Category: Real life
Remember, the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you — Rumi
I attended a 3-day workshop with Sally Kempton recently. We were learning about kundalini and the goddess and the joys of spiritual awakening. There was chanting, meditation and a LOT of women in attendance. At one point Sally shared a few book and website recommendations with us, describing one site as “not too woo woo”. And I thought to myself what could possibly be more woo woo than kundalini, chanting and the goddess?! But I knew what she meant because I often use that term myself.
It usually pops up when I’m with a group of people who hold a mix of beliefs — when teaching a course, for example, I never take it for granted that everyone has the same references as me and I try to be as inclusive as possible. To me that’s just being polite and respectful. But lately I’ve become more aware of how I use the term in my everyday life, too. It’s the “this might sound a bit woo woo but…”s that have got to stop.
I know where this has come from. Looking back over my relationships I see I chose partners who didn’t share my beliefs. I still remember the withering looks I received and how I always felt the need to play down that side of myself. The not-an-atheist side, completely at odds with how they viewed the world.
All this has been swirling in my head since I finished reading The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. While Sue Monk Kidd’s background is vastly different from mine — I had a very secular upbringing — I devoured every word of that book. As ever, reading another woman’s story has emboldened me to own my own. It suddenly hit me that when I diminish what’s important to me I diminish myself, and while I may have been quick to do that in the past I don’t want to do it anymore.
I don’t follow a particular religion or a single set of beliefs, and while much of what rings true for me lives in the New Age camp for sure, these days I’m most interested in my own first-hand experience of spirituality. The best way I can explain it is this: It’s the connection I feel when I turn inwards, my sense of being connected to something much larger than me yet also unquestionably a part of me, too. And there ain’t nothing woo woo about that.
I enjoy learning about new ways to connect to the sacred within — hence the kundalini workshop — and ever since I bought my first tarot deck as a teenager I have always been interested in the metaphysical. As I get older my understanding of my place in the world is deepening, which in turn makes me more confident about embodying that with others. I love my spiritual accessories — my home is filled with crystals and singing bowls and more oracle cards than is probably necessary — but really all I need do is close my eyes and I’m there. I’m home.
We’ve come up with so many names and rules for what could be ‘out there’ — god, angels, spirit, universe, source, shakti, the mystery, the all-that-is — and while I don’t think any of us will ever really know the truth until we shove off our mortal coil, enough bonkers things have happened in the last nine years to let me know that there’s more to all this than just what we see with our eyes. I can’t prove it scientifically but I know what feels true for me. And that’s the bit that feels important — that we each find what feels true for us.
I guess you could call me a healthily sceptical believer :)
Reading… The Divine Feminine Fire by Teri Degler and Dancing in the Flames by Marion Woodman
Feeling… the pain in my teeth. I’m half way through my Invisalign treatment and so far so good — but there’s not a day that goes by where I’m not deeply aware of the braces, and for some reason, this new set are really doing a number on my molars. Ouch.
Smelling… fried eggs. This incense.
Tasting… coffee, always with the coffee.
Listening… to the silence of Sunday and the gentle rumble of cars passing. Birdsong.
Creating… two guided meditations to give to my Love Letter peeps soon.
Wanting… to be kissed. I can’t deny it. It’s the lazy Sunday morning effect.
Pondering… that today is father’s day and I have no one to send a card to. And how I am completely at peace with that. I was less so last year.
Reading… The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. Oh this book, this BOOK. So many ahas, even though we share such different backgrounds.
Feeling… filled up from yesterday’s workshop with Sally Kempton and conversations with new friends.
Smelling… minty lipbalm. My new favourite perfume oil.
Tasting… a perfectly ripe white nectarine. Iced coffee.
Listening… the sound of my washing machine. The cars passing by. The hum of my laptop.
Creating… making notes about the oracle cards, ready to send to my co-conspirators this week.
Wanting… more time to read. I’m craving a whole month to just lie on my bed/sofa/in the park and devour books.
Pondering… the bravery of beautiful Jenna, who had brain surgery last week. She wrote to me yesterday: ‘Hi Susannah, I was part of the first Sacred Alone group. I just wanted to write a quick email of thanks! Right after the class doctors discovered that I had a brain aneurysm. This meant weeks of tests and just a week ago brain surgery far away from my home (I live in the United Arab Emirates). I just have to say a huge thank you because the meditations from that class have carried me through this really rough time. So often when scared I meditated – the lake meditation I found especially helpful. Also the doctors continually remarked how peaceful I was and how perfect the procedure was (like my body was helping them!). I am so thankful to you and to that class. It is part of my life, my soul, and my spirit. You have touched my life and helped me to go through the most difficult thing I’ve every faced – brain surgery. Thank you is not enough. I hope each who takes this class is as blessed by it as I have been. Thank you.’
* a post inspired by all the lovely lists I’ve seen around the internet. If you feel inspired do share your own check-in in the comments or if you blog your answers leave a link!
We attended my cousin’s funeral yesterday. Only a few years younger than my mum, he was really more like an uncle to me. A sweet and deeply kind man, he lived a simple life with the ones he loved and it feels dreadfully unfair that the last few years of his life were plagued with illness. So many beautiful words were shared about him at his funeral, it made me wish he was there to hear them. And I’ve communed with death enough to know that he was there, but for those of us left behind it’s not enough. We want them here, in the flesh, breathing, smiling, holding our hands.
After leaving the crematorium we went to look at the flowers laid out in the garden. On the way back to the car Mum said she wished she’d taken a photo so I ran back to snap a few shots with my phone. In that moment I was thinking only of my mum, but after taking the pictures I reflected on how even though I didn’t have photos of the flowers laid out at another crematorium, I could still remember the white lilies and freesias, and the roses I’d laid out myself. Walking back to the car, with not a soul around me, I turned a corner to find the most perfect grey feather lying on the ground at my feet. It actually made my heart jump. “Oh,” I smiled, “I was wondering where you were.” It never fails to amaze me how they keep in touch with us. I continue to find the feathers in the most important moments and the most needed moments. Always the feathers, sometimes seeming to appear out of thin air.
In the pub afterwards we shared drinks and stories, looking at photos and getting to know the members of D’s family we hadn’t met before. As my sister and I gingerly sipped our halves of Guinness we started planning our own funeral (as you do). Because, you see, we’ve already decided that we will be popping our clogs on the same day. By then we’ll have reached the end of our nineties and having outlived everyone else we’ll be ready to get in the car and drive off a cliff, Thelma & Louise style. We both agreed that we’d want to have a gathering beforehand so we could hear the kind words that everyone shared. We’d kiss our children and grandchildren goodbye and tell them not to miss us too much because we’d see them on the other side soon enough.
Abby said she wanted to be laid out in a white dress — like the Lady of Shalott — on a huge pile of branches. This would then be floated out into the middle of a lake at which point a burning arrow would be shot, setting the pyre alight. I agreed this was a stellar idea, and the conversation continued with the discussion of a joint pyre and whether or not we’d have prayers or meditation at the ceremony (Abby wants prayers, I want meditation — there will be both). When my sister said no one would be allowed to wear black I nodded in emphatic agreement.
All this might sound a bit morbid or inappropriate considering we were at a funeral, but I actually found it incredibly comforting. Death has to be one of the last taboos we have, something we all have to face when our loved ones take their leave, hopefully in timely and expected ways but often not. Learning we’re all going to die is so shocking. I remember the finality of my pet rabbit dying and trying to untangle the idea that it was permanent, that we couldn’t make her “better”. I can still remember trying to imagine what being dead was like — would it be an abyss of black nothingness? I don’t recall putting much stock in the clouds-and-harps of heaven, but as I got older, and started reading more new age-y books, I began to formulate theories about what comes next. In some twisty way I can’t wait to find out, but I’m happy for the big reveal to be 50 years from now.
Last week Noah and I were reenacting Frozen-lite with his dolls and at some point one of the girl dolls died only to come alive again with true love’s kiss (he watches a lot of Disney films). Even then I wondered what it was going to be like for our tender sweet boy to learn about death — how can we possibly explain it to him? Through the smiles and tears of yesterday’s gathering, my heart was warmed when I saw D’s grandson clutching the hand of his grandmother during the ceremony. These little people make everything better, they really do. Noah was playing at nursery all day, and I’m glad that for now he believes in Father Christmas and fairies and true love’s kiss. There’s plenty of time for the big reveals of life… just not yet, not yet.
(For D: I have no doubt that you’re reading this from the big golf course in the sky. Rest in peace, dear cousin x)