In the line of work that I do, I have many opportunities to attend trade shows and fairs, setting up my business information and a small array of books and such for purchase. Many times, given the titles of books on display and perhaps my brochure outlining services and modalities I provide, I have found myself facing the question “Are you New Age?” Though some of what I do and what I offer does touch on aspects that are considered New Age, it is not a tag I have felt resonated with either my personal path or work. But the question has often caused me pause. Stymied on how to respond, I have pondered: What is New Age exactly? What constitutes New Age practices? What is different about what I do? And, if not New Age, then what am I?
The Healing Wheel: The Psychology of the Wheel of the Year
Presenting the eight Festivals within an archetypal framework and connecting that framework to personal development and inner transformation.
Several days ago, I had a lovely, lovely moment. Sitting in the arch of a big, picture window, I felt the rays of the sun as more than just a heatless hint of things to come. There was, for the first time, a weight to the rays’ touch and I felt the distinctive crack of the cold ice within - that first inkling that the thaw is on its way. Unsurprisingly, the next day brought plummeting temperatures along with re-found gloves and snow brushes for the car. But the tide had turned. Imbolc had reached out its delicate fingers to tickle 2016 for the first time and there is no pulling back from that.
As far as weather goes, it hasn’t been a bad winter. We’ve certainly had worse. The snow shovels, for the most part, have bided their time leaning up against the house and the dogs are sorely disappointed that they have not had the opportunity to carve racing tunnels in the snow with their chases. On other fronts, however, this winter has been the worst yet. We have said goodbye to far too many folks – both personally and globally. So many that, in truth, when the news was announced that Glenn Frey had died last week, my husband, a down-to-earth, practical, self-declared atheist, stopped in his tracks, raised his arms to the Heavens and declared “Enough already!”. The all too frequent heart-stopping announcements were taking their toll. It may not have been too bad outside, but our insides were feeling quite numb.
Recently I was asked a question that gave me pause. It was a simple question that opened up whole worlds of inquiry which have echoed through many hundreds of years. The question was, “Do birds have souls?” This is not such an unusual question. For a very long time in history, we have been told that only humans have souls. As God gave mankind dominion over the animals (Genesis 1:26), this seems to imply that, though animals have the ‘breath of life’ to animate them, they are not connected with the Divine in the same sense as mankind. They do not have souls nor do they go to heaven. We have come a long way in appreciating that animals have thoughts and feelings. Anyone who owns a pet (and this implication of ‘ownership’ becomes interesting language itself) can attest to the different, particular personalities that come through. Many of you reading this likely have already answered the question of animal’s souls in your own minds. For me it was an invitation to a more expansive question, “What exactly is a Soul and does it differ from Spirit?”
It has not necessarily been the easiest of winters. We had fair warning. We were told it was going to be a doozy. In my part of the world, we were expecting record snowfalls which thankfully did not come to be. Instead we got record freezing temperatures. Day after day of minus 40 Celsius (which actually puts the US and Canada on par). In our household, we went through weeks of frozen pipes, washing dishes in the bathtub, and burst pipes during a brief temperature respite. I heard similar tales from many corners, not least from the incredibly busy plumbers who arrived to save the day, darting from one home in need to another.
We humans have a deep, innate fear of the dark. We tend to feel more comfortable in the bright light of day that transparently reveals that which is around us, allowing us to assess and respond to people, situations, and things. There is something about the dark which adds the element of the ominous or disturbing. A screen door banging open repeatedly in daylight is a bother, needing to be closed tight lest the bugs get into the house. A screen door banging open repeatedly in the dead of night can leave us with our hearts banging out the same rhythm in our throats, tentatively tiptoeing towards it and taking deep, relieved breaths once it is safely closed and locked.
“Pride cometh before the fall” is a message I recall hearing many times as a child. The warning that, though there was the expectation that I would always do my best, it was not appropriate to express the positive glow of success and accomplishment. If one did not self-monitor humility, one faced the very real possibility of being “brought back down to size”. Messages that urge us to be humble, to keep quiet, to deflect compliments away are fairly strong. Having internalized these messages, there can definitely be a waft of distaste when we encounter boasting. We feel the wave of Ego come towards us and instinctively step back.
When I moved to Kitchener many years ago and was looking for the house in which to put down my roots, there was one house which I knew was unquestionably mine. For one, the backdoor had a window etched with Celtic knotwork. Gorgeous! For another, it was a mere block from a permanently installed Maypole. Wondrous! Though the Maypole serves to present banners for the various local German clubs that rock into activity during Oktoberfest, it can’t help but bring to mind the tradition that marked the beginning of Summer in ages past. I loved the idea of living within daily sight of a Maypole and it never fails to fill my heart with joy, even these many years after I first saw it.