My Imbolc sunflower in bloom.
So... down to the nitty gritty review of the Radiant Goddess course.  This is something I have been using to help me keep integrating my body with my mind and soul!

I'll start with a disclaimer…well two disclaimers.

1. These are affiliate links but only because I have been working with Leonie Dawson's material for over a year and have found it genuinely good.

2. I have used the Radiant Goddess course for information and inspiration - I haven't followed it slavishly to the letter.

The ethos of the course is taking a holistic look at a number of different elements of health; from physical to mental to metaphysical. The course has a mixture of recipes, exercises, menu plans and 21 daily videos to keep you inspired and on track.  I really enjoyed the videos and found that they gave me a great little boost and...that little boost is the most important part of any programme for me.  Most of us know what we *should* do to be healthy - eat more fruit and veg, get some exercise, spend some quiet time relaxing etc.  I don't need someone to tell me (yet again) I should eat more fruit and veg - what I find useful is someone inspiring me to eat more fruit and veg.  That is what the course does, it inspires you to push these practices to the top of your To Do list.

The Radiant Goddess course covers areas as daily meditation practice, raw foodism, movement (rather than exercise), drinking plenty of water and taking time for exploring your spirituality. It introduces them in a way which is friendly, encouraging and puts the focus firmly on a holistic and sustainable practice.  Very cool!

What I love about this course is that is helps me establish healthy factors as daily habits (21 days is the length of the course and the magic number of days it takes to establish a new habit).  The course is phrased entirely as a soulful enhancing experience, there is no demanding regime, no beating yourself up and eating a diet which doesn't sustain you. The idea is to incorporate practices which help you shine and don't feel like a punishment.

It is precisely this attitude which I love and which is changing my ideas about my relationship with body and food. Eating to support my body is a far better internal message and cutting out the naughty foods.  Moving in a way which increases my radiance is far more motivating than going for punishing runs which I hate and find stressful.

I eventually found myself judging foods on their taste and nutritional value combined, on how they would support my whole system…including my enjoyment.  Which is not to say that I don't still eat biscuits and drink diet coke (because I still do!) but I now have a Green Smoothie every day, eat far more fruit, veg, sprouts, nuts and less wheat, dairy and meat.  I feel I am moving towards a diet which is more sustainable for my health, the planet but also my spiritual work…and that is really really exciting!

Living the Radiant Goddess way seems to be echoing my favourite part of Doreen Valiente's  Charge of the Goddess.

"All acts of love and pleasure are My rituals."

Treating my body with delightful movement, nutritious living foods and calming meditation is both loving and deeply pleasurable. I suspect I

I was so inspired by the Radiant Goddess Course I even invented my own raw food recipe Chocolate Banana Fudge Balls.  Stay tuned for my next post when I'll share it with you!
How have I managed to be pagan so long without knowing how to draw a basic labyrinth! 

Recently I hosted a Stitch and Witch at my home with invocations to Brigit, great company, great cake and a skills exchange.  I taught sock darning and various aspects of knitting and in return I learned to draw a 7 step labyrinth.  Thank you M!

It is so elegant and simple I want to share it all with you.

1. Starting point.
2. Now draw a connecting loop from the top point of the inner cross shape to the top of the L shape on the right side of the page.
3.  Then working from your left to your right draw loops linking the points of the cross and the points of the L's.  Move out one on each side every time  until all the points have been connected and you have circled the whole Labyrinth.
Just remember that the top of the Labyrinth will be much bigger than the bottom so make sure you take this into account when choosing where start your drawing.

I am so impressed with this technique - I don't draw often and yet I shall always be able to make a Labyrinth, it won't be long because I am embroidering them on prayer flags, icing them on cupcakes and splashing them all over my house. Best of all if I want to lay out a huge Labyrinth in my garden for a ritual working I can just use this template.  Want it to be bigger than 7 steps just keep on adding the L shapes in the four corners.

It couldn't be simpler!

You will be drawing labyrinths on everything for days to come, I promise you.
So I wanted to write more about body-spirit integration. This is such a difficult subject to write about because (especially for women) there are a million myths about how we should look, what we should eat and how we should live. The narratives we hold about food and body are so personal and full of judgment about ourselves and each other.  As a feminist I believe that the stories that Western culture tells about women's bodies are terribly damaging and really diminishes us.

Therefore I know this is territory which should be negotiated sensitively. What extra weight damages my health because of my genes and lifestyle, might be fine and healthy on another person. What healthy foods I can afford, may not be within the reach of someone else.

In our world of abundant junk food making the choices which are "right" for us is really hard.  Most people who are telling you something about food have an agenda and often, that agenda, is selling you something…whether they are selling a Super-sized Mega Burger, gluten-free bread or a weight loss plan.

My belief is that we all need to find a place where we are happy and healthy and that place will be different for everyone. We all have different histories, different environments, different genes so why would one solution fit everyone.  Now I do think that there are some broad principles which apply (as we are all human beings after all!) lots of fresh fruit and veg, not too much fat, protein, vitamins and mineral and exercise.  Living by those principles is really a question of what works for us as individuals. What could be a greater integration than feeding your body according to its individual needs and not according to advertising or guilt.

So this is all really a preamble to saying that when I talk about food and body I only speak for myself.  But hopefully you will find my journey interesting…

My recent journey started with Weight Watchers in September, as I decided to lose weight for my health (I have a history of high cholesterol in my family which I am keen to avoid). It continued with Leonie's Radiant Goddess course.  The first taught me to "respect food" the second taught me that a healthy diet is about consciously eating foods which are nutrient dense - literally feeding your body with great food.  It seems obvious now but how can you function at an intensely spiritual level if you are not keeping your body fed with really nourishing food.  Nourishing not merely filling.

Seeing eating as a form of feeding your spiritual as well as physical body is something which has always resonated with me but discovering the Raw Food Movement recently has made it more and more exciting.

In future posts I want to review and talk more about the Radiant Goddess course (the links will be affiliate links so it that is annoying just walk on by!).

You may remember one of my goals this year was to achieve better
integration of my spiritual and physical lives.

So far things have been going well (despite the lack of blogging!)

I have been getting more comfortable with being open and fluid with my spirituality generally.  In particular I have found walking at
lunchtime has become a cornerstone of my practice.  I take a 50 minute walk by the canal at least 3 sometimes 4 lunchtimes a week.

I use that opportunity to feed:

 - my body with exercise
 - my soul with the rhythm of the water and trees
 - my mind with meditation and space to think away from the internet, phones, people and expectation. 

So far so good.

But a period of ill health and stress in April put a bit of a spanner
in the works.  Nothing too serious but I hit a point where I just
wanted to feel well again.  I came out of that period straight into a
holiday with friends, this was amazing fun and very restful but didn't help me re-establish a healthy routine for getting more integrated. 

Now I am starting to get back into that healthy routine and I am really feeling the benefits.

The reason I am blogging this on a spirituality blog…well this is all
about integration baby!  If my body, mind and spirit aren't all
pulling together then no amount of magick is going to help.  In the
first part of the year I started to merge the two separate areas of my
mind (Work Antara and Spiritual Antara) that has been going well but I have now hit a point where I need to pull my body into line as well.

I have be working on eating more healthily and getting more exercise since September last year and doing well.  But after my holiday I needed to give my body a little extra boost to get over the illness and stress.  So I started by revisting Leonie Dawson's Radiant Goddess course.

This is 21 day course with great videos, recipes, inspiration and
ideas for incorporating more movement in your life.  But above all it
is not a diet, not about punishing yourself but more about including
things in your life which are joyful and supportive.  That is a
philosophy I can really get behind.

More on this coming up!
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!   
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!