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.