meditation

The 12 Sacred Nights of Yule (midwinter)

On the 21st December, I will be celebrating my 39th Sun Return, also known as my birthday! I'm honoured to be born on this day, the Winter Solstice, or Midwinter. Although my birthday was often shaded by the busyness of Christmas, I was fascinated by the date *21-12* and the fact that the night was so long and the day so short. It felt like a special day to me for different reasons... 

Having lived with the Wheel of the Year for the last 10 years I realised more and more what this day is really about. It is truly the darkest day of the year and it is comparable to the New Moon Phase, when the moon is not visible. During the Yuletide (December 20th - December 31st) we are invited to retract, contemplate and explore our inner worlds. 

Nowadays, the period after Midwinter is a time of celebration and gathering, but historically they were a sacred time of silence, reverence, closure and looking forward to the new year. For the people in ancient times, it was the most difficult time of the year, cold, dark, without knowing whether the light would return. Their faith was challenged and to hold the vision of the light of the Sun, candles and fires were lit (a.k.a. Christmas lights!). 

Some of you may be familiar with the 12 Nights of Christmas. Originally, these 12 Sacred Nights were not associated with Christmas but with midwinter, or Yule (that's where Yuletide comes from). 

These 12 Sacred Nights are known for the insights, dreams and visions about the coming year, when we are aware and open to the messages. A lot of these messages come to us through our dreams, where the unconscious mind is thriving. 

Last year, I wrote down the dreams I had on each of these 12 consecutive nights. Each of the 12 nights corresponds to a month of the coming year. I read them back recently, and it’s almost eerie to see that my unconscious mind was already knowing what was going to happen, sometimes in great detail, sometimes through a general theme. It was a year of many changes that I couldn’t have predicted with my conscious rational mind, like quitting my job, finding my purpose, creating a new business, completing a yoga teacher training program, meeting new friends from all over the globe.... 

Looking back, it was in my Yuletide dreams already... 

As a birthday gift to you, I created a workbook, to share with you this powerful tool for accessing your inner knowledge during the 12 Sacred Nights of Yule

You can download the workbook by subscribing here.

I hope it will give you direction and clarity for the new year to come, and that it will help you find more space for yourself, peace and quiet during the frantic days around Christmas.

Blessed Yule! 

Willemijn

An Englishman in New York

That is how I felt yesterday, traveling to Amsterdam for a training. I had to commute for 45 minutes by train and metro, using the busiest commuting lines during the morning hours, changing trains at the city center's financial hub station, Amsterdam Zuid (South). People were rushing by, on their way to work, dressed in corporate suits and high heels, using laptops and phones on the train. Almost nobody made eye contact or looked out of the window. 

I had to wait on a platform and suddenly I had this strange feeling of being in a movie. People around me were fading into sliding lines. I saw myself, standing like a soft pillar of peace and silence between movement and rushing energy, conscious of my surroundings and looking up close from a distance. 

I suddenly felt like an Englishman in New York. 

I speak the language very well. I have lived a similar life myself, traveling by train for years and years, day after day to the same station, studying, working 80 hours a week in the hospital. Moving to another job, the rat race, driving in busy traffic, rushing to the next meeting, making the next deadline. 

Suddenly, standing still in the midst of it all, on the platform, I saw the emptiness of it all. The unconscious movement, sounds, flow of data, people, information, all rushing towards the same deadline. The end of life (because, you know, that's the only deadline everyone will eventually make). 

Thinking about all these people and being conscious of their lives (they must have family, friends, struggles, challenges, homes, household chores and groceries to do), I realized that it is so important to live the life you love. The possibility that all those people rushing by might not be happy with what they do, caused an overwhelming sadness to take a hold of me. 

How can we be more aware of what we are doing? Why are we running so fast? How can we be more mindful of our day?

The simple answer is: PAUSE.

Take a break from your work and breathe deeply, feel into your body, look out the window every now and then (preferably often). Take the next train. Don't 'grab' a coffee but truly enjoy it. Go outside during your lunch break and find a park. Sit on a bench for 5 minutes and watch your surroundings. Connect with someone.

Don't make pausing another task in your busy schedule. Pause, to be mindful and to feel. It helps you make better decisions. And maybe you'll discover that you too are an Englishman in New York. 

 

Full Moon in Capricorn - 9th July 2017

On Sunday July 9th 2017 the Moon will be opposite the Sun (a.k.a. Full Moon) at 6:08 CEST. I'm going to warn you, this one will be intense....

The astrological sign of this Full Moon is CAPRICORN or the Mountain Goat. Capricorn is all about structure, order, responsibility, perseverance and ambition. Don't say to a Capricorn it can't be done, they will show you. Never think a task is too boring, they will complete it. Nothing can stop a Capricorn from climbing up the mountain, step after step, rock by rock, it gets there.

But let's not forget we are humans. And going to far, for too long, or too high, will cause imbalance and thus we may slip. Like me. I'm a Capricorn Rising (which means that Capricorn was the sign on the horizon at my time of birth) and I am very familiar with the Cappy energy of pushing through and completing seemingly impossible tasks and navigating extremely difficult life situations through discipline and structure. But when losing balance, we slip.... in my case leading to burnout. I wrote a blogpost on how to recognise burnout because it's something that happens to so many of us nowadays and it's my mission to raise awareness.

So, how will the energy play out during the coming Full Moon in Capricorn? Well, the Full Moon is always bringing emotions to the surface and there is a need for expressing and releasing them. And that's not really a thing that Capricorn is at ease with. Capricorn is controlling and repressing emotions because it considers feelings a nuisance, a blocking factor on the road to results, and messing up plans and ambitions. With the Sun in Cancer (related to our inner Mother, need for nurturing care and expressing emotions) opposing the Capricorn Moon this can create great inner conflict and polarity. This Moon is also called Thunder Moon, and that says it all...

Two weeks ago during the New Moon in Cancer we set intentions around the theme of nurturing, compassion and self-care. We are going to need this over the coming days.

It is important to process and release the intense emotions that are coming up during this Full Moon weekend. You might feel blocked, it may help to take some time on your own to meditate and feel.
Due to the controlling mode of Capricorn, and the repression of emotions that comes along with it, be careful when connecting to others. It's not unlikely that repressed emotions and inner conflict will try to find a way out. Protect yourself and the people you love by creating some Sacred Alone time. This enables you to navigate and release your emotions rather than acting out and hurting others. It will also protect you from people who are not honouring your personal boundaries. Remember, you are not alone in this, everyone is probably going through the same thing and polarity is never the answer.

Keep an eye on the well-being of children in your life. They are often an easy projection screen for the adults around them who are going through conflict and focussed on boundary setting. Children should not be the victim of these interpersonal dynamics, they deserve our nurturing, unconditional love and care, always.

Journaling might be a good way to unblock your feelings and to tune in to forgiveness. Some journaling prompts that could be helpful are:

  • Where have I been too hard on myself or others?
  • Where am I over controlling the outcome?
  • Do I feel controlled by others? Where do I need to set boundaries in a loving way?
  • In what areas are rules or ambition blocking connection to others?
  • Where can I be more forgiving towards myself and others?

Try to bring as much balance as possible into your life, in order to prevent a rough nosedive from the cliff. This is especially important in work - career versus home - family related imbalances.

Screaming silence

Many positive things can be found about meditation and its effects, in fact so many that it seems to be the solution to everything. But for me, it wasn’t, not naturally, when I ran into a complete burnout. I wanted to meditate and tried many times but I couldn’t do it when I got stuck and it became an impossible task when I was in the depths of the abyss.
The months prior I felt that something needed to happen and I tried to calm myself with meditation attempts. What I didn’t know was that I was already so stressed out that being still in meditation caused the volcanic pressure to rise and overwhelm me. Yoga and relaxation exercises drove me crazy due to the anxiety and stress that came to the surface, causing the opposite to happen. I found myself in a chaotic mind, my thoughts sounded like 6 symphonic orchestras playing in dissonance, a cacophony of noise. I felt like a total failure ‘who couldn’t even meditate’ and I began to skip my weekly yoga classes to prevent myself from going down the vortex of chaos.

When I had to have emergency surgery, the carefully strutted house of cards came down. My body forced me to a stop and for a few weeks, I was only a shadow of myself.

Now, 3 months later, the physical signs of my completely disrupted stress-system are subsiding, and I was able to pick up simple daily activities. I now meditate daily, to tune into myself, feel my body, experience my emotions. This is of great value because I am able to connect to my feelings and act on them. To set boundaries, or allow things to happen, to rest or do something. So much is happening inside of me at this moment that I can’t even begin to describe it all. After 2,5 year in survival mode, it’s so freeing to be connected to my body, my intuition, my emotions. Some things are a recognition of something I once had and lost, other experiences are new and a beautiful discovery. What opened the door to improvement is meditation.

It is not easy for me to explain how my brain went into overdrive every time I put my body in a resting state. What is do know is that it is really important is to be gentle and soft. The system experience disruption, don’t make it worse by overwhelming yourself with something new or strenuous. When you start yoga or meditation or you come back to these practices after a long time or in a state of confusion or overstimulation, be nice to yourself. Don’t practice for too long, 15-20 minutes at most. When you bring awareness to your body it will begin to tell you what is wrong, sometimes it’s traumatic to feel all those things all of a sudden. Remember to be gentle and loving towards yourself and to ease down your practice. Start with 5 minutes of meditation when 15 is too much. Don’t go to a full yoga class but practice just one or two poses for 10 minutes and go from there.

Meditation, yoga and other spiritual practices are possible and provide healing, although sometimes you have to go through the chaos first.