SERENITY. Just hearing the word evokes all manner of places, things, and feelings. But what does it really mean? The Online Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as: “the quality or state of being serene“. Looking at synonyms, we find: peace, stillness, tranquility. I would venture to say that everyone wants to be serene, to find the place of calm within lives that have become increasingly busy and stressful.
My life in some ways is very easy. I live with my husband and one of my adult children. I don’t work outside the home. I have things that I do to keep busy, such as writing, crocheting, and cooking. But, and it is a big but, due to chronic illness, it is very difficult to have much of a life at all lately. I was a belly dance teacher and performer, which I have not done in over a year. I am also a Kundalini Yoga and Meditation instructor; I am attempting to keep one class going with two of my longest-running and well-loved students, both of whom are supportive, loving and understanding of my health issues. Really, they give me so much more than I give to them. I no longer am able to make long-term plans and tend to do things spontaneously depending on my health each day. Most of what my life has consisted of has stopped. I feel that with so much time on my hands, serenity should be easier to find now, and yet I find it harder than ever to keep it.
I am a Goddess-oriented Witch; that’s who I am and have been for the bulk of my life. I am a Reiki and crystal healer; a teacher of yoga and meditation; a belly dancer for whom the dance has always been a spiritual experience. When I danced, it was always for the Goddess for She is from whom my inspiration comes. I have been on this path for four decades and I am constantly striving to continue to study and learn.
I keep my faith on a daily basis as best I can, but I find when I need ritual, when I most need the Goddess, is when I tend to forget. I become so wrapped up in the business of day-to-day coping with fatigue, pain, whatever, that who I am, what I am, who I have worked so hard to be — she becomes lost in a myriad of tests and doctor appointments. I need to remind myself constantly that there is more to me than what I see and deal with every day. Those around me have become my caretakers and I think they forget, too, that I was once so much more – that I was the loving wife, the mom who did everything (and I do mean everything). Friends don’t want to hear it and, although some are well-meaning, to most I have become the invisible woman.
As has a way of happening, when things get to the point where I just need to get someplace quick, away from my home, my life, people, I always head to the Water. For me, water, or more specifically, the beach, has always meant peace and serenity. All the elements are there – Earth, Air, Fire (the sun), and of course, water. Walking slowly from earth to water, I go deeper into Her depths and each time, for me, is like being reborn from her womb. I just breathe in Her essence and the world falls away. When the beach is an impossibility, I head for my bathroom, a candle, bubbles and a quiet soak.
But for those every days, when I really find myself forgetting the me inside, I do manage to meditate everyday. You can go within and breathe anywhere you happen to be – imagine! It helps and it’s a small thing that can bring me back to myself for just a few moments.
Something else I do on a daily basis is to just sit outside on my deck, surrounded by the trees, listening to the birds. My backyard is, mostly, peaceful. The early mornings when I sit out there alone, enjoying my cup of tea reminds me that there is so much more to life than what mine has become. I find myself so grateful for this time each day. With the Autumn Equinox just passed, the mornings are getting a bit chilly and I wonder how much longer I will be able to do this. This is where I sit at this moment, writing this, bundled in a sweater. I look around, I breathe, and I am at peace.
I also try to start my daily with a very simple ritual, and it helps me to focus on each day. The first prayer is my own; the second is adapted from “The Sword of Truth” novels by Terry Goodkind.
I go to my main altar, which at the moment is set up for Hindu Yoga Goddesses – Durga, Kali, Saraswati. Kali has been the Goddess of my heart in recent months, as She who destroys obstacles to birth new beginnings.
I light my candle and incense. I bring my hands together into prayer pose at my heart center and say:
Good morning, Great Goddess
I ask your blessing as the day has begun
I ask your blessing till the day is done
I ask your blessing for family and friends
I ask your blessing till my day ends
I take a few moments here to think of specific people who may need a little extra healing, blessing and protection in their lives at the moment. For me, it has become important to try and focus on others in need, instead of always myself. I then raise my arms up and say:
Great Goddess, Guide me
Great Goddess, Teach me
Great Goddess, Protect me
In your light, I thrive
In your mercy, I am sheltered
In your wisdom, I am humbled
I am your daughter
I bring my hands back into prayer pose and take a couple of minutes to just breath and feel Her presence. I feel then as if I can go about my day, and face what may come.
What I have learned, of course, is that, while all of these helps me to find momentary serenity and comfort, to find deep, abiding serenity, I must look in an entirely different place, and that is deep within my own spirit.
(Originally published by SageWoman Magazine, #88, Serenity, under the title “Time On My Hands”)