Sunday, July 20, 2014

On Being: Being Right, Being Wrong, Simply Being

"It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we're alive--to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are" Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.

It is a rarity that I begin any writing with the words of another.  However, this quote describes something I have been struggling with recently in the people around me, this need to have a facade and to wear masks denoting exactly what kind of person someone else (a parent figure, friend, enemy, society?) determines one should be.  I tend to surround myself with people who have broken that particular mold and have chosen to be their own person.  I surround myself with people who have taken a pretty honest look at themselves and determined that the limits others have put upon them are not sufficient.  They have chosen to follow the axiom at the Oracle of Delphi, "Know Thyself."

In surrounding myself with those who have recognized and chosen to shed as many of their own masks as possible, I have come to see, very clearly, when others choose to wear a specific mask or another.  In some instances, I accept these masks as who a person really believes him- or herself to be.  It is simply easier to allow that person to live in the tiny box of limitation he or she has built.  For those around me who tend toward this, they end up being acquaintances.  I do this, not because there is something 'wrong' with them or they are 'bad' people, but because people who live with self-imposed limits tend to project them upon others.  Those with self-imposed limits often can not comprehend why I would take the 'risks' I take and then, good or bad outcome, do my best to accept the consequences of my own actions.

I see those who need to be needed, the "yes-men" of this world.  I deeply admire these people for trying to be all things to all people, but I also understand that if one keeps adding balls to juggle, eventually everything gets dropped.  I see these people run on empty for months or even years and then something tragic happens, an accident, a grave illness, or worse.  Once that happens, these people are left with little to nothing to sustain them.  Their world shatters to pieces, that box they have lived in and been so comfortable in for so long is suddenly gone.  Maybe this person is lucky enough to have people to help them, but often they don't.  The people they so generously gave so much time and energy to simply disappear.

Then, I see those who fall into the media trap.  They want so desperately to be 'normal' that they will do nearly anything to have that appearance.  We live in a culture where women are supposed to be sexy or a mother and if she's both, all the better!  I reject what the media tells me about how I should present myself.  My hair is long because I don't like it short.  My fingernails are long because I like a good, hard scratch on that mosquito bite.  Yet, I do not exude femininity. (At least, I don't think I do.)  My fingernails are often dirty in the summer.  My long hair is pulled back in a ponytail or a bun.  I say "Fuck". A lot!  

I often see people in my life who hide behind masks.  I see these masks and then I see the person behind the mask and I see the potential he or she has and refuses to acknowledge.  When I see these things in spiritual people, I often wonder if this person is really spiritual or if this person has taken on another label that society has told them they must take on.  Any spiritual path walked with curiosity, bravery, and honesty is the 'right' spiritual path.  It is walked so that we, as the spiritual beings we are, can grow beyond our mortal trappings.  It is walked so that we can look back at our own experiences and our own brokenness and nod confidently at those horrible things, recognizing that they were things that happened to us, they are not us.  It is walked so that we may recognize that same brokenness in others and help them if they so choose.  

Just because one person is not open to the messages I have to give them does not mean they are not open to the messages another has.  I recognize this and I have no problem in taking care of myself and moving forward.  I have been told that this makes me a 'bad person' because I will not invest time and energy in someone who, very obviously, has no interest in what I have to say.  I have been told that my reticence to try and save everyone makes me a poor leader.  Maybe these things are true.  Maybe I recognize that not everyone can be saved.  Maybe I recognize that some individuals can't be saved by anyone but him-or herself.  Once that happens, then people like me can help the individual pick up the pieces and either discard them or put them back in the proper order.  This is something I have come to realize and to recognize in my dealings with people.

In the same vein, I have been told that I am not approachable and that all leaders should be approachable.  I, mostly, reject that notion.  I do not appear approachable to those who would keep their own illusions.  I do not appear approachable to those who fear change.  I do not appear approachable to those who are satisfied with the status quo.  Typically, I appear unapproachable because I show no fear.  I walk through this world confident within myself and my choices.  It doesn't mean I am not scared.  It doesn't mean I won't fight change tooth and nail.  It simply means I do not show my fears to others.  That lack of fear within me is often misinterpreted as arrogance by those unable or unwilling to see past my own mask.  While I don't, necessarily, like that misinterpretation, I understand that we all view other people through our own filters, so it is more a reflection of the other person than it is of me.

Those to whom I am approachable are usually those not scared of life, or who no longer want to be scared of life.  A good example of this is my sweet, little Christian friend at work.  She is this lovely lady, full of passion and conviction for her chosen path, without being overbearing and pushy about it.  Life terrifies her.  She is scared to do a great many things.  She is scared to think a great many things.  The threat of Hell keeps her 'in line', but she has a burning need to experience more than she has.  Despite our vast differences (and they are vast), we get along like peas and carrots.  We share, quite openly, our spiritual and life experiences and how they have made us a better person.  She knows that, despite our different spiritual paths, we have come to many of the same conclusions and that she can say most anything to me.  She admires my fearless attitude about most things (except that I don't have a fear of Hell and that puzzles her greatly).  Just as I admire her deep passion for what little she has experienced, I also encourage her to get out and experience more.  She, obviously, doesn't want to be scared of life any more.  Something deep within her knows that there is more to life than just what she has experienced thus far.  Even through her fears, she looks forward and tries to do things that scare her.  I greatly admire that.  That is fearlessness.

I look at this amazing world and all of the amazing people within it.  I recognize that it takes all kinds.  We all have our dysfunctions, our weaknesses, our faults.  Sometimes we are right.  Sometimes we are wrong.  Sometimes we are both and neither at the same time.  I look at those around me and I look to those around me.  I see those who struggle to make the changes they know they need and I do what I can to encourage them.  I do what I can to listen, if they want to talk or whine or cry.  Everyone needs a little push in the right direction, on occasion.  I look at those who don't seem to want that push, or don't know how to ask for it, and I mourn them.  My heart breaks for what I know they can achieve.  My soul cries out for the mortal injustice that our culture has imposed upon this unique spirit.  Yet, I also know that unsolicited advice is often met with scorn, so I send up a thought or two in the hopes that this limitless being will one day see what I see in them.  My eternal hope is that the spirit within does not allow itself to wither away behind a facade of cultural and societal expectations and limitations.

Namaste, friends, the spirit within me honors the spirit within you.  Until next time.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Plants and the Joys They Bring

Greetings dearest readers!  It has been a good, long while!  Life has happened since my last blog (and I'll be posting something later about it), but for this moment, I want to relate to you an adventure I had this morning.  Since moving to my new place (I have moved twice since June 6), I have found myself being surrounded by plants that I couldn't have before, because I was in an apartment.

Today's sojourn began about 0740 this morning with me (not paying attention to the time) and heading out to the Farmer's Market.  My intention was to buy some good, local produce and some good, local honey (Bonne Femme has lovely honey).  So, I wound my way through the deserted streets of the city to the ATM for cash (a whole 4 blocks!!) and then back to the Market that doesn't open until 0800.  Still I wasn't paying too much attention to the time.

When I arrived, there were a few people milling around, but it was mostly vendors setting up.  So, I wandered.  When I tried to make my first purchase, I was told it wasn't open for another 20 minutes or so, so I wandered some more.  I took in the colors, the smell of coffee wafting invitingly across the lot, the scrape of tents on asphalt as more booths sprang up from the backs of trucks, wares and fresh produce sitting patiently in boxes for their turn to be taken home.  Greetings of "Good morning!" echoed as I passed by.  The early rising vendors smiled happily at this early rising customer.

As it edged ever closer to 0800 the parking lot began to fill.  Mothers with their young children filtered down to the market area.  Young men with their reusable shopping bags marched purposefully toward the waiting shopkeepers.  The low rumble of the early market quickly turned into a cacophony of greetings, squeals, and footfalls on the asphalt.

I immersed myself in this din of urban life, having already spotted my own pending purchases before opening.  I went back to the booth of a little Asian man.  My intention was to buy a small bag of mint from him to use in water and other things.  As I stepped up to his booth, a bail plant shivered just the tiniest bit as it reached out and touched me energetically.  "I want to go home with you," it said.  As it spoke, so did one of the mint plants, the one farthest back from the edge of the table.  "Please, take me home," the mint begged.  It was obviously very stressed, too thin and 'leggy', leaves yellowing, and not happy at all!  I bought them both.

Quite happy that I had two plants who were also happy, I moved on to the next booth with the intention to buy some soap.  They didn't have the scent I usually buy, so I moved on again, but this time I was pulled to a booth I'd bypassed earlier.  I was greeted by a plump, kind-faced grandmotherly lady, someone who (by the look of her plants) was very in tune with the land.  As we exchanged greetings, I feel a gentle energetic push to my left arm.  I look down and there is a lovely little sage plant.  In a very mellow tone he says, "Take me home with you."  So, I bought him.  As I am giving the lady her money, I get zinged from across the table and look up to see a lemon balm quivering almost imperceptibly.  I touch one of its leaves and it giggles as though I have tickled it.  This joyous little plant declares the sage her friend and that they must go together.  So, the lady tells me the lemon balm is another $3.  As I pull my money out, though, she smiles and says, "Just give me another dollar and you can have it." I think she knew the sage and lemon balm were friends.  So, $4 for a sage and a lemon balm who both cheer as I squeeze them into my own reusable shopping bag with my other plants.

On my way out, I bought a bottle of honey and some bees wax and I came home.  Today I bought happiness.  Today I saved a living being and kept two friends together.  Sometimes I am so disconnected from even myself that I forget everything is connected.  Then, on days like today, I get out of my own way and remember that we are all one.

Brightest of blessings, friends!!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ego: Shall We, Again, Rehash this Topic?

Ego has been on my mind as of late.  Not just presented as arrogance or aloofness, but what happens when the ego presents itself in the form of a title?  What happens when the ego presents itself in the form of laziness?  What happens when it presents itself in a form other than what many of us have been trained to pinpoint?  What happens when it is pointed out in that alternate form?  Do you really think declaring shenanigans is going to change things?  Of course not!  The ego is a wily being, just waiting to jump in and 'save the day'.

I often look at myself and how I handle situations.  I often wonder if I allow my own ego to get in the way.  I look at people I know, people I used to know, and sometimes, people I don't know and I recognize certain things.  I recognize those who may need help in one way or another.  I recognize that some of those people don't know they need help.  I recognize that some of those people don't want help.  This is a frustrating thing.  How can I help those who don't want it or think they don't need it?  The short answer is, I can't.  At this point, my own ego gets in the way.  

Instead of doing the sensible thing and simply being, gathering information for when that person does want help, I get impatient.  This is a function of ego and I know it.  I know better and yet I do it anyway.  I feel quite fortunate that I have surrounded myself with those more experienced than I am, so that they can point this out to me.  I don't necessarily like it, but once it is pointed out, my own feelings are then narrowed to a specific source and they tend to make more sense to me.  The light bulb comes on and, suddenly, I can navigate these feelings from a different place. 

What happens when we are presented with someone who believes him- or herself to be 'greater' because of a title that has been bestowed upon him or her?  What if this title only means something in ones group or local community?  A good example of this would be the title of Elder within a regional community.  Elder status is not something that is given by the other Elders within the community (though in certain places, the Elders would have people believe this).  It is a status bestowed by the people in the community, whether a person wants the status or not.  Yes, it helps when the Elders accept the will of the community in regards to said person, but they can not foist Elder status of a person upon the members of the community if said members do not want it.  This is as much a function of the ego as is holding Elder status back from a deserving individual (and ignoring the will of the community).

What about the public shunning of individuals, or leaving them out of group activities, or making a commitment to a person and then reneging on that commitment without so much as a word to the individual?  All of these things have the potential to cause grievous harm, if the individual allows it.  These are all functions of the ego.  Of course, on occasion, the person shunned moves past his or her own ego and sees the shunning for what it is: The will of the gods for them to move on to greater things. Then, *poof* the actions of those who are doing the shunning seem silly and childish and another illusion has been dispelled. 

Another thing the ego does, especially while in a position of leadership, is strokes the ego of those it sees as 'beneath' it, so they do not see themselves as being used.  Have you, dearest reader, ever watched someone turn into a slave?  I have, many times, unfortunately.  People want to be seen as important, worthy, more than they are and they allow themselves to be manipulated right into slavery.  They allow those whom they perceive to be wiser or more than they are to stroke their egos with feelings of importance, saying things like, "You are special." or "The gods have great plans for you." (And many other manipulative placation's.)  

I have always felt myself quite fortunate that I have never had delusions of grandeur.  I do not want to lead vast hordes of people.  I do not want people hanging on my every word because I am 'somebody.'  Yes, I still have issues with wanting to prove myself to others, but not to the point of changing my own will to match that of another person's or allowing them to plant certain suggestions.  I have long figured that if I make a difference in the life of one individual who goes out and does the same, then I have accomplished a great purpose in this life.  If, by writing these simple thoughts down and leaving them on the internet for anyone to read, one person is moved, changed, or even questions anything they have been told, I have accomplished something greater than myself and doing the work is what is most important, not who delivers it or how it is delivered. (And, it is certainly not important for me to jump up and down or do the "Look at me" dance...)

This world has enough 'somebodies' in it.  There are more than enough important people out there who want to stroke each others egos and tell each other they are doing the good work.  They want to tell each other how important they are to the masses and how the masses need them to keep doing the work.  There are more than enough people out there with title and status.  Jesus wanted neither title nor status.  While he is not my god, I do believe he is a good example.  Buddha did not want title or status.  While he is also not my god, he is also a good example.  Both did the work they believed they were sent here to do.  They did what they did and many lives were changed for it.

I walk a path of service: Service to my gods and service to my community.  Let no man's words or deeds hinder that service.  Let no man's will or desire transcend the will of the gods.  So mote it be.

Brightest blessings, friends!!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Making a Shadow Mask, Accepting your Shadow

This is part 3 in working with the Shadow Self.  Parts 1 and 2 can be found here and here. Once again, this is not work for those new to the Craft.  This is more for intermediate to advanced practitioners and if you would like to discuss with me what or how you are doing in this process, feel free to email me via the contact form to the right.  I always enjoy hearing from my readers!

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At this point, dear reader, you have been working with your shadow for a few weeks.  You have met and, hopefully, come to an agreement you can both live with.  Your shadow self is enjoying no longer being chained and no long having to live in a dark, empty space.  So, now what?  Now is the time to make your Shadow Mask.  It is time to own this piece of your Self, accept it for what it is.

When I came to this point in my own Shadow work, I was struggling mightily with myself.  My Shadow and I were having lots of fun, most of the time.  She, then, would throw fear, unattached to any trigger, at me.  That wasn't such a difficult thing to deal with, however, when she presented to me the feeling of superiority over others, I struggled.  The notion of being 'better' than anyone (not in a prideful way as if I won a game or competition, necessarily, but feeling superior) caused me never ending repulsion at myself.  Those who know me in real life can see that I am confident and that I know a fair amount of things, but if I come upon something that I don't know, like astrology, I freely admit that I am quite dumb to the subject.  I know what I know and I seek to learn more.

When I found myself looking at the muggles around me and feeling superior because I had experienced some of the mysteries of the world around me that they did not even know existed, I was appalled at myself!  However, that is Shadow Work.  Thankfully, I was learned enough at that point to recognize it for what it was (after the first time it happened, at least).  One day, the feeling persisted.  My Shadow was really putting it to me, and I asked her, "Why?  Why are you doing this to me?  This is not me and we both know it!"

Her response gave me pause.  "You have spent your life ignoring this feeling.  If you do not feel it and recognize it for what it is, then how can you ever keep yourself in check?  How can you keep yourself humble if you don't know what it feels like to think yourself superior?"

Of course!  It made complete sense when put in that way.  It was a horrible lesson.  I was uncomfortable and near tears.  I spent days afterward wondering if that was how the horrible people in my life always felt. (You know the type, those who think everyone is 'below' them and seek to punish those who might overstep their bounds.)  I gained a new perspective on myself and those around me.

This lesson came around the time it was to make my Shadow Mask.  The Shadow Mask is the physical manifestation of the Shadow.  We all wear various masks in life, but this mask is representative of the particular lessons your Shadow is teaching you right now.

Making the Shadow Mask

Making the Shadow Mask can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be.  The most important thing here is to carve out enough time to sit and do it.  This can be done within a ritual circle, if you would like, or you can sit at your crafting or dining room table.  Be sure that there are no distractions!  This is a time for you to go inward.  As you craft, bring your Shadow to the fore and ask him or her how they want to be perceived. 

Large craft stores have the plaster crafting strips that you cut, wet, and apply to your face to create a mask that will fit to your facial structure or, as I did, you can use a cheap paper plate (not the styrofoam kind).  From here, use paint, markers, glitter, feathers, beads, jewels, ribbon, or any other crafting supply you have on hand.  

This is your time to be creative and loving toward your Shadow.  In this process, remind your Shadow that you will never chain him or her again.  Remind your Shadow that you seek to come into balance and that he or she has a voice that will not be silenced again.  Build up your Shadow.  I told my own Shadow something like, "Today, we begin to work together in earnest.  Where we were getting to know one another before, building trust, today I manifest you into the physical via this mask.  I do this in acceptance of you and in acceptance of my whole self.  I will wear this mask to honor you.  I will acknowledge this mask in honor of you.  We are one.  We work together.  How would you like to be perceived?"

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Often, this acceptance of our own shortcomings is the most difficult part of the work.  Listening to our own darkness and the wisdom it holds is frightening.  However, if we do not hold counsel with the darkness, we become stagnant.  Only ever standing within the light can cause blindness.  This is why balance is so important.  This is why learning to work with our own negative qualities is needed.  We can not turn 'greed' into 'ambition' if we refuse to believe we are greedy.

Take this time to listen to your own darkness, but remember that you must not become your darkness.  Take your completed mask and put it some place where you will see it every day.  Acknowledge it and reaffirm to it that this is only the beginning.  Ask it how to get around, through, or over certain blocks you have on your path.  Sometimes, we find that it is the Shadow who put those blocks there and it is the Shadow who can move them.

Brightest blessings, Friends!!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Shadow Self: Meeting Your Shadow

Apologies, dear readers, for not posting lately, especially after such a wonderful response to my last blog post.  Real life, as it often does, gets in the way, but I should be back, at least for a couple of weeks.

On the topic of shadow work, let me give those of you who may try this a caveat: Shadow work is often intense.  It requires a great amount of self-care (and I don't mean doing this work and then sinking into ones addictions, such as drinking, and going on a 3 day bender).  To face your shadow is to face the ugliest part of yourself.  It is to face those parts of yourself, which you have deemed unsavory.  It is to gaze upon the piece of yourself that you have abused, neglected, or otherwise subjected to horrible things within your life.  This is not easy.  This is not comfortable.  This can be a touch dangerous (as with any magical practice.)  So, tread carefully, my friends, if you choose to embark upon this path.  And, as always, if you would like to discuss your findings once you have begun, then please, feel free to email me using the contact form on the right of this page.

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Since we have discussed, in general, what the Shadow is, I will not rehash that.  Today, I will discuss ways to work with the Shadow, some negatives that can be turned into positives via the shadow, and post a meditation on how to meet him or her.

The inherently negative nature of the Shadow Self and our repression of it reveals many things about the society we live in.  As a culture, we are encouraged to ignore the more unsavory aspects of our personalities and, indeed, look down upon those who might engage in their own negative needs.  The absolute need for everything to be 'of the light' is silliness.  Even the darkness has its place and its usefulness.

We look upon thieves and murderers with disdain.  We look upon those selfish people we know much the same way.  However, those are aspects of the Shadow Self running amok.  If the Shadow wants to kill someone, we have to ask it why?  The reasoning is going to be varied, but it boils down to some reason dealing with the Self.  "This person took my -fill in the blank-."  "This person is a bad apple."  "This person is so horrible they don't deserve to live."

The Shadow can be quite violent if that violence is not released in an appropriate manner.  I knew someone working with the Shadow one time who would engage in violent video games to allow that Shadow Self to be as violent as it needed to be.  This is a good example of allowing the Shadow what it needs, instead of containing it until it reaches critical mass and there is a fist fight over something stupid.  My own Shadow was once quite violent out of frustration from inaction.  I refuse to engage in physical violence.  For me, I allowed her frustration to come out by writing violent and gory short stories.  Once those stories were written, we burned them.  Just because I know that I can be cruel, doesn't mean that I have to act upon that cruelness.

So, if the Shadow can be engaged positively, what are a few symptoms that our Shadows need to be worked with and how do we work these things out without our Shadow taking over?  First, we have to really examine our own behaviors.  (This is the difficult part.)  We have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, "What are my own issues?"  Do you have a problem with anger, greed, fear, addiction, lack of self-worth?  Are you self destructive or do you simply let others around you run you over?  Obviously, these aren't the only questions to ask, but I find them to be some of the most common.  You have to look within to the things you know about yourself, the things you repress or don't want to admit, to find what you need to work on.  Once this is done, you can go to your Shadow and he or she will give you more things, from my own experience, the things you didn't even know you needed to work on.  Now, let's discuss fear and greed as positives before we get to the meditation to the Shadow.

Most people look at the words "fear" and "greed" and wonder just how those can be positive things.  Fear is an emotion of warning.  "Don't get too close to the edge of that cliff or you might fall!" "Don't go into the deep end of the swimming pool if you can't swim!"  "Don't touch that wild animal, it might bite you!"  Those are relatively healthy warnings of fear.  Being wary of strange dogs and other potentially dangerous situations is what fear can do in a positive manner.

Fear in a negative manner would be things like, "Meeting new people is bad and they will hurt you." "Don't do this new thing because it might not turn out like you want it to." "You know people are horrible, so don't bother with them."  "Don't trust anyone but yourself or you will be let down."  This is the Shadow running amok and putting irrational thoughts and emotions in ones head.

If fear can be good, then how can greed be good?  Greed is an excessive need for possessions or, even an unnecessary need for the best possessions.  It can be 'keeping up with the Jones'.  Greed can lead to the hoarding of stuff or money.  It leads to the irrational need of possessions over people.  Does this mean those who are well off are greedy?  Not necessarily.  Maybe they are ambitious.  I know many people who have what they have and they are satisfied with it, but they work toward the future.  They understand that there may not always be a steady paycheck.  They understand that there may not always be time to prepare for those things, so they work now to make sure that when times are lean they have what they may need. The ambitious strive to keep what they have in lean times while the greedy strive to have everything they want right now.

Having read this far, I hope you are a little more prepared to meet your Shadow Self.  I hope you have taken a good look in the mirror and acknowledged the things about yourself that you don't necessarily like.  Now, it is time to meditate.  Do not be shocked at the actions or state of your Shadow when you come upon him or her.  Assuming you are relatively adept at meditation, I will cut out the relaxation/beginning of the meditation because if you don't know how to begin a meditation, then you shouldn't be trying to meet your Shadow.

Shadow Meditation


1. Find a place you will be comfortable and uninterrupted for at least a half hour and begin your meditation process.

2. When you have reached a place of complete relaxation, visualize a door.  Open it.

3. The door opens to a landing with a corridor stairs spiraling downward.  You count the steps 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

4.  This leads to a second landing.  This landing opens up to a cavernous space beyond the dim lighting, even as the stairs spiral downward more. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

5.  You come to a second door.  It is closed and locked.  There are signs that this door has not been opened in many years.

6.  You know you are in the right place as you open the lock and the door.  You step through to the other side.

7. The room is dimly lit and as your eyes adjust, you take in the features of the room.  You pick up a movement and you walk cautiously toward it.

8.  As you get closer, torches spring to life, illuminating what moved.  It is your Shadow Self.  Look at it.  What have you done to it?  It reacts to your presence.

9. Stand there and watch it, out of reach.  When it stops reacting speak to it.  Begin building its trust in you again.  Ask it questions.  What does it need from you?  Tell it what you need from it. If your Shadow is bound in some way, make a bargain with it and release it.  (If it refuses to bargain, it is up to you if you want to leave it bound until you have created some bond of trust with it.)

10.  You have done all you can for now, so you thank your Shadow for giving you the wisdom you need at this time and you promise to visit often.  You turn around and leave through the same heavy door you came in through.

11.  Closing the door behind you, to ascend the first flight of stairs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and come to the landing.

12.  Once again, the corridor narrows and you spiral up the next flight of stairs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and you have reached the first door.  You walk through it.

13.  Once through the door, you come back to your body, relaxed and refreshed and fully remembering this experience.

14. Write down everything you experienced with your Shadow.  Write down what it told you, how you felt when you saw it, what state it was in, everything.  Write down your bargain with it so you will remember and keep that bargain.

Once you have met your Shadow, it is paramount that you go back to that place and visit.  This is an exercise in trusting yourself and keeping your word.  Please, if you can not do this after care, then do not do this meditation.  DO NOT piss your Shadow off because you won't keep your word to take care of it.  This WILL do more harm than good.  Also, please, use common sense and don't simply do whatever your Shadow tells you or let your Shadow take over.  This is also very bad.

As always, dearest readers, if you are doing this and need to speak to someone who has been through it, you can email me via the contact page (at lightgoddess(at)gmail(dot)com) or you can contact me here.

Brightest blessings, friends!!

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Shadow Self

Occasionally, one hears whispers of a practitioner doing shadow work.  What is the Shadow?  What, exactly, is Shadow work?  The Shadow is that part of ourselves that we have hidden away in the darkness.  It is that part of ourselves that we do not like or understand.  It is the personification of all that is negative about our personality.  The Shadow is nearly equivalent to the Ego.  Shadow work is working with the Ego and finding that place where we have locked away the things we don't like about our selves.  It's facing our own demons.  When we personify that part of us which we hate, and look at it, really examine it, we sometimes find out that it isn't the monster, but we are.

My own shadow was chained and stripped of her dignity when I discovered her.  She was living like an animal, half-starved, within the darkest recesses of my own soul.  When I approached, of course, she attacked.  She didn't retreat, so I hadn't broken her.  Thank the gods!  I watched her come at me over and over.  She wasn't interested in listening to me for sure.  She eventually tired and I sat down just out of her reach (because I know me and I know how clever I can be).  "Are you ready to listen?" I asked.

She looked at me and growled.  "You know who I am," I said.  "I have come here to let you go, not chain you farther."

Her expression changed from anger to curiosity.

I looked hard at what I'd done to myself.  I was ashamed.  This piece of me was something I had spent many years trying to force to 'be good.'  This piece of me was untamed.  She sat back as I released her, not saying a word, but not really trusting me, either.  My Shadow contained all of my fears, some healthy, some unhealthy, some outright ridiculous.

For the next several weeks, I had many conversations with her.  In reality, she drove me a bit crazy.  I would spend quiet moments at my job trying to concentrate and she would throw alien emotions at me, images of horrific things, or worse, images of distasteful words and deeds that made her feel powerful and needed, but left me bewildered.  She was challenging me to keep my word that I would not lock her up again.  I spent that time feeling very uncomfortable within my own skin.  Yet, I kept my word.

I became very conscious of my words and, usually, let her have her say (in my mind) before I would respond in earnest to whomever I was talking to.  Occasionally, I would let her scathing wit bubble up and, because it was so out of character for me to say such things, those around me would laugh heartily in surprise.

This, however, is just my experience in working with the Shadow.  I have come to love her very much.  I have been reading things lately that say the Shadow should be destroyed and I completely disagree with that sentiment.  I would never vanquish a part of myself because I find it to be unpalatable.  I would rather discover why I find those things undesirable.  Wicca is a journey of self-discovery, isn't it?  How can I discover anything about myself if I am just destroying the things I don't like?

I see the 'destruction' of the Shadow as the ultimate Ego bait-and-switch.  "I am so learned, wise, etc. that I have destroyed the darkest part of myself, vanquished it forever."  Really?!?  That statement doesn't sound very altruistic to me.  It doesn't sound very learned or wise, either.  The mere suggestion that the Shadow can be destroyed sounds too good to be true.  (Guess what they say about things like that!)

From where I sit, if one believes that the Shadow can be destroyed, then the Shadow has already taken over.  The practitioner has become complacent in his or her learning and believes that no one 'below' them can teach them anything new.  Just the act of seeing people as 'below' or 'less than' is also an act of the Shadow.  (I believe that we all have things to learn from each other, no matter where we are on our paths.)

I have learned a great many things from my Shadow self.  She says, "You have been learning Craft for nearly 15 years! Own that!"  I reply, "You are right, but it has only been nearly 15 years.  That is a mere blip in time for so many more people than me!"  She then replies, "Yes, it is more than some and less than most, but you should still own it.  That is nearly the sum of your adult life!"  So, I own it (mostly, I have just begun to own it and verbalizing it still makes me uncomfortable because I feel like I know so little).

Because I work with my Shadow on a regular basis, I have chosen to recognize that I may have had some experiences others have not.  I choose to recognize that I can bring something to the table in discussions.  In that recognition, I also see that I have to watch my words and deeds.  She is still here and, sometimes, my Shadow doesn't like how things are playing out, so she throws a fit.  She is, after all, still my Shadow.

In the future, I plan on doing a 'Practicals' blog on working with the Shadow, if there is any interest.  It may even become a sub-set in the 'Practicals' series if my beloved readers wish it so.  If you would like to know more about the Shadow or privately discuss some of your own experiences with it, you can always email me using the contact form, or you can message me on Facebook here.

Until then, brightest blessings, Friends!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Practicals: Grounding and Shielding

I have a poll here, and have gotten 2 votes (YAY!!), both requesting to see more practical workings, so I am going to start a series called "The Practicals".  It will be geared more toward the novice to intermediate practitioner as opposed to the newest practitioners of Wicca and the Craft (meaning you should already have some working knowledge of the subject).  The Practicals will discuss briefly what the subject is, why I believe it is important for those who are relatively new (or a good refresher for us all) and then move into ways to work with it in your daily life.
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I am going to preface this with a caveat: Try these suggestions as your own risk!  They are suggestions of things that work for me as well as some that haven't!  If you find yourself trying any suggestion and it failing, remove it by doing the opposite of what you did to add it.  Please, please, use common sense! 

Grounding and shielding were two of the very first things I learned as a wee baby pagan.  I was interacting with people on the internet, one after another, chat room and message board, what I heard from Wiccans, Witches, and pagans across the spectrum, "If you can already meditate, then you must learn to ground and shield."  Since that time and coming to work with the wider community, I now understand the need for such basic practices as grounding and shielding.  Not only that, but I understand the need to teach these things.

More than once I have been to a festival or an open circle where people participating in the main ritual didn't know how to ground after the cone of power was raised and released and, for whatever reason, the HPS didn't do a few grounding chants during or after cakes and ale.  The ritual fell into total chaos, of course, because everyone was high on energy and couldn't or didn't want to let it go.  Even worse, I think, is going to a festival where there is trouble in the host group (or groups) and those emotions aren't shielded from the festival goers.  No one wants to go to a festival and feel the tension, pain, or outright hate between two people or groups of people.  Lastly, is the person or group of people at a festival or open gathering who can't or don't want to control their own energy.  (I prefer to believe that it is option one.)  These people end up being a black hole for energy and then whatever may come back out (sometimes it's no energy, other times it's all of it, just distorted) flies about in a chaotic vortex, much like blending a smoothie without the blender lid.  So, what are some options for dealing with these kinds of people or situations?

First, know your own best practices for grounding and shielding.  If you don't know what works best for you, then you can't help anyone else.  So, we will begin here with the definition of grounding and shielding.  Grounding is "releasing excess energy that has built up from ritual or other vigorous activities."  The best example of this was given to me a several years ago.  One is perfectly grounded in those first few moments after orgasm, when you don't want (or can't) to do anything but lie there and breathe.  I have had those moments after a particularly good ritual, but how do we carry those moments with us in every day life?

There are many meditations for grounding.  The most popular being the Tree Meditation.  Visualizing roots into the ground and limbs into the sky and draining away excess energy and replacing it with earth and sky energies.  Not many of us have time in the middle of our day, though, to sit for a few minutes in quiet contemplation.  So, what then?  I have found many more practical (and inconspicuous) methods through the years.  Some work better for me than others.  The first is carrying a worry stone.  It can be anything from a flat river rock to a specific type of tumbled stone (i.e hematite, for many).

Being a stone keeper, I have always been one to have a collection of rocks and stones.  The Stone People have always spoken to me (even before I was pagan and knew about these things).  Stones are, literally, bits of the earth we can carry around in our pockets or on a piece of jewelry. Those bits of earth carry the same grounding properties as the land they were born from.  When one can't 'be a tree', one can always carry a stone in his or her pocket and touch it when needed.

Another practical way to ground, is to touch a tree.  The Tree People are often happy to take excess energy from us if we offer it.  It should be noted here that if it is autumn or winter, the trees are slumbering or approaching it, so offering them an excess of energy during that time could disturb their rest.  Another option is walking barefoot on the grass, or in the winter, having an indoor plant or two that one can take care of.

Some people also benefit from the use of water as a grounding conduit.  What is better than a nice hot bath or shower after a tough day out in the world?  Water works in a couple of different ways to ground.  If you are one to take magical baths or showers, it washes away the ick of the day both literally and energetically.  Being the element of emotions, it can help to bring troubles into balance thus aiding in grounding.

Once your individual best grounding practice has been found, it will be a case of repeating it until it becomes second nature.  I have come to a point in my own practice that I can ground myself by simply pushing the energy through my own feet or crown chakras, but this has taken me a good, long time to get proficient.

Shielding, I have found, is a bit trickier.  Shielding is "energetically blocking unwanted energy or emotions which may effect us."  I find shielding to be trickier because, so often, some part of us wants to be part of the drama we find ourselves surrounded with.  It can't be blocked if we want this drama.  I also find it to be trickier because the setting of intent must be a very specific thing that must also be well thought out (i.e "What could be the consequence of this particular shield?").  With all of that said, everyone does have natural shields that they have developed just by living life and, for some, these suffice for a long time, sometimes for their whole lifetime.

Probably the most well known shielding technique is the drawing down of the white light of the universe.  In essence, one creates a 'bubble' of white light around them charged with a specific intent.  This technique doesn't work so well for me personally.  I find it to be too generic for my particular needs, but it is definitely a good place to start.

I learned shielding in a very different way from most people.  Where most people learn to shield with the white light, I learned to make specific shields with intentions and layer them on top of one another.  This is both good and bad.  It means that my own shields are very specific and may let things through that I may not want because I have not come across that particular energy or emotion yet.  It is also trying on occasion because my intent may be too broad and it blocks out otherwise good energies.  Also, these layers can be difficult to deconstruct if I need to because they have been in place for so long.

An example of a layered shield would be:

Layer one (right against the skin) is the white universal light.  It allows everything in except for the lowest of energetic vibrations.
Layer two (just on top of that) is a finely woven net of a specific color.  This shield allows the finest bits of energy to seep through so that I can feel what is going on around me and choose to let it in or not.
Layer three is a looser woven net of a specific color.  This shield allows more energy to filter through.
Layer four (the outer layer) is a bubble of some specific material (glass, a mirror, a soap bubble with a sheen, etc.).  This shield can be the most or least protective, based upon intent, but also the most tricky.

Imagine, if you will, this particular shield configuration with the outer layer being a mirror.  Mirrors reflect.  If one walks into a hostile environment (like someone at work having it out for you) with a mirror as the outer layer of a shield, things could get sticky very quickly.  If one works with someone who is inherently negative, that mirror shield is going to reflect that negativity back at that person.  What happens when our worst qualities are manifest back at us?  If we are unwilling to acknowledge those qualities, then our own negativity intensifies.  So, imagine what it must be like to be a muggle who doesn't understand energy, how it works, or what is happening when one gets back what they put out.  This kind of shield can be quite shocking and agitating.

Let's, for the sake of argument, say one did not make a mirror for an outer shield, but just a bubble of some fine material, transparent both ways.  The negativity projected could get through to the second shield, the first 'net'.  It was then filtered through to the second 'net' and then on to the white light.  What one might feel is a slight discomfort, that intuitive feeling that something is wrong.

This is, from where I sit, what shielding is supposed to do.  It allows us to set intent for the kind of energies we will and will not allow in our lives.  These shields also will protect us from surrounding ourselves with the wrong kinds of people, in general, depending upon intent.  However, shields can also draw to us those who are psychic vampires (usually these are the types who do not consciously feed on people).  They feel that energy, especially good energy, and they want to get through it, to the energy of the practitioner.

Other ways of shielding that I have found work (sometimes with a little trial and error), are charging a body wash, lotion, or oil with a specific intent and then putting it on or charging a piece of jewelry or clothing.

Some of these things work for some people and some of these things don't. When it comes to grounding and shielding, I have very specific things that I do which work for me.  Sometimes they work for others, sometimes not.  What techniques have you found to shield and ground yourself that might not be found in books or online?  What have you found that simply didn't work?  What worked best for you?

Until next time, Brightest blessings, friends!!