Writing in a group setting is different, much more like praying together. Or sitting together in meditation. Being present to each other in-process, witness to the very act of discovery and composition, soul-deep in the chaotic waters of creativity. This is writing as a spiritual practice — a kind of sacred deep listening, what Karen Hering calls in her book Writing to Wake the Soul, "contemplative correspondence."
Sometimes what I want is a wild fire. A fire that roars. A fire that beats at the air with its bright fists clenched. Sometimes I want prayer like a fire that claims everything it touches.
"There are two paths to transformation: the way out-beyond and the way deep-within. Either way will work. But it's no good to stay here wavering between the two, weighing which one asks the least of you." A leap day altar, and more excerpts from my altar-a-day challenge...
To dig my soul-toes deeper into this fertile soil, I’ve decided to pair my Word of the Day practice with reflections on the #UULent Photo-A-Day challenge. My Word-of-the-Day calendar is full of verbs. The #UULent reflections are mostly nouns. Each morning, I sit down and craft an altar that expresses an aspect of these two words in combination. I'm looking forward to discovering what intriguing combinations I'll spiral through over the next six weeks! I'll be sharing my altars daily (along with some inspiring quotes and a few words of reflection of my own) on both my Facebook page and my Holy Wild Tumblr, if you'd like to follow along.
It takes a long time to understand why she left. She'd arrived one day with a burst of rain, a glint of sunlight on wilting ice. She'd come with mud and wind and trampled dogwood petals pressed into the cracks of the sidewalk, with quickened breath and light, with the smell of cheap wax candles burning well past midnight... And then one day, just as quickly, she was gone again.
Because I'm such a Hipster Pagan that I've come full circle, in recent years I've stopped disparaging New Year's Resolutions for being "too mainstream" and decided to re-embrace the practice. After all, the word resolution is a vast and complex universe in itself. Like words such as integrity, balance and attention, resolution can mean many things, and spending some time considering its nuances bears some surprising (and surprisingly delicious) fruit. So for those of you who might be on the fence about making resolutions for the coming year, here are some thoughts on what resolution means to me.
There are as many ways to keep a nature journal as there are people who keep them. Some fill their journals with sketches, watercolors and diagrams of the plants and animals they find in the natural world, while others take notes, jotting down lines of descriptive prose or inspired verse to evoke a sense of wonder, curiosity and care about the diversity and beauty around them. Anyone can keep a nature journal: whether you're traveling in exotic locations or observing the gentle, gradual changes of the seasons in your own backyard. The act of journaling can open us more fully to the world around us, and invite the natural world into those interior spaces within our own souls. A journal can be more than just a record of where we've been; it can be the beginning of a whole new journey. There are two powerful techniques that I especially like to use when journaling out in nature, in order to move me from a place of mundane consciousness into a state of contemplation, attention and receptivity. They are: naming, and questioning.
7 AM. The cat blinks at me from his nest of blankets at the foot of the bed, drowsily challenging me to nudge him again and see if I keep all my toes. As I stretch and reach for my glasses, though, he's up and pacing across the carpet between the bed and the door, between the door and the top of the stairs, up and down the stairs as he waits impatiently for me to make my way into the kitchen where his food bowl is sitting -gasp!- almost half empty! I pull on my yoga pants (because this Druid is also all Young Urban Professional-y) and manage to get my creaky, not-as-young-as-it-used-to-be body downstairs and onto the mat. In a few minutes, I'm flushed and sweating, my flabby bits jiggling a little as I work to hold each pose. I am not as strong as I want to be. I am not as flexible as I want to be. I am not as young or nubile as I want to be. (Okay, well, maybe nubile, technically, but not for long.) But my body, beloved animal, isn't minding much what it is that I think I want — her heart pounds, her breath comes long and steady, her blood warms the chill of morning from her bones, and for a moment I am deep in the joy of saluting the sun, my goddess, my intimate star.
What has changed in my spiritual life has little to do with the labels I give it. Today I am a Pagan Druid, but that may change in the future as the words evolve in meaning and the community that embraces them shifts and turns about itself in an on-going conversation of creative group-identity formation. What has changed for me, most importantly, is not the name for my spiritual practice, but its depth. I've never really had to "come out" as Pagan to anyone, because my spiritual life is not really about fitting into boxes, or broom closets — it's about deepening. I deepen into my self and my work, through prayer and meditation, through poetry and story, through my time in the woods and my attention to the landscape.
When I began exploring polytheism, I began to understand that the monism underlying some Pagans' conception of Spirit did not jive with my experiences and observations. If I believed in the intimate relationship between the material, physical world and the spiritual world that was its home and source, it seemed unlikely that the embodied world could be so varied, mottled and marvelously complex if the nature of Spirit was a kind of homogenous, undifferentiated aether or spiritual soup. So the beginnings of my own polytheistic theology was this idea of the many-in-the-One, the "ecology of Spirit." This was an ecosystem of living and interrelated beings, some embodied in all the unique ways that embodiment brings, and some just as unique without the solid weight...