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.  

Worthiness

Over the past few months, one of the most difficult realizations I’ve had to come to is that I am worthy of good things in life. I never actively thought that I was unworthy of anything, but through a lot of soul searching and meditation, what I found is that I have an ingrained unconscious idea that I don’t deserve anything. I am not wealthy and I struggle for almost everything that I have. At some deep level, I did think that I reaped what I sowed. That there was something wrong with me that kept me from success and that I was the architect of that failure.

I was correct about being the architect of my own failure, but not because I was inherently unworthy of anything. My early childhood was spent struggling with illness and bullying. I internalized both of these things and they became a part of my early psyche. I believed that it was my lot in life to struggle as the outsider. I didn’t believe that worthypart1.2I’d ever be accepted because I had poor physical coordination and I didn’t always understand what someone was trying to teach me due to my learning disabilities. My mother went above and beyond to find help for me — for which I am eternally grateful — but even that left me with the notion that I was a bother. Just dealing with me was to be put upon in my mind. I was embarrassed by that. I spent so much time trying to hide from the fact that I needed help, because I feared that I was too much of a burden. Every time I had to go for physical therapy or cognitive therapy for my learning disabilities, I felt extreme anxiety. My childhood and teen years were rife with internal feedback loops of negative thought energy.

One cannot simply breakout of these feedback loops without doing shadow work (perhaps the theme of my next blog entry). In short, our shadow selves are all the things Jung-Quote-5we repress from our conscious minds because they represent our dark selves; the things we don’t like to acknowledge in ourselves or share with the rest of the world. It’s not always bad that we keep these things about who we are quiet (for instance, if one is filled with thoughts of violent behavior). However, it’s not a good thing to be unaware of our shadow. By being aware of the shadow side, we can actually confront it and deal with it constructively. We can incorporate it in ways that are useful to us. When we keep this side repressed, it will bubble forward in unexpected and (typically) unintended ways.

My shadow side can be rather nasty. When I feel cornered, I can lash out in incoherent anger and frustration. So often in the middle of an outburst I can literally hear my mind screaming, “STOP! What are you saying?!” I am not quick to anger, but I do bottle things up so that explosions are the only outlet I have. I’ve learned through shadow work that I howSqbottle things up because I feel that to express myself openly about – anything really – is to bother someone. It is due to feeling nullified in my past. Shadow work is helping me to find small outlets for expression so that I cease the endless loop of suppression and explosion.

But those explosions were part of my problem of a deep seated unconscious belief that I am unworthy of happiness and a good life. Other things like the fact that I move slower and I’m more prone to physical illnesses because of my compromised immune system, have left me with an internalized feeling that I don’t work hard enough and that is why I am struggling so hard.

I’ve started to be conscious of how I physically feel whenever I start to think that I am lazy and just don’t want to do something. Sometimes I am actually being lazy. But about 75% of the time, I am now aware that what is causing me to avoid a task is the physical pain or discomfort I am in due to real physical constraints. It’s difficult for me to admit the real mental and physical reality I live with every day, because I so thoroughly internalized those early childhood bullies (not always other kids, but also many adults). This will be a struggle for me. Just yesterday I slipped back into the thought, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this when everyone else can!?” My wonderful partner caught me and brought it to my attention, and I was able to correct the thought before it started to turn itself on me in a more significant way.

I am worthy of a good life and good things flowing into my life. I believe we all are. But we have to be open to it. We have to allow it to flow into us. I’m not pretending that there aren’t external obstacles to our happiness. There are, and they can be insurmountable depending on one’s circumstance. The external world can be unrelenting and swallow us whole, which is also another blog entry for a different time. But often, WE are the obstacle. We don’t believe we’re worthy of goodness and good things. The internalization of our demons keeps up down and we begin to believe, consciously and unconsciously, that we are undeserving. It follows us.

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The Cycle of Negative Thoughts

My current project is to eliminate the cycle of negative thoughts from my mind. Or more precisely, I don’t wish to be controlled by these negative thoughts and emotions any longer. I began this process back in April when I had my moment of clarity. I realize then that much of my depression and anger was due to painful events in my past that I never addressed. I didn’t even realize how much of my past I carried with me every day. I started to see that many of my friends were going through a similar experience and working through them in various ways – some more successful than others. But I read an article by Johann Hari in the Huffington Post that triggered me, The Real Causes Of Depression Have Been Discovered, And They’re Not What You Think. I cried when I read this article. I realized that many of my behaviors that were keeping me from living a more productive, healthy life were tied to bullying and abuse during my adolescent and Screen-Shot-2017-10-06-at-4.02.31-PMteen years. And much of that stemmed from earlier childhood health problems (a duration from age 3 to 5 years old) which made me stand out more as a target. I developed learning disabilities and had severe coordination issues from that illness. I was also an introvert. I don’t know if I would have been so introverted had I not had such serious health issues, but I do not remember a time when I wasn’t an introvert.

I was in the second grade when I started to notice there was a problem. My best friend in school stopped talking to me regularly. She began hanging out with the cooler girls and would barely acknowledge me. Most of the boys made fun of me. I didn’t understand why. My best guess is that I must have behaved awkwardly. Or at least I gave the impression that I did. Enough for it to have social consequences. Though a few years ago, my sister, who is three years older than me, told me that she had some of the same issues because we didn’t live in the same neighborhood as most of the kids in our class. We e855c3dc9d625b713948fbbef643e98flived in the suburbs and they in the city. Part of it may have been due to lack of proximity and that they viewed us as snobs (or perhaps their parents did and that perception transferred to the kids). My mother confirmed this was a problem she ran into at the school as well. Whatever the actual reason was, I was bullied from the age of 7 to 14. I was thrilled when I left that school behind and went to an all-girls high school. I remember those three years with much love, because I was finally able to have peace away from that abuse. Unfortunately, the school closed and I had to serve out my senior year with some of the same grade school kids that bullied me. One in particular was so bad that I occasionally still find myself thinking of ways to humiliate him.

I didn’t connect all of the negative behaviors I developed to this time in my past until I read the article. Now I see it as obvious. Little things I do to sabotage myself from breaking out of the cycle I am in are very clear to me now. This year on my birthday, the universe gave me a powerful download that made me realize that I’m carrying around painful baggage and I don’t have to do that. I never had to do it. The coping strategies that I developed to survive bad situations are no longer needed. I can let those go and choose something different now.

So, I set about changing my thoughts and ending the negativity cycle that I often get trapped in because of inertia. It’s easier to live on autopilot, but there are great consequences to that way of life. Growth doesn’t come out of that. The first step I took was to embrace my past and to start connecting parts of it with behaviors I developed. I needed to visualize the negative situation, the behavior I developed to cope with it, and then to see how the behavior was specialized to that situation. I could then see that today, that situation was no longer an active part in my life, so the behavior no longer served me.

I started to meditate daily and question everything that I said and did. I actually started to see some of the positive things that came out of my past in shaping who I am today. That was the real breakthrough step. As difficult as my life has been emotionally and physically, I cannot deny that much of it lead me on my path to discovery. My work in philosophy and religious studies is a direct result of my turn inward. My ability to think critically and to question the world and authority around me came out of a dissatisfaction with the mainstream world. And it is because of my spiritual journey that I can now pull myself out of the mental rut I’ve been in for decades.

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It’s also clear to me now that I developed a lot of insensitive and hypocritical tendencies that were rather self-serving and dismissive of others. I believe this is because I was so nullified as a child. So now, when I’m annoyed or find the actions of someone questionable, I first ask myself how I would act in the same situation. Do I do this myself? Are they being reasonable and am I annoyed or angry because it’s an inconvenience to me? Am I being unreasonable because my hormones are in flux? I run through a complex series of questions in my head. But here is the most important thing – if my answer is no, I listen to my inner voice now. I don’t make the assumption that I am wrong or invalidate my own experience, but rather I make room for the possibility that I am wrong and then I assess the situation.

Daily meditation allows me to be an observer of my thoughts. I can see them. I can see the little buggers that cause problems and I can opt to follow a different line of thinking. This has given me the ability to start the process of removing what no longer serves me.

Since I’ve been doing this, I’ve found that my depression is lifting. My interactions with my partner are far more positive and less contentious. I can actually see a positive future ahead of me with so much more to discover. It is early in the game. I do realize that it’s only been four months. But I also feel that my spiritual quest to eliminate the cycle of negative thoughts has given me new tools to cope with what life throws at me.

 

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For more information on stopping bullying, go to: https://www.stopbullying.gov/

 

 

Waking

A few months ago on my birthday I had a sudden and startling revelation about my life that led me on a journey of self-transformation. The moment was crystal clear and felt like the explosion of a star. blue-crystal-explosion-6606497While it was a momentary flash of understanding, the events leading up to this moment were a long time in the making and it would take several more months to unpack it all. One thing was clear, it was time for me to awaken to who I truly am in this life and to leave behind the fears that I had of what others thought of me. It was time for me to start healing myself so that I could be strong and face the challenges ahead. It was time to start listening to my intuition and to embrace a love of self that was missing all of my life. It was time to understand that the painful events of my past were not my fault. But more importantly, they also contributed in shaping who I’ve become. Since that fateful birthday, I’ve started to learn to re-member myself and bring in all the love, the joy, the pain and anguish, the hard work, the lessons, the people who have been there — and with these gems — find my center.

For a long time, I’ve known that I am a witch. It’s been difficult to say that out loud. Fear is a strong motivator to keep quiet. What would people think if they knew I thought this? But I don’t just think this. I AM A WITCH! as-above-so-below2It is who and what I am. It’s as simple as that. More specifically, I am an initiate on the Hermetic path. I believe that all religions contain an understanding of the Divine, which can be found once the trappings of the cultural metaphors are shed. I believe that all beings are Divine and that each Human has within them the ability to come to know their own divinity by coming to understand their immortal Soul, created by God.

I am by no means at the end of my journey. It’s only just begun. This blog is intended to chronicle that journey of initiation. I would also like to thank Witch Lisa ListerLisa Lister for her book Witch: Unleashed. Untamed. Unapologetic, for encouraging all of the women to go forth and embrace their inner witch. She provided an excellent guide to help me get out of my mental rut and embrace my true identity without compromise.