be good to me,
the sea is so wide
and my boat is so small.”
Irish Fisherman’s Prayer
be good to me,
the sea is so wide
and my boat is so small.”
Irish Fisherman’s Prayer
Posted in Depression and Anxiety, Magic and mystery, Meditation, spirituality, tagged anxiety, being Christ in the world, Christianity, church, creative writing, death, depression, dreams, faith, finding meaning in suffering, God, healing, healing words, life, Man's search for Meaning, meaning, meaning of life, meditation, mental health, midlife crisis, Native American Prayers, nature, pain, peace, personal, philosophy, photos, prayer, psychology, random, self-development, spirituality, stress, suffering, thoughts, Viktor Frankl, wildlife, work, writing on February 27, 2011 | 18 Comments »
The Collateral Benefits of Misery or Why the Pursuit of Happiness isn’t Good for the Soul.
I’ve had a couple of busy weeks at work, both jobs, and I’ve enjoyed it mostly, even though some of it was stressful. But waking up this morning I felt the full weight of the default depression land on me like a big slobbery dog who’s pleased you’re back. All the petty concerns I’d put on hold while I was rushed off my feet came back and had a pity party in my head. My teaching job is currently in some jeopardy as they are moving premises and it’s going to be a lot harder to get to work; I’ve resolved that the first near miss as a car clips my bicycle signals me quitting. I love teaching, I really do; it’s one of my talents and in many ways, I am wasted where I work. If you’ve seen Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society, it’ll give you a clue about my style of teaching; but it also means that even had I the correct bits of paper, I’d be sacked in a week in a state school. So I am on the sharp look out for a new job, one that is year round, and which doesn’t have the substantial drawbacks of my current one (of which I will not speak here)
But my return to sullen misery has woken me up to something that slumbers much of the time. That’s the realisation that even changing jobs, changing homes or whatever significant life change I might sometimes crave is only a distraction from my real work in this world. Six months into a new job, or a new location, and the same old issues come creeping back, like rats who realise the ship was not sinking after all.
That’s a bit of a scary realisation. It means that anything I pursue, success, fame, wealth, whatever holds no power to change anything internally. If I become a NYT’s bestseller, nothing changes. If I get the job that seems to fit every talent or skill, nothing changes. Oh for sure my mood might alter and improve, I might even be happy for a while. But nothing deeper changes.
You see, any real change has to come from within, not from anything external to me. I’ve never been someone who found retail therapy anything other than a disappointment, and while I have certainly chased success as willingly as any writer, I’ve started to grasp the fact that such success does not and cannot make me anything other than momentarily happy. I can see now that my lifelong pro-wrestling match with the Black Dog has saved me some expensive mistakes.
Chasing things because you believe that they may make you happy is a futile exercise, and one that frankly underpins the whole economy of the prosperous West. It is endless and caustic to the human soul, because it is tantalising and drives you on to seek more and more and more to less and less satisfaction, and eventual bitterness.
What then can bring peace to the troubled soul? What can tame the Black Dog and make it an ally and not an enemy?
Well, my current theory is that it is meaning that brings peace. It’s certainly how people survive the kind of catastrophic experiences that send many over the edge and down into insanity.
It’s only a theory but is one borne out by such luminaries as Viktor Frankl, and also by personal experience. I can accept and even value my own sufferings when I realise that they have shaped me to be the person I am now, and the riches of compassion and empathy that have been uncovered within me. They’ve made me a far less selfish person than I would otherwise have been.
Native Americans have a saying, something they speak as a prayer when they enter the sacred space of a sweat lodge. They say, “For all my relations,” as they enter, and by that they do not mean their mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters and so on. They mean every one of us humans, and all the animals and trees and plants, right down to the Stone People, the rocks we kick aside and split asunder.
So my prayer today, in honour of all that I have endured as a human and all that I will endure, is that it is done in honour and support of all life, all creation, and that I will find meaning in all.
“For all my relations.”
Posted in Depression and Anxiety, Poetic Prose pieces, spirituality, tagged A river of small stones, a river of stones, anxiety, blogs, creative writing, death, depression, faith, family, friends, God, healing, healing words, love, meditation, mental health, pain, peace, personal, prayer, prayers, rituals, self-development, spirituality, thoughts, Viv's poetry, white sage, writing on January 8, 2011 | 6 Comments »
Morning ritual #smallstone 8
I burn sage, each morning.
The snap of the lighter brings tiny tongues of flame licking at the grey leaves in the shell; the brilliant orange leaps and darts from leaf to leaf, before turning to a smoulder. Leaves char and burn and threads of smoke rise as I look to the east, to the risen sun lost in rain clouds. Softly I fan the eagle feather across the shell, wafting the smoke around, cleansing and restoring and I let the words of prayer speak silently to the patient Listener. Words of love and entreaty, some of gratitude, some of reproach and despair; no words are barred.
The faint blue tinge of sage smoke spreads through the room, the pungent scent calming, and I feel a sense of being heard.
That has to be enough, some days.
I’ve long been a great fan of scented smoke, be it joss sticks or “proper” grain incense, much to the chagrin of my mother who thought it must be something to do with hash…
I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to it. I don’t think I can count how many brands I have tried. The incense from Greater goods http://www.greatergoods.co.uk ticks all the right boxes for me. Beautful scents, not too smokey, long burning, reliably combustible and more important yet, fair trade. If you have a look at their website you will discover they do great things in the world of workers’ rights and so on, and this adds extra sweetness to their incense. Many joss stick companies use children and the conditions are appalling.
For all this, you might expect a massive extra in the price range. Not so. They’re about the same price as any incense stick bought at your local bing-bong shop (s0 called because of the cacophany of windchimes usually hung outside!).
I had an article published this time last year on the use of aromatics in a sacred context in the magazine Sacred Hoop and I am in the slow process of writing a book of meditations using aromatics of all sorts, including incense. Incorporating scented smoke into your life, whether for prayer, relaxation or simply for pleasure and air freshening is a very rewarding experience and using incense from Greater Goods, it means it will also be rewarding for those who make it too.
I made the mistake of ringing home at lunchtime and thus am I here now, having come home missing my last hour of teaching.
The vet didn’t have good news. When they got a proper look, it seems that it’s not a cut but a tumour that has done the damage. Now in dogs, any cancers of the mouth are often aggressive and malignant.
All the way home my inner voice was saying “it’s not malignant, it’s not as bad as it might be”. I don’t want my inner voice to be a liar, but I also don’t want to be an ostrich.
If you pray, please pray for my dog.
Posted in Depression and Anxiety, Magic and mystery, spirituality, tagged anxiety, Caroline Myss, depression, healing, healing words, panic attacks, prayer, recovery, spirituality, stress on March 9, 2009 | 10 Comments »
As a part of my daily spiritual practise, such as it is, I draw a card at random from my set of Healing Cards by Caroline Myss. I’ve used many cards over the years, some I still use and others have served their time and are left fallow now.
These particular cards have a picture and some words, drawn from every major spiritual tradition in the world. One side there is a soundbite with a picture and on the reverse is a few lines expanding it.
Today’s sound bite was, “Recovery isn’t a goal, but a process”
On the reverse, “You never stop repairing and renewing yourself. You must absorb the light and shadow of each day you live. Don’t keep your spirit stuck in yesterday as a new day begins. Prayer is process.”
As I wrote first thing, I am feeling very stressed and anxious. I thought I was past this being at the mercy of anxiety, but it seems not.
It seems like it’s part of my life’s work to work through this. Today is tough.
But at least I am safe home and can now try and deal with it now my chores are done with.