Walking as a Spiritual and Magickal Practice

After a bit of a siesta, I’m back at this blog :). It won’t be a regular practice (remember that post about consistency? :D:D), but that’s alright. I pick it up when I need it, when I’m excited about it.

Right now I’m reading Condensed Chaos by Phil Hine, which I am rather excited about. Also listening to a bit of Rune Soup. But the topic of today’s post is: walking.

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One approach to magic (I drop the k when I feel like it ;D), and spirituality, is basically shifting one’s perspective, changing your perception of the world, opening up to new possibilities. (I don’t think that magic is limited to that, but it’s an interesting avenue to walk down. (Heads up, many sidenotes in this post.)) Walking is a good practice for this.

Anthony Alvarado talks about it in his book D.I.Y Magic, which I absolutely love. He mentions that walking can reshape the way you think. (Also, his first question in this interview made me gigglesnort.)

There are many different ways to approach this art. One of my favorites is to follow the stoplights – if it’s red the way you were going to go, follow the green. I tend to aim for quieter streets and back alleys. (To do on a future walk: follow the routes that appeal to you least – the highways, the ugly places! Ugly places have magic too. And people can’t hear you sing next to a highway, that’s nice.)

A few thoughts I had on the two hour walk today:

  • I usually don’t enjoy talking to people. I realize that it’s something that I need in order to be happy, but it generally isn’t easy, and rarely is really enjoyable. And that’s alright. It’s a bit of a paradox, and those do make life more interesting. Isn’t it interesting when two opposing things are true at the same time?
  • The wind. What if it was sentient? Yes, technically wind is created by the movement of air particles due to differences in atmospheric pressure. But what if it is also just spirits/beings twirling leaves around themselves so that they can be seen in some way? What if someone is trying to show you something when it blows garbage around on the street? I realize that’s not a scientific way of approaching the question, and that doesn’t particularly bother me. I think we need a balance of science and poetry in our lives. It’s good to embrace these ideas that we can never really be sure about, one way or the other. (I love those. It’s so good to be reminded that those exist. So many people seem to be living under the impression that we basically understand most of the way the world works and what’s in it. I think that is not very accurate. Or interesting!)
  • I also made up a really terrible pop song. Or at least, the lyrics popped into my head and set themselves on repeat for a good half hour. I won’t share it here. That’s definitely one of these things from a walk that doesn’t need to be immortalized.

So, I would call this a spiritual practice because I think it can be a way to gain insight on yourself, to touch the world in a different way. And I would call it a magickal practice because it can certainly shift perception, alter your mood, help to solve problems, and deliver new ideas.

Also – there are walks when I’ll take my camera or my phone, and there are walks where I won’t. Sometimes it’s good to leave an experience undocumented. Maybe you’ll see more interesting things if those things know you can’t catch them on camera. 😉

To try in the future:

  • Walking for a while, stopping in a cafe where you’ve never been to refuel, and continuing on.
  • Walking with a specific problem to solve, or question to answer. Walking as a spell, with a specific intention.

Onwards! ❤

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Perseid Reflections

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By Brocken Inaglory, via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Milky_Way_Galaxy_and_a_meteor.jpg

😊

So last night was a little rough; I wasn’t feeling particularly healthy, and thought that maybe a full night’s sleep would be better for me than a meteor shower. I decided to cancel the alarm I had set for 2am and went to sleep.

Then around 2:20 or so, I found myself awake. I find that often happens, when I plan on setting an alarm, I wake up before it rings anyway 😊.  So I decided to go out and have a look after all.

I’m staying down in the south end of a city now, and the visibility was quite good – I haven’t seen so many stars in a long time. I only saw a couple of meteors, and only stayed out a few minutes,  as the mosquitoes had found me. But it was worth it, just to get out and look at the stars again.

This morning, I feel so refreshed; it feels like a fresh start. I’ve been going slowly, took a shower, took a bit more time with my hair. Savouring things a bit more.

I think it’s transformative, to be under such beauty. To look up at all those sparkling lights, and know that you are also part of them, and they of you; that our bodies and everything, everything we like and dislike, it all came from stars. To picture that starry sky inside you. To see it when you close your eyes.

What a good practice for the summer 😊 visits with your star elders.  I’ll try to get further out of town next time, maybe learn a few more constellations.

 

EDIT – as a side note – the birds are out in droves this morning! The crows outside my window got me up around 7:30, the goldfinches are doing their happy little dives going “Tweedley dee? Tweedly dee!” 😀 and an eagle flew right above me earlier too. Not related to stars, just related to nature being amazing 🙂

The Study of Archetypes

Look at that, day one and I’m still on track ;D. Well done me!

For my first session digging into archetypes, I’m working on untangling all my different ideas about what they are, how they are formed, how they affect us, and how we can work with them more consciously. I’m not able to get out to the library now, though I do want to learn more about what Jung and other psychoanalysts have to say on the subject. However, videos are so much more digestible than full books, and they certainly do get my brain rolling. So I’ve been listening to the first ten minutes of Joey Morris’s discussion of the subject. This post is a bit rough, a bit of a hodge podge of my ideas, reflections on Joey’s thoughts, and my own experiments; just so that you’re warned!

She gives a good definition from Jungian psychology: “An inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc, universally present in individual psyches.”

Archetypes are universal figures that embody a particular quality, attribute, or emotion. While there are many that are universal across the human experience, they are interpreted differently by individuals, based on our experiences, what we’ve learned, what we’ve read, etc. I think that you can argue that there are some that are less universal and more culturally specific as well.

In my understanding, we typically construct archetypal images for ourselves without too much conscious thought, probably mainly when we’re young and our brains and ideas are more flexible. (I know that Jung has ideas about the collective unconscious, but I’ll have to dive into that another day.) I think it would certainly be possible, and maybe more beneficial, to work on constructing them more consciously, considering the forces, energies and figures that we need in our lives at this moment. For instance, if you need support, you could visualize and work with a supportive archetype. I think that there are many different ways to work with archetypes, which I’m looking forward to exploring as well!

Gods and goddesses, heroes from mythology, figures from popular culture, and people currently living can all represent archetypes. (Even places too, as she mentions later on in the video!) Joey goes into an interesting example of a person currently living as a modern interpretation of an archetypal energy. I’m not sure I feel comfortable visualizing a living person as an archetype, using them (or my idea of them) as a tool in my spiritual practice; I feel that to a certain extent, this reduces the complexity of a person, seeing them only in a specific role. I think you’re in danger of making them into a sort of stereotype, where you’re only seeing the aspects of them that fit with that archetypal definition. However, you can keep in mind that they don’t always embody that archetype (we have the capacity to embody just about everything and anything); but if their role in a particular context is a powerful image or representation of that archetype, that can be an inspiration for us, a source of support.

She notes that archetypes are important for the tarot as well, of course – that’ll be interesting to get into.

I think those thoughts are slightly less tangly now. The more I learn, the more ideas I get and avenues I realize are available for exploring too 😀 which is good, if a bit overwhelming sometimes. For my meditation, I’m going to focus on an angel as an archetypal figure of love. I haven’t had a strong relationship with the concept of angels throughout my life, apart from some mild exposure to Christian doctrine and fairly clichéd examples from popular culture; but when I thought of a personification of the power of love, images of an angel full of gentleness and kindness come to mind. I can work with that :).

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Kristus i Getsemane (An angel comforting Jesus before his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane) (1873) Carl Heinrich Bloch

Continuing this on day two, with post-meditation notes…

Now, this is the idea of the personification of an abstract concept. I realize that I have a source of love within myself, that I can tap into, even in difficult times. Visualizing the figure of an angel, the personification of love, helps me to make that connection.

Taking it a step further, and getting a bit more playful, I give my archetypal figures a bit of a personality, too. I don’t just want to talk to bland angels who are singing all the time, that would get dull fairly quickly. I let myself be open to whatever conversations pop up with this figure, who understands completely where I’m coming from and why I’m suffering at the moment, whether it’s something genuinely terrible or a mild annoyance. I know that they are created using my imagination; but I also know that love exists, in some way, if not in a physical way. It exists in our experience of it, I suppose. And talking with a personification of love is a way to tap into that source of love within myself. (A bit like asking yourself WWJD, only maybe more like “What would Jesus say to that”.) And if I need to trade jokes with the angel to keep myself entertained, well, I never promised I would be a serious stoic all the time.

This may sound a bit like creating your own imaginary friend. As long as you’re aware of the difference between physical reality and the imagination, I don’t think there’s much harm in that – it keeps my inner child entertained ;).

On a related note, while I’m comfortable crafting the image of an angel into an archetype that meets that need, I’m less comfortable using the archetype of Jesus for that end. (I think it’s fair to say he’s an archetype of love, and that different people will envision him differently depending on their life experiences.) This is partly because I’ve met people who have such a personal, emotional connection to this figure, and I feel a bit disrespectful to adopt their figure for my own work (not that I’d tell them, but still); but also because of all the religious and cultural baggage around that name. When I think of that name, I already have a lot of different images and personalities that come up, and they’re not necessarily what I want to picture when I’m focusing on pure love.

I like the idea of archetypes as role models as well. Joey shares a quote on the Morrigan as an archetype: “In the Morrigan, we can see their love of warfare, their pride in protecting their land and loved ones, their positive attitude towards women in general. She reflects the Celtic ideal of a woman in power: she is both fierce and beautiful, as likely to share a man’s bed as she is to fight beside him on the battlefield.” It’s good for women to be aware of figures like these. I had some strong female role models growing up, but I think I heard a lot more about how women should look, how worried they should be about staying thin and young and beautiful. I never doubted that I could do anything I wanted to do, but I can’t think of any role models like the Morrigan who were in my awareness growing up.

We can’t control the figures we’re presented with as children, but we can certainly seek out figures that empower us to live in our full power as adults.

(c) The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Ceridwen (1910) by Christopher Williams – another powerful woman from myth

Meditation #2: Focused on the source of love in the core of my chest; worked on directing that love towards a part of my body that bothered me; and then towards a family member who bothered me. With the help and encouragement of Love, the archetypal angel. Yeah, I think his name is just “Love” too. It suits him :).

The construction of these figures is a bit of a collaboration between my initial ideas and improvisations from my imagination, from my non-cognitive, more intuitive side.

Finishing up that video on day three…

So, Joey ties this in to using myths to build a relationship with a deity. I don’t feel particularly called to do this right now. I’m happy to allow that gods and other spiritual beings could exist, but I have the sense that these pantheons that various cultures have created are more their way of dealing with the unknowable than literal and accurate depictions of celestial beings. If gods do exist, I think they’re probably not within our realm of understanding; and while I want to open myself to different ways of experiencing the universe (and stimuli from non-physical senses is a part of that – oh my, getting serious, using words like stimuli now 😁), reaching out to specific deities created by older civilizations just isn’t my cup of tea. Or if I was to do so, it would be with the awareness that I’m dealing with my perception of that archetype, rather than some pre-existing figure. I think that archetypes that I’ve defined myself are more easily grasped than unknowable deities, and can be more useful tools to work with, at least for me.

The last thing that Joey mentions is the idea of using archetypes as a way of gaining a deeper understanding of yourself – and as a tool to tap into all the different aspects of yourself, I’d add. We can get too hung up on our definitions of ourselves, and make claims about our abilities based on that. Archetypal figures can help us to connect with the neglected parts of ourselves, and really live in our power.

I started with a meditation today; I had an idea of a different character. The wise woman, the wild woman, the witch, the priestess. I think I would address her with all four titles, they’re each too narrow on their own. This is again tapping into the archetype of the witch that I dug into in this post. She was very helpful as a guide; may dig more deeply into that next.

Wow, that’s finally the end of this post, three days in the making. Hammering out your ideas isn’t easy work 😅… and I may need to have more of a balance of practical, intuitive work vs logical study. I’m interested in the logical study, but it’s the attempts to touch and work with the non-physical that will really keep me coming back to this, I think. I know this approach isn’t the only way that people work with archetypes, but I hope my notes are also helpful to someone out there. 🙂

Spiritual Practices and Consistency

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Another friendly old tree outside my window. Crows come to share the news up on its dead branches, and wrens and goldfinches visit often too. 🙂

Kelly-Ann Maddox has given me more food for thought ;P. You all know at this point that I have a bit of a girl-crush on her, but I can’t help it, her videos keep giving me these insights into what I’m doing here. I do keep up with other writers and bloggers, like Thorn Mooney and Áine Órga, but Kelly-Ann just keeps poking at things that I’m drawn to really think about. The most recent one was about spirituality and consistency.

Going with the Flow

I feel a bit bad when I don’t blog for a few months. This is the space where I really do a lot of focused study, and I do consider it to be part of my spiritual practice, though a much brainier part than a heart-centered part. But there has been a lot going on in my life, a lot of upheaval, and it wouldn’t have made sense to spend time blogging, really. I did keep working with my tarot cards fairly often (as often as I wanted to, not on any kind of schedule), and I paid attention to the moon cycles on and off, and I learned a bit more about the spiritual aspects of a woman’s menstrual cycle. I’m just realizing these things as I reflect back on the past few months 🙂 because when I came back to this blog, I looked at the most recent post from March, and thought “hoo boy, completely jumped off the wheel of the year there”.

But now I’m thinking, maybe that’s okay. For me, spirituality is something I’m pulled towards – it’s not usually present in my life unless I make space for it and make an effort to include it. I don’t know any other pagans offline, so I wouldn’t keep coming back to it if it wasn’t meaningful and powerful for me, if I didn’t miss it when it’s gone. Sometimes I’m struck with a passion or a need to touch that spirituality, and I think it’s good to follow those urges, rather than try to fit practices into a schedule. I fear that they could become chore-like; if I already have enough to do during the day, I don’t think it helps to feel bad about missing some devotional practice that I don’t have time for.

I’ve struggled with this when it comes to meditation lately. It’s so not easy to get myself to sit for ten minutes in the morning and gently train my brain to follow my breath :P. I know that it can be useful in so many different ways, for visualizations, living more mindfully, better mental health, etc; but it’s a bit like trying to get myself to take some uncomfortable medicine that I seem to survive okay enough without when I fall off the wagon. I know that consistency is good for a meditation practice, as it is training for your brain; you won’t see the same results if you only do it a few times a month. Maybe I need to have some kind of reward waiting for me at the end of each meditation session – maybe I should get a meditation chocolate bar or something, one square for each session ;).

One example where I feel like inconsistency doesn’t necessarily detract from my experience is journalling. I don’t journal every day; but when I do need to, I find it to be so very helpful. It’s a way for me to better understand my emotions, name them, and get ideas about other perspectives through which the situation can be seen. I’ve had a lot of powerful shifts through journalling, and I’ll keep coming back to it when I need to. But I don’t feel like it’s something that I need to do every day. When I try to stick to Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, for instance, I end up not writing much, daydreaming, and getting bored; but when I’m going through an emotionally tumultuous time and I need to work through it, journalling helps me immensely. So for that particular practice, at this point in my life (having kept a journal for years on and off, something that came to me quite naturally), I don’t feel like I need to do it consistently for it to be an effective tool when I need it.

So, that’s one side of my feelings on the subject; I think it’s better not to worry too much about “missed” practices, and that following your passion is important. But after listening to Kelly-Ann, I am coming around to the idea that some level of consistency is a good thing.

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Is it just me, or are there creatures in this tree? 🙂

 

 

 

Sticking with a Practice

This topic also reminds me of Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing in Big Magic. She approaches her writing as a devotional practice, as communion with powers beyond her control and understanding, as a kind of spiritual practice in a way. And she talks about the importance of sticking with it, even when it doesn’t come easily, to get to the point where you do see results, when it does come easily. She makes the great point not to struggle through it too much either, even when it’s not easy; to appreciate the things you do love about it.

Kelly-Ann talks about how a consistent spiritual practice can help to support you in bad times, when you need something to fall back on. I’ve often seen that with Christians, who rely on their faith when faced with death or major challenges; the thought that God wouldn’t give you more than you can handle, the power of prayer, the faith that God will care for your eternal soul after death, and the souls of your loved ones. I can’t logically reconcile myself with many Christian beliefs, but maybe I can still find some sources of strength in the beliefs that I do hold (which are still being worked out, and may keep changing as long as I keep growing) and the practices I pursue.

She talks about the value of sticking with something every day for 6-8 weeks, no matter what you choose. I do like that idea 🙂 keeps me from being too flighty with my interests, skipping back and forth between each shiny new thing.

One more important point: the idea that daily spiritual practice can be a way of “accessing the strength in the core of yourself”, to prepare for the day ahead. Who do I want to embody today? A vision of myself in power, in full witch mode? 😉

So I think the common important themes here are to choose something that brings you strength (or that you think will bring you strength), and commit to it for a set amount of time, without double-guessing your choice of practice while you’re doing it.

For me, for the next six weeks, that practice will be working with archetypes. I’ll only commit to ten minutes of study and ten minutes of meditation to begin with, and I’ll have to see if that’s feasible with my current life; maybe the first week can serve as an adjustment period, after which I won’t abandon the project, but decide whether those time constraints are working or not. I think this work could be most useful and could serve me most in my current situation, so I’m looking forward to trying it out. I’ll keep notes in a draft on here, though I may not have anything that’s ready to share for a little while. And yes, I think I will positively reinforce my work with a bite of chocolate or two. 😉

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When it comes to consistency, I think the bottom line is, don’t feel too guilty when life gets in the way of spiritual practice. We all need to do whatever we need to do to survive, and sometimes work or relationships or health or whatever it is needs your full attention. But I do think that pursuing a regular practice can be beneficial; can give you something to fall back on when all other supports aren’t there for you.

I’d love to hear other people’s experiences with spiritual practice and consistency. Are some practices easier to maintain than others? What keeps you coming back? What helps you most in your times of need?