Active Empathy

When the topic of empaths comes up in witchy circles, the conversation often revolves around the impact of being open to the energy of others and the importance of shielding. While this information is important to know, what’s missing is the active aspect of empathy.

In my experience, empathy is a two-way street. I compare it to wi-fi. When a device connects to wi-fi, it can access the internet. At the same time, the wi-fi network obtains identifying information from the device to determine if the device has the necessary permission to access the network. Sometimes, when someone comes into contact with an empath, they may subconsciously open themselves up, sensing that the empath will be able to help them.

I’ve been on vacation for the past week. Since I wasn’t following the normal schedule, I didn’t stick to my daily practice as often as I usually do. Since my daily practice includes shielding, I unknowingly attracted interactions I wasn’t expecting or was prepared for.

During one of these interactions, I was at my local bar having drinks with friends. We’re regulars there, so we know most of the people. Michael, another regular, approached me. Usually, Michael is your typical frat boy. He drinks way too much, makes inappropriate comments, but usually means no harm. In fact, other than the perfunctory “hellos” when we walk in the bar, we rarely interact with Michael. This night, he walked over and asked if he could talk to me. I then spent the next 30 minutes listening to him explain that someone in his life was hospitalized with a poor prognosis. He explained that he felt guilty that he had not spent time with his friend and may not get the chance to say goodbye. I let him vent and withheld any advice. After he was finished, he went back to his friends.

Michael and I have never had a conversation of this magnitude before. I attribute this conversation to be the result of my empathetic ability synching up with his needs in the moment. Luckily, I was at a point in the evening that I was willing and able to participate in the conversation. I shudder to think of how many other times in my life I’d neglected my daily practice and then lost my patience with someone who needed me in the moment.

I hope this experience will serve as a lesson to me to continue my daily practice regardless of what else is happening in my life. Failing that, I hope that the experience will help me to remain grounded, calm, and helpful for those who seek me out as a sounding board.

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My Current Strengths as a Witch

I frequent Kelly-Ann Maddox’s YouTube channel, and in a recent video, she mentioned her Solitary Witch reading that she offers on her website. Clumsy segue – I’ve gotten a few readings from Kelly-Ann, and she’s amazing. Check her out!

When she mentioned her Solitary Witch reading, Kelly-Ann mentioned that the spread meanings where also great journaling prompts. The first card in her spread represents your currents strengths as a witch. As a journaling prompt, this got me thinking.

A few years ago, I would have listed my success with magic as my greatest strength. Whenever I work a spell, I usually see immediate results (even if they may be unintended). Due to this success, my spiritual path was dominated by operative magic.

Don’t get me wrong; I think magic is an important part of my spiritual practice. Magic allows you to co-create your reality, which in turn can help build confidence and self-reliance. However, over the past few years, I’ve realized that my spiritual practice has gotten a bit out of whack because it did not include the celebration of life, communion with Divinity, or personal growth and responsibility, all of which are aspects of Witchcraft that attracted me to the practice initially.

For the past year, I’ve tried to direct my spiritual practice to the area of self-development. Rather than try to react to my environment through magic, I’ve begun to use self-reflection and identify what lessons I can learn from the obstacles. I’ve also adopted a daily practice that has helped respond to life through my spirituality rather than my gut instincts. As a result, the survival instinct that caused me to react to pressures from life with resistance has transformed into an instinct that causes me to pause and find the reaction that is best for everyone involved. I’m not great at it, but I’m far from the place I was this time last year.

To support me on this path to self-mastery, I’ve found a teacher of a tradition that aligns with my practice. I begin work with her in June, and I’m excited, though I know it will be a lot of work.

So, what are your strengths as a Witch and how can you capitalize on it to dive deeper into your spiritual work?

 

Reframing the Energy Pt 2 – Recognizing Your Shadow in Others

When I started work at my current company, I met Julie and knew that we’d have problems. As we began to work together, we immediately started butting heads. We questioned each other’s motives, were skeptical of one another’s abilities, and even had heated public conversations. It was a terribly unhealthy work environment.

Mundanely, I distanced myself from Julie at work. I communicated with her through email and committed to following her lead on projects despite any concerns I might have. Magically, I worked spells on myself to be more patient and worked a spell on Julie to make her more open to working with me. Unfortunately, none of this worked.

I was approaching the end of my resilience and vowed that is something didn’t give; I’d have to begin a search for a new job. In meditation one day, I began focusing on how I could build a working relationship with her. That’s when I made a discovery. Julie embodied pieces of my shadow which was why I was hesitant to work with her.

First, the company we work for is a boy’s club. All of the senior leaders are straight, white men. While most of them hold the title of Vice President, anyone who doesn’t exactly fit their mold holds the title of Director or Manager. As a gay man and a woman, Julie and I both feel like underdogs at work. Furthermore, we’re both emotionally-driven people who can’t help by say everything that pops into our head. Finally, we’re both insanely competitive and driven towards success.

With the realization in mind, I was able to temper my reaction to Julie. When she said something flippant to me, I was easily able to shrug it off because I understood that she was probably stressed about something. Over time, by changing my reaction to Julie, she began to change her reaction to me. Now we work together with little to no problems. In fact, we routinely bounce ideas back and forth when we’re stuck on a project.

Next time you find yourself overwhelmed with animosity or trepidation with someone you don’t see eye to eye with, consider what aspects of their personality lie within your own shadow. Once you’ve identified these traits, it becomes easier to manage difficult interactions with them and can help to create a better relationship.

Daily Rituals

I was out having drinks with my friend Garrett when my phone buzzed. It was a text message from a coworker asking me to check my email and send my approval for a project document. Although Garrett and I were in a lively discussion about Wim Hof’s breathing techniques, I figured that I could multitask and approve the document quickly before continuing with my evening.

I pulled up my email and approved the document. Then I noticed that one of my employees sent me a vacation request. I responded to her to let her know I would check the schedule and get back to her the next day. I also noticed that one of our vendors asked when a new script for his agents would be available. I sent him a quick response and told him that it was still pending legal review.

“What do you think?” Garrett asked.

“About what?” I said and then immediately realized that I had not paid attention to anything he had said. I was too busy focusing on work. I apologized and turned my phone off, but it made me question my tendencies towards work.

For the record, I love my job. I work in training and development for a small company. This job allows me to be creative and I get to see my thumbprint all over the company. When someone calls to enroll with us, our customer care agents are reading terms and conditions that I created, they are using tools that I built from the ground up, and following processes that I implemented. It’s a rush. More importantly, I get to help our employees meet their personal and career goals. It’s amazing.

With all that being said, it is a lot of work. Since the company is so small, I am the only employee that is 100% dedicated to employee training. I’m usually busy from the time I step into the office until the time I leave.

The reason I accepted the job was because of the creative outlet it would provide me with, as well as the work-life balance it promised. Ultimately, I have not allowed myself to create that boundary between work and life. That’s where Joanna DeVoe comes in.

Each year, Joanna sends out a survey to her to listeners/viewers. This year, she asked us to send her questions. One viewer asked a question about creating such a boundary, and Joanna suggested that they create a ritual to begin the workday and another to end the workday. Although I already have morning and evening rituals, I thought this approach might help me.

I arrive at work at 7 am, and I am usually the first to arrive. This gives me some time and space to work. Now, when I arrive at the office, I duck into the first-floor restroom. I wash my hands and mentally push any stress from my personal life in the water and watch as it trickles down the drain. Once I am at my desk, I take a few deep breaths and mentally thank the Universe for the opportunities my job allows me and ask for the resilience to handle any stress that comes my way. Then I fire up my laptop with a quiet “Let’s do this.”

Once my workday winds down, I start my ritual with something mundane. I send a quick message to each of my reports to see if they need anything. I also speak to my boss and anyone else that may need something from me. Once I am sure that anything they need can wait until I return, I power off my laptop and head back to the downstairs restroom. I wash my hands, this time with the intentions of leaving any stress from the workday here at the office until I return. I dry my hands and take a few cleansing breaths. Once I am out of the building, I do not check my email nor answer any work calls for the rest of the evening.

So far, it’s worked well for me. I have more time away from work to focus on my life, and I feel less overwhelmed when I am at work. It seems simple, but creating rituals to create boundaries for the different aspect of life may have amazing results.

Honoring my Beloved Dead – Sophie

I took a break from writing so I could focus on some other things. I planned to write more in the coming weeks, but a few days ago I lost someone very special to me, and although I initially felt silly writing about it here, I decided that it was important to honor her as I’ve honored the rest of my beloved dead.

When I was 21, I got out of an extremely toxic relationship. Like most 21 year-olds, I thought I had excellent judgment, so I decided a new relationship was exactly what I needed. As someone who recently discovered that magic worked, I was confident in my ability to manifest a new relationship. So, I busted out a legal pad and wrote down everything I wanted in my new love. I wanted someone who was excited to see me, someone who wanted to spend every second they could with me, I wanted to be showered with affection, and I wanted it to be love at first sight.

A few days later, I went to help my Mom with something. I let myself in and was immediately greeted by a little blond pup. I knew my Mom got a new dog, but I wasn’t prepared for how adorable this dog was. I sat down on the floor, and the pup showered me with kisses. My Mom came into the room and formally introduced me to Sophie. Sophie and I spent the day playing. It was love at first sight. It took me longer than it should have to notice that this was the answer to my love spell and Sophie was exactly what I needed.

I would go to visit my Mom and Sophie whenever I had free time. When my Mom went on vacation over a long weekend, I offered to bring Sophie home with me. When my Mom returned, I asked if I could just keep Sophie. My Mom laughed and said that she knew I was never going to give her back.

Sophie was like no dog I have ever known. She had the biggest heart. When my cat Star had kittens, Sophie took a special interest in them. When Star got tired, she would bring the kittens to Sophie to babysit for a while. Sophie would play with them, bathe them, and once, tried to nurse them.

One time, I got super sick and pretty much lived on my couch for a week. Sophie stayed by my side and even brought me her favorite toy to make me feel better.

Sophie was also a bit of a trickster. Her favorite game was to pretend to have to go out in the middle of the night. After I’d get up to let her out, she’d crawl into the middle of the bed and refuse to move.

Every time I would come home, she’d meet me at the door and demand attention. Every time, I would spend about 30 minutes sitting on the steps with her after I got home from work.

When I got home from work on Monday, Sophie didn’t meet me at the door. I found her asleep in my bed. I could tell she wasn’t feeling well, but as an older dog, I assumed she would be fine in the morning. Her condition quickly worsened by Wednesday. She wouldn’t eat and would barely lift her head. I rushed her to the vet.

The vet told me surgery was an option, but added that with Sophie’s age, she might not make it through surgery. The vet went on to add that she didn’t think Sophie would have a good quality of life even if she managed to make it through surgery. The vet left the room, and I took a moment to ask Sophie what she wanted. When I asked if she was ready to go, she rubbed her head against my hand and looked me in the eye. I could tell she was tired and didn’t want to suffer anymore. It was the hardest decision I have ever made.

I sat with Sophie for an hour and thanked her for being in my life. I told her that I loved her and would miss her. She licked my face and nuzzled into me. I held her as the vet euthanized her. Sophie licked my hand, took a deep breath, and then was gone.

My house is super quiet without her. I’m going to miss her, but I know she’ll always be with me.  Tonight, her ashes sit on my altar, along with her favorite toy and her favorite treats.

Sophie, my little girl, thank you for coming into my life when I needed you most. Though I’m sad to be without you, I’m happy that you are no longer in pain. I hope there was a warm bed and litter of clumsy kittens waiting for you at the other end of the bridge.

Blessed may you be in this world and all others.

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Re-framing the Enemy

There’s no way to sugarcoat it; I can be pretty judgmental. It started as a defense mechanism. I mean, if I was vehemently vocal about not liking the popular kids in school, I couldn’t be upset when they didn’t like me. Since my inclination towards judgment has been with me for so long, it’s taking more time to overcome than I would like.

One of my current struggles is my tendency to label anyone who is hard of me as “the enemy.” Unless someone is a close friend, my knee-jerk reaction is to label any criticism as disrespect. It wasn’t until recently that I noticed that by labeling people who may have well-intentioned concerns as an adversary was, in turn, labeling myself as a victim. Having experienced and overcome a lot of adversity in my life, viewing myself as a victim is something that I cannot allow. To overcome this, I’ve begun consciously to reframe other people in my mind, despite my tendency to see the worst in them.

One area of my life that I get a lot of practice with this in with curling. I joined my local curling club last year with a friend, and it was a blast. Last year, we were assigned to a team with two experienced players. At first, I was afraid that they would hate having two newbies on their team, but they just wanted to have fun. Tim, the skip (captain) of the team was focused on making it fun for me as a new curler while teaching me the basics of the game. We lost, a lot. Tim didn’t care, as long as I was having fun and improving, he considered every game a win.

The season ended and I spent the next six months excited to register for the next session. My friend and I registered and were placed with another pair of experienced curlers. Through the grapevine, I heard that John, our new skip, had been curling since college. Now in his sixties, John has a lifetime of curling experience he could share with me. I also heard that John could be a bit aggressive. This made me nervous, but I was still excited to learn from him.

During our first game, I learned that aggressive was a bit of an understatement. I overthrew my first shot, and it went through the house and out of play. “You haven’t thrown a rock in six months. This is fine” I said to myself. Then I looked up and saw John throw his broom to the ground.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” John screamed. I looked at my friend, and he shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. John’s behavior during our games continued, but he was personable and offered corrections afterward. After the first few weeks, John’s outrageous behavior during the game was too much. Not only did I not care how I performed, but the thought of walking into the curling club gave me anxiety.

In my mind, John was a hothead who had nothing else in his life aside from curling. Why else would he be such a tyrant? Despite my desire to quit, I decided to stick it out since I committed to my team, but I decided that I did not want to speak to John anymore. Even during the traditional handshake before the game, I answered John’s “Good curling” with silence. As soon as the game was over, I would buy my counterpart on the other team a beer (as tradition dictates) and say my goodbyes.

During our last game, the other team placed a stone in the center of the house, right behind one of our guard stones. John called for me to curl behind the guard stone and take the other’s teams stone out of play. This is a difficult shot, and honestly, I don’t think John expected me to make it. I lined up, took my shot, and watched as it gracefully curved around the guard and hit the other stone with enough force to take it out of play.

“Wooooooooo” screamed John as he pumped a fist in the air. Confused I looked at my friend who was also celebrating my shot. My friend made me stay for drinks after the game.
While we were sitting there, John commented on my shot. He said, “You should curl like that all the time. You get so in your head, and you fuck up your shot. Just calm down and do it. It should be muscle memory.”

Was this a pep talk? From the asshole? I was confused. That’s when the lightbulb clicked. Just because someone wants and expects you to do better, even if they communicate it poorly, doesn’t make them a bad person.

Is John aggressive? Sure. Is he a hothead? Of course. Is winning important to him? Definitely. Does any of this make him evil? No way. He just works differently than I do. In fact, I would never have made that shot last year. John’s approach made me a better curler, in spite of my best efforts to ignore him.

This experience has made me reframe other people I’ve disregarded as “the enemy.” My coworker who thinks my training could improve with more role-playing, she just wants the best for our new hires. The guy at the gym who wants to give me unsolicited advice on how to improve my workout is just trying to help me get the most from my workout. My friend who tries to reason with me that the original Grease is better than Grease 2 is still an unrefined monster. I guess it’s a work in progress.

Paranormal Activity

After a string of bad roommates, I ultimately decided that I wanted a place of my own. I found a three-bedroom house complete with a two-car garage, full basement, and big backyard. Sure, it was about twenty miles outside of the city, but that meant that friends couldn’t drop in without calling me first. Side note – guys, don’t do this. Call your friends before you show up! I moved in, and everything was great. Try as I might, I started noticing things that I couldn’t explain.

Like any good horror movie, it started with my dog. Sophie is a Lhasa Apso but thinks she’s a Doberman.  When she hears a noise, she goes to investigate. Early one morning, she woke with up growling and immediately headed out of the room. I got up to follow her and found her at the top of the basement steps. That’s when I heard the distinct sound of footsteps coming from the basement. Suspecting a burglar, I grabbed the poker from the fireplace and headed downstairs (like an idiot). I flipped on the lights, ready to attack (or more accurately, ready to scream and surrender) and found that the room was empty. I looked in the laundry room, bathroom, and the closet. Hell, I even looked behind furniture. There was no one else in my house. I repeated this ritual almost nightly until I explained it away as the house settling.

A few months passed with no developments. One Sunday afternoon, I was downstairs doing laundry. Tired of walking up and down the stairs, I decided to hang out on the couch outside the laundry room and watch some TV between loads. I was exhausted from being out too late the previous night and laid down on the couch. A few hours later, I woke up on the couch. I threw the blanket off of me and began to fold the laundry in the dryer. That’s when it hit me. I didn’t have a blanket when I went to sleep. I walked back out the couch and noticed that it was the blanket I keep in my upstairs guest room. I explained it as a sleepwalking episode, even though I’ve never sleepwalked before. Additionally, why would I go into my guest room when I only ever go in there to get it ready for a guest. I decided the rest of the laundry could wait until another time since it was beginning to get dark outside.

The basement continued to be the center of activity. I always leave the laundry room door open. The door is heavy and old, so it naturally stays wide open and is hard to latch. Plus, I’m usually carrying a laundry basket in my hand, so I don’t have a free hand to close it. I would go downstairs to do laundry and routinely find the door closed. I thought maybe I was being absent minded and closing it when I left without a basket in my hand, so I left a post-it reading “DON’T CLOSE THE DOOR” on the washer to remind me not to close the door. Despite this, I kept finding the door closed.

What finally convinced me was a friend having an experience in (you guessed it) my basement. The entrance from my garage opens into my basement. We walked in to pick up a bottle of wine to take to a party, and she came in to check out a painting I was working on. She took off her coat and threw it on the couch. While she was looking at the painting, she heard a voice behind her and turned to find her coat draped over the back of a chair, rather than crumpled on the couch where she left it. When I came back downstairs, she was sitting in my car.  When she recounted her story, I laughed and immediately exclaimed “I knew I wasn’t that crazy!”

When I tell these stories, I usually get asked two questions. The first is “why don’t you move?” The second is “what don’t you do something to get rid of the ghost?” My answer to either question is always the same. I don’t feel unsafe in my home. Based on my experiences, I think that the spirit is that of an older woman who has a motherly energy to her. She has never done anything harmful; she just wants her space to be clean and in order. I can live with that. Even so, I had to set some ground rules.

When I finally admitted that I might have a ghost, I had a conversation with it. I went to the basement with a few cups of tea and sat on the couch. I said “You are free to stay, but there’s a few things I need from you. Please don’t scare my animals or my guests. If any of us walk into a room, please keep your distance. With that being said, if someone else is here alone, do whatever you need to do to protect our home.”

I felt silly when I did this, but a few weeks ago I learned that she is keeping her word. I had to have a new washer installed after mine bit the dust. My work schedule is a bit hectic, so I asked my neighbor to let the delivery driver in and hang out while he installed the new washer. My neighbor texted that she had just let the driver in. A few minutes later she called me. I was in a meeting, so I ignored the call. She called back, so I ignored the call again. When she called a third time, I realized that the driver might have a question. I stepped out and answered her call. She was frantic and explained that door kept slamming when the worker was in the laundry room. When the driver stepped out, the door slammed again the lights turned off. With all this in mind, the driver was refusing to come back in the house and was waiting for his boss to show up. I left work a bit early to meet them back at my house. As luck would have it, my presence caused the activity to stop.

Having a spirit in my home and leaving semi-comfortably with her makes me feel incredibly witchy. I plan on moving in the next few years, and I hope my ghost will follow me. If not, I will do everything to make sure the future owners of my home will be as welcoming to her as I have grown to be.