Friday, January 3, 2014

Don't Just Do Something, Sit There

New Milk Moon

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It is that darkest of dark time of the year when we review the year that just passed and begin to prepare for the one coming up. For the last three years I have done this in a more formal way and rather than making new years resolutions, I have gwished a theme for the upcoming year. As 2013 comes to a close the need for review of the old and gestation of the new is here again.

Part of a Tribe in the Spring
2013 was one hell of a year. The theme I set last January was Naming My Superpowers, Calling My Allies and it came with a wish and a hope to put my talents to good use and to build my community of allies to help with that work. I was looking for more discernment in my activities and my companions. I think I did a better job in 2013 than in previous years, but my skills of discernment clearly need more honing.

I didn't do as much blogging this year as in the past but going back through my Facebook feed allowed me to review the year in pretty good detail. Last winter and spring were amazing times of growth and exploration. I fell in love with an amazing man and we had some wonderful adventures together. Food, sex, conversations; it was mind and life expanding. My one blog post from this spring dates from this period and sums up a lot of my thinking during this time. And then my life exploded. That relationship fell apart and then I got very ill with a bacterial infection that took all the king's horses and all the king's men to put me back together again. The physical toll was great and the emotional toll was possibly greater. Emotions I didn't know I had overwhelmed me so I did what I am in the habit of doing.... more stuff. The late summer found me in another intense romantic relationship and then in an amazingly intense job. I got the middle school science teaching position I've been angling for for years and it is everything and more. This autumn has felt like a crisis time when everything is falling apart. My summer motto of 'better but not yet betterer' took on whole new levels of emotional and existential meaning. I wrote about my thinking along these lines in this post from late November. Apparently, it is 
Dolled Up Mid-Summer
difficult for my seventh grade students to be 12, but almost just as difficult for me to be thirty three.

Even with the major hiccup in the summer of being, ya know, almost dead for close to a month, I still followed my standard M.O. of going full speed ahead in 2013. I may have still had difficulty knowing what to say no to, but I had allies all along the way. My friends were amazing during my illness and recovery and I learned so much from the men I met and loved this year. Building community, or at least thinking about how to do it, was a major theme of this year. In my 2013 gwish post I used a photo with the african proverb, "if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together." I don't know how far I got, but I know I got there because of my friends this year.

During this time of gestating my intentions for 2014 I have employed many of my traditional gwishing techniques. I drew a tarot spread, listened for resonance with colors, images, animals and phrases. I thought about what I wanted and what I did not want from this upcoming year and finally, after weeks of thinking and listening, found my theme for the year.

2014, Don't Just Do Something, Sit There.

By Sharon Flowers
The phrase is a title of a book by Sylvia Boorstein, a Buddhist teacher I first heard through Krista Tippet's amazing interview with her. It is a joke, a play on words, a phrase that always makes me chuckle and smile wryly. You're right, you're right, I know you're right I mutter as the phrase pops into my head. In the last few years I have cultivated my doing self and have learned so much from that, but as I continued doing and did not feel any better about my life it became more frantic and obsessive. In a particularly dark moment of this last autumn I was on a date with a gentleman caller, drinking beer, talking about politics, looking forward to our adult sleepover, when my internal commentator noted, "Dang, girlfriend, you got this doing-and-not-feeling thing down to a science!" That frantic doing has metastasized into uncontrollable worry and anxiety this winter and I feel miserable much of the time. And it is all so boring. It is the same stupid patterns I've had for years but now that I see them they are achey and dull, not even succeeding at what they were designed to do.

I did draw a tarot spread this winter (and will talk more about it below) but this year my theme came a lot from listening for resonance with words and images. The blue heron, a patient and stealthy hunter, will be my theme animal for this 
By David Jakes
year. Herons sit still as a tree waiting for their prey to forget they're there. They work hard to not spook off the good stuff that will surely come their way. Like herons, chicory flowers have been making themselves known to me for years. They are the weediest of the weedy plants and will grow out of sidwalks, along highways, in gravel drives and on the edges of lawns. It is used for salad greens, livestock forage, a coffee subsitute and a medicine for all sorts of ailments. The gorgeous blue flowers are said to be able to open locked doors. Powerful allies to have in this year of bravely facing the habits of mind and heart that rear their head in physical and mental stillness.

Other symbols of stillness and introspection have come to work with me. The first was an unlikely and ancient copper Buddha found in Helgo, a Viking town dating to about 800 C.E. The small, beautifully worked statue appears to have been made about two to three hundred years earlier in northern India and then worked its way through trade and capture this important center of Viking trade. 1500 years after it was made and thousands of miles away, the Buddha continues to be a visual representation of the ability of humans to achieve some kind of peace. This Buddha is a conundrum,
The Helgo Buddha
 though, because this statue has traveled so far away from where it started. Like the heron who can spread its 7 foot wing span to find a better pond or stream and the weedy chicory that has hitched rides with humans to all ends of the earth, the Helgo Buddha has traveled but not lost it's stillness. My tarot card for the year is the Hermit, another character travels with stillness. This Hermit card came at the end of a spread full of winged hearts, this is the cups suit in my Fairy Tale Tarot deck. This suit is correlated with emotions, dreams and the moon and the winged heart itself is a Sufi symbol for unconditional love and devotion. My spread indicated that work must be done finding or giving support and unity in this realm before connection and healing can happen. Then those powers of love can be used to help others, fight for what is right and increase the true wealth of love in this world.

  • 2014 will be green like old copper and healthy trees, grey like heron feathers, carved stones and a hermit-wizard's cloak, blue like summer skies and weedy chicory flowers. 
  • 2014 will be a year of answering the phone with "What fresh hell is this?" and hoping it really is a new problem rather than the reheated boring problems I have seen before.
  • 2014 will be a year of knowing what to keep and what to let go. It will be a year of cultivating Right Memory (seeing the patterns but facing the world fresh), of Right Heart (Finding new ways of love while releasing obsessive and painful habits) and Right Attention (now that I don't have to be perfect, I can be good). 
  • 2014 will be a year of attending to my people, building patterns of connection and of swirling round and round with others who want to dance. It will be a time of building the world I want; don't just sit there, do something.

This last gwish is based on my Sabian symbol for 2014, Gemini 22: Dancing Couples Crowd the Barn in a Harvest Festival. The first part of my theme for this year is all about finding peace and joy in stillness, introspection and changing my own patterns of thought and feeling about the world. This symbol and gwish provide the other side of this coin, that of cultivating peace and joy through healthy connection with other people. My best friends and I are working out plans for a game night of sorts, an attempt to build our friend community back up into fruitful health, a project streaming directly out of my work at calling my allies last year. The allies have been called, now they need to connect with each other into a true caring community. This symbol brings to mind ceremonial times out of the daily grind of work to connect, enjoy and celebrate the turning of the seasons. In addition to our game night, I think this image is calling me to 
New Years Day 2014
find ways to connect in my church and school communities as well as rekindle my connection to the wheel of the year through blogging and celebrations. 

Many of my friends found 2013 to be an exceptionally challenging year. Some have much more painful horror stories from this year than I do but my year was hard. I was sick, I was heartbroken and I struggled a lot with uncovering truths about who I am and how I operate. I did have moments of pure bliss, wild adventures and times of deep connection. 2014 will be a year of more discernment, more stillness, more interesting problems and more dancing joyfully in the stream of the cosmos. I for one am looking forward to it. 

When achievements have been made and there is a sense of security and 'Harvest' in the air, it is time to celebrate with one another. There is a need to get back to a simple, conservative level of enjoyment. There's a sense of being in tune with seasonal rhythms. The feeling of a healthy heart and a healthy mind, while taking a break from the struggles of providing, can bring joy to everyone involved. See if you can take time out to celebrate and to enjoy your environment.
Celebrating the warmth and providence of the Earth. The joy of nature's harvest. Joining with others to celebrate. The reality of rhythmical or seasonal adjustments. Dancing. Barns and dance halls.
The Caution: Being the wallflower, not participating. Waiting for a special invitation rather than responding to the openness of the situation.

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New Milk Moon 2009: New Milk Moon

New Milk Moon 2011: The Quaker Year

New Milk Moon 2012: Year of the Dragon

This post is a New Year's Gwishing post. Be sure to check out previous year's posts: 2011 Building a Better Teacher, 2012 Grabbing the Tiger By the Tail and 2013 Engaging My Superpowers, Calling My Allies. There are older and other New Years day posts under the label New Year.