Thursday, January 30, 2014

in the belly

When winter comes to a woman's soul, she withdraws
into her inner self, her deepest spaces. She refuses
all connection, refutes all arguments that she should
engage in the world. She may say she is resting,
but she is more than resting: She is creating
a new universe within herself, examining and breaking
old patterns, destroying what should not be revived,
feeding in secret what needs to thrive.
-Patricia Monaghan

Womb by Jen Otey

We yearn toward the light. 
It is the yearning that keeps our feet on the path when the dark threatens to overtake our hearts and we feel faint with dread and soul-numbing fatigue. But before the birth time, the greening, leafing of spring and warmth, there is the time in the belly of a thing. 
This is the nature of the word Imbolc - in Celtic culture literally meaning "in the belly".

For years, I have honored and marked Imbolc, lighting white candles in the black night, setting out the offerings of milk and honey on my altar to Brigid, calling forth the spring and honoring the germinative, productive dark in myself. I have celebrated Imbolc as a breaking forth energy, the fertility of the soil and soul, and all that writhes beneath. Imbolc always felt anticipatory to me, a time to observe the tiny, creeping signs of new life to come in the weeks ahead in the land, and creatively within me.

But there is another layer; another truth in this season that feels particularly bittersweet and profound for me this year. As I await the birth of my son in just a handful of weeks from now, I am shedding and dropping and clearing out to make space for this new life. I am emptying out  life-as-I know-it, even as my body fills and grows larger than it's ever been. 
It's a strange paradox. I am drifting in a reality that is completely foreign to me, destabilized and free-falling into the unknown, while simultaneously contained within a process entirely out of my control. At times this process is thrilling and warm. And there are moments where I feel a keen sense of loss. Of anxiety- around the great unknowns to come, the changes, the inevitable altering of me. 
This is more than cosmetic change at the surface. The very pattern of the weave of my life as I have understood it is moving through a transformation that will leave me forever marked .

This is initiation. The dirty work.
The scraping away of old flesh - my own - to make way for something new, larger, louder, brighter. Bleeding, opening, cracking ground to make way for new shoots to spring up. Surrendering to an unknown outcome because there is truly no going back. And because even if I could at this point, I wouldn't. 
So initiation is a door I willingly, if humbly and sometimes timidly, walk through of my own accord- I am not forced.

Initiation is intrinsically cleansing. it is the most basic of purifications played out in profound measure for the stretching of us. Can you feel the pulling at every end, beloved? It always begins in the belly.

I fidget, I squirm, I resist, I curse and finally... I collapse, surrendering to the process of this birth-before-birth.

Moving through that birth canal is a team effort. 
The child struggles toward the light, turning this way and that, compressing and bending limbs and even bone to fit. The familiar warmth of amniotic fluid filling the soon-to-be airway is pushed away in his labor toward the light. All this happening in the belly and below as mama pushes and bears down. 

This is initiation, moving in the belly. Together. We. Our mind and our soul. Our experience and our Self. We who are today, and our potential fighting for life and clawing toward breath.

It is as much a taking-away as it is a giving-in-to. The emptying that comes before the filling up, and the aching arms that were pleasantly full of the weight of all that was; now required to grow accustomed to air and possibility.

We can accumulate knowledge, practices and truths that serve us well. Until they don't. We outgrow them. They must move through us, out, onward and away from us to new hearts waiting for them, as others travel toward us, waiting for us to invite them in and choose the initiation that will allow us to understand their language. They arrive in the belly first. A clenching in the gut - of faint but definite recognition. "Oh, there you are," we eventually say. "I was wondering when you would arrive."

Our mind, our ego tricks us into believing that there is security in the known. If we know it, if it feels familiar, if we are used to its weight and heat, it must be truth and true for us, always. But this is false, and holds us back from the growth we are meant for. It stalls the birthing process, stopping it dead in its tracks. 

Refusing initiation in any form, when it appears to us in the secret moments, the pained silences, the raging grief or quiet loss of a thing, person, or idea - is certain death to our evolution at some point along the way.

There must be movement toward the light, from the belly place of a thing. Where life stirs in secret darkness before it can be born. Preparation looks as much like clearing out and cleaning up as it does adding to. 

This is more than a quaint decluttering. This is cleansing on a life-changing scale. It cuts to the bone.

And it's time. Time to let go of what used to serve us that we are past now. Time to hold ourselves accountable to the deeper truths that have been growing in strength in the belly for the past weeks and months. 

What is familiar, what is known, is not better where abundant life is the alternative. 

To cross that chasm, to leap that imposing divide into an abundant spring requires a brave initiate and the map only you can read. It was written for no one else.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

the witch's new year

I open my arms to the sky and breathe in the night.
Into the dark moistness of my body, I receive the darkness.
- Patricia Monaghan

Catrin Welz Stein

Come to me, ending.
Remind me you
are rebirth
shedding her skin,
making room
for new blood, new veins,
new breath.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

the witness

These bereft moments, the darkly abandoned seconds and hours and days- are part of the story, and must be witnessed as the beautiful is witnessed - with grace, with a holy nod of acknowledgement, 
with respect for the struggle.  

Sarolta Ban

And there comes a time when you have to say the truth words of your life. To bear witness.

There are two lives that too many of us live: the life shown carefully to the world, and our real one.
In this real life of mine, I will no longer ignore the million-thousand seconds of waste, of wandering, pacing, waiting or weeping. 
I am nowhere near perfect. I am not flawless.
I cannot pretend or wish these unbeautiful moments away. Not forever, anyway.

These bereft moments, the abandoned seconds and hours and days- are part of the story, and must be witnessed as the beautiful is witnessed - with grace, with a holy nod of acknowledgement, with respect for the struggle.

I want to recognize each moment as a glowing ember, a divine gift that is witnessed even when I turn away from the ugliness, the flaws, the imperfections, the blemishes, the lumps.

And there is a witness to each moment- a sacred scribe who takes notice of our every single tear, laugh, mistake. Who takes notice of us. The true us. The private, secret, longing, wanton us. The us we show no one, least of all ourselves, for fear of rejection. For shame.

There is a witness.
Her message is ever the same, and her fluid truth moves slowly in to the body, releasing the breath, opening the spaces that were bound up, carefully filling the questing and seeking places with answers that are less specific than they are real.
We must be intrepid souls because this way to wisdom is a box full of darkness, love.
There are only unpredictable outcomes, daily chores and glimpses into glory. And it may be that those glories sustain our hearts on the journey toward Wholeness, but it is the ditch digging work of everyday that moves us forward into elder wisdom and compassion for self and others.
It’s only Life. It’s only everything you’ve ever wanted and feared and hidden from and raced after with all your might.

The boring, bloody mess of our days are not subservient to the holy work of creation.
They are creation.
And each act of creation is witnessed. Breathed upon, filled to the brim with some profound pneuma that directs our steps – we continue on. And we are loved. And we are seen. Witnessed.

Beauty, allow the okays. 

Allow the alrights, the ughs and sighs, the lumps in the throat, 
and the tears spilling over shiny lids that are working so hard
to restrain your own flood of feeling. 
Let the chin have her quiver, the lips their tremble;
let the heart run her race and allow the hands their shaking.

These are the other side of the ecstatic experience. You sought the epiphanies, and with them comes the shadow. There is no flow without the ebb, and the ebb we must all observe,
inside ourselves, inside the process.

And yet, there is a witness. 

No moment, no matter how mundane, goes unnoticed. This life does not go by unnoticed. 
The beautiful moments, the ugly, and the four billion others within that spectrum in between communion with the Divine and fallen-flat-on-my-face-failure.

Our witness collects every breath; every attempt is sacred, every scar vulnerable to her hands. She holds them all carefully, filing each away in a holy archive. Each moment and every feeling EXISTS, therefore it has merit, value- the pneuma of divine life-right.

She speaks into our left ear that each dip and dive is as equally holy in its curvature as the breakthroughs into bright light. There is no flow without the ebb, and it is the ebb we must ride back in, straight to the source of all things.
Through those journeys into the dark, the ugly, the repetitive have-tos that sometimes feel like filmy water that is tossed on soulfires, there is a witness.

The most insignificant parts and pieces of us, these throw-away moments have become holy because they have been seen and acknowledged by our soul selves- our witness within.
This is the sacred nature of discarded things.
This is the holiness of gathered tasks, foregone conclusions, wasted opportunities and the gall of ill-equipped and {as yet} undisciplined feet over hard-packed earth.


There she is again. Our Witness-Self. She Who Hears. She Who Sees.
Can you feel her near?
You are not invisible, brightling.
You are seen by this witness.

Your story is the story of ten thousand who came before you, but your link on this ancient chain is unique- fashioned by elder hands who stand as witnesses to your own creation, your own handiwork, your own matter of soul. Your own Matter. You Matter.

The terrain of your life undulates with the complex and varying patters of light that can sometimes play tricks on the eye. This great work that is your life- is not a portrait. We are the wild yearning of an untamed landscape- lush with the cycles of life, death, and the many stages of growth and decay in that marshy middleland.

And every stage, every cycle, every moment- is witnessed. Matters.
And to Matter, is to be Matered, is to be Mothered…

We are mothered. Every moment, each ebb, every dip, dive, fall, stumble and shriek is Mothered. Held to a great, soft bosom and nurtured to wholeness once more. Born up from underneath by the dark ground – witnessed in the soil – we are Mothered by the Rememberer of Time Before Time, the Keeper of All Things Transformed and Reborn.

Beloved, these moments, these dark shadows that haunt us in the ebb of things – they are no less precious simply because they are unlovely. They, too, will be witnessed. Mothered.  
For now, just for this little space, let it be enough that these feelings, these uncomfortable places and the unbeautiful moments are part of the same circle, the infinite and ever turning cycle that comprises the holy, the sacred, secret ways of wisdom.


She’s come near again.

She is ever the center. The fluid beginning, middle and end. The source and the leaving-behind of worn-out ways that precede newness of thought, of shiny starts and fresh earth under our fingernails and feet. She sees us at our worst and smiles her luminous smile anyway. She is the witness, our wild yearning toward HOME, the soul-whisperer. Nothing escapes her notice, nothing. 

She stands there in the shadow of the tree, watching all the floundering, calmly standing her ground amidst the tromping fit of fear, failure and shame. She is the stillpoint, the pivot-point, the ground beneath dirty feet, caretaking each sacred second. She lies inside our inner waters, her hearing exquisite.

She is the Witness, the Acknowledger, the One Who Validates every breath, every struggle, every tear and every drop of sweat and blood shed.

She is the container, the wish-hearer. The other side of the line, She is the vacuum that fills itself up.
She does not discriminate among wildlings – for we are all samesoul of a kindred and fierce Mother-witness. 

She is the one who stands inside the doorway, unconcerned with insults or petitions to, “Look away! I am unclean!” She is the eye that sees into the darkness. She cuts through the blackness of fright with precision and sees ALL of it – down to the bone, the blood, the stink and swell of things left unsaid, undone, unfinished.

She is the body of evidence where they said none could be found, and She is the finger in the sand, separating the Wills from the Did-Nots, the fears from the fear-nots, the past, the now and the could-be’s if you’d only wake up and see your witness who SEES you in perfect trust. 

She is the bearer and bringer of soul, and the funnel of all things wise and sacred. She is the Secret Keeper, the advocate for all of us unworthy, indefensible, untamed, illogical, irrational and feral-eyed.
She is the Witness to our every darkening moment, carrying each though, glimpse and dirty corner into safety, succoring us to trust again. 

We are not hers only when we behave as the fresh faced wildlings she adores, but hers when the lights fade away, when the holy water has turned tepid at last, the incense burns out, the food spoils, the muscles atrophy from mis- or disuse, when the balance is lost, and the cavernous in us collapses.

We are witnessed in grace.
We are witnessed unto healing.
Can your hear Her?
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