Callanish Stones

Yesterday, I visited the Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis. While it has been hot and sunny all week in the Outer Hebrides (I got a tan in Scotland?), it was mysteriously misty as a few of us walked amongst the 5,000 year old stones.

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The stones are laid out in a celtic cross formation, with a long avenue of double stones leading in from the noth and then a circular centre with shorter rows leading out in the other compass directions. The stones range from 1m to 5m in height and are made from the local rock, Lewisian gneiss, which is one of the oldest rocks on the planet at 3 billion years. It’s amazing to think of the passage of time since the stones were erected and since those stones were formed. We seem like a small blip on the landscape and yet our ability to change the earth upon which we live is immense.

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In the centre of the circle, a large stone marks where a burial cairn was found with human remains underneath. The meaning of the stones is unclear. Some people think they mark a lunar cycle, some solar, some speculate that they are a landmark that could be seen from far away at sea. Local legend says they are large giants who refused to convert to Christianity and were turned to stone as punishment.

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The Stones also form a relationship with the line of hills to the south, known as the Sleeping Beauty or Cailleach na Mointeach (the old lady of the moors). Once every 18.6 years, when the moon is at its southernmost extreme, the moon seems to rise out of the body of the Cailleach and then appears within the stones of the Callenish circle. And, if someone stands in the southern part of the circle, they appear to be reborn with the moon.

The site was truly spectacular. The lines and colours and striations of the rocks gave them added character and personality and the stones had both a presence and a power. I am so glad I got to visit this amazing place.

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Half Way Fierce

It’s the summer solstice here in the northern hemisphere and a good time to choose where to put all the awesome solar energy.

Being mid-way through the calendar year, it seems like a good idea to check in on my word for this year and see what has manifested and grown. Using Sas Petherick’s Solstice Six questions, here’s how I think it’s going …

1. Did you have a word for this year? How has it manifested itself? If you didn’t have a word, what is the theme that has played out in your life so far this year?

My word for this year is FIERCE! 

To be fierce about living my life to its fullest. Fierce about allowing myself to be seen and heard and not silenced by fear. Fierce about protecting my creative time and nourishing my passion. Fierce about my self-care, treating myself with respect, exercising my body and feeding it well. Fierce about my friendships. Fierce about my connection with nature and the Sacred.

Fierce has absolutely manifest itself in my life. To be more accurate, I feel like I have manifested IT in MY life. I have made so many decisions in the last six months that put my needs and my life first. Choosing to travel where I want to go, even if it means going alone. Choosing to not attend events that I really don’t want to go to, even if I disappoint people. Saying no bullying and drama and gossip even under peer pressure to participate. Choosing to not sacrifice my own needs to help others with theirs. Making decisions for me even when I know it’ll affect other and might cause them hurt.

It still feels really selfish but I am learning that subsuming my needs to others just makes me unhappy and resentful. And an unhappy and resentful me is not able to be who I want to be in this world. It leaves me less able to be a loving and compassionate friend, less able to focus at work, less able be fiercely fabulous, less able tone brave and less able to get a peaceful night’s sleep.

In some ways, being fiercely me is the hardest and scariest thing I’ve done. It is also gives me peace and serenity and is helping me love myself.

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2. What are you most proud of?

I am most proud that I am better able to love myself and to forgive myself for not being perfect.  Especially around my physical self-care. I still struggle to eat well and to exercise my body. I still have days when I all I see is failure and not-good-enough. But, I am proud that I am slowly learning to not beat myself up about it. To do my best each day and accept what is. After all, treating my spiritual self poorly is not going to help me treat my physical self any better.

3. What have you chosen to let go of? 

I have chosen to let go of a number of obligations in my life that were not feeding my soul.  I still have lots of obligations but they are things that I am happy about doing and that make me feel good.  I am excited about them. Whenever I am forcing myself to do something or go somewhere, I have tried to stop and ask myself, “why are you doing this?”. If the answer is “because I should” then I am rethinking my actions. No matter how scary and overwhelming the consequences might be. On the other hand, if the answer is, “because I want to” then I ungrump myself and enjoy the moment.

4. What has been your greatest joy or surprise?

My greatest joy and surprise has been how wonderfully supportive my friends have been. While they might miss me at some events I’ve chosen not to participate in, they are always enthusiastically cheering me on for the things I am doing. It does make  me sad that some friends seem to be dropping away and seem to judge me without talking to me but the quality of the relationships with my friends who have stayed in touch fills my heart with gratitude and joy and love. Hashtag blessed.

5. What book, movie, exhibition, tv programme, play, concert, article, photograph, or website has been your favourite find? 

This year, I’ve discovered Rebelle Society. Full of amazing poetry and writings and articles that reach in and connect to my heart and open my mind.  As it says in their creative manifesto, “We are editors of life. We cut and paste its daily beauty and pain with the sharp scissors of our minds on the canvas of humanity.”  It’s a fierce site!!

6. What three things do you want for yourself by the next Solstice – 21st December 2014?

This is a hard question. I tend to not try to want things. I feel like my job is to keep showing up and working hard, and the Universe gives me the most amazing gifts. My thank you is to actively practice gratitude.

If I think of three things I’d like to have achieved by the Winter Solstice, I would say that I’d like to have a healthier, stronger body in order to do the things I want to do. I’d like to be back in a groove of daily spiritual practice especially meditation and journalling and I’d like to take my creative endeavours, either my photography, writing or glass art, to a new level.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep being lovingly fierce and let the Universe take care of the rest.

Happy Summer Solstice!!

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A gift of fear and joy

Last night the fear that comes with vulnerability and the opportunity for connection came smack up against each other.

As part of my efforts to bring joy back into my life, I have started singing again in a band. A duo this time.  And last night we performed some of our new songs in front of an audience.  Dressed in costume.

I get nervous when we play gigs. Which is okay. I’m nervous because I care. Because it matters to me. It matters to put on a good show. To do justice to the music. To be solid for my fellow musician in the band.

Nervous is different from fear.  Nervous can take your breath away but fear takes your voice away.

And singing is one of the most vulnerable things that I do. The most exposed. Emotionally risky. But one of the things that allows for the deepest connections and the most body-filling joy of breath and sound and sharing.

Peter Sellars (the theatre producer, not the comedic actor) said,

Vocal music is an attempt to take the whole human being and project it into space.  It is the ultimate gesture of getting out of yourself.  You take a part of you that is most private, most personal, most inward, and you hurl it out into space—you project it as far as you can. That gesture of opening this whole region of the body results in an enormous spiritual release, and is felt by other people with tremendous impact.

So I was nervous last night. Not unusual. I was dressed up, too, which I always find stressful. Also not unusual. But, I was also feeling hugely vulnerable about one particular song. It is a slow song which relies a lot on the vocals. It’s high in my range of singing which requires a steady reservoir of breath. The lyrics are beautiful and emotionally evocative  and were written and gifted to the band by a dear friend.  And, I was singing into a mic in a small room where every note seemed louder and bigger than usual.

I sang the first line of the lyrics and it comes out as wobbly and insecure as I feel.  And I am immediately thrown back into a childhood memory. Except that the emotional state feels exactly the same; as though no time at all had passed.

I used to sing in church when I was little. My Mom and I were usually the only ones in my family who regularly attended services. But, one Sunday I was scheduled to sing a solo and my older sister and her boyfriend came to hear me sing. This was a big deal. Well, it was a big deal to me.

It must have been the first time I got nervous singing.  And I got really nervous. My heart was pounding so hard that it shook my whole chest. And my throat. And my voice. My singing was wobbly and shaky and I remember being completely confused about this new experience. But I knew it wasn’t good. And I didn’t know how to make it stop.

No one talked to me about it afterwards. But I knew it was bad because no one complimented my singing like they usually did.  It was clear to me that people were disappointed. And because no one said anything I never got to ask “what happened?”, “is that normal?”, “how do I stop it next time?”. And no one ever said “it’s okay, it wasn’t perfect but that’s okay, you did your best and we love you”. Instead, what I learned was that if it wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t okay.  That if I wasn’t perfect, that I wasn’t okay.

So there I stood last night, feeling nervous and vulnerable yes, but it was that emotional flashback, that flashnow,  that took away my breath and voice and left me with a first line that was as shaky and insecure as that little girl who didn’t understand what had happened. Who only understood that she wasn’t good enough.

And this is where the gift comes in. I am not that little girl anymore but I have the chance to change her story. My story. Because the opportunity in being vulnerable is to allow myself to be seen. With authenticity and honesty. With my very human imperfections. To be connected. With others and with myself. To release part of my spirit and let it be seen and heard. To know that I am enough.

And with that in mind, I found my breath and my courage and a little more of my voice and the second line came out a little stronger. And the third a little stronger after that.  It may not have been perfect – whatever that is! – but it connected.  And there was joy in that.

And, I think, a gift of healing for that little girl.

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