Archive | light

All These Paths, Leading To The Same Place

You thinkers, prisoners of what will work:
a dog ran by me in the street one night,
its path met by its feet in quick unthought,
and I stopped in a sudden Christmas, purposeless,
a miracle without a proof, soon lost.

But I still call, ‘Here, Other, Other,’ in the dark.

William Stafford, “An Epiphany”

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[That is one of my favorite poems by William Stafford. He was an unsung word genius.]

I read something a few weeks ago and had an epiphany. One of those moments when everything – years of practice, a fragment of metaphor, and a spark – comes together and you realize something important. I was reading a quote by Pema Chodron, a famous Buddhist nun and meditation teacher. She wrote, “Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.”

And in the moment I read that, I suddenly understood something about my various spiritual practices over the years: they have all been about me trying to accept myself.

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I grew up Protestant (American Baptist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ) and in that tradition, humans are sinful. They are full of sin because of the choice Adam and Eve made to eat from fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. What that looks like in modern terms is being regularly told that I was bad everywhere but in my soul. That I was inherently ‘not good’ and ‘less than’ and ‘blackened by sin’ (and a whole bunch of other Bible verses I’ve forgotten twenty years later…). With only one exception*, I don’t believe much good comes from the Judeo-Christian spiritual path; we certainly have plenty of evidence that it causes war and hatred and I believe it stems from this basic understanding of our selves as inherently bad.

After years of being a good ‘Bible-thumper’ I left the church because the world it spoke of as inherently wrong, bad, and sinful was not the world I experienced. The world I knew was full of amazing things and people and choices. I had girlfriends who had successfully weathered abortions, read re-interpretations of Bible stories, and enjoyed a drink with a couple of gay people and those things made it awfully hard to believe what was in the Bible, and what was being preached about it, anymore. Like a lot of people, I left and headed East.

For many years I studied the Tao te Ching, having been introduced to it in a college class about Eastern literature. I found it delightfully simple and also satisfyingly deep as I spent time with the verses and ideas. There was precious little dogma, interpretation, and certainly no mention of ‘sin.’ It felt like a good place to settle. And for a few years, it was.

I travelled other paths: Paganism, Unitarianism, Shambhala Buddhism, Tantra, Witchcraft. I’ve changed paths often. I became an ordained ‘interfaith’ minister (which I’m not sure is even a thing, but I’ll talk about that at another time). I have travelled around to various paths, texts, and rituals because they served my spiritual needs at various places along my path. And also because I love to fall in love and this was a way to connect with different ‘partners’ at the table of religion and spiritual development. (Today I see that there are appropriation problems with that kind of spiritual path, but that’s for the another post, as well.)

All of these spiritual paths were most definitely about me finding pieces of myself inside those traditions, texts, ideas, theologies, and metaphors. But my epiphany is that my most important paths have been about self-acceptance.

 

Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash

 

I’ve meditated for close to 20 years. I’ve used various forms, but mostly breath meditation (although I have used more sensual sub-genres of breath meditation at different times). For many years, I used the RAIN method, where you Recognize, Accept, Investigate, Non-Identify with whatever thoughts or feelings you have during meditation. But it was in reading Pema Chodron’s words about befriending ourselves in meditation that I really came to understand its purpose was far more soft than I had been experiencing it. It was about accepting myself, the totality of myself. To be who we are, in compassionate acceptance of ourself- whatever that self may be experiencing. Meditation was about completely accepting myself internally.

I’ve mentioned before that I am a practicing witch (the intensity depends on the day and the person, though- heh). And magic has been something I have been playing with for a long time, as well. My magic mostly involves words: rituals, prayers, handmade soliloquies spoken into the void. Only recently have I taken instruction in the more modern facets of witchery. And the one thing I learned there is that good magic involves self-acceptance. Magic that does what you want it to do involves acknowledging the totality of all that you are in the world: sinner and saint, angel and demon, mother and whore. I can be good, very, very good. And I can also be wicked. If I pretend to only be light and love, my magic sputters and doesn’t get very far. But if I acknowledge and accept all that I am, my magic is far more powerful. Magic, of course, is about how we are in the world and how the world reacts to us and our desires, to our energy and our vibe. And so magic has been about accepting myself as a human in the world, moving from internal to external.

Tantra has been something I’ve only picked up in the last five years or so, and it was most definitely about accepting myself and my sexual needs and desires. In some ways, this website has been partially about spiritually bypassing my sexual desires and needs – and Tantra is one way to both accept and bypass sexual darkness. I can’t say this blog has been entirely about bypassing, because I have certainly shared my pain and frustration and growth here, as well. But Tantra has been about self-acceptance inside of relationship, especially intimate relationship. Tantra is about the balance and alchemy of masculine and feminine (not the same as ‘male’ and ‘female,’ please remember). And my path inside of Tantra has been about accepting and balancing not just the masculine and feminine within myself, but also the dark and the light. I can be the most fun, delightful, loving sexual partner, and I can also want to live out dark fantasies (starting with having an affair, which I used to want desperately. Also remember that what is ‘dark’ is different for each person; my personal ‘dark’ might bore the fuck out of someone else). Tantra has been about accepting myself inside of intimate relationship.

Beyond each of these paths – to accept myself internally, to accept myself as part of the world, and to accept myself inside of partnership – there is something else I find incredibly valuable: Western psychology. (I am most familiar with Western psychology, but other modalities of healing the psyche are equally useful and valid. I have used food, prayer, movement, and many other tools to heal myself and others; I am for ‘whatever works’ to heal people.) Most of us wrestle with some piece of ourselves that feels ‘broken.’ And perhaps we do have ‘broken’ pieces inside us. When we do, psychological tools are often useful in helping people heal (again, I am a firm believer in using what works, even if that isn’t in the professional literature). Our brokenness is often not our fault (trauma is rarely something we do to ourselves), but we are responsible for healing our brokenness once we know about it.

Knowing about our brokenness is key to self-acceptance, I believe. But we must also know that sometimes our dark, our ‘bad,’ our ‘shadow’ isn’t brokenness- it is just a part of us that needs awareness and acceptance. The same awareness and acceptance we give to the parts of us we are pleased with or that are accepted in public.

Having this epiphany about self-acceptance and realizing I’ve been on quite the search for it has brought me a lot of excitement and calm in the last couple of weeks. If what I have been looking for is self-acceptance, there is no need for a spiritual path. Learning to accept and love myself is the path. So, all this time, I was just looking for pathways and guidance to leave behind the belief that I was bad and sinful and dirty and begin to trust in the whole of myself. Yes, there are broken bits that need fixing and healing, but there are also parts that are simply waiting for me to accept them, because they aren’t broken, they’re just judged.

And, of course, the great joke from Life is that this is the gift I most easily give other people: acceptance. Whatever darkness you feel or fear, I will listen to it and love it and accept it, without judgement. It’s so easy to give others the medicine we most need. (And so I am also a giant cliche. But, I think we already knew that.)

I will definitely continue with meditation, magic, and Tantra, but now I know what they are in service to, and where to place my energy. I suppose self-acceptance is my path now. I am grateful for the strange and varied path that got me to this place, and I feel a deep sense of grace in knowing I’m not ‘sinful’ anymore. Jung was so right about acknowledging our darkness rather than hiding from it, there is both power and grace in that acknowledgement.

I love you, beautiful people. And I want you to know you’re good, even when you’re bad.
Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

*I believe that spiritual paths are suitable to different levels of psychological and spiritual development. And Christianity, as it is practiced in the West today can be useful to people who need a benevolent (hopefully loving) and also parental-style experience of god. For instance, people who are in recovery. Having a god that both loves you, wants you to do well, and will punish you if you don’t can keep people with addiction issues on the straight-and-narrow. But that’s about the only place I’ve seen it be as useful as it can be; many other places Judeo-Christian concepts and interpretations have caused a lot of fear, shame, and depravity. There are folks who are stripping off the parental piece of Christianity and evolving it into something more accepting and, honestly, Christ-like. People like John Pavolvitz and Nadia Bolz-Weber. But this article on Satanists also gives me hope.

 

 

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The Best Thing You Can Do With Your Life is Rebel

We are born into boxes.

When they pull you up and out of the womb, the first thing they say is the first box you’ll be stuck with: “It’s a boy!” “It’s a girl!”

You are born into a family with rules and norms already established, which you will be expected to follow.

Religion.
Sexuality.
Politics.
Behavioral norms.
Expectations for how your brain should work.
Et cetera.

Now, only recently have we come to understand that maybe this isn’t the best idea. That there ought to be room for people to define their own life, to describe their own gender, sexuality, politics, religion. But this is a very recent development.

As a parent, I certainly had no idea of this when my children were born. I knew I didn’t want to put as many requirements on them as my family had on me, but I was definitely not thinking about letting them define their own gender at the time they were born. (Although this seems like a reasonable thing, 13 years later.) I did expect that having children would bring people into our family and that they would be expected to function within this family until they were able to care for themselves. I see now that this was also slightly misguided. Already my kids are defining their lives away from our family rules (cool but also hard). I have to remember that rebelling, and becoming who they are, is the best thing they can do. And the best thing for our family.

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I’ve been thinking about rebellion a bit lately. That we are given, or accept, these boxes at various points in life and, quite often, they do not end up fitting who we are as we grow into our own truth. The boxes we are given may be as foundational as gender (M or F, pick one?) and breaking out of that can be a long, hard path. More often, I think we have to break out of the boxes of sub-culture: religion, politics, job expectations, etc.

I had to break out of the sub-culture of Christianity, a sub-culture that served me well for many years.

I had to break out of the sub-culture of ‘normal’ heterosexual marriage. [Have I told this story before? The day after we were married and headed out to our honeymoon, I sat my husband down, crying, and said, “I don’t want to be married to you anymore! I don’t want to be a ‘wife!’ ” He was a bit taken aback, but understood what I was getting at. I did not want traditional marriage roles. He gracefully said we would not be ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ then, but ‘partners’ – and so we have been.]

I had to leave the sub-culture of conservative politics.

I have been gradually transforming what sub-culture I relate to in my sexual identity.

I refused to enter the sub-culture of ‘busy kids’ where everyone has multiple activities. [Dare to be bored, my children!]

As an entrepreneur, I have left the sub-culture of ‘9-to-5 job.’ [They punish you big for this one.]

And more.

But it is in leaving these sub-cultures, in making my small rebellions, that I have become myself.

It has been in the moments of saying, “This does not work for me. This culturally-decided rule does not fit who I am or how I wish to live,” that I have created my own life, and been true to my deepest and best self.

This is messy work.

It is hard to leave behind boxes that supposedly guarantee the successes our culture offers. Certainly, as a white woman, even when I ‘rebel’ I still get the goodies- the money, the safety, the support our society calls ‘success.’ The stakes are higher and the punishment worse for people of color, indigenous people, disabled people, and others who dare to rebel.

There is a woman I follow on Facebook- Isabel Faith Abbott- who writes and speaks about rebelling in the medical realm. She refuses to accept the story of the ‘good warrior’ who deals with health issues and puts a smile on at every appointment or dismisses her pain and suffering (or tried to ‘make love and light’ out of it). She is a rebel whose quality and authenticity I hope to achieve. (She also just does not put up with the bullshit of our society and I learn a lot simply from reading her work.)

On the flip side, I know a hundred people who have not felt able to rebel around their work, and so are stuck with the ‘golden handcuffs.’ Income that provides for their needs and wants and safety, but a job that actually sucks the life out of them. (Some call it ‘slow suicide’ and I don’t think that’s far off from the truth.) Their choosing to not rebel leaves them empty, if safe. [I have begun to wonder about how this plays out with white women who politely protect racism…another post, perhaps.]

 

Photo by Aashish R Gautam on Unsplash

 

Rebellion is often hard, painful work. It can be hard due to emotional pain, leaving family, leaving work, leaving ideas of our self and who we are (or who we thought we were). In some cases there is deep punishment for rebelling. This may be with money or access to healthcare or simply access to our own bodies (I think of women in this and other cultures who have no say over who and what is done to their bodies; their rebellion may mean death) or many other things.

But the rebellion is often worth it.

Because to be able to be true to one’s own self is what the soul calls for. 

And to shake off or refuse the boxes that we are given throughout our life is a call to soul development, soul loving, and soul truth. It is being real.

To accept yourself, and thereby carve your own path, is much of what we are here to do. And I believe it makes the world a better place. When we show the fullness of who we are, we make a bigger, brighter, better version of the world to live in. We make more faces for God to love and laugh through.

Be who you are, fellow rebels. The world needs your colors and light and truth.

And I will be here, cheering you on.

Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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Just here, with love.

 

Photo by Erik Holm on Unsplash

 

Hey gang, how are you?

I just realized today that when I’m happy or busy, I don’t post as much. Ha! So, there you go. Life is being really good to me right now and I’m enjoying it. I have a theory that once you’re doing what Life wants you to be doing, life gets easier and better. I could be wrong, but that’s the way it’s worked for me, even in the rough times.

So, I shall have a proper post tomorrow, but it’s been on my mind and heart to just post a few simple things for the last few days now. Here they are.

Please, know that you are not alone. Whatever Life is throwing at you, you have people (me, if you need it!), you have places, you have love, and you have support in unknown places if you are feeling alone or adrift right now.

Be yourself. You’re the only you we’ve got. It takes all different kinds of stained glass to make those beautiful stained glass windows and works of art. Be what you are. Be who you are. We need you exactly like that.

For the most part, I love you. I don’t love people who are assholes or selfish or put themselves above others, so if you’re in those categories, you can fuck off. But otherwise, I love you (agape, not eros; I’ll let you know personally if it’s eros). And if you need to know that someone out here gives a damn, I do. I genuinely give a damn about you.

Rough times pass. Things change. My favorite meditation teacher says everything changes in the span of 30 breaths. So, give yourself 30 breaths. And maybe a glass of water. Or a nap. The only constant is change, and things will change.

If you are feeling confused, that is O-K. It took me 15 years to learn what to do with confusion: don’t beat yourself up about it. If you’re feeling confused, just let it be. The more settled you get, the more you just listen to your own life, the more you find ease and joy in the simple things and get calmed down, the more likely the confusion is to find its answer. Berating yourself for being confused does not make it better.

I am hoping for your best. I always end my prayers with the phrase “with the highest good for all”- and that’s for me and everybody else. Sometimes the ‘highest good’ looks more like ‘dealing with painful shit’ but that’s okay. You’ll get through it. Keep going, keep holding on, and keep reaching out for help.

Lastly, always, and again: I love you and I care about you.

Blessings to you all, fellow travelers,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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Modern Hymnal: We Belong

I haven’t thought about the modern hymnal for a long time, but this song came on the radio tonight, and I knew I wanted to add it. There probably should be a whole section in my modern hymnal for songs about rain; I’ll have to write that post sometime.

Tonight we had a lovely thunderstorm at my house. The sky was almost a charcoal gray, waiting for the rain to finally gather itself into fat drops and begin the short deluge, like angry water balloons splashing all over you. There was lightning and thunder and when it was all done the eery yellow light that seeps from the ground and gradually opens up to the sky as the clouds part. It was the kind of perfect rain that makes the heart of this Seattle girl feel at home in this strange land.

And Pat Benetar’s wonderful song was playing while all this happened. Always a favorite and glad to add it to the modern hymnal.

What’s in your sacred, personal hymnal, friends? What songs always delight you? Or fill your heart? Or remind you of something important, beautiful, or lost? I wish we could sit down together and talk about it.

 

Photo by Joy Stamp on Unsplash

 

We Belong

Many times I tried to tell you
Many times I cried alone
Always I’m surprised how well you cut my feelings to the bone
Don’t want to leave you really
I’ve invested too much time to give you up that easy
To the doubts that complicate your mind

We belong to the light, we belong to the thunder
We belong to the sound of the words we’ve both fallen under
Whatever we deny or embrace for worse or for better
We belong, we belong, we belong together

Maybe it’s a sign of weakness when I don’t know what to say
Maybe I just wouldn’t know what to do with my strength anyway
Have we become a habit? Do we distort the facts?
Now there’s no looking forward
Now there’s no turning back
When you say

We belong to the light, we belong to the thunder
We belong to the sound of the words we’ve both fallen under
Whatever we deny or embrace for worse or for better
We belong, we belong, we belong together

Close your eyes and try to sleep now
Close your eyes and try to dream
Clear your mind and do your best to try and wash the palette clean
We can’t begin to know it, how much we really care
I hear your voice inside me, I see your face everywhere
Still you say

We belong to the light, we belong to the thunder
We belong to the sound of the words we’ve both fallen under
Whatever we deny or embrace for worse or for better
We belong, we belong, we belong together

We belong to the light, we belong to the thunder
We belong to the sound of the words we’ve both fallen under
Whatever we deny or embrace for worse or for better
We belong, we belong, we belong together

We belong to the light, we belong to the thunder…

| Songwriters: Daniel Anthony Navarro / David Eric Lowen |

Find the video here.

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G’night from a happy girl, sitting in the rain.

Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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Waiting for Persephone to Come

It’s the first of May and it feels like Spring is finally here. Persephone, goddess of fertility, has finally, fully made her way back from the Underworld and she’s showing off her beauty. The signs started weeks ago, but she’s clearly here now, and will share her bright beauty for weeks go come.

It’s clear that Spring is the season of sex. Walking around my neighborhood last week you could see the first blooms that were paving the way for the full orgasm of blossom. So many trees and plants and flowers were right at the edge of opening, right at the point where you fall over the edge into beauty and bliss.

Just like any woman, there’s not much you can do to push Persephone towards her orgasm. You can only stay with the process, being patient, making it easier with rain + sunshine + attentiveness. Touching gently, digging deep, giving her what she asks for. Listening and staying with her, moment to moment. She might be stormy. She might be dark. She might show a different face each day, each moment. And while it may seem to take forever, eventually…eventually, she comes. And it’s quite glorious- with color + joy + relief + so much energy you’re utterly amazed. Just like any woman.

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The first of May is known as ‘Beltane’ in the earth-based traditions. Time to celebrate the Earth. Time to join in her fertility. Beltane is also when rituals were performed where the God and the Goddess (or, representatives thereof) were joined together to celebrate abundance, connection, and vitality. It was a time to honor sexuality as sacred, because you could see the power and wonder of sex nearly everywhere around you. It is the time of passionate fire- whether you gather around one or create it in bed with a lover.

Who are you thinking of with passion these past few days? What passion do you wish to ignite or give in to? What do you want to honor and celebrate that is full of vitality for you? Take a moment in your busy day and check in with yourself. Find whatever in your body or heart that wants to burst, to come, to rise out of the dirt and bloom. And let it do so.

 

Ready to burst.

 

It’s easy to think of Persephone as the maiden archetype. So ready to fall in love with Life and the world. So enamored and infatuated. Laughing, silly, and fresh. Like Mariah Carey on her Daydream album. I definitely identify with this energy, especially in Spring.

But I also love the re-telling of her story that we see today- as a woman who knew exactly what she was doing when she went to Hades. She was ready for the dark. Ready for the depth. Ready to reveal a different side of herself with the right lover. More like Joan Jett. Ready to rock and roll as an equal, as a queen. She returns with wisdom and dirt under her nails, ready to grow new things. Still Spring, but also strong.

I always feel pretty damn good when Beltane rolls around. My mood brightens and there’s just more energy to feed from and connect with. I’m a little bit of both versions of Persephone. And lucky is the lover who waits and tends to my needs. I will drag him down to the depths of playful darkness and push him back up again as we bloom together. [Ask my lover, he’ll tell you it’s true.]

 

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Playlist for Beltane

Always Be My Baby | Mariah Carey

Twenty two years ago this was a pop hit on the radio. And I remember because it’s when my lover and I were falling for each other. Falling all the way in.

 

Fantasy | Mariah Carey

“When you walk by every night/
Talkin’ sweet and lookin’ fine/
I get kinda hectic inside…

…but it’s just a sweet, sweet fantasy baby”

 

Rock and Roll | Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Because she’s the queen and won’t let you forget it.

 

Water Your Garden | Luscious Jackson

‘Can you be brave enough to risk it all’ as you emerge from the dark and the snow?

 

My Garden | Kat Dahlia

‘My roots been cravin’ lately, to soak in your diamonds.’

 

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I’m off to play, sacred ones.
Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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