Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Balance of Awareness and Action!

I'm a big fan of thinking, of dreaming, of visualizing, of journaling and planning.  But sometimes I notice that I'm doing a whole lot of preparation...and not very much work.  It is easy to get caught up in my head, to keep working through the mental side of things.

It is very tempting to keep getting ready until we feel prepared, but that's a trap!  There will always be some level of fear involved with growth, because you are becoming someone new.  You are transforming who you are and bits of you are being left behind.  It doesn't matter if those bits are pieces you don't even care for, or might actively despise.  What matters is that they are familiar, and the new bits of you that will grow to fill their space are unknown.

The unknown will always scare us.  It has the potential to be exactly what we desire, or it could be worse than we already were.  And we were functioning the way we were, so we may feel like we should just stay where we are, not push through and risk failure.  Or, we may even be afraid that we will succeed, and that might snowball into us noticing other areas that we could improve in...which leads to more change!  We may even be afraid that the people we care about will no longer like us if we change too much.

As powerful as our minds and thoughts are, there are some things that really need physical action to be fully realized.  Taking physical steps helps us feel like things are real.  We can change a whole lot inside, and still not appear to have changed at all. 

Sometimes, working from the inside out is the natural flow of things.  We build up all these changes inside, and we find our external lives changing without effort.  But sometimes, we need to work in the other way.

One thing I struggle with is doing the same inner work over and over.  I will fight with something I want to change, and I will lay out all the reasons why I can't keep doing what I am doing.  I will make plans for how I can change things, and I will visualize all the ways in which I will be better once I've made the change.  But my good intentions are just wisps of thought, and in the moment I don't remember them.  I continue acting as I always have, because my actions have built momentum and become habits.  I don't think about what I am doing, and by the time I realize I have started to do the thing I am trying to change, it is already done.

In these cases, it can be helpful to start with physical stuff and then, once you have the ball rolling, you can go back and do the mental work to support your growth.  If I want to read part of a book every day, I may need to physically put the book on top of something else I would normally do (like on my computer mouse pad!), so that I actually have to pick the book up and move it to do my normal habits.  Once the book is in my hand, it is much easier for me to just go read, than if I had to remember to go find the book and then read.  And, because the book is not normally on my mouse pad, even if I choose to not read at that is a choice, because I still have to physically move the book in order to use my computer!

Ultimately, you need to find the right balance between awareness and action.  Neither truly functions well on it's own.  To create real and lasting change, you need to do the mental and the physical work!  It's the dance between them that carries the magic.

It doesn't have to be an on/off switch either.  Often, you are doing bits of both, throughout the process.  I find this works the best for me.  I will find some small task to do, and find a way to tie thought and action together.  For example, when working with the moon cycle, I will not only do the mental and planning work throughout the cycle, but I will plan small actions to help actualize my work.  This might be something simple, like lighting a candle or writing a banishing and flushing it.  But every day I would think about what part of the moon cycle it was, and what actions I could take to embody that part of the cycle.  Then I would write the chosen actions in my planner, where I would be reminded to actually do them.

Knowing what your preferences are helps you adjust your plan to shore up your weak points.  I know that I lean towards mental work.  For years, most of what I did was visualized.  So, for me, physically getting up, actually lighting that candle, or picking up a tool from my altar...this was powerful stuff!  For someone else, it might be stopping and actually jotting down their thoughts about the rituals they have done.  Or maybe writing down their emotions when they are starting to feel overwhelmed.

Our paths are personal, but don't let yourself be limited by habit!  Take the time to notice where you are spending your time and energy..and where you aren't.  Seek out those things that you wish you were doing...but aren't...and find ways to do them! 

Start small.  You may want to burn more candles, but don't feel like you have time.  Buy some birthday candles, and give yourself that small amount of time to tune into your practice.  If you want to journal, but aren't sure where, grab a notebook and just write down one thing you did that day that you are proud of (even if all you can think of is something like, "I made it through the day.")  If you want to study a new subject, dedicate yourself to learning one new fact about it every day.

These little things will add up.  You will find yourself drawn to doing a bit more, when you have time.  You may light a tea candle while you eat on the weekends, or have a really great day and find you have written a paragraph about it just because you were so excited to write down what happened.  You may find yourself so interested in the subject you are studying that you make notes of related subjects to dive into next.

And remember, balance isn't a static thing!  If you were to stand up on one leg and try to balance, you may find moments of stillness, but most likely you will be constantly making small adjustments to one side or the other.  The balance between awareness and action is exactly the same!  You may find that some days you need more reflection while other days you need to get up and get moving.  Some projects may be very simple to envision but will need more physical work, while others might take a lot of planning and then be relatively simple to actually execute.  Let your instincts guide you, but stay mindful of what is needed on both the mental and physical side of things.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Live your Truth!

I was watching a video last night, and the person in it commented that studies have been done that show that creative and intelligent people tend to be night owls.  And at first, I was like "Aha!  See, there is a reason why I'm up late at night!"  But then I was thinking about it, and I know I've seen the exact opposite stated as well:  that creative and intelligent people are early risers and go to bed early.

This reminded me of the many health trends that seem to flip-flop every year.  One year, they will tell you that you should eat avacado's every day, and the next year they will be warning about the dangers of eating too many avocados.  It really doesn't matter what topic you come up with, you can probably find studies that will prove your point, if you look hard enough.

The fallacy in trusting information like this is that it assumes that all people work exactly the same.  Sure, on some level there are things that we can all trust to be true.  People need oxygen to survive, nutrients must be taken in, sleep must be acquired, waste must be produced.  But even within those parameters, each individual may need more or less of each of those things.  And once you get beyond that bare necessities, the amount of variation only increases.

What 'works' for one person might not for another, and trying to look to external research to find what the 'best' way is, just sets you up for failure.  Now, I am fully behind research, behind looking things up and seeing what the trends are.  There is a lot to be said for making use of other people's efforts, for taking advantage of someone else's a starting point.  But ultimately, you need to figure your own truths out, so you can see what actually works for you, instead of beating yourself up because you can't do the things that you are 'supposed to.'

I don't think that there is a true 'best' way...for anything.  Not only that, I would say there isn't even an ultimate best way for each person.  Instead, there is a 'best for me right now', and because we are creatures of change, we need to be constantly observing and reacting...and changing.  What worked for us a year ago, might not work as well now.  Or, we may just find something that we like better...and that's okay!

Change doesn't make you wrong.  It doesn't invalidate anything you have done in the past.  If I really like blue cheese, but I start putting it on everything...I'll probably get tired of it.  Even if I don't go to that extreme, I may just find that I am not as fond of it anymore.  That doesn't mean that I didn't love it in the past, just that I may not love it now.

The beauty of this is that we are always able to find new 'best' ways!  Even when we absolutely enjoy a practice, we may discover a new tweak that adds another layer, or even a brand new way of looking at things, that completely changes how we understand our practice, and we go in a whole new direction! 

Part of our experience of life is not just doing things, but noticing how we react to them.  We reflect on what is going on in our life, and this gives us the ability to deliberately change what isn't working.  The more aware we are of our own lives, our feelings, our thoughts and our practices, the better able we are to evaluate our satisfaction in different areas.  We can seek out the places where we feel less complete, and work on making it better.

The first step is becoming more aware of what is going on in our lives.  There is a tendency to avoid the things that make us uncomfortable, the rough patches and the bits that don't quite fit.  We want to be happy, and we don't want to acknowledge that there are things that aren't meeting those standards.  But the value of being brutally honest with ourselves is that we shed light on the true situation, which lets us see exactly what needs work.

I like the phrase work, because often it is hard, it breaks you down, and you aren't sure you can manage it.  You may want to give up, you may want to accept something that isn't great, because it is 'enough'..and you don't want to risk loosing what you have in order to have something better.  But we all deserve greatness!  We all have brilliance inside of us, and with enough polish we can shine!

Just because it's work though, doesn't mean it all has to be horrible.  It can be really fun to break up old patterns.  If you have always done something a certain way, trying something new can be exciting.  Sometimes, it becomes your new favorite thing.  Sometimes, you are indifferent, but grateful for having tried something that perhaps a friend had suggested.  And sometimes, it's absolutely horrible...but you can have a laugh at how amazingly bad it turned out...and then keep looking for a better way!

We tend to be herd creatures, we want to be 'one of the crowd', and sometimes standing out and doing things differently is terrifying.  You might not be ready to share your Truth with the world, but you can still start uncovering it on your own.  Your Truth might be completely private...and never meant to be shared with others.  But you may also find, that the more you live your Truth, the more you feel comfortable in letting a little bit of that Truth shine out for others to see.

We all have our own Truth, our own path, and you are the only one who can say that that Truth and path is.  The journey is discovering it, and that journey never ends.  Truth is ephemeral, it is fleeting, and your Truth may change from minute to minute, but if you are living it authentically, then it is True to you.  The more clearly you can see your Truth, the easier it is to live it, and the more fulfilling your life will be.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

When one door closes....

There are a lot of phrases we use that involve doorways:  Don't let the door hit you on the way out, When one door closes another door opens.  We see doorways as portals and doors as boundaries.  I wrote several years back about the interesting ways in which our brain handles Doorways

Janus is the Roman god of transitions, doorways, beginnings/endings, passages, duality and time.  He is often depicted as having one face looking forward and another looking backwards.  There are lots of reasons to call upon Janus or to work with the power of doorways, especially at this time of year.

Doorways are a liminal space.  They exist as the boundary of one space and another.  In many practices, this makes them particular places of power.  I find it very interesting that the liminal quality of doors isn't limited to them being a physical boundary, marking the line between two spaces, but they are also seen as both a gateway/opening and a boundary.  We can leave a door open for someone or we can lock it tight to keep people out. 

At the turning of the year, we often think about what we want to invite in for the new year, but also what we want to keep out.  We look back and forward as we set our intentions for the new year.  It is a perfect time to work with Janus!

There are quite a few new years traditions that center around doors and doorways.  In some parts of the world, the first person who enters your door in the new year is an omen of what is to come.  In other places, it is traditional to sweep the house, making sure to sweep all the dirt out the back door, so that you will not be plagued with old issues from the previous year. 

Many of us bless or protect our doors, and this is a great time to refresh those protections.  Washing your door is a good way to protect and charge the portal to your home.  You can add herbs, stones or other ingredients to the wash water, then give the doorway a good scrub.  As you do, focus on washing away any lingering trouble that may have found it's way to your doorstep and inviting in prosperity while still keeping out those who would cause you harm.

You may want to hang a protection charm on or near your door.  A broom is a traditional protection for doorways, as is a horseshoe.  You could easily make a protection and blessing wreath, working in symbols for the things you desire and tucking your protections towards the back or inside where they can't be seen.

When you work protection, don't forget to do all the doors that enter your house (and windows, because they are like smaller doors!).  Think about how the doors in your house differ.  We have a front and back door in our house, and we use them for completely different purposes.  The front door is our functional door.  It is the one we pretty much always enter and exit the house from, the one that things we receive come in through, and the one that strangers and guests approach.  But the back door handles trash as well as being my portal to the back yard and patio (which is often where I go when I want to step outside and be in nature for a bit).  So I protect my doors differently, because they serve different purposes.

You can also work with the doorways within your house!  You might want to bless the doorway to the bedrooms to help keep out distractions while you are sleeping.  You might charge the door to your closet with helping you to feel good in the clothes you wear. 

And there are even more doors, that we often don't think of as doors:  cabinet doors, fridge/freezer doors, washer/drier doors...even my computer has a 'door' on the front of it!  The really great thing about doors is that every time you open or close them, you are activating that door, and whatever work you have done with it.

You can also set your enchantments up like on/off switches.  So your door may be blessed for different purposes depending on whether it is open or closed.  Take a bedroom door.  It might get blessed for privacy when closed, and communication when open (great for children's rooms, especially as they are getting older and starting to grow into their independence). 

Doorways are similar to doors, with more of a focus on being a portal between places instead of being a boundary.  And you can work with both the doorway and the door of a room, blessing each independently for different purposes.  Remember doorways work in two directions, and you can absolutely key your blessing to someone either entering or exiting the doorway (you might bless everyone exiting your front door with a protection, while blessing people who enter with a sense of peace and contentment).

I like putting things above doorways, on that little ledge formed by the molding (if there is one).  Many of our doors have those little skeleton keys (for opening doors locked from the inside), but you can add other little charms and tokens there as well, to help with your blessing of the doorways.  I have wood cutouts set above the bathroom door, and have driven a few nails above the laundry room door so I can hang blessing bundles (as I consider that the heart of our house).

There are lots of ways to decorate your doors, which can also serve as a focus for your blessings.  We have hooks over several of our doors (the kind you can find in the bathroom section of many stores...or around the holidays for hanging wreaths).  I also love table runners as door decorations:  just hang them over the door, and you can enjoy the pattern from both sides (I have one that lives on my closet door most of the year). 

If you don't mind the noise, you can hang bells from your door.  These will cleanse the air as you open and close the door and also work great to ward of intruders, both physical and spiritual.  My grandmother always kept a bell hanging from her front door.

A more discrete way to ward a door is to draw or attach your symbols of protection to the edge of the door.  The top of the door will be virtually invisible to anyone, while the hinge and/or handle side offer additional choices for triggering open/closed blessings.  If you put part of your symbol on the door and the other part on the door jam, then the symbol will be complete only when the door is shut.

You can also put trigger reminders on doors!  These may be blessings on their own, but they may also be simple reminders for you, about things you are working on.  The bathroom is a great place to put these triggers, as you will most likely be going in and out of the bathroom the most throughout the day.  You can hang or decorate your door, to remind you about whatever it is you are working on.  When you see it, you will be reminded to take a breath, ground, center, or release anxiety (really the sky is the limit, you can use it to trigger any behavior you want to grow in your life).

Doors and doorways are things we interact with numerous times in every day.  They are powerful liminal gateways and boundaries that we can use to enhance our life.  Working with the doors and doorways in your home is a great way to continually reinforce blessings and wardings or to work on building behaviors and habits.