Waking Lovely

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Pop: The Water Breaks, The Birth Begins, and Nothing Stays the Same

Sexuality, fertility, pregnancy, birth, breast-feeding, rearing young— these are all such apt experiences and analogies for spiritual awakening and growth.  When life takes hold, when awakening happens, it takes hold, roots deep and nothing is ever the same again.

I left my conservative Christian faith of 30 years in two very different ways.  The first way happened to me, whether I wanted it to happen or not.  The second way was a slow but conscious choice on my part.

It was much like pregnancy, which happens sometimes whether a woman is aware of it or not, and then there is the choice to carry the child, which is a slow and conscious decision involving time and growth and change.  Or perhaps it is more like birth.  The moment my water broke, everything changed.  That was instantaneous, a one-time event, a “now everything is different.”  The actual labor was much more of an experience, a gradually unfolding reality happening over time.

Without waxing on, I experienced a very painful culmination of events in which I felt like the very last bits of me were pulled apart and flew away on the wind.  As I lay in bed that night, eyes closed, a mass of dense pain weighing down my heart, I felt and heard a pop, like a cork being released on a bottle of wine.  I looked and saw myself floating, as in the way one would float in space, looking down at the outside of a bubble called Christianity.

My glance shifting right and left, I saw other bubbles, little spheres in which dwelt busy worlds.  One was called Mormonism.  One was Hinduism.  One was Buddhism.  And one was the sphere I had spent all of my known life in…up to the moment of the popping sound.

How many years I had spent within that bubble, searching, investigating, reading, researching, learning, swimming, and growing, and slowly feeling like what had once been a wide and spacious land had begun shrinking, shrinking, shrinking.  The vast seas of answers began to feel like puddles of “same-ol, same-ol.”  The wide sky of possibility gradually became more like a glass ceiling above which was anathema—cursed, warned against, not allowed. An eternity spent in Hell was always in the balance, and Hell was always enough of a threat to keep me in check.

It never occurred to me to leave my world.  It never occurred to me that there was any other world.

I had researched other religions, looked at them from outside of their bubbles, wondered that the people within couldn’t see that they were just living inside of a bubble, that their worldview wasn’t the end all, be all, that their way of doing and thinking wasn’t the only way.  Of course, my worldview trained me to not look at the other religions with any sort of respect, so it was hard for me to notice similarities or mutual truths or aspects in which these beliefs bettered and beautified the human spirit.  Rather, I felt sorry for the people in those bubbles since they were trapped within them, held hostage by the enemy who was keeping them from the Truth…which would be my faith, of course.

Since I lived in a bubble myself, I was blind to the fact that I, too, lived in a bubble.  That I, too, didn’t own the end all, be all.

Until the day I popped out.

I didn’t mean to pop out.  I can’t emphasize that enough.  I had no intention of ever popping out of what I didn’t know was anything to pop out of.  I thought I lived in the universe.  I thought the world I lived in was everything.  Until the depth of the heart-crushing pain reached down, seeped down, sank all the way into the rigid concrete foundation of “who I was” and that slab that had been laid there from my earliest cognitive awareness just couldn’t take the weight.

It cracked.  When it cracked, I was set free.  Except for that it felt a lot like being lost, too.  I had a whole life of being conditioned that all outside of my world were “lost.”  So it wasn’t a freedom I wanted.  Not yet.  In fact, I was mostly terrified.  Even though, as I noticed with surprise…it felt very peaceful out there.  I felt whole.  I felt like everything would be okay…

The next day I felt myself slowly dropping back down into the bubble that had been my world.  Only nothing was the same anymore.  No matter how delightful the scene, the moment, the experience, there was this awareness that it was all happening inside of a little bubble.  A little bubble of my own choosing.

The water popped.  The spiritual experience happened—unasked, unannounced, unplanned.  The birth had officially begun.  What had been gestating, forming, taking shape, was now going to be born.  The second part was now beginning, the part where my intelligence, my heart, my emotions, my behaviors began to slowly, carefully, often fearfully follow the lead of the spiritual experience.  And as much as birth is beautiful, it is also a bloody painful thing.

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Genetically Allergic to Change, Stepping Into It Anyway

There is a lot of power in movement, particularly movement that comes from a still and quiet center of being.

Change is not easy, perhaps because we are evolutionarily programmed against it.  This makes sense, given that the survival of the species likely depended on continuing to do what works.

I read a research article a few months back that said that only adolescents have brains wired to accept, approve of, and seek out change.  Striking out on their own, the adolescent population does not have the brain that resists and mistrusts change, and the theory posits that it is because adolescence is the most favorable time of life to try something new.

Think back to the days of humans living in small tribal groups.  Upon mating and having children, a state of species vulnerability occurs.   Remaining where one is, doing what has worked so far, was the best way we could ensure successful rearing of the next generation.

There are some down sides to both of these things today.  Adolescents can do really stupid things due to their lack of fear, feelings of invulnerability and desire to change.  Adults can do really stupid things due to their fear of change, feelings of vulnerability, and desire to keep things the same.   These traits that helped our ancestors stay alive so that we could all be here today are the very traits that make it very difficult to go about escaping group-think, engaging in a life-filled spirituality, listening to our intuition and stepping outside of pre-assigned roles.

It helps me when I realize that the fear of change and the looking outward for social cues and approval is simply genetic programming.  I don’t have to obey it.  It has its purpose and its place, that desire to do what everyone else is doing, that desire to avoid change, but it is not always best.

I see where I am going.  It is crystal clear, so real I think I could touch it.  For many years, I thought it was a life I could not have.  On the day I woke up, I realized it was the life that was mine.  It’s just that I had wandered far from it.

I hold the vision gently within my heart.  And I keep taking steps forward.  Even when they knock me down.  Even when I trip over myself.  Even when it’s uphill.  Even when it’s cold.  Sometimes it takes me a long time between steps.  Sometimes I have to just hold my ground for awhile until I’m ready to lift another foot.  One step.  One step.  One step.  I learn to trust the process.

And one day on the path I look back and realize that the place where I began, that place that I thought I would never have the strength to leave, is now so far behind me, behind hills and valleys, streams and forests, that I can’t even see it anymore.


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The Waking Dream (Meditation, Journeying, and/or Visualizations that Come Alive)

One of my most preferred forms of spiritual work is through the Waking Dream.

I lean towards the belief that almost everyone has the ability to do this, only it usually must be taught, and most of us don’t have the time or inclination to learn. And some people tend more towards certain types of gifts than others, so as long as some people practice this ability (and others are practicing and growing in their own unique specialties), the community is well covered.

My ability to do journey work was first cultivated in an entirely accidental manner.  When I was a young woman attending Bible College in a denomination that had a charismatic/pentacostal bent, one of the things students were required to do was attend every single church service.  This list of services included a long (and boring!) weekly prayer meeting.

Somehow these people could sit for 2-3 hours each week, mostly in silence, and pray.  Don’t get me wrong.  This was a charismatic style church and it was open to the idea that supernatural spiritual gifts were for today.  So the Spirit would sometimes fall and then, on those rare days, it would get pretty exciting.  The air would literally get electric, rippling about the room, gifts of prophecy moving intensely, healings spontaneously occurring…

You would walk out from those meetings with your eyes wide, your heart pounding, your face grinning…

But that only happened once every 3-4 months or so.  Usually, the meetings meant just sitting in a hot sweaty room with a bunch of people who occasionally would send out a prayer for their cousin’s brother’s uncle who stubbed his toe last Thursday and then would go back to sitting, in the silence, waiting to see if this was the day the Spirit would decide to fall again.

It about killed me.

Because I’m not very good at sitting and doing nothing.

I felt annoyed that I was required to go sit in this room for 2-3 hours each week, even though I didn’t want to.  For some months, I just sat there and worked on my attitude.  Because I was grumpy.

I slowly learned to accept my lot in life and at that point, was able to start thinking proactively about the situation.  Mostly, I started trying to pray.  For the whole 2-3 hours, even if nothing exciting happened around me.  Surely it would be a good exercise for my spiritual muscles, right, using this opportunity to work to connect with God?

And that was when some interesting things began to quietly happen.

One day I decided I would pray for one of my closest friends.  He was sitting right across from me, so I held him in my mind and began to pray.  Only it was almost as if I began to dream, instead.  My eyes shut, I suddenly saw a power cord.  Instead of being plugged into the socket, it was lying on the ground.  It felt like this was a message for my friend, interpreting it that he was not currently connected with the source of power but could easily get back the connection.  It felt so clear!

I shared the vision and the message with him as soon as the prayer meeting ended that night…not with such great results.  He was a little offended, actually, which dampened my enthusiasm.  Did I see correctly?  Did I make it up?  It felt so real…

From there on out, I began to spend each prayer meeting trying to “see” behind the walls of my closed eyes.  I slowly but steadily discovered that there was this centered inner place that I could go to, and from there the waking dream always happened.

At the time, given my full immersion in my religious framework, I only sought to use the ability to receive prophetic words for others.  I was never quite sure if what I was doing was even okay.  No one else seemed to see visions—those who received prophetic words just got words from the Spirit and spoke them.  I felt confused.

Though we attended the same Bible College, my soon-to-be husband felt very threatened by the charismatic world, something I didn’t know until after we said our vows.  I found out a lot of things about him after we said those unbreakable now-you-have-her-completely-in-your-power-until-she-draws-her-last-breath vows, actually.  His problem with the charismatic world was that, “Anyone can say they have a word from God to share.  Only the leaders should be able to do that.  What happens in the church has to be controlled.”

So after we married, he ordered that we would no longer be attending or participating in charismatic churches or activities.  No more prophetic words (or, in my case, waking dreams) for us.  He specifically said that he felt my gifts had been used by “the enemy” (Satan) instead of by God and that I needed to stop using them.

There was a long season of winter.

When I began the process of waking up, my ability to see the visions was one of many things roused from its slumber.  During the worst of it, the days when my ex-husband was growing more and more psychotic and I was grappling with the personal cost of living with an abusive man for over a decade, wrestling with the very foundations of my previously unquestioned Christian faith, discovering that he had destroyed us financially, informed by my spiritual leaders that divorce was not an option and that my abusive and insane husband was my cross to bear, I would go into my bedroom daily and sit, in the dark, and find that centered quiet place.  From there, the waking dreams would come and I would receive messages of comfort, encouragement, and insight.  The images gave me just what I needed to know next.

It was later that I would learn there are names for what I was doing.  Shamanic journey work.  Waking dreams.  Visualization meditation.  Probably many more.  Is it walking in the spirit world?  Is it tapping into my inner consciousness?  I don’t really know.  I just do it.


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Magic in Therapy, Parenting and Optimal Conditions for Tomato Plants

Enjoying my morning coffee, I look over at four tomato plants growing in my window sill.  They were babies marked on clearance, leaves straggly, poorly tended, sitting outside in cold maritime wind.  Now they stand in deep pots, roots touching rich soil, fertilized, watered, ready to grow.  They haven’t been able to expend energy on growth thus far.  They’ve been mostly just trying to survive.

I work with human beings who have been treated this way.  Just trying to survive.  They usually come with many problems.  Abused as children, now they carry grief’s burden of becoming aware that they have abused their own.  Like these tomato plants, they have been put out in conditions that force constant vigilance for survival.  For them, any small growth that they have accrued is bonus.

There is no point in wasting time judging what they “ought” to be.  They are what anyone would be, given such conditions.  Often, I marvel that they have done as well as they have.

And then we help them.  I often liken my job to that of a midwife.  I help them birth themselves.  We get them a larger container, fill it with rich soil, the right fertilizing agents, ample water, warm sun, and then they do the rest.  They do what humans do when given the opportunity.  The same thing that tomato plants do.

Grow.  Become.  Expand.  Bear fruit.  Reach down deep into the rich soil and stretch up high into the heavens.

This is one of my primary tasks as a parent, too.  I work provide the best conditions I can for optimum and sustainable growth.  Not perfect, but best.

Our home is not conventional according to current American standards, with it’s three parents and ten kids, but it is it’s own happy community unto itself, and if there is one thing we do well, it’s having organically-produced fun.

The energy is good here, and when it’s not so great, we work to get it back to where we want it.  Light.  Playful.  Laughing.  A wild sort of contained chaos.  We are raising growing green vibrant things with plenty of dirt and sun.

My partner announced yesterday that she is going to feng shui her closet.  It sounds fun so I’m going to try it too.  Environment matters.  We are each responsible to do what is in our power to provide ourselves with the kind of environment we need to grow, whether it’s closets or bigger stuff.

I had no plans to divorce when I married my first husband, but as the metaphorical blood-letting reached threatening proportions, I realized that living with him was steadily killing me.  I worked so hard to change, to find a way to make our marriage work, especially for the sake of the children we shared, but there was a point when reality finally reached through my rose-colored glasses.

Like the tomato plants I just rescued from the bargain bin, I finally accepted that living with him meant living with a small pot of root-bound dirt, strong wind and cold temperatures, even if what I needed was warm sun and good soil.  It wasn’t fair to him to work hard to change what simply was…though I spent years trying anyway.  My theological world said that was my only option, since divorce was off the table.

He could not be what he was not, and no matter how I tried, those were the facts.  What to do with those facts was all up to me.  They said something was horribly wrong with me if I chose the sinful path of divorce.  I looked my theological world up and down and decided something was horribly wrong with theological world that told me I did not have the power to choose what environment I would grow in.

Now I sit in rich soil and stretch my leafy branches up to the sun-drenched heavens, the heady scent of tomato plant leaves filling the air.

I’m not all that sure if a feng-shui-ed closet matters that much in the grand scheme of things, but the idea behind it is sound.  Environment matters.  Put a bird in a small cage and see how often it flies.  Put a tomato plant out in cold wind and see how well it thrives.  Put a human being in a home filled with violence and verbal abuse and see how it matters.

We wield such power, those of us who have it, this power to shape and build our own environments.  We wield such power over others who are not yet able to or do not know that they can.  Is this magic?  I think it is.  We are all weavers, each one of us, only some of us don’t know it, still sleeping in the dream.  Sometimes I think those with the magic are simply those who are awake.


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At the Little Metaphysical Shop…

Thank you, Witch Vox, for posting this on Pagan Parenting.  

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Today, I went into the local metaphysical shop.  The owner and I chatted while my daughter shopped for her birthday present.  She has a thing for fairies and there are some great little fairy items in the store.  I picked up a pottery mug for my male partner’s Father’s Day present—the great dragon print on the side practically roared out his name.

There was a time when I wouldn’t have set foot in that establishment.  I remember when she came to town.  The pastors group in our area had a meeting to see if they could try and find a way to not allow her to set up shop.  A church on every corner, each pounding out their version of absolute truth from the pulpit, but a cute little shop that sells things that are spiritual from a pagan perspective?  Ack!

They couldn’t figure out a way to keep her out.  I remember their disgust.  I remember, even though I was thick in the camp at the time, wondering how they ever though they could.  Freedom of speech means everyone is free to have their own opinion, right, without respect to religion?  Didn’t they realize that if they could shut the metaphysical shop down, their favorite Christian bookstore wouldn’t be allowed either?

I pop in monthly and have made friends with the owner.  She is an amazing woman and has often had what I would have called, “words from God” for me.  In touch with the Spirit, very much so.  My son once, “I know that some people say she is bad and stuff, but she is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.  I don’t get why God wouldn’t like her.  It doesn’t make sense.”

Yeah.  Same here.

My son attends a fundamentalist church when he has his time with my ex, a theologically trained man who is still highly invested in the evangelical world.  My kids say, “Dad won’t come in that store.  He says it’s bad.”  I answer, “Yep.  Everyone has different opinions, don’t they?”   Then we hop out of the car and go into the store, happily perusing my friend’s ample selection of small crystals and stones, holding them in our hands until we find the ones that tingle and burn and say they are ours.

“What does obsidian do again, Mom?  Because that’s the one that is tickling me today. It’s snowflake obsidian.  Will you look it up?”  Out of every stone available, he has an ugly unpolished thing that he just can’t stop touching.  I quietly note that it’s cheap.  That’s always nice.

We open the books and read about obsidian.  It’s happened too many times for me to be surprised anymore.  Sure enough, snowflake obsidian fits this kid like a spidey-suit.  I read, “Calms and soothes…helps you to recognize and release ‘wrong thinking’ and stressful mental patterns, promotes inner centering…”  He has been having troubling dreams lately and is angry about his father’s mental illness.  He smiles softly and holds his stone tight.

Figuring out how to invite my children to come along on my spiritual journey is tricky when they learn such mixed messages.  At youth group they learn that only their dad’s church has the truth, that things outside of evangelicalism are dangerous, bad, evil, and will send you to Hell.

I try to pass on the idea that all beliefs can be respected, whether Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, Hindu, Pagan, or otherwise.  This can be hard, sometimes, when I have personal bones to pick with the evangelical camp’s set of beliefs, particularly the ones that I deem destructive.  I work hard to be respectful.  We talk about these things as they come up.  They are just kids, trying things on, figuring things out.

One day my daughter announces she wants to be a missionary.  Not many days later, she announces that she doesn’t believe in Christianity.  I never know what they will try on next.  I try to respond peacefully and nonchalantly to all such announcements.  Sometimes I fail, but I work hard at this.  How can I talk about the importance of respecting all beliefs if I can’t respect their own?  We want our home to be a safe place for spiritual exploration.  The only way that can happen is if it is actually safe.

Today we leave with a fairy figuring and a set of fairy oracle cards.  My daughter has been looking at the fairy figurine for some time now.   We use a few different card sets sometimes at evening story time, each person picking a card for the next day and looking up the meaning in the books, and she loves that, so this will be her first very own personal set to enjoy.

Tarot and oracle cards, like the metaphysical shop, are things I was trained to see as hideous evil.  For thirty years, I believed that thoroughly.  It is good to step outside of the little box.  Big world out there.

“I don’t believe in God right now, Mom.’  My son speaks quietly as we walk into the house.  I put my hand on his shoulder.

“That’s okay, baby.  Some people do.  Some people don’t.  You’ll figure out for yourself what you feel is right.”  I speak casually, peacefully.

“I might decide to believe in Him.  Or Her.  Or It.  Whatever.  Right now, it just doesn’t make sense.  I need to see it to believe it.”  He speaks firmly.  I reach out and rub his hair.  Then we put the groceries on the counter and start putting them away.  He washes off the strawberries and looks for one without a bruise, eyes sparkling as he finds the one he was hoping for.  I open my bags and smile as I look at the dragon mug.  Treasures are everywhere.


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God: So Very NOT In Another Galaxy, Far Far Away…

“The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw—and knew I saw—all things in God and God in all things.”  ~ Mechtild of Magdeburg

For days and for years and for an entire life I was told the confusing evangelical tale about two Gods who were the same God.  One was a God who looked down from Heaven upon me, watching what I did, and the other was a God who lived inside of me.  It was supposed to be both/and, only it was often very difficult to meld the two.

I dutifully sang the song as a child, “Oh be careful, little eyes, what you see.  For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little eyes, what you see,”  I learned that little hands, little feet, and little eyes had better always be careful.

It was scary, knowing about that God in the sky.  They said He was a God of love, yet He was always watching in such a way that one had better not mess up.  “Oh.  So that’s what love is…”  Little girls can’t help it if they draw appropriate conclusions from confusing messages.

And yet there was also the God who lived inside of me.  After all, if I didn’t ask Jesus into my heart, I wouldn’t be in heaven.  So the God who lived far away now also lived inside of me.  He died so that I wouldn’t be sent to a place of eternal torture where I would beg for death but not be allowed to have it.  In order for me not to go to that place, He had to suffer horrible torture Himself as the sin of the world was placed upon Him, at which point (even though He too was God), the God in the Heavens was not even able to look upon Him.

This was a strange system, very confusing, yet constantly and consistently presented as simple fact and, given the disastrous consequences of pissing this God off, one tended not to question such a salvation. In fact, quite the opposite.  I began preaching this salvation to my friends, starting in 2nd grade and into adulthood.  I truly and honestly meant well.  I didn’t want to see these poor people go to Hell, the reality of which was so built into my core belief system that I did not even question it, even while hating it, until I was in my thirties!

The first set of verses I memorized as a child in a Bible memory program (a very popular one in the church world I grew up in) were about the wickedness of humanity.  I was taught that God was not even able to look at us unless we had Jesus (who was also God) in our hearts.

I remember my child learning those same verses, when I enrolled her in that very same program.  Good moms put their kids in that Bible club.  It’s just how it’s done.  How I winced as I helped her learn that same passage, “There is none righteous, no not one.  There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away.  They have together become worthless.  There is no one who does good.  Not even one.”  The book of Romans, as we interpreted it, clearly explained that we were, quite literally, worthless.

No wonder conservative Christianity is known for being judgmental.  With a worldview like that, how could a faithful practitioner not be?  Many loving and compassionate people live within the fearful walls of Christendom.  They don’t mean to be judgmental.  They are just doing what they are told, believing what they are taught.  Their awakening may come, some day.  Until then, it helps not to take their behavior personal.

God, as I was taught, was very separate from you or I.  He was male.  He was in charge.  And He was most emphatically not smiling when He looked down at what He deemed as worthless beings who had all turned away.

I love being out of that theological world.  I love looking out at humanity and not seeing them as either lost souls to be won to the Lord or evil “secularists” to beware of.  I love having a view of God/dess that is wide, expansive, and joyous.

I was quite specifically taught that those who said God was in all were dangerous.  For three straight decades, I eschewed even that thought.  And then the awakening began.  Now God is in my hands as I hug my little one.  Goddess is in the cucumber vines pushing out their sweet harvest.  The gods are in the water, air, wind and fire.  The Divine is everywhere.

This isn’t a world to be feared.  Don’t be careful, little eyes, what you see.  Eyes are open and you are awake now!  Drink it all in.  The colors, the richness, the pulsing vibrancy of life.  It was meant to be celebrated.