The power of New Year’s Resolutions

P1070010Many people here in the West have made New Year’s resolutions. I for one think that this tradition is a good one, for I’m always seeking to improve myself, to live in better harmony with the world around me. I know that I can’t change others, only myself, and lead by example. And so, a resolution or three can help me to achieve that goal.

Why are resolutions so important? Well, simply put, it’s vocalising an intention. In much of Western Paganism and Heathenry words, especially spoken words, have deep meaning when applied with intention, and most magic (but not all) relates to words, spells, chants, invocations and more. Think of the many sayings that relate how important words are to us. We take people by their word, and our word in our bond. Sadly, this is all too often forgotten in today’s society. We have to take back the sacredness of our words, thereby sanctifying also our intentions.

There is a deep power when we say what we mean, and mean what we say. Not hiding behind pretension or illusion, we will do as we say and we will be truthful and honest in our actions. We will sometimes fail to come through, as we are all fallible, but still the power is not only in the result, but in the attempt to live in this manner. We can ask for help when needed, for we know that everyone needs help every now and again.

When we take the importance of our words to heart, we can also look at how we take the words of others into our lives. How much do we validate our life based upon the words of others? Are these words spoken with an honest intention that is in correlation to your own, or is there a hidden agenda within them? Many people seek to abuse trust, sadly, and feel that only they hold a real reflection of others’ self-worth. Only you know your own value, your own worthiness, and if you are true to your word you then need not seek external validation. Criticism, honest and valid criticism can and should be useful in everyone’s lives. Bitter, angry, mocking criticism, filled with contempt, is not helpful in any way, and is only a reflection of the person who delivers such words, not you. We live in a world where many feel that their own flame burns brighter by blowing out others’, but we know that this is not the case.

By being true to your word, you are also being responsible for your actions. This again is something that I feel is lacking in much of today’s society. All too often we can blame others for our misfortune, or sink into the abyss of apathy rather than taking an active role in our lives. We have to define for ourselves how we wish to live, and take a participatory role in achieving that goal. None other can walk this path for us.

Taking on resolutions can help us to give voice to the sovereign self that we wish to be, that idealised self that we can indeed become, should we have the courage to walk the path towards that end. They can clarify what it is that we wish to achieve, and even ask for help along the way, from the gods, the ancestors, friends and family. We need not seek their validation, but only their help should we need it, for we know our own self-worth. Hold true to your resolution, as much as you can. Use it to remind you of the sovereign self, that self that states that YOU are in control of your own behaviour, that state of integration with the rest of the world where you realise that you are a part of a great weave in the tapestry of life. We may falter, we may even fail, but at least we tried. And next year we can try again, or make new resolutions to help us find and achieve that truth that we seek within our souls through the power of our words.

 

Lessons from a River

IMG_1505 (800x600)Sitting on the edge of the North River where I grew up, I feel the energies of the water’s flow, the water molecules and its soulsong moving through the landscape and through my own soul. Known for its rapids, it attracts many visitors in the spring (when its wild rush from snowmelt takes the breath away) and in the autumn (when the trees’ fiery colours blaze against the white foam). There are many places to sit amidst the rapids when the water is low enough, and that’s where most people like to sit, right in the heart of the dramatic whirl and rush of water as it crashes, engulfing the senses until you can hear nothing but water, water, water.

But it’s not here that I like to sit – I much prefer to be at the bottom of the rapids, where the drama ends and then there’s a flat stillness, where the bubbles and foam slowly pop as they moves downriver, the surface reflecting the trees and sky above. I sit on a rock and feel the rush of movement to my right, the great dramatic unfolding of the rapids. To my left is utter stillness, where the ducks and gulls are fishing. Right before me is where the two meet, slowing into stillness, settling into another current of energy. Where edges meet there is great power and learning.

I turn my head to the right and look back up to the rapids, and see my own thoughts as the rocks that the waters of my soul crash up against time and again, causing the water to explode high into the air or tumble in whirlpools, hitting one rock and then another on its way down. Those rocks are someone who still tries to upset, annoy, or undermine me and I smile to those rocks, compassion flowing though my soul and the through the landscape towards that person as I see their own personal suffering, even though I long ago decided I wouldn’t stick around for further abuse. I see my physical limitations, my body slamming against the rocks of rheumatoid arthritis and perimenopause, and the hidden rocks within my genes that may surface one day as breast cancer or high blood pressure. I smile to these rocks as well, knowing that even as I crash against them I am still moving around them, ever downriver towards the calm when there are no more rocks. I see a myriad of thoughts that my brain crashes against, creating dramas and I smile to all of these rocks, turning my head to follow the flow and see ahead of me where it begins to settle, as I settle upon my rock watching the willow leaves fall around me and into the river, a heron flying past.

I see that water is water, whether it is still or riding on great foaming crests that reach many metres into the sky. The water that roils is the same water that settles, and when all the obstacles are taken away it resolves to a beautiful and serene flat plain that reflects everything around it. Through meditation and compassion, integration with the world around me, seeing the soul behind the soul and the true nature of all existence, I too settle and reflect the world around me, a calm and peace from deep within. Though there may be more rapids ahead, I know the nature of water and of my own soul, for they are one and the same.

Changing Times

thank youDruid College begins in a couple of weeks, and I’m so very excited about it. This is the first time I’ve taught this many students at once – thirteen in all have signed up for Year 1! It promises to bring a lot of change to my life, and I look forward to it.

This year has already brought about many changes in my life, and has led to a deeper relationship with my gods, the ancestors and my environment. I feel so blessed to be on this journey, a journey that is shared with my friends and family, with readers of my blogs, my students and fellow colleagues on the Druid path. I have lived my Druidry full-time for many years now, and now it is a full-time “job” as well as a way of life! There are also more books underway, which I hope you will enjoy.

I aim to live in service to this land, to this planet, in whatever shape or form I can. I feel that it is our duty as part of an earth-based religion to serve, with truth and honour. I heartily thank all my teachers and guides along the way, and hope that I can continue the cycle of inspiration, of awen, after having been so inspired by so many people, both human and non-human, as well as that wonderful serpent energy contained within these British Isles. I honour my roots and work towards a future that I hope will be integrated, inclusive and inspiring.

Thank you, all from the depths of my heart.

Reblog: Peace and Sovereignty

Here’s a reblog of my post on Sagewoman’s channel at Witches and Pagans 🙂

Peace and Sovereignty

At the moment I’m reading a biography of Tori Amos that she wrote with journalist Ann Powers, entitled Piece by Piece. Within the first few pages Tori mentions inner sovereignty, something that cannot be taken from her by anyone. They can do what they like, say what they like but she knows who she is, and is queen of her own self. I’ve been thinking about sovereignty, how we can come to an understanding of it and really see it manifest in our own lives.

I see sovereignty and peace as being inextricably entwines. We cannot have one without the other. When we know ourselves, when we understand why we do the things that we do, when we can control out thoughts and feelings, living lives of intention instead of reaction, then we are truly sovereign of our life. This comes from a deep well of peace, wherein we find that inner core of our selves that is silent and still, that sings our soulsong in its purest form. It is our personal truth. Neither sovereignty nor peace can be conferred from without – both must begin from within.

Peace is related to truth. We have to be willing to be open and honest with our selves, to see through our many layers of delusion, in order to understand our very being. We have to see the good and the bad, acknowledge all these within our selves and through this acknowledgment, gain some control, some sovereignty over our behaviour. Too often we run from the truth, whether it is the truth about ourselves or the truth about climate change. To face these truths requires us to change, to possibly suffer in order to bring about that change. We don’t like change. We don’t like suffering. Yet we cannot escape either of these things. To live means to live a life that has good and bad within it; let’s transcend those notions of good and bad and just live. When we do that, we move beyond suffering. We face our truth, and in facing our truth we find peace.

Peace is achieved when we manage to step beyond our selves, to switch off that inner chatter, that constant thinking instead of being. This does not mean that we become robots, with no thoughts, feelings or emotions. Rather, we do not attach to them, we do not spend so much time with them, entertaining them as they go round and round in our minds. We step outside of that, moving beyond our own story in order to see the story of the world around us as it unfolds in every moment. This peace can be achieved with discipline, with daily meditation, with time spent out in nature. There is no limit to our ability to learn each and every day what this means. Little by little, we come closer to joy. When we realise the world is more than just us, we find peace.

We cannot control how others behave. We only have control over how we behave in the world, how we act and react to others. We can lessen our reaction to others to a more intentional way of being, through mindfulness of our thoughts, our bodies, the world around us. When things like pride or anger are not getting in the way, we can see things for what they really are. We have no need to threaten others, to undermine others, to make them suffer. We realise that in doing so we are only doing that to ourselves, through the inter-relatedness of nature. Letting go of the ego’s need for validation, for constant chatter, for endless self-centred thinking we can dive into the still, calm pools of reflection where peace is found. We find that we can contemplate the self without recrimination or judgement. When we can do that with our selves, we are able to do that with others. In that doing is compassion and understanding.

It can be difficult when others deliberately try to shatter our peace, who try to shake our foundation and inner sovereignty. But we cannot control them, and can only have compassion for them as they are so caught up in their suffering that they feel it necessary to spread it out into the wider world. We can instead find our true sense of self worth, our inner sovereignty, and let that light shine out in the world. We are our actions as well as our words. Our deeds are what is lasting in an impermanent world.

We can be at peace even in world that seems to going to hell in a handbasket. We can be at peace when others are trying to cut us down. We can be at peace in a world that is so materialistic and consumer driven that it is making itself extinct. That peace is the core of our being. That peace is within each and every one of us, if we are willing to see it. Through the opening of the eyes and the soul, we find that still, deep pool of being and of knowing, and there we reign supreme.

 

To find out more about mindfulness, meditation and peace, see my first book, Zen Druidry: Living a Life of Natural Awareness.  This book combines Easter and Western philosophies, techniques and spirituality to create a path that is focused on the here and now, awake to the beauty of the world and its rhythms of nature that flow through and around us each with each and every breath.

Blog image: Still Pool Print by Jennifer Oakley-Delaplante

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

Truth, Honour, Service

Druidry can be summed up in three words – truth, honour and service. Yet these words can be very vague – what do they mean to the Druid?

 
Truth is not just figurative and literal truth. There are other dimensions to the word when we see it in accordance with our views of the world and religion or spirituality. Druids live in reverence of nature, connecting the world through awen, the flowing inspiration that guides and directs, that is each thing’s own soul song. When each thing is living in accordance to its own soul song, in accordance to its own nature, then it is following its own truth.

 
The world around us tries to muddy the waters of our truth, making us believe we need more than we could possibly know what to do with, making us think we are above others, making us feel inferior, unworthy and unloved. It tries to tell us that we are lacking. When we take a step back away from the world, we can examine it from a different perspective, seeing what is often termed in Druidry as “the truth against the world”.

 
This truth is our soul song. It shines from us when we live in accordance with nature. If flows like the awen when we care for ourselves, others and the planet. It springs forth when we acknowledge the times and tides of life and death. When we step away from what really matters, from living our own truth, we can feel distanced from the world and from each other, and perhaps even our own selves. We must return to the basics of what is our place is within nature, and how we can live in harmony and balance with it. When we do, we are then living our truth.

Honour is another word that lies in the hazy mists of time. It has connotations of chivalry, fealty and nobility. Yet honour is simply the courage to live our soul truth in the world. It is standing strong by our principles of balance and harmony, making the world a better for all. Returning again to what really matters, to our place in the world, is at the heart of honour. It is not a one-time thing that we can achieve and then sit back, resting on our laurels. Honour requires hard work, all the time, to see that we are indeed living our soul truths to the best of our ability.

 

When we come to understand truth and honour, the natural outcome is service. We live our lives in service to our Druidry – we can do no other. We are not subservient to anyone but ourselves. Living in accordance to our own nature, our own truths and finding sustainability through honour, it naturally results in service to the world – that same world that tries to rail against our truth! The cycle is ever flowing, and we work in service to the truth and the world in equal measure. That is where we find the most balance and harmony. That is what makes it so special, as well as bloody hard work sometimes.

 
Truth. Honour. Service. Three words; three concepts that are inextricably linked to each other, like beautiful Celtic knotwork.

 
Beltane blessings,
Jo.x