Something about rolling stones and moss.
The last year of my Spiritual Life has been all about integrating. 

I am not there yet but the distinct parts of myself (especially the work and spiritual sides) are moving closer into alignment.  During this process I have also been doing a course of business related study.  In my "old life" this would have been kept strictly compartmentalised but now I just keeping seeing how these techniques apply to Spiritual growth just as much as Profit growth.

In fact, I have been becoming more and more interested in supercharging my Spiritual growth instead of sitting back and letting it happen. 

Now, I am not saying you shouldn't listen to the Universe/Gods/Goddesses/your own Inner Wisdom.  Rather I am saying that we can take charge of how much spiritual development we do, we can direct it, and *make* the time to Listen to the Universe.  In fact waiting around and hoping spiritual enlightenment "happens" is probably the best way to make sure it doesn't. 

I am coming to the conclusion that I need a Spiritual Strategy and a way of keeping myself accountable to that plan.

Like many others I have often found myself distracted by shiny new tools, techniques and spiritual ideas.  For the avid Seeker the abundance of Yoga, meditation techniques, crystals, schools of magic, deities, tarot sets, runes, dowsing, astrology etc can be exciting and overwhelming.  Too often I have found myself unable to master one thing because I got excited by something else...and importantly...I had no means of judging what shiny thing served me best at the time. 

The idea of a Spiritual Strategy which I can use to help me choose between the millions of cool spiritual ideas out there is immensely empowering.

At first this whole process seemed so huge and full of possibilities I couldn't get a grip on it.  But after some thinking and processing and writing Lots of Lists.  I formed an Action Plan...  which is coming up in part 2.
One of the challenges for a modern Pagan is to take the sense of the
sacred, the elation and joy we experience in ritual circle and weave it into everyday life.  Aromatherapy has always been a cornerstone for me in threading enchantment and happiness throughout everything I do and it is achieved through both the types of scents I choose but also the divine experience of of intermittently smelling an ephemeral scent throughout my day.

Take this week. Work was proving somewhat stressful and challenging. I experienced this as feeling this cloak of something unhappy closing in around my bright centre; smothering me.  At times like this there is always a special trio of oils I turn to:

Lemon - As I have said before, this does what you expect and smells of lemon.  It's powerful citrus scent is like experiencing a bottle of sunshine and it is the most joyful, carefree and uplifting oil I have ever used.

Lavender  - a clean and herbal scent which is something of a cure all. It balances your mind and body, de-stresses and it a generally, aids relaxation and reduces stress.  Really something of a wonder herb!

Rosemary  another clean and herbal scent but with an extra kick of something, Rosemary wakes up my whole brain.  If I need something to get me focussed and to keep me sharp then Rosemary is always my first port of call.  The herb has traditionally been associated with good memory - even in Shakepeare's time when Ophelia says "There's Rosemary, that is for remembrance".

On tough days at work I use a combination of either Lemon and Lavender or Lemon and Rosemary dabbed on the neckline of my clothing, perhaps on a seam where the oil won't show but where I can smell it easily. In both cases the Lemon is a really bright and uplifting scent which makes my mood light and joyful.

       -  In combination with Lavender it clears my mind but acts as a
            gentle stress reliever.

       -  In combination with Rosemary it doesn't have the same stress
            relieving punch but my mind works like a clear and clean
            supercharged machine.

By using the scent on my clothes it wafts around me all day and I am constantly absorbing the uplifting, clear and stress relieving
effects.  Everytime I consciously notice the scent I use it as a
memory trigger.  This reminds me to bring myself back to my centre of calm and joy and this happens several times in the day. 

In this way there is an ambient effect and more powerful individual instances of mindfulness.  I have often heard other people remarking on the lovely smell and so in some way I feel like I can be the centre of a wave of joyful calm in the office.

My only words of warning on this gorgeous practice are:

1. The oils can stain your clothes so be careful about where you apply them, you might prefer to use a tissue tucked in somewhere.

2. Oils such as Lemon can irritate the skin so don't put it somewhere where the oil will be able to soak into your skin.

3. Don't use the same oils everyday as your nose will become accustomed to the scent and you won't be able to smell it any more. Using more and more oil will solve this temporarily but will
get expensive and eventually you'll end up overpowering the office.
Better to only do it a couple of days a week for maximum effect.

Happy Scenting!
_Usually Imbolc is one of those festivals which leaves me a bit meh!

It comes in the depths of Winter and whilst intellectually I know that this is the festival to celebrate the first, imperceptible stirrings
of Spring, in my heart it feels like darkest Winter.  Unlike Solstice
which gets caught up in the general festivities of Christmas the rest
of the world is not celebrating with me and it feels iron and cold.
This year Imbolc has been different, I have been thinking about it
differently and feeling differently even though the iron cold is here
as Siberian winds are chilling the whole of the UK.

This year when my working group started to talk about Imbolc, instead of going with the flow I really started to engage.  It was like my brain had tripped into a gear that it previously hadn't worked with before. I could feel the idea of Imbolc starting to form in my mind from that point on, at work, on the train, on my long walks I was aware of something burning away and it was Imbolc.

When I feel so very moved to celebrate a festival then I like to spin
it out over several events.  Yule/Christmas is perhaps the best
example of this, putting up a tree, feasting on both the 21st and
25th, attending solstice ceremonies and of course lots of kissing
under the mistletoe.  Easy to do when the Western world is celebrating at the same time. This creates a sort of carnival of festivities and provides many opportunities for me to connect with the spirituality behind the season.  Festivals where I rock up to one single religious ceremony for a couple of hours just don't do it for me in the same way.  Because Imbolc is so moving me  and so I am trying a new way of celebrating the year as a continuing wheel rather than as single points of light and with a strike of inspiration I though how much this has to do with Immanence.

Immanence is the concept that the divine is in the material world,
rather than Transcendence where the divine exists outside the physical .

By bringing much more of Imbolc into my life and having it glowing
away in the back of my mind as I go about my daily business I am
bringing my spiritual and the physical closer together. There are so
many great Pagan books which give you sample rituals and ideas for
celebration but very few which explicitly state that whilst we have
a special day for each festival, the week before and week after can also have a similar resonance which we can attune to.  

So my Imbolc celebrations this year started around the beginning of January when my working group first discussed the festival, on the 29th January I took a mini-spiritual retreat at home alone for the afternoon and this included setting up my Imbolc altar, making offerings of milk and mead and offering up prayers to Bridgit. I read and enjoyed many blog posts, poetry and songs about Imbolc and Bridgit, posted on the web. January the 31st I attended an Imbolc celebration with my working group and on 2nd February itself I ate a special meal of lamb casserole and baked custard, quiet by candlelight in honour of the season…and of course as the dust settles on Imbolc I am rounding it up by posting my own blog entry. 

How amazing would it be to keep this going for a full cycle, to be constantly celebrating the wheel of the year not as special events to look forward to as a break from daily life but as a way of living a fully spiritual and enchanted Life every day.
As part of my Imbolc celebrations this year (big post on that coming soon!) I sat down with my festive meal and thought about asking Bridgit to fill my heart with inspiration for the coming year.

As I was sitting thinking about this I had my own flash of inspiration:  "Antara, don't be asking Bridgit for inspiration without having a plan for finding it yourself."  The essence of this thought being, I should draw up my own plan for getting lots of inspiration and then ask Bridgit to top me up. In this way I was making my own commitment to getting inspiration before asking Bridgit to bestow it on me - showing Her that I was indeed serious about it and ensuring I had also made that commitment to myself.

I think it is likely that having made this commitment to get inspiration then it will come to me - because I'll be open to it and sub-consciously seeking it out!

So over Imbolc I completed a list of 5 things I can do to keep the inspiration fire burning brightly.

What can I do to keep the Fire of Inspiration Burning inside me?

1. I will read and listen and watch films, go for walks, dance and play and immerse myself in inspiring things created by others.  I will live a life suffused with the creativity of others and appreciate it.  Plays, poetry, books, blogs, ideas, films, art and nature - if I live in
these I will always have an inspirational fire.  SARK speaks and
writes eloquently about how living surrounded by books and other
people's art and creativity has kept her well of inspiration overflowing for years and I love that idea, that inspirations in others feeds the inspiration in us.  Inspiration is not a zero-sum game people!

2. I will write and continue to publish my words.  I trust that the
more I use my inspired creativity the more I will get.  Inspiration
and Creativity are renewable resources!

3. I will acknowledge and seek out people who inspire me and soak up their lessons.  When I find inspiring people, I will tell them they
inspire me, to inspire them to keep doing what they are doing!

4. I will schedule in time to switch off, laptops, phones, television,
music and just listen to the quiet voices within.

5. I will offer up my own creative works to Bridgit in honour of Her
and in return ask for Her Fire to help me create more and more things.
I have had a meditation sitting on my computer for a long time (about 3 years) and I have been meaning to give it a quick tweak and publish it for ages.  Well tonight with a little bit of an Imbolc push and some help from Bridgit's inspirational fire, it is done.

Meditation on the Source

I have put it up in the free resources section.  At this stage it is only a transcript - one day I hope to record it with my plummy Brit accent.