Descent into Darkness

photo by Nick Woods

photo by Nick Woods

Finally on my way to yes
I bump into
all the places
where I said no
to my life
all the untended wounds
the red and purple scars
those hieroglyphs of pain
carved into my skin, my bones,
those coded messages
that send me down
the wrong street
again and again
where I find them
the old wounds
the old misdirections
and I lift them
one by one
close to my heart
and I say holy
holy. ~ Pesha Joyce Gertler

I talked in my last blog post about new year’s intention setting, and the powerful opportunity we have to make change in our life. The energy of the new year was coupled with the power and potency of two vibrant new moons in the month of January that have given us the opportunity embrace all the change coming our way. When I set the intention for change in my life, I have found that everything in my life that is not in resonance with the shift I am wanting to make, rises up to be processed and dealt with. For example, I have set intentions in the past around expressing more self-love. It seems, almost immediately, I find myself facing my harshest critical voice and the ways in which I judge myself. At first, this feels counter to the intention I’ve just set. However, when I can start to unpack my oldest wounds and my deepest fears I find I have the opportunity to do my most profound work.

So, if you set some strong intentions at the start of the year and it now feels as though you’re just barely treading water, take a moment to pause and give thanks. Its like the old adage “Its always darkest before the dawn.” The more you can consciously wade into the murky depths of whatever is coming up with the intent of healing, the more powerful the outcome will be.
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New Year’s Intentions & The New Moon

capricornOur first new moon if the year fell very appropriately on New Year’s Day. New Moons have long been heralded as the beginning of a cycle and so I find it very appropriate that we begin this new year with that extra push of new beginnings. This moon is also a “super moon” which means that the moon itself occurs at our near its closest approach to the earth. This super moon energy adds an extra powerful punch to the intentions and seeds we plant at the start of the year.

The moon is in the sign of Capricorn which is an earth sign. Beginning our year with the energy of earth is like an offering from the universe of fertile soil in which to plant the seeds of your intentions. Use this time at the start of the year to examine your beliefs (especially those beliefs that you find are self-limiting) and begin to sow the seeds of intention for the new year.

Fueled by the drive of Capricorn, this is an ideal time to start cleaning house on mental, emotions and energetic level. What in your life is currently serving you? What are you ready to let go of. Use the clear-headedness of Capricorn to make decisions that truly suit your best interest.

Keep in mind that Venus is still in retrograde (she went retrograde 12/21 and will remain so until 1/31). This descent of the feminine into the underworld is asking you unpack your feelings around femininity, sexuality and how it plays a role in your power as a woman. What strong intentions might you set to embrace this energy in the new year?

Here is a practice to connect you with this new moon energy:

Take your journal and find a quiet place that you will be undisturbed and read the following from Clarissa Pinkola Estes book “Women Who Run With Wolves”:

“There is probably no better or more reliable measure of whether a woman has spent time in ugly duckling status at some point or all throughout her life than her inability to digest a sincere compliment. Although it could be a matter of modesty, or could be attributed to shyness- although too many serious wounds are carelessly written off as “nothing but shyness”- more often a compliment is stuttered around about because it sets up an automatic and unpleasant dialogue in the woman’s mind.
If you say how lovely she is, or how beautiful her art is, or compliment anything else her soul took part in, inspired, or suffused, something in her mind says she is undeserving and you, the complimentor, are an idiot for thinking such a thing to begin with. Rather than understand that the beauty of her soul shines through when she is being herself, the woman changes the subject and effectively snatches nourishment away from the soul-self, which thrives on being acknowledged.
I must admit, I sometimes find it useful in my practice to delineate the various typologies of personality as cats and hens and ducks and swans and so forth. If warranted, I might ask my client to assume for a moment that she is a swan who does not realize it. Assume also for a moment that she has been brought up by or is currently surrounded by ducks.
There is nothing wrong with ducks, I assure them, or with swans. But ducks are ducks and swans are swans. Sometimes to make the point I have to move to other animal metaphors. I like to use mice. What if you were raised by the mice people? But what if you’re, say, a swan. Swans and mice hate each other’s food for the most part. They each think the other smells funny. They are not interested in spending time together, and if they did, one would be constantly harassing the other.
But what if you, being a swan, had to pretend you were a mouse? What if you had to pretend to be gray and furry and tiny? What you had no long snaky tail to carry in the air on tail-carrying day? What if wherever you went you tried to walk like a mouse, but you waddled instead? What if you tried to talk like a mouse, but instead out came a honk every time? Wouldn’t you be the most miserable creature in the world?
The answer is an unequivocal yes. So why, if this is all so and too true, do women keep trying to bend and fold themselves into shapes that are not theirs? I must say, from years of clinical observation of this problem, that most of the time it is not because of deep-seated masochism or a malignant dedication to self-destruction or anything of that nature. More often it is because the woman simply doesn’t know any better. She is unmothered.”

Journaling Practice

Now take out your journal and begin by writing a stream of consciousness reflection on Dr. Pinkola’s passage above. Write whatever comes to you with no thought for punctuation, spelling or grammar. Write as long as you need to and when you finish, pause and ask “Is there more?”.  Write anything else that arises.

Now turn to a new page, a the top of the page write the following sentence “In the year 2014, I let go of the following limiting beliefs about myself and my worth…”

Saraswati: Guiding us into our Intuition

SaraswatiContinuing my journey into Sally Kempton’s Awakening Shakti, I spent the last month working with the goddess Saraswati. She is known as the goddess of language, insight and sound. She is evoked by practitioners for work with music and mantra, but she can also offer us profound insight and connect to our own intuition. If you’re working with a question in your life right now that you’re having trouble finding clarity on, consider invoking Saraswati to guide you. She offers the following practice:

Write down the question and read it through a few times. Then close your eyes and repeat the mantra to Saraswati nine times:

Aum aim hrim saraswatyai namaha
ohm ai-eem hreem suh-rah-swah-tyai nuh-muh-huh

Ask inwardly for the answer to your question. Then imagine the form of Saraswati. See her as a luminous figure, seated on her vehicle the swan. See a stringed instrument in her hands and see white light emanating from her figure. Breathe with the sense that you are breathing together and with each exhalation visualize your question flowing to her. As you inhale, allow her knowing to flow into your mind.

Now begin to write. Don’t censor, simply let the words flow out (punctuation and spelling are not important). Write until there is nothing left. Read over what you’ve written and then ask “Is there anything more?” and take down whatever arises.

Embracing the Goddess: Accessing the Abundance of Lakshmi

In my last post, I spoke about Sally Kempton’s new book Awakening Shakti. I had heard a Sound’s True podcast, Invoking the Goddess, where she introduced the material and I was excited to see what the book had to offer. In the previous post, I offered the first goddess in the book, Durga, and the energy of protection she offers when working with her. For me, the remainder of May and June saw the exploration of a new goddess, Lakshmi.

Often known as the goddess of beauty and abundance, Lakshmi is often evoked for matters of money, love and good health. Because of her connection with more worldly desires, I found myself reluctant to work with Lakshmi. However, when I began to explore Lakshmi more deeply through Sally’s work, I found there were other compelling reasons to work with Lakshmi. She lists the following reasons to evoke Lakshmi:

  • Being content with what you have.Lakshmi
  • Feeling good about yourself.
  • Allowing yourself to receive.
  • Experiencing beauty in your life.

To invoke Lakshmi, Sally recommends the
following mantra:

 Aum shrim maha lakshmyai namah
[Ohm shreem muh-hah luhk-shmyai nuh-muh]
“Om, I offer salutations to the great goddess of good fortune.”

Invoking the Goddess: The Power of Durga

DurgaFive months ago, I picked up Sally Kempton’s new book Awakening Shakti. I had heard a Sound’s True podcast, Invoking the Goddess, where she introduced the material and I was excited to see what the book had to offer. I was excited to dive into some practices to explore the pantheon of Hindu goddesses in that way seemed accessible and pertinent to my life experience. When I first picked up this book, I had to make a commitment to myself to read it slowly. Through the book she has 13 chapters that focus on 13 different goddesses and I truly wanted to take the opportunity to explore each one of the goddesses for at least one month.

I spent the month of April and part of May with the goddess Durga. I have always felt a strong resonance with this fierce goddess, often pictured riding her lion mount. Along with Kali, I have always thought of Durga as one of the more fierce goddesses. She is often depicted with a numerous assortments of weapons and her mythology speaks of her slaying armies of demons.

When I started working with Durga, I was exploring setting boundaries in my personal life and how I could strongly ask for what I wanted to, while still being compassionate to the experience of those I was interacting with. Durga became a model for that fierce compassion. Durga is often associated with the energy of protection and is known not only for her strength, but also for her firm mothering energy.

I started working with Durga through many of the practices Sally offers in her book and also committed to chanting to Durga for that 1.5 month period. Sally offers this simple Durga chant, to invoke the goddess’ energy:

Aum dum durgaye namaha

[Ohm doom Door-gai-yey nuh-mu-hu]

“Om and Salutations to that feminine energy which protects from all manner of negative influences.” 

If you’re feeling the need for protection and boundaries in your life, I recommend making the commitment to explore this mantra for the next month. Below is a link to an excellent article written by Sally about working with Goddess Power. She brings a great deal of insight to Durga and Lakshmi in her article,  Goddess Power.

The Pulse of Life

“It is often said that the first sound we hear in the womb is our mother’s heartbeat. Actually, the first sound to vibrate our newly developed hearing apparatus is the pulse of our mother’s blood through her veins and arteries. We vibrate to that primordial rhythm even before we have ears to hear. Before we were conceived, we existed in part as an egg in our mother’s ovary.

All the eggs a woman will ever carry form in her ovaries while she is a four-month-old fetus in the womb of her mother. This means our cellular life as an egg begins in the womb of our grandmother. Each of us spent five months in our grandmother’s womb and she in turn formed within the womb of her grandmother. We vibrate to the rhythms of our mother’s blood before she herself is born. And this pulse is the thread of blood that runs all the way back through the grandmothers to the first mother. We all share the blood of the first mother–we are truly children of one blood.”

-Layne Redmon, When the Drummers Were Women

image by Susan Seddon Boulet

image by Susan Seddon Boulet