All marriages end. Whether by death, divorce or old-fashioned neglect, the rose-hued dreams we had for Happily Ever After become eroded in the passage of time. To love is to risk. Who here hasn’t gambled on love? And if we knew that someday it all would end, would we have taken even a single step in the direction of our dreams?

 

We’re just walking through life, minding our own business (although, increasingly, people are actively searching for love online), when slap bang onto our path walks someone who turns our head. Kapow! Gotcha! Whatever direction it was we thought we were walking in, suddenly changes. Our worlds collide, and in time we’re setting up home or having babies or travelling the world together. One thing’s for sure: when ‘the one’ comes along, most of us will tilt our world sideways to ensure longevity. Compromise after compromise after compromise. Afterall, why wouldn’t we want that wonderful feeling of love to last forever? (well, whatever ‘forever’ actually means in mortal terms)

 

The wedding industry is huge. As a wedding celebrant, my focus is purely on the ceremony and what I can bring to help a couple set the scene for their vows, promises and pledges. I bring my whole heart to this role, and in that wholeheartedness my deepest wish is that their intentions come to fruition.

 

 

But what of those at the other end of marriage? Where is the ‘industry’ (apart from greedy lawyers and divorce courts) or support systems to cushion those who find themselves walking out the other end of marriage – alone – their dreams crushed into the dust? Where are all the well wishers then? Why isn’t there a support team to help you move along with the next chapter/s of your life? Because it’s not pretty, that’s why!

 

When someone is widowed, sure, there’s the funeral, but what of the support for the person who is now living without the daily companionship of their beloved? The bottom line is that there is no one to fill that void. The loss of that vitality and life force that their loved one brought into their lives is akin to an earthquake. The landscape is forever changed. There are support groups for widows and widowers, but it seems to me that, as a culture, we simply don’t have the cushioning needed for this bookend.

And then there are people like myself who, for whatever reason, come to the end of what may well have been a long and happy marriage, and then find themselves separating. Not only does a marital separation of the couple ‘least likely to split’ terrify your friends and have them running in the opposite direction in case it somehow illuminates the fault lines in their own marriage, it also leads to people assuming the one who did the leaving is ‘ok’. The one who is ‘left behind’ is to be pitied and rallied around. It’s not surprising, really, given the litigious culture we live in. We’re virtually raised on the blame game from the get go.

I can hand on heart say, from my own experience, that grieving for a person who is still alive is even more painful that grieving for someone who is dead.

 

 

As a woman, wife, mother and celebrant, I have done enormous soul searching over the past 20 or so months since that first moment I became aware of the inner turmoil looming within me. It’s torn my heart in half over and over. If my husband had been a bad person, or had done something wrong, maybe this path I’ve walked might have been easier. I don’t know. All I know is that I’d irrevocably changed following my dearest friend’s suicide on Christmas Day 2016.

To those who ‘gossip’ that I’m okay and looking good, here’s the truth: I’m not! I just have an ability to know what my needs are and how to tend to my wounds in silence. Solitude is my healer. It always has been.

 

As a celebrant, I’ve offered divorce ceremonies right from the outset. People used to laugh and think I did it for ‘repeat’ business. That one day my wedding clients would come to me to be undone. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I am a hopeless romantic (the unpublished romance novels on my laptop are proof enough of that), and do still dream of happily ever after, if not for me, then for every other person walking this earth with that longing. I’m also realistic and know that humans are deeply complex. My own evolution is also teaching me constantly, and as a result my work has to evolve alongside my personal life. In the past, I’ve always felt strongly that a divorce ceremony should involve both parties. I now see that a Parting of the Ways ritual shouldn’t be denied to someone because their ex-spouse isn’t willing to take part or has blanked them.

 

Forgiveness doesn’t require the other person’s permission. To forgive is to free ourselves.

I am so grateful for the 23 years of stability, kindness, love, laughter and care (and the awesome daughters we raised together) that I enjoyed in my relationship. At no level of my being do I see our parting as a failure, though that doesn’t stop the pain of separation. Honouring the change of nature in our relationship is something, that to my mind, doesn’t require a piece of paper from the government.

Into the depths of the woods I shall enter, and true to my nature as a solitary practitioner of healing, I will allow the wisdom and wonder of Mother Nature to be the altar upon which I heal this bone-deep loss. I trust in her to allow my ‘ceremony for one’ to bring both of us a soothing balm that will echo through time and space and love. And maybe, just maybe, my intentions for peace, love, harmony and forgiveness will heal others, too.

“When words are inadequate, have a ritual.”

 

Years ago, I came across the most beautiful postcard of a gorgeous wild-garden scene, with the words: The meaning of life is…  The answer (if there was one) would have been written where the crumbled part of the stone wall was in the picture. It infuriated me. My curiosity really, really, really wanted the answer.

I’ve often been asked the question “What is the meaning of life?” I don’t have the answer, but I do have a pretty good sense of something else.

 

The meaning of life is found in the meaning we give it. Some people can stand under trillions of stars which twinkle in the night sky and feel insignificant, and others, like myself, go “wow, I’m part of all that!”

If you’re a deep thinker, it is easy to become overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, despondent and a host of other feelings when seeking the meaning of life. Some belief systems suggest that we’re here to learn. That life on earth is like ‘school’ for the soul, and every painful experience is a lesson in our evolution. I believed that for a long time. It certainly helps to put brackets around shitty life events. “Oh, it’s a learning experience!” As if, somehow, that makes the death of a child or friend or spouse easier. As if calling an event a ‘learning experience’ helps someone whose house has burnt down or marriage has ended or they’ve discovered they have a life-limiting illness. It’s about as helpful as using the Law of Attraction against someone when they’re going through a tough time by saying “why did you create that?”

 

Now, I do happen to believe in (and practise) the Law of Attraction but not as a tool to beat someone up with. For me, it’s a way to look into the heart of things.

 

Reframing life, and how we live, experience and react to life, and what makes us feel most ALIVE, does become a truly creative act, thereby you do create your reality.

To create a beautiful life or a hand-crafted life means slowing right down. It’s living life at the pace of a toddler whereby you deliberately take time to smell the flowers, touch the flowers, admire the flowers, and become one with their beauty.

The meaning of life is found in the detail. As humans we tend to look at the big picture of our days, rather than zoom right in on the details and moments which bring magic.

 

What was the last meal you ate? Do you remember the taste sensation? Were you conscious of how alive each mouthful made you feel? Maybe you can’t remember because you were scrolling through your Facebook feed or watching the news or chatting with someone so intently that you paid no attention to each mouthful.

 

What smells are in the room you’re in right now? Is there an aroma, scent, or pong? If your answer is that there is no smell sensation, then stop, close your eyes, and breathe deeply. As far as possible, close down your other senses and focus on what your nose is absorbing about your environment.

How do the clothes you’re wearing (unless you’re naked in bed between cool, clean sheets) feel upon your skin?

 

What sounds are filling your space? The ticking of a clock? Your favourite record? A baby hiccupping? Wind against the window pane? Onions sizzling in a pan? Your breath? Your heartbeat?

 

When you look up from your screen, what do you see around you? Really see for a few moments. Let your eyes rest on something, and take time to see what this item means to you.

Life can become routine and humdrum when we don’t pay attention. We get up, eat, go to work, come home, read a book or watch tv, get bombarded by negative news stories, eat dinner, go to bed. Day in day out. If you’re existing on the hamster wheel of life, the question ‘what is the meaning of life?’ can drive you over the edge. Sometimes it’s better not to ask, but to have another glass of wine instead. Work harder, drink more, and for goodness’ sake, don’t ask the question.

But, what if? What if, by considering each day (and moment) of your life as a Sacred Ceremony, whereby you infuse it with love, intention, ritual and heightened awareness, you created the answer to the very question: what is the meaning of life?

 

Here. Here it is! Here’s the meaning of life: it rests upon deep-level genuine gratitude for inhabiting a physical body so that you can enjoy the rich beauty that being upon this earth has to offer.

 

Maybe it begins when you catch the light of the Moon slipping into your bedroom at midnight, and steal out of bed so that you can head to the window and drop onto your knees in reverence for her light.

 

Perhaps it is in those early morning moments when the birds begin to call out to each other, and their happiness offers a balm to your heart. Your eyes open to the glorious sunshine bathing the earth and spilling across your bedsheets.

 

Maybe it’s when your kids cuddle up beside you for a morning hug, or when your partner brings a cuppa to you so you can enjoy it in bed.

 

What about when you stand beneath the hot, steamy shower washing your hair, and letting any cares disappear down the drain? You don’t think that’s meaningful? Like any other thing we do, or experience, in our daily life, it has the potential to be deeply meaningful. The meaning is discovered in our observance of such ‘rituals’.

If you live life on rote, and don’t bring conscious awareness to every action, thought and feeling, then it is highly likely that life won’t feel meaningful.

But slow down…slow right down…and you’ll notice every little flower, and bumble bee, and clock tick, and your own heart beat. The meaning of life is everywhere. It’s simply everywhere!

 

You might look out the door and see the green lawn, but zoom in. What do you see now? Thousands upon thousands of individual blades of grass are reaching towards the light. How miraculous and normal is that?

 

Trees are all around this earth, but have you ever stopped and touched one? Just placed your hand or heart against it and felt the miracle of its strength and majesty? If ever there was a way to fast-track your sense of awe for life, it is by communing with a tree.

 

I had an apple for breakfast. An organic Royal Gala (my favourite). Every mouthful of sweetness, as I crunched it between my teeth, tasted beautiful and nourishing. Eating an apple or two a day is normal for me, but no less meaningful because of its familiarity. Eating a plant-based diet makes me particularly conscious of food (though it may just be my personality), and I’m always aware of how long it takes anything to grow. Just because food is so readily available in shops doesn’t take away my gratitude or respect that an apple, mango, green leaf, etc., hasn’t just instantly appeared. It may have begun as a flower which then faded away and grew into a fruit, vegetable and so on, but the miracle of it appearing in my life for me to dine on, is something that is at the heart of all that I’m grateful for in this life. The life-force these foods carry (distilled sunshine) becomes at one with my body. It is deeply meaningful to me. This is such a joyous time as the first leaves in my veg patch become part of my meals. I’ve tended to them each day, offering them water as they grow towards the sunshine while stretching the roots down below. I’ve been their cheerleader!

 

Music nourishes my soul and is always deeply therapeutic. With the switch of a button the radio or record player can go on, and a mood can be enhanced and energised. Again, is this a miracle or is it so normal that we don’t think about it?

 

The woodland nature reserve, which skirts the edge of the land I live on, is a bird-lover’s paradise. Go deep enough into the woods and you become so enchanted by the variety of birdsong. Their passion for life is intoxicating! You can’t help but feel alive. And for me, this IS the meaning of life. We are here to experience joy. To live in the magic! The further we distance ourselves from the energetic field of mother earth, the less meaningful we find our lives.

When we become dismal about life it is almost certainly because we’ve short-circuited our attention to witnessing the beauty around us, and our soul becomes deadened.

 

Observing various friends recently, I am in awe of their life paths and the meaning they are giving their lives, whether it’s through working in a Vietnamese orphanage for a couple of weeks, wild swimming in the river every morning before work, heading to Morocco with their young daughter, writing a novel, creating a new business venture, photographing the world around them, growing a wildflower garden, sewing clothes for their children, handwriting letters to friends, taking their dog for a walk to the woods each day, and more.

When we feel beaten over the head by life, through health issues, divorce, job loss, financial stress, the eroding of friendships, etc., we can become stuck in a bog of inertia. How can we possibly step out of this and ‘find meaning’ when we are flat on the floor? The bottom line is (to quote something I heard once), “the brain is a prison built out of bullshit”. Most of us have had such ridiculous conditioning in one form or another. We can’t possibly hope to change the course of our life if we keep thinking the same old thoughts. No matter how crap life feels, by hook or by crook we need to change our thinking and the most effective way to do that is by looking for things to be grateful for, and stating “I am so grateful for…” Really stepping into full gratitude (regardless of where you’re at in life) changes your energetic vibration. From this we find the courage and strength and desire to start thinking in another way. Someone near to me broke their neck and it brought an end to work and pretty much everything else. He could have fallen into victim mode and sat twiddling his thumbs all day, but instead he found ways to make the best of a crap situation. As a result, he learnt to paint. He’s now an incredible artist.

 

Adversity can lead to break down or break through. It all starts with a thought. From the thought comes a desire. From desire a creative feeling emerges that has the Universe rushing in to support us.

 

So, acknowledging where you are is the place to start. Give thanks that you are able to identify this place. Look at how far you’ve come in life. Be grateful for every success you’ve had in life. This is your stepping stone. Step on it and bounce, jump or hop, but whatever you do, let it support you.

How we fill ourselves ~ that is, how we NOURISH ourselves ~ is the well upon which we then draw up the vibrancy for a charmed life. It doesn’t come from other people, but is something we give to ourselves. Ask yourself, “How can I slow down today?” “Where can I put my attention?”

 

Instead of shovelling down your next meal, really attune to every aspect of it: taste, touch, smell, the sound when you’re eating it, and connect with the journey of where it began life and how it is serving you right now. This level of mindfulness can be used for any aspect of your life, not just food.

 

Slow down.

Slow down.

Slow down.

 

And then…look, breathe in, touch, feel it in your heart, and fully engage your senses.

 

To live a sensory life is to live a rich life. And guess what? A life lived in this way is deeply meaningful.

 

Do you remember that power ballad by Bonnie Tyler called Holding Out For a Hero? She sings ‘where have all the good men gone?’ Those lyrics went through my head as I lay awake most of last night and the night before, tossing and turning like a volatile tornado ripping through buildings.

One of the many things I try to do as a celebrant is foster a sense of calm within myself so that no matter what is happening around me, I can create a space for others that encircles and helps them to feel like they’re in a safe space for the ceremony. Within my personal life, I augment this with plenty of solitude, walks in the woods, and quiet time/meditation. And yet, for the past few days I’ve felt nothing but turbulence rocketing through my underworld. Ghosts that I’d thought were long laid to rest came hurtling up, and I found myself raging (in an internal, ‘keep it to yourself like a good girl’ sort of way) in a manner that quite terrified me. The truth is that no matter how much we reach towards the light, personally and professionally, we each have within us a ‘darkness’. Denial of that is one of the greatest toxins we face.

My deepest nurturing comes in the silence, and I’ve sure needed that these past few days. I remind myself that endarkenment, surely, is just as essential as enlightenment. Light and Dark. Day and Night. Yin and Yang. Black and White.

It was a lazy Sunday morning when I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed to see my younger daughter’s blog:

http://elizaserenarobinson.com/the-hardest-story-to-tell/

(note: many acts/offences have been removed from when this blog post was first published, but what remains gives a clear picture of what she endured)

I read it slowly, the fear rising far more quickly than the speed with which my eyes travelled across the screen.

I wanted to scream.

I wanted to kill.

Me, the pacifist!

How f****** dare he?!

I wanted to kill him, and I wanted to kill every man who’d ever violated me in my lifetime.

And while I was at it: all the men who’ve ever violated women since the dawn of Mankind (where did the ‘kind’ originate from?) People mutter about too many women getting on the #metoo bandwagon. They’re on there for a damn good reason! Let them have their voice. Shout it from the rooftops. We can’t change things if we don’t speak up.

 

I was undone. All calmness and serenity vacated. Where was all this anger coming from? I shocked myself with the poison bubbling through my bloodstream. I thought I’d laid this shit to rest years ago. In fact, I remember the defining moment when Graham (a wonderful New Thought Minister and friend I worked with at the time ~ and the only man, up until then, that I’d ever trusted) said “Veronika, you’ve got to stop believing all men are bastards if you want to see something different show up in your life.”

It was like a massive laser light turned on.

He was right. It was so obvious. However, I’d spent about twenty five years of my life with that constant little mantra running through my head “all men are bastards”.

Why would I have such a thought? My dad mostly worked overseas so I rarely got to see him (and he never abused me), but there were men constantly in my life that, over and over again, did sexually violate me. The first incident (at least I presume it was the first) was when I came home from kindergarten (aged three) telling my mother of something a male staff member did to me. I have NO memory of this at all. What I do know is that my mother said that when she approached the kindergarten they unceremoniously sent her away saying ‘nothing like that would happen here’. I guess that was my first experience of ‘not being heard’. That what happened to me ‘didn’t matter’.

 

I had an experience a few weeks ago, just after I moved into a place on my own, when a well-known womaniser in our community sent me a message asking for ‘coffee and counselling’. Said man has a long-term partner. I recommended a counsellor, and suggested he get coffee at Costa, to which he replied “Yeah, but the staff at Costa don’t have breasts like yours!” I erased his toxicity from my phone, and blocked him from messaging me, but now I wonder if I should have screenshot the message to put on his Facebook timeline or sent it to his girlfriend. Might have cured him from doing it to anyone else! By keeping quiet, I simply perpetuate his need and greed to have ‘anything that moves’.

 

I’ve had a couple of creepy men try to come on to me in the past few years, saying inappropriate things, but other than those incidents I’ve been lucky enough to have avoided any such thing since I ‘woke up’ to my belief system. Maybe wearing a wedding band for all those years was also big boundary. I don’t know.

 

I’ll spare you a lifetime of incidents that I do remember. You’d be reading for hours! My point is this: my life showed me what I came to know as true; that all men were bastards.

 

But I’m fifty years of age now, and I also know this to be true: there are some damn fine men in this world. Men who are good, kind, honest, sincere, wonderful, and deserve to be celebrated. Such examples are:

. One of my closest friends who helped me through one of the darkest times in my life, and once again proved to me that men are capable of integrity, kindness, compassion and a listening ear

. The father of my children, and husband, who walked by my side for twenty three years, and continues (despite our recent separation), to be a source of honesty, kindness and solidity

. My brother

. Men whose ceremonies I’ve officiated

. Husbands of my female friends

. Men I’ve met over the years when I was publishing The Mother magazine

And of course there are men I’ll never meet that I know to be filled with integrity.

The world is FILLED with wonderful men. Men who make a difference. Men who love openheartedly. Men who are kind. Men who feel ill at the thought of those other men who smear the reputation of their gender.

 

Of all the things I was so sure of doing ‘right’ when I became a parent ~ a job I wanted to do as consciously and open-heartedly as possible ~ was to protect my daughters from sexual abuse (well, any abuse). I knew with 100% certainty that it would NEVER happen at the hands of their father. I had absolute faith in this, and never felt unsafe leaving them alone with him. I also, by then, had a bloody good radar for ‘men’ and could pick out a ‘violator’ a mile away. I remember feeling distinctly ill seeing a picture of Jimmy Saville long before his revelations came out.

The one and only time my girls ever had a babysitter was when I left them for a few hours with my best friend, Pam. As a homeschooling mother, they were always under my protective wing. When they both became adults, I naively prided myself on the fact that our daughters made it through childhood free of the guilt, shame and destruction of sexual abuse. Job bloody well done! Go me! Of all the things I may not have done well in parenting, this was one where I scored top marks. Or, so I thought.

Despite the few ‘dodgy’ (to put it kindly) men in my bloodline (aggh), I felt that the pattern of abuse had been cut. My husband, too, had experienced abuse, so this felt like two family lines had been healed.

But what I hadn’t counted on was that when there is such torment it can take more than one generation to heal. Wounds run so deep at a cellular level.

I lay awake questioning every aspect of my parenting. But why the hell am I taking on this cloak of guilt because my beautiful, authentic daughters were highly attractive, energetically, to narcissistic types?

 

What could I have done differently? I don’t have the answers. All I can do, right now, is remind them that there ARE good men in the world. There have always been good men in the world. And that when we see such men, we tell them. We tell them every damn day. We remind them of their worth. We light their path with words of praise. And we let them know it is safe to keep shining their beautiful light. We don’t drag them down. We don’t herd them up with those other men.

The world sure needs more good men, but this won’t happen when we keep saying they’re all bastards. Yeah, let’s slam the patriarchy, for sure, but let’s be clear about what we’re trying to create. Is a matriarchal culture the answer? No, what we’re wanting, collectively, is to feel a balance. A Dance of the Divine Lovers. A wholesome blending of feminine and masculine energies.

 

My best advice for my daughters (for any woman or man) is this: if a relationship of any description doesn’t make you feel good, DON’T STAY IN IT. Don’t make excuses. Don’t justify. Don’t put someone else’s needs ahead of your own. And for godsake, don’t use that excuse of ‘staying for the children’. Because what the hell does that teach? That we don’t value ourselves? That a shit relationship is better than no relationship? Children energetically feel EVERYTHING in our relationships. They aren’t nourished by parents who stay together when they want to be apart or that destroy each other every day in little and large ways.

This one precious life is short. Way too short. It’s gone in a flash. Savour it. Love it. Love yourself enough to say ‘no’ to people who hurt you.

 

Bonnie Tyler sings: “Late at night I toss and turn, and I dream of what I need. I need a hero. I’m holding out for a hero ‘til the end of the night. He’s gotta be strong.”

 

NOOOOO. Be your own hero. Know your boundaries. Know who you are. Celebrate every part of yourself. The right person will love your bumps and bruises and honour you, and not put you down. Not pat you on the head and diminish your intellect, emotions, sexuality, body, morals, beauty or any other thing. He will raise you up. But first, sisters, we have to raise ourselves. No one else can do this job for us. We have to do it, and we have to do it daily.

Make it a daily practice to bring more beauty into your life. Why? Because when beauty is around us, we’re quick to identify anything that’s ugly. Ugly energy won’t stand a chance of coming into our orbit for long. We’ll not tolerate its vibration. This is one of the reasons I constantly surround myself with flowers. They align me to what ‘feels good and beautiful and true’. Flowers are ALWAYS authentic.

When our boundaries are strong and high, we know then that only the most sincere, kind, honest, thoughtful people will cross that threshold (male or female), for they will be the only ones worthy enough to walk that sacred path to our heart, mind and body. Only then.

 

As we descend into the darker days and nights here in the Northern Hemisphere, that tendency to go into hibernation mode is amplified. If ever there’s a word for change, it’s Autumn.

 

The expansive vibrance of long, stretched-out Summer days and evenings has now long waned into the Turn of the Wheel… How do we trust this change? How do we carry the high enlivening energies of Summer into the impending darkness?

Around me the apples and pears are being harvested, the hedgerows beckon with their gifts of sloes, rosehips and blackberries. I even picked raspberries this morning!

 

Above the ground, the leaves have faded and fallen, but out of our sight, the roots grow strong, deeper, doing their work for next Spring.

The chilly wind, the heady scent of the damp earth as I tread lightly upon the woodland floor, the familiar smell of bonfires at twilight, and the darkening nights ~ these all draw me into the centre of myself. They urge me to go inwards.

Mother Earth is always my first port of call when it comes to healing, nourishment and learning about life’s lessons. I open my heart to Her, waiting for whispers of wisdom for how I can balance my inner life with my outer work in the world. How do I nourish myself so that I’m able to be of service? Despite the chill in the air, I still open my windows and let her gentle breezes go through my home and heart so that I can take Her with me as I step into the dream-time part of the year. I do so knowing that I take the awareness of the thought-seeds I’ve planted, and what I might hope to witness blossoming when I arise from the other side of Winter. I don’t do this lightly.

As a barefoot gardener, I’m well versed in the understanding that we must learn to trust the seeds we plant. We can’t keep opening up the soil to see if the seeds have germinated. Trust. Patience. Care. These are the watchwords of growth.

 

Our sacred self always has the ability to grow, but it needs the right environment. How commonly the media uses Springtime to launch its articles and programmes about detoxing, but this seems counterintuitive to me. Spring is a time of growth! Autumn, now there’s a season to teach us about letting go of what no longer serves us.

 

Leaving behind our sorrows, rage, regrets, anger, disappointments and betrayals at the door of the descent into the Underworld of Autumn and Winter, allows us to remove the heavy cloak of burden and pain so that we can unfurl, release, and then prepare to spiral into the highest version of ourselves. Tell Mother Earth of your burdens, and let them go!

Learn to trust yourself, and daily ask:

 

What brings me more energy?

What sustains me?

What are my deepest pleasures and joys? Do I allow these into my life?

What raises my vibration to a higher frequency?

 

For myself, these are questions I can answer easily. Maybe it’s because I know myself well and I’m not afraid to meet these needs, or maybe it’s based on years of experience.

. Flowers

. Sunshine

. Hot showers

. Jasmine oil

. Incense (Nag Champa)

. Walking in the woods

. Long hot baths by candlelight

. Moon bathing

. Reading

. Music

. Carefully chosen company

. Solitude

. Birdsong

. Rain on the roof

. Mangoes (if they’re truly ripe)

. Laughing

. Meditating

. Drinking spring water

. Writing in my gratitude journal (both things that I already have, and those I wish to have/be/experience)

. Being massaged

. Swimming

 

But equally, I have also learnt (often the hard way) what lowers my vibration. Choosing to minimise these as much as possible ensures that I am able to live at a higher-vibrational frequency on a consistent basis. It means honouring myself, first and foremost, and sometimes this can mean disappointing others.

 

. cigarette smoke

. gossips

. perpetually negative people

. the news

. two-faced people

. tabloids

. heavy metal or rap music

. horrible smells

. cruelty/bullies

. ugly views

. arguments

 

So, fill your days and evenings with pleasures. Don’t be afraid to turn off the TV and write in your journal, listen to your favourite music, sip hot chocolate by the fire, sleep in on a day off, or dance beneath the Moon. Do what makes your heart sing, for surely the more happy hearts there are in this world, the closer we become to world peace.

 

May your journey through Autumn and into Winter be filled with the realisation of what you have to let go of (people, places, beliefs or things), and replaced with joy, self-love and laughter.

 

 

 

With Christmas approaching, I often see an increase in book sales. If you’re wanting to purchase books directly from my website, can you do so before December to allow plenty of time for Royal Mail to deal with the Christmas rush, and also to ensure I can get new shipments in time in case I run out of any titles? As usual, I’m happy to sign all books and write dedications with the wording of your choice.

 

For anyone who has been contemplating doing Celebrant Training with me, I’m pleased to say I now offer a five-day training course for a Certificate in Advanced Celebrancy and Ritual as well as the two-day training for a Certificate in Celebrancy.

These are both done at my cottage in Wreay, near Carlisle. (easy access off the M6).

Keep warm!

Veronika xxxxxxxxxx

image by Ylanite Koppens

Aristotle said that “We are what we repeatedly do.” Bearing that in mind, how much conscious thought do you give to your daily routines and rhythm?

 

According to the ancient and divine study of astrology, the first hour of the day—sunrise—is governed by Aries, the zodiac sign of action and motivation. Bringing awareness to this power point means it is possible to completely transform one’s life by making changes to morning habits and rituals. The time and energy that you devote to your morning rhythm sets the template of your day. Simple actions can create more calm, love, balance, groundedness, and poise. They can also help to eliminate chaos and stress.

image by Ylanite Koppens

The first hour of the morning is the ideal time for consciously creating changes because your body is fresh from sleep; that place where you’re connected with your Higher Self. By making the most of this narrow window of time, you can consciously and creatively embed new ways of thinking and being. The connection between your physical and non-physical selves in the first hour is potent, and yet in modern culture it’s often the time that the vast majority of people drink caffeine or consume sugar-laden breakfast cereals, and watch the news. I don’t say this judgementally, but to highlight that these trigger the adrenal glands into a stress response, which can be particularly damaging during this sensitive psychic time frame.

 

Consciously creating the day isn’t just about what you do, but about what you don’t do. It’s a delicious dance between action and inaction, between movement and stillness. Choosing to focus on your thoughts and feelings in a conscious way will bring attention to the parts of life you may wish to amplify. Small rituals allow rhythms to be established which nurture your body, home, work, and relationships. They become foundations for the building of your day, and therefore your life. For example, stress is created by resistance and fear, so to live a calm and peaceful life, it’s necessary to go with the flow. In each circumstance of your day where you might be apprehensive or feeling challenged, take a moment to ask ‘what am I learning from this?’ ‘Am I responding as the highest version of myself?’

 

 

If your daily rhythm is based on gratitude and love, you’ll feel energised, empowered and nourished at the deepest level. By creating habits that support you in this way, you’ll see your life transform. So, if this day is your greatest gift, how will you write upon it? What choices will you make? What will you do differently? Consider yourself the author of your life, and script a path that you truly desire.

 

The quality of life rests on how you spend each day. A good life isn’t marked just by major events such as buying a home, receiving a pay rise or getting married. A wonderful, soul-filled life is one whereby every waking day is a pleasure. The ordinary day becomes extraordinary. Creating your day is about choosing the world you want to live in.

 

Each of us is a creator. By making a practice of greeting each day with the sunrise, and devoting time to ‘dream through’ the day ahead, it can give you a new perspective, and for many people this can alleviate depression and improve self-worth. At the heart of living a life you love is actually making sure you spend time doing activities that bring you pleasure, as this will leave you energised. The human body is wired to seek pleasure over pain.

People who deliberately create their day soon discover that they grow spiritually, flourish in all areas of life, create robust health and improve previous states of ill health, and develop an inner strength that will take them through any trying times. They learn that life doesn’t have to be a constant struggle, and that we’re here on this Earth to live and grow with joy.

 

The human brain is incredibly powerful, and by far the most important resource any of us has. Many people input negative information, and then wonder why they have negative or unfulfilling lives. The brain is like a computer: the more you enter data that expresses the life you want to live, the increased likelihood there is of changes happening quickly. Many of us have been ‘programmed’ to live according to what our parents, teachers, religion or culture would have us believe. When you start making choices that suit your inner calling, your life can change in seemingly miraculous ways.

 

Every day is sacred. Consciously creating your day, by setting the tone in the first hour, is one of the greatest spiritual decisions you can make. As you deliberately establish the template and intention of your day, coincidences and serendipity will knock at your door. You have unlimited potential to create the life of your heart. How do you do this? One way is to start each day with the words: I create my day. Say them out loud, or if you feel self-conscious in front of a partner, say them in your head several times. Get used to how it feels so that it becomes automatic to begin your day in this way. This immediately shifts you into a state of empowerment rather than one of victimhood or even neutrality.

Image by Ylanite Koppens

For example, before I open my eyes in the morning, I say ‘I create my day’. I give thanks. I thank my body. I thank my comfy bed for helping me to have a great night’s sleep. I thank the new day. I express my sheer joy and excitement of another beautiful day in which to experience life. I thank the birds for their beautiful songs. Funny how they never wake up in a bad mood and decide not to sing. I express gratitude for this wonderful life. I feel deep appreciation for my family. My day always begins and ends with expressing gratitude.

 

It is common to think of gratitude as simply saying ‘thank you’, almost as if by rote: the way many people were taught in childhood. True gratitude is something that is felt, rather than said. Living with heartfelt gratitude shifts the body to a new level of being. When I express my appreciation, I allow the feeling to fill my entire body. I smile, and I imagine that sense of gratitude spreading from me throughout the Universe. This is powerful and empowering.

 

After I give thanks, I think through my day, such as what plans I have, and how I want things to proceed. I literally create my day before I have even got out of bed. I always expect the best. I am open to good and wonderful things coming into my life. I am suggestible to kindness, laughter, peace, friendship, wealth, grace, creative inspiration, and good health.

 

If you start your day with the expectation that you wish to be living the highest version of yourself, then your intention has no choice but to manifest. The brain and heart have direct nerve connections to each other. In fact, there are many more that go from the heart to the brain than from the brain to the heart. We take from this that it’s important to ‘feel’ our way into any changes we want to make. Your heart literally has the power to give your brain new commands. According to the Institute of HeartMath, the heart has an electromagnetic field that reaches out into the Universe. This means we can literally feed off that Cosmic energy and manifest miracles in our lives.

 

If you’ve not lived with deliberate intention like this before, remember this: the body is based on chemical reactions. You have the power to shift these. You have the inner authority to create your day. Be your own author. You can choose to be a victim of Fate or you can choose to be a creator.

 

You have to be consistent with any new practice until it becomes second nature. To create your day, it means developing habits you do every day that lead you to creating the life you want. Many goals simply don’t get achieved overnight. They take dedication, perseverance, responsibility and patience. Did you know that eighty percent of people who join a gym quit within five months? People expect to see quick changes to their body shape, and aren’t prepared to put in the time and effort necessary to see their goals achieved. Yet, if they’re working consistently each day there are definitely changes happening. Getting your mind ‘fit’ works similarly to exercising your body: if you want to see change, you have to work at it every single day. Unlike working out in the gym, you can see changes manifest in your life at astonishing speed when you fully commit to prioritising the first hour of the day as a conscious template.

 

Your internal landscape need not be tarnished by an outer event. You always have the ability to create your reaction to any and all situations, no matter how dramatic or tragic. The choice in how to perceive a situation is applicable both in the world and with our inner realm.

 

Studies show that optimistic people create good luck for themselves. Conversely, pessimists don’t believe they’re lucky, and have a hard time bringing joy into their lives. It is a person’s optimism—their faith in life and the future—which makes them resilient to life’s knocks. They are living proof that you literally create your own luck.

 

When you say or write the words ‘I create my day’, you are sending a strong message to the Universe. You are speaking a powerful and undeniable truth. By engaging in this act, you must be open to watching your life manifest according to your desires. Two of the most important words you can speak are I am. Choose carefully the words you say after them, such as I am tired. I am angry. I am broke. You can be all those things, but reframe them: My body is tired. I feel angry because… My purse or bank account is… Affirm what you desire, rather than focusing on what you don’t have. For example, I am wealthy. I am healthy. I am happy. I am energetic. Perhaps you have a long-term health condition. It might feel totally at odds to say “I am healthy”. Why not try: My body is healing. I am open to health and healing. My body knows how to heal. I am attracting the right healing modalities for me.

 

When you start your day, be sure to include a nourishing breakfast as part of your morning ritual. When taking in food and beverages, this isn’t the time to be imbibing the latest murder or Wall Street catastrophe. Eat your food in silence or pleasurable companionship. Your digestive system will thank you for it. Consciously express kindness and tolerance to everyone you come in contact with, whether it’s by phone, on the road, or face to face. Engage your smile muscles and let it be your instinctive response whenever you meet someone. I grew up with a beautiful wall poster in my kitchen:

A smile costs nothing, but gives much. It enriches those who receive, without making poorer those who give. Give your smiles freely. Feed yourself, and other people, with love and affection. Nourish your mind, body and soul with beauty, respect and integrity. Engage in pleasurable activities which honour body and soul.

 

A key factor to consciously creating each day is that of living in the present moment and being grateful for everything in your life. By being 100% focused on where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing, you open yourself up to living with grace. You can’t control the future, but you can create the path upon which you would like to walk. Those who embark on this journey learn that less is more, and that the secret ingredient to a love-filled, soul-felt life is about inner work.

As a child, my mother taught us a mealtime grace that begins with the words: I am a creator. What a powerful statement to teach a child! We are all creators; it’s just that some of us do so deliberately by setting our intentions and then focusing on them. Other people create their lives, too, but don’t understand how powerful they are with their negative words and thoughts, and complain when everything is going wrong. They manifest into their lives, but are often angry, miserable and feel like a victim.

 

A person who consciously creates their life tends to have an aura of positivity, peace, love and calm. They’re clear about their vision, and even when they can’t see the final outcome they draw on reserves of faith and trust. Regardless of what happens in their life, they look for the positives. Challenges become obstacles that require decision making, but do not bring the person to their knees.

 

When you become fully aware that you, and you alone, are responsible for your life, then everything around you will change. No longer will it be acceptable to you to blame other people or circumstances. The Internet is huge, but imagine the energy behind the Universe Wide Web. We are constantly receiving and sending thoughts and feelings into it, and as a result either repel or attract those thoughts/emotions back into our life.

 

When spending time each day to consciously create, you can do so from the warmth and comfort of your cosy bed or you can create a dedicated space in your home. Ensure the phone is off/down, and allow yourself to breathe deeply. Close your eyes. Let go of any fears, stresses or niggling worries. Fill your mind with a vision of how you would like your day to manifest. If you have a difficult meeting coming up, see yourself filled with love and compassion for the other party, and a peaceful resolution. Use your mind like a cinema, and see beautiful pictures. Experience the feeling of what you’d like to have happen in your day. Empower yourself, one day at a time, by visualising the life you want. Start with today.

Choose the thoughts that take up space in your head. Those that are based on love will trigger a completely different energy in your body than those of hate, anger, fear and other negative feelings. The more experience you have in consciously creating your day, the more empowered you’ll feel. You will walk through life feeling like a magician able to conjure up your most intentional thoughts.

 

Look, too, to your bedtime and your rituals around that. One part of the day sets the tone for the hours ahead, and the other offers us a chance to close the current day and prepare for the next by being thankful for what has gone before. Sunrise. Sunset. Open. Close. The rituals you choose during your waking day need to be personal, and based on ideas and practices that you’re comfortable with, or can grow to find comforting.

The beauty of the conscious creator is that they make the world a better place, not just for themselves, but for everyone around them. It only takes a few minutes every day to transform your life. You know when you’re becoming more conscious of how you create because all sorts of synchronicities start happening. Seeming coincidences become part of your daily life. They’re affirmations from the Universe that you’re on the right path. Consider this as spiritual grace. The more we live like this, the more readily and quickly our brain creates new neural pathways. Learning to create your day has many benefits, and can help to heal illnesses, both physical and mental. Creating your day is empowering and fun! It allows you to invest in yourself, by choosing your thoughts and feelings, and it means that, by default, you create a beautiful life one day at a time.

 

 

Begin each day with questions such as:

What will bring me the most joy today?

What do I find pleasurable?

What can I do to laugh today?

What fun can I manifest today?

What kindnesses can I bring to someone’s day?

Where can I express gratitude today?

How can I be a more loving mother/wife/husband/father today?

 

Raise your vibration

All great teachers throughout time have taught this fundamental truth: our inner world reflects our outer world.

 

I’ll conclude with some ideas to help raise your vibration:

[] Watch your self-talk. Choose thoughts such as: I am happy. I am healthy. I am loving. I am caring. I am wealthy. I am kind. I always have everything I need. My relationships are easy and nourishing.

[] Say thank you or write a thank-you note

[] Absorb the beauty around you (the light in your lover’s eyes, a child’s smile, Moonlight, flowers, a stream in a mossy woods, Autumnal sunlight on golden leaves, birdsong.)

[] Activate abundance within you by doing something for someone else

[] Listen to music you love

[] Dance

[] Go for a run

[] Walk in the woods, along the beach, in a meadow, up a mountain

[] Meditate or simply sit in silence for a few minutes

[] Pray (as in expressing gratitude, not pleading for something)

[] Play with a pet

[] Smell flowers

[] Walk barefoot on the grass

[] Take time to laugh with a friend

[] Read something inspirational

[] Listen to chants by monks or nuns

[] Enjoy sunlight. Use coconut oil on your skin rather than toxic skin creams.

[] Practice yoga or Pilates

[] Hug a person, pet or tree

[] Collect gifts from nature, such as berries, shells, cones, leaves

[] Meet a happy friend for a cuppa

[] Drink pure water every day

[] Eat living foods at each meal (fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds)

[] Do exercise that you love, and try to do it at least five times a week

[] Spray magnesium oil onto your skin twice a day

[] Step away from all forms of technology and get back into the natural field

[] Declutter your home and car (it works every time!)

[] Practise forgiveness (of self and others)

[] Enjoy one of the many healing modalities available, such as reflexology, floatation-tank therapy, massage, cranio-sacral therapy, and shiatsu.

[] Choose your company wisely. We become like the five people we hang out with the most!

 

www.veronikarobinson.com

 

Not a day goes by where we don’t make a lot of choices. Many of them we do without a huge amount of thought: tea or coffee, coat and gloves, radio station, call a friend, and so the list could go on. Perhaps these countless choices are the foundation we need for the tougher choices in life.

 

 

I find it easier to make a choice when there are many options on offer. For example, I love being in the vegan pub where my younger daughter lives in Glasgow knowing I can choose pretty much anything. But put me in a café or restaurant that pays a token notion to a plant-based diet and I can spend an age deciding between two things. For the most part though, I’m pretty good at decision making. And I suspect it’s because my life has featured many major decisions from moving 2000km away from home at age 16, to leaving and starting jobs, getting married, having children, starting businesses, to moving countries five times (!) [which, on a day like today where I don’t feel I can cope with another 24 hours of being cold, makes it easy to want to pack my bag and emigrate!)

 

 

We’re enculturated, though, aren’t we, to believe that the big choice making is generally about right or wrong, good or bad? But what if there weren’t any wrong decisions? What if each choice simply moves us along on the path of life?

 

 

I suppose, if we come from a fatalist belief system, our choice making might seem excruciating because we don’t really believe we have a choice or that some malefic force is going to strike us down with a bolt of lightning. But if we are sure that we co-create our lives with the universal life force, then we know that life is a constantly creative dance. It’s as if we’re walking along the road of life and on either side of us are fields with gateways, some open, some closed. But, at any point, we can choose to go through one. Who says we have to go straight ahead? Who says that we must wait for the major crossroad before making a decision? Some of the smallest decisions lead to the greatest outcomes.

 

 

Are choices made from the head more reliable than those pursued by the heart?

 

Whether you’re making choices using your brain or from a flow of intuition, ultimately they’re made based on reward, risk, and finally, value.

 

This, of course, assumes that you have the self-awareness to know what it is YOU value or if your choices are based on the culture (school, society, media, parents, religion) that you’ve been immersed in.

 

Perhaps we associate risk with ‘bad’ or ‘dangerous’ when really it’s simply about doing something that’s out of our ordinary behaviour.

 

 

There’s no reason, though, for reward not to follow on from risk but if we don’t take risks regularly in our lives then we’re not likely to create a larger life for ourselves. It’s too easy, too comfortable, to live a life based on minimal choices. Why would anyone live like this? Because of fear. Everywhere we turn, there’s insurance for this, that and the other. We’re surrounded with messages telling us the world is not safe. And while it’s true there are never any guarantees, it’s always worth remembering the quote: “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” {Andre Gide}

I hope you have the courage you need to lead a richly rewarding life.

One of my favourite places to run is through woodland. To be surrounded by nature in all her exuberant, unapologetic beauty – whether that be silent trees reaching on tiptoes in reverence to the infinite sky above, the babble of a brook giddy with the journey ahead, incessant Spring birdsong, cushiony moss clad to trees and ancient stone walls, or the scent of earth after the rain – simply makes my heart swoon. I am most at home with traversing woodland trails.

 

 

I’m currently three weeks into training to run a half marathon in September. I mix my runs up between the hard-underfoot road, a dedicated running track, and my favourite: a trail run through the woods.

 

 

But it’s not just the beauty of my natural surroundings which draws me to the trail, but what it represents: uneven ground. Every second of the run requires split-second thinking, processing and action.

 

“Boggy mud. Shall I run around it on the side of a hill or through it?”

 

 

Although trail running may be seen primarily as a physical thing, it’s a heck of a work out for the brain. I suspect it does more for the neural pathways than doing a crossword!

 

“A rocky hill at the end of the run. Can my feet manage it?”

 

A stone, a branch, a hole, a tree root, thick mud, a puddle…

 

“A puddle! Forgot to bring my wellies!”

 

Every step of the way there is something to navigate. And yet, even in amongst this constant brain fitness there are moments to really be absorbed in the beauty: the sight of a red squirrel scooting up a tree trunk, the scent of wild apples, the welcoming feel of a soft bed of pine needles underfoot cushioning each landing, the rustle of the wind through the leaves, the unexpected view of a valley through a break in the treeline. The world around calls out for me to feel enlivened.

 

I can’t help but correlate these trail runs with life.

 

How often do we become destabilised when our path – our days, weeks, months or, in some cases, years – become a changed or rocky terrain beneath us? How do we take one step forward? One person’s experience or, indeed, expertise in a chosen path may work for them, but our situation is unique to us. Always.

 

 

How come school was so busy teaching us arithmetic or who discovered what country or the way our government works that they didn’t focus on the fundamental need of all humans: how to navigate our lives?

 

The road to my nearest town is riddled with potholes. Not little holes, but gaping wounds in the bitumen that cause me to swerve in a never-ending car dance. And for the most part, it’s okay: I know where the holes are, and I can almost drive blindfolded. Except for one minor detail: oncoming traffic! And then it’s a completely different story involving brakes or the risk of damaging a spring in my car once again!

“And then that feeling when you reach open road: the view, the stability of even ground…”

 

The truth is that life is uneven ground. We may have times when the road feels easy and smooth compared to other times, and boy is it fun to speed up somewhat and coast along. There isn’t a human alive though who should take the smooth road for granted. Nothing in this life is guaranteed: health and well-being, wealth or reliable income, relationships, our inherent belief system, friendships and community, or home. The very nature of the human experience is that we must travel. Whether it’s literal or metaphorical, the point is that we didn’t choose to incarnate to become stuck in one spot. Our spiritual purpose and destiny is to grow, to become more fully ourselves. But how do we do this if we don’t take risks? Sure, there are risks on the straight, flat, unobstructed path by the very nature of putting one foot in front of the other, but our inner gambling stretches into completely different territory when there are all manner of ruts and ruins before us. How shall we step forward? Do we hurdle, sidestep, plunge straight in? No one can make these decisions for us. They are ours, and ours alone, to choose. We are never guaranteed if our step-by-step choices will be the right ones, but what is certain is this: uneven ground invites us to learn to trust ourselves. To become confident in our sure-footedness. No one can walk in our shoes.

“Taking the time, with each step, to enjoy the wild snowdrops.”

 

It’s easy to tell someone else what they should or shouldn’t do to move forward, but if we’re a companion on someone’s journey, just moving alongside them is the greatest gift we can give. That, and giving them the time and space to choose where and how to step.

 

“Take time to enjoy the sunshine in the glade.”

 

 

Hands. Love. How often do you consciously put those two words together?

 

As a celebrant, they’re both at the heart of my work. My wedding couples place rings on each other’s fourth finger of the left hand, for the ancients believed the Vena Amoris (Latin for the ‘vein of love’) flowed from there to the heart, and back again.

 

 

 

This tradition continues for the simple reason that we recognise the hands to be integral in how we show our care for a loved one: a tender caress, the touch of a brow, back of a bent finger to wipe away a tear, hands cupping cheeks to draw our love closer, the holding of hands to protect and nurture a child, or to share a walk with our lover.

 

 

I’ve been teaching my wee granddaughter, Sarah, to blow kisses by bringing her hand to her lips and then pushing it away with a big blow (we do this via Skype, as she lives in Wales). It has become a beautiful bonding ritual for this grandmother and granddaughter who live at a distance from each other.

 

 

My wedding couples may have their hands bound together in the sacred figure of eight ~ eternity ~ during a Handfasting ritual. When I consciously ‘tie the knot’ for a couple, I do so with the awareness on which the ritual was founded. There are three cords: Bride, Groom and God. So, regardless of the couple’s or my beliefs (and whether they’re opposite or same sex), I hold the intention in my mind that there are three distinct energies being consciously connected as they cross the threshold from two lives into a shared life path: two humans and the Universal Life Force which exists in all of us and is everywhere. For those whose hands are being tied, and those who are witnessing, we effortlessly transcend all belief systems and recognise the sanctity of a ritual based on love.

 

 

Hands connect us. In ceremonies, we may hold hands in a circle. Perhaps we’re touching the toes or cheeks of a baby during a naming ceremony. Maybe our hand touches a shroud or coffin as we say goodbye and walk away from our friend for one last time. A groom may lift his bride’s veil. The bride holds her bouquet. She may well toss it, with love, into a crowd of single friends who hope to be the ‘next one’ married. In a Blessingway ceremony, all the women sit in circle and then take part in a red-thread ritual which sees our hands all tied together in a web.

 

 

Six years ago yesterday, my father was killed in a car accident in Australia. I flew over for the funeral. When I walked down the aisle in the crematorium before the service, I could see a few of my siblings (I have seven of them) standing by the coffin. That’s when I realised it was open, and they were talking to our Dad.

 

To hold his hands ~ hands which had toiled hard in his 77 years on this Earth ~ was an honour, as well as a deeply healing and spontaneous ritual, which would prove enormously important in my walk, hand in hand, with sorrow. There, in those precious few minutes as time stood still, I was able to thank him for everything he did for us: providing a lifestyle that enabled me to have the most awesome childhood growing up in rural Australia surrounded by dozens of horses and a lot of land.

 

The idea of holding the body of a dead person might just be too much for many people, and yet, for me, it was one of the most beautiful and honest moments of my whole life. There was a depth of love, forgiveness and emotional intimacy that still gives me solace in my darker hours.

 

I held my mother-in-law’s hand as she passed over onto her adventures Spiritside. My same hands have had the pleasure of raising two daughters and sharing countless walks together. They’ve caressed my granddaughter’s beautiful face. They’ve cooked meals for friends, family and strangers. My hands have tended gardens, a place where they are always happy.

 

 

 

They have received a wedding ring and a vow renewal ring. I also wear my mother’s wedding ring.

 

My hands allow me to open the pages of a book ~ one of my favourite things to do is read. Turning the pages becomes a meditative practice. These same hands allow me to express my thoughts and feelings through writing books. For some reason, I’m able to type as quick as I think. My hands are intricately and intimately connected to my thought processes.

 

It is with my hands that I hold a pen to craft words on the weekly cards I send to my mother in Tasmania. These same hands open the cards she sends to me.

 

Self love, self care, self nurture ~ call it what you will ~ are aided by my able hands: plucking a cinnamon, cardamom and ginger teabag from the box so I can steep some spices in boiling water. Picking up my toothbrush, lathering my skin with rose and geranium soap, washing my hair with rosemary shampoo ~ they all require my hands.

 

Choosing the clothes I’ll wear, lighting a stick of Nag Champa incense, inserting a CD of favourite music, opening the window for fresh air, picking a bouquet of flowers, tying my shoelaces (double knots ~ learnt the hard way) so I can go for a run….all this care, all this tending to my needs, is done because my hands are my tools, yes, but they are my reliable friends. Always ready. Always able. I am so grateful!

 

From the youngest age, I was witness to my mother’s hands as she weaved her way consciously through each day, beginning with her morning yoga and meditation, then squeezing a fresh orange juice for her brood of kidlings. Mum fashioned a life of creativity and pleasure: nurturing a thriving garden, sewing clothes and rag dolls, building forts and castles from wood, baking cakes and cooking soup, and playing me her mouth organ or mandolin as I fell asleep at night. Her hands would nurture me by massaging my back or bringing me rosehip and hibiscus tea if I wasn’t feeling well. At night, we’d often sleep outside under the stars. My hand slipped inside hers as we drifted off to dreamland.

 

In my lifetime, these hands have played instruments: ukulele, panpipes, button accordion, piano and cello. Not well, but they’ve tried! My hands allow me to experience the world, whether it’s through driving a car, touching a tree, holding my loved one’s hand, baking a cake, gathering wood for a fire, washing my hair, bringing food to my mouth, and as much as anything, I use my hands to talk! Fun fact: I don’t think I could actually speak if my hands were tied up!

 

I once wrote a song called Grandmother’s Hands. (My mother’s mother’s hands look so similar to mine). Although we never met, I ‘see’ her whenever I look down upon my hands.

 

I have welcomed the hands of others upon my skin: reflexology, aromatherapy massage, Indian head massage, sports therapy massage, the clasp of a child’s hand, the touch of a lover, my mother’s sweet hands, standing in a circle holding hands with others in ceremony, celebration or silence, shaking hands in a business meeting, my hairdresser washing and cutting my hair, and helping another through a tough time in their life and symbolically holding hands.

 

 

Some people don’t have hands, either by birth or accident. Their way of expressing and receiving love needs to be channelled in other ways. The body adapts. It finds ways to say what would otherwise be shared through the hands.

 

Hands can hurt or hands can heal. They can’t do both at the same time. Like our words, we have a choice every day as to whether they will be a ballistic force or a beautiful balm.

Hands are not for hitting, and yet for many people hands are not the bearers of love but weapons of cruelty and torture. They bring pain, shame and humiliation, and fear. If that has been our experience, we may never expect that it could be any different for us. A hand of kindness reaching our way may cause us to flinch, to step back, to run away. Only time and trust will tell if a person can open up to new ways of being.

There’s a funny gadget on the market called a fidget spinner. It’s for people who can’t keep their hands still. The thought of such a thing actually makes me feel rather ill. For me, the hands contain vast amounts of energy. Rather than fidget, it comes naturally to me to simply bring my hands together, in prayer or clasp mode, and allow the energy I’m feeling to continue flowing through my body (to re-energise me), rather than to be frenetically dispersed into an inanimate object.

 

As a celebrant, I use my hands to greet mourners, welcome a couple or family, meet guests, hold my ceremony script, scatter rose petals, gather flowers or herbs for rituals, warm the rings and thread a twig of rosemary through them, create a sacred altar, tie a handfasting knot, lift a Quaich for the couple to drink, offer Welsh spoons or sprinkle fairy dust. There are many ways my hands are essential to my work. They are always used with love.

 

 

We make a toast to the happy couple using our hands to hold a glass and tilt it to another person. Chink! We applaud by clapping.

 

Hands. How do you use yours? Do they express themselves primarily through love or fear?

 

Think of those you love most in the world. Take a moment, if you will, and ponder this thought: if you had only this one day left on Earth to tell your lover (or other loved one) how you felt about them using only your hands, how would you do so?

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes the smallest words, like ‘yes’ and ‘love’, have the biggest, most life-changing meanings.

 

Yes is an open door. It says “I’m going through”, unlike no which says “Go no further. No exit. Stop. No entry. THE END.”

 

Such different energies. Such different life paths.

 

 

Every day our lives are based on yes and no. Every single day.

 

Are you aware of how many times you’ve said yes today? How about no? Do you even hear yourself saying them? Every single time we say them, we are moving in one direction or another.

 

As a wedding celebrant, I meet couples because someone has said “yes!” Someone has said “I want to walk through that door with you.”

Weddings are joyous occasions, and are such a delight to be part of. And for me, always an honour.

 

When my couples and I agree to work together, one of the things that happens is that I take the time to get to know them so that I can tell their love story. After all, I want their ceremony to be unique to them.

 

This working relationship begins by asking them a series of questions. They have plenty of time (usually) to answer these, but I ask that they send me their answers independently without sharing them with their partner (though obviously they’ll see what their beloved has written when I send the script back).

 

It is quite a process. I’m not, by any means, a marriage counsellor. I’m a celebrant. However, I do take my role seriously. Some of my clients really revel in answering the questions and truly ‘get’ the process. Others get quite stuck. Why? Because one of the first questions I ask is “Why are you getting married?”

 

You’d be amazed how difficult that question is for some people to answer.

 

The question and answer process makes couples think. And, from my perspective, I learn a huge amount by how much thought and care goes into the answers.

 

I’ve been officiating weddings since 1995. One of my first weddings was for a young couple with a baby daughter. When I asked my question/s, his reply was that he was marrying her because “she had great legs!” Maybe I’m just a bit too serious for my own good, but even then (in my mid twenties), I’d have hoped for a more solid answer. To my incredible sadness, not long after their wedding, he committed suicide. The relationship wasn’t as he had hoped. It still haunts me.

 

My job isn’t, at any level, to say whether a couple should or shouldn’t get married. My job is to celebrate their love, their love story, and wish them all the best for a wonderful future. To honour their YES.

 

 

I hope, when couples go through the process of answering my questions, that they truly understand what the journey of marriage is about (you know, other than asking each other what you want for dinner every day for years on end!).

Marriage is a dance. What happens if we have two left feet? What happens if each person hears a different tune? What if one person loves to dance, and the other is a wallflower? Could it be that you love bellydancing and he loves rock ‘n’ roll?

What if one person has a free spirit and the other needs routine? Can an introvert and extrovert co-exist? So many questions!

Marriage is a constant course in personal growth. We are invited, daily, to learn more about ourselves. It is about give and take. It is about we and us. Me and you. Indeed, it is a balancing act that no one can ever tutor you in. Looking into the mirror of relationship means we are always receiving feedback about who we are, and what we expect. What do we project onto our partner? How much do we expect them to fill certain needs?

 

Sometimes people start out on the same page (like my parents), and then as the years roll on, one of them changes. And they keep changing until eventually there is too much distance to keep them under the same roof.

 

But this is a ‘yes’, too. When we say ‘no’ to another, we are saying ‘yes’ to ourselves. The door to self awareness is the first door we should walk through.

 

Yes. It’s a beautiful word. Life affirming. Encouraging. It’s an invitation to something better. Maybe it’s someone holding your hand inviting you to somewhere you’ve never been before.

 

Perhaps, when crafting vows for couples to answer, we, as celebrants, would serve them best if we asked questions in such a way as to see if the answer is ‘yes’ rather than “I will” or “I do”.

 

Yes, for as long as love shall last.

Yes, for better or worse.

Yes, in sickness and health.

Yes, because in that moment, when we’re wrapped in the power of love, we truly believe we can step through the door into a future together.

 

Yes.

 

Yes.

 

Yes!

 

Three simple letters.

One word.

One syllable.

It says “I want to walk through the door…”

 

More importantly, it speaks of hope. And in this life, hope is something we all need.

 

 

Autumn begins weaving herself, and me, towards Winter. I drag my heels determinedly against the prospect of months and months of ice cold weather. And yet, those annual mists and mellow fruitfulness lull me with their charms. Foolish me, I whisper. Deep inside, though, I know the truth. The energies of this season serve to remind me to balance the light and the dark. As ever, my deepest nurturing comes in the silence. I take myself into that delightful realm of intentional solitude.

 

 

My evening walks through fields, woodlands, up lanes, to the stone circle, and across the ancient cemetery beckon me to welcome the inner dark. Endarkenment, surely, is just as essential as enlightenment? The rich earthiness of fallow fields speaks to me of the growth which emerges from the dark.

 

 

 

The cave of Winter taunts me, and my bones ache in anticipation of the cold, but I know, if I try, that I can step, gracefully, deep into the essence of what it means to live authentically in this world of dilemma. Autumn is here to teach me, gently, about death. What do I need to let go of in my life? These are questions for all of us, of course.

It isn’t random that we have seasons. Metaphysically, they speak to us of change. As we become more attuned to the cycles, we come to understand our inner self more.

 

 

The abundance of the harvest season amplifies the gratitude I hold deep within. Golden leaves flutter before me, symbolic of just how generous an act ‘letting go’ can be. Silhouetted trees, their leaves now friskily flitting about upon the chilly breeze, are a reminder that nothing in life stays the same. Of course, we can’t hang onto the beauty of Autumn!  And perhaps, that is the whole point. The season of letting go serves to show us how beautiful it is to let ‘fade away’ anything that no longer serves us.

 

 

My walks are a gentle invitation to Mother Nature’s suggestion that we surely must die before we can be reborn. Conscious of change all around me, I take nurturing from the early sunsets which frame the sandstone church in the cemetery, and the smell of woodsmoke on the air.

Geese are on high, another reminder that times keep moving. With each rapidly passing day, I am reminded of my mortality. That I, too, shall die. My ego shouts ‘but there is so much left to live for’, and I agree (even if I’m not always certain what the point of life actually is). My inner alchemist just watches patiently, as always, knowing that no matter how much I forward plan and fill my diary, all I really have is this precious moment.