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The midsummer sabbat didn't make it onto my personal Wheel of the Year. There is an empty space between my May retreat and my early July celebration to honor the farms. 

I now this is a turning point on the solar calendar, and I can feel it, much as I can sense the kettle is getting ready to boil. Just before that grumbling sound it makes, there is a sense of anticipation.

I am trying to see that in my life. I think must have rushed the season or planted early crops, because I feel like the winter's work has already unfolded itself to completion. Is there more to come, unplanned but welcome? That's an interesting thought.

A year ago, I sat at the Clearwater music festival and realized that I was being consumed by some of the people in my life. I was living in a gap between having found my creative 'voice' and actually producing anything with it. So much of my energy was being drained that I could only imagine but not produce anything. In the course of the year, I withdrew rather abruptly from the two people who had been the closest to me. Another beautiful cat came into my life and I found a new rhythm of my days. Back at the Clearwater festival last weekend, I realized that life may not be perfect, but it's damn good and that I am very happy with the large circle of people on the edges of my life. I needed room to breathe, room to dance.

I needed to study with Jude Hill and be inspired by the work of India Flint.

After the kettle boils, the tea gently steeps.  

Blessings to you as the solstice approaches.
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One of the final exercises in the Spiritual Nomads course is to come up with a list your moral values. Over the years, I have written and refined a personal credo, but that is about beliefs rather than values. I have also written about the concept of a moral compass, that internal voice that will keep us moving toward the Divine if we will just listen and follow. I have argued that the Wiccan Rede is about as much moral guidance as needs to be written. "An it harm none, do as ye will."

There's a part of me that says my list is one word long, and that the word is 

Ahimsa
As much as I love and strive toward my practice of ahimsa, I don't love the word or any of it's translations, or maybe I don't love the limitations of language and the human mind. Why is it that the most important value has no intrinsic word? Why must it be expressed as the negation of something bad? Himsa means harm or violence. a- means no or non. Just as we have to say non-violence and harm none in English, we have to say ahimsa in Sanskrit.

Sometimes, I describe myself as a woman of peace. I don't know if it quite conveys the same thing, but at least peace is a positive term. It holds its own space.

Read more... )
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Spring
it's really here
just like it has been
all winter.

Barefoot in the garden
I turned the circle
three times round
feeling Her blessings
rising through me

This is a time of healing
of letting go of the things
that bind us to the past

Let us all blossom
just as we have taken root
together

Celebrate your emergence
Be wrapped in love
Cherish the promise
that is Spring

Blessings for Spring!


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 Today's quote is from the song "Home in the Mountains" on the album Soulflight by Bhavani Lorraine Nelson.

I feel the same way about my hills.
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That's the quote of the day.  

From an interview with Jai Uttal on the CD The Art & Practice of Ecstatic Chant
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I spent my March Retreat (now an official holiday on the Wheel of My Year) doing what I love best, taking retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. This had been planned for a few weeks and when I saw that the focus for the fifth week of the Spiritual Nomads class involved sacred dance and sacred self-care, I just grinned at the syncronicity of it all.

Of course I can dance at home and embrace self-love and self-care in any setting, but taking refuge in a community of like-minded people makes it all the better. Together, we create the heat that burns changes into our core.  Together, we have fun doing exciting and scary new things. Even the most solitary of beings seeks the bonds of her Tribe when it feels right.

And as a Tribe, we practiced yoga, meditation, and we DANCED!  Here was more synchronicity.  I found dance in places that I've never found it before.  A class called "Movement as Medicine"--that was dance.  A kirtan--sacred chanting--and the leader invited any one who wanted, to get up and dance.  My dance is still very rooted in hand and body gestures, but my feet came alive this weekend. I was so filled with bliss that I started spinning and leaping, steps that Lord Shiva would know.  Steps that I've never danced in the past.  They came through from the heart and the body just followed. I haven't taken flight on wings of bliss in so long.

Now that I'm back home, I'm working to integrate my experiences into everyday life.  I may take a Wave dance class, if I can find one that is supportive and accepting of a body that is a work in progress. Or, I may take a Journey Dance class with Toni Bergins, like I did at Kripalu.
All the possibilites is the world are present.
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 This week, the Spiritual Nomads are getting down to earth, getting down with the beat, and focusing on spiritual self care. 

I have always danced, gypsy-style, and always felt closer to my authentic self when in motion. I have always smiled, and am just learning so much about the power of a smile from reading the works of Thich Nhat Hanh. Smiles and dancing, what is the link?  Both make me feel good, make feel so alive that anything is possible.  It really is.

In the early years of this journal, I used to write a lot about dancing and my relationship with my body.  I was recovering from being hit by that taxi, and was mostly aware of my body in terms of what I couldn't do. I kept on dancing, first with my hands, later, swaying in place and moving with gentle, sliding steps. Now, I mostly can dance as I used to dance.  I am slower than before, but filled with deeper feeling and more expressive movement. I am one of those ruby-dark wines now. I dance for myself. I dance to connect with the energies of the South, of fire and of will and passion. I dance in unison with the Goddess.

What a beautiful thing to honor the body, the smile and movement as sacred. I should honor this body, because it is the only one I will have in this lifetime.  I am comfortable in my own skin, and I believe I am still a work in progress.

Thich Nhat Hanh said, "To love is, first of all, to accept ourselves as we are."  That's something written in my Journey book. 

So much of my spiritual practice is about accepting myself.  Yoga comes onto the mat and meets me where I am.  Some days, the asanas I choose feel easy and I slide deeply into them; other days, those rainy and cold ones, the same asanas feel completely different, and I merely sketch them with my body, because that's where the edge is.

Sure, I could be thinner and I should eat healthier food. 

In loving-kindness meditation, the first intentions are for the self...may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be safe, may I know peace.  Then, filled with these intentions, I am ready to smile them forth to you, to them, to all beings--especially to those I struggle to understand, like my political and spiritual opposites--people who probably struggle to understand me, too.

I am more than my body. I believe I am part of something more permanent and Something more universal. But all that needs a sacred vessel to contain it. That's the body I honor. The smile comes out on my face, but it comes from deep within the spiral of the heart.
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Sunday night always seems to find me writing something inspired by my Spiritual Nomads course. This week's assignment had us looking at the Wheel of the Year and determining what we really celebrate.

Now, I celebrate the eight traditional holidays...out of tradition. I have wonderful memories of turning the wheel with my mother. In the years before I was out of the broom closet, I used to tell people that I celebrate the seasons, so I have been publicly celebrating the solstices and equinoxes for a long time.

You've heard me say that the cross-quarter days are markers for the passage of time, and that they represent the fullness of the seasons and the point where you turn your focus from solstice to equinox or equinox to solstice. Is that all these days are to me? Possibly...possibly. I've tried on the various yearly stories of the goddess, but I seem to see the year in terms of the Earth as Goddess rather than in one of her human-like manifestations.

What if I were to start over, and map out the year as I really know it, finding the holidays that are spontaneous and heart-felt? 

Read more... )
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If I could change the calendar, New Year's day would be the first day of Spring.  Every January, I look out on the short bleak days and wonder what's so new about all of that? The perceptably lengthening days aren't enough for me.  I know that most years, there's still a whole lot of cold and dark weather ahead.

Most times, January finds me just beginning to stir from that wonderful place of stillness that I have slowly spiralled into. March finds me nearly unfolded and ready to rest in the pale sun for a few days before getting real with the season. My spring retreat has become a tradition and I am looking forward to the renewal that it brings.

Indigo kitten continues to inspire me.  She sees the world through round, excited blue eyes. She embodies the season that is coming.

Curiosity is a spring thing. So, perhaps is compassion.  Kuan Yin's birthday is celebrated on March 19, on that thin strip of time between winter and spring.

I am ready to set aside winter's sorrows.

I am ready to reinvent the wheel of the year and create a year of seasonal celebrations. Welcome to my new year!
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 My beloved child break your heart no longer. 
Each time you judge yourself, you break your own heart. 
You stop feeding on the love which is the wellspring of your vitality. 
The time has come. Your time. To live. To celebrate. 
And to see the goodness that you are. 
You, my child are Divine. 
You are pure. 
You are sublimely free. 
You are God in disguise. 
And you are always perfectly safe. 
Do not fight the dark. 
Just turn on the light. 
Let go. 
And breathe into the goodness that you are.

--Swami Kripalu

Juxtaposed

Feb. 26th, 2012 09:35 am
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Outside my window, the clock tower with no clock, the bell tower with no bell, stands in silent witness to the present moment. It always points straight up to Now. Clouds race across the sky, from pane to pane, moment to moment. I sit in stillness.


"On the highest level, a stupa symbolizes the Buddha's mind..." (Tolek Sokolov in Buddhism Today, #27)
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The spiritual nomads are considering prayer this week. Prayer is one of those words that I had all but ceded to the Abrahamic traditions. Maybe its time I reclaimed the word and made it mine. 

You see, I really do pray.

Before you picture Athena on her knees next to her bed...no...just no.

Sometime prayer comes when I'm sitting on the living room floor, leaning back against the frame of a chair, sipping tea from a mug.  This is a calm and comfortable place for a quiet dialogue with the Goddess. We talk as Mother and daughter. This is a very contemplative time.  We talk about all sorts of things, mostly about values and how to live life.

If it's a prayer for a purpose, then I pray like a witch, casting a close circle to keep the focus, making a formal invitation to the Goddess to join this dialogue. Magic is a deeply focused prayer, asking that I be open to some kind of change, some kind of solution, or that we can make something right for others. This prayer is real work, filled with intense visualization.

I include drawing down the Moon as a form of prayer. This is my way of prayer for deep insight. I have been blessed with some moments that were truly divine, like the flash of insight, one full moon, where She showed me the tiny sparks of light, all over the world, each one the candle of a woman who was in prayer with Her that very moment.  Then She opened our hearts and let our energy mix.  It was a moment of grace. Ever since that moment, I have been able to reach out to my goddess sisters around the world and rekindle that connection.

But mostly, I sing my prayers.  I am a kirtan junkie. I chant the sacred names, Gods and Goddess alike. Years ago, I stayed after yoga class one night for my first kirtan.  I didn't know the meaning of what I chanted, but it didn't matter. I was uplifted by the experience, surrounded by waves of energy. I remember the day Bhavani joked with us, asking what could be better than spending a day singing, "God, God, Goddess God?" There isn't much better than that for me. Bhakti yoga is my bliss.

As I'm writing this, I'm softly singing along with Krishna Das, "Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya." Deva Premal translates this mantra as "Salutations to the Indweller who is omnipresent, omnipotent, immortal and divine." My personal interpretation is "I honor the Divine spirit within."




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 If you have been reading my gurus post during the week I was editing it, thank you for your patience and I hope that you will read it again now that it is done.  I really should have edited it offline, but it was an online kind of week for me and my iPad. 

It's good to take time and figure out who supports you on your path. Last year at Imbolc I asked you to identify who sustains you. I guess I was too focused on priestessing the experience for others to participate in it for myself.  Here I am, over a year later, being advised to do the same thing. It's never too late to give or take good advice.
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This week in the Spiritual Nomads course, we were asked to put together a guru board, a collection of photos of the people whom we consider gurus, or spiritual teachers.  Guru is a loaded word. The traditional guru-student relationship involves a lot of blind trust. I don't do blind trust very well, which explains why I am a solitary practitioner by choice. It may also explain to some extent why I am a spiritual nomad. You can share your wisdom with me, but if I can't internalize it and reconcile it with the wisdom I have gleaned so far in life, I won't blindly accept it. So, when I speak of my gurus, I mean teachers, authors and inspiring figures.

Read more... )
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I don't often speak of grace; it's not a word heard often among witches. I'm not sure we hae a working definition of it, so I'll give you mine.  Grace is the flash of realization that the Divine is strongly present within us. We are imperfect in our awareness of Her immanence and sometimes we are just flooded with Her presence. She is always here. I am the one who doesn't always notice Her.

Awe inspiring, profound, even downright silly, these are moments that the whole world opens into my heart. 

Drawing down the Moon is a ritual that ought to provide some moments of grace, but at times we become overwhelmed and our consciousness gets pushed aside. 

Starting from a deeply meditative state helps me stay present.

Thinking about some of those crystal moments of awareness, this what I remember most.

During my first Reiki attunementt, which was solemn and beautiful, a flock of crows began a raucous serenade. It made me a jump, and I had to struggle not to laugh and I fell wide open into the joy and laughter that is the Goddess. 

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I solve problems visually, so I'm focusing on the altar as the visual manifestation of everything else I am thinking about.

If I were to give myself carte blanche to rebuild it from the bottom up, this is the way it might be--

Terra cotta dupioni silk altar cloth

Kuan Yin.  Where I am in my practice right now, She is the face of the Goddess. 

Flowers.  Real ones.  Even a sprig of evergreen would be OK in the winter. 

The Elements. Incense, water, salt, candle

OK. Let me think about this for a bit. It sounds clean and simple.  I am keeping the sky and the bell tower. They are not mine to put away  ;-)

Tabula rasa

Feb. 6th, 2012 10:07 pm
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I have been wondering for a while why my spiritual practice works the way it does, and why such a diverse set of practices resonate with me. I live in a jumble of meditation, kirtan, and goddess spirituality mixed with ordinary witchcraft. I accept that it is deeply personal and unique. I would like to take some time to ask why and why and why. I'd like to open the windows and air out my mind.

Diane Sylvan, who wrote The Circle Within, has the gift of asking the right questions, the kind that we each answer according to our own heart. I am grateful to spend the next few weeks as her student, to be a spiritual nomad.

This week finds me tracing my spiritual history, which I will not share in depth.  You know about my long lineage of Quakers, the comfort of silence, my oft interrupted journey as a witch and priestess.  You know that I meditate and practice yoga--not just hatha but pranayama, bhakti and seva.  You know I also walk lightly on the Zen path--again for the silence and meditation. 

"Clear your altar," she said.  "Which ones?" I whimpered.  The entire house is an altar.  OK, I'll start in the place where I meditate.
  • Photograph of Swami Kripalu--teacher, guru. I wish I had known him personally, but his teachings live on at the Kripalu Center. I go there each spring to restore my balance. I keep his picture to remember why.
  • Paper daisy in a vase.  Flowers on my altar.  I admit that I am not home enough to keep fresh flowers, but its the thought that counts. A stranger gave me the flower.  Random kindness is so rare in this cold and greedy city, that I cherish the memory of this small gift.
  • Image of Kuan Yin--Goddess, Bodisattva. This is Her altar.
  • Bowl of water--offering. Perhaps it evaporates, perhaps Indigo kitten drinks the water--I offer and it is taken.
  • Incense--offering.  This one transforms into Her gift to me, wisps of smoke painting patterns that are ever changing
  • Candle--offering.  Giving and receiving Light.
  • The red box.  A riser for the altar, and another offering.  Painting the box was an act of ritual.  So many thin washes of reds and browns give depth and translucence to the paint. 
  • Metta prayer beads, four full moons, one for each line of the prayer...may you be happy...may you be healthy...may you be safe...may you know peace.
  • Silk altar cloth, artfully woven Japanese brocade.  Maybe the images aren't quite right for my altar, but it is a touch of home for Kuan Yin.
I have set these aside for now.  Some in a box, some tucked around the room, in the places they came from. A few things remain...

  • The altar itself.  I remember my mother drinking tea here, looking out the window. I remember Amber cat curled up asleep.  Family, all gone now. Memories remain.
  • Beyond the windows, the sky, with the bell tower standing as a pointer to NOW.
  • My cushions on the floor. Zafu and zabuton.
What is it like to meditate here? I chose to breathe to the mantra So Hum, meaning I am That. The mind wanders.  So Hum transforms to Sat Nam and back again. Quiet bliss and longing.  I feel slightly disconnected. The altar seems so huge and empty. I can see Quan Yin, right where She should be.  I am not alone.

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 At this point on the wheel of the year, I should understand why I am moving forward, know that winter is half through, and be gathering my strength to spring forward.  I should be moving slowly, but free of encumbrance, as I make my way forward.

It looks something like that.  I landed here with a thump, and have been resting and refocusing.  I have been in imperfect health the past three weeks, but am finally on the mend.

I have a good idea of where I am headed on my creative path, and on my path toward home. I am less sure about the company I'll have for the extended journey. I certainly have had some of my burdens slip away. Amber cat is in a better place now, having left behind her frailness when she crossed over.  I no longer have to worry for her comfort.

Indigo cat is an easygoing one, asking little of me and giving much love. She'll be with me on the journey, sashaying along beside me as we reach foreard toward spring.

I am travelling lighter and with more ease now that G and I found our paths diverging last autumn. At one point we had dreams similar enough that they overlapped, but I am preparing to go live mine, and he talks of his dreams and maybe invests them in the next generation. I wish him peace on his journey.

There's a new G (please, can't we have a new letter?) but I don't know how she fits into the journey, other than to inspire me and make me smile. 

I've found a deeper compassion this winter, more personal and less theoretical. I've come to know and care deeply for people across the entire spectrum of the 99%. I've learned to trust my intuition more, and to speak out when I can make a difference.

In the practice of stillness, I have found my voice.

I wish you peace on your journey toward spring. I turn to the east and acknowledge this time of beginnings. In the south, I salute the sun that nourishes my spirit. I turn to the west and remember those that have gone before me. In the north, I honor all things steadfast and true. In the center, I reach up my arms to embrace the Goddess.  Have a blessed Imbolc.

too fast

Jan. 10th, 2012 01:16 pm
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This should be the time of year for a gentle awakening and slow progress from the center of the heart spiral. 

WHOOSH! THUMP!  That was the sound of me being propelled, dazed and unprepared, blinking in the dim light, stumbling into a whirl of emotions and actions. 2012 is starting out as my personal year of the cat, and that has me right in the thick of it all, offering Reiki where needed, being supportive as best I can, helping dear ones and strangers whose furry companions face accident and illness.

It appears I am the Universe's cat toy as well as being that formy own Miss Indigo.

Plans that belong in the future...like in 2015...have been spilling into the present. Seva...the sanskrit word for service..was supposed to be some quiet year on an ashram...then I was going to bring a new cat into my home when all that was done...Indigo arrived in December...and everyone is reminding me that what I am doing in the Occupy movement...is seva.  That rescuing Indigo from a home where she was so anxious that she would not eat...is seva. That sitting in a vet's waiting room and offering Reiki to  friends and to strangers in need...is seva. It's all here and now, and in a muddle.

I can't crawl back into the spiral.  What's out is out. I asked for all of this, maybe not in the way it came to me, but I just have to open my heart and take what comes.

Other things are calling me.  There's a house for sale, on a hill in the town where I plan to live...sometime in the future. It's an old wreck of an 1860's farmhouse, proud, austere, upright and a little bit imposing for all of its shabbiness.  10 rooms and a couple of acres of land.  Right now I am standing by, watching the asking price slide downward. I want to go visit the house, just peek in the windows, see the view from the front steps, and check out the neighboring properties.  I won't make a realtor's appointment yet, because I want to see the price slide closer to what the house is really worth to me.  Nothing may come of this, but I feel like I need to know now. I can see the front door newly varnished, with an indigo spiral on it.
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On New Year’s Day, my beloved Amber cat passed away. She would have turned seventeen later this month. Indigo kitten and I are still adjusting to life without our gentle little brown cat.


Amber was sweet, serious, and she had just enough spice to keep her from being too perfect.  For years, we had a gentle disagreement over the wicker chairs.  She liked to scratch them.  I always cautioned her that ‘nice cats don’t.’ She would look over her shoulder at me, scratching away at one of the chairs the whole time, silently asking, “Who says I’m a nice cat?” I found that incredibly endearing.

I loved her instinctive understanding of what was important to me. I took this photo a couple of years ago.  I had just taken this cloth from the loom, and she had to be there, napping, as I hemmed it.

May Bastet protect her and guide her on her journey.

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