Magic happens

First, I want to express huge thanks to Grace and Selena and any/all others who were/are keeping me and my family in your thoughts and prayers and sending positive energy to help us. I apologize for not having written an update sooner (will get to the ‘why’ in a moment here)! But here it is 😀

On January 6th when we were no closer to having our December rent together than we had been I called our landlord. Truthfully, I was afraid but feverishly praying and mostly trusting that somehow it was going to be okay. I held close to me in that trepidatious moment those few who I knew were praying (as well as any others that I didn’t know of) and/or working magic on our behalf alongside with us and leaned into them and the Divine. I explained to our landlord that we just didn’t have rent. And I asked him again (despite his refusal the first time a month or so ago) if he were willing to allow us to use our last month of rent that we paid before we moved in (you know, “first/last/security”) to cover this month and let us pay rent in January for our actual last month of living here…

He agreed! 😀

So that bought us until January 20th to come up with the money we need to pay rent and, trusting that we will be able to do so, February 20th to find a new place to live and move. Since I did the math, I’ve been picking up shifts at work like crazy (this past week I think I’m at around 60 hrs or so and this coming week will be around 80; hence why this update is so late!).

Also, Grace – your prayers about any obstacles or impediments or reasons for the difficulty we’ve been experiencing to be exposed and dealt with also worked. I’m not going to go into detail on everything that unfolded but our family now numbers 5 1/2 instead of 6 1/2.

And this is one of the ways in which magic happens and what it looks like sometimes when it does. People who don’t practice magic or haven’t practiced long, those who don’t regularly pray trusting that their prayers will be answered often misunderstand both these things and how they can work. Magic (or prayer – whatever semantics are happiest at you) isn’t always Poof! No more problems! Sometimes it is (and isn’t it lovely when that happens? I wish it happened that way more often personally, alas, that is not always the case), but sometimes it looks exactly like this: more time, more resources to get the other resources that you need and for which you worked the magic. Sometimes magic is (metaphorically/metaphysically) re-breaking a bone that wasn’t set properly so that it can heal the way it needs to or removing a malignant tumor that was spreading death and decay throughout the system (as was the case with one of the people we had called ‘family’ who is no longer with us). During those times it can be difficult to be grateful or to see the experience as a blessing because those types of experiences are painful and can even be traumatic. If you’ve ever needed to have a bone reset, surgery done, or experienced a significant betrayal, you know what I’m talking about.  It has helped me significantly to maintain the perspective that this horrible experience is done now and we can begin moving forward and healing, and I am enormously grateful for that.

So again, I say thank you. Thank you for your prayers; for working positive, healing, prosperity-bringing magic for my family and myself; for sending love and light our way. If you’ve ever wondered if your prayers or magic were effective, I assure you they are. And, I humbly ask that you continue to send that above-mentioned energy our way. We are not out of the woods yet (not just with the housing situation but with some physical health issues my wife is experiencing). I believe that the energy we send out comes back to us, and when you’re working magic for or asking/sending prayers to a Witch, we have the power to magnify that positive energy back to you so you get an extra helping of goodness 😉

May the Divine (however you conceptualize It) bless you infinitely and surround you in Love.

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Reaching out…

In my previous post I discussed having experienced a series of crises several years ago that I colloquially referred to as a shit storm and offered some tips and tools for any who might be experiencing such a situation at the moment. Me and my family are NOT experiencing a shit storm presently (thank all the Gods and Goddesses that ever were and are). The thing is, since I’ve had such an experience, anything – ANYTHING – that even looks like the beginnings of one causes this knee-jerk reaction for me. Probably because I’m not done healing from the first one (I’m working on it, but, like everything else, it’s a process), but regardless, that’s where I am right now. Literally begging the Universe to please not make us experience it again, doing my best to stay in the Present, and working to release the fear that’s rising like bile.

I created this space as a Temple, as a place of healing for myself and any who came to visit here. As a place of prayer, of meditation, the pursuit of growth. I write under a pseudonym both to highlight an aspect of myself which I want to feed energy and for the protection of anonymity. Right now, though, I can see the potential of a storm brewing. Sitting with how much damage and hurt my family and I experienced during the last one, I am willing to do whatever I need to avoid another. So I am going to take some of my own advice, use one of my own tools (and it’s among the last that I’ve NOT  yet used everywhere I can), and ask for your help.job

Back in the middle of December, we met with our landlord preparing to renew the lease on our house (as we had discussed with him several times in the preceding months) only to learn that he and his wife have decided to move back in. My wife (the primary “breadwinner” in our family) had just lost her job, my freelance writing work was/is experiencing a bit of a slow period, L’s work is inconsistent, and we were living paycheck to paycheck as it was – i.e., coming up with first, last, and security for a new place was about as probable as our dog unlocking the secret to cold fusion. Given how sick my pregnant wife has been (not just from being pregnant – she’s had this nasty virus since September that no doctors have been able to help her get rid of to date), we determined that my getting another, more consistent job would at least help. Done. I got a waitressing job at a country club where I make an hourly wage (no tips) and started about a week and a half ago and am really enjoying it.

One of the things this experience has really brought to our attention is the dis-empowerment we experience at being at the mercy of the whim of another person (in this case, our landlord – our credit and income isn’t high enough to qualify for a traditional loan or even an FHA loan which we’ve tried before). It also made us exceedingly aware of how much stuff we hold on to (remember that non-attachment post?). So we decided we wanted to seriously scale things back and take a more minimalist approach to our life. We started researching Tiny houses, though, on learning that in Florida, it’s illegal to live off-grid and that Tiny houses don’t have fully functional indoor plumbing (the toilets are basically outhouses with pretty wrapping), we decided that “Small house living” would be a better fit. Small houses are typically a bit bigger than Tiny ones (though on some sites I’ve found “Small houses” that are bigger than the one we live in now – I think once you surpass 1500 sq ft you don’t get to be called a Small house) and are permanent structures. So, in the spirit of asking for help, I started a gofundme campaign.  We’ve received $400 so far toward our $15,000 goal (which would go a long way toward the cost of purchasing land and building materials since we would build it ourselves).

The difficulty arises in that our income has decreased by more than half with the loss of my wife’s job. Our landlord agreed to give us an extension on paying our December rent until January 7th after I explained about the job loss (yes, that would be the day after tomorrow), and we still don’t have it. I was celebrating in the car on my way to work when I got an extension for our water bill and I’m waiting until the last minute to pay the electric bill before our electricity gets shut off. We’ve asked everyone we know that could possibly financially assist us for loans and they’re either not able to or we haven’t heard back from them yet. I have no idea what will happen on the 7th. I’m trying desperately to maintain faith that this will work out, that my family and I won’t have to experience the pain and heartache of being evicted (again), that the magic I’ve worked will manifest in time and in the way I intended, that it’s in alignment with whatever the Divine wills. I’m working to release doubt and fear, to not let my emotions overwhelm me.

I believe in magic, I believe in people, I believe that people genuinely wish to help others, I believe we are all connected, I believe in Love, and I believe that my family and I will get through this, however it turns out, and that we will learn and grow.

The first time I was faced with this type of experience, I withdrew, I crawled into myself and hid, letting my shame and fears overpower everything else. This time, I’m trying something different. I’m reaching out. I’m asking for help. I’m trusting in Love, in that which connects us all, in the Divine, and in you.

Ways to help:

  • To provide immediate financial assistance, please email me at aerolin979 @ gmail.com (thegofundme campaign takes several days to wire the money to our account which won’t help us with rent)
  • To donate to our gofundme campaign, access the campaign here: http://www.gofundme.com/powellmalleyfamily
  • Like and share our campaign on your Facebook page to help us reach more people
  • Send positive energy that we will be able to pay rent by this Wednesday

Whoever you are, whatever your path, I hope you never have to experience this, that whatever lessons you need to learn this time around you can do so through some less challenging means, and if you are able to help me and my family that the Divine blesses you exponentially. ❤

Through the storm

Several years ago I found myself with my family in the middle of a cataclysmic, cosmic shitstorm. Maybe you’ve experienced something like it – a series of crises (and I don’t use that word lightly) occurring as in a domino effect, one right after the other. Any one of which is enough to “test the human spirit,” but together and when taken as a whole lead people -and maybe yourself – to wondering how you’re 1) Still alive if you share your story either mid- or post-storm and 2) still remotely sane. Especially when the stories of those of us who have weathered this storm and made it through, somewhat or wholly intact, sound when they’re recounted, as if they were a plot written by Jerry Springer or some uber dramatic made-for-TV movie writer.

I’ve barely written about my experience in that storm, barely spoken about it to much of anyone, and in some ways, haven’t processed it thoroughly. I’m not going to write about the individual crises I experienced with my family in detail now. The effects all that transpired had on me were/are pervasive and enduring. Among the most notable are the shame that I experienced as a result of my own perceptions, beliefs, and thoughts about those events and the subsequent isolation I wrapped around myself. Naturally, I’m a pretty social creature, in the middleish area between introvert and extrovert and leaning more toward the extrovert side of the spectrum; but, through and after that storm passed, I almost completely withdrew. I told virtually no one what was going on in my life. And afterward, when I was strong enough to share the story of some of what had happened, people asked me why I hadn’t reached out for help?

The answer to that question is both simple and complex. The simple: Fear. Fear of judgment, fear of rejection, fear of more loss when the loss I was dealing with was already so monumental that I could barely breathe through it, fear that those who would pass judgment or condemnation were accurate to do so…I’m not going to get into all the facets of the complex because that relates too much of the details (which we’re not talking about), but some of the complex has to do with the fact that in those times (and I assure you this is not some dramatic exaggeration – I mean this quite literally), it is all you can do to keep breathing. There is too much emotion stirred up by whatever you’re experiencing that you’re drowning in it. But in the middle of a crisis, there can be no room for emotion. The only way to get through, at some points, is to do. In professional crisis management, they talk about assessing a situation and labeling the different aspects by stoplight colors: red, yellow, green. The red are the problems that need to be addressed immediately. These are the ones that literally threaten people’s survival, the greatest impending dangers. The yellow are the ones that are significant problems but aren’t an immediate threat. The green are things that either cannot be changed or over which you have zero control so virtually no attention is paid to them at all. Nowhere in crisis counseling (and I can tell you this with certainty because remember, I went to shrink school and actually studied this stuff and got a degree) do you talk about how the people experiencing the crisis are feeling. EVER. So when all that is going on and you can barely breathe, you learn to conserve the breath you have. You are whittled down to your most basic needs, you have to block out as much emotion as possible to survive the experience, and you return to an almost primal state. As human beings we have evolved from our primal origins and it’s not socially acceptable to act from them. That doesn’t change the fact that everything around you falls into one of three categories: A threat, a tool, or neither. Threats are assessed and removed or dealt with as necessary. Tools are used to the best of your ability. As for the third category of things that are neither threat or tool – they’re ignored.

If someone you know or love has engaged you when they are in this kind of space, you might think they underwent a personality transplant. Especially if you’re able to offer any assistance whatsoever. What you expect to interact with is your loving, caring friend/family member and what you might end up interacting with is someone who seems to have become completely feral. Don’t get me wrong – they’re extremely grateful for any assistance you can provide to ameliorate their situation. But don’t expect an outpouring of gratitude, don’t be surprised when they seem abrupt or curt or ungrateful even. It’s not that they don’t care or love you or that they’re not grateful. And if you’re not able to offer any assistance, don’t be surprised if they then treat you as if you no longer exist. I promise it’s not personal. Right now, they have been depleted of nearly all resources, so unless you have the power to “poof” all their problems away or resolve them completely, you’ll get very little (if anything) in return because they have to use those resources they have to try to find a way to live through whatever it is that they’re facing. All of that might sound dramatic. I assure you it is not. For people experiencing a multitude of crises, it is the plainest reality.

I’m just starting in earnest to reach back out to people from whom I had isolated myself when I experienced the shitstorm (and that happened several years ago). At the time, our family was in ruins, we had been evicted from our home, my wife was battling through severe trauma on top of everything else and had become suicidal. Once things stabilized for me and my family, I prayed with everything in me -down to my last cell – that we would never have to experience that again. My world hadn’t turned upside down. It had imploded and shrapnel went everywhere and into everyone.

If you’re reading this and you’re currently experiencing your own shitstorm, here are some tools:

  • You can survive it if you decide to, but you have to decide. Once you make that decision, consider it done and start looking for tools.
  • Stop asking yourself why this is happening. Right now, it doesn’t matter why. It is. The more time and energy you spend on asking why is time and energy you could be using to get through it. So get through it now and ask why later.
  • As to your pride (that construct that’s opposite humility) – it isn’t Real so stop holding on to it (if you still are). If you let it go now, you’ll be able to have genuine pride in being a survivor after you get through this.
  • Ask for help. It sucks and it’s hard, but the worst that will happen is someone will say they can’t help. Let it go and ask someone else.
  • If you need food, find some food pantries near you. If you don’t have internet access (which I doubt otherwise you wouldn’t be able to read this), get yourself to a public library and use their computers (free). Even though food pantries have different hours and days of the week that they’re open, some of the larger ones will provide you with emergency supplies until you can get to one of their regularly open times. Don’t just go to one pantry. Some are open weekly, some are open several days a week, most of them have a maximum of number of times per month that you can visit them. Find out their information.
  • If you’re behind on your utilities, call them. Explain your situation in brief (these are NOT the people to completely unload on). Ask for extensions or if you can set up an extended payment plan.
  • If you’re behind on other bills, call them, too and do the same thing. It sucks, but most of the time, if you keep the lines of communication open, they’re more likely to be willing to work with you.
  • If your crises is in any way financial, start selling stuff. Use craigslist, use Facebook garage sale groups, use pawn shops. Figure out what you’re willing to sell and what you aren’t. Don’t expect to get the whole worth of whatever it is you’re selling because you probably won’t, but you might get enough to feed you and your family for a few more days. Don’t sell camping gear – if you’re in danger of becoming homeless, you might need it.
    • The Dollar store is your new best friend. A lot of them sell food.
    • If you need cheap meal plan ideas (other than Ramen), let me know. My family survived on homemade chicken soup for over a month (I’m not exaggerating). I can feed a family of 6 dinner for less than $20 (and have leftovers for the next day) and have a lot of other cheap meal plans.
    • Apply for Medicaid. Save yourself the headache and find out where you can go to get help applying for it (ask people that run food pantries – a lot of them will do this with/for you or be able to point you to other organizations who will). You do not want to attempt this yourself as it is the most insane-making experience possibly ever, especially for someone in a crisis.
  • If you need medical care/medications, search the internet for low-cost/free clinics. They do exist and, depending on your finances, you might qualify for free care. If you need antibiotics, Publix pharmacies (if you have them near you) offer a number of antibiotics for free. Walmart also offers a number of very low-cost antibiotics (like, $4). Call them and get the list from them. Go to the ER and get a prescription. Yes, ERs are expensive, but unless it’s a private hospital, they have to treat you and they’ll just bill you. Worry about the bills later, survive now.
  • If you need housing, search the internet for local shelters. Remember that camping gear you didn’t sell? Use it. Search the internet for local camping sites. A lot of them offer very low daily rates. Also, find your local Habitat for Humanity chapter. You’ll need to qualify for a home, submit a processing fee, and volunteer 300 hours sweat equity (150 must be completed before they begin your home) but you could get your own home.
  • If you need a shower, try local homeless shelters or nearby truck stops. A lot of them have showers.
  • If you need a job, scour the local newspapers and craigslist. Look at your skills and don’t get stuck on trying to find something in your current field (if nothing’s available). A large number of skills you have are transferable and would be an asset in a variety of jobs.
  • Even though it may be that everything sucks right now, find things for which to be grateful – even if it’s as simple as the sun shining or a breeze blowing. It may sound silly, but I assure you that it will help you get through this with your Spirit in tact (or at least more in tact) so that when the crisis is over, you can rebuild more easily.

If you know someone who is currently experiencing a crisis, please pass this information along to them.

For those mid-storm, if there’s something I haven’t touched on, let me know, and I’ll do what I can to be a tool to help you through this. In the mean time, keep breathing.

Current Personal Buzzword: Non-attachment

300 years ago or so (because it really feels like at least one lifetime ago) when I admitted to myself that Christianity was not my spiritual home and dug up the courage to find the one that was, I researched a large number of religions and spiritual systems. Among those was Buddhism. I don’t know if it was the influence of my conservative Christian upbringing, my lack of substantial spiritual development at the time, or the material I was reading that led to it but when I got to the concept of non-attachment, I balked. I’ve since learned that what we read and what we understand are possibly, more often than not, different things entirely due to our own readiness, willingness, and openness. But at the time, what I understood the concept to communicate was a life of asceticism that seemed as imbalanced to me as exactly what it was proscribing avoiding. Needless to say, while there were aspects of Buddhism that I agreed with even then, I kept on researching until I found Home.

Funny, isn’t it, how things come back around? How certain spiritual Truths manifest across a variety of spiritual paths and disciplines? I’m not sure when it started but a few weeks or months ago, one of the pages that I’ve “liked” on Facebook shared a post on my newsfeed that had my jaw falling open and my eyes simply staring at the screen in front of me. It was a quote that (and I’ll be paraphrasing here because I can’t seem to find it again at the moment) basically said, “Non-attachment isn’t owning nothing but allowing nothing to own you.”

Well, holy fuck.

When I saw this quote, a number of pieces of fragmentary Truths and lessons partly learned coalesced in my space. In the process of working on other issues and lessons, I’d recently realized that I allow certain strong emotions to completely overwhelm me and dictate my actions, thoughts, beliefs, etc. (so very no bueno, btw). And in that moment, I realized that practice/habit/pattern is synonymous with allowing them to own me. A host of other issues and lessons I’ve been working on that also tie in to non-attachment all blossomed in my consciousness: perfectionism, getting caught up in believing how others behaved is some sort of reflection of/indictment against me, fears about finances…). See, non-attachment isn’t only about material things (the inaccurate perception I’d previously had). It’s about ‘YES.’ Thoughts, beliefs, emotions, identity, roles, behavior patterns, FEARS…the list goes on.

Since then, I’ve been working on practicing non-attachment. Well, that’s only partly true. So far, as happens on occasion when I have some great epiphany or revelation, there’s this little honeymoon period where I have the experience of completely “getting it”, where I just live it and don’t really have to work very hard at it. I swear that the Divine does this on purpose so that we can feel and experience the bliss that whatever the Truth is that we just “got” offers so that we’ll be more motivated and compelled to work hard to get back there because…the honeymoon period is finite. It ended sometime between when I went to bed last night and when I woke up this morning. If you’ve ever had this experience before you know exactly what I’m talking about. Nothing happened, I didn’t do or NOT do something to make it end. It just ends. And the sensation is very abrupt and can be panic-inducing if you don’t recognize it for what it is and, in my experience, ground like crazy and focus on breathing.  To be clear, when it ends, it’s not always a complete “reversal” where you go back to exactly how you felt before your revelation. A hint of the bliss lingers and the wisdom definitely stays put, but after you settle your emotions post-jarring realty-wake-up, it feels like now there’s this gap between where you are and where you just were and you need to work to get back there. Except, depending on the Truth you just figured out, the work looks a little bit different.

I don’t know exactly yet what the work to get back to the blissful and peaceful state I’d been gifted with living in for the last week or so will look like, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it will NOT be the active, battle-it-out type work I’m more accustomed to. No, this work feels to me, much like non-attachment, that it will be about flow, about invitation, about release, about trust. So, that’s what and how I’ll be working on…

Have you ever had a similar experience? Feel free to share your own story in the comment section!

 

Many blessings to you, wherever and whatever path you’re on…

 

Strapping on the gloves…

October, in my spiritual practice, is kind of like an Annual Ass-Kicking Festival. I’ll explain. I’ve never worked at a Newspaper or Magazine or some other type of organization where there were hard and fast deadlines that translate into a veritable frenzy of productivity in the bull pen. I imagine everyone running around, coffee flowing and flying, orders being barked into phones, mile-high piles of folders slamming down onto desks, threats abound, first-born children are promised, etc. It’s kind of like that around my house this time of year except emotions fly along with the coffee, orders come from both our Teacher and the Divine, and that mountain of folders? That manifests as all of the lessons and issues we have had all year to a) find/become aware of, b) work on, and c) resolve/heal. As for the first-born children, it doesn’t get that extreme, but trust me, bargaining is attempted (and fails). And regardless of whether we knew about some of those issues or not during the previous 330 some days, we now have them all raining down on our heads. The incentive for accomplishing steps a-c in about 28 days? If we don’t, we can look forward (sarcasm) to another 365 days of them. That might not sound so bad when you’re considering it in an abstract sense, so let me help and try and make it concrete so you get something closer to the full effect here. Imagine an overfilled colostomy bag hanging around your neck. And it’s leaking. Wouldn’t you want to take care of that shit (pun intended) as quickly and effectively as you could?

Regardless of what spirituality you practice, maybe you experience something similar this time of year (I know a lot of people who do). Now, I don’t know about you, but this October has taken all of the above to a whole new level for me. I don’t know if I’ve finally reached a point where I can be open enough to seeing/understanding a bunch of the more fundamental ins and outs and why’s and how’s and where’s of some of my major issues (wouldn’t that be nice?) or what, but let me tell you, it’s been both enlightening and terrifying. And we’re only just over halfway through.

Because October’s intensity can be beyond overwhelming, and I really do try to pay attention and follow directions (admittedly, mostly when it suits me or if I get stuck/start experiencing increasing discomfort), I’ve recently started to find it helpful to almost categorize the issues I’m presented with to work on. I’ve been coming up with keywords (sometimes it’s just the element associated with an issue) or phrases for each (e.g., Emotions/Water, Motherhood, Fire, Elemental transitioning, Elemental harmonizing, Career/writing, Spirit, Trust, etc.) and then look for over-arching themes. In an emotional conversation the other day while I was hashing out some of my issues with my wife/Teacher, she pointed out to me something that I’d suspected but hadn’t ever truly owned about myself regarding stress and my flight/fight/freeze response: I don’t ever fight.

Now, I’m not talking about situations like walking down a dark alley and someone tries to mug me (thankfully, that has not happened in this lifetime). I’m talking on a more figurative, metaphysical, every day level. I talk a good game about being confrontational and feisty, but when it comes to things I’m afraid of, major life lessons, sources of stress, etc., more often than not, I flee or freeze. Chalk it up to whatever you want – past life baggage, childhood conditioning/socialization, it doesn’t matter – but it’s true. As soon as my wife said this, a movie clip played in my brain. I’m somewhere between the ages of 6/7-9. It’s morning. I’m walking with my neighbor down the street in our development to get to the bus stop. It’s a pretty long hike. We have to walk down our hill and then up another hill (and I grew up in southwestern PA – when I say hill, I mean it; no, I wasn’t barefoot, and it wasn’t snowing) to get to the bus stop. We’re running late. Just as we crest the first hill and start to head down, I see the bus come zooming. I freeze. Even though the bus stops at our stop, goes up another hill (remember, southwestern PA, there are a lot of hills), circles, and comes back down to pass our stop again, my mind fills with thoughts of the humiliation I’d face when the bus driver has to stop a second time. I hear the bus driver in my mind yelling at me because he has to stop a second time. I imagine the laughing and jeering faces of all the other students. Did we have time to make it to the stop? Not the first go-around, no, but the second? Yes. Do I know this? Yes. Do I want to know this? No. So I convince myself it’s not possible. My neighbor pulls my arm. “Come on! Let’s go!” “We can’t make it!” I exclaim because I’m too terrified of what would happen when we did but I don’t have the ability to put that into words. “Yeah, we can,” she shouts. “No!” I pull back on my arm. I convince her to head back to my house and we’ll get my dad to drive us to school. This, we do. Freeze. Flee.

I couldn’t think of more instances at the time until today when, faced with a significant challenge in a weak area of mine to begin with, I first try to start to fight. My emotions kick in and work up a frenzy and before long, I’m staring at a blank computer screen and, just like when I was little, those nasty thoughts start screaming in my head. I’m about to open a new tab, check into Facebook, and open my favorite game (just to give myself some time to calm down and hey – if I don’t check in then I’m not going to get the daily present, I rationalize. I can come back to this in a little bit…oh, but I need to go to the library and then I’ll need to run errands, so it might be a while…) when I realize I’m doing it again. Fleeing. Recognizing that, I force myself to stay on the page I have open. I allow myself to not have to go back and edit/revise what I’d been staring at, but if I’m going to choose that option, then I need to write something new. And I make myself do it. Not only do I make myself do it, but I make myself incorporate into what I’m writing the theme of breaking this pattern. When that was done (and it turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself), I forced myself to come and write here (again, about this pattern, and again, about breaking it).

When I was doing the first writing exercise, I realized how this fleeing thing I’ve had going on is one of the overarching themes that a number of issues I’ve recently become aware of fall into. It’s exactly what I’ve been doing with my writing, with this space…I’m sure there’s more. And facing it and trying to fight instead of flee – if you’ve ever done this, wanted to do this, tried to or started to, you know that it’s terrifying. Yup, sitting here and writing this, watching the clock and praying for the minutes to pass because I have errands that need to be run in 12 minutes but I’m committed to staying here and writing until those 12 minutes are up or until I finish this post, I feel terrified. And I’m still doing it.

Maybe it’s not fleeing or freezing for you. Maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is, deep within you, you know you have the strength to overcome it, to move through it, push past it – pick your phrase. And it might not turn out exactly as you like, but it might turn out even better than you thought it could. Don’t you owe it to yourself to find out? I do. So I’m going to go strap on my boxing gloves and get to work. Meet me in the ring? 😉

 

Spiritual miracle grow, anyone?

I’ve been brainstorming a bunch of posts (that will come – I assure you) and other customizations to complete here in the temple the past several days. I thought about other blogs I visit and sites I like and blogs I’ve had in the past. One of the things that popped into my head when I imagined what people who stumble over here might be looking for was resources, help, guideposts for growth, etc. And I had a moment where I (almost out loud) exclaimed, “Aha! I’ll create a Resources page!” And my Left Brain leaped up from the corner, sucked in a big gulp of air and started speeding along (it doesn’t get nearly as much air time here as my right brain does, so it was thrilled at the opportunity), planning, shooting out ideas of websites and books and Facebook pages – ready to put people on the fast track to spiritual growth…and then my Right Brain whispered something that, I swear, bore the force of a Bruce Lee kick to Left Brain’s metaphorical solar plexus, stopping it in its tracks: Isn’t the best resource one that everyone already has on their insides?

Well, damn. Left Brain, recognizing defeat, hauled itself up off the floor and slumped back to the corner. Right Brain, compassionate as it is, sent a searching look to the slouching figure that really does love a good plan and details and goes ga-ga over logistics to check in before continuing with what it knew would be an even greater blow: And isn’t that (the initially-planned, traditional-styled resources page) a little like giving someone a fish (as opposed to teaching them to fish)? I mean, there aren’t really shortcuts – not the kind that most people look for. With that, Left Brain was down for the count.

So here’s the skinny: There won’t be a traditional resources page here. Not because I don’t want to help people in need but because I think one of the things we trip ourselves up on soooo much is forgetting that the answers we really need are foremost found within. Truthfully, they’re everywhere – both within us and all around us. And there kind of are short cuts, just not necessarily in the way you may think…I will probably end up crafting some sort of resources page but it’ll probably end up a little unorthodox looking. Which is pretty much on par with me, my life, and my approach to, well, Yes (everything). 

In the mean time, in terms of outside resources, I submit the following (especially if you feel like you’ve plateaued in your growth/pursuit of self-actualization/nirvana/enlightenment/insert-your-favorite-catch-phrase-that-has-to-do-with-becoming-a-better-and-more-substantial-and-True-you here):

MVP resources to catalyze growth:

  • The annoying dude on the subway that always has his music turned way up
  • The pushy/bossy lady in the food pantry line
  • Your estranged sister/brother/parent/relative/friend
  • The upstairs apartment neighbors whose crazy animal sex noises drive you nuts
  • That gossipy chic in the corner cubicle
  • The homeless guy you pass on the street every day when you go to work
  • Your best friend who keeps falling for the same no-good partner
  • Your entire family of origin

Pretty much any person or any situation that evokes within you any visceral reactions, violent/overly passive tendencies, anyone that you cannot think of without bursting into tears (even if you broke up in middle school), anyone who has the magic power to make you reach (or want to reach) for a bottle of wine, a sharp (or blunt) instrument, your blankie (I’ve got one – no stones being thrown here), etc. Yup, you’ve been busy cursing these people and situations , crying over them, and/or bitching about them when they are some of the best Teachers you will ever have. So how I know it might sound a little backwards (funny how so many spiritual and metaphysical Truths do), but it’s your reaction that is the Rosetta stone of your own spiritual growth and development.

I imagine at least some of you are probably scoffing right now, and that’s totally cool and a common response. But before you click the back button on your browser, give me a minute here to explain. While we might recognize our reactions themselves (e.g., That person is such a &%#^$%!!), rarely do we ever fully recognize 1) the strength of the reaction, 2) that the strength of that reaction is probably disproportionate to the situation (though not always), and/or 3) why we’re really reacting that way to begin with. Now, you might be saying, Uh, no, I’m pretty sure I scream expletives in traffic because I hate it when people are assholes and cut me off. And, on the surface, I’m not disagreeing with that. What I’m telling you is that there’s more to it.

The process of getting down to the real “What” may simultaneously seem both complicated and overly simple. That’s because it is. It’s because as human beings, we are. The good news: all those stressed out emotions and frustration and irritation and loneliness and anger are actually assets, and I’m going to explain how to use them as such.

How to make your reactions work for you and NOT against you

  • Practice expressing genuine, non-judgmental curiosity in your reactions
    • After you’ve calmed down a little, ask yourself “Why?” Why does someone cutting you off in traffic send your blood pressure skyrocketing? Other than angry, what emotions does that experience evoke in you? Why? What’s the worst thing about that experience? And what’s the worst thing about that? And that? And so on. Is that what actually happened? Picture every two year old kid you’ve ever met with an infinite amount of “Why?” questions and then be that kid in an internal conversation with yourself.
  • While you’re asking yourself questions, watch out for internal responses that begin with “You shoulds” or “People just…” – basically any generalizations or unwritten social rules/etiquette (if you’re not sure if what you’ve come up with fits into this category, ask yourself where you learned it, who taught it to you, where did it come from, or whose voice do you hear saying that in your head). Not because those are necessarily bad for you or problematic – really, these responses are like gold nuggets because you can uncover so much about how you think of yourself and the world by overturning these puppies – but because we frequently adopt beliefs without even thinking. And you cannot grow and become who the Divine created you to be without conscious intention.
    • If you’ve been able to calmly do the above steps without getting angry at yourself or other people, you’re ready proceed to this next step. It might seem silly, but I really caution you to keep this one in your back pocket until you can move through the steps mentioned above calmly and with non-judgment because you can make things worse for yourself if you go here and you’re not ready yet. Remember that you’re not in a competition here, this isn’t about who can become “enlightened” the fastest, and remember, too, that everyone moves at their own pace. So what’s the next step already?! Ask where/what the fear is in that situation/experience. Many of us are not ready to face our fears, so be gentle with yourself when you start digging in this area (think toothbrush not jack hammer). I guarantee you that anything that incites a visceral reaction will have fear in it somewhere. This is normal, so no need to freak out about it, and it definitely will NOT help you to beat yourself up about it. Everyone has fear. Show me the biggest, baddest person you can think of, and I guarantee that if you were able to have a conversation with that person in which s/he had to be completely truthful, you would probably be stunned by the fears that were talked about.
  •  Ask yourself how your reactions serve/have served you. Other than a possible prescription for some Diltiazem or Xanax, what do you get out of that reaction? I promise every thought, emotional, or behavioral pattern you have has served you significantly at one point in time. If it’s causing problems for you now, that’s your cue from the Universe to create something that serves your highest and best interest all the time instead (replacing a pattern is a lot easier than just trying to “let go” or stop one). Again, really crucial here to be non-judgmental toward yourself through this process – I cannot emphasize that enough.
  • Decide that you’re done with those old reactions and create new, healthy, and uplifting responses. When you react, it’s like setting off an explosion and a ton of your energy goes every-which-a-way which depletes you of resources (have you ever noticed that you feel drained after you’ve vented or cried a lot or yelled?). Part of growing is learning to be more responsible on a spiritual/metaphysical level. Responsibility is simply the ability to respond: a conscious action instead of an unconscious reaction.
  • Practice patience and persistence. Whether you remember it or not, you didn’t construct your current patterns overnight, and your new ones are probably going to take a while to really take root. At first you might not catch yourself until a day or two or eight afterward. It’s all right. Don’t beat yourself up – celebrate that you recognized that you’d engaged that old pattern, take a breath, and then commit to monitoring yourself and inserting your new one next time. You’ll start catching yourself earlier and earlier until your default response is the one you created. Trust the process 🙂

Special note: Any time that you’re doing work on figuring out and working to heal patterns, fears, beliefs, etc., make time to treat yourself like you have the flu. You don’t need to take spa days or call off work or your life necessarily. Just be a little extra gentle, let yourself sleep an hour or two extra (seriously – when we sleep it’s like hitting a reset or refresh button).

 

The Bottom Line

The real bottom line in terms of your best and most valuable resource EVER: You. You are your best resource. The things you long for now. The things you wish you could go back and change. Your weak areas. Your areas of strength. Your intuitive leaps, your mistakes, the places where you are most tender, your fear of failure, your fear of success – all of it. You are a massive puzzle, a million doors behind which are opportunities for growth and healing and you hold all the keys. Yes, you. You don’t have to track them down around the globe or pay thousands of dollars for them on Ebay. You already have them – not some guru or priest or priestess or rabbi or shaman. Gurus, Teachers, self-help books, hell, even this website, are not (when we really get down to it) necessary in order for you to become who you were created to  be – the absolute value of your Essence, Spirit, Soul, whatever. And the best of all of those – the ones that are trustworthy (and I promise I’m not just saying this) – will tell you pretty much what I just did. They will strive to empower you not disempower you or take from you. They will, at most, help you locate those keys within you. But they’re already there. Promise.

Lessons for life via cast iron cookware

Last Christmas my parents gave me a set of cast iron cookware that I’d requested (I actually celebrate Yule – the Winter Solstice – not Christmas and haven’t celebrated Christmas for about a decade now but they’re conservative Christians and even though the giving of gifts and, truthfully, Christmas in general, was something Christians stole from Pagans to more easily convert people way back when, my parents seem to be inherently disinclined to give me Yule presents. Wow, that was a little Proustian. Anyway, I like presents so I’m grateful regardless of the holiday or reason!). When they arrived, I was crazy stoked and started reading the instructions for seasoning.

Now, I’m a Yankee by birth, and only a true Southerner will be able to appreciate the way I can shake my head and shift my eyes down when I say that as well as recognize that in doing so I’m invoking a “Bless your heart!” (I moved down South as soon as I could, promise). My wife is from Virginia and I have humbly and gratefully accepted her schooling me of all things Southern. Including cooking with cast iron. Except my wife doesn’t really cook very often – that’s my job. So, I busted out the instructions which informed me I needed to scrub off the anti-rust coating with steel wool or something similar before I could begin the seasoning process. I proceeded to scrub the first pan with abandon. And scrubbed. And scrubbed. I don’t know what they applied that anti-rust coating with but I had a bitch of a time even telling if I was making progress. Frustrated beyond all get-out, cursing the manufacturers and their progeny and convinced that the anti-rust coating was there to stay, I put aside the pans before I began using them as weapons on the people I love. I asked L, my wife’s husband, to assist me in the process. He busted out the power tools. No joke (I imagine any Southerner reading this right now is probably wincing and shaking their head and’ bless your hearts’ are pouring out of their mouth in a flood – what can I say? L is a born Yankee, too). He tried sanding the anti-rust coating off, but he couldn’t tell if it was working either.

They’ve sat on our counter since then until about a week or two ago. Unknowingly, I (or L) apparently did get some of the rust coating off because some of the pots have begun rusting in spots. A sorry sight that reignited my motivation to conquer the anti-rust coating once and for all. A friend of L’s recently informed him that there was a simple way to remove the coating: Cook with them and throw out whatever you make in the pan, then wash (with soap – just this once) then season. Once again, I busted out the scrubbies and got to work. I set some beef broth simmering in the pan for about another 20 mins then washed with soap (okay, so twice), then broke out the vegetable oil and started coating. Except when I went to coat, all this gray stuff was coming off on the paper towel. The anti-rust coating!!!  Score!  I set the oven to 200 and stuck the pan on the rack. At the end of the day, I got it out. I washed with just hot water and my scrubby, coated again (no gray grossness this time!). Coated again, and today stuck it back in the oven.

Last night I conferenced with L. Perhaps it’s not the stuff that you cook in it that’s important – it’s applying heat! I told him of the gray grossness that had come off after I put oil on the one pan once I was finished cooking with it and it was still warm. We agreed that the application of heat was the ticket and hypothesized that if we just stuck all the pans in the oven (not at the same time) and then set about cleaning and coating and repeating the process that we would eventually have a beautiful, usable set of cast iron pans.

One of the things I’ve learned, lived, and experienced – especially over the course of the last few years – is that the Divine is always trying to talk to us, trying to teach us, to help us grow. The Divine talks to me in music, in TV shows, in movies, on billboards, via the grocery store check-out associate, gas station attendants, random strangers I see on the street, etc. And in trying to season cast iron cookware.

If you’ve ever tried to change, to create a new habit, to grow something from seed (whether literally or metaphorically/metaphysically), you’ve probably had this experience: You work and work and work and, if you’re anything like me, you have at least a few moments of wondering if what you’re doing is having any effect whatsoever. I am not an especially patient person (that would be my wife). I have frequently gotten caught in the trap of thinking that what I’m doing isn’t actually making an impact and then I’ve given up on it. Typically, not terribly long after I do I see a difference. But not the happy kind. No, the difference I see is that I’m more irritable, I’m crankier, I experience more frustration, I’m more on-edge, more lost. When this happens, I am forced to draw the conclusion that, even though I might not have experienced as significant of a difference in the moment, what I was doing WAS ACTUALLY WORKING.

Now, let’s look at my cast iron cookware experience in this light. I had scrubbed till my fingers were pruny trying to get the anti-rust coating off (work on eliminating/destroying that which no longer served). L had gone full-bore with the power tools. But it wasn’t until we applied heat (Will) and moved forward, trusting that what we were doing was working and moving on to the creation part of the process that any real difference was discernible.

So, if you’re trying to change and aren’t sure if what you’re doing is working or having an impact, take a lesson from my experience and use the blueprint above to guide you. First, there must be destruction. This isn’t a negative destruction, it’s the destruction that makes room for rebirth and creation. But remember that nature abhors a vacuum. Dig up and gather your Will and keep going. Trust the process. With patience and persistence, success is almost inevitable 🙂