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.


  1. Gorgeous and evocative writing. Thank you.

  2. Amazing words. I needed to read this, right this very moment. Thank you.
    Btw, I believe I went to high school with Jen Oatey-do you have a website/ contact info for her?

  3. I cannot relay the number of times I have read, reread, copied, and recopied this into my journal. Thank you for sharing this and for your blog. As Sue Monk Kidd describes in her book Dissident Daughter, this is powerful whale breaching! Happy babymoon to you. Blessings-


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