Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Preparing for Imbolc, looking at Fate

Tomorrow is Imbolc, a traditional time to make a dedication of oneself to one's spiritual life. Some women choose an aspect of the Goddess to dedicate themselves to for a year. Hecate, in her guise as Moira or Fate, has been haunting me for some time now; I think it's time to dedicate to her. I'm reading an interesting book about the relationship between hubris and Fate; I may write more about that here later.

Today, according to Seasons of the Witch, is a good day to do magic for job hunting. I just submitted a job application yesterday, so I'll spend some time focused on that goal. It's a publishing job that I think I'll enjoy, and that will pay adequately while I discern my next steps. Adonis and I are deciding whether to move to Brooklyn (we love the city) or to stay where we are, upstate, buy a house, and commit ourselves anew to this community which has held us already much longer than we anticipated. He moved here in 1992 to begin college; I moved here in 1995 to begin graduate school. We love it here. But to stay - is the thing to sink our roots deep and build a life here, at least for the next decade, or would that be cowardly somehow, an acquiescence to comfort, or just to inertia?

My dissertation has lain fallow for some months, and I'm already starting to wonder what to do next - whether "next" comes with finishing or with deciding not to finish. Here are the things I think I would do if money were no object:

  • Spend a season apprenticing with Susun Weed on her land near Woodstock.
  • Spend a month at Kripalu to become a certified yoga teacher.
  • Spend six months getting massage therapy certification.
  • Move to California for a couple of years and study depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute.
  • Move to Boulder for a couple of years and study at Naropa.
  • Study a year or more at Diana's Grove.
And who knows what else?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

My way to astrology

So what's the deal with astrology? I was raised to believe it was bullshit - like playing the lottery, a way to sucker the naive and unsophisticated. Unable to grow up free of Christian fundamentalism, though I myself was raised in a perfectly nice mainstream Protestant denomination, I also got a taste of the attitude that astrology and other occult practices are the work of dark forces, of Satan, perhaps, and ought to be avoided. That's an interesting attitude because it presupposes that these practices work on some level. My academic studies in philosophy eschewed anything that smacked of the irrational - even those nice mainstream Protestants. I never believed that astrology was evil; the fire and brimstone folk never got to me. I simply thought that it was false and silly and got in the way of my taking seriously an earthbased spirituality.

In graduate school, I started working with a massage therapist who also did energy healing - "whatever that is," I thought. I couldn't deny that her work was very effective and that I could feel something going on in my body. She's also a smart woman from an academic family who herself had gone to Swarthmore, and I admit with some embarrasment that her intellectual cred made me more willing to trust her. She recommended her astrologer to me, describing her as the smartest woman she’d ever met. My curiosity was piqued.

It was many years after first learning of this astrologer that I actually went to see her. First I sent Adonis,* as a gift for his 29th birthday, which I knew was astrologically significant as the Saturn return. I trust him implicitly, and when he raved about his session, I decided to visit the astrologer myself. Her intelligence, depth of knowledge, and insight blew me away. I didn’t understand how she did what she did – and I still don’t – but my two hours spent with her gave me enormous insight into myself and my life.

Now I’m part of a spiritual community, many of whom are highly trained in astrology and use it as a tool in their spiritual lives. My astrologer, who is 60, took her first astrology class from another member of the group when she was an undergraduate at an Ivy League university and he was a member of the mathematics faculty, teaching astrology as a graduate seminar! Many members of my community have shared in spiritual community for 25 years or more; they have studied with the same teachers, learned astrology together, started an esoteric publishing company, sat in audience with the Dalai Lama, and so on. There was a time in my life when I would have written them off (without knowing them) as New Age weirdoes. Yet they are some of the most loving, compassionate, spiritually curious and mature people I’ve ever known.

Maybe astrology isn’t bullshit. Maybe it’s a kind of literary device for interpreting a life. (I’ve thought of tarot cards in the same way.) Or maybe there’s more to it than that. I’m more open to mystery than I used to be, simply because my life experiences demand it of me. “As above, so below.” “As without, so within.” We are made of the same stuff as stars. The universe is contained within a leaf of grass. Everything vibrates with energy. Perhaps the arrangement of the planets when an infant is born energetically influences the course of that life. Perhaps the relation between planets and person isn’t causal but synchronicitous – meaningful because we give it meaning…but then that meaning becomes objective, or independent of the meaning-makers.

*Those of you who read SB and know your Greek literature and mythology will understand who Adonis is.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Organization as spiritual practice

Recently I picked up a book called It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys by Marilyn Paul. (You can download the first chapter at her website for free.) It's a book about organization as a spiritual practice, and while that may sound hokey, I'm finding it relevant and useful. I've always been disorganized about some things, like my finances, and over the past five years or so, I've become disorganized about things that I've always managed fairly well, like my work, eating healthfully, and keeping my home in order. I've felt overwhelmed, stuck, and unsure how to change things. (My perfectionist tendencies lead me to declare every six weeks, I have to change my entire life right now! Shockingly, that doesn't work very well.) Dr. Paul's book addresses the underlying causes of disorganization, such as feelings of worthlessness; perfectionism (who, me?); or underlying beliefs like "being organized is boring" or "creative people are messy" or "I have better things to do with my life" (which is true until you can't keep track of where your money or research is or what you're supposed to be accomplishing to pursue those "better things"). It's surprising to me, and hard to admit, how disorganized my life has become, and how much that interferes with my day-to-day functioning. It's easy for me to get caught up in the "family mythos" that I'm lazy, flaky, or an absent-minded genius (my parents and sister really do think these things about me). When I was severely depressed, I resisted the romanticization of depression as the hallmark of creative genius. Depression means you don't get shit done. Well, now it's time for me to admit the same thing about being disorganized and messy. And I really like Dr. Paul's book so far, because it meets me on my spiritual path, as it were, with compassion and insight. If you're someone who wants to be more creative or productive, or wants to have a life more aligned with your values, and you're a spiritual seeker, then I highly recommend this book. I'm reading through it as well as beginning to work through the exercises, and I'll report back.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Simple, comforting acts

Often I allow myself to become so ennervated and ungrounded that I won't take even a small step to help myself feel better. I want to become aware of small comforts. So I just made myself a cup of ginger tea with honey and echinacea to help heal the head cold that arrived last night. What other small actions might I take when I'm feeling overwhelmed or scattered?

  • Make a cup of herbal tea.
  • Lie down in corpse pose with my legs propped at 90 degrees on a chair and my body covered with a blanket.
  • Breathe.
  • Walk around the block without the dog.
  • Cuddle with the dog and tune into his energy.
  • Clean one thing.
  • Go to bed early.

What do you do?

I've begun reading Sarah Ban Breathnach's book, Simple Abundance, which is a daybook for one year. I've also started keeping a gratitude journal - five things every evening. Breathnach suggests that we become "curators of our own contentment," which I find a delicious phrase and a worthy project for the new year.

Straying from the path

Here is what Rob Brezny has to say for Pisces sun this year:

In his book The Disappearance of the Universe, Gary Renard quotes the counsel of his teacher: "A jet airliner is always going off course, but through constant correction it arrives at its destination. So will you arrive at yours." Remember that advice throughout 2006, Pisces. My analysis of the astrological omens suggests that you will be frequently straying from the path of your highest destiny, and yet that's exactly what needs to happen in order for you to reach your highest destiny. Forced to keep making regular adjustments, you will tone and strengthen your willpower, which is essential to you achieving the goals that really matter.

Good, because my life's course feels like nothing more than tacking back and forth through the wine-dark sea on a foggy night.