How To Be a Goddess

So, here’s a little pagan scented blasphemy for this Feast of Epiphany…

According to the Writer’s Almanac:

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany. The word “epiphany” comes from an ancient Greek word meaning “manifestation” or “striking appearance.” Before Christianity, the word was used to record occasions when Greek gods and goddesses made appearances on earth.

Want a surefire, foolproof, 100% guaranteed way to be recognized as an incarnated deity?  Follow these steps:

Be born a woman.
Make love at your most fertile moment.
Act as a hospitable vessel for nine glorious months.
Love the little creature that you have created with all your body, heart, and soul.
Leave aforementioned Angel Baby with a loving grandmother after she has been lavished with two and a half months of dedicated maternal attachment parenting.
Return within four hours to a child with eyelids slightly purpled and swollen from much weeping.
Hold her in your arms and offer her that sweetest mother’s milk.
When this child falls back in a delighted coma of sleepiest nourishment, witness the expression on her flushed face.

Realize that in this moment you will never be gazed upon with such devotion again unless you repeat all of the steps above.

On this Epiphany Day, I was a goddess at lunchtime.  When the work day finished, I again burst upon the scene, a brilliant epiphany to behold.  Tomorrow, the cycle shall repeat.  For now, it is almost enough comfort to get me through these hours mother and child are apart…

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The Return of the Wayward Corporate Refugee

From the back garden you will be able to see the wild wood.
The deep well you walk past leads to Winter’s realm;
there is another land at the bottom of it.
If you turn around here,
you can walk back, safely;
you will lose no face. I will think no less of you.

(Welcome wisdom… BlissChick offered this Neil Gaiman poem, “Instructions,” today)

I have been away.

Digging for a new sense of purpose...
Digging for a new sense of purpose...

I have been on a journey. Not far, just a journey that took me from the once-upon-a-time a church organ that is my beloved writing desk to the more public realm of the kitchen table.

The work I was doing was pulling me from my shell (often against the will I insisted on trampling upon) and was asking me to consider pulling open some other people’s shells as well.

With the belief (or was it an excuse?) that getting involved with a multilevel marketing company that offers a great product endorsed by Deepak Chopra was going to propel me along the path to being a healer, I gave the last month to this new project. The economic pinch we’re feeling made it seem like an even more acceptable idea. Unsure what was healthy skepticism and what was irrelevant fear,

I plunged in.

But now, as I look at empty slots on the blog calendar and barely remember the names of beloved characters from my neglected novel and realize I really owe Grandpa an email, I wonder if it was worth it and I wonder how to proceed.

It is only just past Imbolc (Brigid’s Day I barely gave myself time to recognize) and I find I have slipped out of 2009’s intended alignment already. Or rather, I was forcing myself into a new alignment that was so far off my present course that it seemed like so much chaos. I was aligning with my need to help save up for impending school taxes. I was aligning with the dreams that my teachers in my healing school had decided would light their own paths. I was aligning with my hope that skepticism was unnecessary baggage and that some corporate promises were fueled by something more than deception and greed.

Finding contentment with where I am
...finding contentment with where I am

I didn’t use this space to describe my brief journey with Zrii, and I have little desire to use it to describe what is probably going to involve walking away or at least drastically altering my relationship with the whole affair. It’s been a tremendous learning opportunity, and I have been plunged into some lessons I didn’t think I was ready to absorb. It all came on the heels of other personal shifts that I thought would take a long time to sort through. I assumed the universe would give me the luxury to focus on one bend in the road at a time, but here I am, once again trying to understand: I am not in control.

So, I believe that I return from this little sojourn with new wisdom, something risked and something gained. I opened arms wide enough to risk humiliation, and so I learn some humility. And so I return to my own path, one that has no logo and no endorsement, one that is shrouded in no illusions but the ones I cannot yet leave behind.

Remember your name.
Do not lose hope — what you seek will be found.
Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have
helped to help you in their turn.
Trust dreams.
Trust your heart, and trust your story.

Name the Stars and Someone May Listen

beto_camin, everystockphoto.com
beto_camin, everystockphoto.com

Some weeks ago, after returning from a less than stimulating social engagement, I considered writing a post entitled “I’m allergic to small talk.” Skimming through pleasantries and inquiring about mutual acquaintances ran its course until we settled into the uneasy conversational currency of complaint.

I yearned to be home writing and was unable or unwilling to push the conversation into new territory. I accepted the limitations of my company and chose an uneasy silence and feigned sleepiness.

When I got back to the keyboard I thought better of such a negative invective against well-enough meaning people with whom I could not find a conversational groove. The bright side was that eventually we got to go home – that is not exactly the little ray of hope and insight that turns a pedestrian moment of my day into an epiphany.

There was no flash of self discovery. There was just relief when I got to escape and a lingering sense of guilt for being unable to be a good guest.

But during another nighttime walk with our visiting canine friend, I forgot about hunching down into collar of my jacket and let the chill tickle my neck as I tilted my head back to take in the stars. Brilliant on the frigid, moonless night, there was the constellation of the faithful hunter keeping watch over the winter sky.

orion_constellation_smallAnd a lyric that so often comes to mind resurfaced: I see Orion and say nothing.

Amazing how a line from a song about the ultimate love/hate relationship peppered with healthy doses of the mother-of-all-words can help put everything in perspective, but hey, that’s Ani for you.

Suddenly I was having that long overdue epiphany about how I might have transformed that visit from a session in alienation into a chance at real connection. I sat behind my eyes and tended private dreams and unspoken thoughts. I greedily gazed into my own dome of stars and refused to share them with these people that I still wanted to call my friends.

There are plenty of people in this world that are incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to connect with. Racists, misogynists, homophobics… the list of unsavory characters you would never want at your dinner table is easy enough to create. There may be worth in trying to court these creatures and pull them over to the lighter side of being, but that takes intense effort and dedication and often turns out better in the movies than it does in real life.

What I was asking from myself was nothing like that, and connection would be nowhere near as hard. They may not be my soul mates and our worlds may seem totally unrelated, but they are good people and they deserve the stories and ideas I am holding in reserve.

I may continue to be allergic to small talk as I feel all of these momentous ideas and changes rolling through my life, but that is not supposed to be a reason to lose touch with the people who have walked along my path with me to this point. Sure, some relationships need to fall away because needs and attitudes evolve and some former companions are not meant to accompany us forever. It is important to be able to let go of the people and places and habits that no longer help us serve our highest purpose.

At the same time, a great deal of responsibility still lays in the hands of the journeyer. The reason to embark upon a quest for awakening is to positively effect the entire Universe – to let the beautiful diamond dropped in your own consciousness to ripple outward to heal the entire world.

At the very least, I owe it to the people who have loved and supported me to point out Orion and describe how to find the North Star and remind them that the stars move above them and around them every moment of their lives.

Who knows, they just might have been waiting for me to contribute something just like that to the conversation…

Yeah, Work Is Work, But What Else Might It Be?

img_0784I have written many times about the tension between having a day job and wanting to pursue my writing and healing live full time.

Green as a Granny Smith apple, I look to the bloggers and friends who can dedicate all of their time to their creative pursuits. I wish constantly for the financial freedom or the artistic warriors’ courage that allows them to refuse the constraints of the nine to five.

I shadowbox with guilt that my work ethic isn’t strong enough, that I should knuckle down and realize I wasn’t born independently wealthy and that I love this new house and have to earn the salary to pay for my piece of it.

At the same time I try to sort out the root my aversion to my job. Is going to a temple of knowledge every day and being paid for my pains actually painful or is it just an amplified version of the drama everyone experiences on Monday mornings? What if my soul is trying to tell me that I must do something else? What if I just don’t realize how good my job could actually be?

These are all still rhetorical questions, because I sure as heck don’t have any of the answers to them. Yet.

One thing I have sorted out, however, is helping me find new peace with my job as I continue to show up there each day. It sprang from a great deal of soul searching I did over my vacation when I started to realize how worried I was about returning to work.

I have been afraid to either like my job or give it my best effort because it might lead to contentment.

Huh?

You see, I worried that if I was content in my work, the Universe might start to think that all I could do was take care of the logistics of a college library and design a few publications and manage a few budgets. The Universe (or God or my boss or myself) might start getting the idea that this life was ok for me and I could quit striving for that elusive something better. Even worse, I feared that that “something better” might stop trying to find me.

And so, I offered about 42% of my energy and attention to 40+ hours of my week. Somehow, I still expected to come home and switch into being able to give 110% of myself to writing and healing and loving my husband.

img_0788But, there is this thing called inertia. It the law that says that an object (or a redhead woman) is most likely to persist in a given state once she is already hanging out there. I am not sure what sort of magic I thought might happen during the commute home, but I guess I was hoping All Things Considered offered the alchemical secret of turning disaffected, scattered working girl into inspired, focused epiphany girl in the span of a thirty minute drive.

And so, I still have absolutely no idea if I am supposed to work toward escaping the relatively safe and predictable world of a salaried, benefit laden job in higher education (not that anything is all that stable these days) or if I am supposed to take all those risks and step into a “career” of my own creation. But, at least I am coming to understand the law of physics in my professional and creative lives and have stopped believing that I can make gold from the ashes of an unlived day.

I am dedicating myself to my job anew, and daring myself to look at every task and every person with fresh eyes. I am willing to risk offering all of myself to my position for the hours that I am paid to do so. Heck, if I do that maybe I can stop blogging about work on my own time!

What are your strategies for getting through the workday? Do you have this sense of tension too?

Those of you freed souls that we office-dwellers envy – what is it like on the other side? Any secrets you’d like to share with the class?

The Gaps Between Epiphanies and Manifestation

dsc00846Christine over at Abbey of the Arts is holding one of her poetry parties this week, and the theme? Epiphanies. In her invitation to readers to share their work and favorite quotations, Christine offers this in way of a definition:

Epiphany essentially means a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something. It is those moments when in a flash we have insight into something we did not see before.

“Manifestation.” This word comes up in many sources describing the significance of today: the traditional Feast of the Epiphany. The twelfth day of Christmas. Little Christmas. Three Kings Day. The night when the Magi follow the star and offer their gifts to the infant in the savior. The day that the news of Christ’s birth comes to the Gentiles. In fact, manifestation and epiphany are presented to be virtually synonymous.

Funny how dictionary definitions and sacred meanings of terms tend to develop different connotations when they end up in daily use.

When the title of this blog came to me, “epiphany” certainly had no religious meaning. Like Christine above, I think of epiphanies as those little lightning bolts that allow what was once obscure into come into phenomenal focus.

And we use “manifest” all the time when we are talking about shaping our dreams into reality. (Christine Kane is a big advocate.)

Even as Miriam-Webster links these two words, in my world, there often is a great divide between the epiphanies I have and the actual manifestations of these stunning revelations.

Like I said, epiphanies often come as lightning bolts – brilliant to behold, but gone as soon as you can blink. You only know they ever cut across the stormy sky if there is a split tree or a growing fire at the point of connection with the earth. Electric moments of searing realization cut across the landscape, but so few strike a likely target. Brilliant epiphanies tear across the mindscape, and yet so few find an opening to truly manifest.

How many great insights have seemed to dawn like a never setting sun and suddenly vanished when “real life” stormed in? Are such moments really epiphanies at all or just sweet “ah-ha!” moments to temporarily savor but soon forget?

img_0749Obviously the birth of Christ was a true epiphany. Look where we are 2,000 years later – Christianity has manifested like no other faith. There’s no need to have epiphanies to the scale that you are founding you own faith tradition, but what can you do to make you own epiphanies take flesh more effectively?

When you can open your eyes with true awareness, it becomes the clear the messages are flying at you even faster than you can read them. Epiphanies are aching to find you with every step. How can you create the openings in your life so that those flashes of insight become a lived reality?

Trusting the Abundance of the Feast

On this final Sunday of our winter retreat, this blissful stretch of days at home, I searched through the furthest reaches of the pantry for some “special tea.” I found a forgotten bag of loose chocolate mint roobois from our local tea room that I simply adore. I looked to my husband and remarked that he had bought this for me, once upon a time. He looked confused, “uh, must have been a long time ago.”

0172It was. Early in our courtship I would often go away on the weekends. Determined to prove my independence and let him know that I would be maintaining my own life, I resisted commitment every step of the way. I would return home to little gifts from a brilliantly persistent man intent upon taming a young redhead convinced she valued freedom over security, spontaneity over real love.

The morning’s tea was lovely, but not as nice as it might have been if I had enjoyed it back when it was first given to me as a token of a young romance. It was rich with memory, but it lacked the piquancy it once had when it was fresh.

This is not some oblique metaphor to say that my marriage has gone flat. Instead, it just sets me thinking about the odd ways we hoard our little treats, delaying our pleasures until we eventually we realized they have gone a little stale.

How many perfumes and lotions have you saved for special occasions only to find them in the back of the cabinet, their magic faded, their sweet essences separated into their uninspired base ingredients? How often has the treasured saffron turned into flavorless threads of crimson while you waited for that golden day you would create a paella your beloved ones would never forget? (Last night I threw my saffron saving self to last year’s hungry dogs and made this amazing North African chickpea and kale soup.)

This year, wisps of resolutions are coming to me in the form of little lessons, like when I sip my tea’s faded glory and when I generously toss spices into the mix.

Trust in abundance. Believe that you can enjoy what the Universe has given you. Be secure that what you need will come to you, even if you open your cupboards wide to share your bounty. Don’t hoard your own talents or your material treasures for a rainy day that will never come. Live in this moment. Allow your wings to spread to their fullest span.

Now, I am not celebrating the feckless grasshopper at the expense of the assiduous ant. I stand by the belief that frugality is not a crime. I am just talking about enjoying the simple luxuries you have and allowing them to make each day a little sweeter.

* * *

stars_texture_paint_227767_l
photo by: xllukins

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany. The name of this blog was fueled only by a purely secular glory of revelation, and never even knew when the Epiphany was or what it really meant until last year.

And though I am growing more comfortable with Christianity in many ways, I realize that this feast does not necessarily speak to me directly, at least not the story itself does not. The appearance of the Wise Men, the giving of the gifts, heralding Christ’s birth to the gentiles. I think the weight of this story is finding me on a more subterranean level. The gift of tea seems to conjure frankincense, perhaps?

One symbol that does speak to me: following your star.

As a watcher of the skies and a dancer of the moon, I can hook myself to that great star that guided the Magi. For now it is leading me to epiphanies much more mundane that the birth of the savior, but it seems that it is all this sweetly contented moment in my life seems to require.

Winter Solstice: Mary, Mother Earth, and the Stories that We Tell

In the end, all we have is nature.

My teacher offered this wisdom during my healing class a few weeks ago, and only by going in the opposite direction, by dipping into myth and stories and ideas have I begun to understand the profundity of this statement.

I was blessed with the most incredible, nourishing Winter Solstice I could have possibly prayed for. The snow continued to fall while the Christmas lights glowed all day in the cozy house. I had the luxury of spending hours in my sacred little room: lighting my Advent candles, meditating, drawing, writing, discovering new territory in the realm of spirit.

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This December has offered me previously unimagined insight into the power of both the Solstice and Christmas.

For some time now, I have been experiencing visions of Mary. In them, she tells me that she is not just that silent, blue veiled vessel with the alabaster brow. She is the Mother who carried the weight of the world between her hips and who gave birth to a God. She is not some distant creature to be locked up in churches. She is a vital ally, a friend to all life. Mary is the supreme realization of the Divine Feminine.

Never before would I allow myself to get close to Jesus’s mom. A girl who got tangled up in all that Biblical stuff just because she was passively filled with angel dust? Not my style. Instead, I sought the Goddess in myth and legend, rock formations and prehistoric art. The statues of the blessed virgin that graced the churches I passed were just dull marble decorations that helped other kinds of people through their day.

But Mary has been insistent, and I realize how foolish I have been to refuse her. I now allow myself to drink deep her story.

Two phenomenal posts that I came across today, both based on today’s Gospel reading about the Annunciation, opened new doors of understanding for me: Christine at Abbey of the Arts and a blog that’s new to me, Magdalene’s Musings.

The more deeply I fall into the stories of the Annunciation and Jesus’s birth, the more overcome I am by their power. Suddenly it makes sense that these events would form the basis of a faith that endures 2,000 years later.

At the same time, my understanding of these miraculous moments is colored by the new “relationship” that I have with Mary herself. As she becomes something other than an iconic character for me, and instead emerges as a face of the feminine aspect of God, I realize how the stories that bind her to history are just that: stories.dsc01518

The time I spent soaking in Paganism and Celtic magic left me with a strong understanding of the way the Church strategically scheduled Christmas to coincide with a holiday as old as the earth itself: the celebration of sun’s return around December 21. The overlapping events and the connections between them are becoming increasingly clear to me:

The earth is tilting back on its axis so that the sun shines longer in the sky each day.

Mother Earth is offering up her Child, the Sun.

The Feminine Divine is making way in order to give us the Divine in human form.

Mary gives birth to the infant Jesus in a manger.

When I fully realize that the nativity story is not about shepherds and stars, but is instead a beautiful allegory for the cycles of the seasons, I arrive on a new plane of respect for Christianity and for all of nature. The interconnectedness of humanity’s stories with the basic laws of this earth make me stop and allow tears to fill my eyes for the incredible beauty we are all permitted to be a part of.

Did those events in Bethlehem really happen? I would not deny it. And if they did, I believe it was because God knew humanity needed to watch the power of his love enacted in human form. The passing of the seasons and the miracle of the earth’s rebirth of the seasons is too abstract a miracle for us to understand. What genius and power, to give us these holy beings, Mary and Jesus, to guide our story-loving souls.

solstice sun setI stood outside as the sun set on this shortest day, and I understood completely that the only sure thing is the natural world. The ideas, the living beings, the manufactured things, they will all fade away. Only the mountains and the seas, the sun and the moon will remain.

But still, I know I feel more connected to God and to the rest of this beautiful world better by holding in my heart these stories that we tell.

Advent, Christmas, Consciousness

Creeping around in the early evening gloom. Fumbling for cords. Flipping antique switches.

Bringing light to the darkness. Filling the house with the glow of hope.dsc01481

This is one of those epiphanies so obvious, I cannot believe I never realized its significance before.

It’s got to the be combination of a new house of our own and my own expanding awareness. I have fallen in love with the ritual of switching on these Christmas sparkles when I get home each night.

So pedestrian, the twinkling of colorful bulbs each December, and yet stringing these lights connects us to an amazing deeper consciousness. This tradition of decking the halls can be so much more than doing what’s expected and decorating as soon as Thanksgiving has passed.

Isn’t one of the best ways to really integrate changes into your life to introduce new habits? This habit, formed when there are a few extra, lovely tasks to do every day as we cast our homes in a precious, brief kaleidoscope of color can be the sort of thing that changes our whole outlook.

Spending those moments to consciously fill my house with beauty reminds me that it can be so simple to let a similar glow fall upon the rest of my life.

We light the Advent candles to prepare for a coming birth. We bring trees and boughs into our homes to spin some sympathetic magic, in hopes that the green will return once again to the earth. We fill our lives with all this light, both secular and holy, because we need it to guide us through this darkest time of year.

I have created my own sacred circle of candles to further help me remember that the sun will own the sky once more and that there is always promise on the bleakest of nights. I gaze into each flame and ask that I may always remember the sacredness of fire, the divinity of inspiration, the blessings that dance around my well lit path.

Oh, and check out a wonderful piece on the Winter Solstice at the Huffington Post by Judith Rich!

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And First I Promise to Look Within: Healing the Self to Heal Others

Lugano, Switzerland

“Physician, heal thyself.”

I never actually understood what that meant, and until just now I did not even realize it was a proverb from the Gospel of Luke.

What sort of medicine people was Jesus addressing? How did the middle eastern doctors of 2000 years ago approach their craft? Would I recognize the roots of my own energy healing work or were they the precursors of the conventional western practitioners of today? Was it about getting deep into the causes of dis-ease or were they offering pills to treat the symptoms?

Undoubtedly, there are countless excellent, compassionate MDs out there, dedicated professionals who look at their patients as entire beings and not just a chest cold or an infection or a bout of depression. At the same time, the grueling nature of medical school and a health care system that is focused on quantity and expediency rather than quality and attention must make it impossible for most modern physicians to really focus on their own well being.

This is not intended to be a rant about the state of modern medicine or any claim that what I am learning and practicing is any better than anyone else’s path. Instead, I play with this quotation because I am considering how I must heal myself before I will ever effectively heal anyone else.

If I ever make any claims to have arrived as a healer or as a conscious individual, I am deeply sunk in a damaging illusion. This is not the self deprecating cry of a person lacking confidence. It is simply the awareness that I am new here in the world of healing and wisdom and faith and have more to learn during every moment of every day. I can only pray for an open heart and an open mind and the love of patient people who will help foster this new rush of passion I find growing within me.

Today I found myself growing frustrated by some whom I love and respect .  She just can’t seem to quit sweating the small stuff. I just wanted to ask her to evaluate the steady stream of complaint and reaction that kept flowing from her lips and help her realize how unhelpful it all is – both to herself and her audience.

Even as this urge welled up inside me and my look of disbelief began to play across my face as she continued to speak, I knew that I was listening with ears of judgment, not of compassion. I climbed up on my spiritual high horse and began to pity her for the ways she squandered her energy and let every setback shake her to the core.

Later, worried about my own reaction to the situation, I described it all to a kind and generous friend who helped me talk through it all until I realized that I was not really upset with this woman’s behavior, but by the shadows of myself that I saw in her. The moment I allowed myself to sit behind my eyes and toss my enlightened mane, I was not greeting her with healing energy, but instead with the cold detachment of someone relieved that she knew a better way to live.

I needed to feel this flash of shame so I could step back and remember that I am a novice at this pursuit of living a wise and graceful life. The good work I can offer to the world must first flow through me, body, mind and spirit. Only when I have drank deep my own medicine can I reach out and confidently offer it to others.

A Tricky Word: Extraordinary

library ceiling

We’re going to be extraordinary

Seven years ago I sat in a college theater watching a friends’ production of Wendy Wasserstein’s Uncommon Women and Others and this line, like a well aimed arrow, got lodged in my heart.

I carried around the burden of this drive to be extraordinary like a sick woman bears a prognosis that she has six months to live.

Contentment scared me because I equated it with settling for my still imperfect life. The experience of the ins and outs of daily existence made me feel like I was stuck in one big waiting room praying I would soon be released into the next stretch of life where things really counted.

Always on the run from the mundane, I chased after at ever elusive hopes that magic and transformation would find me even as I raced around in a panic. There was no chance that I could ever find peace in meditation – all about embracing the present moment – because I was convinced that the present moment was just a big, fat, ugly reminder of all that I had failed to do.

It was a well meaning sort of madness, since all I really wanted was to lead a “worthwhile life,” but it was a destructive madness all the same. Essentially, I was convinced that unless I totally revised my uninspired every day life, I would end up a dissatisfied fifty year old, regretting my lost youth and unused potential.

Then one day I realized I was comfortable in my own skin.

Ok, it’s not a complete transformation, I definitely admit. I still get cranky about work sometimes and I fret that I will not see my name on the spine of a book by age thirty and I panic that there are not enough hours in the day to be a writer and healer and a wife and a professional and someone who actually SLEEPS, but I’ve stopped rushing to some undefined place of “achievement.” I know this feeling has been creeping up slowly, but I feel like I just woke up a few days ago and realized: I AM leading a worthwhile life.

Learning that to heal someone is to facilitate her awakening definitely lead to this epiphany. That definition finally lead me to accept what we have heard so many times – to change the world, help bring change to one other person.

The other thing that made me realize I actually can be the change I wish to see without changing everything was watching my teacher and my healer in action. These women may get to be well known someday, but for now, they are effecting amazing transformations in the worlds they directly touch each day. They wish to get their ability to heal and their message of possibility out there, but they are not driven by a need for recognition or because they believe that what they have is not enough.

I am still striving to make what improvements I can, but I think I am finally doing it from a place of fullness rather than a place of fear that I might not be enough. It seems this is the only way to really reap what we sow. Who knew that the best way to move forward was not to project yourself into an always distant future but to be happy standing still for a moment?