What does The Divine mean to you? Do you believe in a Personal God or are you more of a God-in-Nature kind of person? Do you even know where to start when trying to "Define the Divine"? It's taken me quite some time...
How do you even begin to approach the idea of God with young children when you're not even entirely sure who or what you believe God to be yourself?
The Thrive Moms Spring Retreat was all about being Loved. I felt so inspired and encouraged by the speakers and women watching along with me that I wanted to share 5 things I learned thanks to them.
So often we think that faith and politics should not mix, but why should that be?
…stop banging on it!
The past couple of weeks, I have been dealing with some really huge emotions. I’ve gone from being positive and excited about our new life (new home, new jobs etc) to utterly miserable about the things that we simply cannot do.
It started with sickness stopping us doing something as simple as a day trip to the beach (reminding me of how often our health keeps us from doing “normal” things) and continued with a really bad month with my Endometriosis (just in time for the ten year anniversary of my diagnosis) that made it even more obvious how much my health issues have prevented me from doing.
And then it was just a slippery slope (made worse by hormones, of course) into remembering how much I had looked forward to having and raising kids, only to have to stop after “just the one“. I cannot tell you just how much my heart and soul yearned for things to be different, for another baby to be in our future, for our “baby days” not to be over. So when the Endometriosis kicked off and made me realise that not only could I not have another child, I was also struggling to do all the things I desperately wanted to do with the family we already have, it all just got a bit too much.
Of course, it all became immeasurably easier once the hormones started to settle down (!) but there was still a sadness underneath it all that wouldn’t go away. Until yesterday…
I was busy looking up quotations to send in a little book to a friend who is going through a tough time of her own right now, and I came across this:
I can only describe my reaction to this as a kick in the gut. Within those two short sentences I found so much truth that it hit me right to my core. I realised that I had been desperately banging on closed doors, like a woman possessed, for far too long. And it was time to walk away…
When I look back on my life, particularly the past few years, I can see many moments in which I chose to keep fighting a losing battle. I chose to invest far too much of my precious (and limited) energy on trying to make something happen that I knew, deep in my heart, wasn’t right. I’m not saying that what I wanted was wrong, just that it wasn’t my journey to take. And whilst saying goodbye to our dreams is very often the hardest thing we can imagine, sometimes it is the best thing we can do.
I’ve known this, at some level, for a long time. I know that I have touched upon it, more and more over the years, each time coming closer to accepting it as one of life’s great lessons. I know this, because I can look back on my blog and see what I was thinking 3 months ago, a year ago, even five years ago. This is one of my favourite things about blogging – it gives you a tangible record of where you were at each point in your life, how you were feeling, and what you were thinking at those times.
When I look back over old posts, I can see recurring themes that crop up time and again. I see acceptance – accepting my limits, accepting the realities of life, and accepting myself. I see understanding – understanding the journey I’m on, the lessons I am learning, and how this impacts on how I live my life. And I see purpose – what I feel like I’m here to do, and how I achieve that.
However, I also see myself making the same mistakes, over and over again. I realise that this time last year I understood that it’s okay when life doesn’t turn out as planned, yet I still continue to try and make everything fit into an old ideal for my life. I see that at the beginning of this year I fully embraced living a life of “surrender” in which I allowed life to unfold as it did, without desperately trying to “fix” it, and yet I find myself forgetting how to do this. And I see that, yet again, I have been trying to ignore my body’s signals that something isn’t right and I need to make a change…
I have an appointment with my GP next Tuesday to discuss moving forward with dealing with the Endometriosis. It may well involve seeing a consultant to fight for something I have been thinking about for several years now but so terrified of pushing for. It certainly means walking away from a closed door. And in many ways, that scares the hell out of me, because once I walk away, there’s no turning back.
But the reality is that this door has been closed to me for a very long time. I’ve been banging on a closed door, holding myself in limbo, waiting for someone to find a way to unlock it and let me through. Even though that will never happen.
So today, I wanted to share with you the message that is carefully working its way into my heart and helping me to move forward… When one door closes, stop banging on it! Trust that whatever is behind it is not meant for you.
It’s no secret that life is pretty crazy here at The Patch. This year has seen us face redundancy and relocation, and whilst things are slowly beginning to settle down it is still far from peaceful. I’m currently balancing two new jobs, whilst building up my blog again (which is fun, but takes a lot of time). TJ is dealing with lots of changes at work, which is stressful enough without the added concerns of his own health. And Little Man is trying to adapt to life in a new city, which isn’t all that easy for a 3 year old to fully understand.
So with all this going on in our lives, I find that there is constant chatter in the back of my mind. I think at a mile a minute normally anyway, but with so much to think about on a daily basis right now it has become much more complicated. At the beginning of the year I set out some goals for the year. These included being more mindful, worrying less, and living more purposefully. Whilst on the surface it may seem like I am getting there, my internal dialogue is still constantly worrying about what the future holds and missing what is happening right now. I am, in essence, losing myself to the chaos around me, rather than finding a centre of peace within it.
And I want to change that. I want to embrace something which becomes a natural part of my day, setting me up for whatever happens by giving me some sense of internal peace. I have tried it before, making a promise to myself to pray, meditate or try yoga everyday, but it just hasn’t ever worked out. I get distracted, or I feel sick, or I just don’t feel I have the time, and it all falls by the wayside. Until now…
Whilst I was packing for our move, I tried listening to various radio stations, albums, podcasts etc but found I simply couldn’t focus on what I was listening to and focus on packing at the same time. It became more stressful than helpful. Until I discovered this version of Gayatri Mantra on youtube.
I don’t know how to describe how perfect it was… over 2 hours of music and chanting that was so easy to learn and sing along to. Focusing on the repetition of the words alone, even though I had no idea what they meant, was so therapeutic. I could think about what I was packing whilst chanting, because the pattern meant that it became easier to sing each time. I want to say that it meant I didn’t have to focus too much on the words, and that is true, but there was some thought involved because what essentially happened was that the mindless chatter and panicked thoughts that usually ran through the back of my mind began to disappear.
I’m not sure this is exactly how most people use mantras, but it is certainly working for me. Over the past few days I have listened to the Gayatri Mantra again whilst sorting out the bedroom, getting reader for work, pottering around the house… and the more I do it the more I find myself singing without the music too. I’ll be walking to work and it suddenly pops into my head, or I’ll be preparing lunch and the words just slip out. The combination of music and words seems to work so well for me, and I am beginning to really love the way that it quietens the fearful or chaotic thoughts that run through my head, helping me to find a calm centre from which to approach my day.
The weirdest thing is, I’d have never thought that chanting would be my thing! TJ first shared a few with me this time last year when he was learning some as part of his Shamanic Practitioner course. One of them was another of Deva Premal‘s tracks, and when he first played it to me I could feel the power within it, and I did enjoy joining in with him once in a while. But I never really made the time for it. Last year was, in very different ways, equally as chaotic as this year has been and I just don’t think I was in the best place to appreciate what it could offer me. I felt chanting was something I had no time for, especially as I read Eat. Pray. Love last summer and saw the dedication that was involved by the author during her time in India. Little did I know that even the smallest amount of time spent in this way would make a massive difference.
But now I know, and I want to embrace this wholeheartedly. I’ve decided that I want to make time for chanting every single day, even if it is only for 10 minutes in the morning as I jump in the shower. I’m hoping that, in time, I will find a way of making some dedicated space in my days for really focusing on the mantra, feeling the music flow through me and understanding what the words actually mean. But I know that if I set myself too great an expectation I will only give up. So for now I’m going to just try and make sure it is a daily activity, no matter how small.
I feel a particular affinity to the Gayatri Mantra, so I am going to try and stick with that for now, to really try and understand its meaning before moving on to another one. I’ll let you know how it goes. And if you chant, please do let me know what your favourite it, how you integrate it into your day, and what it means to you – I’d love to hear about it!
Happy Beltane Everyone!
This past week has been one of many new beginnings for us as a family (a new home, a new nursery for Little Man, and two new jobs for me) and is the culmination of many months of preparation and waiting. It’s hard to believe that all of this was set into motion right back at the beginning of the year and is only just really coming to fruition, but I find it immeasurably satisfying to see how perfect the timing is.
Beltane is a celebration of union, of all the different parts coming together, and of the fruits of our labours beginning to come to us. It is a time of renewal, of new growth, and of preparation for the blessings yet to occur. We see this in nature, as the Wheel of the Year turns, and yet this year I also see it so very clearly in our own personal circumstances. And it feels good.
We had been hoping to make it to Glastonbury to celebrate Beltane this year, as it is 3 years since we were there with our dear friend for Little Man’s blessing. But I have to say that postponing our trip until later in the year so that we could move home and start a brand new chapter in our lives is more than worth it!
Today is a special day in particular – we hand over the keys to our old house, just as I begin my new job. How’s that for a new beginning? Having surrendered to whatever life may bring at the beginning of this year, it feels so special that life has brought us through the incredible uncertainty we faced at the beginning of this year and provided us with a beautiful fresh start at this glorious time of year.
It shouldn’t surprise me that I feel so connected to this particular time of year – after all my birthday falls in the same week as Beltane and we’ve chosen it as a special moment in our year before (for Little Man’s blessing). But what does surprise me is how much is happening this year in particular, and just how many things are really blossoming in our lives right now.
It’s not just the new house and new job either… they are external changes, but I can feel my heart changing too. Things that have remained hidden, or crushed, over the past few years are beginning to resurface and I find myself excited about embracing them once more. Like embracing spirituality, connecting with others, and celebrating these special moments in time.
And the more I open myself up to the possibilities, the more opportunities and encouragement I find. And Beltane is one such opportunity. We now live in an area where is is easier for us to connect with like-minded communities to explore our faith. We also have easier access to nature, parks, and our own little garden space with room for a veg plot! Celebrating the seasons and embracing their gifts is quite literally right on our doorstep, and we are determined to make the most of it.
For now, though, we will begin by creating our own little Beltane Fire to welcome us into our new home, and give thanks for the blessings that have already come to us. And the rest will all fall into place…
Today I want to write about the journey I have been on recently, which in many ways is deeply personal and therefore rather scary to blog about. And yet it is having such a beautifully positive effect on my life, I feel like I need to share it.
It all began at the very end of last year. 2014 was a hellish year for us. It followed several difficult years we had already survived and seemed to push us beyond our limits in a way nothing else had ever done. And I was broken. I have touched on this previously, but a lot of it never actually made it onto the blog at all. Needless to say, it was a very dark period in our lives.
I was so caught up in simply surviving that I couldn’t even enjoy the publication of the book, despite knowing what a massive achievement it was. Most days I felt like I was living on an endless spin cycle, dizzy with the inability to ground myself as I desperately gave absolutely everything I had to the many, many responsibilities I had upon my shoulders.
When I finally did ask for help, and things became immeasurably more stressful as a result, I found myself balancing precariously on the edge of reason, unable to eat or sleep, and obsessing over things I couldn’t change. I was lost and I couldn’t see a way to find myself again…
Until I prayed.
It’s not that I haven’t prayed before, but instead of a hasty “please help me” prayer, I sat down and really opened my heart. Beaten by life itself, I took a moment and let out a heartfelt prayer:
“Okay… I’ve tried it my way, and it isn’t working. I don’t know anymore what I want, let alone what I should do. I’m ready for you to show me the way forward, wherever that takes me…”
It is a prayer that I have never dared to say, because by surrendering so completely there is the possibility that something could come along that I do not want to face. But it felt like I had nothing to lose. My way really wasn’t working, in fact it was positively damaging me, so it couldn’t get any worse. What I didn’t expect, of course, was for things to get a whole lot better, almost overnight!
Within moments of saying those words, I felt the tears I had held inside come pouring out. The release was incredible, and I felt a warmth and calm wash over me. Nothing really changed that day, the circumstances that had led me to such despair were still there, but something had shifted inside my heart. I had opened up to the idea of being guided and supported – for the first time in a long, long time I didn’t feel the almighty weight of trying to make sense of everything on my own.
Over the next few days I began writing a journal, reading books and blogs online, and simply allowing myself to feel what I needed to feel. And I began to feel that things would be okay. I didn’t have to feel alone, even when I was alone, and that helped me immensely. I knew I had some difficult times ahead (although I had no idea just how shaken up my life was about to become) but I would be okay because I didn’t have to face them alone. I’d always have a quiet space to return to in prayer.
This led me to choosing Surrender as my Word of the Year. It also heavily influenced my goals for 2015. And all of it was perfectly timed because a few days later my whole world turned upside down. I returned to work after a month off sick, to find out that changes to the organisation meant I was facing possible redundancy.
As the higher earner in our family, redundancy is quite a scary prospect, however my reaction was incredibly calm. It just made sense – I had prayed for direction and direction was what I was been given. It was making me close the door on an area of my life that I had poured my heart and soul into, which I would normally have fought against. But instead, I chose to surrender to it, trusting that the closing of this door was to free me up for the place I now needed to be.
Let me stop here for a moment to really emphasise this point… at the end of 2014 I was on the edge of despair, and yet just a few weeks later, when my entire life became ultimately more stressful thanks to redundancy and all that this entails, I was so much calmer than I had been in a long, long time. This, more than anything else, proved to me the power of prayer!
Things seemed to happen really quickly after that – we found a new house to rent, far closer to my parents, and I attended two interviews for new jobs. And I really, honestly felt like everything was being perfectly orchestrated to lead me into the place I needed to be.
But it wasn’t quite that simple. The house fell through, the job interviews were unsuccessful, and I find myself at the beginning of March with no job and a house full of boxes but no new home to move to. That stress level just cranked up another notch.
I feel exhausted from multiple journeys to and from our new home town, calls and emails chasing people regarding paperwork and payments, and multiple hospital visits thrown into the mix, just to make things extra interesting of course! And my faith began to waiver that little bit once more… until I made the time to sit and pray again.
Looking in my journal, I realised it had been more than a month since I had really made the time and space to sit and be with my thoughts. I had neglected to devote time to prayer and meditation, which in turn had a knock-on effect on my ability to cope with what was happening. That’s not to say I was super stressed again (far from it), but I began to question what it was all about. Until I prayed…
In the midst of my prayer asking for guidance and comfort, I felt a very distinct response as if someone were saying to me, “why do you think it isn’t working, just because it isn’t already sorted?” And I knew, right then, that my impatience was getting the better of me. Instead of trusting in the process, allowing myself to be guided even when I couldn’t see the way forward, I was trying to force things to happen in my own time – a sure way to stress myself out!
Patience isn’t a virtue I really possess. I want everything to be sorted now. It’s most certainly a big learning curve for me, this trusting process. And yet, it seems so easy when I remember to take the time out to simply sit in prayer and reflect upon how this makes me feel. I cram so much meaningless stuff into my day, and yet the thing that makes me feel the best so often gets left out. Why is that?
I don’t actually know the answer to that one, but I do know it is worth continuing to try and make it a priority in my day because when I do I feel so much better. My life is currently as crazy as it has ever been (crazier even) and yet I feel as if everything is
going to be okay. And that is why prayer is becoming an important part of my life.
I really want to write a quick note here to say thanks to the amazing team at Thrive Moms. It is through rewatching their Fall Retreat (which I initially wrote about here) that I began to pray in earnest. Whilst still not really knowing where I fit in when it comes to faith and religion, I do love getting their weekly newsletters and seeing the wonderful supportive work they do to help mums do more than simply survive motherhood (because, we all know, that some days that’s what it feels like!)
Have you ever found that sometimes, when you stop fighting, things just suddenly begin to fall into place in a way you could never have imagined?
There are so many things happening in my life right now, many of which I simply can’t talk about on here. Some are still very much in transition and to write about them before their conclusion feels unwise. Others seem so huge and life-changing, that I feel cautious to share them so openly, because I do not wish to burst the bubble of
contentment, peace, security (I don’t quite know how to explain it) that has enclosed me these past couple of weeks. But needless to say, had someone told me that I’d feel this way just a few short weeks after feeling like my entire world was falling apart, I would never have believed them!
It’s a strange place to be, feeling secure in the seeming unknown, when actually the start of 2015 has been extremely turbulent in both my personal life and the wider world around us. If anything, there is more uncertainty in my life now than there has been in a very, very long time. And yet I am finding it easier than ever to surrender and allow life to unfold without resistance. After years of trying to control so many aspects of my life, it’s refreshingly different and surprisingly productive…
I had a sudden image (a vision, if you will) the other day of being positioned with slight adjustments here and there, just as an artist would gently ease a model made of clay into the perfect position. That’s exactly what it feels like for me right now, and whenever I start to feel my old worry and panic rising up, I stop and take a breath and focus on allowing change to happen. Whilst many changes are taking place externally, the greatest change has most certainly been internal.
It began just before New Year, with a prayer. Not just any prayer, but a heartfelt one which signalled the end of my resistance and the opening of my heart fully. Since then, not only have I found a peaceful core from which to cope with the sudden changes in my life, but I’ve also found the tools and support necessary to continue exploring in a way I have yearned for for far too long now.
For instance… the day I received news of a major change in my life, I also received this most beautiful gift from an unknown friend.
I still have absolutely no idea who sent it… I had to sign for the delivery but there was no postmark on it, no clues as to where it had come from, no name on the card that came with it, just a very sweet and encouraging message…
Now, it’s clearly from someone who knows me. They had to know that I would truly appreciate the books included – I haven’t written a huge amount about my faith and spirituality on the blog so I am assuming they know me “off the blog” too. However, given the message above, the gift giver must have seen my post about my goals for 2015, surely? More than anything else, they have to have known my postal address!! Taking all these into account, I have a few people it could be, but I am not 100% which one it is.
Whoever it is though, the “little something” is actually a hugely generous gift that has touched my heart in more ways that I can express and came at the most perfect time. It has come to remind me to continue opening my heart to the unseen, to begin trusting in the unknown, and to embrace the community around me in ways I haven’t done in years, if ever.
I’m learning to accept who I am, to stop feeling apologetic for not “fitting in”, to allow myself to explore my own faith and understanding and be comfortable in that. I am learning not to hide who I am, to know it is okay to be different, and that who I am is unique and perfect for the life I am leading.
This is all being reflected back to me in so many ways that I can no longer ignore it. Major external changes are hard to miss, but the internal ones are pretty easy to dismiss sometimes, don’t you think? You can so easily doubt them when there is little tangible evidence for them on the surface. Which is why the surprise gift means so much – it is a physical reminder of the internal changes towards release and acceptance of support, one which came at the most perfect moment.
Which brings me back to the very beginning of this blog post…
“Have you ever found that sometimes, when you stop fighting, things just suddenly begin to fall into place in a way you could never have imagined?”
This post has been shared as part of the #sharethejoy linky hosted by Bod For Tea
You may remember that this time last year I read a fair few books that seemed quite contradictory reading in many ways:
"My recent/current reading list has contained the titles, "What God Wants", "What the Bible Really Teaches", "An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion" and "The God Delusion". Quite a selection – a "new age" book, a Christian challenge to fundamentalists, a philiosophical/theological book, and one written by a staunch atheist!"
I also went on to explain why this was of interest to me:
"More and more I am realising that if I truly want Little Man to grow up and make his own decisions about faith and "God" then I need to be able to encourage and support him in his own exploration as and when he is able and wants to do so… I'd rather he chose to be firmly religious or a passionate atheist (neither of which I am) or even someone who couldn't care less either way, than follow in my footsteps and choose to believe something just because I do. If I can raise him to have his own mind, I'll be one happy mama."
I didn't really write much more about this after that, even though I continued to read various bits and pieces. But when I picked up another book by Neale Donald Walsch recently I realised that he has this unique way of putting into words so much of what I have felt for so long but never been able to explain very well. I began reading Communion with God just a week or so ago and every time I pick it up I wish I were as able to put my feelings into words.
You see, I seem to have a lot of friends who either have very firm beliefs in God or who are passionately atheist and I find myself agreeing with each one on so many things and yet disagreeing on many others. And it can be hard to explain where you actually stand when you are neither here nor there, but somewhere in the middle, because that can seem so very "wishy washy" and changeable at times, which it is (changeable I mean, not wishy washy)!
I love each one for their conviction in where they stand as I feel the same conviction that what I feel is right, is right for me. But expressing that can be difficult. And it can be even more confusing to try and explain how sometimes I can feel I have more in common with an atheist than with a christian, even though I believe in a God (of sorts).
But when I talk about "God" I mean "Life". Pure and simple, I believe that "God" is a term used throughout the ages to describe the energy that creates life, that sustains life, that simply is life. So that includes you and me. Totally heretical to many faiths to suggest that we are all a part of God, co-creating the life that exists, but at its essence this is what I believe. We live in the world, we affect it through our thoughts, beliefs and actions. We're aren't mere spectators, we are creators. We create new life, we give birth to it, and we raise it.
And the book puts this so much more succintly than I ever could:
'There is nothing that is that is not God.
'You may better grasp this idea if you use the word "Life" in place of the word "God". The two words are interchangeable, so you will not alter the meaning…
"Nothing that is, is not Life. If Life needed to produce a result, where would Life get it? There is nothing that exists outside of Life. Life is All That Is, All That Was, and All That Will Ever Be.'
You may think I'm nuts, and that's okay! I think I'm nuts sometimes too. But I know that this really sums up for me exactly what I feel about life and God. I don't believe in God as a person. I think that we have personified an abstract feeling and concept that we struggle to put into words. And I think there is a real beauty in that, so long as we do not then expect everyone to accept our truth as the truth.
And so this is why I find myself falling somewhere in the middle, enjoying various perspectives given by both religions and atheists alike. It keeps me questioning whether what I believe today is the same as I believed yesterday, and I like that. Again the book writes this so much better than I ever could:
'Remember… take what you read as valuable, but not as infallible. Know that you are your own highest authority. Whether you read the Talmud or the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita or the Qur'an, the Pali Canon or the Book of Mormon, or any holy text, do not place your source of authority outside of yourself. But, rather, go within to see if the truth you've found is in harmony with the truth you find in your heart. If it is, do not say to others, "This book is true". Say, "This book is true for me".
'And if others ask you about the way you are living because of the truth you have found within you, be sure to say that yours is not a better way, yours is merely another way.'
This last passage reminds me of the conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu that I shared last year and I think it is worth sharing again. I love how beautifully this conversation expresses the ability to seek your own truth and still be able to honour the truth of another.
And I think it is a message that holds true in so many situations in life. '…if others ask you about the way you are living because of the truth you have found within you, be sure to say that yours is not a better way, yours is merely another way," is surely a message we should all remember when discussing different lifestyles, parenting choices and so much more. And this is why I love this book so much.
I do hope that as Little Man grows I will not only find the words to express these things to him but also the ability to live my life honouring the paths of others, showing him by the way I live my life rather than simply the words I speak.