Thursday, April 16, 2015

shaking off the winter blues

I don't know if it was just a rough winter or if something was in the air, but this past season has been a very heavy one for so many people I know, myself included.

I'm so very relieved to see the grass again and the buds starting to grow on the trees around me. The birds are out, the geese have arrived, the deer are in the fields around me and we even saw a muskrat in our backyard recently.

It's a huge relief to start to feel like I'm shaking off the winter blues. Each sign of spring and summer has me feeling more and more lighter and capable of letting go of the weight that has been dragging me down the past few months.

Thank god for that.

It has been an earthy, material winter. I don't know if I have ever felt so tied to the material world as I have these past few months. Ironically, just as I'm looking forward to shedding the dullness and heaviness that can be associated with Earth, I'm about to launch into an earthy month of practice. Go figure.

Actually, I think it'll be a nice closing to a long, dark season; one that will remind me of the more balanced nature of Earth and help me find the virtues of the element. Good stuff.

Here's to better, sunnier and warmer days!


Friday, April 10, 2015

belonging to place

I've been thinking a lot about home lately. From having a sense of belonging and connection to a place to having connections to people.

Part of my day to day work has me working with students who have rather complex relationships with home as they are both Canadian and of another culture, which leaves them with a dualistic concept of home. Home is both here and elsewhere.

At the same time, I also work with Indigenous students and am saturated with ideas of a deep seated sense of land and belonging.

The irony behind the fact that I work with the First Peoples and the Settlers doesn't escape me.

If anything, the fact that I am constantly navigating narratives of belonging, culture and identity makes me hyper aware of how complex and nuanced these ideas of home are from individual to individual, group to group.

But it also means that I am thinking a lot about what home means to me personally. Is Montreal my home after 15 years or is the West Coast of BC my home? My last trip back left me feeling very disconnected with the place I have always thought of as home. I have finally become that "immigrant" or displaced person who no longer fits with her home. I carry a glorified, static image of what home was rather than the living place that it currently is. My narrative of BC is stuck in the past and to the identity I had when I lived there. My BC is the place of my 23 year old self.

And yet, with all of it's language politics and tensions, QC isn't really my home either even though it is becoming more and more my home with every passing year. I see how I am beginning to internalize the narratives of this space even as I long for the ocean back home. Which is such a weird space to be in.

I guess, on some level, because I keep dealing with these narratives of deep, long seated belonging to place (for example, the discovery of Haida artifacts below the water that date back 13,000 years and lend historical weight to the oral traditions that have been handed down through stories), I keep thinking about what it means to know deep down that you are a part of the land around you.

I am the child of an immigrants. I am first generation on my maternal side (though my Dutch ancestors can be traced back to the 1300s in a particular region in the Netherlands) and 5th generation on my paternal side. I have never had a deep sense of attachment to place as I have always had a very nomadic heart. I have never wanted nor longed for (until now maybe?) a sense of belonging to place, not really. The fact that I have "settled" in the place is surprising to all who know me and really a by-product of my life partner more than anything else. I practice a spiritual path that comes from immigrants and is made up of mostly Western magical traditions though it does have many Eastern influences in it.

I can't help but wondering lately though, what would it look like if I actually dug in and claimed this land as my own? What would it look like if I embraced some of the traditions of the people of this land? (Albeit of course, in a respectful, non appropriating kind of way). What are the traditions of the land here and what can they teach me in my practice?


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

money, minimalism, the relationships we have with things

I don't know if I've mentioned this, but one of the things I'm trying to implement in my life is more minimalism.

At first glance minimalism causes people to think of getting rid of almost everything and living out of a backpack, I assure you it's not as drastic as that.

If you follow the link I added, you'll land on a page that sums it up like this:

[Minimalism means] Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom. That doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with owning material possessions. Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff. We tend to give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves. 
To my mind, minimalism is a hugely important part of living a sustainable lifestyle because it asks us to rethink our relationship to the stuff of consumerism.

Which is why, when I heard this podcast, I loved so many of the points it made about our relationship with money, status, debt, and identity.  I think there are some important ideas there about why we spend the way we do, what money means to us, and things we need to understand in order to better get ahold of our relationship with things and the role consumerism plays in our society.

I think it's worth a listen if these things are up your alley. And probably even more so if they're not. Just saying...


Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring Mantle Decor

One of the things that I wanted to do when I moved into our house (and after having Baby Faye) was to celebrate the seasons with decor around the house.  I wanted to bring the wheel of the year to life in my home and create great memories around the seasons for us as a family in this home.

This year I've started working on my Spring/Ostara/Easter decor:

I wanted something that was neutral but seasonal. Something that felt fresh, light and springy without being overly Easter or Ostara.

I need to play with levels a bit more (raise up the birdhouse maybe) but I am pretty happy with the simplicity of it. I may play around with it more over the years, adding more colour as the mood strikes me, but overall I'm pleased.

Yay for Spring mantles and the fact that despite still having snow on the ground, you can smell Spring in the air on the warmer days. I'm so ready for Winter to end.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

benefits of a structured practice

Which is better: a traditional practice or a personal practice; or rather, a structured by the book set of practices or a free, wing it as you go with what speaks to you in the moment practices?

I've been thinking a lot lately about this question. Honestly, I veer from one extreme to another as I ponder the question. Both seem to offer advantages and disadvantages. On some level I want to say that the personal practice is best because it demands that you be intentional and honest in the moment that it is done. However, I don't know if this is actually true in practice.

photo credit: meditation via photopin (license)

And that marks a bit of a weird shift for me.

I have always reacted negatively to by rote, formal systems of spiritual behaviour, donning my adolescent, put upon attitude and balking at the confines of structure. I have always believed on some level that your spiritual practice must be infused with personal, flexible, living meaning. Dutifully reciting a prayer by rote, without thought, has always struck me as so antithetical to crafting a vibrant practice.

I may have to eat my words and condemnation a bit here. My response may have been short-sighted and juvenile.

Hear me out before you react; before you say "Faye, you're off your rocker and are batshit crazy." Both might be true, but not necessarily in this case.

Here's why:

  1. Every time I try to just wing it, I catch myself getting all caught up in my head, wondering what do I want to say, is this right, blech, I don't like that, blah, blah, blah
  2. Winging it inevitably means that I'm really inconsistent. I mean that both in terms of what I'm saying and doing, and how often I'm actually doing anything.
  3. All that damn structure actually gets me off my ass, off the mat, and helps me build self-discipline in my practice (damn it).
  4. It might be wrong of me to say that doing something the same way makes it devoid of personal meaning. In fact, repetition may actually do just the opposite
  5. More importantly, repetition and structure seem to help me have a better sense of my own spiritual evolution and by extension, my personal growth

So yeah. I'm rethinking things over here in Faye land. Not necessarily comfortable things, but things that are important. I still think there are reasons why you'd want your practice to be fluid and personal but I'm coming to recognize that my personal levels of self-discipline need the structure in order to be fluid and flexible. I know, that seems odd, but it's true.

My practice makes me a better person. And structure makes my practice thrive. Therefore, a certain amount of structure makes me thrive.

Life is not without a sense of humour. Damn her!