Showing up

I spent last night at home (in the homeplace, with my parents). This is great, for all sorts of reasons – Ma’s cooking not the least of them- but it also got me thinking. As I’m sure ye expected seeing as how I’m writing about it.

I found myself getting really irritated last night. At first I thought it was because I was reading a book, while they were watching telly, but they kept pausing the telly to talk to me. Then I thought it was because of all the comments on how I looked “frowny” (don’t ask!!) Then I thought maybe I was too hot, cos they tend to keep the place good and warm (well Dad is 83 now, so it’s expected).

But as I woke up this morning, I thought of something I cover in the Preparation for Imbolc course (registration is closed, but you can register your interest for next year here) – being in tune with your body. And I started thinking – I was very much out of my usual routine. Normally, my evenings are quiet, with myself and himself at home, and usually he knows I need to not talk for a bit. My parents on the other hand, don’t see me every day, so when I do see them, they want to talk about anything and everything.

So I instead of my usual quiet, peaceful evening, I had an evening punctuated by questions. Lots and lots of questions. What are you reading? Are you too hot (yes!!) Will I put more logs on the fire? (please don’t!) Are you tired? (Yes) Do you want a cuppa? (No, thanks) What time do you go to bed? (9:30) Are you going soon so? (in 10 mins) Do you remember these doctors? (M*A*S*H*, just FYI) and more and more and more

I’m not used to being questioned like this – and it’s their way of making conversation and keeping in tune with my life. But I still took myself off to bed possibly slightly earlier than I had planned. Because I needed to rest my brain. And this morning it occurred to me that usually, by 8:30, myself and the husband are sitting by the couch in companionable silence, punctuated by brief comments on whatever we’re watching on the telly. I don’t have to think. I can relax, knowing if I don’t answer him, he’ll poke me or say whatever it is again or generally just take it as I didn’t hear him, not as me sulking or not talking or whatever. But my parents usually see me at times when I can stay up late, or I’ve geared myself up for a long conversation, or otherwise prepared.

Yesterday, I had a long day in work and a longer drive afterwards, plus I ate dinner a good hour later than usual, so I was hungry and tired. I wasn’t myself. Or at least not the self that they’re used to seeing these days.

Now, what has this to do with Brigid? Well, here’s the thing. My Dad still got up this morning to make sure the alarm was turned off well before I woke up. He’s just made me a nice cup of coffee to start off my day and he’s going about his business around me as I get started for my day here. There’s no judgement – he knows I was tired last night and he knows I always think the house is too hot and he knows I laugh at them worrying about me being too cold etc in the bed. These are all long standing, loving conversations/ debates we have. And he still loves me, in spite of the differences between us.

We don’t always have to show up perfectly to Brigid either. I’m not saying I believe in unconditional love mind you, but I think my parents accept most of what I am (they really don’t understand the lack of a sport interest, but after 4 decades, they’re getting used to it!) They know that last night I really was tired, out of my usual routine, etc, etc, etc. They also know that all the questions drive me cracked. (Again doesn’t stop them asking, because they are genuinely interested, but, you know, this love thing works both ways!)

I often hear/read people talking about the efforts they go to, to show up for their deity. They dress up, they prepare, they make the effort. And don’t get me wrong – this is great. But when we’re talking about a daily practice, it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes you show up in your jammies. Or sometimes you show up tired, hungry, sore, grumpy. Or sometimes, you show up and all you can do is sit there because all you have is the energy to show up, nothing else. This is all ok. You don’t need 4 decades of a relationship with someone to start to recognise their energy levels or when something is wrong. OK, sometimes Brigid needs to be reminded we’re human and not inanimate tools, but she’ll recognise this – that we’re not on top form.

Sometimes it will make a difference to what she asks, or when she asks it, sometimes it won’t. And again, that’s ok. Sometimes we’re tired, hungry, lost, and we need a kick up the bum. Sometimes we need rest. Sometimes we can afford to take that rest, sometimes we can’t. This is all life and it’s not perfect.

So, I suppose, here’s what I’m saying. There’s a saying here in Ireland that home is the place that when you go there, they have to take you in. My parents will always take me in… and so will Brigid. If I have faith in nothing else, I can have faith in that. Maybe you don’t have that. I know I am very lucky with the parents I have, however irritating at times they can be. They love me, want the best for me, care for me, support me… not everyone is so lucky. I’m also lucky in the husband I have, for many of the same reasons. I have two places in this land that if I show up, I will be able to enter the home. And I have my home in Brigid as well – although that’s not so much she must take me in, as she will take me in.

I can rest in her when I choose. My showing up on a daily basis is sometimes as basic as a few deep breaths or taking a few seconds to recognise her in my life. Sometimes it’s launching a massive three month course at short notice, or a 30 day course at even shorter notice! Levels of “showing up” exist…

So here’s what I’m saying. Our deities know, deep down, they really do know, that we’re human. We’re not machines. (Although as an engineer, machines can be temperamental as well sometimes!) You can show up dirty. You can show up tired. You can show up hungry. You can show up grumpy. You can show up wishing desperately you could be doing anything else at all. The important thing is to show up. The important thing is to even show up long enough to say “I can’t show up today”. I know it sounds daft, but really – it’s not.

Communication is as important in deity relationships as in human relationships. Your deity knows you can be tired, hungry, out of sorts etc. Still, take the 30seconds to show up. Consistently showing up is more important than showing up looking glam or energetic or anything. Consistently showing up is the basis of any relationship and deity is no different.

And now, the parents are both up so I’m off to enjoy my morning porridge with fresh fruit – fancier than normal – and maintaining that relationship for a while longer!! And remember – show up. Regardless of how you look or feel. She won’t mind.

We don’t always have the choice

I met a friend for brunch this morning at 11 in Tramore and four hours later was going to the sea to wash my hands in the water – I didn’t want to wash my feet, cos I was wearing tights and they’re a pain to put back on wet feet… The sea, or Someone connected with the sea, had different ideas. Now to be fair, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I was only soaked ankle deep. But I was still wet – my tights, my runners (which I had planned to wear to work tomorrow) my feet, were all wet and all the hot air in the world in the car on the way home wouldn’t dry them.

Image of my wet foot, in black Sketchers runners, leg covered by black skirt with with patterns of moon, sun and stars on it, tarmac covered in sand in the background.

Now, when I go to the sea, I generally wash my feet. It’s not something I ever thought was a requirement, although sometimes it is, but usually, I can figure out when it is and isn’t a requirement. But today, I was given no choice or hint at all that my feet were getting wet regardless of how I felt about the matter. It happens this way sometimes with deity and to be fair, wet feet aren’t the end of the world though. (Just don’t tell my Ma, ok? She’s spent the last week trying to cure me of a bad cough so getting wet feet, if she finds out, could lead to a wooden spoon situation…)

It’s not the end of the world. I live in the modern world, I got dry as soon as I got home, it’s unlikely I’ll have lasting effects from my unexpected washing. And, to be fair, it could be a joke on her part as well, to have my feet washed it whether I willed it or no. There might be nothing there at all other than herself having bit of a laugh with me. I’m sure she enjoyed it!

But sometimes the things we have no choice over have higher consequences. Obeying the rules of the road for example – not obeying them leads to consequences, even if it’s “just” a fine or a few points on the license. Obeying rules in work means we get to keep out jobs. Now some rules in work I take more seriously than others. Safety rules make sense to me – most of the time – so following those rules are almost second nature to me. Some rules, like clocking in and out on time, make sense from a business sense to make sure you’re giving the hours to the company you’ve agreed to (even if giving them hours doesn’t always mean giving them work, time is one thing it’s easy enough to track). Other rules, like some I have seen regarding dress codes in some places, mean I will never work for those places. High heels are not for work, in my opinion and definitely not for 40+ hours a week! And yet, there are still people who think dress codes that include heel heights are ok (yes the link is from 2017, but that was only 5yrs ago!!) So there are rules I’d view as reasons not to work somewhere, but I’m lucky to have that choice. Many people don’t.

In school, on the roads, in life, in work – there are always choices we make that then limit our further choices from that point forward. So, by working in a medtech company, I follow rules regarding designated attire in production areas and personal hygiene. When I worked in a steel company, I followed rules about wearing some (very uncomfortable at times) personal protective equipment. I choose not to go into consultancy at this time because I don’t have the patience for the image control required there. Not everyone has the choice. To me, if you have a choice between taking a job that forces you to dress a certain way or starving/ being homeless/ all the other bad things that happen when you have no money and no social welfare net… that’s really no choice at all in my opinion.

And sometimes it happens that way in spiritual life as well. We always have the choice to say no, or to not doing something a deity asks us to do. Or we may consider a request to be less important than a different request, but our deity doesn’t think the same. If we say no or choose to go a different way than our deity suggested, there may be consequences for that. We may ask for help, and our deity gives us the help we ask for but with consequences we didn’t expect. Sometimes we don’t have the choice. Sometimes we technically have a choice, but the other option is so bad that we don’t consider it a choice at all.

And sometimes our deity takes the choice out of our hands altogether! And puts it in our feet. I wish I could do a proper side eye emoji on WordPress! So, I suppose what I’m saying is, I’m using a fairly light hearted example here – no major consequences for me today, but if Brigid or indeed any deity, is asking you to do something and you really don’t want to do it – ask what the other options are and any of those are more acceptable or less abhorrent to you. Yes, it is possible to say no to deity. I’m not saying there will always be consequences, but it’s good to know what you’re getting into whether you agree or disagree with any ask or request. If something is non-negotiable… well there’s always options. They may not be options you like, but there’s always options!!

The things we love

This is Bruno. Bruno is 42 this Christmas- yes I got him from my aunt on my first Christmas. He’s named after the dog my grandparents had when I was growing up, a sheepdog who was so well trained to look after me that, even at the age of 16 when he could barely walk, he’d get himself between me & the door until Grandad told him it was OK for me to go out.

But back to the teddy, Bruno. Bruno has just had his sewing & washing session. There are parts of Bruno that are now more thread than teddy, so I’m thinking I may have to get some teddy material and do some more intensive repairs soon. As for washing… I can’t remember the last time I washed Bruno. To be fair, I don’t tend to cry, throw up, wee on him as much as I used to either!

Because yes, growing up, Bruno (and Big Ted to be fair, but there’s no way Big Ted would fit in the washing machine) was my confidante. He was clutched while I cried, while I was sick, while I was angry, while I was lonely, while I was happy… he has slept with me the vast majority of the nights I’ve been alive, yes, even now. My husband is a wonderful man in many ways and realised fairly quickly in our relationship that he either put up with Bruno or there wouldn’t be a relationship.

Why am I making a big deal of this? Well 1) Bruno’s just been washed so he won’t be in my ned for a few nights til he dries out (yup timed for when I’ll be distracted with my spa trip) and 2) I was thinking of the care and attention we give to inanimate objects* compared to the care and attention we give to ourselves. Self care is something we talk about a lot in the modern world, but it’s mostly about bubble baths, or face masks or things. We don’t usually talk about the fundamentals.

And yes, this is linked to my preparation for Imbolc. Aside from the more esoteric stuff, I’m also looking at the absolute basics. Sleep is usually #1 to check in with. Am I feeling rested or tired in the morning? Am I feeling like caffeine is an essential vitamin or something pleasant to drink? Am I depending on chocolate or other foods to “get me through the day”? None of the above is evil & wrong of course, but I also know there will be a lot of social engagements in the coming months and having a good foundation of sleep will help immensely.

Sometimes this means giving the bedroom a good deep clean & tidy out. Sometimes it means investing in some nice candles. Sometimes it means new jammies. Sometimes it means stocking up on bedtime tea. Sometimes it means changing nothing at all. But it’s good to give it a think.

And it’s entirely possible you have a think and say, yup, I’m happy with my sleeping habits. It’s possible you’re reading this thinking, yes, I’d feckin love more sleep but where do I fit it in?? It doesn’t have to be sleep, sleep is just where I start. But start thinking of how you treat a precious object or a small child.

In particular with small children, we’re careful they have enough sleep eat at regular intervals, eat food that supports them and they enjoy, have comfy clothes suitable for their activities… now how often do you look at yourself that way? How often do you think to plan out quiet time for yourself? How often do you put yourself last so that you’re running on dregs?

We can’t all suddenly change our lives overnight of course to put ourselves first all the time and turn into magical people who have it together all the time! But even thinking about it is hard sometimes. So, take a few mins, or 30 seconds if that’s what you’ve got, and think of something you can do to put in supports to yourself? Even if that’s a comment on here asking if I’m completely out of my mind, a vent in an email to me, a chat with a friend. Because if I spent 2 hrs this morning sewing up my teddy, I could surely spend 10mins putting together a breakfast for myself right?

* just a note, Bruno is obviously not an inanimate object. Just like all teddies, he’s a wonderful confidante, great friend, supportive counselor. And a brilliant pillow when needed as well.

Would it surprise you to know…

… that my preparation for Imbolc begins in earnest on Tuesday with a trip to a spa for a couple of nights? Why? Well the first phase of my preparation framework is physically focused and the first phase of that for me is my body. My body is not quite in rack and ruin right now, but it’s feeling fairly beat up – 2+ months of an ear infection, a chest infection, lingering cough… there’s been a lot going on, and my body needs some downtime.

Now this trip has been planned for about six months, I’m going away with my Mam and combining my own need for luxury and pampering with her birthday, Christmas and Mother’s Day presents. Well, I couldn’t expect her to go alone right? We’re off to Monart which is yes, expensive, but also, very much worth it to me and I’ve been saving up so I can relax and not think about the money while we’re there. I fully intend spending the three days in my swimming togs and robe and slippers, with lots of steaming, saunaing, infra-red-heating, hot pool bathing… I can’t wait.

See, preparation for a ritual usually involves deprivation and restraint – but it doesn’t have to. Sometimes we need this pampering. Sometimes we need the luxury. Now, I can’t always afford to go on a fantastic trip like this, but then, if I couldn’t do the spa thing, a fancy bath at home would be taking centre stage. (To be clear, a fancy bath at home will be happening several times over the coming months as I prepare for Imbolc, as well!) I have stocked up on bath bombs and candles and bubbles etc. And I can transform my usually pedestrian bathroom into a lovely candlelit paradise as well to help with the ambience.

There will be other preparations that are less fun of course. Making sure I can meet my own eyes in the mirror is always a fun exercise, not, but it’s necessary for me to know that I’m on the right path still and doing the right thing. There is rarely a judge as harsh as your own eyes, in my experience. Other people make excuses or take into account what they see an extenuating circumstances – our own eyes don’t though. It’s not that I expect to find I’ve done something majorly wrong – I’ve not killed anyone, stolen, hurt anyone that I know of, so the major stuff is out, but I may find thoughts coming to mind I want to make amends for and get myself back in right relationship with before Imbolc. As an exercise, it’s no harm to do that every now and again.

Because after meeting my own eyes, comes meeting her eyes. And that can be hard as well – especially if I’ve been letting my practices slip and need to make up some ground. Or if I’ve been steadfastly ignoring her increasingly unsubtle hints about something. And getting that back on plan or having a straight conversation about whether or not I’ll be doing something is important to have out before Imbolc as well.

For the next three months, I’ll be working my way through my preparations for Imbolc and some of the prep is the wonderfully luxurious treatments I’ll be undergoing next week and some of the prep is scrubbing the desk I’ll be using as part of my ritual. Some of it is exciting and wonderful and cool, and frankly, some of it is drudgery. But I know I will arrive at Imbolc with a clean slate and prepared for a ritual that suits me, my resources and my needs this year.

it will be an exciting three months, and if you’d like to join me on the journey, you can sign up here. It will be a small group though, so sign up quickly before all the places are filled! The course includes the practical exercises that I go through, and the development of those exercises over the three months. Each month, there’s 2 sessions – the first where I’m outlining the background, the thinking and the exercises, and the second session is where you get to ask or discuss anything that comes up for you when you try them out. And of course, email support as you need it through the three months. I hope to see you there!

It’s a filthy day out…

This is not an unusual comment in Ireland at this time of year. It refers to a very specific kind of rain, where the day is dark, the lights and the fires and the heating goes on pretty much as soon as we get up in the morning and stay on all day. You can’t leave the house without getting soaked to the skin, and yes, you get covered in muck, if you go anywhere on foot or by bike… even by public transport. These are the days when we all end up with sniffles, or colds, or flus, when the Lemsips and the hot whiskeys come out. These are the days when really, there’s nothing better than being the second one home in the evening so that someone else has lit the fire and it’s blazing away in the hearth when you come in.

It’s the kind of day when the rain just comes down, relentlessly, all day. (While we do tend to get rain 365.5 days a year, it doesn’t usually rain all day every day!) And while I know new houses in this country and being built with no fireplaces, I can’t imagine ever living in a house without a fireplace or a stove or something. That feeling of a fire being lit in winter brings with it comfort as well as heat – it’s no wonder our major festivals are called the “fire festivals”. No more than most other societies in the world, we have learned to live with our climate in this country, which means houses built to keep in the heat, plenty of light, and real fires.

But the thing is, our climate is changing. And our houses need to change with it, to a certain extent. Temperatures of 30oC+ are not usual in this country, but we’re getting them more often. The use of air con in this country is limited at best, but I find myself thinking of trying to pick up a unit over the winter in hopes it might be a bit cheaper than in the summer. But fires are as much a part of our Bealtaine and Lúnasa celebrations as they are our Samhain and Imbolc celebrations. And that might be because even in May and August, the evenings can get fairly cool in Ireland traditionally speaking. Of course, no one was determining how big a fire had to be either, but one would assume giving the term “bonfire” would give a certain size element…

But where do we go in a changing world? Even lighting a fire these days can be problematic, since most of our fires require some element of fossil fuels. Do we change our traditions to better align with current practicalities? Well yes, we do. We keep the heart of the tradition, the bit that’s important and we work with the modern practicalities. So, for example, my fire festivals move to the closest weekend to the calendar date most of the time, although at least all four fire festivals now have a bank holiday associated with them! (Despite complaints from people about another holiday in Ireland being linked to a religious holiday, but I think there’s been some education around that as well.) So, even within our own personal practices, we adapt and change things to suit our lives.

When does this become a problem? Well, when someone presents something as “traditional” when it’s really not. So for example, someone claiming that their practice of always lighting a red candle at Imbolc (I’m making this up!!) is a long held, deeply rooted tradition in Ireland, when we know most of the candles in Ireland were natural coloured, cos dyed ones were more expensive – that’s a problem. Someone “suggesting” something by adding in a maybe, as in “maybe since the times of the Tuatha De Danann”, that’s an issue, since we really don’t know what day to day practices the TDD had in their spiritual lives, neither our stories, nor our archaeology can tell us that.

It’s important to know what the traditions are, in my opinion so you can work out how to make them work for you. And as long as we’re all clear on the difference between a tradition (light a fire on Imbolc) and a personal tradition (my habit of celebrating on the weekend closest to the festival), we’re all ok. So you can check out my free class on Basic Intro to Imbolc in Ireland this Wednesday, to get a high level reminder of the traditions in Ireland and a sneak peek at the framework I use to prepare for the Imbolc festival. Or indeed, check out duchas.ie to see those wonderful entries from the Schools Collection. Or check out Lora O’Brien’s and other classes at the Irish Pagan School. But remember, fires were and are an important part of Irish society for a reason – and if you live in a place where wild fires are a significant risk, don’t. Try a candle, or an electrical option. Change the tradition to suit your circumstances, and make sure you understand the heart of the tradition. For me – I’m in work, so no open fires here, but I’m off to get a nice cup of coffee to warm myself up! (For some reason, they won’t allow hot whiskeys in work!!)

Conversations with the Dagda

For any of you who make a habit of reading the Dagda Bard blog by Jon O’Sullivan (and really, why wouldn’t you, he’s great!), the following post may seem familiar in style. It is – Jon often uses his conversations with the Dagda to explore themes, issues etc but this is the first time I’ve done so here. I’ve used fiction – but this isn’t fiction exactly. Think of it as me interpreting an experience I had over the weekend with the Dagda.

As I stood in circle, listening to the woman in charge calling in the quarters, making a decent attempt at it as well, I felt the Big Man settle in beside me.

“What’s all this then?” he muttered, much in the manner of an old friend catching up with the news at a funeral.

“Cacao ceremony” I replied, a bit nervously to be honest. I was reasonably sure the woman was doing this ethically, but sometimes his notions of ethics and mine are different. I felt him shaking with a fit of the giggles as she called in the Dagda, Father Sky.

“Father of many and now Father Sky as well? Isn’t that some responsibility I have now. “

He queued up behind me with a massive mug to grab some cacao anyway, after we sat through the explanation. I look at it in askance, I tell you, seeing as how the woman was measuring out every drop like a pub landlord. He winked and shrugged and sure enough, got his mug filled to the brim. Mind you, I’m almost certain I got a bit extra as well.

And then we sat, and sipped the drink in a companionable silence. I started the talking then.

“I think it’s ethical. She trained with them.”

“She did indeed,” he agreed. ” And sources it direct from the growers as well, helping their local economy”.

“And she’s trying to honour the locals here as well, using her bit of Gaeilge.”

“She did. I can’t wait to tell Manannán he’s now a goddess though!” He smirked. “Goddess of the sea, indeed.”

“Well, she’s trying at least and this stuff appeals more to women for some reason. “

“There’s 3 men here besides myself, y’know.”

“Yes, and 17 women to counterbalance them?”

“Fair point. Still, worse things to be doing on a Saturday night, sipping hot chocolate with friends and getting ready to dance.”

I started getting nervous. The Dagda dances like no one I’ve seen, but I’ve always seen him dancing with partners. This was solo ecstatic dance…

“Oh I know that right enough,” he said, giving me an image of himself and Brigid at a wedding, whirling away. “And I much prefer dancing with a partner, although usually not my daughter. Still it was her wedding… And I’ll do well enough here, you’ll see!”

I mean, he’s a deity, I prefer to keep my arguments to the really important stuff. Like exactly how much space he gets in my house.

“Ah sure, I have the small statue now and Brigid loans me some space when I need it.”

Bloody deities, reading our minds when it suits.

“Only when you broadcast your feelings on the matter so widely.”

I started focusing on the upcoming dance, and getting my body in the mood for the movement. We stood beside each other, me easing out my joints, flexing my limbs, getting ready to move; him a bit more solitary.

“It’s not like dance in and of itself is appropriation you know. Nor is trying new food from far off places.” He started.

“No, but we’re talking about the Cacao Goddess and the heart opening that follows.”

“True enough, true enough. Do you believe in the Cacao Goddess?”

“I’m a bit worried she’s a bit like the Irish Potato Goddess!”

He laughed at me, “Oh that’s a good one alright! Well I suppose when three quarters of the country was scrabbling in the ground for any remnant of a spud, while the ships were leaving the ports straining at the seams with food, it might seem like there was a religious element to it, alright.”

The music started and we both started to move. And he is a beautiful sight to behold when he dances. I couldn’t believe no one else noticed, as I plodded alongside him.

“Oh now this is the stuff” he yells as the drums kicked in and the beat got stronger, and it’s at this point the music took over and my body stopped thinking and started moving. I let myself fall into the beat and the rhythm, and just move. It was a joyous and happy movement, pain free for the first time in years, eyes closed, hands and feet tapping out the best and muscles moving in time. My body dripped in sweat, sometimes in time with himself, sometimes away in my own journey. Hair was flung, by both of us!

And as the music faded, he came to sit beside me again.

“Y’see, you need to think of it the other way around. If this was being run on another continent, by a teacher who had trained or learned from Irish people, was supporting Irish people by donating money, or buying authentic Irish goods, herbs, and the like, in their ceremony, would you consider that appropriation?”

“Well, when you put it that way…”

“Life doesn’t always have to be hard y’know. Sometimes, you can sit back, look at the stars, and just enjoy it.”

And somehow, while the meditation went on around us, we were really sitting on a grassy hill, watching the stars, in a companionable silence.

Relationships

I was speaking to someone last night who got me thinking about what it is that I do – they were asking me about whether I knew anyone else about the place who worked with Brigid the way I do in Ireland. And y’know, I’m sure there are – loads of us – but what context we put it into, how we frame it to ourselves, what we speak to other people about… all of this limits to a certain extent how much any of us knows about another person’s practice or even if they have a practice.

And sometimes it’s a lot easier to explain these things to a stranger on the internet who doesn’t really know you from Adam, and who hasn’t been there for the past few decades as you grew to where you are now. Because, as humans, we all grow and change over time. I mean, there’s nothing quite like a friend who’s known you for decades pointing out your current stance on something is diametrically opposed to where you stood 20 yrs ago when you’re trying to focus on the improved you. And this can be difficult to deal with. So how do we deal with it?

The me of 20 yrs ago was very different to the me of today. My attitudes to social issues, gender rights, religion, politics, all that has changed. I’m no longer one of those girls who “isn’t like other girls”, or someone who “doesn’t see colour”. And there’s a part of me that wants to cringe at remembering these things. But the thing is, I didn’t know any better at the time and I’ve done a lot of work since then to get better at things.

And I’m still not perfect and there’s a fairly high chance that in another 20 yrs I’ll be looking back at my attitudes today and saying something similar about my views today. I hope to grow more inclusive and more aware of privilege and better able to navigate diversity over time.

But then there’s the friends that seem like they have a need for you not to change as well. You know the ones that express surprise every single time you express a view that isn’t consistent with your younger self? The ones that can really only connect with you on the “old days” or appear to need or want you to stay that younger self? (Side note here – this isn’t aimed at any of my friends, it’s a train of thought I’ve been running through for a while and the conversation last night followed by a dream I had crystallised it for me!)

We talk about romantic break ups a lot but we rarely talk about platonic break ups or how awkward it can be when you stop being friends with someone. And especially if these are friends from childhood, you’ve poured out your heart and soul to them and they’ve poured theirs out to you… there are so many links and ties and memories – it’s like they’re part of you in some ways and losing them is hard. I’m not talking about a drifting away here – that happens through lack of common interests or lives taking different turnings. I’m thinking about a more deliberate separation. Even to think about it appears wrong, right?

And yet… it happens. It doesn’t matter how long the friendship or how intense or how deep – there comes a time to step away and decide that this isn’t for you anymore. It’s not the end of the world, but it can be really difficult, and we don’t discuss this in society at all. Even a bad relationship can be mourned. But the breakup of a friendship? Sure you have other friends right?

And this can be part of the reason we keep our spiritual endeavours to ourselves or to people on the internet.  It’s safer not to rock the boat. It’s easier to not have these difficult conversations with our friends. It’s not like we’re still teenagers, with hours to waste rambling on about this and that and nothing at all, right? We don’t want to face our friends with the truth of who we are now, because they still, at some part of themselves, see us as the person we were decades ago (and to be clear – we do the same to them! This isn’t necessarily a one-way street!!) So we stick to the safe topics. We have the light-hearted conversations. We regress to the selves we were at a certain point in time, rather than truly and wholly who we are now. And for most of us, it’s not really an issue.

But where does that leave us with deity? One of the biggest questions I see around the place is “Why isn’t Brigid responding the way she used to?” or “It feels like she’s abandoned me!!” (Last of which technically isn’t a question, but bear with me) And yes, it can feel like that sometimes. And there’s a few things to think about.

So for a start – a relationship with a deity is like any other relationship: it takes work and attention to make it work. And while I’m loath to state that Brigid will never abandon you, I will say it’s not my experience that she would do such a thing. Will she step away to allow you space and time to get your head around something? Oh yes. Can it feel like she’s just dumped a whole pile of work on you and walked away? Oh yes. Does it sometimes feel like the feeling you had around her previously isn’t there anymore? Oh yes.

But these aren’t necessarily bad things. She thinks you can deal with it, or there is something else going on. And sometimes… well sometimes, it’s time to move on from that relationship. I’ve not had that experience with Brigid, but I have had it with others. So, I know, it feels like the loss of something massive. But not all of us are cut out for life long or lives long relationships with a specific deity. Some of us are barely cut out for a lifelong relationship with ourselves! Now, there’s nothing to stop you continuing to pray to Brigid or make offerings or whatever you like. Really, no one but no one can dictate that but you (assuming you’re an adult and have complete control over your spiritual life – I recognise there are times in life and places in the world where this isn’t true!)

So a few things to check: is there someone else trying to get your attention? Have you tasks left undone for Brigid that’s she’s waiting for you to complete? Are you in the middle of a crisis in your life and don’t have time for spirituality? Is there something else going on?

Are you working with a deity out of habit?

Are you mostly there because of past shared experiences?

Are you feeling confined and restricted rather than supported?

All of these can be signs you might want to take a break or look around or see is there something else you’re missing. And it might not even be a new deity but a new area with this deity to investigate. But either way, whether we’re talking romantic, friendship or divine relationships, it does no harm to stop and take stock every once in a while. Especially if you feel there’s something wrong or not quite right and it needs to change.

What did I learn from “30 days of Brigid”

The inaugural “30 Days of Brigid” course finished up last week and one of the final challenges I set the group was a reflection on the course and what it will change for them. So I thought sharing the same exercise for myself here for people who didn’t get the chance to take part might help.

I’ll admit, when I started off, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to think of 30 useful, short activities for people to try and incorporate into their daily spiritual practice. As it happens, I could have done 50 or 60 days (I won’t, cos this was very intense for me – more on that later!) I actually do have a wide variety of daily activities that I regularly use in my daily spiritual practice.) Part of the reason I can feel as if I don’t have a daily spiritual practice sometimes, is because there is such a wide range of activities I use for this. And I do use one or more most days. So whether it’s a deep breath or a prayer or a dance, I have a daily spiritual practice that’s constant and regular if not consistent in the actual practice itself.

Second – this took a lot of energy. It’s a holding container for people to explore and it was great fun and I’m happy I did it, but I found it took an awful lot from me as well. Checking in daily, managing the tech (yes there were a few hiccups!), keeping on top of the energy I was feeling from the group – it all took a lot more out of me than I was expecting. It took a few weeks to realise that actually this was siphoning energy in ways I didn’t expect, and so I managed that as well. Now, that siphoning isn’t a bad thing necessarily, just something I wasn’t 100% prepared for. I’ll know better next and set myself up a battery type situation rather than direct from me situation. (For those who don’t work with energy this may sound like rubbish, but trust me, it means something!!)

Third – I was right, the tech did need learning and managing. I think there was only one major hiccup and I figured out what was wrong, but each day there was an email, a lecture, a video and a Facebook post – and I think all were good and valuable, but all took time. Especially the videos – the uploading was a pain! But I think it worthwhile to appeal to as many learning styles/ info gathering styles as possible.

Fourth – most days, the activity was under 5mins. However, on some days, it went longer, particularly those days where we were using some Gaeilge. It’s to be expected I guess, but I might see about streamlining those days for the next time to fit in the 5mins slot, or offer a shorter video for those in a hurry with the longer video still available to those who have the time.

Fifth – this is definitely something I want to do again. It was valuable for me and I think really valuable for those who took part. This is something I can see myself running a few times a year for people, because tuning in and consciously examining our daily practices is hugely beneficial.

Sixth – finally, did this help me deepen my relationship with Brigid? Yes, I think it did. Just consciously and carefully showing up for 30 days, even when I know I do it the vast majority of days anyway, really helped. There are a few things percolating now for future courses, some of which I mentioned in last week’s email (sign up here if you haven’t already) and some of which are still percolating. I’ve also been percolating the next steps in my own journey with Brigid and where that is going to go next (seriously – long term relationships with deity develop and change the same as long term relationships with people do. We’re meant to grow and change as humans and mortals, not stay stagnant!!) A lot of that is hugely personal as yet, so I won’t be sharing it here, but eventually, over time, some of it will naturally become public.

I’m delighted I did this, it was a last minute thing, it was something I had not planned for at all this year, but I’m thinking maybe after Samhain of running it again. If you’re interested in hearing about future offerings of this, please drop your email here.

So there we go – my reflections on the course. I really had forgotten about everything I do in a spiritual way and the different moods and circumstances I can work with. There really is something you can do the vast majority of days, even if it’s a single deep breath, taken consciously.

Warnings

(And yes, I know it’s been ages since I last posted. Those on my email list already know this – you can sign up here – but I started a new job in mid-August that’s taking up some time and running the 30 Days of Brigid course has been great fun, but also a lot of work and well… the blog fell off the to-do list I’m afraid! But normal service will resume now 🙂 )

But today I want to talk about warnings and how we pay attention or don’t as the case may be. I lost my wedding ring last week. And it had been loose on my finger for months now, but I was “being careful” and dealing with it. But suddenly I was in the check out at Tesco, when the cashier handed me my engagement ring, which had also fallen off my finder. And I realised my wedding ring was gone. I haven’t found it yet, despite a lot of searching. And ok, on the one hand, it’s a ring, it can be replaced. But on the other hand… well it’s special. And there things I could have done – resizing it, putting it aside so it didn’t get lost, that sort of thing. But I love my ring and didn’t want to be without it.

Equally, this morning coming out of the house to go to work, laden down with phone, water bottle, gym bag, work bag, and I almost slipped on the muck outside the door that we always get after rain. Now, I didn’t fall, but it could have been bad if I did. And I actually heard An Dagda warning me to be careful on this on and even with all that, I nearly dropped the work bag (which might have meant the laptop was kaput. Why did I save it again???) But will I do something about this? Scrape up the muck? Park in a different spot? Wear better shoes? Will I hell. Although now I’m writing it, I may ask the husband to scrape it up for me since he’s at home today.

What has this got to do with spirituality, I hear you ask? Well, a lot. No more than we get physical warnings, like I mention above, but also, the yellow fuel light on the car, the flashing lights at a railway crossing, the alarm going off in the morning, we can also get spiritual warnings. I know I’m usually all about the practical, but sometimes, you have to go with your gut. And for “your gut”, substitute your best feeling in your body for when something doesn’t feel right. For me, it tends to be gut or knees. (Yeah, I know – knees!) But if there’s someone I just met or a group I just joined, sometimes I get a really good feeling or a really bad feeling. And honestly, even with the really good feeling isn’t always right – so don’t just pay attention to your gut (or knees!) but if you’re regularly working with your intuition and you’re regularly keeping on top of your energy work and if you’re regularly paying attention to yourself, your body, your mind, then that gut feeling is probably worth paying attention to.

Now, of course, sometimes you can’t extract yourself safely from certain situations immediately – I’ve been in places that were grand at the start but then something happens and I plan my escape immediately. I may not get out immediately, but I will leave. Similarly, if I meet someone at work that my gut just says, “No” to, I can’t necessarily avoid that person, but I can make sure I’m aware of them, I’m careful around them, whatever I need to do to feel safer or make meetings with them more manageable for me.

What if someone joins a social group and you suddenly get that feeling? You can call it energy, gut, whatever you like, but sometimes we get such strong warnings you can’t help but react – think of the electricity you feel when you meet someone you find really attractive and the feeling is mutual? That’s a warning as well – may be positive, may be negative in the end, but it’s a warning! So, it’s maybe not always a reason to retreat or worry, but the warnings are there for a reason – this is something to pay attention to.

But, Orlagh, I hear you screaming, how do I develop this sense? Well a lot of it is paying attention to your body and how it feels. I know, I had to come back to prosaic eventually. If you work with energy, you will be aware of some of this already, in how energy moves through your body and how it interacts with your body – all hugely important work. But if you’re starting with this and it’s something you want to pay attention to – pay attention to your body. No more than the body will tell us when we’re too hot or too cold, we can learn when we’re picking up on something not obvious.

Have a think about watching films. When you watch a scary film, where do you feel it? When you watch a romantic film, where do you feel it? When you watch a tense, thriller-type film, where do you feel it? These can be really good places to start. Start checking in with your body throughout the day – or even once a day. How do you feel physically? Hot, cold, comfortable, tense, stiff, soft, hard, pain, aches – it’s amazing what you pick up on when you do this.

When the physical becomes easier, start in on the mental – how’s the head feeling? Or the mind to be better… busy, quiet, high, low, full, empty, tight, loose, tense, comfortable. These can be harder to manage than physical sensations, but again hugely valuable. When you get used to checking in with yourself like this, you will start to react to the feelings in a more timely manner. And as you get into the habit, you will find yourself recognising these warnings your body and mind are giving you. You will start to notice feelings and warnings and sensations in changing circumstances – the important thing is to acknowledge them to yourself, even if you don’t/ can’t act on them immediately.

And, for the love of all you hold holy, if there’s a piece of jewelry that you hold dear and it starts falling off – pay attention before you lose it!!

What does a daily spiritual practice look like?

As some of ye will be aware, on Monday, there is a group of us starting a 30 day journey to deepen and develop our relationship with Brigid. You can check out more details here. But, I cheated a bit and asked a Day 0 question…

I asked people to think about what a daily spiritual practice means to them. And I started to talk about what it means to me, but then… I needed more space than Facebook gives. So here we are. Now, people who have been reading this blog for a while know that I don’t believe it takes a massive amount of effort to build a daily spiritual practice and it needs to fit in with your life. If your daily spiritual practice is a single deep breath while you get the 3 seconds between one child dropping off to sleep and the next waking up, or if it’s a trip to the toilet during the work day where you look in the mirror and tell yourself “you got this” that’s fine. Honestly – spirituality needs to fit into our lives, not cause more stress and strain.

But I know that when people start thinking about this (for people read: me), their (my) brain goes off in all sorts of different directions. For example, when I look at this, I think of what I’d love to be able to do. I would like to get up in the morning and have a nice relaxing cuppa while leafing through my games on my phone. Then have 20-30 mins meditation, followed by a good half hour of dance or walking in nature. Then a nice relaxing shower, breakfast and out the door. That would all take a good 2 hrs, and frankly my mornings usually go about like this: wake up, leaf through phone, shower, breakfast, what do I have for lunch, out the door. And I really don’t have 2 hrs to get ready in the morning. But when someone says “daily spiritual practice”, this calm, serene, blissful morning comes to mind, even when I know it’s not practical. But you know what might be practical? 5-10 mins meditation. Taking that walk at lunchtime. Prepping clothes and meals the night before to ease the stress in the morning.

And, before I go any further – that’s just me I have to get ready. No kids, no dependents that need to get up and go in the morning. I struggle with just me! But it’s there all the time, it’s a “should” in my life, that I should be doing this cos what else am I doing? Well I’m spending time with my husband. I’m sleeping. I’m dealing with a long commute. Like I said, any spiritual practice has to fit into your life.

But at the same time, when looking at developing a practice, it’s useful to get this ideal out of your head and onto paper (or whatever medium is most useful for you to record thoughts – for me it’s online documents usually, typing is now easier than writing for me!) So there’s a challenge for you – spend a few mins to think about what your ideal daily spiritual practice would look like. What do you think you should be doing? What do you think is absolutely essential? Get all the stuff you feel guilty about not doing out of your head and into some other medium for storage.

And then, put it away for 30 days or a month. Trust me! If you want to join us on our 30 day journey with Brigid, you’re more than welcome, but even if you don’t – put that away and out of your head for a month and then come back to you and start looking at how practical it is and what might be doable in your life!