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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
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Yoga and Social Action

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We attended the Women’s March (which turned out to be a rally) at the capitol in Lansing on Saturday as a study of the intersection of social action and yoga, as part of the first day of our yoga teacher training, and the other yoga teachers in training and I were to craft essays regarding how yoga and social action interrelate. When I returned home, I greeted my assignment with enthusiasm! I blended the concepts of the yamas and niyamas with thoughts on the march and quickly surpassed the 600 word requirement for the essay before retiring to my bed for the evening to prepare for the long day ahead of me on Sunday.

Here’s the thing: I serendipitously forgot to save this essay. When I returned to try to find my writing only to be greeted by a giant empty space where it should be, I’d love to say that I handled it with grace, class and the general attitude that everything happens for a reason, which is exactly how I handled it after my toddler-sized meltdown.

In retrospect, I’m actually glad that my original piece disappeared, because this mirrors my biggest personal challenge in addressing my own practice in yoga – authenticity and depth.  Instead of directly tying my views of social action in general to the yamas and niyamas, I’m practicing satya (truthfulness) in admitting that I kind of called it in with the first essay I wrote.  Why did do that?  Because it’s easier to attach yoga vocabulary to practices and experiences than it is to sit in the discomfort that sometimes comes along with those experiences, examine this discomfort, acknowledge it, and use it as a catalyst for growth. In other words, it’s more work than just slapping on a few labels and calling it good.

So this begs a few questions.  Why does this make me uncomfortable? What can I learn from this discomfort? And isn’t yoga supposed to feel good? What place does discomfort or pain have in your practice?

The Women’s Rally, like all public forums of social action, make made me uncomfortable on a lot of different levels.  A big part of this is my aversion to crowds, but in all honesty this was all but eliminated in feeling the sense of community that pervaded this event. (It truly was a beauty that is beyond words.) What runs a little deeper though is a semi-conscious fear of confrontation, rejection and violence that arises from experiences that I had dealing with social action when I was younger. Many of the same rights and issues that I was working towards when I had negative experiences are being mirrored again in the current political climate. For me, this became a moment of mindfulness. ” What happened already happened, and it’s not happening now” passed  through my thoughts as I took it all in, and I was finally able to reframe the experience as the amazing celebration of unity that it actually was instead of letting my past experiences be in the driver’s seat.

We can learn a lot from discomfort.  When I was just thirteen, I told my mother that I was gay. As a matter of fact, I came out pretty openly, which was probably not the wisest decision in the early nineties in rural Virginia in terms of overall safety and ease of life.  I was harassed, gay bashed, and basically driven out of my school.  After being sent to the hospital already after an incident, I had a locker pushed over on me while getting ready for gym class because I’m a ‘pussified faggot’. The administration’s response was that boys will be boys.

I’m utterly convinced that had I not been born to my mother, that I would have taken my life. After pulling me out of school, she loaded me into her car and we started going to various community centers. She started calling people until she found a handful of organizations that she then insisted we join. One of these – Virginians for Justice – paired me with a legal team that brought me in front of the state senate to speak out about what happened to me at the school. When I was silenced mid-sentence at the hearing, I thought my mother would come unglued. Since we weren’t able to get the protections for LGBTQ youth directly from the law, she pushed for those protections to be implemented from other directions.  As a former educator, she was able to get us an audience at a meeting for the Virginia Education Association, where they immediately began working on adopting language to protect gay and lesbian students from hate crimes on school grounds.  Keep in mind during this process, I’m an awkward, shy (yes, for real), very uncomfortable teenager. But, I had a small hand in change.

So, what does this have to do with rolling out the yoga mat? Sthirasukhamasanam: The cultivation of firmness and softness/gentleness in our asana practice. This could also be looked at as developing steadiness and ease, but it’s all too easy to mistake this concept of steady and easy for complacence. The fact that we are to find steadiness and ease in our practice means that we are inherently going to stray from this place from time to time. We find ourselves in places of discomfort, and we have to actually turn our awareness inward. Why are we feeling this? Is this discomfort actually pain (which means that we should change something!)? Does this discomfort arise from a physical place, or from something less tangible? Is this a limit? Is this a moment of surrender or discipline?

It’s in this line of questioning that I find the truest intersection between social action and my yoga practice.  Ultimately, I feel that I could easily become complacent. A life that is easy and steady frequently appeals to me, but my heart can’t bear the cost that I see in those around me in need. My form of social action rarely involves marches or rallies. The crowds are a personal limit that I find difficult to overcome. Instead, I give my time to an organization that helps a variety of people, primarily working in a program with ex-offenders who are rebuilding their lives. I’ll soon be giving time to an organization that helps veterans, people who are differently abled, and LGBTQ youth.

Social action comes in many forms – from affecting political change to feet on the ground grassroots efforts in the community.  We all live busy lives that allow us to become complacent because it seems easy and steady, but that’s not growth. Our communities have not flourished because people liked them on Facebook. They flourish when we actively engage in them.  We have to allow ourselves to be a part of something bigger than we are – community – and this can sometimes challenge our concepts of ego and identity. But it’s worth it.

We are all but seeds, containing immense and beautiful potentials. The best way to realize these potentials is to plant ourselves in the gardens of our community.

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Labels and Naming

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I would personally like to reject most labels that are given for the sake of comfort and conformity. I would personally love to embrace gender-fluidity, stand against the outmoded paradigm of patriarchy, and reach out to find co-creators of a revolution that see the commonality of spirit as the primary trait that yoke us together on our shared journey; with gender, race, belief, attraction and ability being unique expressions upon various spectrums of this unifying spirit meant to be celebrated instead of being concepts used to isolate and divide us. I have just enough of a rebellious streak to find this anti-establishment mentality appealing, but that’s not my motivation for writing this piece.

My true intent of this essay is to address the difference that I give to labels and names, my personal account with labels (which has left a bad taste in my mouth), and why names hold so much power. While it’s true that we need a certain level of labeling to find commonality, so that we understand what it is that we are discussing, the danger comes when people come to believe that these labels are more than an understanding, that they are a hard and fast universal truth.

The biggest problem with labels is that they are assigned externally.  In other words, society/others assign labels.  This is most problematic when it comes to labeling people. The consensus of society works on assumptions that there are a finite number of categories.  This is where the inherent problem begins.  To maintain consensus, (in other words, to maintain order) society must only have so many views and vantage points.  To allow there to be too many different ways of seeing things would make it too difficult for the powers that be to maintain their perceived stronghold of control.

Before you write me off as a crazy conspiracy theorist, let me give a major example to illustrate what I mean: Advertising.  The field of marketing and advertising uses demographic information to sell products. These demographics are labels. What would happen to the way that advertising were done if suddenly gender were addressed as a spectrum instead of the male/female either/or choice that we’re inevitably given? What would happen if race and ethnicity were suddenly de-emphasized in the marketing world, and advertising agencies starting acting like people of color are just as likely to have true wealth as white people? (There are reflections of positive changes that I have actually been noticing in baby steps in advertising. But the overall average is still quite stuck in a stereotype.)

Advertising is just one representation of the perceived “powers that be” who direct the focus of society. It makes sense to want to keep their nice, neat, little labels to be able to organize all of the people to direct them.  Boys should play with this toy.  Girls should wear this outfit.  People of this ethnic group should listen to this music.  And so on.  The truth is this: Labels are not neat and clean. Labels are not truth, because they were never meant to be. Labels were meant to be a tool, and only a tool – not an identity. Sadly, many of us have been duped.

Many labels assigned to us don’t even have anything to do with our demographics, but these are just as often misused and misconstrued. This is where my personal experience with labels come into play.  From a very young age, it was clear that I was……different.  In West Virginia, this got me the label of being a bit ‘touched’, meaning off or crazy or deviant. I was in kindergarten. By the time my family moved to Virginia, my ‘oddness’ and my ‘knowings’ earned me the label of being a witch, so I started on the path to become exactly what was expected of me.  The same thing happened when I was ten and became the ‘faggot’ or (more appropriately, in every sense of the word) the ‘queer’.  Now, before you think that this was just a bunch of kids calling me names, let me inform you that there were just as many (if not more) adults using these lovely verbal points of reference for me.

I took these terms – these labels – as parts of my identity.  I used them to define myself, and while there was truth in these statements, there was limitation and a lot of danger that came with it. I decided that since I was gay, I should learn to do hair, so I completed an apprenticeship in cosmetology. I studied Wicca, which was the only form of ‘witchcraft’ my teen self could find outside of the practices of my family. I literally took their taunts to heart. Their hatefulness defined me. (And we wonder why queer teens are two to six times more likely to attempt suicide.)

Labeling isn’t just something that happens in the formative years of childhood either.  About two years ago, I was sexually assaulted.  Shortly thereafter, I had to share this information with a few people. Those that I was close to held space for me, and couldn’t have been any more wonderful or supportive. Those that were professionally trained to help me though immediately labeled me: victim.  I found that outside of the close circle of about 4 or 5 people that truly held space for me, everyone else reacted in a way that cemented me in the role of the victim.  I was pitied, and told how brave I must be. I was told all of the empty things that you tell a victim when you are trying to convince them that it will get better.

I very quickly decided to mostly keep this to myself. I worked through my healing process as best I could. I went through several counselors before I finally gave up because I just couldn’t find someone that could see me as something other than victimized. I slowly worked spiritually to reclaim my power.  I eventually shared my experience with someone that I knew and trusted to not try to label me. Unfortunately, she fell into the trap of pushing her viewpoint, paired with/behind her spiritual experience. She didn’t push the label of victim, but it was a label nonetheless.

She insisted that I must be a Survivor. I must rise above. I must prove to the world that I am every bit of the man I was before – otherwise that bastard rapist won! And she was quite animated in her insistence. Here’s the thing though – I am not a survivor. I did not survive my rape.

A part of me died. I am not the man I was before. I mourned. I transformed. I had to let go of EVERYTHING from the life I was leading prior to the assault, and then slowly reclaim the pieces and parts that actually fit me. I am now more myself than I think I ever have been because of it, but I am no survivor.

This is where I finally introduce the difference between naming and labeling. I’ve made this distinction to help me wrap my brain around a few spiritual concepts, as well as provide a tool for empowerment.  To me, naming could superficially be seen as how we choose to categorize ourselves.  It can be thought of as the self derived, self empowered version of labeling. But, to me, it’s so much more.

In some forms of magic, it’s said to know a spirit’s name gives you power over it. Uttering the names of deities from the Kabbalah or mantras from Vedic and Tantric traditions is a way of invoking their power. In short, names have power. When we name ourselves, we are giving ourselves a kind of power, or maybe more appropriately, affirming a kind of power for ourselves.

To me, naming is something that is seated deeply in the Spirit, down to cockles of the Souls. To claim your naming is to set yourself on your path of truth. To find a name is to find a home. I think of the example of a transgendered person claiming their proper gender.It isn’t just a ‘Huh, yeah, ok’. It runs so much deeper. It’s a powerfully resonant truth that is driving enough to help them shift and change a lifetime of gender based assumptions levied onto them. Naming runs deep.  For me, I’ve had to name and re-claim my names several times throughout my life.

Part of the discrepancy I feel from being labeled a survivor comes from my spiritual practice.  If I am to be a victim or survivor, then I am to carry the hurt and pain of the attack with me for the rest of my life. I am supposed to be ‘brave’ like that, and to me, that simply isn’t healthy. My spiritual practice is one of forgiveness. I forgive my attacker. Not for him, but because I refuse to carry that bitterness. I forgive myself for the attack. I forgive those that hurt me after the attack, that didn’t respond the way I needed them to. I do this so that I can take this burden off of my shoulders. I do this so that I no longer have to wear these labels. I am no faggot. I am not touched.  I am no victim. I am no survivor.

I have journeyed long, and I have found many homes in several names. I reclaim my home in the practices of yoga. I reclaim my name as witch, as healer, as psychic.  I claim my name as artist.

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Breathing in Aloneness

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I met my yoga mat for practice with the intention of a quick practice to bring myself back into alignment before jumping into writing and painting.  I greeted my practice, blending my movement with breath. My body was hesitant to embrace the fluidity of movement that I typically feel in my practice, but as the heat generated from my core, I felt the asanas (yoga postures) smooth out with each pass through the sun salutation sequence.  I found the focal point of peace and I opened to my Spirit. Then, something shifted, and I suddenly felt tears flowing down my face.

I became aware that my breath was being impeded, and once I brought my awareness back wholly into my breath, I felt myself begin to sob. I gently muffled my sob, and pressed on through the yoga flow of poses. I felt the constriction continue against my breath, and finally gave in and allowed my breath to lead my movement. That’s when I found myself face down on my mat, my hands slipping in a mixture of tears and sweat. I still tried to rail against the crying, tried to force my body into the movements of a sequence of postures, but to no avail. The tears still came, my breath still seized up with staccato sobs punctuating my movements, pulling me back down to the mat.

Finally, I surrendered to my breath and allowed my body to go limp against the floor. I allowed the flow of my flesh to embrace stillness. I allowed my breath to be the gentle unencumbered sobs that accompanied to flow of tears I allowed to flow from eyes.  I rode the wave of this non-movement into an awareness of my emotions, my spirit. I observed what I was experiencing, and finally I found the root of today’s practice, and the mantra that fueled my practice: I am alone.

I recognized this mantra. These words echo through the back of my mind and this sense of aloneness is something that I’ve become persistently aware of, to the point that I’ve become numb to it, as if it weren’t there. But it is. It is always there at the back of my awareness, patiently reminding me of my singularity. Here, in my practice, on my mat, I finally decided to respond to this singular litany.  In this moment of recognition, I breathe into this space and embrace my awareness of being alone.

In my practice, I am alone.

When I walk down the street, I am alone.

When I am with my friends, I am alone.

As I breath in, I am alone. As I exhale, I am wholly in the seat of my self.

I greet myself and the divinity within with compassion. I am alone. But this does not mean that I am lonely.

I begin to move again pressing into the mat, greeting the flow of asanas with focus and acceptance. I find the limitations of my body, and I allow the heat to build within me through my breath once again.  Though I am alone, I am not lonely. Each pose moves into the next through the gateway and momentum of the breath, a part of the flow but distinctly unique and individuated. Though I stand as an individual, I am a part of something bigger than myself.

After a much lengthier, grittier and more intense practice than what I intended, I sat in meditation and reflection.  I am alone in meditation. I am alone in my thoughts.  But I am not lonely.

Buried deep in this feeling, there is a fear, and I am not the only one who feels this fear. It is fear that drives the sensation of being alone into one of despair, of loneliness. But even as fear drives this sensation, it betrays itself. The world is populated by people who are afraid of being alone. We are all connected in this need to be connected. We are all one in our aloneness.

And we are all alone in our oneness. This practice taught me that. Even when I found that point of connection, I was independent. We have to be. We have to honor our individuality in our journey into connection. The leaves must be different than the bark of the tree, though no part is less important than another.  Sangha – community – is comprised of all of the individuals that make up the collective.

We all feel alone at times. It doesn’t matter how surrounded by others we are, how loved we are. Feeling alone is not a reflection of how much others love us. Feeling this sense of aloneness has nothing to with any other person. This sense of aloneness can be scary, but only to that part of us that seeks to validate ourselves against the measure of others.  The fear of being alone arises from ego.

When we are able to pause long enough to just feel the sensation of only ourselves –without the expectations of others, without the fear, without the illusions that we are not connected – then the experience of this state changes.  This awareness can become a tool to help anchor us, to help us see past the illusory shadow cast by our fears, to slowly become aware of the difference between our egos and our true selves.

Once we can center our focus on this awareness, the illusion that we can ever truly be alone begins to unravel. As a community, we move as one. As a world, we all breathe collectively. Each of us individually breathes the same air inhaled by our siblings, by our ancestors, by our neighbors, by the trees, by the oceans, by the Earth herself.  And each breath draws us closer to that divine nature that is succinctly unique, yet paradoxically universal and all encompassing.

And so the journey is written – what began in the fear and pain finds it’s resolution in the breath.

 

The Flower Prayer

Who is this flower above me?

And what is the work of this God?

That I would know myself in all my parts.  –  Victor Anderson, oral tradition

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Handout for Prayer Workshop – Cosmic Connections Convention Saginaw October 2016

Prayer
Types of Prayer
Petition/Supplication – ‘pleas e help me with…..’
Intercessory – ‘please help So and So with……’
Faith – ‘strengthen my faith, help me to see/understand’
Praise/Gratitude – ‘you’re awesome! Thank you!’
Contemplation – ‘……..…….’
Written vs. Spoken
Invocation vs. Evocation – Invoke – brings the spirit inward; Evocation – prays a quality to the surface and out of you
Novena – Prayer for nine days straight
Mantra

Written Prayer
https://braucherei.wordpress.com/tag/himmelsbrief/
http://www.carolinaconjure.com/written-petitions.html
(Pow Wow or Long Lost Friend by John George Hohman)
AGAINST EVIL SPIRITS AND ALL MANNER OF WITCHCRAFT.
I.
N. I. R.
I.
SANCTUS SPIRITUS.
I.
N. I. R.
I.

All this be guarded here in time, and there in eternity. Amen.
p. 44
You must write all the above on a piece of white paper and carry it about you. The characters or letters above signify: “God bless me here in time, and there eternally.”

Who to Pray to
Ancestors, Spirits, Spirit Guides, Angels, God, Astrological Prayer, Nature

Tools to enhance Prayer
Incense (From https://robjo.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/16-common-incenses-and-their-uses/)
Amber – Represents both knowledge and history. Amber is good for meditations in which you’re seeking to discover information. It’s also very good for past life regressions and divinations into the past. Air associative.

Cedarwood – Cedar, like all wood incenses, is fire associative. It’s also generally seen as an incense denoting strength or power. It’s proper to burn this incense in a fort or castle, within an army prior to battle, or in a newly built or dedicated temple to announce ones strength and to push this strength outward into the world. It’s also a good incense for spells meant to increase virility in men.

Cinnamon – Cinnamon is by far the most useful incense and also one of the easiest to find. To start, cinnamon is fire associative, which makes it a good choice when dealing with fire elementals and also useful for communing with fire associative deities (like Mars). It’s also associated with passion, lust, and sexual desire, which makes it good for lust spells, aphrodisiac spells, and a good choice to burn during sex. But the thing that really sets it apart is cinnamon is really good at raising energy. If you’re trying to raise energy, cinnamon is the incense you want to burn. If you want to do a very powerful spell or ritual, it’s good to burn cinnamon to help get the energy you’ll need to pull it off. Because more energy isn’t going to hurt a spell, cinnamon is a good standard incense for any spellwork or ritual. About the only time you wouldn’t want to use cinnamon is when either the fire attribute or the lust attribute would be undesirable in a given spell (such as when evoking a water elemental or when casting certain types of love spells).
Frankincense – Frankincense promotes calm and peace. It’s commonly used to relieve stress and anxiety. However it is also useful in ending conflicts and arguments, reestablishing a friendship that has ended due to conflicts (as opposed to neglect), bringing peace and resolution to enemies, and bringing peace and resolution to warring factions. It also alleviates the tension of a tense situation. In all instances, the purpose of frankincense is to end any conflict or tension and bring about a state of peace and calm. Because of its nature frankincense is often used as both a general incense for religious rituals and as an aid for meditation. Frankincense is also believed to have many healing properties, and these are related to relieving conflicts and stresses within ones body which lead to illness.
Ginger – Ginger is fire associative. It’s good for spells which incite desire or lust.
Jasmine – Jasmine is both night and love associative. Although Jasmine is associated with love, it is not associated with sex or sex appeal, although it is associated with beauty. This is where Jasmine starts to differentiate itself from Rose. In love spells, where Rose tends to utilize the entire spectrum of romance, Jasmine is more concerned with the mental and emotional connections, and although Jasmine can bring forth someone who is beautiful, this beauty is often an inner-beauty, a beauty of character, in other words someone who you would find beautiful. This also makes Jasmine a very good incense for spells which are meant to promote friendship.

Lavender – Lavender promotes beauty. It’s a good incense for glamours and lures, and also a good incense for magick intended to actually make one more attractive. It also works well for love spells, spells meant to attract a mate, and it is a good incense to burn during romantic situations. Water associative.
Lotus – Generally associated with mental clarity, increased focus, and heightened intelligence. Because of these properties Lotus is often seen as ideal for meditation. Air associative.
Musk – Musk is Earth associative. It’s a good incense for restoring balance and order, realigning ones energies, sealing portals, creating barriers and protections, and removing the influences of negative magick. It’s also a good incense to burn to Saturn. Musk is also associated with chthonic deities and the underworld. It’s more concerned with underworld energies and accessing the underworld than bringing forth the dead. It’s a good incense to burn for certain underworld entities.
Myrrh – More than anything Myrrh is sun associative. It is often also seen as having a heavenly attribute or being of the gods. It was traditionally used as a funerary incense, but this is derived from its use to elevate one to the heavens or to curry favor with the gods, or to promote a renewal into ones next life as the sun renews itself each day, not because of a chthonic association. Because of its divine attribution, myrrh is often seen as an incense of purification and exorcism, although this has been embellished quite a bit by its prominence in Christian ritual. More than anything Myrrh acts as an amplifier for whatever spell is being performed because of its sun association. It should be noted that due to its divine association, Myrrh is a poor choice for amplifying magic which is done against the will of the gods. Myrrh is a good incense to burn to sun associative gods such as Helios, Apollo, or Ra.
Nag Champa – Nag Champa is a sacred incense (it’s a blend which consists partly of Sandalwood). Nag Champa can be burned for many of the same reasons as Sandalwood. It can be used to sanctify or purify an area. It’s also a good general purpose incense for spiritual matters. This includes acts like meditation and seeking spiritual enlightenment or evolution.
Opium – Opium is dream associative. Opium is a good incense to burn for any spell involving dreaming or sleep in any way, including spells meant to induce lucid dreaming or prophetic dreams. It’s also a good incense to burn to dream and sleep associative deities such as Morpheus.

Patchouli – The strong smell of patchouli makes it ideal for masking the smell of pot, which is its primary usage. It’s considered happy or joy associative, and it tends to attract fae creatures.

Rose – Rose is associative with love, sex, and desire. It’s a good incense to burn to deities that are associated with love, like Venus and Aphrodite. It’s also a good incense for love spells, spells concerned with inciting desire like lures and glamours, and spells that are meant to bring forth your desires.
Sandalwood – Sandalwood is fire and water associative along with being seen as the divine wood. Because of this Sandalwood is a good incense to burn for any deity, and it’s also a good incense to use to purify or sanctify an area.
Vanilla – Vanilla is air associative, and it’s a good general incense to burn to represent the element of air. Specifically vanilla associates with mental thought, intelligence, and all abilities conferred by these things. The incense is a good choice to burn for deities that are typically looked upon as being concerned with intelligence, like Hermes or Thoth

Candles (from http://www.luckymojo.com/candlemagic.html)
• white — spiritual blessings, purity, healing, rest
• blue — peace, harmony, joy, kindly intentions, healing
• green — money, gambling luck, business, a good job, good crops
• yellow — devotion, prayer, money (gold), cheerfulness, attraction
• red — love, affection, passion, bodily vigour
• pink — attraction, romance, clean living
• purple — mastery, power, ambition, control, command
• orange — change of plans, opening the way, prophetic dreams
• brown — court case, neutrality
• black — repulsion, dark thoughts, sorrow, freedom from evil
• red and black (Double Action) — remove a love-jinx
• white and black (Double Action) — to return evil to the sender
• green and black (Double Action) — remove money-jinx

Altar
Prayer beads
Oil

Signs
Incense Signs
1. One pop for “yes”.
2. Two quick pops together for “no”.
3. Silence (no pops if you have incense with seeds that should pop) for “answer unclear”.
4. If the smoke quickly moves away from you it can indicate either a negative outcome or things moving away from you.
5. If the smoke quickly moves toward you it can indicate either a positive outcome or things moving toward you.
6. If the incense goes out before it should it can indicate that now is not the time to ask this question.
7. Look for shapes in the smoke and interpret them much like in tea leaf reading.

Reading Candles – http://www.luckymojo.com/candlemagicdivination.html

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Intuitive Insomniac Chronicles: Gettysburg Investigation parts 1 & 2

Hi everyone!

I recently had the pleasure of going to Gettysburg PA for a paranormal investigation.  After the second night of investigation, I was unable to sleep, so I decided to shoot this series of videos at sunrise. The lighting and sound aren’t the greatest, and I’m not my normal articulate bubbly self since I was running off of 4 hours of sleep over a 56 hour period.  Lots of ums and a bit meandering, however, I got to share the fun I was having!

These are the first two videos in the series. The first is an overview of the trip, and the second discusses my experiences at the orphanage.

 

Overview of Gettysburg Trip

 

Recap of Investigation at the Orphanage in Gettysburg

The next post will include a video on the paranormal investigation techniques that I personally use, and the recap of Jennie Wade House investigation.