Journey Into Sacred Space

The purpose of the next few minutes of our time together is to step out of the world where we are responsible to others, and remember that we are especially responsible to ourselves. I’ve written this as a guided meditation that I would speak to you, but understand that you may still ‘go within’ through reading, even without being able to close your eyes.

Our wellness and self-care is more than the concept of taking care of the body that is our temple… it is also a gift that we give to those who love us.

You have likely heard the term coined by Carl Sagan, that we are all ‘starstuff’. The particles that come together to make up this human form are the same as those found in all that surrounds us, including the Universe which may seem beyond our reach. The truth is… we ARE the Universe. All we need to do to connect with that larger than life energy is to simply go within.

Creative visualization is a tool that allows our minds to release our worries of the future and our regrets of the past. It takes us on a journey that is at once outside of ourselves and deep within. It provides a sort of guidance along a path which our minds may travel, in order to find focus and nurture intention as we create a foundation for the reality we desire for ourselves. Guided visualization doesn’t require that you go where the reader takes you, but that you follow the voice to find the path that you wish to blaze.

Consider that you are being given a metaphor or a story outline into which you have the opportunity to fill in the blanks, or to create your very own tale of becoming.

So now, I invite you to find your comfort, whether seated or reclining. If you choose to lie down, be sure that you are not too close to needing a nap. Though, should you suddenly wake to find you have slept through parts of this journey, know that you have not done anything wrong. Your mind and body will take you exactly where you need to go.

We will begin with deep breaths that make your belly rise. And then we will allow our breath to settle into a normal flow, In through the nose, and out through the nose. If you have sinus congestion, breathing through the mouth is fine, but having your tongue pressed to the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth, while inhaling and exhaling through the nose is recommended.

Our breathing connects our mind and our body in a rhythmic flow which allows us to journey beyond the confines of the room in which we are seated. Being mindful and connecting with gratitude for that which we take for granted can be a simple way to connect with the energy of all that is.

Breathe into your belly the element of air which fills your lungs and delivers oxygen, and exhale with a prayer of thanks for the expansion of your chest as you receive the light of love and release the burden of tension.

Breathe into your belly the element of fire which warms your body and delivers healing where needed, exhaling with gratitude for the inner flame of metabolism and energy that powers your body’s machinery.

Breathe into your belly the element of water which washes through your body with cleansing and quenching fluidity, exhale with a prayer of thanks for the blood and saline liquid that delivers life through the body and back into your beautiful heart.

Breathe into your belly the element of earth which creates the foundation for all other elements to flow and grow, exhaling gratitude for the strength of your bones and the whole of your body which holds and nurtures your sacred soul.

We come to nature to be reminded that we are not separate from all of life, we are one with it. We can connect with our breath and imagine sitting on a boulder of granite, warmed by the sun on the edge of a mountaintop, or in our mind’s eye see that boulder turn into a billion grains of sand, washed by the vastness of the ocean as our feet sink in and waves rise and fall upon the beach where we stand.

When you think of a place in nature that makes you feel calm and connected, be it ocean’s edge, mountain view, or a tree you climbed in childhood, which made you feel safe and held within an embrace you did not yet understand, consider making this place, real or imagined, your meditation safe place. This is where you may go to connect with your breath and enter sacred space.

Sacred space is a sanctuary. It can be any place that allows you to feel safe and loved. It can be a physical place, like a church, a temple, or your living room, and it can be inside your mind, which is so powerful that it can create for you a safe place in which to dwell. The beauty of creative visualization is that you are not limited by physical surroundings. In this realm, you may swim in a pool of starlight and be held in the embrace of the being who has made you feel most loved in this lifetime, regardless of your ability to do so in the physical world.

If you have in mind your sacred space, take yourself there now. Experience in your body all of the sensations that come with feeling safe, feeling free from distraction, feeling present, feeling at ease, feeling loved. Know deep within your bones that this is truth, you are enveloped and protected by the light of love.

From here you are able to connect more deeply with the energetic force that surrounds you and flows through you. Imagine that from where you are, your energy reaches like tendrils of light, downward into the earth and through saline water, through rock, mud, and crust into the molten core coursing with the fire of passion. Gather that source and pull it inside of you, allowing the lava to soothe aching joints as it delivers healing light.

Now, sense the sparkly white light of creation raining down on you from above. Imagine the crown of your skull opening like a funnel to receive this light, which spirals downward through your body to mingle with the light you’ve pulled from below. This is your connection with your higher self, the wisdom that you have carried with you from a time before memory.

This swirling light of gold and silver moves through your body to deliver comfort and peace that calms a worried heart and allows you to see with clarity your best path forward. Let it expand beyond the boundaries of your body to encapsulate your auric field, which extends a few inches further than your body’s full height and wider than your outstretched arms.

This is a sphere of protection that you can invoke at anytime with a simple deep breath. When you are here, you can imagine pushing out all thoughts, emotions, and energy fragments that do not belong to you or no longer serve your highest good. You can also command that nothing may enter your sphere of protection other than pure love and healing energy.

Once you have declared this sacred space and the gathering of earth, body, and universal energy… sit for a while to feel this love filter through every cell of your being. If you are seeking answers to your own heart’s wondering, you may ask here and listen. [long pause before continuing]

It is time for our journey inward to come to a close, but know that this space is always safe and waiting for you at the close of your eyes and deepening of your breath. When you are feeling frazzled or disconnected, you can come here for renewal and to reconnect.

Picture your energetic being, as if you are outside of yourself, or perhaps looking into the reflection of a mirror. Allow the brightness of the light to fade into the scenery of your sacred space in nature, but know that you shall remain protected and safe.

Now, see the image of your sacred space within your mind begin to fade, bringing you back into the room where you are. Carry with you, into the here and now the awareness of the messages you may have received, and the shield of protection you created for yourself. It will continue to protect you throughout your day. If you begin to feel uncomfortable or out of sorts, you can take yourself through an abbreviated version of this journey to recharge those boundaries.

When you are ready… you may open your eyes and resume your day. Thank you for walking this path with me.

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

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A Woodland Wedding

Early Friday morning, I headed to the airport with a few of my favorite people.  It was still dark when we arrived, but the sun was dawning on this new day as our flight departed the 90 degree south and set forth to the 60 degree north.  We were invited to stand witness and help celebrate the marriage and handfasting of two people we adore.

These two beloveds are among the couples I know that make me envy their togetherness.  You can see each light up at the sight of the other.  Their love is effervescent and warm… almost innocent with the obvious open-heartedness they hold for one another… as if neither has ever been hurt by another.  What a beautiful mystery… fearless love at 40.

Lovers of all things created by Mother Nature, the venue was a campground in Bar Harbor, Maine… recently closed for the season.  Not a camper, I found a beautiful spot across the street – a seaside cottage with two bathrooms and a fireplace.  This provided the best of both worlds, as far as I’m concerned.  One of the brides is the co-founder of our monthly Supper Club.  Five members were able to attend, and in this cottage we stayed… along with my life-long friend, who is my favorite adventure buddy – and my +1.  Together, we were one tenth of those gathered to hold space and reflect the light of love back at these two beings who capture the hearts of all they meet.

Our favorite Unitarian Minister presided over the sacred ceremony, though she would argue she won’t be ordained until January – she has always held this sort of role… a spiritual guide… for many of us.  The brides chose to be handfasted, which is a Celtic wedding tradition from which we get the term ‘tie the knot’.  I was asked to seek the blessing of their guests before the ceremony began, and carried the cloth that would bind their hands and their love to each guest and informed them that we are infusing this cloth with our blessings and good wishes for the marriage of our brides, so that their lives together would be eternally woven with the beauty and wonder that we each would bestow upon them.  Each loved one placed their hands upon the cloth, closed their eyes, and said a silent prayer.  When our Minister took her place between two trees, beneath a magickal chandelier, the Celtic cloth that contained our love was upon the marriage altar.

The first bride entered the clearing through a wooded path, revealing herself to be like the faery queen emerging from her hidden realm.  She was stunning in white chiffon and lace… and with the sight of her we had no choice but to fall into this dream.  The second bride entered the circle from the opposite side of the clearing, donning a navy blue suit and bare feet – an homage to her betrothed, whose feet are rarely oppressed by the burden of shoes.  She was lit by the internal flame of joy that is ever present when these two make eye contact.  The entire circle was aglow!

Each bride honored their families, those they came with and those with whom they were becoming one, and returned to the altar of their new beginning.  Their hands and hearts were bound by the minister, vows of wisdom and wit were shared with the glide of rings onto fingers, and tear-filled eyes met their tearful, grinning congregation.  A cacophony of joyful noise escorted the happy couple as they exited the circle, once alone and now together, back into the faery realm from which they came.  But the dream didn’t end there… it continued nearby with a whimsical reception beneath a canopy of white.  Tables were set with mismatched china collected and shipped by the brides, all to be donated to charity upon departure.  Table assignments were identified with names on postcards from the region in which we gathered, dating back to the 30’s.  The tables were marked with the names of pets rescued and cared for by our faery queen bride.  Imagine my dismay when I learned the ‘Oprah’ table at which we were seated was dedicated to the memory of her dearly departed tarantula!  The error was quickly remedied with a switch of spider name to doggy name… she loves me that much.  Ha!

With practically zero light pollution in the area in which we had gathered, more stars than I have seen in one place in my lifetime filled the sky as nightfall joined the party.  The Milky Way didn’t want to miss the celebration.  A large carpet placed upon the grass became a dance floor and the trees that hugged this clearing danced with sparkling lights projected to bring the starlight a bit closer to our reach.  My life-long friend and I used to go dancing as teenagers in the late 80’s, and feeling the youthful vibration of love and red wine, we made our way to nature’s dance floor to dance among the stars.  This is where we spent most of the evening… with old friends and new… like whirling dervishes in ecstatic devotion to the mystery and majesty of love openly expressed and shared.  These moments of celebration are when the divine is truly made manifest in our lives.

On this weekend made possible by the love of two nurtured by many, we were delighted to make new friends and grow our intentional community.  I love the way that joyfully authentic people attract more of the same, and how the blessing of being invited into a circle of such kinship envelops all who take the hands of those gathered.  Regardless of geography from which each traveled, whether the years upon the earth are many or few, if we’ve known each other for 40 years or 4 days… we have become ONE.  And we are grateful!

So, here’s to our beloved brides!  Here’s to bountiful blessings of love, light, laughter, joy, happiness, peace, prosperity, good health, longevity, moonlight and magick upon their marriage.  May we all be blessed to know such love within this lifetime, and gather in a circle of belonging to bear witness to the beauty of Mother Nature who holds us lovingly in her embrace.  We are so blessed!

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Transformation Dawning

My grandniece stayed with me last week, and though we ultimately had a ‘staycation’ (for me, anyway), I still consider it to have been a glorious escape.  My brother and his family live a few hours away, so we shared the burden of driving and met half way.  I fetched her on a Saturday and gave her back on the following Saturday.  This was the longest period of time we have had alone since she was 18 months old.

13.5 years ago circumstances were such that I felt compelled to offer my support and provide her with a safe place to grow between Thanksgiving and Christmas, while her grandparents met work obligations out of state and dealt with some obstacles at home.  I will never forget the sound of relief in the voice of my sister-in-law, when I somewhat jokingly commented on how cute she was and that she should just leave her with me… “Oh, Melissa… I would be so relieved.”  With wide eyes I looked at my parents who said they would help, and I cried all the way to the airport in the rain to fetch my Tribe brother.  I cried as I told him what I was considering, both of us single and childless at the time, he understood the importance of the task and the sense of overwhelm, too.  Neither of us would have imagined then that he would be married with three children of his own now.  That night I sent an email to friends about the crazy commitment I was considering, and by morning I had been offered all of the support required to make it possible.

That month was probably the most traumatic for all of us, as some navigated separation anxiety and heartbreak, while I spent each day in fear of getting something wrong.  Above all other worries, I feared for her the abandonment issues she would surely have to face in therapy (waves flag of abandonment issues – yo!).  I took my responsibility to her so seriously that I was determined to do anything I could to ensure she would not feel abandoned by me.  I remember one weekend that my Mom came over to offer me a break and an escape, but even when I left the room she would begin to cry, and I simply could not bear to leave.  I remember friends and co-workers saying to me… “Oh, Melissa… this is going to change your mind about having children.”  Well, it didn’t.  Not because she wasn’t precious, because she was.  And not because the work of caring for a child is thankless, because I know without a doubt that that month of my life was quite possibly one of my most important and greatest accomplishments of this lifetime… after all, I managed to keep her alive for an entire month!  She had never been around other children, so of course she immediately caught a cold from daycare, and she also cut a couple of molars during the time that I had her.  Every day I would drop her off and she would cry, and every day I would cry all the way to the office.  Did I mention that empathy is my number one strength?  I would tuck her into bed each night, and collapse in a heap in the silence of the living room, hoping to have a moment to myself, but feeling too exhausted to do anything else, and not wanting to make any noise that might disturb my sleeping angel.  I remember waking each morning and hoping that I could run to the bathroom before she woke up, so that I could tinkle without having to have her on my lap while doing so (because if she was awake, and I left the room… she would cry – and I could not allow her to feel abandoned by me).  Good golly, people!  How on earth can you possibly choose to be responsible for the entire life and well-being of another human?  What a horribly overwhelming task.  I remember how I would hear her cry and it would feel like my heart was beating on the outside of my chest.  I recall the  mornings when I would hear her stir in the makeshift crib that was next to my bed, and I would look over and smile to see her standing up and holding onto the edge, with her beautiful tuft of light brown curls, greeting me with a smile – that and when she tossed her head back to take the medicine for a cold or teething always reminded me of a baby bird.  I would have done anything to keep her safe, healthy, and happy.  Her happiness was my joy!  One night, I pushed past fatigue and put up the Solstice Tree, and delighted in the look on her sweet face the next morning as I carried her into the darkened living room lit by those magickal lights.

I have to admit, having a 15 year old in my guest room was much easier than having an 18 month old beside my bed.  I just caught myself wondering why we had never done this before… and remembered that this, too, is a gift of the year of time and reflection I’ve given myself.  Not beholden to anyone to grant me time off, I had the freedom to ask… and to receive.  It was pretty awesome.  She cooked for her great grandparents and me, and we shopped for school clothes.  She attended an event I co-hosted… a sort of female empowerment and expressive arts evening with friends.  She WOWed me with her openness and authenticity.  She spoke her truth and shared her vulnerability, knowing that she was in a safe place.  Her courage to share encouraged the same in others.  I introduced her to the art of acrylic pour, and she suggested that we do a project together, each creating a piece that would be symbolic of how we felt about each other or what we meant to one another.  Into the colors I chose – each as vibrant and rich as her stunning brilliance and personality – I stirred my hopes and dreams for her… to see her own true value, to seek her own truth and follow her own north star, to be filled with utter joy, and fulfilled by purpose and passion.  When it was dry, I wrote on the back of her canvas:  “Beloved – This painting contains my love for you, and symbolizes the beauty that you are and that which is on the horizon for you.  Love, M”  In turn, what she created for me contained many shades of green, with an additional image that she brilliantly added into negative space, which started as a Stag (sacred to Artemis, you know) and became a tree.  She told me that in meditation the forest is her safe place, and that I, too, am her safe place.  On the back of my canvas she wrote:  “To a GORGEOUS Goddess – You deserve the care you provide for everyone else.  You will get all that you need and want because you’re a beautiful soul.”   (I hope you’re listening, Universe!)

So, all of this was pure delight, and I loved every moment with my girly, but one of my favorite parts was meeting her request to enjoy a bit of nature together.  A friend of mine had suggested taking her to one of our local springs, and that is what we did.  We grabbed another friend of mine, and headed off for adventure.  We packed some snacks, put on bathing suits, and traveled just 30 minutes from home to reach a piece of paradise, Wekiwa Springs.  Knowing that the water would be shocking to our delicate systems (we Florida girls aren’t used to diving into 70 degree water), we chose to take a hike, so that the (literally) breathtaking plunge might feel even more welcome.  We traveled along the path and boardwalks, and delighted in the flora and fauna, as well as several winged creatures that were surely faery folk in the guise of dragonflies.  We saw them in many different colors, including green, silver and blue.  The presence of dragonfly informs us that transformation is dawning on the horizon – and I do believe all three of us can feel it coming.  As we completed the trail and began to hear the sound of others splashing in nearby water, we determined we were definitely ready for a swim.  This was the first time my grandniece had ever been to a spring, but this adventure brought back memories for my friend and for me.  My friend recalled many wonderful visits shared with her beloved, whom we lost to leukemia last fall… and having been away from this glory far too long, my own memories were of trips to the springs with my parents and brother when he and I were young, when we could dive for fossilized sharks teeth and swim until our lips turned blue.  I even remember a time when I was maybe 4 or 5 and my parents swam next to me – atop a raft, and there were people up on a bank who were tossing marshmallows into the water to feed an alligator.  I may have to check this memory with my folks to determine if that particular recall is based in fact or childhood fantasy.  Anyway, we swam for a while, and I began to worry that my toe rings would fall off, because the usual swelling of heat and gravity was totally lacking in this element… and they started to feel rather loose.  So, we each made our way up the hill to the shaded spot with our blanket and snacks.  We reflected on the connectedness we experienced with nature (and with the boy my grandniece met at the edge of the spring – oh, to be fifteen again), and after a while, we determined our needs had been filled.  We finished off the afternoon at my friend’s house with a few rounds of cards.  It was a perfect day!  Ever since, I’ve been asking myself why I had taken these gifts of nature for granted… feeling like I had to drive ten hours to find a piece of heaven, when it was right here… just a short drive from my front door.  I feel as if I will need to make up for lost time, and spend the next several weeks escaping to a local spring to dance with the dragonflies and swim until my lips turn blue.

As I summarized this delightful week to my soul-daughter, sharing how I felt badly for having shirked my responsibility to the end of life doula study… she once again reminded me, with that wisdom-beyond-years way that she does, that though I may have spent fewer hours at the computer or reading a book on death or palliative care, I had most certainly been ‘doing the work’.  You know what?  She’s right!  I am less sure today that my path is to become a doula, but more certain that there is purpose and meaning in doing this work.  Every single day of this sabbatical has been filled with a certain kind of mindfulness and gratitude that comes with the absolute knowledge that our time here is limited.  If the beauty of a natural spring doesn’t bring a sense of homecoming to your soul, you are denying the importance of the element of water in your very existence.  I mean…  you are made of mostly water!  The Earth is bubbling with this cooling, soothing salve for your tired and aching spirit, and She invites you to enter her healing embrace.  The cicadas are singing for the resonant pleasure of your eternal spirit – reminding you of the freedom of summertime on a hot afternoon, how could you fail to recognize their tune?  And everywhere you turn, the dragonflies are bobbing and dancing, then gently perching upon branch and limb, hoping to get a closer look at your vibrant being, knowing that the symbolism of the human body is to be reminded that you are looking upon the Universe itself – in which all of the elements, air, fire, water, earth and spirit, are contained.  The dragonflies know this about every human they pass, why must so many of us fail to recognize this truth, whether passing another on a trail, or seeing our own reflection in the living waters?  There is so much tragedy in what we fail to see.

I am growing more certain with each passing day that this sacred journey upon which I embarked last fall is really about learning to truly see.  I am learning to see what has always surrounded me… that beauty is before me, behind me, above me, below me, and within me.  I am learning to sense what I cannot see with my eyes, allowing energy to be felt with my heart and words that are not heard through my ears to flow with grace and ease through my fingertips and onto this page.  Through the study of death and dying, I am learning how to truly live.  Every time I wish I could see the future and how my financial security will evolve from something I no longer care to do into something I was born to do, I am reminded that I don’t need to see it to know it is on the way.  I don’t need to define it to be able to manifest it.  I am already in the spring and it is carrying me forward, and I have no choice but to stay open to receive and appreciate all of the rich beauty that awaits, as I mindfully and joyfully go with the flow.

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The Journey Inward

Yesterday I visited a nearby mountain park to get an added dose of nature before I head home at the end of the week.  I hadn’t really thought it out very well, because I stepped onto the Lakeside Trail in my traditional open-toe shoes, instead of something more trail appropriate.  I could have turned back early on, but the path kept calling me forward… and so forward I went.  The ‘lake’ was more of a reservoir, and was not round like many lakes back home, but more like a wide river with end caps.  I started my journey, like most adventures in life, without expectation or awareness of what I might find or experience along the way.  At the beginning of the trail, as I traveled counter-clockwise on the map, I found a bench at water’s edge, and so I sat for a moment to contemplate the beauty before me.  The water was filled with all sorts of plant life, and there were trees that had fallen on the bank and into the lake, that were left to become a part of the landscape, creating homes for the creatures that live there.  As I sat there, I would occasionally hear a sound that informed me that something was moving in the water, but each time I heard it, I would look and see nothing more than a slight ripple.  It reminded me of how we often assume that a situation is how we perceive it, based on what we can see on the surface, but how reality is that there is often something of greater depth actually going on beneath the surface.  I took a moment to honor all that was present which I could not see, and then I continued my walk.

Next, I came to a boardwalk structure that crossed the water, and before I was half way across, I gasped to see a young deer with antlers grazing on plant life in shallow water.  This is not something we get to see where I come from, and the sight took my breath away before it brought me to tears.  A couple who were hiking in the opposite direction came upon us, and respectfully stood quietly for a few minutes before gently passing.  I thought about how magick happens throughout our lives, if we are open to it, and how special it can be to have it all to ourselves at times, and also to be blessed to share it with others.  I could have stayed all day to simply stand witness to such grace and beauty, but I decided to offer my gratitude for this moment, and asked to be WOWed again somewhere along my journey.  I was not disappointed.

As I moved forward on the path, having no idea where it would take me, or if I would regret not having turned back for better hiking gear, I couldn’t help but think about my personal life experience with the Artemis Archetype.  After all, the stag is one of her most sacred symbols, and the mountain forest is her realm.  I might turn a curve along this winding path and see her in the distance drawing back her bow.  I thought about how alone I felt on this path, as I could hear no human sound at this point.  I realized that my footwear could betray me on a path filled with tree roots and loose stones, or how I might slip and fall somewhere on this journey and that no one would be around to see me, hear me, or come to my rescue.  It made me think about how unprepared I have been throughout life for the obstacles that would appear in my life, leaving me hurt or disappointed by the actions of others.  But then I realized that my travels with Artemis have always been that way.  I may have had the support of my band of nymphs that I call my Tribe, but the work that I did to move through self-loathing to find my true self-worth and value was always a solitary journey.  It never mattered how emphatically others would assure me of how worthy they found me, I could never find it to be true until I felt it for myself.  And every betrayal and wound I’ve received has always led to learning and the positive evolution of my soul.  And so…  I chose to continue… believing that I was well protected, and that I would find more moments of magick if I simply refused to give up on myself.

As I moved further into the forest, and away from view of the lake, the feeling of solitude grew more profound.  I realized how similar this world that belongs to Artemis resembles the world that belongs to Persephone.  In the non-patriarchal version of her tale, she has chosen to go into the underworld to welcome the souls who have transitioned from the world of the living and are now seeking passage through the veil.  On this lonely mountain path, I could feel the isolation of one’s journey from human form into the mystery of what comes next.  There might be loved ones present to hold your hand for a while, but at some point… you must move forward on your own.  But then I realized through much of my hike that I would hear a recurring sound that was lacking form.  I imagined that it might be the sound of hooves on forest floor, an unseen squirrel or chipmunk, or a bird taking flight in the canopy above.  The message that I received from this awareness was that our perception of aloneness throughout our sacred journey is an illusion.  Even when we cannot see others around us, the truth is that we are never alone.  Whether it be the consciousness that we can step into to deliver strength in a moment of weakness – becoming the warrior and rescuing ourselves, or the presence of guides and loved ones that some of us may never connect with and recognize without the support of a medium, or at the end of life – as witnessed by Hospice Nurses again and again, as their patients acknowledge days or moments before death, alerting them to call the family, for departure time is near.

As I walked the Lakeside Trail, wondering if it would ever come to an end, I walked through fear and kept going.  I walked through solitude, and realized I wasn’t really alone.  I walked through self-doubt and negative self-talk about the foolishness of being ill-prepared, and I kept moving forward.  I walked for three hours straight, and never grew weary.  I acknowledged that my twice-weekly time in the gym had been time well spent, as my legs were strong enough to carry me up hill and down again without complaint.  I passed an occasional human, and while I was glad to see them and smiled as they passed, I was also grateful to continue on my own.  I realized that walking with Artemis brought me to this place… where being alone with myself is a wonderful place to be.  Once filled with self-loathing, I now feel that I make for really great company, and I was so happy to be walking with my own best friend… ME.  As I began to hear the sound of traffic on the mountain road upon which I entered the park, I was pleased to be coming full circle.  I had hoped to be shown the blessings of nature, and I was rewarded with three different deer sightings, each bringing me to tears.  For three hours, I was honored to walk beside two Goddesses who are ever present in my life, and I bowed my head to Persephone in reverence for the guidance and comfort she provides as I explore the path to the underworld, hoping to be one of her torchbearers in the future… holding the hands of those transitioning from human form, until they are finally able to see those who shall greet them on the other side.

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Mountain Music

I am sitting on the porch of my friends’ Tennessee home, and the breeze offers a slight chill as it plays with my hair while the lowering sun caresses my skin with warmth.  A variety of birds are singing their evening songs which speak of a beautiful day blessed by sunshine and the smell of sweet grass.  Several are dancing around the nearby feeder, reminding me that the term ‘eats like a bird’ doesn’t mean what most people assume.    My friend lost his sweet mother last year, and this space that we are blessed to enjoy was lovingly referred to by that kind and generous woman as Mockingbird Cottage.  Her gentle spirit still surrounds us in this heavenly place. and I can sense that she is near… laughing at the hungry birds at play, and recalling the way the wind once felt against her skin on a cool summer evening.  She and I close our eyes and breathe deeply of this moment of shared peace and solitude.  We anticipate the arrival of fireflies within the next hour.

I drove up on Friday, and the journey was pleasant as the companion I chose read to me his words of experience and wisdom with the voice of a philosopher.  I downloaded required reading for my end of life doula coursework through Audibles, and Stephen Jenkinson’s voice fed my mind throughout my ten hour journey with his thoughts on palliative care from his book called DIE WISE: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul.   Eight hours of reading remains, and he has already given me so much to think about… mostly about the way that death, though it is the one guarantee that comes with birth, is something that most people fear and run from.  Many of his patients who chose palliative care when a diagnosis became a prognosis would later come to curse the effectiveness of their treatment, as it was keeping them alive long past their wish to continue.  In other words, it may have given them more time, but it did not necessarily give them more ‘life’… just more suffering.  That kind of took my breath away.  It made me think more clearly about the wording I would use in my advance directive, the official forms which will state my wishes for end of life care.

It also made me think about the act of dying, and the choices one makes for how to spend their final days once a deadline has been given.  And if one would choose to do things any differently, at that point, (assuming the body was able) why we would wait until we’ve been given a deadline to start living in a way that would finally feed our soul.  Should we not be spending all of our days that way?  I mean, the day we are born the one thing that is certain is that we will also die.  It seems to me that there is always a deadline, its just that the expiration date is hidden beneath the fold of awareness.

I wonder what that might look like for me… a well-fed soul, and I believe that it looks something like sitting outside on a summer evening to hear the cacophony of birds chirping, cicadas humming, and distant dogs barking.  It also looks like valuable time spent connecting with dear friends, and making new ones at a mountain art festival.  It looks like smiling at the tiny green bug that just landed on the keyboard, and resting until it is ready to take flight.  It looks like taking the time to dive into a topic that once felt overwhelming and frightening, so that I may one day be of service in a way that transcends and ascends my former level and ability of caring.  It looks like choosing to fill the rest of my days, be they long or few, with greater purpose and meaning.

Sitting here, in this sacred space outdoors, with the spirit of this sweet lady that I was blessed to know and shall always adore, I can list the messages that nature has delivered for my inability to hear her voice.  The symbolism of the mockingbird is overcoming fear.  The symbolism of the hummingbird, whose presence inspired the urge to write, is lightness of being and enjoyment of life, as well as the reminder to be more present.  The symbolism of the fireflies for whom we wait, is self-illumination, guidance and freedom.  As I glance over my shoulder to see if they have yet arrived, I see a cardinal at the feeder and smile to myself to realize that the symbolism of this particular bird is a reminder to realize the importance of your purpose in life… while for some, it informs them of the presence of a loved one lost.  She knows I’m thinking of her and that I know she is here… affirmed by a glance before me to see that cardinal making his way across the darkening yard, stopping to look back at me from a moment’s perch atop the umbrella in the yard.

I am grateful for this time that I have given myself… to explore the depths of my soul before stepping blindly into a new chapter that might be less than fulfilling, to breathe deeply with gratitude for the beauty of nature and for that which we cannot see or hear without the courage to open our hearts.  After all, love is not something visible to the eye… it can only be felt with the heart.  So, I dare you, dear ones to close your eyes and open your hearts.  There are messages flashing before you, like the fireflies who have just arrived.  I’d love for you to join me in this reverie of light and flight!  Tell me…  what do you see?

fireflies

The Beauty of Pilgrimage

Ten years ago this summer, I took a trip abroad that was quite life altering and life affirming.  I was finishing up my third decade with an epiphany; I am no longer going to wait for someone else to make my dreams come true.  I realized that I was missing opportunities to follow my bliss, because I was waiting for a companion to come into my life or for a friend to have the funds and vacation time available to join me for adventure.  I decided that year that I would wait no longer.  I booked a trip in February to be taken in August.  I thought about returning to England or Scotland, places I had been before and loved, but realized that I really needed to go to Ireland.  Through an online search I found a few groups that did tours that were geared toward Celtic spirituality.  I was not interested in wasting a single day doing something that did not resonate with me.  I didn’t want to be in this sacred country of my ancestors, and have to spend a day in the Waterford Crystal factory, when I could be spending that time among ancient sites that predate the pyramids.  The company was selected by the travel date that didn’t interfere with a corporate board meeting, and I was set for a solitary adventure.  I had nearly 6 months to plan, and I set about learning more about the sites I would see.  At the time, I knew very little about the country, beyond my love for their native traveling hit, Riverdance.  I was so glad to have the time to know more before landing on sacred ground.  I was given an alumni guide to the history of the island, that went back to the actual land formation around the ice age.  Here’s a little morsel of wisdom:  There were never snakes in Ireland.  They did not cross over the land bridge before the ice melted and turned it into an island.

The difference in being a tourist and a pilgrim is profound.  A tourist travels with a mission that carries a bit of expectation and stress, while a pilgrim is on a spiritual journey with the intention of experiencing wonder and being open to the magick of synchronicity and ‘allowing’.  Rather than scrambling to make things happen, one may simply allow the unfolding of the beauty and mystery that surrounds.

There are so many wonderful and amazing things that I was blessed to experience on that sacred journey, but I woke up this morning thinking of one particular moment that I’d like to share.  I call it my Monica moment.

We were about half-way through our two week tour when we made our way down to the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry.  It was on the itinerary that we would see, among other things in this beautiful area, the Gallarus Oratory.  In my initial reading, prior to arrival, it was written to be a 12th century church of stone on stone (no mortar) construction that appeared in the shape of an upturned boat.  If you look it up online now, it has a few interpretations for its use by different archaeologists over the years.  One speculation I admire is that it might have been a shelter for foreigners, or another possibility of being a funerary space for the family that owned the property.  I rarely spend much time worrying about the truth of an ancient structure, and tend to simply be grateful that it remains standing for my witness centuries after its construction.

When we arrived at the Oratory, our entire group of 13 entered, and with hands clasped, we could stretch our circle to be touching the walls that encapsulated us.  There was no more than a doorway on one side of the structure and a window on the other.  This was a spiritual tour, therefore, everyone traveling with us had some level of interest in Celtic history, mythology, or were otherwise energetic healers of some sort.  At the time, I was struggling with my identity, and the best I believed I could offer was a passion for singing chants that I had learned over the previous 16 years.  So, I was asked to lead the group in a healing chant, and that I did.  I closed my eyes, and twelve voices joined mine to sing the first chant I had learned, which moved me enough to choose this path of feminine spirituality for my soul’s enrichment.  Raising your voice in an ancient place with fellow pilgrims is a powerful thing.  I can’t tell you how many times we moved through those words, but it was possibly five rounds.  When I opened my eyes, I looked up and found a face in the window looking in at us.  I said, “Oh, look!  We’ve attracted an Angel!”, and I snapped her picture.

I lingered inside the small structure for a few minutes, and when I stepped back into the light, I found my anam cara, a new soul-friend that I met on the tour, talking with the woman from the window.  I heard her say, “You should talk to Melissa, she’s our chantress!”  I walked over and smiled, as the Angel from the window spoke with a foreign accent.  “Hello.  My name is Monica.  I was so moved by your song.”  I replied, “Hi there.  My name is Melissa.  That song really moves me, too.  Would you like me to share it with you?”  And she nodded her head, and she and I clasped each others hands.  We looked into each other’s eyes as I sang: “I am a circle, I am healing you.  You are a circle, you are healing me.  Unite us, be one.  Unite us, be as one.”  As I sang to this sweet stranger whose spiritual path had just crossed over my own, tears poured from her eyes.  When the chant ended, she thanked me and we hugged.  It was quite possibly one of the most powerful moments I have ever experienced.  A decade has passed, and it is still crisp in my mind’s eye, that moment of shared magick.  I am so grateful that I was mindful enough to snap that photo.  Monica still peers through to me from that ancient window whose image is perched in my library.  Sitting at my computer now, I wonder if she ever thinks of me… or if she tells a similar story to her friends and family about this amazingly wonderful thing that happened on her way to the Oratory.

When I reflect on that memory, I wonder why it is we rarely have these magickal moments at home or at the grocery store.  It seems such a shame to have to travel to a foreign land to allow the open heart and open mind to attract such an interaction with people we don’t know.  I think I will set my intention to attract more of this brand of magick wherever I roam, be it ancestral homeland or Trader Joe’s.

If you are blessed with the opportunity to travel beyond your home base, whether it be foreign or domestic, I hope that you will go forth with a pilgrim’s heart.  Be open to receive whatever blessings the Universe has in store for you, and if you ever have the chance, I hope you’ll take the hands of a perfect stranger and sing to her with genuine caring and love.  It will leave a permanent stamp on your soul that will bring you hope and healing even as it becomes a distant memory.  I promise.

monicamoment