Feri and the Art of Curling

Let’s start off with a disclaimer. I am not a Feri initiate or student, so I am in no way an expert. I am simply a seeker who is dipping his toe in Feri. My comments are not from any official teaching; they are just from my personal observations so far. So far, based on my reading, research, and practice, Feri has resonated deeply with me. This is because I can apply Feri ideas and techniques to several areas of my life. In fact, I’ve found myself applying or connecting Feri practice in an unlikely place, my local curling club.

To give a little background, I began curling (again, the ice sport, not the weight lifting) last winter with a friend who discovered the curling club. We signed up for an instructional league, then played for a season. Towards the end of the season, I felt confident in my game and looked forward to coming back to play this season. Unfortunately, not curling for six months has left me extremely rusty. Coupled with extremely competitive (and experienced) teammates, my shoddy gameplay is a little problematic. Fortunately, curling has given me an outlet to apply Feri practice and gauge its effectiveness in my life.

  1. Soul Alignment

In curling, alignment is arguably the most important concept of delivering a stone properly. The skip, the captain of the team who calls shots, will hold his broom out to give the thrower a target to throw at. The thrower lines the stone and foot up with the broom, and if they do so correctly, the stone should stop at the desired point. If not, the stone will arrive at a random location at the other end. So far this season, alignment has been my primary obstacle.

The Feri Tradition teaches of the triune nature of our souls. The Fetch collects and manages life energy and communicates in images, emotion, and intuition. The Talker is the face through which we communicate with the world. The Godsoul is our connection with the Divine. When our souls are aligned and in communication with one another, we are much more grounded, centered, and for me, more confident and capable.

Using curling as a metaphor for spirituality, the skip’s broom represents my Godsoul giving me direction and purpose, the stone represents my Fetch, and my body the Talker. If one of the components is out of alignment, my efforts are mostly in vain.

What I find interesting is that when I practice soul alignment before curling, my mind calms down and I am better able to focus on the task at hand. In fact, there have been a few times when I have practiced soul alignment mid-game and have instantly improved. If soul alignment can help me with a trivial game, how else might it improve my life?

 

  1. Iron Pentacle

 

The Iron Pentacle is an exercise used in Feri as a way to determine where we are imbalanced in our personal energy.  The points of the pentacle represent the energies of Sex, Pride, Self, Power, and Passion. As you contemplate each point, any imbalances in your personal energy can often be easily deciphered. So, I tried to apply this practice to curling when stepping up to throw a stone. This is becoming second nature as the body correspondences of the Pentacle follow the flow of preparing to throw a stone.

Sex – The top point of the pentacle, the point of creation. This is the beginning and ending of everything. As I look at the skip’s broom to line up my shot, I focus on the outcome I want to achieve.

Pride – the lower right point of the pentacle and the right foot. This point challenges us to recognize our worth and cultivate the ability to live freely. This point reminds us not to compare ourselves to others, an important lesson when you are a newbie in a room full of experts. I remind myself of these points as I step into the hack (the foothold you deliver stones from in curling) and line up my shot.

Self – the upper left point of the pentacle and the left hand. In curling, the left hand holds either your broom or a stabilizer to give you balance as you deliver your stone.  Likewise, this point on the Iron Pentacle reminds me to embrace the balance of my strengths and limitations. Where these two concepts meet lies my personal potential to grow. Here, I embrace that I am still learning and that I can only improve if I allow myself the leeway to make mistakes.

Power – the upper right point of the pentacle and the right hand. In my right hand, I grip the stone and remind myself that through my will, I can achieve anything. It also reminds me that true power is power with others, rather than power over others. Curling teams are only successful if every team member is working towards the common goal. I remind myself that even if my team gets frustrated with my performance, it’s only because they see potential in me and want me to do better.

Passion – the lower left point of the pentacle and the left foot. For right-handed curlers (like me) our left foot is the sliding foot. The left foots has a Teflon pad that allows us to slide on the ice when delivering our stone. This is the foot that supports our weight during the delivery. Likewise, the point of passion supports me in my experiences. This point reminds me to feel it all, whether that be the elation of doing well or the frustration of performing poorly.

  1. Black Heart of Innocence

The Black Heat of Innocence is the considered to be the natural state of the soul. This state of being allows us to live fully, freely, and without fear. As I’ve talked about in this post, I’m not the best curler. It’s also important to know, that try as I might, I am self-conscious and very aware of how others might perceive me.  These attributes don’t serve me well in curling or in life.

In Feri mythology, the goddess Nimue is the embodiment of the Black Heart of Innocence. Nimue is a maiden goddess who is the first emanation of the Star Goddess. She encourages us to play, laugh, and be joyful. While I’m curling, She seems to whisper in the back of my head “Fuck these guys.  This is just a game. Get out there and have fun!” Ultimately, I’m not very good at listening to Her in these moments, but I’m trying.

For me, the most important part of any spiritual path is the ability to apply its practice to every part of my life. At this point, Feri seems universally applicable. I’m not sure I’m 100% ready to commit to formal training, but I’d say I’m at least 95% there. Only time and practice will tell.

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Bless and Release Pt 2 or When They Come Back

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about releasing those who introduce negative influences into their lives. I was planning a follow-up post on tips to try if someone you released attempts to reinsert themselves in your life when the Universe decided to let me beta test my tips.

Jon, one of the people I wrote about in the original blog post, spent some time with one of my best friends. Afterwards, Jon decided to reach out to me. In his text message, he said that he wanted to “extend the olive branch.” I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.

Step 1 – Ground yourself

I wasn’t sure what to do. On the one hand, I was certain that I’d be fine with completely forgetting Jon existed. On the other hand, I feel like everyone deserves a second chance. I needed to make this decision with a clear mind.

I opted to use the Feri Tradition’s soul alignment practice, but any practice that connects you with your higher self will work. After completing the ritual, I felt more confident in making a decision that was for everyone’s highest good.

The first word that came to mind was “regret.” What decision can I make that would avoid the most chance of regret for me? By meeting with Jon, I would never experience the uncertainty of what-if. As an added bonus, I would be showing my friend that I could be cordial with Jon, even if I didn’t want to rekindle the friendship.

Step 2 – Meet on your terms

At this point, the boundaries you set are being questioned by someone else. You are meeting with them at their request. This means that you have earned the right of home court advantage. Not only will creating the terms of the meeting make you feel empowered, but it will allow you to create a comfortable atmosphere for the conversation.

When I told Jon I would meet him, I explained that I have plans on Thursday at six, but could meet him before I met up with friends. He suggested that he come along with me at six. This presented me with the opportunity to exercise my new favorite magickal word. I simply said “No.” I told him that I could meet him at five or that I would let him know when I was available again. Reluctantly, Jon agreed to my terms.

Step 3 – Listen with discernment, not judgment

Jon and I met a bar and made small talk for a few minutes. When we stepped outside to smoke, he offered me his side of the story.

Jon explained that he had not been in contact with me because I treated him poorly. He said that he did not feel that I valued him as a friend. He concluded by saying that his evening with our mutual friend made him want to reach out to me to see if we could make amends.

I listened without interruption. Instead of making a mental list of responses, I just let him talk and tried to understand his point of view. I let any hints of inner defensiveness roll right off my back. When he was done, I took a deep breath before I moved to the next step

4 – Politely, but clearly and honestly advocate for yourself

In her video on setting healthy boundaries, Kelly Ann Maddox says that you have to be an ally for yourself. I agree. No one else can fight your battles or face your troubles better than you can. So, after my cleansing breath, I relayed my feelings to Jon.

“I see things differently” I started. “We’ve known each other for a decade, but in the few months, before we stopped talking, I saw a different side of you. When you needed friends, I included you in my friend group. Instead of being grateful, I feel like you systematically tried to separate me from my friends. When I needed my friends, you did things to actively exclude me. When I brought these feelings up, you told me that you had no intention to change your behavior. At that time, you’re right; I stopped valuing your friendship because you no longer valued mine. In fact, I feel like you are only trying to fix things because someone else asked you to.”

Jon was visibly hurt by this last sentence. I apologized for the directness of my statement, but not for its content. We sat in silence for a few moments before Jon finally spoke.

“I understand where you’re coming from and I want to fix things. I’ve been very lonely, and I miss my friends, including you. You don’t owe me anything, but I’d like the opportunity to prove that I can be a better friend.”

The sincerity of his words unexpectedly struck me. Jon is very charismatic, but since I’ve known him for so long, I can usually detect his bullshit from a mile away. This was different; my gut told me that I could trust what he was saying.

Step 5 – Reinforce boundaries, even if they’ve changed

Once you have listened and in turn and said your piece, it comes time to lay out your boundaries. In some instances, it is just restating the boundaries you have already stated. In others, such as in my case, you may set new boundaries. It’s important that your boundaries are clear and precise.

“Jon, it’s important for you to know that I am skeptical of everything you’ve said. I’m also a bit hopeful. Things aren’t going to change overnight, but I’m not adverse to spending some time with you. However, it will be on my terms. If a friend of ours invites us both out to something, I hope you’ll understand if I decline the invitation sometimes. I also hope you won’t hold it against my friends if they keep you at a distance for a while. They are only doing that to protect me.”

I took another breath and continued. “It’s also important for you to understand that I’m going to be ultra-sensitive to anything I consider as a slight from you. If, no when, it happens, remind me that I mentioned this and I promise I’ll try to judge your perspective without bias. And, if I do anything that you feel harmed by, bring it my attention and we’ll discuss that too.”

Jon nodded, and I ended the conversation by saying “I promise that if I decide to remove myself from the friendship, I will do so in a way that allows us to coexist among our friends. I hope you do the same.”

Jon agreed, and we shook hands. We reverted to catching up on the past year of each other’s lives and even joined my friends afterward. Overall, it was a good night. It’s still unclear whether we’ll continue on this path or if we’ll decide that we’re no longer suited to be friends, but only time will tell.

 

Earth My Body

“Oh, it’s obviously broken,” I say as I look at the number that’s much too high. I step off the scale, let it clear, take off my shirt (because it must weigh 10 pounds, and step back on the scale. The same number taunts me from the digital screen. “Definitely broken,” I say to myself and shove another cookie in my mouth (probably).

I’ve made these excuses to myself for a while not. “Oh, these pants must have shrunk in the wash” or  “Or, I did have a big lunch, maybe I’m just a little bloated.” I’ve said to myself/ I’ve always been a “big guy.” It’s never really bothered me, though. I’ve always preferred art and literature more than sports and fitness.

Last year, I joined a curling club (the winter sport, not the weight lifting) and had a great time. However, I quickly noticed that I was the only one who would be out of breath and covered in sweat even though the room was freezing. The next day, it took everything in me to get out of bed because my legs burned from the exertion. After the season ended, I lost any desire to get into shape.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was meditating on the earth element. I focused on the strength of my body, but struggled. I held the thought that my body held the strength of the mountains, but it didn’t work. I didn’t feel the normal “click” that I always do. After some soul searching, I found that I didn’t connect with the strength concept of the earth element because I didn’t feel that way about my body.

Why should I care about being strong? That has nothing do with spirituality! I thought to myself. Again, all I needed was some soul searching to understand. My body is my ultimate connection to the world. By being mindful of what goes in my body and the level of activity that my body receives is in itself a practice of gratitude. By keeping my body strong, I’m also reaping the benefits that go with it. I’ll have more energy, a better ability to focus, and arguably, being better able to move energy.

With that being said, I joined a gym the next day. It’s been a little over a week, and I’ve been committed to working out every other day. To my surprise, I’ve found that my body is capable of more than I have ever given myself credit for. This morning, I did a few miles on the treadmill, did some strength training, and headed to the locker room. I glanced at the clock and saw that I still had 20 minutes before I had to shower and head to work. Rather than leave early, I decided to spend another 20 minutes on the treadmill. I feel that as my body gets stronger, so will my will.

Raising a green smoothie in the air, I drink to my continued journey.

The Power of No

Anyone who has been around a toddler has experienced the power of “No.” As a child, there is something liberating in saying “no” when you’re asked, or rather told, to do something. As we grow, we forget that “no” is an appropriate answer.

You see, I’m a pushover. In Mindy Kaling’s first book she said, “Sometimes you just have to put on lip gloss and pretend to be psyched.” I adopted this as a mantra. Anytime I felt I had to do something I didn’t want to do, I would simply say “yes” and present a false sense of willing acceptance. Any time a coworker needed me to cover their shift at the last minute, I would respond with a cheery “of course,” but hate them for it later. When a friend would want to grab a drink and later reveal that they couldn’t afford their tab, I’d gladly cover it while a hot coal of resentment burned in my gut. Last week, I finally decided this needed to change.

My grandmother’s 88th birthday is approaching, and my extended family was looking for a central location to host a party. I live alone in a relatively large house that happens to be equidistance from everyone else. It was a no-brainer to have the party at my place. It was such a no-brainer that no one even considered asking my permission until all the plans were finalized. It’s an understatement to say that I was not thrilled with this scenario.

It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want my family around. My family is great in small doses and even smaller groups. There are several members of the family who don’t speak to one another. When they are placed in the same vicinity, dramatic displays of aggression tend to follow close behind. On top of all this, several members of my family are evangelical Christians that only “feel comfortable” in my home if I hide away all of my Witchy items. With all this in mind,  I took to Facebook and posted the following comment on the event’s Facebook page (Yes, they set up a Facebook event before asking me if they could use my home for the party.)

“Dearest family, I’m flattered that my home was considered to host Grandma’s birthday. It’s certainly an event to be celebrated. However, due to the short notice, I will not be able to host. Instead, I will put a deposit down on the pavilion in the park near my home. I ask that those of you who are able will help me pay the full amount of the pavilion, but I will be happy to pay what is left over after donations. I will still open my home to any out of town guests that may need a kitchen to cook for the party. I think everyone will be more comfortable with the change in location. If you have questions or suggestions, please give me a call. I can’t wait to see all of you.”

The response was not what I expected. Sure, I knew some people would be disappointed, but I was not prepared for the outpouring of hate I received. The responses ranged from relatives calling me selfish to people offering prayers for my salvation to people telling me to prepare for an eternity in hell. I chose to remove myself from the group to remove myself from the drama. My relatives were astounded to find that my decision was not changed by the pressure they put on me. Even more so, they were shocked that I would not honor the commitment I made to pay for the pavilion. This was their party, and I wanted no part of it.

The decision to stand up to my family has propelled me into saying “no” more freely. Just last night, I went out with a friend and his coworkers. This is the friend I mentioned in the “Bless and Release” post from last week. He, again, was out for a Fantasy Football draft. One of his coworkers left without paying his bar tab. The bartender asked me who was going to cover the $6 tab. I suggested that the bartender ask the rest of the table since I didn’t know this guy. The bartender agreed, and the table went into a small frenzy over who was going to pay the tab.

My friend asked if I would be okay covering it if he promised to have his coworker pay me back, I said “no.”  I stopped myself before I could explain. Primarily, I thought it might be important to verbalize the fact that I had never met this man before and would probably not see him again. Using that logic, it would be best for a coworker to cover the tab and subsequently ask that he pay them back when they returned to work. I didn’t offer this explanation, however, as I remember something that Joanna DeVoe said in her podcast; “No is a complete sentence.” My friend didn’t ask for an explanation, but simply dropped the subject and later paid for the tab.

The lesson I learned may not be profound, but I pass it on anyway. Witches, embrace the sacred toddler[1]. When you want to say “no,” say it and mean it.

[1] This idea was borrowed by Joanna DeVoe’s work on the “Sacred Bitch”

Bless and Release

I’m sitting at the table sipping my cocktail as a quiet observer. The other six men at the table are absorbed in their cell phones, as they pick their favorite athletes. My friend is hosting the annual draft for his fantasy football league and asked me to come hang out. Despite the lack of conversation, I’m enjoying myself. It surprises me to see how eerily similar fantasy football is to Dungeons and Dragons. This realization makes me giggle to myself.

During a break from the draft, I joined my friend outside for a quick smoke.

“Oh, I’ll be late for board game night on Wednesday,” he said.

“I work until six, so that works out perfectly” I agreed.

“Yeah, I ran into Jon at work today, and he said he wanted to catch up. I’m going to have a few drinks with him before I come out” my friend continued.

This revelation caused time to stop for a minute. Allow me to interrupt this story to share some of the back story.

For almost a decade, I’ve had two constant friends in my life; Jon and Kelly.  I met each of them at work, but met them at different times. I met Jon through a mutual friend. He and I were both well read, had a penchant for craft beer, and were insanely sarcastic. We were instant friends.

I met Kelly a few years later. She and I shared the same tastes in music and literature and had a knack for closing down a bar. She and I were inseparable.

A few years ago, I had a stream of bad luck. The team I was on at work was dismantled, and I found myself without a job. I found a new one almost immediately. Then, a year later, that position was eliminated due to a merger. To compound this stress, I was dealing with the pressures of pursuing my Master’s degree, dealing with several severe illnesses in my family, and ended up just feeling lost.

While in a terrible bout of depression, I turned to my friends. Most of my friends were supportive. Jon and Kelly were not. Jon, who has trouble making friends on his own, tried relentlessly to push me out of my friend group. Kelly began to create needless drama and tried to pull me into the eye of her storm. While trying to deal with their issues while trying to keep balance in my own life, I began to see that their presence was unhealthy for me.

Things came to a head one night when Jon and Kelly accompanied me to the bar for a few cocktails. I left early, while they planned to close down the bar.

When I next talked to Kelly, several days later, she explained that she spent the night with Jon. Although she didn’t accuse Jon outright, she made it clear that she felt she was too drunk to have offered consent. I confronted Jon immediately, and in his version of the story, Kelly initiated everything.

I found myself in the middle of their turmoil and couldn’t fully align myself with either of them. In my experience with Jon, I had witnessed him being aggressive with women he was attracted to, but I never saw him cross the line with any of them. At the same time, I had witnessed Kelly use the excuse “I was too drunk” to distance herself from poor decisions, but have never experienced her fabricating something as heinous as her current accusations.

After several weeks of trying to navigate the tension between these two, I realized the beauty of this situation. This wasn’t my problem. This was a blatant sign from the Universe that I needed to release these two people from my life.

I sat down in front my altar and lit a single black candle. I asked the Goddess to bless my work. Sitting in meditation, I visualized my heart chakra spinning big and green. Attached to this chakra were two silver threads connecting me to Jon and Kelly. I sent good wishes to each of them. I prayed that they would be protected, find balance, and have the best life they could ask for. Then, carefully, I cut the cords and released them from my life. As I extinguished the candle, I felt a calm come over me. I never heard from Jon again. As for Kelly, she has sent me a few texts but then fizzled out. My magick had worked on the situation, but as I would find out at the bar during the fantasy draft, had changed me.

“Do you think it’s weird for me to hang out with Jon?” my friend asked. I paused before responding. Then I gave the most honest answer I could have offered.

“I don’t think about Jon at all” I started. “Jon isn’t a bad person; he’s just not a person I want in my life. If he’s reaching out to you, he probably needs a friend. So, I hope you two have a good time, and I will see you afterward.

My friend tilted his head in confusion and headed back inside. I was confused too. A year ago, I would have been pissed if any of my friends would have associated with Kelly or Jon. Now, it didn’t bother me at all. Once I released the negativity and chose not allow it impact my life, I released its hold over me, and that’s real magick.

 

Memory Jar – 2017

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As soon as the clock hit 3:15pm, I decided it was close enough to 4pm for me to leave work for the day. I closed my laptop, locked my desk, and said a half-hearted goodbye as the door was closing behind me. I don’t think my feet even touched the ground until I was in the elevator.

Tomorrow is my 32nd birthday and that means a lot of things to me. First it means that tomorrow will be another short day at work and that I will have a cocktail in my hand by 5 o’clock. This weekend will be more of the same. Most importantly it means that it’s time to finally break out the memory jar and read through the adventures I experienced over the past year.

A few years ago, I saw a post on Facebook that a friend shared. The post was about the practice of writing down everything amazing that happens to you and putting it in the jar. Then, each year, you read through your memories to remind yourself how fortunate you are.

This has been the best part of my birthday since I’ve adopted the practice. Here are some highlights of my jar for the past year:

 

  • 8/16 – I had a huge fight with my friend, but he still showed up and celebrated my birthday and we decided just to let the fight go.
  • 8/16 – Put a terrible situation behind me and learned some responsibility.
  • 9/1 – I was offered and accepted my dream job. (I realize that I bitch about my job a lot. It’s nice to be reminded that I am incredibly blessed to have my job.)
  • 9/9 – Went to the World Cup of Hockey game and took part in a legitimate “USA” chant.
  • 9/20 – Began my Pagan study group
  • 10/3 – Went curling for the first time with my friends Garrett and Alex (The Olympic ice sport, not weight lifting).
  • 10/4 – Forgave, blessed, and released an old friendship that was no longer serving me. (A year ago, I would never have thought about ending a friendship, no matter how bad it was for me. It’s amazing to see that I have grown.)
  • 10/6 – Hired my first employee at my new job!
  • 10/14 – Developed my first training piece for my new job (the first time I felt like could actually perform well in my new role.)
  • 2/15 – Heard my mom brag to a friend about the Valentine’s Day dinner I made her.
  • 2/27 – I threw the best shot at our curling match and won the game for our team!
  • 3/10 – Received an unexpected and substantial bonus at work!
  • 4/1 – My best friend came back from her travels through Europe and Africa.
  • 6/16 – Graduated with my Masters!
  • 7/22 – Had a significant experience that let me know that I was on the right spiritual path.
  • 8/5 – Made friends with an enemy

Tonight, I will ritually give thanks for the gifts I received in the past year. After burning the memories, I will set intentions for the year to come. Here’s a (very) short list:

  • Continue to grow spiritually and professionally
  • Spend more time with my family
  • Travel to Africa to visit my friend who’s travelling abroad
  • Commit to Feri tradition training
  • Start my spiritually-based company

Here’s to another great year!

Resource – Self Sabotage to Self Love

Self improvement and self love goes hand in hand with magical practice, so I wanted to share something. I’ve mentioned my bestie Jamie in other posts and I wanted to share something she is hosting. Jamie is an amazing coach and wants to offer her services with a free webinar on overcoming self sabotage.