Setting Intentions Part 2

Walking in the city

I hear Our Mother, deep mystery


Vibrating beneath the tarmac

And in the cracks

Of pocket sized woods

The rhythms of 2000 years of human habitation, the river flowing through it.

Appealing to a Crow

One morning, Early Autumn (I am drowning)

Though still listening

Walking by, in Springtime

He appears again, Crow Man against the Grey

Magpie flies past

While Swallow dances on a sweatshirt

Sweet Andorinha!

I may not remember the loving embrace of community built on respect

But I know it, deep in my bones

This knowing has called forever,

Set on the edges of Kalk Bay winter,

Slipping in and out of Alberton false awakenings,

I was scared, but held my breath

Letting go into darkness


And when I woke up

Morning light reminded me that I was…

Still Alive

Infused with this power

Unafraid and willing

To keep Moving

Steady Running

Sometimes Pausing

Always heading to the Source

Sure that in the balance of this light and the darkness that loves it,

I wake up

And become

A shining light

In the World

Setting Intentions

It’s hard for me to set intentions.  This is the second time I have been in the South, and again, this struggle with setting an intention.  Like it’s on the edges, but finding the exact words eludes me.  I am grasping at something, not fully formed but waiting to be born.  And I know it is waiting to be born because in the last few weeks I have had recurring dreams where I am heavily pregnant and about to give birth…, but it is not quite the right time yet.

So today was a long session in our initiation circle… sharing the free writing we have been doing around crafting an intention.  My circle partner and I are both tired….  and the session feels like we are circling this thing, constantly ebbing and flowing around cracking it, then doubting it….  I find myself in particular being resistant to pinning this thing down.  A commitment phobia.  We discuss how I am putting a lot of pressure on myself to get this thing exactly right, and that that might be part of the stuckness.  I have the following insight about this which applies to many other parts of life, especially in my writing work:

*In wanting things to be perfect, I prevent myself from completing tasks.

Indeed I can circle them for years at a time, as I have done with my Phd thesis.

So after the group, I take my baby son to the bedroom to feed him.  we are cocooned in Oxytocin.  Both of us tired. Me from wrestling with intentions; him from learning how to pull himself up in his cot and crawl around the flat.  We fall into a deep sleep, but not before I grab this book to look at while I breastfeed.  It’s one I looked at a few weeks ago, and one part stayed with me and is now circling my head demanding to be looked at again.  It is Illusions by Richard Bach, and here is the part that got me.  The part where God speaks direct to the reluctant messiah who wants to give up being a Christ-figure in order to be a mechanic again:

“I command that you be happy in the world, as long as you live…. In the path of our happiness shall we find the learning for which we have chosen this lifetime”

Imagine that!  That all we have to do to realise our purpose is to gravitate towards what truly makes us happy.  Of course, filtering out what we think will make us happy from what actually does make us happy is the life work!

I fall asleep, with my son, warm on my chest.

The sun is out.  First day of spring.  And as I enter a half awake half asleep state, I feel it very warm on my body.  It reminds me what a powerful source of life the sun is, how much we are a part of it.  as i dream, I am repeating the intentions I have crafted out that day, trying out new formations and orderings of the words.  Always inserting into the intention this line about happiness… a path based on joy… realising my purpose not through the hardship and pain which brought me on this, and other, Initiation journeys, but the joy at the core of me that will be what ultimately enables the transformation to live more authentically.  I wake refreshed, with my son.  he immediately rolls off the mattress and gets busy with his purpose, which right now is practicing how to crawl.  I splash my face, pull on trainers and a jacket.  Time for the school run…. taking the warmth of the sun with me… contemplating intentions and a path of happiness.

I Don’t Feel Like Writing

I don’t feel like writing.  I don’t want to write.  This means that it is utterly imperative that I write.  Something.  Anything.  Good.  Bad.  Indifferent.  Random.  Whatever.  Just write.

So why the hell am I writing when I really don’t want to?  Especially if I’m not even concerned with the quality or productive use of the writing I am doing.  What’s the point?

Because writing is not just writing.  Writing is an outlet, a pipe from your brain to Out There.  And like any pipe, it needs to be cleaned out on a regular basis to prevent clogging.  My pipes are getting clogged.  And if I don’t clear it out, then all this stuff in my brain is not going to have anywhere to go, and will start to silt up my thinking like so much river mud.  It’s a funny thing.  A billion ideas, concepts, essays, novels, movie scripts, poems, speeches, whatever, can and will pop up as possibilities in the day.  Characters, stuff they say, wear, think.  Protaganists and historical figures whose story is demanding to find a way out.  These things are real and if you don’t clean the pipes, it can get pretty crowded up in there!  The other funny thing is that you don’t have to clean the pipes by writing anything brilliant, polished or perfect.  These kinds of writing do emerge, with consistent application and effort, though as Martha Graham put it, the artist is never really OK with any of their work 100%… it just gets to the point where you have to let it go,  mother and child style,

“There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.  There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest.”

Got that?  No satisfaction.  Whatever.  At any time.  Though… I have to say that there may be a teeny tiny bit of satisfaction out there.  And it comes when you surrender to the no-satisfaction thing and get on with cleaning those pipes.  It’s a short lived buzz, because damn, those pipes need to be worked on regularly.  But it’s cool to sit with it for a while, feel the release, and the rush of knowing that the words and ideas emerge by writing.  Not by letting the buggers swim around your head for years on end, gradually being crowded out by all the other shards of expressions that clamour for attention, till the cocophony in your head is a continuous thunderclap.

In her Monday Musings this week, Julie Tallard Johnson puts it like this,

“Instead of moving away from the wound we open up to it, find the antidote that sits next to it. And in our writing we write through the block or tension and find ourselves deep into some of our best writing.”

Maybe, in simply sitting down to clear our pipes, we open ourselves up to the possibility of unearthing a jewel amongst the din.  And if we don’t, well, then we start again tomorrow.  The thing is to keep those pipes clean.  As Martha Graham describes it so matter-of-factly,

“It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions.  It’s your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.  You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.  You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.  Keep the channel open.”

When writing is freed from the fetters of achievement and judgement, it becomes a labour of mindfulness.  It is done not for the reward, but simply because it must be done in order to keep the channel open.  No more.  No less.

Today I am a pipe cleaner.  That’s my labour.  And if I do it, then I can sleep with a clear head, knowing that my work is done.  Till tomorrow, when, if it is a good day, I will start again.

Recycling Ancestor Energy Part 2

Orange Recycling Bins

Orange Recycling Bins (Photo credit: oatsy40)

The other night I put an offering to my ancestors in the recycling bin. It was a carefully written letter, accompanied by beautiful pictures of homes, asking for money to do a ceremony to honour and brighten their spirits.

This is not the usual way of things. But this week, as I re-entered the South, I see that the usual way of doing things is not always right.

I’m not denying the importance of tradition, discipline and consistency in whatever rituals we anchor ourselves in. Just that sometimes a little reinvention that is responsive to circumstance is required. Which brings me back to the recycling bin.

It was full moon night, traditionally a time to let go of things, offer up your baggage to the waning cycle that is about to begin. The irony of the full moon is that at the very peak of its power, its full magnificence with all the pull and influence it exerts also contains the seeds of its cyclical demise. From this point of fullness, it must decrease.

So here I am on full moon night, on the dark streets, looking for a spot to burn this letter.  I’ve learnt a way of engaging the full moon’s energy that involves writing a letter with your requests and intentions, then burning it. This is tricky when you live on the third floor of a block of flats with no balcony. But this full moon, I really needed to make a move to get this ancestor offering out there.

So, clutching my envelope, I figured I could get away for 10 minutes from family life to burn it in the park. I wish! The river will take longer than 10 minutes. The gates to the churchyard are locked, and there are people walking their dogs in the park. Besides, something doesn’t feel right. I’m all edgy, and there’s an uneasy feeling rising up. Asking for a lot of money to do a big old ceremony that lasts a month feels very, very heavy.  I think of those fairy tales where bargains are made for money and influence that result in terrible tragedy and loss in order to get the goods. I address the moon directly, “I don’t want anyone to get hurt for this money or this ceremony….ok?!  And quite honestly I don’t even know if I want to do this ceremony!”  speaking these words out loud, I identify a powerful agreement that causes great suffering.  The agreement that I must do everything alone.  That I must carry impossible burdens, even if they are destroying me.  I don’t want anyone to get hurt for this money or this ceremony.  This I realise includes me too.

So what do you want?

I do want that soul home. I do want to brighten my spirit for the benefit of all – Ancestors, descendants, everyone. That’s what I want.

That’s when I see the recycling bin, all green and ordinary in the moonlight.  And it’s obvious what I must do. I put the letter in it like it’s a post box. And say a prayer that this dark ancestor energy be transformed; changed into something else that frees us all – ancestors and descendants.

I worry that I may have committed a terrible insult, but I know more that this was the correct ritual for right now.  Ritual is responsive, not dogmatic, it emerges out of a human need for integrating experience and fostering a sense of solidarity.  This means that in its bones, ritual is an adaptable force.  It must be.   To brighten the ancestor’s spirits and mine, we have to operate from a point that is light, grounded and transformative.  I can think of no better analogy than being recycled.   I hope that the ancestors will understand.

That night I had this dream.  Not lucid, but vivid and as real as daylight.

My daughter and her friends ask me about giving birth as I am about to.  Will it hurt?  The pain helps you to give birth!  I tell them.  I lead them in saying a special song to help the baby come.  As we finish, blood starts to drip out.  You song is strong!  I say to them.  I draw 10 wombs surrounded by a heart of light on the ground.  I feel contractions gathering but it’s not time yet.  A passing nun, elderly and kind and gently powerful, with the face a of a Lama, stops to smile and asks if I’m ready to give birth yet.  I really like her.  Not quite yet, I reply, smiling. 

Waking up the following morning I felt like something had cleared away.  My inbox contained an email with some good advice regarding a problem I was having with my initiation practice from my mentor.  Acting on this advice, I formed a circle of support around me.  I am not in this alone.  Yes, ultimately the responsibility for my transformation lies with me.  In that sense, we are all alone.  But life exists to give love, holding us when we need to be cradled through our processes.  Inter-dependency and support are neither clinging nor possessive.  They are a surrender to the connectedness of all things.  As I sit in my labour, gathering help around me, I am glad to belong to it all.