Sacred Spiritual Growth

The Goddessing Cycle: Releasing

Cross-posted on my SageWoman blog.

This post is the first in a five-part series for #SacredSpiritualGrowth that I will be writing related to my personal conception of energy flow and focus, both internally and throughout the year, which I’ve titled the “Goddessing Cycle.” The cycle is based on the pattern of growth found in nature, for instance, in trees.

I intend to share about each season first, and to then provide a comprehensive post addressing all the components. I’ve taken this approach as I want to consciously live through and conduct ritual in each season before synthesizing the components. The themes are generally inspired by Pagan and Goddess Spirituality practices. However, I’ve found the number of Pagan “Wheel of the Year” ceremonies to be both overwhelming and impersonal and have been frustrated by the emphasis on childbearing capacities within Goddess Spirituality. One of my intentions is to create a way of holding space for the sacred that is not gender-specific. I would also like to avoid practices that favor the privileged or which borrow inappropriately from cultures other than my own. To this end, I welcome feedback on the accessibility, sensitivity and practicality of what I’m proposing.

Here I will be focusing on the months of September through November. I’ve found my own rhythm is a month off from the official calendar for the four seasons in North America and have adjusted accordingly. I want to mention, though, that this cycle is far more intimate than times of the year. I may cycle through multiple parts of it within a single day. I had at least three instances of release this past year that didn’t fit time-wise, and the “not the right time for this to happen” was felt deep within me.

What is it then, this releasing? Releasing, to me, involves acknowledging the areas of my life where things may be withering away and may need pruned. It includes setting firmer boundaries and refining my focus. My energy during this time flows inward; there can be a sense of scarcity which contradicts the typical “harvest” focus. In many ways, it is the harshest season, but is so very necessary for the abundance that precedes and follows it. It is noticing where I lack and owning it as well as noticing where I need to let go and doing so.

Releasing Ritual

Releasing can be painful, so proceed with caution. Consider your intentions and your self-care practices before diving in. Feel free to pick and choose what works for you and what you need to modify to make it your own.

Supplies

Leaves (try to find ones that are large and flat)

Yarn or string

A permanent marker

A journal

An unlit candle

Practices

The purpose of this ritual is to acknowledge and mourn relationships, experiences, goals, dreams and other aspects of our lives that have been recent failures, losses or in reaction to which we may need to establish stronger boundaries.

  • Cast a circle and welcome in any Deities that you wish using your own method. Decide upon 5-10 focal points and write each one on its own leaf. For instance, ask yourself what significant losses you’ve experienced this past year, what goals have gone unfulfilled, what dreams have been unaccomplished, or the specific needs you’ve been unable to have met by the relationships in your life. The main thrust of what you’ll want to include is things you’ve desired but have not been able to achieve, and which you perceive to be less important to you than you may have originally thought. Think especially of goals that were set by someone else, or standards that are society’s and not your own. Also consider desires that you realize are completely unachievable (always pleasing everyone) or which hold you back from self-acceptance (such as perfectionism).
  • Please note that this ritual is not a ritual of mourning. If you’ve lost someone close to you, consider adding a leaf reflecting what it is they represented that you no longer have in your life right now, rather than their name. Likewise, this is not a ritual of breaking bad habits—start on a mental scale and ask yourself from what the bad habit is protecting you. Work on releasing that.
  • Loosely tie the leaves onto the strand of yarn, leaving some room between each one so that they can hang down from it.
  • Reflect upon your losses. Use whichever methods appeal to you, such as Tarot or oracle cards, sitting in meditation, listening to sacred music, to commune with Deity and to learn what you need to realize, experience or do in order to release the disappointments and struggles you’ve been carrying. At the heart of release lies acceptance. What would need to go in your life to accept things as they actually are, not as you wish they would be? Record three specific insights into your journal. If less than three come to you, hold space for future revelations.
  • Holding the string of leaves in one hand, light the candle and speak the following chant, amending as it fits for you:

Goddess, I ask for your guidance and blessing in releasing that which is not life-giving.

I accept that not all branches bear fruit.

I am clearing the way for new growth in my life.

Hasten the earth to decompose, the wind to shift away, the water to erode and the fire to blaze the dead weeds to which I cling.

I open my hands to release (raise your hands palms up).

I hold space in my heart for transformation (place hands on heart).

  • Tie the string with the leaves in an area inside or outside of your house. If possible, put it into an area that will receive some wind.
  • Close the circle.
  • Over the next few days and weeks, return to your leaf-string. Notice which leaves are missing and which remain and reflect in your journal as to the extent to which you are still holding onto or are letting go of the focal-points you included.

The point of this ritual is to help you dig down to what it really is that you want, what it is that you have, and what it is that you cannot (yet) have. We can spend a ton of energy avoiding directly acknowledging our desires, so if that is as far as you make it, you’ve made progress. Notice that you aren’t being asked to ignore or shut off your desires. Desire is healthy and normal. What I am encouraging here is to find those desires that hold you back and which stifle your growth because they are not coming from your deepest heart and/or because they are not in alignment with reality or your purpose in life and then to open to allowing Goddess to transform and heal them.

Reflection

Please feel free to share your responses to this ritual and/or to the following questions in the comments.

  • Was there any sort of pattern to your focal-points for release?
  • What were the actions you derived in order to help you loosen your attachment to your desires?
  • To what extent did you experience a sense of release? How often may you need to revisit this practice to continue to transform your desires?

© 2018. All Rights Reserved, Suzanne Tidewater, Goddessing From the Heart

A sunny spot of undergrowth surrounded by tall trees.
Inspiration Fanatic

5 Elements: Creative Visual Exploration through Photography

Cross-posted at my SageWoman blog.

For today’s #InspirationFanatic post, I snapped a series of photographs* based on the five elements–earth, air, fire, water and spirit. I’ve been lacking any desire to be creative and needed a way to get plugged back into Nature. I felt connected to Goddess through this experience, especially when I found the “spirit” spot. I encourage you to go to a favorite natural setting and do the same! I’ve included a few prompts for each element in case you need ideas to get started.

Earth

I honed in on decomposition for my photograph–evidence of something returning to the earth. You might also consider finding a place where soil meets growth, or a plant or animal being nourished by the earth. If you feel stuck, ask yourself what around you feels rooted, strong and grounded.A photograph of a tree trunk rotting away into the earth.

Air

I found myself drawn to movement when I contemplated the air element. You could also look for plant or animal material that tends to get carried in the wind, such as leaves or dandelion fluff. Wispy clouds may also reflect this element. To touch this element, ask yourself what in your immediate surroundings is in motion, is breathing or is aloft.

A photograph of a tree with its green leaves in motion.

Fire

I happened upon a fire pit which felt like an apt representation of this element. A spotlight cast by the sun or dry and dusty conditions fit here, as would flames (in a safe setting of course). If you are unsure what to include, ask yourself what around you is marked by sunlight, dry, scorched or alight?

An empty stone fire pit with ashes after the fire has burned out.Water

Any body of water or aspect of rain, mist, fog or dew represents the water element. This is the element with which I connect the most easily and deeply. The forest where I was hiking ended up being a ridge high above the stream below. It was interesting to notice that my sense of immediacy with Goddess was limited when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to get close to water. If you need additional inspiration, ask yourself what around you is wet, moist, hidden or heavy.

A stream surrounded by logs and trees in late summer.

Spirit

Spirit is amorphous and fully open to interpretation. After feeling disappointed regarding how far I was from water, I retraced my steps as I went to leave and happened upon a clearing in the woods through which the sunlight was pouring. I felt my breath slow and my heart open to this scene. For me, that sense of “I’m right here, right now” is always indicative of spirit.

A sunny spot of undergrowth surrounded by tall trees.

Reflection

For this experience, I let myself indulge my visual sense, which is what I perceive first in any situation. I want to conduct this type of walk again, but to focus on finding a connection to each element through my sense of smell or my sense of hearing, etc. I would also like to brainstorm other concepts that can be represented through photographs. I typically allow Nature to speak directly to me when I go for a walk in the forest and proceed without any plans. It was a nice change of pace to feel that I was seeking specific points of connection with Goddess through Nature; She answered my inquiry and showed me Her beauty.

© 2018 All rights reserved, Suzanne Tidewater

*Please forgive all the copyrights labels; I had someone steal an entire blog post including the photograph recently.

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?

Affirming Mind-Body-Spirit Writer Project, Sacred Spiritual Growth

Spiritual Disillusionment

For a time, I naively though I’d settled the question of finding my spiritual home in Goddess Spirituality. However, as I’ve really started setting the place up, opening locked doors and peering behind cabinets, I’ve stumbled upon a messy and foul-smelling cellar which I will start to examine for today’s #SacredSpiritualGrowth Saturday. The incense and sage of newness and excitement is now permeated with the stench of unprocessed bias in my house. And the longer I sit in disappointment, the more I see the tunnels of racism, classism and other worms of decay in myself.

I view what I’m undergoing as a developmental progression. I had a “honeymoon” period of learning new concepts and meeting new people, during which everything seemed polished and crisp. Over time, as with any human endeavor, the cracks and dampness started to show. In my particular case, the largest fissure, running straight through the center, is the belief that people should not be allowed to self-identify as womxn and should be excluded if they do not fit certain characteristics. There are also issues such as a lack of appreciation for intersectionality, and, in some corners, a heavy emphasis on either following the Goddesses of Northern Europe or on mixing and matching elements of various cultures without deep attention to their contextual meaning. In the wider Mind-Body-Spirit world, a large portion of the classes, courses and resources, aimed mostly at womxn, are allocated only to those with hundreds or thousands of dollars of disposable income. All is not “love and light” indeed.

My personal reflections on my experience thus far include:

Consider Renovation Rather Than Relocation

As I described above, finding the cellar crammed with ugliness caused me to want to escape. I care too much and feel too connected to Goddess to do that, though. I know this is my spiritual home. I’ve determined it’s time to contribute, on an individual and collective level, to sorting the mess and remaking the areas that aren’t life-giving.

If you’ve read my blog for any time, you’ve known me to be very concrete in my way of being. So, I am simultaneously digging more into minimalism and slow living in order to make my physical existence a reflection of my inner world (or is it the other way around)? Goddess Spirituality can be made more inclusive, affirming and those of us who practice it can go a lot further in our stance of solidarity; the same is true of the greater feminist and mind-body-spirit worlds. I am but one of many who are doing the work.

Go Deeper

I have been aware for some time of my specific spiritual calling, which is to help myself and others fully embrace all aspects of ourselves in a way that moves beyond shaming and blaming. One of the most helpful framings of bigotry in all its faces that I’ve encountered is to see it as Shadow. I absolutely experience this in myself; I’ve given surface recognition to my areas of bias but encounter a wall of shame when I try to go further. There is an internal voice inviting me toward this impasse, to sit with it and, together, from what is hidden and what I know, to dismantle it brick by brick. I’ve written previously of my inability to see my own hidden potential and mystery; I think it is likely across the way from these unexplored badlands. The light-bulb moment of recognition that my calling aligns directly with my disillusionment roots me in my purpose.

Take It In

As a trauma survivor, my bias is toward perceiving the world as a threat and to believing the only solution to be a dead sprint. In this shadow work in which I’m now engaging, though, I am learning very quickly that healing and change must be from my innermost cells first. I need to read and listen, to seek mentors and teachers, and to ponder and reflect much more than I cajole and demand change from others. Every time I believe I’ve slowed my walk sufficiently, I look around me and see how much ground I’ve covered without integration. Breathing in stillness and awareness is the concept on which I’m meditating.

Expect No Point of Arrival

I can never assume that I’ve dug in sufficiently to my areas of privilege or checked off enough boxes on my “standing in solidarity” card. Rather, as society’s norms change, I will do well to keep advancing along with them. I’ve been especially irate in witnessing, in an online forum, woman after woman proclaiming that her advanced age meant everyone else had to shut up and listen to her bigoted viewpoint in relation to transwomen. I can absolutely discount my elders far too easily and often and I can refuse to acquiesce to anyone, no matter their age, who refuses to see and respond to the harm they are causing. My anger belies my fear of calcifying into rigidity and inflexibility as I grow older.

In the service of self-examination and adjustment, I do think it is perfectly appropriate to pause and disengage from time to time for reflection. I may need to reassess the connection between my spirituality and my inclusivity. I may find that my own areas of struggle leave me drained to the point where I need to recharge before further engagement. My shadow-selves might need to process their shame and transform it into rededicated action.

If I am honest with myself, I will likely find that my motives need refinement. I need to assess whether my actions are performative, giving lip service to the “right things” for attention or recognition. In recognizing my own biases, I must be wary of then using this awareness to feed my demons of self-loathing and self-hatred. I may find that I long times to have my feeble attempts “count” and to then retreat into silent complicity. When I really dig into it, it is the personal stories of the effects of discrimination that inspire and compel me to go deeper; if my desire as a trauma survivor is to have my experience witnessed, in having been invited to see the inner world of another, I will not turn away. This motivation will hopefully, in time, become more fully grounded in an unshakeable and uncompromising dedication to have all people equally valued as human and worthy.

Anticipate Discomfort

I think it is wise to ask myself the question, “What do I want to get out of my spiritual practice?” If I’m honest, a lot of what I want is for it to help me feel less anxious and depressed. There is nothing wrong with this, but, for me, part of the process of spiritual maturation has been to remember, as I mentioned above, that on which my calling centers. In order for wholeness to be realized, I will go through some unpleasantness. It is necessary to reach the ends of myself and my typical responses, which, in the case of much of the oppression in the world, has been to be a silent but concerned bystander.

I’m trekking a few feet now into the tall grass, without a path, where there might be ticks and snakes and other trolls of threat. I’m tired of toeing the line and expecting someone else to clear the path for me. It takes courage to question my spiritual mentors and holy books; it takes even more courage to stay at it and stay with it after I realize there isn’t a meadow of wildflowers just past the brush. Although I may find myself on rough and uneven footing, I can know that I will emerge matured in my faith. More importantly, in joining with others in rooting out the invasive weeds of bigotry and hatred, the growth of our shared humanity can flourish. Mature spirituality does not shy away from injustice and suffering, instead, it welcomes the inner work and outer action needed to ensure the dignity of every person.

In what ways have you encountered spiritual disillusionment? What strategies and suggestions do you have for responding to it? Of what form are the individual and collective shadows you are meeting made?