self help

All posts tagged self help

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.

 

Twilight Covening

Published July 16, 2013 by ireneglasse

I try not to push my own ideas and experiences on other people.  Don’t get me wrong–if you ask me what I think of something, I’ll tell you the truth.  But I don’t like telling other people what to do.  We’re all so different, so varied, so unique in our needs and perspectives, that pushing my solutions on another person could be as useful as trying to put out a fire with a can of gasoline.

That said, I do have one full endorsement for those of you on the Earth-centered-spirituality Path.  Go to Twilight Covening.  Don’t worry, it has nothing to do with sparkly vampires.  The name refers to the transition between light and darkness, and has been the title of the festival since 1986.  Twilight Covening is a retreat in Massachusetts, and a beautifully intense one.  I’m going again this year, and it will be my fourth year attending.  I’ve pasted my reflections from previous years below.  Read them.  And then go register.  It’ll do you a world of good.

I’ll begin with the reflections from my first year attending, since this particular missive explains a bit about how Twilight runs.

October 13th, 2010

This is for the Pagans, or those of you who have been curious about some of the Pagan stuff I do.  Everyone else, these are not the droids you’re looking for.

This past weekend (Friday-Monday), I attended Twilight Covening in Massachusetts for the first time.  It’s a four day spiritual retreat for those on the Pagan path and this past Covening was its 25th year.

There are a lot of things from this past weekend that I’m still processing and am not ready to talk about yet.  Maybe I never will be.  Some things there are no words for.  So what I’m going to try to do is tell you about the space, the environment that Twilight creates and envelops you in.  Perhaps that will be enough to give you an idea of what’s happening up North.

Imagine four days of ritual space.  The ritual begins in the evening on Friday, when everyone arrives.  The initial circle is formed, the energy spreads out.  And the energy…  There are around 200 people there.  Every single one is there because they have chosen to devote four days to intense spiritual, emotional and psychological work. Imagine ritual space infused by the focus of our most committed practitioners.  And that those committed practitioners stand to the right and left of you, holding your hands.

Now we add to that.  That ritual space is constantly actively held.  At all times, a Clan (usually 6-18 people) is actively concentrating on maintaining the spiritual connection of the space.  They lend their energy to help your connection, to help you focus, to help you on your path.  At. All. Times.  Night or day, you are energetically guarded, enhanced and protected by a team of dedicated energy workers.  Even while you sleep, they help you stay attuned.

Now we add to that.  Everyone is there because they want to work as hard as you do.  Everyone is there because they are actively trying to improve themselves, to heal, to connect, to grow.  So everyone you talk to is sharing a lot of the same things you are going through.  Everyone there wants you to succeed.  The people you interact with honor your trust.  They listen when you share your insecurities, your fears, your weaknesses, and do not trivialize or brush off.  Instead, they try to find ways to help you.  They pray and laugh and weep with you.  They help you find ways to lower your shields and to reach out in ways you didn’t know you could.

Now we add to that.  Your specific Clan is even closer to your own path.  Clans are small–the largest I saw was maybe 18 people.  They are led by one or two facilitators–some of the most accomplished Priests and Priestesses our tribe has to offer.  The Clan you are in is specific in its focus.  The people closest to you not only share your goal of working on your spirituality, but they share some of the specifics of that goal.  You eat, sleep and work with your Clan.  You share and learn from each other.  You hold each other while you cry, you raise energy together, you joyously witness the steps each Clan member takes forward because you know just how hard they were to take.  You’ve been taking those steps yourself.

Now we add to that.  The space that you are in is breathtaking in natural beauty.  You’re on top of a mountain in the Berkshires.  There is no light pollution, so the sky at night is a sea of stars.  The trees are in a full autumnal riot of color and their vibrant tones are reflected in the lake.  There are boulders and tall pines, towering oaks and birds singing.  There are spaces for quiet reflection, there are spaces for intimate conversation, there are spaces for group work.  There are even spaces for silliness.  Mirth, after all, is the counterpoint to Reverence.

These words can only capture a fragment of what that space feels like.  I wish I could give you the memory of that feeling.  I wish I could cover the world with it.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that you should go.  If you’re on the Pagan path, if you’re working on your spirituality, Go.  Set aside those days for next year now.  Start setting aside the money now.  Go.  Please Go.  You probably need this as much or more than I did.  And I needed it.  I needed it the way a rose needs the sunlight.

Go to Twilight with me next year.  Our tribe has built something beautiful in Massachusetts.  You should feel it, too.

Reflections from my second year: October 11th, 2011

Some days are all about Gratitude.  Today is a day like that.

I got home late last night from Twilight Covening, a four day spiritual retreat for those of us on paths of Earth based spirituality.  It was my second year attending the retreat and as ever, I find myself struggling to put into words the beauty and depth of the experience.  The overriding emotion, the greatest arc and simplest expression I can find within my thoughts, is Gratitude.

I am grateful for the Space.  For the trees as they slip into their autumn colors, for the deep blue of the lake, for the rushing of the streams that race down the mountain to meet it.  I am grateful for the boulders warmed by the sun and silvered in moonlight.  I am grateful for the open fields of soft grass where we stand in circle, create labyrinths in flour, spread out our yoga mats or simply lie down to recharge our solar batteries.  I am grateful for the quiet of the northern forest, and the way it gently reaches out to soothe our senses.

I am grateful for the Community.

For the circle of Elders who somehow felt the call in the wind from those of us who wander.  Pagans do not have Churches.  We do not have sprawling infrastructures to support us.  In many cases, we walk almost totally alone.  If we’re lucky, we have some friends to share the path with.  If we’re lucky, we somehow manage to find our way.  And now I know that we are lucky, for the hearts at the center of EarthSpirit felt the song inside our wandering souls, and made a space in which to sing it.  The love and work and joy and energy our Elders put into the retreat is a palpable force, reaching out to embrace all the drifting leaves the autumn blows in.

For the Clan Leaders who choose to spend four days in service to the Twilight community as a group, and specifically to a small group on a particular, focused path.  These wonderful people, some of the best and brightest Priests, Priestesses, Shamans, Yogis and Pathworkers our community has to offer, wait for us with open arms.  They embrace us as we walk in, help us shed the layers of dust, pain, sorrow and stress we carry.  They wrap us in their attention and guide us.  They hold a lantern to light our way.  They hold our hands as we take the first steps.  They share our triumphs, our baby steps into a better place.  They love us and teach us.  They celebrate and grieve with us.  And they do this out of a desire to serve, to help, to midwife transformation in others.

For all of the attendees of Twilight Covening.  We come from our jobs, from our families and stresses.  We come from places of joy, places of work, places of pain.  We come from all over the country.  And we join hands and hearts.  We raise our voices together in song and chant.  We eat and talk and laugh together.  We share our paths with each other.  We marvel at each other’s stories, and at the lights that come on inside ourselves when we realize that we are not alone.  We travel into ritual together, into altered states.  We journey, we work.  And we become a family through that process.  Whether we smile, grieve, pathwork or meditate, we do it in the spiritual and often physical embrace of our family.  Of the Twilight Tribe.

I am grateful for the Experience.  For the moments that dance in my memory, that illuminate and warm.  They will feed me this winter.  They will carry me into Spring.  They will dance with me in Summer, and they will follow me back to Twilight next year, to collect more threads for the tapestry.

I am grateful for Fires in which we burn the things that hold us back.  I am grateful for the drums that echo, for the flames in the night, for the stars that see our work.  I am grateful to release, and to then turn about and push energy toward the releasing of others.

I am grateful for the soft, sweet chanting in a space for Dreams.  For the music of harp and flute, for a place to come to stillness.  I am grateful for the inner quiet, and for a chance to foster that quiet in others.

I am grateful for Ritual.  For the passage through a waking dream.  For learning, and growing, and flowing.  I am grateful for the transformation of pain into joy.  Of walking in darkness alone to walking toward a fire on a moonlit field where dancers spin, singers weave their voices in song and healing flows like water.

I am grateful for Celebration.  For dancing for hours beneath that almost-full moon.  For feeling so much joy, so much love, so much connection, that the only way to express it is to dance.

I am grateful for Twilight Covening.  For the thousand little and big things that make it what it is.  For the dozens of people who work to create a space of Mystery.  For the light that burns so brightly inside me for having been there.

And so it is with these words that I close.  Come with me next year.  The door that you are seeking exists.  The path beyond it is real and is waiting for you.  And the forest where that path begins?

It’s at Twilight Covening.

And, at last, this past year’s thoughts.  October 10th, 2012

The nights grow longer, and for those of us within Earth-centric spiritual practices, the year is winding down.  Thoughts are of endings–the final gathering of summer’s gifts from the garden, the last outdoor rituals and festivals, the thinning Veil around us.  The voices of the Ancestors and Spirits grow stronger.  We prepare for work, for the inner journey of the dark season.  Walk beneath the open skies to hear the song yourself.

Listen to the trees.  The green world calls out, the pulse of life thumping through the rough cloak of bark at your touch.  Place your hands upon their bodies.  Feel the vibration of the autumn wind passing through upper branches.  Close your eyes and listen.  They hum, sway and sing a song of Time.  Feel that tide pulling you in, pulling toward darkness.  Breathe.  Follow the song down into their roots, spreading out beneath you.  Let the wave wash over you.  The endless current of roots to crown to roots, the slow drawing-in of sap for the winter.  The trees are Centering.  Feel the balance of an inward shift.  Sink.

Listen to the rocks.  There is a bliss in the quiet stones, gently humming with a sound both bright and low.  A stillness carries up from their secret hearts, passing into the warm hands resting on their craggy surfaces.  Feel them.  An echo touches the human caress, passes into you.  Hear their endless song of dark to light to dark.  Sink in.  Lean against the boulders.  Breathe.  Let the pulse take you deep into the ground.  Feel the turning, the tilting of the Earth.  The song of winter coming, the song of darkness lives in the ore beneath your hands.

Listen to the night.  Let the cloak of the long shadow wrap around you.  Hear the wind sing, the calls of the night animals, the crackle of footsteps on dry leaves.  Lean into the coming quiet and feel your heart beating warmth into the cool air.  Turn within.  You see, you hum as well.  A rhythmic song crackling with both the fire and frailty of our human shells.  Listen.  Let the endless cycle of heart to limbs to heart take you deeper.  Breathe.  Feel your song turning you inward, gathering closer to the light within, the candle in the night.

Listen to the Song.  The eternal hymn of Time.  This is the family we share, these vibrations the language we all speak.  The song of the forest, of the mountains, of the Earth.  Of yourself.

Listen.  Let the music take you deeper.

Dissolve.

Perfect Expression

Published December 13, 2012 by ireneglasse

For Pagans, the darker side of the year is a time for internal work–for choosing a battle, digging in, and working your way through.  The combination of myth cycles, sunlight and weather that keeps us indoors serves as grease for the wheels, if you let it.  This year, I’m working on Perfectionism.  I have an ideal inside my head of what my life is supposed to be like–what I should look like, how I should act, what I should do.  And when I fall short of that ideal, I wrestle with a lot of guilt.  The guilt feeds into my anxiety disorder.  I redouble my efforts, this time stressed and anxious, and ultimately manage to screw myself up.  I end up getting sick, overextended, neurotic…it’s an ugly cycle.  And it goes on almost constantly.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about ways to overcome my Perfectionism.  I’ve been working on self-acceptance, on the idea of ‘enough.’  That I do enough, have enough, am enough.  This evening I’m doing a releasing ritual with my wonderful working partner to further this cause.  I’ll be creating a new mala for use in prayer and yoga practice.

Yoga practice.  So many ideas come together here.  The one that really crystallized for me this past week was the idea of Perfect Expression.  A phrase often uttered by instructors at my studio is ‘Find your perfect expression.’  By that, they mean to listen to your body when you’re working on a pose.  To find out where you, personally, need to physically be, what you need to cultivate.  Not to worry about reaching the peak of that pose–Perfect Execution–but what is exactly right for your body in that moment.

For example, I have tight hamstrings.  I’m extremely strong, but not very flexible.  It seems to run in the family–we have very dense muscles and tissues that keep mobility a little pinned down.  So, for me, the Perfect Expression of Downward Facing Dog means my heels don’t touch the floor.  Yet I still get as much out of that pose as someone whose heels do touch–i.e. a great hamstring stretch/shoulder opener/lower back expansion.  That slight difference in execution becomes meaningless since the beauty and benefit to the body are equal.  Even if, 20 years from now, my heels still don’t touch in Down-dog, it will still be the Perfect Expression of the pose for me.

Perhaps there is a Perfect Expression of the Self as well.  We all have an ideal we strive for, whether given to us by our family, the media, our culture as a whole or some combination of those sources.  That ideal is Perfect Execution–beauty, health, wealth, a stable, loving relationship, enough time to help those in need, clean house, nice cars, etc, etc.  A perfectly executed life.  Yet the same way all our bodies are different, our minds and lives are different, too.  We have tight hamstrings, bad shoulders, trick wrists.  We accumulate little dings and dents along the way and must modify that Perfect Execution to fit the needs and limits of our unique, individual self.

And perhaps that modification is Perfect.  Perfect for us in that moment.  Perfect for our reality.  Perfect for the soul, the personality, the life we lead.  Perfectly expressed for who we are.  That expression doesn’t look like the ‘peak pose’ of the life we imagine–it doesn’t look like the ideal inside our head.  But the resemblance is unmistakable.  Although the images aren’t identical, we still cultivate the root of that ideal.  We reach toward it.  And that Perfect Expression is exactly where we need to be.

So I haven’t saved the world yet.  I haven’t completely balanced house-work-music-health-life.  I haven’t figured out the Mysteries of the Universe.

And it’s Perfect.  The things I think of as flaws, as failings, are just modifications.  I have tight hamstrings.  I have an anxiety disorder.  I modify Downward Facing Dog.  I modify my life.  And the beauty and benefit of those modifications are the same within me as Perfect Execution would be.  I do not feel guilt in my yoga practice.  I don’t beat myself up for not being able to flawlessly move through Standing Twisting Triangle.  Instead, I find that place within me that benefits most from the energy of that pose and I breathe into it.

Perfect Expression.

As in yoga, so in life.  As within, so without.  As above, so below.

A blessed New Moon to you, and to your Perfect Expression.

 

Ending a cycle

Published December 5, 2012 by ireneglasse

In the myths of the cultures we sprang from, new light is on its way.  The days are short and the nights long; the cold keeps us indoors and it’s all too easy to fall into brooding and retrospect.  The wheel of the year is winding down, turning toward its end.  And though we throw wide the East Gate soon to let in new light, that time is not yet here.

This space of darkness and reflection has its own value.  With each year, we gather to ourselves more memories, more experiences, more feelings.  Some joyous, some sad.  We learn, we grow, we change.  And as we fill the pages of this year’s book, the sorrows and challenges can weigh heavy on our spirit.

The last new moon of the year is fast approaching.  It falls on Thursday, December 13th, this year.  Why is that important?  The transition of darkness to light in the lunar cycle is a good time for releasing.  As the final cycle of its kind of 2012, this upcoming new moon offers us a unique opportunity.

What do you carry that no longer serves?  What injuries have you taken on this year?  What relationships have become toxic?  You have a chance to release those dark pieces into the endless night and begin the coming year with a blank slate.

This can be as simple as offering up your burdens in prayer, writing them on a piece of paper and setting that paper alight, or performing a full-fledged releasing ritual.  You can take this opportunity to purify your home, releasing the gathered energies of the last year.  You can also use this new moon to further your work on changes already underway.

I am working on releasing guilt.  I struggle with feelings that I am not good enough, that I don’t do enough, help enough, work hard enough.  I fight against my humanity and the finite nature of my time and energy.  I beat myself up for not meeting the unrealistic ideal I carry within me.  And I am trying to change that behavior.  As part of my own releasing, I will be getting a tattoo that symbolizes allowing my true nature, imperfections and all, to be what it is without self-punishment.

There is a Navajo word, ‘hozro’ that translates, roughly, to ‘moving with the current flow of energy.’  Rather than struggle in this season, allow the energetic current to carry you.  You can travel this river into the night and back out again.  You can release the burdens you no longer wish to carry into those dark waters and turn to face the dawn lighter and more ready for the adventures to come.

May the flow find you, may it bear you up, and may it carry us all into the light of the coming year renewed.

Proximity

Published May 21, 2012 by ireneglasse

Last night, I facilitated an indoor Dark Moon Labyrinth Walk at the UUCF.  Indoor walks are beautiful in a different way than outdoor ones.  The environment is more controlled–the temperature is even, the light consistent, there are fewer distractions.  The sanctuary where we roll out the canvas Chartres Labyrinth is acoustically bouncy, so the music we play is very haunting and echo-y in the stillness.  Indoor walks there are a bit like falling into a pool of peace and stillness.

Yesterday’s walk was particularly interesting for me due to the transition in my state of mind over the course of the evening.  You see, I arrived angry.  Furious, actually.  I have pretty decent control over what shows and what doesn’t, so I don’t think anyone helping set up noticed.  But inside, I was one enraged, roiling pot of flames and fury.

Some wonderful folks helped to pull the chairs to the borders of the sanctuary and we rolled out the Labyrinth.  I put on my prayer shawl and stood at the entrance to the Labyrinth to welcome people to their walk.

And a funny thing happened.

You see, I was concentrating on putting out the right energy for a Labyrinth walk.  I wasn’t really thinking about my anger.  It  was just sitting there in the back of my mind, simmering away.  But as people entered the pattern and began to walk, the flames went down.  As I stood there, my back to the flickering tealights, purple Labyrinth and walkers, the pieces of the day I was so angry about turned around inside my head, showing how different they looked from another perspective.  Showing how my point of view had gotten in the way.  How my jump to anger had then made it impossible for me to listen, or to see things from a different vantage.  How holding to rage silenced compassion.

All the anger I was carrying fell away like so many stones tumbling down a hill.  I almost laughed at one point.  I hadn’t even *walked* the Labyrinth yet!  The effect of a Labyrinth on me is, at this point, so strong that I can’t even stand near one without the quiet energy of that Sigil going to work on the inside of my head. By about 10 minutes into the walk, I was balanced again, if feeling a bit rueful about the mistakes I made during the day.

One of the gentlemen attending the walk was gracious enough to take over my post at the entrance of the Labyrinth so I could walk as well.  As I did, I focused on releasing all the blocks that tripped me up that day.  Judgement.  Single-mindedness.  A lack of compassion.  Not listening.  Anger.

The temper that used to get me into barfights is obviously still present, just changed in form.  Something else to work on as I walk this winding path.  And good to know–I had been pretending that I’m better with my anger now since I don’t hit people anymore.  Granted, the symptoms are less severe, but the root cause is definitely still there.

I carried the peace of the Center with me as I walked back out of the Labyrinth.  I gently touched the shoulder of the man who had taken over as Guardian for me to thank him for my opportunity to walk.  He emerged, startled, from a deep place.  I hadn’t realized how far he’d gone within–in retrospect, I should have brought him out more gently.  Anyway.  I thanked him for the opportunity to walk.  He thanked me as well, saying he hadn’t realized how cool it was to stand at the entrance of a Labyrinth as facilitator. I realized he was right about that.  It’s a different way of experiencing the energy of a walk.  But still potent.  After all, my own proximity to other walkers, to the Labyrinth, was what brought me back down so I could actually see what went wrong earlier in the day.

Another beautiful walk, and another affirmation of my favorite quote about the Labyrinth: “The Labyrinth meets you where you are, gives you what you need, and nurtures a web of interpersonal connections.”

The Labyrinth met me angry.

The Labyrinth gave me peace.

We all hugged and bid each other safe travels we left.  The web, you see.

I apologized when I got home.