It’s OK to Ease in Slowly

Conventional wisdom holds that, when faced with a cold body of water, it is better to just plunge in all at once. Jump in, they say, and get it over with. You’ll warm up soon enough. When you ease yourself in bit by bit, you only prolong the suffering. Better to have one massive shock to the system and then get on with the business of adjusting.

This might be true for lakes, creeks, and swimming pools (though I still prefer to inch my way into the 55 degree water in my favorite swimming hole). But when it comes to the New Year, and the goals and intentions we set, I’m convinced that it’s OK to ease in slowly.

It’s easy to get caught up in the New Year’s momentum, crafting a long list of resolutions and goals that all seem totally doable when you’re a few glasses of champagne in and the clock strikes midnight. I know I’ve done it — made boisterous declarations that I would change my life in countless ways in the coming year, worked frantically in the closing days of the old year to fill in this journal page, craft those affirmations, clean out this closet, choose the word or phrase that would guide my next cycle of the Wheel, in a mad rush to have it all in place by 12:01 am on January 1.

This year? Well, not so much.

Red-haired woman sitting in water.This Winter Break, I found that I was too enthralled with my Solstice tree lights, too deeply enjoying the quiet company of my partner and our cats, too contented with the stillness and peace of the season to push myself to meet yet another arbitrary deadline. (My somewhat….casual…relationships with deadlines is a topic for another day. To put it in Gretchen Rubin’s terms, I am a Questioner — I’ll only meet expectations if it makes sense to me to do so.)

Instead, this year, I’ve chosen to ease myself in slowly. I’ve done some journalling. I’ve thought through some goals. I’ve been meditating off and on on my word for the year, but not stressing out because I didn’t have one chosen on January 1. I know it will come to me, as it always does, in its own time, and in just the nick of time. I’m allowing myself to declutter my physical and digital spaces more slowly, more prayerfully — still making progress, still doing the work, but not feeling like a failure because it wasn’t All Done by January 1.

My year is a blank slate, and I’m finding that this approach is somewhat like spending time with a canvas before making the first brush stroke, rather than diving in and painting in a mad rush of inspiration. Neither approach to making art is superior to the other, and neither approach to a New Year is superior. We just have to find what works for us, to create what we want to create at any given time.

Next year may be the year I plunge in, fearless of the shock of cold water that may meet me. But this year, there’s enough on the shoreline to fascinate me that I think the deep water will wait for me while I wade in.

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New Moon in Practical Capricorn

I am a free-wheeling Sagittarius raised, in part, by two very Capricorn sisters. While my spontaneous nature and, shall we say, flexible, approach to things like deadlines, chore lists, and other day to day matters has often clashed with their more regimented and structured style, I’ve also learned a great deal from my sisters and the other Capricorns in my life. I find that things are a bit better for me when I have a Capricorn and a Virgo on my team to keep me focused, grounded, and goal-oriented. (There’s just so much magickal stuff out there to distract me and send me off on flights of fancy and adventure!)

new-moon-in-cap-2This New Moon is in Capricorn, and comes at a time when many of us are already focused on the practical matters in our lives — decluttering after the holidays, getting our tax documents pulled together, setting goals and making resolutions for the New Year to come. Practical, grounded Capricorn is here to support you as you decide what to carry forward into the New Year and what to let go. More importantly, the New Moon in Capricorn helps you see the practical steps you need to reach your goals and make the changes you want in your life. Yet, at the same time, Capricorn Moon supports you as you discover your life’s purpose, your higher calling, your lifework. The energy of the Capricorn Moon helps you see how the small, everyday steps that you are taking do — or do not — support the work you’ve been put on this Earth to do.

What are you manifesting this New Moon? How does this relate to your larger goals and resolution — for 2017, and beyond? What tools are you using to reflect and discover your calling and the steps you need to take to fulfill that calling?

My fellow Priestess, Rose at The Bliss Institute, offers up some ideas for how to work with the Capricorn New Moon. Feel free to share here about your explorations and realizations, your manifestations, and goals, in this last New Moon of 2016.

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The Longest Night, Mercury Retrograde Edition

The Winter Solstice brings us the bittersweet blessing of a long, dark night in which to reflect on the year that is passing, the year to come, and the deepest parts of ourselves. While this work is often uncomfortable, it is a necessary part of personal growth and transformation. From this point on, the days promise to lengthen — each day, we will have another minute of sunlight. Winter Solstice reminds us that even the longest, darkest nights end — that light eventually returns, even when it seems that the world would be bathed in velvet darkness forever. This message is especially poignant this year, as many of us face an uncertain future for the first time — and as many others face yet more uncertainty.

Winter Solstice falls in the midst of a Mercury Retrograde this year, which brings its own blessings and gifts. Astrologically and magically minded folks often express fear about Mercury Retrograde, with its communication hiccups and delays, but I have often felt that this reaction comes because people know they’re supposed to worry about Mercury Retrograde. We don’t really understand exactly what it is that Mercury does, other than gumming up the communication works, but we know that it is a Bad Thing.

But Mercury Retrograde — and all Retrogrades, really — also offer us the valuable opportunity to just stop for a moment. With nothing moving forward, Retrogrades offer us a time to breathe, to evaluate, to take a much needed healing rest. Winter Solstice invites us to do the same — to take a pause, to breathe, to heal, to reflect. We are often in such a hurry to get on to the next thing and the next and the next that we don’t always value moments of rest and respite. Mercury Retrograde gives us this, and invites us to reflect on unfinished business, on that which may have fallen away that we still miss, at that which is distracting or weighing us down and needs to be released with love and compassion.

solstice-goddessThe work of Winter Solstice — going within, conducting an inventory of our values and goals, releasing that which no longer serves us to make room for that which will best support us on our journeys — is in many ways the work of Mercury Retrograde. I see Mercury Retrograde as supporting us in our work this Winter Solstice. If we can shift our ideas about what Mercury Retrograde means, begin to think of it as just another type of energy that we can work with rather than an adversary to be avoided or feared, we can truly move into the next cycle of the Wheel with a growth mindset, ready to let go of that which needs releasing and embrace that which flows in to fill the empty space.

Safe journeys into the darkness on this longest night. Goddess grant you safe passage, and let us meet again on the shore at sunrise.

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Full Moon Oracle Reading

The Gemini Moon is here to ask us to find a way to meld wisdom and understanding. The Sun is in philosophical, wisdom seeking Sagittarius, while the Moon is in curious, communicative Gemini.

What wisdom are you seeking? What understanding do you need to gain from it? And how can you take this new wisdom and understanding out to the world? What are you being called to share?

Take a moment to center yourself. Close your eyes. Focus on your breath. Be present with yourself and these questions.

When you are ready, open your eyes and notice which of the cards below you are drawn to. Ask the cards what wisdom you are seeking, what understanding you need, and what wisdom and understanding you have to communicate to the world.

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(From left to right, the stones are lepidolite, snowflake obsidian, and moonstone. The deck is the Sacred World Oracle by Kris Waldherr)

Then scroll down to see what message the cards hold for you!

 

CARD 1: Falcon

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Falcon is here to tell you take charge, to honor your sovereignty, and to have confidence in yourself and your abilities. Long a symbol of royalty, the Falcon invites you to ask yourself what Fires you up. What sets your heart aflame? What would you do if you could be ruler of your own life? Falcon also challenges you to ask yourself where you may have been relying upon others, or upon worn out and outdated ideas and stories about yourself. What can you let go of so that you can take flight into the next chapter of your life?

CARD 2: Fire

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Fire comes to invite you to burn brightly with passion, but to tend yourself carefully so you don’t burn out. Fire is an element of both creation and destruction, and must be handled with the utmost respect. What fuels your Fire? What passions burn most deeply in your soul, your heart, your belly? What are you longing to create? Fire asks you to investigate the areas of your life that can use energetic change. Where are you stagnating? Where are you consuming yourself for the sake of others so there is little left for yourself? Remember, you don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep others warm! How can you both burn with passion and care for yourself so that you can bring light to the world without reducing yourself to ash?

CARD 3: WHALE

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Whale is here to invite you to dive deep. You may be engaging with forces deeper and bigger than yourself — what lessons can you learn? Whale reminds us that, much as the Whale herself has managed to survive extinction, we can navigate even the most dangerous waters. She also invites you to dive into the deepest parts of yourself — into your Shadow self, into your dreams, into your subconscious. What wisdom can you recover from past lives, from your past in this life, from the parts of yourself you keep hidden?

This post is mirrored at my PaganSquare blog, Third Wave Witch

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Full Moon Rising

The Gemini Full Moon is rising! She’ll be Full on Wednesday, beckoning to us to bid the old year good-bye, focus on our most deeply held goals and principles, and prepare both for the new calendar year and — more importantly — the next stage of our evolution.

What are you focusing on this Full Moon? What are you ready to let go? What are you ready to welcome, to manifest, to make so? What are you doing to make your dreams a reality?

I’m cooking up something special for you for the Full Moon….just doing a little research….so stay tuned.

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Photo by Dee Hill. HAMU by Vivienne Vermuth. Additional styling by Zenda LaBelle.

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Honest Conversations

Winter is, you may have noticed, the season of introspection for me. There’s something about the lengthening nights around Solstice that encourage me to go into the darker parts of myself and shine light into the neglected corners. This work isn’t exactly pleasurable, but there is a deep satisfaction to be gained from reviewing the year (or even longer) and figuring out what needs to go and what needs to stay as we move into the time of the growing light.

December is also one of the busiest times of the year for me, as an academic, and busy in the most stressful of ways — deadlines, grades, final projects, appeals for better grades, all of it. It was worse when I was a full-time adjunct, that most underpaid and exploited of contradictions. It’s less so now that I have a full time staffademic job, though I still get hit with the end-of-semester rush since my role is to work with students as they go through the final steps of the dissertation or thesis project. I’ve kept my hand in the adjunct game, partly because I have felt called to teaching and partly because the extra money has been helpful as I recover from a decade of adjunct wage slavery.

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Photo by Dee Hill. HAMU by Vivienne Vermuth. Styling by Zenda LaBelle.

But after this week, with various teaching related stress — far too much for what the job pays, honestly — I can feel that it is coming time to have a hard conversation with myself about whether this is something I can or should keep doing. I find myself resenting it more and enjoying it less. And I also know that my students aren’t getting the best of me, now that I am doing my online classwork around my full-time job. Online teaching has its benefits and advantages, but I also don’t know that this is the best modality for me. And in my heart, I also find myself drawn to a different kind of teaching, outside the halls of academe, where the folks who show up to be taught — or more accurately, who show up to learn, which is not the same thing as being taught— are there because they honestly care about the material, about their own growth, about challenging themselves, and not simply because they have to check a box on a degree plan.

I know this is going to be a difficult conversation to have with myself, and I am not altogether sure I will listen. I’ve had the conversation about leaving college teaching a dozen times over the last decade, and it wasn’t until a year ago, when things got literally life-threatening, that I was able to really listen to myself and make a move. But I know this is the time to decide, going forward, what I want my life to look like for the next stage, and if this work is going to be part of it. And I have to decide what adjuncting is blocking from coming into my life, because there is no space. What could I fill that space — spiritually, intellectually, temporally — with that would better feed my soul and the world?

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All I Want

One of my spirit sisters posted this brave blog about wanting more in 2017, and it got me to thinking about what it is I want going into the new year. I’m still not used to being able to think about what I want, just for the sake of wanting it — I spent a decade in the trenches of adjunct poverty, and many years before that in a marriage with a partner who always spent right up to (and often beyond) the last dollar in our banking account. My own wants were typically the last to get satisfied, and even my basic needs — groceries, gas for my car, electricity, rent — were often unmet or barely met. Thinking about wanting more was unthinkable, when even wanting enough seemed like a pipe dream

But over the last year, as I’ve settled into a type of financial stability, and the lower stress lifestyle that came (still to my amazement sometimes) with it, I’ve begun to think more about what I want. One of the funny things about being able to purchase whatever I might want or need at a given moment, whether it be organic vegetables, tickets to a show, pretty things to do burlesque in, or a Goddess for my altar — is that my yearning for material things has definitely waned. Don’t get me wrong, I still like pretty things, I still own more books than I can reasonably keep organized, and I never met a sale on pretty clothes I didn’t like. But when I turn to thinking about what I really want, like really really want — what comes immediately to mind is not material things or even things that money can purchase. And often if it’s something money can buy, it’s an experience rather than a thing. This to me shows me that I’m finally moving past poverty thinking and the somewhat paradoxical tendency to hoard it awakens in so many of us.

Photo by Dee Hill. HAMU by Vivienne Vermuth. Styling by Zenda LaBelle.

Photo by Dee Hill. HAMU by Vivienne Vermuth. Styling by Zenda LaBelle.

What is it that I want, going into 2017 and going forward?

I want time and space to write

I want more travel, to places both new and familiar

I want more space — less clutter, fewer unnecessary things, more space to breathe

I want to create more 

I want to teach more, and teach more different material, to new audiences and classes of students

I want more spiritual community

I want more, and I want less, and I want enough — and somehow none of that’s contradictory to me, at least not anymore.

 

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