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!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Working with Tricksters

April Fool's day has become a sort of phenomenon of pulling pranks and creating havoc.  Some people keep very much in (what I feel) is the spirit of the day and aim for jokes that will put a smile on people's faces.  Others, however have taken it as a day to do mean or dangerous tricks with the intention of laughing at other people's misery.

Along those same lines, I think that tricksters, whether they are deities, spirits or people, have a similar variance.  Some act out of pure joy and laughter while others are definitely malicious and take delight in causing pain.  There are also some that are like the court fool:  they use laughter and jokes as a way to point out flaws and still keep the atmosphere light.  Some tricksters use their deceptions as a way to open our eyes to the truth of what is going on, and some trick you into doing things that ultimately benefit you, but that you might not have done if you knew what was going on.

The danger with tricksters is that they are tricksters.  I don't think there is any true safety or stability when working with them.  When you find yourself in their company expect chaos of some kind.  While this can definitely be stressful, it also keeps you alert and on your toes.  Working with tricksters will never be boring.

And I think that there is great value in working with tricksters.  I am not really a fan of the concept that all divinity is nothing but light and love and wonderful things.  I firmly believe that the divine comes in all flavors.  Some are not so kind.  Expecting all tricksters to have your best interest in mind is a great way to end up getting hurt.

But I also don't think they are inherently evil or anything like that.  I have heard a great many cautions against tricksters, and most of them suggest total avoidance.  But, if you feel called to a trickster, you may have great lessons to learn.  You may uncover parts of yourself that will bring you great joy.  You may enjoy the thrill of the unexpected that they bring into your life.  And if a trickster is seeking you out, running away or trying to ignore it might cause it to escalate.

My personal advice is to trust your instincts, be wary and keep your eyes open and be ready to act.  I think that we can often feel when someone has our interests in heart.  That being said, just because someone has good intentions doesn't mean that things will always turn out well.  And, just because the ultimate result is something that makes you stronger, doesn't mean the road won't be bumpy or that you won't get knocked around along the way.

And don't believe all the stories you hear, about any given trickster.  Stories are great, and definitely worth listening to and thinking about.  But remember that all stories have many points of view, and the person telling the story is only sharing one of them.  Take both the good and the bad with a grain of salt, especially with tricksters, as I often feel we don't quite get their true motivations.  The stories can give you an idea of what to expect however.  They can show you some of the ways that trickster has interacted with others, and help you decide if that is someone you would be willing to work with, and how far you are willing to go.

While my primary deities are not tricksters, I do work with tricksters on a regular basis.  I also feel that they have had a lot of influence at different parts of my life.  I am not always comfortable with the idea of change, and I definitely feel that tricksters embrace change.  There is often a wildness to them, a sense that you can't truly predict what they are going to do.

The funny thing is, that I used to be a lot more attuned to the flux.  I loved doing crazy things, not really planning, and running by the seat of my pants.  There are still parts of me that do, but I also feel that having a family has changed me.  My life has developed more rhythms and when they are disrupted, I feel out of control, and not in a good way.

And yet, I am still called to the tricksters I work with.  Sometimes I feel like I am being coaxed out of my little cocoon and other times I am being kicked out.  The more I fight against the push, the more stressful it becomes, and the harder the whole situation turns out to be.  The more I can relax into it, allow the currents to carry me, and remain open to what happens, the easier it tends to be.

I find it very helpful to keep a curious mind.  I often feel like there is a sense of excitement, almost a delight, that is thinking, "OOOh, I wonder what will happen if I do this...", and that it doesn't matter how many logical answers you give, you won't truly know until you try.  I also feel like sometimes we look at an outcome, and we see it the same way we have always been taught to see it, and what we really need is to stand on our head and look at things in a completely different way.

Working with tricksters can be crazy, silly, frustrating, terrifying, fun and/or rewarding.  The one thing it isn't is boring.  It is one of those things that I think sometimes requires complete commitment.  If you are going to do something, the truly do it.  Once you make the choice to do that crazy thing you are being temped with...embrace it!  Ride the wave, enjoy the ride, and see where it takes you.  You can always be sensible after...