The truth about what magic looks like

The truth about what magic looks like

photo-1416339411116-62e1226aacd8I’m one of those people that always believed there was nothing special or magical about myself. When  I was little I would play for hours in my mom’s garden wishing and willing myself to see fairies. But I thought fairies were tiny people like tinker-bell, so when I failed to see tiny humans with wings I got discouraged, and started believing that only ‘other’ more ‘special’ people could see them.

I grew up in a fairly normal middle-class family and no one in my family talked about energy or spirits. My love for connecting with the flowers,  getting to know the personalities of the rocks in my mom’s garden, and my ‘imaginary friend’ Diana, just got me labeled being fanciful.

As a teenager, I read trashy novels about girls with ESP and went through a phase of toying with Ouija boards at slumber parties. I desperately wanted to move objects with my mind or see the future, but I couldn’t, so I gradually left those hopes and dreams behind.

I moved towards intellectualism, sharpened my mind at college, read philosophy, studied history.  Sharpened my politics at punk shows, and later at protests.  Came out as queer and explored my identity with a fierce will.  Moved as far away from the mystical as I could and sharpened my sense of irony and sarcasm.  I moved to bigger and bigger cities, looking for that dream of the life I thought I wanted.

I now see that what I was looking for was ecstatic connection. I came closest to finding it by playing music on stage, taking drugs, staying up all night a clubs and trying to have sex with everyone. I was always chasing that feeling of “this is what it feels like to really be alive”.

But the feeling, like the drugs and the sex and the music, didn’t last.

Then one night, in London, one of the largest, dirtiest and most beautiful cities I’ve ever lived in, I had a dream.  It was simple, and all I remember about it is that I could see and smell the forests of my home.  Oregon.  The wet Douglas Fir mulch under my hands, the smell of rotting logs and mushrooms.  I walked around the whole next day like I had been given a gift.  From that moment forward I started my journey home.

I moved back into my parents house totally lost, totally broke and going through my Saturn Return.

I knew I loved plants, so that’s where I started.  I got a job working in a nursery.  If you’ve ever done it, nursery work can be some of the most soul crushing, un-magical work there is.  My job was to wander in and out of large green houses and water tiny pansies with a mixture of water and chemical fertilizer.  Not magic!

But through that job I found herbalism.  And from there I discovered Chinese medicine and earth based spirituality.  I was lucky enough to land in in the same city as my wonderful teacher Colette Gardiner and train as a priestess in her school: Blue Iris Mystery School.

There I learned that everyone has magical abilities.  Everyone!  I learned that there is no difference between imagination and magic. The very things that got me labeled as “imaginative” as a child were my greatest magical skills. I learned that spirit beings don’t look like the movies, and sometimes you can only see them when you aren’t looking at them, or with your eyes closed. I learned to trust my intuition. I learned that the fact that I could tell what someone was feeling, even when they didn’t say a thing meant I was an empath.

Now when I look back on my journey I see how every step was leading me closer to who I am now. That dream in London was my spirit guides calling me back home, letting me know there was something for me there. When I was spending long hard days in the nursery, pumping chemicals into tiny plants, I would have told you I was very much lost and didn’t know what I was doing. But it was at that job that I learned about Plant Spirit Medicine and got inspired to study herbalism. And THAT was how I met my teacher Colette, but it was years before I would actually study magic with her.

I guess what I am trying to say is that it is easy to look back and see how I was always on this path, always headed towards my calling, but at the time it didn’t feel that way at all.

The number one question I always get asked is “how do I find my purpose?” And it is a question I can’t answer directly for anyone.

What I can say is that the clues leading you there feel like a dream that reminds you of home; a conversation with a work-mate about a book that you can’t get out of your head; a teacher’s name you keep hearing over and over again.

That, and that there are no wrong turns, the universe is constantly placing opportunities in front of you. Opportunities to know yourself better, opportunities to finally accept the truth, which is that you are magic. We all are.

The most important thing I did to find my purpose

medium_90667421When I was in my early 30s my life was fairly aimless. I lived in a tiny RV trailer in the driveway of a big group house that was shared by 7 other people. I was stuck in an unhappy relationship that was going nowhere and I barely eked out a living cleaning houses and having a failing massage practice. Worse than all that, I had this lingering feeling that my life was supposed to amount to more than it was, and I didn’t mean wealth or accomplishment in the traditional sense. I really felt like I was here for a reason, but I just couldn’t figure out what it was. By luck or divine providence I stumbled upon a class on magic and decided to give it a try. The class was awesome and I learned a lot, but things didn’t really start changing for me until my second year of training. It was during this year that we all took a vow to follow the sacred holidays of the quarter and cross-quarter days and “walk the Wheel of the Year”. The class begun in ernest on Feb 2, Imbolc, or Candlemas as it it some times known. It was there that I took the vow to “Live my life as a magical act”. For the next year and a day I had committed to letting every second count as some kind of magic. It felt serious and important at the time, but of course I was completely unprepared for the journey I was about to take. By the end of the year, I had accepted my calling as a healer, was headed to grad school to get my degree in Chinese Medicine, and had fully accepted myself as a magical being What started as a simple vow, deepened as the year progressed. By Ostara, in March, I was ready to plant the seeds for a new life. By Beltain, May 1st, I had come to know some of my deepest heart’s desires. By Mid-Summer I received a vision so powerful I can still feel it today. It was then that I really began to realize my own capabilities as a magical person. August 2nd, Llamas,  brought the first rewards of the year in the form of acceptance to grad school, and by Samhain, in October, I was ready to say goodbye to much of my old life, I moved out of my trailer into the first house I ever owned, and started school to prepare for my career in medicine. By Winter Solstice in December I was ready to be still in the dark quiet of the year and comfortable for the first time with not knowing where exactly I was headed, but knowing it would be amazing. It wasn’t just the celebration of these ancient holidays that made the year so amazing, it was that I had vowed to walk through the year in a way that allowed the mystery teachings of each holiday to become present in my life. Each holiday has, buried within it’s rituals, a deeper set of lessons and wisdom to teach us.  When I made my commitment, I committed to being living vessel for those lessons and I was amazed at how life provided exactly the circumstances I needed in order to learn and grow. For instance, Beltain, the high holiday of May Day, is the time for honoring our deepest desires. It was then that I realized how all my life I had wanted to be a healer. On the Fall equinox we celebrate the harvest, and savor our rewards, but even in the harvest there is an element of letting go. That which is harvested does not grow anymore. It was during this time that I bought my house, and was about to begin grad school, which meant deciding what things from my old life were important to continue nurturing, and which things it was time to harvest and be done with. The wheel has turned many times since that first year that I made my vow, and each year it never ceases to amaze me how much there still is to learn from the simple wisdom of these powerful days. In the years since that first one, my magical practice has deepened and grown. I have earned my degree and started a rewarding practice as an acupuncturist. I have met my soul mate, and together we brought our son into the world. Some years I celebrate all holidays in a grand fashion, sparing no extravagance and celebrating in large groups. Others, like the year my son was born, I observed them quietly and simply. But I always feel the energy of the earth and the seasons no matter what I am doing externally. Returning each year to familiar rituals has taught me many lessons. First that change is a process, that all things have a perfect time and place. Also, that there is a pattern and web to life that is much greater than me, but of which I am an integral part. And perhaps most importantly, that change is the only constant. I am so excited to be offering a year-long immersion in this transformative practice starting this Imbolc (Feb 1st). If you would like to learn more about this class, join me for a free phone call on January 25th. In this call I will share more in depth on each holiday  and how you can use Wheel of the Year to make 2015 your most transformative year yet.  Enter your email below.
photo credit: alabaster crow photographic via photopin cc

Navigating your late 20s, Part 3; visioning the future

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I’m officially on maternity leave and in honor of the up-coming birth, and to make life a little easier, I’m reposting some of my old material here.  I originally ran this post back in 2010, but many of you may not have seen it.  I think its worth another look!

This article is part 3 of a series on the Saturn return, the period of transition between ages 27-3o. In part one we talked about what the Saturn return is and why you should care, in part two we covered the importance of clearing away old patterns and habits in order to move forward. In this section, we tackle what may be the most challenging part of this whole process: coming up with a vision for how you want to live your life as an adult. It’s challenging because we live in a culture that highly values critique and analysis. It is very easy for us to articulate what we don’t like about something, it’s not so easy to imagine how it could be different. We also live in a culture that is rampant with pessimism. The idea that if I set my expectations low, I will never be disappointed. Well that just isn’t true. If you set your expectations low, chances are you will only accomplish the bare minimum. Visioning the future in the way we want to live it requires us to take responsibility for what it is we want, and to admit that we are ready to get it. Neither of those things are easy.

How to begin: Start with the work we did in part two. In that article we talked about letting go of limiting ideas, habits and relationships. Sometimes knowing what you don’t want can be a good starting point for figuring out what you do want. Remember that list I asked you to make about all the things that are no longer true about you? Well you can take that list to re-craft the things that are true about yourself. Start with all the things that you got rid of and think about the opposite of them. Try to craft statements about yourself based on what you are. If one of your statements that is no longer true was something like: I’m socially awkward. Try turning it into something like: I’m a person that values community and works toward making community bonds stronger. I know it sounds cheesy, but it can be really empowering, and remember no one else has to read this stuff, its just for you. Make a list of all the things that you are now, even if you don’t totally feel like you are those things all the time. Keep this list somewhere where you can look at it often, daily if you can.

Think about what you want from life: Wanting things is somewhat of a taboo in our culture. On one hand there is the commercial/corporate driven ethic that more things will bring you happiness. Many of us have rejected that value and repleaced it with ethics that prioritize justice, community, and not destroying the environment. During the process of saturn return it is really important to be as honest with yourself about what you want as you can. Pay attention to desires that may be different from how you felt 5 years ago. When I went through this process I found that I finally had the energy to settle down in one place. Prior to that, I had really valued travelling, and felt that putting down roots would just tie me down. It was a big shift, and I had to let go of how I saw myself living, and replace it with a new vision. The same process can happen around how you feel about relationships, jobs, raising a family, making money. The challenge then becomes reconciling your new desires with your values and ethics and figuring out how to be the kind of person you want to be. For instance, in my own process there was a part of me that viewed settling down as a form of selling out. For me, the challenge was to figure out how to live a settled life with the kind of integrity that reflected my ethics.

What are you good at, what are you here to do?
This is a huge issue, and lies at the very heart of the transformation you are going through during Saturn return. Unfortunately one blog entry isn’t going to help you solve this one. But spending some time searching, and pondering this question, will help you immensely during this process. And remember, you don’t have to figure it all out by age 30. Actually, I see most people figure this one out in the years that follow the Saturn return. But is it is the work you do now that lays the ground work. This is the area where getting some outside help can really make a big difference. In Five Element Acupuncture the goal of treatment always to help a person become more fully themselves. Five Element treatments help us make peace with the things we are ready to let go of, and strengthen our inner core self, so that we can manifest our greatest strengths and values.

Navigating your late 20s, Part 2: clearing the slate

I’m officially on maternity leave and in honor of the up-coming birth, and to make life a little easier, I’m reposting some of my old material here.  I originally ran this post back in 2010, but many of you may not have seen it.  I think its worth another look!

This article is part two of a three part series on Saturn return: the period of transition between the ages 27-30. Click here to read part one, and learn more about what your Saturn return means. In this article we will talk about the process of clearing away things that you’ve out-grown, or that are no longer good for you. Since the Saturn return is a turning point, it is necessary to clear some of the old stuff away, before you can be ready for new things in your life.

If you are in your Saturn return, the process of clearing out old stuff has probably already been happening on it’s own. The most obvious way it might be showing up in the feeling that things aren’t working anymore. Your standard methods for coping, and getting your needs met, seem to stop working for you. Maybe its a job crisis, and you find yourself sick of working the same dead-end jobs you have been surviving on since your early 20s. Maybe you find yourself in what is supposed to be a good career, but totally burnt-out and uninspired. Maybe the techniques you have used to cope with the emotional scars of your childhood are finally catching up with you. Maybe your relationships and friendships all seem to end in the same way. Whatever the reason, life just doesn’t seem to work anymore. You can keep trying the same old methods, and chances are you’ll keep getting the same results, or you can use this time to re-evaluate and take stock of your life.

Ask yourself what isn’t working. You don’t have to know what you are going to do about it yet, you just need to know what isn’t working. In fact, often not knowing how to change something is what keeps us from being ready to let it go. But here is the secret, you don’t have to know what is coming next in order to aknowlege you are ready to let something go. It might be a good idea to get some good perspective on this part, either from a counselor or a trusted friend. Often, others can help us identify what our repeated patterns are, and what we might need to get rid of. We might be too close to the issue to be able to see it clearly.

Let go of your limits: What are the stories that you tell yourself about what is not possible? What hopes and dreams do you carry that you tell yourself you just can’t have? There are lots of reasons we tell ourselves that things can’t work: money, fear, or the fact that we’ve never seen it work before. Chances are, that a lot of the limitations that you carry with you came from your childhood. During this transition you have two choices: take these limiting ideas with you, or let them go. I’m not saying it is easy, but think about it this way: the universe is handing you a tremendous opportunity to reinvent yourself, what kind of person do you want to become: someone who is daring, courageous and able to live out their dreams, or someone who is scared and stuck by the limitations in their own minds?

Let go of old ideas you hold about yourself that aren’t true anymore. We all have stories around about who we are. Some of them were given to us by our family, some we invented ourselves. Make a list of all the things you often tell other people about yourself. It can include serious things or silly things. Then go through the list and really examine the things that aren’t true about you anymore. Write down a new list of things you are ready to let go of about yourself, and release it using one of the ideas listed below. Keep a record of what you released to review later, (we will come back to this idea of self-concept in part 3 of this series.)

My tried and tested way of releasing old patterns is to set my intention, and use ritual. A simple way to do this is to write down what you want to release, find some quite private space, and safely burn your list. You can be creative, and make up your own ritual by releasing something into flowing water, burying it, or letting the wind take it away. (Please remember to make sure anything you release into nature is biodegradable) It sounds too simple, but intention setting can be a powerful way to send a strong message to your subconscious that you are ready to move on. Before you do it, be sure that you are really ready to let something go. I always recommend waiting a few days between writing the list and burning it. Get some perspective on how this pattern/relationship has helped you in the past. Its always easier to let something go with an feeling of gratitude rather than anger. You adopted this way of being in the world to get you to where you are today. Even though it doesn’t work for you anymore, there was still a time when it was helpful to you. Letting things go with gratitude is a way of practicing self-acceptance and forgiveness, this makes the transition into something new much smoother and easier.

I’ll say it again, it is not easy, but you can do it. Start with what isn’t working, and get rid of it. Dealing with issues from your past that are too much for you to handle alone? You may need some help:

Counseling can be an excellent way to change emotional patterns that aren’t working anymore. See the links section of this website for some great counselors in Portland.

Acupuncture:
In Five Element acupuncture we have several treatments geared specifically towards releasing old patterns. These are called Dragon Treatments. They were used in the past to deal with what was once termed ‘possession’. When we talk about it today it sounds mideval and antiquated, but think about if you’ve ever felt so affected by something that it seems to be ‘haunting’ you. These are the types of situations that Dragon treatments can be most effective for. You can be haunted by an event, a relationship, something from your childhood, or simply an emotion like anxeity that you can’t seem to get rid of. Dragon treatments are a combination of 7 p0ints on either the back or the front of the body that help to clear the way so that you can begin moving-on from past events. They are not miracle treatments, often when an event is that significant it takes time, thought, and real work to heal from it. Dragon treatments can be the first step towards that healing, and I often think of them as getting the door open, so that we can clean out the rubbish.

Whatever your method, clearing the slate can be a great way to get you through your Saturn Return. In part 3 we will talk about setting intentions to build the kind of life you want to see yourself living in the future.

Navigating your late 20s, Part 1: your Saturn Return

I’m officially on maternity leave today, in honor of the up-coming birth, and to make life a little easier, I’m reposting some of my old material here.  I originally ran this post back in 2010, but many of you may not have seen it.  I think its worth another look!

If you are between the ages of 27 and 30, you may have noticed life getting a little harder lately, or maybe it hasn’t been difficult, but it is getting more complicated. In our culture, the time span between ages 27-30 marks the transition from youth into adulthood. This time period is known as the first ‘Saturn return‘, based on the astrological position of Saturn in your natal chart. I’m not an astrologer, but I have noticed common themes among my patients and friends who belong to this age group.

Commonly people in this age group find themselves needing to face long-held patterns, or finally decide on a life path during these years. Many folks I speak to, view the Saturn return as a difficult process, but it doesn’t have to be. The following is part one of a three-part discussion of what I have learned in my own process, and in helping patients through the transition. In this first part we talk about what this transition can mean, and how you can work with it to make it a positive experience.

I think of the Saturn return as being an opportunity for much needed change. Like any rite of passage, there is both a component of sacrifice and of tremendous gain. Someone once described the process to me as being a time of reckoning, between those things from your past you are going to carry with you into adulthood, and that which you will leave behind. This can take the form of emotional patterns, relationships, habits, even the ways you view yourself. In my own experience, I also found it to be a time where I gained an immense amount of energy. For me, this came in the form of stamina. Suddenly I had energy for long-term projects that had not interested me before, or that had seemed to daunting. It is common for people to return to higher education, form life-partnerships, or decide to become parents during this period. Not that you have to do any of those things, this process can be about whatever you need it to be.

Your Saturn return is not without struggle, however. Often to move forward, we need to let go of the past. This can leave us feeling like we don’t know who we are any more, or that we have nothing left to stand on. While this can be really scary, it often only lasts a short time, and then we begin to build new structures for our lives based on the kind of values we want to embody in the world.

Whatever you do, it is a good idea to pay attention to the issues that are coming up for you during this time. Work you do now, will impact your life for the next 30 years. Why not make sure that you use the momentum for a positive change, rather than staying stuck in patterns you have outgrown? There are lots of resources you can call upon to help you navigate this transition. Astrology, counseling and even acupuncture can help you get clarity about where you are headed and how you want to get there.

Acupuncture? yes that is what I said. There are several modalities of acupuncture, that can help you with emotional or spiritual processes. One such method, called Five Element Acupuncture, is based on the theory that we all have innate talents and innate challenges. Using the template of the 5 Chinese elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water) we can use acupuncture to strengthen our innate talents. Then we can get in touch with what we are here to do with our lives, and better deal with our challenges. In this series I will also discuss the various ways this form of acupuncture can help with the process of Saturn return.

In the next part of this series we will discuss the process and importance of letting go of old patterns, negative relationships, and destructive habits.

If you want to learn more about astrology check out Turning Wheel Astrology.