Transitions and No-thing

I can’t for the life of me, recall the last time that I had nothing to do. When I say nothing to do, I don’t mean that juvenile feeling of despair on the weekend when you complain to your parents that you’re “ bored and have nothing to do.” Rather I mean that I have nothing pressing to do. Nothing that requires my immediate attention. No deadline. Nothing that I need to complete with urgency. No place I have to be. No “to-do list” with items needing to be crossed off.

I think the last time I felt remotely like this was that summer so long ago now when I graduated from High school. I remember the sense of the 13 years of study unburdening themselves off my shoulders, after I completed my final exam that hot November afternoon. Afterwards as I walked to the train station returning home, I knew that that would be the last time I’d leave my school and wouldn’t return again for any scholastic purposes, apart from the annual award night (that didn’t count though). When I got home I remember I cried. I didn’t really know what was the appropriate response to commemorate that chapter of my life ending.

But even then, I harboured a sense of activity, of restlessness. There was a need to work, to save money, to prepare myself for the next chapter of my life, which was undoubtedly leaving my home to go to university. Even though leaving wasn’t actually required, I made it so. I somehow, had to prove myself with my actions and decisions.

My entire 20’s were characterised by this anxious restlessness. That decade, looking back from the lofty heights of my 30th year (oh coz it’s sooo high!), was punctured by the belief and need to being doing something, to be something, to achieve something, in order to be “someone.” At times this anxiety was crippling, and I fell into bouts of depression. Every time thinking that if I just jumped into this next venture, whether it be work, or school or some new activity, I could once again work towards being that elusive someone I was meant to be.

 So it is with great surprise that I observe myself now in this situation where I truly have nothing to do, and I am completely content with it. The past couple of months have been a little topsy turvey. Having found out that I was going to be ‘let go’ from the law firm that I had worked (slaved) for, for just under 3 years, has really been a blessing in disguise. It forced me to re-evaluate my career goals and aspirations as well as to seek out connections with old friends that I had not seen or spoken to in a long time. The uncertainty of not having secure employment after the end date of my contract (I was being supported through the ‘transition’ meaning that for an entire month I could come and go as I pleased from the office of the law firm situated in the big end of town), meant that my proclivity to fret over  million things that could possibly go wrong as well as question my own self worth bubbled to the surface.

It is only now, that I am in a position where I am about to commence a new, much better paying role for a government agency, that in hindsight I recognise the gift I was given by being “let go”.  If I had just surrendered to the uncertainty of my predicament much earlier than I did, I am sure that I would have enjoyed this time of ‘nothing to do’ a little more. Yet for what its worth these 2 weeks where I have really embraced the nothingness, I have had a chance to reconnect with myself and recharge.

But then what is the point of this post you may ask? Well it dawned on me that in today’s society there’s a push to be perpetually busy, to be constantly doing ‘something’ meaningful. When in reality life is more like undulating waves, where periods of action and busy-ness are followed with moments of calm and stillness. I feel as though the latter aren’t really appreciated as much as they should. Or perhaps they are, except not in the culture of work that I have inhabited for the past 3 years.

This undulating wave is replicated in spiritual practice. For the past few months I have felt like a bad pagan because my practice has been anything but consistent, rather erratic and not focused. However I realise that the ancestors and the gods are always there, whether or not I have formally ritualed for them. I have felt their presence when saying a short pray at my work desk to help me get through the day once the awkward set in office as I was preparing to leave. I felt them when I greeted the emerging sun after the relentless rain we have experienced in Sydney. They were by my side as I prepared to sleep.

I guess what I am trying to say is that – its ok. We don’t have to be ‘on’ or plugged in all the time. We’re allowed moments of calm and of introspection. The Gods, the ancestors, the earth exist without needing anything from us. They are there. Watching and guiding.  They understand the cyclical nature of life.

Perhaps, though you knew that already, and this was more my need to justify it to myself.

Perhaps it is something that I am slowly learning, with my entire body and being, as I get older, and enter a new phase of life. Perhaps its a new found confidence in the knowledge that I am ‘someone’ without having to do ‘something.’

With that said – I am going to go and do a little more ‘nothing.’

 Peace

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Transformations

As I read over the last piece of writing that I posted on this blog, back at the beginning of the year; I realise how much of those hopes and goals that I had envisioned for 2014 have actually come to passed – And the year isn’t even done yet!

Back in January 2014, I would have never in my wildest dreams thought that the things that I had openly asked the universe to grant me would have been granted. In hindsight, it is silly to think that it would not have happened, given my belief that if you want something desperately enough, the universe will conspire along with you to obtain it.

Now don’t get this philosophy confused by some of the fluffy stuff that was exposed by books such as “The Secret”. The operative phrase is “conspire with you.” It all comes down to you, to what you do to make the change/make the manifestation.

So what has 2014 looked like up to this point? It has been a year of self-discovery.  At the beginning of the year I opened up myself and declared to the universe that I wanted to live more vulnerably, to be open to the gaze of others, to believe and feel worthy of love. All I can say is – be careful what you wish for!

Like an undulating storm rolling over mountains, forest, and then finally reaching the parched plains desperately in need of nourishing water; the universe has presented me with situations and scenarios that have forced me to make the choice – do I want to be vulnerable, or do I want to ignore this opportunity? Do I take the risk, feel the pain but reap the benefits that flow from it? Or do I turn away numbing myself to the lesson and continue life as I know it?

It should come as no surprise that I chose the former. I dived into the unknown, and in the process I have began gaining a better understand of myself, and seeking deeper connections with the world around me.

It hasn’t been without pain and suffering.

 By the Gods!

There were moments where I thought that the anguish was way too much, that it was never going to stop. Some moments I didn’t think I was able to bear it, and what more, that I wasn’t a worthy human being. It was pretty scary.

Much of the process that I undertook was with the support of a health professional. See it was an event that occurred after the Mardi Gras festival in Sydney that catapulted me into this process of self-discovery. I could not have undergone it without the support and safe space that was created by my shrink.

With him I faced issues surrounding my HIV status that I thought I had been done with but that had risen to the surface. I worked on long standing held beliefs about myself, how I saw the world and how I saw myself in it. As much as I had always resisted it, I even did some work on some childhood shit!!

I found love this year. In amidst the change and ferment that I have put myself through, I found someone who loves me so intensely, purely for being me. We couldn’t be so different as day is with night, yet with him, nothing else really matters.

What’s been helpful is that throughout this process of transformation I have learnt to be present, so my burgeoning relationship isn’t laced with unrealistic expectations.

 This year has brought travel as well, and more recently it has also forced me to re-evaluate my vocation and professional life.

I am unsure if what I have experienced was my dark night of the soul. Though at times the pain that I felt was completely unbearable, I was acutely aware that I was in the middle of a process. Like the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, the act of emerging is painful and is a struggle, but inevitably the butterfly emerges as something completely different from the being that created the cocoon.

I am still in process. I would never be so presumptuous as to declare that the processed has been completed. Far from it. The awareness and presence that 2014 so far has gifted me, can only propel me further through this process of change.

Exciting times.

14. Butterfly emerge 4 web

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Happy New Year!

816622-sydney-new-year-039-s-fireworks

 

Happy new year! 

I am treating this is my first official new year post for 2014, despite the emotional blurting that I shared last week, after opening myself to another human in a way that I haven’t in a long long time.

The final weeks of 2013 were quite insane, as the end of the year usually is, no doubt for most of the western world. However for my family and I, the end of 2013 was compounded by the death of my aunt, of whom I wrote of previously, at the beginning of December. Her funeral was held on 23 December, a hot humid Monday. Summer in Sydney is not a time to wear a dark suit, let alone the right time to have a funeral, though for that, I am sure that there is never a right time. Such occasions are always awkward not only for the obvious reasons. People whom you have not seen in a lifetime come together to grieve and honour the life of an individual that touch everyone of them in a different way. But it is also a time to catch up with these people, they comment on how much you have grown, of how proud they are to hear about your life. I always find this a little hard to bear given the context in which we find ourselves.

Reflecting on the entirety of 2013, however, I can’t say that on balance it was such a bad year. Looking back I feel that 2013 will be the year that I truly began discovering myself, and the person that I am and want to be. I discovered a vibrant beautiful pagan community that has embraced me and welcomed me with open hearts and minds. I was able to travel to parts of this country I never thought I would ever get to see. I experience the divine flow through people as we ritualled together, coming to tears at the beauty that I felt at those truly magickal moments.

I feel after such a long time of being closed off to world, coped up in my law text books, that I am reacquainting myself with the world around me, with the wonder of nature and the universe. I am starting to feel connected, and its actually beautiful.

My old anxieties are still there. I still worry about my finances, and how I feel like I should be better off than I really am given my age etc. Then I remind myself of all I have and I am grateful for the air in my lungs, the roof over my head, and the food I am able to share with my sister. I still feel at times that I am not enough, and then I remember to breath, and the feeling passes.

As my previous posts revealed, 2014 for me has commenced with a relationship with another person. This has propelled me to endeavour to live more vulnerably and wholeheartedly. I don’t doubt that this will pose it’s own challenges. But that is what life is all about though. Commencing to open up to love (if that is what it is – it is too early to discern), means allowing in all facets of love, the parts that make you giddy with excitement, and the parts that make you cry with paint form the depth of your soul.

If 2013 was about commencing the journey of self discovering, 2014 will be the year of been seen for who I am, of not fearing and trusting my instinct.

Here is hoping that 2014 is a beautiful wonderful experience for all. May we all learn a little more, laugh wholeheartedly, cry deeply, and perhaps love, love with all our souls.

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Vulnerability…

After my ramblings a couple of days ago, I highly recommend watching this:

and when you have stopped crying, following it up with this video:

I’m learning how to be vulnerable, to be truly seen, and allowing whatever may come into life to manifest itself.

Its all a part of my process, of connection, and integration, not only with my – self, but with others, the world around me, and the divine.

 

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Writings

I have opened myself up so slightly to someone else’s gaze and for the first time in a long time and  I feel so so vulnerable. This is a double-edged sword for me. Since my diagnosis with HIV I have closed myself up to any romantic type connections with others. For a long time I was in denial about this closure, but in reality it was something that I was actively doing. Yet now, in the new year I have taken  the leap into the wide ocean of human connection, I have let someone in and I am afraid. Afraid that I will be hurt, afraid that I will hurt that other person, afraid that my status will push that person away because as good as a person they may be they cannot cope with the fact that I have HIV.  Afraid that they will fear me….

To live without having loved is to have lived a half existence. I can’t continue to be closed off, yet as I stand at the precipice of 2014, I am filled with fear, doubt, excitement and uncertainty.

Small_Red_Rose

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The Rite of Restoration

ankh-1-main

Come to your house, Come to your house.

Beautiful being, return to your house.

Your body awaits, renewed and ready.

Come occupy your form for your travels beyond.

 Swift and sharp is your mind, your beautiful mind.

Wit without limit, your beautiful mind.

 Strong and mighty are your limbs, your beautiful limbs.

Moving without limit, your beautiful limbs.

Clear and bright are your eyes, your beautiful eyes.

Seeing without limit, your beautiful eyes.

 Full and pink are your lips, your beautiful lips.

Speaking without limit, your beautiful lips.

Red and moist is your tongue, your beautiful tongue.

Tasting without limit, your beautiful tongue.

 Clear and soft is your skin, your beautiful skin.

Protecting without limit, your beautiful skin.

Strong and steady is your heart, your beautiful heart.

Beating without limit, your beautiful heart.

 Deep and full is your breath, your beautiful breath.

Breathing without limit, your beautiful breath.

All things are perfect within you all functions are restored within you.

Wholly perfect, wholly restored.

 Awake into this body of light, justified spirit, your trials are passed.

The measure is made, the weight is balanced.

 As a new Being you go forth in the daytime, you go forth in the Light.

As a new Being you go forth in the nighttime, you go forth in the Night.

Go forth, Beloved one,

Isis is before you,

Nephthys is behind you,

Anubis guides you,

Osiris welcomes you, may he give you cool water to drink.

 Until rebirth you shall remain an honoured guest at his table.

At the Table of Osiris you take your seat.

Whole and Perfect among the Blessed,

You take your seat.

“Rite of Restoration” from Regula, deTraci. The Mysteries of Isis (Llewellyn Publications; 1996) 125-6.

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After last week’s workshop on the skull, death and the ancestors, which I recently wrote about; it is by sheer coincidence that I spent the day today at the hospital, in a palliative care unit, by the side of and old family friend who is quite quickly leaving this realm, moving into the Duat/Summerland/Otherworld/Elysian Fields.

This individual’s health has been on a downhill slope for a while now, so to say that the call from my mother a few days ago telling me that this person has been admitted into palliative care, came as a surprise – would be a lie.

My mother has been terribly affected by the turn of events, partly due her own trials she has faced this year, but also by the fact that this person has been one of her longest running friends, here on this foreign land. For all intended purposes, she has been an aunt to my sister and I given that she has known my family for as long as I can remember being in Australia. She is also of Chilean extraction, so the reference points on culture and history was also easily made between our families through the years.

That is not to say that the friendship was always a healthy one. In life my aunt, was jealous, superficial, and quick to judge anyone whom she thought lower then her, despite that she had come from nothing back in Chile. At times her poison was directed at my mother, and our family. But for lack of other longstanding connections here, my mother and her would inevitably gravitate to one another and continue their friendship dance.

And so it was with ambiguous hearts that my sister and I headed towards the hospital ward where our Aunt is admitted.

She looks so fragile, so small, and so different from the woman that we both knew in life. I say in life, not because I am being disrespectful, because though I could still feel her life force as I sat by her bed holding her hand, she is no longer wholly inhabiting this world. Her soul is leaving her body. It is just a pity the departure is causing her such pain.

Having what the group had spoken about and shared at Beltane Camp as we molded our skulls in the clay, I was frustrated by the blatant denial that was being expressed by my aunt’s children.

As we engaged in small talk, none of them would acknowledge the big elephant in the room – the fact that their mother was dying before their very eyes and they were doing nothing to prepare for it, nor prepare their mother for her passing.

This sounds quite harsh on my part. Who am I to judge how others grieve for their loss? As my sister says (she is qualified to do so – as counselor and psychologist who has worked with grief and loss) grief is the only emotional process that cannot be pathologised.  Each individual will deal with their loss in their own way, and each way is correct.

But as I sat in that sterile emotionless ward, I recalled what we had spoken about. How the over-culture at every twist and turn of our lives attempts to silence our conversation about death, to numb us to the very realities of death. It is so powerful that even when death is staring us in the face, as we watch it slowly take what we love so dearly, we are unable to talk about it. We don’t have the words….

Or if we do, we have no syntax; no grammar to string sentences together, to attempt to comprehend what is happening before our very eyes.

isis_osirisSo as I sat by my dying aunt, holding her hand I said a short pray to the gods of the underworld, to help her in her final journey, and ease the pain that she feels.

May Osiris give her call water to drink once she reaches her final destination. May the  Gods and Goddesses of the underworld ease her pain as  she transitions  into her role as an ancestor.

I began to think how I would react when it is my mother’s time leaves this world. What I would do. My sister was thinking the same thing as we discovered on our train ride home. We had a serious conversation about our own deaths, how we would like to think we will deal with our own dear mothers death, and how we can start preparing for it now, rather than later.

This might come across as morbid, but I feel it is a natural thing to air given that death is inevitable. After what I experienced last week, I feel this is the perfect time to put in practice what was shared….

It was only as my sister, mother and I left, and for me to return as an after thought, to speak quite candidly to one of my aunt’s daughters about the legal administration nightmare that comes with dying without a valid will or a power of attorney; did I see the realization in her eyes. The realization that what was happening was real. That it could not be taken “away” and dealt with by another.

It was only fleeting though. I hugged her and I as walked away, and she, back in the room where her mother was, I overheard ask her sister about a Kardashin.

At the Table of Osiris you take your seat.

Whole and Perfect among the Blessed,

You take your seat.

ankh-1-main

 

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Skulls

Great and holy muse

Let me drink from your chalice of inspiration

May you always be by my side

Whispering your inspiration in my ear

If you should leave me

Please don’t stay away too long

For I am here ready to receive your holy gifts

Great and holy muse let me be a conduit of creativity

 I felt I like I needed to start this post with that short invocation, in gratitude for the wealth of inspiration I am currently feeling at the moment. No doubt it has a lot to do with the experiences I was lucky to have over the weekend. But I wanted to honour the Muse for choosing me to bestow with her gifts.

Skulls

So one of the workshops that we attended on the weekend was on the skull. The lovely Cerri ran it. Each of us was given a piece of clay to mold into the shape of a skull. We were encouraged to feel our own faces and to experience the bones that make up our own skulls and to translate that into our piece of clay. As we did this Cerri spoke of the ancestors of the honourable dead…

 I hear you say what?

Why on earth would there be a workshop focused on the honourable dead, and death, and at a life affirming weekend such as the Beltane Camp? Well because death is a natural part of life. It isn’t separate from it, but is life.

Across time and cultures, people have revered the head as point of inspiration and connection with the divine.

by Alan Lee

by Alan Lee

Take the story of Bran for example. The Legendary Giant king of the land of the mighty who fought against the king Matholwch of Ireland for the mal treatment of his sister Branwen. Bran’s body was eventually poisoned during the battle, but he told his men to cut his head off, and that way he would stay with them. Together they travelled back to the land of the mighty where Bran entertained his men with stories and songs, as well as providing prophecies for eight (some say eighty) years, before his men buried his head (as an aside, his head is said to be buried where the Tower of London is now. To this day they keep Ravens and Crows at the Tower. It is said that as long as Bran’s head is buried there Britain is protected).

 Or the story of Orpheus, the most talented bard in Greek Mythology. So beautiful was his music that it was said that all of nature would stop to listen to him. However in a mad rage Thracian maenads tore him to pieces, leaving only his head. It was said that his head though continued to sing and speak prophecies.

Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus by John William Waterhouse

Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus by John William Waterhouse

 In cultures closer to my own blood ancestors, people were obsessed with head. The Incas for example did amazing things to the skulls of babies, like extending to by adding pressure to the forming bones of their newborns. The Mexicans till this day celebrate “El dia de los muertos.” The Internet is full of images of colourfully decorated skulls from these celebrations. There is also myriad evidence of the unique and interesting things that various tribes of Africa as well as peoples of Europe do to skulls of the deceased. T

What drives this obsession and centrality of the head in world myth and belief? It was this that we were asked to ponder as we created our skulls. For many the skull is the depository of the knowledge that the long dead ancestors held (as per Bran and Orpheus). It is the seat of an individual’s power. Recall the Ancient European practice of decapitating fallen enemies. In honouring the skull people honour and retain their connection with their dead. In the case of decapitating fallen enemies, the victorious warriors would take into themselves the power that the fallen warrior had in life. That is pretty powerful stuff.

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But what has become so scary about the Skull that it has such negative connotations? For one, as Cerri explained in the workshop, within our western lives, we have become so far removed from death. It has become so completely santised for the majority of the population that we are no longer faced with the realities of death. Death is dealt with in a sterile, emotionless way. The trauma that is felt at the moment of death is simply denied, because in our 21st century life who has time to properly mourn, and process of the passing of a loved one. “Ain’t no body got time for that.”

Everything that the over culture tries to sell us is to attempt to cheat death – there are creams, injections, exercise regimes. You name it – there is something that allegedly will help you remain younger for longer and live more years.

 It’s actually all bullshit.

Understanding Death

By having a healthy understanding of the death process, do we live better lives – or so I feel. Nothing in nature lives forever. Everything is interconnected, so those things that die and perish assist in the birth of the new. As is our process. What is the old saying – ‘from the earth we came, and to the earth we shall return.” By connecting with our ancestors, we are able to tap into their wisdom of generations of old, and remind us that we too are human.

So why the clay skulls then, if they aren’t really the bones of our ancestors. Well for one they are meant to be representative of our ancestors. It was also a chance to connect with the earth energies, given that we all return to the Earth eventually. On that note, arguably by working with the clay we were in fact working with the bones of our ancestors, given that as our bodies and bones breakdown we feed the soil and the clay beneath our feet. We were recommended to place our skulls on our shrines to the ancestors, to be a focal point for our connection. At Samhain we should leave them out, to disintegrate, joining the earth again, as a reminder that we too, one day will return to the earth.

My Skull and my revelation

photoThis is a picture of my skull. As you can see it isn’t very ‘skull like’ that is because I realised during this workshop is that I am very very hypercritical of my own creative ability. I had always known this but it was quite confronting to be faced with it as I worked the clay, I would not let myself continue working with it for fear that the result would not be ‘perfect.’ Hence the state of the skull as it is now. Interestingly when I saw what others had created around, their work wasn’t perfect either, but they had allowed their creativity flow.  To this end I want to work through this block, because the fact of the matter is, is that I am human, and not perfect. An imperfect human that one die will die and return to clay.

Peace.

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