Tending the Peace Within

'Teach Me To Fly' - Mara Friedman

The Utovlan misadventure of last week eventually led me to increase the dose back to the maximum to stop the bleeding. Despite this, I seem to be rallying. Strangely, over the last few days the awful slump in my energy and mood has lifted. I think this is being helped enormously by the inner shift I have been feeling. The Vessels of Peace meditation practices have been such a support. I had felt so closed off from any sense of the Divine and was rather alarmed at how cynical and bitter I was beginning to feel about so many things. The Utovlan certainly has an unhelpful impact on my ability to perceive clearly but I don’t think that I can blame everything on the drug. In some ways it is proving quite useful in highlighting (if in an exaggerated fashion!) a lot of the frustration and anger that has been lurking and undermining my confidence and well-being of late.

Amongst all this chaotic hormonal restlessness, I am starting to sense something more settled at my core. When I feel myself being emotionally wrenched off course, this core seems to gently throb as if to say, ‘I am here – just stop and focus on me, accept what you are feeling and all this will pass’. This inner voice of support has been growing stronger over the last few days. It feels like there is something on the end of my prayer once more. Of course in reality, it never went away. Our struggles can temporarily blind us; our anger, hurt and confusion can be sharp enough to painfully sever ourselves from a sense of belonging to that vital source.

It can be helpful to stand at the centre of one’s loneliness and fear; to see clearly what one is struggling to shed. This is brought all the more strongly into focus when we feel cut off from our spiritual centre. It is a scary place to be but to be left dangling there amongst the uncertainty is actually quite a fertile condition, one of great potential. I keep thinking of the chrysalis at ‘Butterfly World’ here on the Island. In a corner of the butterfly garden is a little enclosure full of these extraordinary cocoons; lines of potential butterflies suspended from rods, waiting for their moment of emergence. Some are utterly still but some suddenly move in short spasm of anguished wriggling. The final transformation is imminent and they are answering an irresistible urge to break through into a greater freedom. As the wriggling increases, there is such a sense of the struggle and effort it takes to break that ill-fitting shell. We all have to do this at points in our life; our actions driven by an irresistible urge to become a truer, lighter, more flexible shape. There is a heaviness about emotions and situations that have outgrown their time and purpose; a lightness and brightness to those that are emerging; however, it still takes strength and courage to let that emergence happen, even if we don’t really have a choice in the changes that will come. The process can bring with it feelings of fear and doubt about the shape that our future will take.

Despite all this psychologically anguished wriggling of mine, that gentle inward hum of support tells me that ‘all is well, all is exactly how it should be – trust and surrender and let the changes happen’.

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Gratitude Amongst the Chaos

A moving highlight of my week was Julie taking our Yoga class for the first time since her son’s tragic death in January. At one point Julie talked us through a healing breath, centring ourselves in our heart chakras, asking us to focus on the gratitude we feel for the love and blessings we have in our lives. Given what Julie has endured over these last awful weeks, I felt humbled and touched. With extreme loss and grief, it can be so easy to slip into bitterness, to feel cynical about being thankful when someone you dearly love has been taken from you. To be guided by Julie to open to gratitude was a lesson for me and it moved me greatly. Julie is going through an incredibly tough and painful journey right now but her willingness to stay open to love inspired me. She is an amazing person and I feel grateful and blessed that our paths have crossed.

Crises, loss, grief, ill health, all teach valuable things. Staying centred in our hearts, keeping open and not closing down on life can be a challenge when we are hurting and afraid. If we trust in gratitude, regardless of the loss, we can find strength. It doesn’t necessarily allow the pain to ease but the sense of meaning at the heart of that difficult journey takes on its own depth, and I suspect is the seed of future healing.

I lowered my Utovlan dose at the weekend to only one tablet a day. I had already dropped to two and my doctor had advised me to stay with this dose for a few weeks before dropping further. Sick of the way the drug has been making me feel – extremes of tiredness, mood swings, depression, anger and interrupted sleep – I made the decision to drop the dose sooner. Within a day I started to feel so much better psychologically. I could feel this lifting and brightening in my head. I suddenly remembered what it felt like to be me and how scary it is that a drug can have such a drastic impact on our personalities. It became clear that Utovlan has been making me feel ill physically and psychologically.

The joy was not to last. Within a couple of days I started bleeding again and this has continued. It is clear that at present one tablet of Utovlan is not enough to overpower the Implant. It is also clear that after three months, the Implant has not settled down. I am being told to be patient, to wait out the six months but deep down I suspect that Implanon is never going to work for me.

I have upped my Utovlan dose back to two after wrestling with the choice of what was worse: constant bleeding leaving me low and depleted or Utovlan leaving me low and depleted but blood free. It’s Hobson’s choice really. For the last couple of days I have felt wretched physically and emotionally. It is obviously going to be a massive challenge for me to hold out until June and the only thing that is keeping me going is remembering Julie and her bravery.

Compassion and love are such powerful healers; I haven’t felt nearly enough of either of these things towards myself of late. A great deal of what I am feeling is obviously being exaggerated and distorted by the Utovlan which is why it is so important to hold on to that fragile thread of my true self that is being submerged by the hormonal chaos that is happening inside me. Via that thread I need to take care of myself, nourish myself and keep open to the blessings that Julie so poignantly reminded me are always there in our lives, no matter how awful things might feel.

Vessels of Peace

It’s been a little while since I wrote here. The recent upheavals of my health, and the spiritual confusion that has accompanied these, have made it hard to put fingers to keys. So much of my impetus to write comes from my spiritual life and this period of doubt has left me feeling ‘unplugged’ in so many ways – my energy and my sense of spirit have felt blocked and consequently my writing too.

I have been trying to gently accept where I find myself, making the choice to trust in this strange and unsettling process; sensing in my heart that it is teaching me something about myself. In holding on to the knowledge that all things pass, that nothing stays put, I can allow myself the hope that even persistent stasis is temporary. If it is my own resistance that is causing this stasis, I know from past experience that the impetus for change and movement within us is far stronger. Blocked energy builds and builds until something gives; resistance is ultimately futile.

The last couple of days have seen a subtle shift in me. A conversation with a friend about my predicament triggered a set of situations that led me to ‘The Vessels of Peace’ website. This organisation has been put together by Lynda Terry. I listened to an interview with her on Karen Tate’s website. Karen has an extensive archive of her radio shows with many interviews from women involved in a search for the Divine Feminine (many thanks Gabriella for the link!). It is worth checking out http://www.karentate.com/Tate/voicesof thesacredfemine.html . Looking through the archive lists, I was drawn to Lynda Terry’s photo and the title of her interview: Invoking the Sacred Feminine as a Pathway to Peace.

In my original conversation with my friend, I had told him that I still felt peace when I meditated or was out in nature but couldn’t feel that Divine connection that I had been previously used to sensing. The title of Lynda Terry’s interview sparked something in me. In her early years she was a political activist but began to see aggressive action for peace as somehow at odds with building peace within and in the world. After being involved with Yoga for years, her meditation practice started to take on an added dimension; she began to perceive that the search for peace within and in the world outside was powerfully linked to the re-emergence of the Divine Feminine in Western Culture. She believes that if we cultivate inner peace with intent, this will ultimately impact upon the world around us. If we are at war with ourselves, caught up in inner turmoil and conflict, then what chance do we have of creating societies or environments that are peaceful?

She set up the Vessels of Peace organisation which is made up of groups of women who meditate with intent, opening to peace whilst also opening to the Divine Feminine. These women believe both of these to be intimately linked as a force for spiritual evolution at this present time. Her words touched me, so I checked out the website: http://vesselsofpeace.com .

There is a section on the website under ‘practices’ which lists some meditation techniques that the women use as a way of opening to and cultivating peace. One of these is called ‘The 11 Intentions’ – Lynda Terry has also published a book under the same name – which is a series of invocations to different aspects of the Divine Feminine from various cultures. They really appealed to me and so over the last couple of days I have been including them, and the other practices, in my own meditation time. It is helping enormously. For the first time in weeks, I have felt a sense of connection. In allowing myself to open without judgement or expectation, something found a space through which it could enter; something got through the tiredness, the frustration and the spiritual numbness that I have been feeling.

I have felt a greater clarity since. After so many challenging situations over such a prolonged period of time, when my health began to deteriorate I felt somehow spiritually abandoned – it really did feel like the last straw. Beneath all that numbness was a great anger that here was yet another challenge when I desperately needed a break. On some deeper level, I think I felt rejected by the Divine, punished for having failed my family, particularly my sister; judged for my inadequacies. I felt caught between my own sense of feeling unworthy of Divine love or support whilst feeling equally angry at the injustice of this abandonment. As I write this, I see how much these feelings mirror the anger I have felt towards my family. If my family cannot show compassion for my weaknesses, failings or struggles, why should the Divine? But of course, this is not the real issue here. The real crux of the matter is my own harsh and unforgiving judgement of myself. How can anyone let in healing, peace, love, nurture and support if they, deep down, believe themselves to be utterly unworthy. We can unconsciously build the most impenetrable barriers to keep us from receiving the things that we need.

It has become obvious that anger has not worked for me. It has only made me poorly and exhausted. Listening to Lynda Terry speak about using methods of peace to increase peace – rather than the aggressive tactics of her earlier activism – it struck me that I need to do the same for myself. Rather than angrily shaking a fist at God, or anyone else (including myself) in the hope of instigating change, I need to start from a place of acceptance, a place of opening, a place of non-judgment. As with most things in life, the bottom line is often shaped by our self-esteem or lack of. In order to feel loved, supported and cared for, whether by others or by the Divine, we each have to allow it; to believe that we are deserving of it.

I include the ’11 Intentions’ here. I find them strengthening. Do check out the website too – there is something very powerful about this approach. For now, I am giving myself permission to be – giving the Divine permission to help and support me.

The 11 Intentions

I honor and receive the transforming power of Shakti, Divine Feminine Energy.

I honor and receive the peaceful knowing of Sophia, Divine Wisdom.

I honor and receive the nurturing acceptance of Mary, Divine Love.

I honor and receive the sacred flame of Hestia, Divine Sanctuary.

I honor and receive the healing kindness of Kwan Yin, Divine Compassion.

I honor and receive the steady courage of Kali Durga, Divine Strength.

I honor and receive the generosity of Lakshmi, Divine Abundance.

I honor and receive the natural rhythms of Gaia, Divine Harmony.

I honor and receive the inspiration of Saraswati, Divine Creativity.

I honor and receive the inner stillness of Sige, Divine Silence.

I honor and receive the Divine Feminine in all Her infinite forms.

May Her grace flowing through me uplift and transform the world.

Lynda Terry

The Flight of Swans

The coming and going of certain birds corresponds with the coming and going of seasons. Here on the Island and elsewhere in the UK, the return of the swallows herald the blossoming of the year at the end of April. Their cries are heard high over our house during the lengthening evenings; clouds of them skimming low over the Yar River at feeding time – a magical and joyful sight that tells us summer is returning.

At this time of year, with spring almost upon us, the Brent Geese will soon be leaving. Since autumn, crowds of them have been feeding in the water meadows of the Brading Marshes; countless numbers of them flying low over the sea at Ryde, bobbing up and down on the tides, occasionally flying inland to share the Canoe Lake with the ducks and swans. They are a wonderful sight, their honking flight beautifully symmetrical.

A very large gathering of the seasonally constant Mute Swans can be found on Ryde Canoe Lake – it is a fantastic sight. I was walking on Ryde beach last week in the late afternoon. It had been a bitterly cold day but very beautiful; vast blue skies and bright sunshine. As the sun descended, the blue bleached a little and became edged with pastels, the perfect backdrop to several mute swans, flying in groups low over the surface of the sea and turning back inland to the lake. Swans are some of my most favourite birds; it is exciting enough to see them fly alone or in pairs but truly magical to witness whole groups of them.

I have a beautiful card of a Peter Scott painting called Twenty Whistling Swans. It is a painting of (predictably) twenty whistling swans in flight low over water. Scott paints them, the water and light in the palest of colours: brilliant white, greys, bluish greys, with just touches of gold. Light appears to pour down in rays and be reflected back in a kind of ethereal dazzle. They look like angels in flight. It is no coincidence that when we think of angels, we see them with giant swan’s wings!

Included here is a picture of willow work by the basket maker Julie Gurr. She is based on the Isle of Arran and can be found here http://willowweaver.com

Swans at Sunset - Julie Gurr