feminism, witchery

Calling in the New Age: Identifying Oppressive Ideals in our Spirituality

As I’m sure we all by now know, there was a white nationalist rally attended by white supremacists (the “Alt-Right”), Neo-Nazis and Klu Klux Klan members in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend. The protest culminated in a domestic terror attack in which a white supremacist drove at high speeds through a pedestrian walkway, injuring many and killing one woman, Heather Heyer. Police stood on and watched quietly, not breaking up the violence–not tear gassing and arresting protesters like they did to peaceful Native water protectors in 2016. More white supremacists rallies are being planned in Boston and Texas.

The stakes are higher than ever for people of color, especially black poc. Especially Jewish poc. Diasporic Jews. Trans women. Queer folks. Immigrants. So many of us.

And that means that stakes are higher than ever for white silence.

I am white, and I benefit from white supremacy. I am complicit in upholding it.

I am also responsible for dismantling it.

Are you white?

Then you are too.

britt packnett
“I know this [is] hard to hear, but… White supremacy benefits all white people. Including the ones with no torches. That’s why it survives” – Brittany Packnett @ https://twitter.com/MsPackyetti/status/896419481236496385
As a witch and spiritual practitioner, I feel especially compelled to action. Especially responsible for dismantling white supremacy and all oppression. I am called to this work because I feel immense compassion. I sense with all of me that humanity and the earth needs healing. There is deep, important, hard work to be done. As a witch, I want to heal where reality meets spirit.

But in order for full, meaningful healing to take place, we cannot turn a blind eye to the injustices that live in the fabric of our human society. Sure, in the eyes of the universe, all spirits are equal in their love, light, and importance.

But we don’t live in the realm of spirit.

We live in the realm of humanity, and if we want our world to look like the glory of god and the light of the Universe then we need to put blood, sweat, tears, energy, thought, and action into making it that way.

Just because we may be lightworkers does not mean that we can hide away from shadow. The raw truth is that we live in a world that is built on the oppression of many for the benefit of few. In order for our healing to succeed, we need to acknowledge the depth of the wound.

How do we get there? First things first: let’s take time to reflect. It is Mercury retrograde after all–prime time to explore our own shadows.

Let’s take an honest look at our spiritual frameworks, mantras, and practices. Where do we ignore suffering? Where do we turn a blind eye to the impact of power? Where do we uphold white supremacy and oppression? Here are some examples I’ve come up with, inspired in great part by the work of Victoria Rosenberg in her article 6 Ways Spiritual Thinking Can Reinforce Oppression and Racism. Share yours in the comments. Write your own articles and share them with me & others. Let’s get down and dirty with our spiritual shadows.

And know–yes, this may feel critical. Quick reframe: this isn’t about what we’re doing “wrong.” This is an opportunity to expand. This is a chance for us to increase our capacity for healing. (As an interesting aside, read this post about how “perfectionism” upholds white supremacy, inspired by this workbook re: dismantling racism.)

If you’re feeling called out by this or any other articles going around, or low on energy in general, check out this post

1. Writing Off Anger as “Lower Vibrations”

In learning the craft of energy healing, so much of the literature I’ve come across, and so many of the people I interact with, refer to anger, sadness, and other such emotions as “lower vibration” energy that we should steer clear from. Instead, we need to “Raise our vibrations.” Act out of love and light.

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Naturally, love and light are represented by the image of innocence and purity: a young white girl. https://elinatrance.com/268/
Anger in and of itself is not hurtful. Really, no emotion is better or worse than any other. Interactions that are rooted in anger can inflict wounds, sure, but so can happiness when it is at the expense of someone else’s pain. The idea that anger is bad keeps us complacent, keeps us numb, and keeps us small.

Anger is fuel. Anger is sacred. Anger is a compass. Anger is love. Love for ourselves that we have boundaries. Love for others that we expect them to be kinder. Love for others that we feel alongside them when they suffer, and know they don’t deserve that hurt.

All emotions are filled with potential for understanding. They are guideposts for us.

When we see anger and people’s expression of it as “less than” and something to be avoided, we shut ourselves off from seeing the depth and breadth of injustice that others face. When we’re in the habit of judging anger as somehow ungodly, we purposely or not blame those who speak out against injustice with passion and fury, when they cast light on a system that was set up to keep them struggling.

Love and light cannot be expected to replace anger. As Asali at Asali Earthwork writes, “When healers with marginalized identities are asked to focus on light when their hearts are breaking you are sucking up the air around them and ensuring that it is always hard to breathe.”

Especially for women and femmes, white supremacy and patriarchy asks us to be quiet and complacent. Not loud, expressive, and assertive. Anger is not what keeps our vibrations low as an individual or a collective. Injustice is. Keeping people disempowered is. Refusing to give people basic human rights is.

2. The Law of Attraction

This one is huge and so insidious. It keeps us blissfully unaware, content to view social reality through the lens of individualism. Take out the rose-tinted lenses and put in the sociological, because it’s time to give this idea a re-up.

The Law of Attraction and its various other incarnations are embedded in so much of new age spirituality. It says that, essentially, you manifest your reality by willing it into being through the power of intention and thought. Like attracts like.

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Or your environmental conditions, social location, and access to opportunity for upward mobility. But alright.
This is a belief that even witches like Carolyn Elliott employ in some way.

Listen. There is an immense amount to say about the power of intention, and the importance of recognizing the power you have in changing your inner and outer world. I’ve lived this.

But it’s not an excuse to dismiss people who struggle with oppression. It’s not an excuse to blame poor people for being poor. It’s not an excuse to blame black folks for being targeted by angry violent racists, because they were “too aggressive” in standing up for their rights, or anything else.

It’s also not an excuse to write off people’s experience with mental illness, suggesting that it can be cured through the power of positive thinking.

There is a real magic to manifestation, but it requires the right resources–social connections, money, technology. We don’t all have equal access to resources. If someone comes to you as a healer expressing exhaustion over their circumstances, consider if their pain is rooted in something wider and more insidious than simply their attitude. Direct them to resources and organizations that can guide them and expand their capacity. Don’t tell them the spiritual equivalent of pull up your bootstraps.

3. Appropriating Symbols and Practices Without Understanding History, and Profiting

This is a big topic that deserves 400 articles on its own. There are many who have written better words than I can on this topic. I’ll link to some below.

In short: your white yoga lifestyle brand is more likely than not a commodified version of a deeply sacred spiritual practice.

Spirit animals are not yours to claim.

Smudging is a term that refers to a sacred practice of indigenous cultures; try smoke cleansing.

On culturally appropriating Buddhism.

ojibwe
Mari, Ojibwe Writer @ https://twitter.com/cyborgn8vmari/status/758755500099940352?lang=en
Using spiritual symbols that belong to indigenous or Eastern religion and using them as branding tools for your business is white supremacy. If nothing else, it is deeply disrespectful.

The fact that you get to sell a t-shirt that has the “OM” symbol and it looks trendy is a byproduct of white supremacy. If a person of color expresses their religion, they may look like a threat. This is white supremacy.

Learn about the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange. Be especially mindful of this when your spirituality is your business.

Karin Adam, a black Muslim femme witch, argues that this type of appropriation and white supremacy “goes deeper than” cultural appropriation. It is “spiritual appropriation.” The following is an excerpt of Karin’s article The Misadventures of being the only Black Witch among White Witches, which explains spiritual appropriation and its roots in white supremacy.

The whiteness and white supremacy of these Wiccan spaces was undeniably suffocating, violent and needless to say, exhausting. Across White Wiccan spaces, there is another type of appropriation that takes place in these spaces and that is spiritual appropriation. There are elements of cultural appropriation within this, however, it goes deeper than that.

There were different Native American chants included in rituals, West African Ifa and Haitian Vodou practices completely white washed and administered by White priests and priestess to mostly White followings. Often White people taking up our ancestral African and Afro-Diasporic spiritualities that their own ancestors outlawed and were used by our peoples to resist slavery, white supremacy and colonialism. White washed Gods and Goddesses who were from many places in the world where they were Black, Indigenous and POC.

If our goal is to heal, then by spiritually appropriating, we are not living up to our goals or our purpose. We are only contributing to a deep, historical wound that continues to have material consequences like we saw this past weekend.

4. The Self-Proclaimed Guru

doreen virtue
Doreen Virtue may approach what I’m talking about.
Ah, the mystical, self-proclaimed guru. The one who traveled to India for a yoga retreat, traveled to Peru to participate in an ayahuasca ceremony, meditated extensively, wrote a book with a shiny cover, and has now declared themself a spiritual guru.

This is elitism. This is power posturing. This is self-deifying as branding.

For one, if anyone is the spiritual guru–might it not be the Yogi who has devoted their life to the spiritual practice of yoga? Or the village shaman who held the ayahuasca ceremony? Why does your brand involve you as an omniscient person with a unique link to the divine because you spent a lot of money to experience someone else’s spirituality? How do those things now belong to you, as ways you can profit? This is white supremacy; this is neo-colonialism.

And second, rich “guru” or simply fledgling witch, do you communicate to your clients indirectly or directly that they need you?

This is exploitative. These are business practices rooted in capitalist tactics that seek to undermine the consumer’s sense of self. Consumer-brand identification is what keeps us–especially women, femmes–reliant on consumption.

You will only achieve your full capacity if you work with me, the master of this topic.

Does your business rely on that dynamic?

An alternative might look like you offering a genuine collaborative relationship. One that isn’t centered on you and what you hand down to your client, but what your client already has inside of them. And certainly not you as someone with a unique, direct channel to the divine.

Your clients are not small without you. They are not more powerful with you. They are powerful when they tap into themselves and connect with their communities. All you are there to do is give them the space to locate that power.

You are opening a window to let in the light, not the sun shining in.

5. Enlightenment as Perfection, Perfection as Positivity

Perfection is unattainable. Always–but especially when perfection is relentless positivity. Gratitude. Happiness. “Rising above anger.

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i.e. Be Positive
Pause for a moment.

Don’t these ideals sound a lot like something else? Sounds to me like the Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand, which has left women and femmes exploited and reliant on consumption, pursuing hyper-feminized ideals of submissive purity masked as empowerment. And the ideal of submission and purity (of body, of beauty, of eating habits, of behavior, of intent)? That’s white supremacy speaking, too. Not clear how? Read Layla Saad of Wild Mystic Woman break it down. 

Enlightenment will not be achieved by divorcing yourself from your emotions. Enlightenment will not be found in looking down on others for expressing the full depth of their hurt, for being tied up in their hurt–even for being stuck in it.

Frankly, I’m no guru (heh), so I don’t quite know how enlightenment can be achieved, if at all.

But I do know that any spiritual practice that asks people–especially femmes and women who participate–to “rise above” (aka repress, ignore, avoid) their sacred feelings of pain, anger, disempowerment, and rage, is reinforcing harmful social expectations that we as witches and healers should be resisting.

Healing takes place when we let emotions arise, feel them, notice them, and work with them. Feel anger? You’ve discovered a boundary you can now enforce. Feel envy? You’ve discovered what you want to become–or what ideal it is time to reconsider. The darkest emotions have deep lessons. They are part of how we grow and expand–perhaps even achieve enlightenment.

Reflect on how your spiritual practices are a reflection of your human environment rather than a connection to the divine

I believe that we are capable of channeling wisdom, of accessing intuition, and of communicating with the great beyond (or the great within).

But we need to take time to reflect on how the injustices in our human environment are showing up when we translate the wisdom we receive into practice and healing.

What are your thoughts? Have you done this reflecting, and if so, what have you found? Do you have suggestions for how we can expand & shift?

Soon after I published this article, I stumbled upon this one written by Layla Saad, an Arab-African black British Muslim woman who runs Wild Mystic Woman. Her words are immensely powerful. As you finish reading this article, please be sure to read hers too. An excerpt: 

It absolutely boggles my mind that there are spiritual entrepreneurs who do not see the clear link between the work they do as healers, mentors and teachers for their paying clients, and the work that’s needed in the world for our collective healing and liberation.

And this is not to say that your whole business has to become about activism. That isn’t what I’m saying at all. I’m also not saying don’t do the work that you have been doing or don’t serve the audience you have been serving. What I’m saying is, open up your eyes and take a more expanded view of what your role is here.

I’m saying you are kidding yourself if you don’t believe that it is your responsibility as a spiritual teacher, healer, mentor or guide to say something and do something about what you see happening in the world.

When I think of the great mother goddesses and Divine Feminine teachers who guide my path (Isis, Kali Ma, Kuan Yin, Mary Magdalene, Diana, Joan Of Arc, Mother Mary, to name a few), I see women who were committed to the whole world’s healing and liberation. And not the privileged few who could afford to work with them and who fit into the mould of the archetype of the Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand.
If you truly live your life guided by the Goddess, and you are not doing your part to dismantle white supremacy, then you’ve got work to do.

The Goddess isn’t just here for the liberation of white women.

She’s here for the liberation of us all.

personal, witchery

Follow @bitchy_and_witchy on instagram! Yay 2017!

Phew. My partner is convincing me to branch out into the world of instagram and twitter. No twitter yet but, now introducing my ig @bitchy_and_witchy! Follow me for daily tarot & astrology memes and general musings. Life has been wacky lately so I haven’t been able to sit down and write a proper post on here lately but I’ve got all sorts of things brewing. Talk to you soon. 

personal, queer

[poem] “when did you know?” and other questions I won’t want to answer

“when did you know?” and other things I won’t want to answer

maybe it was when, age 3, I told my sister
“I don’t want to be a girl”
“why’s that?”
“they have babies and I don’t want to have a baby”

instead of mother I’d play boss,
my granny as my employee.
I fired her a lot.
the performance of power was intoxicating.
but my lisa frank coloring books and princess costumes
were fine too.

or maybe when at a time unspecified
before age 7
I looked in the bathroom mirror–
freckle faced with gap teeth too big for my mouth
–and felt my Self fly out of my body,
estranged from the physical,
uncomfortable with the confrontation
of this young female child looking back.

“this is what everyone sees when they look at me?”

(right then, somewhere in history
the soul
of some shopkeeper stoned to death
in front of his beloved wife
for a crime he does not comprehend;
of some soldier killed in a war he never signed up to fight;
of some journeyman falling off the edge of a cliff;
of some young sheltered man whose brilliance
was never seen, dead
upon leaving his family to seek his own power,
collapsed in the cold mountain snow;
gasped in fear
and hesitant relief.

the privilege of the feminine, at least just this once.)

maybe it was age 9,
“granny, why don’t any boys LIKE me?
why do they always like
[the quietest
most feminine girls
in my class]?”
“because molly,
you should learn this now,
boys don’t like girls who speak their minds”

and when she told me “weird is a good thing;
normal is boring”

maybe it was age 12, weird as ever,
on the cusp of embrace,
entrenched in an obsession
with billie joe armstrong,
dressed up in drag to look like my idol,
pleased and discomfited by what this
might mean.
but preoccupied by the hope that one day
I’d grow into a jessica rabbit hourglass
and people might call me sexy.

maybe it was age 13
when a boy and his friend
every day on my way to french class
would snicker and whisper
“dyke”
when I walked past.
I swallowed it down,
changed my route to class,
and vowed to never prove them right.

maybe it was how
no matter how long my hair
how high my voice
how pretty my clothes
I felt like I was violating
every girl at a sleepover party
by virtue of breathing
and having eyes.

or maybe when I’d say, laughingly, to my best friend in college
in response to every photo of myself:

“I look like a little boy in my sister’s clothes”

but how dressing the little boy in his own boy clothes
with his own boy haircut
didn’t quite do the trick.

it is gray space where I am.
soul out of body looking in mirrors
whose reflection is always just slightly
beyond recognition.

soul hanging quietly above
the scene of a now young
adult
dressed in coral and royal blue garb,
the image of the 21st century secretary.

I am 12th house fire, and
these words
these clothes
these bones
this flesh
cannot express the infinity of what I am.
not this time around,
not ever.

they/them
thank you

advice, mental health

For you who is being relied on by a friend in crisis, at the edge of their life 

Last night, Chester Bennington died by suicide after a lifelong struggle with mental illness and substance dependence. He was 41. I was in shock, and it has sent waves of pain and desperation through the mental health community. 

In a group I’m in, someone asked a question that requires a better answer than what we are often able to provide. And a question that should be asked more often. 

When someone is suicidal or generally struggling with mental illness, we tell them (especially young people) to talk to someone. Reach out. Connect with a person. Tell them how you feel. 

But what if you are the person they choose? 

What do you do? 

How can you help them? 

This was my response, as someone who has lived in the depths and worked to lift others out of them. Offering genuine support that is harm-reductive isn’t something we are generally taught. I hope these words might prove helpful to someone. 

Don’t ask them how you can help. Don’t ask how to fix it. Don’t focus on trying to change how they feel. Don’t ask, “What do you need?”. If they knew, they wouldn’t be considering suicide. 

Ask them, “What hurts?” and LISTEN. Look them in the eyes. Furrow your brow in gentle concern. Nod your head when they talk, and mimic their facial expressions and body language to communicate that you are feeling what they feel; that they are not alone. Say they’re not alone, but more importantly, you need to show it. 

Ask questions about their experience, then reflect back on them. The best thing can say, in my opinion, is “Wow, person. Can I be totally honest? If I were you, if I lived through all that you’ve lived through and suffered the way you’ve suffered, I would be feeling the same way as you. Life hasn’t been fair. You didn’t deserve to be abused by that person. You should have had a shot at being in honor society in 1997. It hurts to be rejected from your dream job. Anyone in your position would feel how you feel. I’m sorry that I didn’t ever ask until now what you’ve been carrying.” 

Just witness them. Spend some time here, in this space where they are fully seen and their emotions are fully and completely validated. Even if you personally and privately think their reasons are “dumb”, keep it to yourself. This isn’t about you. Process this with your therapist or a trusted someone later. Hold space for them completely. 

If things feel lighter (honestly I always say you need to use intuition on this and if you struggle with social intuition…look for body language that seems more calm / less defensive or more confident. Listen for their tone more steady and vibrant) then move onto helping them back up. Now that you’ve sat with them and processed some of the pain, tell them some truly motivating things. 

Not just “It gets better” or something generic like “You are so strong.” Something that might reignite a flame in their core that offers true light. 

Imagine them as a little kid–what’s the thing you can see them running home from school carrying in their hands, thrilled to show their parents & excited for an encouraging reaction? What is their strongest skill, and the place where they carry the most power in this world? Is it art? Is it brilliance dealing with people? Is it handling cars? Think of what you can envision this person slaying the fuck out of life at, and tell them. 

Then weave this into a heartfelt, powerful reminder of who they are. What is their essence? Remind them. Remember the comfort of hearing a story? The safety of a world contained in words with a narrative that crafts meaning from otherwise disjointed events. Offer them this; a moment where you expend the mental energy and objectivity they currently do not have, and thread the events of their life into something coherent, something with purpose and direction. This is active, engaged emotional processing. 

Be specific and be honest, but not pressuring that they live up to an ideal. Communicate to them that you see the depths of their pain but also the heights of their potential. This is, in my opinion & experience, the most healing and intimate way you can connect with people. 

All people want is to be seen, and held. People who suffer this deeply have not been seen or held the way they deserve.

This advice is not exhaustive, and if someone is actively harming themselves or threatening to do so, you should take immediate action by contacting a mental health professional. If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

advice, mental health, personal

Permission to luxuriate; permission to revel 

Well, my mental health month blogging sadly did not pan out as I hoped. And I haven’t written here in 2 months. But I’m here now, sinking into a huge lounge chair and reflecting.

My childhood best friend surprised me (sort of) with a trip to the spa as a 6-month belated birthday & Christmas present. We agreed last year that we’d buy each other massages for our birthdays from now on, but she went Above and Beyond, and got us an entire package. A facial! Pedicure! Inclusive lunch! Wild and wacky. I’m thrilled and calm as shite. 

As I was laying on the massage table this morning, my mind drifted from memory to memory, thought to thought. When the massage therapist got to my legs, I got ticklish. Which meant I got tense. Which made me think Well this was a lot of money to have all her work on my shoulders undone because my legs are too sensitive for human contact.

The negative cognitions started up, ready to take off into a spiral of: You’re wasting your friend’s money, you can’t even get a massage properly you thankless goober, you’re tensing up so much you’re probably going to give yourself a stroke!!! but before it could out of control I said whoa whoa whoa. What’s all this about, brain? Legs? What’s really going on here? 

So I took a deep breath, focused my attention on the spot where she was massaging, and let go. I took a moment to consider the source of the unraveling. I get ticklish and tense for one because I am and always have been hypersensitive (physically, emotionally, all of it), but also because I am afraid to give up control.

So I tried to counteract this. I let go. 

I remembered a time I was seeing a chiropractor who moved my head to the side and said, “Molly, just relax. Are you used to being a helper? You don’t need to move your head when I start to. I can and will do it for you.” And I was sort of taken aback and somehow put off at first. But then I thought about it, and she was really on to something.

I think part of it is that, yeah, I’m used to “being a helper” and putting people’s needs before me. But that always felt too inaccurately martyr-like, or sort of like a delusion of altruism. 

It’s more than that. It’s not pure selflessness, it’s self-preservation. If I dig in deep to my shadowy parts, it’s that:

  1. I don’t trust others to know what I need, or even that they really know how to do what they’re doing in such a way that I won’t have to go back and fix things. 
  2. I don’t believe I am worthy of relaxation or enjoyment.
  3. I don’t believe my environment is safe enough to relax or revel. 

These feelings / beliefs run so deep that they come out in my body. This is wild to me! This must mean they need some extra attention and gentle undoing. 
And the beliefs somatized today, in their own tiny way.  

So I breathed. I told myself I trust the massage therapist. I told myself my environment was safe. I told myself I deserve to relax and revel in quiet, safety, and touch. And somehow, gratefully, I believed it.  

I realized–this is luxuriating. 

Yes, I’m privileged to have and be close with those who have acccumulated enough wealth that we can splurge on spa days. But luxuriating isn’t in and of itself avocado oil slathered on your back as hands of a stranger offer a Swedish massage. 

Luxuriating is something that money makes easier to do, indeed, but it is not just expensive beauty products that smell warm and soothing.

It is sitting with yourself and feeling the bliss of being. Of having a physical form to occupy space with. To connect with others with. 

You have permission to revel. To trust in your environment that this moment and the next will have you safe and steady on this earth just as the last one did. To believe that experiencing pleasure is not making you vulnerable to threat; it is making you open to connection and presence. 

You have permission to luxuriate. To soak in your being here. The safety of bedsheets before sleep. The warmth of water showering across your back. The sound and smell of rain after a week of unrelenting humidity. The softness of skin that belongs to someone who cares for you.

Getting to this place of trusting and loving oneself enough to fully be here is no small task. But today I think I’m closer to its ease than I ever have been as a young adult. 

personal

Approaching a Breath

On Sunday at 6:10pm, I will be taking off in an airplane headed for Ireland.

For now, it is 10pm and I have not (yet?) eaten dinner. Not for any Bad reason, just because I’ve been going nonstop since 8:30am. A week of work in the middle of the busiest month in our office, right before I’m out of the office for 6 business days–it’s Go Time. I’m hyperfocusing all day at work and then come home to either watch all of Season 2 of Sense8, pet my cat, and/or spend 5 hours trying to sign up to be a video tarot reader (only to hit red tape–god damn you Oranum).

And it feels like it has been go time for the last 5 months. I keep getting frustrated with myself the last 2-3 weeks. Why am I so tired? Why have I stopped blogging? Why don’t I feel filled with focus and energy and purpose like I did one month, two months ago?

Well, me, and anyone else who Relates: because you can’t always be “Up”. Because I was running on fumes of a survival instinct.

The last 5 months have been a whirlwind. They’ve kicked my ass. They’ve kicked my spirit. But they’ve also healed my kicked ass and my kicked spirit, all at the same time. It’s weird how things work that way sometimes. I see you, Saturn.

But now–I’m approaching a breath.

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breathe in that mossy irish beauty

Not only because I’m going to be away from my desk job to visit my most favorite place in the entire world for 7 days and 8 nights. But also: Jack has finally moved in, so my home is finally settled. My bedroom is finally a bedroom. We finally have all the furniture we’ve spent the last 2+ months looking for.

Come Sunday, “go time” will stop.

Today at work I started to feel nauseous out of the blue; I think it was anxiety and blood sugar. Luckily it was right around my lunch hour, so I left my desk and headed down to the staff lounge to lay on the couch.

My head hit the hard wooden arm of the couch (not ideal but better than my desk) and I became aware that I was legitimately spinning. I shut my eyes and felt my thoughts swirling through my head. It was like having the spins from drinking but without any of the carefree laughter before falling asleep for 4 hours (only to wake up and have to go Number 2, drink a glass of water, and fall back asleep for another 4).

But really–I was shocked at how I physically stressed felt. My head was swirling. My chest was tight. My stomach was clenched. My breathing was shallow. My jaw was shut tight.

And something clicked for me: Oh shit–this is what mindfulness is. I’m noticing how my body feels. Lol 19 year old me would kick and scream.

I noticed all the ways my body was holding in stress and discomfort.

And then I breathed. I breathed in deep, all the way to my belly, and let my tense muscles turn into mush as much as they could. And the nausea went away. The headache went away. The discomfort went away.

It’s not like I haven’t ever done this before, but I think I really haven’t ever firmly understood that, like–yes, I can do mindfulness. I don’t need to call it that and use hippy dippy language that makes my Capricorn rising grind my teeth in defiance. But I can do it, I do do it, and it actually does help.

Pausing, noticing, allowing, and releasing.

As I head into Sunday, to a week I hope to be deeply restorative, I will keep these words in mind. Because chances are the moment my head hits that airplane seat and/or Jack’s shoulder, I will finally be able to notice how much I’ve been spinning over the last many months.

A thought for us all, each day:

Pause, notice, allow, release 

mental health, personal

Unmasking My Madness – Mental Health Awareness Month

Well my dear ones, it is May and thus, I have learned, it is Mental Health Awareness Month.

I would love to make a series of posts during this month about mental health–personal posts, informational posts, and advice-offering posts. Let’s start the month off right by goal-setting. I’ll stick to small potatoes; May 2017 is a Busy As Hell month for me in all parts of my life. So the goal is: three posts, one in each aforementioned genre. 

A brief foreword

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If you have known me for a moment or a lifetime it is likely not News that I have a deep interest in psychology, and in mental health / illness specifically.

When I was but 10 years old, scouring the internet for brain-stimulating material, I spent many hours reading through the “Psychology” page of Wikipedia. I remember clear as day digesting articles such as “Insomnia,” “Schizophrenia,” “Sleep Paralysis”, and “Depersonalization Disorder” (ironically, I remember this one really, really clearly because it scared the Hell out of me–and yet here we are, folks).

At 11 I made my own website about schizophrenia as part of an independent study–it was titled, appropriate to online speaking conventions of 2004–“schizophrenia o rly”. The website is now defunct, but I can still remember the graphics clear as day. And typing up information about “positive” and “negative” symptoms. Ah, cherished childhood.

And now here I am, a 23 year old version of Me (v.23). I have continued to amass knowledge on mental health / illness, some from reading, some from hearing others speak, and some from experiencing it myself. I continue to write about the subject online–through freelancing jobs, Facebook posts, and this blog–and talk about it at length with dear ones and on my YouTube channel.

Continue reading “Unmasking My Madness – Mental Health Awareness Month”