Antara discovers Instagram - life will never be the same!
As you may remember I have changed the way I approach festivals. Now I am practising a conscious build up to a festival and then afterwards letting the energy ebb away gently in the weeks that follow.  I want to experience the festivals as a background rhythm in my life not as a 2 hour holiday from my life.

Ostara has been a little more low key for me so far but I have dressed my altar with decorated eggs and spent a great deal of time deliberately breathing in the Spring air.  Back at Imbolc I remember how cold it was and how I had to work hard to visualise the first stirrings of Spring - hidden so deep in the Earth. In comparison Ostara feels like a riot of Spring with buds popping up, flowers blossoming and everything waking up and shouting their Life into the world.  I am really enjoying experiencing the building energy of Spring gathering pace.

In my own life I am waking up a little more as well.  Doing more
exercise, preparing the garden, Spring cleaning, perhaps also trying
to shout my Life into the world.  Today in the UK the clocks went forward which means even more daylight.  It feels like another milestone on my journey into the wheel of the year. Rather than complaining about getting up an hour earlier I am seeking to enjoy the change in pace. 

This energy will linger for a long time as we are still several weeks away from Easter which I simply see as another extension of Ostara (the roots of Easter in Ostara are clear even if the Equinox is the date used by Pagans).  There is so much anticipation gathered at Easter, much like twinning of Christmas and Yule.  With such an undercurrent of celebration of fertility with Chocolate Eggs and Bunnies I am happy to go with that flow and make it a part of my Ostara. 

After Easter where will the energy take me?  Well fertility only gets
more intense between now and Beltane and the natural world gets more and more alive.  I will be making sure I am getting outside and
practising mindfulness to really appreciate and tap into that flow.

I would love to hear about everyone else's experience of the Ostara energy so do leave a comment below!
Finding the Divine everywhere - even on my lunchtime stroll around the river.
In my last post I talked about the self-analysis I do whenever I find myself saying that I "don't have time" for Spirituality.

I have a busy life in a full job and part-time degree course and so I thought I would write about some of the ways I *Find Time* for Spirituality:

1. Starting Small

It is easier to find time for 5 minutes meditation than 5 hours.  Start with just 5 minutes and if it doesn't work out you haven't lost anything.  But once you get into the groove (which takes just under 5 mins) then you will easily stretch your 5 minutes into 10, or 25!

2. The Physical Is the Spiritual.

The root of Paganism is Immanence - the idea that the divine is in everything. Stay on the look out for divine inspiration in unlikely places:  that pint pot of paperclips you just spilled on the floor - that is a natural labyrinth for you to muse on. 

Rinse and repeat many times throughout the day.

3. Take a proper lunchbreak.

I always carve out a proper lunchtime for myself when I am at work.  I spend my lunch hour going for long walks around the area I work, I get some of my best thinking done in this quiet time on my own and have become a huge fan of walking meditation.

When I realised I could contact my Gods without spending 3 hours in silent meditation in a special room - a whole world of possibilities opened up.

4. Turn Off the Phone/TV/Computer.

I am constantly amazed at how we are expected to be contactable at all times in the modern world.  I find this constant state of being switched on makes it very hard to do deep inner work or even really engage with points 1-3 above.  If you are someone who is getting a never ending stream of texts, tweets and calls then turn off your phone and stop checking the internet.

5. Don't Let Perfectionism Put You Off.

I spend a long time feeling that if I wasn't wearing special robes, setting aside hours for practice and planning and executing elaborate rituals then I wasn't doing it right...and there was no point me trying.  Items 1-4 above felt like cheating to me.  Well I was wrong about all that! 

Starting is the first step - don't waste valuable minutes you could be meditating on feeling guilty you can only manage 5 minutes!

Finding small chunks of time builds up a habit and once spending time in your Spiritual Space becomes a habit then finding time seems to stop being a problem...that is what I have found anyway.

I am always looking for more ways to cheat the clock and find extra space for mindfulness so let me know how you manage it!
Sometimes I wish I had more time to be spiritual but "Life always seems to get in the way".  If you have read my posts on Spiritual Growth here and here you will know I am on a mission to Supercharge my Spiritual Growth.

That means finding time...and finding time means being honest about the phrase "Life gets in the way".

It is times like this I remember an old friend, I'll call him John.

John was studying to be a medical doctor, he ran a Scout unit, was on the board of a charity for children with disabilities, was an active
member of his student union, had a girlfriend that spent lots of time
with, played on a basketball team and maintained close ties with a
group of us old friends and his family.  John was always busy and active and crammed a lot into his life. 

If I met John today I would have sagely said he was a man heading for burn out.   But he never did, he qualified as a doctor, married the same wonderful girlfriend and had a great time throughout.

Many people used to ask John how he managed to cram so much into his life and his story is so relevant to me today. 

John said that people almost always lie when then say they "don't have enough time".  Usually they are lying to themselves.

He explained that it was a simple question of being honest about your priorities and he just prioritised all of his activities over e.g. TV and video games.  John never once suggested TV and video games were less worthwhile activities - he was just clear that, for him, they were low priorities.

Whenever I catch myself longing for a Spiritual Retreat to have *more time* to be with my Inner Self I remember John and I check my priorities. 

It is surprising how much time you can find when you look.  Checking in with yourself like this demands courage but gives you the power of choice.

If I checked in with myself it would probably look like this:

"I want to do more meditation in line with my plan but I just end up watching endless episodes of the West Wing so...

       1.     Am so exhausted from work I need to do something                        brainless?
      2.    Why do I find TV more restful than meditating?
      3.    Is TV really more restful in the long run or do I just think it                 is?
     4.    Is watching lots of TV and not prioritising meditation making             me more stressed and therefore more exhausted?
      5.  If I am exhausted every night for 6 months then am I in the                 wrong work?"

I'm not always great at this and sometimes months go by before I
realise I am mindlessly letting time pass me by.  

I often hesitate to analyse what is happening because sometimes the results can be uncomfortable... like realising you are unhappy working at the job you thought you loved.

But a little bit of thinking is all it takes to sort me out. 

I am constantly surprised at how much Life makes space for Spirit!
Back in part 1 I talked about my growing realisation that I could really direct my Spiritual Growth in exactly the same way I would plan my career or run a business.  Which is not to say I want to take the mystery away...absolutely not!

I just want to organise myself in such an effective way that the mystery can flow more easily.

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 came up with a Plan:

1. Goal Setting

First I needed to work out what I want for my spiritual life.  The options are endless but I want to make sure my goal is something I can really visualise and do something concrete about.

I would like to achieve a full integration of my Life into one seamless, authentic, abundant and Spiritual whole.

To me a goal is something I want to achieve based on who I currently am.  Which is why I think you need to periodically review your goals and check they are still Your goals. I expect around December time I'll review my goal and see if it is still for me.

2.  Strategy

I love strategy!  It sounds terrifying but actually very very simple.  Strategy is just a plan for making your goal happen.  A Spiritual Strategy is making your goal happen in a way which is spiritually fulfilling and mindful.

Looking over my goal I realised my main problem with integrated living is twofold: 

One... I deliberately turn off my spiritual side when I go into the office - logic and rationality are required, joy and glittery fun are a hindrance.

Two... I don't value my office life as much as I should because I have conspired to suck all the shiny, fun and spiritual stuff out of it. 

I think that an integrated life would really flow more easily without these two obstacles.

Both of these things are within my power to change.  What is my strategy for changing them? I decided that my plan for making these changes must have several attributes:

a) action steps
b) be within my power to carry out
c) be clear and achievable
d) translated into my day to day reality.

SARK has this awesome concept of micromovements to get you started on things.  If you want to knit a jumper but can't get started just go and pick up the needles and find the yarn.  After that things just flow.  I am taking the same approach of small steps, easily managed here.

So I came up with this set of actions:

3. Resources

I checked in with myself...Do I have everything I need to achieve what is on my list? 

In this case I do, but I might have wanted some more information or education, support from a friend, a special tarot deck etc.

If so I would have made a list of resources and where I could get them from (but then I *really* love lists!)

4. Checking In.

I can write all the pretty plans I like but if I don't review how I am doing then they will never really happen.  Life will always keep getting in the way.  So lastly I put together a quick, daily/weekly type check-in sheet and diarised weekly time to spend really thinking about my plan and how it is going.

The beauty of this is that I can make my planning sheets completely tailored to fit my life, my dreams and what gets me creatively inspired.
I expect I will go through all the steps again and again and for all sorts of different projects and plans and ideas.  I love the fact that even though I am writing a plan like this it actually increases the amount of time I will spent connecting with the Divine and listening to myself.

I know this is all achingly, simply stuff and some of my learning goes into far more detail and levels of complication.  But I find that simple tools are often the best to start chipping away at your ingrained habits, in the past when I have tried to insist on a regime of 1 hour of meditation and 1 hour of yoga a day I have never maintained it. 

The reason I failed was because the change was too drastic, it didn't suit my life and it wasn't really what I needed to do to achieve the goals I hadn't realised I held. 

Baby steps where I track my progress on brightly coloured worksheets?  That I can work into my life and I'll enjoy it too!

This is an ongoing process for me so I shall be posting back with my results, how my reviewing went and the next set of steps I need to take.

I would love to hear about how others are handling their own spiritual development so drop me a comment below!