Read it here and enjoy!
The next missive I send out to you will kick off a series of Active Imagination Meditations that take us on a journey into the wild lands of our souls and the magic that pours forth from them!
Read it here and enjoy!
The next missive I send out to you will kick off a series of Active Imagination Meditations that take us on a journey into the wild lands of our souls and the magic that pours forth from them!
This past Friday, I finally got a chance to watch the movie “Lincoln” by Steven Spielberg, which came out in 2012. Friday is movie night for us and it was my choice (we take turns choosing). I wanted to see the film but I also wanted our 8-year-old son Jasper to see it since he had been doing a reading unit on Abe Lincoln in school. So David made stove-top popcorn, and we all snuggled down to watch the movie, and then later talk together about what we had watched.
The stand-out moment for me was when Lincoln (played by the incomparable Daniel Day-Lewis) had a meeting with the abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens (portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones). Stevens accuses Lincoln of having a broken moral compass because he is all too willing to compromise and be satisfied with only the passing of the 13th Amendment. Stevens was the one who sponsored the Bill that sought to abolish slavery throughout the United States, and he accuses Lincoln of losing sight of the North Star, losing his compass, – which, in this case, is not only the passing of the Bill, and the freeing of the slaves, but also, and more importantly, equality of races in all measures, including voting rights. The problem was that a lot of the legislators, sad to say, weren’t ready to accept equality of the races (not to mention gender), but were fine with equality under the law. That is to say, they were OK with equality so long as it wasn’t too much and without condition. Yes, a sad commentary on human nature. Lincoln knew that Stevens’ Bill that would free slaves would never be passed on the grounds of Stevens’ own arguments, and so he asked Stevens to temper his arguments in order for the bill to be passed. He needed Lincoln‘s pragmatism if he really wanted to abolish slavery. For, obviously, if slavery were not abolished in the first place, there would be no chance later for full equality under the law and beyond.
Lincoln the idealist feels the gravity of the moment. His response is telling, and he eventually wins over Stevens. Yes, he says, we must know the North Star and have a good working compass but there are bogs and marshes – unpredictable pitfalls – that mark the way forward. A person who looks only at the North Star or only measures by his compass will find both to be of little use to him if he ignores the impassable terrain right at his feet. Stevens hears this and is persuaded by it. He does indeed temper his own arguments and in so doing the 13th Amendment passes and slavery is abolished in these United States.
This moment in the movie speaks to a timeless tension in our public and private lives that concerns social a political injustice, change, the ideals we have about the human good, and how exactly to get there together. Over 150 years later we are still working through this tension at the heart of our democracy. If changes are needed, what changes? Where? and How? And what will be the consequences of those changes? Are we prepared to accept the consequences? How do we argue persuasively for our beliefs while keeping one eye on our compass and one eye on the dodgy terrain at our feet?
Fairy Tales and the old stories that form the bedrock of the Sacred Arts also ask these questions in their own way, about our inner lives. Thus the other reason why this moment really caught my attention – besides speaking to a timeless tension in social and political life – is that it speaks directly to the power of the Sacred Arts. Why are the Sacred Arts so valuable to the Soulful Seeker? The Sacred Arts supports us in discovering our own North Star, our own best compass, and in circumnavigating the actual terrain of life. And they do it not by dint of perennial wisdom or conforming to a rigid doctrine; but rather by allowing us creative and free access to resources that are personal, practical and wise to the core.
Our broader spiritual community in North America tends to overlook and discount folk magic practices, ritual, and divination. We like things to be vaguely inspirational, white-washed, without dealing with the tough unremitting stuff of life, like grief, real suffering, and loss, anxiety about “low” things like money or relationships. Even divination practices like tarot and astrology tend to be handled in this way. But there is a great untapped potential in such discarded or mishandled things like the Sacred Arts, a potential we discover when practicing several in complementary ways. Brought together, the Sacred Arts are more than a pointer showing the soulful seeker the way forward. They are also a means to walk the path.
Over the years I have come to believe that you should always have not only a North Star Rite but also a North Star goal – a big promise that you make to the cosmos that speaks to the essence of who you are and what you are here, right now, in this wide, wild, world, to do. Writing a book was part of my personal promise. As some of you know, I was born with a cleft pallet, and so I understood from very early on that part of my promise was to use and find my voice. Seven years of speech therapy, two surgeries before the age of four, and 38 years later I can say with confidence: Done. And also: I’m just getting started. So that’s the level at which I was thinking: promises to the Cosmos that speak to your innermost essence and nothing less.
But earlier this week I was talking with my beloved about our overarching vision for our work and community of soulful seekers. David, my incredible husband, celebrated his birthday a few days after Jasper celebrated his. As birthdays often do, this one led to some deep reflection for all of us. So there we were, talking about the vision, the BIG PICTURE, the North Star. My love and I were not talking about different individual projects or the day-to-day workload – we were talking about our vision for what a vibrant community of sacred arts and soulful seekers looks like, sounds like, and feels like.
Of course, there are more books that I want to write not to mention brilliant clients and students to serve, an enchanted household to tend to, and wonderful courses to create and teach. I can say, in all honesty, that things are so very full. In all seriousness, though, I was getting a bit stuck trying to say what that big picture looks like.
At this point, David asked me what my vision was for each soulful seeker in our community, and for the community as a whole. He wisely suggested that maybe I would be able to best understand my next big vision if I understood what I really want and hope for and expect for each of you.
And so, today, in celebration of our gorgeous Full Moon in Libra I am going to tell you what this Libra really wants for each of you. Ready? Let’s do this.
I want you to be whole. I hope, desire, and expect your lives to be whole. Whole does not mean perfect. Whole means connected so that you are not dealing with a broken heart over here and money worries over there and your mother on Saturdays only. Whole means that you see what is actually there — not what other people tell you is there and you react and respond with an eye to right relationship. Whole also means that you are aware of how connected we are, not just to one another, but to all creatures – in particular, specific, and measured ways.
I want you to be healthy. I hope, desire, and expect your lives to be healthy and lived with the understanding that health is much broader and richer than we normally think. To be healthy is not to be without wound, scar or sickness but rather to live richly and vibrantly in the best ways and means available to you alongside wound and scar and sickness. To be healthy too is to recognize the preciousness of the physical body as well as mind as well as heart and to discern in love and wisdom what and what not to expose yourself to. It is to eschew the toxic and to be firm in your right to be unmolested by any external forces.
I want you to be holy. I hope, desire, and expect your lives to be holy, for I firmly believe and see every day that the world is in need of holy people now more than ever. Holiness goes hand in hand not with grand cathedrals or religious sanctuaries tucked into mountains, but with and in the enchantment of everyday life. Kissing your love is holy. Packing your child’s lunch is holy. Tending your garden is holy. Painting a wall and feeding the hungry and swimming in the deep sea – all holy. I hope, desire, and expect that each of you will see holiness as your natural state and understand that it requires not for you to be pure, unbroken, or without a mark but that rather it is most easily found in exactly the places where you feel most marked up, broken, and not ready. I hope, desire, and expect that as we come to realize and see what holiness really is and can be we are both blessed and blessings in turn.
These are my compass points for our community. They are each a point of my own North Star. The Sacred Arts practices that support them are the exact same practices that have been called on throughout time – and can still be called on by us – to not only illuminate the impassable terrain at our feet but also figure out the best way through the terrain, and to actually get moving through it. I know that is true because I have lived it as many of you beautiful readers, have as well. We know that the way forward will have all kinds of interesting obstacles and detours along the way, and so it is especially of utmost importance that our vision of what is possible, and probably, and choice-worthy shine especially brightly for every single one of us.
That’s what I really want. What about you?
My seven-year-old is now an eight-year-old. It happened in the wee morning hours of Friday, March 1st and has been feted all weekend, as it will be throughout the month of March. I typically honor this moment, marking the birth of my first born child, with a blessing of sorts. Two years ago it was this one. Today I am sharing my Opening Prayer.
The Opening Prayer is a blessing I wrote ages ago. It is known by my students and clients because it is the blessing I work with to open the space before we begin to learn or work together. But it is an opening prayer in more than just one sense. It is a prayer created to open us up…to our experiences, our inner knowing, and to each other. A prayer to allow us to be open and at the same time to hold fast to the things that are most important, refusing to be knocked off course. For me, motherhood has been all about opening up. It begins with the body because to deliver a child into the world you must be physically open, no two ways about it. And then it moves from there like so many ripples in a pond…my heart is more open, my mind is more open, my time, my schedule, my checkbook, my sense of possibility, my arms, my hands, my borders, and my doors – all more open than ever before. And it all started at this time, eight years ago.
It is so easy in this day and age to be closed. Ironically, in a time when we are supposed to be more connected than ever, it is now more than ever when I see us closing ourselves off – to one another, to whatever is right in front of our faces, to hearing different ideas or opinions, to dreaming boldly about the future. We build walls and erect fortresses of solitude and silence with our heads down, bent over an illuminated screen of one kind or another. We thirst for connection – for the stranger to acknowledge us with bright eyes and a smile, for our parents to ask us how our day was, for our children to tell us their stories, for our lovers to take the time to really hear what is on our hearts and for us to do the same for them. We don’t want to be closed off…not to each other, not to the extraordinary, but if not closely watched this is exactly what happens. I say: watch closely, hold on to your dear ones, prioritize love and pleasure and tenderness, dare to be open. May this prayer be of good use to you in the endeavor.
Blessed Ones, thank you for this day.
Thank you for the Earth beneath our feet,
And for the Sky above our heads.
Thank you for the breath running through our bodies,
And the blood running through our veins.
We ask that you give us eyes to see,
Ears to hear,
And hearts that know the right path to follow with wisdom and discernment.
May it be so by all your holy names.
These little cutie pies (and sons of one of community member Jennifer L.) need some dough to go and compete worldwide in robotics. Donate here.
Remember Esmé’s book that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago? It debuted #3 on the New York Times bestseller list! The best way to say congratulations? Buy a copy…or two.
PS: I am starting a new community section in these newsletters (see above), the Soulful Seekers Spotlight. Do you have something awesome happening that you want to share? A challenge that you need a little bit of help with? A situation you would like to receive prayers and blessings for? Send it in here.
PPS: Next week I am hosting a second video chat and we are talking Money Magic + Tax Prep Mojo. This is the second one of these that I have done. Make sure you are subscribed to the Resources list to get all the info!
Blessed Full Moon in Virgo – the sign of sovereignty as well as physical and mental health. It is no coincidence that these qualities go together. Sovereignty is a certain kind of self-sufficiency. Without physical and mental well-being, self-sufficiency is diminished. In more extreme cases, the self-sufficiency that goes with sovereignty is altogether undermined. Physical and mental well-being are difficult topics to approach, not only for Sacred Artists but most people, because they strike at the roots of who we are and how we live, here and now.
When it comes to physical health there are the normal types of resistance. Perhaps the largest one is that it’s expensive. But even more, finding a good doctor – one who is not only competent, but who you feel really knows you, and can work with you – is actually hard. Finding a good alternative health practitioner is even harder. It takes time, and it takes energy. In magical work, there are a number of situations where the first piece of advice to a would-be client is that they need to go see a trained medical practitioner, a doctor….stat. They may need to have their blood pressure assessed, their cholesterol checked; they may need a healthier sleep regimen, or they may need to look into effective alternative treatments to over-prescribed drugs. None of these things sound remotely magical and yet – believe me – they make a HUGE difference in the magic we make and in the magic we seek out. Perhaps the greatest secret to magic (ready?) is that it lives where we would least expect it, and it is on the side of optimization, of taking care what you have already and bringing out its deepest hidden potential, tapping into the power currents that already lay sleeping inside of every part of our ordinary lives. In the middle of the mess is the shining one. So if you want more magic in your life, the starting point is clear: begin with a strong dose of self-care.
By far the biggest resistance I encounter around physical health check-ups is that they expose things that we would rather keep hidden away, unseen, undisclosed, and undiagnosed. I understand. There is no one who would rather curl up with her cats and children and be left to her own devices than me. And yet, it is also true that our relationship to the unseen translates across the board. Meaning that you cannot be in right relationship with the aspects of the unseen and the liminal that are spiritual if you are ignoring the unseen parts of your home, your family, or your own physical body. They are all of a piece. This is not to say that our ability to make magic and live enchanted lives is over if we have physical limitations. If that were the case there would be no magic to speak of! Rather, it is to say that it is the relationship we have with those limits, with the things we would rather not look at, that determines in large part what kind of enchantment we can experience every day.
And, as true as this is for our physical bodies, it is even more true for our mental health. For this is where the relationship between soulful seekers and health becomes particularly dicey – in the mental arena. Why? Because so many of the things we do and so many of the experiences we have can be and have been, branded as crazy pure and simple. For all of the advances that we have made when it comes to mental health, for all of the research that shows us that “healthy” behaviors, thoughts, and emotions are not so much divided from unhealthy ones by a sharp line but rather are found on opposing ends of a large and vast spectrum, the fear of being branded crazy, insane, and a kook runs widely and deeply through our community.
Chances are you have had special experiences that no one talks about openly, that you yourself don’t even know how to talk about openly. You feel alone, but you are not alone. Countless people have, around the world, and throughout human history, experienced things that today we do not talk about for fear of being branded “weird”. Often these experiences come unannounced at night during sleep, or when we are grieving, or when we fall in love, or in many other moments during waking hours. All of these moments touch upon the sacred, but our present habit of mind discounts and forgets them – sees past them, turns the other way.
I sometimes refer to my work as “normalizing” the so-called weird experiences we all have. What we take to be normal and what is in truth normal are out of whack, need to be brought back into alignment or right relationship. Because the experience of the sacred is a common human experience, perhaps another way to describe what I do in the Sacred Arts is about “communalizing” these experiences. I’m not a mental health professional, but I don’t have to be in order to know that most people feel connected to the dead in one way or another; most people have had experiences where they simply know things are so, most people have felt themselves move between the worlds at one point or another.
These are all common examples of Sacred Arts practices that we do not talk about and we do not teach our children about because we don’t want to be seen as crazy. And so, another generation of Sacred Arts knowledge is lost, and we have to cast ever further back into our lineage to find the people and teachings that spoke about these things openly and frankly. Our old ones usually will. They have nothing to lose in a society that often equates the aging process with going soft in the head. Our children will speak openly because they have not yet learned to censor themselves or conform to the current trend of societal norms. But in between the old ones and the children is a great swath of people who simply pretend that a good chunk of their experience actually never happens. That is until they talk to someone like me. Then the gloves come off and the sharing gets real and I am able to say, ah yes, so you have experienced this too? The relief at knowing that we are not alone, that we are not “crazy”, is so absolute that it is not surprising to find people moved to tears.
However, this begs the question about mental illness and really all illness, all imperfections. They aren’t really the kinds of things that you either have or you don’t in most cases. Mental disequilibrium, for instance, is something any of us can slip into and out of, from time to time. So what about those of us who have normal, magical and liminal experiences AND suffer from anxiety or depression or schizophrenia or limited range of motion or cancer or chronic pain or some other limitation – then what? Can we not make magic? Should we simply accept that some people can have enchanted lives but not everyone? Not us? If you believe the magazines and the Instagram accounts, what we often see is that magic is equated to perfection. So there is a message: in order to make magic, you have to be perfect. There are other messages too: in order to make magic you have to be rich or you have to be poor, you have to be a certain color, you need to be a lady or a dude…we have all seen the categories that are more noticeable for all that they exclude as opposed to those that they include.
It is thoughts like these that make me love, love, LOVE, my friend and student, Esmé Wang’s new book, the Collected Schizophrenias. Esmé is known and beloved to some in our community and to others, her name might be brand new. She is an award-winning fiction writer who also happens to suffer from a chronic illness and schizophrenia. Esmé is lovely. She is always beautifully put together. She went to Yale. She has great taste in luscious red lipsticks. She loves her dog and her husband. She writes beautiful, true, words and she teaches people around the world how to work with their limitations. She also suffers from one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses out there. Esmé doesn’t get to worry about whether she is called crazy or not – that’s already happened. What Esmé does get to do and what she does beautifully every single day is getting to decide how to live with ALL of the parts of herself, including the stuff she would rather not see or deal with or think about. Over the years I have watched her show up, make use of the Sacred Arts, and stand in her own sovereignty. She is one of the sanest, most talented, and most dedicated people I know. I was honored that Esmé included a chapter about our work together in her book (the final chapter, entitled Beyond the Hedge), but I am more excited about the book as a whole because it does what the best books do – it tries to understand something complicated – in this case, mental illness – from the inside out. That is a worthy task, one that can benefit our entire world and one that is especially of good use to our community of soulful seekers. I think Esmé’s book has teachings for all of us who have ever deceived ourselves about our experiences on the shaky grounds of “but they’ll say I’m crazy.” Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Maybe that too is a part of real sovereignty.
I hope that this little series on what to expect as we prepare for Mercury Retrograding through Pisces has been useful to you all. We are concluding today with a handy tip sheet of Dos and Dont’s.
Do use this time to brush up on your intuition.
Don’t give into impulsive decisions based on your intuition right now.
Do engage in a comprehensive review of your nighttime routine in order to encourage better dreaming.
Don’t try to numb out or hide from the tough stuff with booze, drugs, sex, or food.
Do make sure you drink plenty of water and get plenty of sleep.
Don’t go into any romantic connections with unchecked assumptions or expectations.
Do consider re-structuring your daily spiritual practice so that it is on point and relevant for right now.
Don’t join cults or follow cult-like personalities – guard your energy.
Do maintain your boundaries.
Don’t over commit yourself.
Do make time for deep intimacy with your lover.
Don’t give in to toxic relationship patterns.
Do engage in creative and artistic work – especially wrapping up any creative projects that need to finally be completed.
Don’t run away from difficulties – they will only meet you later.
Do invest in art, creative pursuits, spirituality, and healing.
Don’t overspend your money, time, or any other resources.
Do review your health (on all levels) and if healing is needed, seek it out.
Don’t give into sham cure-alls.
Do understand that you are more likely to be sensitive and easily triggered at this time.
Don’t forget that the same holds true for everyone else.
Do be prepared to learn secrets and discover things that have been hidden – even from yourself.
Don’t be surprised when secrets spill out or when you accidentally share something you were supposed to hold in confidence.
Do not be gullible.
Do dare to go deep – this is the time for it.