Inner Work

Mindful Amid the Snowfall

Cross-posted at my SageWoman blog.

For today’s #InnerWork Wednesday, I’m borrowing from my previous practice of mindfully observing a leaf and applying this concept to winter, specifically, to snow. If you live in a climate where it does not snow, most of the practice could easily be adapted using crushed ice.

Sensory Exploration

Begin by using four or five of your senses to observe the snow.

Sight

What colors are reflected by the snow? How might the depth of the snow affects its hue? What patterns and shapes does it contain? As the snow falls, how does it change in shape, texture or form, and to what do you attribute the changes? Where is it ordered, and where do you see disorder? What happens where the snow meets other objects? How do the edges of where the snow has landed differ from deep areas?

Sound

What is the sound of snow falling? What noises do you hear as it affects various objects and structures? What sounds emanate as you walk or travel over it? Drop the snow to the ground. What sounds does it make? Pack some snow together. What noises are created?

Texture

Cradle a bit of snow in the palm of your hand. What does it feel like? What energies do you find emanating from it? Pack some snow together again. How does the texture change when it is held lightly versus being crushed? How does the sensation of temperature alter as you hold the snow? How does your body respond to holding it?

Smell

Sniff the snow and notice any hints of smell that emerge from it. To what extent is it affected by its surroundings, and to what extent is its scent, if it has any, its own? What scent does snowfall lend to the overall environment around you?

Taste

Depending upon where you live and the pattern of snowfall, experts have some recommendations regarding tasting snow. Crushed ice may be a good alternative here. If you choose to eat a small amount, note the taste, smell and texture as you first eat some versus when it dissolves in your mouth. How does the temperature of your mouth change the form?

Mindful Transformation

If the energy feels right, collect four samples of snow, perhaps from different places around you. You’ll be connecting each sample to a different element and experience.

Earth

If you have a potted plant or another indoor source of dirt, bring some snow inside and bury it in the soil. What is it like to flip the order—snow under earth? How is the energy affected by the introduction of this cold form of water? Alternatively, you can spend time observing snow melt into the soil on a warming day.

Air

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

Fire

Expose some snow to candlelight or sunlight. How does its characteristics change in the light? What happens as it is transformed into liquid water by the heat?

Water and Spirit

Snow is the water element in crystallized form. It differs from ice mainly in density—a snow-pile will be comprised of both air and water while a block of ice is mainly water. The shape of each snowflake is in part dictated by the temperature at which it forms. Snow can also contain bits of dust. In this way, it is truly an intertwining of each of the four elements.

Enshrine the remaining sample of snow in a jar 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. When the winter season ends, you may return it to the water element in the spring rains, or you may choose to keep it as a permanent part of your altar.

Inner Work, Pagan Practice

Yule: A Time of Dormancy

I’ve struggled to pull together a theme for Yule this year for my #PaganPractice post. It occurred to me that Yule is a time where there is an inner tension within some aspects of Paganism as well as within the time of year as a whole. Paganism which focuses on the Sun God/dess sees Yule as a time of light, heralding in rebirth. Goddess Spirituality during this time of year may include a focus on the myth of Persephone and Demeter, namely, winter being a time of mourning as Demeter brings death to the earth while mourning her daughter’s exile in the Underworld. Death and new life, utter contrasts on their face, are woven together.

As I sat with this divergence in meaning, I was drawn to remember the Earth-based aspect of my spirituality. At least in my location, this is a time of year for things to go dormant. Both plants and animals draw in their resources, having hopefully stored what they needed during the harvest time. There is little activity and indeed little indication of life, unless one is a careful observer.

Things appear to be resting and sleeping away the long nights. I do believe that this time of year beckons us inward, to shut out excessive distraction and activity, and to open the cupboards of our inner world and see what supplies remain. We may feel drawn thin in terms of spiritual provisions, needing to conserve our energy and our effort. It is not only acceptable, it is actually necessary to take some time to take stock of who and what we are in order to equip ourselves for times of plenty and activity.

I sense a pregnant pause during this time; we can not only count our inner inventory, we can also begin to shape our intentions for busier times. One symbol of Yule that I’ve found particularly meaningful this year is that of a candle being lit. As a representation of light and rebirth, it shares with us hope during the cold and the dark. It reminds us that this withdraw inward is only temporary and that something is coming. From a Goddess Spirituality perspective, I see the something as a someone, Goddess reborn in all her splendor as time renews. But for now, the long shadows of early nightfall make it hard to see beyond our feet, and, while we pause to rest, we’ve much to sit with and divide and cast off and hold onto and make new. Her light attends our latency.

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

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.