Monday, October 15, 2012

Sacrifices

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.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dealing with Someone Who Has Lost Their Mind

For those of you who are unaware, I’ve been dealing with some family issues. Two of my family members have dementia. It’s very frustrating and stressful to everyone in my family.

Some days there is lucidity. Some days it’s the same question 30 times in the same hour. Most days it flip-flops from lucidity to confusion, to anger, to self-doubt, to talk of suicide and ending this madness, with the same questions being asked over and over again.

Did she not hear me? Do I need to raise my voice? Do I need to physically show her what I’m talking about instead of trying to explain? Do I need to write this down? Should I just do this myself? Does it even matter if she’s just going to forget? Why am I getting yelled at? How do I stop this?  Why do I even bother?

Patience is needed and necessary. There is never enough. There is a lot of walking away and thinking it over. Holding hands. Deep breaths. Tears. Then, wash, rinse, repeat. There is no answer, but because there is love you make it through the day. The sun rises again and you hope for a good day. So really dealing with someone who has lost their mind should be just like every other day. It starts with light and is filled patience and love.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Great Purge of 2012


One day about three weeks ago, I hit the wall. The crescendo of chaos had hit the climax. I was done! Sh*t had to go and guess what? BOOM!!!! Gone!!!

The next day was a Monday morning, I had planned to start a 10-day juice fast that morning so I got up and I juiced. While sipping on some lovely pineapple, mango, carrot juice, I resigned from two volunteer positions, put another on hold until I could figure out how to fit it into my life, and then set some priorities to finish work committed to two other organizations so I could bid them adieu as well. I tried to work but it wasn’t happening. At lunchtime, I decided I had better things to do, so I told my boss I’d see him tomorrow. I then went home juiced some more. While sipping on some lovely kale, cucumber, and apple juice, I went on-line, picked out the car I had wanted to buy for the last four years, drove to the dealership and traded in my 9-year-old car with more than 150K miles on it, a leaky sunroof, and a check engine light that kept wanting to stay on not matter how much the repairs cost me. I drove away in my shiny new car with bells and whistles, because I wanted to!!! On my way home, I stopped at the salon and cut off all my hair. I got home around 7 and basically, I juiced. And while sipping on some lovely tomato, cucumber, zucchini juice, I dragged a bunch of boxes and bags from around the house to the basement to be donated.

All this happened two-days after the full moon. I harnessed the power of the waning moon and took this opportunity to purge, to detox, and to cleanse. More items were added to the donation pile, people that drained me where given the heave-ho, more commitments were wrapped up. Life was getting lighter. I made it through my juice fast (a future post will be about how amazing that experience was!). I ended this period of purging with a mini-vacation to visit the place of my birth. I reconnected with family and old friends, and spent time with the spirits of the land and my ancestors. I also had to deal with some heavy family issues that are ongoing, but it was clear what I had to do and what my role was. I felt that I added some value and comfort to my family’s situation. For the first time in the 12 years I’ve been living in Maryland, I returned from the long drive relaxed and refreshed, though maybe that has to do partially with the new shiny car and its cozy bucket seats and the smooth ride.

I’ve been back for just over a week and I see now that I also have more clarity and a heightened awareness of what is good and what is bad in my life. Now that the layers of toxins have been removed from my all my bodies, I’m more sensitive. I react more quickly because it’s easier to see and sense.  It’s like a dusty coffee table. When you clean it off, it’s nice and shiny. Then you notice a speck of dust here and there until it’s just dusty, though it keeps gathering dust. When you finally clean it off, you realize how thick the layer had become. Well, whether it’s ingesting dairy or hearing someone else’s ill-intentioned words, things that are toxic to any one of my bodies now are immediately noticeable and I can deal with them before they stick around and weigh me down again. Right now, I’m clean and shiny, and I intend to stay that way!

There is more that needs to go, but I’m also rebuilding, which is helping me set priorities on what else needs to be purged, as well as what should remain and what I need to add to make my life full. I’ve known for a while that I give too much. Now it is clear that I can no longer do that and remain strong and vibrant. I still love to help people, but I need to make sure I replace what was given with energy that serves me.

I use the word shiny a lot in this post. I like shiny. Shiny is good. May we all dig deep and get rid of what doesn’t serve us. May be all find what makes us shine.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pagans Don't Fit in Neat Little Boxes

The problem with making generalizations in any community is that everyone is really different. And in no other of my communities is there such a diverse variety of people than in my Pagan community. We are so diverse we can't even come up with a singular definition of Paganism. We are definitely a community of individuals.

That's why it's so hard for me to buy into the Pagan stereotypes. The Poor Pagans, the Party Pagans, the Poly Pagans, and the Fat Pagans.The beauty of Paganism, to me, is that there are no rules and that everyone is accepted and welcomed. It springs internal from each and everyone of us!

I know people who feel strongly that veganism is part of their spiritual path, while others that tear into a turkey leg at the Renaissance Festival like they're an ancient Viking or Genghis Khan at a Mongolian Barbeque. I know Pagans that make 6 figures and others that make $6 an hour. I don't even know from where these stereotypes come. Maybe it's that I just happen to be out and about in the community and know a lot different Pagans from a lot of different groups/paths/traditions, etc. But, trust me, no one is like another around here.

I'll admit, when I first entered the Pagan community I did notice some people that would be considered morbidly obese. As a marketer and fundraiser for several Pagan organizations, it does seem like a bit more of a struggle to get Pagans to commit funds. I know Pagans that are polyamorous, monogamous, and, gasp, even celibate!!!  I also just realized after about eight years in the community, that some people are here for the festivals and celebrations and not deep spiritual development, because, well, we're all on our own path. Therefore, we're all seeking something and open to the Pagan experience. If I may make a generalization, I personally do feel that my Pagan community is the most supportive of all my communities. I've had a tough year, as so many others on this planet have, and these people have got my back.

And if I'm gonna stereotype, why not hang out with a Fat Pagan, because they can whip up some mean fixin's for feasting and some yummy grounding snacks. And those Poor Pagans, well, they're pretty crafty and all, since they can't afford to buy stuff. Umm, NO!! It's because my Pagan friends are beautiful people with amazing gifts and talents.

Instead of making generalizations, if we see an issue in the Pagan community let's start something to address these issues of our over-culture from the Pagan perspective. Lead a meditation to help people make the mind-body to learn how to best serve their physical bodies and their health.  Lead or sponsor a class on relating to money as Earth energy. Plan an healing ceremony or recommend a good spiritual counselor if someone is truly in trouble.


Paganism to me is a journey of self-discovery, and a self-defined faith. I may be in a practicing spiritual group, but my experience in a ritual could be totally different and that experience and the guidance and gifts we received are unique to each one of us in the universe. This makes us different than other spiritual/religious communities and I know it makes me, and all of us, better people, better Pagans and a better Pagan community members.

To all my Pagan friends and loved ones, thank you for being you. And if you find yourself in need, if you think you might have a problem, if you want some support and guidance... I got your back, too!









Friday, July 6, 2012

The Burden of Intuition


One of my magickal gifts is that see it like it is. I don't glamour very easily. I look at people and situations and really see them. I don't need a crystal ball or a tarot card. I get immediate information. I see the core. I see the outcome. Sometimes I'm in denial of what I see and make excuses to my own sake and that of others, because the truth is too uncomfortable with which to deal. But I've recently accepted that at this point, I've been right too many times. I wish I wasn't. It sucks.

When before me someone who is lovestruck or dumbstruck, I see how it's gonna turnout. Or, a new person is introduced into a group of friends. Immediately, my internal alarms go to DEFCON1 and all my deflector shields go up. I know this person's intentions, I know this person is going reek havoc in a major way and that the aftermath is going to be painful and permanent. I may try to express my concerns, but they often fall on deaf ears, or worse, I'm vilified for being cynical and negative and judgmental.

I also get so frustrated with those that surround the situation, too. How do they NOT see it? I swear I just want to smack people and scream, "Open your eyes! How can you be supportive of this? This is NOT a good thing! Don't you see this disaster in the making!"

Unless a situation gets to the point of physical or emotional harm or becomes criminal, my mouth remains shut and I just try to position myself someplace where I can maintain my sanity. Unfortunately, I often can't just sit by and watch the situation unravel. So, I find myself pulling away, but remaining close enough to be there to listen when things go bad. It's all I can do.

When the truth comes to light, it is not necessarily a joyous moment. Being right in these situations doesn't boost my ego--I don't get ever any satisfaction from an "I told you so." It makes my heart ache more because I couldn't stop it from happening. I want to fix everything all the time. I want to help people. I want to make them feel better. But I'm just me, I can't, and really, nor should I. These are the life lessons of others. It's part of their experience and it's not my place to change their journey.

But, then there's the good. The person I meet that I instantly just know is going to have an amazing impact on my life. The friend with a possibly scary diagnosis that I know is going to be just fine. The idea a colleague has for a business that I know is going to be a success. The couple that I just know are gonna make it. In these cases, I still have to keep my mouth shut, and I'll tell you what...sometimes that's even harder to do!\

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Why I Joined a CSA and Why You Should Too

I'm now two weeks into my CSA share, which is short for Community Supported Agriculture, a CSA is basically a share in a farm’s crop for a season.

Many CSA farms also have farm stands, where you can get local produce without joining a CSA, or as a supplement to your share. But a CSA is called a share for a reason. It’s a collective. You pay upfront, so you are actually supporting the operations of the farm. You are investing in the farm for that season. Generally, if the farm has a great week, you might get extras in your crate. Other than guaranteed fresh veggies, here are the other reasons I signed up, and why everyone should consider doing so.

It tastes and is better.
Chances are by the time something reaches your grocery store from some far away foreign country, days or weeks have past. Nutrients have degraded. So has the moisture content. You can tell by the color and smell. This means the flavor has degraded too. This means not as yummy and juicy. When was the last time you bought a tomato at the grocery store that was bright red on the inside and out? That you could smell while it was stilling on the counter? That spilled red, tomato-y juiciness when you cut it open and not a few drops of clear water. Or a cucumber that didn’t look like wax paper or green beans that actually made a snapping sound when bit into them? 

You make better eating decisions.
Every week you get your crate. You have all this produce. If you’re like me, you hate to waste it. So, I’m going to be more likely to cook because I have food in the house. I’m more likely to cook healthy, but I have healthy food in the house.  Because I cook it myself, I know exactly what and how much I’m eating. So I'm not eating the preservatives and chemicals I would be likely to eat take-out food and prepackaged food, which also has added fat and salt and who knows what to make it taste good. I’m also less likely to have pre-packaged food in my pantry and fridge, because I have to have a place to put all these fruits and vegetables.

You learn to get creative in the kitchen.
I think the most popular comment I’ve heard from first-time CSA participants is this: "What do I do with all this kale?" Well, you go on the internet and you look up recipes. And you substitute kale for other green leafy vegetables, like spinach and cabbage, in some of your recipe. Sauteed Kale in Olive Oil in Garlic tastes just as good as spinach, and Colcannon with kale is amazingly delicious. You can also get creative and come up with your own recipes, so (shameless plug alert) you should follow my recipe blog over here: http://whatmariamade.blogspot.com/ 

It’s good for my economy.
My bunch of kale from a local farm still costs less than it does from a large commercial farm. When I buy from a local farm, I’m buying it direct from the producer, so there are no middle men. I’m not paying for it to be transported; I’m not paying a mark-up to a store that sells it.
While the saving may be only dollars per week, it adds up for me for the course of 22 weeks, as well as for my community. Look at the big picture. The farm owners pay local people to work at the farm stand, the owners and employees shop at the same stores I do, eat at the same restaurants, contribute to the tax-base of my town, county, and state, therefore supporting the schools, infrastructure, and services where I live. We are part of and support the same community.

There is less impact on the environment.
My CSA is about 1 mile from my house. I get 30 miles to the gallon in my car. In round-trips for the 22 weeks of my CSA, I will use less than 1½ gallons of gas getting my food.  Plus, it’s actually closer to me than my closest grocery store. A box truck gets about 10 miles to the gallon, a semi, less than 7 mpg. Do the math.

People don’t usually consider the environmental impact of processing, let alone transporting their food. Think of what went in to getting you that lettuce from Mexico, or that garlic from China. Yes. China. Did you know 60% of the US supply of apple juice comes all the way from China? That’s stuff is bulky and heavy. Think about the carbon footprint of your food next time you’re at the grocery store. It all counts. You may take public transportation to work, but with that glass of juice, you may as well be driving a Hummer.

Not everyone can have a CSA so close, but there are enough out there, with a variety of pick-up and delivery options, that you can surely find one that will work for you. And that pick-up truck that drives from the farm 30 miles out of the city to the pick-up point down the street from your house, gets better gas mileage than a delivery truck.

CSAs are better for the environment and you because, local farms tend to use…

Less chemicals and freaky stuff.
Small farms, while they can’t always afford to get certified as organic from the USDA, or their state board of agriculture, generally follow more sustainable farming practices. This doesn’t include a lot of harsh pesticides or chemical fertilizers. These practices are expensive and small farms cannot afford to abuse the land by using harsh chemicals.

They also are generally hands-on so they can keep an eye on what is going on with the crops and immediately rectify situations before they become problems.

The best part is this, if you have questions about pesticides, fertilizers, or GMO plants and seeds, guess what? You can actually ASK THE GROWER!!! And guess what, they will know the answer because they planted the seeds, they feed and watered the plants. That’s the person that grew YOUR food! You can ask them to their face. They will probably even show you how it's done.

It’s generally safer.
And speaking of that garlic and apple juice from China... As much as I have issues with the USDA and food regulatory agencies in the US, I’m even more skeptical about the food regulations of third-world and developing countries which may not even have any regulations on food production, storage, and transportation. Let alone regulations and standards on the water supply or pollution.

And most importantly...
It connects me with the land and it feeds my soul.
As a Pagan, I worship the cycles of the Earth. My holidays are based in agricultural seasons: sowing, growing, harvesting, and lying fallow. Until the last century, people ate food in cycle with nature. They worked the land and in return it gave them life-sustaining food. They ate what was fresh and in season.
I worship the land, give offerings, and work with nature spirits where I live.  By eating food from the land that I live and worship on, it creates a relationship with land around me and creates a cycle of give and take. I may not tend to the plants that become my food, but this connect is made when I tend my flowers in my yard, when pick up litter in the stream that feeds into the same river that the farm uses as a reservoir for water, when I feed the birds that help pollination and the spreading of seeds to grow the farm's crops.

It makes me smile when I know that the land that I stand on also supports my body from the inside out.  It makes me care more what happens to this land I step on. It reminds me that I have an impact on the Earth, and that impact goes beyond the tiny speck of Earth that I am standing on. It makes me ask what more can I do? How far I can reach?

All these factors together make a huge impact on your health and environment. It all adds up, for the better.

For more information on eating local and CSAs, go to: http://www.localharvest.org/

Friday, June 8, 2012

Invictus

There is a lot of transition in the universe at the moment. The change is stressful. I see a lot of people I care about struggling. This poem got me through a lot.

"Invictus" by William Ernest Henley



Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.


It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.


--written in 1875, published in The Book of Versus

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Happy International Pagan Coming Out Day!

Some of us are out, some of us aren't, some of us still have one foot still in the broom closet. We all have several coming out stories to various friends, family, and known associates. I'm pretty out though I have some boundaries--I'm still in the closet at work. Basically, religion doesn't belong there. Seriously, I don't want to hear all about my co-worker teaching at bible school at her church either.

I'm out to most of my family, but honestly half of them don't get it. Like my parents. I've told them a few times, and I got nothing. So I've tried through the years to bring it up, to no avail. For example, if I set in my mind I'm going to tell them at dinner tonight, they start the dinner conversation with something like this. "So, I decided to drop by bible study this week and they were talking witches and how they poison people." Seriously...

My favorite is when they tell me that you can't trust messages through mediums because it could be the devil trying to trick you, and then they ask for a tarot reading. Okay...

My parents do know I don't believe in their version of Christianity even if I say that Jesus' teachings were wonderful and it's a shame most Christians don't follow them. They express how they wish I could be more spiritual. Bwa ha ha, if they only knew, if only they would listen!

Not being out to my parents is actually more amusing than anything. At this point, I don't get the feeling they're supposed to know. I have suspicious of why that is. All my grandparents were spiritually gifted, therefore so are my parents. My dad has the hookup with the nature and animal spirits, but he's not ready to deal--at least not in this lifetime. My birth mother was VERY Christian, but her and her sisters played with faeries as children and when I was little we talked to the flowers and plants in the garden and the trees and the birds and they squirrels... and they talked back. My poor step-mother has to deal with the crazy energy all around her--me, my dad, and my brother (who’s more hooked up than I, though he won't accept it). Poor woman can't make any sense of any of this crazy side of the family, but she really does try. 

So I will keep trying as hard as I can to get out to the parents. This year, in honor of IPCOD, I’ve decided to come out to the rest of my college friends. 

What’s one of your coming out stories?
To learn more about IPCOD, go to www.pagancomingoutday.org!



Friday, April 27, 2012

The Power of No: Part I

Part of coming into my personal power has been learning to set boundaries. The hardest part to setting boundaries is saying one simple little two-letter word: No.  In most situations saying, "No" is just fine--I don't even need an explanation. But in some relationships it's brutal. That's my fault. See, I like to help people. I like it SO much that people are actually conditioned and dependent on me to be there for them. This is great for them, but whatever I was getting out of it initially doesn't serve me well for too long.

In one relationship I started saying no and at first it was "okay." I had legitimate limitations, but I tried to help out and was involved as I much as I mentally and physically could. It was still draining. The more I said no, the meaner this person. Every sentence was prefaced with attitude. "See," or "Well," and then one day... came the "Yeah, um..." in an email! It's one thing to have a little hesitation/attitude in person, but to write it out, seriously?!?!? That was it. I'm not going to give to someone who is a total jerk. I had a lot vested in this endeavor, but I basically cut it off right then and there. I cared about the project, but not enough to be treated that way. It was heartbreaking, but I was done. Gone. Poof! And then... a few days later... their spouse got transferred and guess who was really gone? Poof! Within a few weeks I was able to pick up where I left off and continue doing the work that was so dear to me, in a positive environment and the project has never been more successful.


In another relationship, I've been actually using the word "No" for quite a while, but I don't think it's been heard as "No." It's been heard as "can't" as in I can't do something because in their mind something else is in the way. I couldn't possibly just be saying "No" for any reason other than it physically being impossible. It took me months to realize this. I thought I was being strong until I realized that this person, just took my "No" and just kept going with it. I'd get again the comments. "Well, you're just too busy," or "Well, that's because you live so far away from everything" or "Well, that's because you told me XYZ" (and I did not, that's just what this person heard!). [Side note: I'm notice a pattern, with sentences beginning with interjections like "Well."]

During the course of a recent conversation, I once again said "No." And they went on with their version of why I can't do something, go somewhere, be something. So I said no again, and they kept trying to weave a story and convince me to do what they wanted, so I said no again. And twice more, until the conversation turned 360 degrees and they were trying to convince me why I shouldn't do what they requested in the first place. So, I totally broke my rule and said "Yes." The conversation went silent. Awk-kward. About 30 seconds later, they started the conversation back up again and tried to briefly blame something or other on me because I wasn't going to be able to do what they needed. Then the conversation went on, just like it always does. I'll admit, I took it and said nothing. I enjoyed my cup of coffee and scone. There were a few attempts at guilt throughout the rest of the conversation, but I felt so light and free knowing that I wasn't roped into doing something else. I'm sure for a while afterwards, this person wove a story about how I can't help anymore because of a reason that is only true to them, and that's fine with me. I didn't want to be a helper, I wanted to be a friend.

And again, the universe changed. This person, no longer dependent on me, they took some huge steps forward and made incredible progress on their own because they were no longer looking to me to do it for them. Faced with no alternative, they empowered themselves to do what they needed to do. They are thriving. I am so happy. This person is so happy, though not without some stress I'm sure. I wish I had done it sooner for both our sakes. Now when I am approached for help, it's for advice. "How can I do this?" rather than "I need you to do this for me." There is a renewed balance and mutual respect on both our parts and it's a good thing!

NOTE: This post is titled Part I, because I guarantee this little word is going to yield more incredible outcomes.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Prayer for the Living

When I was in the 4th grade, my classmate was murdered. We were 10. His murderer was his 14-year-old neighbor. He lured my classmate into a field near their home, stabbed him 33 times, went home made a sandwich and watched TV.

I grew up in a really small town. The murderer was from an affluent family--the town doctor. Everyone knew everyone. I was friends with my classmate's sister. I also was friends with the murderer's sister.


Today, the murder is 41. Today he was granted parole.

In a few weeks, he could be walking the streets of the same small town. Should people be scared? He was considered not fit for release in 2010, so the last two years he was rehabilitated just enough more than the previous 26?

I'm really facing some strange emotions today. Questions about justice. Is a life worth only 28 years? Reformation and transformation in incarceration. How is someone who grew up in jail supposed to adjust to life on the outside? Two families lost there sons that day, so mostly I'm sad. For my classmate's family. For my classmates that had to experience something so scary and tragic and incomprehensible at such a young age. Sad for the murderers family and the elephant in the room that no one ever talked about. For the people I grew up with who have to relive that moment all over again.

Yes, I'm feeling sad for me too. Less than two months earlier I had had to deal with death for the first time. My mother had died. So within a span of two months I learned death was not always natural, death was not for the old. Death was something that could not only change my family and my life, but at 9 years old, I learned death could come for me.

That period in my life has had more effect on me I'm sure I will ever consciously be aware. My roller coaster of emotions I'm sure will continue for a few days as I process and remember. I'm still sad, but today to I say my prayers, for my classmate, for his family, for his murderer's family, for my community, and yes for the murderer, too. A prayer for those left behind to deal with death. A prayer for the living.







Thursday, April 5, 2012

When Animal Totems Appear: Working with the Cougar

So, I continue processing the work I did with T. Thorn Coyle at the Self-Possession: Activating the "I AM" workshop she taught in DC the weekend before last. Needless to say working with these energies has been very powerful and the changes are real and immediate and sure to be ongoing for a long time.

During one working, we were given the opportunity to ask for information and guidance. So, I closed my eyes and and asked. The face of the cougar appeared before me. This happens to me a lot. Animal totems appear to give me information I need when I need it--both in meditation and the real world. And I must say, I prefer when animals like wild cats, tigers, and cobras appear in meditation because otherwise it would be a little strange and probably dangerous.

I have my personal totems that are with me all the time, but when a new animal appears, I pay attention. I meditate. I do my research. The cougar was reinforcing a message and bringing it home. I know what I need to do--my spiritual guides on this plane and the others have made it quite clear for some time. I've mentioned previously that I always have a problem with the "how" in both my mundane and magickal lives. Now, the cougar has appeared to show me how.

“If a cougar shows up in your life, it is time to learn about power. Test your own. Most young cougars learn how to use their power through trial and error. It strengthens them and hones their skills. When a cougar shows up as totem, much of the trial has been worked through. Now it is time to assert.
"People may not like your asserting. They may try and keep you in the category they have always kept you. You can choose to remain so, or you can stretch your muscles and show your capabilities. Those with the cougar medicine fall easily under attack, especially by those who have grown comfortable with the status quo and do not wish to truly see you grow. Remember that there will always be some who will not wish to see you come into your own power or will ever acknowledge that you have. If cougar has shown up, there is a choice to be made, and it should be made quickly and strongly. A cougar leaps at its opportunities."
--“Cougar” entry from Ted Andrews’ Animal Speak

I can see I've been through trials lately and I've also seen the resistance of others. They say encouraging words, but there back-handed comments and actions say other wise. But the cougar can show me how to deal with those too.

I also find it extremely interesting that my birth totem, the deer, is on the top of the cougar’s list of prey. This explains why exerting personal power is so difficult and terrifying for me. I’m so afraid I’m going to lose myself and everything I have. I am positive that when I step up and out, my shell will not only crack, I believe it will shatter into a gazillion pieces--flying far and wide. I also do not equate my actions of assertiveness as me being in my power, but of me just being a bitch or an asshole in a situation. Assertion is something I definitely need to learn, because a deer is really good at camouflage, its ability to blend into the tree line is its greatest defense mechanism. I hide behind my perceptions of how others will view me. Yes, I did say MY perceptions of how others will view me. I will own that. It’s totally mine. However powerful that lesson is, the true lesson is in how I integrate my powerful Cougar with my lively, gentle deer without harm to others and to my self.
“The deer is the cougar’s favorite prey…One of the qualities embodied by the deer is gentleness. For those with the cougar totem, remember that power can be asserted gently. There is strength and power in gentleness. It is also a reminder that there are times to be gentle and there are times to assert your power forcefully. This is part of what the cougar teaches.”

The second favorite prey of the cougar is also interesting. The porcupine, with all its quills.
“The cougar is one of the few animals that is capable of killing a porcupine without harm to itself… The cougar has developed the ability to flip the porcupine upon its back, exposing it vulnerable underside.” That’s powerful. I definitely can see people’s vulnerabilities and I currently do everything in my power to excuse and compensate for others--which doesn't do either one of us any good, and is more often to the detriment of my self. This about me not being harmed by others as I step into my power, and if I have to use their vulnerabilities to protect myself and my power before others can shoot their quills, then that's what I have to do. I'm not a megomaniac. I'm not going for world domination--though if it happens, it happens and I will do my best to rule fairly. Seriously, this power is about me and not others. When others make my power about them, that's when I need to defend myself.

Basically, the cougar is telling me, "It is time!" Time for me to stop being afraid of my power. To stop futzing around. To believe I have that power. To step up and be who I'm supposed to be.  The cougar has taught me how.  And I am doing it and it's working.

“The cougar teaches decisiveness in the use of personal power. When it attacks, it does not hesitate. When threatened, it goes for the most vulnerable place. The cougar can teach you how to bring your power and fill your heart with it in a manner that will enable you to take charge of your life. You will find you can use it to defend yourself or to attack—with equal effectiveness. Cougar teaches you how to take charge of your life and your circumstances most effectively.”


Okay. I can handle that! And if you can't, best you git out my way!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Kites: Celebrating the Power of Air

So this weekend, my family came to DC to see the cherry blossoms. As part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival there is also the Blossom Kite Festival. Being an air person, I was in total awe. It was so beautiful.

We first saw some of the kites as we sat on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, my favorite memorial in DC, after walking under the cherry trees where the blossoms should have been, except for the fact that they bloomed early and we've had heavy winds this last week that blew them away. Oh, Air!!! Of course, only in DC would we have two concurrent festivals that celebrate Spring and the season of Air. One that celebrates you and one that celebrates something so delicate as to be destroyed by you.


Anyway, as we walked back from the tidal basin we could see more and more kites around the monument. As you got closer, they were everywhere along the mall. Some flying as high the top of the Washington Monument--55 stories up--some larger than a tractor trailer truck.


Hundreds of people were flying kites. From kite enthusiasts and competitors with trick kites doing fancy flying to parents teaching their kids how to fly a kite.

The kites came in all shapes and sizes--from bats, pterodactyls, and Angry Birds to flowers and leaves--in all the colors of the rainbow. Filling the sky with color and movement.
 
It was spectacular. I not only wanted to fly a kite, I kind of wanted to be a kite. So I'm just going to let the air carry me for a while. Let myself dip and soar and swirl, then maybe just float for a while, showing off my brilliant colors.