Friday, April 27, 2012

Personal Excellence

Because it's really all about facing the day while loving fiercely and excellently shouting down the bastards who would tell us we suck.

Know what is personal excellence for yourself. It isn’t winning or being the best, or better than. There is striving and allowing, striving to free the scales from your eyes and allowing them to fall away in their time. Striving to nourish the flower and allowing it to bloom. Striving to know your true will and allowing your best in this moment expressing it.

 The virtuous path honors all desires, seeking for all the self to become whatever it is becoming. The virtuous path includes allowing the whole effort to drop excellently into the subconscious while you eat chocolate or veg on the sofa, or do whatever lets you off the hook when that is what’s needed. Being excellent can mean getting the bills paid. It can mean lighting a candle and getting on when the electric is turned off. The virtuous path just makes sure the life keeps going, understanding that we can even be total crap excellently.

To know what is personal excellence for yourself is to know what you want, to know your true will.

Allowing what we desire to happen even when the chic pencil skirt pattern we found on that new craft blog totally looked like granny when we actually tried to make it and we realize making all our own clothes isn’t what we were desiring after all.

And so is bearing up and getting through, changing you game as the list of stressors gets shuffled on the wheel, and you are being pulled in too many ways, don’t know whether to buy food or keep the gas on, and every attempt to think of excellence sounds like failure, And in your excellent alignment with your true will you discover that a night on the couch is just the thing. The whole is the flux of all the standard obstacles in the course. The things that attack you and the things that just suck included. In all this movement we can stay with ourselves and then just do it the best we can. That is enough. That is life and love and everything called for.

You have checked all the boxes on the list just by staying moment by moment and being who only you are.

Facing all those moments with the knowledge that you are unique and always in the process of becoming something even more uniquely developed, with a great history to draw on and more adventures to tell, more people to draw the life forth from you, in the good way, so it joins with your friends, dancing under the stars and the tiki lamps befores returning to you refreshed and infused with new light and life. This is all excellent.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Up And The Down

In Alchemy, direction matters. Up and down. In and out. But these directions aren’t necessarily ones that would show up on a compass. You can’t find alchemical up and come back to it by turning your feet the right way. Up today isn’t necessarily up tomorrow. Rather, existence is like an Escher print, with directions changing depending on whether you are looking with your eyes or your heart.

Rather than learn which direction is kept where, we must learn to recognize paths wherever they appear. Paths have flavors and textures. Directions are also places that have denizens to meet, activities to do, special foods and even architectural styles. You don’t learn where a path is, but what it feels like, what it tastes like.

What is Down? Down under earth, the roots plough through the dark dirt. They branch, and branch again, blindly reaching out. At the tip of each root end, is a cluster of hard cells that can press through bedrock. But along their sides, the skin of the roots are open to the world, drawing in nutrients: nitrogen and potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. Roots are opportunistic. They do not plan ahead and contrary to popular perception, they do not grow towards water or food. Instead they take the path of least resistance, using what is already available such as cracks in the soil, worm tunnels, and old root channels. When they find a resource in abundance, they proliferate, but such a discovery is always a happy surprise rather than the result of a deliberate plan.

What is Up? Leaves open, airy, light gathering. So short a life span, just a year or less, while the tree lives for years and years. Evergreens shed all year round keeping their canopies continuously intact. Evergreen means always shedding leaves, a continuous sacrifice. Leaves are high up, sometimes hundreds of feet above the roots. they create the outer edges of the tree. They grow at the foremost edges of trees, creating a field of energy collection. The leaves themselves work to shed rainfall down to the ground where it will be absorbed by the roots and brought back up through the trunk. The real purpose of the leaves is to collect sunlight energy. To receive. And here, at the other edge of the being, we find another kind of absorption. The absorption of light.

This is one example of the Up and the Down.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Triple Expedite

[Originally posted at The Imaginary Menagerie]

There's a theory in some circles that you insure the gods will come through on a request by withholding the offering until after the goods are delivered. This is more true in Christianity and Hoodoo than general modern Paganism. Go to Italy and you may see an old woman spitting and cursing a statue of Mary. The local priest will pass this off. "Of course she curses the statue. Her daughter still is not pregnant." A friend of mine once gave a prayer to Saint Expedite, but she made the mistake of giving him the flowers and pound cake before she got the really cool job. When the job went to someone else, the local Hoodoo expert asked her, "Why would Expedite work for the job when he already has his cake?" Magical prayer can be a lot like high-school sex.


Last week I lost my bank card. I only lost it for an hour, but that was enough time for me to call the bank and cancel the card. I had to write checks and go without online book purchases for a week. And did you know that Whole Foods does not take checks? I only found that out after I'd unloaded my cart onto the checkout conveyor belt. I let the clerks reshelve my organic golden beets and gluten-free pasta.

Life was going to be a bit rougher for the next few days.

But then I had a brilliant idea. On Friday as I said my morning prayer to Hermes, I realized I could ask him to help. Hermes is a god of business transactions. He makes sure things move. In the divine commerce of gods and men, Hermes delivers the smoke of incense and offerings to Olympus along with praises, prayers and the list of victorious athletes and playwrights. Hermes made the jump to Christianity as Saint Expedite, the patron saint of express mail. My request for a timely arrival for my debit card seemed right up his alley.
I'm not very good at asking for help, and indeed this request seemed a little frivolous. I believe that if you have food, shelter and basic health, the gods figure you are doing just fine. Asking for my new debit card to arrive in a timely fashion so that I could return to my heightened American level of consumption seemed, well, let's just say I would understand if Hermes just rolled his eyes when he heard my prayer.

I told the King of the Rustlers that I understood my request was small, but that it was also a simple thing for a god as great as Hermes. This sounds sycophantic written out in a modern context, but in prayer it's just fact. I told the Many Twisting One that if I got my card that day, I'd pour him a libation and sing his praises at the upcoming theoxenia, a public Hellenic ritual. This second offering was given with a fair amount of dread as I'd been hoping to avoid attending this particular ritual based on past experience.

The card did not arrive.

Well, I thought, I dodged that one. I may not have my bank card, but I also don't have to go to that ritual.

By Saturday morning, however, I decided to try the prayer thing again. There were these really tasty gluten-free protein bars I wanted and the only place that carried them was an online site that charged $4.95 for processing check payments.

I made the same offering to sing the Whisperer's praises at the theoxenia and then remembered that the date of the ritual conflicted with something I really wanted to do. I was torn. If the card showed up on Saturday, rather than having dinner with friends I rarely see, I'd be stuck sitting in someone's living room eating bad potluck and trying to block out the screams of the high priest's hyperactive children.

Thinking quickly (praise Wingfooted Hermes) I amended my prayer. Scratch that earlier offer, I told the god. Instead of singing your praises at the theoxenia, I'll write a piece about you on my blog.

The private libation was still in play. That means I'll have to buy some honey and perhaps a nice Cabernet with the bank card that came in the mail later that day.
I also have to write this blog. The bad ritual would have been torture for an evening, but having to write something carries a higher price. 

It's hard for a writer when the act of writing makes the brain switch into depressed mode. I can journal everyday, but when I write something at all creative, especially something I want people to read, I have a tendency to spend the next few days hating on myself. I have to watch myself for health reasons. This high-risk writer's block is also something I want to overcome so that I can write again. Hermes held out for the more significant offer using the small thing--for him such an easy, simple bit of work--to garner the more difficult offering. More difficult, but also exactly what I needed.

So here's to you, Thrice Great Hermes, Glad-hearted and Glorious. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What The Bad Day Is Like.

I flail, mentally. I do not want to do what I must. It can be anything, but is usually the small thing that would help in some way. Getting out of bed. Going to the bathroom. Eating. Reattaching the dishtowel covering the window so the afternoon sun doesn’t shine in my eyes.

Starting anything is difficult. Initiation of action - there are parts of the brain, small crevices in the frontal lobe, that must fire their neurons at a certain rate, in particular patterns, for the initiation of any action to take place. On bad days, those crevices are a tomb.

I will think “I would feel better if I ate something” and it feels impossible. The weight of the body holds me down. It’s like I’ve run a marathon. Every cell says no. I don’t want to move. Doing so will bring unbearable pain. I will walk to the medicine cabinet and lose everything that makes life bearable. I will live in torment until I blow my head off. My body is sure of this.

And it’s not completely wrong, just wrong in extent. For often such movement does make the symptoms worse for a while. There is a tidal action to the despair and pushing it aside for a few moments with action and purpose just gives the pain a run up to hit back with more force. Even if I manage to bear the aftermath, I know that for an 15 to 20 minutes, I will lay still, watching the flickering images on t.v. and holding on while the abyss looms closer before it begins to recede again.

To manage this, I do two things. The first is to maintain a perspective of irony. I am surely ridiculous. This is the stupidest way to live. And that whole imagery of the abyss is cliched. I’m not really in this much pain. All those friends who miss me would be rushing to my aid if I were really suffering this much, so I must be putting one over. I just want to lay on the sofa all day watching t.v. Who doesn’t want to do that?

The other thing I do is imagine the action being done. I imagine walking down the hall to the kitchen, pulling images from memory and assembling a good approximation of what it will look like this time. I see myself opening the fridge and reaching for the piece of fruit. When that does not appeal, I reach for almonds in the cupboard. Or perhaps the cheese and crackers. I run through the images like a menu.

I do this without attaching the notion of a goal or any accomplishment. I do not encourage myself to get up with thoughts of the hunger receding. I do not exhort myself to exercise my ability to change my reality.

I might, against my will, hear within me the voice of reason, telling me I should be doing everything I’m imagining because it will help. And the feeling of direction and goal seeking will trigger the weight, and the part that knows this is all too much and not worth it anyway will protest. If the pressing encouragement cannot be avoided, I distract myself by turning my attention back to the t.v. until the pressure subsides.

And moments later, I will spontaneously, with no forethought, get up and do the imagined task. Rather than thinking about it, I will remember the fantasy of doing it. I will not pay attention to the present moment, but will follow tangential thoughts that branch off from the present like the rooms I pass along the hallway. I will think of the t.v. show I’m watching, especially one I like, and imagine myself a character in it as I open the fridge, eat the food.

Action at these times never comes from planning or looking toward the future. Indeed, goal directed thinking makes the rest of me want to scream and rebel. Action in these times comes welling up from the past and the wish to re-enact what I already know is possible. I create the known story, piecing the new memory out of old bits and then I set that patchwork memory in a place where the body can chance upon it.

I get through the bad days best with gentleness. I accept that this is the way the body is today. This is the way I am today. I do not need fixing. I just need another moment on the couch. Although, I would feel better if I got a glass of water. Let me think about that.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Something in the Twos

In which we examine the Twos in the Tarot, learn how to give ourselves a minute, and come to a better understanding of the nature of sex.

The tension between two things has an energy you can harness to create something new. When two ideas or choices or points of view seem irreconcilable, they often create the most dynamic, and certainly unexpected, third thing: a result, a conclusion possibly, but more often a whole new thing that hasn’t been thought of, a heretofore unknown resolution, a child of the two.

This is the true nature of sexual reproduction. All the Sturm und Drang we attach to it revolves around sexual reproduction’s inherent miraculous nature. Something is born of two that could not be known before because there’s never been anything like it. We can imagine “a child” but we cannot know who a particular child will be.

But we don’t actually have to have sex in order to go through the process of bringing two disparate things into relationship and having their interactions create a new thing. Sex is just the most titillating form this process takes. Learning to see the miraculous nature of the process in the smallest moments of your life can add some spice, reassure that yes the universe is created out of love, and possibily make you a bit leery of a culture intent on turning all things sexual into a profit.

So having two things can become incredibly interesting under the right circumstances. World changing in a literal sense. When we have two different things - two different blazing wills, two different hearts desiring, two different mental constructions, two different physical needs - we have the makings for something new.

Because of the portentous nature of the situation, we will also find a pause of sorts. The Twos in the Tarot show this pause and give us imagery we can contemplate to better recognize the pause and use it to advantage. All the twos have an indecision in them. They are all a moment of pause exterior to the energy building between. The essence of Two is “between”, the energy that is between is created by the existence of two things in relationship.

If you feel so inclined and haven’t done so already, you can pull out the Twos of your favorite deck now. The descriptions below are for the Waite-Smith deck, but you’ll find many deck creators put a pause in their Twos. If you’re not seeing the pause in a particular card, see if you are seeing the turbulence that comes between the pause and the creation of the third thing.

Two of Wands

Two poles of a Tesla coil, the energy snaking and snapping between them, laddering up to Heaven like Jacob with his pants on fire. Have you ever been still on the outside and pulsing inside with desire and want? The Wands, suit of fire, represent the existence of tension between true wills.

We often hear and think of our own wills as being singular always, indomitable, and irresistible. But as with all things, there are times when the will splits, just enough to allow this cool thing to happen, this creation of the new. In the Waite-Smith Tarot, the man stands between his wills looking out to the horizon only he can see.

Two of Cups

In the two of cups, we see two hearts and the space between them. The between that two people make. The purpose of this between is always the creation of love, or the opening of a channel to allow love to flow into the world. It is the filling of a space with love to create the third.

Cups, again and still, are receptacles, receiving the element of water that takes the form of its container. So the two of cups shows us the pause as two individual hearts approach each other. Two different desires turned toward one another.

Two of Swords

Out of all the Twos, the Two of Swords is the most still The tension here is all in the mind, the eyes are closed, inward, the removal of self from the outside world can look like peace, but the tension is there, you can cut it with one of those swords held ready for just that task.

This kind of tension is hard to stay with. It often masks itself in life noise. We prefer the sounds of our everyday lives over the tension shown in this card  because the subtle tension of ideas held tautly, choices and possibilities, leaning to either side of barely perceptible is uncomfortable. So we mask the quiet in the two of swords with traffic and t.v. and people talking around us about everything else. The blindfold allows one the stillness required to sense the underlying tension, which once perception is attuned to it, is clear as a bell.

Two of Disks

The two of pentacles is the most dynamic, but even here the coins are belted together by infinity. The juggling is not a sustainable act and certainly not the end result desired. You can only have a bunch of things in the air for a while until they start crashing down.

There is a fascination created by discs so solid put in rhythmic motion. In the Two we glimpse the underlying energetic nature of matter. The tension of the two pulls, the electron from the proton, keeping the needed space between them to make matter.


The minor Twos in the WS show us four different ways to resolve the tension of a duality. If a Two comes up in a reading and you sense the pause in it is important, try one of the following contemplations. With all contemplations, your goal is really to not have a goal. You are allowing a pause in your thinking and giving yourself the opportunity to receive whatever message awaits you.

Wands: Take a long view. Find a place where you can see to the horizon. Let your eyes relax as you look out as far as you can. Don’t effort, just breathe.

Cups: Look someone in the eye. You may be able to find natural conversations in which you can look someone in the eye without it being weird or aggressive seeming. In our modern world, a surprising number of people find it difficult to look someone in the eye. If it’s too hard, you can simply go to a public space and look at people as they go about their business. Look with compassion. Again, don’t effort. Just breathe.

Swords: Put the blindfold on. It really makes a difference, allowing the muscles around your eyes to relax. In the darkness, breathe in focusing on the sounds around you. Breathe out, focusing on the breathe. Do this until you feel calm, then let the silence settle.

Pentacles: Fascination, focus on myriad movement, preferably movement that glitters. Light on a water surface is always good, but the light and shadow of traffic can be just as effective. Let the movement draw you in until you can feel it in your body.

Monday, April 2, 2012

7 Signs It's Time to Take a Bath

1 - Your sister calls out of the blue and spends ten minutes telling you a mutual friend has been seriously ill before she tells you that he also died.

2 - The world crashes in, all loud and obnoxious. Horns and yells of “bitch!” or the far crueler judgment “nice”, spoken with a vengeful irony. That bicyclist didn’t even realize he ran the stop sign and he almost slams into your car. And your adherence to the rules of the road warrants the condemnation. People always think they have the right of way, shame you for moving through the world as if you deserve it. And you do. You move and get by and stay true to yourself, but it hardens over the loud day.

3 - Other people turn away, keep their distance. You’re not sure if you actually smell, or if they just see the sweat, fresh and clean, from your run, where you pushed yourself that last mile so that your legs tremble and you know they will be sore the next day.

4 - The hotel room has a tub with jets.

5 - The fungus between your toes is so think it spreads your toes. Your shoes don’t even fit anymore. Your socks are lumpy. The feathery strands of orange poke through the argyle. It smells of compost water, the dark brown tea of aging leaves.

6 - The cold seeps into the bones, the muscles are tight and cramped, having forgotten what it means to be touched. The skin slides over the lonely muscle, a shield and a curtain of shame to hide the separation of self and world. In the steamy warmth of the bath, salty as tears and ocean, fragrant of orange blossom and vetiver, the spine uncoils, remembering darkness.

7 - The layer of dust on your eyelids has grown so thick you cannot see your graying hands, cannot see the veins that have become such emboldened roads. Soak it all in the warm, steamy wet and let the drip of humid dreams block out the silence.