Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Emotion based goal setting

Many of us were taught about setting goals when we were little.   We were told to figure out what we wanted, and then to sort out how we were going to get it.  We were shown how to break a goal down into more manageable steps, and how to make a plan so that we could get where we wanted to go.

And sometimes, this works out perfectly.  We keep our eyes on the prize, we know we have divided up the work, and that if we just keep at it, we will get what we want.

But sometimes, this process doesn't work so well.  Maybe the thing we thought we wanted was just a placeholder, something that we were using to fill a hole inside us, and we weren't really sure what we actually needed.  Or perhaps, somewhere along the way, we found something even better than our original goal, and now we were faced with a choice.  Or perhaps we really did want the thing we were after, but it was so very far away that the work needed seemed insurmountable, even though we had it separated into smaller bits, it was just hard to get started.

Most of us are used to setting result based goals:  we have a thing we want and that is our goal.  But other times, especially when it comes to our spiritual path, our goals are more ephemeral.  We want to find peace or we want to develop a connection with a deity.  We may not be sure how to word these things as goals, or what we can do to work towards them.  And instead of becoming goals, they stay as dreams and wishes, and we find ourselves continually gazing at them from afar, without knowing how to get closer.

The very best goals are fueled by emotions.  Even when they are very concrete and 'easy' to accomplish, like if your goals is to write down three things you are grateful for every day, the reason you want to do this is based on an emotion.  You want to feel grateful, and so you set yourself a goal to express that gratitude.

But other times, you may not know what the underlying emotion is at first.  Perhaps you have always wanted to read tarot cards, and your goal is to be able to do readings.  But you keep putting it off, because every time you start looking into it, you are inundated with hundreds of decks, so many different meanings, different ways of interpreting cards, and even dozens of symbols within each card.  You are overwhelmed, and you set it aside. 

If you take the time to explore the emotion behind wanting to be able to read cards, you may find that your focus in working on your goal changes.  Instead of just having the goal of reading cards, you have the goal of being able to read cards because you really want to help people, or maybe you just feel very insecure and have a hard time making choices and you want reassurance that your choices are good, or you might just think that it looks fun!  All of these emotions are valid reasons to want to learn to read cards!

Now, when you think about learning the cards, you can remind yourself of the emotional reason for it.  If your desire is to help others, you find some friends who you can practice with, and focus on them.  If you are seeking reassurance, you might focus on tarot journaling, and make your learning very introspection driven.  And if you are looking for fun, you might just look for whatever seems the most fun, and turn your study into play!

The emotion you are seeking becomes your focus, and this is what keeps you coming back to your goals, it is what helps you do the work, even when it feels like you aren't moving forward, or when it feels like the work will never end.

You can also start with the emotion, and then build your goal around it.  So, perhaps you are wanting to grow in your practice, but aren't sure exactly what you want to reach towards.  But you know that you want to develop a deeper connection, to feel more in tune with the world around you. 

Knowing this is how you want to feel, you can start brainstorming things that you could do that make you feel that way.  You might have to start with exploration activities, things designed to help you really notice what types of things make you feel the most connected.  From there, you can work on ways to include more of these in your life.  You can also look into practices or activities that are similar to the ones that light you up and make you feel the way you want to. 

The best thing about emotion based goal setting is that the physical outcome is secondary.  If your goal is to have fun with tarot, then it doesn't matter if you have memorized all the meanings of the Arcana.  If you can pull out your deck, and have a good time while using it..then you have met your goal!  If your goal was to be more connected with the world around you, and you find even one way to tap into that connection, you are living your goal!

There is no outside 'win or fail' condition.  Every day, when you work on your goal, you have the opportunity to tap into the feeling you are wanting to cultivate.  Every single time you experience that feeling, you are succeeding!  Even if someone observing from the outside might not realize you are are, because you are bringing more of your desired emotions into your life.

So, the next time you set a goal, think about the emotion that is fueling it.  When you want to move forward, but aren't sure what to aim for, consider picking an emotion to strive towards.  And when you look at the steps you have laid out, find ways to infuse your desired emotion into each and every one of them.  And you will be surprised by how much more you will get from your goals!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Play with your magic!

I think there is a tendency to feel like we have to be serious and proper if we respect our faith.  There is this need to make things complicated and oh so serious, because if we don't we fear being accused of faking it or being crazy.

I have never been someone who feels like mirth and joy aren't compatible with true reverence.  You can be deeply serious about your faith, and still laugh and keep things light. 

I learned magic with the understanding that magic bridges the gap between the left and right brain.  Your thinking brain wants things, but your child brain often gets things done.  They don't communicate well!  The thinking brain works in words and logic, while the child brain needs symbols and emotions to really 'get' what is going on. 

And this is where magic comes in!  When we do ritual or cast spells, we are translating the words in our (thinking) brain into symbols and feelings that the child brain understands.  Much like a small child who has suddenly realized they KNOW what the adult wants, and scampers off to do it (with much enthusiasm!), our child brain (subconscious) will take the symbols and emotions we use to do our ritual and run off and create change.

Here is where I think magic looses a little of it's shiny sometimes:  we take it too seriously!  We may have read books on magic theory, or have found spells that work towards what we want to do, and we think that we need to follow the instructions like it is a manual for assembling furniture. 

This isn't to say that I don't think we can't have serious rituals or follow a ritual/spell format, but I think that magic should light us should have a sense of wonder to it.  The same way that a child looks at the world, that is how we should view our magic.  And children can be very serious about many things...they approach pursuits with a purity of passion that we can emulate in our own magical practice.

But I also think that playfulness is a very powerful tool!  Being creative and flexible keeps our practice fluid and keeps it from becoming rote and routine (where we tend to loose focus and interest). 

I adore doing thought exercises when it comes to magic and ritual.  Where you take a random assortment of things (especially non-traditionally-magical things) and pick a spell or ritual focus...and decide how you might accomplish that task with those things.  There are all kinds of ways to pick which random things you start with.  You might dump out your purse/pockets/wallet and pick up three things and those are what you have.  Or you might find a picture, and only use things you can see in that picture.  You might even find a 'random item' generator online (I have a bunch that I use for roleplaying games, one of which has a 'random stuff in your pocket' generator, which is brilliant for this!)  I also have a bunch of dice with words or pictures on them, that could be used (you can find these often in the kid's toy section).

When I do exercises like this, I really do often think like a child might, if they were playing make-believe.  It helps break down some of the logical barriers we might otherwise put in place.  All of a sudden, that bottle cap becomes a boat or an umbrella or a shield.  The rubber band could be super stretchy arms, an unbreakable rope or a trampoline!  This really helps you get out of your adult (thinking) brain, and work with the symbols that the child mind works so very well with.

Another fun way to do this is to pick a book or movie/show where the characters are stuck in a situation with a problem.  Look at what they have available and figure out what you would do with those things to solve that problem.  To make it a bit more tricky, you may limit yourself to 'things that would work in that world'.  So, if you were watching a modern day detective show, you might have to do a more subtle magic, perhaps to get the culprit to admit their crime.  But if you were reading a high fantasy book, you might be able to have them create an actual fireball or summon an imp to help them!

It sounds like we are leaving the realm of reality here, but the thing to remember is that magic works in symbols.  So even if you are visualizing summing an imp, your child mind is working to help create the things you are visualizing the imp doing.  It is helping to move you in the direction you want to go, without you being aware of it.  This is the true power of magic:  being able to send messages to your subconscious so that it can help you create the things you want in the world!

Play doesn't have to be super silly or super crazy either.  If you watch children, their play is real to them.  They aren't (always!) doing random things or being over the top.  In moderation, those types of play can be great too!  If you have ever been in a situation where you just can't stop laughing, you will know the release that can be!  That is powerful energy right there!

Play is about being in the moment, about loosing yourself in the story you are creating, and about finding ways to make things work.  And that is what magic is about too!  The more invested you become in your magic, the more you are letting the two halves of your brain communicate, and the more clear your focus becomes. 

Learning to play may take work for many of us.  We are taught that adults should do adult things, and that play is for children.  From the moment we start showing signs of 'growing up' we are encouraged to put away our toys and adult.  I think we spend too much time adulting!  Of course you need to take care of the things you need to do...but once you have adulted, it's time to play! 

Welcome play back into your life.  Let yourself really get lost in the things you want to do, and stop worrying if they are 'appropriate' for someone of your age (whatever age you are).  Take this attitude of play into your magic, and let your inner child free.  You will be surprised at what they can accomplish...when you stop trying to force them to act like an adult.

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.