Flow and Stillness
This series explores what it is like to be a spiritual seeker and Priestess in the 21st century.
Is there more empowerment & direct access to the Divine in the world now?
I’m interviewing women from my Priestess Training Program to find out!
Dear You, who are searching and yearning to become more present in your life and in yourself.
To describe who I am becoming, I need to begin with who I used to be. I used to think that I would grow up doing extraordinary feats within some sort of science or business… whatever I could work hard with, earn a lot of money and acknowledgement. I was looking to an ideal of the empowered woman to be in control of my own life, money and body. I pushed myself hard, I glorified being busy, making good grades, saying yes and to do more that what was expected of me. But I was always dual – I was introvert, I loved to be by myself and paint, observe nature and watch silly movies with my dad. When I got to the point where I had to choose my path to a profession, I chose my latter side, I chose art and yoga. I thought I was being mature, and that I was creating a flowing, loving life. But what hadn’t changed was my drive for always being better, doing more, achieving and being busy - I just channeled it into something “more spiritual”: painting, studying religion, giving massages and teaching yoga. And I was constantly searching for happiness, bliss and love.
To make a long story short, lots of hard work and shit happened within a period of 4 years, and I (almost) burned out, while working hard with my spiritual stuff, and my opened heart couldn’t take it. - What’s up with that “almost” in there? Well, my doctor said that if I hadn’t been so determined to stay with my head over water, I would have drowned. I was actually ready to just continue on, as if nothing had happened. Life is tough, you get up, get yourself together, you move on… It’s the way of my people.
I took pride in my physical and mental strength, although I was constantly ill with some sort of bronchitis over a period of 1.5 year, losing my voice several times, coming down with some serious food intolerances, falling off my bike and injuring my right side, growing out all my wisdom teeth at once, etc. And then, when I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t give massages, couldn’t do the fancy yoga poses, couldn’t do day and late night computer work, couldn’t even demonstrate the less fancy yoga poses, couldn’t paint, constantly had stomach aches and loooong toilet sessions, acne outbreaks and gained 22 lbs in no time, couldn’t breathe without pain, I had an anxiety attack and a vision.
The vision was so simple, yet so real: at the family cabin, with two fair-haired children running around, bursting with joy, bliss and presence. My analytical mind interpreted this several ways: (1) This is just a flash of mixed memories, because mixed up mind stuff (2) I want kids, family is more important than any career I can think of. (note: I don’t have any kids, and up until this point, I was unsure if I wanted any or not), (3) My inner, wild child came out to remind me what’s what: you can go on with your searching, striving, working, or you can just be, you can surrender, and you are still good enough. (4) Would you hold the whip like you do to yourself now to someone you love, like your future kids, or even, your child you? Do you deserve that?
How would it be if you started loving and taking care of yourself?
Now, my process on the spiritual path is not a linear one. I had many breakthroughs 15 years ago, and I still do today. And sometimes they are the same ones, I forget, and I remember in a continuous cycle. What has changed radically from before my vision however, is an innate self-acceptance for exactly this: I can forget, and I can come back to something when the time is right. And this, I realized, is true flow: allowing yourself to be, and to act from that. Doing practices calling upon flow and surrender, or reading about the same practices, is not the same as truly embodying surrender and flow. Having my inner wild child in mind, I stopped striving, and started being. I surrendered, I felt my authentic self stepping to the front, and she was glorious, and I actually felt that I loved her, her body, her choices, her movements. I began to move loved.
For me, this meant that my practice no longer consisted of self sacrifice, karma work in an outrageous extent, or a tough yoga practice with handstands and backbends. Although many within the alternative milieu promote the un-attached, unplanned, bliss-bliss-happy-joyful life, I had to face and accept my other side: my work hard-live hard side, my glorifying busy-side, my rational, planning and structure-side. Which meant asking questions like:
What feels real to me right now? Not before, not in the future, but right now? When do I let go, when do I hold on? When should I go with the flow, when do I swim upstream? How do I make this choice so that it feels authentic and incorporates both my sides? How do I integrate and accept both my sides so there is only me?
I had to let go of any ideal imposed by either side, and rather walk the talk: being present, and allowing myself to feel it all to know where I stand and that meant also all the shit, all the sorrow, all the anger, all the shaky, shady, craziness… it couldn’t be all about peace and joy and bliss and all the wonderfulness so many people promote. And when I surrendered to that, I found not what I thought I had been looking for, but I found stillness.
Stillness is typically opposed to motion, but even mountains move, in a greater perspective of time. We, as humans, are never absolutely still, because we are constantly changing, through our cells, through the environment, through our motions. When I talk about surrendering to stillness then, I talk about the aliveness and awareness of being consciously observing, moving and reacting. Complete stillness would mean death, so stillness in this sense is life. This means that stillness is slow, conscious flow. In that stillness, I feel a calm empowerment and knowing, that I don’t need to label myself as this or that person, I can choose at any moment how I want to present myself, and how I want to move out in the world.
In the depth of my burn-out I realized that the fragile grounds we call our everyday lives are actually constantly changing, never solid or everlasting, as are we humans, as are everything - and everything is connected, through this constant interconnectedness that is change. I had to realize that “going somewhere” cannot be a goal - practice is not going somewhere, because it is not separated from anything.. it just is.. Practice makes practice. Releasing myself from the ideal of “doing” allows me to surrender into “being”, and yes, the practice is constant.
Being a part of Sage Priestess Training, I found encouragement to map out my own path and to follow it. Doors opened to see who I might become, and to trust myself as I walk through them.
My main practice now, is to search for presence and to stay present with curiosity and love and acknowledge whatever emotions that arises in the present moment. I’m learning to see when to be spontaneous and free, and when to allow my planning side to step forward and take control (because sometimes, that is really good). I have learnt to see the negative sides of what I think are my positive sides, and the positive sides of what I think are my negative sides, and it’s still a process.
Learning to appreciate the stillness and its inherent flow, I also seek it in my everyday, by spending less time with things that makes time speed by, like watching heaps of tv series or hanging out on various web pages, allowing more time for the things that create space in my life. (Note I still do that, but I try to make choices to do it, rather than getting stuck in it.) This means that I spend conscious time with my body, through simple yoga moves turned to ritual, meditation, deep breathing and allowing myself to receive massages. I give my creative self outlets through intuitive painting, visioning, keeping my apartment tidy and beautiful (if you ask my partner, he will tell you I still have some way to go on the tidy part), learning about what matters to me at the moment, and cooking delicious belly friendly meals. I mobilize my love for planning in my studies, in planning meals for the week, and in planning the yoga classes and yoga training I teach. I spend time with Mother Nature, observing the cycles of the year, I plant vegetables and watch them grow, and I focus on how I can help take care of Her.
Taking care of Mother Earth, I have realized, is the same as taking care of myself I am not separate from nature, I am nature, and I can be both wild and tame.
Staying with the present means finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.. and when you actually start looking at the things you have in your home, or the flies buzzing, or the food you buy, or the city and nature where you live, or the people and animals you meet, or your own body and experiences, through the lens of interconnectedness and the extraordinary, you realize that everything can be sacred – it depends on your own lens.
In this lies the strength of a wild woman and a priestess: she sees the world as it is – and sees that this is what makes it such a beautiful place to be. Following the cycles of the year, the moon and her body, she doesn’t strive to be someone else, or to be somewhere else, or to do something else..
And that stillness of being creates infinite flow in her life.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (Mary Oliver)
With love, Sigrid
Sigrid was a Melissa priestess in Sage Priestess Training for 2 years! She has many years experience with teaching yoga classes and holding various workshops, retreats and teacher trainings, and is currently working on her Master Thesis on Embodiment, movement, emotions and ritual. Her favourite practices revolves around staying present, letting go, and being soft, loving and grateful.
Want to map out your own path and find stillness and flow?
Check out Priestess Training today!
This post originally appeared on vanessasage.com in 2015