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.

Myth-Behaving

Two days I sat down to write about a topic to find that either my browser or laptop would crash at every attempt to put the words down.  So I picked up a pen and paper… to find that the pen was out of ink.  While I was busy grabbing another pen, one of my lovely cats managed to shred the notebook.  I am taking all of this as a sign that now is not the time for that particular post.  Ironically, it was about the behavior of certain tricksters.  Go figure.

Since that post does not wish to be written, I’m turning my thoughts elsewhere and pondering the idea of writing mythologies.  I’ve touched on writing mythological tales in other places, including a novel that retold the story of Ragnarok from the prospective of a disenchanted Valkyrie. What I  have in mind isn’t a re-imagining of existing stories, however, but telling of stories that I’ve created for my own amusement as I’ve wandered down this path.

Thematically, the stories fit well with this blog, but I think it would be distracting to post them within the main blog.  My plan is to create a separate section on this site for those tales. This will allow me to keep the main blog focused on actual events, practices, paths, and people. I may sometimes give the backstory or further explanation of a myth here, but the stories themselves will have their own space. That’s the plan – if life and certain tricksters don’t interfere.

Happy Holidays

There is a certain damp chill to the air today and the trees rattle their leaves like some many loose bones in the breeze.  The afternoon threatens those who would wander outside with the threat of skin-scouring mists and bone-numbing drizzle.  Crows are roosting in the snug safety of nearby branches, their silhouettes creating dark holes in the gold and russet arboreal tapestries. Their calls herald the arrival of autumn, a far better indicator of the season than any day marked on human calendars.

This time of year is by far my favorite and today and tomorrow are the most favored of the season.  Today is a celebration of both the secular and the sacred.  I’ll open the doors of my house to both trick-or-treaters and to the blessed dead.  Candy will be served to the children of the neighborhood and those parents who themselves never outgrew the spooky fun of Halloween.  For the dead, there will be offerings of food, prayers, and blessings.  The celebrations this year will be much more low-key than last, with the spiritual aspects being observed in my typical solitary style.

Tomorrow is set aside on my personal calendar as a frenzied celebration of the creative spirit.  November 1st kicks off National Novel Writing Month, so the day will find me writing wildly, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and occupying a world that exists largely in my own head.  I believe in celebrating those things which bring you joy… and for me, there is a great deal of joy to be found in seat-of-my-pants speed writing.  After a year that’s given little opportunity for writing, I’m looking forward to immersing myself in storytelling again.

Wishing you all a Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain, and Fruitful All Novels Day!

Rethinking The Label of Solitary

297 days. That’s how long it’s been since my feet had trod the trail that’s been referred elsewhere in this blog as the Temple of Mud, Sweat, and Blood. Three seasons have come and gone without so much as a single footfall.  Physical incapacity has kept me away from this moving meditation for months; fear has barred my way when physical pain no longer prevented me from returning.

I returned to the Temple of MSB this morning for a slow and cautious hike, as there is still months of recovery before I can contemplate running again.  Today’s return was an act of sacred (but much dreaded) duty.  Not wanting to think too hard about why I’d come back, I focused my attention on the trail itself and some improvements that had been made in my long absence.  It occurred to me for the first time that I’d taken for granted the trail other than as it pertained to my own footsteps upon it.  Someone had come long before me to forge a passable path through wild nature; other hands left trailblazes to guide the way; an unseen army works unceasingly to clear trash and fallen timber; a forest ranger frequently checks the area for anything problematic.  Likewise, my ability to walk today has been the result of so many dedicated folks who made it their jobs to get me back on my feet.  Though I was walking alone through the forest, I could not have claimed this space as my own without the work and assistance of so many people.

I may have entered the woods alone today, but it was  not done as a individual acting in isolation.  Avoiding this particular trail has been an act of cowardice and denial on my part.  It is the place where I first met Sam.  In the days since his passing,  I have felt called there by his spirit. It is a call that I haven’t not wanted to answer, because I felt that I have failed him in this life. Michael ultimately pushed me to answer the call, by reminding me that, in denying Sam, I am failing to do the work that I’m sworn to do.  Damn his eyes for being both correct and logical.  In the end, Sam simply wanted to let me know that he has found the peace that he so desperately sought in life.

As I hiked out of the woods, I had a bit of an epiphany.  While I have long described myself as a solitary practitioner, the term is a misnomer.  As is the case with the Temple of MSB and with my physical well-being, I am not working in spiritual isolation. Ever.  Deities, guides, guardians, gatekeepers, helpers, and human souls are all a part of the work that I do.  Without the ubiquitous others, I could not do the work that has been charged to me.  There is never a time in my work when other sentient beings are not involved, never a moment when interdependence ceases.  Solitary implies that I am walking this path alone.  While the path is my own, I am never alone in my practice, never wholly independent.  Always, someone stands behind me, before me, or at my back, motivating me to continue this work.  For every one of those individuals, I am grateful.

 

(This post was written as a part of the Cauldron Blog Project 2015 for the July theme of Independence/Interdependence.)