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
Who am I?
I am the fire
I am the sea
I am the trees
I am the fresh air
I am the flame
I am the fresh smell after rain
I am the oak
I am the feather
I am the intention
I am the sparkle
I am the connection
I am the inspiration
I am the elements
I live in balance
I travel my intentional path of ease
Diane Oliver, Imbolc 2018
So, at the beginning of May this year was Scotland's first yoga and adventure festival - Scapafest - and it was held in Argyll. Such an opportunity right on my very own doorstep - yoga, sea kayaking, bushcraft and camp fires. Imagine that - my favourite passions in my favourite place. It would've been rude not to go......and yet, I nearly didn't. Here is my Scapa story...
Scapafest gave me so much - I made new friends, I shared amazing experiences and I learned lots about myself. By the end of the 3 days I knew I had regained something I had lost - I was changed - refreshed and full of wonder at the power of festivals, yoga and selfcare. Having injured myself a few weeks before, I was still practising yoga but pretty much from a chair, in a knee brace, unable to get off and on the floor - by the time I left Scapa, the knee brace was off and I had been able to practise a supported handstand (and I haven't even tried a handstand since primary school lol). I began to learn to look at my story from a different perspective. How did this happen?....
As I said, I nearly didn't go - I bought a ticket right at the last moment even though I had known about the event for ages. I remember seeing the early adverts on social media and thinking - yahoo. that sounds fabulous, that's exactly my kind of thing........ and then....... my ego got involved - my head was like - hey - who's this, why are they doing this here - I do this - this is my patch - who's coming to sit in my chair and eat my porridge..haha....And yet, of course, the reality is, I so don't do this - I don't set up big festivals, I don't take that risk, I wasn't even out there publicising that I teach paddlesports and yoga and love crafting and nature and, and..... And actually - what does it matter? It is funny this story, the goings on in my head.
All photos courtesy of Scapafest (except the ones of the trees)
Musings from wandering about woodlands, paddling in the sea and meditating by rivers ...