Nourishment

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(If you need it, this is your warning that this post touches on eating disorders and body image.)

Any spiritual path worth pursuing is going to have a foundation of core tenets.  In my case, the ideas responsibility and accountability are the rocks on which everything else is built.  Over the years, I think I’ve done a decent job of upholding those two things.  There may have been missteps and errors along the way (hey, human here!), but I’ve learned these lessons pretty well. There is no blaming others or circumstances when my actions and choices have lead to unwanted consequences.  Even when circumstances are entirely beyond my control, how I respond to those circumstances is still my choice and I am accountable for that choice.

All of this being responsible and accountable works well overall… until it comes to my relationship with food.  The minute food enters the equation, those tenets become a fiery train-wreck.  There’s a few reasons for this – food scarcity as a kid, an abundance of food being closely associated with celebrations and love, and many years of emotional eating as a result. I tend not to take any responsibility for what, when and how I eat;  holding myself accountable for my relationship with food simply does not happen.  The thought of doing so scares the hell out of me because I know that, even with serious chronic health issues, this is the area where I am least healthy.

When you have a dysfunctional relationship with food, you cannot hide it over the long term. If your waistline doesn’t give it away, then your eating habits will.  A friend who had stayed with me for a few weeks pointed out how very different the food I talked about eating was different than what I’d cooked for her.  I’d fed her made-from-scratch bread, healthy lean proteins, whole grains, and vegetables.  I talked about (and ate) whatever junk was available, with little thought to the consequences or nutritional value. Do I usually give thought to any responsibility I might have for this dietary mess?  Not really.

With the new year, I began to make efforts to change how I nourish my body, to take as much responsibility for what goes into my mouth as for what comes out of it. Because there has been a disconnect between the spiritual and physical for a long time, one of the things that I am trying to do is to bring a spiritual element into the larger plan. I fell out of the habit of saying a prayer over mundane meals long ago, so it seemed a good place to begin. I am working on other ideas on how to make this connection between body and spirit, but those will be stories for another day.  For now, to begin is enough.

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In From the Cold

Photo Credit: Pexels
Photo Credit: Pexels

Winter brings a time of introspection and withdrawal from the outside world. The weather does all that it can to encourage this behavior.  Even as I type this, rime ice coats the surrounding mountain ridges and the temperatures are cold enough that sitting near the window calls for a cozy sweater.  These are the kinds of nights that I am content making a ritual out of sitting by candlelight with a warm mug of spiced wine and letting my thoughts wander where they will.

Most of my 2018 winter musings have been focused on the misadventures of the last three years. The Very Serious IllnessesTM  have been mentioned in previous posts, as has the loss of Sam.  There have been other things that I’ve had neither the will or courage to put into words –  the violence that left a friend’s family shattered, the separation from my former employer, the unexpected loss of my sister.  These are bleak things to mull over on dark and cold winter’s night.  They are full of shadows and cold darkness and do little to dispel the gloom of the season.

Instead of returning to these phantoms of the past again tonight, I’ve spent the evening writing up my vision for the coming year- all the things that I’d like to happen, do, or be in 2018.  There’s a lot on there and it ranges wildly from the frivolous (crocheting a pair of yoga socks) to the deadly serious (remission continuing through the entire year).  It isn’t precisely a list of goals or resolutions but it may represent the beginning of one, with a little editing and polish. More than anything, it’s been an opportunity to let my thoughts wander to things, if not happier, then at least in from the cold world of loss.  And who knows? By this time next week, I  may actually have that list of goals written.

 

 

 

 

Direction

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Photo Credit: Pexels

Months have passed since my last post and I have spent many hours attempting to say whatever thing that comes next.  Posts have been started, deleted, restarted, and trashed again. I lose the thread of my thoughts more quickly than I can type out the words. Self-doubt frequently inserts itself into the middle of a sentence and leers up at me from the page. Posts are abandoned in various states of non-completion, sometimes as only a nebulous title, sometimes as meandering paragraphs.

This is something far deeper than writer’s block.  This restless inability to focus crosses all aspects of my life.  There are a dozen or more half finished art projects sitting on my closet shelf.  The bedside shelf where I keep books to be read is overflowing with volumes that I’ve picked up and put down again and again.  Non-essential projects at work are floundering because I cannot seem to focus long enough to finish them. I suspect that part of this lack of focus is due to stress and chronic health issues.  More likely, though, is that I am a human magpie and tend to grab at what’s shiny and interesting and as a result, have ended up with a large cache of projects that I don’t really want or need.

Fed up with half-finished projects and blank pages waiting for words, I’m resolving to stop wandering in circles this year and figure out which direction my internal compass is actually pointing.  2018 is going to be the year of deciding what (and also who) is worth my time and energy.  I know that I want to continue to write and to do so without a lot of half finished pages.  So, there, one decision made.

Other things will not be decided so easily. I am giving myself permission to fail, to abandon things that no longer serve me well, and to remove them from my life entirely. I am also obligating myself to put more effort into those projects, things, and people that I decide are important. It is time to find my direction again.

Renewal

Spring arrived in this part of the world riding atop storm clouds, but the rain has brought a welcome change in the scenery.  The mountains here are once again towering walls of green.  The spring garden is thriving with cool season greens and perennial herbs that seem to grow before our eyes.   The warming weather brings a family to the neighborhood in the form of a pair of nesting finches who have taken up residence in one of our hanging baskets.  The hatchlings aren’t out of their eggs yet, but are already being referred to as Atticus, Scout, and Jem.  A toad has taken up residence in a pot of mint and a lined skink is currently sunning itself on one of the porch uprights.  There is life everywhere you look, even in the tiny space that is my back porch.

There is even life in me these days, a renewed sense of curiosity and longing to be back in a less passive mindset when it comes to my practices and all things spiritual.  It is a marked sign of my own withdraw from these things that I have gone through the last two seasons without feeling drawn to any sort of mystery.   I’ve had no mind to dwell in places of uncertainty and the unknown has remained undiscovered in my presence.  I’m not bothered by it, as there are cycles to my practice and awareness that include times when all is silent and untold.

Yet, spring has brought a returned sense of liminality and wonder.  The scent carried on the spring breezes is new – spicy and deep-toned, touched with wood smoke and the wetness of hidden mountain streams and moss-encrusted rocks and lacking entirely the usual delicate floral notes of spring winds. The leaves whisper of undiscovered places over the next hill and the next and the next.  Dream become vivid and sharp again, full of energy and intrigue.  Anticipation creeps back into the picture, a pleasant tension that something good is on the horizon. It is time to again seek out the mysteries and the hidden.  It is time that I come back to the roots of my practices, to remember why I am on this journey.  It is a time of renewal.

So You Want to Wear a Safety Pin

Because this is important…

What a Witch

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Great. This is a necessary behavior in the face of the election of the most overtly racist, sexist, xenophobic, anti- gender and sexual minority candidate in the history of the modern United States. You know the rhetoric of his campaign was wrong. It was the very worst thing about America and you want to do what you can to combat the result. Good. Do that.

But don’t do it without a plan. Because the very last thing a tense situation needs is someone full of good intentions but with no knowledge of de-escalation tactics or self-defense. Your intentions are not a tangible shield. If you don’t make a plan, you will get yourself or the person you are trying to defend very killed.

Let’s avoid that.

So make a plan.

Some of you can stop reading now. You have, or know how to make a plan and you don’t need…

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Today We Choose

Twenty seven years ago today, an amazing and unthinkable thing happened – a terrible wall that separated a city, a country, and the world fell.  Families that had been divided for nearly three decades were reunited and a world torn apart by the Cold War began to feel a little more friendly and united. A standing Republican United States president had called for its destruction and this wondrous call to action became a reality not long afterward. We cheered and cried and viewed the destruction of the Berlin Wall as a victory for freedom and democracy.

Yesterday, another amazing and unthinkable thing happened – the United States elected another Republican president – one who has promised to build walls in the name of patriotism, one who proclaims unity while encouraging division, one who uses his power for self-gain while touting the greater good. How far we’ve come only to take so many rapid steps backwards and away from the direction of greatness.

Today, we choose, not who will lead us, but rather how we will respond to yesterday’s election and the future that it promises.

For those of us who are anxious and fearful, who are feeling disenfranchised and unwelcome in our own nation, who are vulnerable and at risk… we can choose to let this fear drive us to despair.  We can choose to hide away from the world. We can also choose this time to find deep within ourselves the courage to reach out to our allies and support networks.  We can choose to let our fear motivate us to make positive changes and to  let our anxiety become a catalyst that drives us to a higher purpose.

Those of us who are thicker-skinned, who have learned to withstand bullies and hatred,  whose souls have been tempered by fire and force… we can choose to harden our hearts against this world.  We can choose to respond to hatred and intolerance with our own brand of the same.  Or we can choose to reach out to those who are vulnerable, weak, and afraid. We can choose to use our hardness as an shield to protect those who need shelter. We can choose to let our thick skins be an armor for ourselves as we battle on the side of compassion and love.

Today, we can choose to change the narrative.  We can choose to make this, not the ending, but the beginning of our story.  We can choose to tell it in voices proud and strong and to be the voice for those who have been silenced. We can choose, as we once did, to tear down walls instead of building them.

For those of you are capable, please take this opportunity to support those who need it. Grand gestures are wonderful, but it is the small compassion-filled actions that are often the most needed.  Whether volunteering to help a vulnerable part of the population or simply checking on a friend who might be feeling unsettled and frightened by the election results,  every compassionate action you take will make a positive difference.

I encourage you, if you are one of the vulnerable, to reach out to your support system  and to know that you are not alone.  You are loved, important and valued.  You have worth and beauty. Your story is not finished and there are people out there who will help you to write it in dark and difficult times. No election result will ever change those things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Candles, Seven Souls

On a makeshift altar in the corner of my kitchen, seven taper candles stand, etched with seven names: Ahrens, Castile, Krol, Smith, Sterling, Thompson, and Zamarripa. The base of each is wreathed in deep red flowers, symbolic of the blood shed. I will visit that altar every hour today to pray that these seven souls cross peacefully to a place where there is no memory of these acts of violence.

For the living, my prayers are very different today.  I pray that we never forget the senselessness of these seven deaths, that we find a way to come together, to understand and value each other as fellow human beings. I pray that when faced with yet another example of the worst in people, we can reach out, not with guns drawn or fists clenched, but with open hands and hearts to each other.  I pray that we never forget that each of us has the potential for actions both heroic and horrific and that we find within ourselves the wisdom to choose the former if we face circumstances in which we must decide between the two.

I don’t have answers for the problems that face us. Like some many others, I have watched with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness as the events of this week have unfolded. I seek refuge in prayer and ritual, solace in the job that I know too well – tending to the dead and their memory. All the while my mind has been on the living – the survivors, the families, and the friends who are mourning these terrible losses.

There are those who would let these deaths further divide us. There are people who will use these deaths as an excuse to perpetuate further violence. I will not be moved to hatred. I will not be moved to violence. I will stand today in silence and prayer with a heart filled with love and compassion.  Today, I will remember.