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!

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

Divine Feminine
Holy Mother
Holy Ma

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.