Fire Burns

[ Trigger Warning –  This post touches on a lot of potential triggers  – including miscarriage, death of a beloved, sacrifice, bullying, rape, and self-acceptance.  I’ve intentionally avoided being graphic or emotional in talking about these things, but  there is a whole lot of potentially painful subjects mentioned in fairly quick succession, mostly, but not always, just in passing.

General note: This post, in case you didn’t guess from the above, talks about some very personal and intense experiences.  Much of this is a culmination of things I’ve touched on in my last few posts.  If you’re not interested in reading about personal experience and some associated unpleasantness, skip reading this post.

I’d ask, too, that if you feel the need to belittle, ridicule, or otherwise criticize the events and decisions described below, that you refrain from doing so in the comments.  Thoughtful comments are, as always, welcome.]

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On Rediscovering Oneself

On any spiritual path, losing sight of ourselves may happen more frequently than we are comfortably willing to acknowledge.   In finding that perfect ritual or in forging a coherent foundation of beliefs, we may find that all the necessary elements are there, save one… our own investment in that belief or practice.  Alternatively, we may find that we have been trodding down the same path for so long that we no longer feel a personal connection to it.  Life may simply get in the way and leave us feeling severed from our spiritual selves.  What to do when these disconnects occur?  Do we pray, meditate, rededicate ourselves, do nothing, or find some other means for getting through these patches?

I find that as I’ve progress on my path, I’ve become more proactive about avoiding these disconnects.  There are little things that I do on a daily or weekly basis that help keep me in touch with my beliefs.  At least once a year, I stop to check my own spiritual pulse- to see where I’m at, where I am headed, and what needs to be done over the coming months.  

When this contemplation concludes, I create an herbal incense based on the results of this self-check. Ingredients speak to both my spiritual and mundane goals for the coming period.  To these are added my  “signature”,  a blend of herbs that are personally significant.  This incense becomes a part of personal rituals throughout the coming months as a reminder of my path.  When I begin to lose sight of myself, a little of this personal incense is enough to snap things back into focus again. 

It’s a small thing, but the rewards are significant.

Be well,

Old Dogs and Puppy Mistakes

I am no longer young.   I am no longer that pup who bounds enthusiastically and indiscriminately in search of new ideas and paths.  Youthful enthusiasm has been replaced by a learned caution and well-honed sense of spiritual direction.  I have learned to scent the winds carefully and step confidently and lightly on my own path. I am becoming an old dog.

There is a sense in most spiritual communities that old dogs are sage and wise.  Often they are.  Sometimes they are not.  Even the wisest can take a misstep and stumble like a leggy pup.  The difference is that an old dog can take longer to recover from its faltering steps than a younger one.

I am still becoming that old dog, but I’ve felt recently what it’s like to falter and not instantly rebound with boundless enthusiasm.  Instead, I picked myself up slowly, tried to lick my wounds, and found myself unsteady on my feet.  I’m stumbling forward now, having to stop to rest every few paces, finding that I am gnawing and worrying over the bones of my own failings.  What came easily to me in the past is now a struggle and I have to wonder if this is what the future holds.  I’m not quite ready to retire permanently to the shade of the front porch, but I know that these changes mark a sort of rite of passage. 

I am becoming an old dog.

Notes from the Coffeehouse – Home Is…

It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to spend quality time at my favorite coffee place and the last few visits have consited of to-go orders, grabbed hastily en route to some other destination. Today, however, there is no place else that I need to be, no other errand more pressing than simply enjoying the time spent here.

Yet, as I settled into one of the comfy couches with a peppermint mocha and the intent of working on another writing project, Homeward Bound began to play and a subsequent conversation with one of my neighbors led to a discussion of what home is and how we perceive home. It’s a timely conversation as it is the time of year when everyone make plans to visit out-of-town relatives and friends. The vast majority of my friends are planning to return to their hometowns or to welcome their families into their homes for the coming holidays. Others, who are not able to journey to see their loved ones are bemoaning the fact that they won’t be home from the holidays. I’m in the small minority who is not traveling and who plans to spend a quiet holiday weekend at home without having hordes of family descending.

My concept of what constitutes “home” is, I think, perhaps a little different than that of most people I know. I have no ties to the town in which I was born and a lifetime of nomadic wandering has left me with ties to many locations but no feeling of permenance relating to any of them. The place in which I live now feels the most like my geographic home of all the places that I’ve lived, but I’d be a liar if I said I hadn’t considered moving on from this place as well. In fact, I think often about where life will take me next, where I’ll reside next.

So what then is home for me? It is not where I hang my hat or the town in which I park my car each night. Of course, there is the tired cliche that home is where the heart is. When I think of the places where my heart resides, I’m inclined to think that perhaps this is closer to the truth. Yet, parts of my heart reside in dark corners, in places of hurt and loss that are far from being a home to me. A bit of my heart resides in ashes scattered over Puget Sound, but home is not in those cold waters. Nor is home in those painful last days of my father’s life where a bit of my heart was left behind. Home is not in those moments of suffering, sorrow, and painful growth.

Home is a collection of moments, places, and people that I cherish and love deeply. Home is giving comfort to someone in need. Home is standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon one Christmas eve as a light snow fell in a moment of deep, meditative silence. Home is the sound of my best friend’s voice travelling five hundred miles of phone line to just to say hello. Home is feeling the presence of my spiritual guardian constantly surrounding me. Home is the zen calm that writing brings to me. Home is the memory of looking into Andy’s eyes and knowing that I was accepted and loved unconditionally. Home is looking into a child’s eyes and seeing the potential that resides in them.

In short, home is where my soul sings.

Into the Woods

I recently started reading Women Who Run with the Wolves and frankly, am surprised by the rave reviews and plaudits this work has received. So far it has come across as another piece of pop psychology, laden with annoying terminology and poorly analyzed analogies with little in the way of practical advice. For those of us who already run with the wolves, reading this book quickly turns into an exercise in tedium. Trying to imagine this book through the eyes of her target audience, I have to wonder if they’re going to come away with anything more than empty words that inspire only discontent with their current lives.

Want to reconnect with the wild spirit that resides in you? Don’t bother spending money on a Jungian analysis of fairy tales. If you feel you must have a written book to reconnect with that part of yourself, go out and buy a guidebook to local hiking trails, forests, or waterways. Then use it; go out into the woods and see for yourself what nature is, what wild means. Stay long enough to see the little details, both uplifting and unpleasant. Stand in silence and listen. The woods are never quiet or still. There is always something happening. A woodpecker’s work may echo over your head or the wind may rattle dried leaves like so many old bones. Look for the little signs of life and death that surround you… fallen limbs, tender pine saplings, a spider’s web. Don’t fear what you find, just know it is all a part of that which you seek to reclaim. Your wild spirit does not reside in the pages of a book; it resides in the wilds of the land from which we have arisen and to which we again will return.