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Most of this article appeared on Wild Women Wisdom originally on March 4, 2013
Now, it’s important to clarify some ideas.
This work, the women’s work or depth development, lets call it soul work. Soul work can edge up next to concepts that are self-helpy and lots of people, including myself, get eye rolls when it comes to that subject. Yea, it seems to surprise people when they learn that I shrink at New Agey I’m-okay-you’re-okay movements. How can I bulk at New Age stuff and keep a column that educates on the symbolism and influence of cycles in our life!?
Specifically, it’s any philosophy that says it alone is the right way or the only, singular answer that makes me grind my teeth. Finger-wagging judginess immediately shuts me down. This is LIFE! Multiplicitious, infinite, totally quantam. There are sooo many options, so many solutions. A person says spirituality should be this or should look that way and I am the first to counter: the most spiritual thing I’ve done all week was dance sweaty til 3 am then eat a cheese steak dripping full with grease…!!
Soul work, to me, resonates because it is personal. It starts with the premise that the answers are within you. A person like me just affirms the existence of what Carl Jung calls the anima function–the receptive, the dark or normally unseen, the soul. It is my goal to grow an appreciation of how our society has suppressed this aspect, to help see how our thoughts have programmed “tapes” that run in support of this suppression in your own life, and finally to help translate how the soul might be speaking to you. I am, after all, a language teacher! Your connection to your own deep sense of aliveness has nothing to do with how I define mine, likewise I have no business telling you how to experience or define yours. I just help you tap into and follow the communication going on in your interior life.
Soul-work IS NOT self-esteem. Laura San Nicolas, a soul-focused psychotherapist in Laguna Beach, emphasizes this. It’s not about feeling better about ourselves. In the Western world, the generation in which I was raised, as well as the ones beneath mine, have come of age with this stigma: brought-up with unspoken entitlement resulting from having all our security needs easily provided for. Think Maslow here. We live an inherent belief system that life should be easy, and if indeed we are confronted to actually develop and challenge ourselves, we bemoan that life isn’t meant to feel this way because it feels hard or we think we shouldn’t struggle. As Laura says, “Who ever said that life wasn’t meant to scare us? To be difficult or challenging?”
We have on our hands generations of twenty-and thirty-somethings, (I count myself among these numbers here!!) having “quarter-life crisises” or “thrisis-es” because the concept of self-esteem is uniquely tied in to the same soul-suppressing, societal brainwash that equates self-worth to consumer success. I have+so I feel good=I am worth it! So when the soul-life, which is the life that regenerates us from within, that helps us acquire meaningful understanding of our own experience and therefor gives us reason to engage from day to day because it imbues our unique experience with personal meaning, starts to emerge, it almost always starts because we feel bad. Soul work is about transformation. It has no arrival point. It is a way of experiencing the world, one that keeps a steady awareness of the relationship between interior life, and the life going on outside us in the rest of the world.
Soul-work therefor is about feeling alive. Thomas Moore, in his book “Care for the Soul,” says “the soul can be deceptively simple. You take back what has been disowned. You work with what is, rather than what you wish were there.” I understand this to mean what it took twelve steps to teach me (I need things laid out good and simple!): Responsibility, or taking daily action towards what is going on in my life here, how, today, just for today! What is directly in front of me.
Living a life of soul means engaging in the work of my own real life. The relationships, the duties, and the fun parts of what I am expected to show up to in my own life, today. It is my own real life that is the teacher, do I show up today or do I check out? Checking out is what Moore speaks of by disowning.
And if I am disowning, that’s where I start. Not with why, just with a simple, present yes, this is happening. Which takes me back to self-honesty as the way to hear the message, sometimes the siren, that the soul is signaling. We learn to be gentle with this work, tender, yes. Because really being connected in a meaningful, soulful way is a challenge. It’s not the artificiality of well-combed hair and a perfected, smiling sheen. Soul work is not the same as look-good, feel-good self-esteem.
It’s about real life. Which get’s us dirty and at times, is going to knock us to our knees.
The dark is the power of the feminine, as death is the power of life.
The dark moon, before she peaks. This is the feminine in her essence. Without the light of the sun, which is the light we see nocturnally reflected at us via La Luna, she is who she is. NO MASKS. Nothing but herself to feel, to witness, to be with, to see.
Take heart dear friends, tonight’s New Moon will move us finally into a real initiatory feeling of light and movement. Some of this tension–WHICH lS THE TENSION OF BIRTH, WHICH IS THE MEDICINE OF SPRING—birth comes not easy, now! Do not quit!! will be surpassed by the new life bubbling within.
But you must claim it. You must set out for it, you must take up, on your behalf, your own fight.
For your light. Your heart. Your soul. Your LIFE.
Trust the flow. Take quiet time right now, dark moon is the most powerful time to get still, to go within.
Be gentle with what is, with what you see or feel there.
This be my prayer~~
Happy new moon friends!
Spring Equinox is today!!
It is the Entryway into Season of Light.
Entryway a word I use specifically, meaning Threshold Time, time of powerful pause, when two states exist side by side.
At once we hold the Season of Dark’s end, right next to our Sacred entry to Spring.
The winter is our dark night, for all of us!
The Season of the Dark Night of the Collective. It is North on the Medicine wheel, aligned with the wisdom of death, dying, stillness, darkness, quiet, loss, letting go, grief and grieving, potentiality in its raw, unformed aspect. It is all of the space necessary to hold the birth of new life that comes with spring.
This weekend we are at the Crossroads, seeing backwards over winter, and forwards into the coming spring. Spring rotates us eastward, it is air which in March on the eastern seaboard brings me into my experience of fierce winds and change, and too lands me in the miracle of breath, of the knowingness of peace that comes when I begin within, with the simple, profound gratitude for that mystery which breathes me. It is birth, intellect, insight, seeds, innocence, foolishness, sweet~ It reminds us intuitively that with rebirth comes another season of light and fun, another season of the Sun.
We are at a Dual Threshold, for this Monday too, the cross-quarters of the Medicine Wheel intersect.
This happens because the Moon is also half light, half dark. She walks backwards towards her dark, while the Sun marches us forward into the Season of Light. walks us as Backwards and Forwards at once every so often, and from its tense momentum comes Birth. This is always medicine of the Threshold, which we call not just Entryway but Initiation.
As well, it is the Good Medicine of Spring. Birth. East. Dawn.
Free Association Meditation:
Make two lists. One titled Light or Birth. One titled Dark or Death. Remembering the Dual nature of Dark, to die and at once, to hold UnSeen the potentializing energy of what still shall be.
What words or phrases come out naturally under each title? What words or phrases, dreams or thoughts, feelings, instincts inform each title?
Hold Space for Each.
Is there a mantra that holds both, that honors the Sacred Continuum of how the two are connected? A sacred way which weaves more than one idea across the spectrum of letting go and coming to be? Which holds the true inner-outter diversity of Life? A sentence that claims what you want, see, or need? Create one or two.
Choose the language that best suits how you want or need to Relate to it. This is an Intention.
Tend your intentions as we move through the Season of Growth this year.
Remember, right relations begin within~With Wisdom, Comes Responsibility. Your own medicine is what is alive in your own life, a day at a time.
Be gentle, be good to you. When the light comes on, the dark dispels.
Love is all there is~
Don’t Let Them Tame You~
Lunar Imbolc comes early this year, overnight!
It is the New Moon in Aquarius, and is a tide you began to feel when the moon entered her last quarter or wane towards the dark moon, which happened Tuesday.
This is the first seed or sap rising moon, when the subtle momentum of life force starts to stir you awake with true vision for your year!
I’ll say that again–now that the holidays whir is behind us, this is the moon tide that brings VISION for the year to come!!!
For fun, if you journal or record anywhere, look back in August at the full moon–these are cross quarters so these two moons have a relationship continuum.
Prepare, though. This moon cycle will feel a little slow, so rest A Lot! It is mercury retrograde, too. Starts this week.
Making it best to lean in to winter, use her to your advantage! Slow down and just use the cosmic line-up to witness. Witness within, witness your thoughts, beliefs, stories that need transforming. This is the tide! Merc Retros are soul reviews, and with the early Imbolc tide this year, this retro gives us a great chance to clean up whatever still needs attention from basically Halloween onward~
Happy Lunar Imbolc. Stay WILD.
In every place I’ve ever lived I’ve made habit of going out walking. The funniest walk habit that just pops to mind is in Easton and wild crafting out of people’s manicured or otherwise front lawns. I got sick I guess from chemicals once. Here in Laguna Canyon if I go out walking that can mean all through out the nooks and crannies of Hobbit Lane or it can mean an artfest or it can mean an entire little village next to the sea or it can mean to the sea, and even up to the heart of town where my laundry gets done and coffee is roasted. All this on foot.
It also can mean in to the canyon and its million different wild paths…which is where the instinct led me today. First, all thanks under this sacred tide for the fact that the life I wanted to lead, led by my own tides, has come to be. Last year’s intention of commitment and Nature and Hearth and Poet-heart gnosis magic.
I was so into my street bc really, crevices of fairy ribbons and green. All over the place. Like I got home and later before I sat to write this but after the hike about which I write, a little black cat even w the lime green eyes came and stared in my screen. I have seen her once before and that was when she crossed my path last night 🙂
But what I came here to write about is the Imbolc Tide and how that found me, or led me? to the canyon today. Meaning to me that since the moon got into her last quarter wane you can feel the Imbolc archetype in it–in the wild outside. Sap Rise. Nature of things.
It said, like almost with words if words were capable of feeling in your body, which I guess yea they are–how some words like names or places give you a feeling. The words like fresh air on my skin were the canyon, how would it be to be in the canyon today? And also at once I could see-feel the brown and rain-green against the vibrating blue.
So out I went through Hobbitt Lane and then next was wild crafting in the canyon, mostly just checking in with the tender primacy of the new shoots, gathering their smells and basic habitats–growing companions etcetera. And so off I went on one unmarked path, one of the first you hit on the trail at the bottom of my street, and before I knew it i was led to the clearing green, where I have been before bc here it looks out on the sea. But this time there was a labrythn there! And much as it could’ve been there when last I was here, I certainly didn’t see.
And I threw off my bag and ran to the labyrinth and gave out my intention sure as it’s been for this year all along. And round I walked and it was so immediate, how essential, and real. How I knew I was embodying the Imbolc tide, bc this is the Way w Earth Wisdom. To let her imbibe, to not just meditative tend but to be out and fee her. I don’t know who put this sacred spiral off the beaten path. But all thanks bc that was amazing.
I reached the center and constructed my own little offering. I knew with clarity what it said by the center, and what I had melted with in response by the time I reached the end. This is good medicine, a good posturing on the year: highest harmony and love. I talked for a long time then to a dear wise sister friend. Only very few would be allowed into Nature magic like that. It made me remember Spence, the surfer I met on the beach at sunset last year closer to traditional Imbolc. I took him hiking in to the canyon at dusk and showed him to open his sight and we were super dropped in and came eye to eye with coyote in the twilight.
And so, this is lunar Imbolc tide, from tonight until the New Moon of Monday night in to Tuesday. She will move you if merely say yes to the most minor wild whisperings in your soul. Traditional Imbolc is Feb 1, this is Christian’s Brigid’s Day or the Feast of this Goddess/Saint. Goddess of first light, instinct, vision of pre-dawn insight, first seed. Poeticly charged and inspired. My patroness. This magic will therefor last until the full moon of Feb 3.
SO RAD to be out there and let the harmony of earth-wild tide move me. I tended my inner tides in the labyrinth and saw very clearly some of the precious gold seeds ready to grow with the season of the sun. I made offerings about the land and took some newest shoots of black sage. It’s exciting, I have a graduation coming up and then…so much room for fun 🙂
All love, happy tides! Begin within, then go on and get out there!
The last thing there is with ease is craziness in this world.
Here in the house of my grandparents where only my mom and dad now live it is dark, far darker than any other place I’ve ever been. That includes both sets of coastal mountain regions where I’ve been lucky enough to stay, over on the upper half of the west coast. Winter comes darker here in this pine-shrouded place mere miles from Ma Atlantic, in a way that’s way darker than anywhere else in my world. It is, this trip, a darkness of peace. So too this wild shining full moon: this bolt of truth-light lit up around the seeds that fell under winter-solstice’s new moon.
Wild-eyed, moony vision, passions elemental in precision, lifeforce stirrings in pine-wind and starlight. Crazyyy. I used to call such potency “Mad-Poet Vision”. Nods to the tribe who hold the line of such teachings: my name or words for this derive from Allen Ginsburg’s studies of poet-ecologist Gary Snyder, who brought the teachings back from the monks in Japan. It is, condensed, what Ginsburg taught eventually as First Thought, Best Thought.
To infiltrate the yak yak of the linear, egoic (or “male” animus mind), we allow the wild stirrings, the deeper impressionistic vibes that are psyche’s messengers to have their way.
We have been programmed, in part from societal conditioning, to believe these are two different energies and that the one that is personally predominant is such according to your gender. In truth they are a continuum of single energy manifested as receptive or active depending on your state of consciousness. Every man is intuitive and receptive and every woman is thought-driven and purposeful, or so do we each have these capacities.
One of the reasons women repress their strength or natural association with the realm of the feminine godhead (and therefor with the realm of the collective unconscious) is because we in Western society esteem a male God. The feminine, however, was at one time divined among many other aspects through menstrual mysteries. During the 14th and 15th centuries 9 million women burnt at the stake because of a document known as the malleus malefic arum which associated menstrual mysteries with being a witch. (see Shuttle and Redgrove’s (2005) The Wise Wound for more info.) Thus inherent feminine wisdom had to be buried deep within the collective psyche, so that it is demonized or repressed and therefor shamed to the extent that rhythmic knowledge of one’s own psyche either as a female, or in regards to anima or feminine instincts, became associated with Satanism!
Diane diPrima, the female contemporary of the above fellows, brought her esoteria more home to her own experience. Also entering the door via studies of Eastern cosmology, diPrima discovered the archetypal mind of the Godess, or the feminine divine. To work more closely with this metaphor, as a counterpart to the more known and illumined God, the Goddess oversees the realm of dark, night, intuition, death and rebirth (because the female rules the women’s mysteries, of which birth is one) receptivity, and on a more temporal or practical level, emotions, though that is equally an embodied male or animus or egoic part of the process as well (see Ann Ulanov’s interpretation for more on this.)
It makes sense that 50’s gnosis would seek Eastern tradition for enlightenment, in that it was an overt response to the subversive tactics of the US Government during the McCarthy era, a time which saw people like Ginsburg and Leroi Jones (who became later known as Amiri Baraka) on trial for obscenity in their poetry. To quote a line of diPrima’s Rant, THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST THE IMAGINATION/ALL OTHER WARS ARE SUBSUMED IN IT (sic). To keep a people anesthetized on the illusion of Descartes self-vs other (embodied hate projected outwards) is the best way to keep them from opening the door to explore that our complexes begin, and can be transformed, from within. Eastern tradition introduced these 50’s rebel poets to the concept of non-dualism.
So it is that first thought, best thought was born. Jack Kerouac actually took this concept and re-visioned what the modern novel could be–allowing for a trance-like, ecstatic spiral stream of consciousness to penetrate the tops layers of personality into the more free-associative realms of the deeper psyche. This is first thought, best thought: to follow the flow of the psyche in image, sensation, words, sounds, and to not resist what it arrives with or where it leads. To especially have no plan, but, as in the case of the writer, to be a channel for and follow the words. It is, throughout this act, how the artist speaks for the society by wheeling deeper and deeper into the collective unconsciousness and bringing out more and more to the host of light, or animus/ego-consciousness.
I learned almost all of this information in books, long before I went to an Institution to study it. In fact, I had to skip school this past weekend out of reverence for the holy Poetry first thought best thought mad-eyed seeing in the dark vision. Despite my school’s worldly attempt to foster an environment that esteems Hillman’s non-literalization of the image, the final point is if you study this stuff too much instead of trying to live it–to actively dance the day with the doors of the psyche open and free–you deaden the archetypal mind. You Kill the Soul.
So it is, this moon brings me to mind of the celebration of the Tribe of the Wild-Eyed. Those of us out there being it. Surrendering, again and again, all ideas in favor of the WILD, in favor of the psyche, the inner Nature, the Soul. May the outward full moon light, symbol of consciousness and focus, of male-orientation (the full moon reflects the light of the sun!) which shine-throttled through your personal dark all weekend long and likely stirred the wildinnereyes! Guide you inward and through doing so, help you re-relate. As always my prayers are that you re-relate in gentleness and love. May this moon light be ecstatic vision, may your trust in it be as strong as my reverent love for it. May it guide you ever home.
If there’s anything to learn from diPrima and her tribe, it is that the Wild Eyed Vision, the embodiment of psyche and soul, the interchanging dance of male/female within, can happen no matter who you are.
But let it happen. That’s the work. It takes practice to return. Again, again, again.
May we have no fear of the dark, and not hide the crazy that comes with it, that we’ve all been taught to fear~
Today’s New Moon, around 5:30pm in California, marks the end/start of a new cycle. In addition, this evening the sun reaches its furthest point from the earth’s Northern hemisphere, granting the shortest amount of daylight, the longest amount of darkness, and our entry in to winter. We know this as the Winter Solstice.
On the mystery path, we recognize Nature and inner nature as intrinsically connected. Inner nature I refer to here as soul. Outside, excess harvest has gone to rot, the rot turned under will cook and turn to nutrients and rich soil. Life energy wanes, appears still, happens mostly underground.
When the moon is dark, as in the past two days, deep tending of personal darkness happens naturally, rhythmically…Of course as we are human we resist this though! Which lends even more to that holiday feeling of restlessness and exhaust. Seek surrender, embodiment of emotions, of our up down waxes and wanes, soften unto you. With the apex of Night this evening, understand that we have walked hand in hand with our shadows, burrowed deep in the mire of our individual and collective unconscious, all week.
Last night was, literally, the Dark Night of the Soul.
Harried bones and souls seek solace right now, a soul-tired significant of the Sun’s long journey to the furthest axis of sky. Depending on your personal circadian cycle, maybe you do best in the dark! For some this becomes the most creative time of year. For others life energy wanes and increased rest is important. No matter what, the decrease of light has its effects.
Traditionally the Solstice was a time for the women to gather and ceremoniously mark the losses they experienced for the year. As the soul wanes, this is a traditional and normal aspect of the dark phase–acknowledgment of the areas where your inner self or soul is colored by its capacity to grow and integrate more wholly specifically because it has experienced pain. With loss comes the embodied experience of forgiveness, strength, compassion, hope. Ritual bathing, quiet honoring of the journey of this year and your own personal darkness, honoring of the power of death and dark as part of the sacred journey are all intrinsic to the Solstice. On the wisdom path we practice this dropping in and tending with every monthly aspect of the dark moon.
Take heart! Life is a continuum, a long spiral. The Winter Solstice, just as the moon in her new phase, marks the return of the light! Tonight we honor Hope, the return of life. In her darkest phase (the past two days) when life energy and light disappear, it is out of this momentum that the new spark of consciousness stirs. This most precious spark must be nurtured, held warm in hibernation now through the toil of the season of dark. Doing so is how the momentum for life will grow strong. Rest, tend quiet in an active way. The beingness of doing nothing, of activeness of waiting, yearning, and tending. The active embodiment of Hope.
My own embodiment of this path brought me in relation to a personal and ancestral archetype this year. Tending her has been difficult, painful, and deeply wholesome. She has helped me nurture Eros by bringing me to face my most fundamental wounds. This has helped me, most importantly, to understand that I judge and resist my own injured parts, and it is the judging and resistance that makes me most human. As always, wisdom begins here, with deep love, and gentle, unconditional acceptance for these hard, rigid judgy parts inside my own mind and heart. Unconditional love and acceptance for my own broken humanness. Right relations begin within.
To be in a harmonious way with these most shadowed, or disembodied parts of me that I seek to hate or judge, I made the top shelf of my alter an homage to my Ancestresses this week. These women, my grandmother on the side of my most familial wound specifically, became the living spirit of the dark goddess. Grammy is gone from this life, and in death I can recognize in an embodied way the wisdom of loss and how we grow and learn in perspective to this. This sort of dark tending makes the women’s work come alive for me in an incredibly sacred and day to day way.
Tending the sacred with personal sacraments like these extend into my daily life and all my relationships. This is what I mean by embodying and right relations.
Sleep now the dream of winter, hibernate as souls stir underground, in the void, and grow strong in their own essence by being held amid the winter still. Sleep, sleep, sleep. Love, accept, gentleness.
Rest well, honoring the rhythms of birth and growth and life and death and rest, until rebirth. Happy Solstice! Happy Sacred Return.
Valkyrie, at my alter. Norse Death Goddess; image by Susan Seddon Boulet
Full Moon blessings and thoughts~
As this bright light shines our way into and through the darkness, we sighhh together, knowing the roundness of the wisdom path. This full moon is connected to the going-ons of the weekend prior to US Thanksgiving, when she was in her new phase. Under that New Moon our fears were so present on the surface of our heart. With this full light, outward manifestation of those fears, she plants us deeply in our personal work.
We see, or more appropriately, feel the strain and struggle of our own resistance to self. What we truly and deeply just Don’t Want to See. We are called passionately in ways that feel perhaps too large or profound to confront our inner dark or shadow. This week particularly has been a power-full one for seeing with open eyes what we fear the most come to life, or perhaps how we respond when confronted with lac of faith, or light.
Prepare, prepare, prepare. Be with, be gentle, be with.
For with this phase we also quietly know that next new moon will bring the winter, and time for birthing of new stories.
What new stories will we rewrite, with the ink that bleeds out from the old?
On the harvest path of soul this is the time that the cut off growth of summer, what was too wild or overloaded and not yet ready to be concentrated into manifestation in our life, was cut back. We tended first harvest and threw some back to the earth. Now, we feel that which was once living turn to its fetid phase of compost-y shit, we feel the funk, we feel the fight of not wanting to surrender to the process of sludge.
We fight, and in fighting, lose strength.
Rest, rest, resist the urge to resist, and know too that even resistance is part of the path.
Can we love what we resist?
For from the muck comes the growth for the new seed, from the funk comes the grace of rebirth. Our sacred symbol for Christmas is a living pagan throwback: the evergreen. Sign of life even in the stillness of the growth season, when roots slumber and digest the old growth of the year past.
Know yourself: know your roots, know even that you resist. Know that even in death still there is green. That of death comes the room for new seed.
Love this, too… and This, and This too. May under this full moon, even This too, this part of your self cast away to the funk pile, as it now turns and wiles away back in to what will become fertile dirt…may you love even this, too. May you soften to you, to whatever it is you resist. We give thanks as we drop deeper and deeper within.