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Winter reflections on the Solstice weekend

Today was one of those days that you wake up expecting one thing and something completely different, and better happens. 


Hurrah!


I was going on a mission to help my brother, and expecting a 3 hour round trip of driving, back to my old stomping ground in Mid-Wales.


Getting my flask and smoothy ready for the drive, I open up my phone to find I’m no longer needed and have a day at my disposal. Feels like a win!


I grab my laptop, journal and outdoor clothes and head out the door. I’m determined to make the most of the day, knowing that I’d be in ceremonial space all day tomorrow and need to be focused. Today was a free day for some R&R. 


I drove to my friends to switch over a vehicle for my folks, and that was the beginning and end of my familial duties. No 3 hour round trip, just a quick check in and that was that.  


I watch my folks wonder off, feeling slightly saddened that I hadn’t jumped at the chance to hang out with them, instead, turned to my friends who beckoned me in towards the house for a tea.


At that moment I had a choice, follow them and see if we want to hang out for a cuppa somewhere, or turn and join my friend..


My folks drive away, and I feel like I’m not really choosing, but I am. They’re busy, Dad’s not feeling great, and we can hang out another time. 


Another time soon. 


I walk into the house with my friend and I’ve entered the realm of freedom. 


A realm of freedom and choice out of the bounds of the norm. It’s Friday morning and my usual “I’m self-employed and I need to work all the time to make my business work” mantra is slipping away as I realise that I like being self-employed for the freedom it brings, and the old paradigm of work, work, work is just not ok any more. 


We sit and ponder the day, and my friend shares about his dreams (literally from the night before) and we talk of our plans for the day. 


Mine included writing a chapter or so for my new book Energy 101, and possibly editing something else I’m working on, and his included going walking in the hills nearby, in search of the magical gifts the hills can offer in the way of tiny little liberty cap mushroom. 


We share a chuckle, remembering my reticence around all things psychedelic and ponder with a sense of fun at the “I don’t need them” mantra I’ve had for years towards these locally found mushrooms. 


He smiles and invites me to come with him and his wife for the walk, and I start to ponder the adventure that’s unfolding… 


You see, I left university in the beginning of my third year and it’s haunted me for years. It was, you might say, thanks to, and down to, my connection to mushrooms (and marijuana) during that time.


A fateful trip to Glastonbury festival, and a chance encounter and I was leaving university, my things crammed into my mums little car, and my tail well between my legs. 


Glastonbury festival and the summer of love


Like all the best things in life, I was totally not expecting it. I was bimbling along in my own little world probably smoking a spliff, happy as Larry I was at Glastonbury again, and heading towards the stone circle. I happened to offer directions to an ageing hippy and we started to walk to the stone circle together. I was really chuffed to be able to assist him towards the fields of freedom I’d enjoyed the night before. 



He seemed chuffed too and I chuckled to myself that he didn’t know the way. (Or perhaps he was too stoned to remember?) I knew it was a place for the truly free-at-heart, a place where the weird and wonderful of the festival came alive, huddled around camp fires, musicians wondering around between groups, people selling every drug you can think of and the inevitable naked dancers and drummers at the stone circle. It was heaven!


He looked at me and asked if I liked mushrooms, and not wanting to sound silly, I grinned and said “Yeah, of course”.       


He plunged his hand into a carrier bag I’d not noticed before, and pulled out a handful of dried mushrooms, handing them to me. 


“Thanks”, I say, as we enter the field, and we nod a knowing good-bye. 


I look down at the handful of mushrooms, and without so much of a thought of doubt, I started chomping down on them and carried on walking towards the clusters of people further up the field.   


It was like eating dried grass, and it was all I could do to swallow them, but down they went, and off I went in search of somewhere to make a spliff. 


An hour later and I’m feeling intense gurgling in my stomach and I know I need to find a toilet. I won’t enlighten you with that story, but you can well imagine the chaos that ensued as I start to come up on the mushrooms, the sun creeping up too, and me trying to find my way to the rest rooms to let my body purge. 


Mission complete and I’m in full revery, the revery known to anyone familiar with these little mushrooms, one of the most revered and sacred plants of the British Isles. I’m so happy and grinning so hard my mouth could start to hurt. 


I’m seeing beautiful colours of dawn washing over the festival and down towards the Isle of Avalon in the distance and my heart is over-flowing with love. Everywhere I look I see beautiful people, happy, and sharing their love and joy. 


I randomly find my band-mate Miles and we start making a foot long spliff to share with those we encounter. Miles is a blond Norwegian; taller than me at 6ft 3 and wearing a crown of plastic flowers over his long hair, complete with a bright blue mac. He is a portal of love and beaming at me and I’m so happy to have met him as we walk around sharing our spliff with those we meet. 


Our hearts are filled with joy as we connect to so many people and I can feel the joy inside me now as I remember that morning so clearly. We weren't even bothered when a group of scousers were getting antsy when we wouldn't sell them our giant spliff. Nothing could pull us out of our happy place and we continued in our mission. 


I was so happy I’d found my tribe: I had peace in my heart. With years of feeling disgruntled with the world, now I knew there was hope, love and another way, filled with people who wanted to change the world and bring love to everyone around them….      


The energy from that day carried me onwards through my hazy second year, filled with band practises, gigs, spliffs, dancing and merriment, and yet my next encounter with the infamous mushrooms couldn't have been more different…

So small and yet so powerful


A dark night of the soul and the end of my uni days  


It was a new term, and I had new house mates, and I wanted to share the love once again. We’d had a house party the year before and it was lovely, lots of happy faces, live music jamming (I had a lot of instruments at Uni with me), and dancing, and I wanted to do it again. 


I told people I knew for weeks before, people from the bar I worked at, and those I was in uni with… and this time it became bigger, and louder, and people would spill out into the garden and still more knock at the front door to get it. Later on, people would ask me to help with the Djs and the drinks and it became overwhelming, the pressure of being the one who made it happen, the connection between them all… 


And yet earlier on, I was happy. People were turning up, settling in and enjoying themselves and I spent some time my in my bedroom upstairs and saw the familiar faces of the people I’d spent some time with over the summer. 


Friends and yet not deeply connected friends. People I respected and admired and yet, I know now, I hadn’t really connected, not deep down. I’d shown my best face and hidden by fears and that night it would come back to haunt me. 


They were sharing mushrooms, to enjoy through the night and they offered me some too. A hesitant look between them, yet still they handed over the bag so I could take my pick. The person handing them out was a guy I’d had a crush on: a gentle soul and I couldn’t get him out of my mind. And yet I couldn’t tell him how I felt either. 


I looked at them, and in another of those sliding-door moments, I took a handful and started stuffing them down my throat, reminiscent of my the summer night in Glastonbury. 


And yet this time, I was in a party. My Party. In a city. With a lot of people counting on me.


Gulp.


I went downstairs passing people on every step, greeting everyone I saw, all the people I’d asked, all the lovely people I knew but didn't know. People happy, and excited, glad to be asked to a party perhaps, happy to be included. I went down to check on the kitchen, full of people, and looked into the lounge where the DJs were. 


There was a buzz everywhere and the music was flooding the house, people were everywhere, and then it all became too much.


The faces started blurring, I didn’t know the answers to the questions, I felt small, young, and frightened. I was afraid of the people, shy, ashamed, not quite as present as they were. 


I wanted to be their friend, I wanted to join in and yet I felt like a child in a world of adults, looking out from the wrong place, the wrong time. 


I was surrounded by friends and yet I was alone. It was all too much, and I didn’t know what to do or where to go. 


My friends ushered me into the one quiet room in the house, the bedroom next to mine, and the bedroom of my friend who didn’t want strangers in her room. A safe haven. 


I shared a spliff with her and her partner, and must have passed out as the next thing I remember was waking up in my bedroom next door. 


Alone and in the day light. Where’s the party? I wonder.


This bedroom was new to me and it felt new now. Different and not really quite mine, not quite home. I felt strange. Unsettled. And I saw random objects along the wall beneath the radiator. 


I couldn’t make out where they’d come from but they all seemed to have messages, telling me everything was going to be ok, but I wasn’t so sure. I wasn’t sure what had happened but I was bummed to miss the party, and yet relieved and ashamed and a lot of things in between.  


My friend came in and bought a cup of my beloved Roibosch and looked at me with so much love and care, yet I couldn’t speak. I didn’t know how to speak about what had happened. 


I was locked inside myself, ashamed and in shock, and asked what had happened to everyone. 


It didn’t matter, they've gone. It’s all ok, she told me. Everything was fine, there was nothing to worry about.


And yet, it felt like there had been a death. Something had ended. I was numb. Afraid, disjointed. 


The joy from the beginning of the party was gone and replacing it was a heavy feeling.  


Something was wrong but I didn’t know what and I couldn’t explain it, couldn’t talk about it.  


The rest of the day was a blur, a numb feeling that overwhelmed me as I talked to my house mates. It had gone wrong and I felt really bad, and I didn’t know how to handle it. 


I left uni not long after that, after realising I could hardly focus on a book, let along catch up on jurisprudence, and yet everything seemed pointless and hopeless. It felt like the only option to leave, and try to understand what had happened. 


22 years later and it starts to makes sense


This afternoon I knew I didn’t want to find mushrooms to take them. This trip for me wasn’t about that. This was a reconnection to an old part of me, the closing of a cycle, the peace I needed that I couldn’t find all those years ago. 


Once we were walking on the hill, I connected to the Spirit of the Hill, and a deep sense of peace came over me. I realised that for most of my life I had a deep sense of joy and purpose, knowing that God was there, watching all things and yet there was also the other part of me that felt alone, scared, totally insecure, full of self-shame and frustration at not knowing what my purpose was, not knowing where to go in life. 


I had felt full of the need to assist other people and unsure how that translated into every day life. Part of me wanted to go and live as a nun, devoting my time to God, to prayer, to peace, and yet another part felt I needed to be in the world, not hidden away in cloisters, and yet I didn’t know how to live. I’d been living half in the world and another part not really in the world at all. 


On this mountain I knew this was the time to connect once again to the Spirit of the mushroom and ask for help to integrate the years of shame I’d carried after my fateful connection with this sacred plant. 


In the years that have passed, I know the immense gift of planet medicine and the elementals that work with the plants, and bring us teachings. I know now the necessity of connecting with the plant spirit, with the need for held space, for respect for what we are ingesting, and I know we can ask them for assistance and come to them as teachers. 


I came to realise today that despite my shame at feeling like I’d failed at uni, failed at mushrooms, failed socially, they showed me quite a different story. 


The gift of the mushrooms


They (the spirit of mushrooms) showed me I could trust that gift of returning to Wales, to the mountains and lakes and greenery that surrounded us every day. They showed me that I could take the gift AND learn more. 


The spirit of the mountain and the spirit of the plants showed me that on that fateful night, I had been shown my deepest fear: people. 


The first journey was like a spiritual honey moon: like finding God it was joyful, overwhelming in love, heart opening, and healing. And yet, it’s easy to think “that’s it, I’ve made it, I’m now enlightened and life will be glorious from now on”.


Oh how wrong can you be?!  


Then you get tested, and pushed and called and THEN the real work starts. 


And so it was with Mushrooms. 


I had felt the joy of life many times in my life, usually on a dance floor or when playing music, and yet the journey on mushrooms at Glastonbury, connecting with all the people was a liberation: a liberation of joy with other people. 


The second venture was the complete opposite. The biggest and deepest fears had come up, and they continued to rear up, many times through my 20s and 30s to the point I had become like a hermit. 


This propensity to hermit myself bought many things, many inspirations, many opportunities for deep diving in to my psyche, to connect to nature in a way that only isolation inspires. And yet. The fear had never gone away. It had eaten away at me, it had called me to hear it and I had refused. 


And this day, I could see. 


The mushrooms had shown me my fear so I could face it and I had shied away. 


This part of me had been calling so loud, so often and yet I pushed it away, shoved it down, covered it over, and each time, the feeling felt so great to carry, and the feeling of shame and despair almost too much to bear. 


And yet I know now, these parts of us are tiny aspects, tiny grains of our spirit, 0.0000000000001% of our true self. And yet they grow louder and louder and louder if we don't heal them and bring them peace.


If you’ve ever had a grain of sand in your sock that just keeps bugging you, you’ll knew there is no peace until you shake it out. 


And so it is with our psyche. 


Our inner child. 


Our wounded ego. 


There is no “just don’t worry about it”, there is no “you’re just thinking too much”, there is no “it’ll be alright”. 


We MUST lean IN to the parts who are hurting, we MUST make FRIENDS with the parts who are scared. We MUST allow our soul parts to come back home, and come to peace. 


And it took a journey to a damp hills side on a blustery November day, to realise the greatest gift the mushrooms gave me.


I had blanked out this part of my life for many years, trying to ignore it like a grain of sand in my shoe, and yet it had got louder and louder and today was the day to shake out my shoe. 


I thought I feared people, I thought I feared mushrooms. Now I know it was my FEELINGS that I was really scared of, and all I had to do was admit them. To hear my inner child, to make peace with my feelings. 


And maybe start to trust life again, and maybe everything was going to be ok, after all. 


And maybe I had a part to play in the world after all. 


And maybe, just maybe sharing my story would bring a little bit of peace to someone, somewhere. 


And that made it all worthwhile.    


If you've been touched by my writing, do reach out and share your journey. Or perhaps you’d like to work with me in my capacity as a space holder, life coach and healer, or maybe you just want to say hi. That’s all ok! Sign up to receive my (intermittent) newsletter here (at bottom of page), or follow me on facebook as Caroline Mary here.


Wishing you so much love this Solstice and beyond and look forwards to connecting to you in the perfect time, 

Love

Caroline x

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