A Leap Day Altar (and more)

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“All the possibilities of your human destiny are asleep in your soul. You are here to realize and honor these possibilities. When love comes in to your life, unrecognized dimensions of your destiny awaken and blossom and grow. Possibility is the secret heart of time.”

― John O’Donohue

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”

― Thomas Merton

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There are two paths to transformation: the way out-beyond and the way deep-within.

In the first, you leave your home and its familiarity behind to journey out into the wilderness of the liminal spaces — the desert, the mountain, the jungle, the ocean, the big city, the Otherworld — where you find the gift of your whole self waiting for you like an animal whose shadow you have been chasing all your life. And when you finally return home again you are different, no longer a child, no longer the old self you left behind. The journey home can take a lifetime.

In the second, the way deep-within, you curl up into yourself like a hermit crab or a caterpillar or a seed inside its shell. You burrow down into the sloppy, sucking mud of inner solitude and silence. You speak to no one, and no one speaks to you (except maybe the gods). And there, inside, is where you change — dissolving the old self, stripping it off, making a space into which the new self can grow. Maybe it feels like sickness. Maybe it feels like the growing pains of old ghost limbs thinning into wings. And it might be that the light will sting a little when you finally emerge again, waiting for your wide new eyes to focus.

Either way will work.

But it’s no good to stay here wavering between the two, weighing which one asks the least of you. Don’t tell yourself, “The way out-beyond is a glamorous adventure. I’ll prove myself, I’ll make them proud and come home to a hero’s welcome.” Don’t tell yourself, “The way deep-within is safer. I can keep the structures of my precious life intact while I go about my unobtrusive work.”

More likely you will come home to a place you no longer recognize, full of people who are strangers, wary of your strangeness and the bloodstains on your hands. More likely you will see the scaffolding of your life collapsing like a fire whose kindling has burned down to embers as soft as ash, unable to support anything that does not feed it.

Either way will work. You do not need to know how it will turn out. You only need to be willing to let your whole life change.


Have you been following along with my Altar-a-Day Challenge? Today marks the halfway point in my journey of daily altar crafting and contemplation. Join me on Facebook or Tumblr, and share your magic and meditations as well!

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This post is part of the WordPress Daily Prompt: Leap

Alison Leigh Lilly
Alison Leigh Lilly nurtures the earth-rooted, sea-soaked, mist-and-mystic spiritual heritage of her Celtic ancestors, exploring themes of peace, poesis and wilderness through essays, articles, poetry and podcasting. You can learn more about her work here.

1 Comment

  1. Roger
    Feb 29, 2016

    “But it’s no good to stay here wavering between the two, weighing which one asks the least of you. ” What a chasm we all face… most without ever knowing it!

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