Thursday, July 17, 2014

7/18/14—Touching Eternity

Tonight's post is adapted from one I wrote back in September of 2011. 

One of my best kept secrets is that I'm a ceremony queen. Nay, diva! It's a secret because I only invite a special few to share in my ceremonies. But I make my own incenses and oils. I anoint everything and set up a sacred altar. I come up with elaborate ceremonial rituals for participants, usually involving fire and tiny explosions...haha. 

Everyone is asked to bring something to the ceremony so that, through the planning ahead, their energy arrives before they do. There's often music...I have a few drums and a complete set of crystal singing bowls, along with various chimes and rattles. Or I'll play pre-recorded music. Sometimes crafting is incorporated into the program. I have a laser generated star machine for indoors ceremonies. And typically people end up bearing their souls and making themselves vulnerable to the group in the some way. I'm sure you've all caught on by now that I like to be dramatic. Multiply that by 10 and you've got one of my ceremonies. 

I love to create, so every ceremony is different. I usually begin days before by drafting the "script" and making the incenses and oils. Every detail is thoroughly thought out, all the way down to cheat sheets for participants so they don't forget the order of things during their part of the ritual. I know it sounds anal, but there are a number of steps that usually have to be followed and I can't expect them to memorize those steps when they're busy thinking of what their affirmation will be or what they'll etch on their take-home altar item or whatever...haha. Did I mention I REALLY get into this? Fortunately, everyone enjoys them and can't wait for the next one, so clearly I'm not too overbearing. 

Anyway, the ceremonies might be for finding love, adding something new to your life, getting rid of an old habit, healing, honoring the year's passing, etc. Group ceremonies are made more powerful by the collective energy of the group so, for me, choosing the right dynamic is essential. 

Taking part in ceremony and ritual goes beyond making wishes, saying prayers or even of purifying some part of you that you feel is in need. In fact, it goes beyond the physical body and your current existence to touch something very deep at the soul level. If you believe in souls and reincarnation...and if you believe that the soul and even your DNA carry the code of human life history...then maybe there's a way to retrieve or reawaken some of the early energies. And if a way exists, ceremony and ritual are one of the vehicles to take you there. There's something about smoke and fire that will do that for you.

A part of me deeply connects to that part of us that is the original human. It also deeply connects to what you might consider earth's first witches, the shamans. When I'm deep in the moment, I feel those ancestors, their ancient DNA flowing through me. When I'm preparing for a ceremony, I hear their whispers as they guide me. This is different than meditation or anything else. There's a different reverence, a different feel, a different hand of creation. It's very mystical. Aboriginal. It goes back to the earliest stirrings of man. 

This ancient drive can be found in every religion. Catholics do the body and blood of Christ thing. That's a ritual. Facing east and praying every few hours is a ritual. And the day-long prep for an authentic sweat lodge is too. It's almost instinctual within us and yet is one of the sad losses we've volunteered to take in exchange for modern "rituals" like adhering to schedules or doing things in the same order during our morning routines. These things may bring us comfort and even put us in a "zone", but they don't really touch the same depths. 

So consider adding some sort of ceremony or ritual to your life that does. Something with smoke and fire and and intention and reverence. Something you do uninterrupted and just for your soul self. It can be as easy as sitting in candlelight with some good incense burning and journaling once a week. Or setting an intention by writing it on paper and keeping it someplace special. I do everything first class out of respect for the process...handmade journals, beautiful papers, wax seals, artisan altar items, expensive incense. I like to awaken every sense. This takes things out of the ordinary. 

Over time you can add things to your simple ceremony more complex. Years ago I did an entire evening of beauty every Sunday night. I would take a bath and imagine the waters purifying me. I'd exfoliate the week off of me with a scrubby to prepare for the new. I'd wear something that felt sensual and crawl into bed with my journal and some chocolate, my room lit by candles. Then I would write, imagine, dream. No sound, no interruptions. Just me holding court with me. 

If you put some thought into it, you could come up with something fabulously "you", too. Just sit in silence and ask yourself how you can honor your soul, your higher self, that part of you that is sacred and divine. Then try a few things and see how it goes. There is a part of you that rose from smoke and fire...that worshiped smoke and fire. Touch it and you touch eternity.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

7/16/14—Basking in Grace

I have been the beneficiary of grace many times this summer. At times the show of goodwill toward me has brought me to tears. This grace has come in every area of my life, from helping with health and fitness goals to my friendships to my tarot stuff to my career. 

Pardon me while I digress to tell a story relevant to all of this. A couple of weeks ago (through the grace of a business contact) I was put in touch with a prospective client. When I told this person my rates, they said I was outside their budget and asked me to refer them to someone else. When I told them I didn't know any other freelance copywriters to refer them to, they a) seemed to think I was lying and b) tried to convince me by saying, "if you don't refer people, people will never refer you."

I told them that I refer people all the time but that I don't seek out knowledge about other freelance copywriters. Besides, I have never been introduced to another freelance copywriter, I don't come across them in the course of my work, and while I've given advice to budding freelancers over the years, I'm not aware if they're still working or what their rates are. So part of it is just circumstance, but part of it is intentional. And it's intentional because if I knew their names, during the slow times I'd torture and distract myself by looking them up on Facebook, googling them and wondering if they're getting more business than me, instead of doing something about my situation. I don't want to fall into that trap. 

Spiritually, I believe that there is plenty of pie for everyone to have a slice. It's not a competitive thing for me. It's a sanity thing. And I'd rather do what I need to weather the nearly two decades of ups and downs I've had as a freelancer than have a list on hand as a courtesy to people who don't want to hire me anyway. It's hard to weather the changing tides of being a consultant. This is one way I keep my head in the game. 

I tell this story for a reason. And the reason is that the things we do for others are not tit for tat. You don't hold a door for someone so that someone will hold a door for you. You do it because you're nice and trying to help. That attitude will come back to you, but it may come in the form of someone letting you in line in front of them at the grocery store, for example. So there are two things going on here: 1. You do for others out of the kindness of your heart and not because you want something out of it and 2. You will be repaid, but maybe not in the way you think. There's also a third thing. 3. You get to choose how you help. 

So as I was thinking of these moments of grace that had been bestowed upon me, I was wondering what I had done that was worthy? Why were these people reaching out to me so kindly, some of them people who don't know me well. And then I remembered...I do a lot of stuff for others without asking for anything in return. I pay it forward and I do it from a pure place—not a place of hoping it comes back to me. Still, there have been times over the years that I'm exhausted from doing for others and wonder when the energy will flow back my way. I think that's natural, but it's not why I do it. 

Anyway, this summer I feel like I've received more than my share of grace from others. But do you know why more than usual have stepped up the plate? Because I let people know what I was going through. It's that simple. And the ones that could help volunteered without me even having to ask. I recently had dinner with a friend of mine who is one of the most selfless people I know and we were discussing how, when you're an independent person used to doing everything for yourself, it's hard to ask for help. Very hard. Since I left my parent's home 30 years ago, I've never had anyone to help with money, chores, dog rearing or anything else in my life. It doesn't even occur to you to ask for help after all that time. 

But I've found lately that, when I've honestly expressed my fears and needs to people, they're very willing to help. Part of it is that, in recent years, I've purged relationships that were parasitic and replaced them with relationships that are more equitable. But part of it is that so many of us are willing to help if we know help is needed and if the help that's needed is something we can do and something that doesn't end up compromising our own needs. Knowing that people are there to help without you having to outright ask means a great deal. 

So I want to thank the people who have offered to help, those who are helping and those who are helping but think I don't know what they're doing. Your kindness will come back to you. Maybe not from me. Maybe not in the same way. But when it comes, it will be beautiful and you'll be humbled by the generosity. You'll wonder what you've ever done to deserve it. And then, hopefully, you'll remember what you did for me and embrace the breathtaking blessings of your gifts of grace. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

7/14/14—Reclaiming Parts of Myself

A friend of mine spent the weekend backpacking with his dog in the most beautiful spot. The pictures he posted made me want to be fit enough to do it. He said there were nice spots you could drive to, but I like the idea...the romance...of this backpacking thing. 

Of course that doesn't mean I'll ever do it. I've been camping before, but with a blow up mattress and a huge cooler and plenty of clothes. When you have to carry everything you need on your back and sleep on the ground, it's different. Even if I were fit enough to do it, I'm not sure I'd manage very well out in the wilderness alone, even with my three dogs with me. In fact, I'd have to be brave enough for four. Still, my friend's hike is only ranked intermediate, so it's doable. 

Many, many years ago I set out on a difficult-ranked hike on my own. It was March, so some of the rocks were a little icy in the shade. It was grueling, even though I was very fit at the time. The first three miles down the mountain and past all the waterfalls was easy, but it was the part on the way back that was straight up that was hard. There was a boy scout group doing the same hike and we'd pass each other, then rest. Then pass each other, then rest. It was nice knowing they were there in case I hurt myself. It was also nice to see a bunch of boys struggling as much as me. When I was climbing up, I was in shorts, even though it was very cold out. Then when I'd rest, I'd have to cover up or freeze. It was probably the biggest "adventure" of my life. 

I've gone back to that trail since then, but have never done the hard part of the hike...just the mile or so in and back out again. I'll never be 30 again. And I doubt I'll ever do that hike in quite that way again. But I mourn the loss of my fitness, most of which came at the hands of too much food, too little exercise and a lot of depression. 

Sometimes it seems so easy for me to make bad choices. But it isn't really easy. It's hard because bad choices weigh on you. And they're much harder to fix than they are to make. Over the years I've made bad choices with my work, with men and, of course, with my weight. All of them were much harder to fix than make. 

Truth is I've been very complacent about my weight and fitness for a long time now. I'm doing more and more about it, but my progress is slow. I was surprised at how my friend's pictures made me all wistful for hiking again. Usually when I get wistful for physical activity, it's yoga. But I have a tendency to get vertigo these days, which makes yoga classes hard. I seem to find teachers that, even though you tell them you get vertigo, bark at you if you remain on the floor while everyone else has gotten up. I guess they don't understand how vertigo can feel like there's extra gravity on you while your head is spinning. You simply can't get up.

Anyway, it's nice to have a muse that can help you make better choices. Hiking may be that muse for me. When I was younger I would drive to a different place in my Hiking in Virginia guidebook every couple of weeks and explore something new. I may never have the balls to backpack in and do what my friend did over an entire weekend, but I know there are plenty of hikes around here that I could do starting maybe later this fall or next spring. Frankly, there are some easy ones I could do right now, for that matter. But I'm thinking of hikes in maybe the intermediate range...the ones with altitude changes that open up into into striking vistas that make the exertion worthwhile...the ones that aren't so crowded...the ones that go five or six miles, up and down hills or mountains.  

I think I haven't quite realized the price I've paid in terms of my relationship with nature because of my bad choices. Seeing those pictures this weekend really struck me for some reason. For one thing, the terrain is unusual for this part of the country, so I want to see it. But it was as if I was standing in his pics, feeling strong, feeling the breeze on me, having energy, giving my body a nice workout and feeling like an extension of the terrain...that's what I miss. 

I may not be able to get back to my 30 year old body and strength. But I can get back to the trail. And I can reclaim some of the parts of myself I set aside so long ago through my bad choices.