The Year of the Wolf

Hello and happy new year!

As you may know, I’m following yoga teacher and Celtic spirituality guide Mari Kennedy on an online journey through the Celtic Calendar over the next 12 months.

The journey began at Samhain (end of October) which is the Celtic new year and which impresses upon us that the new always starts in the dark that is also indicative of the dark feminine energy of rest and receptivity.

The early Christian missionaries who encountered the Celtic world recognised the power of this period of sacred waiting and introduced the concept of Advent, which contrary to popular understanding is not the waiting for Christmas but for the Return of Christ and the renewal of all things.

And so each year, I’ve wanted to embrace the dark in some way; acknowledge both the dark of the Celtic new year and the immanence of the Divine at Advent. And yet, the peace and rest has always illuded me. I always succumb to the rush and hectic energy of the consumerist holiday season.

This year was no different and added to an already busy calendar with children’s Christmas activities, I took it upon myself to sell Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map Planners to UK/EU people who were keen to buy them but who had found the shipping costs from the USA prohibitive.

I got such a lot of joy from the experience and the interaction with people who loved Danielle’s products as much as I do was so beautiful. However, the Planners themselves didn’t arrive until the 19th of December, only one box from the order arrived and the other arrived later, damaged. So it was a bit of a crazy dash to invoice, repackage and ship to try and get them to people before Christmas. Generally, the endeavour was a success and as far as I’m aware there was only one that hasn’t made it to its owner.

All this to say, by the time the 25th of December rolled round, I was beat. Happy but tired, joyful but kind of slightly disappointed that the cool, calm advent I’d envisioned for myself hadn’t exactly come about the way I’d hoped.

Reflecting around this time, I did have to admit that there was a large part of me that in fact resisted rest and slowness. I resisted the void. I didn’t really know who I was outside of a relentless obsession with productivity and activity. I ran myself into the ground on a frequent basis and definitely decided that the next thing I would do would be to figure out this whole ‘rest and receptivity’ thing.

My word for 2019, I decided before Christmas would be SURRENDER.

Then, on 26th of December, I discovered a lump in my breast.

On the 10th of January, I had the full compliment of tests and it was determined that I did indeed have cancer and that surgery and further treatment would be needed.

It pained me to have to cancel my plans for the Desire Map Workshops I’d scheduled and indeed launched at a lovely evening in Bangor. I’m disappointed that I will be missing out on the first schedule of plans from our She-Wolf Theatre Collective.

But I am choosing to accept that this is a unique opportunity to explore who I am when I’m not productive because by all accounts, cancer treatment can knock the stuffing out of a person. I admit that I spent the first few days after the diagnosis on an adrenaline rush of attempting to ‘stage – manage’ what my encounter with the disease would look like. I was outwardly brave, determined, strong and defiant. I DID a lot of ‘fighting talk’ and story spinning. I wouldn’t be a cancer victim, I wouldn’t start a cancer blog. Then the inevitable crash; the fear, the anger, the disappointment, the disempowerment.

Now I’m at numb.

There’s a story about how an experiment to introduce a pack of wolves into Yellowstone National Park,  brought about surprising changes that no one had expected. Far from the pack wreaking havoc on the environment and devastating flora, fauna and animal populations, their introduction enhanced the park, rebalancing the eco-system and allowing it to flourish in beautiful ways. The beaver population increased and vegetation improved.

It’s amazing that something as fearsome as a pack of wolves could exponentially increase the beauty and wellbeing of a national park.

So here it is.

The Year of the Wolf.

An opportunity to go into the dark, to run with the wolves and see what beauty will come from the journey. Beauty that may not necessarily have a product, may be something intangible and so subtle it will only be perceptible to me and God.

And so may it be.

Tonight is the night of the Wolf Moon, a Blood moon, a lunar eclipse, the like of which we won’t see again for another few years. We only ever have this moment and so my focus, as best it can be, will be on this moment until the next arrives.

Strut and Bellow is on hiatus until I figure out what I’m capable of in the midst of treatment. It’ll be difficult to do nothing, but it might be neccessary. I’m going to try to listen to my body, quieten my mind and follow the guidance of my soul.

Thanks for journeying with me thus far and hopefully, we’ll meet up again virtually in the not too distant future.

With every best wish for your year,

Melanie Clark Pullen

Giving the finger to New Year’s Resolutions

It’s December 31st and I woke up this morning with a vague feeling of panic that I haven’t made any resolutions, or properly plotted out my intentions for the new year or done a vision board, or cleaned the grout on my bathroom tiles.

It was that impending sense of doom that I am unprepared for the onslaught of positivity that 2019 is supposed to usher in. New Year, New Me – as if the old me was somewhat falling short of some invisible set of standards.

Needless to say, I’m not going partying tonight. I’ll be at home, the kids will probably still be up, DarkandTwisty will make his signature Gibsons, we’ll watch the fireworks on telly and with any luck I’ll be in bed by 12:30. Happy New Year!

If I resolve to do anything for 2019 it’s to stop feeling bad about myself. I’m giving the finger to resolutions. I refuse to set myself up for failure.

2019 will be all about feeling good.

I want to feel at ease, joyful, delighted, sexy, comfortable, sparkly, light, expansive, powerful.

And I will let how I want to feel guide my decisions about my health, work, family and spirituality.

No one knows what 2019 will bring or the impact it will have but I want to be in a responsive mode to everything it chucks at me, not reacting to curve balls out of fear and trembling.

If you’d like to join me on the journey, then check out some of my Desire Map workshops that are happening in the first quarter of this year.  Some are in person, some are on line so wherever you are in the world you can come along for the ride!

 

Women’s Christmas

 

Yes, it’s a thing.

Nollaig na mBan is the day when, in rural Irish communities, the men take on the household duties as a way of honouring all the work the women have done to make Christmas happen (and everything else all through out the year but who’s keeping score, eh?).

I’m writing this at the tipping point of the crazy season and I have to say that each year, I really look forward to marking Women’s Christmas on the 6th of January. I’ve gathered with some friends and we’ve enjoyed a last hurrah before the kids go back to school and the new year resolutions are completely annihilated.

This year, I’m bringing the tradition north of the border. I’m hosting an intimate gathering at the gorgeous The Drawing Room in Bangor, Co. Down to celebrate the sisters and introduce them to The Desire Map.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. I can’t bear the potential (inevitable) failure that comes when my lofty ideals aren’t met.

So now I spend some time figuring out how I want to feel, rather than what I want to achieve.

Bye, bye, diets, fads, unattainable goals, impossible to meet expectations!

Hello, soulful intentions based on my deepest desires and most pleasurable joys.

YUM!

Tickets are £10 and can be bought at this link.

 

A conversation with Lucy Pearce

I will be forever grateful to my friend Robyn who emailed me from France one day when I was in the thick of life with little littles and struggling to reconcile my creative desires with early motherhood. She told me about a book called the Rainbow Way which dealt head on with the very issues I was grappling with. I bought the book and felt like I had found a soul sister who knew exactly how I was feeling and was ready with a giant permission slip to be just who I needed to be as a mother and an artist.

I have followed Lucy’s journey and that of her publishing company Womancraft Publishing closely over the years and was eagerly awaiting her latest title Medicine Woman since reading its companion Burning Woman.

I’m admitting here that I have not yet finished reading Medicine Woman. It is intense and I find myself getting so agitated and moved by it that I need to take it slowly. Before we hit record on today’s conversation, I confessed this to Lucy who reassured me that this was normal. She’s had feedback from other readers saying similar things. She’s written about her very personal journey of health issues but has also made a very studied critique of the Western medical system and how women are not being served by it. She’s lifting the lid on all that is unsaid about women’s health and women’s position in the health system. It feels like an important work at a significant time.

You can find Medicine Woman at Womancraft Publishing as well as Amazon, Book Depository and other major bookshops. It’s worth checking out theother titles she’s published by other writers as well as some lovely items she sells in the online shop – check out the Goddesses by Brigid’s Grove which make lovely little gifts.

As always, you can listen to the podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud or click below to start listening straight away.

A conversation with Heather McKay

photo by Eadaoin Curtin

Heather McKay of Head in the Clouds Ireland has just had a gorgeous revamp to her website in time for the Christmas season. If you don’t know Heather’s work then you’re going to want to check it out because her Christmas cards are some of the most joyful things you’ll ever stick in a post box. Your friends and family will be delighted to receive her colourful pictures on their door mat!

I’ve known Heather for (ahem!) a very long time now and a couple of years ago, we sat down and had a chat for the podcast. If you haven’t listened to it already, go and check it out.

Heather’s stunning and unique style of illustration really stands out and there’s an inherent joy and optimism in everything she does. I’m excited to see the next stage of the journey for Head in the Clouds.

#Christmasfeels

Where are your shoulders right now?

Are they relaxed, your neck feeling good, your arms loose?

Nice.

What happens when I say the ‘C’ word?

Yeah, you heard me, I mean Christmas. CHRISTMAS!!!! CHRRIIIIISSSSTTTTMAAAAS!!!

Where are your shoulders now?

Is there tension in your upper body, maybe your jaw is tight, your tongue stuck to the roof of your mouth?

Are your shoulders sitting up around your ears?

Is your breath caught high up in your chest and does your throat feel constricted?

Maybe this season of the year has you all chilled out and maybe you are organised and sorted with gifts and decorations ready to hand out to all and sundry. Maybe you are the illusive (smug) Christmas unicorn of mythical legend!

Here’s the thing; I am supposed to love Christmas because I love the whole Jesus story. This is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year when I remember how spectacularly awesome is the idea of the Divine coming near and being in the muck and mess of the human story.

But like everyone else, I so easily get snowballed into the commercial blizzard that happens at this time of year and it totally stresses me out. Every year, I say I want to do Christmas differently, I want to focus on the real essence of the story and every year get to the 25th of December feeling utterly shattered and demoralised.

So I have asked myself,

 How do you want to feel this Christmas?

How do you want to feel this Christmas?

I want to feel joyful.

I want to feel present.

I want to feel abundant.

I want to feel peace.

If you’d like to join me, I’d like to invite you to come with me via Instagram and FB over the coming weeks as we intentionally create the season we want to experience. I’m going to be blogging and doing live videos over the coming weeks sharing my intentional attempt to Slow. The. Heck. Down. and realign my lived experience of this sacred time with my deep love of the Divine and the beautiful story of Immanuel/God with us. Even if you have no religious leanings or feelings about this, or your religious background or inclination is different, I invite you to join me and take a step out of the madness to discover what #Christmasfeels like for you.

I’m done with the commercial mess of this year, however I do want to support local business for whom this time of the year is their most important. With that in mind, I’m compiling a list of awesome small businesses that you might not know about and who you may wish to consider if you are buying gifts this season.  To get the first dibs on this list, subscribe to my newsletter by the end of next week when I’ll be releasing it for #GreenFriday…..

Yes you read that right…. it’s going to be a #GreenFriday this year! Sign up to learn more. 

 

Samhain

The nights are surely drawing in now. Once that clock goes back, you can really feel we’re heading into the dark. My children are on the half term holidays as I write and are excited about Halloween sweeties and dressing up.

I’m soaking the currants, raisins and sultanas in tea overnight so that  we can make our ‘breac’, the traditional fruit cake for this time of year. We’ll hide a ring, a coin and a piece of cloth inside and who ever gets the cloth will be provided for, whoever gets the ring will find love and whoever gets the coin will be rich. Or so the story goes.

We focus on Samhain in our house, more than Halloween and on the 1st of November, we’ll have a feast and party games and share stories of loved ones who have left this side of the story for their adventure on the other side. It’s the feast of All Saints, and in the Celtic tradition it’s a ‘thin’ time.  It’s seen as a time when the dear departed visit for a time in the land of the living.

I’ve hustled my children to help clean and tidy as I’ve told them that if my Mum’s spirit stops by I don’t want her to see a messy house! It’s been eleven years since she died from cancer and she never knew my children, never saw me own my own place. I’d like to think of her walking in and nodding in approval, marvelling at my children and proud of how far I’ve come, though I’ve no doubt she’d take issue with my yoga pants and hiking boots; ‘you’ve so many nice things to wear!’

I have been thinking of my Mum recently, dreaming of her quite a bit of late. She’s always pretty much the same as she was in life; practical, down to earth, a Mrs Fix-it if ever there was one. I think of all the people she supported and loved over the years, the wise insights that came from her deep devotion to her spiritual path. I think of her faith, right to the end, her faith in transformation and transfiguration, her hope that all is never lost.

As I embark on this journey as a Desire Map Facilitator, I hope I bring with me some of the wisdom she passed on to me. I like to think I’m continuing her work, forging onward on the journey. Though the path might diverge in many ways from hers and will take in different scenery, the destination anyway will be the same; Love.

Wishing you and yours a very blessed Samhain peace as you go into dark of winter and rest to restore you for Spring.

Melanie

There’s still time to sign up for my free 6 day online course called Free & Clear which starts on the 5th of November at 11am GMT. You can find out more and sign up here.

Shout Out – Mel Wiggins

About this time last year, an artist friend from Dublin posted a photograph of a gathering she was at with a bunch of creative women. They were in an orchard, wrapped in scarves and blankets. They were smiling, laughing, connecting. And they were in Northern Ireland!

I did a bit of digging and found out that Assembly was the brainchild of one Mel Wiggins and the more I read about this amazing woman, the more I wanted to be her friend. So, and I don’t know to this day how I had the balls, but I emailed her and said ‘I think we should be friends!’ And thankfully she didn’t think I was a loo-laa.

Mel has a passion for women, justice and sustainability and she lives out her passion in such a beautiful way, making stunning spaces for others to shine along with her.

I’m just finishing up her Movements online group coaching course and it has been transformative for me. She is a fierce and gentle facilitator who brings out the best in people.

She is the founder of Freedom Acts, a charity that raises awareness around issues of human trafficking in Northern Ireland. Freedom Acts has just teamed up with Aerende, the life-improving homewares store to make these stunning linen pouches. Every part of the chain of making aims to support and help women thrive through working with different organisations in each area.

Go make a cup of tea and sit down with us as we chat women, creativity, the Enneagram (?! look it up!), Assembly and Movements. It’s a terrific chat and I’m delighted to share it with you.

Head to iTunes to subscribe to the podcast or you can also listen in Soundcloud. Or click play right here.

To find out more about Assembly community and the wonderful gatherings Mel hosts go here.

Click on Freedom Acts for more information on what they’re doing in Northern Ireland.

To buy a stunning ethically made linen pouch bag that supports women in difficult circumstances, check out Aerende.

Or to just have a look at how fabulous Mel is, check out her website and maybe sign up for her free e-course A Simpler Start.