The Long Hot Mess of Summer

I haven’t been blogging of late as July turned out to be a rather difficult month. Five planetary retrogrades, Chiron in retrograde (the Wounded Healer is strong in my natal chart), and a solar and lunar eclipse – oh my! You could say that this month was full of important lessons and growth. You could also say it was like getting hit with a meteorite traveling at the speed of light and you’d be right as well.

I wish it were this benign!

 Last year on this date, the universe gave me an important lesson. You can read about it in my first blog post. And up until a few months ago, I thought I learned it. I did actually learn it, but we don’t always follow the lessons we learn, do we? Intellectual knowledge requires life experience to truly drive home the point and transmute itself into Wisdom. Obtaining Wisdom is often done through challenges, obstacles and pain. During this eclipse/retrograde season, the Universe sent another loud message to get my head out of my ass and to stop falling for all of the shinies. All that glitters is not gold and all that.

Touché, Universe.

I am living through a financial scare right now. This summer I lost a good portion of my income temporarily as a number of my courses were canceled due to low enrollment. I started sending out application to schools all over the state. I stopped working on my new projects, the ones I love, the ones I believe will lead me to a better, more authentic life. I abandoned my pursuit of my Personal Legend, as Paulo Coelho called it in The Alchemist. I did this out of fear. I retreated back to what was old and familiar. To a place I already know no longer serves me.

Double punch!

The Universe sent me another big fat HELL NO! And then rerouted me to where I need to be again. Last year it was wrapped in a massive hail storm. This year, I was left with a much longer lingering affect which won’t be lost on me anytime soon. It’s been said that stupidity should be painful. This was physically and mentally painful. It left me sick, beat-up, worn-out and drained of energy.

This time around, however, I was able to reap the benefits of the growth I experienced over the past year. I’m not wallowing in this mistake as I would have before. I’ve been able to forgive myself. It wasn’t immediate, but it wasn’t months longs either as it would be in the past. I gave myself a few days to recover from the blow and nurse my wounds. Then I started a routine to get myself reoriented and back on track.

Here’s the gist of my lesson. Self-transformation cannot begin with giving in to old patterns, old ways of thinking, old jobs, and old thoughts about self. That will only breed more of the old. Self-transformation begins with deep self-reflection and taking steps in new directions. It’s far more than applying intellectual knowledge. In some ways, intellectual knowledge can get in the way. It’s about developing intuition and applying the lessons of lived experience. In other words, cultivating Wisdom. How often have I written in this blog, Know Thyself?

Fear, Doubt, Uncertainty, Anxiety, these negative thought patterns that ego clings too, need to be ejected. Easier said then done, right? But not impossible. Meditation helps quite a bit. It lead me to the realization that I had to realign my goals to place personal transformation at the center of everything. When I placed my income and financial prosperity as my stated outcome for my transformation — out of fear and a sense of lack in my life — what I got back was more fear and lack in my life.

I tell my students, don’t focus on the grade, focus on the learning. If you focus on the learning, the grades will follow. They resist this. I often hear, “I need to get an A in this class! How do I get an A?” I tell them to focus on learning and understanding the content. Read my feedback on your assignments. Apply that feedback. Ask questions if you don’t understand. There is no other magic pill for getting an A in the class.

What I learned was that I was doing the same thing as my students: I focused on the financial outcome rather than the personal transformation required to live an authentic life.

But this set back isn’t without it’s gains. For one, I have much more empathy with my students. I can get very frustrated with them when they don’t heed my words. What I learned is that it’s quite hard to do when there is so much at stake. Fear, Doubt, Uncertainty and Anxiety rear their hydra heads and scared the bejesus out of me! It is the same for my students when the fear a bad grade will keep them out of a certain program or that they will lose financial funding. Or they won’t meet the impossibly high goals they set for themselves. I understand that one more as well.

I also learned to trust in my instincts and the synchronicities around me. Everything within and around me told me that I was going backwards. I convinced myself otherwise. I convinced myself that it was just a temporary setback to my ultimate goal until I got back on my feet. When ego is scared, ego lies. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but an important one.

The most important lesson, was that once I released the death-grip I had on controlling my finances, opportunities started to flow towards me. Ideas that I previously found elusive started to flow from me. I feel like for the first time in my life, I know what I want to do and how to get there. What it took was a realignment of priorities. Focus on the personal transformation, let go of my attachment to results, and the results that I need in my life will manifest.

It’s been a long, hot mess of a summer. But it’s also been quite productive. I know what I need to do and I’m getting on track with how to do it. The witch has finally awakened, let the magick begin!

Embracing the Magic

Yeah, that’s all gonna have to come off.

For a while now I’ve been contemplating the reality that so many of us deny our own magic. Why is it that those of us who seek to recognize the magic in our soul, must go through years of intense shadow therapy to scratch the surface of our nature’s true core so that we can create a united will that will let us shine in our magical brilliance? One would expect that this shadow work needs to be done for anyone wishing to embrace the magic within, but it seems that we run into what I would term as excessive muck. Even once the outer layers of filth are removed, one must apply the proverbial scrapers and picks to skin off the tar, plaque and barnacles that have accumulated over years of systematic abuse and societal programming. The work, it seems, is never truly done.

A good friend of mine, Nick Mather of Dreaming Green, sent me a video from the movie, Samsara, that perfectly nails the visualization of how our psyches are attacked and taken over in a constant barrage of promises of wealth, happiness and beauty that give the illusion that we have some control over our lives. But this is a demonic spell we are under. The message, it turns out, is nothing more than layer upon layer of fear and crippling self-doubt, which keeps us working for the machine. We believe that if we work hard enough, keep our noses clean and don’t make too much noise, we will be rewarded. Except the reward never comes.

Office Man, from the film Samsara

I’m sure the behemoth looks like something out of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

So here we are. Just a handful of shamans and witches in a world full of demonic forces in which most of the people have been scooped up into the behemoth industrial structure. I imagine some mechanical monstrosity held together now mostly with duct tape, rust and wads of chewed gum. And as insanely terrifying as it is, people believe in it and serve it. They can’t get out of its demonic thrall. My friend Nick likened our modern fascination with ourselves to the myth of Narcissus, who wasted away in the thrall of his own image in the water. But today it’s not even our own image, it’s an artificially constructed image. I think the key is there and why it is so worse now in the digital age than ever before. It’s the deception of a false image being made to appear as our own. We’re not looking at ourselves, we’re looking at simulacrum, which is distorted with false ideals of beauty and success. If we stripped off the veneer, we’d be left with something that more accurately depicts the portrait of Dorian Gray; something terrifying and wrought with its own corrupt, corrosive forces. Basically, we’ve each been lured into the trap with our own shadow, which is why it works so well.

Dorian Gray, by Ivan Albright

So, how did we come to this and what can be done about it?

I’ve discovered that much of the spiritual work I’ve done through my whole life has left out the physical world and concentrates on the spiritual realms. That’s really been the main problem all along. Spiritually, most of us have been taught to value the higher realm of God. We ignore the physical world around us at a great cost. The feminine, worldly aspects of spirituality have been stripped away in so many belief systems because it is viewed as lesser rather than the equal partner of the masculine, mystical aspects. This has left our world with a severe hormonal imbalance that is life threatening to the entire planet.  

A colorized version of the Above and the Below. Opus Medico Chymicum, by Daniel Mylius

In Alchemy, we often hear the principle of correspondence translated to “as above, so below, as below, so above.” However, this is not how it’s written in the translations we have of the Emerald Tablet, which is reputed to have been written by Hermes Trismegistus (the tablet has never been found, but many translations of it exist). The Emerald Tablet words this carefully because it is an alchemical formula for us to follow. It states, “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing.” 1 We too often forget that we need to start with the Below if we’re going to work up to the Above. We exist in the physical world and it is here where we begin the whole process. Acting as though we are already lofty entities of great spiritual power is not only hubris, it’s psychotic. The act of world-creating demands that we unite the Below and the Above; these two worlds reflect each other. So, valuing only the Above and treating the Below as though it is trash, leads us into the scenario we are living out today.

Embracing the Divine Feminine and witch within has allowed me to pull the physical world into my spiritual practice. Witches, warlocks, shaman, medicine men and women, spiritual gurus, light workers and warriors, all know that we start in the physical world. We begin with Gaia and connect to the Anima Mundi, the World Spirit. It is from there that we can connect to the spiritual world of the Above to create our world Below in its image.

What I’ve learned from this process is to do away with ideas of sin and shame, which are completely unproductive and only work to sabotage us. Sin and shame, these two twins of destruction, keep us immobilized and trapped in the demonic snare of our current system. This is the muck that covers us unless we commit to the work of freeing ourselves from them.  It’s taken me nearly my entire life to learn this lesson so that I can just begin the process of shadow therapy. I’ve already cleared so much of it; I feel lighter and happier. But there is more to do. I have so much gratitude for witches like Carolyn Elliott and Lisa Lister for helping me to see how to embrace my inner witch — that lushes, gorgeous, powerful. magician within — and bring her forward. They taught me that the physical world is necessary, beautiful, and magical, but we also must remember to be a fully immersed part of it.

The Magic Circle, by John William Waterhouse

1 Hauck, D. W. (1999). The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy for Personal Transformation. New York, NY: Penguin Compass.  

The Rejection of Fear

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”  —Frank Herbert, Dune

FearisALiarFear is the mind-killer, the thing that keeps us from total self-realization. It is the thing that creates nightmare worlds and holds its inhabitants hostage. The good news and the bad news are the same; It’s self-inflicted. I inflict a lot of fear into myself. I’ve been afraid of what others thought or me in my youth. I’ve been afraid of what others could do to me now in my middle age. I’ve been afraid of not making enough money, of not having healthcare, and of not being able to take proper care of my family. I’m fighting the fear of what lies ahead if I live my truth now. I’ve lost a lot of time because of the fear I hold. But fear is self-inflicted and because of this reality, I can stop it. I hold the power to end my own suffering if I choose it.

Fear_Itself_intertitleEasier said than done. But once I said it, something interesting happened. The fear slowly started to lose its grip over me. It didn’t happen instantly, but over several days and weeks of meditation and setting an intention to lift my fears. Just last night as I was meditating on the Principle of Polarity (which I will write about at length later), I became aware that certain fears that had their talons sunk deep into me, didn’t seem to have such a strong hold any longer. Fears that could bring me to tears in a matter of a few seconds… didn’t! They simply do not feel as important as they did to me only a few days ago.

Like most people, I want a little certainty and stability in my life. I want the peace of mind that comes with it. But if I am being honest with myself, certainty and stability are illusions. These things can be stripped away at any time with the rise and fall of social customs, political agendas, and environmental catastrophes. Sacrificing my own truth One-Earth-Peace-Lovefor the illusion of certainty seems a particularly bad bet to make. In Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, they use the term maya* to describe the illusions in life that deceive us and keep us off our true paths. Deeper than that, maya is the illusion that this physical world is all that is, when a much greater Ultimate Reality exists far beyond this physical manifestation.  Hermetic philosophy teaches that we can come to know that Ultimate Reality through the exploration and mastery of our own mind. Our minds are made in the likeness of the Divine Mind and expressed in the axiom – As above, so below, as below so above.

I felt a strange and wonderful release of built up negative energy this morning. The fears that kept me off my spiritual path are letting go of my mind and freeing it to move about with a sense of wonder, curiosity, and anticipation of discovery. I also feel so much discoverywondergratitude for being alive right now and fortunate enough to live through this experience. Despite all the hardship and ugliness in this world, there is also wonder and beauty.

And here is the most important thing I’ve come to understand; suffering and pain are not to be avoided in this life. No one likes to go through it. It hurts like hell and sometimes it feels like it will never end. For some, it may even be too much. But if we survive it, there’s gold to be found.

GoldTeaCup

*Not to be confused with Maya, a manifestation of the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi.

The Call of Dreams

“Dreams are postcards from our subconscious, inner self to outer self, right brain trying to cross that moat to the left. Too often they come back unread: return to sender, addressee unknown. That’s a shame because it’s a whole other world out there–or in here depending on your point of view.”

―Chris in the Morning, from Northern Exposure, ep. Roots, 1991

End-of-Life-Dreams-and-Visions-479718794-750x485I had a dream last night that I went to visit my parents in Ohio. While I was there, I decided to buy my ticket back to Colorado. There was no explanation as to why I didn’t just buy a round-trip ticket to begin with, I assume this was a matter of dream logic. So, I went online to buy my return ticket, but I ended up getting a round-trip ticket to Ohio and back to Colorado. After I bought the tickets, it occurred to me that I didn’t need the ticket to Ohio since I was already there. I was very annoyed about this, but I wasn’t able to get a refund. My mind was so preoccupied that I had bought a ticket that I didn’t need, that I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the trip with my family. I kept shaking my head and thinking, why did I waste money on something I already have?!

I didn’t realize the multilayered meanings to this dream until I shared the dream with my partner over breakfast. She thought about it for a moment and said, “That’s great! It’s not often you get a dream with such clear meaning.” She was right. I had to say it out loud before I could really dig into it.

Bookcase

One of my smaller bookcases still under construction

I have a lot of shit. I mean, a LOT. Clothes, books, crystals, knickknacks, tarot decks, stuffed animals, electronic gadgets, candles, jewelry, art supplies, beads, and bits and pieces of things I no longer know what they go to anymore. If I am honest with myself, I would have to say that with the exception of food and toiletries, I could go several years without buying anything new. Maybe new books. Knowledge is always a good thing, after all. But the rest? Don’t need it.

On another level, it occurred to me that I’ve wasted a lot of time and energy wanting to be something I already was. I am a spiritual person. I am a witch. I am a powerful woman. I just didn’t realize it yet. I wasn’t confident in my own skin and I allowed other people, things, and fear to define me. I worried so much about what others thought of me that there wasn’t really a me. At least not a me that I allowed to shine through. And how much of the stuff that I bought was just to make me feel more spiritual and witchy, when all of that comes from the inside.

So, no more buying things I don’t need to clutter up my home. No more wasting time and energy on wishing I was the person I wanted to be. It’s time to live it.

hg-wells

 

Cocooning

Back in 2008 I worked as an academic advisor for an expensive proprietary school. I had been there for three years and I wasn’t happy. Rather than helping students through school and to achieve their goals, my job was to keep them there even against their own best interests. It was not what I set out to do in life, I had no intention of hurting anyone. If the situation called for it, I would advise students to take some classes at a community college until they figured out what they wanted in life. If they still wanted to go to our school, they could come back after taking their general education courses, which were probably about 20-25% of the overall bill. I kept this to myself as I couldn’t imagine that the school would smile upon this practice. Though I only did it if I felt the student really needed help and they weren’t doing well in our classes.

boringMeeting-538x218During registration time, the other advisors and department chairs would sit around a table and literally would go through every single student that hadn’t registered for class yet. The Director of Academic Affairs would preside over each minute details of those students. Did the advisor assigned to the student call them? Did they send out emails? Did they try to track the student down in class? Did they text the student? Did the department chair get involved and reach out to the student? It was some form of strange, ritualized stalking that was sanctioned by Corporate. If the student was hospitalized or homeless, we were asked what sort of resources we could provide for them. We would give them numbers and websites for food banks, hostels, and missions. We would give them information for counseling. This was not bad in and of itself, it may have even helped some. But so many of them needed healthcare or help with bills and these were things we couldn’t help them with outside of resources like a nurse hotline. But at norecession time would it ever be suggested that the student shouldn’t be in our very expensive school. Too many had dropped and we had to staunch the blood flow. The Great Recession began only a few months earlier and students simply couldn’t pay for an overinflated education that they likely wouldn’t ever be able to pay back.

towerofbabel

The Tower of Babel

One night I had a dream of a giant ziggurat that reached into the clouds. It housed an entire city of people. It looked like a cross between the Tower of Babel and Minas Tirith. I was flying over it and at first it looked impressive, but in the dream I understood that it wasn’t real. I can recall saying, “This is a virtual city!” The more I looked at it, I came to understand that it was a false construct and that there were faults in the structure. It was crumbling because there was no meaningful upkeep. When I flew close to it, I could tell it wasn’t built from real stone, it was plaster and had been worn by water and wind erosion. It wasn’t going to last long.

During one of those meetings, my mind drifted back to that dream. The only thing going through my mind as other advisors were talking about their students not yet registered, was that the meeting, the school, and everyone in the building were wrapped up in an illusion. The system was crumbling all around them, and no one took notice of it.

If there is a moment where I could pinpoint when I started to Wake Up to Reality, it was in that moment.  Today the school no longer exists, my intuition about it was correct. But I left long before it closed.  Once I made the realization, I had to get out. I never said anything about my thoughts to my co-workers, but I felt exposed all the same. Like I was wearing an “Imposter” sign on my back. I wasn’t of them.

What happened after that was an eight-year cocooning. I taught philosophy and comparative religion courses online to pay my bills. I didn’t get out of the house often and I built walls around myself. Quite literally. While I didn’t develop into a full-blown hoarder, I could have easily. I turned into a clothes horse and I couldn’t get rid of old ratty things that were twenty years old. It was like I was building up a barrier between me and the rest of the world. I felt hurt from the experience and I did not want to go back out into the wild.clothes hoarding

During this time, I didn’t do much to build on that awakening. It’s taken me ten years to realize that it frightened me and that it was a painful experience. Awakening hurts because it puts us at odds with the rest of the world. I began to see that I really do not fit in with what most people call “normal.” I don’t even understand it. What seems obvious to me, so few others see.

During my time of cocooning, two decidedly bad things happened. I closed myself off from the world, and I began to let my ego grow. It seems paradoxical, but it’s actually quite common. I looked down on those that couldn’t see what was so obvious to me. This refusal for others to open their eyes was destroying the world through climate change, economic depression, political apathy, unethical corporate practices, economic injustice, and so forth. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to see that we’re all on our own path. We’re all doing what we need to do to get by in this life. And it’s only recently that I’ve been able to rejoin the world.

namaste-bitches-spiritual-materialism

“Be careful not to wear spiritualism as a badge to decorate your ego” –Unknown

U2FdIahI did return for a short stint to academic office life, which was a disaster for me. About eight years after I shut myself off from the world, the classes started to dry up. Student enrollment was down and I wasn’t going to meet my bills much longer. So, I took another job as an advisor for yet another proprietary school. I was desperate for a steady job.  This lasted for two and a half years, and I even received a promotion. The set up was actually worse than the previous job, and once I was promoted I felt like I entered hell. What got me through this time were the people I worked with on a daily basis. They were wonderful, caring, helpful, and family, some of whom I am still friends with now.

I feel that I was there to meet one person in particular who changed my life. His name was Art. He had an indomitable spirit and he brought life and light to everyone he encountered. He was a light worker and a spirit warrior. He was a Sun Dancer. He was half Lakota Sioux and he did a lot of work with the water protectors at Standing Rock. He was going to cleanse the new house my partner and I were about to move into when he got sick. He had an upper respiratory illness which kept getting worse. This went on for over a month. And then one day in late April 2017, he died.sundog

I was fortunate enough to be at the hospital with him on the day he died. He was surrounded by his family, his tribe, his friends, and his co-workers. There was drumming and chanting, and people speaking to him with love and light in their hearts. I witnessed the most beautiful process of a person transitioning from this life into the next.

I decided that day that I wasn’t going to waste another minute on a life that wasn’t mine. It was the dawn of my Second Great Awakening, and I set up a six-month plan to raise the money I would need to quit my job and transition to my new life. I walked out that October.

I’d like to say that it was easy and life’s been a breeze since then, but a few woes unto each of us must fall. I entered a period of cocooning again. Though this time it was a much shorter duration and I didn’t remain on autopilot. I started to research Hermeticism, meditation and paganism more. I already had a decent understanding, but I wanted to learn more. I wanted to understand it as a practitioner, not just a researcher. I dove into these ancient teaching. I starting to find the Divine in everything and everyone. I started making plans with a close friend to start a business! I went back and forth between thinking I was crazy and embracing this new life. I had several meltdowns, but I kept getting back up.

There was some back sliding, I wrote about the lost job opportunity on this blog back in July. That came from fear. Not losing the job, but rather trying to get it, as that is not my calling in life. It was another distraction.  But the other night I sat on my back porch and started to meditate. I asked myself if now, after all I’ve been through and all I know, could I go back? After my Second Great Awakening, with all the research, knowledge and understanding of the universe and Divine I have now, could I actually go back to my old life and the cycle of work, burnout and cocooning?

No. I can’t. There is no going back to that now. And so…

onward-human-to-glory