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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
Articles

Feeling Some Kind of Way

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Feeling some kind of way. If you’re like me, you use this rather imprecise phrase to describe a rather pointed feeling that you have. For most, it’s just another way of saying that something’s bothering them. For me though, it goes a little deeper, and it has some heftier subtext to it.

When I’m feeling some kind of way, I’m usually experiencing one of three things. I may be experiencing emotional/cognitive dissonance, or I may be having a bought of mystic melancholy or divine discontent. On rare occasions, I’m just straight up pissed off and grumpy about something, but for whatever reason I’m trying to be a bit more polite or tactful about expressing it. (That tends to be a rarity for me NOT because I’m too enlightened to experience such negative moods, but because I tend to be more vocal and less concerned about putting it as politely as ‘feeling some kind of way’.)

While we all occasionally experience a case of cranky’s, that’s not really the focus of this article. Let’s look at these other shades of feeling and go into some detail though.

Cognitive and Emotional Dissonance 

Cognitive dissonance is the experience of holding two conflicting viewpoints or beliefs at the same time.  Emotional dissonance is basically the feeling that you get when you’re examining something that threatens your sense of identity. I am lumping these two together for the purposes of this article because I tend to have the most experience with them in the same context. (And I suspect that many of the folks reading are of the intuitive leaning, so I imagine that you may be having these experiences without realizing it.)

Empaths and intuitives will have impressions or experiences that make them question their own sanity.  Many of these experiences are actually cognitive or emotional dissonance. Many (if not most) of these experiences are triggered by over-identifying with someone else’s energy – be it emotional, mental or experiential.  So we just need to be able to say “This isn’t my crap! I don’t have to deal with it! Yay!” and then move on, right?? If only it were that simple!

Being open enough to experience another person’s perspective frequently means encountering emotions, opinions and ideas that are foreign to your own.   Identifying when these thoughts and feelings originate with someone else is truly an art-form that empaths in particular have to develop for survival.  Dissonance occurs when something gets stuck in works.  This can only occur when it’s illuminating an aspect of our own experience that strikes some sort of resonance with the ‘guest thought/emotion’.

When such a resonance occurs, it becomes your responsibility to explore this territory. This is one of those beautiful moments that you get to learn something more about yourself! And guess what? A lot of times, we don’t greet these moments with leaps of joy because they tend to be uncomfortable.

Let me give you an example that I got to witness a few years ago.  A heterosexual male friend of mine was present while I was discussing the attractiveness of a guy that had come into the shop I was working in with a female co-worker.  The straight friend piped in and agreed that the fellow in question was indeed attractive.  He even went on to disagree with my co-worker and I about what the fellow’s most attractive feature was.  Then I saw it wash over his face.  Blessedly, he felt comfortable enough with me to be able to talk through the train of thought causing him some dissonance.  He questioned how he found the cute guy attractive, and started to really wonder if he may have some latent gay feelings, and it was making him rather uncomfortable.  He explored this sensation, and over the course of about a week was able to confidently affirm that he is indeed straight, but falls a little more towards the middle of the Kinsey scale of sexuality than he originally thought.  The struggle for him was visibly uncomfortable as he wrestled with how he defined his attraction, but he walked away from the experience feeling more enlightened.

This kind of moment is all too common for intuitives and empaths.  That said, it is an invitation, not an excuse.  It’s an invitation to know yourself more deeply, which my personal belief says that this is the prime reason for our experience in the human day-to-day world.  This is by no means an excuse to belittle or berate others’ views, or worse yet, martyr yourself.  (I see this waaaaayyyyy too often.)

For me, just knowing that this has a name helps me to navigate through the experience of dissonance. I’m not usually happy when it’s occurring, but I’m always grateful for the growth that it brings.

Mystic Melancholy and Divine Discontent

These are two terms that I became familiar while reading an author named Orion Foxwood (fantastic author on fairy traditions, southern conjure and witchcraft). Both of these experiences are driven from the level of spirit.  It isn’t uncommon to feel down or to feel like things need to change.  Sometimes though, the feeling surpasses what we normally experience as depression. That’s not even necessarily that we’re feeling lower than usually do, but that there’s a difference. The feeling runs deeper, and there’s a sense of longing with it.  I describe it like my soul is singing a song that I can’t remember the words to.  This is mystic melancholy.

Mystic melancholy occurs when your soul is longing for a connection that’s missing.  A lot of times this can be confusing because we often don’t have a conscious idea or experience of what it is that we’re missing.  We just know that part of us is reaching out for something that isn’t there in the moment.

Conversely, Divine Discontent occurs when change needs to occur, usually because we are out of our soul’s flow. Most often, we are doing something to gum up the works, and this will manifest as an anxiety or nearly compulsive need to change something around.  Many times we displace the feeling into changing things that we have more immediate control over, but this is just a coping mechanism.  Divine discontent presents itself when we are just plain out of alignment with our deeper purpose.

Let me give a current example through my own personal sob story. (I am a good Pisces, so I’m great at martyring myself and whining, so why not put it to good use in my writing, right?) So, some time ago, I decided that I needed to have a more normal working experience than to be a full time psychic reader.  (Just believe me when I say I had my reasons, and the financial aspect was not the most driving one – but definitely did factor in.) I felt like I needed a normal job with a steady paycheck.  So I found one, and then promptly found a much better one. I took the job and I love my coworkers (and I even love my supervisor. As a matter of fact, I love most of the supervisors there. The people I work with are kind of amazing!) I set my intention with the Universe, and this job very quickly manifested and was everything I could’ve wanted in a ‘normal’ job.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t too long before I started getting antsy.  This rapidly progressed into dreading having to go into work.  All the while, I’m trying to adjust other factors of my life to compensate.  I adjusted my schedule, my diet, rearranged furniture – I projected my discontent into every other area of my life.  And what does it boil down to? I’m out of alignment with putting more time into a job than into my calling.

That’s right – my desire for normal and predictable completely screwed me over.  Now, does that mean that I’m going to completely screw someone else over in turn by just up and quitting? No.  No amount of personal pain or struggle entitles you to be hurtful to someone else.  And just because I stepped out of alignment doesn’t give me permission to be irresponsible to step back into my alignment.  I have plans in place to be able to transition back to my full-time magical lifestyle, and I’ve been open and honest with my supervisor about my intention. We found a date range that will be the least detrimental for me to leave the company, and I intend to stick it out until then (unless the Universe gives me a huge clue-by-four across the head that I need to not wait it out).

So, when I’m feeling some kind of way, the first thing I try to do is dig a little deeper so that I have a clear picture of my motivations and where my feeling is coming from.  When I feel this way, I usually know that there’s something else brewing under the surface. I may not be able to slap a band-aid on it and call it good, but once I’ve acknowledged the complete picture of what’s happening with me I find some peace. This peace comes from the fact that moving through my discomfort has led me to deeper and more satisfying experiences of joy in my life.  And while it doesn’t usually make the experience any less intense, this does seem to grant me enough strength and patience to see my way through it. It is my hope that this article can help you with recognizing this process in your own life, so that you can take the reigns and embrace the change instead of getting in your own way.
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Brightest Blessings!