Happy things

I used to think that ” laughter is the best medicine” was a useless piece of claptrap my parents used to spout to stop us from feeling sad as kids. As I’ve grown up and dealt with depression, illness, life in general, I’ve realised that actually, thinking of things that make us happy and things that make us laugh is invaluable. Particularly with the current pandemic situation. So here’s a list of things that made me happy today.

  1. I had toast with avocado and egg today for lunch and the avocado was perfectly ripe – just at that perfectly ripe point of creaminess and loveliness. (OK I’m feeling proud as well as happy here, it’s so rare I get it that right!!)
  2. My darling husband and I found occasion to degenerate into a complete fit of helpless giggles earlier. I can’t share the details, but sometimes, even after 7yrs of marriage, that man surprises me with his reactions and it just made us both collapse today.
  3. I did some sun salutations today – not many and probably not the best form ever, but it’s been a long time since I did some yoga and sun salutations are my starting point for getting back into a practice.
  4. I’m wearing clean jammies – had my Sunday shower early today and I’m now in fresh jammies. Seriously, fresh jammies is an unbelievably good source of happy for me.
  5. We decided on takeaway tonight and darling husband agreed to go get it – and he’s just arrived home with perfect timing. All the takeaways in our town have put in place procedures to try and help people get food but also minimise contact which is great.

It may seem silly, but when the world is such a scary place and there’s no control over any of it – look to the small things to see what makes you happy. I didn’t even get a chance to get into the birds outside, the sun shine, the crisp feel of a frosty morning, the joy of revisiting old books…… Look for your happy, it’s there and it is a form of medicine!!!

COVID-19

Well, it’s a scary time in this world right now, isn’t it? We’re so used to the notion that modern medicine can cure all ills, or most of them, that something new comes along, is highly contagious and we all struggle.

So far, my life is similar to what it was before. I work in the food industry, so I still need to come to work every day. But measures are being taken – rather than sharing an office, I’m on my own. Anyone who can work from home, is working from home. Production lines have been rejigged and manipulated to allow the recommended 2m of distance between people. We have an obligation to continue supplying food, but at the same time to keep ourselves safe.

And so… what can we do for ourselves? Physical health is one thing, but mental and emotional health is another. If you are in isolation, consider putting together routines and strategies so that you can manage your life. Technology is our friend here – maybe you can’t go meet friends face to face, but can you arrange a dinner via Skype or Zoom or some other platform? I’ve arranged with some friends that we’re going to do a games night this Saturday over Skype. It’s hard having our freedoms limited – and if it was long term, I’d be out on the streets protesting alright! But this is for our protection, and more importantly to protect the vulnerable in our society.

In this time, Brigid is a good person to have on your side. If you have the brat Bhríde at home – use it!! It will give comfort, support and a snuggle if nothing else. If you have the time and the resources, saying a prayer and asking for help/ guidance rarely causes harm. If you can, offer to help those around you – are there people in your community who are afraid to leave their homes because of suppressed immune systems or other worried? Maybe communicate through doors and windows, pick up some things from the shops when you go out yourself and leave them on the step.

If you can leave the house, remember the 2m rule and remember that hoarding will help nobody in the long term. I’ll admit to picking up an extra bag of lentils at the weekend, but I wasn’t stocking up for a six month siege. Pick up the extra to make youself feel happier and leave plenty of the rest of the community. We’re only going to get through this together.

And, if you can, limit your exposure to the media -social or otherwise. Just at the minute there’s a whole rake of bad news and scaremongering being thrown at us. Expose yourself to sources you trust – here in Ireland I’m limiting myself to about a half hour on Facebook while looking at the 9pm news on RTE (our national broadcaster). It helps me keep on top of what’s happening while not overwhelming myself. Of course, this doesn’t save me from the constant meetings and discussions at work, but it is helping me manage my own mental health.

I know my husband, who is now working from home, is struggling with being in the house all day alone, so he’s going for walks, keeping in touch with friends and family and engaging his brain in different ways (you wouldn’t believe the amount of little projects he’s getting through!!)

If you need help and support, reach out. Talking helps, especially if it’s someone you trust. Listen to the advice given by your national/regional authorities and the WHO.

And remember – if you’re reading this blog, you at least have an interest in Brigid – use her. Pray, light candles, maybe do a little ritual if you like. Ask for help – we’re not alone.

Apologies and an explanation

So it’s not usual to start a blog and then disappear for a while and consider it a serious ongoing concern. My sincere apologies for that.

The major issue is – well, work is going ballistic at the minute and I’m not getting much time for things not work-related. You know, sleeping, eating, showering…. I’m pared back to essentials only right now and it’s a struggle.

However, this blog is important to me and here and now I’m committing to a post a week at least for the next six weeks. It was originally going to be linked to Lent, but I’m a week late starting so…. (Not that writing a post is a penance, more just to give me a framework to work with)

So, from tomorrow, ye should be seeing a post a week for six weeks to set in the habit with me. Exciting isn’t it? If there are any Brigid related topics you’d like to hear from me on, please shout up!

Do the work

In a small group of my friends, there is a potentially unusual compliment or encouragement we pay each other. “Well done for doing the thing”. Doesn’t sound like much does it? But it acknowledges that “the thing” can be big or small, complicated or simple, big work or little work. None of that matters. What matters is that there was a thing that needed to be done and you did it. Because no matter how small the action, sometimes it leads to a big reward.

There’s a corollary to this of course: just do the thing. Whatever “the thing! is, JFDI* is an approach to take, in fact the smaller the thing, the more appropriate JFDI probably is. And it needs saying that what one person might think is a very small thing, another might think is huge (this is why my husband does most of our take-away ordering, I hate ringing people up and asking for food, while I do more of our banking, since he hates dealing with banks).

What I didn’t expect this morning was my deity to throw “do the thing” in my face though. I have committed to myself that I will write a post in this blog at least once a week. Not too often compared to other blogs, I know, but with a full time job, plus the bits on the side I do, once a week is achievable while being a stretch. I had aimed to write this weekend, but I needed to rest. During meditation this morning, she was definitely yelling “do the thing” at me. Interesting experience given the nature of this morning’s meditation (more on that another time).

During meditation, sometimes I wonder if it’s herself at all that’s communicating with me or if it’s just my own sub conscious mind throwing things up at me. There are times I wonder if what I’m coming back with is useful or just the wanderings of my own mind and heart. I’ve come to the conclusion that discernment is important here. If I come back with a message to kill someone, I’m probably going to ignore that. But coming back with a message to “do the thing” – that’s a bit of a slap upside the head to get moving on something. If it’s something that’s important to her AND to me, well what’s the point in not doing it?

I use Michael Hyatt’s goal planning system to help me in work and home to get things done. He’s also a big proponent of “do the thing”, although he words it differently. And one of this things is to set three things every day to bring you closer to your goals. These can be very little things or very big things. Sometimes my list contains making phone calls, sending an email, buying a book… sometimes they involve moving massive (to me anyway!) amounts of money or spending hours researching or reading something. But they all get a tick when I do them. For example, I’m trying to build a habit of going to a personal trainer right now, once a week, so that makes it onto my daily 3 once a week. I’m also building a habit of writing for 30mins a day. That one, as yet, doesn’t make it onto the list because currently there are priorities above it. After this morning’s meditation, however, that may change.

Sometimes we set ourselves goals and targets that seem insurmountable, obelisks of achievement that need advanced experience in mountain climbing to attain. But every day, we can take one more step towards that goal, and every one of those steps is one step closer to achievement.

This is my thing for today. I’ve done the thing. What’s yours?

*JFDI – Just Fucking Do It 🙂

Devotional Acts

I find myself, for reasons beyond my control, in work after midnight on a Monday. People on shift are surprised at my lack of emotion at this circumstance… and yet, to me it comes down to two things: 1) (and maybe most important) I know I can come in late tomorrow to make up for this and 2) my work is part of my devotional activities to Brigid. It’s a damn site easier to be sitting staring at an excel spreadsheet at this hour of the night when I remind myself that just by being an engineer, I’m working for her.

How do I come by this? Well working as an engineer is reasonably close in my mind to working in a forge. Indeed I started my career in a steelworks, long before I thought work working for/with Brigid (which preposition is used is probably dependent on which of us you ask!) Since I hit secondary school, I was aiming towards engineering, so the career wasn’t a shock. What was a shock was when I started working with the deity in question and found out that this was all part of the plan as far as she was concerned. I should note this is personal gnosis here, indeed this whole post is, but it agrees with some other peoples’ experiences as well.

Why does it make it easier? Well it doesn’t always, if I’m honest. There are days I think that even if being a teacher is difficult (both parents and my husband are teachers!), at least there’s those holidays… I know fine and well that the good teachers are upskilling and planning during those holidays, but still, there are times… But realistically, I’m not cut out to be a teacher. Too much swearing for a start. And I love being an engineer. I love the problem solving, the interaction with people and machines, the satisfaction of being able to turn around at the end of a project and say, “There, that’s what I achieved”. There are plenty of other professions that allow you to do this of course, but engineering has always called to me, even if when I made my career choice, I didn’t know the jobs I spent my career doing existed. Who knew yI could spend a few hours in the middle of a night changing a filter on an oil reclamation system, end up with skinned knuckles, bruised arms, pure exhaustion, but an absolutely intense feeling of satisfaction? Who knew I would spend 3 days straight in work, catching cat naps as I could, sorting out a chemical balancing issues, then head to bed for 10hrs before coming back in again?

Knowing that I can please myself as well as my deity is a huge thing. Knowing at least ONE being on this planet sees my work as valuable, even if that person isn’t me on the bad days, is a huge thing. Knowing when things are bad, and I can’t see the point, that I don’t really need to see the point right now, but that my work is serving some purpose, somewhere, is a huge thing. It helps me get out of bed on mornings when I know it’s going to be a tough day. It helps me on nights like tonight when I know I’m here for another 3 hrs at least, with a pile of problems facing me in the morning, whether I’m here or not. Because it’s not about me right now. It’s about showing up, doing the work, and getting on with it. Because it’s an act of devotion to do it. And I may grumble (and I will!), I may moan, I may play a major sympathy card when I get home tomorrow and see my husband, but I know I’m doing the work.

It’s easy to look at lighting a candle as the only act of devotion. It’s easy to think a regular prayer practice, or meditation practice is all that’s needed. And for some people, that is all that’s needed. (Lucky them!) Others are called to do other work. Some people write amazing poetry (ahem, go check out Mael Brigde’s work if you don’t believe me: http://stonebelly.blogspot.com/ ) Some people work in the community. Some people are teachers, artists, activists. And some of us just do our work and keep going. It’s not always glamorous or intriguing. Sometimes it’s the daily grind and that’s it. Because that’s what’s needed. And, those of ye who also work with/for her, already know this – she’s a very pragmatic individual. I blame her Da really…

Acts of devotion are very often this: the things that just need to get done. They’re not fancy, or pretty, or they don’t get praise or attention from other people. But they’re needed. And if not you, who?

Meditation vs prayer

I was speaking to my Mam yesterday, when she bemoaned the fact that many of the young teachers she sees on a regular basis are spending money on meditation courses, and meditation retreats, when to her mind, prayer is just as good for quieting the mind. Now, Ma comes from a staunchly Catholic background and is very devout (as, to be fair, is Dad!) It was hard for me to articulate to her what the difference between the two states is – for me anyway. I also had to remind her that for those of us who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, with all the church scandals in this country, prayer is intrinsically linked to said church (in Ireland, when we say “church”, we tend to use it as shorthand for “Catholic Church” – the privilege of having 90%+ of the population baptised into that entity)

I had to say to her that really, for people of my generation, prayer is something too closely linked to that horrible institution and that the Church represents that God. Now here I have to say that there is a difference between the Church and the Faith. I still believe in God – or a Divine Power at least, but that’s a whole different blog post! I still describe myself as Catholic, even if there’s a “Pagan” in front of it now. I still go to Mass, even if not as regularly as I used to. But “prayer” is a word linked in our minds to the morning prayers in school. For context, in Ireland, even now (although there are signs it’s changing) children prepare for Catholic sacraments in school – First Confession, First Communion, Confirmation. Of the 6 sacraments available to lay people (non-priests/nuns/monks), half of them happen in primary school. (Yeah, separation of church and state in Ireland is observed more in the breach…. Thanks Dev!)

But to come back to meditation vs prayer. There is still a fundamental difference between meditation and prayer in my head, and it is this: in meditation, we quiet our minds and listen; in prayer, we quiet out minds and speak. One is receptive, the other not. One is opening ourselves to our chosen entity, the other is asking our entity to listen to us. They are, fundamentally, linked but opposite. But, in my mind, we need both and we may swing from one to the other even within one session.

I have a daily meditation practice. OK, I listen to a guided meditation most nights, to help me fall asleep. That isn’t part of my devotional practice, that’s me just trying to get to sleep. And it mostly works. (for the record, I find Jason Stephenson is the Youtuber I use most often, with Michael Sealey a close second) But my morning meditation practice is something different. My morning meditation practice is where I’m setting myself up for the day. I set aside 15mins in the morning to sit and quiet my mind.

It’s important to note that what I said above about swinging from meditation to prayer in the one session happens to me quite frequently. It can turn in to almost a conversation between myself and herself. But when that happens too often, it isn’t as quieting to my mind, so I need to watch that. There are also frequently mornings where it turns into a litany of what I need to do that day, imagining conversations I need to have, issues I need to resolve… OK, this happens. But this is the thing – I call it a meditation practice. That’s what I’m doing, I’m practicing. And I’m likely to be practicing for the rest of my life, however long or short that may be. So when those daily, earthly, human matters come into my meditation time, that’s ok, and when I realise it, I refocus my efforts.

I use a mantra to help focus my thoughts sometimes, I use imagery sometimes, I use many things to help focus and quiet my mind. It’s whatever works. It’s not meditation in any given tradition, other than to be quiet and allow time for my deity to tell me what I need to know. Or indeed give me a slap up the back of the head because I’m not doing something I’ve been asked to do. It doesn’t happen all the time, but sometimes we need to open ourselves up (within limits, don’t be opening yourself up to just any auld entity coming into your thoughts, not everything is beneficial to you!) and listen to what we’re being told.

Prayer on the other hand, with me, tends to be a bit more on the fly. I rarely use set prayers. Most of the time, a prayer for me is a request for help, whether immediately for patience, endurance, or something else in the moment or else less immediately but certainly still off the cuff. Prayer as a method tends to be quiet the mind, form the request, form the intention, release the intention in the direction of the entity I’m asking, pull myself back into the world. So, for example, during a particularly strenuous meeting in work, I might close my eyes or take a deep breath (quiet the mind), realise whether I want the meeting to finish quickly or just this particular speaker (form the request), visualise for myself how this would look in a concrete way (form the intention), speak or think the outcome I want (release the intention), then open my eyes again or release another deep breath (come back to the world).

That’s for something straightforward of course. For something more complicated, I will spend more time about it – in fact, I could spend days thinking over the intention sometimes before I move forward with the rest of the process. There are times for something complicated, I might ritualise the process, writing out my intention, writing out a means to thoroughly focus my mind before I release that intention. Those times are rare though. Most often, it’s a “Please grant me patience to get through this!” type affair.

Also, this “process” of mine isn’t really mine. It’s not really anyone’s as far as I know. It’s just something that works for me and most often, when I speak to someone about prayer (as in asking, making a request) this is roughly the form they use. There are other types of prayer of course: praising our deities is a big one, and for some people this is hugely important. It’s not a major part of my life at the minute, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to never say never. Things change.

Now, some Catholics use prayer as meditation. The rosary is probably the most common form, the repetition of the words acts the same as a mantra, soothing the mind, quieting the mind, focusing the mind on God (or possibly Mary in the case of the rosary). The language isn’t important though. Giving ourselves that time in our day to quiet our minds is hugely important – particularly in the modern world where so much clatters and clamours to gain out attention. We need that time to allow ourselves to be awake but also quiet.

15mins might not seem like a lot to some people. If you can manage an hour, go for it! Work with what you need. Right now, in my morning routine, 15mins is what fits and works. And it sometimes drops to 10 or even 5mins. I use the Insight timer for settling me in and pulling me out on time. (No affiliation there, it’s just something I find very useful). I also light a candle when I meditate. Currently it’s my Advent candle, but usually it’s just a normal tealight. (Meditating at 6am in Ireland means for much of the year, it’s dark so the candle has a practical purpose as well)

In the end though, the label we put on these activities doesn’t really matter. Meditation and prayer are both important, in my opinion, in any relationship with deity/ divinity. This is important. It’s also important for our mental health. Constantly being on the go, mentally or physically, isn’t good for us, any of us. So even if you currently don’t meditate, give it a go. And remember, it’s a practice, not an achievement!!

So, who am I and whats this about?

Brigid’s Forge is a place for me to blog about Brigid, Irish deity, saint, nun, ollamh, and much, much more. Being Irish, I’ve grown up with stories about Brigid, practices about Brigid, superstitions about Brigid my whole life. Our landscape here in Ireland is covered in sacred wells, placenames and other indications of our love of the being in question. This blog is a mix of fiction (clearly labelled as such), the results of my research into our Irish lore on her and the topics I think link to her, as well as my writings on my energetical practices and modern issues I believe she would be interested in.

I also offer a limited number of energetic healing spots each week. I practice reiki, reflexology and womb blessing, and am currently training to offer womb/fertility massage. Please contact me if you wish to discuss any of these treatments further.

I also teach in the Irish Pagan School ( https://irishpaganschool.com/ ), mostly connected with Brigid, but this December, I’m teaching a short session on Catholic magic as well. Come and join us!

A little bit about me: My name is Orlagh and I describe myself as a Pagan Catholic for now. I was born and reared in Ireland and live here again now, after a decade in England. As might be obvious from this page, my main relationship in the Irish Pantheon is with Brigid, although to be fair the Dagda will probably make some appearances here as well – he takes a vested interest in anything to do with his offspring. I run a group dedicated to Brigid on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/318562765289760/ ) as well as a page advertising my womb blessing circles ( https://www.facebook.com/ClonmelRedTent/ ).

I’ve spent the majority of my adult life working as an engineer, in a variety of industries, and am heavily interested in getting more women and girls interested in the area as a career. While Brigid is often associated with healing and water, the forge, the fire and smith are the primary ways she connects with me. Her Forge isn’t always a comfortable place to be, but it feels like home!