Rule 8: Sing every day

When I was little, one of my favourite movies was Dinotopia. A movie about a Utopian society where dinosaurs are not extinct and co-exist with humans. Amazing! I loved dinos at the time, but what I came to enjoy even more about the movie was precisely the way their Utopia was shaped, the foundation of their society. The code of Dinotopia consists of 11 rules, that all make perfect sense to me and that are followed by every inhabitant of the island. Amazingly (well, not really, the writer has done this intentionally), the first letters spell out SOW GOOD SEED. Perhaps the essence of the code, and not unlike the rule of three.

  1. Survival of all or none.
  2. One raindrop raises the sea.
  3. Weapons are enemies, even to their owners.
  4. Give more, take less.
  5. Others first, self last.
  6. Observe, listen and learn.
  7. Do one thing at a time.
  8. Sing every day.
  9. Exercise imagination.
  10. Eat to live, don’t live to eat.
  11. Don’t p… (thought to mean ‘Don’t put out the light’)

Now, I said that all rules make perfect sense to me, the way I interpret them. But I had never truly realized the strength of rule 8 (sing every day) till a week ago. Let me share my experience with you.

I was visiting an open evening at the university of applied sciences to gather information about studying to become a waldorf teacher, and there was a workshop about music. Curious, I entered. What we did? Well, sing, obviously, an African song with magical words, simply because we couldn’t understand them. We also accompanied the singing with clapping, stamping our feet, pretending to cradle a baby (because I thought the song might be a nursing rhyme) and various other movements. Describing what we actually did together is kind of easy, but accurately describing what I felt? Near impossible. It was a long time ago since I sang a capella together with others. At first I felt anxious, because I wanted to get it right, especially with other people listening. But I realized that wasn’t necessary: nobody was going to judge me or keep score of how well or bad I did. We were all there to experience how it might be as a waldorf teacher in training, we weren’t there to audition for a choir or whatever. Even though it was a music workshop, it wasn’t the music itself that was important. That realization hit me so hard that it shattered my restraints. I was able to sing freely, move with the others and let go of my fear of being judged. And as I did, I felt a warm joy spread through my body, a warmth I now know to have missed for quite some time. There are other things that warm me up, such as reading a good book or having an evening off with my husband, but as these are different experiences, the warmth is also different.

I cherish this memory, and the memory of my first Red Tent, where we also sang together, around a fire. And I will find opportunities to experience this amazing warmth again, basically coming down to this one simple rule: sing every day!

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Red Tent Movement

If you are a woman and you move around in pagan circles, chances are you will have heard of the Red Tent Movement. The first time I heard of it was about half a year ago, on Pagyptian’s vlog, and I instantly set out to research it (because that’s what I do with everything).

The Red Tent Movement is a movement empowering women by bringing them together at full or new moon, often in a candlelit place draped with red curtains and clothes. It is a place where no judgement is passed, and every woman is welcome to ask for what she needs at that moment. The movement is based on a book called the Red Tent, where the literal red tent was a place for women to stay during menstruation.

Often it was interpreted that women were pushed away during this time, that they were filthy in some way, but it is turned around here: women are very powerful because they menstruate and can bring forth life. I believe there are tribes where the women were taught this during their time in a red tent of sorts. That is also the power of the modern Red Tent Movement, that started in America, but has reached the Netherlands and my hometown as well.

Last week, I went to my first Red Tent and it was amazing. Yes, I was somewhat scared at the beginning, because I didn’t know any of the women, but that faded away quickly as we sang to the fire, invoking the fire spirits to help us burn away things we would prefer to be gone. And then inside the Red Tent, we each lit a candle and passed on the matches, honouring the fire inside each and every woman there. So much happened that evening, all concentrating on one purpose: to let us feel both our strengths and our needs as women and to let us experience the power of sisterhood in addressing those needs. In addition, it made me feel the power of performing rituals together, even though that might not have been the purpose.

All in all, it’s an amazing experience and I can’t wait for the Red Tent in February. If you are curious, as was I, just google ‘red tent’ and your place of residence (or a larger city nearby) and you will probably find one close to you as well. I hope you will go there and feel empowered, as do I.

Time flies…

…when you’re having fun. Or so the saying goes. Yes, looking back at fun times, they always seem to have past too quickly. But when I am in the middle of something fun, I don’t particularly feel that way. I am in the moment, and the moment is infinitely long. This is why I can remember endless summers of strolling past a nearby stream, making huts with the long grass and climbing trees. Endless, because when you are in this moment of fun, time does not fly. It rather seems to still, allowing you all the time to savour the experience. And the same thing happens to me in ritual, dancing under a full moon or meditating with a candle. These experiences, where time seems to slow and stretch, are priceless.

My goal for 2015 is to purposely try and search these experiences, even though many will just have to arise. I want to plan a day at the beach, go to a sport event, go to the Red Tent for the first time (this Friday, I’m really curious!). And I will start with a mindfulness course this Saturday, which will hopefully also teach me to live in the moment and prolong good experiences. I believe it will make my life even more valuable to me.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 780 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Blessed Samhain

I just wanted to wish you all a very blessed Samhain and share with you this wonderful short meditation. Blessed be!

Dancing in the rain

It is remarkable how nice the weather still is, despite it being halfway October. When I cycle to work in the morning, going from the city to green pastures and forest to city again, I can really see the changes the season brings. When starting my job halfway September, I had to dodge chestnuts falling down on me and had to resist myself from picking the remaining blackberries. Now, I have to dodge falling, disintegrating leaves and am grateful for the occasional morning mist, because it shows me the spider webs before I drive through them head-first. The temperature is also dropping, but I still don’t need my jacket when cycling to work. Plants and animals show the changes, but the sun keeps shining.

Until this week. Yesterday it was raining vehemently in the morning, so I decided to go by train rather than by bike, to avoid my laptop from getting wet. No need for that today, but as I was on my way home there was a cloud-burst that can’t have lasted more than 10 minutes but left me absolutely soaking wet. I started out being really annoyed, because the raindrops down my neck startled me and were freaking cold… but as I was cycling through the rain, a grin crept unto my face. I was actually enjoying it!

The feeling of the raindrops on your body, the sounds that are suddenly muted because all you hear is the downpour of rain, your focus turning almost inward as you can only see a few meters ahead (and are keeping your head down). My mind was dancing in the rain, with the rain, jumping from drop to drop and shouting out in enjoyment. I loved it.

New periods

Spoiler: this will be a very women-centered post!

This Friday and Saturday was the launch party for the Red Tent Movie. Though I have only heard about the red tent recently, I was very curious. A place for women to come together and… well, and what? I didn’t have a clue. The red tent, even though the colour resonates with the monthly menstruation, is not a place for bleeding women only, such as it might have been in earlier times. Or at least in Jean Auels ‘Earthchildren’ series that I love. A place of seclusion, because the men were either disgusted by the monthly blood or the women were revered as it demonstrated their power to give life. I like the second better, obviously, and have never felt dirty, but I realize that for some women this might be different. My mother made clear that it was just part of becoming a women, natural as can be, but I know others who have had quite some trouble when they reached menarche. 

Yet, as I learned in the video, the red tent is not only for women who are currently bleeding. It does not descriminate based on age, either, so maiden, mother and crone are together in a tent (or some other space). That makes it the best place ever to share stories about what makes us all women. A place to educate the younger ones, a place to hear the stories about the Goddess, a place to laugh together, a place to cry and be comforted, a place to meditate, a place to be creative. The red tent seems to make room for all of this. 

Luckily, the Red Tent movement has spread to the Netherlands as well. I am trying to find a red tent near me, so I can experience this wonderful sense of sisterhood that I got a taste of while watching the movie. There are so many things I would like to talk about with other women, but that are simply not accepted topics of conversation in most settings. But I really need to share with others, both for my own development, but also to be able to educate my future children. My experiences are just my own, and I feel like I need the context of others to put it all in perspective. 

Apart from hopefully finding a red tent somewhere close to me, I also want to read the book that inspired all these people to start red tents: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. A novel based loosely on the biblical story of Dinah, apparently (I do not know this story). I’m very curious. I’ve also started to take a closer look at how I handle my period. I’ve always used tampons and pads, but I recently ordered a menstrual cup that I am now trying for the very first time. Yes, it’s very awkward, but hey, so was the first time using tampons! Probably my periods and the way I perceive them will change even more, but only in a positive way 🙂

Presenting myself… to the gods

Let me start by saying that I have no problem with standing in front of a group and hold a presentation. I have no stage fright whatsoever regarding presenting. Preparation really is the key, so when I’ve designed my presentation (I use Prezi, an online presentation tool) and looked it through a few times, I know what I want to say and am confident it will go just fine.

Presenting without a visual audience, able to respond directly, is an entirely different thing. I am shooting videos for a new YouTube channel I want to host about sustainability, and I am nervous every time the camera is on. Yet I’ve prepared this better than my average presentation! Rediculous actually, but I haven’t been able to shut my nervousness down. Perhaps that will come.

One of the pros of shooting these videos and practicing to present without an audience yet without feeling awkward, is that perhaps it will help me address the Gods in ritual. I find this incredibly difficult, because I want to do it out loud, but feel very uncomfortable doing so. What a paradox… So there I am at my altar with a beautifully prepared speech to call upon the God and Goddess. I utter my first words… And then grow silent as I realize I am talking and I can’t see anyone listening. That’s not to say they aren’t there, but I just don’t perceive them. Resuming the speech in my head, I still finish it, but it doesn’t feel like enough. Next time, I will try a diary-ritual, writing down what I intend to say during the ritual. Since I am taking up journaling as a somewhat spiritual practice, that fits right in. Perhaps in time I can do what I would want most: speech out loud.

So I’ll just keep practicing with the YouTube videos and hopefully I will be able to present myself to the Gods before long!

My digital Book of Shadows

A BoS is different for everyone. Some people prefer to split it up in several books, such as a notebook specifically for sabbats, a dream journal etc. Others keep it all together and add all bits and pieces. I’ve seen Pixie Flora’s one on YouTube, and it’s this massive binder with printed rituals, notes on lined paper and what not. It’s very impressive, but nothing like what I would want.

I’ve tried several formats now, including a notebook where I would just document whatever new information I had learned, describe my rituals and spells and plan my sabbat celebrations. More recently I have used a binder, because that is more organized. I really like my binder, because I can jot down whatever I want and also because I’m used to taking notes whilst listening to colleges or reading articles. That’s still just easier on paper. In addition, it’s nice to be able to add notes to something already in there and not having to move back and forth through a notebook continuously.

Insert Evernote. Like I already explained, I started using Evernote for going paperless. Nice thing about Evernote: it’s extremely organized! It works with notes in notebooks, and you can tag the notes with topics, making it super-simple to find stuff. Just as good as a binder! Or perhaps even better, because you can easily add content from the web. Since that currently is my primary source of information, it saves me from either printing the stuff or copying it. Or putting it in a folder on my computer that I will then never use again (do you have that as well?). You simply use a Web Clipper, and once you see an interesting article, you can copy it to your notebook!

So what does my digital Book of Shadows consist of? Well, I have a notebook called ‘Book of Shadows’ that holds all of my pagan-related notes. I use very simple tags, namely ‘deities’ and ‘sabbats’ (remember: I’ve only just started, so these are the only topics I currently have in my BoS). I will probably add stuff about divination, correspondences and more, but since I’m almost over my upload limit, that will have to wait. I still have the basic stuff in my binder, and the pretty stuff will just be scanned to Evernote 🙂 Evernote can also hold video and audio files, so I might start taping rituals or spells! As you see, I’m getting pretty organized, removing clutter from my home and head and documenting my spiritual practice 😀

The value of possessions

One of the things I have pondered over recently, is the actual value of possessions. I am aware that some people live very minimalistic, almost foresaking ownership of everything. Even though this is way too extreme for me, I did notice two very important things:

  1. Products require material and energy to make – both of which are NOT endlessly supplied on Earth
  2. Products require energy to keep and use them

The Earth is in danger, and we all know it. We are using more and more resources and pollute the environment whilst transporting and using these resources. Even though we, as consumers, are only the final users of such products, we need to be aware of what these products do to the environment. And to ourselves! We currently have more toxins in our bodies than ever before, coming from plastic products we use, car emissions and the food we eat. Yes, I am painting this very black and white, but that just makes clear what this is all about 😉 I could tell you much more about this, but I know people who can do that so much better than I.

Annie Leonard is the spokesperson for the Story of Stuff. This is a community and a movement that sees what is wrong with current consumerism and tries to make people aware. And of course take action, because that is the only way to change things.

In June, one of our local TV stations aired the documentary Bag It. In this documentary, Jef Barrier tries to discover what plastic does to us and eventually (yes, spoiler, but I think it’s predictable) decides to cut down on plastic use in his house. It’s just a bit over an hour long, so no excuse to skipping it!

My second point is also something I am discovering now that I am trying to go paperless (one baby step at the time). I already threw away some paper manuals because I downloaded the pdf version. And with throwing them out… came relief. Then I realized that when you own stuff, you get attached to it, you make room for it. Physically, in your house, taking up space. But also mentally, because you have to keep track of everything you own. I read about Green Evelien, a Dutch blogger living in Belgium who has experienced exactly the same. She tries to live a happy life, as ecologically as possible. After tackling both evergy and water consumption (they already eat vegan and biological), she is now tackling the stuff she has. Throwing away stuff that you barely use is actually a liberation, because it clears up space!

This is very hard for me, though. Yes, I do try to purge my clothes twice a year (though that might be getting less now that I know how to dress myself :)). But I keep amassing books… I love books 😀 Just the feeling of paper in your hands and the worlds to explore. I do own an e-reader that I am using increasingly, but I still have quite some books and keep buying more. But: that stops now. I will use my e-reader for classics and start buying and borrowing e-books more (as soon as it’s back from repair). And no, I will not throw out all my books. My favourites can remain 🙂 That means I will only have books I am certain I will want to read again and again. The other books I currently own will go on my to-read shelf and once I’ve read them, I will decide whether I want to keep it or purge it. So I’ll probably end up donating many of my books and selling some of the prettier ones.

My basic rule about posessions: keep only those items that you regularly use and try to replace these with eco-friendly alternatives when you can. But hey, you might have a completely different take on this! I’m interested to hear 🙂