A Pilgrimage and A Class

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A Pilgrimage

May 2017 I get to return to one of my favorite places Scotland and this time I get to take friends and fellow pilgrims with me for the adventure.   I’m going to be teaching as part of Audrey Press Tours  Awakening the Celtic Journey Within:  A Pilgrimage to Scotland May 24-June 5, 2017.   Highlights include Edinburgh, Rosslyn Chapel, Glen Lyon, Isle of Lewis and Callanish Stones and 2 nights on Iona.

http://www.audreypresstours.com.

 

A Class

Sunday July 17-Friday July 22, 2016  I will be teaching a week long class on pilgrimages and sacred sites, Pilgrimage:  A Journey for The Soul at The Great Lakes Retreat, Olivet, Michigan.   The class explores the history, stages, experiences and lessons of pilgrimage.  Each day we will explore sacred sites around the world.    On Thursday I will give a talk on Arriving Home and how to integrate your journey into everyday life.

http://www.thegreatlakesretreat.org

 

 

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Shaker Village

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For most people visions of heaven include pearly gates, streets of gold and jewel encrusted mansions but not in my world. All I have to do is go to Kentucky to find my version of nirvana and it is called Shaker Village. After our lovely time at the Serpent Mound, Val and I fortified ourselves with a latte and retraced our path back to Lexington for the night. I had one more essential pilgrimage stop to make the next day. I needed a Shaker Village fix.

These days I live in my in-law’s home which is decorated in a style I would call High Ostentation but in my heart I prefer a style more like Early Convent. My Taurus/Virgo soul longs for a tidy house with white walls and simple furniture. The Shakers perfected this style and brought it to a high art.

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So who were the Shakers? They were a branch of the Quakers who came to America looking for religious freedom. Lead by Mother Ann Lee, the first communities were started in the late 1700’s and formed around 20 utopian centers with 6000 members at the peak of popularity. These communities were founded on principles of equality for the sexes and races, celibacy and pacifism. Men and women lived separately but worked together and the congregations grew by recruitment since procreation wasn’t allowed. In the early 1900’s the communities stopped taking members and were eventually closed

Spiritually they believe God was both male and female and the imminent second coming of Christ. They worshiped in stark meeting rooms with narrow benches and no pulpit. The service consisted of singing, dancing and ecstatic states of shaking and shouting thus they got the name “Shakers”. They wrote many songs for their worship and the most popular tune is Simple Gifts, immortalized in Aaron Copeland’s work Appalachian Spring.

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The communities were self-sustaining farms and invented many new labor-saving devises. The Kentucky Shakers were know for their brooms and high-quality seeds as well as furniture and weaving. Hard work was important to them so all the communities thrived. They believed that beautifully made simple furniture was an act of prayer. Each building and room was perfectly planned for simplicity, practicality and order and ideal which has had a lasting influence on American design.

Shaker Village in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, is like stepping back in time. On this perfect September day the buildings glowed in the sun with a back drop of purple/blue sky. Pumpkins and corn stocks decorate the stack stone fences and there is just a hint of color in the trees that line the lane; translation—-pure joy. I wandered the buildings looking at the magnificent worn furniture, craft demonstrations, amazing circular staircases and stark perfection. We wandered into the dinning room for corn pudding and buttermilk pie, headed down to the old barn to see the friendly ram and horses and felt the gentle grace of this place frozen in time. During a past visit I sang Simple Gifts in the meeting hall where that song has reverberated thousands of times and I’m thrilled to sing it for myself.

After having our joy quotient filled by two beautiful days in Kentucky. Val and I head back to Tennessee. We don’t have far to go and on the way home we have a long discussion about beauty. We have been bathed in beauty and sacred vibration for two days which has left our hearts singing and our spirits cheerful. Our quick pilgrimage had all the joys of any exotic journey with no jet lag or expensive tickets. So this Fall find a place to pilgrimage close to home and bring beauty and joy to your soul.

http://www.shakervillageky.org

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A Year

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Magnolia blossoms from my yard.

It has been a year now since Alexandra and I finished our grand adventure/pilgrimage on the Camino in Spain. And what a year it has been. You know how certain years stand out in your mind, I have a few: 1994 when I moved to my first house, 1999, the year both girls learned the Bach Double Concerto back to back, 2006, the year Caroline was 16—need I say more, 2013, the year I moved to the farm. A lot of other years are just a blur with nothing note worthy.

My 50th year will go down as a year I won’t forget. Just days after my birthday I headed to Spain and walked 12 miles everyday for 5 weeks until I reached Santiago de Compestela. Each day was a joy and a gift to walk where millions of pilgrims walked with devotion along with great saints like Theresa of Avila and Francis of Assisi. We all walked along the Milky Way path for Compestela means way of the stars.

My prayer everyday on the path was to be strengthened, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I don’t think the people in my life would call me weak but there were life lessons I had not faced and was afraid of.  I wanted to come back a stronger person so I could start the next half of my life ready to take on new challenges and make it as wonderful as the first half. My daughters are grown now and I will forever miss those wonderful years of having them home but I want to keep growing and be productive.

There is a saying on the Camino, “the Camino starts when you get home”. I wasn’t home six weeks when I needed to call on the strength I had so prayed for. In fact I was faced with the very situations that frightened me most—-confrontation and death. First I had to confront a family member who was using the family for their own gain. Somehow I became the front line to protect the family. I’ve never confronted anyone in my life but there I was and the family started calling me Ninja Nancy (my first name). The betrayal went on for months and finally ended badly with the vengeful selling of the family farm in Minnesota. My efforts didn’t change the outcome but I walked away knowing I had fought hard, done my best and there was nothing more I could do. Now there are relationships that are forever lost but many others were strengthened and the bonds even tighter. I still don’t like confrontation but I now know I can do it when needed.

While I was in Spain my father was diagnosed with skin cancer with no available treatment options for his age. We thought he had a couple of years but by January he was getting sicker quickly and so my home turned into a hospice. My father’s mind was so sharp and his will to die consciously so strong that it was my deepest desire to keep him home with his family. With the help of hospice nurses and my brother, who stayed with me a month, I was able to keep him home until he died. Never in my life did I think I had the emotional or physical strength to face such a difficult task. The last few days were incredibly hard but I was able to pull from the strength that I had ask for. I faced what was a truly frightening task for me.

Loss and betrayal, two of the great themes of the human condition. I’ve had both in my life before but never like this past year. I’ve learned to be present with strong emotions in myself and in others. In the past I would run at the least bit of unhappiness. But it is ok that happiness isn’t in every experience, sometimes the courage to face the loss without losing oneself is all the spirit and soul wants.

The High Priestess

The High Priestess

 

I think it was in 1995 that I first became aware of the Tarot.   A friend suggested that the High Priestess archetype was waking up in me.   I had no idea what that meant so I went searching and somehow had a vague idea that it had something to do with the Tarot.   All I knew was the Tarot was part of the forbidden world of “the Devil’s workshop” bringing eternal damnation to those who use it. I worked through my fears of a fiery inferno and bought a book called Living the Tarot by Amber Jayanti.   I devoured the book and still use it as a treasured reference.  No longer afraid for my eternal soul, I realized the healing and wisdom of  the High Priestess and  never looked back.

The High Priestess is the lunar goddess with the waxing, full and waning moon as her crown. She has the crescent moon at her feet showing her receptiveness to the subconscious.   The moon holds the power of the tides, and this quiet and gentle goddess holds the power of the subconscious.   Her beautiful blue dress becomes the river flowing to the ocean of the unconscious, the Divine Mind where we originate.

It is in silence that we access the subconscious, the place where the Great Mysteries lie dormant until we realize that our busy and noisy lives keep us from entering the inner worlds. These mysteries, the Wisdom of the Ages, are accessed between the two pillars, Boaz and Jachin, the entrance to Solomon’s Temple.

Our goddess holds the Torah, the book of law, the Akashic Record where knowledge and experiences are recorded; she doesn’t have to look at this book because she has a perfect memory.   She holds the key to memory which is to sit quietly and let the remembrance of the eternal rise to the surface.

We use the Tarot as a system for recall; the 22 pictures of the Major Arcana go directly to our subconscious to help us remember the wisdom in the soul’s journey.   When we remember we recreate like Isis “remembering” Osiris back to life.   The High Priestess is Isis, Sophia, the Virgin Mary, beautiful, pure, quiet wisdom.

Call on the High Priestess to help you break subconscious patterning, cope with painful memories, worrisome situations or to become more neutral and therefore receptive.   As you mature you will move from being controlled by unconscious behaviors to tapping into the world of the subconscious through mediation, self-reflection and deep silence.

I’m glad I was able to step over the threat of hell fire and my unconscious conditioning to open the doors wide for the wisdom of the High Priestess. She has been a constant companion in my life.   When my girls where little I use to sing them to sleep with this goddess lullaby:

We all come from the goddess

And to her we shall return,

Like the drop of rain, flowing to the ocean.

 

Camino Day 36

We started the day with a cuddle from this sweet little one.  She and her many siblings were in a yard next to the hotel. She kept following us around for more love. It was hard to leave her behind.

kitten

By mid-morning we were in Melide where we had a snack, got some tissues and more money. The local delicacy is octopus- “pulpo.”  They boil it in large vats in the restaurant window to entice you in. There is probably nothing in the world that could entice me to eat boiled octopus  so we headed on down the road for a tomato and cheese sandwich instead.

We walked through more lovely tree lined lanes and over this rock bridge. There are many eucalyptus forests that smell amazing.

foot bridge

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The trail got much more crowded today as larger groups are now walking the last 100 km.  It has change the atmosphere some and makes beds harder to find but it is part of it. We were able to find a lovely Albergue and shared a room with six French women.  I was lucky enough to be first in line for the washing machine.

stone house

We found friends we hadn’t  seen in many day and ate dinner together, swapping trail stories and talked of our lives before the trail. We don’t have any idea how are lives will be after we finish, probably not obviously different but I know my appreciation of life and the simple things is forever changed. Everything on the trail is brought down to the simplest form; clothes, food, sleep, friendship all wrapped up in the beautiful package of the natural world.

stone bridge

Camino Day 35

The morning started with a light misty rain which soon lifted. We stopped for second breakfast then elevenses before finally having lunch with some American friends.  I treated all to Spanish hot chocolate which is the consistence and taste of hot pudding.  Thick and rich, a little went a long ways but was delicious .

The afternoon part of the walk was by this charming ancient church and this adorable hobbit house.

ancient church

hobbit house

The last few miles were on these beautiful tree lines lanes, next to wild flower meadows, with mountains in the distance.  Combine that with my sweet daughter just ahead and a soundtrack and I had a bit of bliss.

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We had booked a hotel ahead and I was very glad of it. Turns out I have a bit of a cold so an afternoon nap was needed. My cough was worse so I was relieved I wouldn’t disturb a whole Albergue. The room had old stone walls with a niche and tiny  windows with green shutters and lace curtains, so charming.

Just three more days and 60 km for 36 total days of walking.   We hate for it to be over and yet at the same time are ready to reach Santiago. The good news is the Camino will be part of us for the rest of our lives.

Camino Day 34

I was happy to leave the grim Albergue and get some eggs and toast at the bar next door.   We reserved a much nicer place for the night.

Portimarin

By mid-morning we crossed this beautiful lake into the town of Portomarin. We had coffee, visited the church and got a stamp, saw this pilgrim statue and got a few groceries for a picnic lunch.

Pilgrim

The walk today was nice but had times of really smelly barnyards. These unique small buildings are everywhere.  We tried to guess what they are used for but finally asked. The farmers use them to dry corn. We found a cow willing to be petted and of course the usual cat worship.

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We stopped and had a picnic lunch of cheese, sausage and bread which we shares with a fellow traveler.  We then continued on together talking about opera when we came across this lovely spontaneous art instillation where I added my bit.

Pilgrim art

By 3:00 we were at our nice Albergue  The room had a view of sheep so later I was able to finally have a sheep and lamb encounter. One mama sheep was so friendly and insisted we keep petting her.

sheep encounter

Alexandra found made some friends her age and enjoyed their shared experiences.    I shared a picnic with my friends. I unfortunately have more allergy problems so had to manage another cough but I was tired enough to sleep well. Not so sure about my fellow roommates, a bit of revenge on the snorers.