Thoughts on a retreat at home

Today is the second day of an attempt at a home based retreat.  There are good aspects and not so good aspects about trying to do a retreat at home. You can set your own structure with a home based retreat. In the current circumstances of Covid-19 you don’t have to worry about social distancing while travelling or staying somewhere else if you do something on your own and at home. But it is much harder to leave the mundane aspects of your life behind when you stay at home and unless your family joins you in retreat activities you don’t have others to talk to during times of reflection. You also don’t have anyone else keeping you on track for activities.

I developed my own retreat structure which is a mix of devotional time, contemplation, mindful chores and exercise with time each day for reflection too. On the whole it’s working pretty well although there are aspects that I am finding need a bit of tweaking – I definitely wasn’t thinking clearly in putting exercise after lunch for example even with a light lunch. I have also greatly reduced my time on email and Facebook during this retreat and any reading I am doing is focussed around spiritual or religions matters.

I picked this week to try this as my kids are staying with their dad for a week which means my days are not punctuated with their day to day needs. Not that either of them are particularly needy during school holiday periods but there are some care requirements in an autistic family. Technically it’s only one at school now but the lad did try college this year and is now looking at modern apprenticeships. Anyway, I digress, suffice it to say it’s easier to immerse myself in spiritual matters without them here.

Luckily my other half, Neil, is also a druid as many readers will already know so although he hasn’t joined me in this retreat I have been able to talk to him about some aspects.  We had an interesting conversation yesterday while walking round our local park.  In it the idea of Druidry as an entity came up.  This immediately brought to mind a passage I had read earlier that day in the book “Contemplative Druidry” by James Nichol in which Penny Billinton speaks briefly about the concept of egregores although Neil had come to the idea of druidry as an entity in a different way.  I have been musing on the idea ever since.

Druidry as a being,
An egregore.
A child growing
Changing into…

Would Druid then become both the name of someone in a form of relationship, consciously or unconsciously, with “Druidry” and the name of the relationship itself? This could also help explain why it is so difficult to define “Druidry” as it is partially formed by those that have relationships to it. This also changes how I feel about being druid as it becomes my relationship, my connection to the entity “Druidry” and like any of my relationships that will always be unique because it is partly shaped by me, a unique being.

It’s been an interesting experimental home retreat so far and I have one more day to complete my intended aim of a three day home retreat.

 

My Cauldron

What should I mix in my cauldron?
Should I nourish body or soul?
How long should I let the mixture brew?

Some cauldrons are used to nourish the body
Contents blended for health.

Some cauldrons are used to feed the heart
A mix of compassion and courage.

Some cauldrons are intended to support the mind
with whimsy and enchantment.

What should I blend in my cauldron?
How should I share its contents?
Who needs to taste this brew?

Inspired by “The Cauldron of Calm” a developing project led by Cat Treadwell 

DSC_1006
My Cauldron

Lifestyle changes

In July 2016 I lost my job as a an administrator with the University of Glasgow on capability grounds due to stress, depression and anxiety.  I wrote about some of this a year later here. I was on medication for depression until the end of 2016 and had some counselling therapy in the later half of that year too.  On that occasion I’d been on medication for a year. It wasn’t the first time I’d been on medication, if I remember correctly it was the third time over a period of about four or five years. It was however the first time I’d had some therapy on the NHS. I’d had a bit of counselling through work before but hadn’t found that very helpful. I’ve been out of the workplace since that time.

In October 2016 I had my induction for volunteering with the RDA Glasgow Group. I’ve been volunteering there ever since and I still love it.  I also think volunteering there has had a very beneficial effect on my mental health.  I’ve been off the medication for depression for almost three years now.  I’m feeling much more balanced within myself. I still get the occasional episode of anxiety it is not nearly as bad as it used to be and I can usually push through the anxiety and carry on.

I’ve already written about some of the changes that have been happening recently with my family. Since that post something else has developed. I started to do a few more hours of volunteering in the RDA Glasgow group office again.  And not long after I started doing that a job opportunity with RDA Glasgow came up.  It’s a part time admin post for volunteer coordinator and the things I have begun helping with in the office are part of that post.  I thought about it and decided to apply so a few days ago I sent in my thoroughly updated C.V. and an application letter.  The closing date isn’t until the 19th of this month so I’ve got a bit to wait before I will hear if I am selected for interview.  My husband, Neil, has sensibly advised me to just put it all out of my head. I’m not very good at that. I’m not exactly worrying about it but I can’t help thinking about the possibilities of things I could maybe do in the role.

Part of the role is to deal with volunteer paperwork and support the newly revised induction process. I’m already starting to think about improving checklists that can help me keep track of who is at what stage of the process. I also think I might be able to help with some aspects of the initial induction, the health and safety bits for example.  Another aspect of the role is supporting active volunteers, introducing ways to recognise and thank them like social activities and awards. An award certificate for Duke of Edinburgh (DoE) volunteers might be a good idea as they need evidence of what they have done for the DoE awards, at the moment they get is a simple record card of the hours worked and what they’ve done.  I keep musing on aspects of the job. I’m excited by the possibilities. I am trying not to get too enthusiastic, after all I might not get it but I find it difficult not to think about what this job could mean for me.

General musings

Last time I wrote about setting intentions and I’ve had some success with what I had hoped to achieve.

I am continuing to go to the RDA Glasgow group. I’ve had some challenges with both my emotional state and things like back pain and colds which have meant missing the odd day but on the whole I’m managing ok. And I still love being there so that helps.

I am now singing almost every day again. Not always a more formal practice, sometimes it’s just a couple of things but very few days go by now without song in them again.  This makes me feel good too. I sing for so many reasons. I sing for my gods, for comfort, for joy and for my ancestors.  Sometimes I sing things I learnt when I was at school, sometimes things I’ve crafted and sometimes I sing without words letting the notes flow where they will.

The writing though hasn’t come back.  I’m not even sure if I want it to. I have so many doubts about whether I really have anything to write that others will want to read. And yet there is so little out there written by polytheists.  There is more that there used to be but often focussed on one particular deity or a particular path.  I started my efforts to write a book last Samhain with the intent to write it bit at a time through the year.  We are once more nearing Samhain and I’ve not managed to write a word on it since my mum died. I no longer know if I could start it again without feeling tears in my eyes. And yet not going back to it makes me feel like I’ve failed somehow.

I’ve finished two shawls that I started before mum died and I’ve finally made a tea cosy.  I put off trying to knit one for a while as that was something mum had asked me to make her.  I had found yarn I thought she would like and a pattern but hadn’t begun before she died. Last week I tried making my first tea cosy with the yarn I had got for my mum but I realised it wasn’t going to work with that yarn so I used something else instead but I did it. Knitting wasn’t something I wrote about in my intentions but it is good to be completing projects and trying new things again.

Life continues…

Setting intentions

I’m beginning to set some intentions to get a few things back into progress once the kids go back to school on Wednesday.

I stopped the singing practice I had begun when my mum died, that’s one thing I want to try and start again. I have sung a few odds and ends since mum died but I haven’t done any serious singing practice since then.  I know Mum loved my singing and I know she wanted me to sing more. I have tears running down my face writing this and it’s not easy to sing when you are close to tears or crying but it’s time to try and sing more again.

I also stopped my attempts to write a book on my experiences as a polytheist.  The last things I wrote were about the festival of Beltane and I wasn’t satisfied with what I had written on that topic.  I have chapters planned on the deities I have devotional relationships with as well as sections on other festivals.  Mum was keen for me to write and wanted to introduce me to her current publisher. I wasn’t ready for that stage, I’m still not, but I’ve been in touch with mum’s publisher about mum’s books anyway.  I need to try and get back to my writing again.  It might be slow but I need to try. Mum would have wanted me to keep going with it and to try and get it published when I get it to that stage.

And I will still be going to the RDA Glasgow Group stables on a regular basis. I can’t imagine my life without going there regularly now.

All these are things I’ve been thinking about for a couple of weeks now. Setting them out like this will hopefully help me to move forward.

 

Pagan Healing Circle changes

In June last year I wrote about being called to try and do more of a healing nature in a post titled Healing Needs.  I set up a Pagan Healing Circle at that time but keeping it going has become something I no longer wish to keep up with.  While there has always been healing sent to a small number of personally known individuals, other requests to the group have been rare. It has become increasingly difficult for me to keep going with any enthusiasm for this venture so I have decided to stop.  I have closed the Facebook page I had set up and removed the page about the healing circle that I had on this blog site.

One of the members of the group of healers, Geoff Boswell, has offered to take the group forward with the support of the others in the group and he has set up a new Facebook group for it.  The Pagan Healing Circle has been renewed under the guidance of a Druid I have known and respected for many years.  Healing requests should be directed to this new contact for the group.

Snow, Icy and Anxiety

This week we have had quite a bit of snow.  As usual the snow gets compressed by the passage of people on pavements and cars on the roads and surfaces become icy.  Snow looks lovely but I don’t really like it.  I know it can be fun to play in the snow especially if you are wrapped up nice and warm, my daughter adores it. I don’t and I think it’s probably because with snow there is more ice and I hate icy conditions.

This week the weather has disrupted normal routines.  Tuesday was the worst day with local road, even the main ones, becoming gridlocked.  My kids both get school transport provided, every day for my son and at the moment two days a week for my daughter. My son’s transport was about 40 minutes later than usual which isn’t bad compared to some problems that day.  My daughter’s transport didn’t show at all because they got stuck somewhere. Eventually we took her to school ourselves much later in the morning, my husband doing the driving, and by that time traffic was flowing reasonably well.  We picked her up from school that afternoon slightly early again with my husband driving.  If he hadn’t been home doing work on our bathroom we wouldn’t have gone anywhere because I feel far to nervous about driving in that level of snow and ice.

Wednesday main roads were much better but the street outside our home is not a main road and it was still covered in compressed snow and ice.  My son’s transport was still late but not as bad as the day before.  My husband drove my daughter and I to her school and I walked her into her entry point while my husband stayed with the car.  By the afternoon things were looking a bit better.  There had been a touch of a thaw and some grit had been spread on our street now but pavements were still icy.

That evening the forecast was bad, particularly for areas further south and east than us with further snow and wind forecast during the night.  And it would be a little below freezing during the night too so more ice!  I cancelled plans I had made before all this snow to go out and meet a friend the following morning. I was too nervous about what the weather would bring.  Our area didn’t get more snow overnight.  Local roads first thing this morning were icy in places but not too bad.  School transport turned up on time for both kids.  I’m beginning to feel better but still anxious.

When my son was only a few months old I fell on an icy street on the way to work.  The fall didn’t seem that bad at the time but I wrenched my back.  I had six months of back pain after that fall and walking to work became too painful for that period of time.  Eventually I had some treatment from an osteopath and that helped the injured area to finally heal.

Not long after I had finally passed a driving test I bumped into the back of another car because I couldn’t stop my car due to ice on the road.  I was going very slowly but that feeling of being completely unable to stop what I could see was going to happen stayed with me.  No one was hurt at all, both cars got bit scratched but nothing worse than that. But it scared me.  I have remained nervous of icy roads.  I can manage it it’s only icy patches but the last few days our street has been much worse than icy in patches.

My anxiety in this weather is founded on very real fears but I still feel I should be able to manage better.  I recognise those feelings of inadequacy are also part of the anxiety but…

 

And I turn to thoughts of my ancestors through the ages. The cold weather, the arrival of  snow, the fear of icy footing.  Many, if not all, would have felt these things. Injuries are more common in icy conditions, healing from anything takes longer. Outdoor tasks are harder and take longer. Water can freeze over and before the mains water supplies we often take for granted frozen water supplies could be a big problem. And keeping warm also became much, much harder.  I believe fear and anxiety during winter conditions would have been common to my ancestors.  I am not alone.

No resolutions for me

This time of year people start talking about what they are doing for their new year resolutions.  This isn’t a post about resolutions because I don’t do them. If you look at a dictionary definition of a resolution you will probably see a number of different meanings some of which are specialist terms in scientific and legal contexts and one which says something like ‘a firm decision to do something’.  That definition of resolution is why I don’t make new year resolutions.  My life over the past few years has meant that the idea of making firm decisions to do things is something I feel that just sets me up for failure. I prefer to set myself up for success.  Instead of resolutions I have aims and intentions.

My intentions for the coming year are:

  • to continue to support my kids, as they continue to grow and develop
  • to continue to support other members of my family that need a bit of support
  • to continue to learn how to ride horses
  • to continue to write my book
  • to try and write more blog posts
  • to try and write a few articles for Pagan magazine and/or websites
  • to knit more socks (I’ll probably knit other things too)
  • to continue to take part in the support subgroup of the Autistic Allies Facebook group
  • to learn more about horse care
  • to learn more about the Riding for the Disabled Association and in particular the local RDA group in Glasgow.

I’m pretty sure I will be able to achieve all of these things in the coming year and hopefully more besides but I don’t as yet know what the more might be.

 

Reflections on 2017

A new friend on Facebook recently asked what people were proud about from the past year and that got me thinking about the past year a bit more resulting in this post.

The first half of 2017 was quiet on this blog because I had signed up for a an online course in counselling skills.  I completed and passed that course and at the time I investigated the possibility of gaining further qualifications in counselling skills.  After much thought and investigation into options and costs I decided it is not the right time for me to commit to trying to gain further qualifications. I am however prud of having completed the course successfully and gaining new knowledge and confidence.

In the last year my devotional practices have continued to develop and deepen.  I’m now beginning to settle into a devotional practice where I am spending some time in prayer and contemplation on six days of the week.  In the last year as well as relaxing into my relationship with Loki I’ve also started developing a devotional relationship with Gofannon.  It’s almost two years since Loki started making his presence felt in my life so both of these deities are still relatively new to me. I also continue to be a flame tender with Clann Bhride, a practice I began on Imbolc 2015.

I’ve now been involved in volunteering with the Riding for the Disabled Glasgow group for just over a year. I’ve learnt so much since I started there and I’m still learning more including finally having riding lessons myself.  I’ve wanted to learn how to ride horses for as log as I can remember and this year I have been able to begin that journey and it’s just wonderful!  I literally cried tears of joy after my first couple of lessons, that’s how much it means to me.

This time last year I had completed counselling sessions to help me with managing my social anxiety and had also just come off medication for anxiety and depression.  I have remained off medication this year and have not had a relapse.  I still get the occasional anxiety attack with social situations and have had a couple of more severe panic attacks too this year but I am still improving.  I have managed social situations this year that I could not have done last year.  I am proud of my progress.

My daughter had been attending dance lessons with Indepen-dance for a full year now.  She’s absolutely loved these lessons so I know this will be continuing for the coming year.  My daughter has also joined her school choir this year and has experienced her first performance with the choir outside the school as part of a carol service.  She also had a solo to sing during that carol service.  I am extremely proud of how well she did, not only with her singing but also with her behaviour during the service.  Sitting quiet and still is not an easy thing for my sensory seeking, bouncy Aspigirl. So proud of my girl!

This year my son completed his Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award. To complete this award he had to do some voluntary work, develop a new skill, do some physical activity and complete an overnight camping expedition with the group from his school taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh award activities.  His physical activity was hillwalking, his new skill was pyrography and the voluntary work was organised by the school and took place at an allotment.  I am incredibly proud of his achievement!

Last year (2016) I went through the assessment process for adult autism diagnosis.  I didn’t meet diagnostic criteria.  Perhaps part of the reason for this was that at the time I went through the process I was also suffering badly from stress and anxiety.  Needless to say I didn’t agree with their conclusions at the time and I still don’t agree.  It’s still something that irritates.  I have been peer recognised as autistic by a number of autistic adults as well as by my wonderful kids and that recognition means a great deal to me.  I am immensely proud of being neurodivergent and probably autistic. I still hesitate over calling myself autistic because I didn’t meet the diagnostic criteria during my assessment.  I know many within the autistic community are perfectly fine with self diagnosis and if I had never attended and failed the assessment I’d be happy with self diagnosis too. Failing the assessment makes me doubt myself and means I often don’t feel comfortable in saying I’m autistic without adding the story of not meeting diagnostic criteria.  Anyway, this year I have becoming more aware and more confident of myself as neurodivergent. If you are unfamiliar with neurodiversity as a concept here’s a good staring piece on the neurodiversity paradigm

My other area of achievement this year is still very much a work in progress.  I have begun writing a book about being a polytheist.  It will have a great deal in it about my own practices.  My tentative working title at the moment is “Life as a British Polytheist”.

To all my readers on this last day of 2017 I hope you take pride in your achievements whatever they may be and I wish you a very happy 2018!

 

 

Reflections on a state of mind

I wrote the core of this in a Facebook post earlier this week.  I’ve decided to add to what I wrote there for a post here.

Tuesdays are now my busiest days, I plan for the tiredness that follows by usually having fairly quiet days on Mondays and Wednesdays. Tuesdays are busy because of things I choose to do so I am not complaining just noting for background to this post that they are busy.

Last Tuesday though I also got hit by nebulous anxiety and wobbly emotions. Part of my difficulties could have been caused by one of the cats staying out until 1am Monday morning. It was very unlike her so I worried and had trouble settling to sleep.  Eventually I chose to check at the back door just one more time at 1am and there she was at the door!  I settled to sleep fairly quickly after that knowing she was safe and sound. Part of the difficulties could also be worrying about my lad going out on an overnight camping trip with a group from school. Camping for the inexperienced is challenging and this trip included a fair amount of walking too as it was a practice for a Duke of Edinburgh Award overnight expedition (I think that’s the Bronze level). I worried about how this was going all that day and the next until I saw him again and heard that it had gone reasonably well.

Part of my problems on Tuesday could have been hormonal, although I don’t usually get the emotional surges at that stage in my cycle, anything is possible though.

All I really know is that I struggled emotionally on and off all day.  I carried on with my usual Tuesday activities which include some hours of voluntary work at a Riding for the Disabled Association stables in Glasgow. Usually after a bit of time at the stables whatever emotional state I might have been in when I arrived is soothed with the presence of horses and in the feelings of being useful.  Not on this occasion.  I cried; at the stables; in front of people! Fortunately I held it together during the lessons where I was leading horses but between one lesson and another I cracked. Those that saw me were lovely about it by the way, tea was applied and soothing company.  I was asked if I wanted to be alone but I wasn’t really sure so someone stayed with me for a while. After a bit I calmed down enough to feel able to help out in another lesson side walking this time before leaving to collect my daughter from school.

I remained a bit mentally and emotionally wobbly throughout the rest of the day but didn’t break down again in the same way.  I struggled through.

This is me as well in terms of my mental health as I’ve been for a very long time. I still get odd times like this.  Fortunately at the last appointment I had with psychologist she said that there might still be times when I struggled.  This wouldn’t necessarily mean it was a relapse as the journey to improved mental health is not usually a smooth one, it may just mean a wobble, a temporary dip that I would be able to move beyond myself without seeking further assistance.  In this case I feel that is exactly what this was, a temporary dip in the journey rather than the beginnings of a relapse.

Many of my friends struggle with mental health on a daily basis. The type of experience I have shared here is the tip of the unseen iceburg of mental health.  It’s hard to talk about situations like these, hard to experience.  It is even harder trying to explain this type of thing to someone who has never experienced levels of anxiety, stress or depression that have affected their health to the stage of needing medication, counselling or both either long or short term.

And so I’m writing this for those who can’t find the words to explain. I get it. I have struggled with finding the words, I still do.
I’m writing this for me, something I can look back on and say this is where I was then.  A year after a period of my life where I was on medication, having nasty anxiety attacks and beginning counselling.  This is a major improvement and this is a part of who I am and I am proud of who I am!

I’m also writing this for those that haven’t had these experiences. Here’s a window to peek through.