When Hope has Left: Practical Medicines for Challenging Times

Ceremony and Ritual

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s I have been talking to some of the soulful seekers in my community over the past month I have observed a pattern. The election, the year, the last five, or ten years, the wars, the injustices…it has all just become too much to bear.

So they have become, in their own words: paralyzed, unable to move, lazy, unproductive, not writing, not talking, not making love, music, or beauty of any kind, apathetic, numbed out, and hopeless.

Some people actively advise that we give up hope in the face of it all, understanding (incorrectly) hope to be a frail and passive thing, a kind of butterfly with broken wings.

In reality, hope is related to another word, the funny word “hop”. Hop, yes, just like a bunny rabbit through a springtime field.

No thank you, we say, the days of rabbits and springtime fields are long over.

Except we know better.

We know that life and death are in an eternal dance with each other, we know that rabbits are ancient creatures long honored not only for fertility and gentleness but also for their ability to guide the dead in the underworld and turn into magical women running free under the full moon.

This is the stuff of hope and there is nothing passive, fragile, or boring about it. Don’t give it up. Instead, call your deepest strength back and restore it.

I have written about the importance of keeping your tenderness alive during times that seem to call for only the hard and tough, and I have written too about the ever-unbroken deepest part of your self. Today I want to share with you the very practical medicines I have been encouraging my community members to apply to themselves whenever they find that hope has left and they are in a state of being turned to stone because they looked at the monster a bit too long. People are seeing results with them, and it is my expectation that you will too.

1.    Limit your exposure. If it is possible for you to get away from a situation, person, or place that saps you of vitality and strength then please do. If it is not possible then exercise extra sharp discernment about the quality of information you are receiving, the mediums through which you receive your information, and the amount of time during each day that you spend with this information. When we are called to be in witness of something hard we do not turn away, but we also do not let it take over the entirety of our lives, we cannot if we wish to bring blessing and healing back. Practically speaking limiting your exposure means gauging how much time and energy you spend on social media networks and in conversations (virtual and otherwise) that do not have a definite goal or end point.

2.    Rest and nourish your body. Ask any doctor, First Responder, or therapist. When we witness an event or a series of events that are traumatic we enter with a surge of adrenaline, then we often freeze, and from that point life slowly seeps out of us. The way out is most often not force or brute will, it is rest. Let yourself rest. Drink more water and less coffee, eat clean food. Soulful seekers need to realize that when they take in images, stories, information they take it in not just intellectually or emotionally, they take it in energetically and managing that energy tuckers you out. Lay your head down and let yourself cry some good tears. Your well has been emptied out and this is the first step to filling it back up again.

3.    Get oriented. In Spinning Gold I teach a ritual called the North Star rite. Everyone creates their own and everyone has a different one; but the one thing we all agree to is that this is the thing we do every single day, sometimes several times a day, to orient ourselves anew. Just as the North Star is a fixed point called upon for navigation, the ritual you choose is a fixed point that reminds you: this is who you are, this is where you stand, this is what (and who) you stand for; it roots you in your sovereignty. The North Star rite is something my students practice at least once a day, but when recovering from trauma or when knee-deep in it, the North Star rite is something you can do several times a day, calling yourself back to yourself morning, noon, and night.

4.    Stand in beauty. Once you have regained a sense of self and orientation it is time to fill the well back up. The best way I know is through beauty. Traumatic events happen and the winds of Fortune will blow this way and then the opposite direction. In orienting yourself you fix yourself to the immovable point in the spoke of the wheel. Standing in and for beauty, you call back to mind, body, and soul that there is wonder, and vastness, and more beauty in this world that is bigger and longer lasting than whatever horror has recently visited with you. Standing in and for beauty is not saying the horror did not, is not, happening; it is saying that it did, but that it isn’t the whole of your story, not ever.

5.    Bring the blessing. I call you all Miracles for the simple reason that you are. And you can choose to bring blessings in the ways that you live and the choices that you make every single day. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel famously said, “In Selma, Alabama, I learned to pray with my feet.” Yes to that and also:

Pray with your life, bring the blessing by the way that you live and the work that you do. Click to Tweet

It matters more now so move the obstacles out of the way, break out of the stone and the ice, call movement and life back in, and take care of yourself so that you can do the good work that only you can do.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Blessing for the Ever-Unbroken ~ New Moon in Sagittarius

Lunar Letter

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iracles,

On Tuesday 11/29 the New Moon dances through Sagittarius, the archer, the wounded healer, the wise teacher, the free spirit.

This is the first New Moon, or monthly new beginning, that we have had since the Presidential Election in the US. To say that emotions have been running hot and high would be a grave understatement.

And then there are the holidays, and the pressure to buy more and be more places. My son’s teacher pulled out a Gumby figure and stretched it in different directions to show how they would have to be from now until Winter break – flexible like Gumby, going with the flow, allowing their normal routine (they are five year olds) to be interrupted. When she told me that, I thought: hey, I need that lesson too! As do we all.

Join me in considering: where do I find freedom? I have one of many answers for you:

We find freedom in the ever-unbroken. Click to Tweet

Students of yoga, pilates and other rigorous exercise regimes know that what allows us to stretch out and stretch farther is developing a solid center or strong core. In the realm of soulful seeking, one of the hindrances to freedom of movement – what clouds our perception, limits our understanding of real alternatives – is a subtle and debilitating anxiety that freezes heart and mind alike.  In Spinning Gold – my class that teaches magic and the sacred arts through fairy tales and old stories – we are working with the Baba Yaga in her older-than-old first forest. What we find there is fear but/and also the deepest part of self that is solid, and that remains ever intact, whole, holy, and healthy.  What follows is a prayer for that place.

A Blessing for the Ever Un-Broken

Blessed ones in whom we live and move and have our being, today we ask for aid in remembering the ever-unbroken within us.

For we know and have heard, we have told the stories of the many sacred scars received throughout our journey and how those scars, many of them, are much more than skin-deep.

And we know and have heard about the many aspects of self and psyche; the functions and the dysfunctions, the pathologies and the anomalies too.

Let there be deeper remembering illuminated by wisdom, led by love.

Let there be deeper remembering that returns us to first self, true self, the fixed point at center around which the stars of our life revolve.

Let there be deeper remembering that returns us to core self, original self, fully intact self, where there are no marks or scars, no impressions or wounds.

Let there be deeper remembering that returns us to deepest soul self that has been and will be and holds within it all of our lineage as well as our legacy.

So that when we are hurt we can remember that there is a place over and above, underneath and beyond the wound.

So that when the wheel of fortune seems to spin faster and faster we can remember that there is a fixed and solid point upon which to stand.

So that when we feel our most broken we can remember that there is vast territory within each of us that is ever-unbroken, and that it is in that place that we make our stand and in that place that we make our home.

May it be so.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Ask the Question. Live the Answer.

Lunar Letter

ear Miracles,

Have you ever noticed that the simplest and most needful questions tend to be the ones we are most afraid to ask? We might shy away from asking them for fear of being regarded by others as not smart enough or ‘in the know’, for fear of being unsophisticated or lacking nuance, for fear of not fitting in, or for fear of not having the one right answer.

Or, what is perhaps worst of all, we might give up for fear that there might not be an answer at all.

Yes, it’s easier just to let go, and pick the low-hanging fruit, like the fox in the old Aesop’s fable, who convinced himself that he didn’t want the higher up ones anyway.

But if we can’t even muster the courage to begin asking these basic questions at the roots of our life, then how will we ever get an answer? More to the point, if we can’t get at those questions properly, how will we ever find lasting nourishment for a life well-lived? This is not abstract, not ‘academic’. We feel the presence of such unasked questions as a lead weight on our tongues and hearts.

As I continue to send each of you a monthly lunar letter, I am committed in my own writing and teaching to point to sources and resources that can help remove that weight, or rather to transform it into feather or gold for all of us. I want to help foster a place for the simple and needful questions and for each of you, my courageous soulful seekers. I believe each and every one us has what it takes to reach higher and go deeper than we ever have before, to re-conceive and forge better ways of life for ourselves and our loved ones.

No, we can’t be satisfied with the low hanging fruit, especially those of us practicing the Sacred Arts. The sacro-magical work we do everyday is rooted in those perennial questions, the ones common to human beings, human voices and human action at all times and places. What else are we responding to in the work we do?

Our work and even our whole life is an answer to the questions we either did or did not have the courage to ask.

If we want to discover the sacred in everyday life, then we must ask the real questions, the authentic ones, the hard ones and we must live their answers, refusing to turn away even when it is easier to do so. So let us take courage, remembering that to have courage is literally to be heartened and of good heart. Let us ask, listen, and live.

Unfairness and injustice: Who doesn’t experience in different ways situations that are unfair and unjust? So what is the best way to respond to these situations?

Much ink and much blood has been spilled in the attempt to ascribe praise and blame in issues concerning injustice, a procedure that typically avoids confronting the deeper and more elusive problem about what justice is. But instead of saying it, for now, let’s try to show it. When I seek to understand justice, I am asked to look at the lives of people I know and love, together with the lives of people I have learned about and the stories I have heard. (For we learn so much from stories, yes?) These are stories about people who have encountered unfairness in their own lives, but who did not let it destroy or embitter them.

Let me share one such story from my own family:

A young boy from East Texas, forced to quit school and the education that he loved in order to help out on the family farm, grows into a man who teaches himself Greek and teaches his granddaughters to let nothing and no one come between them and receiving an education.

 

Here is another, just as true, about one of my beloved teachers:

A poor immigrant child who learned English as a second or third language becomes the precious storyteller and poet inspiring thousands to say beautiful and true things in as many languages and as many ways as possible.

 

And here is a third, again from my own people:

A businessman who loses an eye develops a deeper way of seeing so that he can see the young ones who want more and who are willing to work hard, and who can find the old ones who have been told that there is no place for them any longer, and in seeing them creates work, making possible a life that could not be otherwise.

 

Finally, here is one we have all heard told by now:

The daughters, sisters, mothers, aunties and uncles, fathers, brothers, and sons of those nine beautiful souls gunned down in Charleston can greet the evil they experienced, looking it in the eye and saying in the words of their faith and their tradition, “we can forgive and we can know mercy even when you do not.”

 

What are we seeing here? We are seeing the footprints of justice. Just behavior and right action have come to life. In each story, these people, perfect in their imperfections, were able to let injustice become a part of them, a brutal scar turned into blessed adornment. They let adversity make them better, stronger and braver human beings. In their lives, we see examples and guides, ones that we can follow each in our own ways, in our own situations. For these people are much like us. Their stories so similar to our own.

We are told, by the way, that this is not true. That one’s personal suffering and story is for one alone, that it cannot, perhaps even should not, be shared. But I say and see differently. I see that where two people have suffered, whatever the story and whatever the situation, they know one another, they recognize one another as kindred, and in so doing help each other heal.

When we ask the question and listen to the stories we find the answers. There IS an appropriate response to injustice, and people down the ages in many different walks of life have shown us this. It is one that carries much medicine, and one that speaks far and wide. And that response is to own it, call it like it is, and then to take upon our selves the great task of bringing justice to life.

As we make better choices, and love one another more deeply, and act with integrity, we bring justice to life, we bring fairness into the very places and the very times it is most needed. We find the blessings exactly in the most broken places, and we share them freely with one another, holding them in our beautiful, work-worn, hands, holding them up to our courageous, scarred and ever-blessed hearts.

 

(Listen to this lunar letter by clicking here).
Photo Credit: I cannot find the proper credit for this photo, but it is that of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, pierced, as all sacred hearts are by suffering and sorrow and all that is hard. Made stronger, as all lives are by those very same qualities.

 

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

What to do when everything is NOT Ok

Lunar Letter

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personal favorite theme in faerie tales is one I have come to call “peace, peace, but there is no peace.”  It goes like this: the hero or heroine is in a dangerous situation, but they refuse to recognize or acknowledge that fact.

In the story of the Little Match Girl, a homeless and hungry child freezes to death because she wastes what little fuel she has created pretty pictures and fantasies instead of assessing her perilous surroundings and seeking aid.

In the tale of Bluebeard, a young woman comes upon a room full of dead bodies but chooses to turn away and try to hide her discovery, wanting nothing more than to pretend that it never happened.

In the pages of Cinderella and Snow White we see this theme too — widowed men continually marrying bad, cruel, unforgiving women. Are all of the evil-step mothers really amazing actresses or are the men turning a blind eye to the things they would rather not see (or deal with)?

In all of these tales, there are only two possibilities: death or revelation. The stories teach us that to ignore what is really going on is tantamount to signing our own death warrant. To say “peace, peace” instead of squaring ourselves up to whatever is really happening is to breathe out the one lie that can take us down.

You might think that this behavior is found in faerie tale or myth only. Not so. We see it all of the time. It happens anytime someone asks you “how you are doing” and you respond with “I’m ok, great, fine” even when that is not the case. I have seen people “I’m OK” themselves into bad relationships, terrible jobs, unhappy marriages, and dangerous health situations. “Peace, peace”, but not really and certainly not now. This behavior comes from the best possible place…our desire for peace, our desire to truly be OK…but because it lacks the will to see things as they are, this well-intentioned desire leads ever and always to the exact opposite.

Longtime readers of mine know that I am an optimist. I believe in the best possible outcome, I expect the impossible on a regular basis, and my work is crafted around the reality of miracles. I never advise that we go looking for trouble or that we wallow in victimhood of any kind.  Yes, I believe in the power of positive thinking. But without a willingness to face uncomfortable truths, positive thinking is no longer a useful tool but a weapon capable of inflicting great harm to the self.

Call it like you see it, see it for what it is, and respond with compassion and courage.

This is the only way to call forth what is truly and deeply healing, whole, and holy in ourselves and each other. When we are able to do that not only do we stop the “I’m OK’ mantra we discover that much of what we wish to have more of in our lives, much of what we are yearning for, is already there, if only we see it clearly.

So it is that beauty is not perfectly smooth and soft but has edges, scars, and wrinkles. So it is too that magic requires transformation and demands a departure from comfort. Love — brave, brave love never turns away from fear but takes fear by the hand and walks with it through all kinds of terrain. And peace, lasting peace, is found by telling the truth, sometimes rocking the boat, making waves, being your one, blessed, perfect in your imperfections, self.

They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace. — Jeremiah 6:14

(Listen to this lunar letter by clicking here).

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Petition for the Day: Expect the Impossible

Prayer and Blessing

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ear Miracles: May you expect the impossible. A few years ago I have the privilege of attending a couple of workshops taught by witch, Priestess, activist and author Thorn Coyle. One of the skills that Thorn both talked about and demonstrated was something she called High Priestess Mind. High Priestess Mind, as I understand it, is the ability to sit in a place of tension between two apparently opposing forces — this world and the world beyond, life and death, confidence and doubt. It is an awareness of the underlying unity between apparent opposites — a state of grace accomplished through both intuition and discernment. You can read more about it in her book.

Kierkegaard, the Danish theologian and philosopher, writes about a similar state in one of my favorite books Fear and Trembling. This state, according to him, is what Abraham experienced when he was directed by Yahweh to sacrifice Isaac. Kierkegaard calls this state the expectation of the impossible. The conflict that created fertile ground for expecting the impossible was Abraham’s faith based knowledge that Yaweh’s demand for Isaac’s life had already been fulfilled before a blade was ever held to throat — the terrible event in effect had already occurred. Abraham’s cheerful expectation was that despite this conflict the impossible would certainly happen and his beloved son would be spared. Of course we know in the story that Abraham’s impossible expectation was satisfied.

Often when I am working with a particularly difficult case — one that has a chance for success but that is stuck in a thorny wood of Obstacle, my client will ask me what they can do on their end. There are prayers and spiritual preparations that can be helpful to almost case but often I simply tell them — it is time to expect the impossible. For both the High Priestess and Kierkegaard there is an expectation of the impossible. It is not simply cock-eyed optimism but rather insightful and incisive vision paired with soul wisdom — a bone deep understanding that though at times something truly seems impossible-the power of the Divine is unfettered, limitless, and beyond our scope.

So…

When it seems that you cannot go on, expect the impossible.

When all signs point a different way and it crushes your heart, expect the impossible.

When you fear that the law, the attitude, the norm will never change, expect the impossible.

When you fear, period-expect the impossible.

When you doubt, expect the impossible.

 

You and life are much bigger & miraculous than you might think.

 

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Many Branches–Getting Courageous with Kate

Learning and Community

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ear Miracles: I am so delighted to present the first installment in an ongoing series, Many Branches. Many Branches is a monthly guest post written by some of the brightest folks I know. They may or may not work in the world of Sacred Arts, but they always have wisdom and insight that applies to all of us!

Getting Kate Courageous from Bri Saussy on Vimeo.

For the first Many Branches profile I sat down with the remarkable Kate Courageous from Your Courageous Life.

We riffed on why fear can be a great teacher, how reality is limited (and limiting), and the good, bad, and ugly sides of manifestation among other things. I hope you enjoy it and I hope you learn something!

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

When the Answer is NO

Right Relationship

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ear Miracles: Let us now discuss one of the hardest words to hear and take to heart, short and phonetically simple, but one that most of us spend our entire lives grappling with — NO.

The guy that just won’t call you back.

The lady that gently refuses all advances.

The ex who isn’t going to return to you-not now, not ever.

The boss who sits you down to tell you why they went with your co-worker for the promotion.

Your friend who picked the other person to go to the party with.

The poem that got rejected.

Calls that weren’t made, letters that weren’t written, paths not taken. NO.

 

Sometimes the answer is simply no.

NO can be painful, soul crushing, a sucker punch to the solar plexus, a smacking your face right up against the sheer cliff of reality-where faith seems very small indeed.

NO can be liberating, freeing, a gleaming, bright truth that you can set your lights by and follow to a deep(er) & true(er) sense of direction, purpose, joy.

In my own experience NO is something I hate to hear-and when I look back a year later, I am almost always thankful that I did hear it — thankful for the doors that have closed firmly and finally in my face. Thankful that option was taken off the table. Happy to have that path once and for all decided on as the one I will not be traveling this lifetime, thank you very much.

NO requires a sharp intake of breath, a sizzle of electricity over the skin, the bottom of your stomach falling out, a moment to mourn for what could have been. You can stay there-in that hopeless place for as long as you choose.

Or you can rise up to meet NO with “what if…”, “could it be…”, “maybe now…”.

NO can challenge you to stretch yourself, go upside down, turn it around, STOP engaging in actions and behaviors that do not serve you or those around you.

NO might just free up your energy to get on with doing what you really need to be doing.

My advice when confronted with a NO?

Don’t let it suck your faith out of you. Consider that your faith might be deeper & more full of grace than you ever knew-and that this NO might just be the beginning of you getting down to business and doing what you really need to be doing in this one, sweet, short life.

Meet it. Face it.

My prayer for you then is this: Take the power of NO for your own, put it to work for you and don’t give yourself, your passion, your faith over to it.

You never know what is just around the bend & its not what you are told — it is what you do with it that makes all the difference.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.