Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Book of Destiny (Book Review)

The Book of Destiny by Barbara Meiklejohn-Free and Flavia Kate Peters

The Book of Destiny is an impressive oracle book. It takes a very multifaceted look at each of the symbols represented, which means that you have many angles to look at any given result. This oracle could be used, exactly as it is, for quick insight or a direction for further introspection, or it could be a launching point for further research and delving into the meaning of each symbol.

There is an extensive amount of symbols presented in The Book of Destiny: 111 to be exact. And each one is given two pages, one of which is picture based and the other word based. The picture pages include an image of the symbol, it's name and a keyword that is represented by it all surrounded by a knot work border. The word page has a quote that relates to the symbol, a section that explains the symbol from an oracle standpoint, a section that includes historical use of the symbol and it's relevance and advice for how to apply the symbols wisdom in your life.

Some of the symbols are common, like the four leaf clover or the raven, while others are more specific and unusual, like the crystal skull or dowsing. It was interesting to read how the less traditional oracle symbols were interpreted, and I definitely feel that it opens up a lot of room for thinking about symbols in new ways.

What I found really interesting is that there sometimes isn't an obvious connection between all the information presented. For example, the symbol of the Broomstick is given the keyword 'Composure', and the quote for it is 'don't fly off the handle'. These two mesh very well with the first explanation that keeping your cool and maintaining your self-control will serve you better than loosing your temper. But much of the historical use of a broom centers around cleansing or fertility. The advice for the broomstick is to clear out old and make way for new.

Personally I like this, as there is a lot of different ways to interpret each symbol. I love the inclusion of the quotes. That is a really neat way to tap into the wisdom of any symbol and there are so many sayings that we use all the time that tie into these very common symbols, which makes it highly accessible. I also found the historical tidbits to be wonderful, as it often gave insight into how the meaning of the symbol has evolved. We may be familiar with how an item is used now or what it means in a modern context, but may not be aware of the roots of some of these meanings.

The advice at the end I felt gave a good practical step. Sort of the answer to 'what now?' that sometimes comes up when you draw a symbol and may understand what it means but may also be unsure as to how to move forward with that information.

I felt that each section was broad enough to give you lots of room to find the information that speaks to you in any given situation. It could be used to seek answers on a broad variety of topics, without running into situations where the symbol you get can't be applied to your question or problem. Sometimes you may need to do some thinking or look at things from a different perspective, but I find that to be part of the answer seeking process, so I like that it isn't too specific.

I also think that this leaves you with lots of jumping points for delving into any of the symbols deeper. Whether you just want to explore a particular symbol because it resonates with you or you have a tricky problem that you think you need to work in depth on, you can use this book as a starting point and research any of the leads it gives you to come to a more thorough understanding of the points presented. There were lots of times where I read something, especially in the 'revealed' (where the historical information was presented) that I wanted to know more about and was interested in doing further reading to see where it went.

The copy of the Book of Destiny that I have is digital, which I actually found rather clunky. I think this book was intended to be a physical book, and though it is still usable in digital form, it isn't nearly as user friendly. When doing my read through (and I read it from front to back), I found myself wishing the picture page came before the word page. So what I ended up doing was flipping two pages forward, looking at the symbol and keyword, then flipping back and reading the actual text. I also think that it would be a bit trickier to use it as an Oracle, though of course you could pick a random number and then read up on the symbol you picked. This does make it a handy thing to keep on your phone for using while you are out and about!

I definitely enjoyed this book, and I think that it offers up quite a lot of information. I would highly recommend getting a physical copy unless you wanted it specifically as an away from home oracle. The book can absolutely be used it as it is, but there is also lots of inspiration for going deeper into any of the symbols, should you desire to do so. It can serve as both an introduction to what different symbols mean as well as an alternative to oracle decks for divination.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Exploring and Expanding the Senses

I am watching a workshop that is exploring how we experience the world through our senses, with the intent of creating the intention of paying better attention to what our senses are telling us.  I have written about the senses before, especially in regards to meditation (because we aren't all visual people, and so many meditations include visualizations....which just don't work for everybody), but also just in general.

We are taught in school that there are five basic senses:  sight, sound, taste, touch, smell.  So much of the world assumes that you experience the world from a visual primary (and often touch secondary) standpoint.  As a society, we aren't as scent oriented as we might have been in our evolutionary past.  Many forms of advertising and entertainment bombard us with sights and sounds, and in many ways we start to filter out a lot of the information that is coming our way.

In the magical community, we often talk about other senses such as intuition or the energetic body.   There is a whole spectrum of psychic senses that echo the physical ones: clairvoyance (sight), clairaudience (sound), clairgustance (taste), clairalience (smell) and clairsentience (feeling).  There is also claircognizance, which many people consider similar or the same as intuition...a sense of just knowing information out of the blue.

When we think about the senses, we should first think about what a sense is.  I feel that our senses are our way of experiencing and understanding the world, both without and within.  It is also a way in which we receive information.  By this definition our thoughts can be considered our sense of Self.  One of the questions asked in the workshop I'm in is to think about other senses that you might have.

Which definitely got me thinking.  Right away I jotted down Energetic sensing:  feeling the resonance or energy of a thing.  Almost like tapping into the essence of it.  I also wrote down intuition, because that is a big thing for me. 

I wrote down Talking, because I definitely often start talking without knowing fully what I am talking about.  Through the course of speaking (or writing...but it's easier when speaking for me) words, I am not even really thinking about what I am trying to say, but letting the words flow through me.  Sometimes the words don't feel like my own, so I am listening to myself speak in order to figure out what I am trying to say.

I also thought about Synchronicity as a sense.  There are tons of times where all of a sudden I will start seeing the same thing over and over.  Or all my friends will talk about something to me independently.  Perhaps these things were always happening, and I just wasn't paying attention.  Or perhaps I am calling out for the information I need.  But noticing the patterns, getting that 'aha' moment where I recognize that I'm getting all this information about something all at once is definitely a way that I receive (and pay attention to) information.  Once I start noticing a pattern, I can't help but start looking for it and trying to figure out what it might mean to me.

I believe that Dreams are a sense.  We tap into so much information when we dream, and it flows in a way that is different from almost every other way we perceive the world.  Our dreams are an almost entirely different life that we don't always get to remember or understand in our waking lives.  And yet, we can work things out in our dreams while not even being fully aware of what is going on.

Imagination is along the same lines.  In some ways, this one is really tricky.  There is a lot of disbelief in imagination as being a real thing.  And yet I think that the things we imagine can become real.  And sometimes we can use our imagination to tap into very real information.  I have used this process several times, when I didn't know what to do about something.  I made up an answer, and tried it out, only to find out later on that the answer I made up was an actual answer. 

No matter what you consider to be a sense, there is powerful work that you can do with your senses!  Many people are in awe at the sensory abilities of others, especially people who may lack in certain senses and then have other senses that compensate for them.  But most of us can develop our senses to be more than they are, simply by paying more attention to what they are telling us.

We move through our day, paying attention to only what we need to.  The vast majority of information that comes to us gets automatically processed and discarded.  We aren't aware of it at all.  If you go to the grocery store, you technically 'see' all the people you walk by, all the signs and food for sale and the shelves on which everything is stored.  And yet many people couldn't tell you what color shirt the person who checked them out wore, even though they probably looked at them and even talked to them. 

It is pretty easy to start developing a sense.  All you have to do is start making a conscious effort to pay attention to it.  When you look at something, really look at it.  Consider what color it is and not just red or blue, but is it crimson or aqua or some other color that you can't even name?  When you taste a food, don't just stop at sweet or salty, can you taste the spices in your stir fry or use ten different words to describe how your apple tastes.  When you touch something, what does it really feel like....and how does it make you feel in response?

You can do this same process with the non-primary senses as well.  Developing skill with one of the clair-senses often starts through what I'll call sensualization:  you try to tap into the sense you are working on without a phsyical stimuli.  So for clairvoyance, that would be visualization:  you try to see the image of for example an orange, without having one in front of you (though when you first start you can have the orange, and then close your eyes and try to call it's image up).  For clairaudience you may try to hear your favorite song or the voice of a friend. 

For other senses that aren't based off the physical ones, you can find other ways to practice and develop them.  With Energetic sensing you might pick different things try to sense their resonance.  Start paying attention to any kind of feedback you might receive, whether it is words, sensations in your body, images or just concepts.  A lot of times I'll get a sense of knowing about a thing and it will be something that I can't put into words, I just know it (completely hard to explain lol).  To practice Talking, try talking out problems you are having or things that are bothering you.  The key is really to not think about what you are saying.  Sort of like stream of thought writing, except with speaking.

Synchronicity is all about paying attention to patterns.  Just putting the idea in your head to start looking for repeated things can help you start to notice them.  Once you start seeing the patterns, then you can think about what they might mean or what they are calling your attention to.  Writing down what you saw and a brief bit about what was happening at the time can be helpful in tracking the patterns.

Almost all Dream work starts with journaling.  Dreams are fleeting things, and while we may have a clear idea of what we dreamed when we first wake, those dreams quickly get lost.  Having paper and pen near your bed to note down key words right away can help you hold onto those dreams.  It can also be helpful to set the intention before you go to sleep that you will not only dream, but that you will remember your dreams.  Once you are dreaming often and remembering many of them, you can work on lucid dreaming, or being active in your own dreams!

To me, Imagination is the easiest to practice, but for many people it can be a real challenge.  I started, many years ago, by imagining what might happen in a situation I was expecting later on.  For example, if I knew I was going to be riding the bus to school, I might imagine something that could happen on the bus.  Sometimes it is useful to imagine realistic situations.  I almost always imagine important phone calls before I make them, playing out several different and very realistic options.  Job interviews are another great scene to imagine.  When you want to stretch your imagination muscles, start thinking of less probable situations.  What might happen if at the last bus stop, some one famous got on the bus?  Or perhaps you go to the interview and it's being held at a wild dance party!  Get crazy with it and see what you come up with.

One of the great things about working with the senses is that they are always with us.  These are skills we can often work on at any time, even if we only have a minute, and without anyone else knowing what we are doing.  If you are waiting in line at the bank, see how many sounds that you can name.  If you are riding in a car, look out the window and really see the color of the sky or close your eyes and try to feel the sensation of ice.

The more we pay attention to the world around us, the more alive we will be because we are more aware.  Everything becomes more interesting because you are actively engaging with it instead of trying to avoid what is going on.  Make the most of every minute by truly experiencing it!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Affirmations and Prayers

I joined an art journaling group this year, and one of the prompts involved creating either affirmations or prayers for the coming year.  As I worked on it, I decided I wanted mine to be both affirmations and prayers.  Through my journaling on this prompt I got to thinking about how many people approach creating change in their lives and how we ask for and receive help.

The first thing that came to my mind was that I see a lot of affirmations and a lot of prayers, but rarely are they together.  Either we create affirmations, statements about how WE are going to change or we make prayers asking for the divine to bring change to us.  It is a pretty solid trend to promote using affirmations for anything we can possibly do ourselves, and then if there are things that are out of our control, we pray about them. 

I think this echos in our regular lives many of us will do everything in our power to do things ourselves, and only when we are at the end of our rope or feel we can not possibly manage something do we ask for help.  Many people will wait until they are on the verge of collapse before they admit they need help, as if it makes them less of a person to ask for help (or that it somehow invalidates all the work they did up until that point to need someone's help to finish the last bit).

And yet, in many cases, people are much more likely to help us out when they see that we are already doing the work!  If they see you just waiting around and begging for help (without a reason to not be working), they won't have a lot of motivation to help you.  Not only that, but when you are working and you ask for help, the task gets done even faster!

I struggled a lot with the concept of prayer.  I have always sort of felt that prayer gets a bad rap, because so many people treat it like some kind of divine request line.  They pray about things instead of acting on them, and sometimes it's not even a heart-felt prayer, but more along the lines of just saying the words.  It's taken a lot of work for me to find my own way with prayer, to develop the type of connection that I feel constitutes prayer.  For me, prayer is a conversation.  I may ask for help with things, but I also share my life with the divine.

I have used affirmations for decades, ever since a rifle team coach introduced me to the process.  I always thought there was something really elegant about creating these statements about where you want to be and then stepping into the reality where they are already manifested.  I love that affirmations are becoming mainstream, so talking about them doesn't put you in the strange category anymore.

But I am coming to the realization that affirmations and prayer don't have to be an either or thing!  In fact, I am reminded of the oft quoted 'God helps those who help themselves'.  Life is a complex thing, and there are so many factors in our lives that influence how things turn out.  We may be able to control some of them, but we can never control them all.  Using both prayer and affirmations together help us approach a problem from multiple directions.

Affirmations are so powerful, and they work by combining the affirmation (which works on our inner world) with actual work (which works on the outer world).  If all we do is repeat affirmations, but we never do work, we are only actually doing half of the process.  The great thing about affirmations is that if we start with just repeating them, that inner work (the affirmation creating change in our mental state) will often spark the outer work (because we have changed who we are to be the person who embodies the affirmation...which means we have to be doing the work too).

But no matter how hard we work, sometimes there are just things that get in our way.  Other people, change occurrences, forces of nature...these are the things we pray about!  And much like affirmations, our prayers work best when we do work along with praying.  Things may happen in the world around us that we can't control, but we can always choose how we respond to these things (even if that choice takes a lot of work to implement!)

And more than just outside forces that we can't control, sometimes the work we are doing is so big that it feels like we could never accomplish it alone.  Even when we are doing our own inner and outer work, it feels like we are ants trying to shift the world.  This is where prayer steps in in helps build you up.  You no longer feel like you have to do it all alone.  You might be asking for help with things you can't control, but you might also feel like you need to pray for help in following through with your affirmations.  Sometimes, just knowing that someone else out there has your metaphysical back can be enough to pick you up when you fall or keep you on track when you are tempted to stray.

The affirmation prayers I made start with the affirmation.  Just like any other affirmation, they are present tense and positive.  The prayer part starts with 'May', and are worded like a petition.  It is me asking for something.  I know where my struggles are, and so those are the things that I worked into my prayers.  I am asking for help, but I am also agreeing to do my share of the work.  I don't think of them as an "If I do this, then you will do that for me," kind of thing.  I don't think of prayers or petitions as demands or expectations.  More like expressing my desires, so that divinity knows what I want from life.  Sort of like when you want to give something to a loved one, you may think back about things they are interested in or things they have said they liked for inspiration on what to give them.

I found that thinking about my intentions in this two-fold manner helped me separate out the things that I felt were in my control and the things that I felt weren't.  And because I was addressing both, it left me feeling more confidant about the outcome!  I also think that tying my prayers to affirmations helps me stay mindful of doing my own work and not just praying for things and hoping they miraculously manifest themselves. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Working with Snow and Ice

I was hoping to get a little more snow before writing this....the topic has actually been on my list for a while, but it's been so mild where we live that it felt kind of strange to be writing about working with snow when we hadn't seen any.  But we actually got snow last week, so here goes!

I have loved snow since I was little.  I always wished for a white Christmas, and there is still something very magical about snow on Christmas morning for me.  I love how the world looks when it is blanketed in fresh snow, and seeing track in the snow.  I saw bunny tracks outside my front door last week!  And when it is snowing and everything is sort of misty and still feeling....snow to me has a very tranquil feel to it.

When I think about working with snow, I think about freezing things, but snow is a softer freeze than ice.  The delicate patterns that form each snowflake are fascinating, and I love the idea that each one is different.  Hail has it's own energy, not only is it hard and often violent (getting stung by hail is not a fun experience!), but it's creation is chaotic and layers of freezing and melting and freezing again.  Then ice is just slowness and cold to me, a very static feeling.

Each one can bring things to your magic, and looking at it from an elemental approach, at it's base they are all water, but also different amounts of earth (for their solidity).  Ice is very commonly used to harden or effect emotional issues.

Some ways of working with snow and ice can be done year round, while others may not be accessible if you don't have cold weather.  With modern appliances, most of us have access to ice and the ability to freeze things.  You can capture snow (or hail, or icicles....) and save the melt water for use all year.  You could even collect snow in a container and keep it in your freezer (assuming you have room in your freezer)!

One of the most basic ice spells involves freezing a name in water.  You write the name of the person or thing that you want to 'freeze', and suspend it in water and place it somewhere that it will freeze.  This is often done with people to keep someone from doing harmful things, or to make them cold to you (for someone who perhaps has feelings of desire or anger that you want to cool off).  You can do this for things you want to stop movement on, freezing unwanted habits or situations that you want to slow down.  In winter months, when you know it will get cold outside, you can do this outside, slipping your paper into small puddles or simply leaving your container of water outside to freeze.

You can also do the inverse of this, naming something you want to unfreeze, suspending it in water and freezing it and then doing your magic as it melts.  This would help to warm situations up or free things (that were frozen in place or held captive).  Another way to do this kind of magic is to create a sculpture in the snow, name and imbue it with your desires, and then let it melt on it's own as the weather permits.

Writing in the snow is one way of leaving your mark on the world.  Write out your affirmations, really feeling into your desires, knowing that you have a unique perspective that no one else can give to the world.  If you are stuck for inspiration, you can write out a request for help, trusting that the exact things you need will come to you. 

Writing in the snow also reminds me of crop circles or those old stone pictures that can only be seen from the sky.  Why not write a message to a loved one who has passed beyond the next time snow falls?  Or declare your goals for all the world to see (though if you want to keep them a bit private still, consider using a magical alphabet)!

Snow-melt water can also be used to tap into the uniqueness of every snowflake.  Use snow-melt water for any workings where you want a creative solution, where you want to let your personal gifts shine or wanting to find the exact thing that is right for you.

Hail is a bit less common, but also has a lot of potential.  If there is something that you want to harden your emotions to, especially something that has been building up for a while, place a representation of it (either a small figure or writing on paper) outside while it is hailing.  If you feel someone is continually beating you up emotionally, always picking on you or making you feel belittled, place a mirror out in the hail to reflect all their barbs away from yourself.  If your emotions have been all over the place, running up and down and exhausting you, collect a bowl of hail and let it melt on your altar, to even out those emotional currents.

Hail-melt water can be used to help harden yourself emotionally, to build up your emotional shields.  You can also use it in release work on emotions that have built up over time and that you want to work through.  And it can be used to deliver a bit of an emotional sting, perhaps when someone isn't listening to how they are making you feel.

While we mostly encounter ice in more mundane forms (like ice cubes), winter weather often brings ice in the form of icicles.  Icicles are natural ice wands, which are very well suited for hard emotional work.  Sometimes, we need our emotions to remain still and solid so that we can examine them.  You can use an ice wand to direct your attention to the hidden things that you need to bring to light.

You can melt an icicle as part of your workings, letting the water drip down and focus into a single point or turning it upside down and letting it melt, allowing it to shrink and grow at the same time.

Winter weather brings a lot of things, and we may tend to avoid it as much as we can.  But we shouldn't forget how much potential there is in the snow, ice and hail.  We can tap into the power of this time of year and harness it's energy, whether we call upon it only during the winter season or save the melt water to use later.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Keeping your focus through the year

I've set a lot of goals over the years.  Some, I've met, and others I've failed horribly at.  But I've learned a lot along the way, and I'm getting better not only at setting realistic goals, but at sticking to my plan, even when things get rough.

There are many reasons why you can fail to reach a goal.  Some are absolutely out of our control.  If our goal is to go for a thirty minute walk three times a week, and we break our leg, there isn't much we can do about that.  On the other hand, if we decide to catch up on that new show on tv, then that is our own choice.  Most of the time, reality falls somewhere in the middle.  We may find that we start off with the best intentions, but we don't think about all the factors.  By the time we get home from work, get dinner sorted and spend some time with our family, it's time to get ready for bed.

Some of this comes down to willpower.  At some level, we have to take responsibility for our own choices.  If we intend to eat healthier, but we still eat junk food every day and drink nothing but soda, we need to admit that we are making poor choices and that we may need to do something to help ourselves when we are feeling weak willed.

One of the easiest ways to give yourself a willpower boost is to engage other people in your journey.  Not only can they encourage you on when you are having a rough day, but sometimes just knowing someone else expects you to tell them how you are doing is enough to push you to make that extra effort to get things done.  I know that is a huge motivator for me.  I almost always make goals that involve other people.  Ones that are purely for myself and that no one else knows about have a much greater chance of falling through.

Another good way to keep yourself on track is to write down your plan and break it into steps.  Make checklists and schedule things on your calendar.  It is much easier to get things done when you have a clear sense of when they are going to happen.  Not only does this make you actually stop and think about when you have time to do things, it also has that time set in your head now as 'belonging' to your goal.  It's no longer a matter of reaching the end of your day and realizing you didn't have time for something.

I've become a huge fan of the calendar as a check list.  I can set myself a list of tasks for the day, and refer to it as I go along, to make sure I'm not forgetting anything.  I tend to get hyper-focused on things, so it is very easy for me to get involved with something and forget that I have other things that I need to do.  I also sometimes forget things if they aren't things that I do all the time.  And, being that I don't work, some days I forget what day of the week it is.  Having everything marked down in a calendar means I don't have to keep part of my mind constantly trying to make sure that I'm not forgetting stuff.

Setting yourself rewards for getting steps of your goal done is also a great way to help keep you on track.  You always want to make sure your rewards are things that actually boost you up, and definitely nothing that makes you feel guilty or is counterproductive to your goals.  So, while buying a fancy chocolate and really savoring it is a fine reward for a week of healthy eating...buying a chocolate cake and eating it really isn't.  Things that I find work well for me are to remind myself that when I get done with all the things on my to-do list for the day, I can relax and watch a show, play a game or read a book...without feeling like I should still be doing something else (and I really try to keep myself firm on not doing any of those 'fun' things until I get my tasks done).

One of the reasons why a lot of new year resolutions fail is because people pick huge goals and then try to go at them full tilt.  They may be super motivated, and really into it...for the first week or so, but they quickly burn out.  And once you loose that momentum, it often seems harder to get back going than it did before you started.

It is really hard to make big changes, or to make a lot of changes all at once.  It is often better to pick one change, and start small.  Once that thing has become natural to you, then you can increase it or pick a new small thing to add.  Try to reach a new balance with each thing you add before you push yourself again.  This allows your body and mind to adjust as you go instead of resisting you.

Another problem that happens with some goals is not being specific enough.  'Be more active' may be a good idea for a goal, but you will really want to be specific about what that means to you so that you know how well you are doing.  Setting a quantifiable goal means you can absolutely say that you did or did not meet your goal.  It helps you to push yourself that last little bit to make your goal for the week instead of slacking off because you already did 'something'.  Many times, when I get close to meeting a goal, it motivates me even more.  This is particularly helpful anytime I'm having an off day and don't really want to do the work.

Ultimately that's what a goal is:  it's work that we need to do in order to have something we want.  Technically the thing we want is the goal, but the work is absolutely implied.  And this is where we sometimes trip ourselves up.  We have what we think is a goal, but it's actually more of a wish.  It's something we want, but we really aren't willing to do the work.  It's something we may dream about, but we want it to fall into our laps or magically happen...we don't want to do what is necessary to create it in our lives.

Sometimes, it takes failing to realize that something is a wish and not a goal.  It is always a good idea to really examine any failed goals to see what went wrong and to see if perhaps the goal wasn't right for you.  It is entirely possible that things just didn't add up right then, and after looking at it, you can see what went wrong and correct for that when you go after that goal the next time.  Other times, when you start examining what happened, you realize that you were holding yourself back.  You may find, through deeper introspection, that you didn't actually want the thing you thought you did, or perhaps you didn't want it enough to be willing to do the work.

There is nothing wrong with this!  We can want things and still not want them enough to do the work.  I may think it would be really cool to be able to do parkour, and yet I don't think it I am willing to do all the training and suffer the injuries required in order to become good at it (and it is something that if I were to try for, I would definitely want to be good at it!).  I also know that I don't 'want' to be skinny enough to give up certain foods.  To me, my enjoyment of food is worth more than loosing that weight.  And ultimately I'm okay with that.

I think the final tip I have for following through on a goal is to keep it always around you.  You should be reminded of your goal every day at least once.  The more you keep the goal on your mind, the more  you will think about it and the more you will start working towards it.  If you only think about something once a week, not much will get done on it. 

It doesn't matter what goals you set.  When you set a goal, you want to make sure it is something you are willing to work to attain.  You want to give yourself the tools to help you along the way, whether that means creating a schedule, getting people to encourage you and keep you on track or leaving notes to yourself so you are constantly reminded about it.  And even if you fail, use that experience as a tool to find out more about yourself and your motivations so you can set a new goal that is better tuned to your needs!