Monthly Archives: December 2011

A pilgrimage to Balmerino Abbey

I awoke abruptly,  feeling my head sink into the pillow to try to capture the intention for my dreaming I had set the previous night.  I couldn’t reach it,  as is often the case.  But,  immediately insights came in about a longing and a clinging.  I could feel it in my body,  housed in my heart and I could feel the ancestry in my dad’s line playing a part in the wound I felt there.

I spent an hour dreaming into connection and feeling the bliss of being able to laze in bed and then got up knowing that today I had to go to Balmerino Abbey.

Balmerino is probably my most special place in Fife.  We lived close to it when my children were born and I would often visit the river there to throw stones into the water with them to make wishes and relieve the desire to throw something which children (and pent up mothers) often have!

The abbey and its chestnut tree were a sacred space for feminine connection and I have always felt the Mary energy there very strong.  My site for Air on the Dragon Theatre,  Fife map is this place,  and I have a painting of it on my bedroom wall  (above).

More recently,  my  healing friend Paul Mccaig and I have been visiting the abbey and have found its grounds naturally deep and effective for energy work.  There are many guides and monks as well as Mary who come forward to support healing projects and the use of this site for sacred work goes back far further than Christianity.  It is an initiation site especially  for feminine healing and I recommend anyone who searches healing in this area to visit the place.

Incidentally,  the poem on the seat was a piece I helped some children create for the 2000 year of the Artist project.  One of the children was the grandson of the keeper of the abbey at that time and he taught us the trick about the clockwise hand movement the poem mentions,  and the wishing through the tree.  The chestnut tree is expecially good for upper world astral travel,  for anyone who is drawn to work Shamanically there.

So,  an hour later I was on the path to Balmerino.  I had decided this would be a pilgrimmage for me to find out more about the wound I was feeling in the emptiness of winter and to ultimately bring healing to this wound.

I have to say that these days I am not a retreat person by choice.  These 3 days of easy retreat (ie I can go to the shop and say hello to people and chat with my cat) are the first days I have allowed the word retreat to come into my vocabulary and experience for years.  Historically,  retreats for me have been the most disturbing experiences of black suicidal horrors which built up days before and took months to dredge from my system,  that I decided to avoid them for the sake of my children and my sanity.  I did a 10 day silent retreat in India years ago which took me through these spaces,  but gave me sufficient time to emerge restored.  But anything less than this,  which I only had time for as a mother of young children,  has not been sufficient to take me through the domains needed to complete.  Journeying has been a gift for me to carefully manage my healing times. 

So,  this third day of my retreat with Winter… to take a 7 mile pilgrimage from my house to the abbey and back again has been quite a step for me! 

I really brought on the healing on this journey todayand managed to get to that gnawing place of self-loathing.  My inner-cheerleader was jumping about like a maniac.  ‘Yippee!!  Healing opportunity.  You’ve made it!’  Meanwhile my inner victim was staring down the cliff sides at the rocks and river below contemplating getting out of her body.  The mediator was baring her teeth,  grimmacing and going… ‘Boy,  you’d best not stay in this place too long,  you might really go mad this time.’  I came back up the path by the river from the abbey feeling like Jack Nicholson from One Flew over the Cuckoo’s nest convinced that this was it,  everybody would now know I was unstable and paranoid!

The wound which the emptiness of Winter helped me find…  I was like a happy child wandering to the abbey.  It was only when I reached the chamber,  sat in the sacred space there and felt the light all around me that the seeming neurosis began to arise.  I sat in the light of the cermonial space witnessing the wound as a place where a part of me was trying hard to run away because she felt she had done something very wrong whilst the same part of me,  lodged in exactly the same place was trying desperately to find someone to cling to to look after her and protect her from the judgment.  This was the running/clinging dynamic that was set up in me.  This was the part that had recently been isolating me from being able to be close in relationship with anyone.  To come close was to step into a dementing script with yours truly and typically the people who had stepped in had scripts of their own for us to contend with too.  No thank you!

I realised I had just evoked hell on earth for myself, thanked the space for its blessings,  visited the chestnut tree and then began the walk back home.

Throughout the return journey I was consumed by the feeling of self-loathing and guilt that the part who thought she had done something wrong was stuck in.  I replayed every single part of my life when I had felt like this,  and kept returning to major ones in an awful nauseous cycle.  It was so obvious I was on a loop that was set up somewhere.  I saw myself bitterly trapped in this storyline that I was to blame.  I travelled through time to different periods and saw this played out there too.  I kept returning to my dad’s line and felt the extremeity of the stuckness.  Occasionally I saw trees and felt the nourishment of nature,  but really I just felt doomed.  The track home was a most miserable path.  I also periodically felt feelings of utter cringeing when I saw myself as a stupid little woman who just went about irritating everyone.  My God!  Where had this come from?

On Christmas day,  I had watched the film The Season of the Witch,  which had synchronistically arrived from Love Film.  Love film,  for those who don’t know,  send out films from your chosen lists randomly.  I had been struck by the not coincidence that I was watching a film about Witch hunts, on my retreat,  at a time when I had put my intention as clearing guilt in the feminine psyche. 

So, the walk continued and I found CBT techniques (cognitive behavioural therapy) a saving grace as I resurrected my pragmatic (Earth medicine) side to look at the facts and be realistic so that I didn’t completely fall to pieces.  I knew that whatever the outcome,  I was going to clear this wound.  I had no control on outcome and keeping people in my life or avoiding loss or pain,  but what I did know from my experience with this work was that if I kept on track with allowing things to come to the surface and not hiding the wound, I would allow allow the release and unravelling of the program,  healing would follow and I would not have to carry this story anymore. 

It was amazing that as soon as I stepped back in through my door everything turned into a children’s nursery and the state of emergency dissolved.  Things have fallen into perspective and the panic has subsided.  I don’t really know what happened there.  

What I do love about my own process,  which I have learnt because I need to contain the healing intensities to protect and make sure I am there for my chldren in my everyday life,  is how I can put things into time zones of when I am and am not available for this deep work.  Also, I love  how there are beautiful spaces set up on the earth’s surface to accelerate and enhance the healing when we want to work with them.  These have been set up by the ancestors and the earth spirits and used for millennia.  In modern times,  people in the know’ are re-activating them.

‘7 miles of a pilgrimage to Balmerino Abbey,  what must the Camino 30 day trek do to people?’  I posted on my face book page.  My Shamanic friend Ellie Douglas said she’d walk with me.  I said did she really know what she would be letting herself in for??  Meaning,  would she be friend enough to go through that with me!!

Dredging up the wounds and allowing them to be felt and then transformed by the healing light of the guides and angels is a wonderful way of releasing the archetypal conditioning that is in our memories and in our genes.  Working with the dragon lines and the sacred sites is a deep and powerful way of energising and directing this process.  I am sure this blog will reveal more places for working this way.  Being strict in keeping the traumatic stories contained and not going into the horizontal in relationships and human domains is a strict requirement for this work.  I guess that is why the monks and nuns are so helpful!  They understand well the benefits of solitary vertical work.

I intend to tread more of these sacred paths in Fife and build more and more beautiful containers for this work.  I know  am only just learning about these sites and how to work with the medicine wheel with them.  I am grateful for the guidance I am given every step of the way.

Oh and thank you Paul for helping set up that space at Balmerino Abbey.  It works!


The fullness and then the emptiness of Winter

This Winter solstice morning took us up Dragon Hill at the back of the house to watch the sun rise and eat our red-icing coated biscuits my friend Nicki had baked for us.  We were able to preview the effects of the twinkling rising sun before we met her in person,  by the mirror- flashing windows of Dundee across the river, shining in exaltation. 

We sang our song,  the old circle round tune –

”The sun is born again today,  we greet the sun’s first morning rays,  we sing and celebrate the light,  the sun’s born in the longest night…’

Filled with golden,  munching on our biscuits,  I reflected on how many times we’d completed this ritual:  At the beach in Findhorn with the music sounding out of the car stereo,  at the back of our house in Ceres, on the doorstep in Forres,  up the Hill of Tarvit in the snow, up Green Hill in Fife with masses of friends.  And that first Winter Solstice with a baby 12 cycles ago, trudging up the hill with Arin at 6 months on my back and followed by my faithful white cat Freja.    How Arin’s coming along had made me so accutely aware of the creative forces of the body and the truth of the natural. I knew I had to turn all my attention to make a life more in tune to serve my children and to serve the healing of my own soul.

I remembered how I had been studying my MA in Fine Art at Duncan of Jordanstone in Dundee,  obsessive with the idea of art being about healing and restoring wholeness. I was making films and installations about bringing nature and humans back together.  And then the pregnancy came along – a natural art piece on the duration of the course.   I had just come out of hospital from a life saving liver operation – my life saved by a surgeon Dr Wood at Ninewell’s hospital on my father’s birthday.  I guess this was the marking that I would be living a different kind of life – and 5 weeks later, Arin’s spirit  came along with full enthusiasm to speed me along.  Our daughter Tsen followed 21 months after Arin’s birth.

I guess I’m mentioning this,  to in some way stress the importance that motherhood has had for me in bringing me into a life more connected to soul.  It is the act of caring for others before the self,  tending for their well-being and specialness and the greater good which opens soul.  I’m not saying that we all need to have children to feel this way,  but for me it has been the push I needed to change my lifestyle and educate my will.  It is equally  the act of opening to nature,  the planet that we share and tending for that together which brings soul consciousness into being and brings the medicine wheel to life.

At Winter solstice the sun symbolically died and then was reborn,   as it did every year before.  Threading back through the years,  I traced the same scent of hope,  wonder and excitement for what would come into the new.  This year, it was with  a bolt of gratitude in the golden light,  that I had never quite experienced before.  I guess it was the amount of blessings I had experienced in the past year,  which I knew were powered by the accumulation of the practice of working with the medicine wheel with myself and others, and also by my dad who had been helping me from the other side for the past 13 months!   I guess it was also an appreciation that I really did feel happy in my skin this year and maybe an anticipation of 2012 and its glories to come. 

We returned to the car to find its exhaust hanging off and scraping on the ground.  A quick calling on resources to get the children to school and then a very blessed mend of the car by my local garage.  I like to see my car as telling me how I’m doing.  I knew I did feel exhausted.  The past weeks had been magnificent,  but I had been aware I was running a marathon and didn’t quite know why.  I would deal with my own exhaustion later!

So,  I remember this Solstice,  and the run to it the most twinkling and holy of months.  We had a tree from the 1st December and had had lots of seasonal times baking mince pies,  wrapping presents,  reading stories and filling the house with fairy lights.  I had been holding lots of deep and successful Shamanic sessions for people,  which were richer than ever,  due to the depossession work I had been trained in last Summer by Betsy Bergstrom,  and the wealth of spiritual guides and angels I had reconnected with through this work.  I’d also been working with the antlered creatures,  so found this time of year a Shaman’s paradise.  I was able to embrace Santa as a Shaman in flight,  bringing his/ her spiritual gifts to the world.  I just wanted to keep showering the blessings.

And now it’s boxing day.  My children have been away to their granny and grandpas with their dad since Christmas eve.  I have been tending to my own exhaustion and enjoying solitude with my cat Isis.  I have spent two days reading Creations Heartbeat,  a book about the reindeer by Linda S Leonard,  which my Shamanic friend Imelda Almqvist recommended to me.

I say enjoying… the reindeer are renowned for their ability to guide humans through the dark nights of the soul.  From fullness and twinkling and the almost tangible potential of glory and wonder to come which I felt at the new Winter sun, I have had two full days of embracing and then barking at emptiness.  Nature has been wondrous all around me,  I feel soul easily.  Yet,  there is a part of my soul that feels ripped out and I have been feverishly looking to connect myself with someone or something to fill its place.  The dark night has penetrated my soul.

The aching which the emptiness of Winter can expose.  The staring into the wounds which the lack of distraction of company and movement can bring on!  I feel myself like a clinging child who wants to curl into someone else’s shape and be carried around and looked after.  And yet,  there’s a part of me that is thoroughly satisfied with my isolation and knows anybody here would spoil it and I wouldn’t get to the source of something. 

The emptiness of Winter brings the soul’s true longng to life so we know where to direct the vision for the months ahead.  These are the teachings of the medicine wheel and nature.   The emptiness of Winter exposes the wounds which need to be healed to allow more wholeness to come through in the world of soul flowing.  It is only by exposing the wounds and healing them that I can than direct my vision and be sure that what I desire is true and soul-driven and not driven by my ego that wants to control someone or something.

The reindeer tribes live a life so arduous and challenging, moving with the weather and the harshest of conditions,  and yet the reindeer keep them on track as to what is real and what is guided.  The reindeer are living a life half here,  half with spirit.  they traverse the worlds as a Shaman does.  The life of spiritual plenty they provide for the tribe with their close connecton must be so wondrous.   

As I read about them,  eyes half filled with tears,  I was aware that this emptiness in me was somehow created by my divorce from the natural world,  my separation from the guides in physical form.  Yet,  as I stepped out to walk the path to the beach later and then sang to the seals at dusk,  I knew how happy and connected I really felt.  It was in reach all the time.

But there was no tribe around to sing with me.  No soul-mate to understand me and sing the harmony….  Ah,  but how easy to feel what is missing and hold onto it like a should,  instead of baring the wound and letting it be healed by facing it.  I have no idea what this emptiness is really – the soul mate and the tribe are illusions which fill a gap in my imagination,  which truly only the true part of myself can fill.  Sacred tribe and sacred relationship are created by resonance,  not by filling holes!  In my awareness, I know I  have sad storylines I could keep on living and pulling people into if I’m not brave enough to expose the truth.  It’s exciting really.  What on earth is my wounded soul bearing?  How can I best heal it in the wonder of these reindeer guided nights of dark Winter?

Tonight I will sleep with the queery  on the emptiness of Winter under my pillow.  I will ask my dreams to show me what this emptiness really  is that I am so scared of embracing.  Tomorrow is my last day of isolation before I move into the world again.

Medicine Soul

Messages in the Wheel of time…. 

I begin this venture as the medicine wheel enters  Winter and the element of Earth in the Celtic calendar.  I intend to make posts every week on my musings as we journey with nature and the seasons.  My longing in writing this blog,  is to create a very ordinary commentary on what the medicine wheel at its most fundamental level simply is:  the wheel of the year.  The medicine wheel is the wheel which we traverse for a cycle of the spiral,  until the wheel turns again. 

The medicine wheel is the wheel of empowerment which holds us in  the process of all of life’s natural cycles.  These are:  living and dying,  growing and decaying,  filling and emptying,  waking up and going to sleep,  the in breath and outbreath,  as just a few examples.  In the seasons of planet earth we find ourselves informed and moulded by the changing seasons.  To work mindfully with the medicine wheel with intention and understanding of its seasons is to participate as powerful and fulfilled co-creators in the dream of life.  It is also to experience the wonder of the healing potentials brought by moving with the creative flow. 

Medicine Wheel life is about restoring wholeness,  bringing our heart-beat back into alignment with the rhythms and cadences of our own solar system as experienced from the perspective of planet earth.  Life without medicine wheel congruence,  is a life of separation from the real flow,  and generally a life which favours linear direction and the goals of achievement and accumulation. It is an ego-serving path.   Medicine wheel life honours the process and allows the growth of what is natural and most deeply satisfyng and in turn allows the release of what is ready to be shed.  Medicine wheel life is a soul-serving path.



Soul is an interesting concept,  whose meaning will become more clear through the reading of what comes to the surface in this blog.  Essentially,  it is helpful to see soul as a feeling which connects us with everything else:  the very opposite to the separate self.  Soul can be felt as the stirring,  moving and sensing part of ourselves.  It moves in a similar way to music.  To be tending your soul is to tend your connection to the world.  It is to feel life force running through you, poignant in its ability to make you recognise yourself as a conscious being,  but not necessarily belonging to you. 

Through the meanderings of this blog,  you will see also the various festivals and ceremonies which have been honoured by Medicine wheel embracing cultures,  and will notice also how many are still inherent in our 21st century modified way of living,  all but  slightly off centre of their true place in the wheel of the year.  You will see through the writing and the timing of these festivals and traditions how they fit beautifully as a way of directing the optimum flow of the energy of a particular season to help bring soul visions into life.

The Celtic medicine wheel has four quadrants which represent  the four seasons of Winter,  Spring,  Summer and Autumn,  the four elements of   Earth,  Air,  Fire and Water and  the four directions of North,  East,  South and  West respectively.  The centre of the medicine wheel,  sacred space has special significance as being that which contains all: unity; the mystery.

We entered North – Winter- Earth on the morning of Winter Solstice, the 22nd December  The next 3 months will be experiential and by-the-way jottings on the nature of Winter and its workings on a simple human life.