Holiday Gift Guide for the Mystic

It’s full on holiday shopping time. But what do you buy the mystic in your life? What do you get for the witch that has everything? Let me help you!

This is my first ever gift guide. I typically don’t want to encourage the commodification of sacred holidays, but who doesn’t like pretty things? And who doesn’t want to support independent artists and other small businesses?

So without further ado here are things that I would love – I mean, that the spiritual person in your life might love. In no particular order, I present to you a list of beautiful things. I’ll admit, I have expensive tastes. Some are these items are quite affordable, others …. well, that’s why there are wish lists.

Sri yantra from Ekabhumi

Sri yantra from Ekabhumi

Ekabhumi creates many beautiful things, but his yantras are glorious. These are large geometrical paintings, prayed over and infused with intention, much like icons in the Christian tradition. I would love to have one of these in my home. I think it would look beautiful over a lovely murti of a Shiva Nataraja, perhaps hanging in a yoga studio, or blessing some one’s home.

You can order Ekabhumi’s yantras here.

Beautiful garnet and copper japa mala by Bija Malas

Beautiful garnet and copper japa mala by Bija Malas

Several months ago I tried to make my own malas, prayer beads used in Hindu and Buddhist practice. I did not make it out of the bead store. I faced several challenges: the overwhelming choices presented at the bead shop, not knowing the meanings behind any of the stones, my limited budget, and the reality that I was not about to have the time, money or manual dexterity to create a practice mala, much less a beautiful final product. I went searching online and found Bija Malas.

Bija Malas are very pretty and seem quite affordable to me. There are shorter bracelet ones, along with more traditional 108 bead malas. While I long for a 108 bead mala, I don’t know which of those I would prefer! They are all so beautiful. These would make a valuable gift for the Buddhist, Hindu, yoga teacher or student, or meditator in your life.

Jet and amber necklace

Jet and amber necklace

Raven Edgewalker creates a wide array of crafts and wares for witches. I am particularly fond of her amber and jet jewelry. These two stones work well together to purify energy and to protect from and neutralize negative energy. Very handy for witches and sorcerers.

This particular necklace is available from greenwomancrafts for $49.

Alchemical Raven by Liv Rainey-Smith

Alchemical Raven by Liv Rainey-Smith

I love art and long to have a house full of art and crafts. I also adore word cuts. Liv Rainey-Smith combines my love of art, wood cuts, and occult themes. I discovered her work at the Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle a few months ago. Her work changes regularly. There were several pieces I saw there that aren’t listed in her store now. I assume they sold – and for good reason!

This glorious cut is called Alchemical Raven and sells for $350.

For the literary and discerning magician, witch or occultist of any stripe, anything by Scarlet Imprint is a good choice. Their works never fail to be thought-provoking, informative, and created with the highest quality materials. Scarlet Imprint books are bound spells. Their latest offering is the two-volume edition of The Testament of Cyprian of the Mage, last in a series on grimoires by Jake Stratton-Kent. I, however, do not have Pomba Gira, and have wanted to read it for a while now.

Pomba Gira

Pomba Gira

Hey! This is the only one not sold! I'll take it!

Hey! This is the only one not sold! I’ll take it!

Another artist whose work makes my witchy heart beat faster is Lindsey Kustusch. Her raven and owl series are stunning. Sadly, they are almost all entirely sold out! The one pictured at left is the last one left!

She also has a series of paintings of San Francisco, and those are striking as well. Perhaps you know some one who has left their heart in San Francisco?

Her bottle still lifes are delightfully creepy and will likely appeal to those who love curiosities, as well as liquor. Not that I know anyone like that…..

Sarah Lawless is a writer, artist, crafter, and master salve maker. I would take just about anything from her. I can recommend her flying salves first hand. Her apothecaries are on hiatus for the holidays, but I still want to give her work a shout out. Her knives are stunning.

chibiTarot-smallImages-09-theHermitFinally, no gift guide is complete without a nod to the Chibi Tarot. Only the major arcana is available at this time. This may look like a silly cartoon deck, suitable for the kid, manga lover, or video gamer in your life. Do not be deceived! This is a legitimate and powerful deck. It’s also created by husband, who is writing a book along side this deck and gearing up to begin the minor arcana.

I think this collection of beautiful things is enough to get anyone’s gift giving juices flowing.  Stay tuned next week for recommendations for the kiddos! I guarantee that list won’t be as pricey as this one.

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Health, part 2

In my last post I talked about five dietary changes to help you be healthy. Now I want to add five non-food related ideas for health. Yep, it’s another non-spiritual post!

Let me reiterate two things. One, I am not a medical professional. Take this post as you will. Two, I am not interested in promoting weight loss. I am interested in overall health. Sure, taking steps to get healthy as a whole person often leads to weight loss for those who have excess weight on their frames. Sometimes it means gaining weight. What’s important is that our bodies find equilibrium.

Let’s get to it!

#6: Get more sleep. I’m sure you hear this everywhere. You might even wish for it when your alarm goes off in the mornings. There are ways to get more sleep – and more restful sleep – without resorting to sleeping medications.

The first tip is…. just go to bed earlier. On night’s I’m feeling particularly tired I go bed as soon as the kids fall asleep. I feel a bit like child myself, crawling into bed at 8.30pm. But getting 10 hours of sleep? That makes me feel great!

Try making your room dark. I mean, DARK. This can be especially helpful if you live in an area with lots of streetlights. Get thick curtains or even a cheap, but thick piece of material to tack up. Put a scarf over your alarm clock. Our whole family sleeps much more soundly when it’s truly dark in our room.

Get off screens before bed. There’s something about the constant input of light that messes with our brain’s natural sleeping signals. All the light tells our brains it’s still daytime and our minds can keep going. I’ve read some people advocate for 5-6 hours before bed, some say 3-4 hours before bed; I generally get off 2-3 hours before bed. This means not just television, but computers and smart phones, too. If you spend all day at work in front of a computer, perhaps just leave screen time behind once you leave the office. Maybe start reading all those books you’ve bought, but never gotten around to reading.

#7: Deal with your feelings. Get to know how you really feel. Perhaps without the distraction of excess screen time, or with a practice of sitting meditation, you might start to realize that you have undealt with grief, anger, insecurity, or other unvoiced feelings. Learn to feel your feelings and find ways to express them. I have experienced first hand the heartbreak and health-issues that can arise from undealt with emotions. Learning to love and free up all of our parts will help reduce stress, but can profoundly affect our health, both mental and physical.

#8: Surround yourself with support. All of us need support and encouragement. Find people who love you and support your efforts to get healthy. Maybe you have some addiction issues – AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and other 12-step groups can be amazing -and free!- therapy. Maybe you need to go see the doctor. Maybe you need therapy. Maybe you just need to reach out to your friends in new ways. Find a forum online or a meet-up group. We are not islands unto ourselves; we are meant to thrive in a community, whether that’s a small one of only 5 people or a larger one of interconnected groups. Whatever it is, do it. Get the support you need.

#9: Move in ways that make you happy. Our bodies were made to move. Even if you have mobility issues, find some form of movement that makes you feel good. If your health is particularly bad, maybe a walk around the block is a triumph. I don’t think we all need to be joggers or join the gym. I am a huge fan of exercise that can be done anywhere: yoga, walking, squats, push ups, etc.

If I may, let me make a few suggestions about yoga. It can be expensive and elitist. Don’t let that stop you. I recommend finding a class that makes you feel good. If you can only afford once a month or every six weeks, do that and tell your teacher that you’ll be coming once a month (or whatever). Then, take what you learn and practice at home. You can get adjustments and corrections and new poses on those days that you go to class, but you’ll be getting the benefits of regular practice at home. Also, you don’t need fancy gear. I wear pajamas to yoga. Seriously. Or gear I’ve found at Goodwill.

Whatever you find, start with something that makes you feel good and is appropriate for your body. Then, work your way up in intensity and endurance over time. Eventually you might branch out to new activities. Forget about perfect abs and just make your body feel good!

#10: Find ways to manage stress. This one is part and parcel of every other tip here. Eating healthier foods reduces stress on the body. Getting more sleep can ease stress. Getting exercise can be a great release. But you may need more. Sitting meditation can be one tool for this, although I have found that sometimes it can raise stress because we have to sit with ourselves and our issues! Maybe you need to take up a hobby. Maybe you really need to find a new job, or make some other serious lifestyle changes. As you get healthier, I believe that you’ll start to see the ways that your life can be more spacious – even with kids and jobs and pets and bills.

So there you have it! Niki’s top 10 ways to bring more health and vibrancy into your life. Please remember to start where you are and make small changes that you can stick with. There is no need to try everything at once!

The spiritual life is ideally one of holistic health. We are both not wholly our bodies and we are completely incarnated in the flesh of this world. I don’t see our various parts as separate, but as interconnected. If I am unhealthy in my body, usually my work and my relationships struggle too. Finding the equilibrium in all my parts is one of my big goals for life in my ‘ashram.’ I wish for all my friends and readers abundant good health!

What We’re Reading

I like books. I really like books. I seem  constitutionally unable read only one thing at a time. This filters down to the kids, too. We’re reading some great stuff right now, so I thought I’d share.

First up, the two-and-a-half-year-old. Here is her current obsession:IMG_0677

She is in love with the Octonauts, a series of books and cartoons that we discovered thanks to the BBC in Wales. We read these several times every day (saints preserve me). The art is great, the characters are adorable, and, when watching the cartoons, she learns stuff about marine life and the oceans.

My daughter is so obsessed that she insists she is neither boy nor girl, but penguin – Peso Penguin, the medic character. I am called almost exclusively Tweak Bunny, the engineer – no more Mama here!

 

IMG_0678Next, my 5-year-old. Together we are reading the following: A Wizard of Earth Sea by Ursula K LeGuin, Wildwood by Colin Meloy (he of the Decembrists), and The Odyssey as retold by Gillian Cross and illustrated by Neil Packer. These are unintentionally listed in order of least to greatest preference.

LeGuin is marvelous, but rather dense and staid for a 5-year-old. Son still enjoys it, but he asks for the others first. Wildwood, an alternate reality book set in Portland, OR, is good, but not great. Son really likes it, and middle school readers might love it. As a more advanced reader there are some flaws that I think better editing could have helped, and also could have slimmed down this hefty tome by about a third. Meloy says in 10 words what could easily be said in 5.

The surprising winner is The Odyssey. I’m pretty sure I read this a million years ago (I know I read The Iliad in 9th grade), but I don’t remember being as interested as I am now. This retelling is excellent. I highly recommend this version. You get all the awfulness and weariness of Odysseus’ journey, but little of the repetition or gore of the original, which is perfect for getting young minds hooked on ancient myth and story telling. The illustrations are beautiful. Ancient Greek lettering is used in some of the pictures, too. We found this at the library, but I would like to get a copy for our home, as I know this is a book we will return to many times. (Follow this link to see the first 17 pages.)

 

Here is what I’m reading.IMG_0682 The first is my one novel, Victor Hugo’s French classic, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I’ve never read it. I have a love of 19th century and gothic novels, and Hugo’s other great novel, Les Miserables, is one of my all time favorites. This book, however, is rather slow going, both because I have limited time to get engrossed in a book like this (one with such complex writing and long-winded descriptions that uninterrupted chunks of time are necessary for true enjoyment) and because, well, it’s a little dull so far.

Second is Living Your Yoga, by Judith Lasseter. One of my yoga teachers recommended it, and I quite like it. It’s a little book on how to bring the values of yoga into your every day life. I’m reading one chapter a day and using it as a bit of focus. Today, for example, is about Control, about letting go of our need for it, and how this affects not just our asana practice but also our relationships. Yesterday was Compassion, etc.

The next two are both Scarlet Imprint books. The olive colored one is their latest, Serpent Songs, a collection of essays on Traditional Witchcraft. I’m only half way through. I am struggling with some of the essays. I may write a longer review when I finally finish. The white book is Peter Grey’s The Red Goddess. I’ve read this one before (twice), but I am reading it again! I love this book, even though it is highly problematic, particularly to anyone with a strong biblical studies background. And yet, I still think it is worth reading.

What are you reading? Anything you recommend?

 

The Body

What a complex site of confusion is the body. As spiritual persons we have a host of understandings about it to unpack. As a female in the Western world there are even more complications and understandings to unpack. I’m not going to get too theoretical about either of these points, but instead, as this blog is designed to do, I will talk about my own experience and understanding of the body.

Many religious traditions proclaim that the body is a negative thing. That it is a hindrance on our path to enlightenment or salvation. It is a hive of warring passions, a host of unclean fluids and matter, an obstacle and nothing more. This is primarily a dualistic understanding of the world. The body and all matter are separate from spirit. If we transcend our bodies, usually through renunciation or asceticism, we will be free from the enslavement of the physical world.

Some traditions embrace this world and all the various physical manifestations, seeing the physical as a site of pleasure and joy. If one sees the divine in all, then my toe and that tree and your cat are all embodiments of the divine. This can lead to a couple of different ideas, one being that anything pleasurable goes, and some ideas involving all things in moderation.

Some spiritual traditions don’t talk much about the body either way. But if you dig deeper almost all traditions come down somewhere into the two camps. And most of them into the first, body-negating one.

As a female in the Western world there are numerous other layers of body issues on top of the bedrock of philosophical and religious tradition. Most of it is dualist in nature. Almost all of it says that the female body is dangerous. Even with the comparatively hedonistic sexual flaunting and use of female bodies for selling things and entertaining in movies and pornography, the female body is an object to used by patriarchal forces for their benefit, never for the female’s benefit or enjoyment. The body is definitely used as a snare, but we are also supposed to have heroic spiritual self-control. It’s all very confusing.

In my chosen traditions the body and spirit are neither dualistic entities at war with each other, nor are they one and the same. I see the body as a gift. Embodiment is full of beauty. Some say that the spirits envy us our physical existence. We get to smell, touch, taste, feel. My body is my vehicle, my tool, but not some mechanistic flesh that does my mind’s bidding – again, a dualistic perspective. Ideally, my body and my souls work in concert for good of all my parts, to further connection among those parts, and with other creatures and spirits.

The extremes of pregnancy and childbirth once again drive home to me the joy and mystery that is embodiment. Watching dandelions and weeds force themselves through cracks in concrete is a testament to the spirit of life that thrums in us. Life is determined to live. While austerities have their place and use (mostly for purification purposes or gaining discipline), in my mind, any tradition that demands you renounce your senses and joy in this body is misguided.

Of course, our bodies and our senses can also mislead us. Too much of a good thing becomes no longer a good thing. Too much wine dulls our pleasures, too much food makes our stomachs hurt, too much sleep can leave us groggy, etc. And our bodies often ‘betray’ us. I am lucky that I have no overriding health issues. I do have whiplash in my neck and a jerky movement can leave me in mild pain for days. That sucks. It is hard, not just because I hurt, but because it keeps me from feeling at ease, hindering my ability to be present, keeping me from picking up my children, from connecting with my partner (I can’t tilt my head up to kiss him, sometimes not even on a pain-free day!). Pain hinders us from connecting; connection is, in my view, the core aim of the spiritual life. I have a greater amount of compassion for my friends and others who experience pain and discomfort, chronically or acutely.

And then we die. Sometimes we die suddenly, sometimes the body gets sick and slowly falls apart.

Christian theology views this as proof of sin. Adam and Eve would have lived for ever, but were cursed with toil, suffering and death. ‘For the wages of sin is death.’ That is no metaphor. Classical Christianity sees that as a physical truth. I think it is nonsense. At best, it is a metaphor. Pain and suffering of any kind are indeed a form of sin. Most of us suffer thanks to systemic sin. The Bible isn’t joking when it says we suffer the sins of our fathers for seven generations. Cycles of abuse, poverty, environmental degradation – all of those things lead to webs sin, and they lead to disconnection and death.

But we live in a world governed by physics, biology, chemistry. There is no life without death. We must eat, and whether that’s a carrot or a cow, something must die for something else to live. One animal’s defecation is a dung beetle’s joy. One rotting apple is another organism’s home or lunch. To think that the earth and humans could exist without death is baffling.

I spent several of my teen years and early adulthood using my body as a site of control. I felt I had so little control over other aspects in my life, but I could control what I ate and how fit I was. That obsession was a form of superiority (countering fears of inadequacy) and self-punishment (because I could not conquer my anxiety). I look back and while I was very healthy, I was also very, very hungry. An apt metaphor, as well as a physical reality.

I will admit that these days I tend to struggle with fasting and austerities. I sometimes look back at my past and wonder why I can’t be as disciplined as I once was. But I see that I love myself so much more now. Not in a self-righteous way, but in a fuller, more complete way. The strength of my discipline as a young adult was not coming from a place of love or health, but one of grief and fear.

I also see that I have given up many things in my life already. I can’t eat gluten and so as an act of love for my body I do not eat wheat in any form; there are many things I miss, homemade bread, French pastries, and fresh pasta among them. I have gestated, birthed, and nursed two children – that is austerity and sacrifice indeed. I am getting older and that combined with recovering from birthing drives home the fact that my body is not in my complete control. I am blessed with a healthy body that responds well and quickly to exercise. I am fit and healthy, but there is a humility in letting go of looking like my 25-year-old me. Even as every image in the Western world tells me that I should look 25 for as long as possible. That my worth is a youthful, slender body.

My body is a site of connection. I am my own world tree, the axis of my universe. I am both my body and not my body. If I gain 100 lbs or lose my legs or get burned in a fire, I will still be me. And not me. But this embodiment is all I know at this point.

I know that if I need to I can withstand and benefit from austerities. But why impose them if I do not need to? The world has sufferings enough as it is. I was hungry for several years for no good reason. Why not wait for a good reason? From this bodily axis in the universe I connect to that very same universe, and to you. I cannot transcend my form. Even if I gain enlightenment tomorrow I am still tethered in this body. And what a joy and a privilege that is.

 

Resistance is futile

Expansion, contraction, expansion, contraction. It would be nice if this was an easy, regular pattern for change and growth in our lives. Dependable like breathing, predictable intervals, clear pay-offs. But it’s not. Sometimes some parts of us are expanding, while other parts are contracting. Sometimes our expansion hits limitations or boundaries and we have to contract a little. Sometimes we resist one kind of expansion in favor of another kind.

I’ve had a season of dramatic expansion. Parts of it have been painful, all of it has been illuminating. As I sit in the pause in between expansions, I realize I’ve been resisting, avoiding even, a few core issues.

The first one is yoga. For many years I had a serious yoga practice. I practiced 30-60 minutes of yoga and meditation in the morning. I had thoughts of getting certified to teach it. Then I had my son, moved to Wales, and had a second child. One of the things I was excited about when I moved back to the States was renewing my yoga practice.

Shortly after arriving I found a class and a teacher I quite liked. I even joined in her home studio practice. That was ever so brief. I realized how exhausted I was from the move and I needed to not to do, only rest. Then summer came and it was a whirlwind of travel and emotional overstretching, so come fall I needed to rest some more. I haven’t been to yoga in months. But yesterday I realized: a yoga practice, a quiet place free of the children once a week, would have been a Good Thing in all of this. There are all sorts of perfectly valid reasons I give myself for not getting back to my yoga practice, either in or outside of the home. But the fact is: I’m avoiding it.

Sure, it’s frustrating rolling out the mat at dawn. My joints creak and pop. Inevitably a child wakes up and needs a morning snuggle and then of course wants to sit on the mat or play under my downward facing dog or hop on my back when I’m in plank. That’s annoying, pretty cute, and my present reality. It’s going to be years before I can get back to a place of uninterrupted home practice. But I’m not accepting that. I’m internally pouting about it. It’s a form of self-sabotage and perfectionism. There’s never going to be a perfect time. If I don’t get back to some form of practice my joints are only going to get creakier, my will weaker.

Yoga is so important to my well-being. It creates more space in my physical, emotional and spiritual Self. I feel more connected to my Hindu practice, too. I feel more present in all my Parts; each positive, healthy act of Will encourages and strengthens other positive, healthy acts. Why do I continually avoid my mat?

I’m also avoiding writing. Last year my editor over at Patheos suggested I write a memoir. I was flattered, but mostly confused and daunted at the prospect. A few other people have since asked me when I’m planning on writing a book. I laugh it off. What could I possibly have to say? For the longest time I thought my PhD dissertation would be my contribution to the discourse of feminist religious thought. Now, that is less and less likely. I’m critical of the memoir form, both as a reader, but also as a potential writer of one. So many memoirs feel self-indulgent. I particularly look askance at ones written by people in their 20s and 30s – how much life experience could they really have?

Of course, I’m in my 30s.  The thought of writing my spiritual memoir raises all sorts of doubting voices: what do you know? Who really cares? No one wants to read a book by a know-it-all. And so on and so forth. Instead of engaging with those voices and finding what might be true and helpful in there, I’ve just avoided the topic altogether.

After a particularly honest (read: brutal) heart-to-heart with Adam the other night over what my Work in the world might be, I’ve decided to revisit the idea of the memoir. Whether or not it will be my Contribution to the world of ideas, the act of doing it will be plenty potent. I know full well from my experience that whether or not this Thing is THE Thing doesn’t matter; it might be, it might not. What I do know is that it will open doors to The Work.

My resistance to even engaging with the idea of it is a pretty big sign that this is an area of teaching, growth, and struggle. What might I uncover?

Both yoga and writing are part of my spiritual practice, my daily routine (if I’m not doing yoga, I’m thinking about how I should), and ways I get in touch with myself. I’m not beating myself up about resisting – the very act of my resistance is a source of information. The first step is not to bully myself into doing the writing or getting on the mat, but to observe and be curious: what is this resistance about? What is it pointing out to me? How can I take what is valuable there and use it to refuel those practices?

That’s where I’m at these days.

What about you? What aspects of your life are you avoiding? What’s the payoff? Are you getting anything out of the avoidance?

Holidays and Hinduism

Diwali begins today. Well, in some communities. The major Lakshmi puja is observed the day after the dark moon, on Tuesday. What’s hard for me about observing Hindu holidays is that so many of the details depend on cultural traditions of the Indian subcontinent. Tamils observe slightly differently than Nepalese than the myriad other ethnic and cultural groups. The gods even have different names and sometimes slightly different mythology! While this is really confusing, it’s also liberating. There is no “right” way to observe anything in Hinduism!

I spend a lot of time trying to distill what I think the essence of an observance is all about. Diwali is a time of triumph of light over dark, of gratitude for friends and family, of honoring Lakshmi, who brings wealth, beauty, and abundance. It’s all very appropriate for this season – what with various end of harvest traditions, the approaching Thanksgiving holiday in the US in two weeks, and the various festivals of light in December.

Today begins the five-day observance. In some places it starts with honoring the gods of death and darkness. Yes, the light triumphs over the dark, but the dark is necessary, as any devotee of Kali knows! Today also lines up with Veterans’ Day/Remembrance Day. Tomorrow also the marks the astrological end of the Samhain season, so I think one more observance of the Dead is a fitting thing.

This morning I sat on my cushion, lit my incense, my meditation candle and the candle in my black glass votive for the Ancestors. I offered up words of praise and peace for the Mighty Dead, the Ancestors, and all those who have fallen in war – either as combatants, resisters, or civilian casualties. May their souls find peace. May those of us living find peace in our hearts, minds, souls, in our actions and our words. As the prayer of St Francis says, “Where there is hatred, let me sow peace.”

In an hour I’m heading to yoga. It’s been about two months since I’ve been. Today’s yogic focus is on Kali – how could I miss that?! I will offer up my practice on the mat to Kali, praying that any strength I gain will create more peace within me. I’ll carry that into tomorrow’s Diwali focus: freedom from fear.

Only by letting go of hatred, violence and fear is there room for true abundance.

Resolution

So I went to sutra study. I was able to read a few comments on yesterday’s post before I left, rather in a distracted rush, for yoga class and sutra study. Many of you made excellent points and I was left feeling awkward, silly and vulnerable. I particularly hate feeling vulnerable. I am much better at over thinking things, if you hadn’t noticed.

When I started this project I knew this quarter would be a challenge for me, but I didn’t realize just how hard it would be for me. I’ve spent most of this quarter practicing Christianity by not practicing the Pagan things and Hindu things I’d like to practice. As the comments brought home, that’s not actually a practice. And it’s not very true to Christianity. I ‘knew’ both of those things, but I didn’t know what else to do.

Like all of the major world religions, Christianity is a broad tradition that embraces both fundamentalism and a liberal side so open that many might not recognize it as Christian. Until only a few years ago I was within the Christian tradition thanks to the wide berth a living tradition offers, yet it took a while to recognize that it wasn’t my narrative, it wasn’t my story. Christianity’s symbolism runs deep, but it’s not my metaphor.

When I started this project with Hinduism last summer I faced some of the same issues: how do I practice without falling into the snare of legalism. I think this is the problem that faces people who haven’t embraced the narrative and found a home in the story of a faith. In my reading I kept bumping up against Vedic orthodoxy and I didn’t like it one bit. I kept looking for the parts that resonated with me, and when I got to Tantra I found my narrative thread.

But Christianity is not my story anymore. How many times can I repeat this? It’s not you, the reader, I need to convince, it’s me. I was at peace with this, until I tried to return. And I can’t. There is no returning for me. And that’s what I realized on my drive to yoga. A huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I wanted to cry. I felt exposed.  Look at how ridiculous I’m being – and in ‘public’ too!

How do I stay true to the ‘rules’ I’ve set for myself on this project? I guess I stay true to them by staying true to myself. That means getting back to my practices – back to MY practices. I can finish out this quarter engaging with Christianity, engaging with a beautiful, rich tradition that has given me so much. But I won’t and don’t have to practice.

Several years ago, when I was studying with T Thorn Coyle, I used to beat myself up if I didn’t meditate for at least 20 minutes. And then I realized, the tools are there for me; I’m not here for the tools. Meditation isn’t going to come knocking on my door and ask why I shorted it ten minutes. Or forgot to show up. No, meditation is my tool to use for my liberation. Same with this project, same with this work, same for my path. They are tools that serve me, not the other way around. The point of this project was to get clear and to struggle and to find out more about myself and my practice, and I’d say it’s working!

I’ve been neglecting several things, all in the spirit of ‘not practicing.’ I haven’t set up my altars in my office. I’ve had this wonderful (if cold) new space for several weeks and it’s still unfinished and chaotic. I haven’t been doing my sitting or my prayers or making kala. Boy, do I feel the effects of not practicing! With the exception of the meditative mercy prayer, there hasn’t been anything else to fill the space. That is silly and not particularly helpful.

During yoga class we worked on back bends, which open up the front body, especially the space around the heart and breast bone. That exacerbated my feelings of vulnerability and at several points during class I wanted to cry. I’m not a crier and wish I was. I think it would be healthier for me. Yoga sutra study was nice but not what I’d made it out to be in my head. I felt foolish for making such a big deal about it. I still feel foolish.

humility, vulnerability, and resolution were the themes for me last night and they carry over this morning. On more than one occasion I’ve been encouraged to stop over thinking everything, to get more honest, more vulnerable, more personal here and it’s a struggle for me. But last night was a great gift to me, a release, a resolution. Thanks for helping me along.