It’s #Thealogy Thursday! This contemplation can be done indoor or outside; I think it is perfect for a slightly cool morning with the dew still on the grass. You will need tea; there is actually a type of tea named after Kuan Yin which is supposed to have mythical origins. As you practice this contemplation, you can also set aside a small portion of the tea as an offering.
Prepare a cup of tea. Slowly drink it, mindfully savoring each sip. Experience it filling you with warmth and coziness as you drink deeply. I like to gaze at an image of Kuan Yin as I do this, in order to begin to prepare my mind for contemplating compassion. If you’d like, you can practice divination with the tea leaves when the cup is finished, asking Goddess for insight into what compassion means to you.
Next, take a few minutes to sit in silent meditation. Let the warmth the tea started in you expand into your entire body. Feel your muscles relax as you breathe in love and compassion, and breathe out any lingering negativity or hostility. Feel your body solid on the ground and your heart-center alive with you. Ask Kuan Yin to reveal to you a simple, concrete act of compassion you can do today. Let yourself linger for a moment on the sacrifices she made, drawing inspiration from her legend. Thank her for the insight she shares with you.
I shared some of my personal journey towards Goddess Spirituality in a recent blog and want to fill in the next chapter for the inaugural #Thealogy Thursday. I want to note here that I believe there are many legitimate pathways to spirituality and faith; I don’t think mine is the only road that should be traveled. I do not intend to suggest a false dichotomy; many of the individuals I know who practice Goddess Spirituality incorporate it into their existing faith traditions.
Plenty of people who come from the same religious background as the one in which I grew up are happy and healthy in their view of the world and I see no need to challenge them. Unfortunately, the only picture that was painted of those for whom it wasn’t a good fit was that of rollicking, horny, intoxicated fools who were destined for the pit. I can assure you I am none of those things, not by choice but by nature.
Intertwining events marked my final journey away from the belief system in which I was raised. I attended a religious discussion group in which the topic of women’s role in the faith was raised. I was heartbroken to see good people, people I respected, come to conclusions such as thinking that it was in the best interest of female rape victims in antiquity to be married off to their abusers. For the first time, my conceptualization of the Holy Book of my people turned from being an idea that mankind had misinterpreted it to keep women in their place to awakening to the realization that, as I saw it, sexism was baked into the content of the book itself. All the misogyny and hypocrisy I’d witnessed growing up wasn’t a fluke or personal failing; I saw it cradled at the heart of the fundamentalist faith system.
The second experience occurred in the same time frame. I visited a bookstore—one of those used bookstores where there’s just enough filth and dinginess to convince you that you are taking a part of the person whose used book you are purchasing as well as the book itself home with you. I came across Merlin Stone’s When God Was a Woman. I know the historical accuracy of this book has been questioned, but it shed light into a completely different world for me, one where I wasn’t second class spiritually and where the body and soul of womankind also mattered. It would take a lot more living before it really settled in, but, for the first time, the voice of Goddess rose above a whisper for me.
I didn’t experience a lot of emotional upheaval during this transition, as it was mainly an intellectual reformation rather than an impulsive, feeling-based reaction. The primary change was the double-life I’d been leading—outwardly judging others morally while inwardly feeling acceptance of them as regular human beings—was no longer needed. I didn’t have to divide the world into believers and non-believers. I got to think for myself and experience relationships in all their humanness instead of a conversion contest. Best of all, I came to see that I have as much time and space as my lifetime allows to explore faith, belief, meaning, and Deity, and to then fashion my personal truth out of that experience. I believe everyone should have the same freedom.
What comes to mind when you think about connecting with yourself or another person? What does a healthy relationship entail? A viewpoint that resonates with me from psychology is called attachment theory. It suggests that each of us has a “working model” that we unconsciously forged in childhood. As a result of our relationships with our caregivers, we determined whether or not others would be there for us and whether or not we ourselves are trustworthy.
Many of us with trauma histories struggle to engage in healthy attachment patterns. Several people have told me that I really “know myself,” and I feel that my connection with myself is my strong suit. Experiencing deep connection with others feels at times within my grasp and at other times like it across a huge chasm. Perhaps you feel the same way. Or, your style may be the opposite—apart from your relationships, you aren’t sure who you are. In any case, our spiritual journey is centered in these relationships with self and other, and part of our ramble with Goddess is uncovering the tremendous wealth that can be found in safe and affirming relationships. Today I will begin our exploration by examining our relationship with ourselves.
“I hate my body!” How many times in our lives have we given ourselves this message? I recently participated online in Priestess Brandi Auset and Tracy Givens’ free Sacred Sexual Wellness class in the Mystery School of the Goddess. The course had a profound impact on me in that it contained the idea of viewing our bellies as sacred, and promoted nurturing them with practices such as massage. I had never once in my life seen my stomach area as anything other than a part of me that was too large and frequently uncomfortable because of my medical conditions. What does it mean to let myself see it as sacred, worthy in its own right?
Goddess spirituality flows from our connection to our bodies. Loving and accepting them just as they are is not just a mental health exercise; I see it now as a sacred act. Consider how much money and time you have put into making your body feel “acceptable.” I know I’ve made quite an investment. What would it mean for each of us to put that energy into a positive connection with our physical being?
As a practice in self-acceptance, I encourage you to spend some time thinking about a part of your body, if any, that you dislike. During your daily ritual, as you connect to Goddess, imagine yourself surrounded by light as you sink into a feeling of warmth. See the light and warmth nourish the part of yourself that you dislike. Your body is sacred! You may want to journal or process through artwork how it would be to truly cherish it.
Spirit and Heart
When was the last time you really sat with yourself and checked in with your spirit? Did you listen to your inner wisdom or did you bark out directions about the tasks you should be doing more often and the ways in which you’ve let yourself down? I’ve spent a bit of time exploring Inner Work in my post on Daily Rituals. Learning to read your own emotional states and to express your hidden spiritual knowledge allows for a healthier relationship with self.
If you would like some guidance in accessing your inner self, a Mystery School I have found to be helpful is In Her Name. The first realm is called “Realm of Self” and allows for inner spiritual exploration. This particular school is self-paced. There are opportunities for partial scholarships for those who need them.
Inner messages may come to us whether or not we want to hear them. I often find that I’ve traveled a path or made a decision unconsciously before my “thinking mind” catches up to the news. Goddess goes before us. Gain comfort in knowing that you have answers inside yourself for many of the dilemmas you will face, and give yourself trust and faith to believe in your inner wisdom.
I strongly believe that negative voices or uncomfortable truths in us should not be banished, forgotten, or denied. They are there for a reason and deserve to be heard just like the upbeat, happy parts of self. But, stuck in their own cycle and detached from Goddess, they can be overwhelming at times. Attempting to manage our shadows without support may not always serve to aid in our spiritual journey. If you are finding yourself dealing with these messages, I encourage you to take the time to find a therapist who is not only educated in working with trauma but is also open to helping you incorporate your personal spirituality into your healing process.
Sacred Space for Self
By listening to body, spirit, heart and mind, I think we open the door to sacred synchronicity. Areas of confusion and doubt can be washed away, replaced by confidence and trust, if we treat ourselves as worthy. You deserve love, attention, care and relationship! Hear through the negative messages you’ve internalized to your underlying fear, anger, and sadness. Transform those wounded parts of yourself both through professional assistance if needed as well as your spiritual walk with Goddess.
In my first post related to daily rituals, I examined the benefits of personal ceremony and explored suggestions for ritual styles. Today I’ll be focusing more specifically on trauma-sensitive topics related to frugal daily rituals, including how to concentrate your energy during ritual as well as options for short meditations during more challenging situations.
Staying Present During Daily Ritual Practice
Establishing focus during ritual can be quite a task when external or internal distractions present themselves. Depending on your individual situation, finding a quiet time and space may require sustained effort. Do what you can to manage distractions that are under your control, such as keeping electronic devices away from your sacred space.
For those interruptions that are outside of your control, sinking into Goddess’ presence and reminding yourself of Her grace in all situations may help you concentrate. If you have young children who tend to get most interested in what you are doing the moment you’re busy, try to schedule ritual times when they are asleep or include them in parts of your practice. They will likely enjoy the “music and dancing” time!
Sources of internal interference during ritual may include thoughts of the past or future, as well as physiological issues such as pain or headaches. I like to think of my internal processes as messages. These messages matter and should not be ignored, but they also do not necessarily mean I need to immediately drop everything to “read” them.
If I feel physical discomfort during a ritual, I check in with myself and note whether shifting positions or coming back to the particular part of the ritual a few minutes later might work better. If an issue keeps entering my mind during a ritual, I discern whether or not it is rising from my inner work in the moment or from an anxious part of myself. If I feel like it is based on anxiety and can be handled later, I thank that part of myself who’s letting me know it’s important, and affirm that I will address it at a more appropriate time.
Minute Meditations for Difficult Times
We all have “one of those days” where everything seems to go wrong or we feel bombarded by stressors. We might find it impossible to settle ourselves for an extended meditative experience and may feel disconnected from Goddess. Instead of engaging in self-blame, give yourself permission to modify your practice in ways that feel comfortable to you. In these moments, I find taking just a minute or two with Spirit often changes my perspective and emotional state. These micro-meditations cost very little and are also a good match for times where you need to release energy after a tough encounter.
1. Sensory Activation
Using our senses connects us both to Spirit and to ourselves:
Smell—keep a variety of scents nearby to bring yourself back to reality when you feel stressed. A few I use to help me ground are lemon, clove, sandalwood and sage.
Touch—use self or partner massage on tense areas like your shoulders. A weighted or soft blanket may feel soothing. A ritual bath for your hands or feet can incorporate many of your senses, including touch. Petting an animal releases the “cuddle” hormone oxytocin.
Vision—gaze at your personal altar to reconnect yourself to the Sacred. Spend some time in nature, noticing as many individual plants, animals and natural formations as you can. Participate in a Goddess meditation.
Hearing—listen to your favorite music. Chants can help to release some energy, whereas instrumental music may help to calm the body’s rhythms. Read poetry aloud.
Taste—I will be sharing a blog in a few weeks about taste with a particular emphasis on cooking as a medium for sacred practice. Taking a moment to savor a favorite flavor mindfully may recharge your soul.
2. Centering Chant
A centering chant can be sung aloud or in your head to help you return to self and ground. You can create your own chant or use one of many Goddess-focused chants. Chants typically include simple lyrics and repetitive sound, giving them a mantra-like quality.
As someone who incorporates Buddhist and Hindu thought into my practice, I also enjoy humming the cadence of the chakra that I needing the most alignment in a particular moment. Meditative Mind has published free versions of many chakra activation chants on Youtube. Each chakra has a different corresponding sound:
I’ll never forget the moment I was feeling highly anxious and the person I was with stared me down, stating “take a deep breath.” I’m pretty sure I held my breath just out of spite! Deep breathing can engage the relaxation response, but it can also increase anxiety if it is used at the wrong moment or as a way to try to stifle emotion.
I have found counting breaths to be more useful. A meditation teacher of mine remarked on finding the space between the out-breath and the in-breath. I tended to breathe so quickly I couldn’t follow her logic. Years later, I downloaded a free app called Prana Breath that specifies a set number of seconds for the breath in, pausing, breath out, and then waiting before starting again. I finally found the pause!
4. One-Card Tarot or Oracle
Meditating on a tarot card or oracle can allow your mind to see a situation in a new light. A few questions you might ask Goddess before intuitively choosing a card include:
What do I need right now?
What am I missing in my current view of this situation?
What strength in myself could help me cope?
Most cards include gorgeous imagery along with words or descriptions. Take time to really explore the image and see what arises in your heart as you do so. I am often amazed at how many uplifting details artists are able to incorporate when I really study their work!
Intuitive cards are a commodity where I can get into splurging. I now invest in one deck at a time, purchased from Esty artists. This allows me to really take my time to get to know each card and evaluate how I respond to it in my inner work. Being able to communicate with the person who created the deck is an extra perk.
Goddessing Through Daily Ritual Takes Practice
On the whole, the personalization for which daily rituals allow means that they can be modified to provide a safe place for individuals who have a trauma history. Accessing simple, structured meditations when we are too overwhelmed for a full ritual gives us security in Goddess’ presence moment to moment. Pacing ourselves through obstacles that might hinder our practice emboldens our experience of positive spiritual progress and direction. Next week I will expand our palate of Goddessing on a Budget by digging into the ways in which deep connections nourish us on our spiritual journey.
This is the first of two blogs on how to goddess on a budget using daily rituals. We’ll be exploring the positive effects of daily rituals, as well as different forms of ritual. In this post, I’m restricting my focus regarding ritual to those experiences that can be undertaken as part of a solitary practice on a regular basis. I think this is a safe place to start for many trauma survivors and offers the added advantage of allowing for personal tailoring to suit your style.
Benefits of Daily Rituals
Rituals, even simple ones, can have powerful effects. Whether or not you ascribe to a magical viewpoint that hones in on the shift in energy they can bring, taking time each day for ritual sets you up for positive emotions and experiences. There is limited research suggesting partaking in rituals can be healing for individuals with PTSD.
A note of caution—any ritual you are conducting related to your trauma history should be developed in collaboration with a mental health practitioner and a spiritual guide, and you need to be supported in processing your experience. The focus here is on daily rituals anyone can do to maintain their spiritual practice, not on rituals specifically related to healing from trauma.
5 Components to Build Your Daily Ritual Style
As you peruse the list below, I suggest thinking of the spiritual activities you both enjoy and that you realistically can make time for consistently. Next, determine the time of day when you tend to be both calm and alert. Take into consideration creative cost-saving adaptations to your plans. Lastly, make sure that you are tapping into multiple senses in your daily rituals to increase their impact.
For me, I finally began to follow through practicing personal ceremony when I let go of any predefined ways of how it was supposed to look and when it was to occur. I found it easier to start with an evening ritual and eventually built in a morning version. You get to decide where, when and what you want to do!
1. Personal Altar
There is definitely such a thing as spiritual bling! Once you make the decision to have a personal altar, it is very easy to get carried away and perhaps overload both your table and your budget.
I change my main altar four times a year, with each solstice and equinox. Instead of encouraging impulse buys, this pattern gives me permission to purchase a few new items every few months.
If you ascribe to a particular religious or Pagan tradition, there may be a pre-determined altar layout system that you can choose to follow. Because I am a Solitary Practitioner of eclectic Goddess spirituality, my altar reflects some traditional elements and a lot of my own preferences. An inexpensive purchase that has yielded a lot of possibilities for me has been to buy tiny bottles. I filled them with ash, dirt, water and a feather to represent the four elements, placing them around the main Goddess figurine on my altar.
Contemplate including only those items which feel “safe” and uplifting on your altar. Some of the Tarot cards and even stones I’ve bought are challenging to me. I work with them, but I keep my main altar as a sacred place to which I can return no matter my current emotional state.
Survivors may find themselves in an environment that rejects visual displays of faith. In this situation, items like pocket altars or nature “decorations” might provide a touchstone. Perhaps a mini altar in your car or office drawer could bring Goddess into your life in a safe way.
Mindfulness meditation involves present-moment awareness. It can be a sitting meditation or it can include ordinary tasks like eating and walking. Mindfulness has the potential to be a double-edged sword for individuals with trauma. It can be incredibly healing as it contradicts dissociation, but it has the potential to escalate anxiety and other issues if used without support or in situations where those leading the practice are not sensitive to survivors’ needs.
If you are new to mindfulness, exercise caution and work with your mental health professional as you explore various teachers, traditions and exercises. Personally, I enjoy many of Tara Brach’s teachings and meditations. If and when you find a mindful meditation technique that fits you, consider incorporating it into your daily ritual either before divination/inner work to center yourself, or as a way to return to your surroundings after your intuitive time.
Yoga comes with many of the same caveats as mindfulness. It can be an amazing way to connect with Goddess through your body and through movement, and it can also activate traumatic memories. Some yoga teachers take extra classes on trauma-sensitive methods, so think about asking whether or not your potential instructor has done this if you are joining a new class. I think it is worth investing in at least a few classes if you have never tried it in order to get feedback on your poses, but it can also be done at home. I sometimes include Mountain and Tree Pose as a grounding part of my daily ritual.
4. Inner Work
Inner work is typically incorporated in the middle of a daily ritual. It might include:
Conversing with Goddess (speaking and/or listening)
Creating crystal grids
Fashioning flower mandalas
Conducting formal ritual to celebrate a holiday or occasion.
A personal outcome may directly evident as a result of your day’s inner work, or, more likely, it may take time for the messages and intentions to manifest. Give yourself permission to find the inner working methods which speak to you the most. Inner work might benefit from a few supplies, but you can also save money with projects like drawing runes on stones or branches or creating chakra charts to learn more about your personal energy.
5. Movement and Music
Goddess Spirituality can include raising energy as a key part of daily ritual. You get to be loud! For me, this is an area of both opportunity and challenge, and one where I like being a Solitary Practitioner. I do not care to subject others to my dancing and singing! The joy and playfulness that movement set to music offers are free and add dimension to your experiences. Find or create your own instruments and songs. I’ve turned casting my circle into a rhythm that I sing every time I start and end my ritual.
Goddessing Each Moment
Today I’ve shared about some motivational reasons to engage in daily rituals, as well as several tips for finding your own way of goddessing. I believe a huge part of healing work is learning to give ourselves grace and freedom to tailor at least our space and personal time to our own preferences. In this way, daily rituals can become a celebration if you open yourself up to learning about those things that affirm and speak to you on an individual level.
My next post will be aimed more directly at the trauma-related issues that can arise during personal rituals, and will provide suggestions for handling these issues.