Seeking the Sacred

Today:

I can’t do this. I can’t. It’s too much. Better to just hide, to let it pass. I’ll feel better eventually.

No.

The voices come, tapping at my mind. No – that’s not right. Not voices, exactly, but knowing, thoughts, feelings. My subconscious is kicking me to move, to do, to get on. You have an idea. Get on with it, or it’ll be gone, and you’ll feel even worse.

I think back, to this morning. A story told to me by a beautiful priestess, of her own work with her Goddess, her commitment and bravery. I remember her smile, so very bright, and the hard work she puts in to her community.

This is spirituality. This is work, but it’s not – it’s just doing, being. A compulsion, drive, vocation. Making manifest what’s inside us.

I think back again, to the stories I’ve heard in the last week. Of doubts and accomplishments, madness and survival. The impossible but true. The voices of old friends and total strangers. Somehow, they know I’ll listen without judgement, and I do.

But where’s my voice? What am I doing with all of this? The current of inspiration is entering me, but then stalling, not flowing on. The connection needs to be reforged.

I call to those who listen to me. Random words – a prayer, a spell? Or just talking? Does it matter? I speak, and they hear.

I feel my stomach unclench, muscles loosen that I hadn’t realized were tense. My heart lifts a little. I reach out and fuss my puppy-dogs, who’ve been guarding me. One is curled up on my feet as I write this – one of his human companions, his safe place. Simple connection.

I remember what it feels like – the feeling of Self which that black fog blocks. I think of brief images from social media, as if friends have been rapping on my mind as well: wake UP, dammit! And myths of darkness, heading deep within to find what’s there – not evil or destruction (well, not quite) but treasure. A quest is pointless is there’s no challenge to battle through, with goal ahead and journey to learn from.

I love synchronicity. The map we have to remind ourselves to consult from time to time.

I remember love and laughter, joy in simple things. So easy to lose sometimes, but then easy to recall as well, if you know how and what you’re aiming for.

Yesterday, I was explaining to a random Interested Person about the sacred in the world around. He kind of understood, but the words weren’t sufficient – arm-waving was needed, and foot-stamping, and a lot of metaphor and random noises. We got there. Common ground.

And I was speaking to someone online who wasn’t really listening, caught up in their own concerns. Sadly, I had to step away. But I’m still here, and they know that.

I’ve been gifted two candles this month: one crafted, one foraged. They will light the way, as all of these people (and more) are inspiring me with their tales, bringing me back to what’s important.

The old tale of the Druid teacher is that they stand at the edge of the Forest of the Unknown, waiting as guide. Sometimes they point the way and let you step forward; sometimes they kick your arse to get on with it! Even Merlin went mad among those trees, but that wasn’t the end.

This is only the first step of this particular side-road. I can feel change in the air as my homeland turns into Autumn (my favourite season), and know it’s time to move. I’m not sure where I’ll end up, but the Fool’s journey has to begin.

 

I’ve often been asked about my writing process. It’s something like this. I would apologise for its randomness, but I feel it has to come out this way today – so here it is.

For an explanation of precisely what I’m doing, visit my main Druidry blog, The Catbox.

We step onto the winding road and head into the unknown…

Where Were You…

Last night at 10pm, the lights went out across the UK.

In certain regions, a call spread across news networks and social media to switch off all electric light, and instead simply have one single candle burn. This was in tribute to those who fell in World War I, which began exactly one hundred years ago.

Look up the news this morning. MPs applauding, people commenting on the darkened streets, the dramatic drop in electricity from the power providers.

Last night, a single candle burned in so many rooms. We sat quietly, each and every one of us, in that darkness held at bay by one tiny flame. Whether friend or stranger, the shared community of streets, town, counties and country joined together to remember the ancestors.

The power of darkness, of fire, of shared humanity. We remove all the noise of the modern, high-tech world and simply live, as so our ancestors did – through war and peace, times of hardship and plenty.

I considered the world around me now, from that place of silence. So many still suffering in war, pain and terror, far and near. So many who care and do their best, struggling to help against social and political adversity.

We each have our battles to fight. Sometimes removing the distractions helps us to remember, to return to what’s important. To learn, to decide, to move forward, and to live well – alone and together.

Forced Focus

Sometimes, all we need is focus. And the harder we try to attain it, the more elusive it is.

Yesterday, my mind was whirling – mostly in descending spirals. I had no objectivity, no motivation, no clarity of thought or intention. The Black Dog had taken over.

This morning, I somehow managed to get myself together enough to head out for my run around the park. The lovely sunshine and warm breezes helped, I admit.

But once out there, the sheer physical effort of the activity forced my mind to focus. I could feel the darkness pulling, trying to slow my muscles down with a background noise of ‘Too tired, too weak, just stop, go home’ – but I kept my feet moving forward.

Until my breath became steady. My eyes focused on the sights around, or even just the grass as I pounded through it. I felt the muscles in my legs, my heart and lungs… body and mind had to work together, to fulfil this task. That was all.

The endorphins kicked in as I hit a mile – always a thrill for this plodder! – and by the time I did return home, I felt invincible, that I could do anything. Because I had just run around a park.

Sometimes it’s the simple things, such as a distraction that engages the brain, or the voice of a friend. Sometimes a harder kick is needed, a challenge, that might seem utterly impossible at first. Even a breathing meditation (which needs no special equipment, just time and focus) can seem like the hardest thing in the world.

But by keeping on Doing, we pull ourselves back, to ourselves and to what’s true and important, drowning out the unhelpful voices and letting us move back onto our track. We have Done Something, just for us. And in so doing, we can feel alive again.

To Dare…

I gave a talk today at the Mansfield Mind, Body & Spirit fair – standing in the Council chambers at the Civic Centre, with pictures of mayors past and present watching from the walls. A full house, too, with a lovely receptive group of people.

I always get nervous. Even now, after doing this for some years. Especially when the topic is based around my second book – essentially talking about darkness and depression, but from the perspective of balance, acknowledgment, truth and potential. It’s not easy.

This isn’t putting a positive spin on a difficult subject. This is facing that subject head-on, seeing and feeling it in all its pain, guilt and social awkwardness. My Druidry pushes me, insists I see what needs to be seen. Generally speaking, this is often precisely what’s needed, and I’m glad that my audiences seem to welcome that honesty.

After I’d finished, I was told by one attendee that she’d heard people discussing the talk beforehand. “Ooh, darkness – I don’t know about that.” Because apparently it sounded too… well… dark. A bit much for some.

The presenter who came after me was talking about palmistry. Apparently even more people had squeezed into the (large) room for this one – because it was ‘easier’ than mine, I was told. Apparently people like to be told what to do, to be given answers.

Chatting to people afterwards, hearing their stories and even holding them as they cried, I was glad that I spoke as I did. Yes, it might well be challenging or difficult. I encourage exploration, to think for yourself, to find your own way. If you’re brave enough to dare to come into the room, to give up your time and simply listen, engage and consider – that’s a big step. The first of many.

I spoke of solidarity, of shared experience, of the potential in the darkness which keeps us moving. We can stop – or we can go on.

We can step through the door, or we can stay in the safe places, seek affordable solutions and people to sort out our difficulties for us. That’s our choice, after all.

One day, those who didn’t come in may find themselves ready. The door will still be there – as will the darkness, waiting to be faced.

I still get nervous when I step up to speak publicly, every time. But I take that step – because I know I must.

I Wish…

An up and down week so far. Today seemed to carry only bad news. I retreated for a while, my mind just wishing for something good to come, be it happier news or a way to make things better.

And then this appeared:

‘The implicit risk in self-expression is tangibly present. The unspoken fear, at least among the adults, seems to be: If I give myself so fully to something I love, will I end up like that street-corner poet I passed while looking for a parking space?’

‘One of the biggest dangers of giving in to art is that our values might change – or return to an earlier, simpler form…. Maybe we’ll learn something about ourselves that we didn’t particularly want to know. Or maybe people will laugh at us.’

‘And yet, those who indulge their talents so lavishly attract us all… We’re drawn to the energy produced by talent, by concentration, by hard work in the face of uncompromising odds.’

‘Intelligence isn’t having all the answers. Intelligence is the capacity to learn what you don’t know.’

‘Life is too short to stand outside the window… saying I wish I could do that.’
(From ‘Zen & the Art of Knitting’, by Bernadette Murphy)

We make our own path as we walk it. We have to move, to take those steps, to dare, to explore, to be brave and curious, mad and unexpected. To battle on – because even if times are hard now, giving up can be the worst solution. We learn from working through, from keeping going, even when it hurts.

Onwards.