Archive | Ritual

Happy New Year’s Eve!

It’s Halloween, or Samhain (please, say “sow-in”- that’s how it’s pronounced in the original Gaelic), and it marks the end of the year for pagans.

I haven’t danced much this year in the new house, I realized today as I was struck by a song on the radio and stood there, still and calm. It was “Breathe (2 AM)” by Anna Nalick and I closed my eyes as I listened. The sun came out and I turned towards it and felt the heat on my face and how it looks like your eye lids are all lit up when the sun comes through them while your eyes are closed. I was not dancing, but it was magic nonetheless.

When the song was done, I went to meditate. I lit the candles and got the sage smoking (that’s not a euphemism) and prayed to my ancestors. Both sets of great grandparents, now long dead. My Papa, who died a few years ago, but it still feels like I saw him last week. And to a newly dead great uncle- a very loving man who raised very loving sons and made the world a better place with his smile and corny jokes. The veil being thin this time of year, I thanked them for how their lives brought me forth and for the ways in which their spirits guide me every day.

I thought about the year past. Mostly it was difficult things I thought of. How I felt ridiculous and immature and incapable and not ready for so many things that happened. But also how I felt glad that I’d taken risks and been stupid and learned things about myself and my life and what I want to be and become.

That is probably what I like best about this ‘end of year’ versus the traditional New Year’s Eve: we recognize and celebrate the darkness in ourselves. We let it out to play. The part of us that might murder, the vengeful place inside our hearts, the seductress, the cruel one, the clown, the dead parts of ourselves- they all come out as Halloween costumes and we celebrate them. We reward them with candy, even! I think it’s incredibly valuable to recognize these parts of ourselves during this celebration and love them up, because magic doesn’t come from being good, it comes from being whole.

So, I sat at my altar and felt all the things: how feeling ridiculous is exactly like when I hit my funny bone in my elbow, but spread throughout my whole body. How I’d given bits of myself away and began calling them back. How it felt to remember things from long ago- painful things- and letting my heart hurt again. Regret. Regret sits like a mask atop my eyes but also drops down into my heart. I’m glad to have regret instead of wondering, even if it does feel like a weight. The various other feelings that needed space to be recognized and felt stopped by, too. It was sort of an ego death* parade.

I also took a few moments to send good wishes to those who had helped me in some way this past year- helped me learn, grow, understand. Even those who helped me feel regret or ridiculous- because they helped me know myself better.

And then I asked my ancestors to speak to me. The veil between the worlds is thin today and the next few days, so I believe their energy and messages come through to us living folks more easily, if we are open to them.

After it was all done, I took a very long, very hot shower. Not as a means of cleansing, but as a way of stewing in all of those things I felt. Today isn’t the day for getting all pretty and clean and free- it’s the day to recognize how dirty and broken and deliciously fucked up we are, and celebrate it anyway.

It turned out that the song I listened to was exactly right for today. “Just breathe,” she sings. Whatever comes, we accept it. And we breathe. Today I let all the ugly come up, watched the year march through me, and accepted all of it. Tonight I will celebrate it.

Much love to you, fellow travelers. I hope your Halloween is full of fright and fun- and I hope you get to be yourself, your whole self.

Joanna :: xoxo


Photo by Kento Iemoto on Unsplash


* Ego death is not what Jason Silva talks about on Facebook. Ego death is when we realize that something we’ve been attached to or believed strongly in (usually something that defines us) is either not true (as in, it’s actually a lie) or is no longer true for us. Examples:

  • I am a good person.
  • My marriage is safe.
  • There is a heaven.
  • I can have what I want.
  • I’m not broken.
  • I have a long life ahead of me.
  • God is only masculine.
  • If I am good, I will get what I want.

When we have an ego death, it’s a usually a horrible surprise: something we didn’t expect to be true, is. And it shocks us into a new reality. A reality where what we wanted or needed to believe is clearly no longer true. The part of our ego that was attached to that, that really, really wanted it to be true, has to die in that moment of understanding. So, ego death is the shock that opens us up to greater truth (even, probably especially, when we don’t like it or want it). It’s an incredibly valuable process. It’s better to seek it out than avoid it, if you ask me.




moons and seasons

I know I post about the moon regularly, and that certainly helps keep me in my own loop about where I am physically and emotionally in this ever-changing world. But I keep wanting to go back to a couple of practices I used to share here. Namely, noticing the seasons and naming my sensual pleasures and supports. I think it’s time to combine them. And because today was the ultimate in transition (see pictures), I’d like to start today.

Today, April 2nd, at 9 am.
It was the kind of snow you wanted on December 24th- fat, fluffy flakes floating downward.


Today, April 2nd, 4 pm.
This was also the kind of snow you wanted on December 24th- the kind that
cleans itself up by the afternoon commute.


One thing I’d like to do with this practice is list what sensual supports I used and enjoyed in the previous/ending season, and then list what sensual supports I hope or plan to use and enjoy in the coming/beginning season – and then see what I actually end up enjoying. So, here we go!

Winter’s Sensual Supports

black tea with too much sugar and cream
flannel sheets
nubby wool socks for bed
crocheted afghans
Star Wars
70s Lite Rock on Pandora
the sunshine of this song
putting up pictures
dreaming of Paris
gluten free oreos
longer, hotter showers
heavy black, leather boots (rainbow laces!)
laughter and snuggling
prayer + meditation
the big silver earrings that ‘tinkle’ all day when I wear them
extra sweatshirts
homemade beef stew
hot bread with butter
listening and helping
building fires
the sound of them crackling
day trips with good friends
the feeling of being warm enough
watching the sun come up on my bike
books about witches
cleaning off the altar
daydreaming while I read
sorting through my feelings and letting go
the OMD concert


Sensual Seeds for Spring

first day with the windows down and the music up in my car
leather jacket + sweatshirt (instead of winter coat)
running outside again
green tea
ee cummings poems
Irish soda bread and Guinness stew
opening the windows
the blue bed spread
reading William Stafford (although, he’s really best in the Fall)
Snow Patrol station on Pandora
Snow Patrol’s new album (there’s nothing quite like poetry from a former priest)
short-sleeved white t-shirts + jeans
naps in the papasan
crocus’ arriving
licking the bowl
nights that are warm enough to sit outside in the dark
the smell of Spring
rain (I’m the only person in Rhode Island who loves it when it rains)
the sound of water running and children laughing
walking to the bus stop
cleaning out books (to make way for more, obvs)
a new corset
almond-scented lotion
first glass of lemonade
touching fingertips
watching new green things push through the earth
growing peas

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

This is where I’ve been, where I’m at, and where I hope to go. The pleasures of this life I hope to delight in. What are yours this coming Spring?

Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo




when prayer doesn’t work

‘nope. fuck that. your body is still your body. your arms still wings, your mouth still a gun. you tragic monster, misfiring bird. you have all you need to be a hero. don’t save the world, but do save yourself. when prayer doesn’t work: dance, fly, fire.’

Danez Smith || “Director’s note: a note on the body for my 20 year old self.”

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

Sometimes prayer doesn’t ‘work’ because we don’t get what we want. And sometimes it doesn’t work because we can’t connect to Center, to The Something. I have had years of being disconnected, when prayer didn’t work in either of these ways. And it was always the body that carried me through. Something within me that would not let go- call it ‘faith’ or ‘heart’ or ‘soul.’ There are always paths to the sacred when prayer does not work: body, arms, mouth.

How do you save yourself, fellow travelers? When prayer doesn’t work, what is your path?

Big love from the trail,
Joanna :: xoxo




fuck your demons.

Do I mean like this?


No, I mean like this.


I mean, get off on your demons.


Demons: Dark and Light.

Traditionally, when we talk about demons, we talk about fighting against them. Demons are something we don’t like in our lives or in ourselves. They may be fear, depression, anxiety, illness, relationship difficulties, addiction, trauma, or even desire if it feels like a burden. Of course, none of us wants these things in our life. They tend to reduce our energy and leave us feeling ‘less than.’ So, of course it would be natural to want to fight them, to get rid of them.

But if we fight against these demons, we are saying that these parts of us are an enemy. I’m not sure anymore that is the healthiest way to view them. They are a part of us, and we are not inherently bad (we all contain the Buddha nature). So, what if we didn’t fight against them? What if, instead, we thought of them as useful? Maybe even as friends?

In her excellent article, “How to Feed Your Demons,” author and teacher Lama Tsultrim Allione shares a practice for making friends with your demons and learning what they are here to teach you or connect you with. This is the secret: the demons are actually here to help you grow. Tommie Kelly, over at adventuesinwoowoo, also talked about this idea on his podcast about demonising his problems so he could work with them more skillfully.

[Huge caveat here, though: organic issues, such as depression, anxiety, illegal sexual proclivities, etc. cannot always and should not be treated as ‘spiritual only’ problems. They need therapeutic and sometimes pharmaceutical support. Do not try to ‘pray away’ deeper problems, please.]

Your demons might actually have something beautiful to give you.


Sex Magic.

In Tantra, a person can cultivate sexual energy (that is, ‘turn on’ or orgasm) and send it to people or situations in order to heal them. People also do this to connect with things they desire (people, experiences, etc). Tantric folks call this ‘sex magic.’

It’s a really beautiful magical concept because you can really only send good things when you use it. I am a practitioner of ‘for the highest good’- meaning I don’t send bad energy to things, I merely pray or send energy ‘for whatever is the highest good.’ I pray this way primarily to reduce attachment to outcomes, but also because: what the fuck do I know about running the Universe? (Nothing. I know nothing. So it’s not my place to be creating any particular outcome.)

In the physical sense, when a person comes, it’s also rather difficult to send that energy with bad intentions. Orgasm is the energy of creativity, joy, sometimes love- those things are difficult to harness to darker emotions or intentions. I can’t imagine being in the middle of orgasm and thinking “Please send this energy to Linda because I fucking hate her,” can you? Plus, it’s just not what Tantra is about.

I have used this practice at different times over the years since I learned it, but I generally save orgasm energy for really important stuff, things I care about a lot or want very much in my life, or things that need deep healing. In any case, I believe it does work – not always in ways we expect, but it does work.

Sexual energy and orgasm are the highest energy we can give anything because it is the spark of the infinite, the moment of creation, a connection to god.


Voulez vous coucher avec moi?

I am a wild one/
break me in/
saddle me up/
and let’s begin. 
– Flo Rida ft. Sia “Wild Ones”

So, what if we didn’t just try to make friends with our demons, or to see their good, but what if we actually tried to give them sex magic? What if we gave our demons the best energy we could find on Earth, our sexual energy? Interestingly enough, giving our demons sex magic is a way into their beauty.

What if you could say to your demons, “I think you are so fucking sexy?” or “Jeeezus, you turn me on.” It would be pretty revolutionary, a very different way of interacting with our demons. in this case, we’re not fighting our demons, nor are we looking for the beauty in them, we are actually finding them attractive as they are. We are giving them our ‘turn on’ as a gift of connection so that we can blow them to smithereens with our orgasm.

For me, music is the key here. If I can find a song that connects with my demon and makes me feel the least bit sexy or turned on, I’m good to go. Imagination helps, too. If you can imagine your demon as a sexy, bad boy/girl lover, then it can be easier to cultivate the sexual energy you need for magic. The more you can embody it, the more you can laugh, grind, sway, touch yourself, moan- the better it will be when you and your demon orgasm together.

And in that moment, the energy of the demon is transformed. Quite often, my heart opens even more because I’m finally connecting with that demonized part of myself in a very intimate and enjoyable way. I suppose, from a certain perspective, it’s the ultimate form of the hate fuck.

I thoroughly recommend that you straddle your demons and let them penetrate you. Fall in love with them a bit, if you can. Enjoy the fact that they are dirty and naughty. And get off on them so that you can integrate them. They are the dark side of us, quite often, and the more we know them and welcome them, they less they will run our lives.

In a very real sense, treating our demons this way is exactly the way most of us want to be loved. We want to be welcomed into the arms of our lover or beloved as we are, warts and all, and to be enjoyed, integrated, and found so sexy our lover can’t  help but to scream out to god how grateful they are for us being there. And when we can do that for ourselves, it’s fucking gorgeous.

If you’ve got demons, welcome them in. They’ve usually got something helpful to teach us. If you can find a way into their sexiness and fuck them well, you’ll also get access to their power. And you can keep it for yourself.

Blessings on the journey, you sexy fuckers.
Joanna :: xoxo

[I recognize that if you a fully scientific type person this sounds fucking ridiculous and weird. Even from a psychological perspective, it’s personifying an emotion or experience and then interacting with that personification. But if you’re into spiritual stuff, you understand- it’s an energy and energy is capable of being manipulated and transformed. I like my science and my psychology and my spiritual shizz, but this is mostly spiritual. Take it as such.]




i sit with it all

I light the first candle, for the Infinite Feminine, the Creatrix.
The second and third for her guides, whoever I am worshipping at the moment.
The last candle is for myself, a representation of my devotion and my own light, small though it may be.

I sit on a child’s step stool. After years of searching for a comfortable meditation stool, this $4 plastic one is the most comfortable.

The meditation rug I found in Seattle, my spirit’s home. When I asked specifically for a prayer rug, the man at the store said, “Please do not ask for a prayer rug and then use it in your bathroom.” No, I assured him, it will only be for prayer. It’s the most masculine part of my altar. I love that it looks like ejaculating penises. How delightfully appropriate for my journey.

And I breathe. I say hello to my guides, ancestors, and deities. I humble myself and open my heart.

And then I sit.

I sit and focus on my breath.
The in breath.
The stopping point.
The out breath.
The stopping point.

If I’m lucky, I can stay with it for 5 or 6 breath cycles.
Most often, the monkey-mind sets in and suddenly, I am shopping at Target.
[So. Very. Normal.]

I sit through everything.


I feel certain these ‘items’ at the top of the rug are
meant simply to point towards Mecca.

But they look like more than that to me. 


I sit with sadness that hits my body like a hard rain. I am outside and naked. The sadness, the rain, is cold and breaks me.

I sit with happiness, like a river I floated down in high school. Warm and buoyant.

I sit with desire. So hot it burns me for years. But it also feels really good. Sometimes it is a tornado inside my body, it is so wide and tall and chaotic. I sit with it.

I sit with fear. Of myself. Of the world. Where is it all going?

I sit with the chatter. Sometimes I am completely swept away by it. The alarm chimes and I have not connected with my breath for a single cycle. “At least I got my ass on the cushion,” I say.

I sit with ‘downloads’ of information and ideas that I have no idea where they came from. I just know they are right. I offer gratitude to those who sit with me.

I sit with it all. And the one constant I know from this sitting is that things change. If we can simply breathe and let it pass though us, it will. We may grit our teeth as it passes, but it will move, if we let it.

It is impossible to ‘not think.’ Human brains are only made for thinking. But we can think about one thing- the breath- and let our brain rest. We can focus on a single sensation- the rising and falling of our chest- and it can give us space and peace.

The more I sit, the better I am.

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

I have been meditating for more than 15 years now. I used to sit for 30 minutes, 7 days a week. Now I strive for 15 minutes, 5 days a week. The research is clear that meditation helps your brain function at its best. It regulates mood and hormones, reduces stress and increases resiliency. It certainly makes me less of a cranky bitch. And it is my home. My meditation practice is the place I rest all of who I am and also integrate all of who I am. It keeps me connected to my center and makes me a better person.

If you’d like to start a meditation practice, I recommend either Susan Piver (books and website) or Sharon Salzburg (books or website) for instruction and guidance. Both have very good beginners books. I practice in the Shambhala tradition, as it was specifically developed for the modern, Western culture and for those with jobs, families, etc. Books by the Shambhala creator, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, are worth your time, as are those of his son, the latest leader of Shambhala, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.

I hope you’re well, fellow travelers. I’ve battened down for a new winter storm. Wish me luck!
More soon.
Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo