Maxim Monday: Shun Murder

This is another maxim that at first glance seems so obvious as to warrant only a sentence. Yet, this maxim has several dimensions worth considering.

The most surface level is: don’t murder other people. I can say that I have never murdered anyone and have no intentions of ever doing so. Done and dusted, right? Not so fast.

Plenty of vegans and vegetarians suggest that eating meat is murder. I absolutely see that point, and I render it null and void. All creatures need to eat. Humans are omnivores. Many sages and vegans/vegetarians say that we have the karmic and conscious ability to choose not to harm other beings in our nutritional needs. But that’s not true. We have to kill something living to eat, whether that’s a rabbit, a cow, a carrot or growing grasses. We kill insects in the practice of agriculture. We step on worms and fungi and lichens when we walk outside. We are death machines, killing at every breath. I do not privilege the cow over the carrot. I do, however, privilege myself over the cow and the carrot. I don’t know how else to stay alive.

Another level to this maxim is supporting policies that do not kill other people. Let’s look at the situation in Syria. I concede that there is no good answer to that clusterfuck of a nightmare. People are dying by the thousands; it is the largest refugee crisis in a generation. If we support rebels, we are supporting killing. If we support the Assad government, we are supporting mass murders. If we do nothing, we are standing by while thousands die and will continue to die. In this situation I do not know what the right answer is, but these are the sorts of grey areas that make a maxim like ‘shun murder’ so difficult to contend with. What other policies, foreign and domestic, are full of invisible murder?

So deciding not to murder isn’t quite so easy. I may not have murdered anyone (any human) myself, but I have certainly been complicit in ways that are not so clear. This is not a grand, sweeping guilt trip. Merely a reflection that we can never be certain of every consequence of our every action. Shunning murder is harder than we might think.

Attempting Yantras

Yantras are intricate, geometrical Hindu designs. Tantric Hinduism uses them for meditation, magic, and devotion. It’s an ancient practice that involves a lot of training, preparation, and precision. So I thought I’d make some. In a morning. Silly me.

I have only ever seen yantras in books or on-line, never in person. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of doing some for myself since I first began my Hindu quarter at the beginning of this blog. Now, with my eldest child in kindergarten and my youngest in morning preschool, I have 2.5 hours of child-free time. I thought surely that would be enough time to make some small yantras. But I was wrong.

I don’t know exactly what the process or requirements are for making yantra. From what I can tell, it involves purification, meditation, preparations, and puja. So this morning I censed my house, made kala (a purification rite), meditated, aligned my souls, and made a brief puja. I called upon Durga and Kali. I made offerings and petitioned their blessings and assistance.

Then I began to draw. I am not a visual artist, but I did my best. My eyes started watering, my hand started cramping. I clearly don’t do this very often. By the time I was done drawing and inking my three mini-yantras an hour had flown and it was time to get my daughter from preschool!

Here is what I have so far:

Shiva yantra

Shiva yantra

Durga yantra

Durga yantra

IMG_0728

Kali yantra

I will have to do yet more puja tomorrow and spend some meditative time coloring them. There is a part of me that wonders if I’m bringing calamity on my house by not having the geometry exact or the lines just so. I figure that these are all gods I have a relationship with, I prepared myself to the best of my knowledge and abilities, and the efforts are in good faith. This isn’t some casual, smart-ass coloring project.

For comparison, here are some pictures of actual yantras:

Kali yantra

Kali yantra

Durga yantra

Durga yantra

Next week I’ll post my colored final yantras.

 

Maxim Monday: Act When You Know

This is a tricky Maxim for me. I like to think that I know far more often than I probably do. I’m a bit of a know-it-all, I’ll admit, and I like being a woman of action. Waiting and seeing is not my strong suit. So, while on the surface I’d like to think that I’ve got this acting and knowing Maxim down, this is actually a great reminder for me that I probably ought to act a little less and wait for more knowledge than I think I have.

To me this Maxim ties in with discernment, a careful judging and waiting for wisdom. How often do we really know all the facets of what we’re dealing with? Even with careful deliberation and discussion, we rarely know the full picture, the extent of the consequences of what we choose, or even how we fully feel about something. I think this is true whether we’re talking about making a choice about a relationship, or making a choice about foreign policy.

And yet, we need to act. Every day we’re making choices and decisions. This Maxim is a reminder to act deliberately, not out of mindless habit or base reaction. It’s a reminder to think more completely about our choices. Any reminder encouraging me to take more time, act a little more slowly and not presume to immediately know, is a good thing.

Of course, I’m about to post this entry and if I’m truthful, I’m acting before I really know what this Maxim is about. This is my first guess. What’s yours?

Equinox Thoughts

Equinox is the time when light and dark is balanced. From here we tip discernibly into the Dark Season. While technically the Dark Season begins at Midsummer, when the nights begin to get longer, I don’t really feel the longer nights until around this Equinox time. The same goes for the growing days. I don’t feel their lengthening until spring Equinox.

Once upon a time, the Equinox meant for me giving the house a deep clean and fasting. The fasting has fallen by the wayside since I’ve mostly been either pregnant or nursing for nearly every Equinox in the last 6 years. Some day I’ll get back to fasting. Besides being an excellent spiritual discipline, it’s also really good for our bodies. (Intermittent fasting being very different from starving or chronic hunger, of course.)

Once again I’m pregnant and thus not fasting. I’m also not deep cleaning my house today. I like the idea of a twice yearly deep clean, but this week my spouse’s grandparents from Kansas are in town and I have my monthly training in Seattle tonight. So I’ll space out my cleaning slowly over the next week.

We are entering my favorite time of year. I love the chilly days and nights, the fall colors, the dark times, and all the holidays approaching: Navratri, Samhain, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Pancha Ganapati, Yule and Christmas.

May you find balance today. May you, in whatever ways you choose, prepare yourself for the long nights (or days) to come!

What I Do

Earlier in the week a friend on Facebook linked to a great blog post on a blog I’d never read before. The post is called The Keys to Success in Magic. It makes a great point, that most witches/magicians/sorcerers worth their salt don’t do magic most of the time. I’d say that’s true!

Midway through the post the author has a ‘flow chart’ of his practice. If I had to make a chart, this would be pretty close.

If we’re not making magic, what do we do?

I can’t speak for most other people, but clearly this gentleman and myself – and many of my magical and/or Pagan friends – are similar in our approaches. Let’s walk through this flow chart together.

The foundation of all practice is some form of meditative practice. I learned mine primarily from yoga, but it was in my training with T Thorn Coyle where I was pushed to incorporate meditation into a daily practice. Before I had kids I would do 20-30 minutes of sitting practice every morning. I sat, checked in with all my parts – my body, my emotions, and various souls – and breathed through whatever came up. It was during this time that I finally got a handle on my anxiety issues, all through a daily sitting practice.

Now that I have kids, my practice isn’t so extensive or regular, but there is some form of breathing exercise every day. If I had to wager a guess, I’d say I sit before my altar three to four days out of 7 in the week, but there is some form of conscious breathing moment every day. It truly is the foundation of all else.

Why is breathing so important? In my experience it is useful in several ways. It teaches us to connect with all of our parts. I am learning to listen. What is going on with myself, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually? I am getting better at listening to others, both human and non-human. I am learning that my thoughts might not be the truth of the matter, nor might they be the most important information in any given moment.

Mostly what happens when I sit in meditation is that my brain hits me with every task I need to keep track of: grocery lists, appointments, blog post ideas, etc. My ears strain to hear the kids in the other rooms. What I do is I thank my brain for taking care of all that information and I let it go, just focusing on the breath. One of these days I’ll get back to the deeper levels of meditation. It happened before, so I know it can happen again. But this tool, this ability to slow down and quiet the mind is invaluable. Being able to step outside my reactive thought processing and learn to listen with other parts of myself has been the key to my mental and spiritual health.

The creator of the above flow chart has listed devotions, offerings and energy work next. Again, I think these three things are the next most important acts, after meditation and before magical work.

Devotions and offerings are perhaps one and the same in my mind and practice. Every dark moon I replace the offerings of water. sometimes I offer special incenses. Sometimes I buy flowers for a certain god. Every Tuesday I do Kali puja. It was not until I delved into a three-month Hindu practice, back at the beginning of this blog, that I learned how important and powerful devotions could be. Elaborate or simple, they are a way to build connection with deities and spirits. I learn something new each time I do it. Occasionally I do something a puja for Shiva on Monday, sometimes something formal for the Red Goddess on Friday. But always, every Tuesday for Kali.

sometimes these rituals yield immediate results, and by that I mean, felt connection or certain blessings later in the day. Some days there’s no felt connection. Never do I feel it was a waste of my time.

Lastly, I would call the lessons I am doing for my Feri training my energy work. Right now we are working through the Iron Pentacle, a form of energy and value system, that is unique to the Feri tradition. Making kala, a form of purification, also falls into energy work. I make kala at least once a week, sometimes more as needed.

Lastly comes making magic. I include reading the tarot in this category, as well as spells or ritual. I don’t often read for myself. If I read it is usually for others. I go in phases, sometimes pulling a card every day, sometimes doing a reading on each full moon. For the last year I’ve been rather inactive with my cards.

When I do make magic, use spell work, or construct a larger ritual, there is always a specific need. I spend several days giving the purpose much thought, and once the intent and/or goal is clear, I figure out what course of action is most appropriate. I want to make sure the timing is right, that I have the items needed for whatever working I’m doing, and that I’ll have uninterrupted time and space to complete the working.

My experience is that, while I don’t make magic often, when I do, it is effective. I don’t think I’m any more innately gifted, psychic, or touched by the gods than anyone else. What I am is deliberate. I think the scaffolding of my practice also sets me up for success. Before magic comes gaining strength in skills and forging relationship with others, gods and spirit allies and the world around me. But before even that comes getting centered within myself and letting go of the chatter in my mind as much as possible.

If I could sum up in a less wordy way an answer to the question ‘if not magic, what do you do?’ the answer is basically: I breathe.

Family Announcements

When I started this blog just over 2 years ago my youngest child was only 4 months old, we were living in Wales, I was enrolled in a PhD program specializing in systematic and feminist theologies and the Virgin Mary. Now I’m living in Washington State, my eldest child has started kindergarten, my youngest is 2 and half years old and goes to preschool five mornings a week, and I happily moved away from academia. Time flies!

My family is the greatest joy in my life. It is the source of my deepest rewards, challenges, and personal growth. It with much happiness that I let you all know that I am pregnant with my third child! My husband and I have been debating for a year whether or not to expand our family, and well…… I wanted to do it sooner rather than later, as I am no spring chicken (according to biological dictates)! I am mid-way through the first trimester; the baby is due in mid-May, which makes me think I’ll birth around Beltane.

Many women don’t often mention their pregnancies until they have passed into the second trimester, when miscarriages are less likely to occur. I do not have a history of miscarriage. Each of my previous pregnancies stuck, so I have no expectation that this one won’t either. That said, birth, like death, is something we have little control over. There is always a risk that this bub won’t ‘take.’ My belief is that the more women who speak about their miscarriage history, the less likely women will be to feel isolated or alone in the event of one (which happens more frequently than we realize), or worse, to assume that they are flawed and faulty women because they haven’t carried or have trouble carrying a baby to term. So if I have to share sad news, I will do so. But please, send your blessings for healthy, smooth pregnancy!

 

Sharing the Love

Earlier this week I was nominated for a Liebster Award by a reader. Basically this is a like a chain-letter blog love fest. A reader with her own blog included me in a list of blogs she really loves. Thank you!!

I’m not going to follow all the rules (because that’s not my style), but I thought I’d answer the questions my fellow blogger posed on her post and then recommend a few blogs myself.

  1. What is your favorite quote/proverb? I don’t have one. Really.
  2. Do you prefer incense or candles and why? Both! If I had to only have one I’d choose the candle, because sometimes incense can make me sneeze, especially if I have a cold coming on.
  3. What is your favorite music genre? Again, I can’t pick just one. I love music, but I barely listen to it. Mostly I need music without words; my head is already too full, and the kids too noisy, to put up with yet another person’s words! Mostly if I choose music it is symphonic or ambient.
  4. Do you have any artistic skills (draw, write, sing, etc.)? I am a classically trained singer.
  5. Grease or Footloose and why? Footloose. Grease always annoyed the crap out of me. When I was 9 I would put on my Footloose soundtrack LP and choreograph entire dances.
  6. What is your dream job? I’m living it! Writing, thinking, raising my kids.
  7. Of all the books you own, which do you consider the most sacred? The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs, a gift given to me by my aunt when I was born. As for spiritual sacred texts, I no longer hold one text as more sacred than another.
  8. Do you have any phobias? As I get older heights get much harder. I also feel funny about moths and bats. But I have no true phobia.
  9. Who would you prefer to have as a child: Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees, and why? I don’t know who those people are. Other than Freddy Krueger, and ew.
  10. What song are you not ashamed to say you love? Oh, I have a love of cheesy pop music. I will admit here and now that there are some Katy Perry songs that I quite enjoy.

And now for two blogs that you might not know about. Confessions of a Hedge Witch is a smart, witchy blog by a priestess, academic, and all around wild woman. When Death Calls is infrequent, but dark and poetic. I enjoy both and you might too!