Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Solitary at a Festival

For most of my spiritual life, I've been solitary.  I've had a working partner, briefly was in the process of interviewing a coven, and now I have some amazing friends that I get together with regularly and we share spiritual practices, but the bulk of what I do is on my own. 

I think this is a pretty common thing, now a days.  Many people are cultivating a private practice that my sometimes include other people, but their day-to-day workings are done alone.  And yet many of us still love to get together with others of like mind for gatherings, festivals or other events.

Going to an event can be intimidating, especially if you are going alone.  My very first event was a Pagan Pride Day gathering a couple of years after I started my personal practice.  I didn't know anyone that was going to be there, and was definitely timid about going.  Being my first public gathering, I also had absolutely no clue what to expect.

The Pagan Pride Day I went to wasn't very well organized.  There were a handful of booths, and I think that there was a ceremony or circle planned for later in the day, but I wasn't there for it so I am not sure.  I wandered about the booths, talked to the vendors and then went on my way.

Since then, I have attended other gatherings, from small meetups to larger, weekend-long camping festivals.  Sometimes I have been on my own, sometimes hubby came along for moral-support (and safety), and sometimes I have gone with friends.

While we each have our own comfort levels, I would encourage people who are interested in attending a larger gathering to drum up their courage and give it a try.  There is a wonderful energy at gatherings, and it is one thing I miss in my solitary practice.

Definitely be safe!  If you are going to a gathering alone, keep your phone and make sure people know where you are going to be and when you are expected to be home.  I don't think it is necessary to be super paranoid, but those are pretty solid cautions for anyone going to a big gathering of any kind.

Also, trust your instincts!  If someone is making you feel uncomfortable, excuse yourself from the situation.  Find someone you feel safe around, or find a larger group you can join up with.  If you have to, leave.  But I do think that there are more friendly and welcoming people out there than ones who set off our danger senses.

I am lucky that I am fairly outgoing and enjoy talking to people, but I know that not everyone is.  If larger groups make you nervous, look for people in smaller groups you can talk to.  You can ask around and find out what type of classes, workshops or events are going to take place and see which ones sound good to you.

Public rituals can be intimidating too, even if they are smaller.  Ritual space, to me, is very intimate, and stepping into ritual space with strangers takes me slightly out of my comfort zone (even if their are familiar faces in the circle as well).  If you are nervous about a ritual, ask the people in charge what you can expect from the ritual and what will be expected of you.  Some rituals may require participation, while others may let you take part without taking an active role. 

The rituals I have been a part of have always encouraged people to take part, but if someone wasn't comfortable, no one was forced to talk, or share or take any action.  For me, if I know what I may be expected to do ahead of time, it is easier for me to be comfortable than if I am asked to do something on the spot.  So finding out what to expect can help to ease you in and let you prepare (even for something as simple as stating something you may wish to release into the fire).

Gatherings may be highly organized or very laid back, or anywhere in between.  Many times a festival will at least have a rough outline and schedule, though this may be subject to change.  It is really easy to get caught up in conversation or for classes to run over, so it is a good idea to expect any time frames given to be approximations.  Keep an ear out if you have activities you really want to attend, to make sure you don't miss any changes.

I definitely find that having friends along, even if I'm not always right there with them, makes a gathering more comfortable for me.  It's the safety blanket...I know that if I am nervous or shy I can go and hang out with the people I know and don't have to be standing there alone.  But I have made wonderful new friends at gatherings, and it is definitely something that I feel enhances my personal path.

I find that medium sized gatherings are great if you aren't a very outgoing person.  Too small of a gathering and you may feel like all eyes are on you, and too big of a gathering can be overwhelming.  But in the middle, between fifteen to thirty people, there are enough people that you won't feel like the only new one or like you have to talk to everyone, but there won't be so many people as to feel smothering.

Another thing that I find wonderful about festivals is the sharing of other's paths.  I love taking part in rituals or classes that are outside of my own practices.  Many times I will find bits and ideas that will become part of my own practice.  Even if it is something I might never work into my own path, to have experienced it is a wonderful thing.

Each gathering has it's own energy, and no two will be the same, even if it is all the same people attending!  This is one of the things that makes gatherings so magical.  I think it is important to remember to just take each moment as it comes.  Enjoy what is going on and don't let your expectations sour your experience.  Find people who are interesting and talk to them (or just listen to them if you aren't comfortable talking to new people).  Take a peek into other people's paths.

And don't forget to connect with people you have met and want to remain in contact with.  So many of us have a digital presence now, it is much easier (and safer) to keep in touch with people you have met at gatherings, even if they aren't near your home.  Distance need not be a limiting factor, and you can develop rich friendships with people you may have only met face-to-face once many years ago.

So I definitely recommend attending festivals, for pretty much anyone!  If you don't feel comfortable going alone, see if you have friends who might like to go with you.  Seek out gatherings that fit your personal interests and comfort levels.  Give yourself permission to try something new!  And go with the flow.

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!