I felt it for the first time Saturday. I don’t know if it was the bright sunlight on the snow, or the way the light was angling through the window of the car, or just the awareness that I was headed to an Imbolc Ritual that night. But the knowing came through, like the softest whisper: ‘It’s time.’
We can’t see it yet, exactly – the days are still cold, still more dark than light, but the inevitable shift is occurring beneath and around us. This morning, as I walked the dog, there seemed to be more birdsong in the air. Below the first layer of winter soil, deeper work is occurring. Our sleeping world is shifting, and dreaming of spring.
I jokingly refer to my yearly reaction to this transition point as The Purge. One of the many themes contained within Imbolc is the idea of preparation and purification. On some level, I’ve internalized that as ‘get rid of the unnecessary crap.’
Over the coming days and weeks, I will go through my home. I’ll gather up all the things I wish to donate. My personal rule is that if I have not touched it, used it or worn it in the past year, it goes (barring ancestral items). I’ll box and bag up my donations, clean everything else, and get my home ready for spring.
This is a laying of foundations – it’s not planning my garden (although that will happen soon), or working with the board to start rolling the Frederick Pagan Pride Day ball. It is smaller, quieter, simpler and deeper – the shifting beneath the surface. The roots beginning to reach a little deeper into the soil, gathering nutrients so that when the sunlight truly returns, I’m ready to grow.
Yesterday was astronomical Imbolc – the exact midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox – which means that today is the first day we’re past the halfway mark. We are closer to light than darkness. Conveniently, today also marks the dark of the moon. This is a good time to let things go, and set new intentions and patterns for the coming lunar cycle.
One of my favorite things about Pagan spirituality is that, at its truest core, it does not require much. Workings can be elaborate, with lavish altars and elaborate invocations. Workings can also be simple, and can be limited to you, your thoughts, a pen and paper.
It is this latter Working that I am planning for myself. I thought you might find it useful, so I’m sharing it with you.
Dark Moon Recentering Exercise
Set aside a good half an hour of time, possibly more, for this exercise. Shut off your devices – if your brain is anything like mine, it will try to shy away from contemplation, especially uncomfortable or challenging contemplation, by seizing on distractions. Set up your journaling supplies, whatever form they happen to take.
Ground and center – take a few deep breaths with your eyes closed. Relax your body. Begin to let go of the task-oriented thoughts and sink a little deeper into yourself. When you feel settled, open your eyes. Light a candle if it would be meaningful to you.
Then, consider and write about the following questions:
How do I feel right now?
If you pull away the mask that you wear for others, what’s underneath? Write it all down, regardless of whether it’s ‘happy’ or not. Let both shadow and light come through. How we feel, at any given moment, includes many layers of emotion. Keep peeling back those layers until you run out of words.
How do I want to feel? Reflect on how you’re feeling now. What would you change? Think about each recorded feeling from the first question. Are these feelings you want to keep? Which ones would you like to shift?
Sit with these two questions for a while. Although our culture has spent the past hundred-plus years pushing the idea that feelings don’t matter, that concept could not be further from the truth. Our feelings – our emotional state – are absolutely vital. Learning to pay attention to those deeper currents has the power to deeply transform how we live.
What lies at the center of my desires? As a teacher, one of the things I see that repeats frequently is people tend to try to transform too much at the same time. They try to get in shape, eat more healthily, start a meditation practice and learn a new divination system. All at once.
Humans change more gradually, more slowly. And when we acknowledge that and work with it as opposed to against it, our changes tend to stick. We don’t suddenly stall out, finding that our changes were unsustainable.
Look at the changes you wish to make. Chances are, there’s a theme that’s present in nearly all of them. Is it stress? Fatigue? Disconnection? Being overscheduled? See if you can put that theme into one word, or a simple sentence.
Then, take a step back mentally. Look at that central issue with fresh eyes. You’re looking at the root cause here, not all the symptoms. If we shift in a way that supports treating the root cause, the symptoms will also be affected.
What is one simple step I can take to shift my center? Is there something simple you can do as a daily practice that will help address that shift? Try to have it be something that takes up 15 minutes or less. If you’re exhausted, could you try to go to bed 15 minutes early? If you’re feeling disconnected, could you set aside 5 minutes every day to close your eyes, breathe deeply, and dial in to your Spirit? If you’re overscheduled, what is one small timesink you could let go of? If you feel physically unhealthy, what is one snack you could change during the day to something that truly nourishes you?
Start small. One simple step.
Then, set that one practice as your intention for this coming lunar cycle. From now until the next Dark Moon, lay the foundation. Practice this one simple act every day. Let the theme of purification, of preparation, be the energy of Imbolc that lingers with you.
Support that practice. Once you’ve identified your Work for this lunar cycle, set yourself up to follow through with that simple step. Turn your devices back on and schedule a reminder in your phone that repeats as needed. Uninstall a timesink, if that’s what you’ve chosen. Update your grocery list with a food item swap. Change the background on your phone to remind you of your Work. The more support we give a change, the more likely it is the change will stick.
Tomorrow, the crescent moon returns to the night sky. Let’s let her shine on something new, and let our dreaming earth feel the promise of a better spring reaching down to her.