Five Ways to Connect to the Ancestors (fellow white folks, especially for us).

At the beginning of every psychic reading, I was trained to invite in my ancestors and healing guides, as well as those of whomever I’m reading. The ancestors that show up for me are pretty consistent. Jesus and Mary Magdalen are always present. There’s a dragon-being who helps me clear with fire, and a boyish Peter Pan-like youth who keeps her company. Often, too, I have a large-bodied male ancestor who glows red and helps me ground and hold the perimeter of the reading.

Recently, as I finished a reading, one of my clients asked: who are the ancestors?

What a great question! And seasonally suitable, as we approach a time of year when many cultures and spiritual traditions speak of the "thin veil" that brings the ancestors a little more closely into felt presence.

The ancestors are everyone no longer or not currently taking up residence in a physical body. Spiritual traditions worldwide have varying ways of describing ancestors and understanding who and “where” they are. Ancestor remembrance was deeply important to those of my Christian heritage, particularly in the early church when many Christians were dying at the hand of the Roman Empire. The “communion of saints” and the vast “cloud of witnesses” kept martyrs and departed loved ones close at hand and participatory in the real-time paradise-present kin-dom.

In my Celtic druidic lineage, ancestors were remembered at Samhain, an observance this time time of year when the veil between worlds was known to be thinnest. Samhain was a celebration of the descent of the Goddess into the underworld, the pagan new year, and when the spirits of the other worlds came out to visit and play (and cause mischief!). This was later assimilated into the Christian calendar as All Hallow's Eve, All Saints and All Souls Day, a season when the saints and souls of the dead were remembered and honored.

In one of my more favorite pagan-flavored practices of my upbringing, we prayed to saints and loved ones who were passed like they were just in the next room over. “Where are the keys, St. Anthony??!!” or “Mother Boniface, please, we need to find a parking spot.”

These parts of ancestor awareness has a very light-hearted and playful feel for me. But as I journeyed deeper on my spiritual path and into my psychic work, I learned about and experienced the ancestors in an even deeper way. You may have read here of my encounter with Jesus, which occurred even before I began to learn about ancestors, but who I have come to consider to be my most consistent and tangible ancestral companion. The Ancestors are of a busy spiritual world that overlays and impacts our world. Some Ancestors are a part of our DNA lineage—our actual great-great-great-grand-whatever. But there are many ancestors that have “chosen in” to our spiritual lineage—these can be human beings who have passed, other earth beings, elementals (fairies, elves, etc), star beings, beings from other planets and dimensions, ascended masters like Jesus and the Buddha, deities like Quan Yin or Brigid. I am grateful to my teacher Nancy Rebecca of Intuitive Mind for the teachings she shared with me on this topic.

My current growing edge has been exploring ancestral practices at the intersection of anti-racist white identity formation. To be clear, though I think most of my readers know me in person, I am white, and this learning is not emerging comfortably. I owe all credit and deep gratitude to the work of Tada Hozumi and support and mentorship of Yvette Murrell for their guidance and wisdom on this topic, and I encourage you to check out their work.

What I am learning about is that, for many white people, we are generationally so far removed from a spiritually-whole ancestry and ancestral land that we have to reach way back to find healthy ancestors. I mean way back. That’s because imperialism, colonialism, and whiteness as a cultural norm has left its powerful descendants split from any ancestral identity that wasn’t based on domination--which does damage not only to the colonized but also to the colonizer. (This is not at all to make light of it, but for the nerds among you, it's not unlike the horcrux arrangement--one can have immeasurable power over others, but it costs the wholeness of ones soul).

Strangely, the surge of violent "heritage reclamation" and the deeply disconcerting chant of "Blood and Soil" amidst white-supremacist rhetoric--though not the kind of ancestor work I am talking about--actually does shine a light on something true. There is a truly deep psychological and cultural wound that motivates white supremacist rage and violence. The cause of the pain is severely mislabeled, but the wound is there nonetheless.

White supremacy, one could argue, is the most extreme reaction to the deep culture-wide psychological insecurity that results from the soul-split that whiteness has demanded, severing us from any sense of who we were before being colonizers and before "white" existed. Less obvious but also damaging reactions that have now become cultural behavioral agreements occur a thousand times a day in me. Consider "symptoms" such as addiction to perfection, a false sense of urgency, the feeling that "I'm the only one", politeness, conflict avoidance, and overvaluing the hyper-rational at the expense of body/feeling wisdom—I am only just beginning the exploration of how these are all alive and habituated in my own body in a particular way as a result of being conditioned into whiteness. And it makes me a part of the problem in so many more unseen ways than the obviously racist things I may do, say or think. I am immeasurably grateful to Heather Kawamoto for first introducing me to this premise as it relates to white organizational culture.

To be clear, this is not a justification for racist behavior or comparison of the pain it has caused. Colonialism and whiteness/racism/anti-black-and-brownness have done and continue to do immeasurable damage to indigenous people and persons of color worldwide, and the damage is not comparable. There is so much healing, restoration, and reparation to be done. Hozumi, though, suggests looking at whiteness itself as a "cultural complex trauma" caused by a painful separation from ancestry—that has occurred for white, black, brown and indigenous folks alike (though in very different ways and to very different affect). Most indigenous people of the world and persons of color live with the reality of this violent severance from ancestry as an all-too-real daily experience. White privilege, however, has ensured that white folks have had the power to numb from this pain of this severance, and act out our unmetabolized pain violently on black and brown folks. By un-numbing white folks from this pain, the hope is to get us back in touch with our own felt sense of what was lost—as well as awakening our own incentive and agency in what could be restored—for ourselves and our black and brown neighbors. If this framework intrigues you, check out their blog.

  Our ancestor alter at PLU’s Anti-Racism as Spiritual Practice workshop

Our ancestor alter at PLU’s Anti-Racism as Spiritual Practice workshop

This past weekend I gave a retreat at Pacific Lutheran University for white students about anti-racism as spiritual formation. One of the practices I lead folks in was a meditation on various layers and sources of support and nourishment: the earth, community, Spirit/God/dess/Cosmos, body--and ancestors.

Reflecting with at lunch time, one of the participants observed: "I was surprised, when you told us to imagine our ancestors, I just felt...nothing. I felt a complete blank. I mean, I know my grandparents, and I know I'm German. But in the meditation it didn't feel like anything I was connected to."

I invited her to consider that this is one of the consequences of whiteness on white people. Having bought into the white cultural agreement of individualism and "it's just me", many white people do not have a spiritual sense of having a relationship or being supported by the multitudes who have come before.

Why is this kind of awareness important for white folks? As I have observed my own capacity of engagement in anti-racist work over the years, what I have learned is that I do not stay engaged simply by the visible pain of others. I am not proud to admit that, but it's just what I have observed in myself. I may be moved during a time of heightened visible crisis, but my own capacity dwindles and self-interest returns to center. What draws me back into engagement has been when I get a sense that it is my own soul on the line, my own wholeness that is compromised by my numbness to a pain that is my own and the worlds. More and more I am learning about and coming to believe that it is not just apathy—but rather (or additionally) the thick numbing agent of whiteness that continues to keep white folks asleep to the cries of the rest of the world—and from recognizing these as the cries of our own heart's longing for wholeness.

  I mean people like me…

I mean people like me…

And I don’t mean “those white supremacists.” I mean “good,” progressive, caring, involved, “right”-voting, “right”-talking people like me. I have been wondering about and learning that by addressing whiteness in white people like myself as "cultural trauma", there is a possibility to engage and drawing white folks into anti-racist work in more sustainable way because we have a different understanding of our own stake in the fight. I feel the risk in “centering white folks/white pain” once again—but I invite the consideration to recognize for one’s self and invite others into the awareness that the wound lives in the bodies and souls of white folks just as much as it lives in the world (though the impact/experience of it is vastly different!), and that by tending to it in ourselves we actually free up the emotional energy of persons of color and become more useful to the healing work being done “out there”. I claim no expertise on this, just a learning edge that I wanted to share about because it feels very important.

If you are a politicized white person interested some deeper dives into this topic, I highly recommend checking out the upcoming offering by Tada Hozumi entitled Authentic Allyship Immersion: Connecting with radical white ancestors (starts Nov. 2, read more here.) I have been following Hozumi's work for the last year, and working more closely with them over the last several months and I can't speak highly enough about the work they are doing with white folks integrating embodiment and spiritual practice with anti-racism.

In the meanwhile, here are some simple starting points for connecting to your own ancestors.

  1. Acknowledge the land you are on. What indigenous territory do you live on? If you are white, consider just acknowledging the reality of being on unceded/occupied lands. I live on Puyallup tribal land, and go to school on the land of the Duwamish. Acknowledge the ancestors of the land, recognizing that your ancestor may have been colonizers, and you are guest.

  2. Build an alter. Start with whatever you have and already know about. If you weren’t adopted, and don’t have adopted parents, consider your primary four ancestral lines—the parents of both of your parents. Do you know their names? Do you have any photos? Do you have any heirlooms or tokens from them or their era? Set them on a small table or a windowsill or whatever space you have.

  3. Make an explicit invitation to the healthy ancestors. When I'm working with my own energy field, clearing a room, or setting intention for a reading, I am specific in saying: “I invite in those of my/so-and-so’s ancestors that are of good health and well enough to be of support in this healing.” Not just anyone is welcome. Not all ancestors are healthy and can contribute to your health (see above comments on white ancestors). Some are sick and have flocked to you because they can lean on you or take from you energetically. No harm is usually intended, but it can have the affect of feeling like you are swimming through tar just to get through a day, like your carrying more than your share of the world's burdens, or like you keep repeating a mental or physical pattern of which no amount of vitamins or positive thinking is breaking you out. Not frequently, but it does happen that there are some are of truly ill-will. So make it clear who's invited in and who's not. Often I imagine setting a perimeter around myself or the room--that can be all kinds of images, like a fence or walls or a ring of fire. Then I imagine a door with a little peep window, like a speak-easy--I speak the intention and then peek out to see who's there, and open the door just for those who are healthy and clear.

  4. Spend time with your alter and talk to them. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Start to designate a little time to just sit, ground, not think too hard and notice what you notice. Do you get any physical sensation? What objects or photos draw your attention? Do images or memories emerge? In your mind, just call out: Hello!? Who’s there? And listen for a response. It's ok if you feel like you're just pretending. Get quiet and imagine a door through which you are inviting your healthy ancestors. Does someone/something show up? Who? How? Why? What might they say if they were really right there? At the beginning, you’ll probably feel like you’re just making things up. It’s ok. Just go with it. If you have 15 minutes, you might try the Ancestral Tree meditation I have posted here.

  5. Join me on October 30th for Calling on the Ancestors: A Samhain Chant Circle if you're local and want to explore ancestral spiritual practice as a part of syncing with the quietude of fall or healing our racial/cultural fabric. This event is free, AND donations are not expected but gladly accepted. Please RSVP to me here.

(Please note: this is my ancestor practice BEFORE having done the immersion with Hozumi—so it is simple, not deeply/explicitly tied to anti-racism, and this may need revising! I’ll keep you posted.)

May this season’s change and the Ancestor’s call settle your anxieties, steady your strength, and stir your complacency~

With devotion,

Kate

Want more of anything? Feeling full of lack? Watch this.

A Beltane Greeting + The Five Principles of Abundance

Once you watch this, consider responding in the comments below to the following:

Which of these do I believe in?  Which of these do I experience?  Which of these do I struggle with?  What resonates?  What irritates?  What’s one way I might experiment implementing one of these principles into my daily life?  

 

Jesus Didn't Die for My Sins

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Today the moon has ripened into fullness.  It's the second day of Passover, and what my spiritual tradition of origin calls Holy Saturday.  I write to you from a small retreat center in Lacey where my faith community sets up camp from Wednesday of Holy Week until Easter Sunday for the ancient 72 rite of the Triduum.  Considered one continuous liturgy, I am learning that the early Christians gathered at this time in community to re-enact the rite of unity and belonging--baptism--and initiate new members into their circle, a subversive family of equals imagining and imperfectly living into a new non-violent non-hierarchical way of being that honored the One-ness and beauty of all things. 

One of my women-priest mentors, Kathleen, was sharing with us last night that the earliest Christian baptismal fonts were called "womb-tombs", adorned with images of uteri (that's right, lady parts), and the equidistant cross (seen above, a cross that shows up in spiritual traditions worldwide, symbolizing the four directions, universal balance of polarities, and the tensions of all human experience and struggle--NOT, contrary to contemporary imagery of this season, the cross of Jesus' execution).  This whole season and ritual was deeply embodied, feminine, sensual, and "fecund" as my other mentor, Diane, likes to describe it.

Not the kind of Easter story you know?  Not the cross of deliverance from sin?  I know.  It's a new story I too am learning, or re-learning as I swim back upstream to the spiritual birthplace of my ancestry.  I don't have all the pieces yet (so enter kindly with me into these new lands) but it's terribly intriguing and reviving to the part of me that has loved the ritual and mystery of Christian stories and mysticism but has been severely turned off and traumatized by the rigidity and dogma.  I've come to realize that Jesus didn't die for my sins (because I didn't need him to because I am good and so are you because God/dess breathed us into being and called us GOOD). 

But he did die, my ancestors' stories say. And yet somehow, in the wake of his death, the terrified community of his closest friends realized something about the Christ's ever-presence in the Unity of all things that freed them from paralyzing fear and breathed back into them life and hope and care for each other and their neighbor and the poor and the exile, even under the violently oppressive hand of Empire.  Easter-as-rememberance-and-baptism-into-Unity...that I can get behind, and it feels very alive for me as I've kept vigil these past two nights beside the Easter fire and under the ripening moon.  (To be clear, I'm also not just making this up as "feel good" revisionism.  This is actual original theology of Easter and the Cross.  Ask the Eastern Orthodox, or read Saving Paradise, my newest book on the summer break reading list).  Here, amidst moonlight and candlelight, I also happen to be on my bleed--and I can see and sense the Goddess as well as my ancestors as we move through something ancient speaking to something present and unfolding into a future that is still being born...

Re-experiencing Jesus as one of my ancestors has been profound, transformative and healing. (You can read more about here, if you didn't read my blog post from last summer).  The journey with Jesus at this Easter time is the hero's journey into the underworld and back again, the mother's watching and waiting while life stirs in her hidden darkness.  It plunges us into the depth of human struggle, the polarity of joy and grief, the deep grounding of roots that allows shoots to push out of the dirt, the paradoxical union of life and death.  Even if you're not a Jesus person (and I TOTALLY get it if you're not!) I invite you to come with me, in your own way, under this ripened moon into the deep--perhaps with one of these brief grounding meditations and few minutes of quiet contemplation with the following questions:

What is your spiritual ancestry?  What gifts has it given you?  What wounds or struggles?  When you get quiet and ask your Inner Wisdom what is the next step on your spiritual path, what do you hear, sense, see feel or know?  What tensions are you dwelling in?  What is there to go deeper into, face, properly feel, grieve, clear, or allow to die in order that you might see more clearly the goodness that is you and our wide wondrous world?

In Ripening and Renewal,

Kate

  A Triduum Trillium, one of the first wildflowers of spring!

A Triduum Trillium, one of the first wildflowers of spring!

Happy Spring! (BTW, I'm a psychic).

Yep.  You read that right.  This may not be a surprise to some of you, as I’ve been slipping new language into my posts and blogs other the past year.  I’ve shared about doing readings, getting messages, and practicing energy medicine.  And it does say it, explicitly here on my website.  But I have been shy to actually SAY it: that I’m a psychic.

I haven’t used THAT-WHICH-SHOULD-NOT-BE-NAMED because I imagine it conjures this image for people:

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(which would be justified.  I mean this is me three years ago)

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But “psychic” just means “of the soul”—though I know the word itself now carries so much more.  Go ahead and ask all your questions.  No, I’m not reading your mind right now (though some people can); no, I can’t prophesy on command (though some people do); and no, I am not communing with dark spirits—though they are real, and they do show up.  But the work that I’ve been trained in is, in fact, of the highest form of light work, aligned and congruent with the spiritual medicines of all the worlds religions—their mystical heart, if not their dogma.  And, along with therapy, yoga, trees, and best friends, it saved my life.  

You see, about a year and a half ago I thought I was losing my mind. 

It was the fourth month of a period of severe depression.  I was having panic attacks and insomnia and bouts of uncontrollable weeping.  Having cycled through depression many times before, my normal coping mechanisms were not working.  I was no longer holding it together, and I requested a 6 week leave of absence from work.  

In the weeks prior to actually taking leave, my cognition started to slip in ways I had never experienced before.  I would without warning be unable to understand the person speaking to me, as if I had never even learned the English language.  I was losing time and getting disoriented.  I couldn’t track on thought to the next, one conversation to the next.  My mind, which had always been my ivory tower of safety, my intellectual sanctuary that could over-ride and contain my for-so-long-inexplicably-complex emotional world, and engage successfully with the outer world, with much applause as an over-achieving well-spoken academic—it was failing.

There was a part of me that felt terrified at this discovery—and somehow, though, another part of me that everything was actually still ok.  I had another friend at that time who had been working through her own mental health challenges for many years, and one thing she discovered in her work was this: confusion is the gateway to clarity.  Breakdown is your psyche knowing that it’s finally safe enough to let go and let what needs to come to light surface. It wasn’t fun by any means—but some part of me knew that this was progress and something was about to happen.

I went on leave.  I let myself fall apart into a web of friends and healers and healing practices that I knew could hold me.  Within the first week I attended a group reading with Nancy Rebecca of Intuitive Mind.  Things showed up in that reading that broke me completely open to a felt sense of the palpable presence of the Spirit world, dwelling among us just beyond the veil.  I started to hear voices—or rather, voices that were familiar, that I had always heard, became more clear and persistent—as if to say, no really: this is your Soul speaking.  LISTEN.  We are here.  And you cannot afford to sideline us anymore.  Jesus showed up, and Mary Magdalen, Mother Mary and Kuan Yin and literally the Heavenly Hosts.  I could feel them right there, these presences and beings of pure pure pure love. 

I knew, without a doubt, we have never been alone.

The world around me began to appear as particles of light and magic.  When I had a question, I would just ask—and get instructions that felt crystal clear and specific about each next step.  Clear more space.  Ask so and so for this.  Let go of that thing.  Eat.  Rest.  Call this person.  I would listen, and respond—and if I didn’t, the channel of communication would close until I followed through.

I’m imagining, now, what you might be thinking.  Um, ok—so you heard voices.  And you listened to those voices.  And we have a diagnosis for that.  And a medication.  Yes.  I am aware of how this sounds.  Go with me, though, to that very thin line between mania and genius.  Consider the possibility that we of the industrialized and rational West have pathologized the gifts of the Spirit nearly to extinction (beyond the scope of this particular blog, but see the movie CrazyWise for more on that topic!).  

At any rate, I get it if this sounds totally wacky to you.  Believe me, I was not seeking it out!  I could tell I was buzzing, but unsettled and uncertain with what to do with what I was experiencing.  I had the hunch that, in older times and other cultures, this was when a person would go to the council of elders and say: something’s happening that I can’t explain!  Help!  Send me on a quest or something!  I didn’t have that.  So I joined the Intuitive Mind Psychic Mastery class of 2017 (it was that or join a convent.  What'd I have to lose?).

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Then last year happened, which was a TOTAL trip, and perhaps a story for another day.  It was hard, and brought up every kind of My Stuff.  Learning the psychic tools was not a magical pill of the perfect life, but it gave me a container within which to simmer and cook in the heat of practice and all that life was handing me. The thought of actually “becoming a professional psychic!” like the tagline of the program advertised was utterly laughable to me, and not at all what I was there for.  I just needed to not go crazy and not lose my shit.  Like this ----->>>

Things shifted in the course of a year.  I graduated from my program in December, and launched my business as a Psychic, Priest/ess, and Sacred Activist earlier this year.  I’ve done over 100 readings and healings.  I have a rigorous daily practice of energetic hygiene.  I do group readings at the New Moon, and see clients 1-on-1.  I do land healings and chat with ancestors.  I just recently got guidance to chant during readings, which feels scary.  This past week I read for a pre-teen boy, which felt even more scary.  I’m still running women’s circles and retreats and patching things together.  Yeah—it’s a good kinda weird.

Maybe you’re wondering: ok, you read energy, or whatever, but what does that even mean?

Here’s the thing: everyone has psychic gifts. 

That is, everyone has ways of knowing more that what the logical mind can know.  To go further, everyone has a direct access point to the entire cosmos, and consequently the knowledge of the entire cosmos.  This is a shared principle of many of the mystical traditions of the world’s religions: as above, so below; the macrocosm dwelling in the microcosm; the Kingdom of Heaven lies within; baby Krishna opening his mouth and his mother seeing whole galaxies swirling inside.

BUT.  Most of us are conditioned out of trusting and utilizing our ways of knowing.  Or just take for granted that, oh, that’s just a thing I do, get songs stuck in my head or am exhausted after a night of dreaming or see vivid images when I pray, and it’s no big deal and that must happen for everyone and it doesn’t mean anything.  Well, yes, it does mean something, and no, it doesn’t happen for everyone—at least not in the same way.  Everyone’s psychic gifts are different.  Some people see energy and spirits with their eyes open; some hear, or get an image in their mind, or a feeling or a knowingness.  Some even are psychic through their sense of smell!  It’s more than just intuition—it’s precise and methodological.  It’s one’s Soul, connected to the Oneness of Spirit, speaking what it needs you to know in this body and this lifetime.  

As a psychic reader, I just tune in and listen.  As a healer, I move energy to clear what is blocked or outdated.  The method is a series of ancient meditation techniques that anyone can learn.  In some ways there is more to it, but it actually is basically that simple.  

I do still hear those voices, and I know them by name and feel now.  I visit people in the dream world and get messages from my ancestors all the time.  My cognition is back to being quite good (enough, I hope, to be in grad school and run my own business!)  And don’t get me wrong, everyday's not a picnic.  I get crabby and foggy and triggered and furious and make mistakes and overdraft and still haven’t quite figured out why my left hip won’t release.  I'm still me and I got my work to do, just like everyone.  But I don’t suffer like I used to, and in fact, I think I have more to give than ever before.  Which is a relief for someone who’s lived a life in the sinkhole of depression, within which it feels like you are sucking all the light out of the world.  I am putting light into the world—I know now I was doing that all along, but now I know and can feel it enough of the time for me to believe that it’s true.  Which is a great relief indeed.

So there it is. I just needed to say it because we queer folks can’t just come out once.  Call it a Spring Awakening, an Equinox gift to my self.  I’m a psychic!  Just by the way.

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A Simple Irish Spring Ritual for Families

In the traditions of my Celtic ancestors, tomorrow was considered the first day of spring: St. Brigid’s Day, or Imbolc.  A feast of hearth and home, this was also the day when the Goddess Brigid* began bringing the world out of the womb of winter’s dark and into the awakening of the seasons of light, sparking the new growth of tree buds and sprouting plants.  Winters in the north Atlantic can be dreary (I happened to have lived in Ireland during the the rainiest it had seen in 60 years!  It was dreary indeed) so it seems reasonable that spring would be so anticipated.  This year, Imbolc follows a fabulous full moon, calling for prayers of gratitude and relishing in what is lush and already present in abundance.  I’ll be spending the day in the quietude of woods, and the evening with community in a healing sound bath and meditation practice.

It has taken several years to start building these holy days into my life’s rhythms, against the grain of mainstream culture--and I am a single person, with a pretty flexible kind of schedule!  I am aware of my privilege in this regard, and also of the gift given from being raised in a family that was steeped in heritage and holy days.  Consequently, as I’ve grown in my own spiritual path, I have had a heart for the nurturing of the spiritual life of families. 

Though we’ve been on hiatus the last 6 months or so, I had been leading monthly spirit circles for families called Circle Round.  In lieu of us gathering together in person, I wanted to share a simple outline to observe the shift of this season with your family.  This simple ceremony could take just 15-30 minutes, with alter construction time.  Don’t stress if you can’t do it on February 1st!  Give yourself permission to do it any time this month.

1.  Create an Imbolc Altar. 

This might include:

  • A large bowl in the center for the water offering
  • A candle or a ring of candles around the bowl, for fire.
  • A bulb or dish of seeds
  • Tokens representing your dreams for the coming year
  • Photos of loved ones or places in the world in need of healing
  • Shells or Images/figurines of water creatures like dolphins or fish
  • Have a jar of water, either that you’ve collected from local sources like streams or rainwater—or just use tap-water.  

2.  Share with your Little Ones:

  • The Irish called this Spring’s Beginning
  • When you put a seed in the ground, what does it need to grow? Rain and Sun!  Water and Fire!
  • Brigit is the Goddess/Patroness of Sacred Fire and Healing Water
  • In honor of the Sacred Fire of the Goddess, Imbolc is a celebration of creativity
  • In honor of the Sacred Water of the Goddess, Imbolc is a celebration of healing

3.  Ask your Little Ones:

  • What else do we need fire for? (Warmth, making food, etc)
  • What do you like to build/make/create? (Songs, legos, drawings, etc)
  • What do we need water for?  (Drinking, bathing, playing!)
  • Is there anyone you know that is sick we can keep in mind today?

4.  Fire Blessing: If age appropriate, take turns lighting a candle and sharing something, or about something, you have recently created.  Kids might each find a poem to recite, sing a song, or show a painting they have recently made.  Or they can simply answer the question: How are you being creative right now?

Then say the following prayer: I (say your name) light the fire of the Goddess Brigit.  May she clear away the need for things to look perfect!  And ignite within me the joy of creativity.

5.  Water Blessing: Take turns pouring water into the center bowl, saying the following prayer:

I, (say your name), bring water to the Blessing Well.  May St Brigid bless the waters of the world, for the healing of all of creation!  I especially pray to bring healing to (name anyone who is sick or any water animal/species, or place in the world you want to send healing)

When each family member is complete, you can:

  • go around the circle again and each collect the blended water in their own containers, while singing Healing Water Sacred Flame.  Children can have these as their own blessing water.
  • OR one member sprinkles water from the bowl on the family with a branch while all sing the song in response

Imbolc Chant to St Brigit
Healing Water
Sacred Flame
Brigit come and heal us
Healing Water
Sacred Flame
Bring the hope of Spring

Listen to the chant here:

May the dawning spring bring lightness, laughter, and new life to you and your little ones~
Blessed be!
Kate

PS: I'm thinking of bringing back Circle Round!  Are you a local Tacoma family?  Is this something you would like to see offered again?  Please let me know in the comments below, or send me an e-mail!

*Note: Wait.  Brigit?  Or Brigid?  Goddess or Saint?  I know I am inconsistent with how I use these terms and spellings.  To me they are of the same essence, a weave of the ancient traditions with later Christian influences.  There is lots of fascinating scholarly work out there about this!  Please explore and let me know what you find!

Source: Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions by Starhawk.

 

Grieving Room

Anniversaries are powerful times and I’ve been reflecting a lot these past two months about where I was a year ago.  Some of you will know that last year at this time I was on a mental health sabbatical, having spent the fall and early winter experiencing a particularly acute cycle of depression.  As I could no longer contain or keep secret what I was experiencing, I was astounded by the grace and support that arose to usher me into a period of deep rest and, I know now even more so, transformation.  I could not have imagined what I was being prepared for at that time.

As I reflect on it now, I breath a deep sigh of relief to not be in that cycle of darkness (even as I practice recognizing the Goddess in the Darkness); and I also feel incredible gratitude for the tools I developed as a result that I can now continue to use and share with others going through all the ups and downs of life in a body.  Also, as a result, I completely trust all of us are doing our absolute best, and am ever more motivated to do what I can for others on their healing path.

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In addition to my own introspection, I know winters can be long, cold and gray here in the Pacific Northwest, and so it feels relevant to share again what I wrote last winter as I began my sabbatical.  My prayer is that for those of you for whom holidays aren’t “the most wonderful time of the year” or who struggle to get up and out of bed on any given day (much more so, perhaps, when the New Year’s Resolution pressure is on) might find a little space to just hold yourself with grace and kindness. 

I am seeing that, for me, depression shows up to cushion the places where I’m still just raw and wounded—pointing me towards the places I’m being called to heal.  I can feel, just beneath the depression, some really big mads and sads that I’m thankful to now have the space to feel, process, and integrate.  This awareness, I’m finding, is allowing me to orient towards my depression in a much kinder, almost (almost!) grateful way.  I can, at times, appreciate the genius of survival that is there in my own psyche’s capacity to dampen the intensity of traumatic events—those in my own person and history and ancestry, and in what I believe is sweeping through our collective consciousness.

Healing, for me, requires not hiding that this is my struggle.  I’m not excited about it, but I’m not afraid for it to be known and named and seen because it is simply what is so.  And this not hiding is making a difference already.  In the past when I was in a place like this, I’d be so averse to the company of others—not so much because I didn’t want to be around people, but because I felt like a black hole of emptiness that sucked the life out of everyone else.  I cannot express to you what a blessing it is to be able to just name the black hole, and then carry on.  I can already feel the texture of the depression shifting because I am not having to pretend it isn’t there.  As it shifts, I feel my Self, just there still, deep at the center, a little distant, a little fragile, but intact.

When I got down into it, I found a deep well of unattended grief that just wasn’t content to stagnate any longer.  I went through an intensive self-designed retreat with the creative containment of our community's incredible healers and my dear friends.  It was a powerful and humbling period of practicing receiving, the combined affect being a soul-retrieval of sorts—a recovery of fragments of myself that had grown loud and restless in my negligence of them.

During this time, I started to hear a quiet but clear inner voice that was familiar but more insistent than it has ever been.  I followed that voice and it took me through joys and challenges of this past year that I truly could not have imagined (and some, at my conscious level, that I would not have wished for!)  

I created the Journeying with Grief series out of what I wish I had had before/during this time, and the things I have learned and that have helped over the years.  It’s not something I’m an expert in, by any means, but through which I hope to hold a nourishing space for us to walk and heal together.  Now in its fourth cycle, the next 5-week series will start February 13th at Source Yoga—more info available here.  I don't see this offering as a "fix-all" or magic bullet--just like that 6-week sabbatical was just one period of time over a life-long healing journey.  However, my prayer is that it can be a place to have some "grieving room"--to be with however your grief is showing up for you, and not be so alone.

Blessed be,
Kate

You Made It! And other New Year Non-Resolutions

Each of you is perfect the way you are ... and you can use a little improvement. ― Shunryu Suzuki
 
Your problem is you're afraid to acknowledge your own beauty. You're too busy holding on to your own unworthiness. You'd rather be a schnook sitting before some great man. That fits in more with who you think you are. Well, enough already. I sit before you and I look and I see your beauty, even if you don't.  ― Ram Dass
 
Go you!  You did it.  You made it to another New Year!
 
Winter is a time of taking stock.  At least in the northern hemisphere, the natural world isn’t worried about productivity.  It’s focusing in, conserving, digging deep into the nutrients stored up from previous seasons.  We just have turned the corner of winter's heart, and though we are now in the gradual swing back towards the light, it is still a dark and quiet time, with a view both back at the year we leave behind, and forward to the coming days.  

  Puzzling and crafting my year review on New Year's Eve

Puzzling and crafting my year review on New Year's Eve

The New Year tradition of my friend circle is something we call the Year In Review.  We sketch back the previous year, sometimes through story-telling over New Year’s Eve dinner, sometimes through day-long creative vision boarding and crafting, weaving a tapestry that answers this question: What are you proud of from this past year?

It can be surprising the kind of victories, large but more often then not quite small, that make up a list like this.  Big things I am really proud this year include fulfilling my dream of creating a Summer Solstice retreat (2018 dates coming soon!) and taking really good care of my body as I returned to graduate school.   Little things (or more subtle things) include being able to express and process my anger directly in such a way that was truthful but didn’t shame or shut the recipient down and kept our connection; and simplifying my holiday gift-giving to be meaningful and easy.  Even your failures or things you left incomplete can be reviewed with honesty and kindness.  I had plenty of those to include in my review!  This kind of review helps to have the loving eyes and memories of good friends.  Just think: you got enough right that you made it here!

While the culture at large is telling you in oh-so-many ways to get your booty moving to lose those holiday pounds, to get organized, sell more whatever, move up, move out, move on—consider beginning this year with a pat on the back for all that you’ve already done to get here and and a deep bow inward to that which is is already always present, to the great and inextinguishable inner fire of your heart, and the sweet home of your body in which it resides.  
 
Try this: sit a moment, listen to your breath, and notice what it's truly like to be alive in your body.  What words come to describe that experience?  Imagine what it would feel like in your body if, contrary to the messages of almost everything else out there, there was actually nothing wrong with you; nothing that needed to be fixed; nothing out of place or the wrong shape, color, size or circumstance.  And if that were actually true, what kind of New Year dedication of action would you make?  What would your thoughts, words and actions be like?  To what service could you offer your actions?  What, from that foundation of already-whole, is waiting to just naturally flow from you?

  New Year's Day alter on the top of Mt Rose, near Hoodsport Washington!  I got my mantra for 2018: I Am Here.

New Year's Day alter on the top of Mt Rose, near Hoodsport Washington!  I got my mantra for 2018: I Am Here.

Flow is a water quality, governed by the moon and the Goddess.  That's why what feels ripe for me as I enter 2018 is a deeper alignment with moon magic in my work and self-care.  As I tuned in to New Year's Day super moon, she brought me my phrase for 2018: I am Here.  This felt like an up-level from last year's I am ready.  Phew!  I'm super glad for that because 2017 was challenging!  I have taken this new message as one of truly embracing who I already am, what I already have, and where my life is already full, ripe, and rich. 

If Moon wisdom intrigues you, you can learn more about living in lunar alignment here.  You can also put the dates for the Winter/Spring 2018 New Moon Dream Circles on your calendar, and if you are female-identified and want to dive deep into feminine-divine spiritual community, Moon Circle 2018 begins January 25th. 

Finally, consider using this template to write your own Year In Review, and to call forth what is waiting to naturally flow from you in 2018.  I added a couple other categories that felt helpful for me, but feel free to adapt to your needs.  Then consider releasing it ceremonially in a fire (this is what I did!) or keep it to stay inspired and check back in over the next year.  And please share in the comments!  I’d love to hear what you are proud of, what you are building on and towards as you step into the new year.

May winter’s quiet and the new year renew your body and heart, bless your thoughts and work, and enliven you with serenity and courage!

5 Rituals for Autumn Equinox

Fall is my favorite season.  That might be because it’s my birthday season (November 30th, in case you want to put it on your calendar, and shout out to all the other Sagitariuses), but I think there’s also a quality to this time of year that is sweet and melancholic and feels like coming home.  Of course there are the known rhythms of the school year picking up again, and some semblance of routine re-establishing after the summer’s flurry.  It is easy to forget, though, that we are part of Mother Nature, and something speaks deep into the cells of the body at this time of year that (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least) says: settle down.  Feel the Earth.  Come home.  Center.  

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the weeks leading up to the Equinox are considered the “Fifth Season”, a transitionary season that marks the pivot point from the upsurge of summer’s fire of productivity and growth, towards the swoop downward and inward of autumn and winter.  If we aren’t attentive, the revving wheels of summer can keep spinning and lead to fatigue of the body and an over-active mind.  One remedy for this is slowing down, gathering in resources (materially and energetically) and resting in the abundance already present in the season.  Mother Nature naturally directs us towards this, as harvests are peaking and being gathered in.  Nothing says abundance to me like a patch of tomatoes, that, having been tended carefully for the last many months, now spill forth their ripe riches.  

I practice and teach from the understanding that I am part of a planetary ecosystem, and because of that, I know that at a cellular level I am sensitive to the shifts of the season.  As I have learned to get quiet over the years and pay attention to the cues from Mother Earth and the way her rhythms are mirrored in my body, I notice how I function when I’m in sync with those rhythms—and I notice the disfunction when I’m not!  For example, I’ve noticed just this week (as I write this at the very beginning of September) that a couple of nights in a row I stayed up just a little too late watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (#confession #cantgetenough #dontjudge).  It truly was only about 20 minutes later than I would normally shut down electronics, but it was enough that what would have been my wind down time was left me completely wound up.  Those nights I laid in bed for 45 minutes, staring at my eyelids and mentally running the steeplechase and definitely not going to sleep.  I finally gave into it, got up, got a snack, and had several hours of creative time.  

This is hardly an ideal way to function, if done with frequency, and my Ayurvedic teachers I know are tsking me for being awake during those most crucial hours of interior digestion (the hours of 10pm to 2am are the pm pitta hours where fire element rules to do the deep physical and subconscious metabolizing, so if you’re going to sleep at all, those are the crucial hours).   But I’ve experimented with my own sleep patterns over the years, and found that it’s kinder to myself not to fight the Night Wakefulness (ie insomnia) when it comes, and embrace the creative flow that is usually signifies.  This also is a symptom of the season: what has been brewing and being cultivated for months now comes to bear fruit, and we get to joyfully pluck it from the vine in creative fruition.

I now also know that at other times of the year, this change in my evening routine wouldn’t have affected me quite so much, but it was a sharp reminder to me of the care needed during the season’s transition times when sensitivities are just a little more heightened.  It also reminded me to set aside clear and contained creative channels during the day, so I’m not spinning my mental wheels at night.  This time of year is almost like its own beginning of the next year—think of laying down compost and planting the fall bulbs and over-wintering starts.  It’s a time of reveling in the fullness of what is present, and also of the slow, deep churning of the soil to prepare what is to come.  

So how can you make the most of this season?  How can you sync up to Mother Nature to transition with ease into the cooler quieter months?  How can you orient to arrive to the Equinox (this year on Sept. 22nd) balanced, abundant, and centered?  Recognizing and making holy a day in this season can help alert your senses, your physical body, and your spirit that things are shifting, and so can soften the edge of sensitivity and streamline you to the flow of the energetic changes occurring.  

Some of these you will recognize from the list for Spring Equinox, but that’s because they are sister seasons and some of the same practices apply.  

1.  Create an Alter of Abundance.  What is present, ripe, and ready to harvest?  Turn any surface in your home or workplace (or car!) into a simple Equinox Alter by collecting any of the following things:

  • Any colorful fruit or vegetables, especially sweet if you grew or harvested them yourself, or obtained them from a farmer you know (like my friend Holly, here in Puyallup).  

  • Fallen leaves, seed pods, late-blooming flowers (picked with Mother Earth’s permission!)

  • A dish of soil, dish of water, and a candle, for blessings of the Elements

2.  Give thanks.  You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to have a harvest celebration (and you might consider forgoing that holiday altogether in solidarity with our nation’s indigenous folks.  For more reading on the real, deeply troubling, history of Thanksgiving, stay tuned for November's blog or google it).  But gratitude, sure, I can get behind that—though, to be honest, I have had a slight distaste for “gratitude practice” for a long time.   I’ve often felt like it was inauthentic, saccharine, and an easy way to be in denial about what’s actually going on.  So don’t do gratitude as a replacement for the messier inner housekeeping and deep self-examination of what’s not working.  Even still, I have come to appreciate giving thanks for everything I have as a powerfully grounding practice and a way of “harvesting” my outer and inner resources.  Just this summer I found myself in a really intense period of transition in which I felt terribly ungrounded and challenged to make even the simplest choices.  I finally got out a big pieces of paper and just started drawing and writing and what emerged was an image of a giant tree.  At the roots I wrote long lists of everything I already have: all my teachers and guides, supporting members of my community and family, my gifts and developed skills, all my experiences from which I’ve learned and grown (even the ones I was resenting and feeling hurt by at that moment), and also my material abundance, such as a warm home and running water.  At the trunk of the tree, I wrote words about myself, and taped notes of affirming feedback I’ve received from others.  What chose to come out at the branches of the tree was not “Next steps” or “Pros/Cons of this/that choice” like I had expected.  Rather it was: Who I am Becoming.  After this exercise, I didn’t necessarily have the “answers” i needed, but my energy had completely shifted and settled.  

3.  Do a Commitments Fast.  This is a hard one.  It’s really a practice in slowing down, making space for appreciating what’s already present, and metabolizing the shift of the season.  I started this practice a couple of years ago when I adopted the practice of seasonal cleansing (an Ayurvedic practice for spring and fall).  The cleanse isn’t intended to just be physical.  It’s about slowing and decluttering your space and time too.  I’ll say again, I know this is a hard one, even for me, and I don't even have kids, so what do I know.  Any time of year and any season of life--it’s hard.  But for me, it’s a super important reset to my nervous system and psyche that I’ve come to rely on and even look forward to, especially at this time of year when I am a little more sensitive.  I pick any amount of time, from 3 days to a week and just don’t schedule anything outside of what is absolutely necessary.  Go to work of course, do what you do for your kiddos, pay your bills, etc, but otherwise, pretend you just won’t be in town those days.  No extra appointments, social engagements, non-essential work items.  You can even put an Away message on your e-mail.  Be in empty time.  This is allows you to sink into that liminal, or “threshold”, space at the season’s crossover (read more about that from the Spring Equinox post).

4.  On Equinox, practice balance, abundance, and good stewardship. Pay attention to the balance of light and darkness.  Notice when the sun rises and sets (in Tacoma, where I live, it’ll rise at 6:57 and set at 7:06).  Practice balancing breath and movements, like alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodana), and poses that are grounding and bring awareness to the left and right sides of the body.  Standing balance poses like tree pose, and centering poses like bound cobblers pose are really good for the Equinox.  Now I know I also just said do a commitments fast, but this is also an important time to asses how you are stewarding the resources that have been entrusted to you and to as as a human family.  One outcome of your commitments fast might be some real clarity on the actions that you do want to take and feel in alignment with who you are and what you value.  In this case, consider some kind of civic action, community service, or justice work to restore balance in your neighborhood or community, in an expression of commitment to and right stewardship of Earth as our home and all her beings as our family.  Right now in Washington State, we are working to collect signatures to get I-940 on the ballot, which is an initiative backed by persons of color who have been affected by police violence.  The measure would require police officers to have training in de-escalation, first aid, and mental health, among other things (find out more and see how you can support here.)  This has been one way I have been working to restore balance in my own community.

5.  Observe and collect relics from the natural world for use in rituals later on.  This is a repeat from Spring also, but it’s still good!  Anything collected on this day will hold the energy of equinox: light and darkness balanced, and the poised energy of fall that is full and ripe, gathering in and nourishing deep.  Observing and gathering objects from nature (again, with their permission of course) creates small concentrated forms of that energy that can be used like spiritual vitamins at other times of the year.  This fall I’m planning to collect items to create outdoor mandalas with relics from nature to beautify the landscape of my dear friend’s outdoor school.  I’ll post photos of our finished nature art!

It's not too late to get in on my next earth-wisdom offers!  Friday (Equinox!) is the last day to register for The Moon Circle Immersion (a 9-week anchoring touchstone of ritual, sisterhood connection, intuitive listening, feminine divine wisdom, spiritual reflection, and mutual support starting October 5th).  Registration is also open for the winter solstice Earth's Holy Days retreat: Nourish, Dec. 15-17th at Wellspring Spa.  

By the bounty of our blessed Earth, may this Equinox season ground you, nourish you, center you, sustain you, balance you, and bring you deep and lasting peace.

Why I Live by the Moon (and 3 ways you can too)

The morning of the Solar Eclipse last month, I taught an outdoor yoga and meditation class.  The women (it just so happened to be all women) gathered, and just before we started, I took a quick trip to the restroom to do my thing, and also to make sure I knew where they were and were in working order.  In addition to finding the public park bathrooms open and in reasonable shape, I discovered I had started my bleed.

I know, this is a bit of a personal share, and I’ll be honest that it makes me a bit nervous.  Where certain aspects of female bodies have been idealized and sexualized over the millennia, the fact that most female bodies bleed for a significant portion of our lives has been shrouded in shame and taboo.  Most of us have been conditioned to at best tolerate, at worst loath (and self-loath) this fact.*

If this had happened 4 or 5 years ago, I would have been irritated and inconvenienced that this was happening today of all days, just before starting a class, just a day before leaving for a 5 day camping trip.  I was relieved to observe, though, that I felt relief and also joy and pleasure and this deep sense of satisfaction at the discovery that I was in my cycle of release and renewal on this epic day of celestial convergence.  It was a relief to find myself at least a little bit more free of the culture of shame that, I believe, has eroded one of the female body’s greatest super powers: the power of Lunar cycling.  

Now, to be clear, I don’t always bleed on the New Moon.  But the fact that I did this time around did not strike me as just a happy cosmic coincidence.  I have been tracking the phases of the moon and my Moon for about 3 1/2 years now, and when they align, I know it is because of a careful tending of that relationship to both celestial bodies (mine and Mother Moon’s) and that the Goddess suggesting I have a LOT of letting go to do, which is why she's matching me with Luna's pull. 

I know, I know: this is going to sound like a whole lotta woo.  But it seriously has been one of the most valuable rhythms I’ve established over the last three years that has brought sanity and sanctity to an aspect of my embodiment that had previously been embarrassing, tortuous and dreaded.  It has also gotten me in a sweet rhythm of pausing to reflect every several weeks, to just big-picture check in with how I’m doing.  What are my dreams?  What have I been working on that is flourishing?  What needs a little more focus?  Or maybe needs to be discarded for the time being to tend to at another time?  

Because we are part of a planetary and cosmic ecosystem, I believe that these patterns of self-reflection with the cycles of the natural world are a critical practice for aligning with the Earth’s wisdom.  And this isn’t a thing of small consequence.  A friend reflected to me just this week that, even as our labors of justice work seem to be drops in the bucket against the “evils” of the world, one thing that brings her a semblance of peace is remembering that the Earth, the Cosmos, Creation, at least, is resilient.  The Earth knows how to renew and renew again, and I believe—or I trust?  I hope?  I have faith?  I choose to orient to the possibility, because it brings me peace?—that the the Earth will make it through whatever we throw at her.  Whether or not we do…well, perhaps that’s up to us--how we care for ourselves and each other.  One way I think we can improve our odds is to sync up and catch the waves of her (and the neighborhood celestial bodies’) wisdom, and to nurture caring, contemplative, spiritually-resourced and socially awake communities around these rhythms (more on this to come).

Ok.  Say I buy all this, at least a little bit.  How, then do I match up with the Moon?  First, just notice that she’s up there.  Start looking for the moon everyday and say hello.  Watch her phases.  Pay attention.  I want to own, too, that I share from the lived experience of a cis-gendered able-bodied fertile female.  I try to write from my own lived experience and yours may be different.  Here are a few additional things to know about the Moon and simple practice starting points that I hope are appropriate for persons with varying kinds of body.

1.  Moon Energy pulls on the Water Element.  Water element relates to fluidity and flow.  Particularly relevant, especially if you are cycling with the Moon, or living in community with anyone who is, is that it (the water element) governs emotions.  So yeah, you actually might feel a little more wacky around the Full Moon or your Moon time.  That is real!  Kiddos are especially sensitive to this.  But rather than acting upon all the emotions that surface at this time, (or re-acting to those surfacing in those around you) consider treating like a surge of water washing through to clear out the old stuff.  This is power!  This is healing!  This is a massive clearing of old energy!  You’re going to feel it as it comes through, and you might want to try to have that really sensitive conversation right now with your partner or colleague, but it’s actually not a good time.  Just give it a few days.  The water will settle.

2.  New Moons are a chance for tying up loose ends, releasing, and clearing space to plant new seeds of intention.  There is an energy of emptying and beginning again that comes with each new moon.   Spring planting used to be done on the first new moon after frost, touching into this clean slate energy.  I think this is also partially why I felt such relief to start bleeding on the morning of the Eclipse.  I had been feeling all sorts of scattered and weird, knew my bleed was around the corner, but thought I had a few more days before it would come.  When I started bleeding earlier than expected, it prompted me to say no to a handful of things, to make the choice that a few things I’d been working on were “good enough” to be done, to build in some down time, and to just refocus my attention on scheming, dreaming, and planting my intentions for the coming cycle.  I have some of my best visions, most creative ideas and affirming downloads during New Moons.  I like to draw simple pictures or mandalas that capture the images and words that Spirit plants in my awareness at this time.

  Two years ago, the New Moon happen to fall on my birthday!  Quite auspicious!

Two years ago, the New Moon happen to fall on my birthday!  Quite auspicious!

3.  Full Moon’s are a moment for celebration and recognition for what is present and for plucking from the vine the abundant fruits of our labors.  It’s no mystery that the Full Moon brings out magic.  Myths and stories worldwide describe the beautiful and mystical creatures and circumstances that reveal themselves under the Full Moon.  Full Moon’s are a time of relaxing from the labors of cultivation and reveling in the fruits of our work.  It’s at this time that I ask: what do I already have?  What can I take pleasure in?  What is available to me right now just by the simple stretching out of my hand to pick it from the tree?  It’s a good time to say thank you to everyone and everything that supports and sustains you, a time to soak deeply in what is nourishing and rich.  It’s also a time to assess how your New Moon seeds are doing, calibrate and narrow in on what seeds took root, and forgive yourself and others while releasing any efforts that aren’t catching hold this time round (you can always plant them again another cycle!  It just might not be their time)  The last several years of Full Moon Revivals (a monthly women’s circle I used to host) involved a chanting and meditation practice to the Goddess Lakshmi, yogic Goddess of Abundance.  Little luxuries call in the presence of the Goddess, as simple as taking a bath with rose petals, or doing some self-massage.

Still curious?  Want more?  

If you are a woman-identified person and want more Moon Magic bringing sanity and sanctity into your life, check out Moon Circle, a 9 week in-person gathering of Spirit, Sisterhood, and Celestial Syncing (starts Oct. 5th, the next Full Moon, but early-bird pricing ends TODAY!  Register here.)

For all folks across the gender spectrum, plan ahead for the fall series of New Moon Group Reading and Dream Circles (next one is Tuesday, Sept. 19th—register here.)

Stay tuned for some additional (free!) resources for starting your own love affair with La Luna.  In the meanwhile, look up and drop in.  The Goddess is near.

    *A note about bleeding: I acknowledge that I write from a normative and privileged assumption of able-bodied cis-gender femaleness.  I think there is some deeper work that I and my peers in this field can/should do addressing how "women-only" spaces re-enforces a binary and biology-based gender paradigm, and the trouble in what can be the exclusionary celebration of the physical features and experiences of the female body as what “makes me a woman”. I have not done this work yet. I ask your pardon and welcome feedback from folks with other embodied experiences—transwomen, women without uteri, or women for whom for whatever reason can’t or don’t rally around bleeding as a symbol of their womanhood. 

    A bow of gratitude to my teachers and sources on this subject:

    • Emma Juniper Clare of juniperclare.com
    • Rachel Alcyone
    • Moonology, by Yasmin Boland of moonology.com
    • Awakening Shakti, by Sally Kempton
    • Saida Desilets of saidadesilets.com

    The Gift

    Here’s the thing: If I had been born to a Swedish baker
    I might know the art of weaving a braid of bread.
    Had I been born to a Hawaiian mechanic
    I might be skilled at fixing engines and sliding through tunnels of water.
    Instead
    I was born to an Italian man and an Irish woman—two people of the church—
    And so my great gift is speaking to God.

    Not very practical, one might say.  
    Not highly sought or easy to sell.
    And I would agree, on many days when I am hungry for ordinariness.

    Because knowing how to speak to God
    doesn’t mean that God speaks back
    Or that any great clarity or revelation comes of one’s tongue-wagging to the Angels.
    Most days all it actually means is that I don’t completely lose it when the traffic light doesn’t turn—that day, at least.
    Or that I don’t decide to just curl up in a Zoloft-induced cave to sleep through this epically insane shit storm we’re calling Modernity.
    —except, sometimes
    It also means
    that words arise
    in moments so exquisite or so excruciating
    that those with other skills may often find it difficult
    to gather the words together
    in a sentence or a song
    to describe
    with more and less precision
    what in heaven and on earth
    and all the odd corners in between
    is going on.

    Here’s the other thing: I feel wounds of the world like they bleed from my own body.
    I see them in brittle detail ready to break the whole thing apart.
    this aching heart of All That Is—
    the Word Made Flesh in every broken woman
    every colonized people
    every forgotten child
    every poisoned stream.
    I hate that I can do this,
    and yet I try to choose that it, too, is part of my gift:

    that maybe God speaks back to me after all?
    Maybe this is my Christ on the Cross
    She is dying and bleeding and weeping
    And all I must do is stand and see and weep and
    Speak.
    I must speak to God even still. And to you.
    Because that is what I can do.
    Because that is my gift.
    And you do not use a gift.
    The gift uses you.

    To My SKY Community

    To my SKY community—

    Many of you have heard by now that I will no longer be teaching at SKY at the end of this month.  I have not, though, shared openly the reason I am leaving and I wanted to take the opportunity now to do that.  

    It came to light this February that I had made some major financial mistakes that had a severe impact on our organization, and revealed a pattern of mistakes that the Board decided made it untenable for me to remain as a co-director.  I was transitioned out of leadership in March and was offered to stay on as a teacher.  However, I struggled with the decision and how it was made, and was unable to come to agreement about a healthy working relationship and so I decided to take a step back from teaching at SKY.  

    I have not been upfront about this with you, which has not felt good to me.  It has, however, taken some time for me to determine what was appropriate for me to share, and how to do that.  I am sorry for the false impression, confusion, or discomfort it may have created.  

    If you have any questions, concerns, or if I have had a negative impact on you over this transition, or at any other time, I hope you will let me know.  I know I have not done things perfectly over the years, and I deeply regret and am sorry for the instability and harm that I caused through my lack of awareness, skill, or care. 

    I also want to share that, though this has been really challenging for everyone involved, I am ok and am in the process of creating what is next for me, practicing--as always--trusting the movement of my own soul's path.  I know that I am capable and resilient, and can appreciate the gifts in what I have been given to reflect upon and grow from in this experience.

    Amidst the many feelings around transitioning out, I can still say that I feel so very grateful and have a lot of love for my time in service at SKY, all that I have learned, all the ways I have been supported, and every one of you, near and far, that have been a part of our community.  

    With love,
    Kate

     

    Foundations Part 1: The Inconvenient Jesus

    I was not intending to return to the Catholic Church.  As a queer woman with somewhat radical and visionary leanings, I like many have struggled to find my place within the religion of empire that has left such a huge scar on the planet and on my own being.  I left the church of my upbringing in 2009 to dive deeply into my own healing journey, which included a blend of intensive therapy, yoga, relational work, art, meditation, and other modalities.  A large portion of my healing revolved around addressing spiritual and religious trauma experienced within patriarchal and homophobic religious and familial culture.  Also like many, I turned to Eastern traditions (the Goddess tradition of Yoga, specifically), in large part for their more relatable imagery of the divine and embodiment practices that for the first time supported me in experiencing the Incarnation not as an abstract theological idea but as something enfleshed in my own physical body.

    And then about a year and a half ago, I had a quite literal Come-To-Jesus moment.  

    I was meditating in a side chapel of Santa Fe’s cathedral, ruminating on a problem I was having that I just couldn’t seem to figure out.  I’d been chewing on this situation for weeks, and as I sat in the chapel, which just happened to be the chapel of St. Joseph, I looked up and saw the image of Jesus on the cross of San Damiano—the same cross, I recognized, before which St Francis of Assisi had his conversion.  I found myself just starting to talk to Jesus—saying, Ok Jesus.  I'm sure you dealt with things like this.  How do I get through?  What am I missing?  What am I supposed to do?  

    And then something happened that I didn’t see with my eyes or hear with my ears, but knew—could sense—in my very being.  A sphere of golden light surrounded me and I heard the words: Why are YOU trying to figure that out?  Don’t you know I’ve got your back?  Whatever you’re worrying about—I’m already on it.  And then these words, which will never sound as potent as I experienced them: All you have to do is open your heart to the power of my love.  

    With that I felt as if 1,000 pounds had lifted from my body and I breathed the biggest sigh of relief I think I’ve ever breathed.  I had this true and absolutely certain sense that everything was getting worked out, and all I had to do from this day forward was ask for my daily assignment, do my best with it, and let everything else be handed over.  To assume more was up to me was prideful—and I finally recognized the hubris in the way I’d been operating, as if I in my thinking mind was in charge of anything.  It was the most humbling and freeing experience I had ever had and have ever had since.

    I went into what I can only describe as an semi-altered state that lasted some 4-6 weeks.  I started waking up between 4-5am with just a burning heart to do my practices, move my body, and go to daily mass.  Even though the nearby Catholic church was conservative and stuffy, I felt compelled to receive the Eucharist as true spiritual food, and for the first time ever, it felt nourishing.  I felt joyful upon rising and content upon laying down for bed.  What was profound and vital on top of that, was that I had the awareness that I was in a state that wasn’t necessarily going to last—and I felt peaceful about that, like I’d be ready to let it go when the time came.  Somehow, however long this lasted, I knew the scales had tipped for good.  Jesus had become a very real and felt presence to me, and I just had this knowing that, whatever followed, I was being transformed.

    Even in my state of glow, I also felt totally annoyed.  Why was Jesus, of all Holy Beings, showing up for me now after I’d just spent years and thousands of dollars on therapy extracting myself from Jesus-indoctrination?!  It felt very inconvenient.  

    The inconvenience would only magnify when, about two months later, I attended an inter-spiritual meditation retreat and met a Roman Catholic Woman Priest.  I was in a small group of women, and we each took turns sharing faith stories.  I went first, sharing pieces about growing up Catholic, coming out as Queer in college, leaving the church, finding yoga, knowing I had a call to spiritual leadership but not really knowing what that was suppose to look like.  When the next woman shared, it was of a wandering journey from a Protestant upbringing to this and that, then falling in with some Catholics, taking some graduate courses.  “And then,” she said, “I converted to Catholicism…and now I’m a Catholic Priest.”  

    Literally, my jaw dropped and I burst into tears.  

    Looking back, I think I had known about the RCWP movement peripherally (you can find out more here), but it was as if I was hearing about it for the very first time.  I was struck with a profound sense of equal amounts purpose and terror.  I avoided this woman for the next 24 hours, but by the last day of the retreat finally summoned the courage to go talk to her.  “I think I need to hear more about this how-it-is-you-are-a-Catholic-Priest thing.”  She gave me the name of a woman priest who was closer to my home town.  I put the name in my pocket, went home from the retreat, and did nothing with it for three months.  

    It’s taken me over a year and a half of bargaining with the Divine about my calling to finally give in to this unmistakable current.  I have begun the process of discernment towards ordination as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest, with lots of clear pieces to the puzzle, but not a completely clear way of how they are all going to fit together.  

    It's within this current that my work emerges.  Read more here about some of the core pieces shaping my vision, vocation, and the founding principles of my work: Sacred Feminism, Intersectionality, Bridge-building, Embodiment, Deep Ecology, and Visionary Community.  

     

    What do you mean, the "Feminine Divine"? (And where can I find it?)

    Divine Feminine
    Goddess
    Holy Mother
    Holy Ma
    Shekinah
    Sophia
    Shakti

    If those don’t mean anything to you (or perhaps a few evoke a gag reflex?), let’s chat.  

    First of all, I get it.  The feminine face of divinity has had a bad rap, so I wouldn’t expect you to swoon at her names.  I didn’t for a long time.  The word “goddess” made my skin crawl and once I knew a woman who had renamed herself Shakti and all I could do was judge her.  (Sidebar to say: one of the most insidious tools of patriarchy is to make women hate women and the unique essence of feminine expression).  But here’s the deal—not to sound apocalyptic, but the Divine Feminine is on the rise, and she really just wants us to get on board (or we might not make to the other side).

    So what is the feminine divine?

    Most spiritual traditions have at least a thread of Divine Feminine teaching and practice, and she takes various forms and faces worldwide.  The most clear and transformative experiences of the feminine divine for me have come from the teachings of the Goddesses of Yoga, primarily through Tantric Yoga and the modern day meditation teacher and swami, Sally Kempton.  In the cosmovision where the practices of yoga emerged, all of creation was said to have arisen out of the great cosmic ocean of Being, called Paramshiva.  Paramshiva has two aspects: Shiva—the masculine aspect; and Shakti—the feminine aspect. In this view of the cosmos, creation arises as the intimate and playful dance of Shiva and Shakti.  Shiva is the ground or essence of being and Shakti is that which animates or gives life to that essence.  Without Shakti, Shiva is inert matter.  Without Shiva, Shakti is formless energy.  Shiva is the grounding presence of the river bank that holds shape and form; Shakti is the river: powerful, dynamic flow.

    To be clear, the fact that these characteristics of the Divine are gendered is not to be confused with gender as we have culturally designated it.  They are simply ways of naming a type of energy that exists in the universe, and within all of us—wherever we identify on the gender spectrum.  Whether we should gender these kinds of energy as “masculine” and “feminine” in the first place is a worthy discussion (and maybe a future blog post), but for the time being I’ll use it as a useful distinction.

    There is SO MUCH I could write on this topic (so stay tuned!) But for the time being, lets stick with this short (NOT exhaustive!) list of:

    5 Places to Look for the Divine Feminine:

    1. Dreams: Ok, nerd reveal here, but anyone seen the show Merlin?  Maybe I can’t help but read everything with this lens, but if there was ever a good solid story of the suppression of the Divine Feminine, that’s it.  There’s a great example of this gift of the FD in Lady Morgana, who eventually becomes the representation of magic gone to the “dark side” (because honestly, there’s nothing more inspiring of feminine rage than to be told you’re delusional, have your sensitivities drugged out of you, and to fear for your very life because of your extraordinary powers).  Morgana’s magical powers?  Dreams that tell the future.  Now that may not be the exact gift that each of us have when we snooze, but our dreams can bring us into that subtle space of communication with other realms and dimensions of our Soul and Universal Consciousness.  It is the more indirect, interpretive style of our Soul’s communication, using the symbols and scenery of our imagination and unconscious.  Pay attention to your dreams, especially the unusual details, animals, and symbols, and the felt sense upon waking.  Healing can happen there, as well as insight.

    2. Synchronicities: the FD works in non-linear, non-logical, not-exclusively 3-dimensional space.  So she’s often noticeable in the little (or big) moments of coincidence that our reason-seasoned world-view likes to right off as chance.  The FD is the energy of things “just working out”—having been running late for a meeting, and then finding out the person you’re meeting has been stuck in traffic.  

    3. Feelings and Impressions: do you ever just “know” something, but aren’t sure how you know?  That’s because we are microcosms of the whole universe.  Every atom has an interior blueprint that corresponds with the entire cosmos.  So we actually do, all of us, have access to ALL THERE IS TO KNOW about THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE (cue mind explosion sound).  So when you get a feeling about something, even if you can’t explain the why behind it, pay attention.  A message might be coming through.

    4.  Repetition: watch for things that keep showing up.    The lyrics to the song that you can’t get out of your head; that feedback you keep getting about what people love (or can’t stand!) about you; feelings of deja vu or cycling back around to something you “remember”.  For about a year, I was a part of an intuitive art process where I kept painting wolves into my artwork.  They were never the main feature, and I didn’t notice until way later that they kept showing up.  I’m also not really an animal person (I know, for some of you I just became allied with the devil with that admission) but that’s just true, and consequently I never really paid attention to the signs and symbols of animals.  Then this last winter, I entered a deep period of grief and depression, and during a magical session of body work, I had the clear and distinct feeling that I was being dug up from the earth by a wolf.  The next day in a group energy reading I participated in for Solstice, more grief came through and I had again the clear and distinct sensation of being nuzzled on my neck.  I know, it’s wacky, but that’s what happened.  There were several other wolf sightings over that time, and then a dear friend of mine just “happened” to give me the book Women Who Run With the Wolves by Gloria Pinkola Estes.  A spiritual feminist classic, I’d picked it up many times but never really gotten into it.  This time I opened right to the chapter on grief and rage.  I read it straight through, and it might have well of been written exactly for me in that moment of my life.  I went on to plan and undergo a death ceremony with some sweet wild women sisters, drawing heavily from that chapter.  I feel absolutely certain the Wolves were guiding me.

    5.  Joy and pleasure: Different from the more austere “masculine” approach to many lines of traditional spirituality, spirituality based in the FD is IN THE BODY.  Where the Yoga Sutras, one of the classical texts of the yoga tradition, for example, encourages the practice of pratyahara, or withdrawal of the sense, as a crucial step towards samadhi, shakti-based practices describe the sensory body as the channel through which the Goddess perceives and plays in her creation.  Both are fine ways towards the ultimate goal (peace, bliss, oneness with God, enlightment or whatever you might decide the “ultimate goal” is) but there has been a consequence to the overly masculinized spiritual discipline of withdrawal: the big good gorgeous world out there that we actually do all live in and depend on has not only been neglected, but is actively being destroyed.  I wonder how we might choose to care for our earth and each other differently if we truly experienced them with joy, awe, and wonder?  So touch everything.  Taste and luxuriate.  Prioritize your own pleasure as if you were the Goddess herself admiring her handiwork.  This doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate.  It can be as simple as pausing to take in the scent of dirt and tree bark after a spring rain.  It can be the thing you’ve always judged others for, like putting off some “good work” to watch Modern Family and eat popcorn all day.  Doesn’t matter.  If it brings you joy and pleasure, I say, you’re on to something.

    Really, She’s everywhere, so a list like this is a bit of a non-sequiter.  But consider it a start, at least, of a new relationship to something that may have been hidden or unrecognizable.  She won’t let you down.

    Sacred Self-Centeredness

    We’ve all heard it, I’m sure: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    Wise words, to be sure, we find them repeated in some variation in spiritual traditions worldwide.

    However, I’d like to bring attention to two potential problems with this principle.  The first is this: if our gauge for treating others just how we want to be treated, then doesn’t that keep us at the center of the equation still?  The particulars of what we’d like and how we’d like to be treated may not be something universally shared.

    Secondly—and this one to me is more important—this presupposes a kind of wholeness of being that would allow a person to give in such a way that isn’t just as a way to fill their own need-hole, which actually ends up feeling more like taking than giving.

    Let me illustrate with my own story.

    When I was 21, I came out of the closet.  I had fallen in love with a sweet lady while I was studying abroad and when I returned home I decided I wasn’t going to close up that part of who I could see myself living into.  I identified (and still do) as queer and told my friends and (slowly) my family.  

    This was the first what is becoming a lifelong practice of “coming out”—of discovering and being willing to live into deeper and truer aspects of my being.

    About a year later I came out again—this time, I came out as someone who was living with severe depression.  In some ways this one was at least as hard.  I was one of those peppy thin white 20-somethings who “did it all”.  I was a strong academic, I had a position in student government, I had co-founded the campus peace and justice group and a community garden project.  I was acquainted with everyone (it used to annoy my dear friend that we couldn’t walk across the campus together without me stopping a dozen times to say hi to people I knew).  

    And on the inside I was completely empty.  

    When I finally admitted to this emptiness, it was both relieving and terrifying.  One day, as I was standing in my apartment staring blankly out the window, I was struck with the realization that this whole outward show of do-gooding was in response to a deep and hidden insecurity that went something like this:  

    Everything I’ve done has been to earn the love I don’t deserve.  They think I’m good because I do good things.  It can’t ever be found out that actually I’m bad.  I’m not good.  I’m bad.

    mandala.jpg

    It would take years for me to identify these as the thoughts of a much younger version of myself, struggling to make sense of her own emotions, her body, and later, her sexuality.  There are a lot of moments throughout a humans development where, in a moment of trauma or turmoil, we crystallize a belief about ourselves or the world deep in the unconscious psyche where it directs and motivates our thoughts and actions without our knowing.  

    Accepting the reality of my depression and becoming conscious of this deeply held belief got me going on a long road of healing (I’m still on it).  

    My depression was what I would call a functional disfunction.  The way it manifested was in ways that were culturally acceptable and even earned me a lot of positive reinforcement.  

    I realized that, even though ostensibly I was “doing service”, my need-hole was loud and proud out front.  The need-hole is what I’ve come to know as any way we feel incomplete or un-whole in ourselves.  This is not to say that we don’t truly need each other—we do very much!  But we need each other the way an ecosystem needs every species and element—as whole, individuated AND interdependent beings.  

    The need-hole is also addressed by most spiritual traditions.  The tradition of yoga calls it anava mala, or the having forgotten our truest identity of oneness with the Goddess.  Christian spirituality often alludes to the “god-shaped” hole in the heart.  

    I decided to take care of my own need hole through a careful cultivation of my own sense of wholeness and well-being.  My hypothesis is that if we all tend to our own need-holes, than when encounter each other and our world, it isn’t from a place of needing to suck on the world in order to fill our own needs.  Rather, we can encounter the world as whole beings, and from that wholeness, we can truly give freely, in the ways that are being asked of us, out of overflow without the need or expectation of getting anything back for it.  This is sacred-selfcenteredness: loving yourself the way you want to be loved, a willingness to put yourself at the center of your universe as mirror image of the whole cosmos so that the healing that is done there, the ways you treat your body, the ways you listen to the parts of you that have been neglected, the ways you clear shame and shoulds—all of that connects you to the direct experience of fullness of being alive that, in my experience, can’t help but spill over into doing unto others the way they want do be done unto them…or something like that.

    This, I find, is a particularly important practice as a queer person and as a woman, who's physical existence has for millennia been devalued and considered less then, and this day is still under daily threat of abuse and erasure.  To elevate and prioritize, then, the love and care of this queer female body in which I dwell takes on the quality of a subversive, revolutionary, and gospel-inspired life-generating act.   

    Let’s carry forth with the prophetic words of 15th century Sufi poet, Hafiz:

    "With That Moon Language"

    Admit something:
    Everyone you see, you say to them, "Love me."
    Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.
    Still, though, think about this: this great pull in us to connect.
    Why not become the one who lives with a moon in each eye,
    that is always saying,
    with that sweet moon language,
    what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?