At this time of endings and beginnings
Of spaciousness in the darkness
With tiny glimpses of the light
I dream of a place
A place of sacred sanctuary
Filled with peace and joy
A warm hearth filled with love
A place to recharge and give thanks
A garden filled with abundance
An abundance of birth and death and life in between
A riot of colours
Spaces to sit and dream
To rest in stillness
Those who spend time here
And those simply passing through
Winter solstice 2019
It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post – I’ve been having a year of transitions. I wrote a blog a year ago about letting go of our house and other things in order to downsize.
We’ve come a long way and are still navigating the journey. We handed over the keys to the new custodians of our old house last June, moved onto the boat, went to Germany and bought a motorhome, came home to Argyll and bought a small house which needs work, so we’ve been camping in the new house, travelling in the motorhome and learning how to sail with the cat on board. It sounds amazing – and it was – and I’ve learned a few things about myself…..
It’s an interesting thing, this peeling of layers, this journey with myself. A peeling of layers of stuff, of emotions, of my past – a time of digging deep, of experimenting and perhaps learning to forgive myself for not being perfect, for not living up to my own expectations.
Talking of moons and cycles, it’s now 2 years since my last physical cycle and nearly 4 years since I landed myself in hospital through losing too much blood (and I’m making no apologies for too much information – we need to talk about these things). I feel as though peri-menopause kicked me round the park – gifting me much insight and many opportunities to review who I really am, to prepare to transition from creatress to dark queen – that opposite of the bright maiden – and I’ve found it a time to reconnect a bit with some of my ideals and hopes and aspirations from that time. I reconnected with dance through my shakti dance training.
It’s now time though for me to own this dark queen aspect of myself – she takes no shit and she’s fed up with some of the baggage I like to hang on to – the old ways.
I have a fabulous life and the old ways are holding me back. Life is about exploring edges and I love this quote.
This is my failure party – a celebration of some of my failures and imperfections:
I am actually quite shy – I know I may not appear this – I’m forthright, I’ve had jobs that involve me chairing meetings, presenting at conferences, running training and workshops but yes, I am actually quite shy, especially in groups. Having chosen to listen to the criticism I received as a child, I am scared of stepping up, of being seen, of getting it wrong, of hurting feelings, of breaking things, of being too loud, of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, of being naïve and not tough enough. I also have an inner belief that it is not safe to be seen – this could be from the old adage – ‘children should be seen but not heard’ or perhaps it is an old pattern handed down the generations from ancestors from a time when it truly was not safe for them – I’ve been told that someone traced part of our family back to the Huguenots so perhaps being on the run was the only way to be safe; or perhaps it’s part of the collective we now call the witch wound – my husband reminds me that if I was born a couple of centuries ago I would have definitely been in line for a burning. Who knows? All I know is that this old way no longer serves me or others. I’m learning to show up – baby steps but I’m setting myself intentions and creating opportunities that allow me to do this.
I’m a bit of a people pleaser and a fixer. I want to say and do the right things and I want to help people when I can, even though me trying to fix things for others is not necessarily the best path for either them or me. I’m learning how to support without attempting to fix. I’m learning how to look after me first – I’ve been going to yoga classes for me, practising yoga just for me – mostly at the beach.
I’ve found teaching yoga quite terrifying at times – and still do. It’s like exposing a really personal side of myself – I don’t do that – and I’m learning to. Sharing spiritual stuff, hippy stuff, non tangible stuff – sharing this aspect is scary stuff to someone like me – I feel as though I will be judged for this even though I don’t actually care too much what others think – I guess the person judging is me – now where on earth did I learn to do that? That serves no-one, that path leads to shame and guilt. And while we’re at it, I recently realised that although I’ve thought I have fairly weak boundaries I actually have almost all or nothing boundaries. I can have walls up so high – trying not to show my imperfections – scared that if anyone looks too closely they’ll see I’m a fake, they’ll see I’m no good.
How do I show vulnerability? How do I really be my authentic self if I’m in hiding? This is why I need new ways.
I often encourage folks to shine their light, to stand in their power and to accept themselves as the wonderful beings that they are. And I’m a fraud – I’m not actually sure how to do this for myself. One thing I’ve discovered over the last few years is that even though I may know something – I don’t actually accept or be that thing – it’s like the thought has to drop in to my heart.
I have such a fear of not being perfect, not being good enough and such an expectation that I’ll have done something wrong, that if someone asks to have a chat with me I immediately think I’m about to get a row or called out on something – it’s like I have a permanently guilty conscience. This is a habit that absolutely no longer serves – I call upon Kali to slice her sword through that.
Learnings from a year of transition
I thought I was a nomad, I aspire to minimalism – less is more, I can travel light, I don’t need much stuff and my stuff doesn’t take up much room – pish!
I've come to the brutal realisation that I don’t travel light, I like my stuff – I like having stuff, I like using my stuff and having easy access to it, I need to know where it is – I like it to be organised, I like routine – I function better when I have routine.
- I like home comforts
- I like having space around me
- I’m not really very tidy although I would love to be
- I work with about 20 different projects on the go at any one time (I am making an effort to reduce this though)
And now I’m learning to accept that all of this is ok:
- It's ok to want to have some stuff, to be slightly over the top about wanting access to it, to know where it all is
- It's ok to want a routine
- And its ok to want to live in comfy surroundings
I’m perhaps not that much of a minimalist but I do function better with less and a simpler life – I’m learning to find the balance.
But this means we can focus on our moho travels and windsurfing and my yoga, without the guilt of leaving a boat on a mooring or out on the hard without purpose or use.
We’re reminding each other constantly that the house will be ready when it’s ready – that we don’t have to knock our pans in, that it’s ok to accept help and it’s ok to still go travelling – we’re off to Cornwall tomorrow – back into the moho and leaving the cat to guard the stove at home.
Cycles of Fire
Summer Solstice 2019
Connecting to the beat of the drum
Feeling inspired today to share some thoughts about my compulsion to play with drums. This post began as a journey around my connection to the beat of the drum and has meandered into a journey around my nature connection - which I guess makes sense as my spirit drum connects me to myself and I am a child of the elements..... in this blog I'm taking time to honour and share my gratitude to some of the people and organisations I have met along this path - people with whom I made connection and who have inspired me on my journey (please feel free to click the links as I shamelessly give them a plug).
I feel drums for me are linked to dance - I think that is where I first really connected - someone came to play djembe at rehearsals many years ago when I was in a dance company as a teenager and it connected with something deep inside. There's something about the beat, the rhythm that calls me to move or enjoy or have a go.
My personal relationship with drums began in the early 90's when I attended a celtic connections workshop for beginners bodhran. I loved the workshop and rushed straight out to order one. I took it to Canada (see pic) where we made music to dance to and I played it round the fire with friends.
Sadly my bodhran ambitions and ego took a knock after an unfortunate incident one new year (nearly 20 years ago and involving too much alcohol) - my mates took the piss - they never let me forget. It's ironic - one of the things I missed in Canada was the history I share with my lifelong friends and yet they can be really to the point - they know where to shove that sharp stick. They take no prisoners and my poor little unconfident self listened. This put me off until years later I had a word with myself and changed bodhran. I set new intentions and dowloaded lots of lessons on the internet but the time passed and I never followed these intentions through, never practised or watched the lessons. Perhaps the time to strike that iron had cooled. I do occasionally drag the drum out and attempt to accompany friends who are much more musically talented (and fortunately very patient).
I have always had a strong affinity with the outdoors and with nature. Whether this be through outdoor pursuits, growing food in my garden or deepening my connection to nature. Playing my bodhran was connected to this too as it was with canoeing and kayaking friends I joined round the fire. And indeed it still is, as the only time it comes out is on windsurfing trips. It seems to be connected to a water spirit aspect in my life.
Somehow I found myself on a Barefoot Breathing course - run by the wonderful Jackie of Flowerspirit and through this course the shamanic path opened to me - including journeying and travelling (it's a bit like meditation) on the sound of the drum. Connecting with spirit through the repetitive drumbeat is powerful. The repetitive drumbeat enables the brain to drop into theta wave state - that of awakened dreaming and so you can travel or experience an awakened dream state - usually with an intention or question set beforehand.
On returning home, I wished for a more local community - people I could meet and share experiences with - and of course the universe is a wonderful thing. A shamanic practitioner moved into the area and a local drum circle emerged (thanks Heather ;). Heather of Inner Earth Therapies runs drum circles in Oban and Lochgilphead as well as Way of the Raven and Medicine for the Earth shamanic training. Attending her drum circles is a great excuse to join others and experience live guided journeying - with of course - my personal spirit drum (more on that in a mo...).
During this time I also attended a sporadic, local, tribal drumming group which sadly didn't continue - I loved this but am 'feart I'm not motivated enough to continue without a group - I'm not up for setting one up either - if I indulge and purchase a djembe, is it just another aspect of my aspirational self? Another drum to gather dust along with my bodhran.
Anyway - one of the main points of these blethers is.... at Heather's local drum circle someone mentioned buying their own drum. I had a real hankering to make my own and had been introduced to a drum maker online through someone I met on my permaculture course (thanks Stephanie - and please note as an aside - it was the lovely Steph who designed my lovely logo :). We decided to ping the drum maker a message on the off chance she might want to take her drum birthing out on the road and come to Scotland.
She said yes, and after a whirlwind of a few weeks messaging, Ros Simons traveled all the way from Exmoor to run a drum birthing in Argyll for a group of us. We hurriedly erected Heather's yurt (in spite of gales and snow) then all braved the freezing cold (no stove and old sails and blankets on the ground) as we journeyed to meet our drum spirits. We sanded, crafted, learned how to tension and throughout the day our drums emerged.
With a red deer hide, personal messages painted round the rim, crystals tucked in and turquoise trim, creating my personal spirit drum was just the beginning of the journey.
I believe my shamanic drums are the drums that have been seeking me - waiting for me while I tinkered about round the edges of the drumming world. They bring connection, friends and powerful messages.
I still have to have strong words with my aspirational self - she is drawn to hang drums, tongue drums, frame drums - her voice can be quite demanding at times - I gently remind her that although I could do all these things, I don't have to and am indeed, unlikely to. Let others play these and I can be free to listen and dance to their beautiful music.
If you feel called to birth your own spirit drum, my dear friend Ros is returning to Argyll in a few weeks. See below for more info and please contact her to book (she will run another on the Sunday if there is interest as places are filling).
It's January and I'm getting ready to begin the first block of yoga classes for 2019. This will be the 3rd year I am working with the chakras as our theme at this time of year - I think bringing ourselves into balance is a fabulous way to start the new year whether you set goals and/or intentions or not.
What are the chakras?
They are part of our energy body and Chakras are energy centres in the body. Chakra is the Sanskrit word for wheel and these spinning wheels of energy are usually pictorially represented by lotus flowers. These wheels spin creating a vortex, attracting or repelling activity – anything the chakra encounters on its particular vibrational level gets drawn into the chakra, processed and passed out again.
Just as we have a physical body we also have a subtle body and the chakras serve as a bridge between and transmute energy from one level to another, distributing pranic energy to the physical body. Chakras can be open or closed, in balance or out of balance; affecting different aspects of ourselves and lives. Each of these chakras contain bundles of nerves and connect to major organs as well as our psychological, emotional, and spiritual states of being.
The chakras are pictorially represented by the image of the lotus. I love this - the lotus has its roots firmly in to the mud - from here in the muddy, smelly, rich darkness it draws nutrients as it stretches upwards reaching for the light before emerging as the most beautiful bloom. And I think this image translates so well for us too - unless our feet and ourselves are firmly attached to the earth we become ungrounded. By delving into our own shadowy, mud we can investigate our own dark corners - take a look at what presses our buttons, what we hide from, what makes us uncomfortable about ourselves - as we do this with with love and support we can begin to bring light to what was perhaps once scary - our personal monsters (I have a whole list of my 'not enough' monsters) and begin to heal - this lightening of our load brings new perspectives and fresh energy - it is like nature - if we offer that which no longer serves us (our personal shit) - perhaps our frustration and anger - to the earth, she will compost that shit and return it as fresh nutrients - fresh energy.
What has this got to do with yoga?
Yoga is so much more than just the postures and gives us amazing tools to bring us back in to connection with ourselves - our body, mind and spirit. Here, in Argyll, January can be a dark, damp, raw kind of place - most cafes and visitor attractions are closed and we can often feel like hiding except that in today's society we're not really given permission to take that opportunity or to fully recharge and reset - so we push through and this can add to feeling sad from lack of daylight, letting our bodies stiffen as we don't feel inspired to get outside and move; and becoming mentally drained from trying to fit everything in we didn't manage to complete before the end of the year as well as all the 'new' projects we had been putting off until the new year.
When this chakra is in balance we are grounded, in control, and at ease with life. When it is out of balance we can become easily annoyed with people and situations, lash out at others, or materialistic. Excessive attachments may develop and lead to rigidity in our body and behaviour. We may be obsessed with money and possessions or our health, unable to allow change or to let go, and as a result we get stuck in the same routines, same old job, same old patterns and feel stuck. Physical problems including bladder issues, constipation, fatigue, anaemia and depression may occur.
Each chakra has a beautiful symbol with each part representing different aspects. With the muladhara the symbol has:
The great aspect of yoga is that is works on all different levels and you can focus on whichever level you wish - your physical, mental, emotional, energetic or spiritual. It is entirely up to you - make your practice your own, take from my blethers what you wish and most of all, practice yoga for you, keep an open mind and observe the magic.
Wishing you all balance, grounded connection to the earth and a transformational 2019
Books I've enjoyed learning from which you might enjoy too include:
Wheels of Life by Anodea Judith
The Elements of the Chakras by Naomi Ozaniec
Chakra Meditation by Swami Saradananda
or the art of letting go....
Letting go of the house brings up many emotions - relief at not being responsible for my large garden, guilt and grief about leaving all my plants, loss of our comfortable home, loss of our identity that is wrapped up in a house we designed and spent many hours working on together. Shelter and home are directly linked to the root chakra - to not have this is ungrounding and can be very unsettling.
And yet, it is so exciting - another description of aparigrapha is non-attachment and so I'm learning to let go of expectations - the old story of who I thought I was - that I will live in one place forever, that I'm going to grow as much of our own food as possible blah blah. I'm not worried about the future - we are not really making ourselves homeless as we have our boat and van - our mini adventure pods. We have the skills to look after ourselves.
We will regain spaciousness to create more adventures without feeling torn about being away from home and coming back to overgrown vegetable beds.
ps Bill just read this and said
"it's not about the kit you are using - it's about using the kit"......
I’ve always loved essential oils – for me they are part of plant medicine – I love plants and love connecting with their very essence – through hanging out with them in my garden, growing herbs and drinking herbal tea, taking flower essences, and working with essential oils. I wholly believe that plants carry their own unique vibrations and love their place in my life.
As a woman of many talents ;) I can get very easily distracted – drawn to this, drawn to that – there are so many choices out there that it is hard not to have a go at all of them – which is fine but actually is exhausting and means I tend to be a ‘jill of all trades’ rather than settling and going deeper with one or two. And so it is with all the different ways with which to work with plants - perhaps it is time to focus more with the essential oils.
I kind of fell in to the Wellness Advocate thing – a friend and I got swept up in a wave of enthusiasm – doTERRA essential oils are gorgeous, certified therapeutic grade and not available except online or via a Wellness Advocate. However, doTERRA runs as a multi level marketing business and I’ve been shy about building it as a business. This means that I have taken this year to gradually begin to work with them in greater depth, experiment, build my own collection, share them with friends and get feedback.
One of the main reasons I got involved is I would love to use essential oils more in my yoga classes and workshops. May people don’t like the smoke from incense and find it irritating but I love using incense as a way to purify the air and cleanse the space both aromatically and energetically. Scented candles generally contain 'scent' or 'perfume' which are chemical based. But by working with essential oils in diffusers or a spray bottle I can gain the same effects and probably go further with different blends to link to the themes of the class.
During my year of experimenting, learning and taking things at an unhurried pace, I have discovered that I love working with the oils and am using them in many different ways. I've been diffusing different oils, experimenting with room spray blends, making my own natural cleaning products and taking some of the different doTERRA wellness supplements.
I've been sharing the experience with holiday guests at Elder Cottage (a gorgeous holiday cottage in Craobh Haven) using a diffuser to freshen the air, gifting tiny sample bottles as part of their welcome pack and using the natural cleaning products I've made to minimise use of chemicals.
A few weeks ago, I attended training for the doTERRA AromaTouch technique – this is an oil application technique involving 8 essential oils which can help relieve stress and support the body’s natural immune system. There is also a hand massage technique and we will be sharing this as part of lovely nurturing yoga workshops this autumn and winter. I am really excited to be able to share the oils in this way and I loved the training where we all received a treatment as well as learning the technique. I will be offering AromaTouch technique treatments from November onwards.
Please get in touch to find out more.......
Defining values and life purpose
At this time of equinox when the world is balanced between light and dark, day and night; and the wheel of the year turns to autumn and the trees show us the beautiful skill of letting go; I'm sharing some of my experience of seeking balance and learning to let go - the acceptance that although I could do lots of things, I can choose not to - staying in balance is more important than full on burn out. This for me is both learning for life and life long learning...
During the last winter and spring, I worked with a life coach. These 6 months brought me to a clearer path - it was intense, liberating, exhilarating, fear inducing, hard work and fun.
Prior to this I felt huge overwhelm, I couldn't focus, I've been 'tired' for years, always busy. I've been constantly seeking a simple life since my mid 20s. How come I'm not there yet? I would bemoan. It turned out that my constant business, tiredness, 'poor me' attitude is total avoidance. A way to feel accepted in this culture of doing and rush. Busy also means I can avoid taking responsibility. Not avoiding responsibility in the usual sense, but avoiding fully taking responsibility for myself - I had to realise that there was a little 'victim' me in the picture. At the time I wondered how come I 'knew' this stuff but didn't 'know' it really? The knowledge was in my head but it wasn't until the knowledge dropped in to my heart that I could actually begin to feel and truly understand. That word seeking is perhaps a clue - seeking instead of being.
One of the first things we looked at were my values - it is so much easier to prioritise when I view things through the lens of my values. It's kind of like getting my head out the road so my heart can see....
I want to share my values with you as these are also the values of Woodland Elements :)
After defining my values, we worked on a creating life purpose statement using words that carry deep meaning for me. Here is the result.
I feel I have my L plates on, I am practising my path of ease; my life of unbusyness and space - it's hard work, I know I will wander off and yet there are positive signs - I can begin to recognise when overwhelm threatens, when my diary starts to fill. I can take steps to catch myself gently and with compassion - this is a new skill, it takes time to nurture and practise.
I would recommend life coaching to everyone – Saskia, my coach and I agreed how we would work together and I learned much from her integrity, her boundaries and her example, she also called me out on my bullshit lol, often catching me as I drifted off in to story and guiding me back to focusing on the issues which is very good for me. My website and blog are part of the courage I found through her support and I've got a 6 month check in booked for next month. Saskia resides online at https://rawfreedom.co.uk
To the land
To the past
The ancient wisdom circles round again
A gift from the past
A legacy for the future
Diane Oliver, September 2018
Musings from wandering about woodlands, paddling in the sea and meditating by rivers ...