Grab Bag for the Holiday Season
Or, Survival Tips for the Homeward Bound
by Erika Ginnis
I thought that for this article I would touch on a couple of ideas and techniques that I have found useful during the holiday season. This is the time of year when the light seems like a memory (even as it begins to change and return), and the dark is ever around us. It is a powerful time for inner searching and deep magick. It is a time of cycles both within us and outside of us. In some ways, this is the time of year when it seems like everyone, pagan or not, is bound up in the cyclic sweep of the turning of the year and the seasons.
Whatever your own personal opinions about the many traditions that are celebrated during this time of year (I personally love the holidays regardless of the name they go by — but then again I have also been told I am rather strange!) it is hard to dismiss all that it brings up in us. All our childhood experiences good or bad are there with us. All the hopes and dreams, realized or not, come crowding back on us at this time of year. We get together with family members (many of which have little understanding of our particular spirituality), and sometimes it seems like we become someone we once were, or never were but thought we were supposed to be. It can also be that we love the festivities at this time of year, but those around us are glum and depressed. Perhaps we ourselves like this dark time of inner reflection and long for its quiet wisdom, but are annoyed by all the revelers around us and feel the need to go hibernate under a rock till spring.
Anything sound familiar yet? Well, you are not alone. I have personally found that this period of time right around Yule to be a great opportunity for growth and change. The way I look at it, “If my stuff is going to be up and strewn all around me anyway, I might as well take this opportunity to work on some of it!”
One of the things that I become increasingly aware of in relation to all of this, is something that I call a “growth period.” To define this very simply: “A growth period is the time it takes the body to adjust and process the changes that we make as spirit.” The holiday season is a time ripe for periods of accelerated growth. We are confronted with our pasts, with family issues, with the cyclic and therefore mortal aspects of ourselves. Adding this to the fact that it is already a time of darkness and cold (at least in this part of the world) can inspire some pretty intense stuff.
Have you ever taken a class in some kind of personal development or spiritual work, and felt like you were riding an amazing high, only to find yourself a week or two later getting sick, or wanting to hide from the world? This is an example of a growth period. First of all, you make some kind of change or work on something as spirit. This happens very quickly, since spirit isn’t bound by time and space. Great, no problem, you can make all these changes and wheeeee! Right? Well, only partially; you are spirit, you can change in an instant; however, you have a body, and that body has to operate in time and space. So what happens is that your body needs to integrate what you have changed. It needs time to process the new energy.
While you are in this process, it can feel a little odd. I think of it sometimes like a plant getting a new leaf. When the leaf is just beginning to unfold, it is a lighter green and is a lot more tender, more easily bruised. It hasn’t developed the more waxy finish that the other leaves have.
This is analogous to how we can feel when we are in a state of flux. Over time, the leaf grows out and unfolds and becomes just like the others, and the plant is that much larger. It is the process by which growth occurs. We are not so very different from the plants. We don’t normally sprout leaves, but our changes are just as real and every bit as observable if you know how to look.
Growth periods can be experienced in a number of ways. You may want to sleep much more than usual or not need as much sleep as you are used to. You may want to have a lot of sex or want to go out dancing a lot, or maybe want to hibernate at home all of a sudden. Maybe you want to eat a lot of chocolate, or you may catch a cold, or just feel generally unsettled. It may also be that you feel better than you ever have and you feel like the whole world is opening up to you. These are all growth periods. A growth period does not have to be uncomfortable! It is simply the time it takes the body to process the changes that you make as spirit.
What is important, especially when it feels more challenging, is to remember “This is a normal, natural and necessary part of learning and growing.” Many of us like to try and skip this part, or try and ignore it. We may feel more fragile at this time and want to protect ourselves by denying our changes. Unfortunately, one of the things that denial can do is to prolong the process. If you acknowledge your growth period, you can then begin to communicate with your body about what’s happening and what your body needs. This will make it all go more smoothly.
Sometimes all it takes is that conscious recognition that you are indeed in a growth period. It can make it all make more sense. Another thing to remember is that growth periods are cyclic…. they have a beginning, a middle and an end! They don’t go on forever; you will adjust to the changes, and you will have grown. A former teacher of mine used to use the adage: “When you are up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to remember that you set out to drain the swamp!”
As long as you are in a body, you will have growth periods; it’s part of the package. If you are into growing spiritually, well, guess what, you will go out of your way to have growth periods! I find that meditation really helps to keep everything flowing. It may be that the time that you want to meditate the least is when you need it the most.
So this brings me back to this particular season. This would be a fabulous time to commit to meditating daily. This is one of the times of the year when we all are aware of the cyclic nature of our lives. It is coming up on the New Year, we are running headlong into our childhood memories, we are seeing people we might not have seen since last year. We become very aware of our own changes or lack thereof, and it can be pretty intense. It will very likely put us into a growth period.
One of the techniques that I suggest people use for getting a handle on where they are, in their growth, is as follows: Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes. (Sure, you say, with all my relatives in my house, how will this happen? If all else fails, go into the bathroom, lock the door and say you’re taking a bath.) Take a few minutes to ground and center.
Let yourself become aware of what your current growth period is; let the information flow to you from your stillness. Ask yourself the question: “What are the spiritual changes I have recently made, and how am I responding to them?” Let the answers flow. Maybe you have been feeling odd and unsettled and not wanted to look at it, so have been on the run as much as possible to avoid it all. Take this opportunity to stop running and simply look at what’s happening and why, and give yourself permission to not take it all so seriously. Laugh a little at the huge growth period you are in (if this is the case) and realize that it will pass and you will have grown. Even if the issue that you are working on is serious, treating it with just a little amusement can help the energy move and change more easily.
The next exercise can give you more insight into what you are working on and can also be a wonderful way to get in touch with your own changes.
Take two sheets of paper and a pen. On the first sheet, start the heading of a letter that says “Dear Spirit…” and at the end of the sheet of paper write “… love, Body.” Next, take the other sheet of paper and at the top write “Dear Body….” and at the end of the paper write “…love, Spirit.”
If you haven’t already guessed, you are going to write two letters. Let your mind relax and let your body have a voice; let it talk to you and let you know what’s up, what it feels, what it needs. Write it down in the first letter. This is your body communicating to you, the spiritual being. Don’t judge what you write, just write. It may say things like, “Dear Spirit, you haven’t been paying any attention to me, I need more exercise, I need more sleep, please buy me some flowers.” Or perhaps, “I am trying as best as I can, but I don’t know what we are doing or where we are going, so I am afraid; please let me know what’s going on.” Or even, “I am starting to get a cold, please drink a lot of water so I won’t be sick for the holidays.”
Whatever the communication, it is a valuable tool for staying in touch with the wisdom of the body and for knowing how your body actually feels in this sometimes hectic season. Now realize you don’t have to do everything the body asks for. It may say, “I want to go escape to Hawaii until February,” but what you as Spirit may decide to do is go spend 10 minutes tanning and take a walk in a conservatory of tropical plants. What you may find is that the very act of being listened to is enough to totally change how your body feels.
Next up is the second letter. This is a letter from you as Spirit to your body. Take a minute and breathe and relax. Get in touch with yourself and you own inner voice. I highly recommend meditating as part of writing both these letters if it is at all possible. This is the letter that begins “Dear Body….” You may be surprised at what you write. Let go of your expectations as you write and let it flow. It may sound like, “Dear Body, I love you, but I am not always good at communicating, but I am working on changing that. I want to work on prosperity for the holidays, and so I have stimulated all the memories from our childhood so I can put them to rest. Sorry I didn’t mention this to you before I started….” Or, “I am really proud of the way you didn’t get enough sleep for a few days so that I could create that wonderful holiday dinner. I am going to make sure there is time now to relax and enjoy the next week.”
It may also sound totally different than these examples, which is the point. It is your own voice as spirit communicating into this physical reality to your body so that you can begin to work in harmony with each other. It is all part of the same thing, but it has different aspects and different voices, which are each valid and valuable. I often say that one of our most important relationships, one that colors all our others, is the one we have as spirit with our body. If we can begin to harmonize that one, the others are much more likely to be successful.
Hopefully now that you have some tools to use during this time of change and renewal, you can let yourself enjoy what comes to you and be able to learn from it. If nothing else, you can know what is going on when you want nothing better than to stay in bed and eat chocolate until Spring Equinox. It is just a growth period! Next week, most likely, you’ll be planning what new plants you want to add to your garden when it thaws out, or beginning that new class you wanted to take.
I will end with another saying I heard a lot when I was a student. “Running your energy will get you into a growth period, and running your energy will get you out!” Meditate, meditate, meditate, and I’ll see you next year.
Review of Grounding and Centering
Close your eyes, and turn within.
Take three nice, deep breaths, breathe down into your belly and soften it as you breathe. Notice how you feel, how your body feels.
Be aware of your first chakra. This is simply an energy center (vortex) that is located in the general area near the base of the spine. For women, the center (vortex) that is located in the general area near the base of the spine. For women the center is usually near the area between the ovaries (note: the chakra positioning doesn’t change if you have had to have your ovaries removed for any reason). For men the location is slightly lower in the body because the chakra placement is associated with the testicles.
Be aware of this area, and allow a cord of energy to flow downward from your body…
through the chair you are sitting in…
through the floor and down through the building you are in…
through the foundation and into the deep earth beneath.
Allow your grounding to flow down into the earth past all the rocks and layers of the planet, past the water, deep into the earth into the heart of the Mother. Until it reaches the center of the earth.
Allow your grounding cord to connect securely into the center of the planet.
Be aware of your grounding cord being securely connected also to your first chakra. Allow this connection, breathe and release energy and tension down your grounding.
Now that you are grounded you can take the next step and center yourself. Take a nice deep breath and bring your awareness into the center of your head. That safe neutral place behind your eyes and back a bit.
Notice how you body responds. It might have a reaction to you being centered. Let that reaction simply be, notice it. If you experience any discomfort, release it down your grounding.
Be aware of what the center of your head is like right now. Is it light? Is it dark? Is it crowded, or empty? Cold or warm, big or small? Are you aware of sensations, sounds, images, scents? Relax and breathe yourself into the center of your head. Get comfortable and begin to own this safe neutral place.
Continue to use your grounding to release energy from this space so that you can make more room for you to focus there in the present moment.