Yogi, Witch: Elia Ann

Breathe, Do Yoga, Look at the Stars

Yoga as Witchcraft: Be Here Now!

If you haven’t caught on yet, I am a yogini and a witch in training. For my Pagan/Wicca readers out there, I’m in the process of getting my 1st degree. For my Yogi readers out there, I received my 200 hour training from a studio very rooted in the Hindu philosophy and bhakti yoga. I’ve been teaching a regular class once a week at my Pagan church since January. It’s been such an amazing opportunity for me because they let me do whatever I want. I can play with what I like and I don’t have to put a filter on the spirituality and the dharma talks. The themes that I have taken on and the direction the class is going, is proving to be very exciting. I was talking to the high priestess of our center and she’s urged me to write a book. I don’t think anyone else is doing anything like this. (If any of you are, please reach out to me so we can swap ideas!) I want to find a way to use a yoga practice as a way to raise energy and use that as a form of spell work to release any dis-ease in the mind and body so our spirit is free to manifest our desires and our will.

In my class I have developed a series around the chakras. One can jump in at anytime, the only thing I ask is that you bring a mat and your intention. But what do I mean by intention? I’m sure my Pagan and yoga followers have differnt definitions of this word. In a yoga class, it is very common for the teacher to give the students a moment at the beginning to set an intention. A Sankalpa, if you will. This can be a phrase, feeling, or image that you choose to dedicate your practice to. And or it can be something to go back to when the mind and body are struggling. In my class I give my students the same opportunity, I just call it a prayer. As of right now, my class is called, pagan prayer yoga. I also give a short affirmation or prayer, so if nothing else is coming to mind, they can use the intention I have set. It’s usually themed around the chakra of that session.

I have completed one whole series and am about to start again at the root, muladhara chakra. I take our journey up the main energy line, the sushumna nadi, all the way through the crown and the then down to ground in the earth, back at the base. I want to go more in depth with my discoveries in future blogs, but the biggest one I have found is that the yoga posutres, the asana, and the breath work, the pranayama, are tremendous tools in raising and releasing  energy. For example, one of my students has been struggling with balancing work, going back to school, and fronting a political cause. When we arrived back to home base at the root chakra, she struggled with hamstring stretches and standing poses. I had mentioned a few times that those feelings of being stuck, trapped, or neglected can really get stuck in the legs. After class she came up to me and said, ‘you’re totally right. I’ve been working from home a lot lately and I didn’t realize how frustrated I was untill now.’ This student is a very strong witch in her own coven.

To me, these ‘ah-ha!’ momments are a form of magic all their own. When people ask me what I believe magic is, I tell them it’s finding the sacred in the mundane. No one tells a flower how to grow. No one teaches a child how to love so unconditionally. No one can really tell you how to let go of your heartaches and find your inpirations. You just do it. I want to bring this element in when I start the series again. Not all of my Pagan students are Wiccan, but I want to give everybody a chance to remember what it is they are trying to manifest in the mundane world. Your yoga mat is the metaphor for your internal and external world. When you release your energy on your mat  it will carry with you.

My only struggle has been trying to find a way to make this ‘magic’ work in a yoga setting. For the most part, my two passions don’t contradict each other much, but when they do, it’s a lot of work trying to get two different ideas to like each other. In general, Eastern philosohy is devoted to higher enligtment in the present moment. Not that Paganism isn’t, but I think its’s fair to say that lot of people are drwan to the craft because it gives us a different role to play in cosmic dance of the universe. I belive that spell work and magic is nothing more than using the tools available to us to gain a desired result. Who’s to say that giving yourself a pep-talk in the bathroom before that big interview isn’t casting a spell on yourself? Why can’t I go to my yoga class and tell myself, ‘I’m going to rock that interview next week.’ as my my sankalpa?

I think it can. Let’s just tweek it a little bit so we can be still on our mat in the moment. Surely, if I’m a practicing witch already, I probably have an herb blend that I’m keeping in my pocket for positve energy, I may already be lighting a green candle at a certain time of the day or week to send the universe good vibes, ask the God and Goddess foe mental clarity and grace. But when  go to my yoga mat, I don’t want to think about the past and I don’t want to worry about the future. So, I will keep my affirmation, my intention, my sankalpa in the present tense. I am graceful and I am mentally clear. It has to be in the present tense. Something like, ‘I’m going to be okay,’ or ‘I will be strong,’ still implies you’re not there yet. I can’t take credit for this concept. My teacher’s teacher, Mr. Saul David Raye held a workshop in my home state about manifesting the abundance of yoga off the mat. But the idea of keeping your intentions in the present momment stuck with me. There’s your magic spell.

When we call the elements after casting circle, we ask the spirits and the gaurdians to be here with us now. Well my friends, we have to show up too. Nothng in the unierse is free, so we also have to participate in the give and exchange of energy. Be here now, be here now, be here now. This is my will, so mote it be.

Blessed be friends, Jai Ma, and Namaste!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we call the elements afer csting cirlce, we ask them to

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My Last Relationship

June 2nd, 2014 marked my ‘Independence Day.’ a year previous from this date I packed up my cats and left an abusive relationship. I was so desperate to get out I didn’t even have a bed to sleep on in my new apartment. This was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. But looking back on it, making the decision to leave was so much harder than actually doing it. When I made my anniversary announcement public on Facebook, I was asked to write up my story so an acquaintance who works with people in similar situations could read my story. My story could have been way worse. I am very grateful for that. But just because the line was blurred does not mean that what happened to me was acceptable. It it my hope that the more people like me tell their story, it will raise public awareness so this doesn’t happen to anyone and that the circumstances no matter how grey, are not okay.

I suppose that means we have to go back to the beginning. But the beginning is hard to explain. How do people get into these messes? Shouldn’t you have known better? What the hell were you thinking? These questions still run through my mind almost everyday. A year later, I’m still reminding myself that I didn’t deserve this. And yes, there we plenty of red flags that I probably should have recognized and paid more attention to. But that also implies that I knew what to and not to look for. So many relationships these days are treated like drugs. You fall fast and furious for the rush and the high. When the crash comes you will sacrifice whatever it takes to get the high back. Why aren’t there rehab centers for  intimacy abuse? Where are the detox programs for commitment/attachment issues and unhealthy boundaries? So many of us fall into these traps at varying degrees and it is unfortunate that so many of us still don’t realize we’re in the trap. I was no exception.

After I graduated college my sister put a good word in for me at a local restaurant for a part-time job. I ended up befriending one of the servers and I got very close to him very quickly. He was a somber and distracted individual. He told me all about his ex-girlfriend cheating on him while he was away in the military and his grandfather who raised him passing away recently. He even opened up about what happened in Iraq. This really should have been my first red flag. Why on earth would anyone in their right mind want a partner that is so depleted? But I didn’t have the self confidence to think that I deserved someone healthy and strong. And in a sick way, taking care of this broken man seemed romantic to me at the time. I ended up getting a contract job out of state, and I was in such a whirlwind with this man that I left my current boyfriend so I could consummate this new relationship before I left. He stayed the night with me and before we went to sleep he told me that he loved me. This should have been another red flag. The connection seemed so deep, it was exciting, it was an adrenaline rush. I got high off of what this sad man called ‘love.’

The drug was exciting for a few months. We had decided to start a relationship long distance. He came out to see me one weekend and every moment with him was a rush. He was going to come see me again a few months later. The night before he was supposed to fly out, I received a text message saying that he was sorry and that it wasn’t my fault. The rest of my contract job felt like a prison. Because that’s where the man who held my self-worth and my identity had gone. Numerous phone calls with his grandmother and probation officer, whom I didn’t know about, revealed that he was a sever alcoholic and that he had broken probation multiple times, including the previous time he came to visit me out of state. So he spent the rest of the year in a cell.

I wish I could say the rest of the relationship got better. He swore he was going to get through the stricter probation that he had to start when he was released. He loved me, he wanted a life with me, he wanted to marry me. He couldn’t fight these demons without me. I probably should have left this man when I had a few states between us. But the unhealthy boundaries and co-dependency had it’s grip on me. When I came back to my home state after my contract had ended, I moved in with this man and decided to give him another chance. My stepmother’s father had been an alcoholic, her ex-husband had been an alcoholic. Even those these past relationships in my family’s history didn’t work out, I though maybe mine would be different. He loved me.

Looking back on the relationship as a whole, I really don’t have any complaints through the first year. He was sober, getting his life together, he supported me and we were happy. But as soon as he had completed his probation he started drinking again. I didn’t realize it at the time until it slapped me in the face. He went to jail again and the hospital three times the last year I was with him. He never actually hit me, and he never actually screamed at me. I really wish he had though. Just so my circumstances could have been a little more black and white. While he was drinking he wouldn’t leave me alone. He would build me up emotionally and then tear me down. He would never let me sleep, berated me when I tried to make time for myself or my family and friends. It got to a point where I could barely go to work because he couldn’t function without me. It’s like there was a vortex, a black hole always over his head and he sucked me dry every moment he was around me. And he had isolated me so I couldn’t get help. I remember there were days when I stayed in bed all day sobbing when I though he was at ‘work.’ I had nothing left for myself.

Even still,  there were two things that he did to me that were the most humiliating. There was one night where we were half dressed on the couch watching T.V. we had started to get intimate but the black hole was over him and I didn’t want to have sex. I told him no and to stop. Three times. When I tried to push him him off of me, he grabbed my shoulders, forced me down and himself on me. I was so scared and shocked I didn’t even fight back. I remember staring up at the ceiling thinking, ‘what the hell is happening to my body?!’ He didn’t really talk to me for days after that night. You can read a previous blog of mine that talks about this moment and my recovery from it for me in more depth here http://eliaann.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/the-dark-goddess-kali-ma/

And just to put the icing on the cake, the second time he went to the hospital for alcohol poisoning his mother pulled me aside and asked what was going on. I told her that he was dealing with some of his concussion injuries from Iraq and that he asked me not to tell her because he didn’t want to worry her. She looked at me and said, ‘what are you talking about, he never went to Iraq.’ At this point I had been dating this man for over two years and I discovered in an earth shattering moment that everything he had told me about who he was, was a complete lie. Well, he was in the military. He was just discharged before this unit when overseas. His ‘bullet wound’ on his stomach was from a surgery. And the craziest thing is, I couldn’t leave quite just yet. Financially I really couldn’t. I had saved up all my money for a yoga teacher training program. So I stuck it out for a few more months. He promised and cried and swore that he would stop drinking and begged me not to leave him.

About a month after I graduated my teacher program, I finally left. and the moment that did it for me was when I was cleaning the apartment one afternoon. I found empty rum bottles on top of the kitchen cabinets, under the bed, in the closet, behind the washing machine, and in my cat tree. I had a moment staring at the Sailor Jerry Hula Rum Girl and I realized that this was going to be my life if I stayed in this basement apartment any longer. He was always going to pick the hula girl until he learned to slay his demons himself. It doesn’t have anything to do with me. Even though I was wishing the hula girl was real so I could rip her hair out for stealing my man.

So I did a whole 180. I got a new job, new apartment, and was newly single. It was a lot of change all at once. But I did it. And although I’m still working on some of my psychological bad habits, and I’m frustrated about being single, I am stepping into my power more and more everyday. I need to remember how far I’ve come. I’m supporting myself and my apartment is full of cat hair from little furry creatures that adore me, I have an amazing job with great co-workers and benefits, my family is full of unconditional love and support, I have a fantastic group of friends who laugh at me and cherish me all the same. And the communities I’ve become apart of have saved and healed my soul. So for now I’m taking care of me and the man who loves me for me, in all my power and strength will come.

Blessed be and Namaste Friends :)

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Rants of a 20s-Something Single Girl…

If you’ve read my past posts (The Dark Goddess: Kali Ma) you know that I’ve been through some shit. Shit that could have been way worse, but it’s not something I would wish on anybody. 10 months ago I escaped an abusive relationship with a severe alcoholic. He was controlling, a liar, manipulative, and the thing I have struggled with the most is coming to peace with the experience of him rapping me too. I was in a lot of emotional turmoil and I explored freely, ‘the slut phase,’ as some of my female peers have come to call it. Recently, however, I feel like I’ve made some big breakthroughs in my spiritual journey. I’m not ashamed of my battle scars anymore, they’re beautiful and I am stronger because of it. I got a really nice raise at my job. I’m finally in a place where I can start saving more and pay off my debt a little more aggressively, I can afford to do as much yoga as I please, and if I budget correctly I can splurge on nice treats. I’m in a good living situation and I could not be more blessed to have the friends and family that I do.

So I finally am starting to feel like I could do this relationship thing again. I’m done sleeping around, I kind of miss having someone that still thinks I’m hot when my make-up is running down my face and I haven’t shaved my legs. Everything else in my life is so great, why can’t I have just this one more great thing? I’m not exactly where I thought I’d be in my life, but I’m proud of where I’ve come from and I want to keep growing and building my life. Finding an intimate connection seems to be the next step for me to take.

The Bible says, ‘ask and you shall receive.’ I think the Rolling Stones read the fine print though: ‘you can’t always get what you want. But sometimes you can get what you need.’ I’ve been trying to get this ‘dating’ thing started only to have road-blocks and obstacles put in front of me. I’ve had some pretty intense/deep meditations the last few days in synchronicity with these events happening and the insights I got wasn’t something I wanted to hear. Falling in love right now is not going to serve my sacred path.

Why, Goddess why?! First I consulted the stars. I read everything about the upcoming eclipses and the Cardinal Grand Cross (I’m sure everybody is going to be taking about this later so stay on your toes). I read my monthly horoscope for my sun sign and my ascendant. I’m pretty familiar with the planets and the zodiacs but I’m still memorizing the aspects and the houses. So forgive me, my details may be a little fuzzy. But basically, this coming month, my focus is on the outside world. Having my ducks in a row and being recognized for that is important to me right now. Makes sense. I really would love to rub in people’s faces that yes, I have an awesome job with outside interests, great friends and family, and I have a pretty rockin’ man in my life too. BOOM! But Venus in Pisces is hanging out in my 12th house, the realm of secrets and hidden influences. And with Mars in sometimes too cooperative and passive-aggressive Libra also moving retrograde, I’m having a hard time getting things started. The advice was to sit chilly this month. Things will start to unfold during the Grand Cross, the Eclipse, and the New Moon coming at the end of the month…

I don’t wanna…

So then I went to my tarot cards. I did a reading for myself and I had someone do a reading for me too. They too confirmed the insights from my meditations and from the celestial bodies. What I ‘want’ is ego driven. If I were to get into a relationship right now, I would lose my light and sight of myself and my purpose. I’m moving strongly down a spiritual path right now. I’m getting my 1st degree priestess training and I recently had my first evaluation. My mentor said that I have the potential to become a very powerful priestess. But I have to slow down and cover the bases or my power won’t be as effective…

I don’t wanna…

I have such big ideas in my head and I am so anxious to dive in. I eventually want to start incorporating witchcraft and spell work into my yoga practice. Then it will be called…Yogacraft! But I do understand what my mentor is saying. I have been called to do the work of a dark Goddess and she will wait for me to come into my power. One day at a time.

So what does that mean for my love life, or lack thereof? I don’t know. I’m still too restless to ‘sit chilly.’ Everyone who has been trough similar situations has told me that it wasn’t until they gave up that their great love entered their life. I don’t know if I’m quite there yet but I do recognize that I need to do something different. I have an idea. Someone recently told me that if you want to try and manifest something from the universe, you have to participate in an equal give and take. Nothing is really ‘free.’ if you want something you still have to give something of equal value. Physics tells us that. Okay, true enough. How can I expect someone to make sacrifices for me and spoil me when I haven’t been willing to do that for myself? This same person also suggested that you make a new habit/affirmation and make a point to implement it for 40 days. There are various examples of 40 days being a significant time frame. One being that Jesus was resurrected in 40 days.

So with the start of the New Moon in Taurus, the task I am going to take on for 40 days is being in a relationship with myself. I’m really going to try and treat myself like my own girlfriend. Say things to myself like, ‘hello beautiful, you look so sexy this morning.’ Go get myself lunch and chocolates. I’ll even buy myself flowers and tell myself, ‘it’s just because I love you.’ I’ll treat myself to nice gifts (budget allowed of course) and take myself on dates to the museums and movies. Would anyone like to participate in this challenge with me? Please set your own intention and do whats right for you. Maybe we can keep each other posted and share how are progress is going. This is a powerful astrological month so let’s hit the ground running!

Blessed be friends, and Namaste. :)

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Book Review Take One: The Spiral Dance, a Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess

I have such book ADD. Right now I am reading the 20th anniversary edition of The Spiral Dance: a Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. On top of that I am bouncing between a few chakra reference books for my yoga class, I just picked up Positive Magic, Occult Self-Help by Marion Weinstein, and I’m probably going to put an amazon order in this week for a beginner’s book for Kali devotees. AAAAGGGHH!!!! I’ll admit that I’ve been feeling really restless since Ostara/the Spring Equinox.but I’m always restless, what else is new? Focus, focus, like a locus…trying to anyway. Breathe.

Let me start by saying that I love, love, love this book. I fell in love with it right after the introduction. This woman, Starhawk, has a tremendous voice and I can’t believe she started writing this when she was in her early twenties. I’ll admit that I’m a slow reader anyway, but I’ve been trying to take my time with this because I want to absorb all of her pearls of wisdom. My yoga teacher always said, don’t worry about taking notes. just take everything in on a cellular level, the information will stay with you better. I’m only a few chapters in and I don’t want to miss a beat. I’m really going back and reading all of her notes and comments from the 10th anniversary publication, and the 20th anniversary publication.

A few things have stuck out to me so far. I love the way she emphasizes that this rebirth of Goddess worship is not revealed. The pagan faith is poetry, not theology. It should grow and change and it should touch everyone in a deep and meaningful way whatever that means to you, the reader. People in the same ritual, in the same moment in time, describe different sensations and use different words. But they have the same experience and they are all united. There is no right answer on this path. The ‘code of ethics’ we answer to as witches is our own sense of honor and our own respect for life. ‘All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals,’ reads the charge of the Goddess and we are free to do as we please as long as we interfere with no one’s free will and we harm none.

But she does have her opinions about what we could be doing. She mentions fairly bluntly that since this is worship of the Earth, and the Goddess is the Earth, we should be serving her and speaking up for her. We should be active in Eco-politics and human rights. We need to be the voices of the waters, soil, trees, plants, animals, and humans that cannot speak for themselves. We are all connected to the Goddess and if we have no love or honor for them, how are we really worshiping the Goddess? Magic doesn’t just happen in ritual, it happens when amazing people do amazing things. The sacred is all around us and when we tap into that energy in the ‘mundane world,’ to me, that is magic.

Speaking of the ‘mundane’ world, she mentions a few times that Eastern religions don’t believe this world is sacred. I’m glad that she has adjusted her verbiage and that her opinion has changed over the years. I’m not an expert in Eastern faiths, but I am pretty familiar with Hindu theology and I really do identify with it. I must admit that the definitions of the world on this physical plane do seem to conflict a little. I can’t say I blame her for her strong wording in the first edition of the book. A lot of Eastern faiths say that this world is an illusion, Maya. Purusa is the highest self and Pakriti is ‘the nature.’ it is the gross material, the concrete forms we see, the mind chatter (Citta), and the ego. In the very early years of humanity, the yogic path was considered ‘Dual.’ Basically the divine was something separate and really far away. I am not worthy, I will never attain this enlightenment but maybe if I meditate all I day I can scratch the surface of the divine. This isn’t really the philosophy in the yoga that has taken over the Western world. Now, it is considered ‘non-dual.’ The divine is everywhere and we are meant to experience the sacred on this plane, though our body and all of our senses to burn through the karmas of this lifetime. In fact, my yoga teacher is convinced that Patanjali, the one accredited with the founding text of yoga, was really tantric and not ‘dual.’ This may sound ludicrous if your familiar with the text, but think about it. The things that don’t serve us are the unhealthy attachments to material things. Not the experience of pleasure. It is our misconceptions of solid objects, events, and people that get us into trouble. My mother always used to tell me, if you assume it makes an ass out of you. The mind chatter creates the darkness in the back of our minds, and it is our ego that acts out an all the above. The world is sacred and were are here to experience it and learn from it. Sometimes we just get in our own way.

But that’s the beauty of this lifetime. As long as we are on this planet we will keep dancing the dance of polarities and opposites. yin and yang, male and female, hot and cold, love and fear, life and death, light and dark. It will always keep spiraling until the dance isn’t about you and I, it’s just about the ‘and.’ I have a feeling that this concept will be the overall tone of the book and it sounds like she had no idea how deep this idea would go when she wrote the book. She mentions in all of her foot notes that today, she really doesn’t believe anything is separate anymore. We are all one and we are all connected. This dance of destruction and creation is the dance of the Goddess and it is our dance floor too. This is the path of the ‘witches’ and I love it. I’m home.

Jai Ma, Blessed be, and Namaste dear friends. :D

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Book Review: Wicca, a Guide for the Solitary Practitioner

Can you tell That I’m catching up on papers for my 1st degree training?

One of the books I decided to read for witch school is one of Scott Cunningham’s beginner books: Wicca, a Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t like it. Not because I disagreed with him or found the information useless. I just feel like I’ve done a lot of the ‘Wicca 101′ work already and almost everything he said I already knew. There were some things that I liked his verbiage on and a few things from his ‘books of shadows’ that I want to copy into my own. This is the book to go to if you’ve never heard of Wicca and your thinking, ‘what is this all about anyway?’. I would have rather read this book 5 years ago when I was thinking that same thought.

The chapter that stuck out t0 me the most was when he was describing reincarnation. Coming from such a strong Yogi/Hindu background I was just expecting him to scratch the surface but he hit the nail right on the head. “Karma means action, and that’s how it works. It’s a tool, not a punishment…we learn from karma only when we’re aware of it.” Pg. 70. We can do good actions in this life time and hopefully good actions follow. If we’ve made mistakes, in this life time or a past, what we are meant to do right here, and right now is learn from it and don’t keep making the same mistakes. If you get caught up in the same addictions, power struggles, and battles, it’s just going to be harder for you when you come back next time. What we can do as witches is spiritually aid the good karma along and heal the negative.

I will also say that I did like the overall tone of the book. He always reiterated, do what works for you. Try it and see if you like it. Keep what works for you and discard what doesn’t. Heck you can even make up something brand new if it works for you. He always emphasized that intent trumps technique. The magic is within you and if for some reason don’t have access to the earth, any tools, or any other books, the God and the Goddess are always within. It’s just up to you to stay focused and maintain the relationship.

I’m at a point now where I want to dig in a a little deeper into the witchcraft. Maybe I’ll find some of his other works a little more challenging. But the Feri tradition is peaking my interest as well. Any suggestions?

Blessed be!

Wicca, a Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham. Llewellyn Publications. 1993

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The Dark Goddess: Kali Ma

If you haven’t read any earlier posts, let me start this entry by saying that I’m Pagan, a Wicca, and a Yogi. If you’re familiar with one, both, or none of these systems, don’t worry. For today’s purpose the only thing we really need to know is that they are both very open and inclusive when it comes to deity. The studio I received my 200+ yoga certificate was very rooted in the Hindu philosophy. The first day my teachers introduced us to statues and faces of Hindu Gods and Goddess. Of course she had to give us the PC talk, but I’ll never forget the analogy she used. If God, or the essence of the Godhead is a board, then all of these faces you see are just splinters of God. These archetypes and different faces represent different energies that we need at different phases of our life. Sometimes you need God to be a playful monkey-headed face. Sometimes you need God to be ferocious. Sometimes you need a female face to be loving and compassionate. But they are all still God. Or they are all still the God and the Goddess. That analogy holds true in the Pagan community. Why else are we drawn to such different faces? Some people feel very strongly about an Egyptian, Celtic, or Norse path. Some people are drawn more to Greek/Roman traditions. And some, like me, are drawn to the Hindu/Yogi path.

When I was doing my yoga teacher training, I was very drawn to Kali. Lets take a look at this Goddess…

She’s terrifying! Why on earth was I drawn to this when I wanted to identify more with a Goddess of the heart like Lakshmi? To answer this question, I need to get real with you for a minute. At the time I was near the end of a very abusive relationship. My ‘fiancee’ at the time was a severe alcoholic. He had just been submitted to the ER, for the third time within the two years I dated him. His blood alcohol level was .6. I really wish I was kidding. The doctors where flabbergasted that his eyes were responding to light. Did I mention that he went to jail twice while I was with him as well? But it was this third time that I found out from his mother that he was a compulsive liar and did not tell me the truth about who he was since the day I met him. He was co-dependent, manipulative, and controlling. I’m grateful to say that he never actually hit me. My circumstances could have been way worse. But I would go so far as to say that he rapped me too. I tried to get him off me and I told him to stop three times, but he pushed me, held me down and forced himself to stay inside me. I didn’t even fight back because I was so shocked that he pushed me and the force he held me down with frightened me.

But Kali saved my life. A month after I graduated from teacher training, I packed up my cats and left. It was the hardest thing I think I’ve ever done in my life. Kali gave me the love, strength, and courage to cut ties. That is why she is seen as a divine mother even in her ferocity.

The story of Kali says she was born out of another Goddess’ third eye when she was slaying a powerful demon. Kali helped her kill the demon by licking up every drop of blood, for the demon would rise again if any drop was left behind. That is what she slays, demons. She is never depicted killing humans or Gods.  Her weapons and her sword slice through the illusions of this world, our unhealthy attachments, and the things that do not serve us. That is why she carries with her the decapitated head of ignorance. She has 27 skulls around her necklace, representing the 27 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. She will sever the things we say that hurt us. Her belt is made of hands. Hands represent action, so she will cut the actions that do not serve us. Her black skin absorbs and takes away all negativity. It is said that in her rampage the only thing that could stop her what the divine love of her consort humbly coming to her feet. She is the slayer of the ego and those who follow her and love her will find liberation, freedom, wisdom, and love.

I talked to her once. I know that sounds crazy but I did. And as much as I have been trying to find more pleasant faces to pray to and find healing, I need to accept the fact that I am her servant. I went to a dark moon ritual once and the High Priestess drew down the Goddess. Basically she put a veil over her face and channeled the Goddess so we could all speak to her privately. When it was my turn, I knelled before the Goddess and I asked her what my purpose was. I don’t remember exactly what she said but she said something like, ‘…take time…be brave…have courage…sever ignorance.’ and this I will never forget. She said, ‘be my agent of wisdom and love.’ Kali talked to me that night. Kali is also seen as the Goddess of time because all things on this earth cannot escape the passage of time. And those who know her best know that what she offers at the end of the battle is wisdom and love.

Those aren’t big shoes to fill or anything! I’m 25, what in the Goddess’ green earth am I doing to do to fight like that? But I need to do it. For now, I have just told myself that no matter what I do, come from a place of wisdom and love. My purpose is to be a spiritual warrior. My astrologer even said so! I have a Mars rising in my birth chart with a Pisces on the horizon. In this life time, this spiritual battle is mine to fight. I’m pleased to say that I’ve made peace with what has happened to be. I will admit that I struggled for a few seasons trying to wrap my brain around my experience. But it’s a part of my story now and my wounds are sacred. My scars don’t define me, they empower me. And I have everyone to thank in my personal life, the Yoga and Pagan community, and of course, Kali for my all my blessings. :)

Chamundaye Kali Ma.

 

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Noteworthy Individuals: StarHawk

I’ve just started reading the 20th anniversary edition of The Spiral Dance: a Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess, and I am blown away by the introduction already. Her story is easy to relate to and inspiring. She lived her life curious and passionate about Pagan faiths. Like all of us, her life took its twists and turns. And in so doing, she became a major figure in the Goddess movement. What a fascinating author and I now understand what someone at my church meant when they said, you’ll find an author that you love and you’ll start to follow all of his/her books.

She was born in Saint Paul Minnesota in 1951. I lived in Saint Paul for about a year! And she wrote the first draft for this book when she was 21. I can’t believe that. Apparently she can’t either. In her introductions, she remembers her 20s as being an insecure time in her life.  When I was 21 I was afraid of my own shadow. It’s refreshing to hear that powerful figures like this woman had a hard time meditating and staying disciplined with a spiritual practice when she was in her 20s. I think it makes them a little more human. 

She was raised Jewish and she mentions that her mother probably still wishes that the witchcraft was just a phase. I’m blessed in the sense that I never had to encounter any ridicule or exclusion because of my curiosity and beliefs about Wicca. My father’s side of the family was raised Italian-Catholic on the East Coast. But my father never followed it. Before my grandmother passed, she told me why she pulled my father out of catholic school. She said she had 5 kids, and one unhappy shadow in the corner. My dad never made me go to Sunday school. He read me stories about Native Americans. Maybe that’s where it started for me.

StarHawk says that she kept her love of the Goddess close, even when she wasn’t ready to devote herself to the path. She hitchhiked up and down the California coast. For my generation that seems terrifying and unfathomable! She went to school for writing and tried for many years to publish herself as a fiction writer. She eventually started Spiral Dance and tried for a while after writing that to still get published. And now this book is on my list of must read books as part of my first degree training. It’s comforting to hear people’s stories of roadblocks and obstacles. I myself got a degree in theater and have since found the industry to be exhausting. I was overwhelmed with the rejection and the amount of unpaid work it would take to even get my face noticed. I have now found comfort and solace in yoga and in my Pagan faith.

Now StarkHawk is one of the founding names in the reclaiming tradition,  is a very active feminist, humanitarian, environmentalist, and has published many more books. She does say that she does wish some things were different in her life but at this point she is middle aged and needs to finish what she started. That point still seems like a long ways away for me. I worry, maybe much more than I should, about the path that I am laying down for the rest of my life. I have a bachelor’s in theater, right now I work retail and teach yoga. I’m dedicating myself more to a Wiccan path. What tradition specifically I’m still not 100% sure. and if I had $50,000 to spare I would love to go to acupuncture school. Where is my path taking me? What is out of my control and what isn’t? what happenstances will surprise me and take me a different direction?

Like StarHawk, I’m sure in 20 years that my views will have evolved and changed. I’ll look back at my early 20s self and think, how did I do that? But I am so excited to read the rest of this book and continue to grow and change on my spiritual journey. Even if I’m not hitchhiking all over California. I will certainly keep you all posted on how this book and the rest of my training inspire and move my spiritual and yoga practice.

 

Blessed be and Namaste!

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Pratayaharah

Something you may hear Yogis talk about is the 8 Limb Path. Basically they are 8 founding philosophies to follow on your yogic journey. Obviously we all have different interpretations and practices to follow these 8 ideas. And at the end of the day, they are just 8 of the many tools we use to connect with the divine. One path is asana, or the yoga postures that are so iconic. There’s meditation, study, and breath control, pranayama.

For now, I would like to focus on one, pratyaharah. Pratyaharah means withdrawal of the senses. When we can withdraw from the distractions and mixed signals that our body and mind communicate to us, we are better able to connect with divine. It’s not that the physical world and our experiences of the natural world are bad. On the contrary, our 5 senses can be powerful tools to connect with divine. Why else would we adorn our alters with silk fabrics, share cakes and ale, and burn incense during rituals and ceremonies?

But sometimes our senses can be more of a distraction and hinder our spiritual practice, whatever that may be for you. Those distractions can range anywhere from something silly like our foot falling asleep or our stomach growling when we’re trying to mediate and pray; or to something as serious as a severe addiction. Either way, your spirit isn’t really free. It’s bound and limited by your body. So the idea behind pratyaharah is to step away from the distractions of our senses, tune into our 6th sense, and connect to divine.

In my next yoga class, I would like to focus on pratyaharah and the third eye chakra, or ajna chakra. Your third eye is your 6th sense. It’s your intuition, your inner voice, and your psychic vision.  Ajna in Sanskrit means ‘command center.’ When your third eye is balanced, you are alert, aware, and all ears on a mental, physical, and spiritual level. If this chakra is overactive, you may be feeling disconnected and unbalanced living in your daydreams. If this chakra is underactive, you may not be sleeping well, feeling sluggish, dazed and confused. If you like aromatherapy; lavender, frankincense, and cypress are good oils to use. Tanzanite, amethyst, and tourmaline are good crystals to use as well. Surround yourself with the color purple.

I will be focusing on moon salutes and forward bends. I love moon salutes. I really don’t know why people don’t do them more often. I just feel like it’s such a great way to focus your senses in the direction you want them to. You can make it challenging or you can make it a gentle flow. The moon is the yin to the sun but it is also the yang to the earth. And sense I am pagan, the divine for me is with the Goddess. I really feel a connection to her when I do moon salutes. Forward bends are also naturally cooling in nature and they usually focus the heart to be in alignment with the third eye. My goal this week is to focus your intuition with your intention.

May you never thirst, may you never hunger, blessed be, and Namaste.

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Relentless Support of the Sacred Made Manifest

The Pagan Church I go to is a little different compared to most open circles. It describes itself as Wicca-centric with a flare of reclaiming. If that was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo to you, don’t worry. What’s important to me is that I have found a fantastic group of people that are dedicated to their faith and growing an earth-based spiritual congregation. I feel a very strong calling in my intuition to be present at this center right now.

One of the other things that makes this church unique is it’s commitment to ‘The Cornerstones of a Healthy Community.” The cornerstones are an evolving philosophy and foundation for every action that comes out of the church. There are six, none stand alone and they all support each other. The one I want to focus on for my next yoga class is the last one: “Relentless Support of the Sacred Made Manifest.” There is an emphasis on service to each other and to the greater community, but when our hearts and spirit work through our hands, we manifest the sacred. 

For the Yogis out there, this sounds a lot like Karma Yoga, right? All karma really means is ‘action’ or ‘service.’ And yoga means ‘to yoke’ or ‘come to union.’ So karma yoga is the path of service. It doesn’t matter what gift it is your mind and heart can do, if you take the path of serving your community, you serve a higher purpose. In Chapter 3 of The Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says, “What the outstanding person does, others will try to do. The standards such people create will be followed by the whole world” (106)*.

No pressure, right? Take, a deep breath. This kind of service takes time, devotion, and faith. For my yoga students in the real and virtual world, I invite you to take this moment to gather your literal or metaphorical seeds. The Spring Equinox/Ostara is right around the corner. When the fire of Aries starts bursting through, what do you want to become? How can you stay disciplined, patient, and trusting? Whatever your prayer, intention, or mantra may be, release any doubts, fears, or vices that may not be serving you, so you can serve your world better.  

When you come to my yoga class, I serve you. I will guide you through manifesting the sacred in your body so your mind and heart can do what you do best. I do sequence my classes for very specific reasons. Obviously there are some physical reasons. Most students can’t jump into the pretzel poses without warming up first. This coming week, for my peek pose I would like to focus on Hanumanasana; or the splits. Any feelings of being stuck, insecure, and unsafe are stored in the hamstrings. To get to Hanumanasana, we obviously have to warm-up the legs and the hips. Probably wouldn’t hurt to get into the ankles and the feet a little bit either. Your hips are where your creative powers lies. So as you release and let go, let your creativity inspire and move you. We can change the world. One yoga class at a time. ;)

Blessed be friends, and Namaste.

*Bhagavad Gita. Eknath Easwaran. Nilgiri Press. Second Edition 2011.

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Happy Chinese New Year!

For those of you that know me, you know that I’m a pretty big astrology nerd. I have a calendar by my computer that tells me all the aspects for the day and there are two blogs that I follow and read like the morning paper with my coffee. I’m not quite at the point where I can interpret peoples birth charts or give them an in-depth horoscope. But I would like to get there eventually. So until then I’ve got cheat-sheets spread out all over my desk, I read and study, and I’ll keep staring at the stars. I’m fascinated by their energy and what they represent. The planets and the stars have messages for us. We just have to listen.

Next week is a busy week in the astrology forecast. For those of you that follow Chinese astrology, the second new moon after the winter solstice marks the New Year. I read briefly that there is a reason the new year happens on this particular new moon. Back in day, when more people where living off the land, this is the time that everybody started planting their seeds. If you are ever in Asia, I hear that the time to be there is during the Chinese New Year. They keep the party going for two weeks and end it with parade on the full moon.

This new moon marks the year of the horse. The horse is a clever, intuitive animal. The horse is strong, beautiful, and values independence and meaningful relationships. I live in a state that is very proud of its wild western roots. If you live here, I don’t think you need to be pagan to understand or appreciate their power. We are surrounded by the respect these majestic creatures demand. Why else would we be obsessed with the free spirit of the wild west?

I’m not a Chinese astrology expert, but from what I understand every year the zodiac also changes an elemental quality. So the sign takes on aspects from a different element every year. Chinese philosophy is slightly different from what most pagans recognize as the elements. We are familiar with water, air, earth, and fire. The Chinese have water, air, fire, earth, and metal, and wood. So this year is the year of the wood horse. Wood, being slightly different from earth, is expansive energy. Wood is growth, stability, and abundance. That stable energy paired with the free spirit of the horse is predicted to be a prosperous year.

So what does that mean for you? The choice is always yours. When I talk to people about my astrology knowledge, I always preface with stating that I don’t believe your destiny or fate is written in the stars. Pun intended. Reading the planet’s forecast is like getting the weather forecast. If its going to be a stormy day, I can better prepare how to handle it. Or I could just be upset, ignore all the warnings and get caught in the storm. I think we’ve all made both decisions. Hopefully with more knowledge we can learn to make better decisions for ourselves.

So with this new moon, the time to plant your seeds for the rest of the year and to grow into your power, what do you need to do? Only you can answer that question. I’m going to quote a former co-worker of mine from when I lived in the Twin Cities. Whenever someone had a playful quip she would respond with, “Bitch, I don’t know your life!” Even with all this mystic knowledge, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I’m a physic. The best advice I can give you, is that sometimes the thing we really need to do is the opposite of what we want to do. If you’re the person that wears your heart on your sleeve and easily gets swept up in the wind, maybe you need to channel the stubborn side of the horse and dig your heals in. Get stable. If you’re the person that is too stubborn and cantankerous, maybe what you need to do is channel the free spirit of the horses of the wild west. Go. Run. Run. Run. Go.

Either way, if you stay focused, nothing can stop you. I believe that with all my heart. The only thing that is stopping you is your own mind. You just have to decide what you are going to grow into and become. I will fully admit that I’m the person that would get swept up in the air and in the either all day if I didn’t have something to ground me. I’m the only person this year who can make the decision for me to dig my roots in.

I hope these tools and this knowledge helps you make better choices for yourself as you move into the new moon and the new year.

Blessed be, and Namaste.

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