At Imbolc, What Is Stirring?


It is a dig down deep kind of time.

It is a time of falling down into the spacious dark within, until we come face to face with unfinished things and beloved things, with past actions un-repaired and past loves undeclared. And it is a time of becoming whole by facing them.

It is a time of finding an authentic voice and striking all the words and all the ideas that are false. It is a time of knowing what is false.

It is a time of action, actions that are consistent with what we stand for, hope for and believe in. It is a time of understanding that this is how we create our world, one action, one word at a time.

It is a also time of conserving energy and eschewing action that is wasteful and inconsistent with our vision for the world we want to create. It is a time for having the discipline to wait to act until we feel the inner pull and the courage to act when we feel that pull.

It is a time of surrender to something greater, call it God, call it Spirit, the Divine.

A client today came face to face with the question of whether or not she really wanted to make a commitment to becoming a holistic healing entrepreneur, to investing hours and hours upfront on the faith that the investment would pay off, to risk putting herself out there and potentially failing.

At one point she said, “And yet, it’s still there. It won’t go away. I want to do it. I want to do this work.”

And that’s the dilemma we all face. We want this great life. We want a world of opportunity and peace. But we want it to be easy. We don’t want to put ourselves out there, because we instinctively know it will be hard, and we may lose things. We may lose money, time, faith. We will be tested. We might be facing a death of one kind or another. Certainly we are facing the death of our own comforts and illusions.

Because we don’t want to lose anything, we hover around on the sidelines, telling ourselves we’re in the game. But even as we avoid engaging, we walk forward, testing the boundaries of our fear, looking out over our self-imposed limitations and at last naming them.

Leaving our comfort zones we enter the abyss, where life begins and ends. And in the great abyss of the winter night sky, the stars are now in the belly of the Earth Mother, as she gestates a new year into being at this time of Imbolc.

Valarie Kour, storyteller, activist and interfaith leader, in a speech at the National Moral Revival Poor People’s Campaign Watch Night Service, asks the stunning question, “What if this is not the darkness of the tomb, but of the womb?”

“What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb? What if our nation is not dead but a country still waiting to be born? What if the story of America is one long labor? The midwife asks us to breathe and push. Because if we don’t push we will die. If we don’t push now, our nation will die. So let us take one another’s hand and push together.

Yes, it is a time of pushing. Even while deeply listening and fervently loving, even while afraid and fogged, we are making our sure way out. Maybe we could have done better up to this point, but we don’t have time to mourn the past. We have work to do.

I may ask you this at the end of every blog post in different forms, so relevant is it to these times: What tools of yours are you reuniting with that are right there, ready to be put into action, as you are ready to own them and use them?

I leave you with a song about inspired action, determination and this long, dark birthing process, from the folk duo, Emma’s Revolution, Sandy O and Pat Humphries.

Enjoy, and keep on loving yourself forward.

The Quickening

photo by digitaldrawn
photo by digitaldrawn

Yesterday I found myself yearning for a wordless place, a beautiful place where I could just be. I was tired of defining, concluding, reaching, yearning, improving, examining and, yes, growing. I fell into a deep sleep after I came home from work, and when I woke up, my head was empty. I couldn’t remember anything. I went upstairs to my work space and plopped and dozed some more with my feet up and my hair squished and matted on the high back of the leather chair where I do my writing. I looked at piles of papers, and I swear every squiggle I’ve ever made with ink on a page was screaming at me. But silently. Because I no longer understood language.

I closed my eyes against the din and breathed. Who am I, anyway? And why can’t who I am be orderly, defined, presentable, and outline-able? Quantifiable? I am nearly sixty years old, for goodness sake. When am I done chewing through the chyrsalis?

photo by D.M. Turner
photo by D.M. Turner

One word floated up. Metamorphosis. The butterfly. I usually use the word transformation to talk about what happens to the tomato seed on the way to becoming the tomato. But what about what happens to the caterpillar? It has a body all along. It has eyes and a direction. The tomato seed moves by the wind, by hands, or it doesn’t. The caterpillar moves by destiny, and if nobody interferes with a better idea or a faster route, it becomes a butterfly.

What does all this mean? It means that I don’t know who I am and how I’m helping. It means I really needed a nap. It means people my age are dying or getting shitty diagnoses, and why don’t they just take me, who hasn’t really done anything with life?

It’s Imbolc, halfway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. The seeds that are already in the ground are now ready to begin a mysterious process called the quickening. The moment when life begins.

I don’t know what’s quickening in my life, because I don’t remember all the seeds I’ve planted. I may have senselessly spread many of my seeds, and they may or may not have landed on fertile ground. This may not be their season. I wish I knew how to contact the Quickener and just ask one question:

Who am I becoming?

Last night when I went to bed, I cried in the dark while my partner held my hand. I’m having a crisis of identity. Everything I thought I knew has flown away. Everything I’m doing, I’m doing for the wrong reasons. All I can do is cry out the fear of never getting there, hoping that I am also wringing out all the wrong reasons and misguided attempts to make up for what I’m afraid I lack.

I awaken. I empty and fill the places that need emptying and filling, which will later need more emptying and more filling. My breakdown seems to be giving way to breakthrough, but only in that I haven’t broken up.

We saw the movie Groundhog Day last night. I noted the stages the main character went through as the same day unfolded over and over again. First, panic. Then, reaching out for help. Then, throwing out concern for consequences, indulging every last fantasy, systematically getting into bed with whomever, just because he could. Then, beginning to notice and respond differently to the B&B hostess, the insurance salesman, the homeless beggar. Then, launching a mission to seduce his director and failing over and over and over again. Finally, becoming a better person: mastering ice sculpting, piano, saving lives, giving a shit, until that last day when everybody in town feels they have a personal connection to Phil Connors, the weatherman from Pittsburgh. He’s given up trying to seduce her. He’s become himself. In doing so, he’s become attractive, and she is now intrigued and buys him at the bachelor auction. They sleep together, clothes on, just sleep. The next morning, it’s a new day.

It’s a wonderful, funny story of how a self-centered, arrogant, small time TV personality becomes a real person with a real community of connections forged by loving acts.

All my fussing about who I am – It hasn’t gone away. But as I stand at the kitchen sink washing the breakfast dishes, watching large clumps of snow falling at a 45 degree angle from the north to my back yard, I hear words begin to play in my ear like a prayer being said for me by the Divine:

Dear one, you have a purpose, a destiny, and an identity, even if you don’t know what they are. You are whole, even while you are desperately searching for things to make you whole.

Dear one, there are answers, even if you don’t know them. Can you be okay with not knowing? There is a time, which isn’t now, and that’s why you feel unready. Can you be okay with not being ready for anything than what you’re ready for? Can you be okay with getting up and washing the breakfast dishes? With your head being empty and silent?

Dear one, can you live from here? Not for a purpose, but because it’s a way to understand the world, to open to Good Orderly Direction, to find peace and flow, by living from who you are right now?

The seed that is quickening, you becoming who you are becoming, can only be nurtured by doing the thing at hand as you, not because it’s the right thing to do but because it the thing to do. Even though you don’t know why.

The most important thing is to be who you are right now, and none other, to get up in the morning, to meet life with life, to care if possible, but most of all to be here, bringing everything that’s in your heart to this moment. That is how to be true to yourself. That is a living prayer that reverberates, is heard, comes back and nourishes you. Even if who you are is hurting, desperate, afraid and breaking down.

Can you trust the impulse, even if you don’t know why? Can you love your loved ones even though it may not take away their burdens? Can you connect with what’s in your heart, even though it may not be what you hoped for? Can you listen, even though it reveals your soft and vulnerable, failing, faltering places?

Dear one, you will get up the next day and do the dishes. The snow will fall. Words will appear on paper through your hand and attention. A seed is quickening, because that’s what seeds do. You are doubting and breathing and crying and becoming, because that’s what people do.

Blessed be. No matter what you do today, you are becoming. Something is quickening.

I listen and transcribe as best I can. I have a scheduled post to put up, because I said so, not because it saves or changes or helps or improves anything, but because it is the thing to do today. Even though it’s uncomfortable and inconclusive, this is what I have to say. So this is what I share.

The sky, a fathomless monotony of close, grey cloud cover, tells me nothing, no matter how deeply I peer.  The snow has stopped. I check in with my heart. It’s softer and quieter in there. Still no answers. Can I be okay with that? For just the moment of now, yes, I can. Especially just this tiny moment of now. Over and over again.