Journey to the Underworld – A Samhain Meditation

Light a candle on your altar, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Visualize the veil between our world and the world of our beloved dead as a mist that’s barely visible. Know in your gut that you can always pass through the veil, but tonight, it’s much easier.

While you contemplate this wisdom, the light of the candle begins to grow brighter. While it’s only slightly brighter at first, the light continues to intensify. As the light grows brighter, it becomes unbearable. You look around the room and notice that a corner of the room is still covered in darkness. You run to this corner for relief, but notice that the dark corner has turned into a long hallway.

As you continue down the hall, you notice that the stone walls slowly become walls made of earth. No longer are you in a hallway, but a tunnel that travels deep into the earth. As you travel deeper still, you see a dim light. Head towards this light until exit the tunnel through a small cave.

You find yourself in a wooded area and realize that you have entered into the Underworld. Look around, what do you see? Search the area. Notice how this world is almost like ours, but eerily different. As you continue to look around, you smell a bonfire. You look towards the scent and see the glint of a fire in the distance.

Walk through the trees towards the fire. As you get closer, you see the outline of a person sitting near the fire. This is one of your beloved dead. As you near the fire, you recognize them and begin to run towards them. They greet you with open arms and sit you on a log near the fire.

Visit for as long as you’d like. Share stories with them and listen to theirs. They may impart a message to you or offer guidance.

When your visit is over, the light of the fire will begin to grow brighter. Like the light from your candle, it grows brighter until it becomes unbearable. You race back through the woods to the darkness of the cave. You run through the cave, and the stone walls become earth at first, and then brick. The brick then gives way to wood, and you notice you are back in the room you started in. Sit back before your altar and take a deep breath. Open your eyes and thank your Ancestors for guiding you on your journey.

What is remembered, lives.

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Dealing with an Eeyore

This post is another that comes from one of my friends and semi-regular readers. We’ve all dealt with people whose spiritual vibration is lower than ours. I hesitate to use the word toxic because I don’t think that’s always the case. Personally, I know I can sometimes get into a funk and be no fun to be around which I don’t technically think fits the word “toxic.” With that in mind, I’ll stick to lower vibrations. Think of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. He wasn’t toxic, just vibrated a little lower on the spiritual spectrum than his counterparts in the Hundred Acre Woods.

I think my friend asked me to write about that since I’ve recently had some experience in the area. Let me introduce you to our mutual friend, who I will just call Eeyore for the sake of anonymity. She had a setback in her professional life, followed in quick succession by a setback in her love life. Not a good combo. Our Eeyore grew up pretty sheltered but was raised by parents who are tradition and a little toxic. Unlike earlier in this post, toxic fits here. She is also naturally pessimistic and a little judgmental, but this was nothing too serious at first. After her setbacks, though, this character traits became a little problematic. She shifted from well-meaning, but a little needy to a raging narcissist who could not exercise the empathy and understanding that she desperately needed from other people.
Try as they might, several of Eeyore’s friends couldn’t handle what seemed to be a dramatic shift in her behavior. So, they stopped inviting her out as much as they had. When they did invite her out, she often made the hang-out session awkward by making off-color jokes, wallowing in their negative situation, and feeling personally attacked if anyone disagreed with her actions or offered suggestions on how to make things better. After a while, I was the only friend the Eeyore had left. In an attempt to salvage the relationship, while protecting myself from the effects of their lower vibrations, I did the following things.
1. Raising my shields

Like most magical practitioners, I am sensitive to the energy of others. This is 1000 times more true with it comes to my friends. Usually, I allow myself to remain open to them because I trust them to keep an eye out on the energy they send my way. In this situation, I had to protect myself.

Before hanging out with them, usually in my car outside on the bar/restaurant we usually met up at, I would close my eyes and do some deep breathing. Side note – I’m sure I looked crazy, but I’ve finally reached that point in my spiritual practice that I’m not pressed about what other people think about my practice. Back on topic – I would then run energy through each chakra point, starting from the root and moving up to energize myself. I would then run the energy back down from crown to root to clear any stagnant energy out. Then, I would run it back up. Once I reached the crown again, I would breath deeply until I felt fully charged up. Then, I would exhale with a little force and move the energy to my aura and feel it solidify, forming a nice little bubble of energy to stave off any negative energy that may be thrown at me.

After I got home, I would reverse the process and take a long shower to make sure nothing was lingering after the meeting.

2. Transform judgment into compassion
This is another preparation rite that involves basically talking to myself. I would list everything about Eeyore that bothered me. Every cringe-worthy thing! Then, I would take a few deep breaths and connect with the divine nature within me. Using this connection, I would reframe their behavior and my reaction to it. Instead of judgment, I offered compassion.

3. Set boundaries with yourself
Before going into a meeting with this person, I created the rules by which I would play. For example, I will have no more than two drinks. If I am unable to handle this person without being drunk, then the situation was unhealthy and would not serve either of us.
I also vowed to be 100% honest with her, even when it wouldn’t be easy. If she said something that I didn’t agree with, I would voice my opinion. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a person is to call them on their bullshit. To balance this, I promised to assume that their intentions were positive.
Finally, I promised myself that I would be willing to walk away from the friendship if it meant saving my own sanity and self-respect. This was important because Eeyore has a knack for making me out to be the bad guy when I didn’t support them in the way they thought I ought to.
4. Set boundaries with them

The first step in this is to share the boundaries you set with yourself with them directly. Answer any questions, but don’t allow them to alter your own rules of play. Then, move on and set boundaries that you would like them to adhere to as well as those they expect from you.

For example, I set the rule that we would not speak negatively of other friends. Eeyore asked me to allow them to vent without interruption before I offered any opinions or insight.

5. Create distance

It may be necessary to create distance, both in time spent and emotional investment. The more time you spend with a negative person, the more the opportunity exists for their influence to impact you.

For me, I stopped hanging out with Eeyore without other people present. I also limited our interactions to once per week. Finally, I limited sharing any information with them that I thought was special or gave them an opportunity to use it against me. I stopped sharing stories of past hangouts with our mutual friends or plans for future hangouts. Eeyore didn’t hear about a new romantic interest in my life or any of my excursions into Feri training.

6. Cut the tie
If time, boundaries, and distance don’t improve the situation, it may be appropriate to end the relationship. If you feel comfortable, explain why you are choosing this path. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t explain.
Furthermore, don’t be guilted into giving another chance. If you feel it warranted, sure, but don’t let someone make you feel that you are required to continue with a relationship that doesn’t serve you.

Overall, situations like the one I’ve described are pretty shitty. It’s important to be there for someone you care about, but it’s not your responsibility to heal everyone! Do what’s best for you and if the best thing for you is to get the hell out of a bad situation, lace up your shoes and run buddy! It’s completely possible to care about someone and want the best for them but never to want to see them again. In the end, do what’s best for you and your physical, spiritual, and mental health.

Everyday Spirituality

This is another suggestion from a friend, but one I was very interested in writing. My spiritual practice is a priority, but not the priority. I work full-time, have three needy pets, and have an active (sometimes too active) social life. For me, incorporating spirituality in throughout my day is the only way I can make it work. Below are a few ideas that I use that you may find useful.

  1. Daily practice

For me, the best incorporation of my spiritual practice into my daily life is to set aside time each day for spiritual practice. Each morning, after tending to my pets, I sit before my altar and run through a few practices. Not only does this help me with a steady spiritual practice, but it starts my day off on a positive note.

For me, this has been a bit easier since I am studying with an established tradition that has a set agenda of daily practices. If you are practicing within an established tradition, look to the rituals and practices from that tradition for ideas of what you can do daily. If you are not, consider what is most important about your practice. Don’t be afraid to play around with the structure of your daily practice until you find a routine that works for you.

  1. Daily divination

This could be included as part of your daily practice or be completely separate. Any divinatory method will work. You can pull a daily Tarot or oracle card, pull a rune, or even interpret shapes in the grounds of your daily cup of coffee.

The intention for the reading can be flexible. You can ask for a sneak peek about how your day will go, ask what lessons you should focus on learning or any other questions that strikes your fancy.

  1. Make use of everyday actions

Like the tagline of this blog says, borrowed from Donald Tyson, magic doesn’t have to be spectacular. You’d be surprised how many things you can turn into an intentional, magical ritual.

Taking out the trash, clipping your nails, doing dishes or laundry can be turned into a ritual to release unneeded energy. Cooking or eating can be turned into an act of transformation or gratitude. Even dressing with intention can become a magical act.

Using a magical eye, look at your daily activities to see how you can put them to use.

  1. Pray

I know witches and other members of the New Age community usually fond of prayer. Maybe this stems from our experiences with the religions of our parents growing up; I don’t know. What I will say, is prayer is an easy way to connect with the Universe at any time. If you follow a deity, start to pray to them outside of ritual and your connection with them will no doubt strengthen. In fact, find a prayer to them from antiquity. It’s probably been a while since someone has said those words to them.

  1. Spend time outside

Look, I live in Ohio where we have three seasons; Volcanic Heat, Fall for one day, and Arctic Tundra. Getting outside is difficult, but not impossible. Spending time in nature helps us connect with the Universe on a visceral level. You’ll be surprised how the energy of a thunderstorm energizes, while a gentle rain washes away worry. Play with the elemental energy available to you right outside your front door. See how you can use them for daily magic.

  1. Meditate

Look. If you aren’t meditating, download Headspace or find a guided meditation on Youtube. You’re welcome.

  1. Choose your media

Another easy way to incorporate your spirituality into your day-to-day is to intentionally choose what media you are absorbing. There are several podcasts, books, Youtube channels, and such from which to choose.

That’s all I have for you at the moment. I’m sure there a ton of ideas that I missed. Maybe I’ll do a little more thinking and post a Part 2 of this post later on. If you have ideas about this or suggestions for future posts, let me know.

 

 

Walking the Spiral – The Ups and Downs of Spirituality

“The closer you get to the light, the bigger your shadow becomes.” – Kingdom Hearts

 

Most people turn to a spiritual practice to improve their life. What most people fail to understand is that the spiritual journey isn’t an easy path to walk. Additionally, the spiritual journey doesn’t really have a final destination. A spiritual journey continues throughout the rest of your life and as you progress you will new aspects of your life that bring tension against your development.

Most magical, spiritual practices use the spiral as a symbol of our spiritual journey. As you walk the spiral, you may be getting closer to the center, your end goal, but you may still find yourself passing through similar obstacles and lessons. In my belief and experience, these common issues are there to help gauge our progression. As we get closer to our spiritual center, our shadow aspects tend to come out with greater force than they did earlier on in our practice, or at least that how it appears. In reality, it may just be because we become are more aware of our complexes and have learned to recognize them for what they are as we grow spiritually.

Let me give you an example. One of my reoccurring issues manifests in my life as an intense fear of criticism. When I started curling a few years ago, my first skip was an amazing man named Tim. He was patient and helped me grow as a curler. However, as time went on and I made similar mistakes over and over again, he got a little tougher on me. As soon as Tim’s tough love approach started, I immediately wanted to quit. I lied to myself and said that I hated curling, but what I really hated was that someone was criticizing me. After beating myself up and doing more than my fair share of pouting, I realized that Tim was just trying to help me improve because if I were doing well, I’d love curling even more. With that mindset, I was able to reset and be open to instruction. I was good, and I knew that I would never have to struggle with feeling criticized again.

Then, the next year started, and I was with a skip named John. John was a monster. That may sound unfair, but he was a shit-talking, broom throwing tyrant, who told me to go fuck myself more than he said my name. He was once joking with me and called me a clown, and that was honestly the nicest thing he ever said to me. I went through my normal pattern of vowing to quit curling and being so in my emotions that I neglected to see that he had the same goal as Tim, to make me better at a sport I loved. Sure, he’s technique was different, but he just wanted to see me get better. I let go of my emotional reaction, and with John’s help, our team won the Men’s League for the curling club.

Again, I thought I was good, but this season started, and I am with a skip named Jeff. He has a reputation for being a worse tyrant than John. I immediately researched the refund policy to see if I could still quit and get my money back. Then, I saw my name on the plaque of winners. It reminded me that I had dealt with this before and this was my chance not to let it bother me. So, I grounded myself, and I’ve been mostly okay with Jeff since.

I’ve have seen the same response from spiritual people when they encounter more difficult issues such as depression, addiction, and financial distress. When things aren’t going as well as we’ve planned, we tend to forget that we are witches and resort to old patterns. What follows are a few tips that I use when I’m going through a downswing in my spiritual journey.

 

  1. Take preventative measures

Just like with physical health, our spiritual health requires preventative care. Kelly Ann Maddox once said in a video that she uses the times when things are going well to keep up with her daily practice as a way to gather strength for any obstacle that may just be around the corner.

In her book, Furiously Happy, Jenny Lawson talks about taking the good days and making them amazing, so she has a reserve to take into the bad days on her journey with depression.

As spiritual people, we can use our practice to fill our energy wells so that we have a storeroom of power to draw from during difficult times.

 

  1. Embrace the sacred Toddler

When things aren’t working well for me and become overwhelming for me, I get really sad, and then really pissed off. I used to stay away from the altar when I was upset, but then I realized that the Divine that gave me life also gave me my emotions. They are a vital part of me.

So, when I get angry, I may spend a day walking by my altar with my middle finger in the air, but I eventually find my way back. Then, I let it out. I tell my patrons just how pissed I am that they have seemingly abandoned me. I rant and rave, and when I’m done, I find this stillness. Then, through journaling, art, or divination, I find the cause of the situation and am ready to move forward.

  1. Look for the lesson

Inside every struggle is a nugget of spiritual truth. Every obstacle brings with it a lesson that you may need to learn. Don’t just contemplate the fact that there’s a lesson, bust out your spiritual magnifying glass and Sherlock Holmes that shit.

Discover what the lesson is. Narrow it down to a concise sentence. For example, for my situation with the curling club, I narrowed it down to “Criticism helps me grow.”

Once you understand the lesson, look for other examples of this lesson at play in your every day. Before you leave your house say “How can I learn more about this today?” and embark on your day ready to learn.

  1. Lean on your tribe

During times of difficulty, the first things most of us do is pull away from those who care about us. I think this is a subconscious way of protecting them. It could also be rooted in feelings of shame or unworthiness. Your tribe will always be there (and if they aren’t, they aren’t your tribe!).

Talk to you friends. Let them know what’s going on. Accept the help they give you.

  1. Don’t quit

When we experience hardships despite our spiritual practice, it’s easy to chalk it up as a wasted endeavor and walk away from our practice. Regardless of what your practice is, you are going to have hardships. It’s a fact of life and an opportunity to put your spiritual toolbox to use.

Keep up your daily practice in whatever capacity you are able. This will help you refill you well, even if only slightly, and you’ll be better equipped to handle the shenanigans that life sometimes throws our way.

I hope this is helpful and would love to hear any tips I may have missed. This post was the result of a recommendation from a friend of mine. If there are any topics that you’d like to see me write about, leave me a comment.

Mabon – Finding Your Tribe and the Blessing Pentacle

It’s nearly Samhain, and I’m just writing about Mabon. I wish I could say I’ve been insanely busy, but the truth is, I just haven’t been inspired to write. To restart my blogging practice, I wanted to write about a meaningful experience I had last month.

I facilitate a Pagan study group over on Facebook. I know all of the members personally, but a few of the members moved out of the Columbus area at one point, which made it difficult to do anything IRL. As the wheel turned to Mabon, it struck me that everyone was back in the Columbus area and we may actually get to have a real meetup. We planned a simple barbeque in a local park.

The day was glorious! There was no big flashy ritual, no elaborate party; just hot dogs, smuggled-in beers, and great conversation. At one point, I took a picture of the group and realized that these people are my spiritual tribe. We don’t see eye to eye on every spiritual facet of our paths, but we always support and challenge one another to be the best we can be.

After the barbeque and a few drinks at a local bar, I went home and decided to do a new practice I learned from the Feri group I am studying with. It’s called the Blessing Pentacle and it connected with the moment and my tribe.

The top point is the point of Devotion. This point is a reminder that the Goddess is as devoted to us as we are to Her. Going deeper with this point, I was reminded of the devotion I have to the girls in my study group, and in turn, the devotion they have for me. I truly believe know that these ladies would do anything to help me succeed and I would do the same for them.

The point of Truth follows. Walking in our personal truth with no apologies is the reminder of this point of the pentacle. Despite our differences, the study group allows each other to speak their truth and not feel judged. When one of our members recently converted to Christianity, we found ways to make the conversations more universal. By exploring our truths, we’re learning a lot from each other.

The next point is Radiance. This point reminds us that we are stars. We are brilliant lights despite any of our shortcomings. Linking this to my group, we allow each other to the biggest brightest stars in the room. We remind each other not to dim our shine for others.

The next point, Grace, is easily linked to Truth for me. Grace allows us to be truly who we are without tempering ourselves. In the “real world” more than a few of us are awkward and socially-weird at best. The group has given us the freedom from this idea, and we’ve all have begun to truly step into the world with grace.

The pentacle end with the point of Blessing. This is a reminder that we will always be given exactly what we need, even when it doesn’t feel like it. The group has been a huge blessing for me. Even when the group’s conversations aren’t going the direction I have intended, it’s exactly what I need.

I’ll leave you with that. I hope everyone had a blessed Mabon. Likewise, I hope your Samhain is great, and I will make it a point to post more frequently here.

 

Finding my Muchness – Requiem

So, as you may have realized, this blog series petered out as soon as it started. Every time I sat down to write, I felt like the story I was sharing was too close to my heart to put it on the internet for strangers. Most of the work I’ve been doing to find my muchness feel like one of those things to remain silent about. So, I’m not going to write any more about it, for at least.

However, I will share something from a personal development class I recently started at work that has helped me uncover the path to feeling more like me. All you need is a notebook that you don’t mind taking with everywhere, a pen, and a week’s worth of time.

It’s a simple process, really. Basically, for an entire week, write down everything you do, how long you do it for, and whether it; a) drains your energy, b) gives you energy or c) has a neutral impact on your energy. After a week, calculate how many hours you’ve documented in total, as well as how many fall into each of the three categories. Then, use a little math to find out what percentage of your time goes to things in each category.

If you’re like me, you’ll probably find that most of your time goes to draining tasks. In fact, you may find that most of those draining tasks are things that you don’t even have to do. The goal then becomes to minimize the draining tasks and focus on the tasks that energize and excite you. It’s a good first step at finding your True Will, a notion many magical people talk about, but rarely take a step at discovering.

So, I apologize if anyone was waiting with bated breath for the rest of the series, but I’ll start something new here in the next few weeks.

Thanks!

Finding my Muchness – The Cemetery Part 1

“I’ll take the ‘Party Man Breakfast” my buddy Garret, visibly proud of himself when the waitress mishears his bad joke on the “Hardy Man Breakfast.” Debbie, the waitress, finishes taking our orders and collects our menus. Before he can continue, our friend Nick interjects.

“So, why Pittsburgh?” he asks me before he takes a sip from his coffee.

“I only lived here for a few years, but I feel like this is where I came into my own. This is the city that some of my best stories come from” I said as I shoot a text to my old roommate letting her know I was in town.

“Tell us everything” Garrett added. At that, Nick, Garrett, and Patrick, three of my best friends focus their full attention on me. With such a captive audience, I have to tell a good one.

“Well, one morning after class, I took a quick nap and had a wild dream. It was just after dusk. My vision was blurry. I rubbed them until I could see clearly. When I looked up, my eyes focus on a willow tree in front of me. As I stepped towards the tree, I could feel someone’s eyes on me. I spun around, but all I could see was a gate that blocked my path out of the cemetery.”

Patrick’s eyes are wide, and Nick shifted in his seat uncomfortably. I’m doing great.

“I looked back to the willow tree, but still felt like my moves were being watched. I heard a noise from above me and looked up. I locked eyes with an angel sitting on the roof of the mausoleum. Her brown wings folded behind her back. Her head rested on one of her hands. Her eyes silently said ‘You’re not the first person to come here. Hurry along.’
I turned to my left and headed down a path. The trees in this part of the cemetery were ancient and warped. Their gnarled roots had grown below the crumbling caskets, bringing the remains to the surface. Spirits of the dead lingered nearby and reached towards me. They knew that, unlike the other visitors, that I can see them. I did my best to ignore them as I make my way along the path.

I finally circled back to the main entrance of the graveyard. As I began to walk toward the gate, I heard a woman call to me.

“Come this way,” the voice said. I turned just in time to see a young woman duck behind the hedge. She let out a small giggle and ran down the well-worn path.
Though I was starting to feel like this wasn’t happening on the Earthly plane, I reluctantly followed her. I walked down the path past statues that seemed to come to life as I drew near to them. My legs were shaking, but I made myself move forward. Just over a hill, I saw a platform surrounded by eight white pillars. In the center stood the woman I followed and a man. As I approached, I notice that they are dressed similarly in blue and red tunics. Their facial features mirrored each other as well. I couldn’t tell whether this is because they were brother and sister or if they had simply reached the point in a romantic relationship that they have begun to look alike.

I stopped just short of the platform. ‘This is a place of great power. Visit us often, and we’ll teach you what we know.” I wasn’t sure which one of them said this. Before the words fully registered, I felt myself falling backward and woke up on the couch in my apartment.”
“And then?” Nick asked. I looked at the other two, and they wanted to know more too.
“That’s enough for now. Let’s eat and plan our day” I said, bringing an end to my story. I laughed to myself because I knew what I had up my sleeve.