Last week I took an expressive therapies class. I am studying to be a psychotherapist, so this class was an elective that I could take, because we can cross-register in any expressive therapies course with no prerequisites. I could have taken drama therapy, music therapy, even dance therapy…things that I know…I have been with drama and music and dance for most of my life. But in this class, I had to draw.
I don’t like to draw. I have made approximately three drawings in my entire life that I have liked. One was a groundhog when I was six. One was an iris at some point in my early twenties. And I’m assuming there was a third, because there’s always that one thing you forget when you’re listing these sorts of things. But each day, at least once in the seven hours of class time, there was drawing. Most days, there were several periods of drawing.
We could use words, symbols, images. We didn’t have to be artists. But still, it was drawing. And I don’t draw. I’ve avoided other multimodal arts retreats and workshops simply because they would make me draw or paint in them. And here I was, five days in a row, colored pencils and oil pastels and markers in my hands, and blank pieces of paper staring at me, making me fill them with something, and then share it with at least one other person, and often the whole group.
And out of this…I’m writing again. I’ve had spiritual and energetic growth. I’m moving more freely. I feel healthier, happier, more rested. It was hard, and I didn’t enjoy it…but it sparked something. By doing this thing that I don’t enjoy doing, that challenges me, but that engages the creative part of my brain, I’m more awake now.
But don’t expect me to start posting sketches on here…
“When the existence and marvelous power of the deeper self is recognized, the “Know Thyself” of the Delphic Oracle acquires a new and profounder meaning. It no longer means only “analyse your thoughts and feelings and actions”; it means study your most intimate self, discover the real being hidden in the depths of your soul, learn its marvelous potency.” ~Roberto Assagioli
Assagioli goes on to say that this is not about deifying the Self, but about finding that place in the Self that is in touch with God or a Higher Power of some kind. There is something about this idea that is both eminently satisfying and eminently frustrating. If we all have within us this potent, amazing being, yet we only see it in brief, transcendent moments, it can be challenging. It seems almost painful to know that this beautiful, powerful calling is within us, yet only sometimes can we hear it.
But isn’t that what we’re here for? To listen for the calling, and follow where it leads us?
I wanted to write a post for the solstice, so I was wandering around the internet and found this great remembrance from Petrarch of the women bathing in the river at midsummer to wash away the tragedies of the coming year. If only we could…
In some ways, the summer solstice feels more like the coming of new year to me than the winter solstice. Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent so much of my life on a “school year” schedule, where June means that you are promoted to the next year of study, to begin in the fall. Or maybe it’s just that the world is so alive at this time of year, and in December, it’s hard to remember that things are just dormant, not dead.
Take a moment today to wash away whatever is holding you back from the coming year – we may not be able to stop the tragedies by washing them away, but we can always rebirth ourselves into a new way of seeing the world. Why not today, on one of the most celebratory days of the year?
I was reading over at Ask Mormon Girl, and the question she was addressing was about prayer. And it made me think about how challenging I feel the idea of prayer can be.
When someone asks for prayers, or mentions a death/illness/difficult time I often offer to keep them in my thoughts, or send positive energy/light their way. Because for me, that’s more comfortable than saying “I’ll pray for you.” There are a number of reasons…one is that it would be dishonest – rarely do I speak concrete prayers, and I can’t remember the last time I specifically prayed FOR someone. I also think that prayer can feel very transactional – if I pray, then such and such will happen. And that’s not the way that I feel like the universe works. And as a reiki practitioner, my training tells me that the energy will go where it’s needed, and that when we ask the universe for energy, it should be for the greatest good of the person we are treating – which isn’t always what they want it to be.
I think it’s hard to think of prayer that way, but it’s realistic – if I hold someone in my heart, send them energy, pray for them, whatever I want to call it, I shouldn’t be the one to decide what they need and ask for that. It’s about putting out the thoughts/energy/idea that I hope that whatever is for their best overall good will come.
“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” ~Gandhi
“Why do we need to feel virtuous? When I feel self-righteous, am I in the mode that can produce terrorism?” ~Madeleine L’Engle, Bright Evening Star
Back to the question of being “right” again…I can’t get away from it. When I need to be right, am I any better than anyone else who needs to be right? Of course, I’m not, but it’s so easy in those moments to convince myself that because the causes I fight for are just and focused on inequality, it’s okay for me to close my mind to what anyone else has to say. And it isn’t any better…but it’s so easy to just turn off that little voice that says that sometimes being right doesn’t make things any better…and it can definitely make things worse.
My friend K. writes a blog about parenting, and she wrote a few days ago about how people judge other parents by their own standards of parenting…and how this turns people against each other. We all want so much to believe that we’re doing the right thing for ourselves, for our families, for our Gods, for our causes, that we convince ourselves by shutting out the rest of the arguments. We try to yell louder than everyone else.
And so, when I read the quote from Madeleine L’Engle that opened this piece, it really hit me how true it is. As I struggle with what it means to be right, I’m also struggling to find the balance between war and peace, destruction and creation. So much of what destroys in this world comes not from the goal of destruction, but from the goal of proving once and for all who is right. And I don’t want to be right if that’s the cost.
But in those moments of self-righteousness and indignant political/religious/social anger, it can be really hard to remember that…
“Hate has erased all the normal barriers…Hate is contagious. We asked ourselves how immune we were…” ~Madeleine L’Engle, Bright Evening Star
I am a Christian. But I am not a Christian. I am living in the space between. There are a lot of people who can’t understand this. There is a lot of pressure to choose one side or the other. But there’s a lot of truth in the in-between spaces.
Some of my dearest friends are Christians – the kind of Bible reading, church-going, sincerely praying people who many envision when they think of the word Christian. And I love that about them. I love that they are so committed and empowered in their faith, and that it gives them strength. But I am not that person.
Some of my dearest friends are atheists. Secular humanist, science based realists, who think that belief in God is a crutch. And I love that about them. I love that they are so secure in their humanity, so committed to living in the here and now. But I am not that person.
I have friends who are Buddhists, Jews, Catholics, seekers, spiritual-but-not-religious, and Wiccan. I have friends who believe in heaven, hell, reincarnation, karma, one life, many lives, and life ever after.
And I live in the space between. I believe in spirit, energy, connection, love and something that ties us all together in something bigger than ourselves. And sometimes I call that something God. And sometimes I call it Jesus. And sometimes I don’t. Because right now, what is true for me is the journey, and the space between faith and reason, here-and-now and everlasting.
I spent the past day and a half at a Reiki I training. Friday night, after meeting my teacher and classmates, I was treated to a guided meditation and attunement. Basically this means I got to relax and let healing energy flow in and around and through me as my body learned how to channel it. I felt like I was sparkling last night. I felt loving and open and warm, and it was wonderful.
Today, I learned more of the history and philosophy and guidelines of the practice, and how to give Reiki treatments to myself and others. I gave a treatment and received one. And in giving this treatment, I feel like I understand a little bit better what happens when people are filled with the holy spirit, or blessed in some way, or feel the presence of a higher power…in the words of my beloved musical Godspell (and so, yes, also the Gospel of Matthew) “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light.” My whole body felt full of light…
With this new, cleansing energy in my life, I can’t wait to see what else comes next…
Someone asked me the other day what it is about Easter that appeals to me so much. And my answer was rebirth. Yes, as a baptized and confirmed Catholic, it’s always been about resurrection, but as a mystic (and I do more and more think that’s what I really am) it’s about that, and more than that. At Passover, the celebration is life saved and freedom gained. At Easter, the celebration is resurrection and forgiveness of sins. But as we celebrate all of these things in the early spring, what unites them is rebirth. What brings us bunnies and eggs is the aliveness of nature in the springtime, reawakening as the sun warms the ground and the plans uncurl. And a chance to begin again. Why do we hide the eggs, or the afikomen? So that we can root out what’s hidden, bring it to light, and start fresh.
Happy Easter, Chag Sameach, Blessed Eostre, and Welcome Spring!
“I come to you with strange fire, I make an offering of love, the incense of my soil is burned by the fire in my blood. I come with a softer answer to the questions that lie in your path. I want to harbor you from the anger, find a refuge from the wrath.
This is a message of love. Love that moves from the inside out, love that never grows tired. I come to you with strange fire.” ~Indigo Girls
Easter brings out the Catholic in me – but it also brings out the pagan in me. There’s a love of ritual that is awakened with the birth of spring, and the Easter vigil.
Someone asked me to make plans for the night of the Easter vigil, and out of nowhere, my soul said no. I have to go to church. This is something that I don’t say to people very often, because, well, I don’t really go to church.
But the Easter vigil, where the greens of last year are burned and the new fire is blessed, where the paschal candle is blessed with fire and water, where we begin in the dark and welcome back the light – this is ritual at its best.
Ritual is why I loved being a Catholic for so many years. Ritual is why I am drawn to ancient rites and historical holy places and times. Ritual makes me feel whole again, cleansed, and complete and part of something much bigger than myself.
And once a year, no matter where I am, no matter what my journey has brought in the interim, I need to spend two hours immersed in this familiar and powerful ritual. I can’t wait for next Saturday.