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Grow

Published January 5, 2015 by ireneglasse

All storms pass
And no tower falls forever
In the shadows
Growing with each flash of lighting
Breathing deeply
Living fully

Waiting

Gentle tendrils of green
Unfurl, unfold, untangle
And the tight buds of future flowers
Swell

For some seeds are sown in sunlight
And some spark to light in darkness

And all storms pass

Upcoming Appearances, Workshops, etc

Published November 20, 2014 by ireneglasse

The cold wind blows, but light and warmth glow brightly within!  I have a few upcoming events you should know about, all available to brighten the long, cold darkness of winter.

Wednesday, November 26th (Thanksgiving Eve), 7 pm
Harmonious Healing at Ananda Shala Yoga and Pilates Studio

Relax and Re-Center before the Holiday Weekend with a special offering from studio owner Aimee McBride! Harmonious Healing incorporates Yoga Nidra, Somatic Yoga and Reiki (provided by Reiki Master Irene Jericho during the class). Find release in mind, body and spirit as Aimee guides you through gentle movement and meditation while you receive light healing energy work. Yoga Nidra, or ‘yogi sleep’ is among the deepest possible states of relaxation one can attain while still maintaining full consciousness. Lucid dreaming is the Western term used to denote a practice similar to yoga nidra. Somatic Yoga offers exercises that reprogram muscles to dissolve chronic pain, dramatically improve flexibility, regain strength, and leave you with an overall sense of peace and wellbeing. Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by a laying on of hands. A treatment feels like a wonderful glowing radiance that flows through and around you. Reiki treats body, emotions, mind and spirit. creating many beneficial effects that include relaxation and feelings of peace, security and wellbeing.  Facebook event here.
 Cost: $20, click here to register
Saturday, November 29th, 9 am and 11 am
Thanksgiving Recovery Yoga at Ananda Shala Yoga and Pilates Studio
Come work off the calories and release any stress from Thanksgiving and Black Friday!  The 9 am class is an All Levels Prana Flow Yoga Class lasting an hour and a half.  I plan to do a lot of detox-supporting asana to help return our bodies to homeostasis after the Thanksgiving feasting.  The 11 am class is a Level One–perfect for those beginning their practice or simply looking for a more gentle flow.
Click here to register
Sunday, December 7th at 7 pm
Full Moon Labyrinth Walk at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick
Need a chance to recenter in the midst of the holiday crush?  Come enjoy the beauty and peace of the Labyrinth by the light of the full moon! The labyrinth will be illuminated from 7:00 pm till 9:00 pm. Everyone is welcome. During the cooler months, we take our Labyrinth practice indoors, and will be walking the Rainbow Seed Labyrinth, a canvas Classical-pattern Labyrinth. Please remember clean socks or slippers to walk the Labyrinth in.  If you haven’t walked a Labyrinth before, there is no ceremony or ritual. We put out the little flickering LED tealights and just keep the space open 🙂  Please bring a small contribution for the UUCF.  Facebook event here.
Friday, December 12th, 7 pm
Mala Circle/Mala Making Workshop at Ananda Shala Yoga and Pilates Studio
The yogic answer to the Stitch’n’Bitch!  Join our Mala Circle to learn and relax while you create your very own mala!  Free for those who already  know how to make a mala and bring their own supplies, $20 for those needing the workshop instruction. Ananda Shala Instructor Irene Jericho will share her method for creating a Mala, a strand of 108 beads used for meditation.Create one for yourself or as a beautiful gift for a special person in your life.  A mala is a necklace of 108 beads commonly worn and used by yogis for for keeping count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a mantra. This practice is known in Sanskrit as “japa.” Malas are as personal as the yogis who wear them–let your creativity shine in this fun, interactive workshop. Irene will provide good beading thread to string your mala, instruction, a handout detailing the technique we will use, examples of mantras, and other tips and tricks for getting the most out of your mala.  Facebook event and supply list here, click here to register if you plan to take the workshop portion.
Thursday, January 1st, 7 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick
New Year’s Day Purification Ritual
Enter 2015 from a centered place of peace. Release the energies of the last year, and set a harmonious tone for the year to come. Sacred Space will be held from 7 to 9 pm in the Sanctuary of the UUCF.  Attendees are invited to move through the Elements, releasing the shadows of 2014 as they go. Elemental Guides will be available at each Quarter to offer a way to move into the energy of a new year. End your Purification journey with a walk to the center of the Labyrinth to receive any messages for the new year. All are welcome to attend.  Free will donations are welcome.
Friday, January 16th, 7 pm
Darkest Yoga at Ananda Shala Yoga and Pilates Studio
Inspired by Black Yo)))ga in Pittsburgh and Tough Love Yoga in Atlanta while paying homage to our area’s own Darkest Hour, Darkest Yoga combines flow yoga and atmospheric heavy metal to serve the greater Washington, D.C. community.  Irene Jericho (RYT 200) will be guiding you through your 75-minute moving meditation with some killer tunes over the PA. Enjoy a stripped-down, alignment-focused, no-fluffy-stuff yoga class with Ananda Shala’s own Heavy Metal Yogini.  Cost: $15 in advance/ $20 at the door
Sunday, February 1st, 7 pm
Kindling the Fire Within: An Imbolc Yoga Practice at Ananda Shala Yoga and Pilates Studio
Winter’s darkness lingers with us still. Naked branches scrape the sky and night falls early. We crave the warmth of summer while we navigate an often snow-covered landscape. Yet in the midst of night, there is a glimmer of brightness–a tangible reminder of the sun-filled days yet to come. This light in the cold winter stillness is Imbolc. The word Imbolc is derived from the Gaelic word “oimelc” which means “ewes milk”. Herd animals have either given birth to the first offspring of the year or are expecting new life very soon. Join Irene Jericho for a transformative Imbolc yoga practice as we ignite the fire within and find warmth from the heart out. Live hand drumming will accompany the journey from darkness to light, from stillness to asana, from silence to music. Ignite your own Winter Fire, and allow the light to carry your practice into spring.  Participants are encouraged to wear white or light-colored clothing to practice in.  Cost: $20

Of the long, dark night

Published October 31, 2014 by ireneglasse

Tonight I will dress in the sable colors
of lengthening shadows
and the sands on the bottom of the hourglass
and the deep, cold earth
that will one day hold me forever

I will deck myself in my grandmother’s jewelry
and in strange moments I will smell her perfume
glimpse a flash of copper hair
and bright blue eyes
in the incense rising from the altar

Tonight the spirits in my blood
those bright, brave souls
who fought and loved and lived
and died
will dance

And I will feel the Wheel turn

I will feel the Wheel turn

And in the depths of night I will awaken
to cold air on my bare flesh
I will shiver
and nestle into the arms of my love
to breathe deeply and feel the warmth
of life
dancing with the shadow
in my grandmother’s jewelry

Twilight Bound

Published October 9, 2014 by ireneglasse

The highways will give way to
winding roads and rolling hills
and I will find my way
bruised, weary
thirsting
to the Mountain

The colors shifting from green to gold
amber and russet,
reflected in the lake
filling my eyes with autumn’s flame

The arms of my friends will hold me again
And I will revel in their bright eyes
And brighter smiles
This tribe that comes from so far
to join together
to dig deep
to Work

The boulders will sing us to sleep
The great tapestry above a sea of stars
dancing as we walk in darkness
The cool, sharp taste of winter
in October’s kiss
will find us
lingering on our lips

We will stoke the coals of mystery
Alighting anew, we whirling sparks
will reach our hands into darkness
and find ourselves
And we will sink into the season of night
Carrying our new-brightened flames
through the cold

And I will return home
myself
And yet forever changed
In ways I cannot yet imagine

We journey north

To Tribe
To Clan
To the Mountain.

 

 

 

Reflections on Sacred Space

Published March 17, 2014 by ireneglasse

I can’t live where I can’t see my mountains.  It’s a funny and a strange thing.  I moved to Frederick, MD, when I was about seven.  You could see the beautiful, rolling green of the Appalachians from my house, from the tree I loved to sit in.  ‘I’m bored’ in the warmer months was usually answered with a trip into the leaf and stone of the local hiking paths, or perhaps to the lake or waterfall at Cunningham Falls.  I spent my early summers building forts in the thickets nearest where we lived, riding my bike on the bike paths in the woods behind the college, making little stone dams in the local streams.

I ran screaming from this country when I was 18.  I lived in Okinawa, Japan, for three years.  It was beautiful, but I longed for the smell of leaves and moss, the shifting wind through the branches, the changing colors as the Wheel progresses.  The strangest thing is that I had problems with time.  My memories of Okinawa are out of order.  As though without that green to gold to brown to bare leaf cycle, I am somehow left without a way to know when in my life there an event occurred.

I came home.  We began in Northern Virgina and moved.  And moved.  And moved.  Until we found a home where I can see the mountains.  The Gambrill trail head is a five minute drive from my door.  This is no accident.

The mountains are still where I take my pain.  When I am broken open, bleeding tears and agony, I go to Cunningham Falls.  I climb the waterfall, and find ‘my’ boulder, and it’s there that I pour out the poison in my soul, watering the stone with tears.  And quietly, so gently, it’s there that the torrent of tears calms, ceases.  Somehow, in that place that does not change, in that space that was there before me, and will be there long after I am gone, I remember myself.  I find my center.

And I always considered this little quirk to be yet another one of those oddish things about me that I’ve come to accept rather than question overmuch.  I’m weird.  I’m wyrd.  And I know it, and I don’t fight it anymore.  So the pieces that don’t make logical sense just are.

I tell you this because that wyrd part of my nature seems to have found a prism in which to hang, an ah-ha moment that explains not only that practice, but reveals a much deeper well feeding that little curling green tendril of Other that runs rampant in my nature.

Robin, Orion Foxwood and I

Robin, Orion Foxwood and I

The Sacred Space Conference, an amazing gathering of Tribe intended for intermediate to advanced Practitioners, has a focus every year, and every year that focus, that theme, is different.  If I could give you this year’s theme in a single word, it would be ‘Heritage.’  This year’s conference featured Appalachian root workers, carriers of the only magickal tradition that is truly American.  Orion Foxwood, Byron Ballard and Linda Ours Rago brimmed with the green pulse of the mountains, deep as the caves, dark as the dreaming stones, yet shining with life, with magick, with depth.  And the overall message was one of deep love of and connection to the land, and to our blood.

Heritage of place called us to wake up to the land on which we live.  To embrace the spirit in the very earth we tread.  To love our homes, and the practical matters of day to day life.  What if where you live isn’t an accident?  What if my need to live in visual range of the mountains, my best friend’s need to live in the desert, your need to be where you are…what if those things mean more than a proclivity toward a certain aesthetic?  What if we’ve just forgotten?  What if that quiet resonance got covered up with Work and Obligation and Hyperstimulation?  Byron told us to go out and lie on the ground, to feel, to breathe.  Orion told us to seek, to build, to connect.  Linda told us to love, to honor, to learn.  And my bones resonated with the message.  That little piece of oddness in me isn’t so strange, as it turns out.  These ARE my mountains.  This IS my land.  And I am a part of it.

Heritage of blood called us to wake up to the River of Blood that brought our drifting vessels of flesh to this moment.  Try to imagine, for a second, the thousand thousand generations that fought so desperately, survived against such incredible odds, to bring you here.  Just a few hundred years ago, to sit in a room and speak our truths would have seen us all hanged, or burned at the stake.  Our ancestors fought for us to survive in a better world–they set their hopes as flickering lights into the River of Blood.  We are the vessels now, but that River runs long behind us, and long ahead of us.  We’re just ancestors enfleshed, navigating the hopes, dreams and sacrifices of thousands of souls.

You are intentional.  There is no accident here.  And even if your mind and memory do not know the names of relatives, or countries your ancestors come from, your blood knows.  Honor the River.  Let your soul guide you into remembering who you are.  We all return to the River eventually, leaving our vessel to the good earth, to help push the other boats along.  Lives are strung pearls.  The River is the string.

Robin, Selena Fox and I

Robin, Selena Fox and I

The other Path weaving its theme through the Conference was of the navigation through death.  Our people do not have churches or synagogues, and our Tribe is young.  Pagan Death Passages are still new territory for us, one being bravely explored.  M. Macha Nightmare and Selena Fox led these deep explorations into the mysteries of our last mortal transition.  The most important pieces?  If you are Pagan, and have a vision for the care of your mortal remains, write it down and tell multiple people where that information is.  Make the plan.  Have the discussion.  Death is hardest on the living–TELL the people you love what you want for yourself.  The other piece is for us as mourners.  Grief takes as long as it takes, and it is different for everyone.  Be patient, listen, and love.  Seek out the voices of those who have explored this territory.  There ARE rituals.  There are prayers, meditations, practices, songs and stories to help us on our way.  Go buy the Pagan Book of Living and Dying.  That way you’ll have it should you need it.  And remember that you are not alone.  Our Tribe is beginning to include Death Midwives and other practitioners of the Veil.  Reach out.  There’s a hand on the other side.

Just like last year, I’ve returned home almost overwhelmed with new ideas, perspectives and techniques.  I feel like I’m carting around a treasure chest filled to the brim with brilliant gems.  Simply sorting through them all and finding homes for them will take time.  There’s a new stack of books beside my bed, an expanded design for the next focus of my main altar forming in my mind and a deep hum of connection pulsing with every beat of my heart.  I am renewed, exactly at the point when I needed it most.  Gratitude is not a strong enough word for how I feel about the wonderful people who make Sacred Space possible.  I can’t recommend the Conference highly enough. 

To briefly borrow the parlance of our Appalachian presenters, y’all gotta try this shit.

 

 

 

(P.S. I am a note-taker.  Let me know if you’d like the notes from the workshops and rituals I attended and I’ll email them to you)

Returning to the Light

Published December 20, 2013 by ireneglasse

There is a moment, hiding there in the darkness.  A turning point waiting for us as we shiver at the bottom of the well, praying to whatever can hear us to Please Help.  We do not always realize when that moment hits.  Sometimes we’re so blind with fear, with despair, that even as that first light flickers into being, we do not see it.  Our nightmares are too large around us.  And yet that barest flicker, that tender, curling flame of light is the first leaf of a new branch in our lives.  We can look back and see it, of course.  But when it’s happening?  That’s harder to do.

Fourteen years ago I was in a toxic relationship during the early part of December.  I was young, naive and trusting.  I did not see the warning signs.  I didn’t realize that I was being controlled, my personality edited.  Surely he only wanted me to make those changes because he was trying to help me.  Certainly, being a different version of myself must be better than who I was naturally.  I thought he was just trying to smooth the edges of a troubled young woman.  I made excuse after excuse.  My own self-doubt and low self-esteem meant that I believed him.  I let someone dictate to me who I was, what I liked, what I wore, how I behaved.  I allowed this theft of Self to happen.  I sank into the darkness.  I forgot myself in the night.

We were at a Christmas party when it got really bad.  He got drunk, couldn’t find me, then got angry.  I’ll remember what the kitchen of that house in Japan looks like for the rest of my life.  He started screaming at me.  He called me a whore.  He demanded that I go outside with him.

I told him no.  So he grabbed me by the head and tried to drag me outside.

And in that moment of fear, of being touched in anger, touched with violence by hands I trusted, everything changed.  I wrenched myself free.  I told him he was done.  I ran out of that party, down to the main drag and found a cab.  I was barefoot, but I had my purse.

I had something else, too.  I had that faint, early light of dawn inside me.  I was terrified, but in that dark, helpless place, I somehow found the turning point.  I ran.  I did not look back.

It was right before Christmas, but I left.
I was downtrodden and weak, but I left.
I believed then that I was ugly, that I was worthless, but I left.

I was afraid to go home.  We lived in the same barracks.  I was afraid to set foot anywhere on base.  Jay, my husband, let me stay with him.  We were just friends then.  I avoided leaving his room, so frightened to be by myself that I holed up there for days.

And yet the light was growing.  That little flicker began to spread, like dawn bringing the first blush of light to the sky.  The fear was not the only emotion I felt.  I began to feel others: self-determination, self-worth.  I could hear my Mother’s voice in my head, ‘If a man ever touches you in anger, you walk out, and you do not look back.’  I felt pride that I did what she’d always told me to do.  Those spreading beams of light were taking over.

On the day of the Solstice, when all the world fought through the long darkness to the pale dawn on the other side, I realized that Jay and I were not only friends.  He already knew, of course.  He’s always been wiser than I am.  The light that dawned that morning was the most beautiful I have ever seen, casting a golden glow over a new love.  A love that turned 14 today.

I know it’s dark out there.  I know you have shadows, battles that you fight.  I know that sometimes you are your own enemy, and slip into destructive habits, ways of thinking, patterns…

But I also know the light is coming.  The turning point is here.

May you find your light this Solstice.  And may that flicker bring you out into a radiant day.

 

The Season of Samhain: Speaking to the Spark within the Darkness

Published October 27, 2013 by ireneglasse

This morning I was very honored and grateful to have an opportunity to speak at my church on the subject of Samhain.  Video of my talk is below, the transcript below that 🙂

My name is Irene.  I facilitate the monthly full moon labyrinth walks here, teach the Thursday morning yoga class and I’m a member of CUUPS – the Covenant of UU Pagans.  As the natural world around us begins to shift toward darkness and the cycle of stillness, one of the Pagan high holidays is upon us.  I’d like to talk to you this morning about Samhain.

When I was 13, one of my closest friends lost a lengthy battle with childhood leukemia.  It was my first big death.  The one that changes everything about how you see the world.  I come from a wonderful family, but a bit of a WASP-y one.  We are understated and rational.  And like many families in our culture, we didn’t really have a way to talk about grief.  My experience of mourning within this culture was that you’re given a month, maybe more, to be upset.  And then you’re expected to get on with it.  To just get better.  Get over it.  And by that I think we mean repress our feelings so they don’t trouble anyone else.

But my own experience of grief is that it doesn’t end.  It doesn’t go away.  It transforms, slowly, over time, but it never ends.  It never just goes away.

I think part of what initially drew me to Paganism, to Wicca, at age 15, was the holiday Samhain.   As a whole, Pagans believe the soul continues after death.   We also honor the cycles of nature, the Wheel of the Year, and connect to its turning on a very deep level.  At this time in the world around us, the leaves are falling, leaving branches to clatter in the wind like so many bones.  The growing season is ending.  Shifting into the season of death, and increasing darkness.  We believe that at this time, as death appears around us, so too do the souls of those who have gone before.  We believe that the Veil between the living and the dead grows thin.  Thin enough, that those who have gone before can hear us, can see us, and can sometimes speak across that great divide.

We build ancestral altars at this time.  Both for our distant ancestors, and for the dear ones who have gone on ahead of us.  Altars can be simple or complex.  Sometimes it’s just taking out the old photos and putting them on the mantle where everyone can see them.  Sometimes it’s a special table covered in pictures, decorations, objects we associate with our lineage.  We make our loved ones’ favorite dishes for family meals.  We visit cemeteries to clean off the graves, and decorate them anew.  And most importantly, we have a space for grief.  For allowing those places inside us to breathe.  A space to speak the words aloud: I miss you.  And to know that they are heard.  A chance to connect.  Every year.  A visit with the Other Side.  I spend a lot of October talking to my friend, to my grandmother, in the quiet spaces of my day.  I can feel them in the air.  Sense them drawing near.

The night of the 31st is when the Veil is thinnest.  It’s why it’s called the Witches New Year—our cycle ends, and then begins, at the death of the growing season.  Samhain Night sees big rituals honoring those who have gone before.   Some traditions do a Recitation of the Dead.  A calling of names.  Others create a Dumb Feast: a table laid out of doors, beautifully decorated for the season, and carrying the dishes our lost loved ones and ancestors most enjoyed.  That they may eat, drink and be merry, in their own way, when they visit.  Personally, I gather with a close group of Pagans.  We stand in a circle, and we speak about those we wish to honor.  We talk to our families, to our friends who have gone beyond.  We pour out libations on the ground to each.  We cry.  We laugh.  We tell the old stories, and sing the old songs.  And every year, that aching place inside us that is grief has a moment to be soothed.  A chance to breathe.  A moment between one year and the next, between the worlds of time and place, when we come to stillness and communion.

It is that stillness, that inner quiet, that we carry with us into winter.  For Pagans, the dark season is a time to go within—to do deeper, more personal work on ourselves.  Like our furry, four-legged brothers and sisters on this earth, we hibernate.  We turn inward, and seek our own illumination there.

It’s easy to get distracted in the warm months—there’s so much to do!  Festivals to attend, projects to start, visits, vacations…  When the light begins to fade, though, a different kind of work can begin.  What did you lose this year?  What quiet places inside you are aching from neglect?  We expend so much energy on the needs of others.  Have you remembered to tend your own flame?  It’s okay if the answer is no.  I know it definitely is for me.  That’s the other part of why I look forward to Samhain so much.

This month, I’m redecorating my home altar and beginning an 18-day sadahana: a Sanskrit word for a spiritual practice with a specific goal in mind.  I’m working on integration; on trying to get all the pieces of me to be a more cohesive whole.  I have a sub-goal of deeper connection, on every level.  To deity, to myself, to my life.  During that 18 day sadhana, I will spend time every day focusing on my goal.  I will use prayer, meditation and physical yoga postures to help me on my way.  It’s the beginning of what I think of as my Winter Work.  My time to do some repair and upgrades on myself.

I realize that it may sound like a lot of work.  I take the inner space exploration of winter pretty seriously.  But honoring the energy of the dark season doesn’t have to be so elaborate.  It can simply be finding a little space in your morning to set an intention for your day.  To choose stillness for just a moment.  It could be turning off the TV and putting away the smartphone a little earlier in the evening to allow for some quiet time.  A space away from distraction and discussion.  You could start journaling.  Or maybe it’s time to read that book you’ve been meaning to pick up.  The season of death is also the season of renewal.

You see, at Samhain, we go underground as well.  Cycles occur in more than the world around us.  It’s so easy to forget, with all our technology, all our bread and circuses, that we are a part of nature; not separate from it.  And like the trees and animals, we need time to rest and nurture ourselves for the next growing season.  We too grow weary after a long summer.  We tire and fade, and need to go into darkness for a time.  We renew there, heal the wounds, tend the fire within.  And then we emerge again.  It is my hope to step out into spring as a better version of myself.  A more authentic, more grounded Irene.

I think most of all, Samhain speaks to the spark within the darkness.  The loved ones that exist beyond death.  The light within us that shines on the darkest of days.  The comfort of a warm hearth on a cold night.  This is the gift, and the lesson, of this season.  That the Wheel of the Year turns, and we turn with it.  That a journey into the night is not something to be feared.  It is simply a part of the cycle.

May this season see you blessed with space, with peace, with stillness.  A blessed Samhain to you all.  Thank you.