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The Magic of Now

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We can only truly experience the now.  Unfortunately, as humans we tend to get all caught up on living through our pasts instead. We look at life through the tinted glasses of our prior experiences (sometimes to the extreme of reliving them) instead of being centered in the moment as it unfolds before us.

Conversely,  we can also get so caught up in looking to the end result that we are actually living more in the future than in the present.  We can place such a burden of needing to achieve upon our shoulders that we are constantly keeping our eyes on the prize instead of keeping our head in the game,  so to speak.

I personally find myself tending towards a whole lot of both.  I have days where every moment seems to be about crap from my past – big and little stuff. (“Why is this not going like it did when I did this same thing three years ago?” “Hmmm, this is the third time I’ve heard my break-up song from 2004. No wonder I’m feeling all weepy.” and so on.) It’s like I have to make a conscious choice to be the “me that I am now” instead of the “me that I was then”, at least in those moments.

More often though,  I find myself with my wheels turning, thinking about what’s in my future: bills I have coming due in three weeks, events I have on the schedule months from now,  even something as simple as what will I eat for dinner after I teach yoga class a week from now. And you know what I’ve found this amazing process of thinking leads to? Nothing.  As in nothing gets done. As in I think about so much that I begin to feel overwhelmed with a sense of anxiety,  to the point that I choose to procrastinate on doing anything.

Staying mindfully engaged in the present moment is an arduous task to take on. Okay, let’s just be real here. It’s fucking hard to maintain at the beginning of the practice of mindful awareness. Stay thoughts and memories seem to float right on in there like they have a VIP invitation to the party, often followed by judgment of ourselves for these thoughts. (I mean, it’s just they’re just thoughts, right? Why can’t I frigging stay focused on the moment in my goddamn serenity!?)

Ah, yeah, and that brings up another point. Just because you’re in the moment does NOT mean you’re necessarily in a Zen like serenity state of happy yogic la-la bliss. Sometimes the now sucks ass, and trying to convince yourself otherwise is just an open invitation for it to suck more ass. And sometimes that means admitting that the winds are not blowing in your favor at that particular moment. (That means acknowledging things aren’t so favorable, not having a meltdown or wallowing in the suckage.) Sometimes this all it takes for a while new now to manifest.

Here’s the thing that I’ve discovered in my bizarre little journey through life: The Magic happens in the now.  It doesn’t happen when you’re in the future, because the future never comes. It’s always perpetually in front of you. It doesn’t happen in the past for similar reasons. In both of those instances though, having your mindset everywhere and everywhen but in your current here and now, you have no chance of seeing the magic that presents itself right in front of you. And it’s there!

Now, when I say the magic happens in the now, I’m not just throwing out a cutesy little catchphrase folks. Yes, I’m talking about the metaphorical magic of being able to participate fully in your life. Mindful awareness is a gift in and of itself, standing on it’s own merits. But I’m also talking about that OTHER kind of magic. The literal kind.

I won’t go into a huge discussion of what magic is and isn’t (and yes, I am one of those folks who refuses to spell it with a ‘k’), so let’s boil it down to a working definition for the purpose of this post. Let’s just broadly define magic as when a person focuses their will through their intention, aligns it with an external bigger energetic paradigm (the Universe, divinity, spirits, angels, etc.) frequently through symbolic, ritual or ceremonial means, and then Voila! The focused will is manifested in the person’s life.  I left this intentionally broad because for the purposes of what we’re talking about today, it doesn’t matter whether you are working an intricate spell passed down through the generations from traditional witches in Essex, or if you’re making a friggin’ vision board.

If you go through the trouble of putting the call out to the Universe, pulling on the hems of angels, trembling the strands of fate – whatever – then you spend all of your now turning your eyes to the future or getting lost in the past, then there is nowhere to interact with you. It doesn’t matter what method or manner you used to set the wheels in motion, or who/what you called upon (if you called upon anything at all) in your conscious manifesting. If you aren’t available to receive because your nose is glued to your phone, or your mind is wandering through your past, then you’re going to miss what you helped to call to yourself.

The witch’s craft can involve a great many elements – herbal lore, incantations, ritual tools, divination – all manner of various magical goodness. One big area that sometimes gets glossed over, dismissed, or not thought of is magical timing. Many witches are trained on the intricacies of casting by the cycle of moon, as well as observing and flowing with the tides of the natural world through what many term the Wheel of the Year. I’ve known a lot of practitioners over the years – really good practitioners – who would complain that their spells wouldn’t be working, and usually after a hefty conversation we’d inevitably arrive at this conclusion. With that much emphasis on observing the proper timing for your ritual, many practitioners of the arts simply aren’t connected to their present moment in life. Most of the time, these fantastically gifted witches would be balancing their hectic schedules for several days at a time, or wistfully lost in days long since past.  You must be present, otherwise what you’ve set into motion remains perpetually in the future, until it simply fades into nothing but a “could have been”.

This doesn’t mean that we live without memory or planning. That simply isn’t possible. Both memory and planning are really important parts to being able to accomplish almost anything. What it does mean is that we have to recognize where we are putting our meaning, our emphasis. Some people literally frame their entire lives from vacation to vacation, and everything that’s in between is just kind of there. Some people frame their entire spiritual practice from festival to festival, and every day in between is just a countdown or a time to reminisce about what a great time the last festival was. This is where we get all fucked up and miss our mark.

So, why don’t you think about this: What are you doing today that’s adding meaning to your life?  Better yet, just close your laptop or put down your phone and just go do it.  The magic is waiting for you to happen.

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Authenticity

So, I started this little dialogue out on my front porch with the intention of it being a little Facebook post for the LGBTQ30DayChallenge…..except that I couldn’t hear myself think over this fucking cardinal looking me dead in the eye on a branch six feet away squawking at the top of it’s lungs. I finally had to stop and think about what message the Universe was bringing to me.

Cardinal is traditionally associated with owning your power, being assertive, blah, blah, blah…whatever. Maybe that could apply, but it doesn’t feel right and the little asshole is ringing through my head so hard I can’t see straight. What is it that you are trying to tell me?! I just wanted to post a happy little something to kick off Pride month, and be a little lemming and post this damn challenge thing like all of my LGBTQ friends are doing.

Then, I remembered it, as clear as day. It was the last day of school. I was getting off of the bus on Cardinal Street in our trailer park in Virginia. My brother had gotten picked up from school early, so I was walking down the street alone. As the bus pulled away, I was smacked to the ground by a couple of kids who then spit in my face and taunted me. While no real physical damage was done, this cut ran much deeper. This was the first time I was called a faggot. I was in the third grade.

It didn’t get any easier after that. Actually, it just got a lot harder. And you would’ve thought that I would have had the sense to try to hide my sexuality as I discovered it. But that’s not my style. As quickly as I discovered myself, I shared it with the world. I have at times thought to do otherwise, but anything less than just being me (whoever “me” happens to be at that moment) feels…..inauthentic.

In a long roundabout way, the cardinal’s message was becoming clearer. Authenticity. Be true to who you are, regardless of what other people would have you be.

As I faced this insight, the cardinal saw fit to finally fly away, his message having been delivered successfully. I dwelled for a moment on what authenticity means in this moment to me. I also began to consider whether this was something that I am meant to share, or if like so many other little treasures as of late, I was keeping this all to myself – a personal insight just for me. My stomach tightened as I realized that I was deciding to share this openly.

You may have noticed that I’ve not posting much here or on social media lately. I do this from time to time, and a lot of folks assume it’s because I get busy (and there’s truth in this), or that maybe I’m just flaking out a little bit (also some truth to this sometimes). This has been more of an instance of retreating to find my voice again. I had a horrible habit for many years of living my life for everyone else, and I was starting to notice a disturbing trend in several areas of my life – my art, my spiritual practices, even some personal practices (like my diet) – they were all being driven externally.

So I decided to just be aware for a moment and I let myself chew on these thoughts. Well, after chewing on a few things, I started spitting a few things out of my life. Part of this resulted in a little bit of a fast from writing (with the exception of what was required of me for my yoga teacher training).  I realized how creatively stifled I had become. I also slowly began to admit that I’d also become quite spiritually stagnant, and if I was going to be honest many of my choices I was making to try to “be more spiritual” by someone else’s standard, which is to say I was going through the motions. I knew on some level that my spiritual stagnation could be broken up by accessing my creative drive again, but to actually sit in my creative self I would have to move through this spiritual stagnation. What the fuck can I do with this?? Where do you even start!?

These moments arrive in life again and again – a seeming paradox which elicits so many emotions for me. Anxiety for sure, anger, frustration, but there is also this comfort because I am aware of this pattern of indecision (thank you Libra moon) that I have as an ally (that I’ll often call an enemy, but I rely on this friend way too much to really count them as a foe), and in indecision I can almost fall into a trance (Pisces sun) of looking at both sides of the paradox, and never having to make a move. I could just be perfectly still here. Perfectly lazy, locked in a state of hopeless inability to move, a victim to the paradox. Rock. Me. Hard place.

Except, in my Piscean inner lament, that still, small voice from the inner recesses of my spirit echoes through…… “Jump.”

Now, normally I’m a great listener, and I’m an even better ignore-er (at least when it comes to this still small voice saying this particular word).  However, I actually cleared out a lot of the clutter that I used to distract myself, to dampen the sound, to mute that voice, so suddenly instead of throwing myself further into lament, I find myself in front of my canvas covered in acrylics – creating a painting. I find myself undulating to music across the floor – creating a yoga based dance flow. I find myself sitting in front of my laptop watching words pop up on the screen – creating a poem (or a blog post), and it’s like having the band aid ripped off.

It’s when that bandage comes off that the real healing began to happen for me. That’s when my spiritual practices started to take on find their meaning again- to live, to breathe. These moments of art were the meeting places for my spirit to reintegrate itself into my practices. These hard fought moments were where I found my authenticity. And this is where I decided that my life truly would have to be in a constant state of becoming – my life would have to become my art.

Continued in Authenticity Part 2

 

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Authenticity (Part 2)

Click Here for Authenticity Part 1

There has always been an intimate tie between art and spirituality. For many of us, creativity and intuition are varied shades of the same color. For the past few months, I’ve been doing a lot of deep exploration of the tie between these spaces to help me in further grow my own practice, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Then, finally it hit me.

Spiritual folks share one pivotal thing in common with creative folks – you have to walk in authenticity.  And there is a difference between someone who ‘practices the art’ versus an artist. There is a difference between a ‘witchcraft practitioner’ and a witch. There is a difference between a person who practices the practice and a person who lives the life. This difference has nothing to do with skill level either in many instances. It’s all authenticity. It’s relationship to your craft. It’s relationship to your self. It’s a certain kind of presence, breath, recognition.

I happened onto the connection between creative force and spirituality late in the game, as my early years shaped me to seek comfort in conformity and labels. You find a lot more of that in realms of science, so I was much more keen on exploring the connections between science and spirituality for a long time. But I finally had a stark realization: a few hundred years ago, religion became the mouthpiece for spiritual experience as a whole. Then science and religion decided they didn’t like each other, went to war and essentially the whole thing erupted into a giant shit storm that will most likely not be reconciled easily within my lifespan (even though they really are pretty much talking about the same thing with different words and concepts).

I was seeking acceptance. I was looking for this acceptance through validation. I searched everywhere, by looking into theories from quantum physics that supported the existence of psychic phenomenon and magic, even by participating in open source scientific studies for remote viewing and mediumship. I amassed certifications and documentation and research into various metaphysical and occult studies. And you know what? I did pretty damn well, but I never found the acceptance I was looking for. Science and spirituality are still stacking the deck against one another.

I’d always had a creative side. I danced since I was a kid and took a couple of drawing and design classes in college to fill in gaps in my schedule. I didn’t really consider myself artistic though. But something started calling to me here. I started to meditate on what it would be like to be an artist. I really struggled with thinking of myself in terms of fitting into that category at all, but slowly I began to realize – it’s about authenticity. It’s about truth. It’s about your truth, and your personal expression of your truth.

Art is about being bold enough to share your truth with the world, and sometimes I fail at that in a big way. Since I’ve decided that this is about being authentic and truthful, I should address the other reason big reason that I go silent on the blog.  It has to do with my struggles of feeling insecure and worthy. Will people find value in this? Is it good enough? What will people think? Nobody likes to be judged, but sometimes I let these fears pin me in a corner to a point of nearly forgetting who I am.

I fight the same battle in all forms of my expression. I can’t remember the last time that I’ve done a dance performance (though I do dance on a very regular basis to keep my body happy). I don’t update the gallery of paintings or list any paintings that I do on my website for fear of judgement. I still have a great deal of insecurity sharing creative yoga flows when I lead classes, or sharing videos of my movement practice. I let my fear overwhelm my authenticity. And that pulls me out of the space of being an artist. In short, I still get really nervous when I’m sharing something of myself that may be different from people are used to seeing.

But, I also have to remind myself of something. This little bit of nervousness helps to remind me that it’s a piece of ME that I’m sharing. In other words, it keeps me authentic! If I’m not a little nervous or excited to share something with someone, then chances are it’s crap and I’ve just called it in.

When we live in our authenticity and share our truth, the magic can’t help but to happen. All of those lines between the labels blur or disappear completely because they were imaginary to begin with. I think some of us long for days long past because in those days, there was an understanding that the big “intangible” was woven between spirituality, artistry, and science in a way that can never be truly broken. It just made sense that the doctors were the astrologers, and that the churches employed the very best artists, and so on.

Why? Because art can’t help but to heal and evoke. Connection to spirit within moves through you in a way that inspires you to want to create. And when you understand yourself, then you suddenly gain an understanding of the world around you. All of these things that we label and painstakingly separate are connected in the light of authenticity.

So be true to yourself. Or, wait until the universe sends you a cardinal to remind you to be you. Screw that loud, red, beautifully authentic cardinal!

"I Am the Woman that I Create for Myself" - Acrylic on Canvas. E. Stewart, April 2017
“I Am the Woman that I Create for Myself” – Acrylic on Canvas. E. Stewart, April 2017