Archive | Ritual

Remnants of a Ritual :: Ways to Let Go

Hey, ya’ll- I’ve been out for a few days on a dark part of my path. At first I thought I was in a bit of a spiritual ‘cave,’ being in my dark, but I realized, “no, this isn’t a stop, it’s the path- it’s just a dark part of the path. A place I have to do real work.” So, I’ve been doing the work. I’ll say more about that in another post because I’ve been learning a lot and I’m close enough to some aspects and stages of growth to be able to parse them out more clearly. Anywho….

Last week I had my ego mowed down in the most gracious and succinct way and I’ve been doing the work from the lesson it gave me. I had been wanting to let go of a connection with someone but it just never quite would go away. (I have this trouble- my heart is big, it would hold on to people forever if it could.) And in few moments filled with a lot of energy and drama the connection came to a crashing halt and I was given the lesson I so desperately needed to learn.

This is often how it has gone in my life with important lessons: I hang on until the lesson or teaching is revealed and then – poof! – I no longer need or desire the connection with that other person. It’s abrupt, and some people don’t like abrupt, but that split-second shift is sometimes a very merciful thing. It makes it easier to let go.

In the spiritual practice of letting go, there are two important times to surrender:

  1. When you’re ready to.
  2. When you’re not ready to.

Often we know when we need to let go, but we’re not ready. That’s the time you need to let go.
Often we know when we need to let go, and we’re totally ready. That’s also the time you need to let go.

And, in my experience, we all know when we should let go, we just wait as long as we can, hoping Life will give us different instructions. But, no. Life will always have her way with us- best to do what she asks, when she asks.

When we’re being asked to let go (whether we’re ready or not) there are some rituals that can help. Rituals are a way of formalizing and deeply acknowledging the importance of what we’re doing- the importance of letting go. I believe that rituals touch the deeper waves of our personal energy force and help shift things at the subconscious level- so they can help us let go more easily, giving us energetic support to open our fingers and release.

Ways to Let Go with Ritual

Burn. A favorite for millennia among the spiritual and the secular. Write a letter, write a name, draw a picture, whatever it may be- set it alight and know that the energy of the thing goes with it as the ashes form and blow away.

In the Italian Catholic tradition, one writes the name of things they wish to be rid of on a bay leaf and then burns the leaf in a candle. Very fiery and effective, especially if you’re feeling a little Sicilian.

Rip. Slightly less final than burning, but it feels quite good to tear something asunder with your own hands. Think of Dead Poets Society– rip with joy.

Bury. Also a favorite for millennia. Create some symbol of what you wish to let go of and bury it. Bury it deep. Bury it far. Let it return to that from whence it came.

Flush. I prefer this one when I need a little humor in my ritual. We flush gold fish, why not our finished connections? Paper is best for this one- don’t clog the pipes or you get an entirely different outcome for your ritual!

Fly. Tie your symbol or words to a rock and huck it as far as you can. Drop it from a high place (make sure no one below will be hurt). Ask someone to drop it at the nearest airport garbage can.

Dance. I think dancing something away has to be done carefully. Dancing is usually for the taking in of things (see: whirling dervish). But I do believe we can dance our way free of things. And if that is what is needed, let it be.


Photo by Wesley Balten on Unsplash


Bind. Sometimes we just want something to keep its own boundary so that we can be free. In this case, let your words, letter, names, or symbol be bound with string or tape or whatever feels right. Bind it up so that it can’t get into your space anymore.

Digital Sorcery. In this modern age, everything goes down on a phone or tablet or computer. And those spaces need to be cleansed, too. I prefer deleting contacts to blocking them, as blocking means the person continues to take up space on your phone. Take screen caps of whatever you might need and then d-e-l-e-t-e.

And make sure to email those screen caps to yourself so you can completely clear the phone out. And stick those screen caps in a folder far, far away from your daily routine; another way to bury.

Funeral. Sometimes, when shit is deep or hard or long-standing, you gotta call in the big guns. Create a funeral for the connection. Speak your piece- roll out the soliloquy of anger, disaster, fear, frustration, gratitude, love, wisdom. Play some music. Stick the words, the symbols, the name, in the ground. And let it go.

Speak. Sometimes, all you need is to say the words out loud: “I’m letting this go.” “I’m done with this, now.” “I accept that this is done.” “Be well. Take care. Goodbye.” And even if you only say it to yourself, that is enough.

Energy Clearing. Many traditions have special words, rituals, or tools to help clear away connections. Native Americans clean a space or energy with the smoke from burned sage leaves. Pagans may simply blow on a thing, as if blowing out candles, to clear the energy. You can wash or dust something away. You can simply pretend to do those things (in the case of a phone, for instance) as part of a ritual and it will be equally effective as if you’d actually done it.

For the moment, these are the options I can think of. I’ll add more if I think of them (please add yours in the comments!).

The point of any ritual of letting go is to help us connect to the finishing of a connection and also symbolically recognize it- and allow it to come to completion in our psyche as well as our everyday life. Sometimes it is as easy as I had it- the lesson arrives and the connection dies all in the same moment. And sometimes it takes longer. But a good ritual can help us accept this part of our journey and find meaning in it. Letting go is an important part of life. And the more we can practice it, the better off we’ll be.

More soon, fellow travelers,
Joanna :: xoxo





It’s been cold and snowy for the past couple of days here in Southern New England and I can’t help but to think about warm things. I don’t usually like to do that- it makes the cold that much worse by comparison- but even thinking about a nice, warm 40 degree day sounds awesome.

Thinking about proper warm, sunny days, like we get in the Summer, made me start thinking about sweating. I have, for a couple of years now, been fascinated by my own sweaty body. I like sweaty bodies in general- it means effort, exertion, making attempts at goals, heat, maybe sex, and some bodies smell fantastic when sweaty (I’m not one of them). Sweat also means warmth and movement and flexibility- equally sexy and fantastic as the other things.

So, I remain fascinated with sweat in general, and my sweat in particular. How it feels to have a workout where I am dripping with it (it feels rather badass- pushing my limits). How it feels to have the sweat cool on my skin. How it looks and feels sitting atop my skin- sometimes I notice every little bit, sometimes I am oblivious. The gorgeous feeling of being so entranced in my workout, or so dedicated to finishing what I’m doing, and the drops of sweat fall from my chin, nose, and and chest. Those drops are hard-earned and they feel like gold when I am warm and working my ass off.

I offer you a study in sweat.

::: ::: ::: :::


| The cure for anything is salt water: tears, sweat, or the sea. |


| Luck is the dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get. |


| There’s nothing better than working up a good sweat. |


| There’s something incredibly sexy about sand and sweat and dunes
photographed like women’s backs.  – Kristin Scott Thomas |


| Sweat! Sweat! Sweat! Work and sweat, cry and sweat, pray and sweat!  – Zora Neale Hurston|


|By being an athlete, I have discovered so many other ways to express my beauty. Being a strong, fearless woman makes me feel beautiful. I love the way I look and feel when I am two hours into my training and my skin is glistening with sweat and my clothes are drenched because
I have given it all I’ve got.  – Laila Ali|


| the best sweat is a from a hot bath, though. |


G’night fellow travelers. May your sweat bring you joy.
Joanna :: xoxo




How does a sensualist celebrate Christmas?

She doesn’t! She celebrates Solstice. And we start the day with candlelight.



At our house we do a big celebration for Solstice because we’re not Christians. Taoist-Buddhist-Pagan eclectic mix is what we do here (although, I’ve been thinking about that, too- and probably need to reconsider what right I have to those traditions. But not today…)

One of the reasons we celebrate Solstice (both of them, and the Equinoxes) is our dedication to science, but also because they are the celebrations that our closest to the body. Before central heating, our bodies knew what season it was because of the changes in the light and the changes in temperature each season. Even now, I need more thyroid medication during the winter because my body is registering that it’s time to slow down, experience less light, and my metabolism responds accordingly. We’ve lost some of that physical connection with the seasons (okay, but we did gain Netflix, so it’s not all bad) but we can reconnect with it easily enough by connecting with the solstices and equinoxes. So, here we are.

Around here we relax during the day, letting the darkest day sink into our bones- because there is a natural desire to slow down during this time of year. We eat a candle-lit dinner to acknowledge and enjoy the dark. At dinner we will eat foods that remind us of the sun- sweet potatoes, orange cheese, oranges, fizzy drinks (I have no idea why that reminds me of the sun, just go with me on this), we make a ‘sunshine’ cake, and other items that make us feel happy amongst the dark.

We perform the ritual of letting dark things go. The winter Solstice is the time to let go of what no longer serves us- to unwind, untie, unlearn, and release that which is no longer needed. We write things on paper and burn them in a clay pot- and use the ashes to feed a new plant that we will love into the new year and into Spring.

It is also a time to honor the dark- because darkness is part of human nature, too. And without our fear, anger, frustration, sadness, and grief we are incomplete (what would we be if we were happy all the time?). So we also bless the darkness for holding balance in our lives.

I spend time with all the holiday things that bring me sensual pleasure.

Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong album – truly full of adult holiday feelings

Harry Connick Jr.’s  Songs I Heard – not Christmas-based but reworking childhood favorites

The Muppets singing “Little Saint Nick” – because you need Animal grinding it out, okay?

“Stop the Cavalry” by The Cory Band – which is a weird but enjoyable anti-war/nuke protest song. But it sounds like Christmas.

And my ‘put it on repeat’ favorite: “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses.

[I will tell you, I got super sick of Christmas music the other day and had to put on some Van Halen, Rush, and Aerosmith. So, raise your glass for sensuality and 80s rock this Solstice.]


I will drink my favorite tea. (Once you have British tea, you can never go back. Buy it here.)  Lots of sugar, lots of cream.



I’ll read favorite books.

Sections from David Copperfield. Because in AP English (waytoomanyyearsago) we read it in December and I can never go without it now.

A children’s book my grandmother gave me when I was diagnosed with diabetes (36 years ago!) called “Joel Schick’s Christmas Present” which is a re-telling of the 12 Days of Christmas, except with strange creatures. Creatures that eat the decorations. And once you sing it in your head with the new words, you will have trouble remembering the old ones.



Something from Toot & Puddle, a quieting favorite when my kids were small.



I will put my children to bed, snuggling with my daughter as the twinkly lights hang quietly in her room. My son simply wants hugs these days. I will feel my body against their’s, remembering when they were small enough to fit into my arms.


I’ll curl up in my favorite sweater and jeans and watch Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas (which no one but me loves) and The Family Stone, with a bowl of popcorn. [Except I lied. Tonight is the opening of Season 4 of Peaky Blinders on Netflix. And I am going to watch and fall in love with Tommy Shelby and his intelligent, graceful violence once again. He is so fucking delicious.]


I feed myself what I most need on this day, with a special awareness of the dark, of its gifts, and of the promise of coming light. And Solstice will be the calmest day of my year.




New Moon in Sagittarius

Good evening, fellow travelers. Tonight we find ourselves with the new moon, dark moon, in Sagittarius. The new moon is my favorite, generally. I often feel calm, open, aware, and grounded. But the last two weeks- perhaps because it’s Mercury in Retrograde? – have been quite the roller coaster ride.

I was watching Love, Actually today (I know it’s sexist and awful, but it’s still a holiday fave at my house) and it is the perfect parallel for my life these past few weeks- hope, elation, joy, fear, disappointment, confusion. Up, down; up, down. The storyline also reminded me that there are lots of Joanna’s (in the film there are two: one who dies and one who is loved by a central character) and that as long as I’m taking action, with my best intentions, using the tools I have available, something useful will come of this phase. [I hope.]

The new moon signals the end of the last moon cycle, but also the beginning of the next one. This is the time to plant our dreams and hopes in the dark of the new moon, and take action to nurture that to the next full moon. I know that the only thing I can plant tonight is the thing I always pray for: the highest good for everyone.

Here’s what’s on the menu for the new moon in Sagittarius:

From The Sky Priestess:

Remember that in this time powerful seeds are being set. And they´re not about today, tomorrow, or even a few years from now. We´re talking about decades.

That might feel intimidating, but it does not have to be.
If you don´t know where you´re meant to be headed, make no decision except that you choose to be aligned to the path of your greatest evolutionary potential, grace, joy and blessings – for yourself and all others…

…There is no magic spell or healing modality that will do that for you at this time. Only your conscious will and intent. As we are entering a time in which (eventually) no intermediaries will be required in accessing the frequency of Divine energy.

We will have to re-think, re-learn and develop entirely new languages of what ´healing´ looks like. An extraordinary threshold exists between what aligns with the old Piscean paradigm, and that which we are all aligning towards creating.

Reclaim your identity as a Sovereign Being, a Co-Creator alongside or within Divine Consciousness.


From Chani Nicholas:

In Sagittarius, Saturn has demanded that we understand the limits of our beliefs. Where they are faulty. What about them needs to be developed. Which of them are too ill-constructed to be of service to our truth. Unstable theories needed to be put out to pasture. Philosophies that proved themselves unworthy of our dedication needed to be done away with. Only beliefs that can withstand the austere glare of Saturn should be taken into 2018.

The rest should be left in the past.

The new moon also trines Uranus. The deity of innovation, breakthroughs and boundless insights blesses this new moon with its gifts. Since Saturn and Uranus have been in an ongoing trine with one another this past year, the theme this new moon picks up on is not new, but timeless in its wisdom.

The right commitments will set you free.

Being bound to our becoming requires ceaseless work but offers us unending freedom. Without discipline, consciousness escapes us. It takes rigorous effort to look at ourselves. To witness where we shrink away from accountability. To spot the times we slip out of our integrity. To notice when we have chosen an easier route around the truth. To love ourselves enough to forgive ourselves and do the hard work of healing.

Honesty opens up every possibility for evolution. Without it we are just roaming around the same issues thinking we have gotten some place new. This new moon asks us to embrace the strides we have taken to push past the barriers of self doubt and to embrace the effort it takes to truly mature. Efforts that will, in the end, bring gifts so abundant we wonder why anyone would pass up such a sacred task.    


If you just want some personal guidance, I always love Rob Brezsny’s Freewill Astrology. His perspective is a little different, and I dig that.

And this is from Mystic Mama:

There are 5 planets in Sagittarius at this New Moon, so the cosmos wants us to pay attention.

“Sagittarius is the sign honoring truth, vision, belief and optimism that can light a fire within each of us.

“Occurring during the darkest time of year in the northern hemisphere brings the image of Light into clear focus.

“In the dark, we seek the light.

“Our purpose (Sun), our emotional body (Moon), our mind (MercuryRx), our body’s wisdom (Venus), and our authority (Saturn) want to be clothed in that light…

“This New Moon is seeded in the Galactic Center, so let the eternal truths of the cosmos take root in your hearts so they blossom in these next, oh so important years for humanity.

“Let go of old perceptions and open to extraordinary possibilities that might whisper in your hearts during meditations and journeys.

“Trust that the Universe knows what It’s doing when it chooses YOU to channel its creativity and vision.

“Mercury is retrograding back over the Galactic Center degree, so it will go over this degree three times – and you know that the Goddess always works in 3s.

“So just let the information come in – you won’t know it all until after the New Year.

::: ::: ::: :::

It appears to be a time of decision-making and action, but only after we’ve examined our deepest hearts and listened to whatever guidance The Something offers us. If you need me, I’ll be meditating for my own heart and guidance. Come sit with me.

Big love, fellow travelers,
Joanna :: xoxo



twelve twelve twelve

Five years ago today I asked two friends to help me with a project. Twelve is my favorite number and I wanted to do something really special for 12/12/12. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. I asked an artist friend to paint me. I wanted to celebrate myself, my body, my spirit, and do something different. It was a wonderful day, and made me feel both empowered and magical.

Looking back now, I realize it was my first step into the discovery of my sensual self.


My friend, Natasha from Zen Bubble, was the artist.


The finished product. Pre snake tattoo.


I finally made peace with my post-pregnancy belly with this lotus and waves.
[My deltoid and bicep are my favorite part of this photo, though.]


This is probably my favorite photo of the whole shoot.
Maybe this was the start of The Naked Mystic, too.