RITUALS

Full Moon, Imbolc and Ground Hog Day! Oh My!

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You are probably celebrating and observing more special days than you realize. Most of us have several days we celebrate during the year: birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, etc. We use those days to honour people and relationships that are significant in our lives.

Those who have a religious tradition will have additional days that they observe. Easter, Day of Antonement, Nirvana Day and Ramadan are a few that come to mind. (If you are interested in viewing an Interfaith Calendar click here.

And then there are cultural specific days and once religious holidays that are now secularized days, like St. Patrick's Day and Christmas. Your calendar can get quite full very quickly!

For those of us who are longing to deepen our spiritual connection there is an opportunity to align meaningful practices with special days. I've written about my practice of walking a labyrinth on the last day of the year as an example. Sometimes, choosing a new day, a day that is free of past baggage can also provide you with an opportunity to create something fresh. And when it comes to spiritually connecting, especially if you find yourself disillusioned with the traditions of your past, fresh can feel really life-giving. In the past few years I've started celebrating certain days that help create rhythms in the year. Here are a few ideas and how I've observed these days.

Moon Cycles: On Reframe Your Life, my co-host and I interviewed Ezzie Spencer from Lunar Abundance. You can listen to the episode here. When I first heard Ezzie interviewed on another podcast I was a little skeptical. I thought a moon cycle practice might be a little too 'woo-woo' for me. What I learned through the interview was that the moon can set a rhythm in our lives. Not just the full moon but all the moon phases. Listen to the episode for her thoughts and ideas.

I've become quite intentional about taking time to observe the moon phases. I even purchased a calendar this year that follows the moon cycles. Today is a full moon (a bad ass - Super Blue Moon Total Eclipse) . I've started doing a walk under the full moon. In warmer weather I go to the waterfront with a friend. We reflect on the weeks passed since the last full moon. We've built a small fire at times and written things we want to release on pieces of paper and burn them. Tonight I have been invited to a small gathering of people to come around a friend who is at a crossroads. She chose tonight for this meeting because of the full moon. She felt it would be symbolic for this discussion. There are some things she wants to release and some new things to embrace.

Imbolc: (Also called (Saint) Brigid's Day) Imbolc is a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring. Most commonly it is held on 1/2 February, or about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals—along with Beltane, Lughnasadhand Samhain.

Imbolc is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and there is evidence it has been an important date since ancient times. It is believed that it was originally a pagan festival associated with the goddess Brigid (goddess of fertility) and that it was Christianized as a festival of Saint Brigid, who is thought to be a Christianization of the goddess.

At Imbolc, Brigid's crosses were made and a doll-like figure of Brigid, called a Brídeóg, would be paraded from house-to-house. Brigid was said to visit one's home at Imbolc. To receive her blessings, people would make a bed for Brigid and leave her food and drink, while items of clothing would be left outside for her to bless. Brigid was also invoked to protect homes and livestock. (source: Wikipedia)

In the last few years I have been exploring more of my Irish roots and feeling drawn to Celtic practices. Last year was the first year I actually did anything to observe Imbolc. I love this idea from Abby of the Hearts: On the eve of January 31st it is traditional to leave a piece of cloth or ribbon outside the house. It was believed that St Brigid’s spirit traveled across the land and left her curative powers in the brat Bride (Brigid’s Mantle or cloth). It was then used throughout the year as a healing from sickness and protection from harm.

Ground Hog Day: OK, so maybe this was a bit tongue in cheek but why not start a tradition. In many ways it is similar to Imbolc. It is a time when North Americans look to nature to give us a sign that winter will be ending. You may not think of it in terms of the spiritual but why not? And think about how people observe and celebrate Ground Hog Day. It has all the makings of a holy day - animals, tradition, crowds gathering, celebration, beliefs! All that it needs is for you to attach a practice to it that gives it meaning for you.

There are other days that I have started to observe. At one time it seemed odd to me to celebrate anything outside the tradition I knew. It seemed a bit out there to me. But as I have expanded in my thinking I've realized that was my own issue. In the future I will write about the Summer Solstice and what I have learned about celebrating this annual day. No matter what day it is - holy days, special days, and natural cycles provide us with an opportunity to be intentional about connecting with nature, with ourselves and with the Divine. I think that is worth celebrating!

Take it further:

  • On a blank calendar (printed or electronic) note all the days that you currently observe in some way.
  • Review the inter-faith calendar - is there anything you want to add?
  •  If you are interested in following the moon - add the full moon and new moon to your calendar (or visit Ezzie Spencer's website above and download her free calendar).  
  • Are there any other days that interest you that you would like to explore? Add them to your calendar.
  • Are you experiencing any resistance to the idea of observing special days during the year that may be outside of your tradition? Sit with that resistance and explore where it comes from.
  • Look at your calendar and think about all the days on it. How can you be more intentional about making meaning on those days?
  • Would you like to explore how to build spiritual practices into your life? Set up a call with me to discuss how I can support you.

Three Rituals for New Year's Eve

Does anyone really like extravagant New Year's Eve parties? Anyone I've spoken with, whether they are 25 or 85, says, "I don't get the hype. I'd rather stay home." I'm sure there are some exceptions but for many of us, the thought of heading out to a big bash isn't all that enticing. At least not as enticing as a good night's sleep!

However you plan to mark the last hours of the year, I suggest taking some time to engage in a year end ritual. It's been a heavy year globally. I don' t need to list all the news stories (fake and real) that have filled our feeds with fear and anxiety over the future of humanity. It's easy to feel despair and hopelessness.

Rituals can help you shift your mind into a place of love, hope and peace as you prepare for any event in your life. - Click to tweet 

And what better time to shift into a more positive mindset than the beginning of the new year? Here's three suggestions for you. I promise that if you spend time with even one of these rituals, you will improve your outlook for 2018!

1. Gratitude - Spend some time, either alone or with your family and friends, reflecting on the experiences you had in 2017 for which you are grateful. Try and go deeper than a vacation or milestone birthday or anniversary. I'm grateful this year for a few friends who took the time to tell me where they think I need to focus in my work. The conversation we had one afternoon was a confirmation of something I was desiring but hesitating to pursue. Their words have given me the courage to move forward. Get out your journal and start a ritual of gratitude. Your outlook on the year will shift and you'll find yourself feeling much more positive about the coming year as well.

2. Labyrinth / Light a Candle / Evening Walk - I have made it a ritual to walk a labyrinth on the last day of the year. On the walk in to the centre I think about all the things I want to let go of from the past year. Once I am in the centre, I pause and reflect on the word that I have chosen for the coming year. I pray for wisdom and guidance. On the walk out, I open myself up to all the things I desire for the coming year. This year, the snow may have buried my local labyrinth. If that is the case, I'll be lighting a candle and using the beautiful finger labyrinth, pictured below, I received as a gift this Christmas. I will go for a walk to spend time in nature and remind myself of the beauty in our world. Walking and candle lighting are intentional actions that can engage your whole being in focused reflection.

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3. Giving - I can't think of a better way to end the year than with a heart of generosity. Who do you know that could benefit from something you can share? Maybe it is visiting someone who could use the company? Or maybe it is making a year-end donation to a charity that is doing work that you want to support? Entering into 2018 with a giving ritual is a great way to remind yourself of how much you have. Many charities depend on the donations they receive this time of year to see them through the leaner winter months.

Thank you so much for your support this past year. I'm looking forward to 2018. I begin the year with a two week trip to Cambodia. Four years ago, my friend and colleague, Karen Petersen and I started a a leadership program that is now fully run by women in Cambodia. We are going back for the third cohort's graduation ceremony and to do an evaluation of the program. I am so thankful for the lessons I've learned about myself, about leadership development and about Cambodia on this journey.

My deepest wish is that 2018 would be a very of living truthfully so that we can heal our world.