We’re searching for new beginnings, my friend and I.
Yesterday, we took to driving along open roads, through fields turned yellow from the heat, with music playing loud enough to drown out all else, and we let the sound paint a picture of how much we’d changed.
A year ago, my friend and I let go of summer.
For me, the transition to autumn was swift and certain, and I gave myself no time to mourn the loss of light. For him, it was different. The slow draining of color from the maple leaves allowed for a deep, lasting sorrow to set in. And when the winter came, it stayed. There was little in the way of spring blossoms, and the summer heat has only felt oppressive.
The cold persists in defiance of the sun.
I’ve encouraged my friend, as I find I’m doing with many people these days, to try and root himself in a daily practice. When we get stuck in a season, and we feel unable to be fully present, I advocate that we make some new ritual to place us firmly in the season of the moment. It needn’t be complicated, only sincere.
For me, my personal practice is influenced by a variety of sources, some of which are quite complicated. I was born and bred an Episcopalian, and as such, my individual religiosity tends to be more structured and formal. I favor liturgy over improvisation (that is, unless I’m singing), and my daily rituals, when spoken aloud, are delivered in a tone that would be familiar to many an Anglican. But it doesn’t have to be that way for my friend, or for anyone who is searching for a method to feel present and connected again.
If I were to proselytize anything, it would be for everyone to develop their own personal religion; to make their heart into a hearth for lighting their own, distinct, sacred fire. How this is done is not of great importance to me, so long as it is done with intention, and done regularly enough to create a deep and lasting groove in your consciousness.
For me, I need to turn my little room into a sanctuary. I need to light my incense, prepare my offerings, speak with reverence and clarity to the gods in my heart, to all that is seen and unseen. I need the drama, because that’s a part of who I am.
For you, it could be as simple as standing in the morning sun, eyes open or eyes closed, and placing your awareness on your center, or your edges, or the feeling of the dirt, the tile, the carpet underneath your feet.
Whatever method feels right for you, the important thing is that the fire in your heart remain lit, and that you honor that fire regularly. As I wrote on Imbolc earlier this year, I keep vigil to the fire in my heart, for the fire is a birthright, an inheritance, and the fire will keep me warm as the summer turns to fall, and the fall to winter. The fire will sustain me through the cold, and prepare me once again for the return of the sun. I light this fire, and I experience a new beginning.
This is what I want for my friend, and this is what I want for you, as well.
So I ask you, my insightful readers:
If you were me, and you found yourself in dialogue with a friend or family member who felt disconnected from the fire in their heart — their feeling of passion, their sense of purpose, and their connection to divinity – how would you advise them to get reconnected? What words or rituals might you share in order to help someone discover that fire again? Is there is a part of your personal practice that would be helpful?
How would you help get someone unstuck from their perpetual winter?
This may sound a bit corny but a daily ritual of gratitude has helped me a lot. I made it a “ritual” before getting out of bed in the morning, or at times just before sleep to recount out loud all of the things I am grateful for. It can sometimes be the smallest of things that might sound silly to say but when you start to rattle off the litany of things that are right in your life, you begin to subtly change your mindset. I noticed a change of attitude within just a few days. By doing this ritual, I am able to place myself in the present moment. I feel our greatest joy can come from being in the moment. Watching my cats interact with each other or their surroundings makes me smile everyday. animals are great examples of spirits who live in the moment. They never suffer from high blood pressure. Hmmmmm 🙂
I don’t consider that corny, Valerie. Not one bit. Incorporating gratitude for the blessings of your life into a daily practice seems like an incredibly healthy thing to do.
Teo, I wouldn’t know, as I’m currently stuck in the same situation and have been for so long. It’s like I’m perpetually falling into a deep pit. Definitely not fun.
Thanks for the comment, Marc. I’m sorry to hear the you’ve been experiencing something similar as my friend. As Anne mentioned above, there are times when this deep, sinking feeling can be addressed and dealt with using by both spiritual and medical means. Have you done anything to explore either of those things?
Teo, thanks for responding. Comments like mine probably weren’t what you were desiring when writing, but I just felt the need to chime in, and I appreciate the sympathy.
To be honest, I’m not sure. I think in many cases it’s an environmental issue, combined with a generational feeling of being lost. But my spirituality has suffered since. The fact that I’ve had no direct interaction with much, if anything, puts a significant strain on it. The only distinct interaction I have ever gotten has been..less than pleasant. Sometimes i feel like that inner spark has been so heavily banked by ash that it is going to be impossible to find again. It has taken its toll, especially since I used to be immensely creative and now I’m just..unhappy with it all. I have an issue with visualization, and blocks with energy work. Things like music just crash against me like waves on a breakwater, now. It’s..discouraging.
In terms of medication, I’ve previously pursued those avenues when I was a kid. They didn’t work out so well. Lately, I’m just doing my best to make sure I have my vitamins in order by at least taking a multivitamin a day. Things like greater exercise. Depression runs in my family, but I’m really adverse to taking medication for it.
I know you don’t know me, but I’ve been reading you for awhile. Your description of your friend’s situation sounds a lot like clinical depression. I’ve suffered from persistent mental illness my entire adult life, and although my spiritual path is quite strong, it took pharmaceutical grade anti-depressants to help me find my way home. Spirituality and medicine together keep me sane. Just a thought.
Hi Anne. Thank you for the thoughtful comment. You may be right, and it may be a case where a regular spiritual practice in combination with some sort of anti-depressant would be useful. I’ll make mention of it to my friend.
I wonder — if you don’t mind me asking — what your strong spiritual path consists of. I’m always curious of people’s practices. Do you meditate regularly? Do you incorporate formalized ritual into a practice?
This is going to sound weird, but I’m an inveterate religious *thinker.* I am pretty close to 24/7 *thinking* about the gods, Goddess, Paganism, and all related subjects. I stop when I fall asleep or zone out watching SG-1 or Fringe for an hour or so each evening. (Or when I’m out motorcycling — ya kinda need to have 100% attention for that pastime.)
Thinking about the gods has also become Ye Olde Daye Job (I edit and publish 3 Pagan magazines — SageWoman, Witches&Pagans, and Crone) — and *that* is how I practice. Yes, I do the “magickal practice” things upon occasion (divination, spellwork, personal ritual) and every family meal for 25 years has begun with our homespun Pagan grace, but I haven’t attended a formal ritual in close to a decade. I do frequently converse with whichever deity is On My Head at the time (right now, it’s Frigga) and of course, I commune with all the deities when I’m in nature, but I’m pretty firmly rooted in “headspace” practice.
Weird, I know, but there you have it.
Anne Newkirk Niven
Weird? No – that doesn’t sound weird at all! My writing, and all of the inveterate thinking that goes along with it, feels very much like a spiritual discipline. As much as music has been a part of my professional life, this kind of thinking has been a deep part of my identity for as long as I can remember.
So, not weird. Perfectly natural (to me, at least).
I feel a need to thank you for your service to the community, Anne. I’m a reader of your magazines, and I’m grateful to connect the texts to the person. Thank you for all that you do.
I’d like to contact you directly on unrelated stuff; can you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org?
Sometimes you need a fallow space, and sometimes you need to walk away from your art. When you have trouble returning you have to ask if the art is still important to you, and if not, why not? Sometimes it is not the art itself that is the problem, but the context.
I don’t think there is any good answer to your question, but sometimes it’s good to change scenery and create art in a new context, for a new reason and without any expectations for it.
Star, I think you’ve provided a wonderful answer to the question. This testimony about allowing fallow space, giving yourself permission to walk away, and creating new context really resonates with me, and probably would with a lot of people. Substitute “art” in for a number of other things and I think it would still apply. The suspension of expectation is a real challenge for me; one that I continue to work on.
Thank you for these insights. I’m very grateful for them.
Thanks for writing this post. It speaks to questions I’ve been asking myself lately!
On the practical side, try taking your friend on a short trip. Turn off cellphones, crank up the radio and go someplace no one knows you! Sometimes having time and space where it’s permissible to be yourself rather than how you’re expected to be is helpful!
That’s a great idea.
I totally get being “stuck in winter”. It’s happened to me occasionally, and I’m fighting against it a little bit right now too. I think, for me, I’m not a believer in “bootstrap” religion, which I think there tends to be a lot of in Pagan circles. By “bootstrap” religion I mean the attitude that my success comes completely from within me, that if I am experiencing those lows and dry spots, it’s because I’ve allowed myself to be too negative, that things come from within myself and never from outside. That doesn’t ring true to my experience at all.
There are things you can do to direct yourself back to the appropriate state of mind, of course, but there are also times when you can’t necessarily get yourself all the way there and you need to rely on someone or something else to give you the boost you need out of the low points and back into the light. It’s a reciprocal relationship for me, and one reason why being solitary eclectic has never worked for me and I continually reach out to communities, despite really only being able to access them online because of my geographical location. I need to be able to find that balance between what I can do within myself and what other people can do for me (and hopefully, what I can do for them in turn).
What I’ve found helpful when I’ve been there, and what I’d try to do for a friend in similar situation, is just unconditional encouragement. Encouragement to find my own way, encouragement that the way I find is perfect for me, encouragement that those low points do happen to everyone and that there’s nothing wrong with me for experiencing it. What I don’t find helpful is other people’s stories of their wonderful connected experiences, it makes me feel dark and broken inside rather than inspired.
And to second Anne’s comment, my worst stuck in winter moments have come hand in hand with depression…
Thank you for this comment, WhiteBirch. That last part about focussing on the experiences of the person in question makes a lot of sense to me. I see it the “unconditional encouragement” as a way to remind people of how to be supportive of their own growth, their own work. When you don’t hear those messages in your own head, it’s useful to hear them from a loved one.
Exactly, it’s so easy sometimes to get lost in your own head, slide into hopelessness and ultimately stop believing that you’ll ever see the summer again. Someone else’s confidence that I WILL get through has made all the difference for me in the past. Someone else’s view of me is often truer than my own.
I definately needed this post. As you know, I am still searching for my religious practice. The getting in touch with yourself and the world around you before getting out of bed seems like one way for me to start. Giving thanks or ackowledging the good things that have happened to you before sleep in another. Thanks for the post and to those that have left comments. You never know who might benefit from a comment you make.
And thank you for continuing to show up here at the blog, Ila. I’m grateful that you’re a part of the dialogue, and I’m glad that this conversation is helpful to you.
May your every day begin with gratitude, and may you find the peace which you seek.
I walk. I go to places that speak to me whether it’s the middle of China Town in San Francisco, the Boardwalk at Santa Cruz beach, the trails of Toro Park near Salinas, the beaches of Monterey Bay or just down the road and through the vineyards near where I live. I walk, and listen, and breathe and let everything else go. I follow my eyes and sometimes my nose but always the direction that my inner voice says to go. Sometimes it takes awhile, many walks over many days, but I always reconnect. I think we get a little lost sometimes when we quit letting our inner voice guide us and instead rely on all that’s outside of us to direct our daily lives. We listen to parents, friends, spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, teachers, employers, supervisors, the t.v., the radio, the internet…we follow street signs, traffic signs, mass transportation signs, signs in stores, signs in hospitals, signs everywhere…the list is endless…and all of them give us their opinions on what we should be doing, thinking, believing, striving for, leaving behind, consuming, not consuming, buying, selling and so on. Reconnecting with self is what I believe to be the first step in reconnecting with faith. When I find my inner voice I know it’s that part of me that connects with the divine. I don’t hear voices in my head, it’s more of a knowing or sometimes an inkling that I should go a certain way or maybe speak to a certain person…it’s a small, quiet voice that always speaks truly and guides me honestly. I believe it’s my ancestors and my gods and maybe sometimes others who wish me well that guide me with that voice. Help him find a way to reconnect with himself and he’ll reconnect with his faith…it seems to me as if it’s all one bundle.
This is a wonderful comment, Patrick. Thank you. I feel like the “voice” you’re listening for is connected to, if not the same thing as the “fire” I’m seeking to keep burning. At the very least, they’re closely related.
Interestingly, this post was originally drafted this morning with the following text at the beginning. It seems like an appropriate response to your comment:
“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
– Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
The voice of a Master…and right on every count. Thanks Teo, I think I’ll reread Mr. Whitman this evening.
If your friend is dealing with a mild-to-moderate chronic depression rather than something that truly requires serious meds, there’s a book called _The Mindful Way Through Depression_ that he might find useful. It’s an interesting mix of ideas from Buddhism and clinical psychology about using meditation etc to stop those obnoxious downward spirals that our brains can get locked into when something triggers a depressing thought. I’ve found it very helpful myself.
I appreciate that recommendation, myself, Nicole. My husband has had his own ups and downs with depression, and would prefer to approach it with meditation instead of medication. I’ll look for this book for him.
Thank you, Nicole, for the recommendation. I’ll pass along the information to him.
I was struck by two thoughts I wanted to share. The rune Isa means “ice” in it’s most basic interpretation. But there are other thoughts that it means stasis and also the idea that it is a seed for growth. A seed is planted, but it must “melt” to grow. Perhaps meditating with a bindrune of Isa and Jera would help? And as I read this I thought that it might help to practice mindfulness. I had a picture of sitting outside in a chair in the sunlight slowly eating a strawberry and focusing on each bite with my eyes closed. I don’t mean to say that eating strawberries can fix the world or anything, but strawberries to me are a representation of summer and all the positives to it. So consuming the strawberry would be me taking the positive aspects of summer into myself to become a part of me.
perhaps if more folks spent time slowly eating strawberries and savoring that delight, it might save the world!
I’m on it. 🙂
I love that, Bridgette! Thank you for sharing the rune interpretation, and for offering a wonderful way to reconnect to the sweetness of life.
Blessings to you.
Teo, I’m not sure if this is the kind of think you’re looking for, but here’s my two cents:
15 years ago I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder AND clinical depressions. These conditions come with a list of symptoms too numerous to bore you with and there a times when I feel like I’m living in a “perpetual winter” After years of doctors, therapies, and “retreats”, what has really helped me is a combination of medicine and being out in my gardens.
Each morning as I water the beds and pots,I say a prayer to welcome the sun. Sometimes, leave offerings for the fairies. I also find getting my hands in the earth to be very spiritual. The planting, watering and weeding my flower beds bring me a sense of peace and balance. There are still days when still feel a bit stuck, but they occur less frequently, and are less intense than in the pass.
This is exactly what I was hoping you’d share, La’Trice. Thank you so much for this. I’m glad that you’ve found the medicine — both for your body and for your spirit (which are intimately connected).
May your garden, and your heart, grow in abundance.
When I am in that place, I make stuff. Doesn’t matter if it is no good, or useless, I just create, and draw, and paint, etc. until I feel that spark of inspiration again.
Brilliant! Simple and to the point, Eran. I find that being creative — wiling myself to do so — can do a great deal for my spirit.
Well I’ve been stuck in a perpetual winter for about 24 years now and no pills or being thrust into the mental hospital or meditation or lighting a candle has helped really. The only thing that has is really music.
My bad days tend to be a bit more dire than most I imagine (normal person: “Man today SUCKS. All I want to do is go home and forget!” Me: “Man today SUCKS. Where the hell is my knife to carve out my heart?”) but I find that singing really loudly (off key because I can’t hold a tune haha) is the only thing that helps me get over that. I find that I can tap into some deep guttural part of myself and just…I guess sing my heart out until I collapse and that release is found.
Not pretty, not spiritual (well no it sort of is, I’ve had religious experiences listening to the Smashing Pumpkins) but it works.
Vermillion – I feel that singing can be a real spiritual medicine for me, too. We don’t sing enough as a culture, I think. You’ve found something that helps to reconnect you to your heart, and lift you out of the darker moments — that’s wonderful.
So, sing loud. Sing often. Sing your heart out, and find that release.
May the blessing of song be with you always.
I am a solitary eclectic and not terribly disciplined when it comes to religious practice per se but you have reminded me how I kindle my fire. I subscribe to Doreen Valiente’s words: “Let my worship be within the heart that rejoices, for
behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.” For me, that usually involves writing something with love simply for the beauty of it.
This is beautiful, Helen. I love this quote — “all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.” That really speaks to me. I also like this idea that while the writing is a part of your personal ritual, it is the love of writing, and the appreciation of the beauty it provides that is most important.
Thank you for being a part of the dialogue, Helen.
This post spoke to me on many levels – simply because I was right where your friend is….I recently lost my fire, that connectedness and inspiration. I struggled. Then I did something unexpected – I went on a last minute trip to a Druid gathering and that was how I got my fire back. Granted, it’s just a spark now, but I feel it flaming. So, maybe, my advice is to look within yourself and think about what you really are searching for, look at the possibilities around you and do something surprising, something different, something out of character than what you normally would do. Face down your fear and just do it. Sometimes all it takes is a simple conversation, a friendly face, a book or even a trip, to give you that spiritual oompf you need. ~Carol
Thank you for sharing your experience, Carol. I’m grateful that you’re a part of this conversation, and I think you offer an example of how to handle the loss of one’s fire with grace and courage. Sometimes it simply takes a bold choice to reignite our heart.
Peace to you.
[…] at his blog, Teo Bishop has written a post about what we do when we are “stuck in the winter” of our …. Teo’s post is worth reading — as much for what he says about daily personal […]
I find that few don’t know how to reconnect to their Spirits.., they choose the darkness, …the shadows.., because it’s most comfortable (while being painful, even). Working with someone, exactly where they are, is key.., not needing them to transition.., or change. Loving someone just the way they are isn’t just a song lyric., it’s the beginning of TRUTH that heals. Learning ‘why’ they’ve chosen the shadow instead of the Light is the only way to bring them ‘thru’ their valleys. It takes time and patience.., and LOVE.., all synonyms for Commitment to seeing them grow, again, in their own time. Love the symbolism of the seasons in this post, Teo. Recently I wrote about ‘knowing the season you’re in’.., it’s imperative in knowing just what to expect of your journey, when you understand that only certain things can truly transition in the right season. PEACE.