Inner Work

Elemental Psychic Bathing

One of my many struggles as a trauma survivor that I experience is a difficulty in channeling my internal energy. Specifically, after a negative emotionally-charged event, I tend to hold on to and recreate the feeling again and again. It is as though I’ve walked through a sandstorm and keep finding grains tumbling off me in every direction, unable to shake myself clean.

When positive experiences happen, I have the opposite problem. I find myself unwilling to accept the natural ebb and flow of these feelings. I’ve tasted a delicious morsel and keep biting into random pieces of spiritual savories, refusing to wait until another special occasion for a nibble. For today’s #InnerWork Wednesday, I will be exploring a method for restoring internal energies to homeostasis.

Discharging Negative Emotions

Before I get in to specifics, I want to couch my guidance here carefully. The process I will be describing is intended for situations where something went wrong externally during your day and has already been resolved. So, if it is an issue within a relationship, you’ve discussed your concerns with the other person or made a clear plan to do so. Or, if it is a situation where something has physically broken and needs to be repaired, you’ve identified the problem and set in motion a fix. I do not see this technique working well if you are procrastinating in taking practical action in the real world; it isn’t a substitute for confronting what is causing you anxiety, anger and/or sadness.

My personal struggle with negative emotions, especially anxiety and anger, is that they persist well past their needed moment. For instance, I recently had a roof leak. I hired a roofer to fix the leak. He made repairs the same day and everything seemed in order. Instead of having even the tiniest faith that things would be okay, I obsessively checked the leak area every 30 minutes or more for hours, and began to go to other areas of my house that have minor problems, checking them as well. My initial burst of anxiety at seeing a stream of water where it should not have been simply would not downshift even when the coast cleared. I needed a way to let go of the energy I’d accumulated, which is why I turned to a psychic bath.

Taking an elemental bath gives you an opportunity to get creative and to use your imagination. I find it difficult to imagine complex visualizations, but the emphasis on physical experiences helps me during this ritual. You can use any of the four elements (earth, air, fire or water). It is likely that the element will change depending upon your emotion. You can also incorporate a physical sensation or practice into this ritual. For instance, you might light candles or a fireplace for fire or run a bath for water.

When I’m facing overwhelming anxiety following a stressful situation, and the purpose of the anxiety has run its course, the element that connects most effectively for me is air. I imagine myself in a desert or a high plain, in the midst of gale-force winds. They swirl and nearly knock me over with their sheer intensity. Any residue of anxious energy that clouds my psyche is stripped away, reabsorbed into the ether. The anxiety may have different colors, depending on the exact situation, such as green or black. I imagine these colors being dissolved into clear as they are carried away, each atom scattered from the next until they become part of the whole. I am left calm, sedate, and windblown. I may need a drink of water or a bath in order to balance the intensity of engaging with the air element.

No matter the element on which I center myself, I find it necessary to imagine it at peak intensity. I think this because my internal energy needs an external force of equal magnitude in order to be shaken loose. I do want to emphasis that I do not see any part of myself letting go or leaving, rather, I see the emotions which the various parts of myself carry as being adjusted. I do not have an internal barometer or thermostat; my feelings seem to be either all the way up or non-existent. Or both at once. This exercise enables me to readjust mentally without having to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. If you experience greater graduation in your feelings than I do, your visualizations may also be less intense. Perhaps a soft breeze is all it takes mentally to remove excess anxiety.

Harmonizing Positive Emotions

At the end of an event or experience I am enjoying, I often feel as though I’m slamming into a wall. My emotional high-point has crested, and I am not willing to accept the lull that follows. In order to better titrate my experiences, I’ve found that elemental bathing which centers on water is the most useful.

Imagery and physical practice involving water can be used as a way to “blend” emotions and transition between emotional states. The metaphor of ocean waves approaching and retreating from a beach allows me to reconnect with the idea that my internal energy ebbs and flows; it is not stable and cannot always be at high tide. As I sit with this mental picture, I find my internal state swinging like a pendulum and then gradually slowing and centering.

I can also recognize the extent to which liquid water comprises my physical state. We are made almost entirely of water, and still we need to ingest it to sustain life. Here the active practice of mindfully drinking tea or water infused with herbs can refresh my body as well as calm my internal cravings to keep a positive mood afloat.

Literal bathing or soaking allows me to steady my energies. As I repose, I visualize the intense energy of excitement, happiness, connection and joy swirling and dashing through me. Gradually it begins to soften and loosen in the water. It dissolves outward, spreading to my surroundings with a burst of light and fragrance. These emotions can be draining if we try to hold on to them for too long; I believe they are meant to be shared and to inspire creative activity. As someone who struggles with depression punctuated by brief episodes of hypomania, my desire to always be in an “up” state can sometimes compromise my inner sense that this state is unsustainable. Frequent practice with the equilibrium offered by the water element has been beneficial.

Whenever I read about any technique related to emotions or cognitions, I find myself in a state of hypervigilance, scanning for any potential judgment or criticism. With that in mind, I want to note that I do not see this practice as even remotely all-inclusive or relevant to everyone. You may be able to modulate your emotions with little effort needed, or you may not wish to alter your experience of internal energy in any way. I am simply offering one possible practice that has connected for me. I look forward to learning more about the rituals and methods you use in relation to your emotions and energy states.

Inner Work

Pendulum as a Tool for Navigating Your Inner Direction

For today’s #InnerWork Wednesday, I’ll be focusing on pendulums. I think a pendulum reveals our internal wishes and desires. I share recommendations for choosing a pendulum, as well as methods with which you can work with one as a guide to your intuition.

Selecting a Pendulum

As with any intuitive tool, I think it is best to choose your pendulum in person if at all possible. One may speak to you that you wouldn’t expect if you were scrolling through photographs online. I prefer pendulums made of stone or crystal. Take the energy of the string into account as well.

Consider the chakra to which the particular color or content of your pendulum refers. Given my experience as a trauma survivor, I work with my root chakra frequently. As a result, I’ve found that stones that are black or red tend to be my favorites.

As you examine various pendulums, you may notice a change in temperature or energy when you find the one that’s right for you. A particular one may feel like it is “calling” you. Take as long as you’d like and keep searching if none stand out to you; it will be worth the wait!

Creating a Pendulum Board or Grid

I created my pendulum board intuitively by dialoguing with the pendulum about what each direction would mean. After a particular focus arose in my mind, I would allow the pendulum to move to show me which way that energy would be indicated. Most followed what I would have expected, but some ran counter to my typical way of setting things up.

I then made a record of that for which each direction stood. It should be noted here that I don’t view the ends of the arrows as strict dichotomous opposites. Instead, I allow that there may be times the pendulum will move with intensity, indicating a strong pull towards one choice, whereas other times it may be less intense, showing me inner ambivalence and uncertainty. It is not the pendulum’s job to resolve doubts, instead, it is there to illuminate truths and conflicts I might not otherwise want to face, and to help me work my way towards solutions that honor both self and others.

A pendulum could also be used to select or interpret the meaning of an oracle card. In creative work, it could help you hone in on the specific color, texture or shape that you could incorporate into your piece. While journaling, consider using a pendulum to select where to go next if you feel stuck. Once you develop a relationship with the pendulum you’ve selected, it can serve as a useful tool to access your unconscious mind and inner desires.

If you work with pendulums, how did you go about selecting the one(s) you use? How have you used pendulums? What have they shown you about your inner world?

Inner Work

Moon Ritual Pocket Tins

I am so excited to be sharing my newest pagan/witchy creation with you, just in time for the Full Moon in Aries this week! I’ve included all the materials I used so that you can create a similar system for yourself if it appeals to you. As I’ve grown in my spiritual walk, I’ve been drawn to conducting personal ceremony on the new and full moons in relation to astrological signs, but have felt a bit lost as to how to proceed. I wanted a way to remember the intentions I set on the new moon when the same sign comes around six months later on the full moon. I wrote recently about the meaning I find in small treasures. What I have settled on is creating pocket tins for each astrological sign, with materials I can use for the corresponding new and full moon. Tarot-Astrology lists the dates and signs for upcoming new and full moons.

Each sign invites us to consider a different aspect of our personality and selfhood as each moon unfolds. We may even find ourselves subtly mimicking the characteristics of the sign during the days leading up to and following the moon. If we attend to the astrological calendar throughout the year, inner areas that we might otherwise neglect will get attention and care.

Materials To Include

This is definitely a concept that welcomes artistic innovation. As I noted in one of my first blogs, I am not physically gifted in creative works, so I can only imagine what someone with artistic talent could do with this! I am somewhat obsessed with miniatures so that dictated my theme; take any special needs into account for your own work. The initial cost can be a bit expensive, but you can buy the materials in bulk to save money.

Tins or boxes

Crystals

Tealight candles

Tea bags or individually-wrapped chocolates

Wands

Decorative paper (This type includes materials for each sign).

Charms and jewelry creations

Herbs (in a sealed container)

Mini-journal (handmade—I glued tissue paper on regular strips of paper and stapled it together)

Tarot cards (these are by far the most expensive element. People with more self-control than I have can just use their regular cards during the ritual)

Handkerchiefs/Ritual Cloth

*I suggest connecting something in your tin or box to the element that the sign represents. Aries is a Fire sign so I chose a red cloth.

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New Moon Activities

New moons are for inner, intuitive work. They give us space and quiet to delve into our heart-space in order to better understand our unconscious needs and wishes. We can then make plans for how we would like to see these dreams come to fruition.

For each new moon, I include a poem I wrote related to the sign and my intended inner work. For the first year of using the tins, I will be purchasing a new mini tarot for each new moon. Rather than using it immediately, I instead bless it and include it in the box. I also create a small journal into which I write my intentions as well as a tarot card layout with corresponding statements or questions.

The basic format for my new moon ritual is to start by brewing tea with the teabag I’ve included and drinking it to center myself. I light the candle and sage. I cast a circle with the wand. The crystals can either be held to energize them during the reading of the chant I’ve included, or they can be laid out in a pattern that fits with the sign and its corresponding element. As noted above, I spend time writing in the journal and welcoming the tarot cards to my repertoire. I will pull cards if I need assistance with setting my intentions. I then close the circle and return the materials to the box.

Full Moon Activities

Full moons are for action and releasing. They allow us to realize the progress we’ve made for the previous six months on our intentions, as well as to let go of anything related to the inner work that is no longer in our best interest. We can gain clear sight during this time as to who we are and where we are going.

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The main material I add to the tin during the full moon is a poem proclaiming the action I will take as it corresponds to the astrological sign’s focus. I also include a tea bag for the next new moon practice. I update any materials that need to be refreshed. I expose the materials in the box to the full moon a day or before the ritual, and leave them sitting out for a day or two afterwards in order to capture the energy being transmitted. I have a lot of curious creatures where I live so I have to settle for placing them near a window.

My full moon ritual begins by lighting the candle and sage while I cast a circle with the wand. In addition to the uses for the crystals I included at the new moon, I may also work with them to remove negative energy I am carrying and absorb positive energy they carry. I refresh them in the full moon light before storing the box. I review the intentions I set six months earlier, and record the manifestations I’ve already seen of them in my life. I list the actions I plan to take in the next six months to bring them to harvest. I also note anything that needs to be released in the journal; I use the scrap paper to write and then discard/burn anything that feels like a significant burden. Using the layout I wrote on the new moon, I draw tarot cards and make meaning as it relates to the focus of the sign for the outcomes they reveal for my life. I close the circle and, as noted above, let the materials “breathe” for a few days before putting everything away.

I encourage you to find the particular format of celebrating the moon phases that best suits your needs. I lived decades of my life with minimal awareness of the astrological signs and the moon phases; tapping into their patterns has become very grounding and kept me focused on positive, uplifting aspects of life. Engaging in a practice that changes every two weeks (new moon to full moon) invites us to recharge and renew our process with regularity and dedication.

 

 

Inner Work

Mindfully Leafy

For today’s #InnerWork Wednesday, I wanted to share a short practice I developed for mindfully observing a leaf as it relates to inner work. Fall is my favorite time of year, and leaves work even better than pumpkin spice to connect me to the season. To complete this practice, you’ll need a leaf that has recently fallen from a tree.

Sensory Exploration

Begin by using four of your senses to observe the leaf.

Sight

What colors are captured in the leaf? What patterns and shapes does it contain? Where is it ordered, and where do you see disorder? What happens where the stem and leaf meet? How do the edges differ from the center?

Sound and Texture

Hold the leaf in the palm of your hand. Can you feel its weight? What does its energy feel like to you? Move the leaf through the air. What sounds does it make? Crinkle a bit of it between your fingers. What does it feel like? What noises does it produce?

Smell

Sniff the leaf and notice any hints of smell that emerge from it. What scents do the decay it is undergoing release?

Mindful Transformation

If the energy feels right, break the leaf into five pieces. You’ll be connecting each piece to a different element and experience. Alternatively, use five leaves total if you don’t want to break one apart.

Earth

Bury a piece of the leaf in the earth. What is the experience of digging in the dirt and covering up the leaf like for you? What do you notice about your surroundings as you bury it?

Air

Wait until there is a breeze, and release a piece of the leaf into the air. What trajectory does it take? What are the characteristics of its flight? Where and how does it land?

Fire

It would be most interesting to light the leaf on fire and watch how it transforms while burning. Given the rampant wildfires in many places, a safer practice may be to expose the leaf to sunlight, noticing how its characteristics change in the light, and, slowly, how it decomposes.

Water

Place the leaf in a puddle or another natural body of water. Observe its movement. How does the water change the way the leaf holds its shape? How much of it is above water, floating? How does it interact with obstacles such as the edge of the puddle, or other objects in the water?

Spirit

Place the remaining piece of the leaf on your personal altar or in another sacred space. Notice any thoughts and emotions that arise from doing so. Continue to use your senses as you incorporate it into your altar space and ritual practice. Samhain may be a good time to return it to one of the elements from your altar. Or, you can let it dry out and keep it as a permanent piece of your altar decorations.

Inner Work

Rites of Death: Requiem for a Squirrel

Content warning—description of animal death

For today’s #InnerWork Wednesday, I wanted to share the ritual I enacted after witnessing a violent squirrel death. This is the second dead animal I’ve come across in the last month; I also found a robin outside of my door which had likely passed from West Nile virus. Just as I try to drastically reduce my consumption of animal products, my access to their suffering has increased.

Witnessing Wildness

As I walked with my dog, I hear a ruckus in a neighbor’s tree. My pup and I stopped to see what was causing all the commotion. Unexpectedly, three squirrels came hurdling at least ten feet from a nest in the tree and plopped on the ground. One landed with a smacking sound. My brain tried to sanitize what I’d just seen by telling me it was like a mother bird pushing her offspring out of the nest, even as I stood there covering my mouth with my hand, eyes bugging out. A single squirrel that remained in the tree squawked in victory.

I kept walking, believing everything was alright. As I passed the house on my way back, two neighbors came out, staring at the tree. I went over and explained what I’d seen. One of the men remarked that a squirrel, the one that landed with a thud, seemed like it might be dead. Before I could react, the other man started kicking and stomping on it. He kicked it into the bush where I could now see it. Its body laid there, still and silent. I felt sickened to my core and helpless. I was confused by the ambiguity of his actions—unsure if he was trying to “put it out of its misery” or if it was merely stunned and could have recovered. I left the scene but what I’d observed bothered me the rest of the day.

Words of Mourning

I decided to hold a small ritual to mourn the squirrel. Its manner of death was so abrupt and violent that I intuited on a visceral level the fear people have of ghosts and spirits who linger, unable to move on to their next destination. I’ve always conceptualized funerals as events designed to help the living grieve, but now I’m not so certain that they are the only ones in attendance. I burned some palo santo, lit a candle, and recited the following chant:

May Earth cradle.

May Air free.

May Fire guide.

May Water heal.

May your essence, emanating from Source, spiral its home in the cosmic web.

I also lit a candle outdoors the next day to finalize my actions. It flickered on and off like a heartbeat. Each time I thought it had been blown out by the wind, its flame started anew.

When I walked by the place of passing, the squirrel was gone.That is, its body had been removed or resurrected; I didn’t have a strong sense of its spirit either, but the tree, now empty, felt closed-in and shadowed to me.

We pass every day near places where violence has occurred, often on a much grander scale than what I saw. We can do all we are able to stop these types of events. When they do happen, how do we integrate them into our experience? How do we heal them and ourselves of our participation in them? How do we remember and honor those who have passed?