Sunday, January 31, 2010

Reflection and Rediscovery

I've been going back through some of my old journals, looking for inspiring quotes. BlackLion and I are going to start a weekly Feline Dreamers e-zine (a newsletter sent via e-mail) and we plan to include a quote in each issue. We now have over eleven pages of quotes typed up, and the file continues to grow!

Besides finding tons of relevant quotes, I've also rediscovered several interesting and useful tools. The poem featured in my last blog post, for example, is a good reminder for me about how easy it can be to find my bliss. I found an idea for a guided meditation, which BlackLion and I can use in our Core Belief Kit. My notes on the "dropped and open" state of awareness from Vermont Witch Camp will come in handy when I lead a session at one of my Pagan study groups. And I also found a technique for releasing worry, which has worked well for me in the past - not only can I use it again myself, but I also plan on incorporating it into a book or article at some point.

In the process of skimming through these old journals, I've also been able to reflect on my spiritual journey and see how far I've come. And also where I'm still working on some of the same lessons that have been with me for years - though I do continue to slowly uncover new aspects of them. It's revealing to see how my concept of myself has changed over time.

I had no idea I have such a treasure chest of ideas and tools sitting on the shelf! The journal I'm writing in now is number 22, and I have no intention of stopping. Maybe I can create a book from them at some point. "Autobiography of a Modern Witch?" Or I'll just leave them for those who come after me to puzzle over at their leisure.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Invoking My Bliss

When I dive inside
To seek my bliss,
I'm pleased to find it
Coming easily to my seeking hand.
A familiar feel,
Like a smooth stone,
A cat rubbing his face against mine
Purring in joyous greeting.
My joy is vast, bubbling up,
Overflowing with laughter,
Wild dancing,
Delicious stretch,
Deep inhalation.
A round red apple,
Tart and juicy
As I pierce the skin.
The scent of lavender and spice
Lingering on the air.
The feel of pen on paper.
Released, my bliss
Relaxes into the space
Around me, soft and cozy
Like my favorite shawl.

I wrote this poem in the fall of 2008, when I was on a yoga retreat which focused on exploring bliss. Just found it today in a journal and thought it was a nice reminder. What's your bliss like?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Elements, Part 1: Earth

The element of Earth reveals our connection with the land. Earth’s direction is North, and its time is winter and midnight. The colors of Earth are dark and restful: chocolate brown, forest green, deep black like the night sky. Giant mountains, mighty trees, and burrowing creatures sing to us the slow, patient song of Earth.

We live in our physical bodies here on the Earth plane. We are rooted to the Earth through our cells, our ancestors, the land we inhabit. As we observe the land where we live, watching as the seasons change, we connect ourselves deeply to the energies of our sacred spaces. We notice the slow changes, the dance of time. When we are more nomadic, traveling across the surface of this vast planet, we can see the changes of the Earth’s terrain as we move through space.

Earth is what we are made of, the matter of our cells and bones and muscles. Our bodies long to experience nature: to stand barefoot on the ground, to walk through the woods and feel the sun and wind, to look up in awe at the stars. We nourish our bodies with Earth’s bounty, the fruits and vegetables and grains that grow from the soil. When we lie down to rest and fall asleep, we allow our bodies to be held in Earth’s embrace.

The instruments of the Earth element are drums. A slow, steady rhythm reflects the deep heartbeat of our living planet. It connects us with our own heartbeat, the personal rhythm that we dance to from the womb to the moment of our death. As we hear the beating drums, we touch the rhythms of our ancestors, those who came before us and whose bodies now sleep in the Earth. We are a part of all who have come before us. We arise from the Earth and to the Earth we will return.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Change Can Be Good...Really!

In the past week, I've had no less than three people, all from my close community, tell me that my blog posts seem sad, or worrying, or stressed. Don't worry, faithful readers! I'm doing just fine. I'm continuing to learn and grow, and enjoying the process most of the time.

I mean, yes, I have been going through some stress, but I think it's really about change. As an Earth sign, I've noticed that when I start making changes, it kind of freaks me out a bit until I get used to the new positive habits I'm establishing. Going through the 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse helped me release a lot of old habits and thoughts. I paused for a while to let them pass, and maybe even mourned them a bit. Now I'm getting moving in my new direction.

The other thing I've been trying to do is to be more "real" in my posts. I like to share positive thoughts and feelings, but at the same time, life does have its challenges. When I think about the books and movies I enjoy, the plot most often includes some kind of problem or challenge that the main characters then try to overcome. So I've opened up a bit more, in order to share some of the less-than-perfect days (we all have them) and how I deal with them.

Anyway, here's a taste of some of the positive things I've been focused on recently: Quester's new job (he starts training this week), doing more Reiki sessions, learning new things with the kids, celebrating two friends' birthdays this week, an awesome teleseminar with Christine Kane, watching the cats play crazily indoors since it's too cold for them outside, hanging out with the family, reading good books, taking walks in the snow, and watching episodes of Legend of the Seeker. What's new with you?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

For All of You Who Love Gaming...

...and you know who you are...here's a quote I found interesting. It's from a fun novel I'm reading, and the quoted part is a bit long, but I wanted to be sure to include the whole concept. The first speaker is a game designer:

"'My feeling about it - history goes through different stages. Right? From the eighteenth century the world's dominant paradigm went from a religion thing to a science thing. Right? And now in the twenty-first century I think it's shifting to a game thing.'

"'Okay.'

"'Games are kind of a third category. They're between art and science. But they're not just a mixture of them either.'

"'That sounds right,' I said. 'I mean, I'm big on games myself-'

"'Sure. But what I'm getting at is, there're all these people out there now, and they're playing games all the time. To the exclusion of almost anything else.'

"'Yeah, that's true. That's good for you guys, though, isn't it?'

"'Oh, sure. But the thing is, I kind of think there's a reason for that.'

"'Like what?'

"'Like - well, maybe this sounds kind of girlie and spiritual...'

"'No, no-'

"'Just that, doesn't it seem to you that a lot of these people are playing these games almost, I don't know, desperately?'

"'Like how?'

"'Just, really intensely and with a big sense of urgency.'

"'I don't know. But I've always played a lot of games, so I may not be the right person to ask-'

"'Just that they're all kind of looking for something,' she said. 'Or another way of putting it is that a lot of other things, other media or activities or jobs or whatever, they're all starting to seem obsolete. People intuitively know that the games are the future. In fact, maybe they're going to be the whole future. The whole social future, anyway. The whole human future.'"

from the novel "In the Courts of the Sun" by Brian D'Amato (page 155-156)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why I Don't Like Chess

I don't usually talk that much. I'm more of a listener, an observer. But I do think about things quite a bit. And when I've thought things through for a while, particularly if it's a topic that has piqued my interest, anomalies I've noticed, or an area where my personal philosophy seems to differ from the norm, then I like to share my discoveries.

I'm noticing, however, that when I choose to share my thoughts aloud, my friends or acquaintances often don't want to hear them. Perhaps they're caught up in their own line of thought, unused to me speaking up, or worse, they feel challenged by my assertions. Then they get defensive and try to refute or negate what I'm saying.

Maybe my approach needs to be fine-tuned. I like to help people when they seem unhappy, so sometimes the thoughts I share are offered from a place of "perhaps I can help" or "here's a different way to look at it." Of course, I could wait until I'm asked for my advice or opinion. But then the person asking wants an immediate response, and there's no time for thoughtfulness and contemplation.

The thing is, I really can't do the debate thing anymore. There quickly becomes a lot of emotion involved, and not the joyful kind. I had some rough experiences with this in the past, on serious topics, with much angst all around. Lately, these conversations have been about what I would consider "lighter" subjects, like how to watch sports without getting upset at the outcome, or how to teach kids about healthy eating without being coercive, but still...the debate-style talk becomes a strategy game, like chess, with moves and counter-moves.

Then it becomes a competition, and someone is "right" and thus "wins." The other person is "wrong," or at least "less right," and thus "loses." I don't want to be a part of that. To me, it shuts down the channels of communication through which we can share and learn from each other.

That's why it's so important to me to be a published author. There are many related reasons, actually: only those who are truly interested need read my writings; they read them in the privacy of their own home, with debates safely removed from my personal space; and I write much more clearly than I speak. There's also less pressure to respond in the moment - I have time to craft my thoughts so that they (hopefully) express the wisdom I wish to share.

So if I seem even quieter than usual, I'm simply saving it up for the next blog entry, article, or book. And if you really do want to hear what I have to say, keep reading!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Raven Can

I wanted to share a collage that BlackLion and I made as a gift for a friend's birthday. The piece is titled "Raven Can." BlackLion drew the picture, and then we created a collage from it together, using colors cut from magazines and catalogues. I was pleased with how it came out. It looked nice in the frame, and I had to make two color copies because ElvenTiger immediately snagged a copy to frame for her room. I guess she liked it, too!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Moderation

"Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide." - Cicero

"Moderation in all things."
- Terence

"It is better to rise from life as from a banquet - neither thirsty nor drunken." - Aristotle

As the result of a couple of recent conversations, I've been thinking about moderation. One conversation was about food, and the other about being sensitive to one's environment, and they struck me as both being related to our physical health. While pondering this, I've also extrapolated to other areas of life, for example, empathy and emotions.

In these conversations, I perceived a duality being offered up: some people are advocating, for example, eating whatever you want in the moment (or allowing one's children to do so) and trusting that a balance will naturally be found. Another approach is to regulate very carefully what you ingest (in these conversations, the choices being discussed range from organic vegan food to raw foods and pure spring water to sugar- and gluten-free options, depending on the person's beliefs). It seems to me that moderation may serve us better.

An example: I know people who eat a lot of processed, high-salt and high-sugar foods. They also get sick frequently with colds and flus. From my perspective, perhaps their bodies aren't receiving enough vitamins and nutrition to keep their immune systems strong. I've also met people on strict diets (varying by person) who become ill when they choose to eat something different, say at a party or gathering outside their home. It seems to me that their bodies are no longer able or willing to adapt to foods that are outside their "norm." Either way, it's inconvenient and uncomfortable to have a cold or headache or stomach pains.

Another example: in modern society, we've learned that the spread of germs can compromise our immune system and give us a greater chance to become ill from viruses and bacteria. However, this can be taken too far. If you live in a near-sterile environment, relying on antibacterial soaps, sprays and hand sanitizers, your body forgets how to deal with germs. Sooner or later, you go out in public or to another person's home and suddenly you're sick for the next couple of days.

For me, being very sensitive (what I would call, for myself, oversensitive) to others' emotions hasn't helped me to find joy. I was once incredibly shy, and what I wanted most was to have friends. Yet going to parties or initiating conversations was extremely difficult. As I've grown older, I've adapted to my surroundings such that I can enjoy situations that I would have once found painful or uncomfortable. I didn't go to the extreme of deciding that others' feelings don't matter. Yet I learned that I don't need to take every emotion I sense in others personally, either. I know that it's more compassionate, in the long run, for me to continue to be centered and offer my help from that balanced place when possible and appropriate. It's a matter of moderation.

As someone who chooses to be out in the world, interacting with a variety of people in different settings, moderation helps me to live more joyfully. If I wanted to be absolute about certain beliefs, I could choose a lifestyle that supports that. Some fundamentalists of varying religions only socialize with others of like mind, and that's their choice, of course. Monks and nuns choose to express their beliefs in a sheltered place where they can remain very focused on certain aspects of their spiritual life. But if we choose to explore the world, moderation may serve us well, helping us to stay centered as we adapt to the varying circumstances we discover along the way.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Daughter

I am blessed and lucky enough to have a daughter, and not only that, but a wonderful one! Today is her birthday, and she is 11. Happy birthday, ElvenTiger!

She was born in Portland, Maine, during a snowstorm. To this day she loves snow and winter. Her birth was easy and peaceful - natural labor and delivery at a very family-friendly hospital. I got to tell her birth story a couple of times today, because some of my friends asked about it.

ElvenTiger loves music. She sings and makes up songs constantly. She plays basketball and soccer, and despite being fairly petite, she's turning into quite a good soccer goalie for her team. ElvenTiger likes to swim and knit, loves cats and faeries, and has her own unique style of clothing. She is funny and kind and beautiful and smart and confident. She has a group of four close girl friends and enjoys spending time with them, as well as with her grandmother and great-aunt. She is a calm and friendly person, and everyone enjoys her company. I'm grateful for having her in my life!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Steps Forward, Steps Back

I had such a horrible day yesterday, and all because of my attitude. I'm not sure why it happened, though I can speculate. Perhaps all the toxins I'm clearing out of my psyche caught up to me. A friend has a theory that anytime you try to get rid of an old pattern, the pattern (which is sort of an entity of its own) gets threatened and starts to fight back. Or maybe it was just a fluke.

Anyway, I felt fine when I woke up. But the non-arrival of some money my family expected threw me into a teary panic. I started trying to figure out how to manage to pay for the things I need to accomplish this week, which happens to be my daughter's birthday week, and deciding what could wait until later. My "solutions" were fear-based and really not that great.

At our homeschool classes in the afternoon, the girls weren't in the mood to participate. Especially my own kid, who was uncharacteristically stressed out. Go figure - kids often reflect the moods and energies of their parents. I ended up with a headache.

Later in the evening, there was a lot of arguing and bickering in the family. I much prefer harmony, and being in a fragile mood already, this squabbling was magnified in my mind to epic proportions. "Why aren't we happy? Am I offering the kids an abusive childhood? Should I have even had kids?" You can see how it went. Yuck.

I ended up going to bed with a book and hibernating. After a good night's sleep and lots of odd dreams, I woke up feeling much better. And I apologized for being so out of whack.

The 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse, along with the other spiritual work I've been doing, is a big deal for me. It can take a lot of energy to change old habits and ways of thinking. Instead of seeing a difficult day as evidence of failure, I think it's OK to fall back into the morass now and then. I've learned that really, truly, that's not how I want to live. Today I'm taking inspired actions and focusing on all the things that are positive in my life. I'm stepping forward again.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Teaching the Elements

Last spring I took the Elements of Magic class from two wonderful Reclaiming teachers who are bringing these teachings to Maine. I've been a Pagan for 20 years, and I've attended one of Reclaiming's witch camps (in 2005). The Reclaiming philosophy and approach, founded by Starhawk in San Francisco many years ago and expanded by groups and individuals across the world, speaks to me. Though I've worked with the elements quite a bit, I learned some new things in the class, and I was able to offer my perspective to the newer Pagans. But the most important thing the class did for me was to inspire my reconnection with Pagan ritual and magick.

At the end of the class, I offered to be a student teacher if the need arose. These classes are generally taught by two teachers and a student teacher. Once you've been a student teacher, you can go on to co-teach the classes. At the time, they thanked me but weren't in need of help. In the meantime, I've signed up to take the second round of Reclaiming courses, the Iron Pentacle, which will be happening this spring. I'm also participating in a more in-depth study of the elements with a group of longtime Pagans over the course of this year.

Last week, one of my teachers called and asked me to student-teach the Elements of Magic class with them starting next month. I'm so excited! When I was speaking with her I could feel my spirit dancing with joy. This work is definitely part of my calling. And it fits with two of my goals for the year, as well.

If you're in Maine and you're interested in taking the class, I'll be posting more details soon. Blessed Be!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

What I've Been Up To

I've taken some quieter post-holiday time to be introspective. Here are some images of what I've been up to during that time.

Setting up an Earth altar:


Making collages to energize my writing projects:


And encourage more self-love:


And, of course, spending time working on projects at my desk, with my trusty helper Merlin:


Hibernation is good...

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Finding Renewal

How do you renew and recharge your personal energy? Each of us does it differently. Think about what activities infuse you with joy and vibrance, or lift you up when you're feeling depleted. It might be a long conversation with a friend, eating healthy foods, going for a run, playing guitar, or spending time at the ocean. My favorite ways to renew are doing yoga, writing in my journal, and curling up with a good book.

Through talking with friends, I've learned that people who tend to be extroverted are renewed by spending time with others. They perform music in a band, play board games with pals, or go out dancing to recharge themselves. Introverts are more likely to want time to themselves to rest and renew. In our culture, many people use television and other media as their down time. But rather than do this as a default, examine how you feel after a couple of hours of TV. Are you truly relaxed and renewed, or have you just put your stresses on hold for a little while?

Over time, the things that renew us change and evolve as we do. One friend, an extrovert who found renewal at lively parties and gatherings, now gets drained at those types of events. He prefers to gather his energies on his own in a hot bath, or by relaxing with one or two close friends.

One thing that most of us need is a good night's sleep, on a regular basis. Or at least some rest. If you don't sleep well at night, create a schedule where you can take a nap during the day. When you have insomnia, continue to create a relaxing environment for your body and mind. Instead of fretting over not sleeping, or worrying about your life, light a candle and do some deep breathing. If you're blessed with the ability to sleep well, be thankful for it. When you wake up, do some stretches or write down your dreams.

No matter how busy our lives are, in order to sustain our energies we need to renew them. Discover the ways that work for you, and then follow through by doing those things often. You'll find you'll have the energy to do more in your daily life, and you'll enjoy it more, too.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Tarot Tracking

Each morning I do a three-card Tarot reading for the day. I write down the day's cards and events, and keep track of how many of each card I draw over time, noting them in the back of my Tarot journal. At the end of the calendar year, I like to return to the cards I drew most often, and evaluate what they meant for me that year.

Here are my significant cards for 2009:

1. The Lovers: combining elements of head and heart, relationships mirroring my own self-image and self-worth, cooperation, balancing and integrating masculine and feminine characteristics, taking responsibility for my choices and their results

2. Queen of wands: (queens reflect inner personal control) using my creative energies, a quick temper, generosity, the love of happiness, recognizing my potential

3. 6 of cups: (sixes are about sharing, generosity, and expression) memories of the past, friendship, exchanges, children

4. Knave of swords: (knaves are catalysts, taking risks, the need for study) cutting through depression, starting new projects, seeking truth, taking risks with communications, facing fears

5. Knight of swords: (knights mean action, purpose, challenge) communication, speaking out, impatience with a perceived lack of progress, committed to ideas

6. 2 of pentacles: (twos are duality, balance, change) adaptability, change, multi-tasking, juggling many things in order to stay stable

7. Knave of pentacles: using knowledge, seeking security, focused on health, reliable but stubborn

8. King of pentacles: (kings are concerned with mastery, authority, power, and being limited by one's own rules) established roles, being practical, concern with security and quality, being slow to change, material well-being

There's a lot of Earth here (pentacles), and Air (swords) too. Money concerns and financial worries were a big part of my life this year. I've had to face a lot of old fears in that area. I've also been exploring balance and duality. My role as the at-home parent became more stable than before. Yet I'm still struggling a bit with what that looks like, and I've often been stubborn and impatient with the perceived lack of the changes I desire.

As always, friends and family have been a significant part of my life. I'm so thankful for all of you! We are co-creating an amazing community.

I've been recognizing my potential as a writer and slowly gearing up to fulfill it. This year I've been more open with my communication, particularly through this blog. I've opened up to share who I am, what I've learned, and what is of value to me. I've started a bunch of new creative projects.

There's been a lot to juggle as I seek a balance of stability and creativity in my life. I've learned the value of seeking my own truth and happiness, and how to better balance my heart wisdom with my mental knowledge. The other lesson I'm still working on, reflected in these cards, has to do with letting go of the unhealthy aspects of "control." That could be the topic of a whole other blog entry!

All in all, it was quite a challenging year for me. I learned a lot, and I feel that I'm moving forward into 2010 from a strong foundation. I'm glad I have the Tarot cards as one of the tools I use to learn more about myself.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Goals for 2010

Here are the results of my recent introspection and contemplation - my personal goals for the coming year. I first made a list of the many things I want to do and study this year, then gradually organized them into categories. Each of the sections also has a list of more specific ideas and intentions, which I haven't included here but have typed up for my own use. I plan to blog about the items on that list as time goes by and I experience each of them. So, my goals for 2010:

1. Expressing creativity. I express and share my creativity through writing, art and music. The books I write and co-write are published successfully. I continue to learn and practice drumming. I playfully express my imagination through a variety of art projects.

2. Exploring spirituality. I explore my personal spirituality, both on my own and in community. I participate in Pagan circles, study groups and workshops. I continue to study and practice yoga, meditation, Tarot, and magick. I am learning to love myself more.

3. Connecting with nature. I enhance my connection with the Earth. I am expanding my exploration of gardening, herbs, green living, and local foods. I do more walking and hiking, whatever the weather. I travel to places on the planet where I’ve never before been.

4. Giving back. I volunteer my time to help my community. I offer my services as a teacher and healer. I share my knowledge and wisdom with kids and adults who are interested.

5. Allowing abundance. I am increasing my prosperity and material security. I receive monetary compensation for my writing. I am increasing my family’s sources of passive income.