What Football Taught Me About Magic

Alchemy and Magic

M

iracles,

You’d never know it was early September here in San Antonio. Every so often we get a thrilling hint of the big change coming, but most days the 100 degree temperatures will throw us off track. I was sitting at the edge of the sandy pitch of a field watching a football game the other week while the sun pounded down on top of me, wondering, how did this happen…? What wrong turn did I take?

It wasn’t just the heat. I was in this field, in the sun, to watch my son play football. This was not something I could ever have seen coming. Growing up in Texas there were a few things I made it my business to avoid: pushy Bible-thumpers, getting married too young, irresponsible gun owners, sport hunters, and…football.

Although there was a very brief period where I waved pom-poms and shouted cheers on the sideline of football fields, and the time I sang the national anthem to open up a state championship game, I did not like the sport. From my viewpoint, it was the source of never-ending budget woes for the fine art departments all across the state. Football was always the reason we couldn’t afford new costumes or light gels or sound systems for theatrical and choral events. But even more, I bought into the notion that all football players were dumb jocks and chose to ignore or overlook the fact that there were quite a few of them in my honors and advanced placement classes. Football was huge at my rural high school. It was everything to many people, life itself, and I wanted no part of it. I didn’t like it and so I paid zero attention to it.

After high school, I went to a very small liberal arts college tucked away in the mountains. The college did not have a football field, much less an athletic team. (We did, however, have “Spartan Mad Ball”, but that is a story for another day.) So I never really thought much about the game after the age of 18. I would watch the Super Bowl with my family for the commercials and I cheered when the New Orleans Saints won one year and when the Eagles won a couple of years back because I like come-from-behind victory stories of any stripe. But generally speaking, football was not a part of my life in any significant way.

Our oldest child is a gifted visual artist and musician. He likes playing basketball and soccer, and so I never really had cause to think about his relationship to football other than to look at the data around concussions and decide unilaterally that he would never play full contact unless the game radically changed.

Then, last spring, talk of flag football came up. Then again, in summer when registration opened. I found myself in both cases writing my son’s name on the lines of various lists, and it was like the experiences you hear people report when they die – of seeing themselves from a far off distance…it was like that, disembodied.

Before I knew it, a team had been formed and my son came home and told me he was playing “center”. My husband told me that our son would be responsible for “snapping” the ball. He said this as if it were perfectly obvious what all of those words meant. And all I could think was “damn, damn, damn, damn…I have no idea what is happening!!!”

If you know any kids, you know that every now and then they talk about stuff with this air of confidence and you maybe know .05% of what they are talking about. But you still know .05%. In this case, I knew precisely 0%. This was a first for me. So I woke up early as I do, worked on the upcoming book, and then found myself in the unfamiliar world of ESPN. And friends, it is a WORLD.

I learned the basics about flag football, the names of the positions for starters, and delved into the craziness of different plays. I discovered that many of the best college players are also outstanding academically and that some of the greatest pro players of all time were also dancers. I saw lots of articles on the various problems and hypocrisies of the NFL and of pro sports in general, but I also saw community outreach and the ways that these organizations are trying to do better. I was humbled by how much I didn’t know, and by how many wrong things I had assumed. I talked to a mom friend of mine who is sports savvy and I confessed my ignorance and new-found knowledge to her while she benevolently chuckled.

Now I am not sure that I could call myself a fan of football. In fact, I am pretty sure I can’t call myself that. And I have no clue if my child will play after this season or if his little brother will want to play at all. But none of those things are the point of this story. This is not about how I came to love football. Rather, this is about how I thought I knew something for sure – about an activity, the people who do it and the people who enjoy it – and how I crashed, face-first into how wrong those assumptions were. It was painful, what they call a “growth” experience, but it was also direct teaching about magic.

Think on it. Take whatever situation you would like to magically charm this way or that and ask yourself what assumptions underpinning your intentions you are carrying about the situation, about the people involved, about the external conditions, and most of all about your relationship to those things. What if your assumptions are off by just a little? What if they are dead wrong? What if there is a lot more territory to roam and explore within the situation than you originally were able to see? How does that change your magic? How does that change you?

You know if you’ve read my book “Making Magic”, that I never give a “definition” of magic. In my view and experience, no such thing is possible, because magic is radically particular to each person and each situation.

But we can describe some conditions for magic, and this is one of them, the moment when one of your most cherished beliefs is given a vigorous shaking by some experience.

Magic happens in the space these questions create. the changes that could flow from them, and our ability to follow them out where ever they may lead. It happens in the completely unexpected, un-looked for, and least likely places…like a hot football field in South Central Texas.

So, I’ll continue to sit there in the 100 degree heat watching a game that challenges all of my assumptions, because I want to see where all of this leads not only with my child but with my relationships and with my life as a whole. What friendships will be created, fostered (or even dissolved)? What new insights will this experience afford all of us? What magic will be made?

We are celebrating a Full Moon in Pisces today, and Pisces loves challenging assumptions. Let yourself celebrate by paying close attention to your dreams and taking a magical sacred bath.

xo,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Tribe is Tribe

Foundations

M

iracles, tribe

I was in an import store shopping for my best friend’s birthday a few weeks ago. I had found a piece of jewelry that I knew she would love and as the store owner was ringing me up I was explaining to her that my bestie is originally from Iran and that while this piece is not from her home country she would still love and appreciate it.

The store owner interrupted me though and simply said, “She’ll love it because tribe is tribe.” Tribe is tribe. She said it with all of the confidence and clarity of a woman who has spent that majority of her life among and within tribes.

Tribe is tribe.

I know that in our never-resting news cycle the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio that occurred at the beginning of the month are old news for most of us. They have left, as all mass shootings have since 2011, their fingerprints all over me though and are still fresh.

As I fielded emails from people asking if I was alright and checked on my own set of family and friends with El Paso connections, I kept hearing that woman’s voice in my head – tribe is tribe.

And I wasn’t sure why but I knew it was important. Then I took a walk down one of my favorite streets where an Acequia was full of water and running at force and I remembered. What I remembered was a psych class I took about a hundred years ago.

We were studying mental health in indigenous populations and I learned that one of the indigenous populations found in New Mexico and Arizona – the Navajo People – have a very specific way of looking at mental illness (and many physical afflictions too). The understanding is that while one person in the tribe may show symptoms of illness, be it mental or physical, the entire tribe is actually afflicted and that any healing that is worth a damn will address not just the individual who is obviously ill but the entire tribe.

I have been marked by every mass shooting since 2011 because that is the year I had my first baby. And that is the year when I found myself worrying about everything: leaving out a tiny piece of something that the baby could choke on, losing him to SIDS, speeding cars, and falling shelves, and…going into a public place where my child could be shot and killed, or I could be shot and killed leaving my baby without a mother or my husband could be shot and killed leaving my baby without a father. 2011 is when I started taking it personally.

Every time I packed lunch for my little one to take to school I would lay down a prayer that my baby and every baby child would be protected from a bullet, that today would not be a day a mass shooter came to a school, a place of worship, a place of work, or a place of fun. Now that I no longer make his lunch I pray that prayer every morning.

And because my babies are beautiful, blond-haired, blue-eyed, boys, I also pray that they are never the ones holding a gun aimed at someone else’s baby – because the statistics indicate that my boys fall into the category of the ones most likely to commit a mass shooting as well as most likely to commit suicide with a gun.

I don’t go into politics in my work or my writing. I remember sitting in hard-backed pews at the Baptist church and resenting the hell out of a preacher who had the audacity to tell me who to vote for. Dressing up that unique kind of tyranny in the “New Age” trappings of incense and crystals don’t make me feel any better. I believe our founders knew what they were about when they separated church and state.

However, for better or for worse, I am a spiritual teacher and writer and as such, I have a community of people who look to me for moral guidance. When the bullets start to fly I am asked to give words of comfort, clarity, and wisdom. To be clear: this is a task that I in no way feel adequate to, but it is also one that has been laid on my shoulders by nature of my work. So this is what I say: Tribe is Tribe.

And the killings and the killers are part of our tribe. There are many people in our tribe who are ill, who are hurting, and who are sick, but at the end of the day, all that really means is that our whole tribe is hurting, is ill, and is sick. Any remedy that further separates us from each other is no remedy at all and any attempt to bring some of the tribe together while leaving others out in the cold has failed before it even begins.

In 2011 I joined a special club, a tribe within a tribe, of parents who send their children to school every day praying that today won’t be the day that their child’s classroom door bursts open and guns begin shooting. We pray that today won’t be the day our babies are shot, today won’t be the day our babies are killed.

But this is not just my club, my tribe, or my problem. Tribe is tribe. This is everyone’s problem. The fact that bulletproof backpack sales have gone up 300% before the 2019-2020 school year begins is not my problem or the problem of my other parent friends, it is also my Republican uncle’s problem, my Progressive mother-in-law’s problem, and it is your problem too. Because tribe is tribe.

Every baby that dies and every person who thinks they can solve their problems with a gun pointed at someone else is everyone’s problem, the only way to address it is together, most especially together with the very ones you don’t want to deal with. You know, the difficult members of the tribe who look different and talk different, the ones that make you uncomfortable, the ones you’d rather not talk to.

You know Miracles, the inverse is also true. If one person commits to healing, to betterment, to living a life of integrity and justice and kindness then the tribe as a whole is blessed by that too. One of my favorite stories to illustrate this comes from the Jewish tradition.

It is the tale of the Tzadikim-Nistarim – the hidden righteous ones. They are 13 people who, through consistent right action, uphold the entire world and make life possible for all. My favorite part of this story is that these righteous ones are hidden even from themselves.

Meaning that it could be you, it could be me, it could be any of us. Because what one of us does touches all of us. Because tribe is tribe. And because there is nowhere else to go, nowhere else to be, but right here, with everyone else.

Here is a version of the prayer that I pray over my babies on a daily basis, feel free to work with it in your own life if it speaks to you.

xo,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

When the Dog Bites

Ceremony and Ritual

M

iracles,

Have you ever seen the movie The Sound of Music? If not, you should. People make fun of it, and it is pretty cheesy in moments. It is also much edgier and more relevant than a lot of us may realize. The story takes place in Austria right before the rise of Nazism and the occupation of that country, and centers around a family of children, their overly stern and demanding father, and a bright-eyed governess. Usually billed as a love story, it is also (and perhaps more) a story about how easy it is to look away from or ignore a situation that is growing worse with each passing day. It is a story about betrayal – and the choice to betray or not betray the things and people that matter most.

One of the most important moments of the film is when Maria, the governess played by Julie Andrews, summons up the courage to sing to the frightened children during a violent thunderstorm. The song she sings is called My Favorite Things and is basically a list of the things Maria really loves.

It is not easy to summon up the things you most love in dark times.

Now, if you have seen the film you know where the title of this letter comes from…here are some lines from My Favorite Things: When the dog bites/When the bee stings/When I’m feeling sad/I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad!”

I like this song. I like the film version, and I like this version by the great Jazz musician John Coltrane even better.

Now every lunar cycle I pull cards from a few different decks that I know and love. I sit with the cards over the two week period, beginning with the New Moon to Full, and then from Full Moon to New. During this period, I make sure to pay attention to what comes up in my daily life and experience. This regular practice can be a useful learning tool to see and reflect on bigger patterns that one might ordinarily miss.

Last New Moon at the beginning of the month, one of the cards that turned up was The Singer of Courage – a card from Brian Froud’s The Faerie’s Oracle, which I adore. The Singer of Courage is a card that indicates that the querent is entering into a time when he or she will need not only courage but to be a singer of courage.

What does it mean to be a singer of courage?

The teaching of the Singer of Courage, The Sound of Music, and My Favorite Things is that courage looks less like an act of clenching teeth and powering-through (although there may have to be some of that), but more like someone actively remembering and holding firmly to the beloved and good things, the true things – especially when it is easiest to let these things go.

Many of you also are experiencing your own unexpected dog bites and bee stings – I know I have over the past two weeks. And this, in turn, brings you your own moments where you can and you must call up the courage to summon up the things you most love in hard times.

On this Full Moon and Lunar Eclipse, we have the opportunity to spot patterns – especially the patterns that we are most comfortable with, most reluctant to question or examine too closely. Our work here and now is to see what patterns are asking to be seen, to gauge which events no longer serve us and need to change. We can only meet them with our courage, a virtue that is very much not a superpower but a native, natural, rooted in our soul soil, power – one that we have access to all of the time. How do we access it? The song tells us.

We remember our favorite things. We recollect what matters most. Say it. Dance it. Sing it. These are the sacred ceremonies that the Singer of Courage will recognize and not fail to attend to. They are the medicine-bringing magic.

Want to get more in touch with your native power of courage?
This candle ritual can help you fire it up.

And you can also consider this prompt for your writing practice:
What are the places that scare me the most and how can I best meet them?

Soulful Seekers Spotlight

Since courage is our theme for this letter I want to give two shout outs to some courageous ladies I know. Elizabeth who runs Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has created an incredible series of scents that raises money for RAICES, a Texas not for profit that is directly involved in addressing the crises we are experiencing at our Southern Borders. Refusing to turn away from horrors requires a special kind of courage. Purview the scents and purchase here.

Jacquelyn Tierney is asking those who will be in attendance at my book signing in Santa Fe to call upon their courage and allow her to witness their lives and stories through the lens of her camera. Details are here.

xo,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Hearth and Home Vol. 14 Summer and Celebrations

Foundations

M

iracles,

Happy New Moon in Cancer!

Summer has struck. I always know it is the season of sun and fun because our dinner schedule is jettisoned in favor of playdates, poolside meetups, and the occasional margarita!

I went back over my letters to see when the last Hearth and Home went out and it was right after Jasper’s 8th birthday at the beginning of March. So much has happened since then.

School let out for the summer and Jasper officially moved into 2nd grade. The book came out, then it hit #1 in several different Amazon categories and continues to be a best seller there (which is crazy and amazing and gives me all the feels). We went to the beach (the above pic is from our trip).

Then, on June 13th Heath turned one!!! We had an ocean-themed birthday party for him complete with a chocolate smash cake that he, quite appropriately, played with more than he ate.

I have always written prayers for Jasper’s birthdays and I am going to do AIM’s – Active Imagination Meditations for Heath’s. I know which one I want to do I just have to find the time to sit down and record it. In a stunning move

Heath actually allowed my mom and dad to watch him for a couple of hours and David and I got to go out on a date just by ourselves. We went to see a movie and basically acted liked giggly teenagers the entire time – it was so great!

Somehow in the middle of all of this, I was able to do the first of several interviews, got featured in one of my favorite magazines – Enchanted Living, and also had an article published in Yoga Journal and another in Spirituality and Health Magazine – crazy times y’all!

I created a series of AIM’s that pairs beautifully with each chapter of Making Magic and I also created a Pinterest board for folks who want to add some visuals to their making magic journey! In mid-June, I taught a class to a bunch of brilliant souls about the Astro drama that is the month of July and I received some more very exciting book-related news which I will be sharing with this list first.

It hasn’t all been good or easy. There has been sorrow. I had to cancel my CA book signings and then I had to cancel the one at BookPeople in Austin because the baby was sick.
True story: when Making Magic first came out I sent a letter to a best-selling author that I know and she responded with congratulations and also with the advice that I put being a mother before any book promotion. It was smart advice coming from someone who knows and it has already really helped me in making a few decisions.

I know that each person reading this has their own personal struggles and snares and I know too that so many of us look at the news every day, hear and see stories of violence and heartbreak, and feel that we are emptied out of something essential and good and true. The biggest piece of personal work I do around all the stories and events stepped in violence, cruelty, and hurt, is to remain tender when it would be so, so, easy to be hard and cynical.

It has been a whirlwind. A really good, really fast, whirlwind. What has kept me sane through it all? Early morning ritual practice out in the extremely humid South Texas air before the sun rises, snuggling up with my boys at night after a long day, curling up with my husband to watch the new season of Endeavor, and now, getting ready to head out to the Land of Enchantment for a few weeks.

I ended the week of June with a family celebration of my first book. It is the kind of thing that I would never think to do (my auntie threw the party for me) and also the kind of thing that is SO important to do – to make a celebration of the accomplishments, big and little, that we achieve. I know so many of you are busy at this time of year too and I hope you remember that – let yourself feel sorrow when it shows up, but also take the time to celebrate, to honor, to mark out what matters most.

Soulful Seekers Spotlight

Theresa AKA the Tarot Lady and Shaheen Miro have a new book out!

Ellie has started a new business venture. In her own words “I work with dynamic, fun people, like you, who want to transform their lives by starting a business infused with compassion and mindfulness. You’re looking for a group of like-minded individuals to practice with and are ready to create more freedom and more money in your life.” Email her directly to learn more at ellienihon@gmail.com

And kind words about one community member from another – this is from Jennifer K:

“The development of my Northstar Ritual deepens as I use products created with sacred energy.
I was lucky enough to meet Jen Rue in Santa Fe and was gifted with one of her products at your seminar. The use of her Love The Girls oil for lymph and breast greatly enhanced my abhyanga practice and actual physical flow of my lymph.

In the past two years, I incorporated Jen’s Conifer Oil and Florida Water into my practice and I deeply appreciate the creation of the limitless sacred space her products energy gives.

Products that include sacred awareness in the making are ever so powerful, the sweetness and soft comfort of Jen’s energy is a joy to experience.

Hip hip hooray for the work of Jen Rue and Three Cats and a Broom.”

Can I just say that I concur?! You can order Jen’s goodies here.

xo,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Turtle Patrols and Holy Helpers

Foundations

M

iracles,

As soon as school let out at the end of May, we hit the road and made for South Padre Island for a few days of sun and sea before the book came out and life took on the fast clip that is summer with two kids. I had never been to this particular stretch of Texas shoreline before. I knew that it is a hot (and crowded area) during Spring Break, but I really did not know what to expect during the off-season.

There were many different things to look at and wonder over during the trip. For starters, the smooth, mostly empty, highways studded with poisonous, beautiful, Oleander bushes. Then, the border patrol checkpoints. But once there at the beach, the little yellow bus. She trundles up and down the narrow stretch of beach, jiggling and swaying with dozens of oversized brightly colored inflatable flotation devices. There we so many floaties, in fact, I’d bet her tires didn’t even touch the sand. But she also offered packets of mayonnaise for your ears of elote: roasted corn dusted with mayo, chile, and cotija cheese – a combination that might sound strange but that I swear is the way corn is meant to be devoured. Through all of these wonderings, what I loved the most was the Turtle Patrol.

A little known fact about many Texas beaches is that you can drive your vehicle on the beach. With a few exceptions, most of the beach in South Padre is not open to vehicular traffic. This is partially because the shore there is quite narrow. But it is also because this strip of land and one other further South into Mexico are the only breeding and nesting grounds for the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle – a critically endangered species.

Enter the bright little phenomena called the Turtle Patrol. It is volunteer run and amounts to people, from 20-something college kids to septuagenarians, driving up and down the beach in little 4-wheel drive vehicles with ice coolers and padded boxes. They prowl the beach looking for sea turtle nests and eggs. They do this because female sea turtles go back into the ocean once they have made their nests and laid their eggs, leaving the newly hatched turtlets (and yes, that is actually a real word) to fend for themselves. In happier times, this process worked just fine. But the problem is that now the beaches are not what they used to be. They are far more peopled (and trafficked), which means that all kinds of new threats – from careless pedestrians to off-leash dogs – pose danger to the turtlets bringing their mortality rate up to almost one hundred percent. The Turtle Patrol find nests, collect the eggs and then takes them to a not-for-profit rescue organization where the eggs are incubated, hatched, and then the turtlets – now bigger and stronger, are released out to sea.

As I learned about the eggs, the turtlets, and the Turtle Patrol, I was reminded of how magic shows up in the everyday and how easy it is to miss it. When we think about Holy Helpers, Divine Guidance, or spiritual allies, what often comes to mind are traditional images: a winged angel, a burning bush, a mysterious and powerful Goddess. Sometimes those are the exact Holy Helpers we need to see and commune with.

But sometimes – and perhaps even more often – the Holy Helper is different: he’s a gray-haired, seventy-year-old guy in a faded pair of board shorts who is tenderly gathering turtle eggs so that the smallest and most vulnerable of us have an actual chance. You’d miss him if you weren’t paying attention. The Turtle Patrol is the reminder that we all need – that helping is a holy act and it is not something to wait for. It is something we do.

xo,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.