There is no failure, only opportunity

Since July I’ve been participating in a group training outside of school at my favorite professor (FP) and his father’s private practice.   We’ve been discussing the enteric nervous system and what research has taken to calling the second brain (a whole other post for another time).  We usually begin our sessions with a centering exercise that consists of about 5 minutes or so of meditation focusing on the breath.  Until recently, I’ve always had trouble with this form of meditation, of quieting my mind.  FP’s father, the co-facilitator of our group, referred to the mind as an untamed elephant and Sera Beak calls it a monkey in The Red Book.  I can definitely relate to each of these in that as soon as I sit down and try to meditate, my mind just goes nuts and starts reminding me of things I need to do, of memories I have, of people I haven’t talked to or have recently talked to, of grocery lists, of issues I’m working through or need to work through, etc.  I have always become frustrated with my mind when it’s done this and felt like I was failing.  Thankfully, FP’s father rocked my world and provided the most delicious reframe ever that has had a tremendous impact on not only my meditation but my entire journey.

He told us that when we’re meditating and our mind diverts our attention away from our breath that it is not a failure at all – that our attention has strayed doesn’t matter and isn’t the point; rather, our noticing our attention has been diverted is a success and enables us to refocus once more on the breath.  After I computed that, meditating became a lot easier.  I’ve been doing it daily now for about 2 wks, and though my mind still interjects and my attention will stray, I’m able to redirect it back, recognizing that instead of failing at what I’m trying to do, I’m succeeding.

Several days after we’d been told this, things started to shift for me and pieces started to fall into place.  This half-full reframe, I began to notice, not only applied to meditation, but to life in general.  I started to see my stumbles on my spiritual path and general mistakes not as failures, but as opportunities to get myself back on track, to learn and grow from the experience.  As I sat with that, I began to see it as a gift.  These times are now something to even be grateful for when they happen because they are among the hallmarks of growth.

A trip down memory lane…

Carolyn over at Goddess in a Teapot wrote a post recently about finding the wild where you live and described her time of living in NYC.  I commented on her post that one of my best friends lives in NYC and that I’d visited her several times but detest the city.  I don’t like having to crane my neck to see the sky, being surrounded by concrete and what I feel is such an energy of conquering of nature instead of living with and among nature.  Her post made me think of a city I do love, though.  A city I had the opportunity to live in for about 10 months: Paris.

Living in Paris was amazing.  I had majored in French language and culture and International Studies when I was an undergrad, and I moved to Paris for my first job after getting my undergraduate degree.  That time in my life was a very tumultuous one.  I had set spirituality off to the side and gone through a sort of “anything goes” period for about a good portion of my time in college but was spiralling out of control.  The job I landed was, ironically, working at a church.  I felt like I couldn’t handle things on my own without any spirituality, so I had sort of given up and intended to attempt to return to my conservative Christian roots.  Even more ironically, perhaps, was that it was during this time of working in a church in this amazing city when I was finally able to muster up my courage and begin studying a spirituality that had always intrigued me and to which I felt a pull to: Paganism.  It was very much a time of rebirth for me, and there is no city that could have been a more perfect setting in which to experience that for me than Paris.

I had lived in France for a long period before Paris, having spent my junior year abroad living in Strasbourg, France (another amazing city), so I was relatively familiar with Paris.  When I was a student, me, two of my classmates, and our Parisian program contact had taken a four day trip to Paris before our school year had started.  Getting around the city is amazingly easy.  Paris doesn’t require you to have a car unless you want to travel outside of the city.  The Parisian metro (subway) is all color-coded – you don’t really even need to speak the language to be able to use it.  By the second day of our short trip into the city when I was a student, me and my two classmates knew the metro system better than our French guide.

Paris is centralized, so it’s a big circle, and the districts within it (called arondissements) are actually in the shape of a spiral.  Fitting given where I was in my life when I was living there.  Like many people who attempt to go back in time to a place they knew once, I found that I had changed too much.  I couldn’t go back.  I had grown, and the spiritual system in which I was raised no longer made sense to me.  I struggled trying to figure out where to go, what to do now, and the streets of Paris made for an excellent environment in which I was able to do some serious reflecting and soul searching.

Unlike many American cities, Paris (and many cities in France) are built within nature instead of trying to take it over.  There are a vast number of parks throughout Paris, trees are everywhere, fountains are everywhere.  There is a respect for nature within the architecture; aside from the Tour de Montparnasse and a single section toward the outskirts of the city (La Defense) where all the skyscrapers are exiled to, all buildings in the main part of Paris operate under an ordinance which mandates them to be 8 stories or fewer.  It isn’t necessary to crane one’s neck to see the sky in Paris.  The Seine flows through the city, and the quais (platforms that are like very wide sidewalks) that bank the Seine fill with people in the warmer months especially, simply hanging out by the water, enjoying the view, celebrating life and their friendships, or simply taking walks.  The French have a great reverence for nature, and that reverence is very evident in Paris.
One of the things I remember most, other than the smell which I don’t think I could describe, is the light.  The light in Paris is different, clearer.  At sunset, the light plays against the buildings and off of the river, and there’s something so pure about it.  It glows differently than light anywhere I’ve encountered here in the States.  And the history of the city – oh!  To walk where people walked a thousand years ago – it’s just incredible.  To see buildings that were constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries and to be able to go inside; buildings that are still cared for and preserved.  Relics and artifacts from hundreds and hundreds of years to millennia ago on display, not just in museums but in the city itself.  There is a depth to Paris that sparked something within me.  There’s something about being in a place so old that helped me to realize how big the world is, how much more there is to it than what I could currently see.

One of my favorite things was to take walks at night.  I lived just up the street from the Eiffel Tower.  To be walking at night and see the Eiffel Tower – it lights up every hour on the hour in the dark with twinkling white lights that blink and glitter.  I don’t know who decided to make it do that, but I am so glad they did.  I have a picture that a friend of mine took when we were gazing at the Tower on one of my last nights in Paris.  It’s of the Eiffel Tower lit up and a full moon is visible within it – it’s rising and is just at that triangle type area of free space before the skinnier part of the tower begins. There’s a park at the base of the Tower called the Champs de Mars.  I used to go and picnic there when the weather was warm.  Tons of people would be hanging out on the grass, talking, having picnics, drinking wine, playing music, playing games, sunbathing, reading.  Picnicking there is one of the things I always recommend to people when they contact me, tell me they’re visiting the city, and ask what they should see and do.  I recommend having a picnic dinner at dusk (complete with bottle of wine), that way they’ll have a great view when the Tower lights up as it gets dark.

My favorite part of the city, though, is the Quartier Latin, the Latin Quarter. It’s the oldest area of the city and streets there are very narrow – barely wide enough for even the tiny European cars to drive down – cobblestone everywhere.  There is a depth to that section in particular that is different from other sections of the city.  Probably because it’s the oldest; it’s where the city was originally built.  Notre Dame isn’t far off from there.  But that section – close to Notre Dame but not in the same area – the feeling there is ancient; there is energy there that is pre-Christian.  That part existed long before Notre Dame was constructed.  Not necessarily in the same way it looks now, but the energy of that time is still there. I used to go there all the time, sit in some random cafe, drink my espresso and smoke cigarettes and people watch.  I fit in just fine because the French are all about people watching.  I think it’s one of their favorite pasttimes.  All of the chairs that surround the tables on the sidewalks outside cafes and restaurants are pointed in the direction of the street, not in the direction of the person sitting across from you.

One of the other things that I love about France in general is that things move slower there.  Life is not survived the way it feels to me here in the States, it is lived. Work weeks, on average, are no more than 40 hrs.  Lunch takes two hours.  The average dinner usually takes at least 3-4 hrs.  Food is celebrated and savored (as is wine, of course).  Beginning vacation time at the average job is 5 wks a year.  The French definitely have a hedonistic side that resonates with me.

One of the other things I love about France is that everyone has a dog.  I can’t vouch for their affinity to cats, but most people have a dog.  And dogs go everywhere people do.  In stores, on the metro, in restaurants, etc.  I don’t think I ever saw a dog tied up to a post or something outside a store when I lived in Paris.

In comparing Paris to NYC, NYC feels to me a very masculine city – I agree with Carolyn’s assessment in seeing it as fire.  Paris, on the other hand, is water.  It is very feminine.  NYC is angular, sharp, and harsh whereas Paris is secretive, mysterious, enchanting, and soft.

And the Wheel turns…

I remarked in August (I think) how I could feel the autumn beginning.  It felt like an undercurrent, lying beneath the heat and humidity of summer, slowly making its way to the surface.  It’s getting closer and closer as summer yields to it, and the humidity here in Georgia has dissipated, if not died altogether, for the year.  I was able to turn off my air conditioning today and just open some windows.

I remember a visit to my beloved back in April or so when I attended the class she was teaching to some of her other students.  The topic of that class was the Wheel of the Year.  We talked about how it’s important to keep up with the Wheel of the Year and the shifting energies around us, lest the Wheel “run us over.”  The shifting energies impact everyone, Pagan or whatever path.  Around that particular time, it was nearing Beltane – the biggest fertility holiday of the Pagan year and a time when sexy energies are running rampant all around us as all the animals seek mates and the plants and flowers bloom in earnest.  While it’s easy for me to see why it’s important to not be caught off guard during that time of year especially, I think it’s equally important to not be caught off guard during other seasons of the Wheel either.

The equinox, Mabon, is just around the corner (this Monday).  Mabon is the second of three harvest festivals of the Pagan year, a sort of Pagan Thanksgiving, and a time of balance.  A time when our ancestors brought in the harvest to store it for the coming winter and prepared to plant bulbs that would need to rest in the cold earth until the spring came.  I love this time of year.  This time when the Momma begins to enter her crone phase and the Papa the Horned One or Stag King phase before He sacrifices himself at Samhain so that His children may live.  I have long felt a connection with the Dark Mother, her crone face, that Kali energy, and the destroyer archeytpe which clears out the old to make room for the new.

Who says TV is bad?

I was in Borders the other day and picked up the first season of Charmed.  When I was more active on a Pagan chat forum I joined a number of years ago, people (particularly teenagers) were always joining and asking how they could learn to do things they saw on Charmed.  They wanted to move things with their minds, light candles by thinking about it, shoot things from their hands, etc.  They were always admonished by the staff who promptly told them that those type of things were impossible.

A number of years ago, shortly after I first met my beloved at this same forum, she gave me a Theta phone appointment. During the appointment, one of the things she said to me was something along the lines of, “You’re like me – you believe anything is possible.”  Since then, we’ve talked numerous times about those people who would join the forum and ask how to do things they saw on Charmed, and she always told me how irritated she got when the staff and others would say it wasn’t possible. It was and is very possible, but it’s all built on a serious, intense, and deep connection to Divinity.

After we first got together and were visiting, my belief that anything was possible was kindled.  I was working with elements and magickally heating myself and others up when we were cold, I was slowing down the wind or stopping it altogether.  In January of this past year was when I first learned that through the course of our relationship, I was going to undergo a major transformation and be someone totally different than who I was at that point when things really got underway.  During my last visit with her in August, she pointed out to me that I had lost that belief that anything was possible.  I think the massive resistance I felt when I first learned of the transformation, the work that I knew would be required to get through it, the stress I experienced, and the trials over the past however-many-months-it-has-been extinguished it.  Thankfully, she downloaded it for me again.

There’s a reason why I don’t have cable.  I get sucked into TV like nobody’s business.  But I do allow myself a DVD player.  After I bought the Charmed DVD set, I promptly began watching it marathon-like.  During the second day of my marathon, I checked in with the Momma to make sure I wasn’t supposed to be doing anything else.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about vegging in front of the TV from time to time, and though I hadn’t heard anything from Her telling me I should be doing something other than that, checking seemed like a good idea.  However, She just said, No, you fine, baby.  But after this next episode, you need to shower.  So, I got into the shower, and as soon as I was in, She started talking.  She explained to me that while my beloved had downloaded the belief that anything was possible, it was as though it had yet to be “activated,” for lack of a better word. Watching this show into which I totally get sucked in helped to trigger my imagination which brought out the child within me who believes anything is possible and thus activates that belief.  Huh.  Cool!

There’s an episode during this season in which Piper, Pru, and Phoebe go back in time to when they were little and Phoebe wasn’t even born yet.  After they convince their mom and Grams that they are who they say they are, Grams says that she’s going to work on a spell to get them back to their time.  Piper asks, stunned, Wait, you can do that?  Grams’s response tickled me pink: We’re Witches, dear.  We can do anything.

Back on track

Last night, I felt that a bath was in order.  I felt how much I couldn’t hear the Momma talk to me when I was feeling like I was, how disconnected I was.  Water is an excellent conductor in terms of reconnecting with Divinity.  Some of the clearest and most powerful conversations I have had with the Momma have been during tub time.  I made up a playlist of music, lit some candles, poured an essential oil blend into the water, and settled in.  I knew that there was one song in particular on my playlist that was going to knock me on my ass.  Right when it started to play, Momma told me that She was dedicating this song  to me and to hear it as if She were singing it to me (this you tube video isn’t the point – I couldn’t figure out a way to just get the song, so it’s the lyrics that are the most important). 

I was, of course balling my eyes out as I listened to it.  And I recalled a very powerful post I read yesterday by Sue Ann at Always Embraces All Ways.  I realized that I had stopped seeing this transformation as a manifestation of the Momma’s love for me as I had previously posted just because it had gotten a little harder, because I felt stretched a bit more and in my vision, I had no idea how I could possibly do this.  So I decided to follow Sue Ann’s words of wisdom and began asking to see this differently.

This morning when I woke up, got my cup of coffee and took it and a pack of cigarettes out on my balcony, I felt differently.  Whereas over the past two days, I have felt my energy all balled up and blocked inside me again like it had been at the beginning of this transformation, this morning, I felt it flowing freely once more.  I felt the Momma with me, and I looked at the situation I am facing and no longer felt like I was suffocating.  Instead, I felt a deep sense of peace, of faith, of competence and an ability to walk through whatever She has set before me.  I felt joy. I felt a sense of coming back to my Self.

Choices, paths, and the challenges of transformation

Tonight I find myself faced with how hard this path that I have chosen can be at times.  I thought I was nearing the end of this transformation period, when really, it now looks as though I am only nearing the middle.  And it is still a choice, my choice.  For the past two weeks or so I have been getting cards in my tarot spreads about a painful growth experience that was going to take place.  And although up to this point, this transformation hasn’t been easy, it hasn’t been what I would call painful.  Difficult, yes.  Demanding, yes.  Challenging, yes.  Painful, no.

I have been working on examining how I am to teach my parents unconditional love.  I have been working on completing an assignment the Momma gave me that involved writing a thank you letter to my ideal mother and my actual one (which I am NOT required to send).  I had completed the assignment to my ideal mother a while ago, cried a lot, and mourned the lack of her.  But I had been putting off working on the one to my actual mother.  And I knew that I would not have learned most of the lessons I have learned if I had not been born to my actual mother.  I own that I chose her and my father to be my parents.  But I hadn’t been ready to really see that and embrace it.  After a conversation with an aunt during which she told me my mother’s mother (my nana) had once said that she could never love my mother, I saw my mom from a different perspective.  How painful it must have been for her – my mom is a rather insightful person, and I know she would have felt that from my nana.  I saw my teaching her about unconditional love as a means to offer her healing. It would be her responsibility to accept it, but it’s my job to offer it.

Saturday, I went up to the city where my sister lives with my mom.  It was challenging, but not overly so, and I handled it well.  On the way back in the airport yesterday waiting for our flight to begin boarding, I told my mom of my involvement in this polyamorous relationship.  I say I, but I’m still not sure if Momma had taken over my body for several minutes, and while I want to accept responsibility for my actions, it felt like it wasn’t all me.  Over the holidays last year, I had told my mom (and dad) of my relationship with my beloved.  At the time, the relationship was not polyamorous.  The holidays were a disaster, and my relationship with both my parents has been strained since then.  Truly, it’s been strained for the past four years, but that tension spiked again over the holidays after my disclosure and has remained high.  I’ve been distant from my parents since then, not being in a place where I could talk to them without it making the dynamic between us worse.  My mom handled this new news surprisingly well.  We had the beginnings of a mature discussion, though she made it clear that she came from a worldview (I was so proud to hear her use those words) where she did not agree with the relationship, nor would she ever give it her blessing.  I knew this, and I didn’t and don’t expect that to ever change.  But the conversation marked the first time that I have been able to maintain myself and not slip back into the role of Child when discussing such a heated topic.  And I worked very hard (successfully, I think) to stay in a place of unconditional love and compassion.  But this discussion was merely the gateway into a much deeper discussion which will, no doubt, be more challenging.

My mom has grown a lot since the holidays.  I am extremely proud of her.  She has learned a handful of very valuable lessons that will make working on our relationship much easier.  And yet, the task is still enormous.  We come from entirely different worldviews.  Everything that I have received in my tarot readings has spoken to me of necessary self-sacrifice on my part, bringing energy to this task and being a driving force behind it, letting go of thinking of my parents as the “bad guys” which has enabled me to maintain a victim perspective in the past and served as an excuse not to have to do any work, and huge change.

I was pretty floored after my initial conversation with my mom, and the first thing I wanted to do was to call my beloved and share it with her.  Momma said no.  I needed to keep this silence between us that began at with this transformation time.  Somehow, between last night at about midnight and today around noon, how huge this task is became a reality to me, and no doubt, my fears all dove into the mix to make it seem all the more formidable.  That was when I started to feel that I am not at the end of this transformation but the middle.  An intuition that I am supposed to do all this without the connection with my beloved began dawning on me, and I felt paralyzed.  And I recalled the painful growth experiences predicted in my cards and saw it laid out before me now.  I realized how much she and my other partner constitute most of my support system and simultaneously saw how unbalanced it was to have my support system be primarily comprised of two people, how unfair it was for all of us, but especially them for me to expect that of them.  It isn’t that I don’t have other close friends – I do – but none who speak the same language I speak in terms of my spirituality and who “get” the Momma and the tasks She lays down.  I began to feel very alone.  Yet heard that I wasn’t, not with Momma with me.  I thought back to one of the lessons I have continually learned from my actual mother – that I am capable of far more than I realize.  And then I thought about a lesson I learned this summer: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should” and thought angrily, Why can’t that apply now, damnit?!

It certainly doesn’t help that all this is exacerbated by some serious PMS which is serving to magnify all my emotions ten-fold.  I will not stay in this space, but I honor that I am here now, pissy and crying and angry and wondering if I have masochistic tendencies.  I choose to send my Self unconditional love, though I am feeling weak and slightly disappointed in myself for being where I am.  I choose this path.  I choose the Momma.  I choose to trust that She will walk me through this somehow.  I also choose to go to bed and have faith that tomorrow will be a different day.

Awareing

This transformation has been and continues to be an amazing journey, or rather, an amazing leg of my journey.  I have cried, I have sang, I have traveled with Inanna into my own underworld, I have danced, I have meditated, I have had long talks with the Momma and visits back to that moment outside of space and time when She first truly claimed me as Her own, I have held ritual, I have read, I have written, I have felt my Self and spoken with my Self and held my Child Self, I have loved my Self through painful letting go that then turned into bliss, I have taken numerous bubble baths, I have seen what cannot be seen and accepted that which is still hidden, I have laughed, I have learned, I have fought with my Self and destroyed parts of my Self that no longer serve me, I have let go of resentment and disappointments that had been holding me back from truly connecting with my Self to become who I am meant to be.  And though I can recite all of those things I have been doing and done, I find that there is no English that can truly capture what all of that has been like for me, no words to express how I feel now when compared to how I felt at the beginning of it.

A few days ago, I had an awareing, a knowing that had escaped me before but when I felt it, I had one of those ‘ohhhhh’ moments.  The light bulb kind.  Back in May and early June, I had gone through a similar time of drawing close to the Momma, except I didn’t recognize it then for what it was supposed to be.  I looked at it like some intensive retreat with the Momma that would end, and I would go back to my life as I had been leading it, perhaps with some minor modifications.  My inability to see it for what it was and what it was supposed to be is what brought me back here.

The awareing came when I knew that this current intensive time with the Momma is how it and I am supposed to be all the time.  And the things that I have been separated from during this brief time in order to do the work that I have been doing get to be added back in to my life when the time comes, added to this new way of being which is meant to be the way I live my life.

As this time draws to a close, I find my Self filled with a deep peace, a knowing that I will carry with me the changes I have undergone, and a shimmering excitement of sharing these changes and this newly transformed Self with those I love.