When the going gets tough…

…the tough take a step back and re-evaluate what’s a priority and what’s a nice to have.

Not what you were expecting? If I’m honest, it’s not what I was expecting either. I was a fully-paid up member of the “tough get going” club for many years. And it affected a lot of things in my life. It led to injuries to my body through over training and food restriction. It led to mental health issues through ignoring the signs that things weren’t right. It led to relationship issues because, well, you just keep going, right? It’s led to my current situation where I’m off work and trying to recuperate from burnout.

So I’m changing the format. I have been trying to do everything for the last few months, from 60+ hrs a week in work, to managing a household, to maintaining physical health and nutritional intake, to keeping hydrated… it didn’t work and things slipped up. I kept my preparation for Samhain on track, which was good – I was going to say lucky, but it wasn’t luck, I made it a priority, but I kept on making work a priority as well over almost everything else. And that’s not good for me.

So I’m currently in a phase of recuperation that I can take that step back and I’m looking at what I need to do. I’m looking at the daily, weekly, monthly tactics (students of Brian Moran and Michael Lennington may recognise some of this approach) I need to implement and continue and monitor to ensure I fulfil all my obligations, including those I make to myself.

Yeah, I’m putting myself first here. I know my day job pays the bills and requires some attention, but I’ve proved in the last few weeks that when I don’t put myself first, the day job suffers as well. My primary priority at the minute is the walking thing. Since I’ve not been driving in and out to work, I’m making massive progress on the walking thing. Whereas before, I was struggling to walk 10mins without pain, now I’m up to 40 mins – albeit extremely slowly at 4kph (or 2.5mph for my non-metric readers) but it’s a damn sight more than I was doing a month ago. And it’s proven, yet again, that small daily work pays off in the long run.

Next one to tackle is sleep. I’m still sleeping a lot, but it’s not in any sort of usual pattern for me. Last night, it was well after 2am before I could get my brain to calm down and today it’s been a real struggle to stay awake at all. So, sleep hygiene is next on the list. It won’t be today, but this is things like having a bedtime ritual or routine, making the bedroom a helpful place for sleep – quiet, dark, no blue light, etc, clean and nice bed clothes – both sheets and pyjamas here, uncluttered appearance about the place. For me, my bedtime ritual always includes meditation when I’m in the groove. I recently bought the full focus journal from Michael Hyatt’s system, because while I like the idea of journaling before bed, I also like the idea of structure and being able to empty my head of things to remember/do etc, which this journal will help with I think. Have I started using it yet? Oh no, why would I do that!! To be fair to myself, a lot of the reason I’ve not started using it is a) it arrived yesterday and b) I want to look through it and link it to my planner to get the full value out of it. So in the coming days, I’ll start experimenting with it to see where and when I should use it.

Usually, I have a bit of a check in with Herself at night as well. I hesitate as usual to use the word “prayer”, but really, it kinda is. Sometimes it’s as simple as “Good night, thanks for the help today”, or “Hell, I’m dreading this thing tomorrow, can you help?” things like that. Other times it’s a more formal meditation structure, where I follow my pattern of using the visualisation of a flame to empty my thoughts and go on a small walk to talk to her. Actually the flame thing came to me originally from a work of fiction that had nothing to do with Brigid at all – Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. (yes it’s a wiki link to all of his books – they’re fantasy and not to everyone’s taste, but I grew up with them, starting to read them in 1990 and the final book was published – posthumously – in 2013) In those books, the Flame and the Void is used by men to empty their minds and focus. I’m sure it’s actually based in some martial arts technique, but since I never did martial arts, I’m not sure at all.

Either way, the sending my thoughts to the flame is a great way for me to calm my mind. The slight issue is, nothing works 100% of the time, especially when it comes to thoughts and emotions. Terrible, isn’t it? You’d think we’d come into this world with a manual to help us out with things like this. When that happens, I try to compose a prayer, usually as Gaeilge, since that takes more effort and crowds out other thoughts and then I find myself telling a story as Gaeilge either to myself or herself.

Sometimes, I just get up and read or watch telly or something because my brain just won’t shut up, and I deal with the lack of sleep the following day. Tonight, I’m aiming to get back into that ritual a bit, just a little bit. We’ll see how it goes.

Once I get sleep back on track, food will be next and then the compilation of things like spending time with husband, housework, laundry, car maintenance, etc that need to happen just for life, y’know. Then comes the spiritual stuff and how long I need to spend on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to do what needs to be done there. And then we’ll see how work fits in. My suspicion is thought, I’ll need to drastically trim back work hours to a mere 40hrs a week – you know, actually what I’m paid for – in order to fit everything else in. Cos there needs to be downtime as well, when I’m not working, either for money or for my life, when I can just relax, zone out if I wish, do nothing. We underestimate the power of doing nothing in the modern world and I think we need to reclaim it.

So my priority list (which by the way is extremely close to my overview prep for the festivals list) is:

  1. Physical
  2. Mental
  3. Spiritual
  4. Everything else

We forget when we are trying to develop spiritually that we are still physical beings, who need sleep, food, water, etc. And the body, in my worldview, is at least as important as the soul, since without the body, we don’t have any anchor for the soul in this world.

So there’s my priorities for the coming weeks. Body, mind, soul. Put myself first. Look after myself. Keep myself in as good a state of health as I can manage (always remember health will mean different things to different people!) And once everything is in place, the structures and rituals to support me to be my best me, then this tough will get going again!

Delay in blog posts

I had intended to be posting on a Sunday but I’ve missed the last two (I’m sure ye have noticed!) On Sunday 17th October, I was teaching a class on Samhain ritual with the IPS (check it out here if you’d like to take a look) This meant for most of that day I was doing the final preparations as if I were doing my own Samhain ritual. This meant cleaning and sorting out the room I was doing the teaching in – it’s not one I usually use for ritual, so it took most of the day to clean and get sorted in the way I wanted.

This included physical and energetical cleaning, as well as a de clutter and organisation theme as well. Now, on the plus side, I’m now really happy with the way the room looks and it feels better as well. On the down side, it was exhausting, especially the energetical work, since it hadn’t been done in a while. It’s usually my work-from-home office so it doesn’t get the same attention as the other areas I use for ritual work. People don’t always appreciate that there is a difference between physical and energetical cleaning. I do think physical cleaning is an essential part of energetical cleaning, but it’s not the whole thing. So, aside from the cleaning up of about 12 months worth of dust and clutter, I was also clearing out about 12 months of energetical dust and clutter as well. Hoovering out the corners, de-spidering the room, throwing out the rubbish… but it’s open and clear now.

then there was the teaching of the class and since it was ritual, it took a bit more energy than usual. It was a great class and I really enjoyed it – fair warning, there was audience participation in this one as well as my own experience! But it was fun as well and we had a great time doing it.

As a down side from that though, as part of the usual energy drop after a ritual (for me anyway) my already fragile enough mental health took a down turn and I’ve been off work for a week and likely to be so for another 2 at least. I think I mentioned going back on the anti-depressants a few weeks ago and really, I should have taken time off then, but I forced myself to struggle on. And then, it all became too much. So for the last week, I’ve been on recovery mode. I’ve been on extra meds and will be for a few more days to take the edge off. I’m out of work (it’s ok – pay won’t be affected for this, Ireland is different from the States with this, in case people were worried) and my team are being really good at not contacting me to allow me to recover.

But it’s meant that the blog was one of the things that fell off the radar. The things that have made it onto the list of “shit I care about right now” has mostly included food, sleep, personal hygiene. And even they’ve been a struggle some days. This all means I need to take another look at that self care thing the Morrigan was charging me with earlier in my Samhain preparation. (Cos I will be doing my own ritual next Sunday, 31st October, so my prep is continuing). I’m also getting messages similar to “well if you won’t make the effort to look after yourself, we will make it so you have to”. It’s not that clear of course, but that’s the general feeling.

So, sometime before next Sunday, I will need to be spending a day or so cleaning out my usual ritual site in the same way I did this room last week. I also need to make sure I have the energy and will to do the ritual in the way I want to do it and maybe break it up if I need to. Sending myself back into crisis mode would not be helpful for anyone right now. And my doctor keeps telling me I need to be selfish now and look after myself first… this is not something that comes naturally to me. In fact, ignoring my physical and mental and emotional needs comes way more easily and familiarly to me. But here we are. I’m under both medical and deity orders to look after myself. And if that means breaking up my Samhain ritual into manageable bits, that’s what I’ll do.

There’s also been a lot of interest in my preparation for Samhain posts, so I’m thinking of running a 3 month preparation for Imbolc course as well. If you’re interested, please let me know! I’m thinking of taking a small group of people through the exercises and other stuff I do for preparation for the festival, and with it being Imbolc next, people won’t be surprised to hear it’s the one I put most effort into and it’s slightly different to the rest of the festivals – far more focused on Brigid for a start! So do leave a comment or drop me a line if you would be interested in that.

For now, I’m looking at something small I can do right now for me. (It’s lunch. Or possibly brunch – breakfast didn’t happen this morning) Then I’ll look at showering and dressing. In something fun for me rather than something purely practical. And then I may curl up with a film or something comfy on the couch and rest. Because, sometimes, rest is as important a part of spiritual work as anything else. Maybe if I say that to myself often enough, I might start believing it at a body level rather than at a mental level!

Preparation – the joy of music

Last Thursday morning, I wrote a comment about using Alice Cooper’s Poison in a cleansing ritual. I think it says a lot about the membership of that particular group that really the only comment was saying it was a great song! But it is part of my ongoing preparation for Samhain.

The chorus, in case you’re not an aficionado of the popular rock of the late 80’s, goes like this:

I wanna love you, but I better not touch (don’t touch)
I wanna hold you, but my senses tell me to stop
I wanna kiss you, but I want it too much (too much)
I wanna taste you, but your lips are venomous poison
You’re poison running through my veins
You’re poison
I don’t wanna break these chains

I know, it’s a strange one to be thinking of cleansing, but hey, the song to me speaks to the things I know don’t help me, aren’t nurturing, whether they be old attitudes I want to change, old habits I want to shed, whatever… (OK it doesn’t hurt that this song really does get that tingle going low down in my belly, but that’s not what it was used for last Thursday! Husband wasn’t awake early enough…)

The lyrics call to me of the siren song many things have or have had for me in my life. I can call out many habits or behaviours that just plain weren’t good for me, in a holistic fashion, but at the time, I wanted them, badly. I knew they were the poison of the song, but they worked and so I wanted them and even my saying I wanted to separate from them or give them up or stop the behaviour was half hearted at best. Brigid has been happy enough with my progress on these things to date, I think primarily because none of what’s left is affecting my ability to do the work she needs doing. I’m finding the Morrigan takes a different view. It’s kinda like a stern beloved teacher holding up a mirror and saying “Is this what you want your life to be? Cos you can be better!”

And yes, this came out of the mirror exercise I spoke of last week. I can look myself in the eyes these days, but I had still be skirting over patterns of behaviour that are residues rather than bedrocks of unhelpful habits. I won’t go into detail here, but my actions and behaviour are still being limited by past actions and behaviour. Some of those can be fixed and adjusted. Some… maybe not.

But “maybe not” is no longer a reason not to try. And some of this is limiting my life and causing me issues right now, so there’s no good reason not to change things. Spiritually, I’m not in a bad place. Mentally – not so good. Physically – really not good. So part of the next steps in preparation are to keep going with the cleansing and the spiritual spiral I’m on, but also to look at physical what I need to do and how I can improve things for myself.

It’s 4 weeks away now, since the 1st October was on Friday, and there is, of course, a limit to how much I can achieve in that time, but again, I was reminded that just because I may not reach the end goal, is no reason not to take the first step along the path. I won’t be any worse off than I am now!

And this is part of my reaction to the Poison song as well. I used to drive myself into extreme pain as a coping mechanism for some shite I was dealing with, and now I try to avoid that sort of pain as much as possible. But there’s a healthy balance to strike here with aches and pains. Extreme pain – no. Aches – probably yes. Tired muscles don’t feel great, but then, they don’t feel great anyway right now. So, improvement in 4 weeks is the way to go.

You know, people think this spirituality stuff is all meditation and raising vibrations and all that – no one ever mentions the endless physio exercises or drudgery of walking X amount per day or the scrubbing floors or the ruthless pruning of waste from your life… I wonder that is???

Festival preparation – inner journeys

Usually my preparation for festivals includes a lot of physical, outside-of-the-self preparation. Certainly at the start of the preparation anyway. I’ve spoken before about cleaning the house, clearing out the cobwebs, energising the corners, eliminating clutter, that sort of thing.

This year my spiral, for my preparation is usually a spiral, for Samhain appears to be taking a different turn. I’m having to focus on both the inner work of developing a relationship with the Morrigan and the outer work of tending to a community. It’s a difficult balance to hold and it’s not made easier by a demanding day job and a husband with health difficulties. But it needs to be done.

I wrote a few months ago about restarting my meditation practice. I have the night time meditation fairly well settled now, Sunday to Thursday and the morning practice settled Monday to Friday. (as an aside, I’ll be putting a link up soon for those that want a voice recording of the meditation I use most often in the morning). But I find as Samhain approaches, the meditation is changing. I’m developing a relationship with the Morrigan, since they are the deity I most associate with Samhain, the beginning of the dark half of the year.

This time of year is significant for prepping the ground for growth, for planting the seeds that need the winter for germination or growing in the dark, even if there are no obvious changes from the outside. I have a feeling my inner life is going to be going through a similar journey this year. There are times these premonitions are welcome – I’m not entirely sure this is one of them! Still, it can’t be any worse than Brigid’s anvil right? (Just as an FYI, tempting the gods like that is usually not sensible!)

So I’m using my usual meditation in the morning and Brigid is bring in the Morrigan to that time. We’re kinda like a Victorian couple getting to know each other under Mama’s watchful eye right now… but no doubt that will change. I’m not going for an apprenticeship, I’m unlikely to be loaned out to the Morrigan, this is more about manners than anything else. If I’m going to have a chat with her during a ritual on Samhain, then I’d best put in the work first.

One of the things I usually look at for Samhain is how easily I’m able to look myself in the face, look myself in the mirror. It’s a question of how honest I’m being with myself, even if with no one else. This year, that looking is happening at a deeper level than I realised and it’s looking back past my living memory. It’s tough, I can’t deny it, there are recurring images that I need to deal with, it seems, and that’s not easy even when it’s this life we’re dealing with.

But it is a simple enough exercise to work through yourself, if you want to? I find it useful to find out how easily I can look myself in the face in general, and it’s amazing the things that come up when I do. As I said, it’s simple, although read through it before you commit to it – you may not be comfortable doing it or it may push through memories or past trauma that you’re not in a place to deal with.

Sit down, or stand up in front of a mirror. Look into your own eyes. See what comes up. Usually helps to write it down, along with any thoughts or feelings that come up as well.

That’s it.

And yet, for many years, this was incredibly difficult for me to do. Depending on how bare or deep I need to look, I will sometimes do this as part of a ritual, or naked, or as part of a cleansing. But the core of it, the looking into my own eyes, is the important bit.

I would warn you, though, to set an alarm when doing this, since it can be easy to get lost in oneself as well and that’s not really good either! You can do it lying down, but I found it way too easy to sleep doing it that way, so I avoid it. In saying that, these days, I feel so tired, I sometimes think I’ll fall asleep standing up as well, so maybe it’s not the practice but the tiredness! 🙂

As I said, getting to know the Morrigan this year appears to be making changes to the things I’m perceiving about myself, the things I need to do to prepare for this journey at Samhain. I’m being asked to cross lines I never though I’d cross within myself and it’s challenging. But I’m still here, I’m still carrying on.

And no, this is still a Brigid blog, don’t worry and she’s my Main Person, so to speak, but Samhain isn’t her thing as such. I’ve no doubt she’ll turn up for the feast and be looking at the ancestors and all that, but her big day is after this, when the days are lengthening again, rather than shortening and the attention, the light, the ways are coming back to equal rather than the extremes of Samhain and Bealtaine. But I’ll also pay the Morrigan their due.

I might talk more about the spiral next week, but I’d love to hear how you get on if you try the mirror exercise. I would advise doing it straight, as in without ritual, first, just to get used to it…

Preparation

Photo taken this morning as the sun rose

I took the above photo this morning as the sun was turning from brilliant red to orange and yellow. The old rhyme rang through my mind: “Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight; red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning”. It’s the most basic preparation we can do for the day, figuring out what weather we’ll need to deal with. Less so for most of us in the modern world, when if the weather is bad (and in Ireland this means wet, cold, windy or some combination of the three!), exposing ourselves to the weather is limited to the scurry from car-door to building-door and back again. But even as much as 50yrs ago, knowing what the weather would be doing that day was important as you set about your daily tasks.

We prepare for other things too – both sacred and profane. In the longer term, most people I know do the Big Weekly Shop, to see us through the next week food-wise. We prepare food for eating. We select clothes to wear, making sure we have them washed and ready for public consumption before throwing them on in the morning. We prepare for big live events – weddings, funerals, baby ceremonies, religious ceremonies. For all sorts of things we prepare.

And part of that preparation is the conscious preparation. For me, I celebrate or mark the fire festivals in Ireland. They give me an excuse to do certain things, but I’ve realised in the last months that I do a lot of personal preparation as well. And now I’m trying to put a structure around that and recognise what I do, when I do it, why I do it, etc. And in doing so, I’ve realised a few things.

In the mundane, and sometimes even the sacred world, we tend to focus on physical preparation: cleaning the house, getting washed, buying a new outfit or selecting a current outfit, maybe getting the hair and nails done, making sure we’re clean and presentable basically. We’ll also maybe sort out food, a venue, entertainment – whatever is in keeping with the occasion itself.

We tend to look overmuch at the spiritual and emotional side of things. And as I’ve looked at how I prepare for our festivals, I notice that actually, I tend to do this as a festival approaches. Right now, as the days are noticeably shortening and cooling, my mind turns to Samhain. I’ve restarted lighting my candle in the morning, something not necessary in the summer months when the sun is up early, but definitely needed now. I’ve started looking at more snuggly food, comfort food, stews, soups and curries instead of the lighter summer fare. I’ve refocused on my meditation in the mornings and at night to allow me that space of peace in the day. I’m looking at preparing my body as well – reinvigorating my movement practices to accommodate the shorter days, the darker days.

This year, as I said above, I’m paying more attention to what I’m doing and noting whether it’s a sacred or profane practice, aimed at mind, body or spirit. What state of mind am I heading towards? What are my meditations bringing me to? What is my body calling for? (Weirdly at the minute – less chocolate, but that’s another post!!)

There are many ways we can look at preparation for a festival or a ritual – and Samhain in my case is both. But I like what I’m finding out this year and will be sharing more. Right now, even noticing what I’m doing in terms of physical, emotional and spiritual is interesting, as is how my sensitivities and awareness are changing as I do this. It’s not right, I don’t think, to live entirely in spirit – our bodies and minds are important too! But there’s no harm giving the sacred its space in our world as well.

So over the next few weeks, I’ll maybe mention a bit more what this preparation looks like for me.

My major step this week will be hiring a cleaner. With my husband still sick and not getting better, indeed getting worse, the housekeeping has fallen dramatically in our priorities and it’s getting to the point where even I want to give the place a good scrub. I can’t spend my entire weekend cleaning the house though, so hiring a cleaner is the way to go for us! Once I get that up and running I can start looking at the energetical cleaning of the place, or at least of a few key areas in the home, and then we can decide what we want to do, what we have the resources to do and what we will do for Samhain 🙂

Priesthood and roles to play

I have an uncomfortable relationship with priesthood. I mean, really uncomfortable. There is enough Catholic in me that “priest” really means “man in black with a white dog collar” (I’m sure ye can remember the picture from my mini-series on the practicalities of mixing Catholicism and paganism?) And so, when people describe me or address me as “priest” or “priestess”, I tend to get a bit uncomfortable.

And yet… Some of ye may know Lora O’Brien wrote a book on pagan priesthood back in 2019. I read it early on and as I was going through it, I started to get these subtle proddings. Ye may recognise what I’m about to describe – herself gets poking with her hammer and it’s kinda hard to ignore. Lora has divided the book into the duties of a priest, the sacerdotal activities and the community activities, and it has been explicitly pointed out to me the bits I’m already doing, however unofficially. I’m also quoted in the book, seeing as Lora asked me to respond to her questionnaire to get some thoughts from people “in the business” as it were. One of the things that stands out in my mind is when I describe the priest as one whose role is to “provide the shining light in the dark, to be the example, to lead the way… Priests are held to a higher standard in my mind”. Well, at least I didn’t say to be the whistle for signaling at night, right?

Anyway, the prodding is getting more and more urgent lately and certain not-so-subtle hints have been forthcoming. In one way, it’s fierce exciting. In another – I’ve got so much going on in life. And we all know she’s not always fantastic at recognising the limits of her tools. But sure, it’s up to me to remind here of that, I suppose.

What it means is, there will be some changes in the way I practice. Not necessarily the actual practice, but the way I publicise or manage the way I practice. There’ll be more teaching involved for a start (so far there’s an interest in some prep courses for Imbolc and something on the Brigs in the Ulster cycle, with a few more in the wings as well). There’s also a “making official” of the private consultations I’ve done up to now. As in, there’ll be a page on the website, when I get it set up, where you can sign up for some 1 on 1 consultation, should you wish to do so. I’ll also be actually communicating with my email list, with either new blog posts, or some interesting article or other I’ve read, or random bits of activity I’ve been doing. That bloody book will need to be finished!! (I’ve not done anything on it at all in 2021 for… reasons… but that needs to change now)

All in all, it means, I need to step up and be a more public priestess than I’ve been heretofore. I have to admit that actually, I am doing this work and do it a bit less under-the-table. I will need to post here more regularly as well.

Now all of this won’t happen overnight – even she admits it takes time to set things like this up – but it’s a heads-up to people and a warning to myself that she is being serious about this. Plans to follow….

Stress Management

Warning: this week I’m talking about methods I use currently and have used in the past, some of which are more and less helpful than others. Specifically, I will be writing about alcohol consumption and other activities, which when carried to excess, can be less than helpful

It’s been a really long month this week. Yeah. One of those. I have three major multi year projects going on in work and balancing the stakeholders from each of them – there’s huge overlap in the stakeholders but they appear to forget from one meeting to the next what’s going on. Big audit in work next week as well. Husband still not well and looks like he’s getting worse. House shopping – which is bloody painful.

So, yeah, it’s been a week.

And I’ve talked a lot about popping open a bottle of wine, or ten, tonight. It’s something I do fairly often. I rarely actually do pop open a bottle of wine when I’m like this anymore however. I used to – time was, there would be multiple bottles of wine consumed by me on both Friday and Saturday nights. Took me a long time to pull myself out of that habit. But sometimes I want to feel like I might pop open the wine and enjoy it and the relaxation it brings. The problem is it rarely brings the relaxation any more.

So, I’m going to talk about stress management today. Now my best means to manage my stress is through small, daily actions. And yeah, I mean daily. For me it comes to

  • a good night’s sleep
  • eating food that supports me and is enjoyable
  • moving daily
  • getting fresh air daily
  • drinking enough water daily
  • having “space-out” time regularly
  • regular, daily meditation

It’s not very exciting is it? I can say that this week, I’ve managed 1, maybe 2 of those and it’s showing. So I’m into crisis management now and here’s where the talking a bout hitting the wine tonight helps me. Even if I do open the wine tonight, I’m most likely to have 1 maybe 2 glasses of wine. Because I know that drinking more will leave me feeling worse tomorrow. I’m not dancing it off, I won’t be eating a bit meal with it, I’ll be sitting on the couch watching telly and reading and chatting to the husband. There’s nothing wrong with me having a glass of wine like this mind, but any more than 1-2 glasses and I won’t feel good tomorrow. And I need to feel good tomorrow…

Why?

Well, tomorrow starts the work of regaining the above habits again and it takes time, effort and energy to do that. I mentioned a few months ago about starting to rebuild my meditation practice. I’m not as far on as I’d like with that, partly because when I’m going to bed, my head is still racing from the day and I can’t settle to meditate, so I’m listening to YouTube videos from Fundie Fridays, the Illuminaughty, John Oliver and things like that. They’re entertaining, but hardly the same kind of experience as a meditation from Jason Stephenson (my go-to meditations here are this one and this one – no connections to them, but I love the meditations) Either way, it’s affecting both the amount and quality of my sleep.

Which then leads on to me making less informed or sensible choices when it comes to getting up in the morning – or at least when it comes to breakfast. ideally, I will have either an egg or porridge based breakfast. This is what works for me to set me up for the day, especially when I have a busy day and the gap between breakfast and the next time I eat can be 8hrs. (Please no advice on food or fasting or the types of food I eat. Please. I know what works for me ok?) But when I wake up late, cos I haven’t slept right, or I wake up on time, but I’m really sluggish and can’t get moving. So I end up either not getting breakfast or stopping by McDonald’s on the way to work. (Again, neither bad choices, they just don’t work long term for me). That then leads on to lunch being grabbed from local garage (white bread roll with coleslaw, cheese and tomato with a bar of chocolate) or from Tesco’s (chicken wrap with bbq slaw, crisps and orange juice with a choccy bar) Again neither particularly bad choices but not what works best for me. Then it could be 8pm when I get dinner which means I’m back to not sleeping properly again etc, etc, etc. And you’ll notice no movement, no fresh air, no spaced out time, water is hit and miss and meditation disappears again.

And I’ve had a few weeks of this all knocking out of sync.

But I also know that I can’t just dive back in to all these activities from a standing start. I’m still healing from having my toenail removed a month ago and walking is extremely difficult. Sitting down to meditate when I feel wired is almost impossible. Taking the time to take some deep breaths of fresh air is inconceivable when my work backlog is growing by the minute. So what do I do?

Well, this weekend, I’m doing my best to ignore work. It’s 18:25 here in Ireland as I write this and my work laptop and accompanying equipment is packed away, ready to travel into work on Monday. I’ve spoken to my darling husband about what we’re having for dinner and it looks like either fish or stir fry, so easy food to eat, but also nutritious and filling. I may end up having that glass of wine, but I won’t be deciding that for another hour or so.

Tomorrow, I’ll spend some time spacing out, actively spacing out. I’ll go outside and hobble around the garden getting some movement and some fresh air. I am planning on baking, because I find that something fun to do, but will also give me foods for breakfasts for a few days that are grabbable and easily eaten while driving. I can make sure I have enough clean tops, trousers, bras, knickers and socks for the coming week and lay them out. I can remove as much activity as possible from during the week so that even if I do get caught in work or am ridiculously late home, I have the next day set up already and ready to go. I can start each day fresh and not feel like I am falling behind more and more each day.

For the immediate crisis management though, I am comfort reading tonight. I have chocolate on hand. I may have a glass or two of wine. I have a few films lined up on Netflix I think. I have immediate, short term, “suspension of belief” type activities set up so that I can escape for a while for a few hours. I have used all these tactics in the past to push away life for months on end. That’s not healthy for me. But for a few hours, for one night, it might just get me through and set up for prep work tomorrow…

I can hear people asking, “Where’s Brigid in all this? Why isn’t she supporting you?” Well, bluntly, she is. But she doesn’t stop me spiraling like this cos she sees the work needing to be done. And while my mind and body are more than tools to me, they are tools to her, and sometimes tools need to be driven near to breaking point, then refurbished to get through a shit time. And that’s what we’re doing here. My body and mind have been driven to near breaking point, but not at breaking point, so now, I take the time to refurb and recover. I’m also going to plan in a spa treatment for next weekend to a) give myself something to look forward to and b) give myself some official, designated “space out” time.

I tell my stories when things aren’t going too well because very often, when we look at people’s lives on the internet, we see the curated, clean, special version. We don’t see the mess, the pain, the times when things aren’t going so well. And while a lot of places talk about stress management, very few of them talk about ways to deal with it in the moment. So me talking about drinking several bottles of wine tonight – most of my co-workers know I’m not a big drinker, so they know it’s exaggeration. They also know it’s a way for me to let off a little bit of steam to keep the explosion in check for a while longer. They’ll also notice my language getting a bit stronger, my general attitude degenerating a bit more. And when they ask me how I’m doing, I make a solid effort to be honest rather than covering it over with “I’m grand”.

Sitting still doesn’t help with stress most of the time. Drinking really doesn’t help with stress most of the time. Over eating, over exercising, over sleeping… for a long term solution, none of this helps with stress long term. But short term? Well now, that’s a different story…

Irish Ethnicity and following an Irish deity

There was a really interesting discussion in the Brigid’s Forge Facebook group on ethnicity and how it related to following, working with, being devoting to an Irish deity, such as Brigid as someone who possibly has no blood links to Ireland. And I thought it worth discussing at a deeper level than a Facebook post can allow – I mean, you can discuss things very deeply on Facebook, it just doesn’t come naturally to me to do so…

Anyway. Thanks for Brandon for his original post and thanks to everyone who answered. For this post, I’ll take a look at what ethnicity means, what it can be used for, the issues with it as a route for spiritual practice and a reiteration of what I believe I have said before on working with Irish deity. Hmm… this could be a long one…

Dictionary.com was my first stop – I mean, I had ideas in my head about what ethnicity was but I wanted to start at the beginning and move on from there. What I got was the below:

noun,plural

eth·nic·i·ties.

  • an ethnic group; a social group that shares a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like:Representatives of several ethnicities were present.
  • ethnic traits, background, allegiance, or association:The graph shows class enrollment by gender and ethnicity.

Now for somewhere like Ireland, there are a bunch of cultural, religious and language signifiers that we may not all partake in, but we are mostly aware of. For example, I couldn’t explain the rules of hurling to anyone, but I can still recognise a good game from a bad game and can understand why, on the Monday morning after a match between the two counties my office borders, there’s little enough work going to be done until the match has been replayed at least 5 times, with every puck of the ball examined and critiqued. It’s also hard to explain to outsiders just how Gaelic Games is permeated through the national psyche. I often joke to my family that I’ll start taking an interest in sport again when Meath start playing football again (that’s Gaelic to the foreigners among ye, not soccer!!) It also looks like I may have to make good on that promise shortly, given the changing outcomes of the minors and U-21s in recent years.

These common cultural signifiers have built up over centuries, or even longer. IománaĂ­ocht (or hurling) is referenced in our oldest sagas. Setanta’s boyish skill with a hurley was how he protected himself and gained the name CĂşchulainn. (I have my difficulties with CĂşchulainn himself mind, but there’s no denying he had skill with a hurley) The Catholic Church is another ethnic identifier with Ireland. Again, not all Irish people have a close relationship with the Church, but most of us, indeed, when I was growing up, the vast majority of us were at least close acquaintances with the institution. In our schools, in our hospitals, in our politics, in our pubs even, the Church was there, whether seen or unseen. Not all Irish people are members, not all Irish people are followers, not all Irish people are devotees, but if you talk about going to Mass, or that one priest that always stank of drink, or Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at 9pm… these are things that the majority of us will know about.

So, there are cultural ties that are a common holding to the people of this island. We have darker ties as well – the history of colonialism, the devastating effects of social conservatism, strongly supported by the Church, on certain elements of the population (namely, anyone who didn’t fall in line or who had the temerity to suffer from abuse), the economic hardships of the mid-20th century, the generational memories of famine and want. You don’t need to have 7 generations buried in the local graveyard to tie into these memories. How we each individually choose to deal with it is our own business, as long as we’re not hurting anyone else, but it’s all there to be dealt with…

it’s easy with Ireland, we had a fairly low immigration rate for centuries, unless you count our colonisers, which I don’t. Although to be fair, they did add to the gene pool, however willingly or unwillingly the gene pool accepted them. That doesn’t mean there’s anything like a “pure, Irish bloodline” mind you. We’re a nation of mongrels, in my opinion, with our very creation myths coming from the Book of Invasions (Leabhar Gabhála Éireann, or Lebor Gabála Erenn in old(er) Irish). It outlines seven waves of invasions of Ireland of different people and is probably worth a whole series of posts. But the message is clear: Ireland has been invaded a lot. And the seven waves don’t count the Vikings, the Normans, the English…There’s a very worrying trend that “ethnicity” is related to bloodlines and really, that’s just not possible in Ireland. I know, 23andme and all the other genetic data farms are highlighting DNA evidence of coming from Ireland in an ancestral sense, but seriously, that’s based on the genetic data of the people currently in Ireland who are willing to share their genes like that. It’s not the be-all and end-all.

And, to be clear, I also understand that it’s easy for me to say this, being born on this island and being clearly Irish and having that direct link to the land, the people, the history… it’s not as easy for people born elsewhere, but it’s not impossible. But I’ll move on to North America now…

Purely because it’s meant to be a great melting pot (well the States at least, I don’t think Canada has quite the same approach?) and yet, as I saw on a Facebook post recently, unless you are a member of one of the indigenous tribes of the continent, you’re a coloniser. It’s a harsh history to have to deal with. Plus, America is often denegrated for it’s lack of history – people in Europe reasonably regularly pointing out they have houses older than the country of the USA. (I mean, you could argue that Ireland as a country is younger, but I wouldn’t advise it in the hearing of any Irish people. It just took us a while to shake off the colonisers physically and frankly, we’re still working on it emotionally!)

We deal with Irish Americans a lot in Ireland. Coming home, connecting with their roots, spending those all-important tourism euros… There’s two sides to the story though. We, who have had the joy and privilege of growing up on this island know our culture, how it has developed, how it has changed, how it continues to change and develops. The tourists coming home for the first time in generations are trying to match the tales their parents, grandparents told of an older Ireland. Clinging on to those traditions, the ones they could anyway, was hugely important in remember who they are and where they come from. But Ireland moved on without them – to the point, we now get Irish American claiming Boston is more authentically Irish than Ireland… I hope most people reading that sentence might see the problems with it.

But I have sympathy for the Irish American trying to get in touch with their roots. there are a lot of people out there trying to sell a version of Ireland that doesn’t exist any more. Look at The Quiet Man, Darby O’Gill and the Little People, Far and Away… I won’t comment on recent films, because I can’t bring myself to watch them yet, but it’s evoking the sense of an Ireland not familiar to anyone in Ireland today. Or at least, not familiar to us outside history anyway. There are of course, genuine and authentic people, willing to work (and get paid for) helping those trying to get in touch with Irish roots, but sometimes that requires some personal learning and growth on the part of the student as well.

I would say though, that observing my Irish American cousins across the ponds (cos of course I have them! one group in and around New York, another lot around Boston, another lot that started around the Toronto area but are now spread across most of Canada. Yeah, Irish families abroad can be prolific, especially after a few generations…) there is a definite Irish American ethnicity that is distinct from, if related to, the Irish ethnicity. Doesn’t make it worse, but it is different. There is more focus on the old songs, Irish dancing, holding to Catholicism and the guidance of the church. In Ireland, I think my generation was the last of the ones that learned the old rebel songs in school, not that we don’t recognise them. But we don’t sit around in the evening singing away to ourselves. I mean, we’ve got Netflix, like…

You don’t need to be Irish, or even descended from Irish ancestors to work with Brigid, or indeed any other Irish deity. But the reason I say so often you need to understand the Irish culture before diving in deep with Brigid is because you need to understand the context you’re working in. Bloodlines doesn’t give you a boost here – unless you make the effort to learn about Ireland, modern and ancient, you won’t understand the shorthand most people use in cultural settings. Just because your great-great-grandmother came from the Burren doesn’t necessarily give you a special connection to the land there, especially not if you’ve never set foot there. Yeah, it’s shit that people say this isn’t it? You’ve been told your living on colonised land that you have no right to and then the land of your ancestors say you have no rights to their land either. It can lead to being rootless and feeling very adrift and forsaken.

But here’s the thing – you don’t have an automatic right to any land or culture, just because your ancestors came from there. You can earn the right by putting in the work though. Same as us all – none of us get rights, with deity in particular, through one off actions or requests. It comes from building the relationship. Learn. Adopt the beginner’s mind. Don’t expect people to reach out to teach you. There’s loads of good sources on the internet these days. Learning about modern Irish culture could be as easy as signing up to some of our online newspapers (The Irish Times is our paper of record, but it’s fair conservative in nature; thejournal.ie is one of my usual sources, the Indo is another one and the Irish Examiner, although for many people the Irish Examiner is still the Cork Examiner… the Corkonians might suggest that’s the usual Dublin-centric bullshit though) It could mean learning our language – and I don’t necessarily mean Gaeilge here, but there is a distinct slang and dialect associated with Ireland. We tend to refer to it as Hiberno-English as a joke, but from 10yrs living in England, yeah, it’s a different language really!

Sure, learn our history, there’s a lot there, but try learning it from Irish sources. You may be surprised about how much of our history has been rewritten/ adjusted from a colonisers point of view. Check your sources, read the critiques of the work in question as well. Not every Irish author will give you an emotion-free, factual account either, and honestly, it would be strange if they did.

Now, I’m talking here about getting to know Irish deity, but this can all be expanded or adjusted for any deity outside your own culture. Another note of caution on ethnicity as well – most Irish people are lucky to track their families back past their great-grandparents. it requires a lot of work and effort to even get that far. Getting back through the various upheavals, famines, risings, etc is extremely difficult. This is why you’ll find it extremely rare an Irish person will say in seriousness, “I’m descended from this famous king/being/person/chief”. We know damn well how impossible it is to track back factually, through the records, that far. You may well have family traditions that you’re heir to the chiefdom of such-and-such, but being brutally honest, all it is is a family tradition. It might be true, it might not be, but declaiming it and expecting people to observe that will lead you into difficulties. And the further back you go, the less likely you are to be believed or taken seriously. (This is just physcial ancestors of course. Spiritual ancestors are a real thing, in my opinion, but again, be cautious about basing an entire spirituality on nothing other than an assumed spiritual ancestors – check your sources, even when your sources are yourself!)

We need to touch a bit on colour here as well. There’s a really disturbing trend I’ve seen online that only white people can be of Irish descent. For a start, that’s pure bullshit. There were Irish slave owners in the States. Remember Scarlett O’Hara? She is very clearly of Irish descent, the damn plantation was called Tara, ffs. And, not to put too fine a point on it, I can’t believe that Irish slave owners were more adverse to using their slaves as they wished than anyone else was. There are several famous black people in the States with obviously Irish names (Eddie Murphy, Robert Kelly are the two I can think of immediately), not to mention people like Phil Lynott and Paul McGrath who have closer links to Ireland (both born and reared here to Irish mothers, with connections/time spent in England rather than the States). Samantha Mumba, Alicia Keys, hell we even claimed Barack Obama through his great-great-great-grandfather (seriously, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DerVmiZeUDw and yeah, in the grand Irish tradition, it’s a pisstake, ok?) Whether we go back a hundred years or more or we stick with the last forty years, being Irish does not mean you must be white. Yeah, for years, we didn’t mix much outside the country, but mixing a small bit and not mixing at all are two different things.

Your ethnicity doesn’t award you the right to work with Brigid. Your ethnicity doesn’t forbid you from it either. We’ve all got generational shit to deal with (I mean, in India, the Irish were colonisers because of the British Army being one of the few employers available…) Being Irish means you get the joy and wonder and pain and torment of growing up in this country, getting that relationship from the start. It’s like when an Irish person turns up in New York and has to deal with the subway system (I never risked the bus system, that was a step too far!) It takes a while to get used to it… Same with learning about Brigid, learning about the context and culture she comes from, same with the shorthand those born into her traditions use through familiarity. Learn from good sources, use the internet carefully, and if someone declares themselves the One True Authority and Gatekeeper, avoid them like the plague!!!

Why bother with deity?

I’m a firm believer in reciprocal relationships. As in, any relationship I have, there’s a natural give and take from both sides. There are times when the give can be predominantly in one direction and the take in another, but that then balances out over time.

Take parents for example. For most parents, their kids are mostly on the taking end for the first few decades of their lives. The parents can get joy and love back from the kids of course, but a parental role is, traditionally, a giving one. The returns are far more nebulous and hard to define than the obvious food, clothing, shelter they give out. (Please note, I’m not saying all parents do this – I am very well aware, there are truly awful, negligent and neglectful people out there and there are children who have endured a lot. There are also parents who can’t actually provide all they want for their offspring and regret this as well. Not everyone has equal experiences and I want to note that here)

But for most parents in my experience, there isn’t a checks and balances act going on. There isn’t a grand balance sheet keeping account and ticking off 1 hug = 0.5 breakfast or anything like that. But there is energy flowing both ways.

My experience of deity is something like this. No, I really don’t believe Brigid is up there in the sky, keeping accounts of everything I do or don’t do for her, and doling out rewards or punishments in accordance with that. I believe that Brigid will look out for me and help me, as best she can, for as long as I indicate I want or need that assistance. And I indicate I want or need assistance by my words, my actions, my thoughts, my prayers. And sometimes she goes with what I need rather than what I want, but that’s her prerogative. She doesn’t owe me anything.

Now there are times when we will come to an agreement on specifics. Such as, I will engage with a particular activism activity in exchange for her specific assistance in something in my life. It doesn’t ever guarantee a specific outcome cos other people have free will and need to consent. And, as well, the specific outcome I thought I wanted may not come true, but usually something else will. As far as I’m concerned, her help is real.

As an engineer though, my brain is screaming for proof of this and it’s hard to provide. And here’s where we come to a hard truth. As humans, we like to think there is a Higher Power to appeal to. Whether it’s the Christian God, pagan deities, the Universe, Mother Earth, whatever, when the shit really hits the fan, we like to have someone to appeal to for help. Now there are all sorts of psychological studies and other studies out there looking to back up or disprove Voltaire’s famous quote: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him“, but there’s also some truth there as well.

While it’s nice to imagine all of us depending on ourselves and finding inside of ourselves the necessary energy, determination, fortitude to keep going when things get tough, I think for most of us (yeah, not all, but most) there are times when calling on an outside power is comforting at least. It’s important to note that in the poem Voltaire wrote, he was showing the importance of the afterlife, and punishment therein, for upholding societal order. The thinking was that the idea of eternal damnation is important for assisting in maintaining social order, since the fear of the afterlife might force most people into good and honest living. This works for a Christian view of life, but not so much for those of us who follow a different path (this might lead to some sort of partial explanation as to why non-Christians were less than welcome in Western societies over the year: how could someone be trusted to behave appropriately without fear?)

I don’t subscribe to this view, and I think it’s one that has fallen out of favour in recent years, particularly in view of the failures of Christian churches all over the world. I’ve written before on the failures of the Catholic Church as an organisation. But the view of morals and moral living still permeates a lot of Western society. (The reason I’m saying Western society here is because I have little to no experience of life outside of Europe and North America).

I will say this though -I firmly uphold the belief that there are no atheists in foxholes. (The origins of this saying are murky at best, with several origin stories discussed in the wikipedia page…) In times of extreme stress, terror, pain or loss, most of us will turn to a Divine Being of some description, whether looking for help or screaming in pain or cursing them to the nth degree… The feeling that there is something outside of ourselves to appeal to, to beg, to plead, to curse… it’s weirdly comforting.

And of course, I believe in the existence of this Divine Force. There have been too many times in my life that I’ve been saved from things through no logic or rationale for me not to believe. And I “choose” to work with Brigid as my main representation of the Divine. (“Choose” might not be the right word there, but it’s not like she holds me hostage or anything!) I also work with other Beings, as most of ye know.

In saying all that, for most of us, those “foxhole moments” are not an everyday occurrence though (unfortunately not all of us). So what, on a day to day basis, is the point of a deity? Why bother to work with them? For my own views on this: well, we are more than our physical bodies. We are ensouled, we are spiritual beings, we are forces of nature. We need to nourish and grow that part of us as much as we need to nourish and grow our bodies and our intellect. We are more than the parts that make us up. And that part, the part that is more than the parts that make us up, is the bit that the Divine gets involved in most of all.

In Irish paganism, our deities are not necessarily omnipotent, omniscience or omnipresent (all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present). They’re a slight step closer to human than that. But that slight step closer, does not mean they are human. They have powers beyond our ken, so to speak. They are good at getting shit down. They help their people. They care for the land and the people. They are here with us, but also elsewhere. When we’re working in line with them, things get, not necessarily easier, but perhaps slightly smoother. I don’t want to downplay all the efforts that go into the work they support by saying it’s easy or easier, because that’s unfair to the people involved. But when we work in line with our deities priorities and desires, things happen.

I can only assume that if you’re reading this blog, you have a belief in deity. That’s great. But I also believe it’s important to examine why we belief in deity and what we mean when we say we believe in deity. This kind of reflection is not where I’m most comfortable – as an engineer, I much prefer the bashing things with hammers bit – but it’s still hugely important. Knowing what we believe, knowing why we believe it, realising how our beliefs change and grow over time, are all hugely important in our spiritual journeys.

So go on, examine a bit: why do you bother with deity?

Meditation

Everything comes in cycles. Sometimes the cycles are easy to spot, sometimes they aren’t, but I believe, well ok, most things come in cycle. I’m in a cycle at the minute of rebuilding a meditation practice after a few months hiatus.

There are spiritual benefits to meditation, of course. I’ve said plenty of other places that prayer is when we talk to deity, meditation gives deity an option of answering back. Or, y’know, saying something completely off topic, cos… deity. But I’m not talking about the spiritual benefits today. I’m talking about the mechanics (for me) of building up my meditation practice (again!) and the physical benefits I see from this.

A good night’s sleep is really a foundational aspect of my everyday health. If I get 8hrs, I’m good for the day, mostly able to handle whatever is thrown at me. My ability to deal with life decreases in proportion to the amount of sleep I get. If I’m down to 4hrs, unless it’s a very easy day, I’m going to struggle. (Actually, my team at work can back me up on this!) Falling asleep to a guided meditation is one of the best ways I have to a) ensure that good night’s sleep and b) start rebuilding my meditation practice. I’ve long been a fan of 2 of Jason Stephenson’s guided meditations on Youtube. I’ve yet to hear the end of either of them, which for me is brilliant. Of course, he won’t work for everyone, but there are loads of choices out there to try and see how you go. I’m at the point now where I’m wondering is it a Pavlovian response I have to these meditations, that I’ve trained myself to associate these meditations with falling into a deep and restful sleep. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter which it is, they work! (for me – your mileage may vary. Individual responses to voice and music are well… individual!)

So that’s step one. I’m going to be open and honest here. I’ll probably keep at that for about a month before I add in anything extra on the daily to the meditation practice. But this is a really good first step for me.

Next though, I’ll be going back to a deep meditation around the time I start menstruating. This again serves two purposes. 1) It forces me to take some time out on the days I’m menstruating to relax and listen to my body. This won’t be a guided meditation, it will be one of my own visual meditations I’ve adapted and used over years. Usually it’s a visualisation of a journey to my womb or to check in with my womb and spend some time with her. Which leads be to the second purpose: 2) It helps me check in with my womb, afford myself the space to acknowledge what might or might not be going on either physically or spiritually with my womb and from there lead out into the rest of my body. This deep meditation (I call it deep because I usually need longer than my normal daily meditations and I make a bit of a fuss about it for myself – nice blankie, warm room, candles lighting, that sort of thing) is time for me. It’s time when I am called on to do absolutely nothing else other than be. There is no other focus for that time other than me. Now this can be uncomfortable when I’m not feeling particularly happy with myself, but it’s almost always worth doing.

The reason I’m going to look at my menstrual meditation next is because I’m due in the coming days, actually slightly overdue if I’m honest, but I have things ready to go when the blood appears. Now, not everyone menstruates and not everyone who does menstruate wants to acknowledge the event or considers it a part of who they are. Honestly – perfectly alright, no matter where you are with that. I would encourage you to look at some cycle, whether it’s a given day in the month or a moon phase or equinox/solstice thing or a fire festival thing – some regularly occurring event, where you can tie into it and spend some extra time in meditation to check in with your body. Again, checking in with the womb is probably not for everyone. Sure more than half the population doesn’t have a womb, so y’know, may not resonate at all. But the important thing for me, in this situation, is the checking in with myself. My womb is a part of my body I rarely think about in day-to-day life unless I’m bleeding, so it’s a good “way in” to the rest of my body. I can’t dismiss it as easily as I can an arm or a leg, I need to make the effort. Really – the liver, the pancreas, the appendix, the lungs, heart, stomach… any of the major organs would fulfil the same purpose.

Next I’ll be looking at morning meditation. This will probably happen in a month or 6 weeks, I’ll start adding “morning meditation” to my morning rituals again. This tends to be a more free form meditation. I use the Insight Timer app on my phone, have the sound of a blazing fire going, sit back, get comfy, close my eyes and focus on emptying my mind. It’s a pain in the arse, I’ll tell ye know, when I’ve not done it for a while and to start with, I’ll be looking at 5mins and probably not achieving that every day. But if I do it, 5 days out of 7 (cos my weekend routines are different), I will get there. I find 20mins is a sweet spot for me on this. It’s short enough that I can fit it into the morning routine, even with my long commute but it’s long enough that I see real benefits throughout my day. As for these benefits? Well, I come out of most sessions feeling refreshed and capable. My mind is calm, or at least calmer. My body falls into that loose but prepared state and I feel able to move my body, get creative with my brain, all that good stuff.

If I’m starting off where even 1-2mins seems impossible for my morning meditation, it could take me months to get up to the 20mins again. But it’s worth it. And the progress is rarely linear, just as an FYI. Some mornings, it feels like I can meditate for hours (I don’t have time most mornings, but it’s a feeling of disappointment when the timer goes off). Some mornings, even after I’ve increased to 10 or 20mins, even 30seconds feels impossible and the time until the timer goes off seems endless. When that happens, sometimes I give up and sometimes I keep going. Quieting the mind sounds so so easy, but it’s really not and sometimes the only benefit I get is the resting of my eyes while I mentally mutter and fume my way through this “waste of time” (it’s not a waste of time, but some mornings it feels that way!)

Once I have my morning, night and monthly meditations up and running I feel like I’m in a good place with meditation and I will see the benefits. I’ll be calmer, better able to problem solve and be creative, better able to deal with people, better able to manage my life. Things that were insurmountable problems before become manageable or even small annoyances. Life is better for me when I meditate. I also use mindful movement and movement meditation maybe 2-3 times a week which helps keep me in tune with my body.

There are other occasions when I meditate as well – if I have a big decision to make, if there’s a massive problem I can’t see a solution to, if I need some alone time, if I’m in a lovely area, if the sun is just that nice on my skin and I want to slip into a mindfulness meditation just to enjoy it…. but if I have my morning, night and menstruation meditation practice up and running, things are on a good track.

Now, this is my approach and what works for me. No one size fits all though and you may find that this is way too much, way too little or just doesn’t suit you. What I will say is, if you are in doubt about the benefits of meditation, go have a search on Google Scholar for the benefits of meditation. Google Scholar is a great resource that searches academic works rather than general web pages. When I did a quick search there now, I got 322,000 results for “benefits of meditation”. Some of these will be behind a paywall, but if there’s an article you really want to read, most authors will send you a copy of their work if it’s a paper and if they still have it, once you ask them. I mean, y’know, don’t demand it, but a polite email works wonders.

If you’re starting from scratch or returning to meditation after a hiatus, as I am doing, it’s important to remember to build things up slowly. This is like any other muscle you work in the body – if you hit it too hard at the start, there’s a possibility of injury. Or in the case of meditation, maybe not physical injury, but meditation burnout maybe. As well, maybe you don’t think you meditate, but you pray the rosary regularly – that’s a form of chanting meditation in my opinion. Maybe you don’t think you meditate, but you take a daily walk where your mind focusses on the beauty around you and absorbs nature’s goodness – that’s a form of meditation in my opinion. There’s all sorts of different meditation, so if you’re interested, there’s bound to be something out there to help you. And remember, life happens and gets in the way sometimes and we all need to start again sometimes.

Start small, work your way up to where you want to get to and keep at it.