A pause for some background

A friend on Dreamwidth posted an interesting Pagan meme that I thought was particularly timely: I’m coming up on the 10 year anniversary of seeking out the group I trained with and worked with until early 2008, when I hived off. Seems like a good time for a “What I’m doing now” moment, plus a nice introduction to link to in various blog places.

(Below, I’m speaking for myself, rather than the trad as a whole, which seems worth making clear right about now.)

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Untangling old patterns + energy – prep

Some time ago, a friend online asked me to expand more on how I go about untangling unwanted energy and patterns that I’m now done with. Let me start by saying I do *not* have all the answers for this – in fact, part of my delay in writing this post is that I’ve currently got some patterns I’m poking at, and feel very unsatisfied with the current state of my progress.

(Most to the point, I feel like I’m missing something specific that will let me solve the current stalemate, and that I’m looking right past it. If this sounds annoying, it is.)

On the other hand, a) there’s a bunch of stuff that I think other people might find useful, even though it’s not helping me with the current annoyance and b) it may be that writing about this helps me figure out my own next step. Which seems like a great reason for a blog post.

I begin with some preparation, namely getting down to basics and figuring out what’d be actually most helpful, along with some general good habits (which I’ll cover in this post) before going on to some more specific work designed to figure out the untangling and then untangle it better. (Which’ll be next post, because this one is approaching 2200 words.)

Step one: cleansing back to basics

My first basic step is to do a thorough round of cleansing on every handy level – that means physical body, energetic self, physical space, energy of the space, and emotional self.

Physical body: I am a firm believer in the power of the bath, both for physical and energetic cleansing. There’s a couple of reasons for this: it’s relaxing, but more than that, the skin is the largest organ in the body, and one of the biggest ways to dump waste chemicals from the body. (Don’t worry, I’ll come back to shower adaptations.)

Spending a day or two being really attentive to diet and sleep, some gentle exercise, getting plenty of water to drink, etc. preparatory to more involved work are also not a bad move. (And if you have a sauna handy, that is also a nice thing. I love the one at my local YWCA.)

Energetic body: Given that I’m taking a bath anyway, it’s a good excuse to do some energetic cleansing work. very fond of sea salt in my bathtub on a regular basis: I throw a handful in at least every other day if I’m not doing something else, but when I’m doing the serious cleansing bit, I go a bit further.

I use small-batch soaps from cottage industry folks mostly. (I’m fond of Chagrin Valley, but Etsy also has a bunch of great options.) If you shower, lots of places have sea salt soap bars these days. Or salt scrubs (these, you can make at home, too). Or you can sew up a little bag of appropriate herbs and hang them where the shower water passes through them. (Muslin tea bags work great, but felt can work just fine, too.)

My current cleansing blend is based on oils particularly associated with cleansing and removing toxins from the body. I’m currently favoring a blend of juniper berry, fennel, grapefruit, clary sage and whatever else smells right – just a couple of drops of each. Both lavender and rosemary are fairly cheap for essential oils, and are good all-purpose oils to have on hand (assuming you’re not allergic or sensitive) if you want to start somewhere.

Be aware of essential oil safety (use lightly, dilute extensively, and do your research if you have allergies, are pregnant, might want to be pregnant, or have ongoing medical concerns.)

Another approach is to use various folk traditions for cleansing baths. An easy one for people with access to a liquor store is a can or bottle of beer in the bath, or there are various herb/milk/other methods.

My go-to book for this kind of thing when I’m looking for something outside my normal habits is Spiritual Cleansing by Draja Mickaharic (and you can read the beginning of the Baths chapter via Google Books). He’s writing from a Christian-based Eastern European folk magic tradition, so you may want to adapt in various directions, but he gives lots of very practical advice, with common and widely available tools/ingredients.

Once I’m done with the bath, I may do additional energetic cleansing work through visualisation, aura cleansing exercises, or get someone who’s familiar with them to do them with me. Depends a lot on what’s going on and what’s practical. There’s more on my supplemental website for Seekers on the Cleansing page.

Physical space: What it says. It’s easier to set up new patterns when you aren’t surrounded by clutter and constant visual reminders of things you haven’t been paying attention to. (In my case, I think cleaning out the space under my bed is the next thing I really need to do, beyond some more ordinary cleaning. The amount I’m resisting doing it is particular suggestive, in fact.)

In general, when I do this kind of cleaning, I aim for:

  • Dishes are done, reasonably put away or in the dish rack (I don’t have a dishwasher)
  • Flat and other visible surfaces are free of extraneous books, and any library book/loaned item that can go back where it lives has been taken.
  • Bathtub, sinks have been cleaned (no visible soap ring, etc.)
  • Floors are swept, and where necessary, scrubbed/mopped. (I’m not hugely finicky, but I’m most picky about areas where I either sleep or do ritual: I know that seeing dust, a bit of mud that came in on a shoe, etc. will distract me.)
  • Small floor rugs, sheets, etc. recently washed (since I use a laundromat, this takes a little planning.)
  • Altar tidied and items cleaned as needed – no dust, no tarnish on silver bits, etc.

Since I have dust allergies, I usually plan to do significant cleaning that will kick up dust (like under the bed will) just before going out to do laundry, which both means that my sheets/etc. will not pick up dust in the air and that my air filter will have an hour or two to process through any dust in the air before I come home. (And does take some planning.)

On the personal side, I think my goal is to do a bunch of job-hunting and small tidying stuff tomorrow, so I can attack under-the-bed on Thursday (and go do laundry) so I can do work on the full moon on Friday.

Energy of the space: I find that cleaning the physical space does a lot to help the energy of the space, just like with the body. However, when I’m planning some serious untangling, I usually do some additional space cleansing and banishing – you can find some ideas on Home, Sweet Home on my Seekers site.

In general, I often use something scented (wax tart, spray of appropriate diluted essential oils, rinsing physical cleansing with some water with sea salt + essential oils in it, etc.) or do an energetic banishing of unwanted energy (clapping, sweeping, chimes, etc.)

Emotional self: This is the more complicated one: I usually use a combination of introspection, conversations with trusted friends, a divination method or three, and anything else that springs to mind to see if there’s anything coming up over and over again that I’m not apparently dealing with.

(I also talk to myself while driving the car, and I pay attention to what topics come up – usually I end up doing one-sided versions of conversations I’d like to have/am mentally rehearsing for. Sometimes it’s job-related, sometimes community related in other ways, whatever. Anyway, I pay attention to the patterns and topics I get stuck on.)

I do find that having a regular source of external feedback is very helpful to me. While I was training, this was my teachers (but now I’m a priestess and group leader in my own right, I need a replacement!) Some people have a regular therapy appointment for this and for other reasons, which can be a great option.

I’ve been doing Feldenkrais lessons, which have been partly about getting my physical body and energy levels back in a better balance (and they’re great for that), but I’ve discovered that they’re also great for giving me feedback on how I’m really handling things in my life at a given point. (Since emotional stress, tension, or poor habits show up in my body, and he spots them.)

In the same vein, martial arts training, dancing (in a class or other feedback-including setting), horseback riding (or other balance-requiring sports) and many other things can help in the same way, just because it gives you a different kind of feedback about your body and sense of self in the world (assuming that you don’t always have balance concerns or spatial awareness concerns for some other reason).

One other approach is journalling and/or writing letters that I don’t intend to send (sometimes writing to a theoretical audience who is not me forces me to be clear about things in a more productive way.) I do a fair bit of my journalling on social journal platforms (Dreamwidth.org and Livejournal.com, to be specific)

I often find that writing to a small selection of people who care for me, know a fair bit of background, etc. forces me to be both fierce and gentle with myself in the right ways – fierce in figuring out what’s wrong, but gentle in terms of where, how, and how much I blame myself for the past.

Doing it on a journal site, rather than in email means that people who have time/energy/attention to spare can respond, but the others don’t need to feel particularly guilty about not responding, which is handy. However, it requires building that network of connections first. Other people do conversations over tea or coffee with friends, long phone calls with someone who’s not local, or whatever else gets it out of the depths of their head and into the light.

The whole point of all of these steps is really to make sure that anything that might be clouding the ‘figuring out the problem’ is out of the way, and that I have space and self cleared to do that work without distraction. (They are also not bad things to have done, after all – but more to the point, if I’ve done them, it’s a lot harder to procrastinate on the more challenging bits of the work anymore.)

Step two: And what seems to be the problem?

Next step is to do what I can to figure out at least the general shape of the problem. Obviously, this helps with figuring out which of the tools that might help I should focus on. However, I’m not fixated on a ‘dig into the deep dark history to find the originating point’ approach (if I get that, it’s handy, but I’m a lot more interested in ‘here’s the thing that needs fixing right now’) .

I usually find that there are multiple approaches that offer at least something of a fix, some of which are more practical (or more rapid) than others, and so starting with those at least gets me forward movement while I work on the longer-term bits.

Divination is my first stop here, because, really, it’s useful for that. I generally aim for fairly substantial spreads for this kind of understanding (I’m fond of the Celtic Cross spread for all-purpose general). I may ask a friend to do a reading for me, as well, on essentially the same question, so that I can get a different perspective.

Meditation is also a good option, though a trickier one for me right now. (The health stuff has made a lot of the meditation patterns that worked well for me a little to a lot harder, and I’m still working through figuring out what works better now, and how much is just going to require more regular practice.) I usually use one of two different lightly guided meditations – travel to a specific location of importance in my astral bit of the universe, one of which has more potential interaction with other entities than the other.

And finally, there’s a quirk that works for me, but may not for you.

I pay attention to my reading: sometimes I seek out particular patterns in my reading because my subconscious is trying to work out a particular kind of issue, and the books I read (and particularly *reread*, which I do a lot, because otherwise my book budget and library requests will not keep up with my reading speed and volume).

I suspect that the current work would benefit from a reread through Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni books, and through bits of Charles de Lint. (And maybe the yearly re-read of Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin)

In that reading, I often find stuff that will speak to me in a way I hadn’t anticipated, or remember from previous readings. Different things will stand out, based on what my subconscious is worrying over, but hasn’t fully verbalised. Giving my brain books to work with helps get it out, so I can deal with it in the clear light, not the clutter and shadows.

Some people find the same thing with art, or with music, or with some other form of creative expression. Experimenting (or paying attention) can be a lovely thing.

Changing perspectives

I still have lots of posts I’m mulling over that will be more in depth, but a relatively quick thought. (erm. For me. It’s still about 600 words.)

I’ve alluded here and other places that the medical foo of the last year has changed some stuff for me. That’s been true in terms of managing energy in ritual and magical work, but I’ve also been mulling over what’s changed for me in other ways.

One of them, apparently, is how my intuition kicks in.

Last week, I went to Boston for a combination of a job hiring conference, and in the hopes of arranging a few other visits with jobs out there in the process (and seeing my mother and college friends who are in the area.)

Now, as you all probably know, Boston was one of the places that got hit by massive snow storm last week – about 18″ in the course of 36 hours (and on top of masses of other snow that mean clearing the new stuff is particularly difficult.)

When I was booking my flight, I got the very strong pull that I should do two things. First, that it would be very smart to fly in on Tuesday, rather than Thursday (the hiring conference started Friday), and second that flying non-stop would be a very smart thing.

Both these things are logical, in their way. It’s been a *weird* winter for weather, so not flying through another city that might get snowbound (Chicago and Milwaukee are my two most likely stops, and I’ve done Indianapolis in the past) might make sense. And leaving time for travel delays in general is also smart.

As it turns out: all three of those cities shut down for snow: I would not have made a connecting flight on Tuesday out of any of them, and might well have gotten stuck at whatever airport for the duration.

Equally, my original flight (10:45am on Tuesday) got cancelled, but in enough time to reschedule me on the 7am flight. Which was, at it turns out, the last flight into Boston’s Logan airport before they shut down the airport on Tuesday for a bit. (With a superb landing.)

So, all at once, that initial intuition – fly Tuesday, fly non-stop – and the circumstances lined up in a way to get me where I wanted, when I wanted, and safely. (And as a bonus, *because* of the weather, I got a chance to go see a dear friend and her toddler and the rest of her family when I wasn’t expecting to be able to make it out there, because someone was handy to leave work early to pick me up from the bus. Worth every minute of travel.)

While I’ve had things like that in the past, those moments where the intuition comes alive and connects and everything falls into place, the way this felt was different. Previously, that kind of intuition had a rapid crescendo behind it, for lack of a better way to phrase it, a sudden burst of “Oh, *that* thing, this big shiny thing over there.” This time, it was just … there. Very firmly, but also very quietly. Waiting for me to do the needful stuff with it. Like a bit of granite, slowly being revealed by a retreating glacier, rather than fireworks.

It’s cool that it worked. But it’s also a reminder of the fact a lot of fundamental things have shifted for me, and that I can’t assume that what worked in the past is going to continue to do so (or if it still works, that it’s the most effective way to do so.)

I’m still figuring out what that means. And in particular, what it means about how I should change my practice, my daily attention, etc. to take advantage of it.

The shiny new project

Hi! This would be the announcement of the shiny new project that’s been occupying a lot of my spare time on and off since August. It’s actually not all that secret – I’ve had a link in the header here for a while, and I’ve mentioned it (usually in relation to specific pages) on several forums over the last few months.

Welcome to Seeking: First Steps and Tools at http://gleewood.org/seeking . It contains 107 (and counting) separate articles about general Pagan topics, with a focus on getting started in religious witchcraft paths. They work from basic definitions, to a series of articles on connecting with other Pagans, to a selection of core and common practices (and some ideas on how to start with them), to broader questions that come up a lot, and where I wanted to collect my answers and thoughts.

And welcome to its new sister site, Liminal Words at http://gleewood.org/books. There’s only a few titles up there right now, but more are on the way. It’ll include both Pagan titles, and other books of interest – on my current list are notes on books about the natural world, productivity and time management, food, and much more.

Both these sites are a way for me to use tags and other organizational tools in a way that’s clear, useful, and easy to understand, rather than trying to throw everything together on this blog.

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Watch this space

One of my resolutions for the new year is returning to blogging here more regularly (which, given last year, won’t be too hard to manage…) I’ve been thinking about what I’d particularly like to talk about, and which topics don’t seem to get much attention in the Pagan blogosphere.

I know that I want to talk more about:

  • Sustainable priestessing (doing good stuff, without burning out)
  • Better teaching approaches for Pagan material and practice.
  • Finding, evaluating, and using resources (and not just about directly Pagan stuff).
  • A few more personal examples.
  • Things that make all of the above easier. Which will include everything from recipes to web links to productivity geeking.

I also expect there’ll be a lot of other stuff that comes up. If there are topics in the above you’re particularly interested in me talking about, please ask away (My mind-reading is not reliable, so please leave a comment/use the contact form/email me/mention it to me if you see me in person.)

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