Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day Pledge 2013

So every year, I make a pledge on Earth Day, to start a new habit that will benefit the Earth and ensure that as a human being I lessen my impact and burden. Because the Earth is our Mother, she nurtures us and gives us life--from the air we breath, to the water we drink, to the fruits she bears the feed us. By honoring her, we are actually caring for our selves. We poison our air, water, and soil. As a culture, society, and human race, we need to stop and it starts with us as individuals. It’s really important that as someone who worships the Earth, I feel it's extremely important that I walk my walk and I talk my talk.

My first pledge ever was to reduce, reuse, or recycle as much as possible reduce the number of trash bags per week (I eventually got down to one kitchen trash bag). Last year, I joined a CSA (see my post about why it’s so good). Over the years, I brought an awareness to my use of bottled water, paper napkins, disposable plates and utensils and vowed to replace them with reusable options and only use when I have absolutely no other choice (traveling, etc.) and not because it’s convenient. I made major changes in my life, including moving and getting a new job, to reduce my commute and therefore my fuel consumption and emissions. You get the point.

The Earth is what supports human life. I will do whatever we can to protect her and I will preach it to anyone who will listen (and multiple times to those who won’t). I am called to inform those unaware of such tenets and it does work. It has resulted in increased recycling and less use of disposable items at work and other institutions where I spend my time. My family and friends have replaced paper napkins and plates with reusable options. Several have installed water filters in lieu of drinking bottled water.

But really, I hate bottled water. Bottled water is my ultimate pet peeve. It’s so ridiculous on so many levels. It makes me so mad just thinking about it. But when I was thinking about it the other day, I realized that I still drink soda and some juices, and those come in cans and bottles. Worse, they don’t come in the lighter weight plastics because of the carbonation, sugar, and other ingredients. For the past few years, I have managed to cut down my soda/soft drink consumption to one can a day, but that’s still a lot of cans. And I do love seltzer and would drink it more, but it only comes in large plastic bottles.

In line with the waste of water bottles, I’m going to try and eliminate the waste of soft drink containers. I have already started to switch to homemade teas and lemonades in order to eliminate those containers. It will also give me more control over the sweeteners and preservatives I put in my body.

Unfortunately, I love soda and still crave that sweet, cold bubbly goodness that only comes in containers, unless… you have a soda maker! So this year’s Earth Day pledge is basically buy a soda maker. I know tough life! The sacrifices I make, I tell you. But seriously, it’s an investment that is initially more expensive. It’s also an investing in the extra time and thought it takes to plan ahead, instead of popping into the 7-11 or hitting the vending machine every time I want a soda. And because plastic can leech and is less durable, for my health I will invest the extra money for the glass bottles. Because, you know why? Mother Earth and I are worth it!

I know I can never do any of these things 100%, it’s not the society we live in, but I do my best. The phrase “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.” really is a set of instructions for how I live my life. And yes, I will do everything in my power to reduce the packaging on consumables. Yes, I will consider ways to reuse or repurpose something before I put it in the recycling bin or trash. Yes, I will recycle everything possible before I yield it to the trash can—even if it means taking few minutes to dismantle the items so the parts that can be recycled are. I will continue to do everything I can from my first Earth Day pledge to Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
And, yes, I will preach it and I will tell it to your face. I will inform you of your habits that could easily be replaced by something that is better for the environment. I will inform you of items that can be recycled. I have been known to dig through your trash (while cursing you out loud) if you throw something out that does not need to be, and as much as it grosses me out, I will be driven to do it again.

We only have one Earth. I don’t think finding another planet to inhabit is really feasible, since you know…we live on Earth and we are already here. We can make a difference.

How are you celebrating Earth Day? What are you doing to honor and assist Mother Earth?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Teachers and Students

"We cannot hold a torch to light another's path without brightening our own." -B. Sweetland
This past weekend at Sacred Space I got to attend classes with some amazing teachers. I have been going to the Sacred Space Conference for the last five years and this one was by far the best one I have attended as far as the depth and quality of the teachings and rituals. It usually takes me a few weeks to process everything and return to normal. However, this year I know the teachings and rituals profoundly changed me and my perspective on many levels--of which I do not have a clear awareness of just yet.

I can say with certainty that the most important and enjoyable, therefore my favorite, moments were watching teachers that I respect and admire learn from people they respect and admire. As I have stated before, one of the things I love about the teachers and elders I have chosen to learn from is that though they are teachers and elders, they still consider themselves students. I have taken many classes and workshops alongside these teachers, but this weekend we were all learning from someone none of us had had the opportunity to work with previously. A woman they had admired and looked forward to meeting and working with for years. One referred to herself as a Fan Girl, and while I did not witness her jumping up and down “squee”-ing, I’m pretty sure she was on the inside.

To see your teachers sit in joy from being in the presence of, and soaking up knowledge from, someone they respect and admire as much as you respect and admire them is a truly moving experience. To see them responding to a teacher in a way you know you respond when you are learning from them brought me so much joy. It made me respect and admire them even more and gave me an appreciation of my own love of learning.

Personally, I feel it is impossible to think that anyone knows everything about anything. There is always something to learn. If not something new, but perhaps a new way of looking at something you think you know. Frankly, anyone who does not feel that way is not someone from whom I wish to be taught. I’m so excited about the conversations I’m going to have with my teachers about their perspective on these shared learning experiences. I’m so excited to keep learning.  Most importantly, I'm so grateful to have such great role models with so much respect for the entire learning process.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Running on Empty, Existing on Fumes.

So I've taken some time off from blogging. Mostly because I had to. I've recently taken a lot of time off from a lot of things. It's called burn out.

I know you all are SHOCKED. I'm sure no one saw this coming at all (please note the super-size portion of sarcasm!).

The thing is, I was burnt out before I began. Most of the community didn't meet me until 2009... When I finally finished graduate school and had extra time on my hands. When I decided to get involved in more personal pursuits and stop working 12-16 hour days. When I decided that being a Pagan was important to me and I wanted know more people like me. When I found organizations and people who needed what I had to offer and allowed me to do work that I enjoyed.

The problem was that I was already burnt out on my career. I was crispy before I even jumped into this community and got swept away. And I just didn't jump into this community, I picked up other volunteer work that I had done years earlier. I mistakenly thought that doing volunteer work that I enjoyed would feed me in different ways and would make everything okay. I tried to refocus my career, but the economy had tanked and I had a talent that many companies still wanted, one for which many companies were still willing to pay a good salary. Despite being laid off twice since 2007, I still managed to do quite well. I felt blessed and grateful, so I gave even more, because I was so fortunate. So I pushed on in a career that had drained me and expended a lot of resources, and gave even more of myself to those in need. I managed to position my job so that I minimized the stress and was able to exist. I've worked really hard over the last year to reduce my commitments to something more manageable. I thought I was doing well. I thought I was healing. But then, this last month I was pulled back into a work project with the intensity I had avoided for the last few years. It really made me realize just how deep my empty well was. I had to give my all to get through this project and really didn't have it.

When you are running on empty taking a pit stop every couple of miles and not filling up all the way wastes a lot of time and only gets you so far. So, I'm getting off the Indy 500 of my life and its pit stops between speeding around and around in circles. I'm pulling into the rest stop, I'm filling up the tank, I'm getting a snack and sitting down to enjoy it. I'm going to browse in the gift shop, flip through trashy magazines in the newsstand, and walk around outside and stretch my legs a bit.

First, I'm fixing my career and paying attention to all the things I put off while I was flitting about more concerned with other people's existence than my own. Then, I will work toward building a sustainable existence...financially, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

I still have some obligations that I will fulfill (silly mortgage payments). The community and group work I do is my path in this lifetime. It does feed me, and I know I've found the right community to nurture and be nurtured by and I will continue my efforts there. I will continue doing my outreach magic for causes I care about. I'm still going to spread the word of the amazing happenings of this community. This time, it will be in a way that is sustainable for me, and hopefully in a way that is more readily accessible for everyone else.

Don't think this means you won't see me. In fact, I plan to be out and about quite a bit in the next few months, not because I feel have to, but because I want to and I can. And, if I don't want to, I don't have to do anything.

It also seems, the less my mind and my heart are cluttered with outside thoughts and feelings, the more of my own are rising to the surface. More posts will be coming. (I'm psychic, I know these things!).

Though I am weary, I am still extremely blessed and fortunate and grateful, and soon, I may actually start to be excited too!

Monday, October 15, 2012


So I've been thinking a lot about sacrifice, and the idea that you have to give something up to get something new. And, not only do you have to give something up, you have to give it up before you get the new thing. In the past, I've gotten things before space was made, but they were never quite what I needed, close, but not quite. Basically, if you want change, you have to sacrifice and have faith. Well, easy peasy, right? Yeah, that's what I thought.

I know I have to make some room in my life for what is coming in the changing times ahead. It's been apparent for a while. I have plans to rid myself of certain things but I haven't gotten around to most of them. I've been slowly moving things about, a shuffle here and there. Tossing a few items off along the way, but really, no where near enough. I know that. I also know the universe gives you a few chances and if you don't do the work, then it swoops in and gets the job done. Apparently, the universe decided to make some room. In just the last few weeks... Several close relationships changed or ended. Some of my favorite places closed for business. Beloved and/or valuable objects were misplaced and are yet to be found. Friends left both physically and literally. Support systems collapsed. Income sources dried up suddenly. And so on, you get the picture.

There is now lots of room all of the sudden. Unfortunately, right now, the space doesn't feel like an opening--ready and welcoming. It feels like a great big pit in the middle of my chest, like a big, wide gaping wound.

I could attempt to fill it with cake and wine and nachos, but I'll try not to, because although it will be tasty, it won't come close to working. In the same vein that giving up chocolate isn't necessarily going to bring huge financial gains into my life. Sacrifices should be appropriate and timely.

As uncomfortable and saddened as I am, as friend recently stated, "if it doesn't hurt, it's not a sacrifice." If it's not a sacrifice, then it doesn't matter and you're not really making room for something new. As hard as it is to make a choice for what needs to go, it's even more painful to have it suddenly taken away. Ripping off the band-aid in this case is not easier. Willingly making sacrifices is not something most people want to do, but learning how to do so can be empowering as we speed up and ease the change in our lives. I know I have to have faith and I know that something just as important will come. That that hole will be filled. For as much pain and emptiness as I feel right now, it will soon be replaced with joy.

Astrologically, there is a lot going on for everyone. The last full moon was really tough for me, it illuminated a lot of truths about my surroundings, including many of the things I had to remove, as well as many wonderful I wasn't able to see underneath all the noise and clutter. Many things I had refused to see, but can no longer ignore. Today's new moon is especially powerful. For me, it will continue to shake things loose and give me room to move. It also promises to draw some energies into my life that have been AWOL for the last few years, which is a welcome change and relief.

As for what is coming, honestly, I'm a little nervous. But as I accept my loses and the emptiness turns to openness, I'm also getting a little excited. I think under normal circumstances, without that extra room, I would be terrified and overwhelmed. I think it's human nature that we need to make a sacrifice, so we can truly appreciate the new. I do see now that I had gotten buried and overloaded. So, now, instead of stressing about how I'm going to fit something else in with the twelve million other things I usually have going on, I will actually be able to recognize it when it appears and welcome it with open arms. Instead of being a burden, my gifts from the universe will be accepted and cherished with the gratitude they deserve.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

We Are All Perfect!

One of the many messages I got out of my recent workshops with Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki was this: “The universe made us perfect and the universe is perfect with us in it just the way we are.”

We all think we have flaws, but we actually do not. We all have challenges, and perhaps those perceived flaws, that make us who we are. And we are perfect. Some say we signed up for those challenges when we agreed to be manifested in this time and this place this time around. That does not really matter because the universe put us here for a reason and to meet our challenges, whether we think we signed up for them or not. We are exactly who we need in each and every moment to make the universe perfect. We are all on a path to fulfill whatever our destiny is as individuals, as humans, as spirits. As we change, the universe changes, yet we and the universe always remain perfect.

Dolores also made a point that when a life is taken out of this world through murder or suicide that makes the world imperfect because that person was supposed to be here to live out there life and do their work. That is why the loss of life in these ways is so tragic, because a life is taken from the perfect world. But the universe adjusts and that does not stop each and every one of us from continuing to be perfect. 

It’s not easy to understand or deal with, but what makes us different is what makes us perfect. And each and every one of us is important to the universe and each other. We all need to be here to get through this together. No matter how much I want certain people to just go away, even the biggest pain in the butt is perfect because they are dealing with their lessons and teaching us ours.

That is why listening, communicating and understanding is so important. Maybe that person would not be such a pain if they could communicate effectively and felt listened to, maybe if we listened and tried to understand they would not have to act out to get our attention.

These are critical times and lots of changes and movement are going on in the universe. Everywhere. It is really important to take the time to really look at our world, to see what is happening around and within all of us. When we look at our world as being perfect and not something that has to be fixed, when we really start looking at our world the way it truly is and not how it should be, is when true change can really happen. When we stop seeing people as irritations or other more colorful names and see them as reflections of our selves, when all other beings become teachers and not annoyances, is when we truly discover ourselves. Our world is not broken; we are not broken. The universe is perfect. It doesn’t need to be fixed, it needs to evolve and ascend. Only when we appreciate our world and really see things for what and how they are, can we understand what needs to be done to develop and process as humans and spiritual beings.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

All Aboard the Ridiculous Express

So we all have our process of dealing with things, especially truly emotional things.

When I’m upset and particularly emotional, most people respond by trying to calm me down, talk rational, present both sides. Don’t bother. Just let me go, let me get it out, let me cry, let me rant, let me get to the point where I’m so unreasonable and absurd that even I have to laugh. Let me get to that sacred place I call Ridiculous.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t take me long, especially if people leave me alone and let me take the express bus to Ridiculoustown. Without any well-meaning obstacles, it generally takes just minutes. Though, sometimes a situation is so big I have to take a few return trips, but again these don’t take long, so just sit back and watch the show, people. Seriously, I'm getting really good at this...blink and you might miss it.

Thankfully, I don’t have to take these trips very often. I can handle most things. I only get this way when I’m hurt by someone or am put in a situation I which I am REALLY uncomfortable—when I feel backed in a corner and don’t know what else to do. My answer to the fight or flight response, turns out to be a freak out! Having these trips is sometimes the only thing that allows me to breathe. I know this sounds incredibly immature and you’re envisioning a two-year old at the grocery store who was told they couldn’t have candy. This is not what it looks like, but I’ve realized that this is about my lower-self, inner child expressing herself and me outwardly trying to express her needs and fears. The first time I recall taking this journey was when I first graduated college and moved to Manhattan I found myself a little cash poor with a hefty rent payment and little left over. When I realized my former roommate cashed my check for the electric bill, kept the money and didn’t pay the bill, I found myself utterly devastated. Not only did I feel the betrayal of someone I lived with for two years who was willing throw out a friendship for $200, but I was totally stressed about having to come up with another $200 to pay the bill that I just didn’t have. When my roommates tried to calm me down and offered to get pizza for dinner, I cried out, “I’ll never buy pizza again.” To which even I realized how silly that was. Even I had to laugh at how ridiculous the statement was. That, my friends, was the first time I was aware I was at Ridiculous.

I also realize that as I do my spiritual work and developing a relationship with my lower self, the trips to Ridiculous have changed too. They have grown and they have matured. Not only have the trips become shorter, but they are more controlled and socially acceptable. I can now go to Ridiculous at work and not ruin my professional Corporate Witch image.

Previously, in places like work, I would just shut off my feeling and things would fester until I quit and just got a new job rather than dealing with issues that might have helped me change.

Recently, I was put into a conflict situation. I HATE conflict. One of the people in the situation LOVES conflict. You can see how this would make me uneasy and cause my lower-self to freak out. So I just refused to engage. Nope, not going. I have something better to do, here is my notes, I’m not showing up! Oh and I’m going to email you to say this because that’s even safer. Click Send. Maria feels so much better. Maria breathes. Maria recognizes that sending the email was the grown-up version of getting to ridiculous. Really, I’m gonna stomp my feet and declare, “I’m not going?” 

Apparently, yes. And that action provided me with the space to gain clarity. I saw that by not standing up and being part of the conversation I not was standing up for myself, my team, my peers, and what I thought was right. I saw that there would only be more conflict later. So, I sucked it up and put on the big girl panties and rearranged my schedule. I had the conversation. I wasn’t happy with the outcome. However, afterward, I had more clarity into the position and motivations of the others involved.  I made a clear, informed decision--a decision with which both me and my lower self can live.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Asynchronous Timeline of the Human Experience

In my spiritual studies, I have learned and believe we have several different bodies. Many systems that focus on three or four bodies: Body, Mind, Spirit or Physical, Emotional, Mental, and Divine Bodies, but others use seven or even nine.  As I work with each of these bodies, I realize their specific role in this incarnation and how each are different, and most importantly, and how they all can work together.

As I age, as my parents and grandparents age, I have come to the realization that these bodies don’t have the same durability and shelf life. It’s more apparent as we age, using my 97-year-old grandmother as an example to illustrate, for simplicity, a three-body system.

Every time my grandmother has to move, she winces in pain and as she looks at me she says, “No one should get this goddamn* old.” The physical body can get damaged, or it can just wear out. We have medical science and technology to prolong the life of a physical body and ease the pain, including replacing joints that would leave many immobile from an injury or from the wear-and-tear of life.

Every time she forgets something, she says, “I must have lost my goddamn* mind.” There are a numerous mental illnesses that affect the mind. There is also general wear and tear and environmental factors, such as ingestion of metals, that have been shown to affect memory. Studies (and my personal experience) have also shown that reading and doing puzzles, such as crosswords, can help improve and maintain mental clarity and sharpness. But in general, at a minimum, as we age memories fade and recall is a little slower. Maybe it’s because our mind just have more to remember.

However, when I visit her, every morning when I emerge from the guest bedroom in the back of the house, she asks me if I saw the sunset, “Aw, it was so beautiful. The colors!!!” She lives in the country and when a deer, rabbit or a wild turkey or other wildlife wander into her front year, she calls to me, “Maria, come quick, you need to see this.” And when I arrive, she’s smiling a huge smile as she watches in awe of nature (I think I might have inherited this from her). Sometimes she even tells me stories, and has names for them. I used to humor her, until she tells me how she recognizes the animals from their markings and mannerisms. Maybe this her creative mind, but the joy and pleasure she feels and that emanates from her is spirit.

This lust for life keeps us going when our physical body wears down or our mental faculty diminishes. Sure, some may argue that spirits get broken, and that there are spiritual injuries and illnesses, and that is true. When one leaves the physical and mental bodies, they remainit is the spirit that is eternal and moves along to try this again.

** My grandmother says goddamn at lot, she grew up in the Bronx, sixty years after leaving she still has the accent. We’re very thankful goddamn is as colorful as her language gets, though she has some choice phrases, but that’s another post.