Living the Wheel: Seasonal Musings of the Pagan Year

Thoughts and musings of the wheel of the Pagan Year.

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Cleansing and Cleaning

     Normally as we approach Imbolc I am thinking ahead to growth and rebirth: setting goals, planning gardens, asking how I can change and improve aspects of myself or my life. Not this year. With two people in my house fighting strep throat, one recovering from a stomach virus, and another knocked flat by an upper respiratory infection, the last thing on my mind is growth. I'm thinking cleansing. Physical and spiritual. I want to disinfect my kitchen and dispose of emotional clutter. This Imbolc my focus is cleansing intentions and processes, cleansing space, spirit, and body. It is needed.

     I think for many of us cleansing is an unacknowledged part of the Imbolc season. How many of us do a big 'spring cleaning' every March or so? I generally do mine around Imbolc. I'm on my couch today trying to figure out how to facilitate this. (I'm one of the strep throat people.) The first step is not to worry about it. I will get to it when I get to it. Mental stress (especially about something so mundane) leads to bodily stress, which leads to sickness. In order for one to be physically well, one must be mentally well also. This can be a tall order. You have work. You have families. You have stress. Like myself, you may have mental illness. Studies have shown again and again the correlation between depression and illness. What are we to do?

     We need to accept the fact that we live from day to day and that we do the best we can each day. This is easier than it sounds. I have personal experience with this, having worked until nine P.M. some nights (despite my shift ending at four), scrambling to finish activity calendars that were due the next day. Yes, there are times when the work cannot wait until tomorrow, but if it can, acknowledge that you did the best you could for today, and make that item a priority tomorrow.

     Since we're on the subject of work, what does your desk/cubicle/table look like? Clutter to the eye means clutter in the mind, and when you can't focus on the task at hand you begin to worry, and worry leads to stress. I would hate for anyone to give up their lunch break, but if by doing so you manage to sort out your workspace and suddenly find you can breathe easy, that may be time well-spent after all.

     How are things at home? Because that adults in this house are ill, only the minimum of housework is being done, and honestly, looking around, I don't know where to begin. Boxes of holiday decorations are still stacked in the living room, school papers and stray mittens are piled on the desk, probably obscuring bills that are due today, baskets of laundry need to be folded, and I don't remember when I last watered my plants, but they look as bad as I feel. Clearly, some deep cleansing is needed.

     When you return home after a stressful day at work, I'm sure you would love to walk into your house, drop your things, sigh in relief and have a relaxing cup (or glass) of something. If you walk through the door and the sight of your living space makes your blood pressure climb, I sympathize. Drop your things and go have that cup of something. As my Gramma used to say, 'the mess will keep.' Give yourself some time, because all you are going to do otherwise is scramble from one mess to another, get a headache, and not really accomplish anything. Then you will feel awful because of it. You and your loved ones deserve better. Your significant other will still love you if the laundry isn't started the minute you walk through the door. And if you have children, the memory of you sitting down for cocoa and a chat will last forever. The mess will not. Once you've fueled up on stress-relief, start the laundry. Everyone wins.

     I recognize that not all physical illness stems from emotional or mental stress. My six year old was the first to contract strep throat. His biggest concern is whether or not he can have whipped cream on his cocoa. My emotional stress as his temperature climbed to 102.7 probably didn't do much to prevent me from catching it, however. If you have happened to pick up one of the seasonal illness floating around despite having well-managed stress, make sure you put your own wellness first. No one likes to miss a day of work, but if you push yourself too much you're only going to get worse. The the cycle of stress  and illness will begin. You do not want to ride that train.

     The question to be asked then, is how do I avoid succumbing to illness? How do I overcome it?

     If we focus on cleansing various parts of our lives, we can help prevent the illness that bring us down, and if we can't avoid them we will at least recover more quickly. We can begin by taking care of ourselves: good food, plenty of liquids. Yes, we hear it all the time, but it's true. Whenever my husband feels just the hint of a sore throat, he heads to the local Co-Op and picks up bottles of a particular lemon-ginger-echinacea juice and devotes himself to that and plenty of water. Maybe it's psychosomatic, but he's rarely sick. (His luck ran out on him this month though.) Conversely, I am well-aware that the 'lunches' of a can of Coke while working on projects did nothing for my current condition.

     Manage your stress. No, we can't avoid it, but we can control it. Prioritize, make lists, tell yourself it's okay to not do everything at once and believe it; all are essential to mental and emotional health. If a particular person is a contributor to your stress, look at your relationship with them. Will a discussion with them help change things? Counseling or therapy? If you can find no way to make your relationship a healthy one, I suggest removing that person from your life. This sounds harsh, I know, but we are talking cleansing. Clearing. Scouring, if need be, to get to the clean surface underneath. Your health demands what is best for you, and another person's negativity and ill-will are not it. If it is not safe for you to do so on your own, please, please seek out the help you need. You are not a failure. You are a brave, beautiful person.

     Next tackle all those doubts and negative thoughts. Allow yourself to let them go. If you can't, a good way to gain release from them is to burn them. Literally. Write those thoughts and hateful comments down, either singly or as pages of negativity, then burn them in the fireplace, wood stove, or a fire-proof bowl. Destroy the negativity that is harming you. Do not feel bad about it. Did that negativity care about how you feel?

     Now look around. What part of your surroundings needs cleansing? If your intentions are lost amid piles of everything, start with a mug of tea and a notepad. A to-do list is a very useful thing. 'Everything' becomes single tasks, and even though there may be many, they don't seem so intimidating anymore.

     What about clutter? We all love our knickknacks and so forth, but if you can barely see them through the layer of dust, how much do they really mean? And how much better will you breathe - literally - if that dust had nowhere to settle? Lesson learned: If you truly love it, do not get rid of it. I had an extensive collection of dishes in a pattern my grandmother owned when I was a child, and they just 'sat around collecting dust,' so I donated them. I still regret that. What I should have done was found a way to properly display them. Look around your space. What do you love? What do you have because you used to love it or feel like you should? If it doesn't stir up a smile or a fond memory, find a new home for it. Empty space isn't such a bad thing.

     Less clutter leads to easier cleaning. The bookshelves in my living room became much easier to dust when I accepted the fact that my children weren't going to read the books I picked up because I thought interesting. When I finally tossed the clothes that 'might fit again,' the clothes that did fit could go into the bureau instead of a laundry basket, shoes went from all over into the basket, and the bedroom carpet finally got shampooed. Clutter gets cleared, the house gets cleaned, and we get healthier.

     Once space is cleared and cleaned it can be cleansed. Lingering illness has an energy, and if not properly cleansed that energy can (will) expand. As a Reiki Master I can send energy into my home, letting in all that is healing and displacing all that is ill, but sometimes more is needed, and there are methods anyone can use. Sweeping everyday not only cleans but keeps energy from becoming stagnant. Opening windows, even for five minutes, allows a space to breathe. (If it's freezing where you are, only open them an inch or so. You really will notice a difference.) A smudge stick of sage or sage and lavender will cleanse your space, as will salt water sprinkled in rooms. If you have stalks of fresh rosemary to do this with, so much the better. A lit candle carried from room to room will cleanse and bless the space with the spirit of the hearth, which is the heart of the home.

     As you prepare to celebrate Imbolc this year, think about what kind of cleansing you will benefit from. Let go of old hurts and 'I can'ts;' free space in your home to be filled with things you love. Look ahead to a year of maintaining and improving your health. Repair relationships if you can, but purge truly toxic ones. When you embark on your spring cleaning, whether at Imbolc or Ostara or somewhere in between, remember that just cleaning isn't quite enough: follow your cleaning with a cleansing and a house blessing to have the happiest - and healthiest - spring you can.

     Remember to take care of yourself. Yes, your family needs looking after and work needs to be done, but if you are prostrate with a sinus infection or can't keep an ounce of food down, you can't care for them or work. Every once in a while your top priority needs to be you.

     Be well.






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I am a writer and poet living in western Massachusetts. I have a degree in English Lit, with a focus on the nineteenth century, and am working toward a degree in Women's Studies as well. My work has previously appeared in The Pagan Activist, The Pagan Review, GrannyMoon's Morning Feast, and The Montague Reporter. I am currently working on a series of children's books, a novel trilogy, and a poetry manuscript (I simply can't do one thing at a time!). I also have several random fantasy-based short story projects that I attack once in a while.   I am a Dianic Pagan and practice Kitchen Wicca, and am also a Reiki Master. For a glimpse into my own little corner of reality, you can stop in and visit me at Ellie.
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