Friday, June 22, 2012

6/23/12-6/24/12—Feeling Victorious

Weekend Reading: Six of Wands from the Kitty Kahane tarot. When you can win without creating losers, you've achieved something special, indeed. So much of life is spent working towards something that we often feel guilty—or frivolous—taking time out to celebrate our victories. But they were long coming and hard won. You deserve every drop of congratulations you can get. So this weekend, revel in your good fortune. And if you're not feeling too victorious, just wait. My week started out less than stellar and ended up yielding one bit of unexpected magic after another. Just because you don't see it coming doesn't mean it's not nearing your doorstep! So why not let it arrive to find you already celebrating?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

6/22/12—Committing to Your Dream

Today's Draw: The Four of Wands from Patrick Valenza's Deviant Moon. Are you prepared to meet your destiny? Have you done all the necessary prep work? And are you truly ready to commit?

You never know what darkness—or just plain weirdness—you'll find lurking in the moonshade of this particular deck. But this card just brings a smile to the heart. A happy couple pauses for a meaningful glance on the path to the new home they'll be making together. Their look indicates a commitment. Their grasp indicates partnership, togetherness and support. And their little tomatillo pod home symbolizes both security and a good foundation for moving forward.

So far this week, we've talked about assessing situations, being open to unexpected solutions, clearing space and preparing that space for new things to come in. In short, the week seems to paint the picture of the process of creating change in our lives. And today's card adds the next step—committing to our new direction and building a solid foundation for it. 

So I'll tell you about my week so far. For the past few weeks, actually, I have been literally clearing space in my home, my life and my psyche. Then, this past Sunday, I led a waning moon releasing ceremony with the intention of releasing my blocks—fears, false beliefs, procrastination, etc.—to success (primarily in regard to a future career as an author.) So between those activities, I've been assessing my situation and clearing space. 

In the categories of being open to unexpected solutions and preparing my space, I signed up for a writer's workshop being offered by a major publisher. This is a workshop I had seen many times before and ignored, but this time I was open to learning more. The price was reasonable. The location couldn't get any better. And the timing is perfect because I've been working on a new book proposal all week. (The book proposal also qualifies for the "preparing my space" part.)

Now, I thought this workshop (which happens in September) was the universe answering my prayers and actually cried when it just randomly popped in front of my eyes. And it was/is. But in another twist in the "remaining open" category, I sent an email off to a friend who once casually said to me "when you get serious about publishing that book, let me know." I had no idea what that meant or if it even meant anything at all, but I kept it in my head. And instead of deciding it was "just talk", I remained open and followed up on it this week. 

To set the stage, I have two publishers in my head that I want to work with. One is sort of a sentimental/emotional favorite of mine. I've had my eye on them for a long time. They're a small publisher, but have had a couple of big successes. They're also open to unsolicited manuscripts, so that's a very good thing. The other publisher is not open to unsolicited manuscripts, so I'd have to find an agent before I approach them. They are, however, larger. They have tons of star-making power and could bring my platform to a much larger audience. Frankly, they intimidate me, because I fear my own success.

Anyway, long story short, I write my friend and she happens to be chummy with one of the authors from the large publisher—an author I just happen to adore and feel my message aligns with. This author will be in town—with the head honcho of the publishing company!—when the book writing workshop is happening and my friend thinks she can arrange a meeting with her. Can you imagine?! Meeting one of my favorite authors would be enough, but what if I could slip her my proposal? Then what if it just happens to slip over to the head honcho? Haha. 

What I'm getting at here, is that time has come for commitment. Instead of just working on my proposal, I have to finish it. And instead of waiting for a contract to write the book, I've got to get that going, too. (You only need a few finished chapters for a proposal and I have that.). Getting my crap together before September—no matter what happens with my friend's friend—is the firm foundation I need to rise up and meet this occasion. The funny thing is, after I do all of this, I may not even need the writing workshop (since it's mostly about the proposal process). But it is still, nonetheless, critical to my plan for other reasons.

So really just within days of clearing my space and beginning to prepare it, the need for a commitment has swooped in. See, you don't need commitment when you're just setting the stage. But once this meeting is set, there will be no backing out. There will be no more procrastination in the face of fear. The opportunity I've been preparing for in one way or another for years, will be here and I will have to rise up to greet it. That moment will come for you, too.

So this Four of Wands is about that commitment, but also about the solid foundation needed to move forward. Some of the things I've already been doing to clean up my life is part of that. Certainly my spiritual journey is part of that. This blog and what it's given me in terms of voice, discipline and the exercising of my spiritual noggin is part of it. There are still some things I have to build the foundation for. I mean, if I'm going to be more "public", I need to be ready for that. So while I still have many miles to go, I feel I'm on my way. 

Is there something in here you can apply to your own situation? Are you ready to fully commit? 

PS: As I was finishing this blog post, I got an email from a *different* friend informing me my TOP SECRET Tarot Project is now available for pre-order on! Though the book I talk about above is a spiritual book intended for a broad audience, this project is a tarot book and deck (intended entirely for tarot readers). Anyway, the amazing serendipity of the timing couldn't get better! If I am one day a popular author...or if I ever write a best seller...know that you were here for the magic week when all my years of work (and procrastination) started to come together! 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

6/21/12—Smudging Your Home

Today's Draw: The Smudge Stick from My Big Sack O' Smudge. Does the air in your home feel dense? Has there been an illness, trauma or argument in your home? Do you think your home may be haunted?

Honestly, today I don't feel like being all wise and crap. So following on yesterday's theme of clearing, I thought I'd talk about smudge. 

Smudge is, at its most basic, just dried sage that you burn to purify your home or items, such as things you might buy from a second-hand store. You can buy it loose or tied up in a little bundle like in the picture. You can usually get sage bundles at Whole Foods or any kind of metaphysical store. Otherwise, there are tons of online sources to use.

Sage is one of four sacred Native American herbs used for ceremony, purification and healing. The others are cedar, sweetgrass and tobacco (or, alternately, lavender). Often you can find bundles with more than one of these herbs included. Though any sage is acceptable, the most popular is white sage—popular primarily for its aroma and not for any special powers it has.

What kinds of things might you "smudge" or "sage" or purify with sacred smoke? You might smudge a house you're trying to sell or a previously owned item you've received to release the energies of the previous owner. If you buy crystals or other metaphysical items, you might want to smudge them to clear any energy that gathered before you bought them. You might smudge your own home to release negative vibes, ease a change or transition or just as part of a regular "cleansing" of energy. You might smudge yourself as part of a healing ritual. And if you're taking part in a spiritual ceremony, the facilitator might smudge you upon arrival. 

How do you smudge? It depends on what you're smudging. If it's an object, just light the sage until it catches fire. Then blow the flame out and let it smoulder. Then just run the object through the smoke, like you're bathing it in the smoke. That's it. The sage will probably go out on its own, but if you have a stick, you can douse it in sand or earth.

Sweetgrass puts out less smoke than sage and needs to be re-lit more often.
The braids are usually a couple of feet long. I keep a sweetgrass braid in my
car as an air freshener. It has a sweet, fresh, vanilla-like scent. 

If you want to get fancier, then it's good to know what each of the herbs does. Sage and cedar remove negativity, heal and purify. Sweetgrass and lavender draw in positive vibes. You'll find a lot of different thoughts on what I've just said and that's OK. Really, any of the herbs can be used to cleanse. Sometimes cedar is used on the heels of sage to purify after negativity is removed. And sometimes lavender is used to call in beneficial spirits. What's most important is the intention you place behind the smudging.

To smudge a home for any of the reasons mentioned above (though for harmful ghosts, you will probably want a professional's help), light the sage stick on fire and blow out the flame. You will probably have to re-light the sage several times during this process. Start at the North end of your home on the lowest floor and "bathe" the space, following inner perimeter of your home in a counter-clockwise direction (in other words, move from north to west to south to east). By bathing the space, I mean blow the smoke toward your walls and into corners, wave the stick up and down and make sure the smoke gets everywhere, including in the middle of the room and in closets. All the time you're doing this, you can repeat your intention, such as "this sacred smoke cleanses and removes all negativity from this space."

Once you're done with the lowest floor, then move up to the next floor and the next until you've cleansed all levels of your home, moving in a counter-clockwise direction, starting on each floor on the North wall and repeating your intention throughout. Then you can open your windows long enough to air out your home, if you like. Or you can just let the smoke settle in there. It depends on your tolerance and preference for that sort of thing. 

Most won't have to go far to find a some cedar to burn. It's always nice
to use homegrown ingredients when you can.
You can stop there and that's cool. You'll probably notice your home feels more lighter and more open. Your house should now have neutral energy. But if you'd like, you can repeat the process IN REVERSE with sweetgrass to draw positive energies in. So in this case, you start in the North on the top floor moving clockwise (or north to east to south to west.) Then work your way down from the top level of your home, all the while repeating your intention, such as "I fill this space with light, positive energy."

Now, as I said before, you can buy smudge bundles with multiple herbs in them. If that's the case, then I would just follow the instructions above for sage. Personally I prefer doing the separate thing. And my habit is to add the sweetgrass step maybe every other time I sage. If you google "smudging ceremonies" along with the  specific purpose you want to smudge for, you should find tons of information to help you accomplish your goals. Mine is just one way to do it. Again, the intention behind it is more important than the steps you take. 

Whether you believe the smoke has any "power" or not, sometimes just the ritual of doing something like this can help release emotional things we're holding on to. Even when done symbolically, it could be just thing you need to draw a line in the sand between yesterday and a new tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

6/20/12—Making the Tough Decisions

Today's Draw: Seven of Bows from the Wildwood Tarot. Is there something you want to do, but you've never gotten around to doing it? Does life keep getting the way of your dreams? What would you be willing to do to have the thing you've always wanted?

I recently had a discussion about life dreams with a friend of mine. She's a single mom and a spiritual leader/teacher and she earns her living in a spiritual profession. She's also itching to write a book. She knows everything the book is going to say, she just has to write it. But she can't find the time. 

We all know that, right? And if you make your living in a spiritual profession, then you know that the psychics, mediums, spiritual teachers, healers and other light workers who are showered with riches are few and far between. One of the ways to become one of those fortunate few is to write a book. But if you're mired in the details of paying a mortgage, raising children, promoting your business, keeping your home clean, maintaining friendships and all the other necessities of life, when do you write that book (or go back to school or hike the Himalayas or whatever your dream is)?

The Seven of Bows is about making priorities and choices in life. It's about clearing space for the things we want out of life. There comes a time when we have to make some tough decisions if we're ever going to live our dreams. And we also have to take a good hard look at what is really standing in our way. Even the busiest of moms is probably saying yes to at least one time-sucking thing that they could just say no to...being a Girl Scouts troop leader, working on the PTA, being the home all the kids go to after school. You may not WANT to give those things up, you may have reasons why you can't, but in reality, they're optional. Plenty of moms aren't doing them and you could be one of them. 

What it all really comes down to is this: the biggest thing standing between us and what we want is excuses. And the excuses usually only hold water if you're the kind of person who is never going to achieve your goal. J.K. Rowling, for example, had tons of excuses why she couldn't write Harry Potter. She was a single mom living at poverty level, recovering from a failed marriage and the death of her mother, and battling depression. Rather than indulge the momentum of all those things, she wrote anyway. Everyone has excuses. And for every excuse, there's both a fear-based reason for it and a way around it.  

Look at it this way—what, other than supplying the basic needs of food, shelter and love to your family, is more important than using this one chance at life to pursue your dreams? You want to be there to see every single one of your daughter's dance classes? Then you're making a choice to watch dance classes rather than pursue your goal. Your daughter may feel like you're an attentive mom and that's great. And maybe one day she'll even give up her own dreams to watch her daughter's dance classes, because that's what mother's do. Or you could use that time to pursue your dream and focus instead on the quality time when you can actually interact with her. The choices you make for your dreams are not always easy. But the people who have what you want to have made difficult choices of their own. 

My pathetic excuse is that I write all day for a living. When that's done, I write a blog (waving hello to all my readers!) And when all of that is done, I frankly don't feel like writing. That's my excuse. Beneath that is, admittedly, a fear of failure/success that keeps my butt dragging, but I continue to move forward despite it. Anyway, back in January I shared my excuse with a wise woman who suggested that I write a chapter of my book a week as part of my blog. I did that in January and February and got enough of those entries to put into a book proposal. I also got a lot of positive feedback that reinforced my desire to write this book.

See, you don't have to do the whole dream at once. It helps to remind yourself of that. With book writing, you just have to write a proposal. And if a publisher says they want to publish your book, then you'll get deadlines you have to meet. And you'll meet them, because you have to.

Same thing goes with hiking the Himalayas. You don't have to hike them today. But you can start making your body, getting the money together, mapping course, making lists of things you'll need, scouting out hostles, shopping for sherpas. By the time the reality of living the dream hits, you won't have a choice but to pursue it! 

But the first thing you have to do is start clearing the space for this thing in your life, whether literally or figuratively. All it took was for me to ask my single-mom friend a simple question, "is there something in your life that is taking more time and effort than it's worth...something that once used to hold value, but no longer does?" She immediately knew where to clear space. She'll probably need more space than that, but it's a start. And she'll need the discipline to use that cleared space for its intended purpose. But once that space is cleared, it will be easier to weed out some of the things that may be more difficult to let go of. Before she knows it, writing will be just as automatic as the other priorities in her life.

Clearing is a pivotal choice we make where we decide whether to walk toward our dreams or put them off. Again. Whichever choice you make is up to you and can really only be judged by you. But Clearing gives you the opportunity to really decide how important those dreams really are....or if they've changed over years and become about something else. Like making sure you're there for all your daughter's dance classes.

Whatever your choice, choose it with confidence and move forward with confidence. The only thing more painful than making a difficult choice is to spend your life looking over your shoulder at all the choices you didn't make and wish you had.

Monday, June 18, 2012

6/19/12—Listening to the Unexpected

Today's Draw: "The Emergence of Celtic White Tara"—Bring Peace to Troubled Waters from the Art Through The Eyes of the Soul Oracle. Are you currently wracking your brains for a solution to something? Are you obsessing over your role in a certain situation? Want a new way to see an old situation?

Anyone familiar with Tara knows that she's not a Celtic Goddess. She's a Buddhist one. And actually "Tara" is a generic name for a group of bodhisattvas and/or virtues. So there are Taras of many colors, each meaning something different. In some schools of Buddhism, there are 21 Taras. But the White Tara is the one perhaps best known and she is the Goddess of compassion, healing and serenity. 

So the emergence of Tara in Ireland is symbolic of a solution coming from an unexpected source. The idea here is to keep yourself open to all possibilities. Enlightenment for your issue could come from something you overhear in an unrelated conversation, from someone you wouldn't think or even from a billboard on the side of the road. So, for the time being, try to stop thinking your way out of this situation, and let the solution come to you....vacate your mind so there's room for a new thought to flow in. 

Too often we stand in the way of our own best interests. We try to steer solutions in one direction or another. We allow our egos to muddy the path to clarity. We're so convinced that we know best, that a million better ideas may come our way and we will never see or hear them because we've already made up our minds. It seems like the hardest thing for us to do is actually the easiest answer. If it's not life-threatening or immediate-deadline oriented, just step away from it for a while. When we're all tensed up around trying to find an answer, we close off the channels to true inspiration.

How many times has something brilliant come to you when you're in the shower? Or in the middle of doing something else? That's the kind of detachment I'm talking about. Sometimes the best thoughts come when you're not thinking at all.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

6/18/12—Reassessing Life

Today's Draw Special Edition Classic*: The Squirrel Stump from My Backyard. Is there something in your life that no longer serves you? Are the things you say and do aligned with who you are today? Is it time to reassess your life in terms of the you you've become?

A while back, one of my tarot artist friends, Joanna Powell Colbert, wrote something that forever changed the way I looked at my backyard.

She urged her readers to notice the other animal families that live alongside ours on our properties. And not just to notice them, but to dial into them the way we do our human neighbors—recognizing their patterns and quirks.

Certainly I was aware of much of what lived in my backyard before. There are the birds that live in the honeysuckle tangle. The rabbits that nest under the shed. The mice that live beneath my deck and occasionally invade my house. Then there are the passers by—the mourning doves, the cardinal, the bluejay, the possums, the owl and Harvey, the neighbor's cat who likes to torment my dogs.

I knew all this, but had never seen it as a community before. Nor did I recognize my role as the steward of this community. For example, I take precautions so my dogs can't get at the bunnies under the shed. If I see Harvey in our yard, I warn him before I release the hounds. And, essentially, I don't do anything to discourage these families from thriving on my property (though when the mice enter the house, all bets are off.)

So it was in this mind last year when I really took a good look at the squirrels that raise their young in my tree. It started out with birds nesting in this one hollowed out limb. But about eight or nine years ago I saw the birds being unceremoniously evicted by the squirrels. Since then I've watched generations of baby squirrels peek their heads out that hollow hole looking for their mama. Then, when they get big enough, everyone moves elsewhere, vacating the hole until the following spring.

Anyway, all that changed when, late last summer, a storm brought down that hollow limb. The squirrels were long gone, so nobody got injured. But their home was totaled. I kept the hollow part and leaned it up against my tree, intending to fill it with soil this spring and make it into a planter or other yard feature.

Well, we've had a warm winter so far. And I think someone might have gotten pregnant early, because I've been seeing a squirrel poking around my planter-in-waiting a lot lately. It's like s/he's assessing its worthiness for another scurry of squirrels expected in the spring. Every time I see him sizing it up, I want to warn him not to risk it. But I don't speak squirrel. All I know is one push and my dogs will have those babies. It's no longer fit for squirrels.

In our spiritual lives, we will all come across a challenge like this—when something that has served us for quite some time now no longer suits us. It might come upon us suddenly like it did for the evicted birds. Or it might take time and repeated reminders to realize, like with the squirrels.

As we move forward on our paths, we need to periodically check to see if the way we're living is in integrity with our beliefs. A vegetarian may realize they cannot, in all good conscious, continue to wear leather goods, for example. A yogi might realize the hypocrisy of their cigarette or alcohol habit. Or a spiritual seeker may find that holding grudges brings nothing but pain for them anymore. In short, the spiritual home we've built can no longer abide certain ways of being.

As you walk through the coming week, think about the squirrel and the choice he needs to make in order to what's best for himself and his family. Consider whether the ways you're acting and being continue to honor the spiritual beliefs you've built. Observe your actions and interactions and ask yourself questions:
·      Are you approaching conflicts from a place of compassion and understanding?
·      Do you follow the advice you give to others?
·      Can you see where the judgment you placed on someone else might also be true about you?
·      While you may not be saying unkind things, do you find yourself thinking them?
·      Are you really listening when people speak or are you thinking of all the stuff you have to do later on?
·      Would Jesus/Buddha/God be proud of the way you handled that last interaction?

The questions you ask yourself may be different based on your beliefs and where you are along your path. But you owe it to yourself to be as honest and as impartial in your self-assessment as possible. To make progress on our spiritual paths, it becomes necessary to shed parts of ourselves that no longer serve.

We may not always like what we see when we look inward. We may find it's not always convenient to act in integrity with our beliefs. We may even discover it's harder to find a new way of approaching things than it is to stay the same. But if you're one of those people who hates it when others don't walk their talk, then you've got to decide whether you're going to be one of those people you hate or not.

The look on my dog's face tells me that once that squirrel's eyes are opened to the way things really are, he will seek higher ground. And you will too. 
*Repurposed from a post made in 1/12. The planter mentioned in this post became a memorial planter for my brother, with forget-me-nots and two annuals in it. Each year the forget-me-nots will return and I will refresh the other spaces with new plantings, symbolizing both the permanence of love and the change that happens as we shift form.