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My ol Winter Blues, “Women’s Mysteries,” and Merc Retro

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I was driving on Bestgate Road in Annapolis and something in the way the wind hit me through the window made my heart give this respondent ache.    It was March of 2001.   My body, my heart was awake.  I didn’t feel that dull, grey, sunless east coast flat.  The nothingness that accompanies it, the all the time drain.  Spring came in through the window and I felt alive.

That was also the first spring that I was clean off alcohol and drugs.

Which is significant because those changes brought a fierce dedication to work on my recovery.  I saw a naturopath who helped me learn nutrition, a medical doctor that suggested I start charting my period courses by directing me towards lines of women’s mysteries and wisdom, and a shaman who taught me the validity of meditation and the inner states of our consciousness.  I was also learning yoga, and how to breathe, from a roommate.

This came in the middle of two solid years of experiencing lithium toxicity (over-medication and downright irresponsible medication monitoring: adverse affects of docs crossing the meds I was on) at the hands of an incompetent MD.  This is when the Big Pharma takeover of Western Medicine had just really started.  There were few patient advocates, so me and my mom had to navigate that mess ourselves.

I had an awakening.  I had an awakening concerning my responsibility to my health, how health involves daily consciousness around my whole system.  My mental health, my physical health, my nutrition, my sleep, my hormones, my spirit.   As the years went on I’ve learned to add joy, emotions, creativity, discipline, and finances all as subtle bodies that live in me.  The importance of gratitude for the never-ending process, the equal importance of not taking things too seriously, but also knowing where to not compromise.

I can tell you that learning me, my rhythms and all the extensions and impacts of these various parts that I have to be responsible to, is the singular good work that I have committed to in my life.

When I write about the moons and patterns of nature it is because by daily commitment to my own cycles I unlocked the truth of my connection to the larger ones of Life.  Out in Nature it has been confirmed again and again that when I am connected to me I am connected to the larger flow.  I have a decade of journals that pattern my cycles, that chart my patterns against the larger ones of   bioregional tides and those of society that move out from bioregions.

The idea that we are not impacted by the larger movements of life is absurd.  Disconnection from it, in my personal experience, caused me to self-deny and self-medicate in ways that should’ve killed me.  It led me in to the nightmare of a medical system that largely devalues the exact things I am talking about.

When Mercury Retrograde Occurs Before Spring

I don’t know about astrology.  What I do know plenty about are the rhythms of the moon and sun and the elements and seasons and how they correlate to our own rhythms of growth.

These are “women’s mysteries.”  In indigenous cultures they are still known and valid.  To make them relevant and accessible for all here on this forum I use the depth psychology term for them:  Soul.  The loss of them is the reason humanity is in such crisis.

Mercury retrogrades means the planet pauses in its forward motion.

When this happens right before spring (as it does this month) it is the building of momentum.  The first day of spring brings us the element of fire.  Fire element, as all the elements, has three energies.  Cardinal, which means igniting; mutable, which means changing; and fixed, which means same, or like cooking something for a long simmer.

Spring Fire Element is Cardinal.  Meaning igniting, bursting forth.  

Here is the image I have of the Merc Retro right now.

In a movie, when there’s great graphics and special effects and there is a big explosion, and the first second of the explosion is in slow-mo, and in that pause you see all the rubble all around you, everywhere, in mid-air.  That’s what it means when merc stops moving.  Especially with the growing energy of Fire adding steam to the mutable, (changing) Water element of Pisces.

Right?  We are paused amid everything that the season of dark (winter)brought up for us.  Pisces is the changing water element, it washes away what we don’t need.  BUT DAMN MERCURY IS RETRO so everything is stuck, there is no relief, no cleansing, get it?

Ensuring that we are sure of what it is in us that needs cleansed, rebirthed, or relief.

The second that Fire initiates us on the first day of spring, all that crap we don’t need anymore–that we can’t help but see from day to day right now–will burn right off.  Horay!

We are being sort-of cured right now, like big ol turkeys sitting in a brine.  The tension is building and building for Spring’s growth to occur.

Not understanding this can feel awful.  Clueless and helpless.  Hang in there.  Retro ends March 17.  Spring starts three days later~

It’s so, so important to conserve your energy.  Trying to start new projects right now will drain you, it’s literally going against the tides and can actually bring pain and illness.  This time is for reviewing, reflecting, a time to witness, maintain and heal.  The new moon, which is Monday, is always a good time for deep insight and stillness.

Have a great weekend!  Like I tell myself in that exact moment the wave lifts my board up and I panic and think I am nuckin futs for trying to learn to surf:

JUST HANG ON!  (Or, jump off, and dive way down, that works really well right now, too~)

Soul-work is NOT self-esteem!

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Now, it’s important to clarify some ideas.

This work, soul work, it 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 planets 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, 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 to support that suppression in our 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.

Soul-work IS NOT self-esteem.  Laura San Nicolas, a soul-focused psychotherapist here in Laguna, emphasizes this.  It’s not about feeling better about ourselves.  In the Western world, the generation I was raised with as well as the ones beneath mine  have come of age with this stigma: brought-up with an unspoken entitlement resulting from having all our security needs easily provided for.  We live the belief system that life is 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-somethings 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 ties 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 gives us reason to engage from day to day, starts to emerge it almost always starts because we feel bad.

Soul-work 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, and taking action, in what is going on in my life here, today, just for today!   What is directly in front of me.  Living a life of soul means engaging in the work: 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 simple, present yes this is happening.  Which takes us back to self-honesty as the way to hear the message, sometimes the siren, that the soul is signaling.  We are 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, knocks us to our knees.

Self-honesty as Soul Work

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What does it mean, Soul Work?

And how do we start?

This is maybe the great pressing drive of my life so far.   Having a life of soul.  The need for it was characterized early on by an unyeilding sense that there had to be more meaning to life than the daily grind.  I was misanthropic as a teen because of this, and gratefully, it never went away.  My understanding of my own restless, angsty sense has grown.  Today it is what I have heard called “divine discontent.”  A yearning for something more.  It is just this sense that arises when my inner-life is calling for my attention.  And when I surrender to it, there are always treasures upon treasures within.  Surrendering to the inner yearning is always the first step of aligning the energies in my outer life to best call in meaning.

Of course, living with this type of unseen throttle inside makes me feel alienated at times. But it is also the singular reason that I can look back on my 35 years here and say with true satisfaction: not a single moment of this has been a waste.  Part of this showing up to my self has taught me that the world we live in does it’s very best to keep the false-belief going that the realms of a person’s  inner-life are not real or are a waste of time.  It is our heritage, we are driven to produce and consume.  This drive perpetuates the deadening of living life rooted from unseen happiness or values from within.  It is set up to dismantle any true-power: power that comes from the individual’s soul.

Self-Honesty

Reversing this drive means being willing to return to the soul again and again, no matter how long has passed since the last time and no matter how much resistance is keeping you from acknowledging the reality that you have an aliveness “within”.  This is why self-honesty is so important.  Even self-help gurus today want us to believe that our inner-life is only valid if it is joyous or content or full of peace.  THAT IS TOTAL SHIT and counter to the life of the soul.  Soul speaks with the messages of instinct and emotion, and so long as your human than the those are going to span the range of every sensation possible.  Slow down and allow your soul to breathe and come to life again, allow it to feel and speak in ways that are authentic to only you.  Begin with exactly who and how you are right now.  Self-honesty, how you are feeling, what you are thinking, what you are sensing, what you are ignoring or resisting right this second is how and where to start.  And recognizing that the soul is as changing as the tides, that it is NORMAL AND HUMAN to go through up/downs sometimes all day long is the first sacred soul message we can learn.

Mercury Retrograde

The reason self-honesty is the topic today is because Mercury is in retrograde.  This retrograde, or review period, covers the entire winter season, or season of self-private or quiet or resting time.  Season both out and in of the dark.  Society programs us to escape bad feelings, which are actually a normal part of the human experience.   We are in a review of all the inner-life substance that has risen-up for us since December right now!  Mercury retrograde, more than ever, is a really important time to be easy on ourselves and as honest as possible with how we are feeling and what we are experiencing.  Especially the one that happens right before spring, because that’s when our dark parts are right under the surface.  Areas that we need to grow, areas that are challenging us to change how we currently relate, areas that need to be transformed, are all rising from our unconsciousness into consciousness right now.  It could even show itself  as a classic feeling of oh god here I am repeating the same old habit again.

This is the time to witness those things, with gentle self-honesty.  Not a time for haste.  Not a time for change.  Let the action you take during a retrograde be about preparation:  quiet tending of the ground from which you will grow this season.  Allow rest, and practice self-honesty from day to day.

I for one can become really dutiful and self-sacrificing when I get too disciplined   I mistake this for “practicing self-honesty” too!  When the truth of honesty is that I am hurting myself with my rigidity.  So for me during a retrograde I have to be especially light on myself, and factor in rest time with lots of time for easy-going play.

These are lessons I’ve learned in my own life by believing the soul life is real, and practicing this by meeting me, within.

More later this week!  BEEEEE good to you~!

Sun and Moon Symbols, and lunar Imbolc

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Today is the full moon.

Full moons are significant because they symbolize a center-point in a growth cycle.

Growth cycles are circles, never-ending or beginning, a continuum of todays informed by yesterday.  This feels good to me because one way of looking at this means that wherever you are in your understanding of your life and the larger tides is right where you are meant to be.

In other words we don’t need to wait until everything lines up to do soul work.  We can start right here, right now.  It’s starting that counts.  Everything that happened behind us is a part of our make-up.  It is sitting just under the surface, all that material. We can use it to better know and therefor work with ourselves.  All we have to do is begin.

Envision a circle.  Now on that circle move backwards by Half, one whole arc behind you.  That was the last new moon.  Whatever is going on in your inner-life during the new moon shows itself in your outer life on the full.

When you hear people say I’m frustrated, must be the full moon–this is actually true.  What it means is that some part of you and how you relate to your own inner life isn’t being brought to the light, is resisting the natural tide of nature.  This is a very normal, very human thing to do.  We are programmed to believe we don’t live in connection with Nature.

That could not be further from the truth.

Sun and Moon Symbols

One of the symbols of the moon is private awareness, in other words the inner-life we keep quiet to ourselves.  The sun is the outer life, the personality, who we are to the outside world in ‘the light of day’.  It covers as well what we grow and build and take part in, how and what and who we use to identify ourselves.

Full moons reflect the sun.  It is a lovely combo of both inner and outer.  So full moon is the reflection of the power we draw from the private, inside part of us to feed who we are and what we are making real in our public life.

Imbolc

The new moon two weeks ago is known as lunar Imbolc.

Imbolc, which is the Celtic name, is known in other traditions as Candlemas, purification of the Virgin Mary, Bean-throwing, Brigid’s moon, Chinese New Year, or Sap-rising, to name a mere few.  It is the time of first light in the season of dark or winter, when the fire of creation or fertility is resparked.

This is significant because in every society based on a winter-hempishpere, there is a marking of the new moon of February.  New moon time is when the sky is the darkest.  Because the new moon is a dark moon, and representative of what is dark or private inside of us, the new moon of February is often a very challenging time.  As the old saying goes, it is always darkest before the dawn...Well Winter, the season of dark or inner, private-reflection, is at its fullest on lunar Imbolc.  It is in fact that tension that strikes the first spark of spring.   When that first spark, that light, that stirring of sap waking up in the trees or bear yawning from deep in his cave, first snaps to life it also marks a time of waking up to what is darkest or most private within us.  It is often this moon that privately reflects our biggest fears, shortcomings, challenges, or areas we are ashamed of or afraid to see.

Meaning tomorrow’s moon will bring further real-life insight on those very issues.  Because what was private under a dark moon is now brought to light under the full.  Whether out in the open–at work, home, financially, in relationships, or from an inner-place of awareness.

Taking quiet time for inner, private reflection can help us work more knowingly with these issues moving from inside to out.

Tune in tomorrow for more on how this is also effected by Mercury Retrograde.

Wild Women Wisdom Symbols in dreams, & Mercury Retrograde

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This morning I awoke with a crudgy feeling.  This means I felt like grrrrr, I don’t want to get up.

I lay there a minute contemplating what to do–it was 6:30, do I go back to sleep, make coffee, write…? And then I recalled an odd dream last night in which me and Mandy, my best girlfriend back home in Maryland, were in a teeny spacecraft flying through the desert and ran out of gas.

I didn’t connect that the dream had to do with my mood but I did, with a sorta resentful-tinged eyeroll, decide to spend my morning the way I often do: with some quiet time.  I chose this for one reason today: because at school part of our homework is to keep a dream journal and like all other things in my life, resistance to discipline almost always means I am on the edge of a breakthrough.

Symbols

Later in my dream I wound up at a concrete street corner at a stop light with Shannon, Mandy and I’s mutual friend.  We were watching Mandy be driven away in the back of an old station wagon. She was pulling her daughter in through the window.

Because I keep a dream journal and showed up to it this morning, I had a quiet softening occur today.  That street corner felt bad to me, the whole dream did.  In soul work we don’t resist feelings, we always recognize them as messengers.  So I sat gently, waiting to see what good medicine sat behind that bad feeling.  All of a sudden I deepened in, meaning the message opened to me.  I have dreamed of a similar setting, back home either in Baltimore, DC, or in North Anne Arundel County at least five times that I can recall since the beginning of the year.

Steven Aizenstat, in his book (and in person, when I got to study with him at Pacifica three weeks ago!) suggests that rather than analyze a symbol, we ask it what is your message, who are you, why are you here?  He also says to always pay attention to the visitor of the surrounding landscape.  I did so of the street corner today, and literally in my mind’s eye it re-focused in on the red neon all around.  Of the bars, the buildings and street lights.

There is a quietude deep inside that I have learned to know from meeting myself where I am in the morning.  From always committing to make time for this (by which I mean that when I stop making time for this, I eventually return again, and again, and again.  Without judging that I fell off, again.)  In my quiet place today, once I saw that red neon, a soft understanding arose.  The concrete is your soul, the guilt is the red.

And like that I understood: this dream, and all of the city symbols, have been asking me to understand more about my own deepest programs around “Wild Women Wisdom”.  The symbol of red neon, as I associate it, means STOP, and also RED LIGHT DISTRICT.   A symbol showing me my own deep, classic old-conditioning around soul-wisdom.

Recall that the soul’s symbol is the Feminine.  Like all humans I too have deep programming against use or reliance on this wisdom.  The symbols or visitors in my dream last night were two close friends from the past (girls who were “wild” with me in our youth!) and the red lights suggested that soul-wisdom is to be shamed.  That shame is causing all this concrete to cement me in.

So today’s meditation on soul and Symbol is just that:  in quiet time we meet ourselves where we are at, wheter we feel bad, good, nothingness, or someplace in between…And we ask each symbol, be it a feeling, a scene from a dream, whatever symbol: what is your message?  Who is visiting right now?  And then we are gentle and open as we listen.

Mercury Retrograde

Today starts Mercury retrograde.  Retrograde means the planet pauses in its movement.

Mercury was Roman God.  His symbol covers communication, prosperity and the underworld–which is a symbol for the inner world or the soul world.

Remember that soul-life always starts with how we relate firstly to ourselves.  Meaning Mercury pauses so we can review within.

Retrogrades in Mercury happen four times a year, each time right around (before or after) a seasonal shift.

The purpose is to hold the tension of forward movement so that the soul can review the season that just passed.

Mercury retros feel funky, unless we are working with the energy (working with the message).  We do this by not resisting the funk but sitting with it, so it can lead us in to a deeper personal understanding within.

This happens in preparation for Spring, and catalyzes the growth of all new things you are meant to give birth to this year once Mercury starts its movement again after the second week of March.

Check back in Monday for more.  Happy Weekend, and upcoming full moon!

Welcome!

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Welcome to the first post at Wild Women Wisdom!

Look to this blog two to three times a week for posts on everyday life wisdom and how to know the soul through such daily ups and downs. I will use this blog to present accessible information about how our inner-life and rhythms are both our own, and at once connected to the larger cycles of life and of Nature’s tides.

Let’s begin with a talk about symbols.

Symbols

A symbol, according to the online site Free Dictionary, is “something that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention, especially a material object used to represent something invisible.”  In soul work we look to symbols to understand the greater messages coming from the inside us.  The idea that the soul is invisible is a good starting place.  The soul, though unseen, is often felt.  A great indicator to know your soul better is to start with those symbols that really make you react, no matter what that reaction is.  This is because the soul speaks through feelings, sensations, and those out of the blue insights we get that some people call intuition.

For me, one of the most meaningful experiences of soul-life is getting out in nature.  This is where I learn the most about symbols.  For example, I love the sun.  LOVE THE SUN, so that I often refer to myself as a sun-head.  To study the sun as a symbol is really fascinating.  In my own life it helps me understand how important light is to me, and growth, as these are two of the most important functions the sun provides.  This is the truth about my innermost self, too:  it took me years to understand that when I am in the dark–meaning when I am confused or especially uncertain, like times when I have to make a big decision–I get disgruntled.  I don’t do well.  I also don’t do well in circumstances where I stagnate, or am not challenged.  Get it?  I don’t do well if I can’t grow.

Symbols show up all around.  In music, in dreams, on TV.  Being outside is the place where they help us understand the rhythmic part of their Nature.  By rhythm I mean the regular changes or shifts in something that is the same.  It’s a big idea, that change can be the same.  And yet seeing the sun or the ocean, another one of my favorite living symbols, teaches us just that.  That there is continuation and regularity in change.  It helps me understand that my nature and Nature are quiet similar.