This past moon cycle has felt really difficult for me at various points. There are days when I feel like everything is flowing beautifully, I am part of the flow, my life is charmed. And then there are days when all that I can think about is my frustration at the waiting games that my husband and I are currently stuck in. The remedy? For me, keeping my focus on hope. That yes, things feel stuck, but we live on an ever circling planet in an ever shifting multi-verse – so despite my feelings, I never really am stuck.
I have been leaning heavily on music and my instruments lately, particularly at those moments when frustration is the first thing to come up. One of my greatest joys is making music with my dear friend Amber Jackson of Jewels Sound Alchemy.
Combining our instruments and musical aesthetics results in magic for both of us, and just last month we made a collective dream of ours come true by recording the first New Moon Meditation (Essence of Grace – for the Scorpio New Moon – find it here!) So, naturally, the New Moon in Sagittarius came around this month and we had our sights set on continuing this *not quite a* trend.
Here it is – our second little baby, up on Soundcloud and ready for you to take 30 minutes of quiet space. Let yourself Tune in to Hope – this is the season and time to focus in on it, and I am delighted to bring this to you. Click on the image above or go here to find this month’s meditation, Tuning In to Hope.
And, if you’re around Missoula this holiday season, make some time to go into music with Amber and I on December 28 – our second Gong Songs. Part Gong & Himalayan Bowl Sound Immersion, part song and music circle… last month was our first ever Gong Songs and we loved it. Bring yourself, an instrument that you love if you’d like to, and a $15-20 donation, though none will be turned away. This is about showing up as ourselves and harmonizing our way through life together. As always, you’ll find a list of classes & events I have going on here, and on my FB page.
This week was a big one for me! I was featured in an article in Missoula Valley Living (check it out here.) And, that same day, my dear friend/collaborator Amber Jackson and I took the first step towards a dream we have been calling in for some time now. Our first recording together is up! Enjoy this 31 minute meditation, the Essence of Grace, with the soundscape provided by my 32″ Shamash gong (by Shawn Aceto.) May it flow you through this New Moon and into the new year.
If you’ve been reading my blog lately ( Clarity Part 1 & Clarity Part 2 here) you’ll know that I’ve been focusing in on what is and is not mine. The latest iteration of that came this morning, as I was having breakfast with a dear friend. When I arrived she looked at me curiously, noticing my slightly off-kilter affect, and her kind eyes opened the emotional floodgates.
This last week has been full of challenging emotions for me. 17 years ago, my youngest sister Eleanore died in tragic and unexpected circumstances in late July, and her memorial service was a week later, on what would have been her 12th birthday. Every year, grief comes flooding back in different forms and at different times, but it always appears around this anniversary week. I began trying to describe the strange state of grief I was experiencing to my friend, and asked her if it was weird to be there 17 years later.
“I don’t know” she said, and as our conversation continued I realized that my work was to observe the place I was in, not bypass or ignore it, and still keep moving through it. When I get hit by grief, it gets sticky, like I’m in this place where I could spend the rest of my life reliving the past, experiencing the traumas again and again. For me, the most important thing to do is to keep moving, not set up camp and stay put. I began laughing as I realized the truth of the words. “Let it be what it is, but whatever you do, don’t pitch a tent Arwen! You’re not staying there.”
This whole conversation was not more than 10 minutes before we continued on to enjoy our time together, but the impact of these words has been vibrating through me all day long.
So, without further ado, here are my marching orders:
Let it be what it is, observe it
Notice when things get sticky
Keep moving (don’t pitch a tent!)
Because, in the end, the traumas did happen, and they made me who I am. I don’t know who I would be were it not for all the good and hard things that occurred in the past, because every step has led me to this moment right here. For me, holding onto and reliving the traumas of the past feels like trying to live in the past, and that doesn’t work. So my job is to be here now.
May we all let ourselves be here now.
Happy Birthday Eleanore – I miss you, and I’ll see you on the other side of this world ocean.
These words, the statement that “my joy is based on my adherence to truth,” is from the final track on East Forest’s album The Education of the Individual Soul. Since I began listening to this album, these nine words have rolled around in my head. What does it mean? Adhering, or not adhering to truth… what is that in real world terms? I think of myself as an honest person, but is this lyric really about the dichotomy of honesty and dishonesty? What is the real truth?
The more I sit with it, particularly in this season of my life where pieces are falling into place, the more I realize that for me, adherence to truth is 100% an inside job of self-acceptance and empowerment. My truth, my Sat Nam, is based entirely on me taking responsibility for myself and owning my personal power, not holding on to anything that is not mine to hold.
If you are following this series, you may remember that in the summer of 2016 I upended my life (for a catch up or refresher, click here) and ended up eventually relocating to my hometown of Missoula, Montana. During that summer, when I felt like a shadow of myself, knowing that I needed to reclaim my truth, I took myself totally out of my known world before returning home.
For just over 40 days, I was a sevadar (volunteer) at Chateau Anand, an amazing place near Poitiers, France. Going all the way to France to reclaim myself may have seemed extreme to people who cared about me, but I followed my inner knowing to that pink castle, certain that I would fast track my self-reclaiming process. How did I know that would happen? Daily practice!
Aquarian Sadhana is a 2.5 hour morning practice of prayer, yoga, and meditation from the Kundalini Yoga tradition that occurred every morning at Chateau Anand. I went into my time there knowing that I would be there for 40 mornings, and promised myself that I would do Aquarian Sadhana every day. So every day I was up by 4 or 4.30 and participated in group Sadhana before beginning my work for the day. That was the most transformative 40 day practice I have ever done, and I’ve done many since I began practicing Kundalini. How could it not be? 150 minutes of prayer, yoga and chanting in the early morning hours every single day for 40 days is a recipe for clearing up one’s internal world (in my experience, anyway.)
My days at the Chateau were always a combination of sadhana, work and time by the river. I would wander down to the river to pray, read, journal, meditate, and just let myself be at least once per day, by myself or with friends. More often than not tears would come. Feeling as frayed as I had been for years, having virtually nonexistent resources to keep me steady besides my daily practice, I would sit on the metal footbridge and stare at the water. On one side of the bridge, it was calm (as pictured below) – and on the other it was a crashing waterfall, chaotic and in perpetual motion. My perspective dictated what I saw, which was exactly the reminder I needed.
Clarity was the gift that the river and my time at Chateau Anand gave me. I walked away firm in my resolution that I would listen to and trust my internal wisdom in any decision making, fully committed to maintaining my daily practice, and feeling like me – a pretty tired, needing TLC, worn out version of me, but more like me than I had felt in years. There are no words to describe the enormity of that return home to myself. As I became more my true self, my joy increased – “my joy is based on my adherence to truth.” (East Forest)
Don’t get me wrong, this was not a magic pill to solve every challenge I was coping with at the time. This is an ongoing practice – my time at Chateau Anand was amazing and exactly what I needed that summer of 2016, but like all watershed events it did pass by. So to keep myself clear, and keep only my monkeys in my own personal circus, I continue to practice every day. Starting the day on my sheepskin, moving and breathing and chanting, brings me back to my true self. That, to me, is what clarity is all about.
Note: if you are in the Missoula area and want to increase the clarity in your life, check out this class that is beginning at Red Willow in August. And if you want a laugh, regardless of where you are, watch this 2 minute video we made about it!
Well, this blog series has been a long time coming. Over the next few weeks, I want to share my personal journey of the last few years with all of you. It felt at times like life was happening at lightning speed, and now that the puzzle pieces are putting themselves together, the picture is becoming more and more clear.
For years (most of my life, really) I was the person who tried to fix everything. Somebody was upset? I’d spend hours or days trying to figure out why, how I’d caused it, and pour endless energy into being perfect to avoid that person becoming upset. People not getting along? Arwen the peacemaker comes out to play! There was a time when I would spend easily an hour or more on the phone with person A, listening to their side of the story, then do the same with person B, then call each of them back to say “Here’s what I heard from the other person.” Sound exhausting? It was!!! Walking on eggshells was my habitual way of interacting with people and the world, and let me tell you, it was an enormous energy drain.
Now, looking back on those years, I see all the ways that my energy was being siphoned off to support other people. The most obvious consequence was that my internal resources tended to become dangerously drained easily, and I would regularly become so overwhelmed that I went into full on hermit mode and did only the bare minimum human contact. It was not a pleasant pattern to be living out, let me tell you. However, my becoming the world’s most empty well and being a hermit was not the only consequence of my taking responsibility for others.
I was attracting into my life people who *needed* me to be that go between, the scapegoat, the peacemaker. Over time, it became more and more difficult for me to keep myself going and play those roles for others, and in 2016 I hit my breaking point. I had been practicing Kundalini Yoga & Meditation for slightly under 2 years, communicating with myself more and more, and simultaneously felt myself having less and less tolerance for old habits that weren’t supportive (hello, walking on eggshells!) Eventually, after trying everything I could think of to fix it, I left my first marriage and came back home to this safe valley in western Montana that I love. I felt like a shadow of myself, and had this deep knowing that the most important thing to do was to get ME back.
The biggest blessing in this immensely challenging time of my life was that as I reclaimed my personal power, it became obvious what was and was not mine to take responsibility for. Someone else’s feelings? Not mine. People I care about disagreeing? Not mine. This strong theme of differentiating what was and was not mine to cope with began to play an enormous role in my personal choices, and the phrase “not my circus, not my monkeys” (I wish I could remember where I first heard it!) came to be a light-hearted reminder to myself that I only carry responsibility for myself, what I do and how I react.
So this is the universal call to all of us: may we all maintain our own circuses, take care of our own monkeys, and lovingly let go of circuses & monkeys that are not ours so that their rightful owners can do their own work.
P.S. How did I get myself back? Stay tuned and follow this blog to find out next week!