sistering

Some, who like to follow lunar cues for the seasonal sabbats, will have celebrated Lammas on yesterday’s full moon. As well as feeling far too summery to think about the start of autumn, my focus for celebration for the early part of this week is my brother’s birthday.

A friend of my mum’s once advised my brother and I – I think in the midst of a childhood squabble – that your siblings are your lifelong friends. That’s quite special. It certainly feels very special to me to have watched this person grow from the hours-old newborn I met him as to the awesome, talented, sensitive (and so much more) man he is today.

This guy features in most of my childhood memories, knows me better than almost anyone and has lavished me with unbelievable patience and forgiveness at times.  This is why, when I married, making my brother Male of Honour instead of having bridesmaids felt the natural choice for me.Geography, finances and time commitments mean that I don’t see my little brother nearly as much as I’d like but the pride I felt in him when, for example, I’ve watched the short films he’s made, is akin to the pride I feel in my little boy’s milestones and achievements. This is what I celebrate.

“Sister” is a role that features in a list that describes who I am, along with wife, daughter, mama, friend, homemaker, holistic therapist, crafter etc. Four of those roles being female ones – and others stereotypically so – I guess it contributes to my understanding of my femininity.”Sistering” isn’t anything in particular that I do or that I’ve done; for me it’s quite a passive role of being a female peer in a unique lifelong bond, feeling a lot of feelings (protectiveness, pride again, peace in the grateful knowledge that, however many the miles between us, our relationship will not fade, like a friendship can). It’s the humbling  feeling of unconditional love, it’s a beautiful gift I’ve been unwrapping since I was three-and-a-bit years old.

A family birthday can, let’s face it, all too easily be reduced to another “to-do” on the list; present and card to organise, maybe an event to find time to attend. But it’s an opportunity to reflect on our relationship with that person; our role in their lives and theirs in ours.

Happy birthday A.xxxx    ♥

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sun celebration

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Sure, the summer solstice is a lovely time to celebrating the sun and the wonderful growing and blooming that its light and warmth enables. Arguably, all eight pagan festivals – particularly the equinoxes and solstices – celebrate the sun in some way, reflecting some aspect of its journey through the year. However, just because x astronomical event is just so happening on y date on the calendar doesn’t mean that the sun will oblige and show much of itself on the day – particularly here in the south-west UK. Oh no, like not turning up for your own birthday party, I’ve felt anything but summery on many a gloomy grey summer solstice! So when we do genuinely have a long sunny stint, such as this current heatwave, where bright solar energy is very much strong and abundant, it feels only right to me to slip in another little celebration. For us Brits, having moaned about the long cold winter and moaned about the rain, it is in our nature to now moan about how hot it is. However, I see this as a lovely opportunity to go with what our bodies and minds are begging of us in this heat. Sure, many still have to go to work, chase toddlers around or go out to buy food however much we don’t really feel like peeling ourselves of a reclining chair. Yet perhaps we can cave – a little – into that urge to slow down, rest, put what we can on hold (I just can’t bring myself to do the vacuuming in this heat which means that the house may be a bit dusty, but my argument is that if we’re spending most of our time outside, it doesn’t matter, right?!). And eat a little ice-cream.

It doesn’t always feel so pleasant being sticky with sweat or cranky with evaporated energy. It can feel like a pain to keep the plants adequately watered and coax yourself to do your work, be it office-based or outdoors. I still think the sun deserves a little thanks though. Thanks for giving the seedlings a growth spurt, thanks for making life easier by drying the laundry in a few short hours, thanks for, thanks for just making the right vibe for people to sit about in parks and gardens enjoying each others’ company outdoors.

How to celebrate?

  • i love to spend a few minutes consciously enjoying the sun; really feeling its warmth on my skin, looking around to see its light, shadows, effects on the plants etc, stretching my arms up towards it and lifting up my heart chakra to it
  •  foods that represent the sun to me, like we do on the solstice. Oranges, apricots, peaches, carrots, fried egg (that’s a list of ideas, not a recipe!!)
  • sun salutations! (yoga)
  • I don’t often wear gold jewellery, or anything yellow, but I have a couple of things I save for times when I want to connect with, or celebrate, the sun
  • decorating our sacred shelf
  • creating something…like a simple mandala ♥

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midsummer healing part 2

As I mentioned in my last post, activities involving the feet can be beautifully grounding at this heady, busy, hot time of year. I like walking barefoot on the earth, giving myself (or have someone else give me!) a foot massage or reflexology, and using visualisations of roots sinking from my soles through the earth and deep, deep down. These simple indulgences all bring the focus to my feet and away from my head – the part of us nearest to where the sun blazes and burns away at the time of year that finds it at its strongest. These things direct energy to the base, the foundation, of my body that connects with, if you like, the physical foundation of nature. The earth feeds the plants that grow from it (many of which we eat), supports the oceans that lie on it and buildings we have made on it, is our base to walk and live on. Like a mother feeds her child; I guess hence the name “Mother Earth!”

For those that don’t like their feet being touched – and I know some doresized footrubn’t – a massage around the base of the spine or a hand massage could also be grounding for these areas also connect us to the physical world through sitting, doing and touching. Or gently massage above the ankles. (massaging your ankles is best avoided if there’s any chance you could be pregnant, and go gently if on your period). Spend time outside standing or walking, feeling your connection to the earth. One of my husband’s favourite things in summer is walking barefoot over a patio on a sunny day!

Of course, summer can be very hot. I write this sheltering inside from the UK’s current heatwave! Many of my health practises come from Ayurveda’s teachings, which operate on a principle of balance. Ayurveda categorises things into 3 doshas: vata (cold, light and dry like the air), pitta (hot, sharp and fluid like fire) and kapha (cool, heavy and wet, like the earth). So in summer, pitta is dominant and this can cause unwanted affects such as over-drying things (the soil around my plants, that bread I left out on the side), melting wetter things (butter!) and over-heating things (tempers, metal, car engines).

smoothieTo balance hot, fiery pitta, I bring in things with cool, damp kapha qualities; eating sweet foods (naturally sweet – not sweetened with lots of refined sugar!), drinking enough water, eating salads and yoghurt, playing with water with my toddler, staying in the shade, moisturising my skin. I reduce heating foods (chilis, black pepper, coffee, chocolate) and, where possible, heating activities (vacuuming – any excuse! – computer use, strenuous activity). I try to focus the housework on activities involving water and to make time for gentle, grounding yoga and meditation.

“What exactly do people mean by grounding?” someone once asked me. Although at the time I probably waffled something vague, I’ve since thought of it like this: imagine you were selling many, many balloons held on strings on a windy day. You’re all over the place, you’re having to turn this way and that, it’s hard to get one balloon out of the bunch without letting the rest go, your arms are probably tired from holding onto all those balloons and you’re a bit overwhelmed. Then someone helps you to hold the balloon strings against the ground. You’re also holding the strings much nearer the top. You now feel more stable, supported, secure and in control. You can think straight and realise you can both use your feet to keep the balloons where they are, which is more comfortable. You feel a sense of relief, as well as awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Like a plane landing on the runway, you’re on safe ground. ♥

 

Strawberry lassi image thanks to Schleicher, (sxc.hu)

midsummer healing part 1

Last Saturday, I took a little respite from my 24/7 job of home-making and mama-ing for a Healing Day. This divine  – but quite necessary – treat comprised of a reflexology session and a womb yoga circle. Reflexology is fairly well-known about (although, for those that don’t, an explanation better than I could give can be found here) and provides a beautiful sense of grounding that I find really beneficial at this heady time of year. Womb yoga is perhaps a less common term. No, there’s no stretching about of the uterus into contortionist postures and poses; it’s more to do with connecting to the divine feminine and to our womanly cycles, energies and creativity as individuals and as a group. (It’s much, much more comprehensively explained here).

In the way that I view the seasons, midsummer’s abundance of flowers and food almost ready for the harvest correlates to the heavily pregnant goddess who will soon give birth. The welcome opportunity to connect to that aspect of the goddess within myself took me back to being heavily pregnant. I loved the feeling of being pregnant, was excited that I would soon meet my child, yet was a little nervous of all that that would entail and the inevitable changes, sacrifices and challenges that motherhood would bring. All of us – men and women – probably have various “pregnancies” and “births” within our lives; projects, products, life phases, dreams etc may follow a similar journey to the one that a mother follows as she grows, births and nurtures her child. IMG_0213

In celebrating the  fullness and abundance of this time of year, the womb yoga circle also provided support with these things; although having  fullness and abundance in our lives can feel beautiful and fortunate, it can also feel busy and tiring.  In late pregnancy, I was certainly tired! Associating with this time of the year with the womb also provided an opportunity for me to connect with my own womb in a healing way; since my son’s emergency C-section birth, it’s been quite hard for me to have positive feelings towards this part of my body.

However, let’s not forget the god in all this. Just as conceiving a child takes male and female, other projects and dreams that we grow and birth often involve external sources of support, nourishment and collaboration; midsummer is a time for celebrating and giving thanks for that too. Although in the womb yoga circle we honoured  the creative, healing energies of our own womb space, we also tapped into the collective energy and power of us as a group connecting to those energies. At this time of year full of festivals and gatherings, there’s wonderful potential for all that sunny sense of community, fun and positivity to be spread far and wide and carried forward into the future. Imagine what a happy world that would make! ♥