Breath

Everything comes back to the breath. Everything.

Meditation? It’s about the breath.

Trance? It’s about the breath.

Yoga? It’s about the breath.

Tai chi? Breath.

Aikido? Breath.

Orgasm? Breath.

Singing? Shinto chingon and misogi? Being present? Pain management? Anger management? Birth and death?

It is all about the breath.

Everything I need for this quarter I learned from Hinduism

On my last entry the ever insightful Niklas suggested I think about things in terms of house-holding. I’ve been mulling over that this week. I’ve barely tended my outside shrine, hardly had time or focus to sit. I find that I need to adjust my shrine, or else accept that everything will rust. But there’s always one more load of laundry to deal with, one more diaper to change, one more need to meet.

While the ideas of Place and Land have little overlap with Hindu spirituality proper, the lessons I learned last summer are ever so applicable now.

I feel like I’m doing things all wrong this quarter, that I’m being lazy, that I haven’t spent enough time, that this quarter will end before it gets off the ground. I remind myself that this project is just a beginning. None of this ends when my project officially ends. There is no doing it wrong. Last summer I wrote about being my own guru, about listening to what I need, about going deeper within. If I am honest, I need to rest. Spring, while on the surface a time of bursting energy: blooms, blood, blossoms, has always been a challenge for me. While most people feel the rush from the sun and the pull of the earth, I have often had my worst depressive episodes in the spring. Spring actually makes me want to hibernate. It’s not usually until June that I snap out of it and start to enjoy the pulse. I had forgotten this. I will let myself rest.

That realization brings me to quote myself: “I am starting to see that perhaps the questions of discipline, at this point in time, for me, may not be what I need to be focusing on.” I struggle with Doing It Right. But for my purposes, right now, doing it at all, and doing it with an open mind and heart, is more important than doing it Right.

I discovered though my Hindu practice that my practice is as a house-holder. “Every day I care for my family and as a parent I have to love and care for my kids without attachment to the outcome. Parenting is a spiritual practice! This is my karma-yoga. It is also a form of devotion, even as I cultivate relationships with the gods [or land spirits].” Of course, there are struggles. Am I really resting? Am I really taking care of my family? Couldn’t I be out tending my altar right now? And it all swings back around to the beginning and worrying about doing it right.

There is no way that I am going to learn everything or even most things about this new state, new town, new home in just this quarter. There is no way I am going to make lasting relationships with the spirits of anything in a mere 12 weeks. But like I discovered with Hinduism, I am making a start; I am forging new relationships, new practices, and this quarter is a beginning, not an end. I have every intention in getting back to Hindu practice, and the Land certainly isn’t going anywhere.

 

The newness isn’t really so new

New(ish) quarter, new altar, new practices, new challenges. I’ll be honest: I don’t feel up to newness right now. It might be blog project fatigue, or it might be the unique challenges that this quarter presents, on top of all the changes from moving and having sick pretty kids lately.

The new altar is small and outside. It’s a little metal cabinet I found at World Market Cost Plus. (It turns out that I love that store. I find so many great altar items there.) Inside the altar I have candles (which I put on top when I burn them), a little wooden heart-shaped mirror, offerings of water and salt, and glass marbles (they called out to me and look pretty). I sit on a round rock from the garden, which I keep next to the garden. I’d post a picture but my phone isn’t working. Still.

At the beginning of this quarter some one asked me what Place would look like as a practice or tradition. I had ideas. But a big challenge for me is that Place isn’t a tradition; there’s nothing to grip on to. I forge this practice entirely on my own. Sure, I can look to Indigenous traditional practices or to Shinto for ideas and guidance, but Place is my own thing. What was so helpful during my Hindu and Feri quarters was the specificity of practice. For a parent with little time and space, these traditions gave me something I could look to and grab hold of. This amorphous, create-it-myself tradition is harder.

It bothers me that I need something so concrete, that I need external structure to create a personal, spiritual practice. But the reality is, I have limited space and time in my day to make a practice happen. I have other little beings with needs that often trump my own desires. For the householder, mystical practices are impractical much of the time. I see why the great mystics had to give up family life. I see all of that and I take a breath and remember that there is no trophy to be won, no time limit set where I must reach enlightenment before my kids hit school. Spiritual practice is just that: practice.

So what does my practice look like right now? After my son goes off to preschool and husband has the baby, I head outside. I change out the water and salt. I light the candle and sit on my rock. I clap and bow and sit. Mostly my brain swirls with things to do, things not to forget, ideas to write about later.

Once I can get past that I try to listen and feel. Listen to the sounds of my neighborhood. To the birds. I feel the air and occasionally the rain. And then I think of myself as the World Tree: I sink into the earth and put down roots. I reach up into the heavens with the branches of my soul. I breathe in the air.

And then I bow again and blow out the green egg candle. I thank the spirits of the land and the Fey. It’s simple, but some days it feels like a struggle.

 

Recovery

Staycation 2012 was both a dud and an exercise in recovery. I did very little of my normal workload: spiritual practices, writing, cleaning, cooking, etc. It was nice to take a break. To sit. To read fiction. I freed up some space to deal with some lingering dysfunction. That wasn’t quite how I wanted to spend my free time, and yet…. it was necessary and freeing. I didn’t have my normal distractions and some unresolved personal junk demanded attention. I took off some of my armor and I’m trying to keep it off. Staycation was a recovery of sorts. A move toward more vulnerability.

But the kids were sick. Whatever cold I had the week prior hit both the kids with an unusual ferocity. Fevers, snot, coughs, whining, clinging…. I guess it was a good thing that I had more space, because the kids demanded so much of me.

So here I am. Nothing much to report from my ‘week off.’ The armor is down (at least, a little bit). I feel a bit more present. A little less desperate. More centered. Let’s begin again.

I’m back on my seat in the mornings: listening, breathing, pulling a tarot card, making offerings and saying my prayers. Back to exploring and expanding. Back to experimentation.

Yesterday’s blessings

UPDATED: added some photos. Thanks to Regan House Photo for her permission.

The resting doesn’t come easy for me. And now my nearly 4 year old is a whiny sick mess. But yesterday….

Yesterday was Priest Point Park (aptly named, no?). Just wild enough to please my soul. I sat in the trees while the baby girl toddled around. My boy was home with his papa, resting. A lazy bee buzzed around me in circles. A grey squirrel watched us from his perch on a tree. My friend and her children arrived and we went to play on the mudflats.

Rocks, shells, mud, the subtle sound of the water oozing from the earth. Ravens, crab shells, sun, the smell of the sea. And a big blue heron flying overhead, alighting on a near-ish tree.

Click here – Everyday Life Magic – to see pictures of the day. My friend, Rebecka, is a gifted photographer and she captured the joy of it all.

No great spiritual insights, just Being Present. For now, that’s enough.