Sacred Waters – theme for Cancer 2018 New Moon

*Please note that my writing is and always will be imperfect.  Also, I do not intend for this article to be specific medical or healing advice.  If you are in need of healing assistance, please contact a trusted healthcare practitioner*

 

The Wild Woman Project Circle (WWPC) theme for July 2018, in Cancer, is “Feeling Waters: The Ocean Inside & Out”, that is, sacred waters of the body and emotions.  As a WWPC facilitator and as a fitness/wellness professional, I am committed to healing personally and collectively.  With this bias, I recognized how cogent, how juicy and full of potential,  this theme is for holistic healing.

 

The “Feeling Waters” theme is 2nd chakra-focused.  As a brief orientation for readers less familiar, the chakras are energy centers of the subtle body that correlate to specific elements, qualities, and parts of the body.  Authors differ in how distinct the chakras are, whether they are bounded and well-isolated or coalesce, how many chakras there are, etc.; but similarities can be gleaned from Eastern mystical and religious traditions.  (For an excellent reference, see Wheels of Life by Anodea Judith)

 

The 2nd chakra aligns with the sacral plexus, below the navel, corresponding to the area of the womb (approximate for men or those born without).  This energy center relates to flow and motion, emotion, yin, sensation, creativity, water, nurturance, duality, sexuality, need, shadow, and kundalini.  Intuitively, there is recognition of the relatedness amongst these elements.  The physicality of this region (womb, sexuality, sensation) is heavily-laden with emotion and relates to motion, in the movement of water, the seeking of unity.

 

Sensations, touch, or raw external information, are the seeds of feeling and emotion and are the linkage between the separated external and internal.  Emotions, rather than unnecessary side effects of being human, have great wisdom and drive.   “Emotions have the spiritual function as language of the soul…..Emotions help us unravel the story of our soul’s journey” (Judith a., pg 113).  Similarly “Emotions promote the evolution of consciousness through the body” (Judith b., pg 120).  Emotions are a form of language, opportunities for self-awareness and growth, and also necessitate movement: “We can free emotions by moving the body” (Judith a., 114). Emotions and movement have a complex, bidirectional relationship, and practitioners of artful body work know this – whether yoga, tai chi, running, massage.  Yoga, for example, has brought me to tears many times, allowing emotions to surface through a mindfully occupied body that otherwise would have been suppressed.  Further, duality, sensation, and emotion often are motivating forces for movement from the basic desire for unity or change. Emotions in our culture, and in particular for men, tend to be stifled, oppressed, and silenced especially if they do not imply positivity and levity.  In this way, emotions can be made shadow-like or taboo.

 

July is astrologically Cancer season, which shares many characteristics with the 2nd chakra.  Cancer is feminine in orientation, water-based, and ruled by the moon.  Through the moon’s gravity, the ocean tides are influenced, bodies of water moved.  The moon impacts water within the body as well, thought to control the tides of life and death as well as women’s bleeding (Redmond 1997).  A woman’s cycle closely synchronizes with the moon’s in the count of days, ovulation during full moon, and bleeding during the new moon, particularly for those living close to the equator (Redmond 1997).  The feminine and the moon share ancestral, spiritual ties:  the oldest image of a Paleolithic goddess with a moon symbol, Venus of Laussel, is from approx. 25,000 BCE.  (Redmond 1997).   For many cultures historically, including Gaelic, ancient Greeks, Babylonian, and African, and Asian, the moon was associated with the feminine and worshiped over the sun.  The root for moon, manas, represented “the Great Mother’s wise blood”; the moon goddess and the creation goddess were the same, infusing creation with the vital blood of life (Redmond 1997, Walker 1983).

 

Water, the Cancerian element and the theme for this new moon, has been revered cross-culturally and in many forms.  Historically, the theme of primal waters is shared across creation myths of almost all cultures  (Redmond 1997).  Sumerian language represented water with sperm and conception, and the name Adam for the first biblical human, reflects “mystical water” (Redmond 1997), alluding to the numinous nature of birth and sexual fluid.  Early goddesses were givers of water in the form of rain, milk, blood and their wombs served as the primordial seas (Redmond 1997, Walker 1983). Blood, in particular menstruation, was recognized as a “sacred water” – the Maori thought human souls were made of menstrual blood, and the Greeks referred to it as “supernatural red wine” (Walker 1983).   Specific Hindu goddesses of the Vedas, Egyptian goddesses, and Mesopotamian goddesses were represented with the cow, suggesting the consecration of milk (Redmond 1997).  Water of the earth is revered and utilized to cleanse and purify, in the form of baptism (symbolic death and rebirth), Islamic Wadu, mikveh of Judaism, and washing in the river Ganges for Hindu practitioners.  Sarasvati was originally a river goddess, purifying and washing away “all defilements” (Redmond 1997).  Now, many of our sacred waters occupy the taboo – sexual fluids, breast milk, menstrual blood, all once honored, shunned, hidden, and shamed today.

 

 "you want to keep

the blood and milk hidden

as if the womb and breast

never fed you"

(-Rupi Kaur)

 

How is water, of your body, or the earth, sanctified to you?  And you remotions – how do you sense them, allow them, express them, honor them?  Can you FEEL their fluidity and how they MOVE through your body? If you feel called to explore water and your relationship to water through ritual, please see below.

 

Ritual ideas for Water:

-          Hot showers and/or baths (candles, oils, tea bath for added intention and ceremony

-           Craft your own aromatherapy spray (spray bottle filled with water and a few drops of your favorite essential oil)

-          Painting with water or watercolors

-          Nurturing with water: wine, infused water/teas, made sweeter if you foraged your own herbs for the infusions.  Other examples:

o   Add a blessing before consumption to create Prasad

o   Nursing a child can be a ritual and sacred ceremony

o   Water your garden mindfully or add a water feature for wildlife

-          Dissolving paper – made to dissolve in water and are (supposedly) non-polluting

-          Swim

-          Cry and make your tears holy (feel them, anoint them, use them in some meaningful way)

-          Listen to water sounds

-          Play singing bowls with water inside – observe the patterns in the water with the changes in sound

-          Create an altar space with water elements – shells, small fountain, images of sea life, etc

-          Floating candles (regular tea lights often float)

-          Water play:  ex. adding drops of food dye or oils to shared water and anointing the body

-          Walk, run, bike, or swim in the rain (a favorite of mine)

-          Red tent ceremony for menstruation

 

Personal experience: Feeling waters

 

This piece, unlike the above and much of my other writing, is personal and experiential, as opposed to objective and research-based.

 

I’ve been contemplating grief lately, as an experience and process, over losses (mine) or betrayals (others).  Often, we don’t share these aspects of ourselves, in part because it does not fall into the realm of ‘polite conversation’.  Grief is messy, boundary-less in terms of everyone experiencing it, and magnetic in that it might pull others into your pain.  We also don’t speak our grief in fear of being perceived as vulnerable (an armored heart is a safer heart) as well as being shamed into feeling like our grief is ‘not a big deal’.  Brené Brown refers to the later, calling it “stacking the deck”; that is, creating competition to whose situation is worse.  “I’ll see your ‘drunk mother’ and raise you a ‘drug-addict sister’” (Brown, 54).  This behavior limits empathy and preserves shame.

 

If we spend our resources attempting to outdo one another, competing for ‘last place’, or stepping on each other to climb out of shame, shame will always prevail.  It will prevail because being told ‘That’s nothing’ can make us feel like nothing.  Most of us will feed shame with our silence before we risk sharing something that we fear might not be as bad as someone else’s situation, or bad enough to warrant empathy” (Brown, 54)

 

With blogging and social media, however, the gate keepers of the spoken and written word (publishers for example) no longer limit the deluge of word, of shared experience.  This creates the possibility for empathy, for acceptance of experience as “normal”, for the dismantling of restrictive taboos and emotional expression, as long as we remain compassionate to and for one another, create spaces of belonging, and refuse shaming (see other works by Brené Brown).

 

My personal grief is plangent with the feminine and cancerian ‘feeling waters’ theme of this new moon.  It is emotion, in motion, and related to creation and the mothering my children.

 

My youngest is weaning.  Has been for some time, as those that have nursed know – weaning is not black and white, but a gray, continual process and begins day 1.  He’s 2 yrs 10 months, my 3rd and last child.  That means that for over 9 years, my body has been source and subsistence continuously for others, through pregnancy and breastfeeding of 3 children.  Nine years of my life, I have not been my own and expect that I never again will be, fully.  As my youngest weans, feelings are bittersweet –this is a time of reclamation of pieces of my Self, of my body, and a recognition of the forward march of days into childhood, into adulthood as I smell his remaining baby smells and enjoy his precious baby curls peeking out from behind his still-tiny ears.  (To think that he was ever smaller than this, that any of them were……..).  I am no longer biologically needed for primal existence, but instead, wanted for comfort. There is grief here, as my children grow and my role changes for them, their baby-sweetness soon to exist only in memory.

 

My greatest mountain of grief, however, that has taken years to untangle relates to the birth of my daughter.  For much of this time, I’ve been in denial, I used anger to balm the pain, and I’ve stifled it,  shut it down, slammed the lid closed, and swallowed the key, all in “trying to make molehills out of mountains” (Ani Difranco), assuming “it” wasn’t a big deal. I was wrong, It was a big deal, still is, in fact, as my heart rate quickens and throat catches writing It, here, into being.

 

My daughter was born a bit over 6 weeks early. She was my first child. I had been taken off bed rest the week before (preterm labor); the doctors never identified the source of her early arrival. My water broke spontaneously at home on Valentine’s Day, and my daughter arrived 14 hours later after uncomplicated labor.

 

After delivery and assessment, my daughter was healthy but had a lower APGAR score, and the NICU team hovered to whisk my baby off. I’m so deeply fortunate to have had a doula present (to this day, she is one of my favorite people - if you’re in the Atlanta area and need a doula, I have a recommendation!). Had it not been for her asking them to allow me a moment with this precious newly earthside being, I would not have held my baby after delivery, as I was too stunned, fatigued, and fresh out of delivery to even think to ask. Connection and bonding are mere inconveniences to a team focused on trauma. Then, my daughter was gone from the room.

 

My baby, perfect and tiny, was in the NICU for 2 weeks. In that time, she was attached to monitors and a tube feed. In asking to try breastfeeding or even hold her, the hospital staff was dismissive of the importance of those acts of bonding, as moving a baby, connected to devices, was cumbersome. My body mourned for this little being meant to be attached to me, as I pumped milk to feed her and keep my supply. Returning home, I had to teach the both of us how to breastfeed, transitioning from the bottle, with limited, straightforward answers and how-tos from medical doctors. Rather, through the La Leche League and the sheer grit and determination of the two of us, we figured it out. We figured out many things, alone but together, in those first days, weeks and months.

 

My story ends happily enough. My child is now a tenacious and fiery 8 year old, healthy and full of life. I acknowledge that my story is thus privileged.  I brought my baby home when so many don’t (and my heart aches heavily for those families).  I have my daughter home with me today as I write, when other families are currently being torn apart and suffering for the “audacity” of crossing some self-imposed border.  My problems could be so much worse, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t hurt (re: stacking the deck).

 

The themes and undertones that emerge from this experience are what make my grief more tangible: The fear and panic that I had done something wrong to bring her into the world early; the exquisite, cutting, gutting pain of leaving your baby at the hospital with nurses telling you to “enjoy time for yourself”, rest, that I wasn’t needed (and was an inconvenience when there); the shadow of physical illness or death that looms over a panicked mother when her child is in the hospital; the shutting down of fully bonding with a baby that might become ill or die; the disempowerment with being made unnecessary; having your questions dismissed; having your milk “supplemented” with formula (not evidence based); losing and mourning the ideal birth experience and those first few precious bonding days with baby; losing any opportunity of future "normal" pregnancies, forever haunted by the ghost of prematurity; being on bed rest and changing my career and school schedule (bed rest is not evidence based for preterm labor); navigating all of this on my own except for the support of an equally confused partner - no family came to visit during that NICU stay, to run errands or just be present and guiding. Grief manifested as anger, wrath, rage even, as I protected my heart and unskillfully shifted the focus of my anger onto this absent family, a growl with the words ready at the back of my throat “where were you????”

 

And yet, the girl saves herself in this story, learns how to SEE in the dark, retrieve lost pieces of Self and voice, and find her way out. I had always walked the line, leaned into the mystic and bodhisattva paths with interests in yoga and shamanism. The birth of my daughter was my rebirth: it was as if I was shoved onto that Path (“girl, quit playing and get to Work”). I spent the next 7 years nursing, birthing, mothering and festering with this burden of grief and rage. Yet I was functional, this was not a post-partum disorder, at least as they are currently defined.

 

In these 8 years, I recognized that I had a spiritual and psychic betrayal of sorts (see the Wild Feminine by Tami Lynn Kent and Women Who Run with the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés for example) - a combination of expectation, unmet needs, with the spiritual transition that is motherhood. My grief and anger were expected, normal even. It is no small coincidence that in the Celtic traditions, from which my family descended, the shaman experiences an illness or trauma for 7 years as initiation onto that Path. THIS spiritual, motherhood-based betrayal WAS my initiation, my full-forced push into the creative, spiritual, big-view-of-life path. I found support in personal work via meditation and shamanic practices, through women’s circles and deepening friendships, a few counseling sessions and other mystical tools. It has only been in the past year to 18 months that I feel as if my head is above water, that I am living rather than merely surviving.

 

My grief is forever tied to the feminine, to mothering, to waters (birth, blood, milk, moon), waves of emotion that at times feel oceanic, blindside me with its arrival, threatening me with its undertow.

 

Grief, and healing from it, is nonlinear. It is not the A to B, Kübler-Ross steps with a specific, standardized timeframe;  rather, grief and rage are unfolding, slow-going, and feminine emotions in their circularity. My experience with grief has been very labyrinthine - around and around and around, dizzying, in smaller and smaller circles, until, I expect, one day to find.mySelf.still.  Emotive but motionless, Being, and fully free.

…………………………………..

 

References:

 

Brown, B.  I Thought it was Just Me. New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2007.

 

Judith, A. a.  Eastern Body, Western Mind.  Berkley, CA: Celestial Arts, 2004.

 

Judith, A. b.  Wheels of Life.  Woodbury, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 1999

 

Redmond, L.  When the Drummers were Women.  New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1997.

 

Walker, B.  The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1983.

 

 

 

 

 

References:

 

Brown, B.  I Thought it was Just Me. New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2007.

 

Judith, A. a.  Eastern Body, Western Mind.  Berkley, CA: Celestial Arts, 2004.

 

Judith, A. b.  Wheels of Life.  Woodbury, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 1999

 

Redmond, L.  When the Drummers were Women.  New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1997.

 

Walker, B.  The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1983.

 

 Written by Dr. Allison Mitch, PT (DPT)

RYT 500, reiki master

Please do not copy this material without permission.  All material is copyrighted.  

 

 

 

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