Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mid-Winter Stirrings

Today is Candlemas or Imbolc- literally “in the belly.” It is the celebration of the first stirrings of the fire of life in seeds that will sprout with springtime warmth. Because the seed that stirs deep in the belly of the earth portends new life to come, it is considered a good time for reading oracles, for catching a glimpse of the life that is to come (or, more mundanely, predicting the weather by the actions of the proverbial ground hog.)

I’ve been reading William Bridge’s wonderful book The Way of Transition. Drawing on his experience of the death of his wife, Bridges (a prophetic name for his life’s work re: helping individuals and organizations move through times of transition) offers wisdom on how to move through the three aspects of transition: the ending- the acknowledging and letting go of what is no more; the “neutral space” when what was is no more and what is to come is not yet known (but is eventually sensed as an invisible, indefinable stirring); and the new beginning.

Sometimes Bridges’ “neutral space” doesn’t feel very neutral at all. It can feel like falling through an endless abyss as our sense of who we have been, what dreams we’ve held, and how we’ve functioned on a daily basis no longer fits. This can feel threatening, difficult, frightening and bewildering. Things we once enjoyed no longer hold interest or value for us. We can feel quite lost. And in a culture that loves speed and action, goals and focused attention we can feel like there is something wrong with us.

It has been ten months since my marriage ended. I consider what has ended, what has been let go:

I am no longer someone’s wife.

I do not intimately share my home, my bed, my heart and my dreams with one other daily.

I no longer have a home in the country, nor the furnishings I’d collected over thirty years- my Grandmother’s dining set; the four poster bed I saved for ten years to purchase while sleeping on a futon on the floor; the earthenware dishes I bought for hosting dinners with friends and family. . . . .

I no longer have to find room for all of what I had accumulated over thirty years.

I do not have to shape my day around another’s needs.

I cannot use another’s needs as the reason or excuse for not doing what I say I want or need to do.

I no longer dream of a co-created future with this man.

I am no longer confined in my dreaming to what would speak to or work for us both.

The implicit agreements to play certain roles no longer hold- he as Mr. go-with-the-flow, me as the planner; he as the spender, me as the budgeter ; he as messy, me as neat-freak and many others. I no longer have to hold to the boxes we (largely unconsciously) agreed were mine. I am allowed my own ease and worry, my own frugality and spending, my own spontaneity and planning. (Okay, I'm still pretty consistently a neat-freak.)

There is more of course. Beyond the logistics and agreements of a shared life, an old pattern of being, a belief planted in me at an early age that I had to work hard in every moment, taking care of others to earn my right to be- is made available for letting go. It’s a choice- not a once-and-for-all choice- but a choice that is available to me each day, a practise for one who was trained to be the means to others’ ends.

And, as I let go, I step fully into this time of in-between, of not-knowing, of Imbolc- the place where I feel a stirring of a seed that was planted before any beliefs were learned, a seed that holds the blueprint, the spiritual DNA of a life more true to who and what I am.

So, on this Imbolc, on this feast day of the Goddess Brigit, patron of smith-craft and poetry and midwifery, I light a candle to honour the stirring, and open the dreaming eye to catch a glimpse of colours to come:

a slash of the blood-red vermilion of my own intensity of being, unfettered;

the swirl of the rainbow robe of the story-teller who has secrets to tell;

a movement in the mist- a figure cloaked in blue, headed for the isle of dreams;

bare feet twirling on dark earth, dancing close to the fire;

clear eyes silent, watching, steady in their gaze, mirroring a turquoise sea;

yellow of blazing sun, silver of silent moon;

the brush of an owl’s soft wing on my forehead;

words on a page whispered aloud into the darkness, ripples across still water;

ease and strength in muscle and bone;

a tall silhouette standing in the shadows by the river- maiden, mother, crone carved in one body;

water, dark and foaming, rushing through the gorge between high walls of stone. . . . .

What is stirring in your belly and in the darkness of the earth beneath your feet? What would you honour in lighting a candle? Can you catch a glimpse of movement, a scent of something that foreshadows what is to come that you might till the soil of your life in preparation?


  1. When I reach down into the darkness of my belly, I hear the crashing and thunder of falling water, creating a mist to catch the rainbows of sunlight’s play. I see the green of diamond tipped ferns, the black of volcanic rock, and the white of foam and spray. I see an Arcadian stand of trees whose limbs interlock above a path, creating a tunnel of living, breathing green -- passageway to an unknown but beckoning future. I see rugged cliffs above crashing waves, standing in defiance against the seas. I hear music that tinkles softly on a breeze, the chime of wind as it brushes through my hair. I see a fire, glowing embers with friends gathered round, speaking of things close to their hearts as they share a meal whose fragrance lingers in the air. I see a trowel breaking the black earth, turning worms from their cozy hiding places, and rain washing down on freshly seeded loam. I see stars by the multitudes, dusting the night with promises of places beyond our knowing. And I see horses running wild and free, manes tossing, sides sleek, hooves drumming and eyes wide open.

    These images, I honor with my light. May they find fertile ground to sprout with strength and grow with vigor.

  2. Hmm, I guess it no longer sucks, that being "alone", huh? :-)You seem to be more at ease with what IS, like you are a bystander who watches through glass how her life once was. The pain seems to have grown sort of less achy, smaller, more like a dull slight pounding than the terrible ache which left you breathless, heart beating in your own ears. Well, maybe I'm simply describing how I feel resp. how your beautiful blissful words make ME feel :-)
    What's wrong with neatness? I hate messy, totally dislike it. Okay sometimes it sucks to do the dishes if you are bone-tired and all you want to do is fall straight into bed and pray that the good fairy comes over-night and did them for you when you wake up in the morning. When I can't get quiet and order in my head, I start tidying up my flat, even though it's just tiny bits and pieces which seem messy. And all of a sudden I smile and all is back in its place where it's supposed to be. I guess I need a guy who is just as orderly as me otherwise I'll go bananas or we just have two flats. Hmm, just thinking out loud, I guess.
    Have you seen the movie "Hereafter"? They are alike, they believe in the same stuff, they KNOW each other and when they look at each other it's simply crystal clear, THIS IS IT. It fits. It just does. Yeah, maybe it's just a movie. But I want this for Imbolc, this guy who looks at me and tells me without saying a word "You are mine and I am yours. No doubts." Would be great if he were just as neat and orderly as I am ;-)

    You rock! Keep it up Beautiful :-)

    Lotsa Love & FairyBearyBigHugs
    Sabine xox

  3. i wrote this this morning...before i read your blog

    i hurt in my stomach
    i hurt in my head, in my chest
    i hurt in my heart so so much
    it aches and throbs and shivers and shakes
    it trembles and sobs
    it moans and screams WHY??

    i cannot see
    i cannot breath
    i cannot eat
    i cannot lay down for fear of drowning
    i want to stop hurting

    i walk - unfeeling unseeing
    i stumble - tears blinding me, taking my strength
    i fall - in defeat and despair

    i fall down a hole of darkness that i cannot see the way out
    my heart screams WHY?

    i close my eyes
    the pain lets me know i'm alive

    breathe in
    breathe out


    i know it's a wee bit dramatic, :O} (sheepish grin)
    but that's what is inside when i let it out...

    guess i'm still in those first stages of acknowledging and working towards 'letting go'....

    5 months ago i came home 1 day early from a business trip to find my love of 4 yrs screwing some lady in our home.... long story short, i gave him a another chance, he messed up 3 wks later and lover that i am, gave him one more chance... no go 5 wks later.

    it's been 3 months that i moved out, that i too have lost all material things and i ask WHY.

    i know the peace will come.

    for now i enjoy my neat little place (it made me smile how you say you are neat freak.. i call myself anal and yes sabine, there's nothing wrong with that!) and find joys in small moments of gratitude for all the good things in my life, of which there are many.

    but there is still so much pain ...
    it disappoints me - i know it will pass....

    reading your blog has brought me great comfort

    so on this very special day all i can do is acknowledge that the letting go will come and i look forward to it... that is what i know is coming
    when i look in the darkness of my belly.
    i hope to light that candle soon.

    thank you Oriah thank you so very very much

  4. I have been celebrating Imbolc with a group of women, standing in a dark hoarfrosted field in the early morning, waiting for the dawn to come, with white candles in your gloved hands. Every woman stood apart, hoping and longing for a vision for this year.
    I felt my soul's animal, the she-wolf's presence close to me. First came a very thin moon's crescent in the Eastern sky, then the light softly emerged over the hills. And there the message was: I can get all the healing I need and want, but I have to show up and do my work.
    This means for me to intensify my meditation practice. I'm doing very well with it until now, but I am entering some new stage and it is indicated to make some amends. Intellectually I know exactly that it will be worth every effort, but I'm still hesitating. Now I got the push to go for it.
    I'll do my very best.
    When returning to the house, an ample breakfast with a lot of treats and hot beverages was waiting for us! :-) A good start into the year...

  5. " ... a practise for one who was trained to be the means to others’ ends."

    Now that's a practice I could really benefit from. How to gracefully shift your focus while retaining your nurturing demeanor?

  6. Wow Nora, it appears you too have been through some heart rending experiences. How beautiful it is as our pain flows out in poetry and tears. In meditations breath we release whispers of what once was. Over the ocean. Over the trees. On a daily basis I support people who have no inner or intuitive guidance in the healing of their deep pain. They bury it in so many ways. I am deeply blessed to be among those such as yourself and Oriah who though wracked with pain and grief, are guided by an unseen hand to a place of healing.

  7. I was so glad to find my way to your site and this blog today. I just finished reading: The Call yesterday and was deeply touched by your work. The right book at the right time, for me to pick up and read.

    Thank you for all that you bring to the world and all that you share.

    Hugs, G

  8. Geraldine, so glad you enjoyed The Call! and that you have connected here. Please come on over to the FB page (you don't have to have an account to see the Oriah Mountain Dreamer page) where I often post and participate in community conversations.

  9. Dear inspired..lovely ...words dancing from your heart touching the core of my soul... i copied and pasted a portion of your work in my blog just to share with friends in my circle..hope it wont offend u .. please go through my blog and tell me.. if i did something wrong in copyright kind of stuffs.. i can delete it .. thank you for being here as a wonderful human being...keep

    this is my blog address

    with love

  10. Happy to have folks share with attribution :-) Thank you.

  11. Dear Oriah
    Happy Imbolc and fires in our belly, from England! It is because of your book "What we ache for" that I have moved from writing a daily diary to writing poetry...and because of that wonderful book I have joined the Writers Croft. Having discovered your blog, and as an expert in procrastination,I am sending you a note instead of doing my warm-up exercise for the Croft!
    I was due to go to an Imbolc festival last night in Yorkshire - tons of fire, women in long dresses singing, and a battle between the Green Man and the Ice Queen. But this is England in February, and it was rained off :)

    Fire, creativity and womanly substance are stirring in my belly. This is a year for women to shout, stand tall, breathe in deep, write boldly and tread mindfully on the earth....I catch a glimpse of wonderful women dancing all over the planet: Geraldine, Mureed, Alice, Nora,Rose, Sabine,'Gaia's daughter', 'ilovemylife', Oriah - keep dancing.
    with love from Anne-Marie

  12. Hi again Oriah, Just stopping in to read more here...

    I will stop in at FB, and thanks for letting me know that an account is optional. I hope you will stop by my cooking and craft blog at:

    Here's to a positive day.

    Hugs, Geraldine

  13. ..Thankyou Oriah. So moving. So pertinent.
    I am totally in that space, having had well over 3 years of severe trauma (a lost daughter to severe parental alienation).. of acting, reacting, desperate and trying... I finally 'sit with it'.
    There's an acceptance - it takes so much time to find that tiny little space, the difference between Acceptance a. I don't want to give up, it's not fair, I have to keep trying, and Acceptance b. I'm not giving up, but it's out of my hands, I'm ok with it.
    There is this subtle difference, only a shift in understanding really.
    So I'm here, I can sit with it all, I can bring any aspect up and not feel a physical or emotional movement (against) it.
    So .. this seed you talk of, I can feel it. It's a gentle beautiful space.. of ease.
    Thankyou again

  14. Dear Oriah,
    I read this only today… and I thank you, and thank all who comment… just not feel alone anymore
    … catch a glimpse of movement, a scent of something…and I start preparing the soil

  15. This post struck a chord with me as I am just beginning to let go of my expectations of another. Thank you for sharing. Namaste