windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (scarab)
I've just gotten back from South Florida, my subtropical heart home, where I spent a week reconnecting with my Mom. It was none of the things I thought it would be. Instead of me pulling her into my reality, she pulled me back into hers--evenings of junk foods and the never-ending, mind-numbing chatter of her television. I had a few successes--getting her to watch an episode of Whale Wars and spending a few hours unboxing and decluttering her dining room and then hauling a substantial donation to Goodwill on her behalf, but really it didn't feel like I made so much as a ripple in the sameness of her existence. I thought she'd play with Graeme but her idea of time spent together was to change the channel to a child-friendly show and to bring out foods for him to eat while he watched them. It was down-letting. I'd envisioned and even planned for an entirely different visit. I had hand-written notes about places to remember to go and opening hours and days and they went unvisited. But really, this isn't about my Mom, but about me within the context of my Black month with [ profile] sacred12novices.

I'd planned to go to the beach for the full moon. That beach, with the dark shapes of great sea turtles pulling themselves out of the waves to nest, is my spiritual homeland. I became a witch on those beaches--over sixteen years ago. I pictured the moonrise out of the waters, the silvery road it would paint over the midnight waves, and the Black month ritual and experience that I could have there. That was my image of myself for this month. It didn't work that way, though. That night was the only night I had left free to see my oldest, best friend in the world. He took me out to dinner at a vegan restaurant I love and I ate too much food in the joy of the easy availability of it all. So stuffed and bloated we went back home and as the moon rose unseen in an overcast sky, we were sitting around the living room of my Mom's house playing with my toddler son. He was imagining that we were all in a rocket ship set for the moon. We had great adventures as he unspooled the story from some wacky part of his young brain. The moon was inhabited, it seems, and there was an underground cookie factory and rainbow striped kangaroos with pockets instead of a pouch and our rocket was commandeered by monkeys leaving us at the mercy of a rocket-ship salesman who wanted 10,000 cookies in exchange for one rather miniature rocket but was convinced to settle for 5. That's the reality of my night. It did not match up to how I'd envisioned it--not one bit--and yet the lesson from Black was there all the same. The lesson was more Truthfully there than would have been at my perfectly timed beach/moon/magick/meditation event.

Truth is what IS. It is peace and certainty and the mental stillness of mindfully being in the present. The rest, the scrambling to be and act and meet certain self-requirements, the mental voices that keep talking and talking and talking are all scripts.

I've been thinking a lot about mental scripts--the self-deceptions that rest within them--and how they keep me from living Black's Truth. I read a book this month about a wealthy family in Atlanta who sold their dream home and downsized. They used half the money they earned from the sale to buy a new, smaller home. The other half, they decided as a family to donate to the Hunger Project in Ghana to help villagers build schools and medical facilities within their communities. For me, The Power of Half's best gift to me was the wealth of quotes I found myself copying down from the pages as I read. There were inspiring words from Martin Luther King, Jr and Mother Teresa and dozens of others. But one comment, from the author himself, was exactly what I needed to hear during my black month. He says,

"It's a funny thing about collecting stuff that takes on its own inertia, a resistance to change. The need for bigger, nicer, more, becomes a force unto itself. Scientists define inertia as a force that keeps a body in motion moving in the same direction. Psychologists describe the situation as 'an unconsciously chosen life script that narrows your choices'--in other words, being stuck. Either way, inertia/momentum/autopilot--call it what you like--is an incredibly powerful force to reverse."

Those words screamed out at me. An unconsciously chosen life script that narrows your choices. Inertia. This is about more than the things I own. How often do I not act or not evolve or not bail myself out of less-than-ideal circumstances because my mental scripts tell me that I can't, I shouldn't, or some such other claptrap? Stuck in a rut of my OWN MIND'S MAKING. Not Truth. Not the Divine. But squirrely, deceptive mental scripts. Scripts that narrow my choices and diminish my power. Scripts that not only convince me that I need to buy mascara and nail polish and lose weight despite the junk food I'm simultaneously saying is my right but also scripts that convince me, in the most insidiously malevolent ways, to not fight at all. The voice of complacency and routine and hopelessness. The voice that tells me that I'm not who I should be and could use more work than I'm capable of to get there. The voice that says I should gloss over who I am, at least a little, to be more be more okay. There is ME, unvarnished and Truthful, and then there is the Me That I Would Have Me Be.

I've long been a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books on her life growing up on the frontiers of America. They're magical and captivating. What's amazing to read, sometime, is a biography of the author. The facts of her life and the stories she chose to tell about it do not quite match up. There are places she's lived that she chose to forget. There are events, terrible events, in her family's life that were never mentioned. She tells stories of places she was too young living at to have memories of and introduces characters into her books that were not yet born. Reconciling the two, it is obvious that she took liberty in retelling her childhood. For reasons of her own, she chose to shape it into something a bit fictionalized. I can't know her reasoning. Maybe she polished it up and romanticized it a bit for her perceived audience. Maybe she removed some of the thorns that hurt her the worst. Maybe she chose to only tell what she thought people would want to hear and believe about her and her life. I can't know--but there is little Laura and there is the little Laura that Ms. Wilder recreated from the facts and scraps of her childhood and they are not exactly the same person. The Me and the Me That I Would Have Me Be.


In my history courses in college, we talked about the unreliability of diaries. The private journals of people used to be pretty useful as first-hand sources and truly, still are today. The huge grain of salt, though, was introduced when the first diary was published for broad public consumption. (And Gods, I wish I remember when it was...18th/19th century?). After that, there was a subtle shift in the writing behaviors of ordinary people. There became some small chance in their mind that someone may someday publish what they were confessing in private. Can you imagine? Going from the absolute assurance that only your chosen heir would have access to your personal papers after your death to the uncertainty that what you write could become something that every neighbor, acquaintance, and stranger could be reading in bound form in the future. It changed everything about the act of keeping a diary. I've only known this world of uncertainty. I write knowing that not only are a select few reading what I have to say here but that, in fact, they could easily broadcast it to the rest of the known world. That's our reality. There is Me and there is the Me That I Would Have Me Be. I, like Laura, sanitize my journal for the general public. What I say is as significant in my story as what I choose not to share. Everything is filtered through my scripts, my insecurities, my troubles and aspirations. There is Me and then the Me That I Would Have Me Be. They are so similar and yet, they are not the same. Only Lady Black can truly know me as I am. Only Truth knows my Truths. To be honest, there are times often enough when even *I* can't distinguish between the two.


With the Full Moon, and only two weeks to go in my Black Month's work, my challenge has expanded a bit. It started, at the New Moon, with the need for discernment in my life's choices. I needed to find a way out of my mental scripts so that I could see Truth. I needed to learn how to honestly value what was important in my life and what was only white noise. I needed to choose, consciously, to be mindful and awake. And now, I'm realizing, that the scripts are not only trying to shape my life into something materialistic and nonsensically unimportant but that they are also creating within me the stagnant rut of inertia. They are narrowing my life choices by making other avenues, other ways of living seem impossible. They have me spinning in a current that, if I choose not to swim for my life, will gently wile away the ever fleeting hours of my life. They are distorting the way I view myself and making Me, Truth Me, unacceptable to my own self-perceptions.

I will do another self-portrait in the last two weeks of the work here. It will be Me (not the Me That I Would Have Me Be). It will reflect not the flaws that I fear I have but the Truth of me. It will be raw, unedited, present, and unromanticized. I know that Laura's Truth would have been as beloved as Little House Laura and I know, intellectually, that the unvarnished Me is as relatable as the Rachel you've gotten to know through this journal. They are the Me and the Me That I Would Have Me Be.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (scarab)
For the next year, I'm working with The Temple of the Twelve as part of the initiatory group [ profile] sacred12novices. This month, as the first month, is dedicated to exploring the color Black and the many Mysteries and Truths she keeps. About a year ago, I had my first Black month and it was empowering and transformative. I'd expected a harsh reality check from Lady Black and instead got an emotionally restorative affirmation of my own divine nature. This time, though, it has been more of a tough love session.

At the new moon this month, I was challenged to see more Truth in my life and to learn greater discernment in my judgments and choices. I've been fielding all sorts of lessons and musings on the topic ever since and in them, I've realized just how prevalent self-deception is in our society. I live shrouded in the darkness of my self-created worlds without ever waking up to the reality of my impact and decisions. Once in awhile I've woken up with a start, mentally, with a flash of insight about what exists beyond the box of modern consumerism. Once in a long while I realize just how programmed I am. The awareness surfaces for a moment and then is swept away under the weight of the not-Me voices to come. I don't think I'm alone in that.

There is the voice of Truth, of Black, and then there is the (constant, chattering) voice of scripts. The scripts have come from my experiences, from the society around me, from friends and family, from strangers and critics, from overheard conversations, advertisements and the plots of books and television shows. The Truth, when it comes, upsets the balance of my life and so is frequently overruled with more scripts. (No, scratch that, always overruled as I never stay in those awake moments very long.)

So here's a couple of examples I've been thinking a lot about this month.

The Disease of Consumerism
Truth tells me that the Earth is overburdened by consumerism. There is a finite number of resources and everything on this earth that is created or manufactured or dreamed up in material form consumes some of those resources. For every one finished product, say a wooden chair or a marble chess set or a plastic ring of measuring spoons, ten times more resources are consumed then ever end up evident in the end product. I, as an American, am part of a society with no limits. I use too much water. I use too much electricity. I own too many things, made with too many precious pieces of the Earth's living body. I am personally responsible for too much pollution. If every human inhabitant on this planet aspired to the lifestyle that I feel is my right, our planet would die and everything upon it with Her. I am living an unsustainably indulgent lifestyle while others are dying, daily, from simple deprivation of food, water, warmth, and medical attention. That is Truth and it is ugly and shocking and upsetting. I know it. And yet, I cannot tell you how strong and frenzied and persistent the scripts are in my head that say, "I deserve to be happy. I deserve to treat myself. I deserve to have nice things. In fact, I *need* them." If I'm being honest, unflinchingly standing with Black, I don't. I am fortunate, blessed beyond measure, that I have all of my basic needs met. I am awash in abundance, not only within the world, but even within the high-life of modern American life. Someone, in fact a lot of someones, somewhere is paying or will eventually pay for the extravagance of my own choices. The resources of our planet are finite and when I take more than my share, I am costing someone else. The responsibility upon me, as one of the fortunate, is to share my abundances and to limit my consumption. The trouble is, with the scripts running, I forget these basic Black truths in favor of the advertisements for the latest sparkly eye shadow, another pair of shoes I don't need, or a crystal mined from god-knows-where with god-knows-what-destruction for my Earth-centered spiritual (material) lifestyle. I forget because it is radically inconvenient and makes me feel guilty and horrid to remember. That is my own self-deception...that this is okay.

The Monster of Overeating
I think the monster of overeating is really just a symptom of my own disease of consumerism--my 'affluenza'. I have access to every kind of high-fat, high-sugar, highly-processed food that trips all sorts of internal human body sensors that say, "Ahhh. That feels great. That kinda caloric boom will keep us alive for some time. Great job, provider!" Things that didn't even exist 50 years ago and the sort of food-high that humans encountered rarely, if ever, in their history are now so common-place that they've become a disaster for health and wellness. The statistics here in the United States are appalling and though I don't register officially as obese, I'm affected by the monster, too.

Truth: I eat too much and move too little. I am sabotaging my body, the quality and length of my life every single day. I'm throwing away the best and only gift the Universe has ever intended for me alone. My lifespan. My body to live it out in. I know it, it is plain fact, and yet I bury that inconvenient knowledge under insulating scripts.

The scripts say, "I'm hungry. I want it. I deserve it. It'll make me feel better. I need it to cope."

And the worst of it, for me, is knowing that my actions are not only affecting me and my family but also are rippling out with all sorts of (on my part) unintended consequences through the world. I went vegan for a reason, a whole host of reasons, but as a natural end-point of my spiritual belief system. It is a way for me to lessen, directly, the suffering that my consuming unleashes on the world. One way in hundreds, perhaps, but a very concrete way for me to live mindfully. I made that decision almost seven years ago and in that time I've fallen off the wagon, more than once, and started consuming dairy and egg products. I cannot envision a day that I'd ever eat animal flesh again but it is easy for my scripts to overwhelm the opposition and encourage me to forget all the reasons I steered away from cheese pizzas and ice cream and traditional dessert products to begin with. I've driven by veal calves chained in their little plastic doghouses and could almost hear the fever-pitched LA LA LA LA LA! I'm NOT LISTENING!! LA LA LA LA! ear in finger tactics that the scripts combated the sight with.

It is pretty horrifying to me to realize that I'm compromising what I believe to be morally right because the monster, that overconsuming monster, wants the fat and grease and calories and fullness and convenience and NOW!ness of non-vegan foods. I'm tempted and then the voices weigh in with all the reasons it is not only a good idea but a downright necessary indulgence. The voice of Truth gets buried in the chatter of the scripts.

So Instead of Giving Up, I Can....
Lady Black sees right through me, my self-deceptions, and shakes her head. I have justifications, I have excuses, I have many forms of defense but really--I'm sleepwalking through most of my life. I do things for reasons that aren't Truthful or mindful and then come up with scripts that support an image of me where that's okay. And this month, more than any, I've had the sobering and painful and embarrassing experience of being more keenly aware of these personal self-deceptions. It is enough to make me want to give up, go back to my self-made fantasy life, and find new ways to tune out the voice of Truth. But, this time, I'm trying not to. I'm trying to sit with the perfect Truth that I'm a divine light and precious beyond measure, yes, but that so is everyone and everything around me. I'm so big and I'm so small--a human body standing under the canopy of the night sky. I am nothing but I am part of everything and I have choices every day that I make that effect the world around me. I am flawed, yes, of course, but that means I can always do better.

1) I've been inspired to check out and read a few books (from my local library, though my knee-jerk reaction is *always* to buy things). Anyways, they've all crossed my path this month and tied into my thoughts on Black. They are:

The Power of Half: One Family's Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back by Hannah and Kevin Salwen

Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations about Food and Money by Geneen Roth

2) I've also been working on making small, mindful steps each day. We came home to a near-empty kitchen and will leave for Florida in only two days. Normally, I would have gone to the grocery store and stocked up. I'm suspicious of food that's sat in our fridge over the completely-arbitrary-time-frames I make up. I tend to toss leftovers and produce that looks even a tad bit imperfect. It is wasteful and silly. Also, I will let perfectly wonderful food rot in my fridge because I choose, instead of making it a priority to eat it, to buy more food that I like better or to go out to dinner or to just forget about it until it reaches that state of not-brand-new that triggers my urge to throw away.

Today, I pulled my crockpot out for the first time in six years in order to make something out of the bits and pieces we had laying around. I'm not sure what sort of soup we're in for tonight but it includes the half-a-jar of tomato sauce I'd left behind last week and would have ordinarily thrown away, half an onion, chickpeas, celery (which I'm no fan of), a handful of wrinkly grape tomatoes, two cloves of sprouting garlic, leftover steamed broccoli, veggie stock and some pasta odds and ends. It smells delightful and was surprisingly fun to scavenge together. It feels productive and ingenious and most importantly, mindful. A small victory but one in which I stayed AWAKE--not zooming along on my comfy scripted autopilot mode.

3) I came across a quote this month that has been fueling me and led to quite ambitious goals to declutter, thin out, and donate vast amounts of our clothes, toys, books, and other extraneous household items. It has been the voice of Black this month--compassionate, honest, and challenging.

"The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry;
the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked;
the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot;
the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor;
the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”
~St. Basil the Great
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (scarab)

For the last time, I've lit my black pillar candle, the one so cheaply made that it is only a whisper of black coating on an unabashedly white candle. Earlier this month, I knew it to be a metaphor for our embodied existence. It is so much more than that.

I've pulled out my collaged self-portrait, that archetypal image of the Goddess, of air and water and magickal heart. Making it, digging down through all my layers in order to accurately, honestly represent them, I expected to have to overcome shame at what I found. I knew I'd have to just bare it and steel myself for the response from friends and family and myself. Who would still love Me, the dark and the light, the public and the private, the hidden and the obvious together in one complex person? I had no idea.

I am that candle. I dug through the dark parts and you know what I found this month? My Soul. My whole, shining, good, Divine, immortal and evolving Soul. The heart of me is big, it is filled with the infinite possibilities of perfect love, true connection, and the potential for complete healing. I chose this embodied life to learn more, to grow more, and in so doing I pulled on a flawed mantle. I trip up on silly things and skin my knees. I worry about my flyaway hair and let insecurities lock me away from other people. I am human, imperfect, a work-in-progress and that's just the thinnest most inconsequential surface layer. If I dig, I don't get to darker places within myself--I scrape off the daily-life detritus that obscures my soul from view. I am as beautiful, as perfect, as shining and loving as everyone else is in their depths--for we're all bits of radiant godstuff poured into flawed temporary housing.

I have spent so much time worrying about the time I was wasting, anxious that my life didn't meet some arbitrary standards that I had set for it, shameful at how ineffectual and unimportant and invisible I felt. I have been so hounded by the looming sense of my eventual death that I've been paralyzed and self-hating. That's short-sighted one-life thinking.

At my birth, the moon was in Taurus. Physical things make me feel safe. It is a stubburn, fixed sign for me, at odds with the rest of my air and water chart. I feel safest when I've dug in. When I'm anxious, I ground my emotions with food and material accumulation. I abhor change. Well, what greater change can there be than death? New existence, new chance, new set-up. I value it spiritually and intellectually, but my little warm earth body wants to stay just this way, unmoving, forever. Without change, though, the egg never cracks, the seasons never shift, the seed never sprouts, and my soul cannot continue to evolve.

By doing nothing, by vacillating for years, I've been making a daily choice. I can choose, instead, to change and to allow my life to change and evolve along with me.

"It is free will that lets us choose what we eat, our cars, our clothes, our vacations...similarly, we can choose to increase our capacity to love or be compassionate; we can choose to perform the little acts of kindness that bring us internal satisfaction; we can choose generosity over selfishness, respect over prejudice. In every aspect of our lives we can choose to make the loving decision, and by doing so, our souls will evolve." ~Dr. Brian L. Weiss in Same Soul, Many Bodies

I am not on track to cure cancer or govern the nation, become Miss America or a fashion model or do any other exceptional and ambitious and societally applauded life undertakings I may have once dreamed of. That has poisoned my self-esteem for so long, measuring my accomplishments against that impossible yard stick. My soul doesn't need that to be bettered. None of it. My month working with the color Black in the Temple of the Twelve was bookended neatly by volunteer shifts at a neighborhood homeless shelter. Six hour shifts, without break, interviewing families and seniors teetering on the brink of complete financial disaster. I could have done it, tirelessly, for days. Both times, I came home with such a sense of completion and presence and inner satisfaction and divine glow that I felt, quite fully, that I could die a happy woman in those moments. I let my heart lead and I shined and watched others shine around me and I was in an almost otherworldly state of Perfect Love and communion. I was doing what I'd entered this world to do--to Be Love. What more than that could I possibly aspire to? It's all about love and I have that, naturally, in spades.

My gift isn't small after all--it has the biggest potential of all.

"All of your roads will end in death. Not all roads lead to life." ~Cynthea Jones (Diana's Grove Mystery School)

I will love to my best, most fearless ability. I choose to hold a candle in the dark so that others may catch a glimpse of their own divine soul. I trust that change, while not always easy or safe feeling, leads me to greater spiritual evolution and healing. I know that under this very thin veneer of flaws and uncertainty, that I am truly a "whole, shining, good, Divine, immortal and evolving Soul" and I will look for it sparkling in the eyes of those around me.

Lady Black sent me a token. It is a Glamourkin, the image of a castle tower on an utterly black night with light in just one window. The text, clipped from an old book and reassembled, reads "a candle burns, as bright as stars". We are the candles, little embodied bits of godstuff and starshine, immortal and growing and exactly where we are supposed to be on this learning path. Love shines in the darkest of nights and connects us, not only to each other, but to our own immortal, divine cores.

I read the words I collaged together as part of my self-portrait's heart one last time.
We all have a role mothering. Witch, help connect all our broken pieces together.

Hail and Farewell, Black.

windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (scarab)


The words read:

Healing the Power of Loneliness with inner Light and Sound.
Air is cooler. calm and serene.
finding comfort--family--on the path.
We all have a role mothering, help connect all our broken pieces together.
More, More, More, More, More Thanksgiving.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (scarab)
Yesterday afternoon, I completed my (spiritual) self-portrait for this month's work with Black within the Temple of the Twelve. The finished product feels good to me, I have a sense of accomplishment with it, but the process getting there was cathartic, energy-shifting, and surprisingly enlightening. What I started with is not at all where I ended up.

I lit the black candle on my black altar and turned on a music mix I made last year that is as much a portrait of me as this will ever be. I pulled out scissors and Mod Podge, a box of words and phrases and images I'd spent two weeks clipping from magazines and junk mail, and Graeme's crayon, color pencil, and marker collection. I knew, from the beginning, that I didn't want to try and represent my physical self. At the beginning of the month, I'd taken a photograph for that. Instead, with what skill and insight I have, I wanted to draw my energy anatomy, to represent how I feel, what my aura's like from the inside out, and to get at the Light and Dark halves of me.

There's an emptiness inside her, and she'd do anything to fill it in, but all the colors mix together--to grey.

I started with the corners of the paper. The marker should have been black but came out a dark, midnight blue. I am separated from things around me. Observing from a dark place that gives me perspective and calm but leaves me feeling alone in a crowded room. Underworld energy gives me power and wisdom and connection to the beyond but also leaches away immediate, material joys. Everything comes through that dark filter to get to me--I could win the lottery and not do more than smile, mourn a lost friendship or a death in the family with little more than intellectual introspection. I see the big pictures and by doing that, I'm a distance away, almost unreachable. It is a trade-off I'd gladly make again and again and again, but there are times I wish I could shine, too. I don't have that leonine fire and sparkle, that vitality. I serve Death and in that capacity, I am detached in many ways from life's immediacy and twisting currents of emotion.

And no Message could have been any clearer--if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself then make a change.

I went back to start at the center--what's at my center? I drew a large heart, black-framed, with a core of purple, an outer area of pink with threads of blue-green. My spiritual life is at the very center of what fires me, inspires me, shapes my energy anatomy. Every part of my life is informed by my belief in the divine nature of everything and everyone around me. That is the root of my compassionate spirit. I'm hematite and rose quartz--cool and strong, loving. I keep my place on dry ground, removed from the emotional river most of the time, but I have a no-nonsense, calm in a crisis way of pulling others out without having to jump in myself. Like Death, I love everyone who comes my way, though I very rarely cry over their plights. I have a different perspective and yet, unquestionably, I have a big, beautiful, pure heart.

You gotta swim, swim for your life, swim for the music that saves you when you're not so sure you'll survive. You've gotta swim, swim when it hurts...the currents will pull you away from your Love, just keep your head above.

While Air dominates my chart, myself, I have a lot of Water in me, too. I moved on to that, sketching a watery, radiating energy around the heart. Spirals and coils and waves of Water, my connection to the world around me, the only thing that anchors me here and keeps me present. Love. Family. Compassion. I stepped back, looking at that shapeless blue aura, and saw the beginnings of a Goddess, entirely unplanned. Filling in some areas, adding detail to others, within a minute or two I had uncovered that archetypal Goddess shape, arms overhead and curled towards a spiral face, bountiful, watery body below. How had that happened? One arm, I saw, was my Airy side, the other, my Water. What was going to be just a field of color to collage upon had become an image in its own right and one that hooked me right in the chest. What was this becoming? I added more hearts, scattered within the body, because there is a lot more of love, compassion, care within me. It is in my fabric.

We're all staring down the barrel of a gun, so if your life flashed before you, what would you wish you would have done? Gotta live like we're dying.

I finished the background by coloring in everything not watery-airy blue as a solid black. I am aware, at every moment of my life, how short and fleeting my life is. I am aware of death, of the limited amount of time I have to make an impact, and that is a two-edged sword. I am grateful for everything, one of my greatest strengths, but I am also at times overwhelmed with a sense of not-doing-enough-fast-enough. I want my life to matter and so far, I'm not content that it has. How many more days before my last? What am I here to contribute, what need can only I, in this body, help fill? That drives me, surrounds me, at times haunts me.



With my background completed, I moved on to the intuitive collage portion of the project. I spread out all the words and phrases and images that I'd clipped over the last few weeks, being delighted and surprised with some of what I found that I hadn't remembered ever reading, seeing, cutting out. With music still playing, inspiring me, I just let myself move words around on the background, piecing them together, moving them away, cutting them apart, until I felt the right words were where they wanted to be in the image, part of the messages they were intended to fulfill. Even as I went to work gluing each word in place, there were times I stood back and realized I needed to move more words around, away, getting rid of the things I had added instead of the simpler message the Universe was trying to share with me, through me.

By the time I was done, I was in tears. It was more than I'd expected, more loving, more worthy than I'd expected my self-portrait, myself, to be. The largest words on the page and the most difficult to permanently affix to myself were "GOOD" and "Beautiful". I accept that I am both good and beautiful, but it seemed very hard to incorporate that, so boldly and unapologetically, into my self-image. Where were my flaws? In finishing the self-portrait, I realized that my flaws, the things I mourn and hate myself the most for, are also the trade-offs for my greatest talents and attributes. The Black balances the other colors and makes me who I am, as a whole, a being of heart and goodness and gratitude, yes, as well as loneliness, feeling inadequate, and maintaining a cool distance in life. That is me and taken as a whole, when I allow myself to acknowledge my talents and abilities, it makes for a beautiful, unique, perfect Me. I am made, ideally, to fill a need in the world that only my collection of bright and dark attributes can fill. I am what I was meant to be and I'd lost track of that in my self-criticisms. I am what I was meant to be, all of it.

windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (scarab)
This month, to honor Temple of the Twelve's Lady Black, I intend to take an honest look at my talents and assess how I use them (and more importantly, *could* use them) in my daily life. Though it is not always comfortable for me, I will make an effort to reach out more and to share my feelings. I have no idea who might be in the dark, needing the reassurance of a little light.

I've got a few projects planned:

1. I will complete a self-portrait, as Caroline did, that reflects the whole of my True Self. I took the first step by taking a photograph to represent my physical self, as it exists without makeup or fashion or artifice, and the larger portion of that task is that I'm going to create an intuitive collage self-portrait. Here's an entry of various intuitive collages I did as part of my Silver Branch work in 2008. So far, I have a wooden hinged treasure box (with a little bird on top, appropriately enough) that I'm filling with words and phrases and snippets that catch my eye in our magazine recycling pile. By the next new moon, I'll have pieced them all together on a hand-colored background to best represent me, as I am, warts and all. :)

2. I am going to work with and really study the black crystals on my black month altar. I know there is a lot I can learn about Black from my specular hematite, black tourmaline, and that night's sky blue goldstone.

3. I am going to serve, in the larger world, the essence of Black. Volunteering at the homeless shelter felt right, a solid start to this intention. The challenge will be to keep it up, to put myself out there and to volunteer myself to serve where I'm best suited.

For those of you in your own Black Moon, what are your plans? :)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (scarab)
For the new moon ritual marking the start of my month of Black, I had put together a very simple altar. I wanted to use items I had already instead of visiting the storage facility or, worse, buying things specifically to meet the need. So I had a black pillar candle and three black stones from my crystal collection ready for the occasion. I also had my jet ring to charge. I decided last minute to pick up my simple altar items, commandeer a small side table for the bathroom, and transport them all up to the tub for a solitary ritual soak. :)


I filled the tub with almost unbearably hot water, adding nine drops of Misery/Love's Ye Olde Potions perfume oil. Lighting the candle, turning off the lights, shutting myself into the blazing heat of the tub and the flickering darkness of the bathroom, I asked to see some part of what I needed to know about Black, how it as a Color served me and vice-versa. The heat of the water forced me to retreat and so, quite naturally, the ritual had three segments of dreaming sight interspersed with bouts of coming up for air, so to speak, cooling down and thanking the world for cold marble floors to lay upon.

Cut for vision, metaphor, and lots of sorta foggy thoughts. )

Blessed, Blessed Be, fellow lightbearers. May the darkness reveal your talents and give you moments of peace, rest, and needed reflection.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (scarab)
Saturday's New Moon marked the beginning of my Temple of the Twelve studies. For the next month, I'll be focusing on the essence of Black and attempting to answer for myself the questions in the experiential journal about my self-identity, talents, and true self. Earlier in the week, I went on a scavenger hunt through my home to find black items that would be suitable for a black altar and for use through the month. My rummaging turned up a black pillar candle, a clear glass candle plate that will serve throughout the year, a flat sheet of specular hematite, a fragile spar of black tourmaline, and a marble of blue goldstone/sunstone so dark as to appear black. In my jewelry box, a few Glamourkins jumped out as being black-mystery sorts of messages and I rediscovered a faceted jet and silver ring that I'd bought some time ago and forgotten.

There is compassion in Black.

I was called, last minute, to volunteer Saturday at the local homeless shelter. I've not volunteered with them before, only contributed each year to their Christmas Basket sponsor-a-family program. I'd heard the Goddess, the day before, telling me there was compassion in Black, and so despite plenty of reasons to say "no", I said "yes". For six hours, I got to sit and talk with families in really dire straits. It was my job to fill out their Christmas Basket paperwork, sketch a short biography for potential sponsors to read, and to press each family member for their holiday wish lists. I was in my element. Six hours without pause, face after face across the table, and I didn't want it to end. Ever.

In Novice of Colors, the first Temple of the Twelve book, a young girl enters into religious instruction at the Temple. The first Color to visit her is Lady Black and the first task set before her is to use her talent for drawing to sketch a true portrait of herself, her soul, her energy inside-and-out. She can hide no part of herself as Black sees all we obscure in the dark of ourselves. Caroline has the talent, every bit of that necessary talent and insight to complete the portrait, and yet she spends most of that allotted month feeling inadequate, scared she'll fail, disappoint, be asked to leave before she's ever really begun. She has drive and passion and the certain knowledge that she is exactly where she most yearns to be in life and yet she can't quite commit to seizing her talent and using it for something so sacred.

I share Caroline's certainty and her uncertainty. I know who I am. I am comfortable in my own skin. I am unshakeably committed to my own vision, morals, and Path. Yet, I also battle almost debilitating self-criticism at times. I've married the most intelligent, successful, driven, reliable person I've ever met in my life and can't help but feel diminished in comparison. I am surrounded by people working amazing jobs and I don't have one. I am almost embarrassed to tell people what I studied in college as it seems to have no worth. I have an outrageously, outwardly, undeniably talented group of friends, family, and acquaintances. What do I contribute? How am I important? Am I good at anything? My life is half over and yet I still don't feel like I've even begun. It is the hurdle to my own engagement, that fear that I don't measure up.

Last month, I got a one draw reading from [ profile] stonetalker, an expert at crystal and mineral stone divination practices. The stone drawn was my stone, rose quartz, and that was comforting enough of an affirmation. (I'd asked, in the reading, for a sign of what I was supposed to be doing with my life, how to serve actively through it.)

Her interpretation of the stone, in light of my questions, was this:

"Be Here Now." Be fully in the moment. Life is what is happening to us while we are busy making plans. You are who you are, where you are, how you are, doing what you are, for a divine reason. Rather than seeking how to make it work, just kick off your shoes and enjoy the ride. It is all perfect as it is; now find the divine love in it.

Maybe, like Caroline, my uncertainties are part of the learning process. Maybe, just maybe, I can cut myself a little slack and stop apologizing for the things I'm not good at. I wouldn't even know where to begin in that process, though.

So back to my work at the shelter. I called the next number and an elderly man happily took the chair across from mine. He said, "I hoped I'd get you. This whole time, I'm watching you and you were smiling. Not one of them pasty-faced fake smiles but a real, genuine smile. I can tell you're genuine, smiling and kind like that."

I said, laughing, "Well, sir, I'm actually pretty pasty-faced, but my smile's the real thing. There's nowhere I'd rather be than right here with you."

That's about when it hit me--I am talented. Yeah, I can sing and yeah, I can type and yeah, I can read. Those aren't my biggest talents, though. I *am* kind. I *am* helpful. I *am* genuine. I *am* patient. I *am* empathetic. I *am* compassionate. I'm good at communicating with people, making them feel heard and respected, and I'm good at putting people at ease. I love humanity, I love people. I'm good at making strangers feel like friends and I'm damned good at being positive and pleasant and supportive and calm in the darkest of times. I was the perfect person to be sitting there that day and it had everything to do with my talents and my true self. I didn't even know things like that could be considered talents and yet they are, undoubtably, mine. My table wasn't business-as-usual. The families I met with and helped, we laughed and cried (and sometimes both at once). Elderly men preened and flirted with me and fussy children played with the contents of my purse, my pockets, my jewelry. Women held my arm and patted my shoulder and shook my hand when the forms were filled out. They told me things that were precious to them, little perfect secrets and confessions. One was sober exactly seven years, another daydreamed about going back to school to be a nurse, others didn't know how they'd afford their next meal or keep their teenaged sons out of the gangs. We shared sacred space. They allowed themselves to be charmed into making wishes after arriving unable to articulate anything like a personal wish or request. They were eager to talk, sometimes startled by the courtesy, the eye contact, the patient listening. I used my talents and it changed everything around me, everything within me. I just can't tell you what it was like working there. Fulfilling, heartbreaking, magickal, energizing, empowering, humbling, just one teaching moment after another.


I hate being volunteered for things. Many are the times I've had someone corner me and say, "Hey! You'd be perfect to do this!" and I've felt pressured into lettering car wash signs or babysitting unruly children or applying for a job I didn't even want. What other people view as my talents aren't always accurate. Lady Black asks what our talents are and how we're using them in the world. I finally understand that I can only volunteer myself. I must be brave enough to step forward into the void and say, "I am good at that and I am ready to help." Drive, passion, and purpose aren't enough. I need to reach into the dark and acknowledge all the ways I'm powerful and worthy and yes, talented, in this world.


In Part Two, I'll finally get around to telling you about my Black New Moon ritual and the many more insights and ah-ha moments I've already gotten only three days into my work with the Temple. :) That, though, will have to wait for a later date as I've got a toddler in need of some entertainment and a good jog around the neighborhood with me. :)


windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)

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