The Hanged Man

In my dream last night, a man told me that I must stand in the strong current of the river and feel its energy moving through and around me, whilst simultaneously staying connected to the stillness and peace. Good advice, I’d say!

Yesterday, Laurie and I got out amongst nature – the first proper excursion in weeks, thanks to L’s workload and my constant bleeding. After hitting a physical low point, where the bleeding was becoming worryingly heavy and showing no sign of stopping, I returned to the Doctor and he persuaded me to dig out the Utovlan, yet again, and this time stick with it. What convinced me that it was worth another try was his honest admission that he had run out of options and that all that was left was cauterising the lining of my womb or hysterectomy. I went home and took the Utovlan!

Within three days the bleeding stopped and it has thankfully stayed that way. I was also sent for blood tests for anaemia and to check that I am clotting normally. For now, I am taking the pills and gradually building my strength back up after an exhausting few weeks.

Getting out for a good walk was bliss although very tiring. Despite not being quite up to par, it made such a difference being able to explore one of my favourite places for the first time this year. We walked down through the Devil’s Chimney – a steep, narrow rock cutting – and into the Bonchurch Landslip, following the path down into Luccombe Chine. Last year, the chine had a landslide and the steep steps down the ravine had severely shifted, the slippage revealing the beauty of the waterfall that tumbles through the chine’s centre down to the beach. After all the wet weather, another slide has taken a section of the steps out completely, a deep, muddy chasm now prevents anyone from reaching the wooden steps and boardwalks that lead down to the sea. In fact these hang loose over the most beautiful part of the waterfall. The path above the slip is leaning even more dramatically than usual, the wooden fence having fallen and hanging over the drop beneath.

It was frustrating not being able to make it down to the beach but wonderful just to be there, listening to the waterfall and the sea and staring up at the beautiful sheer edges of the chine, now fully visible in its winter state. The combination of the sounds and the physical exertion brought about a peaceful dreaminess and yet it was a strangely incomplete feeling because I am still experiencing a kind of spiritual crisis of belief. Normally, it is at such moments in nature that I feel most powerfully my connection to the Divine. At the moment, I am not even sure that the Divine exists – which is truly a shocking statement for me to make because I have never once felt this way in my life before – not even at my lowest points (maybe briefly once); whatever part of me that normally feels that connection is oddly very numb and I don’t fully understand why.

I have actually joked that maybe synthetic progesterone kills off the part of you that senses God/des in your life and being. It has been so strange how quickly these feelings have suddenly emerged. Trying to analyse these feelings at this point leaves me puzzled. I wonder whether I am just a little punch drunk from all the challenges of recent years and these past weeks have rather felt like the last straw. I have always tried to place the challenges and the loss in a spiritual context; I think a part of me is hacked off with doing this and frankly wants a break!

I am partly ashamed that I sound so whingeing and self-pitying and there is another more rational self that suspects that I need to find a more constructive way of dealing with this; that I have somehow not quite got the ‘technique’ of living perfected and that its all about changing my approach. The human, frail side of me wants to tell this rational side to ‘fuck off!!’. A more wise and compassionate side of me says that I need to have patience with my own frailty and confusion, to support and back myself through all of this. They are all grateful, however, to be having a break from the heavy bleeding that has dominated life of late. This is a blessing to be thankful for at least.

The man in my dream is right of course – I do need to do just as he says. Despite the spiritual doubts, I still feel sure that whatever is bubbling away on the inside will eventually surface and a greater clarity will come. It is an interesting place to be psychologically because, in many ways, I am being challenged to place faith in myself as never before. I have never been very good at this, a lack of confidence so often undermining my sense of self.-belief. Perhaps this is what this strange episode is all about – backing myself; acknowledging that I am good enough.

Stood suspended half-way down Luccombe Chine, unable to progress along the path, it occurred that my own strange suspension might force me to more closely examine where and who I am. The forces of nature moving powerfully and inexorable in the movement of earth and water, are ever present in Luccombe Chine, and despite the enormous upheaval and change of the place, I was able to stand and connect to the tremendous peace that is also there. This is all any of us can do when life’s changes stir us and leave us feeling uneasy or just plain tired. Life is both movement and peaceful stillness; we are all both propelled and centred. The trick amongst all this balancing and embracing of paradox is to be able to truly hear where it is that your soul is guiding you to…

Outside is form,

Inside is thought.

Deepest is the soul.   – Deng Ming-Dao

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The World is…

The world is mud-liscious and puddle- wonderful – e.e.cummings

Bodytalk

To understand the body, we have to be the body. We have to be its pain, its pleasure, its fear and its joy. To see the spiritual being as separate is to cut ourselves off from our ground, our root, our home. – Anodea Judith

So much of my Blog of late has been taken up with me venting my frustrations about my current physical predicament. My Implanon ‘journey’ is rather dominating my life at present. Reading the above quote, as a Pagan, it articulates exactly what I feel to be true. What is interesting about my current physical symptoms is that I am challenged to really embrace this idea in its totality– it is easy to delve into our material selves and live them fully if we are experiencing pleasure and joy, a little harder if we find ourselves caught in a body that is sick or ailing. Of course, for all of us, our lives will at some point include experiences of fear, pain and illness. We will all have to face this dilemma at some point. As with most challenges, it is how we respond that makes all the difference.

After only a week’s break, I started bleeding again after having bled for fourteen days straight. After about four days it seemed to be lightening and I had hopes it would finish. The unpredictable nature of the implant had the flow suddenly becoming heavier again and here I am, another fourteen days later, still bleeding and no sign of it stopping. Out of six weeks of the implant, I have bled for a whole month of that time. The face staring back at me from the mirror this morning had the pallor of the Bride of Dracula – thank the gods for blusher! I have been trying to take care of myself: extra iron, eating well, resting and yet I still feel physically exhausted and mentally vague and flat. The only blessing in all of this is that the implant seems to have stopped the intensely painful cramping that has been such a signature of my periods. Hurrah for little victories!

I am my body and this is where I am at present. The human, fragile part of me feels a little caught between the proverbial rock and hard place: if I have the implant removed, I go back to not only fourteen days of heavy bleeding a month but also vomit inducing and persistent pain, an unhealthy level of painkillers and the fear of worsening symptoms; of being housebound; of not be able to sleep through the night because of having to rush to the loo a billion times; of feeling so insecure each time I leave the house for fear of flooding; of fearing that people might misunderstand my distance; of feeling cut off and tired so much of the time. If I stick with the implant, I have what seems like endless bleeding but little pain and an uncertain future. It might be that in a couple of months it will all settle down – the doctors advise waiting – and yet I wonder how much stamina I have got for this. No one is built to bleed continually.

I have no idea what to do and my best strategy is to wait – not sure what choice I have at the moment. It’s a strange place to be and I desperately want to trust in a happy outcome. My resilience is wavering, which is the scariest thing of all because if I stop being buoyant, I sink. Maybe in truth I need to sink; maybe what my body wants is for me to acknowledge its hurt and pain and stop trying to rise to every challenge. I have this inner, punch drunk warrior self that just can’t help itself taking up arms and feeling like it has to be heroic against the odds and if it isn’t all will be lost. I feel sure that the answer to all this will be found in my body – bodies articulate and speak a greater truth about where we are – there is no self-deception in the language of the body. Let’s hope I can listen well.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Tantra by Willow

Was digging around trying to find a nice Shiva and Shakti picture  as I thought that this might be fitting for Valentine’s Day. I got completely distracted looking at some amazing images of partner Yoga. Sadly, I don’t think I am going to be very successful in persuading Laurie on this one. I occasionally get the urge to be carried up to bed in a Rhett Butler, Scarlett O’Hara kind of  a way but always get a big resounding ‘Fat Chance!’ from Laurie. Rightly, he values his back too much. So our Shiva and Shakti yogic love dance on Yaverland beach might have to wait!

Partner Yoga (fitsugar.com)

Keeping the Heart Open

One of the joys of practicing Yoga has been the exploration of the chakra system. As systems golike the beautiful Pagan Wheel of the Year – it is an elegant and profoundly useful tool for spiritual development. Of late, I have been focusing on the link between postures and individual chakras, experimenting with those asanas that supposedly open, stimulate or balance these energy centres.

Postures that work upon the open expression of Anahata, the heart chakra, involve opening the chest and expanding the lungs. I have found it interesting that lung and breathing problems are so often connected to grief and emotional pain – Anahata linking the physical heart and lungs. Our emotional states impact upon our breathing; when we are upset or angry it becomes shallow and rapid; when we are relaxed, it deepens and slows. Working with Anahata teaches us to develop trust and openness and the postures that support this very literally open out our bodies, easing our breathing and ‘making the heart available’ (as the very lovely yogi Marlon Braccia puts it).

I love this phrase; it’s the use of the word ‘available’, meaning that others may have access to our hearts; it speaks of generosity and ultimately of trust – trust of self, others and life. The open heart becomes the open hand – we touch and are touched. The asanas that facilitate this openness articulate also our willingness to be vulnerable. Many are back bends that expose the tender line of the front of our bodies. In back bends we present to the world each of the chakra centres without defence – the sacral, solar plexus and throat are all presented and exposed along with the heart; in opening the heart with trust, we allow all aspects of ourselves a freer and more authentic expression. Unlike the more introspective and protective forward bends, backbends invite life in. Physically, they quite often take bravery and strength to perform and this reminds us that the heart develops strength in embracing its vulnerability; it also speaks of the courage it takes to truly love without fear.

Last night in my Yoga lesson, we performed two of my favourite backbends: Camel Pose (Ustrasana) and Fish Pose (Matsyasana). Both open and strengthen the chest and lungs, freeing up the breath and because of this, both feel incredible good to do when stress or fear contracts our bodies and spirits and we feel psychologically hunched in upon ourselves.

Despite my current inner upheaval, I know that keeping the heart open is vitally important –to close down, is to stop breathing and we all know what happens when we do that. Despite feeling a little cut adrift, my fear seems to be lessening, which is odd considering that the psychological scaffolding of my beliefs appears to have collapsed rather. Feeling my chest open and my lungs expand in Fish pose last night – enjoying how good it felt – I thought to myself that being suspended in this strange place of ‘not knowing’ was really alright and quite exciting. I guess I have always relied on systems to help me feel ok – and of course, my Yoga still plays its part in this way, so I am not completely without support. However, my certainty has crumbled somewhat and the great thing is that this is not the disaster I might have suspected. All my old definitions of what the Divine is have dissolved and I am beginning to realise that this is not the same as losing my connection to the Divine itself. This connection is never severed – my finite understanding of God/dess is being challenged, not because the Divine is an illusion but because any shape I might give it is limited. We can only ever get a glimpse of that greater Mystery and it seems that my personal glimpse is attempting to widen. In this process, all old assumptions are broken down. Like the lightning struck tower of the tarot, crumbling edifices are torn down that we might get a better view, that we might be liberated from those actions, thoughts and patterns that no longer serve us.

I am making my heart available – it’s scary and exhilarating – I guess it is like falling in love with life, and there is nothing more terrifying and wonderful than falling in love:

The ideal situation for really understanding another is not so much how a person reacts to extreme stress, but rather how he or she suffers the vulnerability of falling in love. –  Aldo Carotenuto ‘Eros and Pathos: Shades of Love and Suffering’.

Ustrasana - Camel Pose (www.yogasavy.com)

Shoots

I have been feeling massive inner changes with regard my spiritual direction of late and have recently made the decision to take a step back from our ritual group to give myself the space to know where it is I am going. Over the last ten years I have written many rituals for us and have loved sharing the companionship and understanding that the Wheel brings but it seems that something else is trying to take shape within me and I can feel myself reaching for it.

Obviously, the recent physical changes of my body are having an impact on the way I have been feeling about my direction in life, and in the thick of all this change, I feel caught between a gnawing stasis and the vague sense that I am on the verge of an opening, a widening out that I can’t fully articulate because it isn’t really clear to me at present. I have been having serious doubts about what or who it is on the end of my prayers – so unsettling after feeling a deep connection and nourishment all these years.

I have been deeply thankful for my Yoga practice amongst all this existential angst. My instincts have been to quieten myself, answering this powerful urge to centre, empty out and just be –no judgement, no expectation; with my body’s hormonal balance struggling to find equilibrium (although I feel hopeful that this is gradually happening), it has felt like the only sensible thing to do.

When we reach for the Divine, it can be tempting to confuse the system or tools with the thing itself. We can become overly attached to the form at the expense of the spirit of something. I have lived long enough to know that when the form becomes a shackle or a boundary that keeps other experiences or interpretations from touching us, then sooner or later something in us rebels. What I am feeling at the moment could be understood as a contraction, a loss of faith or belief, and yet, I suspect that this is being prompted by a deeper part of me – an unknown self that is prodding me towards growth and pushing me to open to a new perspective. So, perhaps this is expansion parading as contraction, or the pulling back of the bow string that the flight of the arrow can have the momentum it needs. Whatever it is, it feels like it might herald some profound changes and this both alarms and fascinates me.

I had forgotten about the pot of snowdrop bulbs from last year. They had been hidden amongst the other plants on the balcony. They had sat on my Imbolc shrine twelve months ago but the heat of the house was too much for them and I placed them outside where they appeared happier. I rarely venture out there in the colder months, checking on the other plants there from time to time. I am not sure why I suddenly saw them tucked away beneath the trailing ivy and was amazed that despite the lack of watering and my unwitting neglect, three green shoots were pushing their way through the soil. I thought how amazing that such a dry and barren environment could still produce those hopeful little shoots of new life. Life is irresistible.

Green Man

Green Man - Paul Sivell

This is the work of Isle of Wight wood carver and sculptor Paul Sivell –  amazing to think this was carved with a chainsaw!  Check out his website http://thecarvedtree.com .

Mountain

Maria - Cader Idris