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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's OK If This Is Becoming a Bit Compulsive ...

Housecleaning - Inside and Out

Housecleaning can become a bit compulsive.

And this is really ok.

It's especially ok if the house really needs to be cleaned, as mine has.

Last year, between March 21st (Vernal Equinox) and April 1st, I took stock.

I realized that my energy was low. ("I can't even spell 'marketing plan'," I wrote in my journal.) Unveiling was close to launch date - not yet quite there, but I could really, realistically see it coming. (And at that, it still took another three months before I held the first physical Unveiling copies.) But as the launch-hour approached, life (and my overall energy) seemed to be slowing down.

This sense of how much more difficult it is to complete a major life transition is not unusual at all. There is even an analogy to how things work out in nature: physicists know the phenomenon called "critical slowing down" - the fact that just before a system changes state (water to steam, for example), we can put in a whole lot of "energy" and still not see much difference. It just becomes harder and harder to gain a single degree of temperature. Any woman who has borne children knows that the last few months - and weeks and days and hours - are the most difficult. There's a time (so I'm told) when you just want that baby born, no matter what. And for those of us who've taken on any project, we know that the early "blocking out" stages can happen quickly - from building a house to painting a picture to changing our body shape. It's filling in the details that takes so much time.

Add to this one more important factor: when we're getting close to the "finish line" for any big life project, we can't let go. It might be completing a book, a degree, a renovation project. And simultaneously, the "project" - whatever it is - consumes our life. There really is no time left for anything else.

The point is: We do transform our lives. We do take on what are truly heroic quests and challenges. And while we are doing these - and going through the last very difficult stages - the rest of our lives unravel. The house gets dirty. Important relationships are not maintained. (At least, not with the diligence that we usually muster.) This would be the year that the vegetable garden gets sparse and weedy, and we don't even think about putting up vegetables that summer.

Balance is lovely. Balance feels good, and so does a clean house, a set of well-maintained friendships, and a beautiful, thriving vegetable garden. But when we are doing a Heroic Quest, we forsake balance.

Balance is something that we recapture later. And it may take time. In my case, it's taken me a year - that's right, a full year - to get the house and grounds cleaned up. And I've really, truly been working pretty hard at it. Most especially, over this month of February.

So you haven't heard much from me this last month. I love you just as much as ever. And I've been thinking about you while cleaning out the storage room. (And when I swept mouse dung and dust off the high utility shelves - and got whif-fuls of it, and came down with allergy-induced headaches later - well, lesson learned for next time.)

Cleaning, de-gunking, and organizing - restoring balance, harmony, and joy - takes time. This is a transition. Not quite a Quest, but a post-Quest mop-up.

So if we have been Questing lately - we need to recognize that post-Quest, it takes a little time to get life back in order.

And have you been Questing? Do you want to know more about a Heroine's Quest (versus the classic Hero's)? Learn more: online radio talk show on the Heroic Quest with moderator Dennis Tardan.

Monday, February 13, 2012

"Pathworking" Involves Cleaning - At All Levels

Pathworking - Starting the New Year, Cleaning Out Our Lives

The "new year," effectively, begins right about now. Really, it started last week - February 2nd. This was the Feast of Candlemas (the Festival of Lights). It was Imholc (in the older traditions), and Groundhog Day (in the newer ones). In Druidic times, this was the true start of the "new year." Other cultures, notably the Chinese, start their new year with a celebration around this time of year. Truly, our juices don't begin to flow - we don't begin to shake off some of winter's hibernation - until we start to get more light in the sky, beginning in early February.

Now on a simple girlfriend-to-girlfriend level, I'll let you know: January was hard. I didn't get out, and didn't party. Instead, I focused down and worked my way through that month. And the results are in; they're good, and I'm really pleased to have put in all that effort.

There's another thing that I started - right after Christmas (right during the "Twelve Days of Solstice," in fact). I got started on paperwork clean-ups. And as you probably know, this is a long chore. There's probably not a one of us who can burn through our entire paperwork stack in just one evening, or even a weekend.

For me, it's been multiple rounds of wrestling with the "Paper Tiger"; the piles, bags, and boxes of papers that have accrued over the months (and even prior years). Frankly, I feel that basement and garage clean-outs are easier.

Which brings me to: Basement and garage clean-outs. Specifically (because our garages are still pretty cold right now) to basement clean-outs. And I've been cleaning out mine (with the help of a sturdy and dedicated housemate). We've put in three "sessions," and have made a dent. Not done, but a good strong dent. We feel encouraged. We feel that progress has been made, and that if we stay with this, we'll even be done. (Some day.)

The point is: Basement cleaning - and paperwork cleaning - and life-cleaning of all sorts - is the kind of thing that we start right around now. And it's part of our Unveiling process. It's an integral part of pathworking.

In Chapter 19 of Unveiling, "A Sacred Time, A Sacred Space," I write:

After we find and designate our sacred space, we cleanse. We cleanse thoroughly. This is important.

This is the actual physical cleaning of any aspect of our lives; our basements, our closets, our stacks of paperwork or sets of unanswered emails. It can be physical; if we are into body "cleanses," this is often the time that we take on a little bit of a juice fast or introduce some tonics into our lives. (Even without that degree of rigor, we show more interest in fresh salads, and less of a need for chocolate cream-cheese brownies. Well, that depends on the weather.)

At the same time, whenever we take on some cleansing process in our physical worlds, or even in our bodies, we are allowing the same process to take place inside our minds. We begin our "inner house-cleaning" - as I described in Chapter 28, "Going Deeper." During one of my own Inanna-descents, I found that cleaning out my "inner basement" led to cleaning out deeper and deeper levels - none of which were pretty! (In fact, it felt like excavating sub-basements filled with swamp-mold and muck!)

Yet this is one of the most important things we can do. In fact, we have an archetype whose purpose is to help us with just this! This is our inner Hestia. Hestia was the ancient Greek goddess of "hearth and home." She was not into the relational aspects; she was not so much about the great love. Instead, she was more one for keeping the garden tended, pickling the vegetables, and cleaning the kitchen afterwards.

Hestia doesn't get a lot of attention. Yet our Hestia mode is one of the most useful things that we have going for us. She keeps the underpinnings of our lives together - the day-to-day things that lets our Amazon conquer new worlds, our Isis/Empress have her nurturing time with children and friends, our High Priestess to have contemplation, and our Hathor to have time for sensuality and for play.

Did I mention that our Hestia doesn't get a lot of respect? More to the point, she doesn't get a whole lot of recognition. I didn't even mention her in Unveiling!

That's because I didn't understand her until after the book was nearly done. In the ensueing months, though, I've had a better understanding. And I wrote about her recently as a core archetype in the Unveiling blog; see Hestia and also - for a birds-eye view of our complete archetype set, The Unveiling Archetypes and the Jungian Dimensions. (Look for Hestia in the top right quadrant of the figure; she's in between the High Priestess and Empress/Isis.)

Cultivating our inner Hestia is an important part of our pathworking; our day-to-day journey. When we do the practical things on the outer, our minds free up to do the inner work. "Wax on, wax off," Mr. Miyagi advised young Dan in the original Karate Kid movie.

And a special point: The deeper our "internal cleaning," the deeper we go into the back corners and stored piles of "stuff" in our everyday, practical lives. The inner and the outer aspects reflect each other. Before we are fully empowered to glow in our newly-polished Hathor mode, or before we reach the true nuggets of wisdom that we gain from our High Priestess, we spend hours cleaning and scrubbing the pantry, digging out the basement, and taking carloads of things to Goodwill. The path to beauty, peace, freedom, and joy begins with cleaning up stacks of old bills and emails!

One final word: The time to do this is now. I hate it for you, dear one, and I hate it for me as well. But the best time to get this "housecleaning" done - inside and out - is before the robins arrive, before the trees are green, and before we are so in love with the love that's going on around us!

To your joyous unfolding and the sturdy progress of your own pathworking -

With much love - Alay'nya

Monday, February 06, 2012

Recharging Our Eating Plan with Healthy Foods (And Welcoming in the New Year!)

How to Kick-Start a Healthy Eating Plan for the New Year

Can I just say this straight?

Diets don't work.

Diets, or any sense of deprivation - any sense of "I can't have this" or "I can't have as much of this as I'd like" - just doesn't work as a way to live our lives.

May I also say: this is still early February. We are just coming out of hibernation. And like good old bears, we still want to "carb up."

To make things worse, we're being bombarded with magazines showing us images of barely post-pubescent young women; those who have the ultra-firm flat tummies, the carefully sculpted bottoms, and scarcely a half-ounce of extra body fat.

Nuts to that, I say! (In fact, nuts are a really good idea - protein, carbs, fiber ... but okay, that's a different post.)

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Pistachios; Bon Appetit, February, 2008. Recipe by Dan Barber. Photograph by Lisa Hubbard

Right now, we're barely getting out of our caves.

We're a few days post Imholc/Candlemas/Groundhog Day. (Pick your holiday of choice.) There's no question; we are starting to feel a bit better. There's more light in the sky now. The days are just a bit longer. And we're having an early spring. The daffodils are up; the trees show signs of early budding.

But it's still February.

So the big question is: How to recharge our diets and exercise patterns?

The answer is: Gravitate towards that which makes us feel good. So instead of forcing ourselves towards anything - especially anything that is a little stringent or unnatural - we instead invite ourselves - gently and lovingly and with the greatest nurturance and care possible - to do those things that will help us feel better.

This often means cooking our own food, from scratch. Using the best possible natural ingredients that we can find - especially healthy fresh vegetables.

But if you're like me, then breaking off whatever you're doing sometimes just seems like too much work. And cooking up anything when getting home from work seems like way too much effort.

So here's what I'm doing to get myself going; you might want to do the same:

  • Put up good-foods pictures where you'll see them. Right now, I'm looking at a picture of brussels sprouts. Yes, brussels sprouts - with pistachios and lemon. And I'm about to pull this picture out of the magazine, trim the edges neatly, put it into a plastic sleeve holder, and tape that to one of my kitchen cupboards. And I'll do the same with a picture of a fresh salad of mixed greens (when I find one). And similarly with one or two more really invigorating and inspiring recipes. Why? Because we're visual creatures. We respond to stimulation. And at this time of the year, in particular, we crave visual, tactile, and olfactory stimulus. So - we provide ourselves with stimulus and inspiration, and action follows.
  • Pre-process your raw veggies as soon as you get home What can you say to a raw cauliflower? Not much, really. So as I'm unpacking the bags of raw veggies, I try to do what I can to get them ready for later cooking. I take the leaves off the cauliflower, and core out the bottom end. And I try to do other things that make it possible to get meals together just a bit more easily later in the week. The biggest drawback to eating more healthily - that means, more veggies (both cooked and raw) - is that they take more prep time. A whole lot of washing and cutting and fussing. The other thing that seems to work is to take the veggies, a cutting board, and necessary knives and bowls in to watch some TV. This is a sort of "low-energy" task - something to do when a little too tired to do anything really energetic or creative, but not quite completely zoned out. It's a good way to prep veggies for salads, stir-fries, soups, and other uses.
  • Prioritize veggie-intensive food preps for early in the day, when there's still some energy. I try to plan and prep whatever my meals will be as early in the day as possible. At this time of year, this often means a soup or a slow-cooked meal. If I can get this started early - before getting into the other tasks and priorities - then the food is ready later on, when I'm hungry. I may even pre-prep a salad, and put it in the fridge with a cover over the dish. And also even make a little mustard/honey/olive-or-grapeseed oil/balsamic dressing. Always tastes better than the store-bought. I'll make this up and store in the fridge, and this minimizes reaching for the store-bought back-up dressing. (Think about this: You're more likely to purchase quality ingredients when you make your own dressing. And you're more likely to add in little extra heath-giving "extras" when you make it yourself.)

That's it, really. Focus on the feel-good foods; especially the veggies. And make the cream-cheese brownies when you need them; if you have enough in the way of brussels sprouts and salads, everything else takes care of itself.

One final thing: With warmer days, it's time to get outside once again. I'm looking forward to a lengthy walk today; a couple of miles at least. As soon as the sidewalks or streets are ice-free, and the wind is not so chill, it's time to get some fresh air and exercise. And being outside is so much more fun and invigorating than being on a treadmill in a gym!

To your health, happiness, and an overall glorious New Year! - yours - Alay'nya