A yorkie asleep underneath a white blanket.
Naturally Mindful

Dogs as Healing Companions for Trauma Survivors

I will never forget the conversation I had with a friend shortly before I set off to pick up my first dog. I told her I was worried I would regret my decision. She quipped that I would be wondering why I didn’t make the commitment to pet parenting earlier! Her intuition proved to be spot-on as the space my pup has opened up in my heart stirs and surprises me on a regular basis. For today’s #NaturallyMindful post, I will be sharing about canine psychological research as well as my own experiences with pet parenting as a trauma survivor.

Why Dogs?

  • Both Dogs and Humans Benefit from Shared Affection

Research indicates that both species release oxytocin, the “cuddle” hormone, during interactions such as eye contact and petting (Handlin, 2015). This may serve to lower our stress levels and to bond us to each other. In addition, caring for a dog is not only good for our heart in terms of love. It is also linked with positive changes to physical heart disease risk factors such as our blood pressure and cholesterol levels (CDC, 2014).

  • Puppies Form Infant-Like Bonds with Pet Parents

The idea that humans need to serve as the “alpha” and establish dominance over dogs has been challenged by newer research. Rather than viewing their human as master, dogs may instead see us as a parent (Palestrini et al., 2005). For me, this has meant concentrating my efforts on forming a trusting relationship with healthy boundaries and rules with my pup.

  • Dogs May Assist in Coping with Mental Health Concerns

Although it is extremely popular, the evidence for the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy is relatively sparse (Crossman, 2016). Personally, I wonder about whether the deeper bond of pet parenting is needed for sustained symptom reduction. Surveys of pet parents do reveal, however, that humans perceive themselves as experiencing positive well-being as a result of their relationship with their dog(s) (O’Haire, 2010).

Personal Reflections

Choose Wisely

Dogs can have mental health and relationship issues themselves (see, for instance, Laurel Braitman’s book on Animal Madness). I’ll leave arguments about nature versus nurture (dog breed versus training) to the side for a moment and simply say that not every relationship between a dog and a person is going to be healthy or healing. I believe that, as pet parents, we need to be taking care of ourselves physically and mentally before making the commitment to raising an animal. This doesn’t mean we have to be “healed” first, simply that it is best if we have the resources in place to deal with the unexpected. For instance, my dog had a few bad experiences (and limited interaction) with other dogs, which has led him to “yell” at passing pups quite frequently. I chose to invested in personalized training to help with these behaviors and am now planning to engage in more advanced, focused training with him as well.

In choosing to become a pet parent, I think we do well, just as with human relationships, to enter into it with as few expectations as possible. The more we pile assumptions onto the relationship, the more we are setting both ourselves and our dog up for disappointment, failure and negative outcomes. Hoping that we will forge a healing and deep bond is not automatic; it takes commitment and follow-through.

Fully Invest of Yourself

Our pets require quality time with us on a regular basis in order to develop a rhythm in our connection. When I am feeling more depressed or anxious, it can be hard for me to view care-taking as anything other than an obligation. If I give myself to each walk or play session or smell adventure, bit by bit it becomes an expression of love.

Dogs and humans can bond through grooming. My pup needs a weekly bath and frequent hair-trims, so I’ve had a lot of opportunity for this. I am unable to clip his toenails myself (there was an incident), but he allows me to do all of his haircuts. This may not be a reasonable expectation for every pet parent, but consider what you and your pet can share, even if it is as simple as brushing their hair. Many dogs also love pet massage.

Hold on Lightly

Not to the leash! What I mean here is that a relationship with a dog is inherently one of loss alongside the joy it brings. Their lives are much shorter than ours, and, even before the ultimate separation, there are other changes as well. My dog is only a few years old but has already had to have knee surgery. He is now also going blind from Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), a condition that currently does not have any effective treatment. I’ve learned, as much as I’m able, to open my hands and make an offering of my affection for him, rather than to cling to it and “demand” of Goddess or whomever that it remains exactly as I want it to be. Love is loss at times.

Appreciate the Invitation to the Present Moment

My pup is capable of anticipating the future. The word “bath” sends him into a sullen heap, and the word “park” has him barreling toward the garage door to hop in my car. In general, though, he appears to live moment to moment. This is especially true if there is a good sniff to be had outdoors! Dogs appear to be able to detect the passage of time, the type of animal who’s passed by, and so forth, based on the intensity of scents left (Horowitz, 2016), so I tend to ask him if there are any good “stories” if he insists on stopping to peruse the grass. He shows me in the moment what he is feeling, rather than holding back.

Dogs can pick up a negative emotional state from their owners and respond in a variety of ways, including shaking it out (Huber, 2017). In doing so, they show us how to move through our feelings instead of ruminating on and stewing in them. I frequently feel jealous of the speed with which my dog adapts to new situations and the resilience he displays. At the same time, his “bounce-back” inspires me to respond to challenges with a hopeful rather than resigned attitude.

My pup and I share our hyper-vigilance (although his is in reaction to other dogs and mine to humans). This sometimes adds to rather than reduces my symptomology. If he is having a “barky” day, I find I may need to distract both him and myself with a change in location or a new activity. Before I got my dog, I had frequent anxiety at night. Now, I almost always sleep well unless I’ve had too much caffeine. The reason is that he sends me “its all good” signals for a few hours before bed every night, as he sleeps on the couch while I read or watch TV. He spends the night in a crate by my bed. His peaceful slumber lets me know it is safe to relax and allows the part of me that might otherwise think it needs to be alert to rest as I know he’ll wake me if there is any danger. The moments of the night that used to feel fraught and dangerous are now secure and cozy.

The biggest change for me as a survivor that has happened since I became a parent to my dog is that I have experienced a dramatic reduction in my level of suicidality. In part, this is due to the commitment I have to him in terms of care-taking and the difficulty both of us experience if we are away from each other too long. I believe it is also due to the fact that I have a being near me many hours every day who wants nothing more than my attention and care, who loves me even when I’m angry, and who allows me to dress him in an old sweater and wrap him in blankets every night before he goes to sleep. He’s found his way to my heart and he knows it. In doing so, he’s given me a reason to press on.

If you are a survivor who parents a dog, what has the relationship meant to you? What has your experience with your dog taught you? How has your heart changed?

A dead tree surrounded by green trees and a sunny sky with one cloud.
Embodied Heart

The Melodies of Trauma

What I’ve written below for today’s #EmbodiedHeart post diverges a bit from my normal style of writing in that it seems to me more raw and unpolished. I feel the need to present my experience as a trauma survivor from the inside out, as it shows up when I’m lost in a flashback, rather than solely as a metabolized completion. I most definitely do not know how or when I heal fully from my past; the last few months, in which I’ve found my sense of inner stability flitting in and out, have been a time where this has been even more evident to me.

Grinding

Life has felt full of triggers lately. I don’t think it’s solely my perception; there have been more interpersonal experiences that set off alarm bells inside of me. Whenever this occurs, I start to fantasize about moving to the woods and living off the land. No human noises. No human with whom I can have conflict. No need to maintain my composure when I feel like exploding in a fireball or dissolving into a puddle of tears.

I’ve felt for a while now that I walk right on the line of “functioning adult person.” I get up every day and go to work. I meet my financial obligations. I clean and cook and present myself according to societal norms. But the cracks are right below the surface and they start peeking out as soon as the pressure gets sufficiently high. Today, for instance, I decided I wanted to get a flu shot. The worker at the first place I went couldn’t get the computer system to cooperate. I eventually stormed off in a huff muttering about “not having the g-damn time for this.” At the second place, I had to wait a full fifteen minutes after completing the paperwork. I started talking out loud to myself and became more and more agitated. When the pharmacist finally administered the shot, she thought I was going to pass out because I was so frantic. There was at least the smallest of internal voices telling me “you look crazy right now” “no one else is losing their shit waiting for a few minutes” but it wasn’t enough to get myself in check.

My daily lived experience is that of a caged animal. I want to react from fight or flight because all I feel is flight or fight, but I believe I have to “perform.” I’ve achieved a certain state of living that I only get to keep to the extent to which I am able to act professional. It terrifies me because it is truly a charade. There is no “having it together” there, at least not internally. I have full-blown Dissociative Identity Disorder and PTSD, but the symptoms are warped by the capacity of my self-control. At most, I appear “anxious” and “high-strung” to those who with whom I interact.

I’ve become extremely burned out at my job, dissatisfied with my living situation and unhappy in many of my personal relationships. To some extent, this is a reflection of the quality of these entities, but, in another way, it is because I feel as though there isn’t anywhere safe in my life. I’m back to running without the pausing to breathe in existence.

I know that this isn’t my experience at all times. But once the levers dialing down my stress start rising, time itself vibrates and shimmers until it seems as though eternity is terror. Safety, a necessity for resting and unfurling, becomes more elusive the harder I try to clasp my hand around it. Life is unsafe. I am not safe. No pauses. Eyes open and ears up. Repeat, repeat, repeat. The quickening strain amplifies the song of battle and I cannot march much further. I’m in helplessness, and I know that what follows is hopelessness.

Headspace

I wrote everything above and felt, with an adequate sense of irony, an internal pause for the first time in weeks. I briefly became me and not her again, knowing that she/me/us has experienced overwhelming trauma and wrote from that place. The I that is me, though, is paper-thin in these moments of high-stress. I feel completely self-created, hollow and artifice only. I’m the one that gets to enjoy life, to contemplate deep thealogies and to muse over silliness. I disappear when a trigger is sprung on us.

In this case, I think it was about the end of June when I started wearing out, after my ill-fated attempt at a vacation. I also had a nasty incident a few weeks later where a random stranger started hurling obscenities at me for no reason (he allowed his dog to run free and it frightened mine by coming at us). Then things started spiraling downward with interpersonal triggers left and right; my threshold lowers once something sets me off so that each subsequent blow lands on bruised barrier.

The sound that orients me again, maybe for a moment only, is the pulsing of the heartbeat. I’m alive, whether or not I’m safe. All of me is here, despite being scattered and back-turned in anger towards myself. Goddess as rhythm, earth-sound, lower, deeper and steadier than the skirmishes I wage feels present and She gathers me together. When I go “away” into dissociation, my sense of my physical being tends to go with me. I become a collection of aches and urges rather than an embodied and centered being. In the heartbeat I start to find the breath, and then limbs and torso and the rest of me begins to feel more whole again.

If you are a trauma survivor, to what extent can you relate to going through times of triggers piling up? How in touch are you with being able to notice when dissociation is creeping in? What, if anything, helps you to re-center yourself?

Inner Work

Approaching Our Fears

Cross-posted on my Sagewoman blog.

For today’s #InnerWork Wednesday, I will be uncovering some of the psychology behind “facing your fears” and discussing how we can incorporate Goddess Spirituality into this experience. The topic is timely for me as I will be getting MRI testing in the next few weeks and am concerned about how it will go for me. I saw the machine in person and have been feeling anxious imagining myself undergoing the process.

Children often shrink back from new stimuli. They question their safety in the presence of the unknown. As adults, we are tasked with gently guiding them in approaching things that may seem scary but which are actually benign. Unfortunately, many of us as children did not receive a hand on our shoulder, bolstering us to take small steps. Instead, we may have been chided, slapped, ridiculed, abandoned or worse when we expressed fear. Subsequently, we may struggle in adulthood to approach that which scares us. (I will pause to note here that susceptibility to anxiety is also heritable, so some of us have a biological makeup that predisposes us to fear-based reactions).

Moving towards things that are frightening but which we know are not inherently dangerous acts in opposition to the avoidance behavior that maintains anxiety. The more we avoid things, the more we teach our inner little self that we should in fact be scared and that we aren’t safe. Taking incremental steps forward, especially in the presence of a supportive and kind individual, can radically alter our relationship with fear.

In approaching feared scenarios, the typical rehearsal of imagining every potential catastrophic result can be replaced with small approximations of the situation. For instance, in preparing for my upcoming MRI, I’ve closed off an area in my house to create a small corridor and laid in it while listening to audio of MRI sounds. My confidence has grown as I’ve gotten near my threshold of panic and stayed there with it until it subsided. I’ve also had a few moment of hysterical laughing as my dog tried to “rescue” me from the tunnel!

Where these psychologically-grounded behaviors can break down for me personally is that, when confronted with certain stressors, I lose the adult me. I am all little self, terrified of the situation and convinced I cannot make it through it. When I’ve had social support to which I am able to connect in these instances, I do much better. Approach is sometimes possible with a steady hand on my shoulder, voicing belief in my capacity to befriend that which terrifies me.

What do we do, though, in instances where we are alone or when we are having difficulty accessing another’s compassion? In this place I am, let’s say, in the experimental phase as I have not forged a rock-solid connection between my Inner Being and my little self. My primary approach, if the situation is predicable or repeated, is to stay present with my inner child and to, if my capacity in the moment gets thwarted, return to Self as quickly as possible. Behaviors such as maintaining a steady breathing pattern, slowing down the situation and practicing positive self-talk can assist in this undertaking.

I want to stay connected to Goddess in every moment, even the scary ones. As I mentioned in a recent post, I am taking a forest therapy class. On my first walk, we were instructed to notice things in motion as we progressed slowly down the path. I was suddenly overcome with a sense of being able to take in the entire scene, including us humans walking, and saw that we were in fact moving along with other parts of the forest. I felt deeply connected to Goddess. I think here we have an opportunity for developing a sense of compassionate presence by imagining ourselves, as we go near that which frightens us, being held in the gaze of Deity who is infusing the situation with Her love, caring deeply about our worries and holding all possible outcomes in the palm of Her hand.

We can easily shame ourselves in instances in which we know we’ve been waylaid by anxiety and through which no comfort, support or “adult” seemed present. I believe all we can ask of ourselves is to continue to try again, knowing that at times we’ll fail to follow through as completely as we would have hoped we’d do, and that there may be fears of which we will be unable to get within arms-length. Anyone who scolds you with a “it’s no big deal” when you express hesitation is failing to empathize with you just as completely as you are wanting to avoid. Hearing “I can tell it’s very scary for you. How can I support you in approaching the situation?” from someone is, to me, a clear sign that the individual could be a good candidate for the unwavering presence that we all need as our little selves learn there are now people, including ourselves, who can be trusted to surround us in the all-encompassing grace of Goddess.

Which ways have you found to be the most beneficial in responding to situations that cause you anxiety? To what extent does the conceptualization I’ve shared of little self and adult fit your experience? How do you access your spirituality in anxiety-provoking experiences?

Surviving & Thriving

Vulnerability and Trauma

It has been difficult for me to get myself to write lately. I’ve felt like my walls are up. This experience has occurred in concert with working very hard in therapy to dig into my childhood trauma on a deeper level. I feel as though I can only muster so much vulnerability as an individual, and increasing it in one area has unfortunately decreased it in my writing. As I contemplated my experience for today’s #SurvivinggnThriving Tuesday, I pondered the discomfort I’ve had with the word vulnerability, and saw that it is because I associate it with threat. To be vulnerable means to open myself up to possible attack and harm.

What are we afraid will happen to us if we are vulnerable? By and large, I think one “attack” that we might fear is being invalidated. In terms of traumatic experiences, we might be discounted and told that we are remembering things incorrectly. If our memories are factual, we are exaggerating them. If things are really as bad as we say they were, we must have brought it on ourselves. If we were in fact innocent victims, we need to show signs of “healing” like forgiveness and love in order to have our experiences “count.”

While many factors influence the reasons that traumatic experiences—especially those of a sexual nature—tend to get discounted, one aspect that I think stands strong is the fact humans are exquisitely tuned in to each other as social animals. We may be expected to preserve the “tribe” at any and all personal costs. The pressure to conform to the idea that people get what they deserve and to believe that everyone is trying their best can outweigh our willingness to grapple with evil and with the nuance in the nature of human relationships. We may feel a need to trust in authorities such as political leaders, clergy and parents, even when some of the individuals in these places of authority betray their charge.

How can this focus on our place as highly social beings help us in being willing to risk vulnerability, especially when our trauma has come at the hands of other people? As hard as this truth is for me to accept, relationships are a major healing force, perhaps the major healing force from trauma. All of the evidence-based treatments of trauma include an aspect of witnessing, listening, processing, talking, displaying, feeling or in some way being with our past experience of trauma in the presence of a safe and caring individual. A refusal to be vulnerable is likely to serve as an impediment to healing in therapeutic relationships that are “good enough.”

Being vulnerable presents other risks. We may be rejected, judged, criticized, betrayed or humiliated. I’ve shared previously about strategies through which we might discern if another individual or group is worthy of risking vulnerability. There is no gain in allowing ourselves to be mistreated, even if we may sometimes think we can undo the original trauma by defeating it in an adult form. Nothing feels more like failure to me than realizing I’ve been “sucked in” to an adult relationship that mimics an aspect of my childhood trauma, having mistaken the familiar for the safe.

What, though, can we do if we know deep down that we are in a safe relational space, but our walls are still up? I’m still terrified of having unpleasant reactions to my blogs, but honestly thus far *knocks on wood* I’ve had really kind and supportive readers. In parallel, in many offline areas of my life where I’ve taken risks, I’ve expected to be attacked and instead found acceptance. I believe it takes a significantly greater number of experiences of trust to undo a hurt than it takes hurts to break trust. All I can do or any of us can do is to keep trying, knowing this reality. And I believe empathy is vital—for those who have managed to have a lot of safe and loving people in their lives, know that you are indeed privileged and consider offering support instead of incredulity to those of us who may shrink at the first sign of relational conflict.

How have you navigated the terrain of vulnerability? What behaviors do others do that allow you to lower your defenses? How do you find the motivation to open up again after a relational wound?

Goddess Thealogy

Wealth, Money and Anxiety: Spiritual Practices to Soothe Your Soul

I’ve decided the USPS’s “Informed Delivery,” an email service available in the U.S. which alerts you to incoming daily mail, should probably be called “Panic Attack Now” for those of us with anxiety problems. I recently received an email letting me know a letter was coming from the IRS. I wasn’t expecting a letter from the IRS, so I spent the next four hours in an absolute hysteria, binge eating pizza and reading every document online about the potential contents of letters from the IRS I could find. The letter, inconsequentially, was a notice about an online request I’d made. Nothing owed, nothing in error, four hours of my life wasted in service to the two-headed beast of anxiety and greed.

For today’s #Thealogy Thursday, I decided to put my vast experience at freaking out over financial matters to use. I started this blog with posts about “Goddessing On a Budget” and have made significant improvements to my financial health in recent months, but, nonetheless, I consistently return to money worries day in and day out. I determined to spend some time here exploring the connection between money, definitions of wealth and spiritual practices within a Goddess Spirituality framework.

Who’s in Charge: Our Relationship with Money

I sometimes find myself wondering if I own money or if I am being owned by money. I’ve decided to conceptualize the way in which I connect to money as a relationship. Even on the surface, questions immediately arise. If I see money as a representation of material resources that have been transferred to me, ostensibly as a result of my labor, what can I do to engage in healthy stewardship of this possession? I believe that many of us see money instead as a reflection of our inner value, merit and basic “goodness” and we evaluate our self-worth accordingly. We allow money, wealth and income to serve as our master instead of our deserved and needed companion. We indenture ourselves to its whims and exalt its benefits, even while our lust for it remains unsatiated. We act as masochists, willing to prostitute ourselves with hour after hour of drudgery, thrashing at the chains of our self-imprisonment in its gleam. When a windfall or raise comes our way, we are kings and queens, either showering the excess on parades through shopping malls or sitting alone in our miserly office, stacking and restacking each coin, refusing others and ourselves even a few tokens of joy.

One of the reasons I think we often have an unhealthy relationship with money is that it is a resource embedded with a myriad of systems, most of which are inherently unfair and unjust. We may rightly earn a certain quantity of money through honest effort and energy while simultaneously failing to acknowledge that the structure through which we came about it is corrupt and benefits the few at great cost to the many. I cannot do justice within the context of this article to articulating the tentacles of greed and avarice winding through the employment and financial structure of American society. My own financial future hangs in the balance as I am planning to apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness in a few years. As of the writing of this post, there is a bill being drafted in Congress to rescind this program. Because of the interest rate, I have six figures at stake. I detest with a passion the idea that a few hundred men at the seat of power in America have the ability to sign or not sign legislation that, with one stroke of the pen, would completely alter the course of my life. The tiny sliver of insight that has been opened to me through this experience has compelled me to contemplate what the daily struggle must be like for those who, by no fault of their own, were born with characteristics that put them at a much greater mercy to the systems of influence in which we find ourselves.

Despite my realizations about the inequitable situation in which we each find ourselves, there is something in me that chaffs at the idea of money being completely disentangled from labor. In a strictly financial sense, I’ve lived the American dream. I came from very little with no one in my family having a college education, and was able to get my doctorate degree and a well-paying job. I did so in part on the graciousness of long-dead scholarship endowment sponsors, but also through my own tenaciousness and determination. Because of my resulting tendency towards individualism, I feel internally conflicted over the idea that money and possession as things that are not actually “owned” by anyone but are instead best understood as the property of all. This idea rings true for many who practice Goddess Spirituality, engage in feminist thought or live a minimalist lifestyle and who believe society would benefit from increased interdependence and communal living. I’ve even come across a few people who have rejected the concept of money entirely. If we allow for ideas of cooperative living to enter our collective consciousness, we have tremendous work to do in order to achieve these goals on a even a small scale. How we better society in order to more equally distribute resources is a task I hope there are minds strong and able enough to realize progress within my lifetime.

Poverty of Soul/Inner Riches

In certain corners of the various religious and spiritual traditions to which I’ve been privy, I’ve come across a recurring theme of wealth and prosperity. The basic idea of each of these subgroups is that if one prays/believes/casts spells/ practices enough, one will acquire material possessions and riches. A fundamental lack within this viewpoint is to ask whether or not becoming rich is a worthy goal. Without a doubt, there is a minimal threshold of income or resources below which life becomes very challenging. It angers me to see spiritual practitioners of any faith exploiting impoverished individuals, parting them from the little money they do have in order to grow their riches. There are absolutely “female lifestyle empowerment brands” that hone directly on these needs within women and which seek to take advantage of a women’s desire to become enlightened or spiritual.

Although money matters, I believe focusing on money, wealth, status or possession above other life goals such as relationships with self and others is an invitation to additional suffering and emptiness. Research has consistently demonstrated that having more money does not lead to happiness once we reach a certain income level. I’ve lived on both sides of the tipping point; it has taken me years on the plus side of it to see how much the additional work I was doing to continue to increase my income each year was bringing me down rather than building me up.

Not everyone has the privilege of being able to say that they have enough money consistently or to even renegotiate their relationship with income. If we are facing challenging times financially, I believe these moments offer us an opportunity to value our inner strengths and to find comfort in our collective struggle. We all have a wealth of internal characteristics that allow us to weather difficult moments; giving yourself permission to notice and appreciate these abilities despite financial setbacks may help to refocus your minds and allow you to move forward with handling the situation instead of beating yourself up for poor planning or blaming the situation for being unfair (even if one or both of those things is also true). There are also many resources dedicated to developing a sharing community instead of one based on competition.

Whether we are struggling to make ends meet or to reduce our cravings for “more” in the way of status and possessions, meeting our spiritual needs consistently may allow us to align our thoughts about money to reasonable terms. I genuinely fight with this on a regular basis; I seem to be able to have a rich spiritual life or a healthy budget, but both at the same time feels outside of my grasp. Paying attention is always the first step for me in realizing when the scale has tipped too far in the “I must have all the pretties and meditate 3 times a day” or the “I will record every purchase and spend an hour a day budgeting for the next two years” side of things. Both are important, both are valuable, and the other goals I have in life such as developing deep relationships, improving my physical health and connecting with nature also need time in the rotation. Spending time in ritual that centers around our relationship with money may be one way in which we can improve our relationship with our finances.

Acceptance and Empowerment Ritual

As with any spiritual practice I share, customize this ritual to your own needs and preferences.

For the acceptance aspect of this ritual, I see the purpose as twofold. First, I want to us to engage in acknowledgment of our inability to plan for everything and of the competitiveness and desire for comfort that are a part of human nature. Secondly, I want us to release beliefs about the connection between wealth and spirituality—in essence—the false belief that good people/behaviors are rewarded, and that bad people/behaviors are punished. As I’ve stated in other writings, I’ve seen way too much evil in this world to believe in karma and just desserts.

For the empowerment aspect of this ritual, I wanted to focus on developing a healthier relationship with money. I chose themes such as individual money management and advocacy for more equality in our financial systems as potential focal points. Taking time to set concrete goals or to explore the beliefs we hold about these topics may free us from automatic assumptions and behaviors that disempower and limit our financial lives.

Materials:

Green tea

Teacup and hot water

Paper slips

Marker

Twine

Journal and pen

Five coins

Five popsicle type sticks. Write the following phrases on each one: 1. Personal money management. 2. Stewardship of money. 3. Gratitude for bounty. 4. Positive systems of influence. 5. Advocacy for equality. OR choose 5 phrases that represent empowering financial concepts to you and write one each on the sticks.

Instructions:

  1. Cast a circle and call in any elements or Deities that you wish to have present.
  2. Brew the tea.
  3. Spend time contemplating your beliefs about how much control you “should” have over money, how much you desire more money, and the extent to which you think being “good” or acting positively will lead to more income. Write your beliefs on the slips of paper.
  4. The green in the tea here symbolizes greed, envy and desire. Rather than reject or deny these emotions, allow yourself to explore them. What do they look like or feel like? Where are they held in your body? What behaviors do they lead to? Sip the tea as you allow yourself to connect with your envy. Is there any emotion or thought underneath of it? Any desire that it is hiding? I often realize my envy is rooted in wanting to be accepted and loved by others, for instance. Feel free to journal about any self-discoveries you make.
  5. Roll up the slips of paper and tie them with twine. If you wish to do so, you can connect them and hang them up in a location where you will see them when engaging in financial matters as a reminder to check in with yourself and your thoughts in your relationship with money. You can also rid yourself of them if you wish to symbolize releasing them.
  6. Lay out the five coins in the shape of a pentagram. Begin to lay the sticks to connect the coins in an order that feels intuitively aligned for you. As you place each stick, read the phrase and contemplate one or two aspects of the concept with which you wish to be empowered. For instance, when placing “positive systems of influence,” I determined to learn more about things like micro-lending and other investment tools that focus on giving money to those who truly need it instead of corporate shareholders. Feel free to journal your ideas. You may want to light a candle in the center to symbolize your growing empowerment in your financial life. You can leave the arrangement as a reminder for a period of time, or, if you are crafty enough, fashion a decoration out of it using the twine.
  7. Close the circle, thanking any elements and Deities that you invited.

If you choose to enact any part of this ritual, either as a spiritual practice or as an experiential inner work session, feel free to share your insights. I would also welcome your reflections on your relationship with money and financial systems. Lastly, I invite discussion of the activities in which you engage to balance your focus on the various goals and aspirations which you set for yourself.