Comfort in Chaos

Chaos_arrowWhen my ex and I first got together, The Secret had just come out. He was already a big fan of What the Bleep Do We Know, and I had never been exposed to the slick marketing of the New Age publishing machine.  I would like to think that my critical thinking skills would not have been so easily overcome, but the combination of glossy visuals and a desire to please a new partner overwhelmed my rational brain fairly quickly. And, if I’m totally honest, the fact that I already had practice in spell craft (a form of targeted manifestation) also made me easy prey for this particular mode of thinking.

The idea that one can manifest one’s own reality is quite seductive. It provides the oft-craved illusion of control. Life feels so unpredictable, and the promise of being able to create every desire is balm in the wound of uncertainty.

It’s also very dangerous.

Don’t get me wrong, the initial rush of attributing every coincidence to your own eminence is seductive. You feel powerful, able to take on anything. The problem is, however, that this initial string of beginner’s good luck doesn’t last. Inevitably something goes wrong: you get in a traffic accident, you lose your job, you miscarry.

And now, it’s all your fault.

That’s the only conclusion you can draw and still uphold the manifestation paradigm. If you’re manifesting your own reality, and if something bad happens, then clearly you brought it on yourself. For someone who already has a tendency to take responsibility for things that aren’t necessarily their fault, this is an insidious and deadly poison. In a way, it flips the model of a wrathful god on its head: Instead of god punishing you for your transgressions, you are punishing yourself for lack of discipline or bad feelings, which have brought sorrow or hardship upon you.

It is the ultimate in victim blaming, with no regard for circumstance. It’s free will taken to the nth degree.  Those people want to be poor. That woman let herself be raped. That child chose to be born into an abusive home. When you take the paradigm to that extreme, its ugliness oozes to the forefront.

We become afraid of the chaotic, the unpredictable.  We become afraid of those who have fallen on hard times. We forsake compassion for the fear. We become more selfish, more self-centered, more juvenile in our desires and attitudes.  We attribute unasked-for blessings to our own superiority and enlightenment, and self-flagellate for the smallest bump in the road.

John Michael Greer gets the credit for creating the first crack in my Secret-induced misery. He has a wonderful talent for taking the long view of various trends, and he noted that books exactly like The Secret were popular throughout the 1920 up until the Great Crash of 1929, when reality came barreling back through the haze of excess.  Ever the student of history, I began to take a good hard look at the assumptions I had been holding.

The next crack exploded into a seismic fault when my husband asked for a divorce a few months after I miscarried my second child.

Accepting that there are often things out of one’s control is a huge part of beginning to route out magical thinking, which is what The Secret  is at its most basic level. Now, of course, there are times when magical thinking is incredibly useful, like, when you’re actually doing magic.  But for getting through the day-to-day, it’s rarely an optimal paradigm. In truth, there’s really not much we can control outside of our own actions–and even then it’s debatable how much control we truly have.

Slowly, I began taking joy–but not credit–in a bluebird’s wing brushing my hair as I lay in the meadow, in the unexpected tax refund, in the chance to play music on the front porch with a neighbor. I became a more grateful person, and dare I say a happier one.  Chaos isn’t always something to be feared.  It can be those happy coincidences. It fuels creativity, and I returned to finding inspiration in the randomness of a tarot draw or the odd turn of phrase from my child.  There is an undeniable ease in uncertainty, where both happy surprises and unfortunate accidents are, in fact, out of your control and not a manifestation of either your damned or elect status.

Find happiness in the accidents. Live without apology for circumstance. Take comfort in the chaos of life.

Experiments with the Sun Mirror

18208165226_463cd981d4_zWow, what a change I’ve noticed in my energy levels when I’ve been able to do even a few moments with my Sun Mirror in the morning.  The mirror work in and of itself was inspired by Levannah Morgan’s lecture on DruidCast episode 98, which is worth multiple listens if you’re interested in this kind of magical/energetic practice.

The first energy system I ever worked with was qigong’s Three Dantian, and that’s pretty much what I still stick with today (although Kristoffer Hughes has a fascinating Welsh energetic system which I’d eventually like to explore further).

I’ve been invoking Beli Mawr since we’re passed May Day. It’s likely that I will invoke Sunna in the winter months. I’ll likely do a formal dedication/consecration of the mirror as a working tool on Solstice, but even without the formalities, it’s been extremely effective for getting the nwyfre flowing in the mornings.

Stand or sit with the sun at your back. Use the mirror to focus a beam of light first on your Lower Dantian (roughly where the uterus is located), then on your Middle Dantian (heart), then on your Upper Dantian (third eye).*  At each cauldron, say:

Beli Mawr, ignite my passion.
Beli Mawr, inflame my heart.
Beli Mawr, illuminate my mind.

I haven’t really found a satisfactory way to perform this exercise when it’s overcast, unfortunately. However, it’s quickly becoming a foundational element of my practice, and I imagine it will prove invaluable when the winter doldrums strike in early March.


Water, Water, Everywhere

17347170113_edae15167aBack in September of 2014, I had asked a good friend and seer to do a reading for me for the coming year.  Much to my dismay, she said, “You’re not done healing yet.  You’ll be crying in your sleep because you can’t deal with these emotions rising to the surface. You need to let them come.”  A bit dramatic, I thought, still, sound advice not to stifle.  I put the reading out of my mind for the next couple of months.

But she was right. Starting in February (thanks, Bride, yes I see your godly fingerprints all over this one!) my eyes would begin watering uncontrollably 2–3 times a day. I wasn’t crying in my sleep, but I was crying without being able to connect to the underlying emotion. Blocked, severed, whatever you want to call it, a gap lay between what I felt and what I could be conscious of.  After eliminating physical causes just to be sure, I turned by attention to the psychological.

I’ve spent the past two months reconnecting with Water.  It’s the element that I have the most trouble grasping intellectually, which should be no surprise since it’s not a mental realm in the slightest.  I don’t like that I can’t pin Water down, that it’s inconstant and in a perpetual state of flux. And yet, there are so many aspects of Water that are vital to my wellbeing—creativity, intuition, divination, healing.  It’s always the emotional component that lies furthest out of reach.

A few weeks ago, I remembered something Damh the Bard said between verses of “Wild Mountain Thyme” as he sang around the ECG campfire:

For those who can afford it, there’s therapy.
For the rest of us, there’s MUSIC!

I started playing songs (mostly Damh’s actually, with a bit of Mary Chapin Carpenter tossed in) that brought tears to my eyes, either because of the chord structure or the lyrics. I established a safe space, where I didn’t have to be strong for my son, or play nice to keep the peace, or be the dependable daughter.  The melodies enfolded me, and I wept. I performed this ritual twice a day at first, and now once a day is enough. Slowly, I’ve stopped needing the music to trigger my emotions, and I’ve been able to let them rise naturally when I have the time and space to do so. My heart is rehydrating itself with tears.

Starting at the new moon, I’ve been doing a daily iteration of the OBOD’s Ritual of the Element Water. On the full moon itself, I plan to conclude with the Water Weaving Ritual.  Already my words are flowing again, as are images I want to paint, jewelry I want to craft, and sculptures I want to sink my hands into.  Music played such an important part in my life, it’s somehow fitting that it’s what is reconnecting myself with my Self.

Instructions for further care: wash, rinse, repeat as necessary.

Migraines and Monadnock: Healing on the Mountain

Hard-won healing on the mountain.

While this experience dates back to April of 2013, the fall out from my pilgrimage to Monadnock has reached to present day. It’s proof that healing comes in many forms, not all of them immediately evident.

As some background, I’ve been getting migraines since I was nine or ten years old. These aren’t just “headaches,” these are full-blown neurological storms that often would leave me half-blind, numb, vomiting, shaking with chills and speech aphasia for hours at a time.  Sometimes the symptoms were so bad that I was thrown into a trance state (probably one of the reasons that to this day I don’t find journeying particularly difficult).  No medication worked, the few I tried just made things worse; dietary changes would sometimes help lengthen the time between migraines, but depending on the time of month, barometric pressure (not kidding), and stress, these were also largely ineffective. Eventually, I gave up trying to find a cure and learned to live with them, crawling under piles of blankets in a dark room and praying for it to be over.

Of course my mind struggled through the usual thoughts: “what did I do to deserve this?” “why me?” and in my more emo moments, begging and bargaining with the migraine itself, as if it were some sort of wrathful deity whom I could appease.  I grew to hate my body for betraying me. The only upside of the migraines was that they always came once whatever stress I was under was over and done with. So, they never came on during finals, but in the first few days of vacation after the semester had ended. I suppose that was one bright side, if it could be called that.

Now, what does all of this have to do with the mountain?

Our family spent the morning hiking up the white cross trail on Monadnock. It was my 3-year-old’s first big hike (with a lot of help from mom and dad!). We had just finished our lunch on the summit and I was feeling joyful and relaxed, in love with the view…

The rock I was standing on disappeared from my vision. So did my child’s face. The sun was too bright.

I had a full blown migraine. And a two hour hike back to the car.

I decided to push through it–we really didn’t have a choice.  I ended up sliding down most of the mountain on my butt. I must have drunk two liters of water on the way, and the rest of the family helped me out over the difficult parts until my vision cleared.

And you know what? It was the easiest migraine I’d ever had.

I mean, I only threw up once as opposed to the usual eight to twelve times. I had almost no headache. And the blindness cleared in about twenty minutes as opposed to lingering for hours.  It was an amazing breakthrough.

The next time I ended up with a migraine, I decided to try to recreate the conditions that I experienced on the mountain. I pounded a liter of water, then began doing kung fu, push-ups, turning the compost pile–whatever I could think of to exert my body.

It worked.

I’ve now been doing this regimen for over a year now. I’ve been able to reinterpret the migraine not as a curse, but as a signal from my body that it is dehydrated or has a build-up of toxins due to lack of water.  (In fact, I wonder how many other folks attribute headache relief to aspirin when in fact it’s the glass of water taken with it that might be doing the trick?)  It has gotten to the point where I can be about 90% functional with a migraine–I even played fiddle for the Maypole this year with one. This all would have been next to impossible before the Monadnock experience.  After 25 years, I finally have an answer.

Today, I praise that mountain, and what it taught me.

To listen to my body.
To push though my illness.
To keep hope and wonder at the infinite possibilities in the world.

Hail Monadnock, Watcher over the Abenaki, Wolf-friend and Thrice-burned!