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Imbolc means “in milk” or “in the belly”. It refers to the time of lactation for livestock in preparation for the birthing of baby animals in the spring. On Feb. 1, in this time between winter solstice and spring equinox, Imbolc is the celebration of newness, the promise of fertility, new life and new hope. Please click here to continue reading about Imbolc and the Feast of Brigid.
Imbolc means “in milk” or “in the belly”. It refers to the time of lactation for livestock in preparation for the birthing of baby animals in the spring. On Feb. 1, in this time between winter solstice and spring equinox, Imbolc is the celebration of newness, the promise of fertility, new life and new hope. Although the stirrings of spring may not yet be apparent, we are assured there is a quickening underneath the surface of things and in the womb of Mother Earth. While we are still amidst the season of winter that may appear lifeless, we feel the promise of the return of the light and renewal of life. We don’t see the symbolic snowdrop blooming in our part of Canada at this time of year, but I’ve included a picture for us to look forward to.
Feb. 1/2 is also known as the Feast of Brigid (Brighid, Brigit), one of the four fire festival days from the old Irish calendar. Brigid was a fire goddess in ancient Irish mythology and associated with fire and any fire symbolism, including light, candles, heat warmth or sunrises. She is considered the patroness of poetry, metal working, medicine, arts and crafts, cattle and other livestock and spring. Brigid is mother and protector of crops, pregnancy and sexuality. Thus the festival of Imbolc was a festival of lights and celebrated as the return of the sun to ensure fertility in the coming season.
In Christianity, Feb. 1 is observed as the feast day of Saint Brigid or Candlemas. Candlemas is a mass in honour of the lights of the church and old wax and partially burned candles would be removed and replaced with new, blessed candles. Saint Brigid is celebrated for her generosity to the poor and lived from 451 to 525. She founded the sanctuary in Kildare as well as a school of art, including metal work and illumination. The nuns maintain her perpetual, sacred flame at Kildare, except at those times in history that the flame was extinguished.
The Feast of Brigid is celebrated with hearth fires and special foods, many including dairy products such as butter or milk (season of calving). On Imbolc Eve, Brigid is said to visit households and bless the inhabitants as they sleep. Before going to bed, items of clothing or strips of cloth would be left outside for Brigid to bless. The fire ashes would be raked smooth and in the morning people would look for some kind of mark on the ashes as a sign that Brigid had visited. The clothes or strips of cloth would be brought inside, and believed to now have powers of healing and protection. Other traditions involved the making of Brigid’s crosses and doll-like figures of Brigid.
So, however you want to celebrate Feb 1 and the early stirrings of spring and longer days of light, you may want to try out these following recipes from http://circleofthesacredmuse.com/celebrations/imbolc/.
Bailey’s Irish Cream Truffles
1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur
1 Tbs. Butter
12 oz. Semi-sweet chocolate pieces
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup heavy cream
powdered sugar or cocoa
Melt chocolate pieces, Bailey’s and cream together over very low heat. Whisk in yolks, one at a time-mixture will thicken. Whisk in butter. Refrigerate several hours or overnight until firm. Make small balls with a teaspoon. Roll in powdered sugar or cocoa.
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Warm milk–DO NOT BOIL. Add honey and vanilla. Mix together and pour into a mug. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
And I will leave you with a poem found at the above source to keep Brigid in mind.
Kindling The Fire
This morning, as I kindle the flame upon my hearth, I pray that the flame of Brigid may burn in my soul and the souls of all I meet today.
I pray that no envy or malice, no hatred or fear may smother the flame.
I pray that indifference and apathy, contempt and pride may not pour like cold water in the flame.
Instead, may the spark of Brigid light the love in my soul that it may burn brightly through the day.
And may I warm those that are lonely, whose hearts are cold and lifeless, so that all may know the comfort of Brigid’s love.
How do you plan to take care of yourself this year? This may include physical ideas like diet and exercise, but think about how you take care of yourself emotionally and mentally too. What do you include in your schedule for self-care? First of all, yes, you must plan for it. In our busy lives we often forget about ourselves as we take care of others in our lives, whether that includes parents, children or spouse. Before we know it another day is over and we sit numbly watching television because we are too tired to do anything else and fall into bed exhausted. So schedule some self-care into the calendar with the kid activities and grocery shopping. See the picture “50 Ways to Take a Break” for some ideas to look after yourself. Self-care may also include an energy treatment, a naturopath visit or spending time with friends or reading a book.
We need to take care of ourselves emotionally. Don’t do things that don’t feel right as mentioned in the picture “12 Steps to Self-Care”. Also speak your mind in a positive manner so that your feelings don’t stay submerged and eat away at you. Emotions and thoughts are energy and if you don’t release the emotions that cause you harm they may cause health concerns later on. And as the old saying goes, what goes around comes around. Radiate happiness, love, gratitude and joy to continually receive. The word radiate reminds me of Jack Johnson’s song by the same name. Check out the lyrics.
So instead of making a resolution that may be hard to keep, perhaps make an affirmation such as those found in the affirmation tree by Paul Foreman. See his website for more mindmap ideas for happiness or relaxation. Whether you call it an affirmation or inspiration or aspiration, keep yourself in mind and remember your self-care. Enjoy some quotes about self-care and especially read the poem about why you need to take care of yourself.
“Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”
– Lucille Ball
He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.
– Arabian Proverb
“Don’t sacrifice yourself too much, because if you sacrifice too much there’s nothing else you can give and nobody will care for you.”
– Karl Lagerfeld
”Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.”
– Christopher Germer
A Blessing for One Who Is Exhaunsted
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
The ride you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.
You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learned to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
— John O’Donohue (1954 – 2008)
How to Be Assertive Without Alienating Others
Asking for what you want and need—and setting boundaries around what you don’t want—is a key life skill. But sometimes in our enthusiasm to practice this skill, we over-do our own assertiveness and end up with a partner, family member or friend who shuts down, gets angry or feels resentful. Don’t let the stress of the holidays cause issues. Here are four tips for developing your assertiveness in a way that will actually strengthen, deepen and enrich your relationship—thus avoiding the “alienation trap”:
- Get Clear.
Being assertive starts with knowing what you are—and aren’t—willing to be, do, or have. For many of us, coming to this knowledge is a real task unto itself. Here, it may be useful to ask: “In an ideal world, what would I like to happen?” Focusing on an ideal outcome opens our minds, prevents us from falling into passivity or “victim-thinking,” and helps us get really clear on what we want and don’t want.
- Set Boundaries.
Once you know what outcome you need (or want), share it with your family/friend. Pay attention to the way stating your boundary feels in your body. With practice, you can actually sense when you’re hitting the “sweet spot.” It can feel really pleasurable, even exhilarating, to express your needs or desires out loud. Phrases like “such and such doesn’t work for me” are simple ways of being assertive while maintaining connection with the other person.
- Make a Regular Habit of Stating Your Needs and Desires.
You can build your assertiveness the same way you build any muscle: exercise. Practice speaking up about your needs, big or small, on a daily basis. When you speak up about things that are less controversial—such as where to go to dinner, requesting help unloading the dishwasher or what TV program to watch—both you and your family get used to your assertiveness. It becomes easier for you to practice and for your partner to hear. Also, when bigger issues come along, you and your family will have a healthy process in place for dealing with differences in needs, and you’ll have greater confidence in the resilience of your relationship.
- Give as Much as You Get.
Assertiveness is a two-way street. If you want your boundaries to be respected, you must return the courtesy to the other person. When it comes to following through on a person’s reasonable request, actions really do speak louder than words. Please respect each other.
Author’s content used under license, © 2011 Claire Communications
And here are some more ideas to keep in mind this holiday season.
Happiness Comes From Love & Gratitude
Fortunately, happiness is really inexpensive and pretty simple to find, but that doesn’t mean that it comes easily. However, if you’re bold, and truly willing to commit to a few simple steps, happiness will be yours in just a short while.
1. Quit Complaining.
The first step to finding happiness is to stop trying to find what’s wrong with the world around you. There’s plenty to complain about, but if you focus all of your attention there, you’ll never see the good stuff.
2. Choose To Live In Love.
Falling in love with the world (and people) around you is a sure step toward happiness…and it’s easy. Simply accept people for who they are, and choose to see the good in them. Don’t expect it…CHOOSE it…then express it.
3. Appreciate Everything.
Start expressing your gratitude every day. If you’d like, keep a gratitude journal and write down at least 3 things you’re grateful for every morning. Before long, you’ll have more things to appreciate than you can count.
Becoming happy may mean “looking like a fool” or changing A LOT of your current habits, but I promise you…it sure beats the alternative.
What can YOU do to create more happiness in your life TODAY?
Are You Grateful for Clarity?
Feeling grateful has been something that I have been feeling everyday, especially in the last while. I have been practicing more mindful meditation of as late since I kept feeling the need to slow down and be more aware of things. In this type of meditation one is aware of body sensations and any emotions that arise, a great way to stay in the present moment. I’ve been asking for clarity on many levels, whereas physically I’ve been waiting to learn when I would be having cataract surgery. Since I am not yet 50 years of age, the eye doctors keep asking me what head trauma I’ve experienced; none that I can remember. After a 7 month long wait to see the surgeon I learned that the cataract in my right eye was close to being severe enough that I was on the verge of losing my license. No wonder I have been avoiding driving at night in the last months. But I was grateful that cataract surgery is a fairly simple surgery in this day and age with a good chance of success. I was scheduled for surgery in December and was thinking that sight would be a great Christmas gift. On Oct. 18, date of the last full moon and a day on which I was teaching a Reiki class, I received the message saying that there was a cancellation the next week. The shift of energy that occurred for me was tremendous with a great feeling of joy. I felt so much lighter and excited with the possibilities.
The eye surgery went well (with a little energy help from friends) and I felt so excited during the procedure. Although my brain is still getting used to this interim vision with one eye being near sighted and the newly done eye now far sighted, I am so grateful for the clarity. I am gaining clarity of physical vision plus clearness at other levels of my life. Although I can’t wait to get my other eye done (hopefully there is another cancellation before December), I am still processing what I’ve learned. Even though I will be very dependent on reading glasses after these eye surgeries, I will be forever grateful for the gift of sight. Have a listen to my “theme song”: http://youtu.be/FscIgtDJFXg.
I have also been participating in the Women Together Life Coaching Program. I continue to learn about myself and strive to reach my goals in many areas of my life. The Personal Growth Event that I recently participated in was Equine Facilitated Learning at Full Circle Ranch with The Coaching Room. Working with the energy of the horses we endeavoured to stay in the present moment, as that is how the horses exist (a reminder about mindfulness). Horses mirror our true selves and feelings. Horses are always thinking about whether they are safe, just as we humans have the need to feel safe in our environment. We had a discussion about vulnerability and how the horses are vulnerable but strong; a good lesson for us about how it is okay to be vulnerable. Definitely a lesson I am working on. Oh, and did I mention how the one horse licked my hand? In shamanic work the transfer of body fluids such as saliva give the gift of the energy of that animal so I received horse medicine. Horse traditionally brings the energy of freedom and I’ve worked with horse shamanically for many years so it was a great experience to work with horse in ordinary reality.
So as I gain clarity in many aspects of my life through circumstances, meditation, life coaching and energy work I am forever grateful for the opportunities to learn and to grow. Make sure that you slow down to appreciate the nuances of life that arise.
Here’s an article that echoes some of my advice:
You Were Born To Shine
Over time, fear, exhaustion & shame can dim the brightest of lights, and that is why we must, at all times do what we can to keep that flame inside burning bright, choose the path of light and love, and allow our brilliance to be seen.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tools that you can use to rekindle your spark every day, and here are just a few to help you out.
- 1. Express your gratitude daily.
Tell the people around you that you appreciate them. Give thanks for the food you eat and the roof that you sleep under. Smile. Gratitude magnifies your feelings of goodwill, helping you stay focused on the good stuff.
2. Exercise often.
Sweating and moving for just 20 minutes a day has been clinically shown to improve your mood & boost your health. Try a yoga class, ride your bike around town, or go for a swim, and you’ll easily chase away the grumps.
3. Meditate every morning.
Spending time in silence reconnects you with your source of self-awareness, self-assuredness & happiness. It’s also been shown to greatly reduce stress & improve communication.
What can YOU do to shine a little brighter TODAY?