A photo of a rock with sunlight filtered onto it.
Goddess Thealogy, Pagan Practice, Sacred Spiritual Growth

The Goddessing Cycle: Resting

Cross-posted on my SageWoman blog.

This post is the second (after Releasing) in my year of sharing the Goddessing Cycle, which is the flow of energy and draw toward ritual I experience in my relationship with Goddess. The phase of resting, for me, extends from December through February. The name is deceptive, as if hibernation and drawing inward are the focus of this season. Rather, I believe it is a time of deepening into the fullness of our inner world, and then a slow but steady rush of growth outward into the world around us.

The processes I’ll be describing below fit best in climates that become cold, bleak and snowy. I would be curious if those who live in very warm climates experience some of these moments in the peak of summer instead, when the heat (rather than the cold) makes it nearly impossible to spend time outside. Although I am presenting the four parts of the Goddessing Cycle as they unfold across the year for me, keep in mind that they may show up differently for you no matter where you live.

Image showing the Goddessing Cycle. A circle with bi-directional arrows containing the words Fruiting, Releasing, Resting and Unfurling in a clockwise order.

Simple Pleasures

There is something both young and ancient about resting. Babies (and puppies) physically sleep most of the time as their brains and bodies develop. Some people grow more dormant with age, casting off the tasks they deem unnecessary for those that are closest to their hearts. I find a simplicity rooted in resting, a request from my Inner Being/Goddess to settle into myself and search out that which is vital.

I spend several hours each winter compiling a record of the previous year, and then, from that place of reflection, creating goals for the new year. Rather than whine about New Year’s resolutions being stupid, I look at my culture’s practice of them and wonder about whether there are ancient or ingrained patterns to which we are attending when we seek to make new our attempts at self-improvement. I believe something has to stir in us to cause those of us who live in barren, frigid lands to believe that, during the bitterest of times, fresh and hopeful rousings are afoot.

An Inflection Point

During the resting phase of the year, I experience a shift in energy. The previous phase of releasing is inward-gathering, letting go of impediments and drawing toward inertia. There is a stillness at the heart of resting that we will be further exploring during the meditation I’ve created below. The stillness is a pause in fullness. It reflects a holding and then then turning outward of momentum and impulse. If we take time to practice being in the moment, we likely experience many of these inflections throughout each day, week and month, but it is only around the start of the new year that I make a deliberate practice of this redirection of my energy.

A Mediation for Resting

This ritual is designed primarily as a meditation on the moment—a way to connect to ourselves and the world around us through direct experience. It involves concentrating on one’s breath as a symbolic representation of the energy exchange that flows through each of us and through the world around us. It utilizes four of our five main senses, so adjust as needed to your own abilities and preferences. Exercise caution if you have an respiratory difficulties. You may want to record yourself reading the directions and play them back to yourself as you practice it.

Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down (outside if possible). Breathe deeply and slowly, noticing each in and out breath. Close your eyes and concentrate on the sounds around you. Spend a few minutes bringing your awareness to noises both close and far. Breathe in and hold your breath for a few seconds. As you do so, notice the stillness in the sounds around you. Where are the areas of silence? Where is the energy lessened? Breathe out as you feel the rush of sounds amplify. Where is there energy flowing? What form does the noise take and how does it sit with you? Continue this practice of finding the silence and the noise in rhythm with your breathing.

Next, turn your attention to your sense of touch, temperature and pressure. Breathe in slowly and deeply. Pay attention for a few moments to any skin sensations. Breathe in and hold your breath for a few seconds. Where on your body is there stillness? What areas seem neutral, neither hot nor cold, constricted nor loose? Breathe out and notice areas of high energy. Perhaps places where you can feel air flow or the dampness of the earth. Areas that are warmed by the sun or cooled by a chill. Continue to breathe in and out in the rhythm of movement and stillness.

Now, concentrate on your sense of smell. Breathe in and out to acclimate yourself to the scents around you. Breathe in through your nose and hold your breath for a few seconds. What happens to the smells when you do this? What pauses in you as scents disappear? Breathe out and, as you breathe in again, observe the movement of odors. Continue this rhythmic breathing, being sure to pause with each in-breath to notice the hollow.

Finally, open your eyes and drink in the sights around you. Breathe slowly for a few minutes as you examine your surroundings. Next, breathe in and, as you hold your breath briefly, find the areas of low energy. Where is there void? Where does emptiness and monotony show up? What lacks in color and texture? Breathe out and find places of movement, light and complexity. Continue scanning as you breathe in and out, pausing each cycle to see the neutral.

I encourage you to consider this meditation as a potential reflection of your inner world, especially if you are spending time as I am during this time in evaluating the past year and setting goals for the next one. I never knew I craved experiences like spaciousness and simplicity until I became more intentional in taking time to reflect. Modern-day life often sends us the message that we need to not only appear busy, but also effortless in our busyness. By finding the places where things are not moving or producing or changing, where they are still, we invite ourselves into internal areas of strength that we may otherwise view as weakness. It is okay to rest. Moreover, I believe we only find out the vastness of who we are (and/or who Goddess is) when we slow down enough to give every part of ourselves an opportunity to show up, be seen and just be.

Sunset with a few trees in the lower right-hand corner.
Embodied Heart

What It Looks Like in My Dreams

I wrote recently about my increased depression symptomology. The symptom that is causing me the most distress is anhedonia. I am struggling to desire. Wishing for things to be different is normally the one skill set on which I can rely. In order to cope, I’ve been engaging in a behavior I would typically try to avoid, which is idealizing my future. I am very practical in my approach to life and get frustrated by people who are grasping at “if only” without taking concrete steps to get there. Right now, though, “if only” turns into “who cares” so quickly and flatly in me that I think the place of hope in my soul needs dusted off and aired out.

To that end, I’ve created a description of my “ideal” days and what my life actually looks like. There are glimmers of the ideal in my current life. I can feel tendrils of longing and “it’s too hard to make it come true” and “um, hello, how would you pay for this” pulling at me as I write. Anhedonia blinds hope and desire with flashes of memories of failures and disappointments. I value the part of me that doesn’t want to bring more suffering into my life, image fading to black and red streaks of pain, and I value equally the part of me that looks at the ideals and sees watercolors swirling into form and which dreams of the humble cottage in the forest or grand Victorian on the corner lot that maybe could, in some form, take shape.

An Ideal Day in the Country

Morning

I wake up when my body is ready to wake up, without rushing. I hear the birds chirp and feel the breeze blow through the open window of my house. While sipping my morning tea, I read a book chapter on a deck or porch overlooking a wooded area. I take my dog for a long walk in the woods to our kayak launch. We meander through a lazy area of a nearby lake for some time. I return to my house and spend a few hours writing.

Afternoon

I create a home-crafted meal with local ingredients, some of which I’ve grown myself. I garden and housekeep for a short time. After this, I exercise and walk my dog. The remainder of my afternoon is spent on creative activities such as painting, photography or sewing.

Evening

Dinner involves spending time with a friend or two in deep conversation. We either gather for a potluck or go to a healthy restaurant. Afterwards we take a long walk outdoors with my dog and enjoy the sunset. I curl up in front of the fireplace with a good book and some tea to wind down. I practice self-care (for example, a face mask or stretching) then head to bed at a reasonable hour.

An Ideal Day in Town

Morning

I wake up when my body is ready to wake up, without rushing. I hear the hustle and bustle of my surroundings melding into a pleasant rhythm. I take my dog for a walk to a local park and greet my neighbors on the way. I head to a local café for a healthy breakfast along with a book. I pick up local ingredients at the farmer’s market on my way home. I rest in a nook with lots of sunlight and spend a few hours writing.

Afternoon

I create a home-crafted meal with local ingredients. I housekeep and workout. I take my dog for a walk to dog-friendly shops and enjoy a tea at an outdoor coffee shop. I head to a park or local studio to paint or sculpt or learn something that stokes my creativity.

Evening

Dinner involves spending time with a friend or two in deep conversation. We either gather for a potluck or go to a healthy restaurant. Afterwards we go for a long walk outdoors with my dog and enjoy the sunset. We then head to a local cultural event such as live music or an art show. When I return home, I practice self-care and go to bed at a reasonable hour.

My Actual Life

Morning

I get up unwillingly before I am ready to do so. I make breakfast quickly and head off to work. I notice the sunrise at times. I work the entire morning. If it is the weekend, I engage in housekeeping and errands during this time of day. Some weekend mornings I will write or spend time in nature.

Afternoon

I work into the afternoon. I return home and grab meals where I can, occasionally cooking for myself. I work out and watch TV. I go to therapy. I walk my dog at a park. I sometimes write, and, on the weekends, occasionally paint.

Evening

I spend most evenings alone; I’m with a friend or group a few times a week at most. I watch TV and sit around. I typically take my dog for another walk. I rarely notice the sunset. I occasionally engage in self-care, write or read. As of late, I go to bed very early.

Reflection

I feel ashamed of what I’ve written. My shame is not in relation to what I shared about my actual life. Rather, I hear mocking internally in regards to what I wish my life involved. In part, this connects to a specific experience of bullying in which a college roommate made fun of me for writing her a letter the summer before we moved in and stating that I liked spending time outdoors hiking. Apparently she and all her friends sat around and laughed at the naïve, uncool country girl.

Even now, I don’t always succeed in hiding the excitable parts of who I am, the ones that seem very distant during this depression. I dissociate and appear nonchalant when someone mocks my joyfulness as an adult, but it cuts to the quick and shuts into locked corner even further the young, eager and happy parts of self. And, hard as it is for me to admit, I mock myself with the same or even greater intensity. I feel rage when I think of the jaded-teenager aspects we each hold in us that want to eye-roll and smirk our way past anyone’s genuine joy and enthusiasm and I feel compassion when I consider how we became jaded.

I am very curious to hear about your ideal versus your actual life, but not in a way that limits our perspective to a consideration of the distance between them. Rather, what is it like in your being, if you are able, to dream of your ideal? What holds you back if you can’t go there mentally? What are your experiences of having your ideals or dreams ridiculed, and how do you hold space for the energetic and excitable parts of you who want to rush toward that for which you long?

A sunny spot of undergrowth surrounded by tall trees.
Inspiration Fanatic

5 Elements: Creative Visual Exploration through Photography

Cross-posted at my SageWoman blog.

For today’s #InspirationFanatic post, I snapped a series of photographs* based on the five elements–earth, air, fire, water and spirit. I’ve been lacking any desire to be creative and needed a way to get plugged back into Nature. I felt connected to Goddess through this experience, especially when I found the “spirit” spot. I encourage you to go to a favorite natural setting and do the same! I’ve included a few prompts for each element in case you need ideas to get started.

Earth

I honed in on decomposition for my photograph–evidence of something returning to the earth. You might also consider finding a place where soil meets growth, or a plant or animal being nourished by the earth. If you feel stuck, ask yourself what around you feels rooted, strong and grounded.A photograph of a tree trunk rotting away into the earth.

Air

I found myself drawn to movement when I contemplated the air element. You could also look for plant or animal material that tends to get carried in the wind, such as leaves or dandelion fluff. Wispy clouds may also reflect this element. To touch this element, ask yourself what in your immediate surroundings is in motion, is breathing or is aloft.

A photograph of a tree with its green leaves in motion.

Fire

I happened upon a fire pit which felt like an apt representation of this element. A spotlight cast by the sun or dry and dusty conditions fit here, as would flames (in a safe setting of course). If you are unsure what to include, ask yourself what around you is marked by sunlight, dry, scorched or alight?

An empty stone fire pit with ashes after the fire has burned out.Water

Any body of water or aspect of rain, mist, fog or dew represents the water element. This is the element with which I connect the most easily and deeply. The forest where I was hiking ended up being a ridge high above the stream below. It was interesting to notice that my sense of immediacy with Goddess was limited when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to get close to water. If you need additional inspiration, ask yourself what around you is wet, moist, hidden or heavy.

A stream surrounded by logs and trees in late summer.

Spirit

Spirit is amorphous and fully open to interpretation. After feeling disappointed regarding how far I was from water, I retraced my steps as I went to leave and happened upon a clearing in the woods through which the sunlight was pouring. I felt my breath slow and my heart open to this scene. For me, that sense of “I’m right here, right now” is always indicative of spirit.

A sunny spot of undergrowth surrounded by tall trees.

Reflection

For this experience, I let myself indulge my visual sense, which is what I perceive first in any situation. I want to conduct this type of walk again, but to focus on finding a connection to each element through my sense of smell or my sense of hearing, etc. I would also like to brainstorm other concepts that can be represented through photographs. I typically allow Nature to speak directly to me when I go for a walk in the forest and proceed without any plans. It was a nice change of pace to feel that I was seeking specific points of connection with Goddess through Nature; She answered my inquiry and showed me Her beauty.

© 2018 All rights reserved, Suzanne Tidewater

*Please forgive all the copyrights labels; I had someone steal an entire blog post including the photograph recently.

Magic & Phrase

Patience

Maybe if I run, I’ll escape this place.

Get far away where the ghosts won’t find me.

Brown and black fuzz funneling across pavement. The hedge promises new life, quick before

Bird standing sentry, he of bright red stripe and black feather, swoops in for a taste.

 

But all the distance hasn’t changed the past.

Every reminder pulls me right back in.

Pause, breathing flowers floating aside lake.

Pause, until fish surfaces, flicks flea down, and retreats into murk.

 

What boundaries can hold if we are all stardust?

Is it all of me ever-present, even the unseen?

I find shade, and my steps slow.

Path littered with plump flesh and berry seed.

 

Every piece of me may be torn apart, some lost in wet hollows.

And She will spend millennia calling each back.

Pause, tasting blood-purple globes.

Pause, with stained hands and belly full.

 

Every time we think we’ve found the line of Self and Other.

See the particles scatter and buzz.

Not to dredge to bone, not to segment, defend.

No, all we can do is to widen and open. Contract and hold fast.

Holy embrace where sun meets water.

Sacred Spiritual Growth

Resourcing Our Spiritual Needs: Unfiltered Inspiration

Cross-posted on my SageWoman blog.

Do you find yourself craving inspiration on a soul level? I believe that external stimulation nourishes us not only physically, emotionally and mentally, but also spiritually, and functions as a vital ingredient for our well-being. For today’s #SacredSpiritualGrowth Saturday, I will be investigating how slow and attentive engagement with the world around us can produce this sustenance.

Inspiration comes in at least two varieties: wild and processed. The first, the unfiltered variety, is not simply nature as it also includes human-cultivated materials that have not yet been fully assembled. It allows us to take things sense by sense, and to either simply appreciate each as it stands or to engage our creativity by constructing unique permutations. Processed inspiration sounds less appealing, but in fact has gone through one of the most creative machines there—another human’s mind. Each work of art and scientific finding is a human’s diamond. My mind internalizes and makes its own meaning of this product, but what is presented has been synthesized and layered through another’s concentration and effort. I never saw art or inquiry as vulnerability until I held it in this light. Taken together, wild and processed stimuli offer us an unlimited supply of fodder for creativity and growth. I will be tackling both topics in my #SacredSpiritualGrowth posts; today’s blog will consider the first by contemplating how we can engage our senses directly.

Raw Sensory Indulgence

Rather than an exhaustive list, I’ve included specific examples from my own life with an eye toward highlighting the impact of working with each sense individually.

Sight

The primary place in which I am delighted when I engage my sense of sight is in nature. As I’ve spent more time in outside, one of my favorite practices is to “look again,” by which I mean to take in a scene until I think I’ve captured all the nuances it holds, and then to challenge myself to reset the parameters and find an entirely new set of data coming at me. What was previously a simple glance at a tree or hedge evolves into an eco-sphere of activity from this vantage-point.

Human creations, in their raw form, can also connect with us on a visual level. For instance, as a child, I was drawn to fabric stores. I wasn’t very good at sewing and so I was unsure about why they held such appeal for me. I believe now that it was simply the full glass of colors, patterns and textures I was able to drink in with each visit that appealed to me. In the same vein, a row of paint samples may seem mundane but, through its activation of our visual system, we may perhaps find ourselves dreaming in full color.

Sound

Inspiration does not need to come only from experiences we find pleasing. I’ve written before about my difficulties processing certain sounds. I find the most peace in listening to birdsong and the rush of water in a stream, but I believe mechanical sounds and the babble of humans in motion can also provide fertile ground for the growth of our auditory attunement. Consider finding various places where you can sit for a few moments with your eyes closed, and simply listen.

Smell & Taste

Smell is a visceral sense that I believe worth of indulgence. As I described previously, I can get carried away in places such as spice shops. Each spice offers not just a sensory experience all its own, but can also allow an unfolding of emotions and memories. Displays with essential oils or botanical herbs and, of course, natural areas filled with flora allow for a variety of scents that are easily accessed in one location. Rather than rushing to partake in the next fragrance, try pausing and finding the faint whiffs amongst the strong in each smell.

Taste can be a bit more difficult to indulge in nature unless you have a guide who can tell you which items are edible. With or without this opportunity, another possibility is to taste each ingredient in the next dish you make as you assemble it. I think here about how often I barely perceive the flavors of entire meals I eat, much less each component that goes into it.

Touch

We “see” through more than our eyes. By touching various objects with our fingertips, we come to know reality in a way that is difficult to capture in words. One of my favorite encounters is touching the bark of a tree; I feel that a window into its soul is opened each time I do so. Allowing the sun to alight on our face or the rain to wet our feet speaks to us on a nonverbal level. Walking barefoot instantly grounds and reconnects me to Goddess.

From Inspiration to Creation

After engaging with these and other senses, we need not rush to synthesize them into something “creative.” Mindfully being present and absorbing the experience as it stands may be all that is needed; genuine inspiration cannot be rushed or manufactured. Personally, I feel a small shift inside me whenever something has ripened from its original green into a tasty morsel ready to be digested; when I respond to this intuitively, I am almost always delighted at the result. When I instead try to move on without pausing to meet this sensation, the bitter pulp of unready fruit tends to quickly dissuade me from my desire to get on with it.

Taking the entirety of my list of opportunities into account, I think that most of us have more than enough around us throughout the day from which we can draw inspiration. Rather than a lack of stimuli, I suspect what gets in the way of inspiration is in fact mindlessness—glossing over or rushing through material so quickly that we fail to absorb even a fraction of what is being presented, as well as becoming overstimulated and then detaching by distracting ourselves through screens and thoughts of the future or past. The next time you feel completely overwhelmed, take a look at your surroundings. Are you attempting to attend to multiple layers of stimuli at once? Are you trying to both complete a physical as well as mental task? One activity at a time, in fact, one sense at a time, is a revolutionary way in which we can begin to appreciate nuance, complexity and variety. I invite you to stop at the next green plant you meet and get to know it. My suspicion is that you will walk away with more understanding of the world than hours of electronic scrolling could ever afford.