Stirring in the Belly

Monastic practice offers me the gift of paying attention to the seasons of the day and the year.  February 1st is a potent time.  On the Celtic wheel of the year it is Imbolc (meaning “stirring in the belly”) which is one of the cross-quarter days falling between the Solstice and the Equinox.  Imbolc marks the first day of spring, the time when the very beginning of earth’s stirrings and awakenings from winter can be seen.  In Christian tradition it is the Feast of St. Brigid (an Irish Saint who is associated with fire) and on February 2nd is Candlemas which is the day traditionally when priests would bless the beeswax candles for the year ahead.  In secular society February 2nd is Groundhog Day when the groundhog emerges from his burrow to see if there will be six more weeks of winter.  On Saturday it was the Jewish feast of Tu B’Shevat, the new year of trees which marks the time when the sap begins to rise and winter’s waning. Earth and fire are the sacred elements of this threshold time when many cultures and traditions honor the first stirrings of the earth’s belly.

Yesterday I led a group of women in retreat.  We tended to the stirrings in our own bellies and listened to the world around us for whispers of how creation invites us into blossoming.  As we began, I invited them to put their hands on their bellies – that tender and vulnerable place – and sit for a few moments in stillness listening.

You might pause right now and try this:

Connect to your body, hand on your belly, breathe deeply, and pay attention to what you notice stirring in you.

What feelings, images, memories are moving in you?

After savoring these, listen for the invitation you are sensing.

How does what you are experiencing speak to what wants to sprout forth from the fertile soil of your soul in the months ahead?

Take these invitations for a walk with you and see how the world around you helps to ripen your sense of what is stirring.

How does creation call forth what is just beginning to burgeon within you?

The photos below were taken in Ireland last autumn at the site of St. Bridgid’s holy well, a place of pilgrimage and reflection.  The ribbons on the trees are prayers left by pilgrims seeking solace and inspiration.  It is incredibly moving to witness this gathering of prayers, this sacred site holding people’s deepest desires. The green ribbon is the one I left for Bridget, carrying my own longings into winter’s incubation.  The next couple of days I will listen to how this prayer uttered in my heart several months ago is now being transformed in the earth of my being into an offering for the world.

If you were to tie a ribbon on Bridgid’s tree today, what would your prayer be?

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© Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts:
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