Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Own what you like!

Life is short, and there is no reason to shackle yourself with other people's judgements about the things that bring joy into your life!  We live in an amazing, versatile, crazy world, and there is a fan group for about anything you can imagine.  If you like it, odds are someone else does too!

Of course odds are that anything you like, other people will dislike as well.  And if the things you like veer at all from the very well paved and traveled mainstream, you will likely face all kinds of people trying to belittle you or even stop you from enjoying the things you like.  You will almost certainly see more of these people than you do of people who share your interests, and some who agree with you might not speak up, because they are afraid, worried about what everyone else will say if they admit they like the same things.

It's a sad fact that many people seem to derive enjoyment out of tearing other people down.  But it is also a fact that small groups, who are unabashedly claiming the things that make them happy, can create change.  The more society sees a thing, the more likely they are to accept it.  They may never like it, and the more it pushes people's buttons, the more they will push back, but also the more that it will encourage people who agree to join with you.

I also feel that sometimes people draw away from things simply because they don't understand them.  When we don't talk about the things we love, people who aren't familiar with them just don't have any reference for why it is important to us...and joy is important!

And I think that if we treat something like it's shameful, we start to feel bad or guilty about liking it.  Even if it is nothing at all to be ashamed of, it's like we can't fully enjoy it because we always feel like we are sneaking about.

It can be hard to admit you like things, especially if you think you might get a negative reaction.  I've been mocked for just about everything I like, by someone, at one point in my life or another.  Some things are too girly (amusing, as I am female...), some are not girly enough (*sigh).  Some are too WooWoo, some are too dark, some are too violent, some are too explicit.  Many things are on the fringe of this or that or the other. 

But, I think that every time I have become more open, and shared something that I am into, I have found people who are also into it!  And sometimes I have found people who have never admitted liking that thing before, because they thought they were the only one!  I can pretty much promise matter what it is, you are NOT the only one!

I love a lot of things!  I squee out over about anything that features witches or magic (especially if it's really cool magic or non-stereotypical witches).  I am a gamer at my core, and I just am not happy if I am not actively playing some kind of game (something that I am still working on my clinging societal guilt about....), dice make me crazy happy (especially dice with symbols), sappy love stories (I like cheap romances, the crazier the story the better, and Asian dramas...for much the same reason).  I like anything fuzzy (from cats, to blankets, to clothes, to stuffed animals), most things glittery (except for loose glitter...that stuff gets everywhere!), rocks (polished, riverstone, that random rock that I found outside that had been run over by cars and has nifty looking scratch marks...pretty much all rocks!).

I could probably list the things I like forever...I have very broad tastes!  I also get infected with other people's enthusiasm.  When a friend tells me about something they are into, I often get fascinated and end up looking into it more!  I love when people share the things that make their heart sing, even if it doesn't end up being something that calls to me.  Just something about hearing the joy in people's words, that makes my day.

And when you deny those parts of yourself, when you belittle your joy because you feel shamed by it, you diminish yourself!   You are literally cutting yourself off from some of the very best pieces of YOU! 

I think it is time for society to start accepting that people are different, are varied, and like different things...and that is OKAY!  And this may take a lot of people getting together and sharing the things they love with the world.

This is one thing that I see happening on social media ALL the time, and something I think is fantastic.  You can share pictures and stories about whatever you might like, and people all over the world can see them.  You can do this publicly or join a specialty group and share it only with people who also like the things.  You can use your real name, or have a screen name that no one in your daily life knows.

And there is something really great about sharing your excitement about things with groups of people who also are excited about the same things!  It is like that old 1+1=3 equation.  The sum of the parts is definitely not equal to the whole.

Part of what I love about sharing things I love with people who also love them (boy that's a lot of love!) is that they GET what I'm saying.  When I gush about something, they are right there with me.  As opposed to when I geek out about something to someone who doesn't get it and they kind of look at me like I'm a little crazy and might possibly need help.

I'm not perfect, there are things people are into that I just don't get.  And that's okay too, but I try really hard to be supportive, even if I don't understand.  I'm sure some of the things I enjoy aren't fun for other people (luckily for me, hubby is pretty good at this too, so even when he sometimes pokes fun at me for watching My Little Pony or another Kpop video...when I'm feeling down, he will suggest I go watch them because he knows they make me feel better).

And really, that's what it's all about.  Life should be wonderful, it should be full of things that make you smile uncontrollably, or laugh until it hurts, or cry with abandon.  Embrace the things that make your life sparkle, and reach out to other people so you can all get excited and share together!  Own your life, and own what makes it shine!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The cleansing power of tears...and storms!

I tend to run pretty high on the emotions.  I feel things deeply, and tend to hold onto them for a long time.  I am also highly empathetic, so I will pick up on other people's emotions...and internalize emotions from tv shows, movies, books, commercials, memes....the list goes on. 

I've talked before about empathy and shielding, but I also think that, as time goes on, we all keep little bits of emotions and experiences.  We release much of this grounding, but emotions have a strange sort of resonance, at least for me.  I definitely can feel when I have gone too long without a good cry, it's like that pressure right before a storm, where the air starts to feel really heavy.

Crying has a very bad reputation, in our modern society.  Crying is seen as a sign of being overly emotional, of not being in control, of being weak, of being girly (which is seen as a combination of all the other things crying is associated with!).  I was a big tomboy when I was little.  I grew up telling myself that if I was strong (which I wanted to be), that I wouldn't cry.  It always bothered me to cry, it made me feel like my own body was betraying me.

I still don't like to cry under some circumstances.  I hate crying when I'm in an argument.  I have known too many girls use tears as a way to embarrass others and guilt them into giving in.  And yes, they were girls, technically teenagers, at the time..but anyone who uses emotional manipulation to control others isn't deserving of the more adult label of woman, in my book.  I have never deliberately cried in an argument, but if I am arguing about something I have been repressing for a while (or one of those repeated arguments that has a lot of back history), then there is a good chance that if I let myself get too passionate about voicing my opinion that I will become overwhelmed and will start crying.

Amusingly, I am least likely to cry because I am physically hurting, and that would probably be one of the ways in which I would be most comfortable crying.  While I do have a pretty high tolerance for pain, I find that pain tends to take my breath away, instead of bringing tears to my eyes.

Crying because of a social situation, like a funeral or someone else's sorrow, doesn't really bother me too much, although I rarely cry because of this.  It's like my social awkwardness overrules my empathy, and because I am still fairly uncomfortable filling that comforting role in a social situation, it's like I just don't feel anything.  I can be the rock for other people to cling to, and I may cry later, in private, remembering it, but I don't often cry in public, social situations.

I am very uncomfortable when secondary sources cause me to cry, when other people are around.  By secondary sources, I mean a recording (tv or video) or a retelling (picture or story).  And these, by far and beyond, are the most common trigger for me crying.  I might cry several times during a movie (and not just a traditionally sad movie...during a sad or overwhelmingly emotional moment in any movie).  I own many books with moments that make me cry.  I have cried during commercials (there are some crazy Asian commercials that will always make me cry).  Some songs will make me cry if I try to sing along or even just listen to them.

I always feel sort of embarrassed, crying like this.  I try to hide it, and I always hope that no one notices, or at least they don't comment if they do notice.  I think it is because it is a secondary source, and not something I am witnessing first hand, that makes it so embarrassing for me. 

But no matter what the reason for my crying, it always feels like a weight off my shoulders afterward.  It is like the salt in my tears cleanses me of whatever has been bothering me, no matter what it was.  I could cry because of a commercial where a stranger ends up helping a little girl go to school, and it will make me feel less stressed because of an upcoming deadline.  There doesn't need to be a connection...crying is just cleansing.

I can always tell when I need to cry, because the smallest thing will set me off.  And when I stop and think about it, either there has been a lot going on in my life, or it has been a long time since I last cried.  When I know I'm feeling that pressure, that buildup that comes before a good cry, I will often seek out something that I know will make me cry...before it becomes unbearable. 

I also find that inducing tears in this way can help me process things in my own life that deserve tears but perhaps I was struggling with.  I have a sort of strange relationship with death.  Death itself, and loosing people, even people I am very close too, doesn't always feel like a sad thing for me.  I have known death to be a mercy, and so sometimes the loss itself doesn't bring tears.  But I know that I want to mourn the loss in my active life, the person (or animal) that will no longer be there, that I will no longer be able to touch or talk with.  And sometimes the tears just don't come...there is instead this numbness that won't go away.

If I can make myself cry, I can open that gate, and work on the emotions I am feeling, in a way that lets me move forward instead of being stuck.  Sometimes it takes a while, sometimes it takes more than once, but each time it is a step forward, each time is progress.

I feel the same kind of release with a really good storm.  I have always loved storms, whether I was inside or outside in them.  There is the same buildup and pressure before a storm, and you can feel that potential in the air.

But when the actual storm hits, there is a very distinct energy in the air, and I love it!  There is a wildness there, that marks a storm differently from a mere rain.  There is a fierceness, just like when you are so lost in your tears that the rest of the world fades away.

And there is a cleansing, as the storm washes away all the junk that was clinging to you.  I especially love to be out in the rain, and to feel it hit my skin and my face.  It is a different feeling from being wet from a shower or from swimming. 

I love all the kinds of storms, from the ones with really fat, almost soft raindrops to the sharp, biting ones.  I love thunder and lightning, and that rumbling feeling when the whole world shakes.  And as powerful as they can be, to me storms are soothing.  I am comforted by the feeling of being enclosed in the storm (whether I am indoors or outside).  It is like a barrier between me and the world.

Both tears and storms are often viewed with trepidation.  We may shy away from them, and yet they have so much to offer.  When we learn to work with them, we find new ways to work with ourselves.  We can wash ourselves clean of the residue of our days, the things that cling to us and slowly bring us down.  And once the tears (or storm) is over, everything seems just a little bit brighter.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Coloring Magic!

The adult coloring phase is in full bloom, and many people are embracing the benefits of coloring.  Art brings joy into our lives, and the simple act of taking an already laid out design or pattern and filling it with color sinks us into a meditative state that helps calm us as well as brings us peace.

There are TONS of coloring books being printed right now, with all kinds of subject matter.  And, if you have a printer, you can find plenty of pages to color online, that you can print out at home.  Pages can be as complex or simple as you might desire, and you are sure to be able to find one that you like.  Of course, if you are artistically or geometrically inclined, you can always draw your own patterns to color in.

But coloring can be more than a zen activity!  Coloring brings you into a state of simple focus.  There isn't a lot of thinking involved, but your focus narrows down to what you are doing.  This makes it perfect for using to direct your focus and work on a goal!  Coloring can easily be used as part of other magical workings, either to raise energy, to direct it or to release emotions.

The best thing about coloring magic is that there is absolutely NO requirements to actually be good at art.  It doesn't matter if you pick accurate colors, if you go outside the lines, if your color isn't consistent or even if you fill in all the bits.  It is the process that is important, and this is something that anybody can do.  Better yet, the more you do it, the 'better' you become at the process!

One of the easiest ways to start coloring magic is to do emotion work.  When you are feeling something intensely, find a picture to color that represents what you are feeling.  If you are angry, it might be a picture of the thing you are angry about, or a picture that you feel represents you, as you are when you are angry.  If you are happy, it might be a picture of what triggered this specific happiness, or it might just be a picture of something that you enjoy, something that represents happiness to you.

Before you start coloring, really sink into your emotion, let it fill you up.  And then, without a lot of thought, pick up the first color that jumps out to you, and start coloring!  Let your inner toddler out.  For this, it is especially not important to follow the lines or make your colors match what they would in the physical world.  If you feel like scribbling out the face with that dark red it!  If you want to draw little black X's over the book that is driving you buggy, go for it!  If the idea of a pink sun makes you giggle, make it pink!

Depending on the emotion you are working with, when you are done, you can either keep the picture (for happy or more beneficial emotions), or banish it.  I like to keep my magical art all together in a binder.  When you need a little boost, you can always look through your magical art binder, and soak in all that lovely energy you have stored!

To banish a picture, you are going to release all that emotion that you poured out into the picture.  There are a lot of ways you can do this.  You can simply tear it up into tiny pieces and toss it in the trash.  You can take it outside and burn it.  You can dig a hole and bury it or toss it into a body of water.

You can also take the picture and transmute it.  You might rip it up, and use the pieces (like you would a mosaic, picking bits just for their colors) to make a new collage, a picture of what you want to turn that emotion into.  You can also find other pictures (either from magazines or other line drawings that you can color), and glue them on top of your original picture, covering over that released emotion with the feelings you want to replace it with.

If, instead, you want to use coloring as a tool for raising energy, you will find a picture that either represents the energy you want to raise, or the goal that you are raising the energy towards.  Working with water energy, you might color a picture of the ocean or of a rainy day.  Calling up the energy of Wolf might be a picture of a wolf, or it could be a picture of a person wearing wolf's clothing (talismans or markings that make you think of wolf).  The great thing about this kind of coloring, is that you can keep your pictures, as batteries of a sort, and when you want to work with that energy again, they can be a way to tap into it.

When raising energy towards a specific end, you can pic your picture based on what you want to accomplish, but pick your colors based on what types of energies you want to infuse your working with.  So, if I were working on prosperity magic to find a new home, I might color the walls blue, for peace and tranquility, the ceiling grey/silver for security, the grass green for bounty and the door red for health.

This way of coloring ties right into using coloring as a way to direct your energy.  You can lightly pencil in your desires on the paper before you color, or just use your picture to keep your focus.  As you color each section, think about the ultimate goal, but also how the colors you are picking tie into and support that goal.  When you are done, you can put your picture somewhere you will see it, and every time you look at it, you will further send energy towards your goal!

This year, I have been doing a little coloring every morning.  I have a coloring planner for a magical year, and so the drawings on each page are tied into the energy of the month and often have a magical theme.  I pick what I am going to color based on how I feel in the morning or what I might have going on.  Some days, it is nothing more than filling in a few stars (there are almost always stars, and they are quick and easy...and filled with yellow are perfect as a little energetic pick-me-up on days where I am not feeling so energetic).  Other days, I will really sink into the process, and either look up color references (for plants and planets I'm not super familiar with), or try different color layering techniques.

It was while doing this coloring that I realized that, while I am normally pretty particular with my coloring (I took art lessons as a child, and so the art of layering colored pencils and creating deep, rich color is something that still echos in my head), I am not nearly as critical about my morning coloring as I am with coloring at other times.

I definitely have bits that are out of the lines, places where the colors I picked don't quite match what they should, or the blending just wasn't working right.  And yet, just looking at my planner makes me smile.  And that is a wondrous thing!  As it is one of the first things I do every morning, my planner now brings me joy, just by opening it and flipping to today's pages.  And, for Sabbats (because there are pages for each of them) or monthly planning (again, pages for this!), it means that I am building up layers of energy as I color each day, and that I am thinking about and focusing on longer term goals, a little each day.

If you haven't tried coloring yet, I highly recommend it.  You may feel a little silly at first, but let yourself really settle into the process.  If you are intimidated by the really complex patterns and fancy pages, start with simpler ones.  If the basic pictures make you feel to childish, find more refined ones.  If you are scared to color in people (skin tones are definitely intimidating to me!), pick animals, or nature scenes.  If you stress out about matching the 'right' colors, pick something abstract (there are some really lovely coloring pages that are nothing but patterns to fill in).

But find pages that look interesting or fun, or that call to you in some way.  Find art supplies in colors that excite you (or in colors that match your mood...) and find some time to sit down and color.  Color alone if you feel more comfortable, or join a group to color (my local library has a coloring session twice a week, and they provide pages).  Pick a goal, or color out an emotion!  And most of all, have fun with it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Exploring the relationship with your Self

The Pink Moon brings our focus onto the relationships in our lives.  Many people only think of romantic relationships, but this really does talk about any relationships:  romantic, friend, family, business.  It is helpful to even stop and consider the very casual relationships we have with people.  Perhaps you see the same person when you order lunch everyday, or a fleeting encounter with a stranger on a bench.  The more we tune into how we handle the relationships in our life, the better those relationships become.

And yet, when we talk about relationships, we often forget our most primary and fundamental relationship:  the one with our Self.  To me, the relationship with Self is at the core of my spiritual practice.  Much of the work I do is to better tune in, understand and work with the aspects of my Self.  In many ways, this is like learning about another person, so you can better understand and work with them (as you would when working on a relationship with another person).

But do we really treat our relationship with our Self with as much importance and reverence as we do the other relationships in our lives?  If you have children, parents or a romantic partner, do you do special things for them?  Things that you wouldn't consider doing for yourself?

This sort of circles back around to self-care and the idea that doing things for our self is selfish.  And it is, but only in the very best way!  I think that what we often call selfish is actually self-centered (another word with a bad reputation).  When we are acting in a self-centered way, we are putting ourselves in the middle of whatever we are doing.  And this isn't necessarily a bad thing!

Putting yourself first means giving yourself value.  And so many of us are trained to put other people before ourselves.  If you are always putting other people first, you will find yourself depleted and undervalued.  It is perfectly fine to choose to defer to someone else, or to allow someone else to go first, but we should also do these things for ourselves, especially when we need it!

A bigger issue, that I see, with people building relationships with their Selves, is that we often aren't comfortable with our Self.  So the idea of spending time with yourself, doing things alone, or doing things just for you can be uncomfortable.

But this can bring so much value into our lives!  I think that learning to be comfortable with your Self, without needing distractions or other people present is a very important first step in building up that relationship.  It can feel raw and sort of scary, or make us focus on the things we don't like about our Self, and yet the more we do it, the more comfortable we get, in bits and pieces.

I spend a lot of time alone, and starting next year, that time will be increasing.  It is not uncommon for me to eat alone, or to find ways to entertain myself, for long periods of time.  I typically have one day a week, where I am alone from the time I wake (at 6:30 in the morning) until about 7pm at night.  So I eat all three meals, by myself, and am left to my own devices mostly all day.  Once our son goes off to college, this will happen an average of 3-4 days every week.

I am lucky, that I was an only child, so I sort of grew up building this relationship with my Self, and learning to play alone.  I think it is a really valuable skill, and while I made sure that our son grew up learning how to share and play well with others, I also encouraged him to play on his own for a while every day (he was also an only child). 

I remember reading a book (one of SARK's books actually) that suggested going to movies alone or going out to eat in restaurants alone, and how daunting it can be.  And it is a little weird feeling sometimes, and you possibly feel like other people are staring at you, but it can be quite liberating as well.

I don't think we should feel like we need to wait for other people to do things that we enjoy and can do on our own.  I have no problem eating out by my self, and I've gone to movies alone.  I watch shows that I like and that no one else in my household cares for.  By uncovering things that I enjoy doing alone, and developing the ability to really sustain myself, it allows me to not need to have other people around to be content.

But I also think that by deciding that we deserve nice things, and that we are the one to do them for our Selves, we are building up not only our self-confidence and self-worth, but also showing the rest of the world how we expect to be treated. 

There are lots of ways to work on the relationship with your Self, and it may help to think of your Self as another person.  To start, think of them as a prospective romantic partner.  How would you learn about someone new, who you think is interesting and you want to get to know better?  Spend some time, not only thinking about what you like and don't like, but also exploring your memories and dreams.  These are only some of the things that make you who you are, and these are things that you would want to know about someone else, so you definitely want to spend some time getting to know them about your Self.

It sounds very basic, but there are a lot of people who know only very simple things about themselves.  They may know they dislike strawberries, but it never occurred to them to stop and figure out why they don't like them.  Perhaps, it is something about the taste or texture.  Or perhaps they have a memory from childhood that they had forgotten, which made them dislike strawberries.  By exploring the why's behind our likes and dislikes, we can better understand how we relate to the world.  And sometimes, we may find that things we thought we liked or didn't like were actually symbols for other things.  Once we uncover this truth, we may find our tastes actually change!

Once you start to explore, and find things you enjoy or are drawn to, start thinking of nice things to do for yourself.  It's kind of like dating yourself!  You may feel comfortable starting big, or you may need to start small.  Buy yourself a treat, your favorite candy or drink!  Take yourself to an activity that you love, or set aside a night to indulge at home in your favorite show or movie.  But I think a big thing is to find a way to do it alone.

There is a real difference to doing things alone, even if there are other people in the house (but I also find that doing things alone when no one is home has it's own, wonderful energy).  If there are other people home, request that they give you some time, to do your own thing.  If this means working out a deal with your partner, or a family member, so they will watch the kids so you can soak in the bath without anyone banging on the door, then that might be what it takes.  It will be so worth it!

As you start to build this relationship with your Self, you may find that things that you didn't care so much for before, start to be less bothersome to you.  You might not care for a physical feature of your body, or a mental or emotional trait.  But, just as the more you love someone, the more likely you are to overlook or be able to take their faults in stride, you will start to be more forgiving of your own flaws.  You might even find that as you progress, things you used to dislike about yourself become things you are proud of and appreciative of.

A lot of spiritual practices involve working on your Self.  But many often look at this process as a sort of self-improvement project.  The Self becomes something to be made better, more perfect, to smooth away all the rough edges and forge into something more evolved.  I think it can be helpful to twist this perspective and to think of it as if we were building a relationship with our Self.  We are coming to know, understand, and in many ways woo our Self.  We are going to do things that we know our Self likes, and we are going to do things to make our Self feel special.  It becomes a very different process, one that is more love centered and less judgemental.

So, take some time to get to know your Self!  Don't be afraid to peek into those dark corners, because the more you know about your Self, the more ways you have to approach this relationship building.  Find ways to improve your relationship with your Self, and make time to be alone with your Self.  Your relationship with your Self is going to be at the core of your life, the center spoke of all the other relationships you will have throughout the course of your life.  Why not make it the best relationship it can be!