Tag: Eco-Spirituality

Life as a Pilgrimage

Life as a Pilgrimage

For a pilgrim, the outer landscape becomes a metaphor for the Unknown inner landscape. A pilgrim travels differently, seeking a change of mind and heart, John O’Donohue reminds us. He also said, “When you bring your body out into the landscape, you’re bringing it home where it belongs.”

As I watched him speaking on a favorite DVD, I thought…My life is a pilgrimage. I remembered John saying that in the Celtic Imagination the insight is that the landscape is alive. We’re not walking into simply a location or dead space but rather we are walking in a living Universe and in this way of being, our journey becomes different…it becomes a pilgrimage.

Two years ago a friend of mine and I traveled to northern England for a pilgrimage. We called our journey that from the beginning of our planning. Our intention was set clearly and together Maria and I journeyed on a pilgrimage. We didn’t want to just visit places, we wanted to connect with the landscape–with the ancient stone circles and elemental energies of the land and water.

I located my journal from the trip and read about the first encounter with Castlerigg Stone Circle. After taking a while to connect with the energies of the place, I had a most amazing experience of shamanic journeywork. Or meditation. Or simply connection with the Spirit of the Place.

Throughout the pilgrimage, I wrote of vivid dreams, of being chased by an antlered man through the forest, of connecting deeply with the Feminine energy of Earth. At one point in our travels I drove us to Grasmere and when we parked near Wordsworth’s home, Dove Cottage, I started sobbing. There was such a powerful connection to his work and the place.

Upon returning to the USA I reflected, “Whispers of the Ancient Ones echo within me as I reflect upon the magical pilgrimage experienced with my spiritual sister and friend. Conversations with companions from a weekend retreat, that closed the journey, still weave a web of light around me. Past invasions of Romans and Saxons perhaps instilled into the Collective unconscious of the people there a maturity of spirit, a way of being civil and gentle with each other and with strangers. Every person I met was helpful, generous, supportive, kind and many had wicked and dry humor. The individual journeys and experiences will be told over time but for now, in the afterglow of it all, I feel profound gratitude that I was embraced so fully by a land and people that welcomed me as one of their own. My heart beats in sync with the land there and longs already to return and feel ancient stones vibrate and sing their wisdom and the land embrace me as a daughter. From magnificent caves to snow-covered mountaintops from villages older than the country in which I reside to stone circles dating back to 4500 BC, I traveled the path of a pilgrim–open to hearing and learning the lessons given by magical Britain.”

As I finished reading the journal, it felt as if I was back there among the stones of Castlerigg, Long Meg and Swinside circles, in Elderbush Cave, in Thor’s Cave, or walking along the trail near Keswick…or sitting at Dove Cottage weeping with joy at feeling so at home. It’s not ever simply a trip or vacation for me….it truly is as John O’Donohue says, “If you enter into the dream that brought you here and awaken its beauty in you, then the beauty will gradually awaken all around you.”

Life is a pilgrimage to me. Every day gives new opportunity to be outside in nature seeking reflection into my inner landscape…to learn more about how I can connect deeper to nature and all life and find the common threads that join us together.

On Being a Friend

On Being a Friend

A recent theme occurring for me is the idea of being a friend to myself. That may sound odd but hear me out.

Even in our mindfulness practices of meditation, yoga, prayer, music we can hurry through, push to achieve a goal or achieve a result. In the most sacred of practices we can abandon ourselves as we hurry up to become more self-aware, balanced, centered. Isn’t that odd?

If I am taking the best care of myself, I can sit in stillness with no goal or desired outcome other than to enjoy my own company. The truest voice of the soul can only be heard when we slow down and listen. I’ve discovered how much I don’t listen to the voice that whispers like the wind. Fine-tuning the ability to be still and quiet is an art, a practice that increases awareness of what we might not be comfortable learning about ourselves.

What would it feel like to be a true friend to yourself? What steps would you take to show unconditional, positive regard for your self? What is your soul longing for you to know?

 

Breadcrumbs and Buried Treasures

Breadcrumbs and Buried Treasures

When I was a child I instigated buried treasure hunts in the bay where my grandparents lived. A great uncle told us the story of pirates using Week’s Bay as a hiding place and pointed to a place where they used to anchor their ships. He suggested there might be a treasure hidden there in the depths of the sticky, thick, muddy bottom. Every time the tide was low enough, I’d try to recruit my brother and cousins to search for it. We never found it but the seed was planted in my subconscious….buried treasure lies hidden in the dark, sticky, thick mud.

In an effort to clear my phone of clutter, I’ve been sorting through photos and videos. There are many that need to go; however, there are some real jewels that are beautiful and quite amazing in their ability to remind me of not just of good times and travels but of the strong, wild, adventurous person I was. Yes….I said ‘was.’

Over the past year (plus some) I’ve been clearing inner debris…diving into my depths. The phone cleaning is like a final polishing compared to the deep, inner work I’ve undertaken. During this descent into my Underworld I’ve met up with all kinds of ‘fun.’ Fears, anger, resentments…did I already say fears? It’s like the lid was removed on the well-hidden psychic debris and I did a deep dive into it.

One of the gems I discovered on my phone was a letter I wrote to a workshop facilitator from Ireland. I went there for a Celtic spirituality retreat in September 2017. In the letter I described an experience I had there and as I re-read it again yesterday realized that was the entry point into the Underworld.

We were singing a Brigid chant and I saw arise within me a primitive form. It was slick, wet, dirty and it unfolded within me. It felt like this being had been cramped and shoved down into the muck for a very long time. As the day progressed I observed as the figure became progressively clear and more humanoid. Later that night I did a solo walk up to the 5000 year old fort perched atop a 700 foot cliff on the Atlantic Ocean. As I climbed in darkness of night, I could feel Her given space to breathe and freedom to unfold. The next morning She was shining and beautiful. She was a goddess. The Divine Feminine literally born within me. I had been waiting my entire life for the rebirth and worked hard for that moment.

As I walked the next day along the narrow roads of Inishmor, it was Her voice that spoke through my voice, arising to protect the planet and all Her creatures. Something had shifted within and it opened a doorway to a journey…remember Innanna? Her journey?

This experience was the invitation to go deeper, to excavate the inner realms. Not as a way to punish myself (yes, it’s been that hard) with difficulty and pain but so I can discover hidden treasures buried within the fears, resentments, anger. It’s all in there in one massive debris pile and sorting through it is the way to discover the strengths, talents, and gifts.

More sorting on my phone unearthed a video I created over two years ago within a stone circle in Northern England. It was the day after the US election. I was heartbroken as I saw clearly the suffering and darkness that would envelope our country….a lessening of human rights, an increase in social injustices, an attack on the environment and innocent wildlife. That morning I checked the news and fell to my knees in the cottage where my friend and I were staying. I sobbed with grief as the vision of what was to come unfolded. Then it felt like a push and message interrupted my spiral into despair. “Go to the circle.”

I quickly dressed in many layers as it was November and Northern England is quite cold then. My friend was asleep so I left a note and drove to Castlerigg. I was alone there for a while as it was early. I went to the main stone and fell on my knees and simply listened. Very clearly an inner voice said this: This is necessary for there is much darkness hidden. This president will take the country into the depths of hidden darkness so that light can be shone onto it and healing can take place. It will be a perilous journey but one that is necessary. Do not despair.

Foggy dawn below Castlerigg Stone Circle

Two years ago the preparation for my personal descent into the Underworld began. Nearly a year later is when She was freed from the prison of mud and since then it’s as if I’ve been in explorer mode, going where I’ve never had the courage to go before and facing the root of fear within myself.

During the middle of this intense year the Thai boys trapped in the cave were rescued in a most amazing rescue. In an odd way this gave me hope that I would survive my own descent into my inner ‘cave.’ My guide, instead of a cave diver, was a wholeness coach who offered to work with me in my journey. She has been holding the lantern as I make my way back from the long, perilous journey.

Earlier this week I released a lot of anger and resentment and found myself deep in forgiveness…of myself, of others. It felt like the hard kernel of angst had cracked. I wrote that it was like a dark sphere of polished stone cracked open and from that cracking released me to experience more space and freedom within….freedom from the gripping anger at being wronged by others, at being wronged by myself.

Inanna’s descent into the Underworld, to visit her sister, required her pass through seven gates. At each gate she had to remove one of her royal garments….her crown of heaven, breastplate, gold rings, beads, and scepter–rod of power. When she finally gets to the bottom,her sister curses her with a word of power and she dies and is hung from a hook to rot. She is rescued and arises from the Underworld three days later.

She isn’t a whole person until she becomes vulnerable before her dark sister, dies and returns to life. Inanna’s story is a template for those wishing to be whole. There is sacrifice. We leave the trappings of the ego behind–all of who we think we are must be removed. The ego is stripped of its power, which feels like death. Then we return, cleansed of ego and born into our true self.

Making the journey to the inner depths can be disorienting. All of who we think we are must be surrendered. We learn to be okay with uncertainty. The Unknown becomes a friend or fiend depending on our attitude.

The journey to wholeness isn’t easy. Often I have questioned the reason for going through such painful excavations. Years ago I was given the answer and it continues to be true and grow in power: The clearer and more open I am, the more I can truly live and feel the life force within and around me. The subtle energies of Nature can be felt clearer. The communion with wildlife is sweeter and stronger. I am a clearer channel when I clean my Underworld.

Sometimes it can feel like self-punishment…this relentless quest for wholeness. Ultimately I am simply discovering the treasure that was buried by pirates who plundered and pillaged long ago. Thankfully I have left breadcrumbs in the form of photos, videos and writing.

The following note was written by me on the title page of Matthew Fox’s book, Original Blessing. It is dated October 6, 2005:

It is an outpouring of God from my depths that comes out of me, that demands attention, and I know that surrendering to this passion to express God’s love through me is the only path that leads to happiness for me. When I allow God’s awesome beauty to move through me and express itself through my thoughts and words I am transformed. I become something greater than I imagined I could be. Writing about these transcendent experiences is my salvation. 

Until I saw myself happily talking into the camera on my phone, I didn’t realize how much I have changed…I don’t recognize who I have become. The descent has taken a heavy toll. However, I feel a growing flame of friendship with my self that is hopeful and reassuring and holds within it the promise of light-filled adventures of joy and beauty.

“And one day she discovered that she was fierce, and strong, and full of fire, and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears.”–Mark Anthony

May we have the courage necessary to explore not only our individual darkness but our collective darkness that is now exposed for the world to see.


As I was adding photographs to the blog post an email dinged in…it was from the sweater market on Inishmor. It felt like a little pat on the shoulder from the Ancestors saying, ‘we are proud of you…we support your journey.’ That’s where the descent began….that’s where the deep healing journey kicked into overdrive.

 

Goodbye to the Weavers

Goodbye to the Weavers

The tattered web dripped with raindrops as the old, faded spider held on to it. No longer able to repair her artistry; unable to do anything but await her death.

For seven seasons the golden orb weaver spiders have instructed me on the cycles and rhythms of life. From the first April I moved into the home, the tiny hatchlings began their life full of vigor and determination to educate me on spider life.

Gradually the stronger females created territories and webs that amazed me. They grew in size and their color deepened as they captured insects and feasted around my home. The tiny males stayed out of reach of the females yet reaped the benefits of close proximity to the amazing predators. After mating, the females dined on the males. And this year, I was able to see the wild dance between a male and female as he mated with her and then ran for his life. Two days later, he was gone.

Each year the same process has been carried out. Little cocoons woven with spider silk are attached to the house, shrubs, and trees awaiting the spring. All through the winter they wait….and wait….and wait.

When I put my home for sale this past summer, I fretted over the spiders. Most people don’t share my intense love of critters, especially spiders. I asked the spiders to keep the front steps and porch clear this year, which they did. In years past many visitors to my home were squeamish over the large, colorful gals and their cool webs. I couldn’t bring myself to ‘neaten’ the outside of my home by removing the spider webs….couldn’t do it even if it meant offending potential buyers.

So now that the weather is chilly and the season of cooler weather is upon us, I say goodbye to my spider friends. One-by-one I have said goodbye over the past month as they disappear, their webs falling apart with winds and rains and no spider strong enough to repair them. I feel such sadness when they die but they leave behind hope for their future with bountiful cocoons filled with eggs, ready to devour insects next year.

By observing nature so intimately, I am reminded of the cycles of my own life. There are times of intense productivity, times of waiting, times of going within and times of expressing myself with immense joy. I consider the spiders my friends…Betty, Gertrude, Sally, Trixie and your hundreds of sisters….thank you. Rest in peace sweet ones. I hope the next owners of this home give your babies space to grow and be the amazing insect eaters they are born to be.

Remembering the Whales

Remembering the Whales

As I was doing my sunrise, front porch yoga this morning, I flashed back to pre-dawn yoga anchored 90 miles offshore of the Dominican Republic. The moon was still hanging low in the sky, the stars were visible even with the white light of the moon. All around me whales were floating, silent in their reveries. Their misty, fishy breath drifted across the deck as I moved through my practice.

During that time there was no doubt they were completely aware of my consciousness and intention. The words I held in my heart to connect with the Ocean, Stars, Whales were magnified with love moving between my heart and their hearts. As I type this even now I get goosebumps….more than two years later.

In my book, Cosmic Whales, I describe in detail the experience of feeling a purple flame of light surround me. “Halfway through my yoga practice, I face the port side of the boat in a wide, squat pose. White whale breath nearby is illuminated by the nearly full moon. A whale exhales close to the boat and I feel the breath drift across my face and arms. A shooting star arcs across the sky, over the whale….I am awestruck and stand in mountain pose in contemplation….It is a moving mantra of love for the Ocean. The whales respond by coming even closer to the boat….In the moonlit, pre-dawn light I hear them exhale and see their misty, white breath as it drifts across the calm, black surface of the water….I hold my hands overhead in prayer and feel myself engulfed in spiritual flames of blue, then violet.”

Moments like these can bring us joy and peace years after the initial experience. Lately, I’ve been thinking about humpback whales…a lot. They began calling me when I was just a child. And now, living far from their summer feeding grounds, I feel their insistent presence within my heart and mind. Blessed are the singers, who call me home.