New growth

In Ireland, the first day of February marks the start of Spring, as an old poem we learnt in school states: Anois teacht an Earraigh beidh an lá dul chun síneadh, – “Now Spring is coming and the days will start getting longer“.   It is the Celtic feast of Imbolc, one of their four great seasonal fire festivals, this one halfway between solstices, with themes of light and fertility, hidden seeds and new life.

In the Irish Christian calendar this became St Brigid’s Day, (Lá Fhéile Bríde), which this year is marked for the first time by a Bank Holiday and has given rise to a lot of interest in Brigid, especially here in County Kildare.. This interest in the feminine principle in nature and spirituality reflects a desire to move away the predominant patriarchal and power-based paradigm found in Western society – and in most religious traditions – and to find new ways of thinking and relating and being.

From a spiritual vantage point our major life task is much larger than making money, finding a mate, having a career, raising children, looking beautiful, achieving psychological health, or defying aging, illness, and death. It is a recognition of the sacred in daily life — a deep gratitude for the wonders of the world and the delicate web of inter-connectedness between people, nature and things — a recognition that true intimacy based on respect and love is the measure of a life well lived. This innate female spirituality underlies an often unspoken commitment to protect our world from the ravages of greed and violence

Joan Borysenko, A Woman’s Book of Life: The Biology, Psychology, and Spirituality of the Feminine Life Cycle

End of the first month: Taking Stock on the journey

Sometimes the programming we grew up with is not the best tool for cultivating appreciation and contentment, especially our deep-rooted impulse to imagine how much better things could be than they actually are now.

My progress report
concerning my journey to the palace of wisdom is discouraging.
I lack certain indispensable aptitudes.
Furthermore, it appears
that I packed the wrong things.

James Baldwin, 1924 – December 1, 1987, American Writer, Inventory/ On Being 52 in Jimmy Blues: And other poems

Our inner grin

I can’t offer you a finite list of things for you to do, nor can I tell you exactly how you can smile at fear.

I’m working with turning up the edges of my mouth when I feel anxious. The advice I give myself is: Don’t avoid the opportunity to grin back at fear.

And if you can dive into that empty feeling in the pit of your stomach, well, that would be excellent!

We each have to find our own inner grin

Pema Chodron

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Your own master

Do you know where the disease lies which keeps you from reaching enlightenment? It lies where you have no faith in yourself.

When faith in yourself is lacking you find yourself hurried by others in every possible way. At every encounter you are no longer your own master; you are driven about by others this way and that. All that is required is all at once to cease leaving yourself in search of something external. When this is done you will find yourself no different from the Buddha.

From the Rinzai Roku, the recorded sayings and doings of Zen master Rinzai Gigen Zenji, died 866 CE

Trust ourselves completely

When we practice meditation, we express confidence in the simple yet powerful gesture of opening to whatever arises during our meditation session. We may come to our meditation with the hope of reducing our stress or perfecting our technique or maybe even attaining enlightenment. But we very soon discover that the practice requires that we drop such ambition and sit still on the cushion, letting go of our internal dialogue, opening to our world — very simply, very directly.

When we examine this experience of opening, we find that we are expressing a part of ourselves that we may tend to overlook: we are expressing our ability to trust ourselves completely. In order to open — in meditation and in life in general — we must let go of our familiar thoughts and emotions, we must step out from behind the safe curtain of our inner rehearsals and onto the stage of reality, even if it’s for just a brief moment. When we open on the cushion, we renounce our attachment to our emotional security blanket, over and over again. We drop our pretence and our story lines and stand naked in the midst of uncertainty — the very essence of confidence itself.

Maybe we would like to protect ourselves, but instead we have the courage to let go, and such courage naturally blossoms into the confidence to be fully open

Michael Carroll, Bringing Spiritual Confidence to the Workplace

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