Monday Musings – Becoming a Bard

According to the dictionaries, in medieval times a Bard was a tribal singer, poet or one who recites epic or heroic poems, but having just spent around 18 months studying the Bardic level of the Order of the Bards, Ovates and Druids I can safely say that I am still none of those.

I can’t sing, my poetry is naive to say the least and I have a memory like a sieve so reciting anything yet alone an epic or heroic poem is completely out of the question.

So what did becoming a Bard do for me?

Without giving any secrets away, for the OBOD is a basically a mystery school where everything is unfolded as you reach it, rather than like a lot of courses and training, presented upfront, I can safely say that for me the Bardic training gave me a different outlook on many aspects of my life, it helped to shift and heal more than a few things for me, connected me on a much deeper level with the elements as well as with myself, but above all it taught me patience.

In the modern world we are used to having everything at our fingertips, to being able to make things happen, get information instantly and so on and so forth and it did me good to work in a way where this doesn’t happen. There is something really exciting about having to wait and see what comes next, anticipating the arrival of the next set of materials, not knowing what is coming, what is ahead. There is also something incredibly freeing about knowing that there are no right or wrong answers to anything, no right or wrong way of doing anything, there is just the way it happens for you. There is also freedom in being given the space to allow everything to unfold at the right pace and in its own time.

I talk often about how our lives turn in cycles, about how we have to go through life, death and rebirth continuously in all we do but for 18 months I lived this over and over. Many times I had no choice but to be still and wait, to focus only on what was happening, on the journey and not the outcome, waiting to see how and when I would come out the other side. This then spilt over into other areas of my life.

When we are working on ourselves not everything comes instantly in fact far from it. I know this from working as a healer and trainer and I have infinite patience with clients and students but not so with myself yet through training as a Bard I learnt to treat myself more gently, I learnt to allow myself the time to complete something and enjoy the completion of it rather than looking at where it might lead me.

During the training I was working on a piece of art work, a piece where I was finding the process frustratingly slow, then something clicked and I found the work became like a meditation, it was calming and restful. I found myself enjoying the process of making the art, each tiny piece at a time became enough in itself. Instead of looking at how much I still had to do I found I was enjoying and getting satisfaction from working for hours on a very small area of the picture. This is not like me or at least not like the who I was before I began training as a Bard.

And maybe that is partly what a Bard is, not specifically a singer, a poet or a reciter of epic tales, but someone who gives their full attention to whatever they are doing, who lives in the moment, who lets the creative process unfold rather than worrying about the outcome, who allows it all to happen without getting in the way, who knows when to stop and wait and when to move on, someone who enjoys the journey rather than the destination.

Monday Musings – Working with the spirit in all that exists

Instead of using the words ‘Divine’ or ‘Deity’, within my own shamanic work and my own belief system I prefer to use the term ‘spirit’, with a lowercase ‘s’ that is. I believe that there is spirit within each and ever single thing that exists and that there is communication between everything that exists, both human and non human.

However, because we all perceive things differently spirit is often seen as something different by each of us. While we may sometimes agree on the sense of the spirit in something we may disagree completely about the detail. I believe this is how it should be for we all need to make sense of spirit in our own way and the way it works for me is not necessarily the way it works for someone else.

In my shamanic work I need to be able to connect with the spirits that are in the land or building where I am working and the spirit within any tool I might need to work with. If I am working with trees or plants then it is their spirits that I need to connect with for example.

So how do we begin to connect with the spirit that is in everything?

The first step is to start to be aware, to look for signs, omen, symbols as you move through your day. A great way to doing this is to go for a walk. This is not a power walk or a meditation but a walk where you open your awareness, your inner eyes as it were, and allow everything around you to come into sharper focus using all of your senses to enable this to happen.

As you walk be aware of where and how you or placing your feet.
What does the ground beneath you feel like?
Can you feel the energy of the earth as you walk?
Look around you as you walk, soften your gaze as if you are looking through things rather than at them.
Be aware of what is catching your attention.
Be aware of how you feel when your attention is caught by something.
Are their any thoughts that come into your head?
Does what you have noticed have any meaning or message for you?
Do this often, try it in nature, in your home, in the street, in your workplace. The more you do it the easier it becomes.

Monday Musings – Earth

imageA long time ago now when I was on the threshold of stepping fully onto the path I now walk, I was taking part in a huge drum circle and was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to lay on the floor surrounded by about sixty drummers drumming on shamanic frame drums. As I lay there on the ground I first of all heard the drums, the beat of the drummers, then the voices of the drums themselves singing in words as the sound circled around the room and around me. After this there were layers of sounds, both voices and the rhythm of the drum beat and finally underneath everything I heard another beat. Deep, deep within the Earth I heard the heartbeat of Mother Earth herself, an experience that affected me deeply and which has stayed with me ever since.

When I think of Earth it is of that heart beat, the energy that flows beneath me, the one that feeds me on a physical level, nourishing my body with every breath. Earth is the one that grounds me and helps me to function on a physical level in this incarnation. Earth is the mother that gives me and all things life.

Monday Musings – Imbolc

imageI am, what in Ireland where I now live, is known as a ‘blow in’ i.e. someone not from the area, or in my case, country. The first year I was living here I was shown how to make a St Brigid’s Cross and this was my first introduction to what I now, as a Pagan, know as Imbolc.

Imbolc is a Pagan festival, just as Brigid was a Pagan Goddess but with the arrival of Christianity both Brigid and St Brigid’s Day, as Imbolc became known were adopted by the Church.

Usually celebrated around the 1st or 2nd February in the Northern Helisphere, Imbolc in the Pagan Wheel of the Year, is the first of the three Spring festivals.

For me Imbolc is a time to reconnect with the land around me, with the new shoots that are beginning to be seen peeping through the earth where they have been nurtured over the winter. It is a time for clearing, cleaning and tidying both on a personal level and in the garden. It is also a time for sowing seeds again both those that will grow into plants later in the year and also the seeds of what I wish to grow in my own life in the coming year.

This is exactly what I have been doing over the last few days in preparation for Imbolc. In the garden bushes are being tidied up with dead wood, grass and plants cleared away to leave space for new growth. In my home I have been tidying, clothes have been straightened up in drawers, boxes that have been on the floor waiting to be moved have now found their rightful home, cupboards and work tops in the kitchen have been cleared and spruced up, shelves lined and pots rearranged and as with the garden I have found new space, space that either wasn’t there or which I hadn’t noticed before. In my work I have also been preparing for the next phase as it were, things have been completed, new aspects of my work begun and I have put firmly to one side anything which no longer feels right and which is taking up space energetically.

So what of my St Brigid’s Cross? I still have the very first one I made. I was told then that it was tradition to make a new one every year and to place it in the rafters of the home so that St Brigid would protect the home from fire. The crosses are made from a particular reed which I recognise later in the year when I see it growing but which I never remember to cut, leave to dry and put to one side for Imbolc so my first St Brigid’s Cross is my only one. The fact that these crosses are said to protect from Fire though is highly appropriate as the goddess Brigid was known as the triple goddess, goddess of Healing, Poetry and Smithcraft as well as fertility. As the goddess of Smithcraft, she would have mastered the element Fire so is surely the perfect one to know how to protect a home from it.

Monday Musings – Altars

imageThe only thing an altar should be is a special place to you, other than that it can be anything and be anywhere e.g. in the house, in a special room, on a shelf, in a window, on the floor, or even outside in nature. It can change whenever it needs to change such as over time as you change, with the seasons or with each turn of the wheel of the year. It can be a place where you go to connect with something e.g. spirits, the divine, with your ancestors, or with yourself. It can be a place where you worship or simply a place you like to visit.

The photo on here is of my own altar. It is basically the top shelf of a bookcase in my healing room. Despite having a Cambodian Buddha on it, my altar is not somewhere that I go to worship for I do not worship gods, goddesses or any spirit come to that. My altar is a place where I keep some of the things that are important to me and this includes some of the tools whose spirits I work with. All of the items there are present because their energy makes a positive contribution in some way.

The Buddha is on my altar simply because I like its energy and the peace it brings me when I look at it. The Buddhist prayer wheel is from Nepal which brings back memories, also I love the idea that inside it is the Buddhist peace prayer and that every spin of the wheel sends out the prayer 10,000 times to the world. Tucked in between the prayer wheel and the Buddha is a Reiki crystal which was a present from one of my students. The shape and energy of the crystal remind me of the purity of the energy of Reiki and the gift of being able to work with it and pass it on to others. The key on the blue ribbon was also a present. On it is inscribed that it is a journeying key and this reflects another very important area of my life, that of shamanism.

At the back are two fetishes from the witch’s market in Peru, a sun which, along with the small candle, represents the element Fire and the Condor which came from a witch who told me it was for a traveller. It also balances the energy of Eagle which is here in the small bundle of eagle feathers at the front right. I have other feathers there too, the large feather is from Condor and was another gift. Its spirit works with me in many ways including realigning, clearing and smoothing the energy field. There are other feathers here but the remaining feather that can be clearly seen is Owl. This was a gift at a time of initiation and its spirit now works with me usually at times of initiation of others. Feathers also represent the element Air whereas the various stones that can be seen on my altar represent the energy of Earth. I know how important it is for me to have balance in the energy of elements so also on my altar is, but perhaps not visible here, a shell which represents the element Water.

There are other items on my altar but I am sure that by now you get the idea. Sometimes I add to my altar, sometimes I take away. The cloth and colour of cloth changes often but there is no regular pattern to the changes. Some items are always there, some shift in and out depending on what I need. I always check the energy of the placing of things on my altar and while it may not always look amazing, the energy of it is always perfect for me and the space it is in.

One thing I hadn’t realised until I was writing this is how many of the items on my altar have been gifted to me. This does not have to be so but is how it is for me, at the moment anyway.

There are no rules about altars, no right or wrong, so creating an altar is always a very personal activity and reflects the person who has created it, their energy, their beliefs and what is important to them.

 

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Monday Musings – Deity and the Divine

imageI’m probably not the best person to be writing about Deity or the Divine for while I believe as do many who work with Shamanism, that everything that exists has a spirit I don’t really see these spirits as gods or goddesses in any way. For example, where others might see or speak about the god or goddess of a particular tree I would see this as being the spirit of the tree. Where others might speak of the god or goddess who protects their home, I would again see this as being the spirit of the home, important but not a god or goddess.

In my work and daily practice I work with, amongst others, the spirits of the land where I live, the spirits of the tools I use in my work and the spirits I meet when I journey but once again none of these would necessarily be Deities or Divine.

Sometimes though it can be helpful to have a name for these spirits, something that helps us connect with their energy and sometimes this energy may be described as a god or goddess.

Quan Yin, Kwan Yin, Guanyin, Kuanyin, Mio Shan, is such a spirit, one whose energy really resonates with my being especially at times of great need. She is known by many as the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion and exists in one form or another in all cultures.

Quan Yin is spoken of as being Buddhist, a Bodhisattva, an enlightened being or ascended master. She is also said to be The Lord of Karma as well as being the Divine Mother or Mother Mary. She is even spoken of as being the Tibetan Tara, who it is also thought is connected to the Hill of Tara in Ireland. The Celts would have know her as Goddess Tara, her name being the root of the word Tor meaning hill or mound of earth containing spiritual energy or in other words a connection to other worlds. Her name though is also said to mean Star.

The first reference to Goddess Tara is thought to have been in Finland 5,000 years ago in an ancient saga about a group of women known as Tar, the women of wisdom. Even as Tara she has many incarnations for example Green Tara, White Tara, Red Tara, Tarahumara in South America, and Goddess Ishtar in Ancient Egypt.

I first became aware of Quan Yin when travelling in Vietnam. Here it is difficult to pass a marble workshop without seeing the imposing statues that represent the goddess. Goodness flows from her every image and that she is loved by everyone became clear during my time in Vietnam. I later reconnected with her as Lady Tara when a friend who was training in Transference Healing brought her back to my attention for in Transference Healing, Tara is one of the ascended masters who is worked with.

Since then I have worked with Tara as one of my guides. She is not always present, far from it, but works with me when she believes I need her. I have worked with her at whilst on both Sun and Moon Islands in Lake Titicacca and from her have received great healing and profound teachings. More recently though I found her with me once again whilst I was awaiting test results from a scan. She came to me and reminded me to reconnect with her energy and spirit as both Tara and the energy of Quan Yin. This I did and it brought me real peace and calmness, taking away all the fears I had been generating and instead leaving me feeling safe and cared for.

Whichever form she takes, whichever incarnation is connected with, her energy remains the same, gentle yet strong, peaceful and calm, free from judgement or prejudice, there to bring mercy to all in need. A powerful and compassionate spirit indeed and one I am blessed to have working with me.

Monday Musings – Personal Practice

imageI’m not sure if it’s my favourite practice but it is one of the most important things to do and that is to ground myself.

There are many ways to do this so I thought I’d share a few of the ones I use. There are many complicated ways to ground yourself which are wonderful when you have plenty of time or feel really ungrounded but these are a couple of quick and simple ways that are easy to do.

Grounding Exercise 1

  • Go outside and find a quiet space with some grass, where you turbed.
  • Take your shoes off and walk barefoot on the grass.
  • With every step be aware of your foot and its connection with the grass and the Earth.
  • As you walk, breath in deeply as you place each foot on the Earth.
  • Focus only on your breathing, the feel of the grass and the Earth energy as it flows into you

Grounding Exercise 2

  • Sit quietly with your feet flat on the floor, without shoes is best, and make sure your spine is straight.
  • Close your eyes and imagine, sense or visualise, roots flowing from the soles of your feet into the Earth (Don’t worry if you are not on the ground floor this will still work).
  • Send the roots flowing down, spreading out beneath your feet, anchoring firmly into the Earth.
  • Now breathe in deeply imagining the breath coming up from the Earth into the soles of your feet, up your legs and into your body.
  • Continue this for a few minutes at least and with every breath feel the connection between the soles of your feet and the Earth becoming stronger as if a magnet is pulling you.

This is also a good way of connecting with the energy of the place you are in or maybe somewhere you are visiting. It can also help to do this to ground yourself if you are visiting somewhere at altitude e.g. parts of South America.

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Monday Musings – Resolutions

imageI have quite honestly never made a resolution in my life until this year when, as part of my publisher’s blog we were all asked to write some. My main one was to spend less time on Facebook and more time working on writing something other than my blog. I’m not sure how this will pan out as I enjoy writing my blog, usually in the morning over coffee, whereas I really have to make time and space to write anything else.

So in order to write more, then Facebook needs to take a back seat, which is hard as that is where I do most of my networking which is important for my work of course. As I write on my iPad I always have access to the Internet so I think if this is to work then I am going to be need to be much more determined and self controlled.

So why is it that I don’t make resolutions?

It’s because the less I plan or try and control it the better my life pans out. In the past I have tried to control what is happening and have got myself into more and more of a mess by doing so. Neither do I set myself goals or targets preferring to go with the flow, being aware of the signs and messages I am being given, listening to my guides and trusting that everything will work out as it should. If I fight against the energy of where I am being taken then that is where I really do have problems.

I do though believe strongly that nothing new can come in unless we make space for it and so throughout the year I hold fire ceremonies whenever it feels that one is needed. Here I usually write down on paper whatever it is that is no longer serving me and then burn it, thus releasing it to the energy that is Fire. At others I energetically tie what I wish to release into string and then offer that to Fire. From time to time I may also hold a Despacho ceremony, making a Despacho or prayer bundle to honour the spirits and also to release whatever I wish to. Although Despachos can be buried and given to the Earth, once again I usually use Fire if I am releasing.

Sometimes I am clear about what it is that needs to be released, at others I will do a shamanic journey to work with my allies and so gain insight into what is holding me back. I may also sit and talk with my guides to see what advice I am being given or even look back through my journal to see what patterns are there that can inform me.

So no resolutions, goals or targets, but lots of releasing to make space and then being aware so that I know where my path is taking me.

image The Pagan Experience

It’s Monday so it’s time to get Musing

imageWith the change over from the Pagan Blog Project to the Pagan Experience I will be aiming to blog as part of this on a Monday during 2015.  With Monday Musings beginning next Monday 5th January I though I’d get some practice in.

I have bread baking in the oven, vegetables turning themselves into soup and so sitting here waiting I certainly have time to muse.

So what is musing exactly? A quick look online tells me this is a period of deep thought. Now I’m not sure that my musings will necessarily be the result of deep thought…..but wait….the synonyms for musing are: meditation, thinking, contemplation, deliberation, pondering, reflection, rumination, cogitation, introspection and daydreaming which puts me on much firmer ground.

As a child I would always be in trouble at school for what people thought was daydreaming. As an adult at times I still look to be daydreaming but what most people don’t realise is that I am actually journeying, shifting my perception and wandering or working in non-ordinary reality. When anyone hears me say ‘Sorry I was miles away’, I actually was.

I’m not sure this is what is really meant by musing, although I am sure there will be some shamanic journeying by me from time to time in order to gain insight into a topic that is part of the Pagan Experience posts. Thinking, contemplation and the odd bit of introspection though I can do 🙂

If in fact I take thinking, contemplation and introspection to be musing then I have certainly been musing today. I think musing in fact goes well with this time of year whatever our beliefs and however we celebrate. It is a time for looking back, reflecting on the year that has gone and maybe looking forward in some way to the year to come. It is that time between gathering with family and friends for either Solstice or Christmas and perhaps gathering with family and friends for the turn of the calendar year. It is the quiet time in between, the time for introspection, going within, and the time for looking out, for sign and omens that point the way to what is ahead, either within our own life or within the land around us.

My bread is baked, the soup made and so my musing time, for now anyway, has come to an end.

Merry Musing 

 

 

 

 

The Pagan Experience

image Beginning on 5th January 2015 I will be blogging my Monday Musings along with many others on The Pagan Experience. There will be weekly blog posts which you will find here as with last years Pagan Blog Project but if you are a Pagan who blogs you might like to hope over and join us there.