Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Managing your time

Time is the one thing we have in absolute finite quantities.  Everyone gets the same amount of time, and though you can use resources (like friends or family or money) to leverage your time (and get more things done by delegating out less pleasant (but necessary) tasks, there are many things we want to do that we either must or choose to do on our own.  And so, being able to use the time we have effectively is a skill that helps you in all aspects of your life.

But I think it is especially relevant in our spiritual lives, as there are so many things that just can't be delegated out.  Meditation, prayer, ritual work...if these are part of your path, they are things that you must do personally.  And spiritual life is easy to loose track of, because we want to be in the right mental and emotional space, we want to have the perfect setting, and sometimes in the hustle and bustle of daily life, we just never get around to it.

I think the first thing that many of us come to realize is that if we wait for the 'perfect' setting, we never get things done.  I can't wait for the house to be alone, for a day where I have hours unplanned, for days where I feel calm and peaceful and innately spiritual to practice.  My daily life is a scheduling nightmare sometimes, and things pop up that I don't know about.  Between hubby and son, there aren't always times where I will have the house to myself (with peace and quiet....and there are still neighbors to deal with).  And to be honest, I have more 'not quite right' days when it comes to physical/mental/emotional well-being than I do good days (many weeks, it's a matter of picking out the best of what I've got).

I don't feel like picking the best choice out of a handful of less than ideal choices is compromising my spiritual beliefs in any way.  In some ways I think it is actually a testament of faith to keep at it when you may not feel quite up to it or when there is a lot going on.  I also don't think that there is anything wrong with adapting to meet your needs of the day, even if that means doing things very differently than your usual or from how you were taught.  If I am having a very rough day and have a pounding headache, a full ritual with lots of candles (light), chanting (noise/drums), incense (smoke) might be completely out of the question, but siting in the dark in quiet meditation and contemplating what the ritual I had planned means to me or what the deeper essence of it is might be just right.

We all have our own personal rhythms as well.  We may be aware of them, or we may need to start becoming aware of them.  I know that, while I may not particularly like mornings, I am typically very productive in the morning.  Afternoons are almost always a bad time for me, and some evenings I can call up a second wind and get a lot done once the sun goes down.  So even though I'm not a morning person, I know that if I have a busy day, I need to dive right in because if I put things off, I can end up stressing myself out and trying to work through serious mental fog (which means things take even longer and feel more tortuous than they need to!)

I desire a lot of structure, so I like to plan things out.  I do a lot of planning, both on paper and in my head.  I pretty  much always have my days planned out, even if that plan is to read a novel, watch a tv show or play a game.  I typically know what I am going to eat the day before.  I just feel more secure if I have things planned out.

Oddly enough, I am also really good under the wire.  I know that when push comes to shove I can get things done.  I am pretty stubborn about it, and have a decent idea about my own capabilities.  My big writing push in November always pushes my limits, but I have finished my goals for over ten years.  This means days of serious writing, where I write over 5k words a day (of brand new coming up with enough ideas to write about as well as actually getting the words out).  So when my carefully laid out (and much thought over plan) goes out the window, I adjust it on the fly and keep on going.

This might not work for you at all.  I know the idea of planning things out or working on the same thing every day just flat out doesn't work for some people.  That is fine!  The big thing is figuring out what works for you.  Perhaps you need to pick one day a week to really dive deep into one specific project.  Then the rest of the week, you don't even think about it, but that one day you can devote yourself to it.

When it comes to our spirituality, this may mean that you plan out what you are going to do and when you are going to do it ages in advance.  Much of my daily routine I have built up over many years, and now it is just a part of my day, I don't even have to think about it.  But if I don't write things like Sabbats down in my calendar, they sneak up on me and have passed before I even start thinking about them, because they aren't an every day thing.

I have done quite a lot of virtual rituals in the past couple of years, and these can be really great.  Some are hosted live, so you can hear and talk to or even video chat with the other people who are participating.  Others have all the ritual information posted up for every participant to do at their own leisure.  It sounds a little odd, if you've never done it, but it can be quite surprising to realize how much it means to know that there are other people, all over the world, doing the same ritual with you (I definitely think of time as very fluid when it comes to ritual, and can feel the energy of other participants).

You also don't have to start with a huge ritual.  I think that often we feel like we have to do this whole big thing, but really, if you are on your own and just starting out, your rituals may be very simple.  It might consist of calling the elements and casting a circle and just meditating on what the ritual means to you or journaling about it.  You might want to think about one simple action, perhaps writing a goal on a sheet of paper and blessing it for a talisman or charging a candle with something you want to release, and have that be the center of your ritual.  As you do the same ritual more times, you can add a little more to it each time, until you feel it is where you want it to be.  That way, you can build up to the larger, more complex ritual without having to do all the work all at once.

There is a common conception that if something is important enough, you will find time for it, but I absolutely think that is a false premise.  Spirituality is important to many people, but there are other things that are also important.  And sometimes we don't get to pick and choose when to do certain things.  If we want a roof over our heads and food on the table, we have to work, and work picks what our hours are.  We may want to change jobs to find something we like better, but aren't willing to quit what we have before we find a better option.

We may have family that puts obligations on us, and we my be unable or unwilling to prioritize ourselves over our family.  I think that family is often a very tricky subject for a lot of people, and we each have to sort out where our lines are.  I very much want to spend time with my family, to do things for them and to take care of them.  But I also know that if I never take time for myself, I get cranky and am miserable to be around.  So in order to better serve my family I need to take care of myself (before I get out of sorts).

And I very much think that rest time includes recreation, which is a part of our good personal health.  If we only work or do things that we feel we should be doing (which may include some of our spiritual practice), then we aren't refreshing ourselves.  We start to get in a rut, and nothing seems as important as it used to, and we start to not do as well at things as we should.  Finding time to do things you enjoy, JUST because you want to do them is vital to our well being.  Make time for the things that you want to do.

This may mean really paying attention and listening to what you need right now.  You may have made other plans, but realize you have to change them.  Or you may be starting to plan out all the things you need to do next week and have to prioritize which ones get done and which ones get put off.  If you are constantly putting of your personal desires, you may want to rethink some of your other responsibilities.  There may be ways you can get them done quicker or get help doing them so that you can give your own desires and needs some attention.

Life is always changing, and we are always adapting to it.  When we get stuck in a routine, we may not notice that circumstances have changed, and so we keep on doing what we have always done, and either fall behind or don't make the most of what we now have.  It is always good to take a moment from time to time, to check out where we are at, to see what has changed, and to figure out if we need to make any adjustments.  The more we pay attention to the things we are doing and how our time is being spent, the better we can manage the time we have.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Working with Emotions

I actually dreamed about writing this blog.  Sometimes, when I am laying down to sleep, and I know I have something to do the next day that requires some creative inspiration (like writing a blog!), I'll ask for inspiration while I dream.  I had this dream about my mom and a sister (which I don't have...) getting into an argument, and struggling to overcome the emotions involved in order to work things out.  And I remember clearly thinking, while dreaming, that this was what I was to blog about.

I almost scrapped it when I woke up.  I thought it was something I have blogged about before (though a quick check over the last year and a half doesn't show any obviously similar blogs...I really need to get better with my blog labels).  And I wasn't sure it really fit with the stuff I typically write about.

But the more I got to thinking about it, the more I was leaning towards writing it.  As an empath, I deal with emotions all the time (both my own innate emotions, as well as borrowed ones).  I also feel that we all interact with others in many different ways, and when emotions rear their heads, being able to navigate those emotions is helpful for anyone.  And finally, if I am going to ask for inspiration I shouldn't ignore what I receive.

So, when thinking about emotions, I think there are three basic categories:  personal emotions, borrowed emotions and other people's emotions.  Personal emotions are ones that well up from inside of you, are inspired by experiences in your own life and are innate to yourself.  Borrowed emotions are ones we feel because of some outside source.  This is typically what I think of when I think of emotions bleeding over as an empath.  If I see a commercial on the tv and start feeling emotional, that is a borrowed emotion, just as if I am around another person who is deep in an emotion so I start feeling it too.  Other people's emotions are the things they are feeling and going through while you are interacting with them.  Even if you aren't borrowing their emotion, trying to work with someone who is deeply sad or caught up in anger requires separate tools.

I think it best to start with personal emotions, as they are ours.  Everyone feels stuff, and you may notice that you have certain emotions that you feel easier than others.  I definitely have my share of anger (and the deep, brooding kind, not the flash in the pan kind) as well as a sort of baseline melancholy.  Over the last couple of years, I feel like I have developed a lot of anxiety around different things.  I definitely feel happy and content a lot of the time, but I also don't feel like those emotions need dealing with.  When I have emotions I need to sort out it is almost always anger, sadness, anxiety/fear or confusion.

My basic process for working with emotions is to really express them.  For me this typically manifests in two methods:  physical expression and journal work.  Physical expression doesn't always mean that I go outside and scream out my anger to the sky (although that can work..assuming that your neighbors don't call the cops on you), but it definitely involves some kind of physical action.  Sometimes, if I know I am angry, but I also know that the thing I am angry about isn't worth making a fuss about (I do get angry for no good reason sometimes...especially when I'm emotionally off kilter and something small and trivial sets me off).  At times like this, repetitive action works very well to help me burn off that emotion.  So I clean!  I will find something in the house that needs cleaned, and really go to town on it.  But other repetitive things can work too:  sewing, sanding, folding laundry...really anything that gets my body moving and lets my mind tune out.

I also like to dance as a form of physical expression.  I'll load up a song that really fits my mood and start moving.  It doesn't have to look pretty (I do this when I'm alone mostly), and you don't have to match the beat or anything.  Just loose yourself in the music and move!  Sometimes I'll sing along if I feel the need to.

But my favorite way to work through emotions is journaling.  I've worked with quite a few different methods of journaling now, from more or less standard "write about what your feeling" to very specific techniques that use journaling as part of something bigger.

One of the first emotional journaling techniques I learned I called the brain dump.  You grab some kind of paper (something that you can destroy later), and write everything and anything, as fast as you can.  Scribble out your feelings!  Write big and angry and fierce.  Don't worry about grammar or anything like that, you can make little doodles if you need to, or just write single words.  Just write until you feel like you are done.  Once your page is written, you may want to do a little ritual of releasing.  You can crumple up your page and hold it tight in your hands and whisper to it the reasons you appreciate the emotion but don't need it controlling you right now.  You can bless the paper to transform the emotion into something else.  Then you destroy it!  Tear it into little pieces, burn it, flush it down the toilet, bury it in the back yard. 

A slightly different version of this is the 'to whom it may concern' version.  This time, you are writing a letter, to someone who is making you feel what you are going through.  It may be to a specific person (your mother, an ex-partner, your gym teacher, your boss, the guy who cut me off on the road today, my younger self) or it may be a generic letter, addressed to the universe or to Divinity.  In the letter, you pour out all the things you are feeling.  You can say those things that you wish you could say (but often don't really mean) or the things you wish you had said (but didn't).  These letters can be burnt as well, to send the message out into the world.  I find this works really well when my emotion is directly aimed at a particular person.

I am really enjoying transformational journaling right now.  I'll start by journaling about a topic, then I'll transform my journal page in some way.  I may meditate on what I need to move forward and then paint or collage a new image over the words.  Or I might tear up my journal page and use those pieces to make a mojo bag or paper mache them into a totem to further work with that emotion.  The key here is to take the thing you wrote and turn it into something new, something that helps you further your work with that emotion.

When it comes to borrowed emotions, I find that the first thing I need to do is identify the source of the emotion (especially noticing that it is NOT my own emotion).  Even if I use one of the same methods to work with the emotion, I need to be aware that it is from an outside source and not an internal one, because that changes how I respond to the emotion.  If I treat a borrowed emotion as a personal one (or vice versa....) trying to work with it becomes much harder as I am not actually working with the source of the emotion, merely treating the symptoms (which often means it will come back).

I am extremely emotionally tied to the stories I encounter, in books and tv/movies.  It is very common for me to identify quite strongly with a character, to the point of going through the emotional states they go through.  Most of the time this isn't a problem....unless I don't finish the story!  If I set a particularly moving book down when I am only halfway through, especially if the character I am identifying with is caught up in a big emotional conflict, I will find myself manifesting that emotion myself.  The easiest way for me to fix this is to finish the story.  But, if for some reason I can't, I can pick up another story and essentially overwriting the emotion with new ones (which I can then see to completion).

When borrowing emotions from other people, I definitely turn to shielding.  I like knowing what other people around me are feeling, but I don't always want to be going through it myself.  I also feel it is very important, especially when I am trying to interact with someone who is going through an emotion, that I not because lost in it myself.  This becomes particularly counterproductive.  If you have a friend who is sad and you want to help them, but instead you join in their misery, you may find yourself not able to actually help them.  If you are in an argument with someone and you let their anger overcome you, it becomes much harder to present your perspective in a way that they will understand and appreciate.

My first step when shielding a borrowed emotion is definitely a deep breath and grounding/centering.  I want to pull myself back into myself, so that I can separate what is me from what is coming from outside.  For borrowed emotions, I think of my shields like glass:  I can see what is going on outside them, but things can't get in to me.  This way I can still empathize with the other person, but I am no longer borrowing their emotions and being effected by them.

Sometimes, a borrowed emotion will trigger a personal emotion though, and you will need to work with both sources at the same time.  If you only work with one, you won't fully work through the emotion. 

I think the hardest thing for many people to work with is other people's emotions.  There is a tendency (especially with empaths!) to treat other people's emotions as you would your own.  But not only do we all often respond to the same emotion in different ways.....other people's emotions aren't truly yours to deal with!  We can work with other people and help them work out their emotions, or we can work around someone else's emotions, but the work of actually dealing with the emotion has to fall on them.

My husband and I are a great example of how emotions manifest differently in different people.  He is very much a flash in the pan anger person.  He will get set off by something (things that, to me, seem silly and inconsequential) and his anger will flare!  He will get very angry, very quickly, and rant and rave.  But two seconds later, once the stimulus is past, he is over it.  Like absolutely over it, and confused by why I am still even thinking about it.  I, on the other hand, stew.  When something makes me angry, it will be like a little glowing coal deep inside me, and it will stay there for days or months.  I may not look angry on the outside, but that anger is there, waiting to burst into flame.

If I try to treat my husband's anger like I do my own, it doesn't work.  When I am really upset about something, I often want to talk about it.  My husband, in the throes of anger, just wants to lash out and burn it off.  Trying to talk to him just fans the fire.  Instead, if I remove myself from the situation or tune it out, it passes quickly.  So what I have found is that it is important to make sure you are thinking about other people's emotions from their own perspective, and not yours.

Sometimes this means that you have to give the other person time to work things through before you try to interact with them.  I think this is especially true for both grief and anger.  Some people need to figure things out on their own, before they can deal with other people.  If you try to interact with them too soon, they lash out or close up, because they just aren't ready yet.

Other people need support, they need someone to help them drag themselves those first few steps.  They may need a shoulder to lean on (or cry on).  You may not need to do anything at all, just to be there.  In this case, you might need to resist the urge to try to help them too soon.  They may need to fully express their emotions before they can start to work on them.

Emotions are ultimately a very tricky and individual thing.  Your emotions are different from my emotions, and I need to remember that when working with someone else who is in the throes of an emotion.  But my own emotions also stem from many different sources and I need to do my best to fully understand where an emotion is coming from in order to work through it.  And all anger isn't the same, what works for one situation might not work for another. 

By figuring out your general process for identifying and working through emotions, you can have a roadmap that helps you plan out how to work with any particular emotion.  Like any plan, you may have to adjust it along the way, but it will at least get you headed in the right direction.  And the more work you do with your personal emotions, the better you will become at working with other people who are caught up in their own emotional crisis.  Emotions can be overwhelming, but they don't have to be insurmountable!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sink or Swim

I think that a lot of spiritual practice can be intimidating, especially if it is something far from what you grew up with.  Many Pagan paths emphasize solo work, even when you have a regular group to work with, as your regular daily practice will be done on your own.  And of course practices like divination, meditation, visualization are highly dependent on your own skills and abilities.

Not only is there a lot of personal work and growth to be done, but many times there aren't clear instructions laid out for you to follow, especially if you don't have a teacher or tradition you are learning from.  You may not know which practices to work on first or even how to approach any given practice.  There may be a dozen or more ways that you have read about, and many of those may say that they are the best (or only) way to do things.

It is easy to get caught up in doing 'more research'.  Of course it is often a good idea to read up on the things you are wanting to learn, and it can definitely save you a lot of time by explaining basic methods or telling you what common mistakes you can avoid. 

But at some point you have to accept the idea that you may never feel 'prepared enough' and that you just have to jump in and get your feet wet.  There is only so far you can go through reading and researching.  No matter how many different sources you read, some things just don't click until you have done them yourself.

Spirituality and magical practice both often involve a certain amount of trial and error.  There are struggles along the way, as you figure out what methods work for you and how to overcome the natural obstacles that stand in your way.  Luckily, if you have done some amount of research, you probably are starting with simpler practices first, and so setbacks aren't as bad.  Much like how babies learn to crawl before they walk and walk before they run, you will practice the easier skills and get a handle on them before you work on harder things.  And if you stumble while crawling, you may get a bit of a shock and possibly a little bruise, but it is much safer than trying to run without learning to walk first.

I am an avid researcher.  I love to read about anything and everything I can get my hands on.  I often find myself dragging my feet at the thought of actually practicing new skills, and I feel that a big part of that is fear of failure.  I feel pretty serious stage fright and anxiety when I think about sharing my own knowledge with other people in any kind of a formal situation, which is sort of funny because I love to talk about things casually with about anyone. 

When I push myself through that fear though, and actually get on with the doing, whether it is trying a new method for personal use or actually sharing my experiences with others, I find that the fear diminishes.  I don't always succeed at the things I try, but trying and stumbling or making mistakes is still easier for me to manage than never trying at all.

I think that is a big mental obstacle that many people have to overcome when they are starting out (or at any plateau along the way).  We feel like there is something horrible that will happen if we don't get things 'right'.  And there are definitely some serious practices out there that have serious consequences when things go sideways.  But for the most part, what happens when you don't succeed is, at most, a minor setback.  Often the only thing that happens when you don't succeed is exactly that:  you don't succeed.

Take meditation for example.  Many people struggle with meditation, and put it off for a variety of reasons (they don't have time, they have little kids, there is a construction site next to their house).  But if you sit to meditate and you don't succeed..nothing bad actually happens!  And, I think that more people succeed than realize it.  Part of what I feel is the process of learning meditation is figuring out what it means to you.  Meditation isn't always hours of sitting perfectly still without a thought in your head.  It can mean different things at different times, and learning to recognize when you are meditating is as important (in my mind) as actually getting good at meditating.

Another area that I think a lot of people are quite hesitant to explore is divination.  Many people feel they need to undertake a full and complete study of the tarot, memorize the meaning of every card and know layers and layers of symbolism.  And that is a wonderful thing, if that is something that appeals to you.  But it isn't the only way to read cards, and plenty of people work with cards without knowing all of that (especially if you are reading a non-standard deck).  I feel that divination is more about figuring out how you relate to your divination tool of choice, and becoming comfortable with your own symbols and their meanings and learning to trust your readings.

And that is a huge undertaking right there:  learning to recognize your own personal take on things and accepting that what works for for you!  There are lots of reasons to use the 'tried and true' ways of doing things.  Often the standard methods are standard for a reasons:  they work for the vast majority of people.  That doesn't mean that they work for everyone, nor that they are the best and most effective method for everyone.  But they are often a great place to start, and may save you a lot of time trying many different ways until you find what works for you.

The transition between trying to standard ways and really stepping into your own power is a big one, but I think it's one we all face eventually.  It isn't something that seems to be talked about a lot, and I think it needs to be.  I think that people need to understand that it is okay to be themselves, and that their personal perspective is what gives their path it's unique flavor and what works for them will create the strongest power in their practice.

So definitely read up on the things you want to learn.  See what other people have done, and listen to the warnings they have.  But don't let your fear hold you back, especially when the risks are small (or non-existent)!  Take appropriate precautions, but once you have, go for it!  Meditate, try your hand at divination, cast a circle, cast a spell!  See what you enjoy, and do more of it.  See what doesn't work for you and try something else.  Listen and be true to yourself.  Find your own way, for that will be the path that feels like home to you, the one that is truly yours!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Personal Celebrations

Today is my Birthiversary (Birthday and Anniversary)!  So I thought it would be a good time to talk about celebrating dates and events that are personal.  I remember the first time I read through the Satanic Bible I thought that the point about celebrating your birthday as a holy day was really poignant.  The main idea is that we celebrate so many other things in our lives (and so many other people's birthdays), but if we are truly to honor and celebrate our Self and our life...shouldn't we celebrate the day we entered into this world?

There is a growing trend to celebrate birth-weeks and birth-months, and I think this is a really great trend.  So often in life, we are taught to put ourselves last, to not make a big deal...but we are a big deal!  We should take the time to focus on ourselves, and sometimes a day just isn't enough. 

Birthdays are somewhat tricky for a lot of people.  Some may have had bad experiences as a child (or not much experience, if your family didn't make a big fuss about your birthday).  It can be a hard transition from having a big party when you are young to adult life, when you may not have anything special on your birthday (and there is a good chance you will have to work sometimes...)  We may feel like it is inappropriate to throw our own birthday celebration or to dare to suggest that our birth week/month be honored.

I've always been kind of fudgy about dates.  I am more focused on the essence of a celebration than the specific details.  For me, celebrating and honoring my birth on the actual day (or time...for me it would be just past 1am) isn't that important.  I would rather celebrate when the timing is right for whatever celebration is planned than try to cram it in to the right date (or not bother celebrating at all)  In some ways, this often leads to birth-week (or month!) celebrations, especially if I end up celebrating with multiple groups of people...which is always fun!

I also think that sometimes we feel like we may not deserve a big fuss on our birthday, or gifts or being taken to dinner or whatever else people may do for us.  Birthdays are a great time to practice receiving gratefully.  I am always reminded of the stereotypical 'spoiled' child on tv who complains the whole birthday that things aren't perfect, or they didn't get enough presents, or that the presents they got weren't expensive enough, or they didn't get that one (often crazy) thing that they asked for.  I don't think gifts are about that.  For me, gifts are an expression of the relationship between people.  When someone gives me a gift, it is an insight into what I mean to them, which makes it special and wonderful even if the gift itself isn't something I would have desired otherwise.  I have actually found that sometimes it surprises me and things that I have received and not immediately been drawn to, ended up being more likeable after I had used them several times....opening me up to new possibilities.  Even if I never warm up to a gift, the fact that it was a gift still makes it special to me.

One thing I like about birthdays is that it is socially acceptable to really do your own thing on your birthday.  We are given a license to use "It's my birthday" as a reason for almost anything.  Want to eat cake and drink wine even though it's not on your diet?  That's fine, because it's your birthday!  Want to pick that movie that you are the only one in your house that actually wants to see it...well it's your birthday (the others might not watch it with you..but you can watch it)!  Don't feel like cleaning house...don't have to, it's your birthday!  For many people, this is the one day where they feel free enough to act on some of their inner desires.  It's like a training wheel day for living your own inner dreams.

I also think that we shouldn't feel compelled to do things just because it's your birthday.  If you are a quiet person who doesn't like huge gatherings, it's okay to tell your friends not to throw you a big, crazy party.  If you really want to have a quiet night in and wear your jammies and binge watch your favorite show, it's okay to say you don't want to go out for dinner and dancing.  If you don't want the people at the restaurant to sing to you....tell them not to!  Your birthday is literally YOUR day, so claim it, make it your own!

There are also other personal celebrations that we honor throughout our lives.  As I said earlier, it's also my anniversary today (yep, same day for both!).  I think that anniversaries are something that often get taken for granted unless it's one of those 'big' years (10, 50, 100...) but really, every anniversary is special.  This is the person you have chosen to build your life with, and it's one more year that you have shared together.  Anniversaries are times to celebrate your relationship, in ways that are meaningful to you.  No one's relationship is just like yours, and so why should you celebrate like other people?

Hubby and I are both gamers, so the things we like to do together often involve games.  I know that some people don't understand this, but for us, playing a game together is more enjoyable than going out on a traditional date would be.  Of course, we are both big foodies too, so dinner dates are always good.  And we both like to cook, so that dinner date might be us making and then enjoying a meal together.  He knows that I'm not a 'flowers and candy' kind of girl, and buys gifts accordingly.  This year, I got a new tattoo, which I am quite pleased with!

The great thing about personal celebrations is that they are exactly that:  personal.  Only you can determine what is important for you to celebrate.  Many people like to honor their pets just like they would family members, so you might have a birthday party or memorial day of observance for them.  You might be a huge sports fan, and want to celebrate a big win with an equally big party!  Or perhaps, there was a day in your past, where something happened that was utterly life changing.  This date becomes a holy day for you, a day in which you honor the experience that happened (whether it was a good or bad experience) in a way that helps you honor the part of you that was changed that day.

Your personal celebrations can be things that you share with the world, or private celebrations that you keep to yourself.  You can invite specific people to share your celebrations with you, in whatever way feels right to you.  They can be as simple or elaborate as you need them to be.  Just because you celebrate alone, with an easy, short action or acknowledgement, doesn't make the celebration any less worthy or important than if you invited everyone you knew and had a week long ritual planned to the last detail.

So celebrate your birthday!  And celebrate events that are significant to you!  Think about what things are important in your life, and how you might like to honor those.  Life is a wondrous thing, and when we celebrate, we are acknowledging the joys and sorrows we have been through.  We are recognizing our strengths and the things that make us who we are.  When we celebrate the things that matter to us, we are celebrating our Selves.  And we are all worthy of being celebrated!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sacred Body Modification

For a long time, there was a stigma around many types of body modification.  Western society finds some types of body modification (like women piercing their ears) acceptable, while others (like branding or scarification) are not.  Some things (like tattoos) fall somewhere in the middle, and are rapidly becoming more acceptable with a wide range of people.  What types of body modifications are socially acceptable is also modified by where in the world you life, your socioeconomic status, your gender and where on your body the modification is.

I love that we are living in a world that is moving more towards acceptance of these types of body modifications.  I got my ears pierced after high school, and one of my main reasons was so that I could wear stone earrings and match the type of stone to the energy I wanted to carry with me that day.  I also loved that there are so many varieties of earrings, so I could absolutely pick symbols that not only were beautiful but that also had personal meaning for me.

My first tattoo was also a spiritual thing for me.  As much as I love beautiful body art, and may someday get a more photographic piece, symbols speak much louder to me, and I absolutely love the idea of marking significant symbols of personal meaning right on my body.  It becomes a statement of belief.

Some of the common warnings about tattoos are that 'they are permanent, are you sure you will want that still when you are 80, what if you change your opinion about what you got tattooed.'  But I have always taken the road map perspective.  I do things to mark where I am at in my life when a thing happens.  If my circumstances change, that doesn't change the past, and I will always bear that memory as a part of my life.  I do think long and hard about the things I would get tattooed, but ultimately, if someday I change my beliefs, I'll still have a visible memory of an important period in my life.

I find the stigma around scarification (a form of body modification where cuts are made with the intent of making scars) rather interesting.  Much like branding, it is a more extreme form of modification in some ways, but in other ways it is more subtle.  I think one of the big concerns is definitely one of safety, especially if it is something you are doing yourself, and of course you want to make sure you are doing things with the right impulse (self-harm and body modification through scarification are not the same thing, they are rooted in different impulses).

But almost all forms of body modification have been used in sacred practice at different points in history and in different religions and cultures.  Tattooing was a pretty common way of marking sacred initiations (but both scarification and branding were also used).  I also feel very strongly that just because something has deep spiritual meaning to you doesn't mean it can't also have layers of personal meaning or just plain asceticism.  If you have a great love for a particular tv show, find meaning in a symbol, saying or image from the show, you can have a tatoo that expresses both your fandom and your spirituality!

One thing I find that can make body modification sacred as well is how you approach the pain.  Almost all body modification involves pain of some sort.  Rarely are you given ways to bypass the pain, and it becomes part of the process.  This can definitely be approached as a form of sacrifice, or as a personal initiation.  The experience of getting the modification done can be spiritually enhanced by entering into a meditative state or focusing on the significance of the modification as it relates to you as it is being done.  After-care can also become a spiritual practice, adding in a mantra or focusing on the intent as you follow your care instructions (such as cleaning a piercing site or putting ointment on a tattoo).

I very much like the fact that the face of spirituality is being challenged by the spectrum of body modification that is becoming accepted as well.  We see spiritual people who have very traditional and demure body modification, perhaps only pierced ears or only temporary things (such as henna).  But we also see deeply spiritual people who fully embrace the extremes of body modification, marking their beliefs on their skin, altering their appearance to reflect what they feel their inner truth is or simply loving body modification while still being spiritual.  And we have everyone in between.  What I think is truly beautiful about this is that it is showing the world that anyone can have sincere and deep spirituality, and that how society perceives (and judges) you based on your external appearance has nothing to do with the kind of person you are on the inside.

I also love that obviously spiritual tattoos of all sorts are becoming more mainstream.  If you have a lotus flower or sacred geometry symbol tattooed on your skin, people may not even realize that it is a spiritual thing.  Deities of all flavors are popular as well, and many people will not know that the image you have on your body is one you are devoted to.  Even some of the more well known and often misunderstood symbols (like the pentagram) are becoming more accepted as they are embraced by popular media (in shows like Supernatural) and desired by fans.

The other thing that I think is really powerful about things like body modification, is that it is an artistic process.  You can either create your own design or work with an artist to create whatever you can imagine.  You can work in whatever imagery or symbols that are important to you, and really create a one of a kind piece that represents you.

If you are considering getting some kind of spiritual body modification, think about what you want it to mean.  Will it represent an initiation of some sort that you went through or celebrate a spiritual event?  Will it honor a deity or energy that you work with regularly?  Will it be a spell that you carry with you always?  Will it be a reminder about a lesson that you are working on or a spiritual truth that you want to be mindful of?  Is it something beautiful that represents you, your spiritual life or your path?  All of these (and more I'm sure) are wonderful reasons to get body modification done.

You also definitely want to consider your own pain threshold and make sure you do your research on both the process of the modification as well as any after care.  Modern tattoos are often quick and can be relatively pain free (depending on where you get them done).  But if you decide you want a traditional tattoo, that process is very different, and the experience (and result) will also be different.  Neither way is better, it's just a matter of deciding what is better for you (for this particular piece).  The same goes for piercing, there are different ways and different places to get pierced, and you want to figure out which one is the one that fits your needs best.

If you aren't very familiar with the modification you are considering, definitely do your research.  Look it up, read about it, talk to people who have had it done, and speak with the person who you are thinking about getting to do the modification.  If you have any questions or concerns....ask! 

You may want to work the modification experience into a ritual observance.  Depending on who is doing your modification, you may be able to do an actual ritual around the modification itself, but even if you are getting your modification done at a tattoo shop or piercing parlor, you can still do personal ritual preparation before and ritual acknowledgement afterward.  Marking the occasion spiritually can add great meaning to an already meaningful experience.

Whatever your reasons, and whatever modification you choose, there are many options available to you.  You can be discrete and keep your modification in a place where the general public will not see it or you can display it for the world.  You can tell other people what it means to you or simply let them wonder (it is your body!  if you want to say 'I got it because I liked it' that is your right!)  So, if you feel called to Sacred Body Modification, find the one that fits your needs, your life and your desires!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Morning and Evening Routines

Recently, the idea of daily practice was brought up again, in one of my groups.  This is something that comes up fairly regularly in many different places, and something that I've responded to in various degrees of thoroughness many times over the years.  But I thought I'd make a proper write up about my morning and evening routines!

My evening routine started amazingly enough, back in grade school.  I was part of the Signet program, which was an advanced program where once a week we were bused to another school and we got to take fun courses (like sign language or horses).  One of the courses I took was Tai Chi.  This was where I got my introduction to quite a lot of things:  breathing practice, meditation, visualization.

One of the practices we learned was one of relaxation.  You would first go through and tense and then relax all the major muscles of the body.  Then you would go back through and use visualization to further relax them.  I always saw it as painting my body, with a thick, cool paint.  As this was a relaxation technique, I started doing it at night, when I was in bed, right before I went to sleep.

I did this on and off, for many years, and this basic relaxation technique went through many incarnations.  For a while I used a similar brushing visualization, that was more detailed, and would focus on all the major joints and connections in the body as well as the larger areas.

When I was in high school, I read a book (called Life 101 if I remember correctly), that talked about creating a mental sanctuary.  This was a place, in your head, that had many rooms.  There was a media room, with a big projection screen, where you could load up a recording of any experience you had been through and replay it.  There was a medical room, that was filled with whatever kind of medicines, staff or machines you felt you needed to heal your body.  There was a personal room, that was a place you could go to relax and feel safe.  There was an outfit room, which had all kinds of clothes, so you could 'step into' any kind of personality or role you might need that day.  And there was a doorway through which you could invite anyone you wanted, and have conversations or work out issues with them.

I built up my own mental sanctuary, though I think of it as an astral temple, and personalized all my rooms.  This was a place that I went to every night.  I often would visualize being in my medical room while doing my relaxation exercises.  This also led to me working with affirmations in the form of potions.  I had things that I would want to call into my life, so I created potions (in my medical room) that would fit.  I sometimes struggle falling asleep, so I wanted to have an affirmation about falling asleep and waking up refreshed. 

The reason I decided to go with a potion image was that it incorporated many senses.  As I was creating them myself, I could add ingredients (no matter how fantastical) that fit my needs.  So my sleep potion included milk, moonbeams and chamomile.  Each potion I made had a purpose, had ingredients, had a scent, a look and a mouth feel.  I later added special bottles to keep them in, which were all different as well.  Every night I would say my affirmation, see the bottle, smell the potion, and then drink it, tasting and feeling it.

I recently swapped up from the potion idea to a clothing one.  Many of my affirmations have become like shielding during the day, so I think of them in terms of armor that I might wear to protect myself. 

As my night time routine grew, I also started to develop a morning routine.  It started with just Sun Salutation, but I soon added some simple Tai Chi stretches and meditation, as well as prayers.

Right now my morning routine starts by Greeting the Day.  This is a prayer based off of an old Norse prayer, and I saw a modified version (it is of course translated into English, so some of the words are different I believe) that I liked.  This is what I say:

"Hale Dagr, Hale sons of Dagr
To Nott and her daughters Hale,
With loving eyes gaze upon us
and here sitting grant us weal.
Hale to the Reign and Hale the the Alfar
and Hale to the bounteous mother Jorth and Nerthus
Words and Wisdom grant us
And praiseworthy deeds
And healing hands, while we live."

The word hale not only indicates a greeting, but also a wish of health and wellness, which I think is lovely.  So I greet the day (Dagr) and night (Nott), and ask they look upon us with love and blessings of health.  I left it in the plural, because I think of my morning prayers as speaking for my household.  Then you greet the gods (Reign and Alfar, though Alfar could also include elves and/or fae), and the earth (Jorth and Nerthus).  I like the feel of this prayer, and the fact that it speaks to my Norse leanings.  I say it while looking out my back window, at the field behind my apartment.  It gives me a moment of connection with nature and what is going on in the world that day (weather/season wise).

After that, I do my Tai Chi stretches.  I do one called Lifting the Sky alternating with one that I call Following the Moon (I couldn't find a link to this one, but your hands form a circle like the moon, and you lift them up to the sky, then open your arms wide, sweeping them down until you are touching your toes.  Then put your hands together to make the moon again and reach up to the sky).  After three repetitions of those, I do my Sun Salutations.  I used to do these three times each side, but found it generated too much heat (I don't like to start my day off sweaty, as I'm an evening shower person), so I do it twice, leading once with each leg.  These stretches help me shake off any tightness from sleep and wake up.

Every morning I draw a Futhark Rune, and this I use in my meditation that I do after my Sun Salutation.  I sit in half lotus (because that is my most comfortable sitting position), and take a deep breath.  I start by breathing into the chakra of the day, greeting the deity of the day, and asking to see the wisdom of the rune I drew throughout my day.  I read about working with a different chakra each day a while ago, and that really resonated with me.  I thought about it for a while, and liked how they lined up if I started with Sunday at the base and ended with Saturday at the crown.  This not only fit my understanding of daily energies, but also how my life flows.  So my daily associations are:  Sunday-root-Sunna (Sun), Monday-sacral-Mani (moon), Tuesday-solar plexus-Tyr, Wednesday-heart-Odin, Thursday-throat-Thor, Friday-third eye-Freyja, Saturday-crown-Loki.

Then I do a short loving kindness meditation.  When I do this, I breath up through my spine to my crown along the back of my body, then exhale down through the front of my body into the solar plexus area.  This is a breathing form I learned to help not only regulate personal energy but build up your total energy as well.  I always find it very soothing.  I repeat, "I am full of loving kindness, I am well.  I am peaceful and at ease, I am happy."  This is my favorite version of the loving kindness statement, and I think it really speaks to things I want in my life.  I repeat this three times (three is my own personal power number, and has been special to me since I was a child).

Next come my affirmations and shielding.  With each section I visualize putting on the piece of clothing, and calling upon it to bring the things I am speaking about into my life.  "May my feet take me where I need to go, and protect me from harm along the way."  I am not a fan of shoes, so my foot clothing is a long bandage, wrapped around the arch of each foot, then crossing over and around up the ankle and then tied (sort of like the ties on ballet shoes).  "May my pockets be always full,"  My lower body clothing isn't always the same (and amusingly don't always have pockets), but are often shorts or a wrap skirt.  "May my allure be firmly in my control."  I have always had a strong view of my own sexuality, but sometimes I have trouble with lines being blurred and not being able to create the boundaries I this affirmation is about being the master of my own body and my sexuality (and not being the victim of it).  This affirmation goes with a wrap shirt. 

"May I have the strength to do what is necessary, and the courage to do what is right."  This affirmation actually goes with two daggers, which I see as tattoos on my arms.  The left one (for what is necessary) is a black dagger, and the right one (for what is right) is pure silver.  These represent the hard choices we have to make.  I think there are a lot of things in life that we have to do because they are necessary, but they aren't always pleasant and they may have repercussions...but we do them anyways because we have to.  On the other end of the spectrum, the 'right' action, the moral choice, the choice we can live with ourselves when we make it has it's own struggles.  So I have two reminders to be strong and brave and make the right choices.  "May my hands act upon my will."  My hand clothing is another bandage wrap (like you might use for martial arts) or lace up finger-less gloves.  I have a thing about my fingers being free (I am a very touch-heavy person).  This affirmation is a reminder to act with intent, so I am not taking actions that are thoughtless.

"My guardians are always at my back."  This one is another weapon, a sword this time.  I have always been a tool-loving person, and a blade-gal, so it never surprised me that my protections include multiple blades.  This one becomes a tattoo on my back, with the hilt up at my neck, running down my spine.  It is a reminder that I am never alone.  I have lots of people who have my back, both human people and spirit people.  "I am always of the shadows, and only show what needs to be seen."  I've been a people watcher all my life, it's something that I love doing.  People fascinate me, and many times I am quite content to stick to the sidelines and observe.  But I also think of my path as being shadow based:  not quite light and not dark, but somewhere in the misty middle.  I think that life is complicated and things aren't always as clear cut as they appear.  I have many sides to me, and I become who I need to be in the moment.  This affirmation goes with a hooded cloak.  "My mind questions all that is."  This affirmation is tied to a simple silver circlet.  I am always looking to learn, and I think that when we stop asking questions we stop thinking for ourselves.  It is through the asking, the seeking, that we find the truth.

The last part of my morning routine is a modification of an incantation know as the "Sith Galdor" from an eleventh-century manuscript.  I changed the wording from God to Odin, as I felt it more suited the piece and my own practice.

"With this sphere, I gird me round
By Odin's grace may I be bound
Against sore stitch, against sore bite
Against all horrors that haunt the night
'Gainst dread that folk fear everywhere
and loathy things that here would fare
Sig-galdur I chant; a sig-rod is my stay
Word-sig and work-sig ward today
No nightmare do my spirit harm
No foes oppress nor fear alarm
Nor wight nor weather threaten me
From danger defended I will be
I bid great Odin victory give
Guarded so, safe shall I live."

As I say this I either do or visualize specific movements.  The first line I trace a clockwise circle around myself, and on the second line I open my arms wide to the sky and then cross them over my chest.  During the third and fourth lines, I turn to each of the four directions in turn and trace a Sowilo rune (like a jagged S or lightning sign, it's the rune associated with Sig in the chant).  I repeat those sets of movements twice more, and finish with a final circle and arms open then crossed.  This incantation to me protects against so many things, and it is my regular daily protection.  In the same book I read about this (Trance-portation) two shorter centering chants are given for practice, and I really liked them, so they have sort of stayed in my practice long after I was done trying them out.

"North and South,
East and West,
In the center,
I find my rest."

"Before me,
Beside me,
Behind me,
Beside me,
Above me,
Below me,
Within me,

I absolutely love both of those, they are simple and just feel right to me.  After that, I often sit and just breathe for a few moments, or say any other affirmations I'm working with.  And that is my morning routine...which really isn't as long as it sounds, I swear!

At night, I have a different routine.  It starts with checking the doors.  I have a chant I say at the front and back doors (our only two that lead outside), but I also physically check to make sure they are locked.  At the back door I say:

"Night has fallen, Day is flown
Holy Frigga, bless our home
With joy and laughter, love and song,
Frigga keep our family strong."

The back door is by the kitchen, and I feel Frigga would be most at home here, and in many ways it is the heart of the house, so I feel this part fit this door.  At the front door I say:

"Night has fallen, Day is flown
Holy Hammer, ward our home
From trolls and thurses- Thunor keep
Our family safe that we may sleep."

Thurses are giants, and Thunor is another name for Thor.  To me, the front door needs a stronger protection, so I like this one here.  After warding the doors, I'll brush my teeth, and head to bed.  If I am alone, I will light a candle on my bedroom altar and do my prayers, but if hubby is home, I do them later.  For me, prayer is a deeply personal and private thing.  It's not that hubby wouldn't give me privacy, but more that I just feel like it needs to be something that is just between me and Odin (he is who I pray to at night).  So it feels right to do prayers out loud when I am alone, and in my  head when I am not.

My prayers to Odin are not a rehearsed thing.  I rarely ask for anything other than strength for a difficult task ahead or guidance about something I might be unsure about.  Most of my prayers are me talking:  about how my day went, about things that are coming up or about anything else that might be on my mind.  I struggled with prayer for a long time, and part of it was that I didn't feel my relationship with the deities I worked with really fit well with petition prayers or adoration prayers or any of the other types of prayer I was familiar with.  Instead, I fell to conversation.  To me, my relationship with Odin is more like that of father/daughter than anything else, so I talk to him, and I share my life with him.  I always end my prayers with some silence, some time to just be open.  A good friend of mine once said that when we pray we should leave as much time for silence as we spent talking:  to let the gods speak back.  That thought really stuck with me.

Once I am in bed, I start by recalling my energy.  This was something I read about a while back, and I feel it is especially important for me as I am highly emphatic, and often end up spreading myself pretty thin if I'm not careful.  So I call back all my loose energy, not only energy that I have sent to other people or places, but energy that is invested in random projects, things unfinished or whatever else it may be tied up with.  For this I say, "I cut all cords that tie me down."  The image of cutting cords works for me. 

I follow it up with, "I release all energy that is not mine."  The mental image for this is my own energetic body, but looking for bits of energy that don't match the rest.  My favorite analogy is that of a puzzle...with pieces that don't belong.  I see my own energy as a black and silver smoke, with the smell of rain and a match that was just extinguished.  So I look for energy that doesn't match and let it go back to whomever it came from.  I think we pick up energy all the time, from things we touch or things we interact with (even digitally).  And holding on to energy that isn't ours can make us feel unbalanced or lead to feelings and issues that aren't ours.

The last step of this process is recalling my own energy.  "And recall all energy that belongs to me."  This is one of the reasons why I use the cutting cord analogy.  By both releasing the extra energy (which also makes room for my own), and recalling mine, I am really shepherding my energetic body and thoughts.  I don't like the idea of leaving bits of myself all over, so I call them back.  If I think of a puzzle with mismatched parts for the releasing section, for recalling I think of filling up any places that are still empty.

This three-fold process serves as centering for me, and I follow it with a quick chakra balancing.  In the morning I focus on just one, whatever the chakra of the day is, but at night, I run through them all quickly.  I use a very simple mantra for each, one inhale and one exhale.  I start at the root and work my way up to the crown.  "I am, I feel, I do, I love, I express, I perceive, I comprehend."

After that I do a sort of reverse shielding.  I think that I need different things at night, the things I protect against during the day are not needed at night.  So I work my way through the protections I put up in the morning and take them off.  At night, I start at my head and work my way down to my feet.

"My mind is calm and at piece."  I take off the circlet.  If there is one thing that tends to keep me from sleep it is when my mind gets caught up in thinking about something.  It could be a worry, it could be excitement about something that is happening the next day, or just an idea that I had that leads to lots of crazy thought.  So if I can get my mind quiet and calm, that leads to a more peaceful night.  "I take down any masks I put up during the day."  I see myself taking off a mask (like a harlequin mask), and the hooded cloak.  I think that we all wear different masks in different situations.  But at night, I don't need them. "My guardians watch over me while I sleep."  I actually don't remove the sword, but I touch it as a reminder that it is always there.

"My hands lay down their burdens and rest."  This is a reminder that my work is done for the day, and that it is time to sleep.  I take off the gloves.  "May my will," I touch the left knife tattoo, "and my honor," I touch the right tattoo, "be at peace."  I cross my arms so the tattoos touch.  This is a reminder that both halves of me need to work together.  "May my body be rested and innocent as a child's."  I think there is something really special about watching a child sleep.  They seem to be completely out, and almost always wake with boundless energy, so that is how I want to sleep too.  I also want to embrace that innocent body sense that children have, before they have woken to the idea of sexuality.  Night seems the right time to call this forth, especially as I remove the shirt.

"May I not be concerned with monetary or physical problems."  This affirmation is tied to my pants, as that is where my pockets are, and the physical problem part often refers to body problems in my mind.  Money is definitely one of the things I think about a lot, and this just reminds me that I don't need to stress out about it.  Worry doesn't help solve things, and letting my thoughts dwell on problems just creates more problems.  "May my feet rest along their path."  As I take off the foot wrappings, I remind myself again, that the work of the day is done and it's time to stop and rest.

This is where I will pray, if I haven't done so already.  The last thing I do at night is pick some kind of little story to play with.  This is something I started doing in car rides, where I would make up a situation and just let it play out, with myself as one of the characters in the story.  At night, I may do that, or I may play with a story I'm working on writing.  It's just a little pre-dream play (sometimes the stories do end up transitioning right into dreams), that lets me drift off easily.  I find it works better for me than trying to clear my mind.  It gives me a soft mental focus, something easy to play around with, something fun, that distracts me from any deep thinking (which typically keeps me awake).

Again, my night time routine isn't nearly as long to do as it is to explain, Whew!  But what I really love about it is that it is completely portable and discrete.  I've done a version of it for over two decades now, and it is my one constant practice that I do everywhere.  The only times I skip it are when I am so exhausted that I literally fall asleep as soon as I hit the bed...and even then, I almost always get the first bit done.  It gives me a great sense of comfort to have that continual practice, even if many of the details have changed many times over the years.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Revisiting the past

I've said before that I'm not much of a record keeper.  I don't typically spend hours and hours recording every magical or spiritual thing I do.  However, I am a decent journaler, and I have been trying to record more of my (non-daily) divination spreads.

But I think there is a lot of value in coming back to things we have done before, whether it is an old practice, a memory, a journal entry or a book we have read before.  It doesn't matter how well I think I know a thing, when I go back to it, I always walk away with new insights.

I think part of that is that I am not the same person today that I was when I experienced the thing in the past.  I have grown and changed, and so my personal perspective is different.  I'm quite literally looking at it with new eyes, and making new connections because different things may be important to me today.  I may have gone through experiences and learned things that make different parts of a thing more meaningful. 

I also think that we see what we are meant to see, in this moment.  So I may not be ready to understand everything the first time through, and only by coming back to something can I uncover those other layers.

This is particularly true for me with books.  I can read a book a dozen times (and I have some books that I have definitely read dozens of times) and each time I read it, I will have different insights and takeaways.  I also find that often information has to settle a bit for me to really start to internalize it.  So at first read I may get just the basic bones of an idea, but on the next time through I can start to flesh it out, and really work it into my understanding of the world.

With personal journals, I think there is a different mechanic at work.  When I am writing, I am not always thinking about what things mean.  I am trying to express what is inside, and trying to get all those hard thoughts into words.  But when I go back and read what I have written, I can think about it and consider what the words I wrote mean.  Especially if a decent amount of time has passed, I can get greater insight into my own mind and experiences and see things that I couldn't at the time, because I was caught up with my focus somewhere else.

This is one thing that I think is especially true when it comes to divination readings.  Sometimes we need that perspective, we need to look at things in hindsight in order to make sense of them.  When we are in the middle of something, we just can't see the whole picture, even with some help from our tools.  Interpreting a reading in the moment gives very important information, and can be a great help in deciding what to do, but looking back on that same reading after the event in question has come to pass, helps us see the greater patterns that will help us when facing similar situations down the road.

When working with memories, I think we encounter another really interesting phenomenon.  We tend to remember memories as they felt 'in the moment' that they happened.  So we remember them from the perspective of our younger self.  Certain memories may haunt us because we didn't have the tools with which to understand and deal with the situation when it happened, and without deliberately looking back and working through the memory, we continue to be trapped by that emotional response that was set when the event happened.

One way to start breaking through that wall is to write down the memory, exactly as you remember it, with all the thoughts and feelings that you can remember feeling at the time.  Really try to capture the moment as it happened, without any judgement or editing.  Then, let it sit for a while.  Try not to think about it until you feel ready to go back in and work with the memory.  When you are ready, read what you have written, but not as if it were your memory, but the experience of someone else. 

Write down your reaction to the event, from your current perspective.  Try to be more factual at first, writing down why you think things unfolded the way they did.  If you have learned more about the situation since it happened, write that down too.  Then think about how you might talk to the person this happened to if they were your closest friend.  Think about how you would talk to them if they were a child...and then if they were an adult.  Write down your thoughts and advice.

This is a process you can keep working on, reading what you have written and writing new reactions and responses, until you start to find your own peace with the situation and memory.  You may find yourself writing about how that experience has molded your behavior or personality.  It may be things you like (even if the actual event wasn't so pleasant) or it may be things you want to change (and are going to work through their roots so you can start to modify them).  Each time you go back to that memory, you will work in it a little bit more and uncover new things.

When it comes to old practices, I love going back to things I used to do and working with them again.  Sometimes it is a short term thing.  I'll remember that I used to cast circle a certain way, when I was learning, so I'll go back to the method I used and play with it, using my current level of knowledge to explore the old practice.  I may find that it is too simple for me, or that perhaps my path has taken me along a different way of experiencing the world and the old practice just doesn't fit with my beliefs any more.  It is still fun and informative to go back and work with it for a little while.

Other times, I'll go back to something that was sort of basic and work through it from a more experienced perspective.  My practice of grounding has changed and evolved so many times over the years, but going back to the basic sitting meditation, reaching into the ground and connecting with the earth while reaching upward and also connecting with the sky.  It was something that I have struggled with at times, because of the way it is often described.  And yet, whenever I go back and work with that particular method of grounding, I am able to see different aspects of that practice, as well as things I can work with in my own grounding practice.

There are things that we just can't figure out, unless we go back to things.  We may have to read a book many times before we understand one of the points in it.  We may find ourselves in a lovely spiral with a practice, where we keep doing it, and it starts to feel so familiar that we don't have to think about it and then all of a sudden we have a breakthrough and it's like a whole new experience even though outwardly it is the same.  We may wrestle with a memory, trying to escape it's grasp, knowing that we will need to spend a lot of time working with it until we can start to untangle it's effects in our life.  Never be afraid to go back and work through something never know what you will uncover!