Late last December, still ensconced in a small 1950’s, down-at-heel rented cottage in Carmel By The Sea, on a bright winter’s day I sat to write what would be the penultimate post of the Soul Artist Journal, the weekly blog I penned for nearly five years.
An ongoing mystery, this life, often blurring the threshold between dreams and waking. The Great Wheel turns, and it feels just slightly surreal that I now find myself residing in the California desert—a land of bright sunlight, parched earth, spiky succulents, and turquoise swimming pools—a world away from misty evergreens and crashing Pacific surf at the edge of a continent.
Seated by the window, always my favourite place to write, with a dear fountain pen from France scratching across the expanse of a blank European notebook, I’m gazing up at the arid mountains that rise nearby, a sun-bleached jumble seemingly devoid of vegetation beneath a cerulean sky. So very much has transpired this past year, and not simply a move of house. It seems hardly possible that the Winter Solstice, my chosen year-end holiday, has come upon us once again.
Some part of my cellular memory insists that I should be curled up with a hand-thrown cup of something warm and nourishing—chaga and cacao elixir, perhaps, golden turmeric coconut milk, or bone broth—a book at my side, feeling deeply reflective and turned inwards, cherishing the slim hours of daylight while feeling grateful for a soft scarf wrapped round my neck. Dreaming while both awake and asleep. Fully belonging in some part to the fecund darkness. While days are certainly shortened here in the desert, still there is a relative abundance of light and warmth, and any notion of winter is a relatively mild one. In a vague way, the oddness of holiday season in Palm Desert reminds me of our early days in Hawaii years ago, wearing colourful surf shorts and basking in December warmth, Christmas lights adorning the tall coconut palms as their fronds swayed clackity clackity in the trade winds.
In desert style (à la tropical Hawaii), twinkling lights are wrapped around the palms in an electric nod to the holidays (albeit at the resorts they remain illuminated throughout the year), and I continue to eat my daily lunch of dandelion greens, diced apple, toasted pumpkin seeds and goat cheese—all cloaked in a spicy harissa vinaigrette—outdoors in the sun. But for the diffuse quality of light and the temperature (70/48°F; 21/9°C), which feels cool for the desert, we could almost be in the Southern Hemisphere and celebrating the summer solstice instead.
If there is any similarity with the previous winter’s solstice and residing on the foggy central California coast, it is simply that once again, as nomads, we are mostly without kith and kin. Thus the holidays have unrolled as a quiet, low-key affair, and just as I felt last December, a soft melancholy strums my heartstrings for the absence of tribe and gaiety.
How odd it all seems, this version of the year-end holidays in our new chapter of life. Not entirely unpleasant, but rather like something is absent—more than the memory of cold weather and naked trees in a distinctly dormant season. I’m strangely missing the intensely inward turn as known in years gone by, that slow retreat into a dusky cave of the psyche where the Medicine Bear hibernates, curled up amid dried roots, poems, distant constellations and dreams. In short, a familiar enchantment feels somehow elusive.
Formerly, wherever I resided on the globe, I actively courted and celebrated the sweet darkness, appreciating the way it invites us deeper into the Mystery; eschewing electric light as I am so fond of doing and enacting rituals by candlelight, drawing myself whole-heartedly into conscious relationship with place, with Earth, and the unseen benevolent forces that guide our lives. Making magic, in a word.
Dare I confess, that despite the bone-numbing cold and crushing gloom of winter in Britain, I miss living in England. Especially at the year-end holidays, where the festive spirit of Dickens’ Christmas still feels palpable. Nowhere else have I ever encountered such a sense of softly glimmering enchantment and light, even in the dark, complete with silver-faced badgers in our garden and glinty-eyed red foxes making trails in the white snow.
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The only holiday ritual I have enacted in our new locale is to unpack the well-traveled box of Christmas decor. Accompanied by a much-loved holiday album from Loreena McKennitt, the stockings are hung and our little Charlie Brown-type tree is tarted-up with a bit of old-fashioned “bling.”
Long ago I renounced the traditional cut Christmas tree, preferring to purchase a small, living one in a pot to be planted outdoors after the season—and admittedly we’ve had some interesting stand-ins, including a lemon tree, a ficus or two, and even a small, trimmed rosemary topiary. This year, though a citrus would survive the desert climate whether planted in-ground or simply placed on the patio, I wasn’t inspired to go in search of a suitable potted friend; so once again our little faux tree from Pottery Barn, with its miniature white lights, presides over the coffee table in the living room. We’ve trimmed it with a few cherished ornaments (mostly handmade heirlooms) and some vintage, wooden Bavarian figurines from my partner’s childhood in Germany. Modest, yes, and sadly deficient in that enticing evergreen fragrance that is magical in its own right, but it’s still a nice addition of twinkling cheer that sparks a glow in our hearts.
Lacking community or a local tribe of spiritual and creative souls, our solstice feast—formerly a yearly ritual of friends gathered at our large, festive table for a plated, multi-course dinner—was simply a nice meal in this quiet house. I generally prefer substance over style, leaning toward slow-cooked fare that restores and reassures, and I believe food should be a pleasure, both to make and to eat, not overly complicated or fussy. We dined well on husk-wrapped, organic sweet potato tamales I made, a puddle of fire-roasted New Mexico chile and cherry sauce underneath, and a jumbled salad of baby arugula (‘wild rocket’), dried cranberries, toasted pecans, with pale, waxy shards of best-quality Parmesan.
Holidays require a good dessert, thus my rustic Beltane Faerie Cake staged an overdue appearance (especially given that it didn’t materialize six months ago at Beltane proper)—an Old World, nut-based torte served with a generous dollop of rosemary and wildflower honey-infused whipped cream. Heavenly.
Good food prepared with love, and a nicely laid table, creates its own spell of contentment. As golden candlelight flickered upon crystal and silver, I felt the warm touch of what has eluded me up until now in this holiday season, and afterwards a present or two exchanged with my beloved, focusing upon our gratitude for life’s abundant blessings and ongoing mystery, further helped restore my heart to a childlike sense of contentment. Close enough to magic, I say.
Given that my mate and his mum observe Christmas, there are two holidays that arrive at this house just a few days apart. And thus Monday will find me again in the kitchen (where as a French-trained cook I’m nearly always content to be), preparing a free-range goose with various trimmings; the sort of food that refuses to be hurried, always the antidote to our modern, disposable age. Eventually, with us once more gathered at table, the long day will end on a sweet note with a spelt-flour Pear Gingerbread Cake—fragrant, spicy, moist and dense—that I created last year for Solstice (read “Come Darkness, Come Light” 2016), perhaps with a bit of crème fraîche for added indulgence.
Alas, we’ve no chestnuts to roast (and I’m still wanting that antique, long-handled, copper pan I fancy, in which to cook the burnished orbs over a fire); much as I adore them, they seem just too far out-of-place here in the desert, and so we’ll carry on without their sweet-savoury goodness and celebrate regardless. Foraged, pink cactus apples, anyone?
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During these past days, perhaps attempting to summon some sense of magic or divine inspiration, my thoughts have turned repeatedly to angels—an indelible part of the holiday mythos and magic—and their presence on Earth. I’ve found myself musing on both the everyday sort, those ordinary folks performing acts of kindness and assistance, as well as the Ascended Masters in human form while fulfilling their mostly unheralded work on behalf of humanity. As a clairvoyant, I tell you with certainty that angels and Archangels do exist, and that they are something beyond mere Biblical figures (the Archangels are named in several of the world’s religions, including Islam) or flights of fancy. To this day, I know it was an angel I met on a freezing winter night in 1999 on Boulevard Saint-Germain, while living in the Latin Quarter of Paris, France, and that these heavenly beings are actively engaged with humankind’s evolution far more than most people would guess.
Along with considering angels among us and the ways we each might embody such energy towards others—acting as angels ourselves—I’ve been reflecting on the embodiment of the Bodhisattva. In Buddhism, bodhisattva (a Sanskrit word) is often applied to a person who, as the result of his initiations and spiritual awakening, is able to reach nirvana—the highest state of consciousness, wherein the soul is freed from all attachments, desires, and karma—but delays doing so due to a tremendous compassion for all sentient beings. In daily practice and general translation into action, the term can represent any person well on their way to becoming a Buddha (“enlightened one”) and who commits to living their life in such a manner as to assist others, both human and non-human. He/she/other understands that ALL aspects of life, including the fate of humanity, live within us, and is committed to enlightenment for the sake of those others.
On a loftier level, the archetypal Bodhisattva is a multidimensional awareness of supreme compassion and non-judgment. Such an embodiment is only possible when the higher chakras (numbered 8-12, located above the physical body) have opened, especially the 11th, which comes as the result of profound spiritual work, expansion, and mastery. Once an individual touches/experiences this plane or dimension, life is never the same for their very perception of Self transforms; in the upper levels of creation, there is only “we” and God-consciousness. Fully imbued then is the cellular enlightenment that every aspect of life is connected, and to harm a single part of the web injures all. Indeed, in the highest dimensions, any thought that is not God-consciousness is actually painful and difficult (if not impossible) to hold.
Repeatedly in the past weeks, both during my shamanic work and meditations, I have unexpectedly been lifted to these upper levels, tears emerging from my eyes for the nearly shattering grace of such awareness, while simultaneously wrapped in a silken shawl of profound compassion for humanity and our struggles.
Surely this is a transcendent form of magic, I think, my heart opening wide as the Milky Way.
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Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, to which the widely beloved Persian poets Rumi and Hafiz belonged, proclaims that five-hundred veils exist between us and God, but none between God and us.
How truly difficult to awaken from our collective trance, even a slight degree. The third-dimensional (3D) reality most of us inhabit is SO very dense, and the thickly-set sheaths of armor over past wounding(s) seem nearly impenetrable. Stuck in our polarities, it is supremely challenging for humans to be truly free.
In my ongoing work, both personal and transpersonal, I have come to understand that everything we are working to clear and heal in our lives—including “past life” wounds/issues, which are very real—is a veil/filter between us and Source. And that this is simply the nature of human existence: working through the myriad layers of unfolding—physical, etheric, emotional, mental, etcetera—in order to fully realize our highest, spiritual nature as God-self.
Even if we are not “seekers,” on an unconscious level this clearing and soul healing is what we are doing in ALL aspects of life—including our illnesses, and especially in our relationships, which form a fiery crucible of transformation. Our emotional wounds and patterns initially formed in relationship, and that is where we will eventually transmute them or not—particularly once we understand that partnership and marriage holds a higher purpose than meeting basic needs for companionship, shelter, sustenance, intimacy, and whatnot … or even being happy.
A higher level of connection imparts understanding that relationship is the fertile ground for transformation where, working through our challenges, issues, and wounds, we are supported on our respective journeys as evolving souls. Moving higher still, relationship itself can be a spiritual path par excellence, particularly when both partners are committed to it as such—angels for each other, so to speak, each raising their beloved higher in an upward spiral, even through tangled thickets, the tumultuous darkness, and unexpected falls.
As a healer I believe that this is the work of a lifetime, the very reason we (re)incarnate: to awaken and get clear to the best of our limited ability. Humanity IS evolving, despite how things may appear when we consider the state of the world. Our individual Life Task is an endeavor to lift the veils, to awaken the “places of forgetting” in our bodies (restrictions, aches, wounds, patterns, repeated injuries, etc.), which are merely more filters between us and Source. Whereas the Soul Task is to discover and boldly offer one’s unique gift to the more-than-human world. And yes, gentle reader, this is work … ongoing and (ultimately) enriching.
In a twisted way, it is tempting to resist personal evolution, cling to victimhood, and defend the wounds; it’s always easier to lower the bar than to raise it. Most people are unwilling to release their chosen limitations, the seeming comfort and familiarity of them—even when they feel tired, ill, frustrated and broken. Yet there are nearly endless resources available to help accomplish our healing and soulful awakening—some as simple as learning effective communication skills, and the ability to express feelings—but as with everything in life, a choice is involved.
Touching the higher Bodhisattva dimensional energies, even briefly, bestows true compassion for the masses who choose to simply stay put—disconnected from the Mystery and its magic—with shutters drawn and their shields up.
The Universe is benign; it does not judge. Source seeks only to support us in expressing our innermost light, creativity, and highest possible consciousness—which, paradoxically, we always discover in the deepest darkness.
For whatever comfort it may be worth, even the angels say they are still evolving.
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A chipped moon waxes in the charcoal heavens. Light returns to warm both soul and stone. The slow descent of these past months reaches its bottom depths, and just as with that brief pause between exhale and inhale, in the moment of silence, something shifts. That is how I think of the north’s December solstice: an invisible spark in deepest darkness, a moment of magic when something quietly ignites and is born within us, long before any sign of gestation or the quickening of Spring arrives. Here on the blackest, longest night is when it happens, and now is the moment to acknowledge it.” (“Winter Solstice Magic: Darkness and Light,” the Soul Artist Journal, 2015)
Friends, the light returns in the Northern Hemisphere. Darkness has reached its zenith and now wanes. Even here in the California desert the holidays bring a special time of joyful allure, especially if we choose to sidestep or distance ourselves as much as possible from the chaos and rampant consumerism of the season. Find time for a pause, turn your face to the sun. Inhale a deep breath. Soften your belly. Smile.
Let there a be a warm glow in the heart and a twinkle in your eye, expressed as kindness to others … and yourself, especially. The underlying malady for each of us is self-hate, while often the most difficult thing to learn and practice is self-love.
Don’t feed the psychic darkness around us, I say, it holds its own essential role to play. Nor is there any need to judge the shadow or those who seem lost in its depths. Instead, adopt a pattern, the decision, to always be in integrity; maintaining alignment in thought, word and action is a form of constancy that allows one to create anything they desire.
Earth spins on its axis as we revolve around a brilliant, life-giving sun, spiraling along our trajectory through the endless reaches of space. In the larger scheme, truly our troubles are small; we are each only passing through, after all.
Just beyond the window where I sit, my two English Whippets doze contentedly on their pads in the late morning sunshine. An emerald hummingbird hovers suspended at the red glass feeder, wings a blur of movement and faint sound, framed against the swimming pool that ripples in a multidimensional, liquid mosaic—its surface occasionally disturbed by a rapidly moving zigzag pattern, randomly doubling back, as if some invisible Air Elemental plays giddily upon it. Here is a sublime moment when all feels tranquil and harmonic, in-tune with the gentle, coherent rhythms of my own heart and the earth. Life’s blessings, especially these simple ones, are uncountable, overflowing in every second—an ongoing gift of grace for those who choose to notice and welcome them.
Despite my longing for a more tangible sense of enchantment this holiday—something beyond the grace of the table and higher meditations—my bodysoul is energized, clear, and incandescent. Often I feel as if my core is illuminated by crystalline or silver starlight, while life continues to unfurl in a sense of synchronized alignment and general effortlessness. Magic aplenty, I suppose.
Gentle reader, in this season of giving and light, my wish is that you rediscover a sense of sweetly innocent delight, wonder, and sharing. May you carry luminosity in your heart and offer it freely to others, for as I’ve written before, a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. Pray not only for yourself but ALL of humanity. Pray for those you love and those you don’t, and then go further and pray to love those you don’t love. For in that, my friend, you embody a true Bodhisattva … and become an angel among us.
Happy Christmas, all. Joyeux Noël, bonne fête et Bonne Année.
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