Meditations on The Great Work
This may sound odd, but I have to admit that lately I have been smelling Isla Mujeres. I have been to many places in the world over the course of my life so far and nothing smells quite like this magical island sanctuary that lies a short ferry ride off the coast from Cancun. There is something of salt and sea, earth and energy, tinged with something I can't quite describe that makes you feel alive, cleansed, and mysterious all at once. It is an unmistakeable scent that makes you yearn to place your feet on her sands once more.
Synchronistically, I have been fielding many questions lately about the Fanning Your Spark into Flame Retreat that is taking place on Isla Mujeres late October/November of this year. Specifically questions around what exactly is a transformational retreat and what can participants expect. So much so that I thought it best to write up some details and explanations.
Stretching, centering, soaring
I love this idea of "Bhakti Yoga". Though traditionally Bhakti Yoga refers to devotion to a personal experience of the Divine, for me, it captures what the process of transformation feels like inside. Arching into a spot that feels a bit tight. Breathing into that spot without shying away. Finding the pulse of the Divine within and sending that love to the places within that want to keep us small and limited. Feeling how everything inside aligns itself in response, it is a joy to allow ourselves to stretch and soar. As Marianne Williamson famously said:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
Increasingly, as we become more attuned to holistic approaches and the intersection of body-mind-spirit, we are expanding our awareness of the diverse influences upon physical, emotional, and energetic well-being. We pay attention to home, leisure, and work environments. We read labels to determine the integrity of ingredients that we put into our bodies. We shift to natural cleaning solutions to eliminate chemicals from our quest for cleanliness. We bring peace into our bodies with meditation and yoga. But, though we can feel great love and affinity with Nature, we don't always necessarily extend our awareness of the impact of the environment upon our overall health to that of Nature around us, particularly as it relates to the annual dance through the cycle of the seasons. There is much informal evidence to support the concept that, consciously or not, we innately understand this impact. Many of us feel the urge to cocoon in the cold, barren months of Winter. We feel our spirits come alive once more in the refreshing, warming breezes of Spring. We tend to feel amazing in the long, hot days of the Summer, but we can become melancholy in the face of the decay we see around us in the Fall.
For the full article on The Llewellyn Journal, click the seasons picture above.
Recently I was asked a question that gave me pause. It was a simple question that opened up whole worlds of inquiry which have echoed through many hundreds of years. The question was, “Do birds have souls?” This is not such an unusual question. For a very long time in history, we have been told that only humans have souls. As God gave mankind dominion over the animals (Genesis 1:26), this seems to imply that, though animals have the ‘breath of life’ to animate them, they are not connected with the Divine in the same sense as mankind. They do not have souls nor do they go to heaven. We have come a long way in appreciating that animals have thoughts and feelings. Anyone who owns a pet (and this implication of ‘ownership’ becomes interesting language itself) can attest to the different, particular personalities that come through. Many of you reading this likely have already answered the question of animal’s souls in your own minds. For me it was an invitation to a more expansive question, “What exactly is a Soul and does it differ from Spirit?”
For the full article on The Healing Wheel blog at PaganSquare, click the swans picture above.
It has not necessarily been the easiest of winters. We had fair warning. We were told it was going to be a doozy. In my part of the world, we were expecting record snowfalls which thankfully did not come to be. Instead we got record freezing temperatures. Day after day of minus 40 Celsius (which actually puts the US and Canada on par). In our household, we went through weeks of frozen pipes, washing dishes in the bathtub, and burst pipes during a brief temperature respite. I heard similar tales from many corners, not least from the incredibly busy plumbers who arrived to save the day, darting from one home in need to another.
For the full article on The Healing Wheel blog at PaganSquare, click the icy buds picture above.
We humans have a deep, innate fear of the dark. We tend to feel more comfortable in the bright light of day that transparently reveals that which is around us, allowing us to assess and respond to people, situations, and things. There is something about the dark which adds the element of the ominous or disturbing. A screen door banging open repeatedly in daylight is a bother, needing to be closed tight lest the bugs get into the house. A screen door banging open repeatedly in the dead of night can leave us with our hearts banging out the same rhythm in our throats, tentatively tiptoeing towards it and taking deep, relieved breaths once it is safely closed and locked.
For the full article on The Healing Wheel blog at PaganSquare, click the misty picture above.
The following appeared in the first issue of The Glowing Hive (Winter 2011). To see full issues (Winter 2011 - Winter 2013), click HERE.
Welcome to the very first issue of the e-magazine dedicated to providing information on all aspects of holistic wellness, coming to you from the Waterloo Region. Issued quarterly, The Glowing Hive will offer articles on different aspects of health and healing, including physical health, emotional balance, mental clarity, business success, energy clearing, reviews and creative inspiration. As The Glowing Hive is a complimentary publication, there will be no paid advertising, although we are happy to support our contributors in the wonderful work they do in their own holistic practices and businesses.
This little project was born out of a realization that there are so very many of us in this Region who are doing such wonderful and healing work in a great variety of modalities. I have long been amazed by the energy of this region. As one who moved here about 10 years ago, I was sensitive to what makes this particular area so unique and special.
Local history shows that Kitchener itself was originally established in 1798 as a settlement for German Mennonites seeking freedom from religious persecution, becoming the Town of Berlin in 1854. It has long had an association of being a company town with businesses such as Schneiders, Arrow Shirts, Kaufman Footwear and Krug Furniture having long, long histories in the city, many dating back to some of the first families to settle here.
Perhaps it is the energy behind what brought the settlement into being. Perhaps it is the many family-owned businesses. Perhaps there is some other, yet-unknown cause. Regardless, I have always found Kitchener to be firmly rooted in a commitment to community. From the personal gathering of friends to the neighbourhood associations to the offering of so many opportunities to gather (usually in Victoria Park) to celebrate some event or another. I have lived in many places, from small towns to huge urban centres, both in Canada and the U.S. I have never experienced the kind of drawing together that happens in Kitchener. It is wonderful.
When you look at the “flavours” of this region, it is a pretty remarkable place in which we live. Waterloo, with its cutting edge technological research and future vision-building, is known as “Silicon Valley of the North”. Stratford is world-renown for its connection to Shakespeare and the arts. Guelph has its dedication to the natural sciences and Cambridge, the beautiful meeting place of the Grand and Speed Rivers, with its balance of several towns and a hamlet from the past seems to speak, by its very makeup, of how to create synthesis. All these different areas of focus, so close together, contribute to the experience of a Region that is forward-thinking, community-driven, artistic, innovative and expansive. A place where positive change for the future can be explored, take root and grow!
I know it is a stretch. I know we have no red rocks or natural cathedrals. I know some may giggle at my proposition. But I say, this area has the feel of a “Sedona of the North”. Perhaps not in the landscape (though the Grand is very grand). But in the underlying and supporting energies. There are more bodyworkers, lightworkers, social workers, mental health professionals, naturopaths and therapists here than I have been witness to in other places. There is something that inspires so many in this area to explore health and healing and energy. And how exciting that is. I had a vision of a place that one can come to, from anywhere in the world, and know that they are stepping into a place where many healing hands are available, from any type of modality one would wish to utilize, ready to gently guide to a place of balance and wholeness. And I say, celebrate. Come together in support of all of us who are doing this work, knowing that we are making a difference not only in this region but with ripple effects emanating out. As we change ourselves, we change the world. So, giggle if you will (and I will giggle along) but I say, hurray – “Sedona of the North”.
Depression is a debilitating mental illness that affects millions of individuals a year. Statistics present that 8% of adults will experience a severe depression at some point in their lives (around 5% in any given year) and women are twice as likely than men to experience it.
According to Health Canada, symptoms include:
The experience of depression can feel like the light going out in the world. It can feel like there is a wash of heaviness around everything one engages in - if one is even able to muster the energy to engage. It is like walking through days with a weight on your ankles. It is exhausting and isolating, affecting all areas of life, including physical health, interpersonal relationships and work.
There are two main forms depression can take: situational depression or chronic depression. Situational depression is triggered by a definable life event - generally a major loss, such as divorce, job loss, death of a loved one. Situational depression is experienced as one moves through the stages of grief in response to loss. The stages of grief (as presented by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross) are:
In the stage of depression, we are faced with existential questions such as: "Why bother?", "What's the point?", "What's the meaning?" A major loss prompts the complete re-evaluation of our lives and circumstances. It calls into question so much of what we thought was solid. It is often a confusing and frightening time. With situational depression, especially with the help of outside support and the soothing cradle of time, depression gives way to acceptance. One comes to a point of recognizing that, though things will not look as they did before the loss, there is hope and a new way will be found.
Chronic depression is very different. It is not tied to any life event in particular. Although situational depression can turn into chronic depression, if one remains stuck in grief and never moves to a place of acceptance. Chronic depression is the very real and very devastating sense that life is empty and there is no hope.
There are many approaches to treating chronic depression, including anti-depressants (which work on the biochemical level) and cognitive behavioral therapy (which works on the negative thinking level). These approaches address the physical and mental aspects of depression and how they impact on our emotional life. But there is another aspect of ourselves which more and more individuals are beginning to explore from a holistic perspective - the Spirit.
In Spiritual Psychotherapy, much of the work revolves around "reawakening the soul" or "calling back the spirit". Spiritual Psychotherapy works with a template which presents that, when we come into this world, we are whole. We emanate Essence and are, in fact, Spirit embodied. Early experiences cause us to become disconnected from our Essence. Instead of walking forth on the solid ground of our own inner sense of worthiness, we stumble along on the shaky ground of worthlessness and shame. It is not that there is a particular situation that has caused us to question who and how we are in the world. It is the very fact of our beingness that calls the "who's" and "how's" into question. What a terrible pain to carry! Depression falls under the category of mental illness, but using the Essence/Spirit template one can see that it is also a "soul illness".
Healing the soul requires the gentle comfort of inner work. Healing our "being" cannot be resolved by "doing". Those who work with chronic depression know that 'problem-solving' does not work. We can change what the externals look like, but if the inner ground is still shaky, it is still dark and frightening. What is needed is the reconnection to that core inner experience of Essence.
There are many tools in Spiritual Psychotherapy which can facilitate the inner reconnection. Perhaps the most powerful is Inner Child work. Going back through one's own story to excavate where the disconnection with Essence occurred, identifying the faulty self-perceptions that overlay the knowledge of our own inherent worth, and reclaiming our relationship with Self as our foremost relationship can start to shift the chains of heaviness and depression. It is the journey of reclaiming our Light, and with it comes lightness of Being.
We are Spirit on a human journey. And that journey does involve pain. Most individuals will experience depression at some point in their lives. I know I have. I have experienced the light going out and I am ever grateful that I had both enormous support and a sense of the "map through the forest" to guide me through. It is a terrible journey to travel alone.
If you find yourself in a place of depression, reach out. Know you are not alone. Know that within you, though you may feel it is buried quite deep, there is an Essence that glows with your own unique Light. And know that there are ways through which to reclaim that Essence and push back the heavy veil of depression.
“Pride cometh before the fall” is a message I recall hearing many times as a child. The warning that, though there was the expectation that I would always do my best, it was not appropriate to express the positive glow of success and accomplishment. If one did not self-monitor humility, one faced the very real possibility of being “brought back down to size”. Messages that urge us to be humble, to keep quiet, to deflect compliments away are fairly strong. Having internalized these messages, there can definitely be a waft of distaste when we encounter boasting. We feel the wave of Ego come towards us and instinctively step back.
For full article on The Healing Wheel blog at PaganSquare, click the guy in the swinging kilt above.
A long-time enthusiast of Alchemy, I have often been awed by its relevance to the path of self-discovery. The Alchemist knows - you are The Great Work, the Opus Magnum. This blog explores the many intersecting paths that lead to embracing the Self and living an empowered, fulfilling life.