On Monday September 23rd, I was reminded of the importance of celebrating small victories.
Life is meant to be celebrated.
In the days before September 23rd, I was running frantically with so much to do: Getting ready for my upcoming Oct. 19th workshop (in California) and getting my first workbook completed and then available for people to purchase online (available here). I was tired.
I took a belly-flop on the couch. I expected my sweetheart to offer me at least a score of “9.2” for my maneuver.
Instead, he asked, “How are we going to celebrate?” It had been months of work on my workbook with my sweetheart editing portions of the book daily.
Celebrate? I was exhausted and I could only think of the rehearsals for my workshop and other projects with deadlines.
Still, he was right (Don’t tell him.) It’s important to pause and celebrate a little success.
Along the same lines, my sweetie writes in his daily gratitude journal–that’s where you note what you’re grateful for. Perhaps, you had a good phone call with a friend. Maybe you took a walk for exercise. He writes in his gratitude journal just before he goes to sleep each night.
It’s so easy to forget the blessings in our lives. They happen everyday. Some may be small but they are there. However, many of us only remember the things that troubled us during the day.
It’s like a stubbed toe that screams pay attention. But we miss acknowledging all the other toes that are just fine. We concentrate on that which gives us pain.
But what about the joys in our day? The cat that purrs with affection as you caress it; your partner smiles in the morning; and you hear your favorite song on the radio. How about when your loved one makes your favorite meal?
I invite you to push forward the joys and blessing of your day. Pause. Pay attention. Push the “stubbed toe” into the background.
How do we push the joys and blessings forward? Write in your gratitude journal. Then you’ll think about your day in a different way. Sometimes, I think of a day as glancing out the window and seeing two things: a pile of garbage next to a glorious rose. When you write in your gratitude journal, you’re looking at the rose.
When I write down the “roses” of my day, I’m always surprised about how many actually occurred.
How about you? How many positive things are in your life right now? You’re reading this, so your eyes are working. You’re breathing. You’re probably looking forward to something even, perhaps, a favorite TV show.
I find that consciously choosing to look at the “roses” of life helps me focus on the beauty and joy that I experience. Soon after I started this writing in my gratitude journal, I realized that I didn’t just have one rose, I really had a rose garden.
Now, you can take this a step further. In addition to remembering the roses of your life, show your gratitude. Do a simple ritual at the end of your day. After noting my blessings in my gratitude journal, I take a candle and offer it as thanks to the Gods for the blessings I enjoyed.
Tea light candles work great for this. They are small and don’t take too long to burn. This way you don’t have a candle burning when no one is around. (Never leave a burning candle unattended.)
This candle is a small gesture to the Gods in thanks for all the blessings they provide. Since starting this ritual, I have noticed even more blessings occurring in my life.
The nice thing about this ritual is that it doesn’t take much time and it doesn’t require a big fanfare. As long as your ritual is heartfelt and sincere the Gods will be pleased.
If you live with someone who isn’t Wiccan, lighting a candle in not a big inconvenience. Simply let them know that this is a positive part of your daily life.
This ritual is a great way to say “I noticed” and “thanks” to the Gods. They will appreciate it. This ritual also helps you be happier and healthier.
Please leave a comment and let me know if you do something like this or if you have a different way to honor the blessings in your life. I’d love to hear your perspective. Thanks.
I have a treat for you. My friend Heather Greene is guest blogging today. She will tell her story about how she found the Craft.
But first I want to share a few thoughts and a recipe of mine.
This is one of my favorite times of the year. During this harvest time we celebrate ripening of our labors. Now we reap the benefits.
One of the best things is how spiced foods start to appear during this season. And with that thought in mind, I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes with you. It’s my pumpkin bread recipe.
Moonwater’s Pumpkin Bread
Makes 2 loaves.
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. nutmeg
3 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups of fresh pumpkin → 16 ounces if using canned pumpkin
2/3 cup water → if pumpkin is canned
1/2 cup water → if pumpkin is fresh or frozen
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 325 F. Combine flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar in large mixing bowl. Add eggs, water, oil and pumpkin. Stir until blended. Add nuts. Mix well. Pour into two 9×5″ loaf pans. Bake 1 hour 30 mins. Cool slightly and take out of pans to let cool on a rack. This tastes best if you wrap, refrigerate and wait a day to eat it. It keeps well in the refrigerator and can be frozen.
I love this bread. It’s great for parties or have a slice for dissert. One of the coolest things is it can be put in the freezer to be stored for a future date. This is wonderful if you have lots to prepare for a party and need the time for other things.
I hope you enjoy it, and if you have any recipes to share I would love to see them, and try them! Please use the comment box below to share.
And now for the main event Heather Greene’s post!
My Journey to Wicca
“The reaches opened before us and closed behind, as if the forest had stepped leisurely across the water to bar the way for our return. We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness.” – Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness
Spiritual awakenings are funny in that they can happen at any given moment – in church, in the car, in the plumbing section of Home Depot. They sneak up on us and seize our minds, bodies and hearts. Then they send us soaring at lightening-speed into another time and space where everything is suddenly crystal clear – for only one moment. When we return an instant later, we are more confused than before but forever changed in some indeterminable way.
My spiritual awakening happened in high school after reading The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. The novella blew my mind and kept me in philosophical ecstasy for weeks. I jumped at any and all opportunities to discuss the story’s deeper meanings. In hindsight, I probably lost a few friends that year and it was no coincidence that was the same year I earned my reputation. From that point forward, I was known as the enigmatic, artsy girl who was unofficially voted most-likely-to-be-a-poet. Not a bad reputation by high school standards.
To this day, The Heart of Darkness stills sends my heart a-flutter. The book essentially deconstructs human society. It not only challenges the morality of European Imperialism, it also breaks down deeply rooted Western cultural constructs such as good and evil. It posits that our values and ethics are social impositions rather than anything signed, sealed and delivered by an absolute natural order of existence or some supreme being with a playbook. We, humans, have determined what is good and what is evil. We have constructed our reality.
See, it blows the mind.
Shortly after reading the book, I started my writing career. I wrote fictional tales about horribly impossible and depressing situations that ended with twist of hope. Most of that work was ignored; up until I wrote a suicide story. That one landed me in the counselor’s office where I yelled, “No I’m not going to commit suicide already! Have you not read The Heart of Darkness?” There was an implied teenage “duh!” in that outburst.
So there I was, an enigmatic future poet and angst ridden teen, feeling totally ready to birth my spiritual life. Considering my ethical world had been created solely by art, literature, philosophy and science, I had nothing to go on except a secular world view. In many ways, I was lucky. Unlike many Pagans, I didn’t have to shed a religious belief system before entering into a new one. I just had to step in and see how the water felt.
Not long after the “Suicide Story” incident, I began to journey through the thick forest of the Occult. First I dabbled in Astrology. I can remember working through what seemed like endless hours of painful mathematics to produce one single birth chart. When I had enough money, I finally bought an Astrology program and a computer to go with it. After awhile I expanded to Tarot, Palmistry, scrying, astral projection and crystals. The world was my magical oyster and I was willing to entertain all it had to offer.
By that point I was well into college. During one summer break, I took a weekend house sitting job for a New York City lawyer. While staying in her Upper East Side apartment, I discovered some funny little herbs in tiny plastic bags. A neighbor, who had stopped by, said very casually, “She’s a witch.” I was struck. What?! A Witch? My mind was blown yet again! I should really consider myself lucky to have anything left at this point.
At the very next opportunity, I rushed into a Barnes & Noble and went straight to the Occult section. After careful consideration, I purchased Raymond Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft. Sitting there on the muggy A-Train packed in with all the other tired commuters, I clung to my new book as if I was harboring the last Golden Ticket to the Wonka factory. This witch book was sacred, somehow, and filled with all the answers.
Unfortunately the book didn’t have any answers. At least not to the questions that I had yet to really ask. What it did have was a key to a door that led to a pathway of spiritual growth using the language of Witchcraft.
Not long after, I began to practice in earnest. Over the following year, I bought more books: Cunningham, Starhawk, Margot Adler and Silver Ravenwolf, for example. I organized my very first solitary Samhain ritual. When not attending to my film student duties, I dabbled in spell craft. Then, on one faithful day, I bought myself a silver pentacle and began calling myself a Witch.
It wasn’t until then that I realized the depth of what I was doing. This was more than just carnival games and Halloween hocus pocus. It was more than counter-culture and The Wizard of Oz. I found something powerful; something that I now defined as good even if the world defined it as evil.
After several years of solitary practice, I decided to join a Wiccan coven. It seemed the next appropriate step. I’ve been with that same group now for sixteen years. The communal experience strengthened me, gave me tools that I could never have found alone and, most importantly, offered me a community of like-minds who were on a similar path. Many of those people have become treasured friends and family.
But the journey is not over. It is never over.
What I can say now, in clarity, is that it all started with that book – The Heart of Darkness. There in that place, where all the social constructs are gone, there is nothing but raw, unbridled, animalistic humanity – body and blood, love and lust, hate and rapture, and spirit. It is the elemental point of beginnings. It is only from that point that we can see the world for what it is – a stack of cards. It is only from that point we can see ourselves, explore our past and find our motivation. It is honesty at a critical level. Deep within the Heart of Darkness, we are pure. Coming out from that space is the journey of a lifetime – and it just may blow your mind.
Heather Greene is a freelance writer living in the South. She has a masters degree in Film Theory and History with a background in commercial media and technology. She spent the first part of her career working at a major Madison Avenue Ad agency and its production subsidiaries, as well as an systems engineer at a Fortune 100 company. In 2001, she left it all behind to become a independent writer and has been doing that ever since.
Heather has been practicing Wicca for almost twenty years in both solitary and group settings. Her other interests fall into the creative realm. She finds peace dabbling in the artistic energy that always seems to encircle her life through music, dance, color and words. Currently, she is entertaining the muse through her own writing and through music as a songwriter. She finds power and inspiration in all that is reflected in nature’s beauty, family and friends.
I never expected to be a writer, but the Gods visited me in a dream. I have dyslexia: Writing was the furthest thing from my imagination. In fact, my degrees are in art and web/graphic design.
But the Gods gave me a task: Write a book for beginners of the Craft that is straightforward and easy to read.
When I awoke, I felt excited but scared about how I could possibly accomplish this book-writing task. I knew the demands of writing a book because I have close friends who are writers.
How could I possibly write enough to fill a whole book?! It was agony to merely read the first book in the Harry Potter series due to my dyslexia.
I started to compare myself to other writers by thinking “I’m not a ScottCunningham or a Starhawk. What am I to do?
I kept thinking about all the other writers of books I had slowly read. Their books were so good. I couldn’t match that. The anxiety grabbed me in the chest and I had trouble breathing.
But I strongly believe in the Gods. I know the Gods would not set me up to fail. They love me, and if they say I can do it, I can.
The hardest part for me wasn’t the task itself, but the constant comparing that I did, placing myself against other writers.
With all of my misspellings, I took blows to my self-esteem each day. My mind raced with negative thoughts of no one will care about what I have to say; no will read it, and this will never help anyone.
With all this negativity in my mind, it’s a miracle I got anything done.
I slowly began to realize something. I cannot compare myself to anyone else. Why? The book I’m writing is a snapshot in time of me. It’s about my truth. No one can write it for me.
I was so busy comparing myself to others when in reality there is no comparison. There can’t be. I am me, no one else, and all those racing thoughts were not true.
Someone will read my book (my editors, for example)
People will be able to easily read it because my editors will smooth out any rough sections (I love my editors!)
Someone cares about what I have to say (that someone is me!)
My book has already helped someone, me.
My book taught me a valuable lesson: Don’t judge or compare yourself to others.
We all have gifts, different levels of ability. These combinations make us unique and strong. No one else has our particular knowledge and unique set of talents, and this makes each of us special.
Comparing my special to your special cannot be done. It’s like comparing strawberries and octopi. Because our experiences in life are all slightly or dramatically different (as in different cultures). You just can’t compare the two. They are not the same.
All I need to do is remember strawberries and octopi.
You’re special. Drop comparing yourself to others.
Bring your own special gifts to bear.
The Gods love you and enjoy when you express your creativity.
Starting Wicca is like cleaning a dirty car for the first time. Before I left for a trip I decided to get my car washed. Why? My car was “the dirt clog on wheels.”
Though it’s supposed to be white, my car remained a splotchy palomino gray, for most of its existence.
So at the car wash center, I lined my vehicle with the others and left the keys in the car for the attendant. I sat down in the waiting area and watched car after car coming out of the other end of the giant cleaning machine.
I was sitting there for a while. Vehicles emerged from the cleaning machine, one after another. Soon I’m thinking, “Where’s my car?!” I recognized the car that had been in line in front of my car. But then, it took me a moment to realize that the gleaming white car behind it was actually my car!
This, believe it or not, is like the beginning of your practice of Wicca. Throughout your life you collect “dirt.” This can be in the form of unhelpful thoughts from people who think they know what’s best for you. This degrading process can lead to bad self-esteem. You might even doubt your worthiness in the face of deity and others. “How can I be loved if I do “X?”
All this buildup up of degrading thoughts is like the buildup of dirt on my car. Soon you cannot even recognize the goodness and value you began life with.
Here are some examples of degrading thoughts:
“God won’t love me if I don’t pray three times a day”
“God will punish me because I’m gay.”
“I wont go to the promised land if I don’t go to [church, temple, the Mosque and so forth].”
All of these thoughts and other people’s “shoulds” are crap–like the bird crap on my car.
The world places unrealistic demands on us. “Nice girls don’t make trouble.” and “Men don’t cry.” This is simply “Crap!”
How does Wicca fit in? Well, all that crap you are carrying can be cleaned out and washed off. Just like my car.
Coming into Wicca, you carry the world’s crap upon you. The practice of Wicca with its car wash of meditation and self discovery will help you rid yourself of the unwanted grunge the world places on you.
When we practice our meditation techniques we get rid of the world’s “cling-ons.” And when that happens a whole new world opens up to you. Just like I didn’t recognize my car at first, your family and friends may not recognize the new you either.
Be aware too that many people do not like change. So when they see you happier they may give you resistance. This is normal. Don’t be discouraged if this happens.
Only you know what’s best for you. Eventually, some people will accept you. Others won’t. But the most important thing is for you to accept yourself and enjoy your new clean and bright experience of life.
Why Wicca? Why not choose some other spiritual path? Well for me, I love nature and the natural world. Its beauties and wonders, they all surround me and fascinate me. In other paths you need to go somewhere to be with deity. But with Wicca the gods are not only everywhere around me, but they are within me too.
I am literally the goddess and god, and these gods don’t judge me! They love me for who I am and what I already look like. I don’t need to change or alter myself to be loved, no diet or creams required. And to go with all that spiritual “yummyness,” wicca is all about nature. The thing I love most. There are the trees, the birds, the stag, the earth itself. They all represent the gods in different forms.
Also the natural world is what I live in, it is reality and I’m not trying to get to some euphoric place I’ve never experienced or been. I’m not trying to jump impossible hurtles with the rules that can never be followed without failing. All I got to do is be me.
We are rewarded with love and kindness when we give love and kindness. What we put out into the universe, the universe gives us back three fold. This cycle, among all the others is all natural. Angry vengeful God, not included! And that’s the way I like it.
As a young girl I was shy. I’m not talking about just a little quiet shy, I’m talking about no friends and couldn’t talk to people shy. And not only that; but my self-worth wasn’t only in the toilet, it was nonexistent!
If I needed help I couldn’t ask for it. This left the door wide open for bullies. I was teased and tormented mercilessly. Day in and day out, the torment never stopped. The worst was at home. Home was supposed to be a safe place, mine wasn’t.
Three years older and much bigger, my brother beat me and even held me underwater in a swimming pool at a friend’s house. He finally let go when I stopped struggling.
My parents didn’t do a thing to stop the abuse from my brother, even when the abuse was blatantly in front of them. This was an even bigger hit to my self-worth. “If my own parents don’t think I’m worth saving,” I thought, “I must be not worth anything.”
As I grew up, these messages further gripped my reality. I was alone against a heartless world. I was beyond miserable.
Then I found the gods. The first book I read about the craft was a breath of fresh air to someone who had been suffocating for years. I found something that spoke the truth to me. As I continued to read the books it hit me: Goddess doesn’t make crap!
It was not that I wasn’t worth anything; the truth was the complete opposite of my thinking. I was unique and special to the gods just the way I was created. If the gods loved me because of the way I was, then I could love me, too! And I was worth standing up for!
At first people got mad when I stood up for myself. But after a while they did start to treat me with more respect. Not everyone changed, but that’s their loss. I am a beautiful, loving person. And no one deserved to be treated the way I had been. It is just wrong and not the way the gods want us to treat one another.
We are all loved of the gods. We are all unique and therefore special, no matter what anyone says, even yourself!