Saturday, March 28, 2015

Burn Out, Everyone Gets it

As of late, well, actually for the last nine or so months, things have felt. . . Off.  They have gotten progressively worse for me internally and that has manifested in various way injecting a great deal of chaos into my life.  The weekend of Ostara, I realized that I was experiencing burnout.  Now, I'm not talking about 'run-of-the-mill-x-y-and-z-have-to-change-in-my-life' burnout.  I'm talking 'screw-responsibility-quit-everything-and-be-a-gypsy' burnout.  I was literally so tired of being sick and tired that I was ready to sell what I could, give away what I couldn't sell, and hit the road to wherever.

However, there was this little niggling voice seated somewhere around my heart.  It said, "Yes, you could sell everything you own and see where life takes you, but what then?  Haven't you been searching for stability and a place to put down your roots? Haven't you been looking for a family and a community?  Instead of throwing a tantrum, what do you really want to do?"

Of course, my response to that little voice was, "Shut up Little Voice!  I want to see things I haven't seen before.  I want spend the next year of my life not doing what is expected of me!"

With a laugh, it responded, "Of course you do, but instead of taking the road you already know is going to be fraught with obstacles and pain, why don't you really sit down and think about what you want and what you need.  So, what is it that you want?"

"Okay," I respond, honestly a bit sullenly, but there might be a bit of hope growing as I speak this truth to the Universe. "I want a good, safe place.  I want to not have other people so dependent upon me.  I want to not worry too much about other people.  I want a lovely place to be able to take my computer to write.  I want to finally have something of my own published this year, not just put essays into anthologies and watch other people make money off of my time and effort."

This conversation with myself hasn't stopped the burnout.  It hasn't stopped me from getting up every morning dreading the day because 'I have to do it'.  What it has done, though, is given me something else to think about, contemplate, and focus on.  I recognize that I give too much.  I recognize that I rarely turn people down when they need me.  I recognize that I need 'me' time that doesn't involve other people and four walls just as much as I recognize that I need 'me' time that does involve other people and some much needed shenanigans.

Another thing I recognize is that I allow others to tell me one thing and do another.  As my burnout has increased, that has become a source of great irritation.  Why do I go out of my way to do for others and not expect to be treated the same way?  Isn't that what friends do for each other?  Don't they go out of the way to be there for each other because they care?  So, does it mean that you only care when other things don't get in the way?  Do you only care when I am saying and doing things that you find emotionally and spiritually palatable? What about those other times?  What about the times I'm spinning out of control and don't realize it yet?  When I'm 'not myself' is it too much for you to handle so you back away slowly?  Or, are you just self-absorbed and you are so glad to see me so you can tell me how your life has been?  I'm pretty sure that's some form of narcissism.

Then again, I've been told repeatedly, "Expectations lead to disappointment."  Really?  No shit.  It's really fucking disappointing to hear how much I am loved by someone, but only to be acknowledged when they need me, but when I need them, nothing.  It's really fucking disappointing to be told that I should keep giving to someone who constantly takes from me because I'm going to get my return from someone else.  No.  I treat people how I expect and deserve to be treated.  If you are such an arrogant dick that you think you can treat me however you feel like, then you don't deserve to have me in your life. Maybe this makes me an arrogant bitch, to think that I deserve to be treated with respect, but you know what?  I am worth just that.

The last several months have shown me just who my friends are.  I have been surprised again and again by the fact that those I expect to be able to count on are too busy, so there are others who are standing in their place, genuinely ready help me when I need it.  At first, I was mad that the people I wanted to be there weren't.  Then, I realized that the people who were there were worth their weight in gold for their love and loyalty.  Every time I reach out to any of them, there they are, taking my hand and holding it, if need be.

So, I'm still burned the fuck out.  As of a week ago, I consider myself to be on a sabbatical.  I am going to focus on myself and on my wants and needs for a while.  That said, I do have some obligations this year, including some workshops and rituals, that I will still be doing.  It is less a case of my doing a disappearing trick and more a case of my being very selective about what activities I do participate in or facilitate.  I may shift gears from facilitation to simply writing the material and handing it off to another to facilitate.  I may choose to be a participant instead of a planner.

I am not sure what this year is going to hold for me, but I do know that it is going to put me back at equilibrium.  There will be solitude and shenanigans.  There will be happiness and sadness.  There will be joy.  I will come back to center and be all the better for it.

Brightest blessings, Friends!!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Die and Be Reborn Again: Suicide in the Longest Winter

I'd like to preface this blog by giving you all this message:

Today, my soul is laid bare.  I am in a comfortable place writing this, but the exquisite discomfort I feel putting it out here can not be articulated.  I expect hate mail as well as words of comfort.  As a warning for those who might decide to send hate mail, I have no problem whatsoever exposing you as the bully you are for all in internet land. 

That said, I'm not writing this looking for attention.  I'm not writing it looking for sympathy.  I'm writing this for those who may also need it.  I'm writing it because it needs to be said.  I'm writing it because I so rarely open up and share the tattered and mended remains of my heart.  I am writing it because I can.  I am writing it because.

Trigger warning for talk of suicide and other scary, self-inflicted, and abusive things.


I sit here on this beautifully snowy day in the Mid-West.  It's just after 7am and nothing is moving.  No one is out.  There is a white blanket of silence covering everything, muting even the scarce birdsong. As for me, well, I have all of the blinds open and I am taking it all in.  The cat sits in front of the space heater, waiting to pounce as soon as it clicks off.  It's just us, as my partner is at work.  However, I think about the winter past and all of the changes that have happened.  Some of them good, many of them not-so-much, but a lesson learned anyway.

More times than I like to count over the past few months, I found myself cooped up in my house and unwilling to go anywhere aside from my normal weekend errands.  I could not bear the thought of interacting with people.  I could not bear the thought of actually going out in public.  Being forced to go out five days a week to work was just about all of the energy I could muster.  So, I would invite people over.  My thinking was, "If I can't go and be around people, then maybe I can have someone over."  As is my usual luck, that didn't work out, usually.  Ah, well, shit happens, right?


Instead of thinking of it like that, this began a downward spiral for me.  The days grew darker and so did my internal dialogue.  My relationship had been on the rocks.  I didn't seem to have any friends.  I was a days drive from my family.  I was in a strange city with absolutely zero support... aside from myself.  So, for a time, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and marched on determined to will my way through this.

I don't know at what point it was that my will broke, but it did.  It broke and the facade began to crumble.  I looked around, grasped for some kind of hand hold, something solid and found nothing.  So, I did what my pride told me was a stupid thing to do and I started reaching out to people.  (If you are reading this and I didn't reach out to you, don't take it personally.  Few people get to see me vulnerable and broken.)  When that didn't work, I withdrew.  I pretended as best I could that things were okay.  I pretended at work.  I pretended at home.

The darkness crept in.  It enfolded me.  Caressed me with its velvety nothingness.  That's what I began to feel.  Nothing.  Then, those dark and dangerous tendrils made their way to my heart.  That nothingness within me became something.  It became anger.  Rage, really.  Every day became a clench-your-teeth-and-bite-your-tongue kind of day.  It wasn't their fault. (They being anyone who wasn't me at the time.)  They had their own issues.  They had their own problems, triumphs, dramas, whatever that they were dealing with and it was pretty obvious to me that there was no room for my self pity at their table.

Ultimately, I gave in to the darkness, at least a small measure.  I started thinking about how death was preferable to my partner going out of his way to be passive-aggressive toward me.  I started thinking about how death was preferable to having to go to work and pretend to be some vapid consumeristic doormat.  I started thinking about how pushing the reset button would give me five or ten years of ignorant bliss before having to do this all over again.  (Don't you like how I call contemplating suicide 'pushing the reset button'?  I mean, we do believe in reincarnation.)  However, I didn't make a plan, at least not one worthy of writing down.

Instead, I tried reaching out again.  I found someone to talk to, someone who understood the rage.  I found someone who knew, intimately, the path I was walking and, without a question,  helped me limp along, in this darkness.  This person helped me shoulder this burden, the rage, and helped me see the obstacles in front of me for what they were.  This person wasn't afraid to piss me off, but also didn't think twice about handing me a heaping helping of the brutal truth.  Of course, I laughing accepted this truth.  I laughed because it is something I would say to someone else.  It assuaged my rage.  It soothed me because I knew it to be the truth universal and I paused long enough to ask questions.  The tempest with my soul calmed.  I didn't want to kill myself as much any more.  I didn't hate myself as much any more.

At this juncture, I want to stop and assure you all, dear readers, that there won't be any reset button pushing.  I'm not, necessarily, out of the proverbial woods just yet, but the mere act of writing this out, putting my private thoughts into those words is prevention enough.  Those closest to me will be looking for signs now, ready to swoop in and rescue me from myself.  I'm okay.

So, instead of letting the pressure build up again, I resolved to find one thing of beauty a day.  If I could find one beautiful thing, then life had to be worth living.  I only needed one thing.  If I couldn't find it, well, it was lights out for me.  If I laughed, I'd found that beautiful thing.  If I talked to that person who saved me from myself, then I found some hope in the world.  It got easier, by the day, to not succumb to the rage and, instead, look at the lessons within these dark times.  It got easier to draw boundaries and not feel guilty.  It got easier to allow myself to be myself without compromise.

The things I have learned from this whole personal Hellish ordeal are pretty astounding.  One thing I have discovered is that I know just who my friends are.  They were there for me when I really needed them.  Not just that, but as I raged angrily at my gods for this enduring despair, they were the ones who reminded me to open my fucking eyes.  They were the ones who showed me just who I needed and why and I was astounded.  I tend to need the people around me just because.  I don't want them to be anything they aren't, but I also expect them to be truthful with me and to be authentically who they are, warts and all.  I tend to need the people around me because they are people, not because they can give me something.  Well, occasionally I need their compassion and their ear, like I have recently needed, but it has never been something I have demanded from others.

Another thing I have learned is that many people just simply don't know how to take me.  That is part of what is uniquely me, I suppose.  People don't know what to do with me when I am at my worst.  They don't know what to do with me when I am drowning in my own insecurities and self hate.  They also don't know how to speak to me when I am like this.  They don't know how to ask, "Are you okay?" or "Have you really spiraled that far down?" That, though, goes back to being honest with me.  If you are too scared to look at me and say, "I'm not sure what to say right now with you being so *fill in the blank with some behavior or emotion*," then why do you consider yourself to be my friend?  Why do you think that honesty is going to push me away?  If your honesty pushes me away, then I wasn't your friend to begin with.  If my rawness triggers your own insecurities, what aren't you telling me?  If I trust you enough to be a sobbing raw nerve, the only thing I ask in return is for your concern.  If you can't give me that, can you call me your friend?

A third thing I have learned is that sometimes, just sometimes, boundaries need to be set and it needs to be said that there are no more chances to be given for the boundaries to be adhered to.  Basically, don't fuck up again or I will walk.  If you want me to walk, I'm out, but you better think real fucking hard before you say it because you don't get to take it back when it isn't what you want.  Sometimes, giving up is okay.  Sometimes, dropping all of the balls and refusing to play any more is okay.  Sometimes, it's okay to be unconventional.  Sometimes, stepping outside of convention is what is necessary.

The fourth lesson I learned in this is that using the 'positive/down line, negative/up line' system doesn't always work.  There were people I wanted so much to reach out to, but couldn't because they were 'down line' and I didn't want to give them ore than they could handle, or damage them in any way.  Even more than that, there were people up line from me who I didn't feel I could take these things to, either.

As one who is trying to find her leadership niche in the pagan community, I find the up line/down line system to be important, but I'm not so sure what to think after having this experience.  Who the fuck do our clergy go to when they are having troubles?  As one who isn't clergy, who the fuck am I to ask my clergy to put aside their woes because I need them?  Then again, our clergy understand that part of the job description is putting others above self, in service to gods and community.  I think this is pretty fucked up.  Even if I do want to kill myself, it does not trump and it is not more important than something happening in the family of my clergy.  Sorry, I'm not going to reach out to clergy who are divorcing, dealing with the death of a family member, coping with loss of some kind, or in general, having a shitty week or month.  I think that's pretty fucking selfish.

So, my dear readers, if you know someone who seems to be struggling, talk to them.  Even if they tell you they are okay, they may not be.  Even if they tell you they don't want to talk about it, just hang out in silence.  Sometimes, that warm body sitting across the room is what saves a life.  Sometimes, that phone call at daylight saves a life.  Sometimes, just sometimes, that compassionate meme on Facebook prompts a cascade of emotion that breaks up whatever has been dammed up for months or years.  If you are lonely and depressed, reach out to someone you trust.  If you are contemplating suicide, take a moment to look at things from a different perspective and then decide.

In the US, the number to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is: 1-800-273-8255.  You can find their web site here. If you suspect you have a friend or family member who is suicidal, don't ignore that suspicion, but don't be accusatory with them, either.  Be kind and compassionate with them, even if it frustrates you that they won't open up.  Just let them know someone cares.  Let them know by listening if they want to talk.  Let them know by just hanging out.  Be present.

Brightest of blessings, friends.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Practicals: The Element of Fire

After being picked up in the cyclone of the Air Elemental and before that, being welcomed into the womb of the Earth, I can't lie and say that the Elementals don't fascinate me.  I am fairly certain I am hooked on discovering their mysteries.  However, Earth and Air were easy.  The sheer nature of Fire is all consuming and, that being the case, what will it do to me?  The guys are less willing to search after fire, but I suspect that since we have begun this journey, nothing is going to stop it from coming to its conclusion.

So, in much the same way as before, I wait for the guys to be ready for this.  I have been spending my nights alone and in meditation, contemplating the spirits of the two elements.  Tonight I am in my back yard, fire in my fancy DIY fire bowl.  As I add more wood to the bowl, I'm waiting for something but I'm not sure what it is.

As I gaze into the fire, my vision blurs.  The flames meld together in a warm, red dance, contained only by the shadowed edge of the bowl.  I feel myself falling and suddenly I am on the inside of the bowl, the warm edge at my back.  Sitting atop the bundle of fresh wood is a dragon, but it is of the flames.  The dragon looks at me as its tongue snakes slowly out of its mouth.  In a lewd manner, it licks the unburned wood, spreading the flames.  "We consssume everything," it says in a hiss.  

I smile.  "You aren't consuming me," I reply.

The dragon makes a sizzling sound.  I'm pretty certain it is supposed to be a laugh.  "You are consssumed daily by ussss.  Your creativity.  Your convictsssion.  Your need to fuck." Its tongue again slithers out of its mouth in a lewd manner.  "We are the drive for all of your needssss."

I watch the tongue of this flaming dragon rake across the wood toward me.  I refuse to back away from it, knowing that my own refusal is what it needs.  The tongue of the fire-beast trails up my leg, across my belly and up to my chin.  So far, I haven't caught fire. The flame is warm, but not overly so.  It tickles my chin before the dragon pulls back with another sizzling sound.  "We devour your defiancccce.  You have much fire within you."

"I am here to learn your mysteries," I reply, doing my best not to get caught up in this Elemental's lewdness.

"Do you know the ssstory of the Jewisssh brotherssss who were not consssumed by flame?"

Hesitating, I have to think back to Sunday school lessons.  The dragon sizzles again, laughing at my lack of knowledge, just as it all comes back. "Yes!  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!  They were saved from the flames by an angel!"

"No," the dragon replies.  "They knew one of the myssssteriessss of fire.  They knew how to feed the flamessss without being devoured by usssss.  You mussst temper your need with patienccccce.  You musssst temper your passssionssss with peaccccce.  You mussst know when to feed the flamessss and when to let them die.  That is the myssssstery of fire."

The dragon moves toward me, tongue, again, wagging lewdly.  It wraps its tail around my shoulders and pulls me close to its body.  Licking my cheek warmly it whispers, "Only one thing can quell your passssionsss now.  Finissssh what you ssstarted.  Give yourssssself the ssssatisssfaction of completion."

I shake myself and blink several times.  "Did that just happen?"  I ask myself aloud.  The dying fire sizzles and I swear that I near that dragon laughing.  I have now experienced the mystery of Fire.


You know that saying about fire and getting burned and all that?  Well, it's true, if you don't respect and acknowledge fire's nature.  Fire, physically and spiritually is all consuming.  Spiritually speaking, that may not be a bad thing.  Much in the same way that a forest fire consumes all of the dead, dying, and decaying in the forest, it can sweep through ones life and do the same.  Also in the same way a forest fire consumes everything, it clears the way for new growth.  There are seeds out there that can only sprout after they have been consumed by the flames of a forest fire.  This is also true for the seeds in our lives.

As an element, fire is most commonly seated in the southern quarter of the circle.  It represents the height of summer, virility, passion, and growth.  However, fire also governs burnout.  When one is growing and changing, spiritually speaking, one wants to constantly grow, but steady growth is unattainable without rest.  Much like winter is the opposite of summer, one can not keep growing indefinitely without resting.

The Fire element is all about doing.  It is running, leaping, teaching and learning.  It is exploring and needing.  If there is an action for it, fire governs it.  It is the person in the prime of life.  Where Air represents springtime, Fire represents high summer. Fire is potential recognized.  Fire is potential that has dared to take a specific direction.  It is that bud on a tree that he chosen to become a leaf.

Have you ever journeyed to speak to the Fire Drakes?  Or maybe the People of the Flame?  Have you ever explored that fire low in your belly?  What about one that sits in the head?  We live in such a dynamic world, with electronics and play dates for the kids, that sometimes we forget to acknowledge that it is fire that keeps us going.  Does this sound like an imbalance?  Maybe.  What does an imbalance of fire look like?

Would apathy be a lack of fire?  Or maybe too much?  What about that person who approaches a subject with zeal?  Would you classify zealots as having too much fire?  What about that overly sexual person?  Is it just low self esteem, too much fire, or both?  Would a need for acceptance be associated with fire?  What about that control freak we all know (or maybe are)?

How does one fix an imbalance?  Well, for too much fire, I do my best to be creative.  If I can get the fire to burn brightly enough that it burns itself out, then I have accomplished something, at least for a time.  If I need more fire, I move and do something a little more dynamic than just sitting.  I cook spicy food.  I sing until I am hoarse.  Go out in nature and ground myself.

Fire can be a fun element to work with.  It can also be exhausting.  Kurt Cobain said, "It's better to burn out than to fade away."  But, is it?  How do you balance your fire?

Brightest blessings friends!!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Practicals: The Element of Air

I’d been home alone for several days when one of the guys from the cave expedition called.  “Hey, we are heading out tomorrow to find the next elemental.  You in?”

“Of course,” I reply, not sure if I wanted to be in our not, but I was not going to miss a weird thing happening.

We started out before daylight and we drove.  We drove east and hurried the sun’s daily birth along at 70 miles per hour.  Then, the clouds came.  They were black and ominous, completely blacking out the horizon and the morning sun.

We turned down a dirt road and got out of the vehicle.  The clouds were thick and rolling, but didn’t seem to hold any water.  There was only wind.  Dust kicked up from the road.  Debris was dancing across the ground.  Our vehicle rocked gently.

Then, a funnel dipped toward us.

Before we could react, we were pulled off of our feet and into the air.  The being that met us looked so alien.  Its head and tail (it had no legs) swirled like the funnel and its arms, with its exaggerated hands and fingers, looked like lengths of twisted rope.

We all hung in mid-air, not really still, but not being violently thrown around, either.  “You have no fear.  Why?” It asked.

Its voice was like the whisper of butterfly wings.  It was there, but gentle.  We all looked at each other, confounded, until I spoke.  “We seek to know your mysteries.”

The being’s laugh was that gentle breeze that catches your hair and makes it tickle your face. “You can not hope to know all of my mysteries,” it replied, “however, since I have already introduced you to flight, I will also introduce you to whimsy.”

With that, we began tumbling within the whirlwind.  We went up.  We went down. We circled each other in an ecstatic dance none of us were in control of.  Only when we were all laughing hysterically with joy did the being put us down.

We landed on the grass of the ditch bank on our rumps.  Our sides hurt.  Our cheeks hurt.  We were all out of breath.  I was the first to look up.  The sky was no longer black.  There were no clouds.  That show, I think, was just for us.

Then, a brightly colored butterfly fluttered toward me and landed on my forehead. 

The Air element is, like the others, a mystery to know.  Air is something we know quite intimately, having to breathe it and all, but it is also something we can not see.  Air can skew our perception.  It can clear our vision.  It can build walls between us.  In much the same way the other elements have their constructive and destructive attributes, Air can help create or destroy.

Air represents thought and intellect, mirroring beautifully the physicality of thought as something real but intangible.  It coincides quite gracefully with that which is logical, intellectual, and devoid of emotion.  Yet, if we did not have the Air element, there would be no laughter, no breath, indeed, no life at all (as we know it!) 

When working with the element of Air, it is so important to remember that Air is not all work and no play.  The eastern element is a place of beginnings, so it also corresponds with childhood. 

Have you ever watched children play?  They play with abandon.  They don’t need a reason to laugh.  They don’t need a reason to love or to include anyone in their play time.  Children embody much of the good of the air element.  They think, but they don’t over think.

Over thinking is one of the destructive forces of the Air element.  It’s how we talk ourselves out of things.  It’s how we become convinced that a good idea really isn’t a good idea at all.  Over thinking anything is a sign of too much air.

If the Earth element represents the winter time, then the Air element represents spring.  Much like physical air, springtime is full of potential energy.  Not every bud on a tree becomes a leaf.  Not every bud on a tulip becomes a flower however these things do have that potential.  In much the same way, the sweet, warm breeze can become a tornado.

Have you ever spoken to the Tulip People?  What about any of the other spring flowers?  Have you spoken to the Robin?  Maybe the Earthworm?  All of these spirits can give you exceptional insight into spring as a beginning.  Remember, though, etiquette is different for them than it is with humans.

So, then, what happens when the Air element gets out of balance?  Well, too much air can lead to a lack of emotions.  We all know that one person who is like a Vulcan.  That’s a good example of too much air.  Something we don’t think about, though, is that too much air can also lead to not being too fun to be around.  Whimsy, like the flight of a hummingbird, is also governed by the air element.

What would a lack of air look like, then?  Maybe too much emotion?  Melodrama?  Excitement or depression?  Maybe a lack of air would look like one is being illogical and unreasonable.  We all know that person, too, that free spirit who simply floats along following the whims of the universe.

To balance Air, one must decide if there is an abundance or a lack of.  Some activities I like to do to balance out my own Air are coloring, drawing, playing games, walking, reading something light-hearted, and even being around children, such as at a park.  I also like to swing on a swing set or porch swing.  For me, activities that get me out of my own head are perfect.

Of course, if one doesn’t have enough Air, then activities like putting together a puzzle, reading something ‘heavy’ but interesting, like an instruction or reference booklet on a topic of interest are both good ways to step back into ones head or get ‘out of the clouds’.

With Imbolc coming soon and spring following soon thereafter, the perfect time to explore the air element is upon us!  If you have suggestions for Air activities, please, feel free to comment.  There can never be too many different ways to commune with the Elementals.

Brightest Blessings, Friends!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Practicals: The Element of Earth

Since there are plenty of books out there with correspondences for each element, and other such ways to work with it, so I won't be doing any lists, but I will be talking about methods I use to work with the Elements, what I have found works and what I have found doesn't work.  This will be a place of discussion about these ideas and, even, why they do or do not work.

Once we get through the elements, if there are other aspects of the Craft that you want or need working information on, don't hesitate to ask.  If I don't know, I can find someone who does.

And we walked for hours, finally arriving at the mouth of a cave.  Rivulets of sweat race down my brow from both exertion and fear.  The darkened maw beckons us into the unknown.  We arrive.  There is an electricity in the air, something prodding us all forward.  With a collective breath fortifying us, we face our fears of darkness and closed spaces; crossing the threshold. Into the womb of the Mother.  Into the place of our ancestors.  Someone flicks on their flashlight.  The cave gobbles up both the click of the on-switch and the feeble beam of light.  For a moment we stop, gazing at this cavern, its dimensions so massive our LED 's look like penlights in a closet.  Then, I notice the cold.  It seeping in nearly unnoticed, wrapping its heavy tendrils around my legs, waist, arms.  Its caress like a familiar lover, whispering in my ear, lulling me.  That is when we hear the voice beckoning us into the darkness.

Our lights drift toward the sound and we walk, as a group, closer.  It is like hearing the trees speak or the robin's song, the promise of spring.  We don't understand the words, but some part of us knows them.  After several steps, she appears at the edge of our light beams.  She is round and soft-looking, like the Willendorf statue and sits upon a throne of worn stalagmites.  We stand in shock, disbelieving what we are seeing.  "You come to this place seeking me and you are surprised to find me?"  Her eyes glitter with mirth.  "Come.  Sit.  Be.  I shall tell you a story."

The Earth element is a place of both beginnings and endings.  I decided to begin here for several reasons, but mostly because it is where we begin casting the circle within my tradition.  The Earth element is heavy, like the soil, the rocks, the trees.  It grounds us.  It takes from us that energy which we have too much of.  Have you ever been upset, angry, or exceptionally excited and felt the unexplainable need to work in the garden or walk among the trees?  That is the Earth element calling and offering comfort.

Earth is stable and rigid.  Unlike the, often, whimsical nature of air or the fluid nature of water, earth stands, much like the guardian, never choosing to move on its own.  What can earth teach us, if it is rigid and stable?  Earth teaches us about foundations, to begin with.  It teaches us that rigidity is needed in some instances.  It teaches us that, like the mountains, sometimes we simply need to be.  Have you ever spoken to the Stone People or the Tree People?  If you haven't, this would be a good place to begin.  I warn you, it is a very foreign encounter.  Their etiquette is different and their views are different, so be kind and humble and do not rush.

Being a dark place, settled in the North within the circle, Earth also teaches us that sometimes things must lay fallow and in the darkness for them to grow.  It reminds us that birth begins in the dark and death ends there.  Earth reminds us that as we go through the cycle of birth, life, and death within our lives, we must always come back to that place of rest.

Each turn of the Wheel of the Year brings us back to Samhain, translating to "summer's end."  Samhain marks the time when all crops should be out of the fields and in the store houses for winter.  Samhain is, elementally speaking, when the Wheel turns back to North and we stay there for a quarter of the year, until Imbolc, which turns us toward the Air element.

Despite all of the good the Earth Element does when it is in balance, we must also talk about the Earth Element becoming out of balance, because it can and does happen.  When we think of "bad" things with the literal Earth, our planet, what comes to mind?  Earthquakes?  Quicksand? Liquefaction?  Mudslides?  Erosion?

What would be the spiritual equivalent?  Maybe inflexibility or procrastination?  What about retreating or hibernating?  What about simply not thinking about how your actions will effect others? Could that be the spiritual equivalent of an earthquake or quicksand?

If those traits are too much Earth, what constitutes a lack of it?  Well, having too much of any of the other three elements.  Maybe a person is flighty and unreliable?  What if they are a control freak?  What about impracticality? Being emotional? Judgmental?  Quick to act?  What Earth qualities can balance those things?  Slowing down? Taking a moment to just be?  Putting ones self into another's shoes?

We all get too much of an element from time to time, so what can we do to balance that out?  Well, some things we can do to get us less grounded, especially if we feel as though we are sinking into the darkness are: go for a walk, draw, write, build something, or simply get moving!  These particular activities call upon the elements of Fire and Water to balance the heaviness of Earth.  Talking to a friend on the phone or having someone come over are other ways to correct an immediate Earth imbalance.  Find something whimsical to do, like draw on the sidewalk with chalk or find a reason to use glitter (there's ALWAYS something that can be glittered!!)  Even something as simple as redecorating your altar can become an exercise in balancing your elements.

If the problem is needing to be more grounded, then garden, walk barefoot on the grass, hug a tree, go to a park and take a blanket and just lay on it and read.  Just stepping outside and taking a few minutes to listen and watch the world around you can bring you back down and ground you.  Cooking is also a grounding activity for me.  Something else that I find relaxing and fun is to pretend to be a cat.  Have a nibble to eat (maybe treat yourself!) a sip of water, and find a soft, warm place to rest, preferably in a shaft of sunlight.  Then, just do that for 15 minutes without worrying about anything else.  Know that all is right with the world for that moment.

Finding ways to identify the Elements and identify with the Elements can be a fun activity.  Self examination through the Quarters is also a very good way to begin to Know Thyself.  What do you do to ground yourself?  How do you identify with the Earth Element?  How do you keep yourself in balance?  As always, I would love to hear your experience!

Brightest blessings, Friends!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The What's, When's, and Why's of Letting Go

This week I was a little stumped as to what to write about.  For me, one of the things I am focusing on this year is sitting down to write, at least once a week.  Sometimes the words flow easily and I sit for an hour or two.  Other times, the words don't come, but I persevere and struggle with my Muse for two hours or more.  I have decided that, when I get stumped, I'm going to ask for help, which is how we got here.  (I also got a request for writing about some astrological stuff going on and I'm going to write about that, too, after a little research!)

We have all heard the Christian saying, "Let go and let God," but what does that really mean and is it relevant to pagans?  I believe it is.  First, what is letting go?  Is it giving up?  Is it moving past? Is it no longer trying to control something or a situation?  Is it acceptance?  Is it a state of mind or is there a physical sensation that goes along with it?

Pick up the nearest object to you and hold it in your hand, be it a writing utensil, a stick of incense, a piece of change.  Feel that thing in your hand.  Note its weight, texture, temperature, and any other physical attributes that it may have.  Now, turn your palm sideways and let it go.  Let it drop to the ground.  Did you feel that?  If not, pick the object up and do it again, let it go.  Notice the sensation in your hand as you open it.  There is a physical sensation that goes with letting go.

I was privileged enough to watch a very wise man talk about letting go once.  Gary did that exact exercise and dropped a quarter on the table.  It took me dropping many quarters to understand that physical sensation, but it is there.  As I have matured, I have come to know letting go as a form of acceptance.

I don't see letting go as giving up or moving past.  I understand letting go as seeing through illusions that are cast and seeing the outcome for what it is and being okay with it, whether or not my Ego likes it.  A good example is looking at a friend who consistently makes the wrong decision, despite counsel to make the right one.  At what point do I, as their friend, put my hands in the air and let them go?  Because we are friends, is it fair to me to get sucked into their crazy?  Because we are friends, am I obligated to harass them into being sensible?  Because we are friends, I don't like their decision, but they are an adult and they do have free will, so I let them go.  I accept that they need (for whatever reason) these lessons.  I accept that some part of them wants this insanity, so I stop wasting energy on them.

Maybe that's really what letting go is, the conscious decision to stop wasting energy on a person or a situation and doing so without judgment.

So, when is a good time to let go?  Obviously, that depends upon the person.  We all have different thresholds and levels for what we will put up with.  We all react differently to different situations.  The biggest difference between letting go and other forms of severing ties is the peace that surrounds letting go (at least for me it is!!)  When I let someone or thing go, it is when I have made peace with it.  That's when I know it is time.  I look at that person or thing, at their actions and reactions, and I can look at the pattern and see what lies ahead for that person, good or bad.  When I see someone hanging on to the bad, being petty and childish, going out of their way to provoke, then I know without a doubt, it's time to part ways.  When I see a person ignoring the advice they asked for (or doing the opposite), then I know it's time to let go.

Timing is always the most difficult, however, I judge it by whether or not I can say to that person, "Go in peace and love and may you reap whatever it is that you sew."  If I can say that sincerely and with love in my heart, then I have let them go.  If I say it with any negativity attached, I still have issues with it that I need to work on.

Why do we let people go?  Why do we let situations and circumstances go?  Why am I advocating letting shit go?  The short answer is: We move past that which no longer serves us.

What happens if we hang on to things?  We all know what happens.  It consumes us, much in the same way the spark from a camp fire can consume an entire forest.  "Proving" we are right, more, better, etc. is exhausting.  It lowers our vibration and we become skewed.  Our purpose on this earth becomes twisted.  Witch wars happen.  Witch wars can only happen when two people or groups of people are being petty assholes.  When one person our group bows out and decides to take the high road and not acknowledge the pettiness of the other (or alternately, laughs at the negativity thrown at them) and doesn't let it effect them, then that is letting go.  Why wouldn't we, as magical practitioners, want to let go of the negative in our lives?

So, is letting go difficult?  You're damn straight it is!  Are we, as people and groups, better for it when we do let go?  Absolutely!  So, if we are such highly spiritual beings, why is it so hard to let go?  Why is it so difficult to open that hand and leave whatever it is to the Gods?  Who wants to try that with me this year?  Just.... Let it go.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Dangers of Sitting in Judgment (or Have a (Blind)Side of Karma Courtesy of the Gods)

Here's a scenario we can all identify with:  A person does or says something you don't like.  (Maybe they said your idea was stupid or that your outfit was dated or too tight.)  That person then goes on as though he or she did nothing wrong.  You, not liking what was said or done, think about that 'slight' every time you see that person.  Then, you nitpick his or her every move for months.  You stop talking to them.  You go out of your way to make him or her feel uncomfortable or stumble.  You intentionally stir up trouble for that person weeks or months after the initial 'slight'.  You hold on to your anger and righteous indignation declaring it to any who would listen because that person is a 'bad' person.  Half a year later, you still sit upon your Throne of Judgment because you didn't get what you want.  Eighteen months later, you still look for ways to dig at that person.  In five years, you can't even remember why you don't like that person, but you are certain that he or she is evil and everyone should avoid them at all costs.

We have all been there.  None of us sit in a place of pure love all of the time (and if you say that you do, then you are also a liar).  We all sit in judgment of another, whether or not it is the right thing to do (and the Ego always says it is right and justified).  When we do that and, especially, when we allow revenge, pain, or stirring trouble against that person to consume us, we have climbed upon our Throne of Judgment.  What our Ego doesn't tell us is that Throne of Judgment is flimsy.  It isn't sturdy.  It falls apart easily.  It is constructed full of holes and rotting wood.  Maybe a leg is missing.  We look at this Throne through the eyes of the Ego and this wobbly, rotting, bit of wood and glue becomes this glorious oaken seat with velvet cushions, gold-capped nail-heads, a fur wrap for those drafty days, and a matching velvet-topped ottoman to rest your righteous feet.

The problem with sitting in judgment (and the danger of it) is that the other person may not even realize you are still angry at them.  If that person has moved on then your anger is wasted emotion.  If that person has walked on up the path they walk, then the boulders you call yourself throwing may only be pebbles to them.  If that person has no feelings of ill toward you, then what you see as stumbling blocks, they crawl on top of to get a better view of what lies ahead.  Your judgment isn't causing that person any pain, resentment, or other negative emotion because they are beyond your realm of influence.  You are only fighting with yourself when you hang on to the 'slight'.

Another problem with sitting in judgment is that, ultimately, the self righteous hanging on and self-justification of all of those negative emotions creates an imbalance within the spiritual self.  If the Ego is in the driver's seat, then the Higher Self can not be accessed as readily.  Well, what does the Universe do when there is an imbalance?  Yep! It seeks to create balance.  If there is a huge amount of Ego, then the cure is humility. So smash, bang, crack, pow! Some part of your life gets banged up a bit.  Maybe that part is your job or your finances or maybe that part is the disintegration of another friendship or maybe your spouse cheats on you.  The karmic repercussions don't necessarily happen in the same area of your life.  Balance is balance.

So, if 'bad things' are happening in one area of you life as you sit upon your Throne of Judgment, it isn't the other person throwing bad juju at you, it's your own accumulation of bad juju as you sit upon your Throne.  Having constant headaches?  Your third eye or crown chakras are likely clogged or closed shutting off the flow of energy and severing your connection to your Higher Self.  Feeling tired all of the time and having low energy?  That's from constantly searching energetically for the 'bad things' that other person is 'focusing' upon you.  Another word for that is paranoia.  Want to go crazy quickly as a magical person?  It is very, very easy to do that when one walks between the worlds and is in constant contact with the energies around us.  The Ego can filter anything in a way to make you think someone is out to get you.

Unfortunately, the Universe does not revolve around any of us as single entities.  So, your judgment of another is your own.  The price you are willing to pay for 'being right' is your own.  However, as you sit upon your Throne, do not blame others for the karmic debt you incur.  When that Throne finally collapses into a heap, do not point fingers.  When the illusions are finally disbursed and you can see clearly the unfiltered situation, remember that cause always leads to effect and that what we put out always comes back to us.  Magical people tend to quote that, but then forget it when they want revenge.  They tend to forget it when they get butthurt and want to hurt another back.  For Wiccans, the last few lines of the Rede is good to remember:

Mind the Three-fold Laws you should three times bad and three times good.
When misfortune is enow wear the star upon your brow. 
Be true in love this you must do unless your love is false to you. 
These Eight words the Rede fulfill: 
"An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will"

For those not Wiccan, the Universal Law of Cause and Effect will do:

"Every Cause has its Effect; every Effect has its Cause; everything happens according to Law; Chance is but a name for Law not recognized; there are many planes of causation, but nothing escapes the Law." — The Kybalion.

Or maybe the Law of Polarities:

"Everything is Dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled." — The Kybalion.

No matter what, there are certain universal truths out there, laws that must be followed.  When we sit in judgment, others judge us and that is not something we want.  We yell 'live and let live' but then do not.  When does it end, the cycle of judging?  When is it okay simply to let it go?  When is it okay just just let someone else be right, even when they are wrong?  That's my personal choice.  Hell, their being 'right' doesn't hurt me in any way and they will be the ones to have to deal with the karma of it.  I do not have to love or hate them for their blindness.  I just have to keep walking my own path.  Their being 'right' has no bearing on my purpose in life, even if they are sitting in direct judgment of me.

Brightest of blessings, friends!!