Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Not every sprout can grow

When I attended ritual for the first new moon after the vernal equinox, we blessed (and planted) seeds. The ritual leader went on at length about the fact that not every seed could be allowed to grow into a full plant, that not every promise of spring can bear fruit. I immediately tensed up -- how dare he say I can't do everything I want to do! -- but I quickly moved on to enjoy the rest of the ritual. I brought my seeds home through the misty rain, and three of them sprouted, though two have since shriveled up and died (I forgot to water them), thus leaving me with one little seedling whom I am tenderly shepherding along. I'm not even sure what kind of plant I am rearing up, as the seeds were a mix of oregano and thyme, but I am determined to see that s/he get there!

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The summer session is starting soon at the adult education center in my area. I took a voice class this past semester (and loved it, but that's another post entirely), and promised myself that I would take a writing class this summer. The last month has seen me agonizing over what to take. The fact is, I am terrified to sign up for a writing class. Why can't I take a nice class in multi-media journaling, for instance? That would so much less pressure, and I don't want to deal with pressure right now. And I really would love to learn how to keep journals with more than just a written component; I've spent so many lunch breaks gazing at the brilliant colors of spring and wishing that I could capture them somehow!

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July 9, 2007

It is easier for me to craft than write because it is not as important to me, and thus less serious. The risk is less in a collage than a poem, because one is a hobby, the other.... a calling.

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While sitting outside and eating my tuna salad wrap with cucumbers and honey mustard today, one thought kept buzzing around me, and no matter how hard I tried to push it away from my ear, it kept coming back. So I gave it some attention and wrote it down in the notebook I carry in my backpack (yet so rarely write in). Not every sprout can grow. What will I nurture? I realized that I need to nurture writing. It's too important for me to keep setting it aside for other interests. I have enough other passions that, unless I take conscious steps to do otherwise, I will be able to push writing aside until I find myself on my deathbed and it is finally too late. I can't let that happen.

I will take two short writing classes this summer (a one day intensive and a class that only meets twice) to get myself started writing again. I need the support and motivation and inspiration of that outside agency to get going. And in the fall, I will take a full semester long writing class. My other interests will keep; it's time to do what I know needs to be done if I'm ever to feel truly purposeful.

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My goal here, on this blog, has always been to write honest prose about my personal experience as a pagan, whatever that may mean. I have wanted to communicate my personal experience in a form close to that of the personal essay, but in this informal medium. I'm not sure how successful I have been, but this guest post on The Wild Hunt Blog inspires me to want to redouble my efforts. If I can ever achieve what she describes, I will be truly blessed. As I feel I am whenever I read someone else's attempts at the same.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Full Moon Magic: Reclaiming my Personal Power

I just finished celebrating the Full Moon with a little magic, and I just need to share now, while it is still fresh.

I have been thinking for some time that I am overdue to reclaim my personal power source. Among the many sample sized vials of oils from TAL, is one called Power. It is designed for just this sort of situation. I thought that a full moon would be the ideal time for this, since I am very much a lunar soul (though I am devoted to a somewhat solar goddess - go figure!).

My general full moon ritual is fairly simple. I have a quartz crystal ball that fits perfectly inside the top joint of a shell which I picked up on the beach during my honeymoon. It is perfectly balanced and stays there so I anoint it with a lunar oil and let it reflect the candle light on my altar as I gaze upon both it and (now that my altar is back where it should be!) the real moon hanging in the sky. I talk to Her. I do my best to connect to Her, to recharge my lunar batteries (as opposed to my solar batteries, which also need frequent charging). If all goes well, I feel a deep part of my spirit stir. Tonight, all went very well. It's been a long time since I managed that -- possibly since I moved my altar all the way indoors for the winter. It helps to be able to see Her.

At that point I anointed myself with the oil, and called back my personal power. And I feel pretty good! I will apply the oil again to my prayer bead bracelet tomorrow before I leave for work. And I'll keep doing that for a few days, if I have to. I think that if I can keep sniffing that oil, everything will work out for the best. Every time I inhale right now, I feel it's strength working through me.

Spring and the Well of Inspiration

This week-end, I finally moved my altar back onto the front porch. I had meant to do that around Beltane, but time and circumstances and ennui got the better of me. I know that I letting myself slide on my spiritual practice -- one of the few things that I know of that truly nourishes me -- is always a bad idea, but sometimes it can be very hard to do what you know is right. Frustrating, but true. But I've finally done it. And I feel so much better! I'm still feeling a bit stuck, but I think that's more because I keep expecting my life to function like the seasons, where one day all you see are bare branches with a hint of buds, and seemingly in the blink of an eye you are surrounded by verdant foliage singing out it's joy. My spirit does not work like that, no matter how much I may wish otherwise. Or rather, when it does, I find myself back where I started within a week.

I find myself separated from nourishment. Which is odd, because I honestly have enough time. I just don't seem to be able to use it properly of late. The well of inspiration is dry, and while it does occasionally catch the run off from a rainstorm, it has no source of it's own. And that is no way to live.

I've been thinking about why this has happened, and I think it goes back to fear. Quite simply, the decision to be happy is not as simple as it sounds. It involves taking the initiative and taking responsibility for something that isn't easy. It's much safer to remain quietly miserable than to take the risks necessary to secure joy.

I know I've been writing about this seemingly forever, but it's been incredibly hard for me to take the steps necessary. To even figure out concretely what those steps might be. Years of depression stemming from a need to be perfect make it difficult to step out of the mire and into the stars. What if I make a mistake? What if I can't do it (whatever it might be)? What if I'm just not good enough to follow my dreams? And that's really the problem -- I can't feel that I'm good enough until I've refilled that well, but I can't access inspiration until I know that I am good enough.

I know there's a solution. I know that I just need to step out my door and pluck joy like a ripe apple from the tree of life. That task is easier said than done, but this is the time to do it. Now, when the sky is a clear blue and trees are filled with green. Now, while life is renewing itself. Now is the time to take that first step!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Would you call a goddess fat?

Like most American women, I have body image issues. Most of the time I manage to keep them in check, but something happened yesterday which triggered mine in a major way, and I'm still trying to put myself back to rights.

I don't believe in the diet culture we live in. I reject out of hand the idea that women ought to all be the same size, and that the size in question is an extra small. The idea that caloric requirements can be figured out using a calculator (newsflash: people aren't bunsen burners!). The idea that a healthy diet consists of 80% vegetables, 19% lean protein, and no more than 1% fat, or whatever this week's proscribed eating plan might be.

What I do believe: that every person has a different healthy weight. That each person knows what their body needs if they just listen to it. That healthy eating is not the same from person to person. That all people are beautiful -- not necessarily sexually attractive to me personally, but always aesthetically pleasing).

Also, I believe that all people are, at least to an extent, embodied divinity. Which means that there are as many variations in human bodies as there are in deities (and not just representations thereof!) Would you call an earth goddess, rounded with life's bounty, that she needs to go on a diet? Like Hel you would! So why do we tell ourselves the same thing? I first encountered this concept when I read The Body Sacred -- an excellent book which I highly recommend -- and I have been trying to internalize it ever since.

The fact is, my body is the only way I get to experience the physical world. It is how I enjoy the wind on my face as I zoom downhill on my bike, how I feel the tickle of my hair on my arm on a summer day, how I touch my husband, and how I taste everything from strawberries to wedding cake. I should celebrate that gift, not tear it apart for failing to conform to an imaginary ideal that I was never designed to fulfill! But that's hard, in a society that refuses to honor the sacredness of the individual.

Amid all of the conflicting messages, it can be hard to know my own mind, never mind listen to my own body. After all every day I see another billboard or magazine telling me that I have no idea how to feed myself, exercise myself, or otherwise take care of my own physical self. It can be tempting to fall into a dichotomy -- either accept what they have to say whole heartedly and eat salad for every meal, or rebel against what they say and have an ice cream sundae for dinner every night. But either choice takes away my autonomy, and that is not acceptable.

I try to behave in ways that honor my body, but it can be difficult. Some time ago, I started to get sick of putting the same things in my oatmeal every morning. So, I started mixing in some chocolate chips from time to time. That was respectful, because I was listening to my body's need for variety. However, for the last two weeks I have done that everyday. Something that made me feel special from time to time does not have the same effect when repeated daily. When I put chocolate in my oatmeal this morning, I was not taking care of myself. It's all about intent. I was being very respectful of my body yesterday when I split a second slice of wedding cake with my husband -- in that case, I was indulging in a treat, and it made me feel good. Ditto splurging on strawberries at the grocery store today when I was utterly intoxicated by their aroma. Eating them was pure bliss.

Taking good care of myself means riding my bike to work and going to the gym once a week to do weights for my shoulder, which does not like my desk job. Working out on a treadmill for 45 minutes three times a week just because somebody says I should? Not healthy for me. But for somebody else, somebody who enjoys the treadmill, that could be very healthy.

Taking good care of myself means listening to what my body has to say. Pampering it in healthy ways, not trying to fix perceived flaws. Because my body is not imperfect. Nobody's is.

I have no idea how to make myself see this all of the time, anymore than I know how to convince others that torturing their bodies into submission is not the answer. Perhaps someday I will figure that out. But until then, I guess I'll just have to keep struggling towards the light.

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In the interests of encouraging healthy indulgences, I will now share my favorite skin care treat. I have no idea what it is meant to do, or if it is meant to do anything at all, but it is fun, feels good, and leaves my skin happy and soft. Are you ready? It's really simple.

1. Get some honey. Get some on your hand.
2. Smear said honey on your face, being careful not to get any in your hair.
3. Tap the honey rapidly with your fingers. The honey will bead up like water droplets eventually. Keep doing this until you get bored.
4. Rest.
5. After a few minutes, rinse the honey off. I like to do this before a shower, but you can use a very wet washcloth, too.

Have fun!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Beltane 2008 - a lesson in listening

Some lessons take longer to learn than others. Beltane has been about one of the harder ones this year.

Traditionally, I should have celebrated yesterday, but I did not. I had a meeting at work, which meant that I needed to dress respectably -- pentacles, even tasteful ones, don't exactly fit into that equation. Since I wear my pent for all pagan holidays, that was going to cause a problem, so I postponed my celebration until today.

I also didn't plane for the holiday at all. Now, I tend towards the more freestyle rituals in general, and I know the wheel of the year well enough now that I don't need to do a ton of planning to have a ritual, but I generally have at least a vague idea of my plans beforehand. Not for this holiday I didn't!

On a whim, I took my sacred rattle and went out to a local conservation area. It's small enough that it's hard to really get away from the street noise, but it has a series of ponds and a waterfall, which appeals to my soul deep need for running water. I got there and began to soak it all in. I could feel some part of me positively gulping it in - the budding leaves, the geese, the running water, the whole scene. I was so filled to the brim that I began to sing a wordless tune of joy, just to participate in the scene. I thought to myself how badly I need unstructured time like this outside of the house, this kind of unrushed time to stop and listen and breathe without rushing around. It was bliss. Surely, I would get home, perform a ritual in my backyard, and bask in the radiance of nature's beauty.

Then I got home and began rushing around, flailing under the weight of have-to's and need-to's and demands. I was tense, miserable, and empty. Eventually I tore myself away to attend to the chore of doing my Beltane ritual. I grabbed some supplies, including the daffodils I bought on the way home as an offering, and trudged outside.

I sat down and waited for inspiration to strike. Once again, I began to sing, but this time the tune had words. I found myself singing a refrain of "Why oh why are green things born to die?" Not exactly thematically appropriate to the ritual at hand! But that is what was in my heart - pain and rage and despair. But why? Where was this coming from? Sure, I was busy today, but doing things that I love! I'm taking pictures for my etsy store, which I set myself a dealine to complete by Beltane whether I want to or not. I'm working on my new embroidery project, which I know my mother will criticize for not being even enough. I'm looking over the new embroidery patterns I bought, and berating myself for not being creative enough to make my own. If you see my problem at this point, you're quicker than I was.

I don't know how long I sat there, or what the final catalyst was, but eventually I came to a single word: flow. The earth knows when to be kind and gentle, and when to unleash an avalanche. Water knows when to pour gently and when to wash away entire settlements. Neither works on any schedule but their own. They don't rush. Like a wizard, they arrive just when they are supposed to, and not a moment sooner. They know who they are.

Lesson of the season? Slow. Down. Only once I manage that, can I live from the heart. And living from the heart is the reason for every season.