Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Never Forget

"We will never forget," is a phrase that gets used a lot, both within the Pagan community and without.  Anytime a big tragedy strikes, you will see the words "Never forget" on pictures, calling us to honor and remember those that have lost their lives.  We say we will "Never forget" in regards to the witch trials or other times and places in history when people were killed and tortured out of fear, in the name of witchcraft.  We say we will "Never Forget" you, when we mourn those who are lost to us, no matter how they died.

And yet, we do forget.  It is a natural process of time.  The further back you go, the harder it is to remember.  So much time has passed, and as we get further removed from a situation the emotions soften.  We don't remember the horrors in technocolor gory detail, not the same at all as someone who is living through it.  As generations past, the stories that get told loose something in the details.

Part of this is that so many stories are told by the winners, who will always try to downplay the atrocities that were committed.  Sometimes it is because the survivors are still struggling with what they went through and aren't ready to talk about it, or they don't want to pass that trauma on to others.  And sometimes, there is no one left to tell the stories, and we, in the present, can only wonder what actually happened.

But we have ways to dig into the past, to fill in the blanks and to help rewrite the books that have been spreading lies.  Sometimes we are aware of the greater truths, but we teach softer stories to our children because we don't want to burden them.

Truth should not be a burden, and it is possible to tell true stories and still keep them appropriate for younger audiences.  There are hundreds of teaching stories, around the world in every culture, that use symbols to tell stories in ways little minds can grasp. 

The power in keeping the truth alive comes not only in remembering and honoring those who were lost, but also in keeping the lessons alive.  We can look at the horrible things that happened, and all the signs and steps along the way that led up to these pivotal moments in history, and we can see what to avoid when we are faced with those same choices.

Uncovering the truth isn't always easy.  Sometimes it means doing a lot of research and figuring out what information is accurate by finding records that agree with each other.  Sometimes it means taking the time to find people who have heard the stories or grew up in different times, and really listening to what they have to say.

Part of finding the truth is also learning to let go of the things we expected to be true.  The past isn't some romantic vision, there are good parts but there are also lots of ugly parts.  The same is true about our current times!  For every time and place in the world, there will always be some good and some bad, and you have to be willing to see both in order to get a complete picture of what is going on.

Some of the trouble we get into, with the way we recount history, is that we want to only show one side of the picture.  If we think it was a good time, we only want to share the good, and if it was a bad time we only want to share the bad.  Some people act as if by showing the good in the bad or the bad in the good we are somehow diminishing the overarching themes.

But if we remember the yin yang symbol, we know that all things have both, and being aware of the small porting that doesn't match doesn't invalidate the rest of the experience.  In fact, I think that finding those opposing stories sometimes highlights the horror or the beauty in a memory. 

Acknowledging that bit of the opposite is often a way of honoring the human parts of ourselves.  We recognize that good people can make mistakes and horrible people can have redeeming qualities.  But just as we wouldn't stop loving our parents because they made a bad choice or had a bad habit, we shouldn't forgive people who do atrocities just because they love kittens or took care of an elderly neighbor.

I feel it is our responsibility, as human beings, to be able to remember what has happened, to be able to tell all of the details, to share both sides of the story, and to still be able to see the big picture.  We need to stop using these tiny exemptions as a way to invalidate a whole big thing.  We need to look for ways in which we may be starting to walk the same path as we have, in times past, and decided, with full knowledge, which way is the better way to go.

And we need to remember those who came before us, not as shining paragons of all that is good or horror stories of all that is bad, but as real people, with both flaws and gifts, with things they did well and things they did poorly.  We can look at other people and see ourselves reflected in them, and accept all that we see.

We should never forget, because there is so much value in remembering.  We should never forget because there is no reason to keep making the same mistakes.  We should never forget because it was hard to hold those memories.  And we should never forget because the past is what makes us who we are today.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Sacred laughter

There is a tendency to think of ritual and religious space as a solemn thing.  Perhaps it is something we remember from childhood, where we were told to be respectful in church, and laughter wasn't encouraged.  But we use sacred spaces as ways to honor and experience so many other emotions, like sadness and courage, why should laughter be left out?

I think that sometimes people confuse laughing at things (in a hurtful way) and laughing about things.  When we are little, we laugh about so many things, but rarely are we trying to be mean...even if we are laughing at someone else taking a tumble.  We haven't really connected that experience to the other person being hurt (either physically or emotionally), we just saw something that we thought was silly, and we laughed.

As we grow up, we learn that when we are on the other side of that laughter, it can hurt.  When we are going through something tender or vulnerable or embarrassing and other people laugh at us (whether they are intending to be hurtful or not), it can make us feel even worse than we already felt.  We feel judged, which often makes us defensive.  Even when the person laughing has no ill intent, we may lash out because we are feeling so little in that moment.

I think that some of our reactions to laughter are set as we grow.  When we are feeling all those emotions, going through the changes of maturing and developing, we can't handle what we are experiencing on our own, and we often band together with others who we feel are like us.  We start identifying the world in terms of "Us and Them" and we are already feeling alone and judged, so we fight back by judging others.  We learn to use our laughter as a weapon, and we associate other people laughing as a potentially hurtful thing.

We also are taught that important things should be taken seriously.  The phrase "This is no laughing matter," really illustrates this.  If we are in the middle of something big, and we laugh, people think we aren't committed or that we are making light (or making fun) of what is going on.  We learn to separate our humor, our pure delight, our laughter, from these big, important things, because we are taught that laughter is somehow inappropriate.

But laughter and humor can have really important roles in our lives.  Laughter is a healing thing, and it helps to soothe many of those same ruffled feather that others might want to laugh at.  The interesting twist here is that if we can find that pure laughter inside, then other people laughing has no power over us.  If I am truly filled with mirth at my own situation, then I totally get other people finding the humor in it too.  There is no need to lash out because I am right there with you, laughing.

I also think that laughter has a place in sacred spaces.  Sure, there are always times and places where laughter might not be welcomed, but we have always turned to laughter to soothe our soul.  Almost every situation can benefit from laughter, if it is used in the right way at the right time.

Many people view loss as a solemn affair, especially when it is the loss of a life that was dear to us.  The mourning process can be extremely emotional, and during parts of it we are completely numb to any sense of humor.  The light in our lives has gone out, and the thought that anyone could be happy is an affront.  However, as we start to recover our balance, we start to remember the joy in life, especially the joy in the life that was lost, in our shared time together.  There are cultures that celebrate death through laughter as a way to honor the person who is gone.

There are other losses that hit us hard as well.  Financial losses, physical losses, lost love, these are all things that dim our light as well.  And when we are struggling, it can be hard to find that laughter inside.  I am always reminded of some of the trickster deity stories, where that one figure that no one can quite understand, comes out in the middle of a great tragedy overcome with laughter.  And at first, the people are outraged, but eventually they too come to see the humor of the situation, and things start to turn around.

I think there is great power in laughter, and it can truly be a balm in the darkest of times.  I think this is why we love comedy movies and humorous stories.  We want to surround ourselves in laughter and crazy situations that we can't help but find amusing.  When we are feeling good, we want to hold onto that feeling, and when we are feeling bad we want to try to feel better.

Laughter creates energy, and it can have both great healing and cleansing properties.  People talk about the cleansing power of a good cry, but laughing until you are out of breath gives you that same feeling.  Both are useful, in different situations!  There is a lot of evidence to show that people who are sick but who retain their good humor heal better and quicker. 

From a divine aspect, there are tons of stories that show that the gods have humor.  Some of the capers that gods get up to, in their myths, are downright ridiculous....even the more serious gods.  And there are often trickster deities who function like the Fool, to use humor and laughter to teach and point out the flaws in an established system.  Many pantheons also have deities who are representations of healthy and positive laughter, like the laughing Buddha in the picture.

My sacred practice is about honoring and acknowledging all the parts of myself, from light to shadow, serious to humorous.  Laughter is a part of my life, and therefor also a part of my spirituality.  I look for ways to include humor into my practice, and I challenge you to try it, if it is not a part of yours.  There is power in laughter, and being able to tap into that power wisely and use it to enhance your life and the lives of those around you, is no small thing!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Fresh Start

The turning of the year is traditionally a time to turn a new page and make a fresh start.  Many people make resolutions, they set goals for themselves, and try to bring new energy into their lives. 

I am all for change, but I am a perfect example of why being locked in a 'resolution mindframe' can be harmful.  I don't do a bunch of resolutions, but I pick a focus for the year.  My focus for this year is Health and Body, and one big part of that is the goal of doing something active every day.

Which is all great and good, but I thought of this concept for my year about halfway through last year, and it became an excuse to not start doing more active things, because "next year is going to be focused on that so I can just wait."  That is a pretty toxic way to approach growth and self-care!

There is also a tendency to take resolutions almost in a fatalistic manner.  People make resolutions, but the running joke is most of them don't make it even to the end of the month, let alone all year (or forever). 

Part of this is that people struggle with how to make an change in a way that they will stick to.  Take my goal of being active every day.  I have a baseline pictured in my head, with both low day and high day modifications.  So my base is "do something for about 20 minutes, like Yoga or Zumba".  I have several people on YouTube that I really enjoy, and I know that I can workout with them, not kill myself, and still be pushed. 

But I also know that some days I might not be able to pull a 20 minute workout.  Either it's a day where I'm just not home, or a day where my personal energy is so low that I just can't manage.  So, on low days, I will still be doing something, whether that is a yin yoga/stretching video that is all about being kind to myself and meditating with some deep stretching (which I love and always feels good to me), or figuring out what kind of movement would be okay and doing a little bit of that (there are some standing ab exercises that almost always feel good to me).

On days where I am extra motivated, I might pick a few, short strength building videos/exercises to add on to my baseline 20 minute video.  I hope to be able to do this more as the year goes on (and/or switch to more challenging videos). 

But, if I had set my goal to something like "20 minutes cardio, plus 20 minutes of strength building plus 10 minutes of stretching" I know it just wouldn't happen.  It's too much for my current levels, not only of fitness, but also my mental dedication to fitness.  If the idea of what you need to do for your goals is exhausting, you probably need to reassess, because if you dread doing something, you are less likely to actually do it.

I also think that many people only think of adding to their life when it comes to goal setting.  They don't think about clearing out the old.  There is no sense of making space for these new habits, of letting go of old baggage that is weighing us down, or of just creating room so that we can clearly see what is going on.

I think this is a very important part of taking a fresh start.  Think of children, when they are learning something new.  Very rarely do they have any experience or associations with what they are going to learn.  It is all brand new, and they are excited to learn the new stuff.  As adults, we go into almost every new endeavor with a ton of old ideas and expectations.

I've done the workout thing before.  I can typically do really well for around a month, and sometimes a little longer.  But about then I end up having a day or two that are either really busy or really exhausting, and I fall off my practice.  Once I have stopped for two to three days, it can be harder to get back into it than it was the very first day.  I know that I have this habit, so it's in the back of my mind, reminding me that my history says I won't make it.

By taking time, before I even start, to work on those old, lingering expectations, to clear them out and banish them, I take back my power.  I don't let history repeat, and I set the tone for moving beyond them.  Even by simply acknowledging them, they no longer are able to hide out in the shadows, sabotaging me without my awareness.  And being aware of what is trying to hold you back is very important, because it is so much harder to fight against things you can't see clearly.

It is also a good idea to get all your tools in order.  I have a lot of tools in my toolbox, both physical and mental.  I have laid a framework to help support me, not only by planning out exactly how I want to tackle my physical progress, but also by creating a system of accountability.  For me, this also means telling other people about my goals.  I am in a few groups that support my journey, and where I can reach out for help when I feel my motivation waning.

It also means getting anything that you may need to help you.  I still have a few things I want to get here.  I want to get a new Yoga mat (I have one, but it has some kitty tooth marks in it, and I've been wanting a new one for years now, so I am planning on treating myself).  Often, getting the gear you need also helps motivate you (because you bought the stuff, it's a shame to have it just sit there...wasted).  I have a stock of videos that I can work out with (because that works so much better for me than just me doing stuff on my own, I struggle when I try to do that).  I also have some small weights, for exercises that need them.

Now, all these steps will change, based on what exactly you are working towards, but the basics of them remain the same.  When you have a new project you are starting, take some time to assess and clear out any old baggage or energy or preconceived notions you might have about the process or your success.  Gather your tools, find your support, and give yourself the framework you need to flourish.  By taking time to really make sure you are getting a fresh start, your projects will be built on a strong foundation and be set up for success!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Gifts of love

'Tis the season of gifting, and if you believe what you see on all the media, then the bigger the can you show you care if you don't get everyone everything their heart desires.  But that's the rub isn't it...we often want things because they are shiny or new or we see someone else have them.  Want is often driven by greed, by envy, by emptiness...or any other number of emotions that aren't our truest heart desires.

I am very guilty of a lot of these.  I struggle with a feeling of emptiness, and I want to fill that void.  I desire things, and I see other people getting things and that makes me want them too.  I find myself looking more towards things I 'want' than things I have.  And I struggle with both wanting to have all the things, and wanting to be able to 'prove' I care about people by getting them more things, and bigger and better things.

But we all also know that some gifts are precious beyond words.  When a child gives you this special rock they found, and their heart is in their eyes, and they are just so excited and they want YOU to have it...and you look down and it's an ordinary pebble, but you take it anyways, and they are so giddy with joy that you just have to tell them how amazing it is and how it's perfect.  And something happens because you look at that rock differently.  If you had seen it on the street, you wouldn't have even noticed it, but now it carries all those emotions, that pure joy and love and selfless caring.

And really, that is what gift giving is all about.  It's about taking what's in your heart and giving that to someone else.  How that love is wrapped, what shape it takes, that is all less important than the emotions that are driving you.  And that is the best way to receive gifts as well.  When we stop focusing so much on the packaging and instead we tune into the message...that is when we share true gifts.

I really identify with the concept of love languages.  It is a book I was exposed to in high school, and it makes SO much sense in my brain.  It was something I struggled with a TON as a child, because my mother's love language isn't gifts, it's service.  To mom, nothing is a better gift than doing something for her (and as her daughter, sometimes that meant doing something to improve my life).  Her Christmas list would always include things like, "A clean house" or "A straight A report card." 

When I was younger, that used to frustrate me no end.  I wanted something I could buy or make and wrap and put under the tree.  The gifts she wanted didn't feel like gifts to me (let's be honest...they felt like work lol).  But looking back, I can see now how those things would be a demonstration of my love for my mother, of the ways in which I was thinking of her and doing things (that admittedly were work, and not always pleasant), because I knew they would make her happy.

We all probably know people who we think are hard to buy gifts for, and sometimes that's because they don't speak the love language of gifts.  They may want service, like my mother did, or they may want quality time, or conversation, or touch, or words.  If you spend a little time thinking about the person you want to give a gift to, you can normally figure out what their love language thinking about the times you have seen them really light up.

And people don't only speak one love language!  Sometimes people like gifts but they also like quality time.  Or they want words of love and service.  I love gifts, but I also love quality time...I like conversation and service.

I think we also all probably can list of a handful of people who give us things we may not like (often physical gifts).  I think every family has that one aunt/uncle who picks really strange gifts, or someone who gives really practical (but often un-fun gifts).  When we just focus on the items we are receiving, it can be a struggle, but when we think about why that person might have picked that gift, it becomes easier to be grateful and to really enjoy what we get.

Another factor that I think often gets people in trouble is expectations.  We see all these stories online or in the news, about these amazing gifts or things that people are doing for the holidays.  And often we can't help but be a bit envious.  It would absolutely be nice to be able to get that expensive thing or have the time to go on that incredible vacation, or have the kind of relationship with our family where we could spend all day with them and be happy about it.

It can be especially hard if you are struggling, and for many people the holidays are especially hard.  We put so much emphasis on our blood relations, who can be really horrible sometimes.  Many people have families that are so different from them, and so intolerant and flat out hateful that they don't feel safe with them. 

This is where I think that it is really important for everyone to have their own support system.  We all have unique needs, and finding people (and things, and activities) that build us up when we are struggling, that is a true gift on it's own.  We often look to the bright and shiny times when we think of gifts, but the ones that really matter the most are the ones that stick with us when times are not so good.  When we are in the darkest, hardest, most painful place, the smallest act of support can be the biggest gift.  These are the things we cling to, our life line, when everything else is lost to us.

I find that sometimes, the best gifts are ones that aren't fully understood.  It is easy to gift someone when you get them, when you are into all the stuff they are into, when you both love the same things.  It is harder to gift someone that you don't quite get.  When you have a friend, who you know loves this one thing...and you think it's a little silly, or a bit strange, or just confusing.  But it doesn't really matter how you feel about the thing, it's how they feel.  And trust me, if you gift someone something that they know you don't feel the same way means that much more, because they know you did it just for them.  This is extra true when it involves your offering to watch their favorite movie with them, or taking them to that new restaurant that they know terrifies you.

Sometimes, we have obligatory gifts to give, ones that we feel social pressure to give, even thought we may personally not care for the person at all.  Maybe you have that work guy you feel obligated to get a gift towards, but he has been super annoying to you all year.  Tap into the connection you have, working at the same place, and remember that maybe the two of you just don't mesh personality wise.  Perhaps you have to get gifts for family members who have been hurtful to you in the past, and you choose to gift them in honor of the rest of your family, who want you to find a way to get along.

I'm not saying that you have to go above and beyond for every single person you gift to...but remember gifts go both ways, and if you give someone something from a spiteful place in your heart, that is what you will be feeling.  If you can find that small bit of love, somewhere, even if it's just "I am so glad that I only have to see you at work/holidays!" if you gift them something with an honest desire to give them a bit of joy, you will walk away knowing you did a good thing. 

So, as we make our way through this gifting season, remember that every gift you give should be an expression of your heart, of the love you feel towards the person you are gifting.  I'm not talking about romantic love (thought it could be that), or familial love (though it could also be that), but more that deeper love that we feel towards other beings.  Give the gift you feel the person receiving it wants, and receive with an open heart.  Accept the joy of the gifting, without letting price tags or envy sour your experiences.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Weather out of season

While not universal, many Pagans honor a seasonal cycle, we take note of the way the world changes throughout the year, and we often use this as a guide to our own changes.  But even if we don't follow the wheel of the year, when the outside world conflicts with our concept of what 'should be' it can leave us feeling off and ungrounded.

Like most people, I grew up with very clear cut ideas of the seasons.  Christmas was in winter and the time of snow.  Summer break was hot and sunny.  Spring was mild and green, and fall was breezy and brilliant colors fading to monocrhome.  As an adult, I learned that depending on where you lived, that wasn't always true (having lived in Hawaii, where you really don't get proper seasons....just 'less warm than usual' and 'extra-rainy')

But nature is a wild and uncontrolled thing, and even if you live somewhere with four semi-regular seasons, there will always be times where the weather outside does something wacky and you are getting snow after the flowers have started to bloom or wearing shorts a week before Christmas.

When the weather is off, it's like the whole world is out of kilter.  Things just feel off.  We may struggle to deal with the changes, or to tap into the energy of the season in the way that we normally would.  We may find ourselves with lower energy or fighting harder to stay healthy (especially with serious temperature changes).

I love the idea of seasons as tides, and I think it's a great analogy for the actual energy of a season.  When the tides are in, there are still waves.  At any particular point, the water might be higher or lower, but if you watch over time, the whole edge moves up or down.

I do feel there are ways to keep in closer touch with the overall seasonal tides.  I find that if I include more seasonal decorations inside, in places where I will see them often, it helps me keep touch with that energy.  This is one reason why I decorate my altar for the Sabbat (and leave it up), but I also use my devices (desktop, tablets, phone) to help.  I will set my backdrops and themes to reflect the season, and it helps me stay in that mood.

I actually love nail polish for this too.  I'll paint my nails based on the energies I am wanting to feel, and it's often seasonally inspired.  Winter is blues and whites and silvers (sometimes red and green), while spring is pastels.  I see my hands throughout the day, and it always brings me back to how I want to feel.

I think that seasonal eating is also helpful.  I'm not a big stickler for 'traditional' foods, and our holiday meals are often more "what do we really feel like eating" rather than "what is symbolic of this holiday", but I do find that I am drawn to more seasonal styles of food and cooking throughout the year.  Winter is stews and chili, summer is salads, spring is often grilling.  Again, it's a tide thing, and while we can and do eat all these foods all year long, we eat more of them in their season.

It's interesting, but the more we build up rituals for seasons, the more they become part of our seasonal experience.  I put snowflake window decals on the back window for winter, and sometimes that is more of a 'now it feels like winter!' cue for me than the actual weather (which is often very not-snowy....sadly...I love snow).  And when I am done with winter for the year and ready for spring, I take them down.

In a way, it's my modern take on the old rituals to help make the sun rise and keep the wheel turning.  I don't literally think that my taking the snow decals off my winter stops it from snowing anymore (it definitely doesn't lol), but it is my way of honoring and celebrating the season, and one of the ways I send energy back to the earth.  It's a little bit of 'fake it until you make it' and when I'm ready for a change, I'll change my world so that it calls what I want to me.

This is also one place where I think making note of the Sabbats (even if you don't celebrate them in the technical sense) gives us a framework of seasons, with the 'start of' and 'midpoint' of each season being marked.  My local weather doesn't always mesh up, but that doesn't bother me so much (especially as I am very much an indoor person, so the outside weather has less effect on year is sort of temperature controlled as far as my day to day life is concerned).

Being modern Pagans also puts us often finding the weaving between our natural rhythms and the secular holidays, many of which have a seasonal 'feel' to them.  So we are caught up in seasonal celebrations no matter what the weather is like.  It often surprises me when Valentines rolls around, which I tend to associate with spring...and it's still freezing out (it does make for interesting compromises between date clothes and weather appropriate attire!) 

Knowing how to adjust, so that the changes in weather doesn't take us out of our seasonal experience, allows us to tap into that energy.  Whether you have a regular seasonal practice or not, highlighting the current seasonal energy puts you in tune with the world at large.  You may find yourself drawn to different types of activities, and you can focus that pull to work for you, instead of against you.  It puts you back in the drivers seat, no matter what is going on outside.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Winter resting

Human beings tend to want to try to push the limits of technology.  We want to tinker with stuff, improve it, make it better.  We are constantly looking to expand what we can do and reduce the effort it takes to do it.  We want convenience, everything at our fingertips, all year long.

In many ways, we have lost touch of the cycles of nature that still have a huge impact on our biological systems.  We work shifts around the clock, even though we know that sleeping when it is dark out is better for us.  We find ways to grow produce in the off season, even though it doesn't taste quite as good, or we import it from far away, knowing we will have to pick it before it is ripe to be able to transport it.

As we enter into the depths of winter, the days grow shorter and we are called to rest.  The whole earth is resting.  Plants have died back, pulling their energies inward until the next growing season.  Animals have already laid up their stores for the winter, and when the cold and bad weather hits, they head to their dens to wait it out.

But we humans just keep trying to keep going, we want everything to move at the same, steady pace.  We don't care that there is less daylight, we have set working hours.  We don't care that there may be weather, we have days we must work. 

And even more than that, we are in the peak holiday season.  From Halloween to Valentines, it feels like one holiday after another, but especially around the end of December, so many people are celebrating.  Everyone is hosting parties, for work, for friends, for family.  There are gifts to be bought, and everything is busy, busy, busy.

In the time in which we yearn to slow down, to cuddle up and tell stories, we are pushed harder than almost any other time of year.  Our calendars are full to busting, we have list upon list of things that 'need' done, and we feel compelled to top last year, or that guy on social media or that braggart at work. 

In many societies, winter was a time of deep restoration.  You might literally be snowed in, unable to go and do your normal things.  People explored creative passions, having the time to really dive deep and spend days working on their newest project.  Little ones gathered around their elders, eager to hear stories.  Fires were lit, to cook, to warm, to cheer up the darkness. 

We are starting to see the imbalance in our lives, and to reach for the things we yearn for, deep inside.  I think this is one reason why things like Hygge are so popular.  We have lost that sense of 'home' that we used to have.

I remember winters, as a child.  It was all about playing in the snow until I couldn't feel my face and fingers.  I'd come inside, my boots would be soaking (and possibly my clothes as well), and I'd change into something dry and warm.  Mom would make me a hot drink, and I'd cuddle up and watch a show or read a book.  I loved it when we lit a fire in the fireplace.

I think this is still why I love stormy days.  It's dark and foreboding outside, but I am often drawn to cuddle on days like that.  I'll curl up with a book or show, a blanket and as many cats as will sit with me, and just enjoy the fact of not needing to DO anything.

I think this type of resting is necessary, especially if we are working on our spiritual growth.  When we take up a practice, it often includes a lot of things that we need to learn, and practices we need to observe.  It may even involve restful practices like meditation, but still the focus is on sitting for a certain amount of time or making it through a particular visualization.  We are constantly trying to be more than we were, and this is a great thing.

But it is also important to set aside time to let it all go.  To follow whatever whim may come into your head, whether it is to play with a new art supply, dance barefoot in the back lawn (or living room), or just lay on the floor and stop thinking.

I remember, when I was little, taking a tai chi class, and they were talking about why meditation was so important.  They talked about our sleep time, and how the physical body really doesn't need sleep.  The reason we need sleep is because our minds need to rest.  And meditation allows you to focus that 'off' time, and reap a greater benefit in less time.

But I also think that when we stop pushing, when we just allow ourselves to be, to drift into whatever strikes our fancy, we come up with crazy ideas, things we may never have stumbled upon by trying.  It's like dreams, how we make wacky connections and create these whole worlds where things aren't quite the way they normally are.

Winter is a great time to spend time dreaming.  To invite your dreams into your waking hours.  I love having a few hours to just sit and let my mind drift.  I don't quite nap, but I'm not really awake either.  I'm just floating between thoughts, playing with my own mind.

When you first start to work with this kind of practice, it may feel like you are wasting time.  You may think that you don't have time, especially if you are busy.  And I really hate that line about meditation (you know the one:  everyone should mediate for 30 minutes, unless you are busy then you should meditate for an hour), because I think it's fundamentally flawed.  Not everyone has the luxury of having an hour every day to meditate. 

What I do think is that sometimes we need to prioritize resting, and we can look at our lives and see where we may be able to snip a bit of time.  I can spend a lot of time roaming about online, or playing games, so when I feel called to rest, I know I can carve that time out and still get my main stuff done.  I can't tell you where your time might come from, or how much you will be able to set aside.

But I do know that I feel more right with the world when I take time and rest.  I am better able to face things that challenge me, and I recover quickly when I'm pushed to my limits.  Resting is also something that you get better at.  I can fall into quiet in a few breaths, and that allows me to sneak moments here and there, even when I'm really busy. 

If you haven't worked with a resting practice, I highly recommend trying it out, especially on these cold winter days, where the sky is grey and weather may be happening.  Set aside some time, in between the parties and the gatherings, before you head out to buy gifts or after you come home from a busy day.  Allow yourself just a moment, if that's all you have.  But slow down, come to a stop, and see what happens next.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Time release magic

Most of the time, when we work our magic, we are doing a single-release style of magic.  We light a candle and call energy towards a single focus and send it out.  We take the ritual action and make the magic and it's done.

But, there are also lots of things that we do that function as time-release magic.  Making a spell bag, that you carry on you, is a sort of time release magic.  It's not a one and done, the magic continues as long as the bag stays charged and is carried.  7-day candles are another great example, and one many people are familiar with. 

Both freezing and unfreezing spells are also time-release.  If you set up something to be frozen, that takes time, it is a more gradual effect (and also ongoing, as long as the object remains frozen).  When you unfreeze something, it also takes time, slowly releasing the thing from your spell.  The advantage to both of these is that there is a period of acclimation, and not only does it give the target some time to adjust, it also makes it harder to resist (we are less likely to notice gradual changes and fight back).

We may approach our seasonal observations as a sort of time release spell, especially if we have one large goal that we are working on, throughout the year.  At each Sabbat, we might take an inspired action, something that will build upon what we've done previously.  Or we may work through a moon cycle, to dream up, work on and appreciate a goal.

One project I have done, that I really enjoyed was making a Sabbat wishing tree.  You start, at Yule by picking a nut (in the shell) to serve as your seed, and anointing, recognizing it as a blank slate.  And then you make a wire tree form, with the nut forming part of the ground that the roots wrap around.  At Imbolc you make your wishes, picking three to five things you want to work on over the year.  You can make tiny spell bundles for each, or write your wishes on ribbons, or make small representations of them (I did origami, you could also do salt dough effigies).  Hang these from your tree.

At Ostara you add green leaves to your tree, and as you add each leaf, you think about your wishes growing, and what you can do to help them mature.  At Beltane you add tiny buds to each branch, representing your wishes starting to come to fruition, and at Litha you replace those buds will fully matured flowers.  By now, your wishes should have started manifesting.  At Lughnasadh, you replace the flowers with dried flower buds or withered flowers, bless each bud, thanking them for the harvests you have received.  At Mabon you take the withered flowers off and lay them at the base of the tree, again thanking each for bringing their bounty into your life, and at Samhain, you remove the leaves from the tree, adding them to the withered flowers.  Remove your wishes and burn them, saving the ashes to nourish next year's tree.  On subsequent years, you can take the nut from last year and plant it outside, along with any leaves or flower bits (that are safe to bury).

I find workings like this to be a really great way to break up big goals into smaller steps, and still have a well defined working, that allows you to not only see progress but celebrate every step of the way.

Another lovely Sabbat themed idea I've seen is a gift, where you wrap a present for each Sabbat in reverse order, in one big ball.  So you would wrap  a Samhain gift, then several layers of paper, then a Mabon gift, etc....until you get to Yule.  When you gift it to someone, they unwrap until they get to that Sabbat's gift, which they then enjoy.  You can add extra blessings into the wrappings, writing inspirational quotes on them or turning them into wishing papers (with blessings/wishes written on them, that the person can burn to release the blessing).  Gifting like this takes the magic of caring about someone and stretches it out throughout the whole year, it is something that you can do to remind someone they are cared about, not just during traditional gifting seasons.

Now, some might say this isn't really magic, but I think that gifting is a form of magic.  All gifting is an exchange, whether you think you are receiving something in return or not.  And when you give from your heart, you are putting your energy into it.  You are blessing the person receiving your gift, with the intent that they find joy in what they are being gifted.  This is a wonderful form of blessing and love magic, because love isn't always about romance or sex, sometimes it is about caring about someone and wanting them to feel special.

Both those Sabbat ideas are sort of a building process.  You start with one thing, and over time you build on it.  I also like countdown type magic, where you pick a final date that is a significant observance (like a holiday), and you do something each day to mark that there is one less day until the event.  There are many celebrations that light one candle a day to mark the passage of time, but you could also do this in reverse, so on the first day, you set out and bless all the candles, one for each day of the observance, but then you only burn one completely (you might want to light them all briefly and extinguish them one by one, saying something about how you are saving them for later, until only one is lit, and then let that one burn out completely). 

You could also do this with blessed food or drink.  Make sure you pick foods that will hold up well, like chocolate pieces (which can be inscribed with symbols or words to represent what you are taking in), or fruits or nuts (many of which can also be inscribed on the rind/peel or shell).  This type of magic works really well when you want to take on several attributes of a thing (for example if you were wanting to deepen your relationship with an animal spirit, you might find some food that reminds you of the animal, and bless each piece with a different trait that animal has, so you can then consume and take into yourself those traits, one by one).  It is also good if you are building yourself up for an event that you feel you need help in several areas (you might brew up a special tea, and then bless a sugar cube for each day leading up to your event, each cube marked with a symbol you feel you need, like bravery or calm nerves, and then every day you can pour the tea over the sugar cube and drink it, focusing on feeling the thing represented by the sugar cube).

Some knot spells are also considered time release magic.  You charge a string, call up your intentions, and bind them in each knot as you tie it.  Then, whenever you want to draw on your intention, you untie a knot and release that part of the spell.  The energy is held in the string, ready to use, until you need it.  You can untie more knots if your need is stronger.

The advantage to this kind of spell is that you can set it up ahead of time, and it is ready when you need it.  You might charge a cord with grounding calm, so that when you untie a knot it loosens the hold of anxiety on you.  Or you might charge a cord with healing, so that untying a not helps sooth a headache or speed recovery from a cold.  These are all things that you might not feel well enough to work on while you are in the midst of them, so having the magic set up ahead of time, to be released at a later date, is very handy.

And finally, time release magic is great for things you want to be ongoing.  I see most forms of protection as a time release thing.  You want the protections to keep working, to continue sending out protective energy.  You aren't just releasing a flash of protection, like sending out a single pulse of light, rather you want to turn the light on and keep the darkness at bay.  With spells like this, there is often a need to refresh your spell.  You might want to recharge your protections every month, or if you feel they are being used up more quickly you might do them weekly or even daily.

I do daily protection not only on myself, in the form of shielding and blessing, but also on my house.  I say chants and affirmations every day to reinforce these protections so that they stay 'on' and continue to lend their protection throughout my day.

Time release magic allows you to stretch out your workings, so they aren't just a flash in the pan.  They become an ongoing thing, either maintaining their effect or building up or counting down to an event.  They allow us to work on bigger projects without needing to do the work all at once.  They give you options, the versatility to choose how, and when, you want your magic to take effect.