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Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’

So, after years of dithering and dabbling, I’ve decided to begin.

I guess it’s not so much a ‘beginning’ since I’ve been one-toe-in for over a year now so…I guess I’m saying, I’m committing.

I think I’m going to commit from Yule to Yule, a full year, of daily practice of some kind. I’m not going to label it or try to shape it.

I’ve recently had some success in my life in areas of life-long self-sabotage. I finished NaNoWriMo and damn near completed the novel (!!). Good or bad, it doesn’t matter, I did it. The fall garden is doing well. I’m doing great things for my body, consistently and lovingly, which is such a change from the violent relationship of the past.

It’s kind of like house cleaning. Now that I have certain things in order I want to commit to a year–I think–of spiritual practice. How does this look? I’m not sure. Will it be scheduled? Eeeeh. I’ve tried to schedule such things before and it doesn’t happen for me. But is that part of the work? Committing to a schedule? I’m not sure. I’m going to take the next three weeks to consider, plan and pray…and we’ll see.

I’m excited. This feels right in a very deep place.

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Jack-O-Lantern, standing (sitting?) sentinel for the night

Colcannon, beer and trick-or-treater goodies.

Tarot reading. It was confusing. It'll take some time to decipher.

Remembering the beloved dead and promising that I'd tell their stories

A prayer and dedication for myself, as well.

Cakes (pumpkin muffins) and ale (Harvest Moon) for myself, and an offering of thanks and remembrance

Is Halloween creepy because we make it so in our minds? Is it our culture, our psychology? I don’t know. But something about the first drop in temperature and rustling leaves makes you feel like something other is nearby, right at hand. Almost palpable.

Yesterday was like that for me. I don’t know if it was a real intuition or just cultural expectation, but the whole day felt a little…? I don’t even know the word. I could say “full”, because the air felt full of…what? I could say “breezy” because it was that, for sure, but there was also a different kind of wind, one that crawled up your neck and rested behind your ears, just on that spot that at once tickles and feels good.

Last night after we shut down our candy operation I went outside on our patio for a short prayer ritual. It took a bit of concentrating to get in the right frame of mind. Once there the night absorbed me for a while. I prayed and read the Tarot–a confusing reading–and I remembered my relatives. I sat in silence for a while, contemplating the…deity, I suppose?…that has been calling to me. Wanting it to be and wanting it not to be at the same time.

Anyway, so as I was engaged in this silent meditation–and the next thing happened in about ten seconds–I heard something. A rustle. My mind registered it. Then I heard two steps on the dry grass (I shit you not!).

Then? Then I freaked the fuck out and ran inside. My husband gave me a headlamp (hah) and sent me back outside to finish what I was doing. He’s a good man.

Anyway.

So the cakes and ale portion was moved up on the list and I settled into a more comfortable rapport with the deity I was praying to. The evening finished out beautifully. I came inside completely energized and refreshed, but it was the best kind of energy–grounded, contented.

When I have time I’ll talk more about some different spiritual things that have been moving around here. The lead up to Samhain was very important, but as I’ve dedicated myself to National Novel Writing Month I feel like I should honor that engagement.

This whole entry seems so somber! Really. I wish there was video of me freaking out at the possum/spook incident. Any other night I would have…what? What would I have done? Who knows. It sounded like footfalls, and it was probably a racoon coming to eat the pumpkin muffins I set out.

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Misty Mabon Morning (...I love a good alliteration...)

Autumn, as noted many times on this blog, is my favorite time of year. Perhaps because it makes me take notice more as I try to feel every cool breeze and see every turning leaf. These small signs are precious to me, and they begin as early as mid-August, though you really have to look for them. The first rainstorm where the breeze slides cool and silky over your skin. The first hard drop of autumn rain as opposed to the big wet splats of summer.

And, of course, the Pumpkin Spice Latté at Starbucks, right?

I spent this Autumn Equinox/Mabon mostly inside with Claire, but we went on a walk and I made soup and enjoyed it with some hard cider. I had planned to do a ritual outside but weather, then mosquitoes, prevented that.

The day started misty, the light having a certain diffused, liminal quality that makes you feel like everything you see is somehow on a different plane than you are. The mist burned off (and so did the cool breeze) by the time Claire and I made it out for our morning walk. Instead we walked in hot, humid, soupy heat with the occasional lavender raincloud offering shade as it raced to gather with others for an afternoon storm.

Fields of wildflowers have given way to tall, golden grass

We walk in a park not too far from our house. It’s a nice place where the city has made a little marshland trail. Birds love it and in the summer I’d see Blue Herons, cranes, sparrows and wrens happily munching on minnows and assorted bugs. As Claire and I strolled through Wednesday morning the skies were quiet, save for the flitting of the occasional dragonfly.

Over the past few days a blackbird has sat on our bird bath watching the house. It got to the point where I started looking up myth and symbolism of the blackbird because I’d see if everyday, on the bath, watching the house. Since Mabon, however, the blackbird has gone. I remember on Wednesday noticing that there seemed to be hundreds of blackbirds roosting in the oak trees, caw-ing as they do, but since…since I’ve only heard the passing call and seen none.

Mushrooms sprouted after our extremely wet weather.

Recently the weather has been so wet. First a tropical storm rolled in and now just persistent moisture. The air is full of water, weather cool or hot, and is by turns pleasant (cool) and awful (hot). This weekend our first cool fronts will pass by and the temperatures will drop into the eighties, accompanied by dry air. Dry air signals the beginning of autumnal temperatures in Texas and will be a blessed relief from this summer’s persistent humidity.

After our walk Claire and I mostly stayed inside. Several afternoon and evening showers dumped rain on us and by the time Jonathan got home I had begun to cook dinner. We ate a vegetable, barley and chicken soup and drank hard cider. After dinner I went outside to enjoy dusk. The lavender rain clouds were gilded gold by the setting sun and made for a beautiful twilight.

Acorns are all over the ground from the ubiquitous oak trees

Dusk on Mabon

All in all, a pleasant and quiet holiday.

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Last night Claire went down for a nap and Jonathan and I took a few minutes to clean up. At the time I was annoyed and irritated (just those vague feelings that usually accompany a lack of sleep or something you’re neglecting in your life). As I mopped I thought about what was irritating me.

I realized that before Claire, as I mopped I would think about cleaning out negative energies and thoughts, “throwing away” bad behaviors and making my home a more hospitable place. I thought about those things with ANY chore, because I hate chores and it made them feel more tolerable. Over time I actually began liking to do housework.

Last night, I mopped with a singular intention: finish before she wakes up. Midway through I realized that I wasn’t doing a good job, I was just becoming more upset and…well, if I’m just going to end angrier than I began, what’s the point?

So, I slowed down. I began to “mop up” those thoughts. When I finished I felt good. I felt like a small piece of myself had been restored.

If that’s all the spiritual work I have time for these days, then that’s fine. I have to accept that.

In other news, I’m excited for Mabon. I didn’t have the energy to give Lughnasadh more than a passing thought, but with corn and pumpkins growing in the back and I’m sowing beets, carrots, lettuces, parsnips and turnips today…Yes, harvests are in full swing and autumn is coming.

More thoughts on motherhood and spiritual walks later—I’ve been thinking a lot about pursuing a divergent (from my family) spiritual path and what that means for Claire. Lots of conflicting thoughts. Any comments or advice to consider would be greatly appreciated!

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Black Cherry Tomato

That is the picture of my very first tomato. I picked it about two weeks ago and my husband and I split it at dinner. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a more delicious tomato, but perhaps I’m prejudiced. In fact, I know I am.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about daily spiritual practice. In Christianity, at least in the church I went to, prayer, meditation, fasting and Bible reading daily (well not fasting daily, but regularly) were (are) strongly emphasized. I suspect it’s the same in most denominations, especially those with more conservative leanings.

As I’ve transitioned out of that church/Christianity I’ve wondered what life looks like being in another set of beliefs (or having no firm set of beliefs).  Do people cast circles everyday? Do they meditate? Yoga? Pray? Is there fasting? Maybe they read books on their god/desses, research their pantheon…I don’t know.

And then, like two magnets pulling on each other, the confused burble of Christianity/pagan/whatever belief practices began to run through my mind. I have no other way of explaining it, except as I showered a few minutes ago my mind erupted into thought.

(In full disclaimer, most of it catalyzed by the fact that tomorrow is my evening to share at our church home group. What in the hell am I going to talk about? I wondered as I stared off at the tile, counting the small holes in the grout.  The Great Rite in high/ceremonial Wicca traditions?)

So as I stood there both streams of thought that had been alternating throughout the week merged into a rapid confluence, chaotic as a mountain stream in spring.

And then, for some reason, all of this reminded me of our garden. I thought of the big Purple Cherokee tomato that is ripening on the vine, and the Black Cherry I had picked, and how J had hung CD discs in the yard yesterday to discourage the birds that were discouraging me, and how I needed to fertilize but wow…the basil might have died but weren’t the lemon verbena and the pineapple sage just beautiful?

Then this word came to me, clear as a bell:

Tending.

And I promptly soaped up, rinsed and toweled off, and came to write, the word tending, tending, to tend, tending ringing in my ears.

So here I am.

Tending.

I’m looking out at my garden right now, through the sliding glass doors, and I can see that it needs watering. We had rain last week but the temperatures have been so hot, and the sun so relentless, that the earthen plots look like they’re fresh from the oven. Nothing has begun to droop yet, except the borage, which is the garden version of a canary in the coal mine. Once the borage droops, I water.

I can honestly say that this garden might be the most consistent thing I’ve tended in my life. For sure the most (visibly) successful. The garden started with a flurry of activity: we bought hay, compost, had dirt delivered, shoveled, planted, dug, watered, fertilized and mostly watched with bated breath for the first signs of growth, the first flowers (gasp!) and then—the first fruit (gasp! gasp!).  However, since the plants have been planted tending slows down—a lot. I water every couple of days. I curse the tomato cages at least twice a week. Jonathan hung the CDs. I fertilize occasionally.

The garden has been established; now, we tend. We harvest the fruits. And, in distant parts of my mind I have begun to gather lessons learned and anticipate fall planting in the waning days of August.

(Central Texas has two planting seasons, one for hot crops and one for cool crops. In late August we will begin preparing for the cool season.)

Much has been made about the connection between spirituality and gardening, so I’m tilling (excuse the pun) no new ground here. But the concept of the act of tending and how it relates to all spiritual practice rings so true to me.

Spiritual practice, or craft, whatever it may be, is the act of tending something already there–and I don’t think that necessarily means a certain religion. More, it’s an act of tending the soul, or the spirit, or whatever makes you human and makes you feel alive.

For me, tending comes in the form of gardening, yes, and my daily walk, and reading good books, whether they be fiction, non-fiction or poetry. Sometimes it does come from reading the Bible, especially Jesus and the Psalms.  Yoga and meditation. Sweeping and dusting. Baking. Driving a long distance with really good music.

There are other kinds of tending too, and I would be remiss to leave them out of this musing. I think they grow out of tending our own self. I tend my relationship with Jonathan, in various ways. We read out loud together,  we enjoy good food (and wine, back in the day) together, I make him biscuits and gravy on Sunday mornings. We air out our dirty laundry to each other on a regular basis, without judgment. Most importantly, for two introverts in a relationship, we give each other space and understand the need for it.

When this image came to me, or concept, that there was no set, specified way for me to tend—and indeed, what good gardener doesn’t have to improvise sometimes?—the mountain rush slowed down to something more peaceful. I felt I could sit next to the proverbial stream and stare into its depths instead of running for high ground.

(Truly, I hope this post makes sense. I wrote it fast, but I don’t feel like I should reorganize or edit to thoroughly yet—it’s probably a first draft to something longer, later.)

(And a p.s.: I think if I write the word spirituality one more time I might have a fit. There has to be another word, right? All of these posts feel so redundant..)

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I’m not sure where to start.

Obligatory: Start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…

Okay, with that out of the way…

This past week has been confusing, inspiring, lonely, emotional, raw and joyful. I started it with buying my first Tarot deck and today I cast and sat in my first circle. Ruminations on that to come.

I have been doing a lot of journaling, painting and reading. I read Phyllis Curott’s Book of Shadows and am working through Marian Green’s A Witch Alone, as well as Hafiz’s The Gift. I also picked up Who Wrote the Bible by Richard Elliot Friedman and so far find it informative and easy to understand.  I listened to numerous podcasts as I painted or as I wandered on my morning walks. I’ve worked with the Tarot deck. Friday I watched two documentaries that caused a kind of psychic schism, one that I’m still mulling over. Yesterday, I went to my home church group and left feeling torn, confused and sad. Today, as I said, I cast my first circle and now I feel…content. Whole. Peaceful.

So it’s been a quite a week.

What have I learned?

I have learned that I have serious reservations about Wicca as a religion, but not really any about witchcraft as a practice. I guess I’ve always had a solitary bent, and some of Wiccan structures/rites, especially traditional ones, are not for me. However, working with energy, revering nature, having a strict code of ethics, gathering knowledge of self, the earth and others, working with my inner self to ultimately help others—those are things that intrigue me. More than intrigue me, they call to me. Having a practice or a craft calls to me. It’s one reason I love yoga so much—it has so much to teach about how spirituality and personal evolution is about practice. It’s not about leaving your problems at a diety’s doorstep. It’s about taking daily action that ultimate adds up to something wonderful.

So Friday, as all of this was a blob in my mind, I watched two documentaries produced by Vanguard: Rape on the Reservation and Missionaries of Hate. The first showed stories of rape, sexual assault and battery against women on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. The second showed the influence of American Evangelicals on the anti-homosexuality laws in Uganda.

The first one disturbed me, deeply, but as the second one started I knew it would be another matter. I have been struggling with the Christian label for a while, and with my association with a certain church. I knew that both were coming to an end, but as I’ve said many times—all of my friends and all of my community are within those two confines. I’ve been delaying really thinking about it and really taking action to free myself, decidedly, from those two things. The Missionaries of Hate documentary changed that when who should pop on the screen but Lou Engle. Lou Engle is an  American evangelical, prominent in the anti-abortion sector, who also runs a revival named ‘The Call’. He’s real into now-is-the-end-times and ‘family values’.

He is also someone who is highly venerated in my church. People adore this guy. And here he was, on the documentary at a rally in Uganda promoting ‘family values’. Of course, he has posted a backpedaling note on his website saying that he had no idea at the time that the anti-homosexuality bill included the death penalty for homosexuals—though he was there months after this became an international scandal, standing with key supporters of the bill and preaching about “trying to restrain an agenda that is trying to hurt families” (scroll to ~41 minutes).

And I just couldn’t take it.

And I know…I know….that’s not what all Christians believe. I know that a large majority of the Christianity community vehemently oppose people like him. And I know that the label is ‘meaningless’.

But is it?

Aren’t names powerful? Isn’t that why we chose to name our children based on the meaning of the name? And when the name begins to be weighed down with so much baggage when do you shed it? I know that some are proud to bear the title Christian, and they are people whom I love, deeply.

For me, though, that title is now a lie. My tacit association with HC is a lie. Do I love people there? Yes. Will this go over like a lead-fucking-balloon? Yes. When am I going to do it? I don’t know, yet. I need to write out specific reasons, with specific arguments. I tend to get flustered in situations like this, especially with lots of questions. I need to prepare, emotionally and spiritually, for the ramifications that this might bring. It sounds so dramatic, I know, but it really is a big, big, enormous change in my life.

So that realization, primarily, has left me feeling sunburned all over. I gave in to hermit like tendencies last week and this week seems to be headed into the same direction. I just want to write, and to journal, and to paint, and to consider. Truthfully, I’d like a SIGN. You know. One of those.

The closest to any SIGN I’ve had though are the quiet times in meditation, the peace I find on my morning walks, the insight I’ve gained since working with the Tarot. The complete calm I felt after I closed the circle today.

I don’t know what any of it is accomplishing, exactly. I’m sure in 15 years or so I’ll be able to tell you.

All I have though, is now, and now I feel…good. Still gun-shy. Still lonely. But comforted in some way, knowing that…there are things I do have. Like my husband. My cat. My books. My garden. The trees. The wind. The solitary blue heron that greets me every morning, observing the creek, way beyond his natural range. The rain that has intermittently spattered down on the hot concrete outside. It might not seem like much, but it’s enough to keep me going.

Edited: corrected the author of Who Wrote the Bible. It’s Richard Friedman, not Charles Friedman.

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Ah, the house is quiet.  A weekend of visitors and comings and goings and finally there is peace. I took a short nap, ate some leftover cake and I’m now contemplating a trip to my local used book store for some inspirational reading.

A few months ago I mentioned several books I had bought and several paths I intended to read. I finished Drawing Down the Moon and most of the introductory exercises in Paganism: An Introduction to Earth Centered Religions by the Higginbothams. I enjoyed both.

However, concerted spiritual practice slipped away from me in the months of March and April. I don’t know why—it was one of those life things, I suppose, just happens. It doesn’t mean that I wasn’t aware of…things? what label is really appropriate?….but just that I didn’t act on them.

This week, however, something changed. You know what it was? The seasons. When the seasons shift I can feel it in my very marrow, and it snaps my attention back to where it should be. Like nature, or some entity, or some awareness, is shaking me.

And finally I pay attention.

This week summer arrived in Central Texas. My first awareness: on Thursday, Friday and Saturday the air became so hot, so heavy, so pregnant (hah!), if you will, that it just had to rain. So for half an hour each afternoon sheets and sheets of rain poured down. Thunder clapped in the distance. Afterwards the sun came out, and the early evening air became perfumed with the smells of rain, grass and dirt. On my evening walk it it seemed like I could smell every flower, every petal. The combination of twilight and mist made my walk like a journey through a watercolor.

Second awareness: yesterday I ate watermelon and grilled corn. I picked my first red tomato earlier this week. I have jalapenos dangling off their stalk. A tiny bell pepper is nestled among other bell pepper buds. My tomato vines are so heavy with fruit that they keep toppling their cages. Eggplants hang off their bush like little purple Christmas ornaments.  I even have a baby cantaloupe I couldn’t be more proud of.

Third awareness: It. Is. Hot. The past few days it has been hot and muggy, but today the air has changed. Central Texas is moving from early summer (late April through early June) into summer-summer. Hot, dry, still. No breeze, no movement. Life becomes somewhat paralyzed under the sun.

So, again, I am shaken, and I am grateful for it. I view it as a continuation, another chance and a (not so) gentle reminder that life cycles. Life continues. And when my eyes are on my naval and my gaze is too concerned with the petty to pay attention and engage in the important (small or large) I miss out.

It seems like this is a common cycle in my life. Any reader can see this in my blog: the flurry of activity and posting and then the silence for a few weeks or months. I can’t explain it. I’m not sure I should explain it: none of what I read, or learn, or do in the flurry of activity is ever lost. I am a composter by nature, meaning, I gather lots of material in a short time and then I sit. Occasionally I stir it. But mostly I just sit and…compost.

So far, I don’t have much humus. I’m still raw ingredients, greens and browns, apple cores and egg shells. Hopefully though…hopefully one day I’ll be humus à la moi.

And…that’s all I have for now. Is it summer where you are? What does that mean for you?

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