Raeven’s Haven…Reflections and Honoring of Sacred Life

Blessings! My name is Raeven. Though I have almost always maintained a journal throughout my life and spent time writing short stories and dreaming of writing children’s spiritual and nature based stories…I have never sought to publish anything. I heard about Blogging years ago and even read a few different blogs over the years, but had never seriously considered trying to create and maintain a blog myself until these past few months when I decided I wanted to try and further focus on, and develop, my own writing with a little more of a public presence. At that same time, I had begun to re-focus once again on my spiritual path and in recognizing and honoring the Divine Sacredness within all of life. I truly wished for all beings to experience and honor that Divine Sacredness within life and upon this Earth, and therefore I knew the best thing I could do was to continually seek to live in a state of Gratitude and Love, and to be of service to all life upon this Earth, for the highest good of all.  And maybe a public blog was one way in which I could share that with others…maybe even inspire them.

In short, this blog is a reflection into my life, my experiences, my thoughts, my hopes, and my dreams. And it’s a good mix of true events seasoned with my wild dreaming. To both share my world and also create it at the same time…in a beautiful and sacred way. To summarize everything below, I felt I was hugely lacking as a parent even though I wanted to be better than I was, and so I resigned myself to just being “designed” that way and waited for my children to launch into their adult lives so that I could go about my own self centered and self focused life creating experiences for myself that I had always desired without feeling guilty any longer for not being able to “connect” and “be there” for them in the way I felt good parents do. Then one of my adult son’s had a daughter of his own and through some very intense spiritual experiences, I was blessed in having a very close relationship with this very special child and she began to teach me HOW to be a better parent and role model through her existence and presence in my life. And through the gift of our relationship, I began to see all the ways in which I needed to grow and become as a person, and how to get there. She inspired in me how to be the kind of parent figure I always desired to be and yet felt I had failed at when I was younger, and she inspired within me to reconnect with my spiritual and creative self and to share that with her. This blog details much of that. Below is the long winded detailed path of how I got to THIS point.

My first spiritual awakening came at 19 when I had my very first child. Though I loved my son dearly with all my heart, I knew I was in no way prepared to be a parent at that age. At that age I knew I was lacking almost everything that I believed a good parent should have and be in nature, disposition, maturity, mental and emotional availability and focus, and ability to adequately provide for my child. I KNEW this. And even though I sought classes and information and support groups and guidance…I still struggled with all aspects of parenting…a LOT. And back then, I had decided that there were some people that were clearly designed for parenting and destined to succeed beautifully at it. And then there were people like me who just could not even understand why one would truly even desire to become a parent…it was SO HARD and SO DEMANDING!!! I was at a loss. And yet I felt the only thing I could do was obviously continue trying to do my best and trying to succeed at it. But, to be honest, I never felt like I truly “got” it about parenting. I never felt like I truly embraced parenting. And I struggled with balancing my own desires and needs in my personal life, and as a consequence it can often be said that I could be a very selfish and self centered parent…and I was. Even though I tried harder to be less of that and more focused on the world of my children.

During those tumultuous parenting years that never seemed to get much easier, and though my heart ached for my children having to go through the experiences of my many parental shortcomings in patience, wisdom, and a ton of other aspects…I watched and observed other parents as they parented. I saw some of them that seemed to be wildly successful in creating wonderful relationships with their children and inspiring their children to become amazing young adults that seemed focused, aware, goal oriented, kind and compassionate towards others, honest, and sometimes even very ecologically conscious. And then I would also see other parents that seemed to struggle with parenting as well. And oftentimes they seemed just as overwhelmed and lost, or completely disengaged from their children. Many of those parents seemed to struggle with having deep and meaningfully connected relationships with their children. Often I observed those parents engage in issues concerning a lack of respect and value of the relationship between themselves and their children, and many of those children I saw grow into young adults that seemed angry, lost, confused, hurt, distrusting, directionless, and sometimes even became adults that did dishonest and destructive things to themselves and others. I often wondered what caused such struggles in parental relationships, where the breakdown had occurred that started those children onto a “less than joyful” path into life…and how it could be fixed, healed, and changed. Were so many of these parents like myself? Were they lost and confused on the path of parenting and feeling like they had no wise and supportive guidance and assistance? Were they parented the same way as they were parenting and experiencing similar results in difficult parenting relationships, despite their best and well intentioned efforts? Or worse, did they simply NOT care about the outcome of their parenting and the adults they would be bringing into society??

I pondered about these things for years. And I often thought about my own mother. She lived less than 10 miles away from me, and though I knew and felt that she had always done her very best to be a good parent, I remembered often feeling disconnected from her in ways I wished I hadn’t. I remembered feeling like she often wasn’t very available to me emotionally, physically, or mentally on many occasions when I had desperately sought that connection and didn’t know how to achieve it. She was often distant and in her own world. Perhaps because she had become a parent herself at 15 and never had her own adult life to herself? Perhaps because her own mother had been a severe alcoholic while my mother was growing up and therefore not available to my mother at all as a parent in any important and meaningful way herself, thus modeling parental behavior to my mother that was disconnected and self focused? Perhaps because as a result of the many stressful and hard situations my mother went through while growing up she had learned to focus inward and ignore many of the unpleasant things going on around her…outside of her? I wasn’t sure. What I DID know was that despite any feelings of lacking I had felt about the relationship between my mother and myself, I observed with surprise and wonder that she seemed to feel and express much more of a connection and focus on my son, her first grandchild than I had ever expected her too. And she was a WONDERFUL grandmother. And as I watched her being a grandparent, being so patient and in tune and connected to my son in ways I felt I failed to do and failed to understand HOW to do…I often wished that my mother would take over the primary responsibility of taking care of my son. I wished for her to be his primary caregiver with myself being the strong secondary. In my mind’s eye, I saw that if we could achieve this arrangement, then my mother would be able to offer my son all the love, stability, security, support, guidance, experience, patience, and wisdom that I so clearly lacked in so many ways. And in return, I could observe and learn from her on HOW to be a better parent, and HOW to become those things. And my job would be to support my mother’s efforts in raising my son in any way that was needed. In my mind’s eye, in this dreamt about arrangement, I would work, go to college, explore life and careers, travel and write and learn about myself and life, and I would not drag my son through any of those experiences with me UNLESS I was sure it was stable and desirable for him. And I would spend as much time as possible with my son and I would provide for all of his financial needs and child care whenever needed. But in this arrangement, I knew my mother would keep him safe and he would have a wonderful upbringing precisely because she was experienced, she was stable, and she was patient and knowing and wise in ways I had yet to grow to become. And I knew it.

But that didn’t happen. Instead my son went through the ups and downs of life right along side me, for better or worse. And I never stopped thinking that this was ALL WRONG. In tribal cultures it was family, extended family, and community that was there for the support and guidance of the child, and their parents if needed. But our society is so divided in so many ways and families are often very fragmented with many families ONLY consisting of the parent or parents, or some parent type, and the children with no additional support from family or close friends within the community. And thanks to this isolation, the prevalence of drug use in our society, the breakdown of strong and positive family support and guidance, the demand for a 2-3 income household in order to make bills JUST FOR SURVIVAL, and the growing lack of guidance and positive modeling of parenting and parent-child relationships, I wondered if THESE things were the main culprit for the breakdown in positive family relationships? Something felt very wrong about this entire model of our society that I had grown up in among the lower-mid income class. Could this be the basis for so many issues in families and in child raising??? Or was it simply that some people simply weren’t designed to be parents? I pondered these things for years, and eventually concluded, based on my personal experiences, that it was both. And some people, like myself, just seemed to lack the “right stuff” for being great parents. So, filled with self resentment about “what and how” I was as a parent, I resigned myself to this awareness and just waited for my children to grow up and start their own lives, all the while apologizing to them for all of my shortcomings as I struggled through those years.

I never gave the idea of grand parenting much thought. My husband did. He seemed to be the exact opposite of me, thankfully, on so many levels. He loved and embraced parenthood and all its responsibilities, even when we disagreed on some issues. And he looked forward to being a grandparent. I looked forward to my last child launching into their adult life and then I thought of hitting the road in a travel trailer and going to live the life I had always dreamed about full of travel and adventure and new experiences with new people and cultures.

Then at the age of 39 I became a grandparent for the first time and was blessed to be present at her Sacred birth. For many people, becoming a grandparent is probably often an experience that is viewed as a wonderful blessing, as I believe it should be. However, for me, I wasn’t expecting the gift of a granddaughter to be such a dramatic life changing event for me. But to this day, at 13 months old, she most definitely has been the most blessed, powerful, and spiritual gift I have ever experienced within my own life and I continue to feel and express nothing but gratitude and love for the gift of her, every single day.

I wasn’t even sure how or why these sudden changes within myself had occurred. I had raised sons and never spent any time around daughters or little girls even though I had desperately wanted a daughter. When my sons were growing up, my husband reveled in being a father and loved to share with them things that he had enjoyed from his own childhood and experiences, and felt a connection to them in a way I just couldn’t relate to or identify with. In truth, even though I loved my sons dearly, I did not know how to share and connect with them the things that I felt a sense of value about. And because of that, and a dozen other reasons, I really felt I failed my sons as a mother, as a parent. But it wasn’t for lack of wanting or trying to the best of my ability.

So when I learned I was expecting my first grandchild, I didn’t think much about what that experience might mean. I simply hoped my son and the mother of his baby would have a much easier time with parenting than I did and I would try to offer as much support as I could. But as the pregnancy progressed and life events occurred, I ended up developing a fairly close relationship with my granddaughter’s wonderful mother. We shared a lot in common with our life experiences and I grew to love her dearly, as my own daughter. And I became excited about meeting this new child. And then, upon her birth, as her wonderful mother shared that special and sacred experience with me, I fell hopelessly in love with that tiny soul as I watched her enter the world and take her first breath. And I KNEW in that moment that she was very special, that she would bring many spiritual teachings to my life, that we had a very special soul connection and had great work to do together on this earth, and that I would do anything on this earth to shelter her from pain and sorrow and protect her with every breath within me.

Since her birth, and now over a year later, I am blessed with spending a great deal of time with my granddaughter and we have many adventures together. Both real, dreaming, and yet to come. And she has been the greatest spiritual teacher in my life so far. I am blessed beyond words. And these are our stories….

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The Zeitgeist Documentary Series…Food For Thought

I heard about the Zeitgeist documentary movies about ten years ago when the first one came out. A friend of mine at the time had seen it and told me about it. It was the kind of documentary that I was certain I would find valuable and affirming in my own beliefs and views, but due to my life situation at the time (no internet connection at my cabin and no movie subscription…and I gave up TV about 10 years ago just because it’s simply brain vomit garbage in my opinion and not worth my time or focus), I didn’t get a chance to see it.

Now, a decade later, I found three of the Zeitgeist documentaries on Netflix. And two more on YouTube. I haven’t yet watched the last two in the series, but the first three definitely met my expectations and gave me a lot to think about.

The main focus of at least the third movie dealt with the need for our world to go from a monetary based economy to a resource based economy. I loved the concept, but couldn’t fully envision exactly how that might work in all honesty. I’m still researching the concept and vision of how that looks. However, because I am SUPER clear about the inequality that the thing we call “money” creates in our society on all levels  I am highly aware that only those at the top of this financial pyramid scheme truly benefit at the expense of the earth’s resources, human dignity and rights, cultural annihilation, and the eradication of the biosphere and countless invaluable species. And of course the material thing we call “money” is simply designed to create financial slaves of people through debt, once again benefitting the top 1%-3% in our world. Seems like insanity to me, so I am all in favor of finding and utilizing another sense of economy that is much more focused on equality and dignity in life, responsible access to all resources equally, protection and responsible stewardship of earths resources and habitats, and an equal exchange of energy from the recipients in another form (the people of Earth have equal access to needed things in life like adequate housing, food, etc. and in exchange they are required to give back and contribute meaningfully to their communities according to their skills, knowledge, and abilities). Though I deeply long for such a “utopian” society where mindless consumption of “stuff” is not the purpose and drive, I am also equally clear that the thing we call “money” is also used to gain power and control. And once “money” is removed there will still be those that seek power and control over others…because I cannot see how we can legislate morality, ethics, or the spiritual awareness of “oneness” and “interconnectivity” that we all have in the web of life. Therefore, even if “money” was eliminated from our world, how could we keep those who seek power and control from attaining it at the expense of human life and the environment?

I was 17 or so when I very first realized that imminently I would have to go and get a “job” and work for the next 40 or so years for a system I did not even believe in or want to be a part of. And I was pissed at this realization. What I had lacked good guidance in and did not fully understand at that time was that if I had been able to stay highly focused on schooling and college BEFORE having children, then I could have chosen a degree and field that at least would have created more options form me that were both personally fulfilling as well as more financially abundant than job options I would face without a degree. But hearing that you “should go to college because it opens so many doors for you” and truly understanding that truth without having any mentoring and true guidance in this are two different things. Instead, as life would work out (and as I would learn later, when I actually was able to attend college for a while, was fairly predictable given my socioeconomic background), I ended up having children in my very early 20’s, before attending college or training programs. And, with very limited skills, knowledge, education, and opportunities that had been available to me, I ended up becoming a slave to the workforce and society in ways I hated. All I could dream about was how to divorce the financial system. How could I find a way to “own” (even that’s a misnomer…if you don’t pay your taxes or the government decides they want your property, seems you are shit out of luck in that way) property, grow and create my own food supply, generate my own energy needs, make my own clothing, have free access to a clean water source, create my own comfortable and adequate housing, and create a career that was fulfilling and would meet any other basic financial needs I would have? How do I create this life without becoming massively financially indebted?? After all, I REALLY just wanted to work for myself and my community, I wanted to stay at home with my children and raise them and love them to the best of my ability, and I wanted to be able to comfortably (not extravagantly) provide for all their needs and cultivate within them an attitude of gratitude for what they have, and an acceptance or plan for attaining that which they do not have.

I’m almost 40 now. I started college when I was in my early 30’s because that was the first real opportunity I had to attend. I managed to get my AA degree without creating debt for myself in that way (the few benefits of being financially “poorer” than others). After I completed my AA degree, I started work on my BA Degree in Teaching although I wasn’t sure exactly how I would use the degree since I absolutely detested public education, not for the devoted teachers, but for the imprisoning, enslaving, and mind numbing curriculum and school system itself. I detested it so much that I couldn’t even get excited about the idea of being within the system to try and change it for the better from the inside out. So I started researching alternative educational methods. Homeschooling, online schooling, charter schooling, etc. I liked some of the private schools like Montessori and Waldorf, but I resented that they were elitist in the fact that only those with the right amount of money could attend…and I fully believed that EVERY child on Earth should have full access to the best educational methods available. And there should be full CHOICE in the learning process.

About a year into my BA degree I became so burned out and exhausted from the full time studying, a full time job, and balancing my family needs and my dance studies (dance was my passion and kept me sane in life), I finally just collapsed and quit my college studies altogether. After maintaining a 3.8 GPA for all of my college career, working my hardest to get the best possible grades and making sure everything was turned in on time if not earlier, I just QUIT. I stopped everything on the spot and ended up failing 2 classes from simply failing to do anything in them, failing to show up at all. I was burned out. I was $14,000 in debt for college so far, and even though my husband and I had managed to buy 20 acres of land that we finally paid off, it still needed a decent home (a single wide trailer would have been acceptable…so I wasn’t even shooting for the stars), and all the utilities. That amounted to a lot more debt if we had to borrow for those things. We ended up needing a decent vehicle when our old one finally gave out, so we amassed more debt by buying a reliable second hand vehicle. Then I thought I needed back surgery so after MRI’s and several trips to the doctor only to discover it was a deteriorating disc that was causing me so much grief, I walked away resolute I would avoid surgery at all costs and focus on holistic healing like yoga, inversion chair, core exercises, and Pilates to heal my condition. However, there was another $3,000 in medical debt. My plans for living debt free and divorcing the financial establishment were not working out as I planned. The only truly beneficial statement I could make about my financial situation was that I didn’t own a credit card and my husband I were resolute to never own one.

Now I have a granddaughter. A true Jewel in my life and I find myself struggling once again with the same issues and frustrations I felt 20 years before when I had birthed my first child and realized I had no way of financially being able to stay at home with that child. I seemed to lack the knowledge, skills, abilities, and education required to get a decent paying remote job that allowed me to work from home and still make my bills, and with a young child underfoot she required a lot of time and attention which meant whatever work I could do with her would require me working around her sleep schedule when she was with me. This isn’t a new complaint. I have spoken with many, many, parents over the years that came from similar socioeconomic backgrounds and most of them felt that same sense of hopeless desperation…wanting to be with their children and give their children meaningful experiences and education in this life, but instead were torn and ground up by the financial establishment forcing them to take sometimes 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet as many of them existed and lived in substandard living spaces. Meanwhile, parents of children that attended the Moms groups I took my granddaughter to I had observed were all in a higher socioeconomic status, and ALL of them were stay at home moms living in beautiful homes and not especially worried about their financial situations from what I learned. How could this inequality in life experiences exist and continue to perpetuate itself? How could this be fixed? How could this be changed?

I began watching the Zeitgeist documentaries. Along with documentaries on our food establishment, clothing establishment, financial establishment, and the inequalities across the world seemed stunning and overwhelming. And yes, in seeing documentaries that showed the lives of those working in sweatshops and having to leave their young children with other families, extended families, or barely older siblings just to try and earn a wage to support their families or pay medical bills or whatever, while living in squalor in a shack…yes, I didn’t have it THAT bad and neither did most of the mothers I spoke with that were in my socioeconomic stratosphere. So I was thankful for THAT.

BUT my thoughts persisted. How do we change the world? How do we create conditions for fair and dignified living for ALL? How do we ensure that every person on Earth has the ability to contribute meaningfully to their society without being slaves to it? How do we ensure every person on this Earth has access to clean water, food, and sanitation? How do we ensure that our Earth’s resources are highly protected, preserved, and used most efficiently and most sacredly and responsibly as though our very lives depended upon tis protection and stewardship…BECAUSE IT DOES. Destroy the Earth’s resources, habitats, biosphere, species, clean water, and ability to heal itself and I assure you we will all die as a result of that. How do we ensure that at least one parent/caregiver is ALWAYS able to stay at home with their children if they so choose without the demands of the financial enslavement system grinding them to death? How do we rebuild a true sense of community within communities, a sense of family within communities? IS there a way to change the system so that there is more equality for all, a sense of dignified living for all, the basic needs for all to be met, the protection of the Earth’s resources…WITHOUT forms of power and greed and corruption entering into the system? I worry that even if we eliminated “money” and a monetary based system, that even if we turned to a resource based system, somehow or another greed and corruption and power would appear again and we would be right back here.

I’m getting off my soap box now. I will continue to research home-based jobs that are meaningful, fulfilling, in service to others, and financially abundant enough to meet my current living needs as I continue to seek a way to stay at home with my granddaughter while her parents work. And I will continue to work towards my goals and dreams of divorcing the monetary system to the best of my ability. To those ends, I continue to research natural based home building (such as adobe and cob..my area has plenty of clay, sand, and straw in order to build with these materials), I will continue to research efficient and cheaper ways of attaining water, septic, and power on my property, and I will continue to work towards learning more about gardening, harvesting, food preservation, and food preparation. And I will continue to work towards building and supporting a more collaborative and unified “family” sense of community within my area. Here’s to dreaming and building towards a better future for all of us.

Journey into Tribal Belly Dance…

I was certain I was born with two left feet and no concept of rhythm. I never even danced in the privacy of my own home. I simply did not have any rhythm and felt terribly awkward and uncomfortable in my body when I tried to dance. And in addition to that, I was incredibly self conscious and though social by nature, I NEVER felt comfortable being the center of attention for ANY reason. Not for birthdays, job changes, and certainly not for performing. So when I discovered Tribal Belly Dance and began studying it in my early 30’s, I was definitely surprised at my own budding willingness to stretch beyond my deeply entrenched fears and inhibitions because I so desperately wanted what this dance had to offer.

I have always been highly social by nature. I truly love talking to people, hearing their life stories and experiences, and learning about cultures and subcultures…their ways of living, thinking, viewing, and experiencing their world and why they think and believe the way they do. This human experience can be highly fascinating and exciting! There is so much diversity out there in the world from landscapes to cultures to creatures…it would take many, many lifetimes to experience and learn about it all.

But being very social I am also paradoxically somewhat shy and tend to be more introverted than extroverted. If I can engage an individual that I think would be interesting to talk to, then I try. And if I am successful, before long they are telling me all about their fascinating life experiences and I’m enthralled and often thinking about their experiences in context to stories I would want to write, using something similar to their experiences for garnish throughout the life of my character or the story itself. These stories rarely get written in real life…but the thought and entertainment of them in my mind is absolute brain candy. However, it is difficult for me to speak to more than one or two people I do not know at a time. And since I listen well, I actually do very little talking myself. But when I do, in those moments where I am sharing about myself, I recognize that I often feel just as self conscious and awkward as when I am trying to move my body in any rhythmic way. I prefer to be the observer rather than the observed.

However, despite this social “need” within my nature, I have spent the majority of my life feeling rather lonely. Most of my friendships and relationships are not as deep and meaningful as I would prefer, and oftentimes many of my friends are too busy to meet up and have a deeply engaging conversation or experience very often.

I had dabbled with Belly Dance since I was in my early 20’s after seeing a group of women perform Tribal Belly Dance together at a Pagan Festival in California. Watching their interaction, their joy, their passion, and their beautiful colorful layers of heavily dyed cotton costuming pieces adorned with very old and ethnic looking medallions and coins, they LOOKED like they came straight from a page in National Geographic from some far away Middle Eastern region…the only part of their bodies that showed any skin was their forearms, midriff, and neckline. There was nothing revealing or sexual about their appearance or their dancing…all I saw was Community, Unity, Joy, and Sisterhood. And I wanted that more than anything. So I began my pursuit of studying this dance, determined to conquer my fears and inhibitions and attain those aspects with other women through this dance that looked as culturally ancient as their costuming. But it wasn’t until I was in my early 30’s that I actually learned that there were several different styles of Belly Dance and that the name of this dance style was called Tribal Belly Dance.

ATS (R) which stands for American Tribal Belly Dance, was originally re-envisioned and refined and birthed by Carolena Nericcio in San Francisco in the late 80’s. She had been taught by an instructor years before and then in the 80’s Carolena began teaching classes of her own based on what she remembered of the moves. As time went on with her troupe, Fat Chance Belly Dance, she refined cues and formations that allowed for every performance to be entirely improvisational with the women speaking a secret language amongst themselves made up of gestures and cues so that they all knew exactly what move they were to be performing. This style of dance requires trusting in oneself, trusting in the women you dance with, open and honest communication, and commitment to one another and the dance in order to refine it and dance together in an improvisational way while maintaining a seamless appearance that often occurs with well practiced choreography.

Unfortunately, by the time I learned about the name of this style of dance, I was already living in a tiny little town in Northeastern Washington. The town I had moved to consisted of roughly 1600 people with many of them being here for generations. A mere ten miles away was the second largest town on this side of Washington boasting a population of around 5,000 people. And an hour and half away was Spokane.

Driving to Spokane for weekly instruction was incredibly unfeasible for me. Yet I did it for about 6 months studying with two different instructors during that time. The gas and time commitment to driving the three hour round trip was difficult, but I was committed to studying this dance. Before I had began studying with live instructors in Spokane, I had acquired countless DVDs on Tribal Belly Dance and Fusion Belly Dance. I studied them religiously with every free moment I had. I was determined to master the basics and mechanics of the basic moves that were covered on the DVDs so that I could hopefully make the most of my time with an instructor in Spokane.

I have now been studying this dance passionately since 2009. And, despite living so far from live instructors, on occasion I get an opportunity to attend Belly Dance festivals like Cues and Tattoos in Seattle, and attend workshops and other trainings. Since that time, I opened a small dance studio in my own community and began teaching Tribal Belly Dance, and then myself and 4 other committed members created a troupe to perform locally at events and festivals, gaining another member over time. Then in 2014 I attended a mentoring training in New Mexico called SEEDs that was designed to teach women like me how to lead a mentoring group to teach young women and girls about self-esteem, self-empowerment, and education through Dance (SEEDs) through self reflection, guided education, lectures, projects, writing, talking circles, and guest speakers. And then in January 2017 I was sponsored by a dear dance sister that lives and teaches in Idaho, and she made it possible for me to attend the ATS (R) Belly Dance Homecoming event in San Francisco where I was able to attain my General Skills and Teacher Training certifications.

And throughout all of this journey, as amazing at is has been and as fortunate and blessed as I have been in finding wonderful and beautiful women to dance with that are every bit as committed, honest, open, trustworthy, caring, and ego-less as they can be…I have worked very hard on improving my dance skills and working to get comfortable with performing. To be honest, I know I could improve a lot more in my confidence and skills in dance by taking more weekly training in Spokane, and intend to at some point. And though I feel a deep sense of trust and love for the women I dance with, and our communal unity causes me to feel safe and as secure as I can be when we perform, I still do struggle with stage presence and confidence when I perform. I still hear that gibberish going on in my mind as I dance: “am I dancing on rhythm…am I zilling on the beat…is my posture correct…am I smiling…am I cueing correctly…am I doing this move correctly…does the audience like what they are watching…?” and I know those thoughts hold me back in many ways. So I am working on it. But…to go from REFUSING to perform for ANYONE in 2008 to being “somewhat comfortable” with performing in front of local crowds…that’s huge steps for a shy, self conscious introvert like myself. I NEVER in a million years dreamed I would be here doing this in my life…and it has been the one of the greatest blessing in my life and I am thankful…

 

Beginning on the Path to Dance…

I was pretty sure I had been born with two left feet and absolutely no sense of rhythm. From the time I was a child I refused to dance or even attempt it…not even in the privacy of my own home when I was by myself. I was terribly self conscious about my lack of ability to dance at all and I was certain that others would judge me as harshly as I judged myself. So I was much surprised when, in my mid 20’s, I saw a dance performance that engaged me so deeply and profoundly that I immediately sought out instructional DVD’s on it and thereafter would find myself devoting every free moment to the devotional study of this dance.

Up until that moment in time, despite avoiding dance, I had always liked music though…quite a lot. I listened to music all the time. When I was busy cleaning, or driving, or working on a story line, or a character development for stories I would start to write and never finish…I liked to listen to alternative, dance, techno, and gothic music for the most part. I could hear the beat but I knew nothing about counting music.

When I was busy doing yoga, working on meditation, or sleeping I liked listening to New Age, World music, Native American flute music, and some of the old classic Indian Instrumental music with the tablas, sitars, veena, sarod, tanpura, and santoor. I had a deep fondness for the sounds of the stringed Indian instruments that had a spiritual transcendent quality to them in my opinion, and I also dearly loved the sound of drums with their earthy and primal sound.

In the early 2000’s I was in my 20’s and I was living in California still and had seen an advertisement for a Pagan Festival going on at a place called “Phoenix Park” in Sacramento. I spent a lot of years studying and practicing earth based and honoring spiritual traditions, to the best of my ability. Social media hadn’t quite hit the scene yet, except for chat rooms, so I often felt very isolated and alone. Upon seeing the flyer for the Pagan Festival at Phoenix Park, I was delighted. I thought this may be an amazing opportunity to hopefully meet and connect with other people that held similar views and beliefs. So my family and I attended the festival, even though I was the only one that maintained these specific spiritual views and practices, specifically.

The festival was interesting and though I enjoyed different aspects of it, I didn’t meet and connect with anyone directly. My youngest child at the time was less than a year old and on that sweltering hot day, he was less than enthusiastic about being out in the blazing sun beneath the canopy of his stroller. So we made our way through the vendors and I took a flyer for the various talks that would be given that I would be missing, and we left. On our way back to the parking lot, I spotted a group of women performing a dance. I was pretty sure it was some style of Belly Dance, but, given their multitude of costuming layers and colors, and the interactions that happened between the dancers, I observed it was more communal and “traditional” appearing in nature. Amongst the colorful draping and full layers of various cottons, the ONLY part of the body I saw exposed on these women were their midriff and their forearms and necklines. They were not dressed in the typical shiny, sparkling, tight fitting, asset revealing costuming that I had seen pictures of Belly Dancers dressed in before. But the music definitely had that Middle Eastern rhythm happening. At the time, I had no idea there were many different styles related to Belly Dance. The only thing I DID know was these women were dancing TOGETHER like a sisterhood, and they were beautiful to watch. And in my soul I knew I wanted to do that too. I wanted that dance… I wanted that sense of sisterhood, connection, and community.

Immediately after leaving the festival, my husband and I drove over to Fry’s, a giant store filled with electronics of all sorts. I went over to the DVD section of the store and found a 3 disc series on Belly Dance Basics by Neena and Veena. On the cover they did not look like they were dressed the way I had just seen the other Belly Dancers at the festival, but they didn’t look like they were trying to exude titillation and sexuality…aspects of Belly Dance I don’t happen to find appealing or of personal interest. My attitude and feeling was clear: I want to do this dance for ME, I want to do this dance to CONNECT with other women…I am NOT interested AT ALL in appealing to men and their desires or interests.

So I bought that DVD series and though I worked with it off and on by myself or with my mom over the next couple of years, in time I came to learn about different styles and that what I had seen in the Phoenix Park that day was in fact a form of Belly Dance, but it was more specifically called Tribal Belly Dance and was originated and refined by a wonderfully talented woman from San Francisco named Carolena Nericcio who birthed the legendary, now world famous, style of Belly Dance called ATS…or more specifically American Tribal Style. But it would be almost another 10 years before I would find myself in a position to be able to study Belly Dance in a more structured and focused way, and so it was then that I learned about ATS and Tribal Style Belly Dance and began my true journey into this dance and have pursued it passionately ever since…but that’s a story for another time.

 

 

The Lavender Water Ceremony

It was a small round basin made of copper with a matching pitcher. I had found it one day while scouring yard sales with my infant grand daughter, my little Lotus Jewel. I was dreaming of the Lavender Water Ceremony when we came across it. This was a special ceremony I had just begun sharing with little Sage Lily. Being only a year old and my very best friend, she quite enjoyed many of the things we did together. The Lavender Water Ceremony was one of the many traditions I wished to pass on to her. The ceremony of washing the feet is an ancient tradition, one that conveys love and humility and respect. And with instilling this tradition within my granddaughter’s life, I felt that this was one more way for her and I to remember the importance and value of expressing gratitude, love, humility, appreciation, and the acknowledgement of the Sacred Beauty within the web of life. So I had decided to share the Lavender Ceremony with Sage Lily.

After bringing home the copper basin and pitcher, I gathered together Lavender Oil, Sea Salt, a little bit of White Sage, and petals from some of the beautiful flowers I had picked and dried that summer after they had adorned my home, sharing their brilliant colorful beauty with my family. When their life time had passed and the flowers had begun to wilt, I hung them upside down and allowed them to dry so that I could collect their petals and store them in a small glass jar for use at another time, such as offering.

Sage Lily loves music. Loves it. And from the time before she was even born, I had been putting together a playlist for her that reflected songs about nature, the Goddess, the Divine, gratitude, beauty, and such music that I found peaceful and enchanting. Music by Loreena McKennitt, Lisa Thiel, Coyote Oldman, Joseph Firecrow, Sitar music from India, and many other such artists and types of music were on this playlist that she had been listening to almost every night at bedtime since her birth. It wasn’t the type of music that she liked to dance to like more of the modern stuff I had, or the Tribal Belly Dance music I often practiced with…but she liked the calming music on this playlist nonetheless.

That night my little Lotus Jewel and I went into the bathroom with our copper bowl, pitcher and assortment of oils and herbs. I turned on the music with the Meditation playlist, lit a few candles and thanked the energies of fire for filling my space with blessings, warmth, light and wisdom, and then burned some of the white sage leaves in a sea shell as they smoldered sending their sacred smoke and my prayers of love, gratitude, blessings, and healing up to Divine, deep into the Earth Mother, and out into the World. I  then filled the copper pitcher with water as I thanked the spirits, energies, and keepers of the waters for their blessings of clean, pure, healing, and sacred energies that bless and protect our waters. Then I sprinkled a little sea salt, the lavender oil, and the petals into the water. In many traditions, sea salt is used for purifying and protection. The petals were beautiful to watch resting on the surface of the water in a floating mosaic of swirling and dancing colors. The aromatic soothing smell of Lavender wafted gently in the air creating a sense of calm and peacefulness. I breathed deeply and felt as though the world around me was fading away and a very ancient time and place of sacredness was filling the space within the room, the sense of time melting away leaving only the magic, beauty, and sacredness and timelessness of these traditions and prayers.

After the pitcher was full, I silently grounded and centered my energies. Inviting in the Light and Energy of the Christ Consciousness and allowing that energy to fill the vessel of my being, illuminating me from within. The light spread out from my crown and reached up into the heavens, to Spirit and I whispered my Love and Gratitude for Spirit and the Blessings of this world and within my life, and that I may always be Divinely guided in being of service to others and all life and energies of Spirit, for the highest good of all. Then I saw this energy travel back down from Spirit, down through the crown of my head, down through my body and chakras and through my spine, down from the end of my tailbone and extending like a cord of light down into the Earth, down into the center and the Heart of the Earth. I once again expressed my Love and Gratitude and Healing energies for Earth Mother and thanked Her for the Blessings and Healings of this world and within my life, and that I may always be Divinely guided in being of service to others and all life and energies upon this Earth and of Spirit, for the highest good of all. Then that glowing energy traveled back up from the center of the earth, up through my spine, through my chakras and at my heart center that light radiated outward across the Earth and touching every living essence upon the earth, every stone, every tree, every body of water, every molecule of earth, every energy and element, every plant, every mineral, and every living creature, radiating Christ Consciousness and energies of Gratitude, Love, Healing, and Blessings for the Highest good of all. This visualization and prayer only takes less than a minute for me to visually see, feel, and express, but it’s powerful and important in my daily life.

I sat little Sage Lily on a stool with her small baby feet resting in the copper bowl while she chortled to me delightfully. She is such a good baby, such a happy baby. And truly one of the greatest blessings and gifts within my life. My heart swelled with love as she smiled joyfully at me. I gently poured the water over her feet, the Lavender filling our senses as it wafted through the air. Petals swirled around her feet and she reached for them. I poured a little of the water over her hands and rubbed them together gently. I patted her head with my damp hands and smoothed her hair while whispering: “Thank you Spirit, Mother Earth, and Keepers of the Waters….thank you for blessing us with clean, pure, healing, and sacred water…we offer you our deepest prayers of gratitude and love.”

After Sage Lily’s little hands, feet, and crown were blessed and cleansed with the water, I picked her up in my arms and whispered a prayer of gratitude and love for the gift of her within my life. Then I sat her upon my lap while I placed my own feet in the copper bowl. I repeated the ceremony for myself as she watched me carefully pour the pitcher of warm water over my own feet and my free hand. Rubbing my hands gently together and then wiping them over my crown, all the while whispering my prayers of gratitude and love in a soft sing-song voice. After my own feet were cleaned, I took a small towel and gently patted our feet dry. Then I took the copper bowl of water outside and carefully poured the water upon the plants, sending my prayers and blessings back into the earth saying: “Thank you Spirit, Mother Earth, and Keepers of the Waters…thank you for blessing us with clean, pure, healing and sacred water…we offer you our deepest prayers of gratitude and love as you return to the earth and continue to nourish life in the Sacred Circle. Blessings.”

Sage Lily grinned again at me. I knew she loved this ceremony and approved of it. I love that she is growing up learning to consciously feel and express a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the sacredness of all aspects of life. It is because of her that I have been so very inspired to practice this gratitude and awareness more in my life, so that I can be a good example for her…she is my greatest teacher and I am truly thankful.

 

 

 

 

Connecting to the Divine

“Wake up Gyma….” she whispers softly. “Wake up….we have so many things to do today.” I can hear her speaking to me in my dreams, her sweet bubbling voice breaking through the mist of my dreaming mind. I was somewhere…where…? I was remembering….I was on a very old canoe with rich fabrics and tapestries gathered about the bottom and spilling gently over the sides. Plush pillows of velvets and satins were piled on the bottom of the canoe as I sat upon them in comfort. The waters were still and silent as I drifted across them, the paddle making gentle sloshing sounds in the water as the canoe moved through the swirling fog.

I was focusing on inviting the energy of Christ Consciousness into my being. And as I saw that golden sparkling hue of warm radiant light seeping into the crown of my head and filling the vessel of my body, I felt an immediate sense of peace and tranquility and complete love and acceptance of all. I saw this light radiate upward into a web of beautiful glittering sparkles of light with faint trails connecting to my crown. The Christ Consciousness light reached upward through space like the branches and leaves upon a tree, connecting to the Divine Spirit of All that Is. Gratitude and Love filled my being. And then I saw that same radiant soft glowing golden light trace its way back downward from Spirit, down through my crown, through my spine and my chakra centers, down to my tailbone and root chakra, down like a tail of gentle light reaching off my spine and rooting down into the Earth and deep into her center, toward the Heart of the Earth Mother. As that Christ Consciousness light reached the center of the Heart of Mother Earth, I was filled with Gratitude and Love that radiated beyond my consciousness….I could see that, like a tree, the roots and leaves and fruits of my essence, of my being, of the Christ Consciousness within me was mirroring Above my crown as it was Below by feet.

Again, I watched the radiant golden light travel upward from the Heart of the Mother and back through my body and up through my spine and my chakras. At my Heart chakra, I saw that radiant and beautiful glowing golden light beam outward in all directions, stretching all across the Earth and touching every living creature, every stone, every element, and every spiritual energy entity that worked within the universal dimensions of Earth with the Christ Consciousness light sending waves of Love and Gratitude toward every expression of the Divine. Peace, Joy, Gratitude, and Harmony filled me.

I became aware of the canoe again….the soft, smooth silken feel of the satin pillows beneath my finger tips and the water gently lapping against the sides of the canoe. In the distance I could hear a gently heartbeat of drumming and my senses were filled with the aromatic pungent smell of the smoldering white sage that burned inside an abalone shell at my feet. I was on my way to visit the old Wise Crone at the Mirroring Pond. I wanted to connect with her and see visions of my future and my path. I sought Divine guidance. I desired to walk the sacred path and know that every action, every thought, every feeling, every word was Divinely inspired and guided to heal, to love, and to help every living energy upon this Earthly realm for the highest good of all. I wanted to do my part to be of service the greater whole….

But my thoughts, my dreams, my visions were gently scattered like tiny seeds in a warm summers breeze. I heard her calling me softly, calling me to wake up…which was strange I thought…because my little Sage Lily was barely a year old and could not yet speak more than a couple of words. I smiled as I came to a waking state when I realized she was communicating once again with me on a soul level. Gratitude and Love welled deeply within my heart for her.

 

 

 

 

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