On Illness- part 1

On illness part 1

Illness is a gateway into another way of being.  Time shifts and morphs. The hours do not tick by, for those clocks hold no sway. You are in another realm. In this realm ordinary things become extraordinary, drinking water, sensing sunshine on your body, the rush of the wind in the leaves. All these little moments are magnified and intensified. This is the realm of magic and wonder. This is the realm of the Shaman. And here I roamed for three weeks, in and out of time, of sleep, of dreams, of earth. She of whom we are all made.

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I have been in the descent phase of the cycle for the past three weeks.  I have been bleeding during all this time, mostly it was not my menstrual flow, mostly it was blood loss due to surgery and then infection. I still have a small pool of blood behind my uterus which will hopefully be absorbed back into my body. Just as our blood is reabsorbed back into the body of the earth. My body is healing is recovering but it’s been a long process. For over three weeks now, I have been shedding, releasing fighting and healing.  For three weeks I have been in the dark.

I do not fear the dark, well not all of it anyway. The cultural imprint which demonises the dark has some sway but I have learnt through experience that the dark can be a great comfort, perhaps the greatest of all.  Here you are nothing and everything. Here you lay your whole body down and are met, fully.  With illness there is nothing to do, you can only be. And the darkness is a place of being. Perhaps even of not yet being, of waiting to be, for the darkness is everything, even the not yet, the not quite is here.

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While I wouldn’t choose to have ACIS (adeno carcinoma in situ) in my cervix it has been a gift. A gift of returning to my body. This is my work, my way and yet it’s so easy to stray from this path of body wisdom, of body knowing. And illness and disease brings you right back into your body. Wham. There is no other place you can be. I felt my whole self integrated, my whole self focused deeply on myself. It wasn’t simply the pain the caused this, it was a whole shift in awareness as my body dictated where and what I could do and mostly I could not do, I could only be.

This beingness is so profound. It  is a teacher, a wise and gentle teacher.  Which is not to say the pain was gentle but the only response to my experience of it, was to be, to sit, to lie, to walk ever so slowly, each step a miracle. Really truly. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us of this, he says “Invest 100 percent of yourself into making a step. Touching the ground with your foot, you produce the miracle of being alive.” Our aliveness is a miracle.  We are all 15 billion year in the making, we are still flaring forth with the miracle of this great unfolding, this great mystery of life here on earth. I bow.

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So here I am well enough now to write, to reflect on this journey aiming to stay present, to write while I write, think when I think and walk when I walk. For me, beingness is the antidote to our culture of doingness, of always being busy, of not truly being present because we are so focused on the things we still have to do. And they will never stop, unless we do. Unless we stop and pause and be.

And because I am still in recovery, this is all I am posting for now. There is more to be said but my energy wanes, even as the moon waxes. It is Lammas, the first of the harvest festivals as my cletic ancestors would have celebrated. I too celebrate with a small offering, and deep gratitude for all that I have harvested through this diagnosis/disease/illness/beingwithness. I am so grateful for the slowing down, for the reminder that my body needs rest. So too does the earth. Rest a while if you can in the pause of this seasonal descent. Many blessings

What lies beneath?

What lies beneath?

This is a question I have been feeling into for many moons now. What lies beneath? What lies beneath oubluelaker feet, beneath our paved roads and footpaths, and beneath the layers of protection, scaffolding, and armour that we wear around ourselves? And while feeling into this question, I heard a tale of a beautiful lost lake that once crowned parts of west Melbourne. It triggered in me a sense of deep loss, and an affirmation to continue searching for the places of forgotten beauty, and of those places not considered beautiful; the watery wastelands of our psyche and our landscapes.

In response to this tale and song, I created a painting in two parts. The first is an image of the blue lake that once covered parts of west Melbourne. It was said to be, “a real lake, blue, nearly oval and full of the clearest salt water…Fringed gaily all round with the purple mesembryantheum (pigface) in full bloom, it seemed in the broad sunshine to be girdled by a belt of magenta fire.”   But this beautiful lake, although clearly appreciated by some, was undervalued by those with power. And by the 1860’s it was completely lost as it was covered over with bitumen and tar. The second part of the picture depicts the built world, whatliesbeneathand it is entitled What lies Beneath, or Only the Sky Remembers.  The lake is there but hidden underneath. Upon hearing The Orbweavers sing of this lake, I was moved to reflect again on this question of what lies beneath all of us, and how can we reclaim those parts of ourselves and of the earth that need to be reclaimed. I link these two questions as part of the same one as I feel  that whatever we do to her, we do to us, and whatever we do to us, we do to her.

So I am finding my way home to myself, and to the land I live on. I am finding my way home to a wholeness that connects us all by looking at what lies above and what lies beneath. But the journey is not easy nor the path defined. But my questions guide me, as Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen said to a teacher of mine, Your questions are your quest. And I am questing this year to reconnect myself to land, to country and to myself as healed and whole. Part of this involves learning the art of Dadirri, or Molla Wariga, of deep listening. This requires the giving of time and attention, of pausing, and reflecting. I feel the blue lake is a symbol of all this because water gifts us these ways of being. We pause at a lake, we listen to the birdsong, to the flow of water and we see our reflection. We trust in the flow of water, in her way of being. The Blue Lake was a salt lake and was linked to the tides, to the moon, to the cycles, the seasons. And this is another clue, to remember our own cycles as part of the larger whole. This is another part of the journey.

redtent3Although questing is often seen as a solo journey and part of it is done alone, we are also guided with signposts, and messages. We find timely reminders that we are not alone. We are gifted with others who will walk with us at least some of the way.  For me, women’s circles and Red Tents help us to remember our deep connection to each other, to the land and to the spirits. It is part of my journeying home, and may be part of yours too.

And today I watched a beautiful video Dissonant Bundles and the Power of the Circle by Bec Funk,  and Jacqui Grace of Beautiful Wasteland, and even that name conjures up so much of  what I am trying to express….what is a wasteland? What is beauty? What aspects of our own beauty have we denied, repressed, estranged, paved over because it was not valued by ourselves or others?  They explore these questions too. And while watching the video I am reminded of the story, Skeleton Woman by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. This story is worth exploring, for it also dwells with the need to accept and love the not beautiful aspects of self.  Again this requires time, attending, and a willingness to really look beneath the surface and to allow others to do this too. Part of this is to risk showing ourselves to ourselves and to others. We are often surprised by what we find, for beauty is so much more than that visual aspect that we place so much importance on in this culture. Life in all her curiosity, wonder, wildness is beautiful.

The skeleton woman story may come to visit you, or maybe another is calling you. I believe the stories come to us when we are ready, and sometimes even when we are not. Another story that has been working its magic on me, is the tale of Persephone, and her descent into the underworld. I am dreaming up a workshop in which we use this tale as the starting point for exploring our own descent into what lies beneath. The descent is a necessary part of our journey, it is the heroines own healing. So this story presents a highpmythicpowerful reminder of the tools and resources we have at hand to be our own heroine, to journey down, and to descend into our power.   The workshop will look at the tools can we use in order that we can be with, what it is that we find. And then having reclaimed these aspects of self, we will be guided in ways to ascend again while staying on the path of renewal.

Renewal requires a death and a letting go. Let us spend some time in renewal, regeneration and remembering. Let us see what happens if we walk the country of our inner landscape and the outer landscape. Let us see what happens if we dig below the surface to reclaim those places that we thought were not beautiful, that we through were wasteland, and see if we can be surprised by what we find…

As that beautiful poet ee cummins once wrote

For what ever we lose, (Like a you and a me)
It’s always ourselves we find in the sea.

Blessings on the descent, on this day before the dark moon.

Sarah  xxx

Words for deep listening:
Dadirri is from the Daly River language group
Molla Wariga is from the Gurnai Language group

For more information on the blue lake, go to
http://www.robynannear.com/docs/mrs-bradleys-melbourne.pdf
and scroll to blue lake. The quote is from George, Gordon McCrae…taken from this site.

Experiencing Ovulation

How do you experience the period of ovulation? How does it feel to live this aspect of your cycle ? Yesterday, day on 13 of my menstrual cycle and one day before the full moon in ovul_1Capricorn, I asked myself this question. And my response is here. I would love for you to reflect on your own experience of ovulation. Do my words resonate? What are the synergies and the differences? What arises for you when you ovulate?

Wow, well today i feel juicy! Literally. I awoke tired and groggy from a fitful night of waking and sleeping on the couch- but the first thing i noticed was how wet I was!

Ovulation for me is a feeling of being able to meet the world fully. I feel able to dance and participate in this great cosmic dance of life/death/life.  My energy is flowing, my ideas are flowing and I am active in their manifestation. Like this “innerview.” I was inspired earlier in the month by a wonderful innerview with Kristen Lee Read and Kerri Alenka Merral, and while out walking yesterday i thought of videoing myself at some point. But today came and i was impatient and excited and decided that even without a recorder I could innerview myself. And so on this day of ovulation I birthed this innerview.

So i am also grateful for my walk yesterday. Walking is part of my daily practice. Walking is a great facilitator. The creative energy flows more easily when we walk. Which makes sense really, for when we are moving, our energy is moving and flowing, and our ideas, our creativity are part of this energy, this chi, this shakti.

slfSo when we move, the ideas move with us. Added to this is the power of nature, of being out in the world. When we are outside, walking in the park for instance, we open ourselves to the world, to that creative flow of all life. And if we are open to it, then this energy rushes in. The whole world can come in, if we let it. And if this makes sense to you, read David Whyte, or Mary Oliver, or better yet go out and greet the world.

heartsWhere was I, ah ovulation. Yes ovulation is a time of expansion, and so sometimes that expansion can be a bit unfocused? I might find myself off topic, dreaming all the possibilities, all the potential of this beautiful season and finding ways to birth them. Now! While ovulating i feel my desire for life, for union with all things,- so you see i wasn’t really off topic when talking of walking, and being in the world. For this desire for union with the world (yes and with my darling husband!) is an essential part of my ovulatory experience. This is the biological imperative after all, isn’t it, to create, to procreate?

I wonder if my desire for union with the world also reflects my personal bent. I am a Libran after all, and we seek union. We seek to bring things together in the most beautiful ways, to co-opt, to cooperate. We  bring together that which is seemingly disparate. We see connection and go for it. And we are guided by Venus. So beauty is everywhere. Sometimes it is ferocious, and sometimes soft. But this whole world is Beauty full, and seeking connection, integration and harmony.

top of mountainIt all sounds magnificent doesn’t it? Yes but, ah there is always a but (those scales might just tip back the other way) and i have noticed that just before ovulation, just before full moon, i can panic. I was having a lovely time yesterday listening to Caroline Casey- an awesome astrologer, and i was seeing connection, and everything was making sense. I felt like i was at the top of the mountain with this great overview (OK I do have Capricorn Ascendant, so i kind of like the mountain metaphor!) and then i looked back behind me, and went woah….how did i get here? what am i doing? what was i thinking? I’m stuck…..help.

Yep it was one of those moments. I totally lost faith in myself. And this can happen at this point in my cycle. I have noticed that just before the massive high of ovulation, there is a slight dip! I think maybe its my loyal soldier, still guarding those past wounds. Even though i have assigned him another job, he still pops up from time to time, to remind me that I can’t. I can’t possibly do this ,or that, or anything much for that matter. What did i do then? What do you do when those old stories/fears/patterns/triggers arise?

I invited him in..Hello, here you are again. Come in and sit down, but don’t make yourself too comfortable because i don’t expect you to be here too long. And i think this helps- firstly the recognition that the story is back, and is OK. But secondly that the story is a guest for a short time. I have been round and round these cycles long enough to know, as Jane Hardewicke Collings says, “this too will pass.” So instead of getting bogged down in these thoughts, I watched a romantic movie with my daughter on the couch, cooked some dinner and then sat with my feelings, and then what do you know I wake up today saying I can, and more than that, I am!radiantlight

So here I am back on top of the mountain, looking at my births this cycle, which are deepening of births that have been arising since last spring really….Story telling, saying yes in the moment, which sometimes requires saying No to others, and flowing with creative potential, manifest today in my felted balls!

journalingSo this is my story of ovulation. What’s yours?  You might find it useful to ask yourself this questions and journal your own responses, or you may want to video/voice record yourself, or dance. Feel whatever is right for you, and engage with the experiences of your cycle and your body. There is much out there to guide you, follow your hunches and see where they lead!

Blessings on this Full Moon in Capricorn.

Sarah xxx

(sunlight picture above by Megan Forbes!)