A Solstice Oracle in Three Words

Friends~

I am sitting today musing and meditating in preparation for the Solstice retreat I will be facilitating this weekend as the closing gathering of this spring’s Moon Circle. A group of eight women and I (see photos below from our last circle!) have journeyed together over the last 3 months, and we come together this weekend for the longest day/shortest night of the year.

As I tune in and ask Spirit what I need to know about this gathering and this solstice season, these are the words that show up:

RELEASE ~ TURN ~ ABSORB

I sit with each of these a little more and their meaning begins to flesh out. Letting release swirl through my body and awareness, I see a roller coaster chugging up to the peak of a hill and cresting, on the brink of its downward fall; I see water pooling behind a dam, feel the pressure just before an opening in the wall sends the water down and out. It’s not the kind of material release of any particular object or thing, it’s not the over-used “letting go of what’s not serving you” quip. I ask for more specifics, and it’s more like: Let gravity take you. Resist nothing. Move from the tension of potentiality into unresistant flow. We have reached the peak of the sun’s annual pilgrimage, and now turn our feet back towards the pull of home.

When I turn my attention to the second word, turn—I am transported to the forest where we will spend our retreat. I see the women turning towards and away from each other in a simple dance. I see the time-lapsed movement of the sun through the trees, the natural turning from morning to evening, from season to season. Again, it is nothing sharp or forced—it says that change is upon us, and to follow the natural trajectory of the end of one thing and the beginning of another. It perhaps is a time to try something new, but not in a quantum leap, out-of-the-blue kind of way—its a newness that has been building for awhile now, requiring nothing more than the turning of one’s attention towards it.

I settle into the final messenger, absorb. I am sitting outside and the sun immediately breaks from behind a cloud. I am filled with warmth and relief, and the sense that I get is that now is a time to be immersed in the elements that nourish and heal. Sunbathe. Ocean bathe. Bathe in moonlight and tree-breath. Receive loving touch. Without effort, there is a transmutation that happens when one unhook’s from mechanized time and productivity and becomes saturated by the elemental powers that want all of creation to be well. Whether I am conscious to it or not, my bodies and psyche is constantly absorbing from my surroundings. I feel this word as an invitation (with some urgency!) to take very honest and non-judging stock at what exactly I am absorbing, and to be deliberate in cultivating my environmental choices to align with who I choose and desire to be in the world. There are certainly seasons to pursue with relentless vigor what one desires—but as one of my first teachers says, environment is stronger than will-power, and right now, it seems, the will is waning and needs a little reprieve. Consider now as the time to abide quietly in wholesome spaces and to let what you desire come to you. Go where it is easy to receive, and soak it up.

I’m curious: does any of this connect with your experiences this season? How do these words land for you? Or do you have other messages to contribute? When you sit with a soft belly without thinking to hard, what does this solstice season speak to you? My messages came first in words—yours might come in a feeling, image, sense, memory, song, color, sensation in your body, or just a knowingness. I’d love to hear from you! Please share with me in the comments below, or by responding to this e-mail!

Sharing this is an experiment in opening up about my spiritual/intuitive process. Feels a little risky! My hope is that there is some resonance for you, some sense of being a part of the Earthen/cosmic ecosystem, connected to the whole of creation whose song hums within all parts of the whole.

May Solstice Blessings abound!

With devotion,

Kate

The one thing I wish everyone did every day...

This past month, there was a beautiful convergence of holy days: religious, secular, earthen. April’s Full Moon in fell on Good Friday, day of remembrance of the tension between all creation’s polarities represented in the cross (for more on that, read my Easter blog from last year here). Then Easter, the celebration of the Cosmic Christ wedded to all of creation just a day before Earth day, our contemporary bow to that which sustains us. For me it was a journey deeper into awe and gratitude for this precious planet I call home, and deeper awareness of my interconnection to her. It was subtle, almost like glimpsing a fairy’s wing in my peripheral vision, or seeing through a spider web, the threads a little blurry—but present and sustaining me through a period of personal and planetary uncertainty.

Beltane Earth Mandala making with the Moon Circle women, 2018

Beltane Earth Mandala making with the Moon Circle women, 2018

On today’s ancient Celtic/Pagan feast of love and fertility, Beltane, I am drawn again into reverence of the regenerative, fecund extravagance of our mother planet and reflecting on all how I am in relationship with her.

What are the ways you nurture awareness of your connection to the earth? Here are five of my favorite and most highly recommended practices:

  1. Practice grounding meditation: this is the one thing. Do this every day (or as frequently as possible!) I have been teaching this ever since I learned it in the first module of Psychic school two years ago. Our teacher instructed that we were to teach this to as many people as we could! It is how I begin my day, as well as all my circles and classes. A version of the meditation can be found here. A variation/deepening of the practice I have been exploring: consider the particular land on which you dwell as you ground, and its unique history. If you are a white person in the U.S., I invite you specifically to consider, as you ground, the original stewards of the land where you live and the probable reality that the land you dwell upon was stolen/settled at the expense of our nation’s native peoples. In addition to the nurturance of the Earth, there is also tremendous pain. Consider being and breathing with the discomfort of that, or whatever emotions arise.

  2. Return moon blood to the earth. For those of you with bodies that bleed: this is a practice I have done with moderate regularity, when possible, for the past two years. I feel some timidity in sharing about this, but more urgency about doing so, feeling in my shyness an invitation to clear shame around my body’s functions and fluids. Returning moon blood to the earth is an extremely potent way to be actively giving back and nourishing the great body of the Mother that nourishes me. I use a version of a diva cup, and collect my blood in a jar to take outside—I typically let the land and plants tell me where they are wanting to be fed: a tree, a perimeter, etc. I have been bleeding with the new moon for the last year or so, and so typically incorporate it into my new moon ritual, naming all the things I’m releasing. Another option a friend of mine recently shared is to keep a houseplant in the bathroom and just toss it in the dirt with a blessing or prayer. I thought that was a brilliantly simple variation!

  3. Find your food. What’s growing wild in your yard or neighborhood, or nearby parks? I have been picking neighborhood dandelion leaves for springtime green smoothies for years (though no longer, after learning more about the contaminants in our Tacoma soil, insert major sad-mad face), but this season I finally did something I’ve been thinking and dreaming about doing for almost as long: I went nettle picking! Nettles are a wild green that are highly nutritious and medicinal. To be clear before you get all comparing-lives and “Oh how nice for you, Martha Stewart of Natural Living” on me, let me be clear: I have a huge desire to locally source my food that I can’t quite practically satisfy the way my life is set up right now, so I learned to let myself aim real low—it took me years of thinking about it, seeing them growing, wondering when and how to harvest, talking with my plant friends about it, and watching one youtube video, before I actually got out to the woods to find the little guys! My goal is to learn about and glean one new wild harvest plan a year. I am not an herbalist, but it was so satisfying to spend time with these quirky plant beings, to learn about and from them, and to stir them into my spring-cleanse kitcheri. (For more on stinging nettles, check out my friend Kim’s blog—she is an herbalist and knows what she’s talking about!)

  4. Make offerings to the Earth. Consider a morning or evening offering to the land of some elemental material of significance. Many thanks to indigenous rights activist and spiritual teacher Sherri Mitchell for her wisdom on this (for a great listen, check out an interview with her here.) For example, some indigenous peoples of this land might have used cornmeal, sage or tobacco; women bleeding might give back their blood (see above!); you might use a sprinkle of water, bread crumbs, a song; or ask the land what kind of offering it wants from you. Consider your ritual like the reciprocal pull of gravity, giving and receiving—a way to offer your thanks as well as your prayers and requests to Mother Gaia.

  5. Consider the Earth a Sacred Text. I’ve been reading recently about the 9th century Celtic philosopher, whose writings were eventually put on the Church’s list of “forbidden writings” (#topliststobeon #youknowyourdoingsomethingrightwhen). Writing out of his Celtic spiritual heritage, infused with the Earth-reverence of the pre-Christian Druids, he taught that “we can look to creation just as we look to the Scriptures to receive the living Word of God.”* It’s a no brainer in the PNW, as it has been for indigenous peoples worldwide. Go outside for no good reason and be quiet. At certain seasons like this one, I like to go out first thing in the morning and stand on the dewy grass, imagine my grounding cord to the center of the earth (see item number one above), sip my lemon water, and just listen. One of my mentors introduced me to the practice of taking a “Medicine Walk”—holding a question in my heart as I step onto the path in the woods. The first time I practiced this, not expecting much, I held the question: when will I start my journey to become a priest?” My answer came immediately with a knowing bird’s cry: You already have!! Creation is a sacred text. I go to her with a question, with my heart, and listen to the wind or look to the budding trees for the answer. Sometimes I press my feet into the earth and ask gravity: What can I let go of right now? Sometimes it’s just a moment’s glimpse of the water that reminds me to release my breath and the tension in my belly.

It is my belief that when one remembers and feels one’s innate connection to the earth and all things, healing happens—not just for one’s own self but for the earth and all things as well. That’s why practices like these, though simple and perhaps seemingly trivial, to me feel vital and urgent—particularly as a result of industrialization, imperialism, and the cultural trauma of whiteness that has severed innumerable people of all races (including the conquering ones) from ancestry, the land of ancestry, and the previously inherited wisdom of deep ecological beinghood. To be clear, the impact of this cultural trauma has been fundamentally different between white folks and black, brown and indigenous folks because white privilege has enabled people like me and my ancestors to numb pain and to violently enact our pain upon black, brown and indigenous folks. For more on this, check out the work of Tada Hozumi.

Consequently, it is simultaneously vital and tricky for me as a white person to nurture my relationship with the Earth, as I no longer have a relationship with the land of my ancestors, and the land I live upon was colonized. This is something I am working on and don’t expect to resolve soon. I am exploring my own privilege and positionality, feeling into my own body, learning from elders and the land itself, and doing my best to practice a light, persistent, imperfect but respectful tread. So far, amidst these tensions and nuances, these are the ways that connection has felt alive and generative for me.

#3: Find your food —and medicine! Last weekend my sister Clare (below) and I took an amazing class on blending medicinal teas for the spring season with    Becca Farr at Orchard Botanicals.    I’m in love!

#3: Find your food —and medicine! Last weekend my sister Clare (below) and I took an amazing class on blending medicinal teas for the spring season with Becca Farr at Orchard Botanicals. I’m in love!

Do any of these practices speak to you? What practices keep you aware of your connection to Earth? Where did your practices come from? I’m especially interested what you do with your kiddos, if you have them. Please share in the comments below!

If attuning to the earth’s rhythms feels like a beautiful but far-off dream, consider a simple stepping stone in my summer adaptation of Stillness at the Center, a donation-based evening of quietude and song. Also, women-identified-folk: mark your calendars for Solstice 2019! Nourish: A women’s winter solstice retreat at Wellspring Spa returns this winter! Check out dates and details for all offerings here.

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May the abundance of Beltane bring beauty and blessing to you!

With all my love,

Kate

*J.Philip Newell, Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality, p6.


Jesus Didn't Die for My Sins

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Today the moon has ripened into fullness.  It's the second day of Passover, and what my spiritual tradition of origin calls Holy Saturday.  I write to you from a small retreat center in Lacey where my faith community sets up camp from Wednesday of Holy Week until Easter Sunday for the ancient 72 rite of the Triduum.  Considered one continuous liturgy, I am learning that the early Christians gathered at this time in community to re-enact the rite of unity and belonging--baptism--and initiate new members into their circle, a subversive family of equals imagining and imperfectly living into a new non-violent non-hierarchical way of being that honored the One-ness and beauty of all things. 

One of my women-priest mentors, Kathleen, was sharing with us last night that the earliest Christian baptismal fonts were called "womb-tombs", adorned with images of uteri (that's right, lady parts), and the equidistant cross (seen above, a cross that shows up in spiritual traditions worldwide, symbolizing the four directions, universal balance of polarities, and the tensions of all human experience and struggle--NOT, contrary to contemporary imagery of this season, the cross of Jesus' execution).  This whole season and ritual was deeply embodied, feminine, sensual, and "fecund" as my other mentor, Diane, likes to describe it.

Not the kind of Easter story you know?  Not the cross of deliverance from sin?  I know.  It's a new story I too am learning, or re-learning as I swim back upstream to the spiritual birthplace of my ancestry.  I don't have all the pieces yet (so enter kindly with me into these new lands) but it's terribly intriguing and reviving to the part of me that has loved the ritual and mystery of Christian stories and mysticism but has been severely turned off and traumatized by the rigidity and dogma.  I've come to realize that Jesus didn't die for my sins (because I didn't need him to because I am good and so are you because God/dess breathed us into being and called us GOOD). 

But he did die, my ancestors' stories say. And yet somehow, in the wake of his death, the terrified community of his closest friends realized something about the Christ's ever-presence in the Unity of all things that freed them from paralyzing fear and breathed back into them life and hope and care for each other and their neighbor and the poor and the exile, even under the violently oppressive hand of Empire.  Easter-as-rememberance-and-baptism-into-Unity...that I can get behind, and it feels very alive for me as I've kept vigil these past two nights beside the Easter fire and under the ripening moon.  (To be clear, I'm also not just making this up as "feel good" revisionism.  This is actual original theology of Easter and the Cross.  Ask the Eastern Orthodox, or read Saving Paradise, my newest book on the summer break reading list).  Here, amidst moonlight and candlelight, I also happen to be on my bleed--and I can see and sense the Goddess as well as my ancestors as we move through something ancient speaking to something present and unfolding into a future that is still being born...

Re-experiencing Jesus as one of my ancestors has been profound, transformative and healing. (You can read more about here, if you didn't read my blog post from last summer).  The journey with Jesus at this Easter time is the hero's journey into the underworld and back again, the mother's watching and waiting while life stirs in her hidden darkness.  It plunges us into the depth of human struggle, the polarity of joy and grief, the deep grounding of roots that allows shoots to push out of the dirt, the paradoxical union of life and death.  Even if you're not a Jesus person (and I TOTALLY get it if you're not!) I invite you to come with me, in your own way, under this ripened moon into the deep--perhaps with one of these brief grounding meditations and few minutes of quiet contemplation with the following questions:

What is your spiritual ancestry?  What gifts has it given you?  What wounds or struggles?  When you get quiet and ask your Inner Wisdom what is the next step on your spiritual path, what do you hear, sense, see feel or know?  What tensions are you dwelling in?  What is there to go deeper into, face, properly feel, grieve, clear, or allow to die in order that you might see more clearly the goodness that is you and our wide wondrous world?

In Ripening and Renewal,

Kate

A Triduum Trillium, one of the first wildflowers of spring!

A Triduum Trillium, one of the first wildflowers of spring!

A Simple Irish Spring Ritual for Families

In the traditions of my Celtic ancestors, tomorrow was considered the first day of spring: St. Brigid’s Day, or Imbolc.  A feast of hearth and home, this was also the day when the Goddess Brigid* began bringing the world out of the womb of winter’s dark and into the awakening of the seasons of light, sparking the new growth of tree buds and sprouting plants.  Winters in the north Atlantic can be dreary (I happened to have lived in Ireland during the the rainiest it had seen in 60 years!  It was dreary indeed) so it seems reasonable that spring would be so anticipated.  This year, Imbolc follows a fabulous full moon, calling for prayers of gratitude and relishing in what is lush and already present in abundance.  I’ll be spending the day in the quietude of woods, and the evening with community in a healing sound bath and meditation practice.

It has taken several years to start building these holy days into my life’s rhythms, against the grain of mainstream culture--and I am a single person, with a pretty flexible kind of schedule!  I am aware of my privilege in this regard, and also of the gift given from being raised in a family that was steeped in heritage and holy days.  Consequently, as I’ve grown in my own spiritual path, I have had a heart for the nurturing of the spiritual life of families. 

Though we’ve been on hiatus the last 6 months or so, I had been leading monthly spirit circles for families called Circle Round.  In lieu of us gathering together in person, I wanted to share a simple outline to observe the shift of this season with your family.  This simple ceremony could take just 15-30 minutes, with alter construction time.  Don’t stress if you can’t do it on February 1st!  Give yourself permission to do it any time this month.

1.  Create an Imbolc Altar. 

This might include:

  • A large bowl in the center for the water offering
  • A candle or a ring of candles around the bowl, for fire.
  • A bulb or dish of seeds
  • Tokens representing your dreams for the coming year
  • Photos of loved ones or places in the world in need of healing
  • Shells or Images/figurines of water creatures like dolphins or fish
  • Have a jar of water, either that you’ve collected from local sources like streams or rainwater—or just use tap-water.  

2.  Share with your Little Ones:

  • The Irish called this Spring’s Beginning
  • When you put a seed in the ground, what does it need to grow? Rain and Sun!  Water and Fire!
  • Brigit is the Goddess/Patroness of Sacred Fire and Healing Water
  • In honor of the Sacred Fire of the Goddess, Imbolc is a celebration of creativity
  • In honor of the Sacred Water of the Goddess, Imbolc is a celebration of healing

3.  Ask your Little Ones:

  • What else do we need fire for? (Warmth, making food, etc)
  • What do you like to build/make/create? (Songs, legos, drawings, etc)
  • What do we need water for?  (Drinking, bathing, playing!)
  • Is there anyone you know that is sick we can keep in mind today?

4.  Fire Blessing: If age appropriate, take turns lighting a candle and sharing something, or about something, you have recently created.  Kids might each find a poem to recite, sing a song, or show a painting they have recently made.  Or they can simply answer the question: How are you being creative right now?

Then say the following prayer: I (say your name) light the fire of the Goddess Brigit.  May she clear away the need for things to look perfect!  And ignite within me the joy of creativity.

5.  Water Blessing: Take turns pouring water into the center bowl, saying the following prayer:

I, (say your name), bring water to the Blessing Well.  May St Brigid bless the waters of the world, for the healing of all of creation!  I especially pray to bring healing to (name anyone who is sick or any water animal/species, or place in the world you want to send healing)

When each family member is complete, you can:

  • go around the circle again and each collect the blended water in their own containers, while singing Healing Water Sacred Flame.  Children can have these as their own blessing water.
  • OR one member sprinkles water from the bowl on the family with a branch while all sing the song in response

Imbolc Chant to St Brigit
Healing Water
Sacred Flame
Brigit come and heal us
Healing Water
Sacred Flame
Bring the hope of Spring

Listen to the chant here:

May the dawning spring bring lightness, laughter, and new life to you and your little ones~
Blessed be!
Kate

PS: I'm thinking of bringing back Circle Round!  Are you a local Tacoma family?  Is this something you would like to see offered again?  Please let me know in the comments below, or send me an e-mail!

*Note: Wait.  Brigit?  Or Brigid?  Goddess or Saint?  I know I am inconsistent with how I use these terms and spellings.  To me they are of the same essence, a weave of the ancient traditions with later Christian influences.  There is lots of fascinating scholarly work out there about this!  Please explore and let me know what you find!

Source: Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions by Starhawk.

 

You Made It! And other New Year Non-Resolutions

Each of you is perfect the way you are ... and you can use a little improvement. ― Shunryu Suzuki
 
Your problem is you're afraid to acknowledge your own beauty. You're too busy holding on to your own unworthiness. You'd rather be a schnook sitting before some great man. That fits in more with who you think you are. Well, enough already. I sit before you and I look and I see your beauty, even if you don't.  ― Ram Dass
 
Go you!  You did it.  You made it to another New Year!
 
Winter is a time of taking stock.  At least in the northern hemisphere, the natural world isn’t worried about productivity.  It’s focusing in, conserving, digging deep into the nutrients stored up from previous seasons.  We just have turned the corner of winter's heart, and though we are now in the gradual swing back towards the light, it is still a dark and quiet time, with a view both back at the year we leave behind, and forward to the coming days.  

Puzzling and crafting my year review on New Year's Eve

Puzzling and crafting my year review on New Year's Eve

The New Year tradition of my friend circle is something we call the Year In Review.  We sketch back the previous year, sometimes through story-telling over New Year’s Eve dinner, sometimes through day-long creative vision boarding and crafting, weaving a tapestry that answers this question: What are you proud of from this past year?

It can be surprising the kind of victories, large but more often then not quite small, that make up a list like this.  Big things I am really proud this year include fulfilling my dream of creating a Summer Solstice retreat (2018 dates coming soon!) and taking really good care of my body as I returned to graduate school.   Little things (or more subtle things) include being able to express and process my anger directly in such a way that was truthful but didn’t shame or shut the recipient down and kept our connection; and simplifying my holiday gift-giving to be meaningful and easy.  Even your failures or things you left incomplete can be reviewed with honesty and kindness.  I had plenty of those to include in my review!  This kind of review helps to have the loving eyes and memories of good friends.  Just think: you got enough right that you made it here!

While the culture at large is telling you in oh-so-many ways to get your booty moving to lose those holiday pounds, to get organized, sell more whatever, move up, move out, move on—consider beginning this year with a pat on the back for all that you’ve already done to get here and and a deep bow inward to that which is is already always present, to the great and inextinguishable inner fire of your heart, and the sweet home of your body in which it resides.  
 
Try this: sit a moment, listen to your breath, and notice what it's truly like to be alive in your body.  What words come to describe that experience?  Imagine what it would feel like in your body if, contrary to the messages of almost everything else out there, there was actually nothing wrong with you; nothing that needed to be fixed; nothing out of place or the wrong shape, color, size or circumstance.  And if that were actually true, what kind of New Year dedication of action would you make?  What would your thoughts, words and actions be like?  To what service could you offer your actions?  What, from that foundation of already-whole, is waiting to just naturally flow from you?

New Year's Day alter on the top of Mt Rose, near Hoodsport Washington!  I got my mantra for 2018: I Am Here.

New Year's Day alter on the top of Mt Rose, near Hoodsport Washington!  I got my mantra for 2018: I Am Here.

Flow is a water quality, governed by the moon and the Goddess.  That's why what feels ripe for me as I enter 2018 is a deeper alignment with moon magic in my work and self-care.  As I tuned in to New Year's Day super moon, she brought me my phrase for 2018: I am Here.  This felt like an up-level from last year's I am ready.  Phew!  I'm super glad for that because 2017 was challenging!  I have taken this new message as one of truly embracing who I already am, what I already have, and where my life is already full, ripe, and rich. 

If Moon wisdom intrigues you, you can learn more about living in lunar alignment here.  You can also put the dates for the Winter/Spring 2018 New Moon Dream Circles on your calendar, and if you are female-identified and want to dive deep into feminine-divine spiritual community, Moon Circle 2018 begins January 25th. 

Finally, consider using this template to write your own Year In Review, and to call forth what is waiting to naturally flow from you in 2018.  I added a couple other categories that felt helpful for me, but feel free to adapt to your needs.  Then consider releasing it ceremonially in a fire (this is what I did!) or keep it to stay inspired and check back in over the next year.  And please share in the comments!  I’d love to hear what you are proud of, what you are building on and towards as you step into the new year.

May winter’s quiet and the new year renew your body and heart, bless your thoughts and work, and enliven you with serenity and courage!

5 Rituals for Autumn Equinox

Fall is my favorite season.  That might be because it’s my birthday season (November 30th, in case you want to put it on your calendar, and shout out to all the other Sagitariuses), but I think there’s also a quality to this time of year that is sweet and melancholic and feels like coming home.  Of course there are the known rhythms of the school year picking up again, and some semblance of routine re-establishing after the summer’s flurry.  It is easy to forget, though, that we are part of Mother Nature, and something speaks deep into the cells of the body at this time of year that (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least) says: settle down.  Feel the Earth.  Come home.  Center.  

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the weeks leading up to the Equinox are considered the “Fifth Season”, a transitionary season that marks the pivot point from the upsurge of summer’s fire of productivity and growth, towards the swoop downward and inward of autumn and winter.  If we aren’t attentive, the revving wheels of summer can keep spinning and lead to fatigue of the body and an over-active mind.  One remedy for this is slowing down, gathering in resources (materially and energetically) and resting in the abundance already present in the season.  Mother Nature naturally directs us towards this, as harvests are peaking and being gathered in.  Nothing says abundance to me like a patch of tomatoes, that, having been tended carefully for the last many months, now spill forth their ripe riches.  

I practice and teach from the understanding that I am part of a planetary ecosystem, and because of that, I know that at a cellular level I am sensitive to the shifts of the season.  As I have learned to get quiet over the years and pay attention to the cues from Mother Earth and the way her rhythms are mirrored in my body, I notice how I function when I’m in sync with those rhythms—and I notice the disfunction when I’m not!  For example, I’ve noticed just this week (as I write this at the very beginning of September) that a couple of nights in a row I stayed up just a little too late watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (#confession #cantgetenough #dontjudge).  It truly was only about 20 minutes later than I would normally shut down electronics, but it was enough that what would have been my wind down time was left me completely wound up.  Those nights I laid in bed for 45 minutes, staring at my eyelids and mentally running the steeplechase and definitely not going to sleep.  I finally gave into it, got up, got a snack, and had several hours of creative time.  

This is hardly an ideal way to function, if done with frequency, and my Ayurvedic teachers I know are tsking me for being awake during those most crucial hours of interior digestion (the hours of 10pm to 2am are the pm pitta hours where fire element rules to do the deep physical and subconscious metabolizing, so if you’re going to sleep at all, those are the crucial hours).   But I’ve experimented with my own sleep patterns over the years, and found that it’s kinder to myself not to fight the Night Wakefulness (ie insomnia) when it comes, and embrace the creative flow that is usually signifies.  This also is a symptom of the season: what has been brewing and being cultivated for months now comes to bear fruit, and we get to joyfully pluck it from the vine in creative fruition.

I now also know that at other times of the year, this change in my evening routine wouldn’t have affected me quite so much, but it was a sharp reminder to me of the care needed during the season’s transition times when sensitivities are just a little more heightened.  It also reminded me to set aside clear and contained creative channels during the day, so I’m not spinning my mental wheels at night.  This time of year is almost like its own beginning of the next year—think of laying down compost and planting the fall bulbs and over-wintering starts.  It’s a time of reveling in the fullness of what is present, and also of the slow, deep churning of the soil to prepare what is to come.  

So how can you make the most of this season?  How can you sync up to Mother Nature to transition with ease into the cooler quieter months?  How can you orient to arrive to the Equinox (this year on Sept. 22nd) balanced, abundant, and centered?  Recognizing and making holy a day in this season can help alert your senses, your physical body, and your spirit that things are shifting, and so can soften the edge of sensitivity and streamline you to the flow of the energetic changes occurring.  

Some of these you will recognize from the list for Spring Equinox, but that’s because they are sister seasons and some of the same practices apply.  

1.  Create an Alter of Abundance.  What is present, ripe, and ready to harvest?  Turn any surface in your home or workplace (or car!) into a simple Equinox Alter by collecting any of the following things:

  • Any colorful fruit or vegetables, especially sweet if you grew or harvested them yourself, or obtained them from a farmer you know (like my friend Holly, here in Puyallup).  

  • Fallen leaves, seed pods, late-blooming flowers (picked with Mother Earth’s permission!)

  • A dish of soil, dish of water, and a candle, for blessings of the Elements

2.  Give thanks.  You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to have a harvest celebration (and you might consider forgoing that holiday altogether in solidarity with our nation’s indigenous folks.  For more reading on the real, deeply troubling, history of Thanksgiving, stay tuned for November's blog or google it).  But gratitude, sure, I can get behind that—though, to be honest, I have had a slight distaste for “gratitude practice” for a long time.   I’ve often felt like it was inauthentic, saccharine, and an easy way to be in denial about what’s actually going on.  So don’t do gratitude as a replacement for the messier inner housekeeping and deep self-examination of what’s not working.  Even still, I have come to appreciate giving thanks for everything I have as a powerfully grounding practice and a way of “harvesting” my outer and inner resources.  Just this summer I found myself in a really intense period of transition in which I felt terribly ungrounded and challenged to make even the simplest choices.  I finally got out a big pieces of paper and just started drawing and writing and what emerged was an image of a giant tree.  At the roots I wrote long lists of everything I already have: all my teachers and guides, supporting members of my community and family, my gifts and developed skills, all my experiences from which I’ve learned and grown (even the ones I was resenting and feeling hurt by at that moment), and also my material abundance, such as a warm home and running water.  At the trunk of the tree, I wrote words about myself, and taped notes of affirming feedback I’ve received from others.  What chose to come out at the branches of the tree was not “Next steps” or “Pros/Cons of this/that choice” like I had expected.  Rather it was: Who I am Becoming.  After this exercise, I didn’t necessarily have the “answers” i needed, but my energy had completely shifted and settled.  

3.  Do a Commitments Fast.  This is a hard one.  It’s really a practice in slowing down, making space for appreciating what’s already present, and metabolizing the shift of the season.  I started this practice a couple of years ago when I adopted the practice of seasonal cleansing (an Ayurvedic practice for spring and fall).  The cleanse isn’t intended to just be physical.  It’s about slowing and decluttering your space and time too.  I’ll say again, I know this is a hard one, even for me, and I don't even have kids, so what do I know.  Any time of year and any season of life--it’s hard.  But for me, it’s a super important reset to my nervous system and psyche that I’ve come to rely on and even look forward to, especially at this time of year when I am a little more sensitive.  I pick any amount of time, from 3 days to a week and just don’t schedule anything outside of what is absolutely necessary.  Go to work of course, do what you do for your kiddos, pay your bills, etc, but otherwise, pretend you just won’t be in town those days.  No extra appointments, social engagements, non-essential work items.  You can even put an Away message on your e-mail.  Be in empty time.  This is allows you to sink into that liminal, or “threshold”, space at the season’s crossover (read more about that from the Spring Equinox post).

4.  On Equinox, practice balance, abundance, and good stewardship. Pay attention to the balance of light and darkness.  Notice when the sun rises and sets (in Tacoma, where I live, it’ll rise at 6:57 and set at 7:06).  Practice balancing breath and movements, like alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodana), and poses that are grounding and bring awareness to the left and right sides of the body.  Standing balance poses like tree pose, and centering poses like bound cobblers pose are really good for the Equinox.  Now I know I also just said do a commitments fast, but this is also an important time to asses how you are stewarding the resources that have been entrusted to you and to as as a human family.  One outcome of your commitments fast might be some real clarity on the actions that you do want to take and feel in alignment with who you are and what you value.  In this case, consider some kind of civic action, community service, or justice work to restore balance in your neighborhood or community, in an expression of commitment to and right stewardship of Earth as our home and all her beings as our family.  Right now in Washington State, we are working to collect signatures to get I-940 on the ballot, which is an initiative backed by persons of color who have been affected by police violence.  The measure would require police officers to have training in de-escalation, first aid, and mental health, among other things (find out more and see how you can support here.)  This has been one way I have been working to restore balance in my own community.

5.  Observe and collect relics from the natural world for use in rituals later on.  This is a repeat from Spring also, but it’s still good!  Anything collected on this day will hold the energy of equinox: light and darkness balanced, and the poised energy of fall that is full and ripe, gathering in and nourishing deep.  Observing and gathering objects from nature (again, with their permission of course) creates small concentrated forms of that energy that can be used like spiritual vitamins at other times of the year.  This fall I’m planning to collect items to create outdoor mandalas with relics from nature to beautify the landscape of my dear friend’s outdoor school.  I’ll post photos of our finished nature art!

It's not too late to get in on my next earth-wisdom offers!  Friday (Equinox!) is the last day to register for The Moon Circle Immersion (a 9-week anchoring touchstone of ritual, sisterhood connection, intuitive listening, feminine divine wisdom, spiritual reflection, and mutual support starting October 5th).  Registration is also open for the winter solstice Earth's Holy Days retreat: Nourish, Dec. 15-17th at Wellspring Spa.  

By the bounty of our blessed Earth, may this Equinox season ground you, nourish you, center you, sustain you, balance you, and bring you deep and lasting peace.