Grounding and Centering

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay 

For years I read and listened to the accounts of successful people who begin every day by collecting their thoughts, setting intentions, and mentally preparing for the day ahead. Nice luxury, I thought.

Recently, I decided to give it a go. I took a thirty day challenge to ground and center every morning, first thing, no excuses.

I knew if a daily practice was going to work for me, it had to be meaningful, not rote. To that end, it could be as long and elaborate as I liked; I work from home, my children are long since grown, and gone and my spouse is self-sufficient.

On the other hand, I was certain if it was too elaborate, I’d be tempted to skip it on busy mornings—like the day I was scheduled for lab work before 8 a.m. at a clinic 40 miles from my home.

Sunrise is my time of day, whether I’m up and about in the wee hours, or still lying in bed when dawn breaks, that first ray of sun cutting across the room, coming to rest on a table or dresser, awakens me.

“Light of the world, a new day dawns. Renew my spirit, awaken me.”

Those words became the first line of my morning prayer that begins my daily devotion. The prayer includes setting an intention for directing the energy I give and receive “this day” to a higher purpose and greater good. I follow with my grounding and centering cued to these words:

“Mother earth, supporting me, Father Sky, lifting me, Grandfather Sun, igniting my spirit, Grandmother Moon, lighting my compassion, guide me on my journey.”

As I speak the words, facing the sunrise, I ground my energy to the earth and extend it to the upper world (heavens, deity or higher self—as you believe). I then spread my arms outward, centering the energy in my heart. I finish by folding my hands at my heart and bowing my head. Standing in the prayerful position, I finish with my gratitude to the Creator.

Short and sweet, completed in a few minutes, and quite rote despite what I’d intended—not unlike the prayers I learned as a parochial school girl, rattled off in church every week. Yet, there are significant differences. The words of my devotion are my own and heartfelt, I am deliberately present as I speak them (in a way I wasn’t as a school child), and the memorized recitation is a mere warm-up to the real meat of my daily devotions, that being 20-minutes or more of meditation.

Busy days crowded their way into my month, more mornings that I had to be out the door and on the run early. I let the meditation slip some days, or fit it in later in the evening, but I never missed the brief, memorized prayers. It turns out, those moments of grounding and centering were what made the difference in my days.

Yes, the prayers are a preamble, enhancing what immediately follows, but the simple words, the deliberate connections, support me throughout the day. Going through the motions, speaking the words, creates a memory, a touchstone in my body and mind. In difficult moments I can call on the energy to remain grounded, centered and balanced. But even when I’m not consciously aware, the energy is there, within me.

There are numerous methods for grounding and centering, including mundane, magical, and religious. For the simplest approach, sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, close your eyes and relax your breathing. Scan your body for any areas of tension, take a deep breath and release the tension on the exhale. Repeat until your body is completely relaxed.

Call to mind a calming image—it can be anything that makes you feel peaceful. Focus on the image and your breath, allowing the weight of your body to sink. Feel your feet on the floor, your thighs and back against the chair supporting you. Then imagine a beam of white, or pale violet light extending from the crown of your head. The light energy flows both ways, reaching up to the higher realm and coming back to you.

Next imagine drawing up energy from the earth, while drawing down from the upper world. Envision these meeting near your heart, then expanding out in every direction. With each inhale, see the light glowing and growing until it surrounds you, like a sphere. Imagine this light sphere in the center of body, mind and spirit, made visible and drawn out to encompass you, almost as a force field.

Image by LillyCantabile from Pixabay 

When you are finished, see the light growing smaller, until it becomes a tiny orb, nestled between your heart and solar plexus. Take three deep breaths and open your eyes.

You can envision any color you choose for your light. White contains all colors, and is also associated with cleansing and purifying. A warm yellow or golden light is healing. Explore chakra energy centers and colors for more about working with the energy meridians of your body.

Try starting your day off with your own, simple grounding and centering ritual.


Doing It All In Spite of Your Self

Image by Peter Lomas from Pixabay 

Many years ago, as a wife and mother of three young daughters, with aging parents living next door, I awoke one morning to the normal sounds of my daughters getting ready for school. Instead of getting out of bed, I uncharacteristically pulled the covers up under my chin, giving in to my desire to ignore the call of yet another busy day.

My husband worked rotating shifts; he was on the early watch that day. With a 45 minute commute, he was up and out of the door before dawn, having made his own breakfast. It was the one indulgence I’d claimed from the beginning of our marriage. I’ve never minded rising early, but my brain doesn’t fully engage for an hour or more. Trying to make breakfast is comical at best, sometimes even dangerous . . . cooking with gas. Tea and quiet contemplation are more my style.

This day, I begged off getting breakfast for the girls and overseeing their morning rush, saying I maybe had a cold coming on. I had that tell tale achey and fatigued feeling, despite having slept through the night.

The girls ate cold cereal and got themselves out the house and down the driveway to the school bus. Eventually, I had to get up and into my day, but when I tried, my back seized in pain, paralyzing me in place. Living on our little hobby farm, with large garden, a small menagerie of livestock and heating our home entirely with wood, any number of daily chores may have been the cause of my pain.

Even the slightest movement was excruciating. Anybody whose ever had back pain realizes very soon how much of our movement is supported by the back—it hurts even to breath. All I could manage was to roll to the edge of the bed and drop to the floor. I crawled on my hands and knees to the phone, to call my mother for help.

At the ER, a breif exam and X-rays revealed nothing more than severe spasm of the major muscles in my back (oh is that all?), and a bit of spinal misalignment. I was fitted with a soft support brace and scheduled for physical therapy. It ended up being months of therapy—six before the pain wasn’t a constant companion and nearly a year before doing even light work didn’t cause a flare-up.

It was that incident that started my journey to self care. I was the “backbone” of our family. I kept everything running, kept everybody on schedule, provided comfort and nurturing for my growing family and companionship for my aging parents. I worked out of the house part-time, but was home when my children were home. I cooked, cleaned and was responsible for most household maintenance as my husband work hours were long and demanding.

I didn’t just “have it all” as they promised young women of the day, I was doing it all . . . all by myself. I didn’t realize exactly how ego driven my need to be needed was.

The Natural Remedy Book for Women, by Dian Stein, introduced me to the idea that our body’s dis-ease is often the best clue to where we are suffering imbalances in our life. It sometimes takes a little detective work. For example, the skin is a barrier for the body, hinting that unexplained skin conditions could be the symptom of poor emotional boundaries. Chronic sore throats or difficulty swallowing may indicate feeling unable to speak freely or to call out untruths as you see them (a lot to swallow).

For years, even before my marriage, I was the fixer, the family mediator, the one jumping in wherever I saw the need to smooth things over, or maintain harmony. I was carrying the load, physically and emotionally, for too many who were willing to let me. And who would blame them? I was filling all the space, patching all the cracks before anybody had a chance to see them.

I didn’t know how to step back and leave enough room for others to step in. When my back gave out on me, I had no other choice.

It would be even more years before I awoke to the ways of witchery, and still more before I delved into my shadow work, where I would begin to understand that my desire to make others happy is a desire for their appreciation. I am a praise junky, no doubt because my parents showed love through expressing appreciation, whether for a job well done, a story or joke well told, a kindness given—any notable action or accomplishment. A high achiever, I became an expert at cultivating heaps of praise.

My default for receiving love is co-dependent, basing my sense of worth on what others tell me is valuable to them. I’ve learned to resist my first impulses to jump in and save the day, but it’s like fighting any addiction—my craving for acknowledgment and appreciation is always gnawing at me. Before I offer help, I have to ask myself if I’m doing it only for the praise I might get, and would I still do it if I knew for certain there would be no pay-off.

I once cooked meals for a woman after she’d done me serious harm that effectively ended our relationship. Her husband was dying of cancer. She was working full time and couldn’t quit her job. She’d asked among her friends and family if somebody could make meals that she could easily reheat at the end of her long days.

Nobody else responded to her need for this small comfort, so for several months I cooked a week’s worth of meals at a time, arranging for a mutual friend to deliver them to her. It was one thing she needed that I was capable of giving. If there were never a single word of thanks, I knew, without questions how much those meals would be appreciated.

I’ve also learned there are healthier ways to channel my penchant for trouble shooting, as I did when working as an events coordinator—there’s always at least one fire that needs dousing at every event. And there are far more enjoyable ways to receive accolades, like performing in community theater for one.

My mother used to say I’d cut off my nose to spite my face. As a headstrong and persistent teenager, I didn’t understand what she was trying to tell me. I spent a good part of my life, bending over backwards, doing cartwheels and handsprings, trying to get people to do the same for me. It’s taken me a long time to figure out I could put all that energy into giving myself what I need, instead of begging others for crumbs.

You don’t have to love yourself before others can or will love you; but if you don’t love yourself at least as much as you expect others to love you, there will be an emptiness in your heart that remains unfilled.


Ritual Bath for Purification

Image by Tesa Robbins from Pixabay 

There are a good number of reasons, both physical and spiritual, for indulging in a purification bath.

  • Feeling tired
  • Feeling a virus coming on
  • Releasing physical and emotional stress
  • Releasing residual gunk during or after spiritual attunement and upgrades
  • Preparing for magickal ritual

What You Need

You’ll want to take your ritual bath in a sparkling clean bathroom. Bath salts added to your water draw out toxins (see below). Drinking water or herbal tea keeps you hydrated, but also facilitates the release of toxins and miasma. Plan for about an hour of undisturbed time. If you want the whole spa experience you’ll also need a supply of soft, fluffy towels, a robe, candles(s) and music.

Preparation

Like any magick, the more care you put into preparation the better your results. Start clean—this goes for your bathing space and your body. While there is a physical detoxing effect, a purification bath works primarily on a energetic and spiritual level; it’s not a time for personal hygiene.

Using natural based cleaners for your bathroom surfaces sets the tone. There are many good commercial products available. Or you can simply add I cup of white vinegar, orange and lemon rind, and 10-12 drops of tea tree or pine essential oil to a gallon of warm water. If you need an abrasive agent, use baking soda and salt in a 5 to 1 ratio (5 TBS soda, 1 TBS salt). Sprinkle on surfaces, scrub with a soft cloth and then wash away with the pre-made vinegar solution. Rinse all surfaces thoroughly.

When your bathroom is sparking clean, use incense or smoke/smudge of your choice to clear the space and consecrate it to your purpose. Start at the door and moving counter-clockwise (deosil), direct the smoke around the space, being sure to reach into corners, cabinets and drains. Douse the incense or herbs and flush. Clearing space leaves a void, it’s important to fill the space with the desired energy. Moving in clockwise direction, consecrate your space with a simple intention spoken aloud. Something like, “Bless this space, clean is pure. Restorative energy awaits me here.” Adding sound boosts the intention, so use your rattle, bells, a drum, or clap your hands.

The Ritual Bath

Step into the shower for a quick rinse before your bath. Using a loofa or body brush, buff your skin vigorously. This increases circulation at the surface and will aid in moving toxins from your body. Finish with long strokes in one direction moving away from your heart—from shoulders down to fingertips, from hips down to feet (dont’ forget your soles!), and down your back if you can. Rinse thoroughly. Alternately, you could do a black salt scrub (find DIY scrubs on Pinterest).

The Bath

Rinse tub, fill with warm to hot water. Add the following:

  • 1 cup Epsom’s salt
  • 1 cup hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • Several drops of lavender essential oil
  • A few drops mint essential oil, or fresh mint sprigs.

If you don’t have essential oils or prefer not to use them, you can purchase lavender and mint Epsom’s salt in larger pharmacies or discount stores. Or use fresh mint, available in the produce department of many supermarkets. In a pinch, use mint tea bags and dried lavender (you can put both in a coffee filter, gather into a pouch and secure with string, then drop in the water).

Light candles, cue the music (both optional) and slip into your bath. Submerge as much of your skin surface beneath the water as possible. Tuck a rolled towel behind your head for comfort. Place, cool moist teabags on your eyes for an extra treat—camomile is great, but plain black or green tea bags work.

Relax for 20 or 30 minutes. Sip your water or tea to stay hydrated. Visualize all toxic energy, tension, or gunky miasma leaving your body and completely dissolving in the water. Use a visualization of a protective boundary for your body, what you are releasing cannot renter . . . it’s strictly one way.

When you’re ready to leave your bath, drain the water while you’re still in the tub. Visualize everything your body and spirit has released going down the drain. Step out of the tub, wrap yourself in towel, then your robe. Spend another 20 minutes relaxing (in bed, on the sofa, or in a recliner). Do a body scan, focus on the feeling of relaxation and cleared energy.

Stay Hydrated

Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay 

Lemon, mint and ginger all help to move toxins from your body. Add fresh or dried ginger, mint, and lemon slices to filtered or sparkling water, or buy as tea and brew a quart using one bag of each. Drink the detox blend only during your bath. Afterwards, switch to water with lemon only.


Self-Love or Self-Care

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Is there a difference?

September is Self-Care Awareness month. The observance was added to the national calendar in 2017. This year, quick internet search turns up numerous 30-day challenges for both self-care and self-love this month, but are the two interchangeable?

Not really. When you approach health and wellness from a mind, body, spirit model, self caring behaviors are more about outward actions and the realm of the physical world and our body. Whereas self loving behaviors are more internal, working in the realm of emotions, or the intersection of our thoughts and feelings and therefore of the mind and spirit.

It’s possible to give yourself excellent self-care without self-love. I’m sure we all know at least one person who fits this description—successful, powerful, well-off, never settling for less than the best of everything—nothing is too good for them, and nothing is ever enough. They are caught in a frantic pursuit of always need to achieve more and have more.

On the other hand, can you love yourself without self-caring behaviors? I don’t believe it’s possible, not if you truly love yourself.

As adults, we often we often equate self-care and self-love to parenting ourselves. A parent can certainly provide for all the physical care and comforts a child needs, while still being emotionally distant or cold—but not necessarily cruel or hurtful.

Yet, it’s impossible for an emotionally loving parent to neglect their child’s need for care and happiness. So much so that some parents indulge their children, finding it hard to set limits (possibly setting the stage for the adult described above).

Certainly, when talking about the human mind and emotions, there are as many variations of the so-called norm, as their are people. For the sake of argument, and disregarding aberrant behaviors, I think it’s safe to say that self-care, without self-love is only half the equation.

Decades ago, when I first began writing as the MAD Goddess, focusing on self-care in midlife and beyond, my pet peeve was the market driven push to equate self-care, especially for women, with high-priced self-indulgence (it was one reason my alter ego manifested a MAD Goddess—another that it was shorthand for Middle AgeD).

The U.S. marketing machine is a powerful influencer. Mention self-care today and it conjures the image of pampering and indulgence of every kind, whether high-cost or do-it-yourself. While these treats might be a well-deserved gift to yourself, they tend to be more of a bandaid, or a glamour, than any kind of true self-care.

Image by Kai Miano from Pixabay 

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that women (at least of my generation and those previous) struggle with true self-care more so than their male counterparts. Men tend to put a higher priority on claiming time for their leisure pursuits, whether it’s an entire morning for a golfing foursome, or just 20-minutes of solitude to read the news.

There’s no arguing that a massage, a mani-pedi, a facial, a warm bubble bath, or slathering on a luxury skin serum, are all enjoyable, relaxing experiences, and help reduce stress. But this kind of self-care is short term at best, not to mention cost prohibitive for many. Further, the popular marketing hook, “because you’re worth it,” sends the toxic message that those who can’t pay the high price point, are not worth it—undeserving of even self-worth.

True self-care begins with self-love. It begins with asking yourself what you need for a more balanced, satisfying and healthy life, and then listening to the answers. It requires attentive care to your, physical, financial, intellectual and emotional health and wellness. It’s about doing what’s best for you even if, or especially when, others won’t.

I think one mistake we make is expecting self-love to be easy. Being loved feels great, right? What could be so hard about giving that to yourself? One reason is believing that love doesn’t count if it comes from yourself. Think about that for a moment. If the loving care you give to others is good for them, why isn’t it just as good for you?

Another reason is that love isn’t just something you say, or feel. Love is what you do, it requires actions that are sometimes an effort. In fact, there are times that loving somebody can be downright hard work.

How much of your loving behavior for family and friends requires effort? A good deal of it, I bet. How much are you requiring from them? If you find yourself thinking or saying it’s easier to just do it myself, to go without, or to put up with it, eventually you’ll be doing it all, getting nothing, and putting up with everything.

Is it really easier to do all the housework yourself because your spouse, or roommate, or kid doesn’t do it right? Hell yes – for them! And don’t think they don’t know that.

When you fall into bed, exhausted every night, does it really feel easier on you to let your kids’ bedtimes slide, rather than setting expectations and doing the work of establishing routines and enforcing boundaries so that you could have an hour or so of quiet time every evening?

Are you making and taking opportunities to love your self, or are you always putting others needs ahead of yours? We frown on the selfish narcissist always putting themselves first, but honestly, is it any worse than the opposite extreme—the self anointed martyr perpetually sacrificing themselves on the altar of service to others?

With the exception of your own parents (maybe, if you were lucky to get good ones), given normal life circumstances, nobody is going to make your needs a priority if you don’t.


Self-Care*Self-Love 30 Day Challenge

September is national Self-Care month. See my thoughts on the intersection of Self-Care and Self-Love and then join in the challenge. In what ways can you give yourself at least as much love as you give to others, and honor your need for self-care?

Follow along here for a new challenge posted each day.
Or follow me on Instagram @mad_goddess1 &
On Twitter @SimpleWitchery

Share your responses on social media using #SimpleSelfCare and #MADGoddess

September 1 ~ In what ways do you claim time and space for your #selfcare

September 2 ~ We aren’t what we eat, but food fuels our function. In what simple way can you incorporate healthy eating into your daily meals?

September 3 ~ Toot your own horn, bang your own drum, throw yourself a parade. Celebrate your awesome self! Share your favorite song to pump you up!

September 4 ~ Water is Life. Show us how you love your healthy body by staying hydrated. Share a pic of your favorite water, water bottle, etc.

September 5 ~ Feed your soul. Bring the beauty of the outdoors in. Do you have a green thumb for house plants? Do you gather fresh flowers to fill vases? Do you have a jar of pretty rocks or seas shells? Show us how you incorporate nature elements into your indoor space.

September 6 ~ Engage in your chosen community. TGIF. Fridays and Fall mean one thing – high school football. Take in a game, cheer on your home team, enjoy a cup of steaming cocoa on a crisp night under the lights.

Crowds aren’t exactly your cup of tea? Seek out smaller, safer community connections, like a book or hobby club, Invite your friends for a pot luck, or just beverages and conversation. If mobility, social anxiety or other concerns are in play, spend some time with your trusted online communities.

September 7 ~ Feed your mind. Learn something new today, work a crossword puzzle, or solve a Suduko. Visit your local public library, they offer so much more than books, like vents, classes, visual art exhibits and more. Or take in a local museum.

September 8 ~ The Holy No. How often to you find yourself talked into something you really didn’t want to do? Don’t offer lame excuses, just say no like you mean it. Explanations not necessary.

September 9 ~ Feed your spirit. Visit an art museum, a botanical garden, a planetarium or other place of beauty and inspiration.

September 10 ~ It’s okay to make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. You likely forgive your loved ones without being asked. Forgive yourself in the same measure.

September 11 ~ Your self worth does not depend on how much you do for others.

September 12 ~ Give yourself time out when you need it. Take a short break to do absolutely nothing. You might find it difficult at first, with everything that needs to be done running through your mind. Send it to voice mail, listen later.

September 13 ~ Move your body. Regular physical movement is maybe the most important factor in overall health. Even for those immobilized by injury or disease, physical therapy is considered vital. So move your can, or what you can, while you can.

Septemer 14 ~ Believe in yourself. Be your own cheerleader. Give yourself a pep talk. A little encouragement goes a long way.

September 15 ~ Get the sleep your body, mind and psyche need. You might think that’s 8-hours a night, but you’d be wrong. Turns out there is no research to support that number; it’s become part of the American culture because of . . . you guessed it, marketing. For most adults, anywhere from 6 up to 9 hours of sleep supports good health, while the average falls at 6.5 to 7 hours.

If you are or have raised children, you are well aware of how too little sleep affects their behaviors; they can be cranky, whiny, argumentative, inattentive, unable to concentrate and just plain difficult. Lack of sleep has the same effects on adults, though perhaps less noticeable to observers because we have developed impulse control. Whether you mask the effects of poor sleep or not, you still feel them, and they are telling you . . . get more sleep!

September16 ~ Do the things you enjoy, alone or with others.

September 17 ~ Just listen. We live in the age of opinion. Everybody has always had one, but not everybody always shared them. The 24/7 “so called news” networks have made an art of forming opinions on everything, and we’re following suit, maybe even feeling obligated to weigh in lest we appear apathetic. Whether giving or getting, it’s exhausting! You don’t have to have an opinion on everything—give it rest.

September 18 ~ Feed Your Spirit. Take a moment morning and evening for grounding and centering. There are numerous methods for doing this, including mundane, magical, and religious. Each evening, recall at least one thing your are grateful for. Before bed, imagine yourself disconnecting from activities and events of the day. Visualize a thread or cord connecting you to each, feel your relaxation deepen as you see the connections going dark, knowing you can turn them back on when you wake.

September 19 ~ A Breath of Fresh Air. Give your house or apartment of breath of fresh air on a breezy day. Open all the windows and doors and let the wind blow through your space. My mother used to do this every Saturday, even during the sub-zero winters in northern Wisconsin. Science now indicates this is the best way to rid your hom e of winter cold and flu viruses.

September 20 ~ Go soak yourself! True self care is about so much more than warm baths, wine and candles, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still indulge. Give your bath a detoxing boost by with Epsom’s salt, lavender and (or) mint essential oil, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide—for amounts and details read Ritual Bath for Purification. This combo is believed to help draw out toxins (skip the wine and drink and glass of water with lemon), and balance pH levels. When you’re done, wrap yourself in a robe and lie down (bed, sofa, recliner); feel what it means to be totally relaxed.

September 21 ~ Give yourself a day off. Life can be pretty hectic. With everything that has to be done, you can end up working, at you job, at home, taking care of family and meeting other obligations, all the time. For working adults, days off often mean catching up at home. Your mind and body need to rest. Schedule regular time, once a day, once a week, or one weekend a month, for nothing but leisure.

September 22 ~Something’s Gotta Give. If taking that day off leaves you thinking you’ll just have twice as much to do the next day, chances are you’re doing too much. Take inventory of everything you’re doing. Are there things that can be simplified? Are there ways to be more efficient? Is there anything you can let go?

September 23 ~ Just stop doing it all! How much are you doing for others that they could be doing for themselves? Are you a pleaser, a fixer . . . a door mat? Let’s face it, very few people are going to turn down an offer to lighten their load. And very few will return the favor. Generosity, kindness and a willingness to help others are all admirable qualities, but if you’re feeling stretched too thin, hoping and waiting for others to step in and help you, or just step up and help themselves, you’re probably doing too much for others and not enough for yourself.

September 24 ~ Ask for help. Sometimes there are just too many responsibilities one person can handle. Single parent, going to school, working full or part-time? Long commute taking up several hours of your day? Having to work more than one job? It’s okay to accept help. It’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

September 25~ Energetic Cord Cutting. We have energetic ties to all the people in our lives. The energy flows to and from, like the broadband connection we use for downloading and uploading through internet. Our connection to family and loved ones carries a heavier load back and forth. When the energy is good, it’s good for us. When the energy becomes negative, distressing, hurtful, it’s not so good for us. But we can control the bandwidth—we can open it wide, narrow it down, or cut it off, completely.

September 26 ~ Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish. Speaking of bandwidth—pull the plug on social media that’s causing you to stress out. Clean up your feed, cut your online time in half, or disconnect completely for regular periods of time. Your stress levels will go down.

September 27 ~ Indulge. Give yourself a treat, take yourself on a special date (or arrange one with a friend or loved one), buy that book you’ve been dying to read (and you’re 200 back on the library reserve list), or the certain art supply you’ve been drooling over. Eat dessert, take the trip, buy the shoes. Every now and then, break your rules.

September 28 ~ Volunteer. So many charities, service agencies, and community events require the help of volunteers. Do a good deed by lending your expertise, skill or helping hands. You’ll make social and/or professional connections while improving your community.

September 29 ~ Grow. Make a commitment to personal development. Take up a hobby, learn a new language, take dancing lessons, polish your public presentation skills (Toastmaster is a great way to master public speaking and it’s free!). If your live near a university, check out their community ed programs. Learn something new for a better you.

September 30 ~ Celebrate Your Accomplishments! You’v completed a month of self care, that’s cause for celebration. When you fail to celebrate accomplishments, you train your brain to diminish your efforts. Make a habit of celebrating — milestones, accomplishments, and small victories—especially the small victories.


I’m Picking Up Good Vibrations

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Even in 1966, when The Beach Boys were extolling the virtues of good vibrations, the power of positive thought was nothing new.

“Gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a-happenin’”

Beach Boys

Dale Carnegie wrote How To Win Friends and Influence People in 1936. It later became a course of personal improvement based on positive behaviors, hailed by business executives the world over. And it was Benjamin Franklin who wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanac, “Tart Words make no Friends: spoonful of honey will catch more flies than gallon of vinegar.”

More recently The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne (2006), took the premise of the law of attraction and ran with it, selling the idea (by way of 30 million copies of the book) that the vibrational frequencies of our thoughts go forth into the universe and fetch back like vibrations—positive thoughts attract positive results. 

It seems positivity also attracts nay-sayers. Lately my social media feeds are full of chatter decrying the scourge of toxic positivity and the harm it causes in the spiritual community. In my opinion, it’s fast becoming a one sided conversation driven by those who feel they are being pressured to mask behavior or personality traits seen as negative, in order to be accepted.

In polite society, there are certain conventions regarding behaviors generally thought to be offensive. Let’s face it, you probably don’t burp, fart, or pick your nose in public regardless of how pleasurable it may be for you, or because you do it at home all the time and shouldn’t have to change who you are to be accepted. You know good and well such behaviors will draw criticism and avoidance.

Where does your right to act or speak as you feel, come up against my right to not be offended—or even feel uncomfortable? How does your comfort level, trump mine? Frankly, if your attitude is bumming me out, what compels me to engage with you?

If I see one meme a day, I see twenty, declaring that the poster is not a phony or fake and if you can’t take them as they are it’s your problem not theirs. But it’s not my problem at all. I can walk or click away, and maybe you don’t care if I do. Great, we’re both getting what we want. If it’s my page or my group, I can ask you to get with the program or leave. That’s when you cry foul.

Own Your Own Crap

Everybody certainly has the right to act and speak as they feel. However, there is no protected right to impose your true self on those who choose not to participate in the exchange, in real life or on social media.

I’m married to a man who sees his world through a lens of negativity—he points out everything that he sees as wrong, somehow lacking, below standard, or otherwise irritating to him. Whether or not his constant negative commentary is justified (by chronic pain, life threatening illness, profound grief over the loss of his only son, and probably complicated PTSD) is irrelevant. He chooses to focus on these things, and by verbalizing it in an endless stream of complaining, he imposes it on me. It’s exhausting, sometimes maddening, sometimes unbearable. I’m constantly shielding and deflecting his behaviors. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about what the stress levels are doing to my own health.

I married him, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. More importantly I love him and have compassion for his struggles. I’m no saint, he tolerates a lot too—probably not the least of which is my incessant positivity. I’m not walking away. I choose to put up with his crap, which is one reason I won’t tolerate yours—I’m already fulfilling my quota, thank you.

We live in expanding rings of community, with self at the center, surrounded by family, then friends, work groups, social groups, and so forth. The further you move from the center, the more you have to moderate your behavior to get along in a crowd.

Being told that you are a buzz kill, a kill joy, a Debbie downer, a gloomy Gus, a drain, an energy vampire, a pessimist, or any other epithet denoting negativity is not toxic positivity. At the other end of the scale are the Chatty Cathy’s, the Pollyanna’s, those accused of being naive, sticking their head in the sand, being in denial, wearing rose colored glasses, too loud, too hyper, told to tone it down, take it down a notch . . . all for being too optimistic. 

I have heard every one of those at times in my life. Does it sting? Oh my, yes. Could it be said with more tact, maybe compassion? Yes, certainly. Does it cause me to moderate how I act? With some people, in some places, yes. I’m pretty sure that’s a lesson in social awareness. 

Accusations of toxic positivity as I most often see them, are a misnomer at best. It’s an umbrella term covering the new age, love and light, power of attraction schools of thought that abound in personal development, healing arts, and spiritual practice from witchcraft to evangelical Christianity. A few recognized thought leaders include Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, and Joel Osteen, minister of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.

I mention these three because all have drawn criticism from their detractors and contemporaries both. Williamson is being called a whacka-doodle, Robinson has been held up as a snake oil salesman of the worst kind, and Osteen is accused of bypassing the scripture of fire and brimstone to preach a false gospel of prosperity and positivity—despite heading up the fastest growing non-denominational Christian congregation in the United States. 

I’m not here to debate the validity or value of these self appointed gurus’ offerings. I don’t necessarily subscribe to their pitches. For all the followers, there are as many haters. It boils down to a cup of tea—maybe it’s your cup of tea, or maybe it’s not. Offering you a sip is not the same as forcing it down your throat. If it feels that way, maybe you should reconsider hanging out with people who think it’s the nectar of the gods.

This is not to say that toxic positivity does not exist. At its core, toxic positivity is a problem of insensitivity and lack of compassion. Telling a clinically depressed person to cheer up, or suggesting they wouldn’t need medication if they just tried to be more positive is not only insensitive, it’s just plain ignorant. As is telling members of marginalized and minority communities, where systemic discrimination blocks upward mobility and success, that they need to stay positive and try harder.

Equally toxic is the implied (or direct) suggestion that if positive thought brings positive results negative thoughts attract negative results. Of course, that’s utter nonsense. As Rabbi Harold Kushner put fort in his best selling book, bad things happen to good people all the time. It’s nobody’s fault, it is not some divine punishment, it is not the action of a vengeful God or gods, or the powers that be.

  • Fact #1: Good and bad things happen all the time.
  • Fact #2: These things happen as a result of our decisions and actions.
  • Fact #3 These things happen through indirect forces we have no control over.
  • Fact#4 All three of the above facts can co-exist; no one is no more true than the other.

What About The Exceptions

Does positive thought have any efficacy at all, then? I choose to believe it does. 

There’s this funny little quirk of our brain and how it processes information—it’s not so good at distinguishing between real and make-believe. For example, watch a scary movie and you’ll feel your pulse quickening and your heart racing. Your body systems are also being flooded with stress hormones preparing the body to flee or stand and fight. All of this happens even as you repeat to yourself, “it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie.”

The same glitch has been used by competitive athletes for decades, under the headings of self fulfilled prophesy and mental conditioning. An olympic skater might go over their routine a thousand or more times in their mind, imagining each glide, spin, jump and landing, envisioning perfection in every detail, willing it to happen just that way.

Even the practice of making vision boards, providing a constant visual reminder of what you want to manifest, fools your mind into thinking it’s already a reality. Though you may not be consciously aware of it, you begin to make choices and act in ways that facilitate your goals. Or even more simply, the familiarity of the images compels you to have those things in real time. Whichever it is, I’ve manifested a good many material things in my life by first attracting them with thought.

Diversity in personality and behavior is one of the things that makes us all unique. Fly your freak flag, or your grump flag, or your love and light, positive attraction, unicorn pooping rainbows flag, and allow others to do the same. Maybe don’t join a camp if you don’t feel allegiance to its flag.


Wishcraft or Witchcraft — The Power of Intention

I’m facilitating my Self CARE™ program of personal development for a closed Facebook group focused on healing of body, mind and spirit. It’s bringing me all the way back to my days as a health and wellness coach, and my blog,  Living Well, Body – Mind – Spirit.

I didn’t identify as a witch 20-some years ago. I was spiritual—delving into metaphysics and all the possibilities in the universe. I believed then, as I do now, that there was “something” to the power of attraction. I made vision boards, I filled journals, read all the books and listened to all the tapes for manifesting the life of my dreams.  

Now, after learning the craft of the witch, I see the intersection of wishcraft and witchcraft, even though the two are not one-in-the-same.

My definition of witchcraft may be different that yours, and it ever evolves the more I learn and practice. As a newbie, I can remember being disappointed that while there might be a secret club (many of them, in fact), there were no mystical secrets, no arcane words foreign to my ear, to be passed on, allowing me to unlock the power of real magick. At least not the kind of secrets I envisioned—where the knowledge, or the words, or the tool, would be imparted and instantly I would be able to change physical matter, levitate things (or myself), light a candle with mere thought, or be able to turn an enemy into a toad.

It’s almost embarrassing now to believe I even hoped that was possible, but I was at a place in my life where I felt completely powerless. I just wanted to make it all go away as soon as possible—poof! I say almost embarrassing, because this is the crossroad where so many of us choose the path of the witch.

Eventually, I began to see witchcraft as a practice, a skill that improves with dedication and experience. Still, something was missing from the equation. Now (over the past year or so), I’ve deepened my understanding of witchcraft to be a practice of personal power that comes from personal development. I’ve come around full circle, back to the basics of coaching. 

Desire + Intention + Action = Successful Outcomes.

But that isn’t witchcraft. Or, is it?

In 2000 my marriage of 23 years ended in divorce, my world was upside down, my future was unsure and the last thing I felt was that I had any control in my life.

Each morning before getting ready for work, I’d sit on the wide, raised hearth of the fireplace drinking coffee and making check lists. Most of them were straight forward chores, cleaning, painting, removing overgrown shrubbery, making flower beds—all things to make my new place feel like home. When I checked the items off a list, I tucked it into an envelope with others I’d completed. Seeing the packet grow thicker over time gave me a feelingI of accomplishment and confidence.

I started a wish list that included things like, new carpeting, remodeled kitchen, potting shed, potager garden, sunroom addition, gas fireplace insert, and more. My mother would have called my list pipe dreams, because I had no idea how I was going to make any of it happen. 

About the same time, I jumped onto the power of attraction bandwagon. Among other books in the genre, I read The Circle: How The Power of a Single Wish Can Change Your Life, by Laura Day. Much of the book’s contents fades from my memory, other than the objective to write a description of my perfect life.

I wrote of a small cottage in a, quiet waterside community, where I would spend my days writing, in a cozy room tucked under the eaves. I’d shop at the market for the evening meal, that I’d share with my spouse. We’d go for walks or ride our bikes, smile and wave as we passed by others, knowing most everybody we saw—a storybook existence, to be sure. I wrote it in great detail, including the style of the house and furnishings, the shops in the village, the colors of the sunrise and sunset, and everything that happened each day between those hours.

I was a middle-aged divorced mom still raising the youngest of three daughters, running around like the proverbial chicken, but trying to keep my head on. Looking back, that morning hour of list making and wishing was my instinctual way of tending to myself. The completed lists of everything I was doing, even if it was just remembering to buy groceries, do the laundry, and pay the bills on time, were reassuring me that I was capable, that I would make it on my own. The wish lists for my future were a promise to myself that I could still have everything I dreamed of—I wasn’t a failure and it wasn’t too late.

Life carried on as it does. I remarried, I went to work and came home every day. My youngest daughter grew and left the nest, she and her sisters all did what children do, built a life of their own. Routine days and milestones passed and I took it all in stride. At some point, I ran across those early wish lists, tucked into an envelope, slipped into one of my journals, forgotten.

Or so I thought. As I looked over the lists, and then read the description of my dream life, I was astounded to see how much of it had come to pass, without having consciously thought about it and in ways I never expected. I am still in the very same home, and though I envisioned something quite different, I realize I have almost everything I wrote in that description, vine covered cottage included.

Did I make it all happen?  Of course I did; I made the choices and took the steps. But success isn’t always that easy. Many, many people want things they never get, many try only to fail. Far too many are blocked by institutionalized disadvantage, discrimination, and oppression . . . and yet there are those who overcome.

The power of thought is limitless. I like to remind people that everything in this world that did not spring forth naturally, began first with a thought; everything made by man or beast exists by the intention to manifest a thought into being.

But thoughts work in the opposite way as well. There is a common misconception about aerodynamics and the bumblebee, with wings too small to keep its chubby body aloft. It’s been used over and over again to inspire determination. And, it turns out to be wrong. Bumblebees move their wings in a different pattern that indeed makes flight not only possible, but scientifically sound. So there goes the inspiration, right?

Perhaps, but think about it this way. What if the bumblebee had listened to all the bad press, and formed the thought that it was true, that it couldn’t possibly fly and so didn’t. The only single thing keeping it from flight would be its own thought form—it’s belief and acceptance of something completely false.

My mentor is talking a lot about thought forms, exploring the idea that everything in our personal existence is a creation of our thoughts manifest in form. That’s a very simplistic way to frame her concept—it’s not an easy one to wrap my brain around, and I have no idea if it’s valid or not, but I’m traveling down the track with her. 

How much of what I believe to be true and irrefutable is really a result of the thoughts I form around it? Does the placebo effect prove this out? In a limited fashion, yes. But if I’m diagnosed with a fatal disease, can I think it away? If not, how do we explain those rare cases of people who have survived against all odds? A miracle, yes, but are miracles necessarily divine intervention from some unknown and powerful source? If that’s the case, the seeming arbitrary determination of who deserves miracles and who is passed over is troublesome to me. 

As a witch who stands loud and proud for social justice and equal rights for all, I have to walk this tight rope carefully. Saying the power of desire plus intention is limitless— if we can find the key to unlock it—is one thing. Saying we can wish all our troubles away if we just think positive is another. One is a willingness to explore the possibilities and put in the effort (practice, practice, practice) and the other is toxic positivity.

For now, I’m willing to believe that my thoughts have power beyond my current understanding. I’m willing to put forth the required work in action, and explore the possibilities. I’ll never know if I don’t try, and really, what can it hurt?


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