over external influences in our lives. Living as we do alongside myriad other beings, we have some control (I would hope) over ourselves and our reactions and intentions, but very little when it comes to others. And this is a good thing.

Grace is all about working with the concept of freedom and acceptance.

People are free to do what they will, so long as they are not breaking laws or harming others. Live and let live. We as individuals fall into that category, and when we can allow others to be themselves, whether they’re rude and obnoxious, lovely and charming, or everything in between then we are living with grace. We focus on our own self, but without becoming self-obsessed. We are awake and aware to all aspects of ourselves, from the light and the shadow, from the conscious and what lies hidden beneath layers and layers of past experience and trauma.

Grace is often equated with beauty and elegance of form, and when we decide to allow life to happen as it happens, we find that we actually do move through it with less struggle, with less flailing. That doesn’t mean that we will suffer any less, but that we deal with the suffering and the struggle in a manner that is calm, peaceful and accepting. This isn’t easy to do in the slightest. It takes a lot of practice, and is not something that happens overnight. Grace is also synonymous with favour, and we may just find that when we are more accepting of what life throws our way, our luck may change, or at least our perception of it, and we are able to move through the currents with more ease. We are going with the flow of the tide, not against it.

So this harvest season, I am going to remind myself (often) of that single word: grace. When I am flailing, when I am struggling, when I am angry or upset, when I am in the dentist’s chair again next week, I am going to stop, take a moment, see the beauty, feel the pain, and accept. And then I am going to work if I can to change it, and if I can’t then so be it. Just as the wheat in the field awaits a dry, sunny day for harvesting, so too can I work with patience and the tides and times of life, for nature is not in any hurry, and yet all things get done.

So Happy

So happyZen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh suffered a massive stroke and brain haemorrhage last year, which left him incapacitated for many months. He is now able to move slightly, and recently managed to utter his first few words (pictured on the right). His joy for life, whatever suffering he may be going through, is an inspiration to all. He has changed some of his therapists’ lives through his example of mindfulness, one therapist even breaking down and crying when she realised just how she had never really seen the beautiful blue sky before in San Francisco. Thay couldn’t yet speak, however he did was point to the window to remind her of the beauty of the sky and the gift of opening our perception to it. It changed her world, and they were both happy.

The beauty and wonder of the present moment is there for us all. All we have to do is open our perception to see it. In the midst of great suffering there is the possibility of great compassion. In this compassion there is the power of love and beauty, two words that may be bandied about recklessly in our modern-day, but words, concepts and energies that have real power within them.

Through our suffering, we can make small steps towards awareness and mindfulness by becoming awake and aware, thereby easing our suffering and that of the world around us. We notice things that we wouldn’t otherwise notice in our suffering, as we turn our gaze outwards and perceive the world in its entirety rather than just our own suffering. Thich Nhat Hanh is a wonderful example of one who has seen and experienced the suffering of war, of exile, of persecution and physical trauma and still sees the power of love and beauty in the world around him. When I suffer, I shall breathe in and out, look at the sky, the trees, into the eyes of a loved one and know happiness and joy, there finding the deepest gratitude for my blessings.

Reblog: The Druid Approach to Ageing

Here is  my latest blog post for my channel, Druid Heart at SageWoman’s blogs on Witches and Pagans.

Coming up to my fortieth year, I’ve been doing quite a bit of meditation upon the concept of ageing, and what it means to a woman in modern Western society.

 
As you all know, we have such a skewed view of aging in our culture and society – young equals beautiful when it comes to the homo sapiens. We do not judge the beauty of trees, flowers, cats or clouds, mountains or rivers by their age – why on earth do we do it for our own species?

 
Obvious reasons come down to one thing – money. Beauty is big business, and what better way than to create a marketing campaign that cannot fail – for everyone will get older. There’s no denying it. Feed upon our Western fear of ageing and death, and make big bucks while doing it. For the Druid, it is saddening, filling us with despair at times.

 
Beauty comes in all shapes and forms. For the animist Druid even more so. Value has no age limit – each thing has its own inherent value, its own inherent beauty. It is spirit given form. That spirit cannot be anything but beautiful. Truth is beauty, beauty truth. Living one’s truth is living beautifully. (See my previous post for Moon Books’ blog, on Truth, Honour and Service – http://moon-books.net/blogs/moonbooks/truth-honour-service/).

 
Why do we separate ourselves from our own truth when it comes to physical appearance? Because of the incessant marketing campaign mentioned above, to make us feel constantly dissatisfied with our appearance. No one can avoid ageing, but we can make everyone paranoid about it. What if we just stopped listening to Them, and just started listening to Us, the gods, the ancestors and the natural world around us?

 

To read more, click HERE

Riding the Tides of Perimenopause

Re-blogged from my channel at SageWoman:

SistersRiding the tides of perimenopause, I find that my sense of self, ideas and concepts that I held about myself are shifting like pebbles on a shingle beach, never in the same place twice, forming new solid banks and spits jutting out into the vastness of the ocean.  I live right on the coast of the North Sea, and am finding inspiration and a sense of kinship with the ocean that I have never felt before.

Swells and surges of emotion run through me as hormones find their way to the balance point in the dance of change and impermanence.  My body is changing, the elasticity in my skin fading, laughter lines showing, cellulite appearing in new places.  The curves in my body are becoming softer, gently changing over time.  My breasts sometimes ache as my body tries to find a new way of being.  Periods are nearer to each other, sometimes only two weeks apart, sometimes light, other times so heavy I cannot leave the house.  Sometimes I feel like I did in my teenage years, without the skin breakouts!

It’s not only my body changing – emotions run deeper than ever before.  Awareness of the emotions keeps them in check, allowing myself to truly feel them without too much attachment.  They are sometimes like a knife, cutting through the dross to reveal the jewel beneath; instinct and empathy allowing me to connect with the world on a much deeper level than previously imagined.

My attachments to my body are also becoming less and less.  I am ever thankful for this healthy body, that can dance and run and sing with abandon.  Thoughts about how others relate to me are changing as my body changes. I notice people interacting with me differently – or is it that I am the one who is different?  In our dance troupe, when we are performing, I notice that the attention is gently shifting away from myself to younger ladies in the troupe.  I smile to myself as I notice this, seeing how this makes me feel.  There is a tinge of sadness, as I release the undercurrents of vanity, as well as the newer notes of joy in not being wrapped up in the notions of youth that our culture is so focused upon. My heart goes out to the beautiful young dancers in our troupe, who have to deal with the extra attention.  My soul connects with the beautiful older women in our troupe, whose sense of self pervades a solidity that wholly and utterly inspires me.  I am seeing beauty where I never saw beauty before – it is truly remarkable.

I don’t crave attention in the same way as I used to.  What others think matters a lot less than before.  What does matter is how my life is lived, inspired by the world around me and walked on a path of honour and integrity. I see this reflected in the older women in my life, how comfortable they now appear.  I wouldn’t want to be young again – in looks or age.  I am at home in my body.  Some women are blessed with this from an earlier age, others like me perhaps find it during the hormonal shift. What is important is that we find that stillness within, like a pool of water that becomes clear when all our doubts and worries about our self finally settle, allowing us to mirror the wonder of the heavens.

One beauty is not better or worth more than any other form of beauty – all forms of beauty are simply that- beautiful.  Our soul takes form in our bodies, an impermanent expression of our being.  Learning to love the impermanence allows us to see the beauty in all stages of life and death, growth and decay.  It can allow us to be comfortable with who we are, no matter our age, what condition our bodies are in, what life throws at us.

This latest journey has just begun, and I have to say, I am loving the steps along the way. I breathe with mindfulness and take each step with love and joy even as I feel sadness and release. Life is precious, and impermanent, and in our awareness of impermanence lies our ability to truly live.