Hey!!! Don’t Touch My Donut!

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I cried when I found out I would not be able to eat Krispie Kreme donuts anymore.

When I say I cried, what I really mean is –  I had an all out kicking and screaming, laying on the floor, bottom lip out, temper tantrum. (No, I wasn’t a little kid – I was well into my 30’s.) I followed that heroic scene up with a whole lot of denial, anger, and depression. I ate three extra donuts that week. And Mac and Cheese. And a bagel. And some pizza. I’m sure there was more, but you get the idea.

It’s a little embarrassing to admit the extent of my dismay at being told I had a gluten allergy – but there it is.

I’d been suffering through pain on a daily basis for over two years at that point.

Migraines

Muscle Aches

Sensitivity to Light

Joint Pain

Extreme Exhaustion

Back Pain

Knee Pain

Dry, Itchy Skin

Gross, Brittle Hair

I felt like a mess, inside and out.

I’d been told by my primary care physician I had hypothyroidism but my hormone levels had been stabilized in the normal range, so I should’t be feeling bad anymore.

He said, and I quote, “Your thyroid levels are fine. I can’t find any other medical reason for what you’re describing. I’ll prescribe you a migraine medication. Take that and good luck to you.” He was a bit put off by my insistence, as if I were a hypochondriac or a cry baby.

I walked out of his office thinking – Good Luck? Seriously? How many years of medical school and your best answer for what’s going on with me is a migraine pill and a Good Luck wish?

Are You Fucking Kidding Me?

To his credit, I’m sure he was just as frustrated as I was. I’d been to his office several times over complaining of exhaustion, achy-ness, and a general feeling of ‘blah’.  He’d run a battery of blood tests that all came out healthy. He was an old-school doctor and a gluten allergy probably never once crossed his mind, let alone the phenomena of Spiritually waking up.

The conversation I had that day – moreover – the doctor’s moment of outward irritation at not being able to help me –  sparked the beginning of my Spiritual journey into food. I went home and immediately began to research homeopathic doctors in my area.

A few weeks later, with the help of my new doctor, I received the news about my gluten allergy. Once I got over the initial drama of being told I had to change the way I ate, I embarked on a decade long odyssey into the metaphysics of food.

First and foremost, I wanted to understand why I was reacting to food so adversely in my body. The simple answer to that is: Most of the food I was eating wasn’t actually food. It was drugs made to look like food. Excellent. Not only was I allergic to donuts, I was also a drug addict.

You know the meth and ecstasy “pills” that look like skittles and gummy bears? Yeah, well, food’s like that, too.

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Let’s take sugar for example. Studies show that sugar has the exact same effect on the brain as cocaine. So, if you wouldn’t do a line of coke off your kitchen table, why in the hell would you eat a teaspoon of sugar? Crazy, right?

Let’s think about that. Why do we eat sugar? We eat it because it’s a drug and we’re addicted to it. It’s in most processed food in one form or another and it’s been marketed to us since birth. As sugar addicts, our brains become hardwired to seek out the very chemical (sugar) that creates the dopamine reaction in our systems that make us feel – at least temporarily – good.

We all know about the sugar high, right?  It’s called a high for a reason.

Like any drug – the initial ‘high’ feels good. In our stressed out, over stimulated, pain-inducing lives, that ‘feel good high’ is hard to give up.

That’s why changing the way you eat isn’t just about changing the way you eat. It’s about withdrawing from the drug addiction you’ve developed from the food you’re used to eating.

Mentally replace the words on any food label from:

‘sugar’  to  ‘drug’

‘aspartame’  to  ‘drug’

‘maltodextrin’  to  ‘drug’

‘high fructose corn syrup’  to  ‘drug’

‘red (or yellow, or blue) food dye’  to  ‘drug’

‘any long word you can’t pronounce and know is not food’  to  ‘drug’

Go ahead. Grab a packaged food or two from your kitchen and experiment. How many times do you say the word ‘drug’ when you’re reading off the ingredients on your boxes of cereal and your jars of spaghetti sauce? My guess is, way more than you thought you would.

That’s why it’s so hard to go on a diet and modify the way you eat.

Failing a diet or giving in to a craving isn’t just a moment of weakness brought on by your inability to maintain self control. If it were really that simple, the diet industry wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar a year business.

There is so much more to it than just ‘putting the donut down’ –  Especially in the beginning of your food awareness journey.

Not only are you eliminating your traditional comfort foods and desserts, you’re also detoxing from the drugs in those foods.

This process takes time, patience, love, compassion, and grace. It really is a “12 step program” and it requires that you develop a Spiritual relationship with your food.

When we talk – as Reiki Masters and Shaman and Spiritual Healers – about the Waves of Ascension and/or the Spiritual Awakening of our time, what we are referring to is being aware of the Spiritual connections between who we are and what we do. We are connected Spiritually to every act we commit whether we are conscious of it or not.

Eating, something we do multiple times a day, is no exception. We are Spiritually connected to the food we eat.  Everything we are able to consume as humans for the benefit (or detriment – in the modern diet) of our health has a Spirit- or an energy. Drugs, be they synthetic or plant based, also have an energetic force – or – Spirit. From a quantum perspective, the Spirit, or energy of the food or drug we take into our bodies, creates a resonating pattern of energy in every bone, muscle, joint, tendon, and cell. In fact, it reduces down energetically to affect even the amino acids in our DNA.

We do, literally, become what we eat – physically, mentally, and Spiritually. Our brains help us out. They create dopamine receptors that consciously seek out the drugs in the foods we consume. It’s as if we grow energetic antennae that tune in to the things we’re putting into our bodies to sustain our life force. If we’re hardwired to seek out sugar, that’s what our bodies will crave. If we’re hardwired to seek out lettuce – salad will make our mouths water.

It is that simple and that complicated.

The only way to make lasting, long term changes to your diet is to bring Spiritual awareness to your food choices.

One of the easiest ways to do that is to say the following words every time you choose to eat something:

“This is the healthiest choice I can make right now for my body.” 

Then, trust yourself. Your Soul (Spirit, Higher Self, Connection to the Universe) will automatically become aware of what you are doing. Perhaps on day one, a donut is the healthiest choice you are capable of making. But it won’t always be. Down the road, your choices will become better for you. The more you practice this exercise, the more your Spirit begins to pay attention to and resonate with your desire to be healthy. Your body and brain withdraw from food chemicals, dyes, and additives. You develop new ‘energetic antennae’ that are more attuned to the life force of healthier foods. Your body begins to repair and rebuild itself.

Mine did.

Now, I can get through entire days at a time without crying over donuts and I rarely suffer from migraines.

If you are consistantly in pain, my first suggestion is that you take a good, hard look at what you’re eating. If you can go to the doctor for a work up on your individual food allergies, please do! Then, stop eating what you’re allergic to.  Begin to replace processed food-like products with fresh, whole foods. Eliminate sugar as much as possible, and explore your Spiritual relationship with food.

Check out these articles for more information about the effects of sugar on the brain:

http://mic.com/articles/88015/what-happens-to-your-brain-on-sugar-explained-by-science#.gfugUtpVN

http://www.macrobiotics.co.uk/sugar.htm

For more information about gluten allergies and Celiac disease:

https://celiac.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Am I Always In Pain?

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I felt like shit for a long time.

Seriously – Like dog poo on a sidewalk in 100 degree weather.

The pain in my body was harsh. It made me feel overwhelmed and tired. My joints ached. My head hurt. My back was a cantankerous bitch. My stomach was bloated. I cried a lot.

I went to doctor after doctor trying to find the source of my pain. All I wanted was to put an end to the migraines and muscles aches, the bone crushing exhaustion, the frustration and anger over a body that was shutting down.

I couldn’t figure it out. The only thing medically ‘wrong’ with me was low thyroid function and a gluten allergy.

I went on thyroid medication and stopped eating gluten – which helped. However, there were still times when the pain in my body dropped me to my knees and had me crying out to any god or goddess who would listen.

Sometimes it was so bad I would have conversations with the Universe, letting the powers that be know I was ok if it was time for me to die. I mean that literally. There were times I was in so much physical pain I was begging to be let out of my body.

I don’t mean I was suicidal – not at all. I love my life, my family, and myself. I want to live a good life. I simply understood that a person can only take so much pain before they break down psychologically. Some part of me knew that if the gods had decided it was my time to be set free from my physical suffering, I would be able to do it gracefully and with gratitude.

Of course, the gods saw fit for me to live through my experiences, and to write about my transformation.

There is a lot of information out there about ‘The waves of Ascension’ and what that means for humanity. You can research the terminology if you are unfamiliar with the concept. You’ll find pages of information about signs, symptoms, messages from ascended masters, etc.

What I haven’t found very much of are personal accounts of what actually happens in the physical body, personal lives, and relationship patterns of people who are physically experiencing and living through the ascension process.

Last year, when my Soul cracked open, I began a rapid Spiritual ascent. In layman’s terms, I evolved my Spirituality in a way that helped me understand my physical pain.

All of a sudden, years of suffering began to make sense.

Long story short, I was allergic to my life. Being extremely empathetic, I was having an adverse reaction to society and the way humans interact with each other.

I was allergic to my food, my job, the vast majority of people I encountered, my thoughts, my beliefs, the news media, pop culture, the way I carried my energy body – you name it – nothing was working for me on a physical level. Oh, and by the way, I did go to church last year, and yes, I was allergic to that, too!

The odd and curious thing about all of it, however, was that I wasn’t emotionally overcome by the misery of my pain. Physically, yes, I was suffering immensely. But emotionally, I was ever ready to embrace joy and healing. I wanted to find a way to be comfortable in my body and feel genuinely happy. I think we all do.

It sounds ridiculous to say I was allergic to my life, but bear with me.

As human egos, we are inflamed. Our current social condition is one of great stress. The stresses of society become the stresses of our bodies. Anyone who is empathetic understands this – and everyone is becoming empathetic. Look at all the autoimmune diseases cropping up en mass. Lupus, Hashimotos, Fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis – the list is long. In addition, depression, social anxiety, and other emotional disorders have simply become commonplace among the human condition.

Our central nervous systems are on overdrive and we are being forced, as a collective whole, to deal with what we’ve done to ourselves.

Quantum Physics is beginning to give us a scientific understanding of how to energetically work with our stressors.  We can heal directly within our physical bodies via therapies like Reiki, Cranial Sacral, Yoga, mediation, and other Spiritual healing techniques in ways where western medicine falls short.*

Right now, the process of working directly with the quantum physics of human anatomy  feels new and extremely uncomfortable. Many of us doing the work first hand – meaning those of us who are suffering through the pain of a modern day life – are not doctors, or therapists, or scientists. We’re simply people who want to stop feeling like poop on a sidewalk in August.

It’s possible to work through it. It’s possible to find a way into a pain-free, graceful, peaceful existence.

I’m doing it. Step by step. Day by day. You can do it, too.

The first step is awareness. What is the biggest source of stress in your life?  Whatever comes to mind is the right answer.

If you can name it, you can begin to work with it. That’s where the healing starts and the pain begins to ease.

 

*I’m not suggesting an abandonment of conventional medicine by any means. In fact, if you are fortunate enough to have access to the human right of quality health insurance and a doctor – seek medical attention whenever necessary.*

 

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A Druidic Witch Goes To Confession: Part Three

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It took only 10 minutes for me to find Todaji Temple once I saw the map on the side of the building.  I was surprised to see it open in the storm. I payed for a ticket at a small booth occupied by a middle aged Japanese man huddled on a stool. He spoke only a few words of English – “Your ticket please, thank you.” 

“Arigatou.” I replied, bowing my head while I thanked him. 

The steps to the temple were thick and tall. I climbed them carefully in the rain. I walked through the ancient wooden doors of the dimly lit temple. Three huge statues embodied most of the building along with a singular wooden altar stretching the full length of the space.  I shared the temple with a small Japanese woman. She was kneeling in front of one of the giant Buddhas, praying intensely. 

There was an ancient sacredness within Todaji Temple. It engulfed me the moment I stepped inside. The smell of over 1400 years of incense, sweetened by the dampness of the typhoon, caressed my skin as it made its way into my pores. It settled on my tongue as I inhaled, allowing me to taste the divinity of generations past. I could hear the whispers of the ancestors as they prayed forward their desires for peace, harmony, and love. Todaji Temple sheltered me not only from the raging storm outside, but from the fear and doubt of my own heart.  It made me feel somehow ‘found’ after the panic and despair of being lost in a strange city in the middle of a typhoon. 

This is what I wanted from Jesus. This is why I went to confession. This is why I was trying so hard to make a connection with the priest sitting in front of me. I wanted to be surrounded by the holy sacredness I felt in Todaji Temple. I wanted to be held in generations of prayer. I wanted to feel as intimately connected to God – to the divinity of the space I occupied – to nature – to my body – to my life, my family, my work – to my everyday life – as I did in that moment in Japan.

I looked at the priest and wondered – How can there be so much fear in the heart of a man who has dedicated himself to God?  It engulfed him as he continued to clench his hands around his knee while looking at the floor.

“I’ve done a lot of things in my Spiritual life the Catholic church would consider sinning.” I admitted, getting to the heart of a true confession “I’ve prayed to the old pagan gods, I became a Druid, I’ve spent time with women who call themselves Witches, and I studied Shamanism. I celebrate Yule and the Summer Solstice. I do most of my praying outside while dancing around fires. But, to be honest, none of it feels like sinning.”

The priest’s gaze shifted as I spoke the last sentence. He looked directly at me for the first time since I sat down.

“I think spirituality has less to do with what church you go to and more to do with why you’re going there in the first place.” I said. “I’ve spent my life looking for a loving connection to God. I’ve travelled half way around the world and back to find it. I don’t want what I find to be full of fear or shrouded by a Devil. I want it to be meaningful and inspiring. I want it to bring me peace.”

The priest softened his posture and nodded his head as he considered my dialogue. I appreciated his willingness to engage with me – to try to find something redeemable in a self-proclaimed Druidic Witch. It was a stretch for him, but he was brave and admirable in his priestly robes, and he allowed the confession to continue without trying to stop me or correct my thoughts.

“I want to find a connection with Jesus that doesn’t require a contemplation of the Devil or a denial of the rest of my Spiritual identity…”

My voice trailed off as I pondered what I’d just said. I could hear the wistfulness in my voice as I spoke. The underlying sadness of a spiritual life led in the absence of this man’s God, the first God I’d ever known, permeated the air between us.

It was the crux of the crack in my soul – the dividing principle that kept me in perpetual Spiritual limbo. I’ve prayed as a pagan to so many other gods, feeling the full divinity of those experiences. Why was it so hard to find the same connection with Jesus?  The little Catholic girl in me cowered at my thoughts while the eclectic spiritual adult demanded answers.

“I don’t feel evil.” I said, looking directly at the priest. “I’m not evil.” I shifted my gaze to the window again, allowing my statement to fill the room. “I’m just a woman who wants to spend some time with Jesus.”

I knew he was still afraid of me. Yet, he did his best to overcome his fear so as to offer me comfort and engage in my dialogue. “Perhaps you would be a good bridge,” he said, “between Christians and Pagans. If what you say is true, if your story is simply one of finding a path to God, perhaps it is not the path of a bad person. I think there are bridges of understanding you could build between people.” He drew my attention back to his face as he spoke. “If you are dedicated to finding love and finding a loving connection to God,  I would have to agree by saying I also do not think you are evil.”

A sigh escaped me and I thanked him. I grew up believing it was every good Catholic’s first order of  business to find the evil parts of her Soul. The parts the Devil got ahold of, or would if she stepped out of line, and admonish herself through prayer until all that evil was gone.  It was refreshing to hear a priest speak to the peaceful side of communion without abashing the human experience surrounding it. It gave me hope for the morning mass I wished to attend. It made me feel that perhaps I could go back to church – back to Jesus.

“I came here mostly to confess what and who I am to you, and to ask your permission to attend church tomorrow.” I said, allowing my voice to silence my doubt. My pagan instincts knew that, for whatever reason, Jesus wanted me to go back to church. I resolved to do so with an open mind and an open heart.

“Yes, you can.” he replied as he steered the conversation toward the conclusion of my confession.

I ended with a few Hail Mary’s and left the church wondering what mass would feel like after a 30 year hiatus.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Druidic Witch Goes To Confession: Part Two

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I looked out the window and thought about my confession. Chairs, candle holders, and music stands huddled impatiently against the walls behind me, making the room feel even smaller and more closet-like. The priest fidgeted nervously as he prayed to his God to help him solve the crisis of a witch in his confessional.

I cleared my throat and began another round of trying to explain my Spirit to the man sitting in front of me.

“I left the church when I was young because I was afraid of the Devil.” I turned my head away from the window, allowing my gaze to slowly return to the priest’s face.  “When I say afraid, I mean my soul felt tortured. That’s why I stopped going to church. In fact, I stopped doing anything spiritual for years.”

I was obsessed with my fear as a young teenager. I prayed myself to sleep night after night, hoping that when I woke up, I would still be a good girl. A girl God loved and would protect from evil.

“I hid from God as much as I hid from the Devil.” I continued.  “I was too afraid to allow anything religious to cross my mind for a long time. Essentially, I became atheist.”

The priest furrowed his brow as I spoke about my abandonment of God. I knew he considered it sinful, but for me, being atheist allowed my soul to rest. It put distance between me and my fear of God. It was a soothing pause in an otherwise tumultuous road toward salvation.

“When I was able to start thinking about Spirituality again, I started seeking out connections to God that were loving and positive. I wanted my God to be a loving God, – or Goddess.” I added with a pause. The corners of my mouth turned slightly upward as my face softened.

The priest sat back in his chair, allowing the implication of a female deity to slip past him. I was left to decide if he was humoring a Pagan misconception he’d expected to hear or  if he was irritated by the thought that the crude, heathen woman in front of him was too uncivilized to understand the magnanimous nature of God. A God who transcended human genitalia. He countered this with an undertone that if God were a person, he would be male – The Bible proved it with Jesus.

I kept speaking under the stern, watchful eye of the priest. “I started reading about Spirituality in different cultures. I went to a few Native American ceremonies. I taught myself how to read Tarot cards and studied numerology. I eventually enrolled in a Druid Mystery School where I learned about Shamanism and how to create a Spiritual connection with nature. I met a group of witches during my Druid studies who taught me how to do spell work and magic.”

Magic. Witch. Druid. Spell. The words hung in the air like thorns. I wondered, as I watched the priest resume his silent prayers, if Jesus was answering him as definitively as Buddha had answered me in Japan.

… I stood on the street in Nara, Japan, crying and praying as the seriousness of my situation creeped its way into my bones. My traveling companion, a woman in a wheelchair with limited mobility and medical needs,  was alone in her bed at the hotel. I had been walking in a typhoon for over two hours. I was lost. I couldn’t speak the language. I had no idea how to get help and I was on the verge of hysteria.  

I prayed to Buddha with an earnestness I’d never felt before. I prayed because I was lost.  Not just a little lost, but half-way-around-the-world-in-the-middle-of-a-storm-with-no-one-to-talk-to-and-no-way-to-get-home lost. I prayed because someone’s life depended on it. I prayed because every human resource I’d ever developed for solving a crisis was rendered useless. I prayed because it was the only viable action I had left before giving up. 

“Please give me an answer. An actual, real, in my face, no mistaking it, answer.” I asked.

What makes God decide to answer prayers? I wondered. Is it urgency? Necessity? Worthiness? What if I get an answer I don’t like? What if the answer is that I never find my way back? 

I looked around as I repeated my plea, hoping the gods I prayed to would take pity on me. Would they offer this stranger any mercy or compassion? Would they guide me back to safety – To a place where everything feels ok again? 

I looked to my left and found my answer. A sign from Buddha letting me know he’d heard my prayers and chosen to help me.  He delivered it in the form of an actual, real, in my face, no mistaking it, 5′ by 7′ map painted on the side of the building next to me. On the map, in English, where the words, “You Are Here.” The words were accompanied by a white arrow pointing out my specific location, on a street, half way between the Buddhist Temple I’d been looking for and the hotel I couldn’t find.

Todaji Temple and the hotel I’d been staying at in Japan were only a few blocks away from each other. In fact, they were located on the same street. Yet, I’d spent two hours walking in circles in the middle of a typhoon unable to find either one of them.

I felt like this was my confession. The priest and I, each wandering around in the storms of our thoughts, looking for the right answers to give one another. Answers that would help the other Spiritually while allowing our individual Souls to remain undamaged. How do a witch and a priest talk safely to one another about God?

My experience with Buddha in Japan had been direct. He answered me clearly, concisely, and with no paraboles attached. Jesus was taking his time. He was allowing the priest and I to sweat it out.

How long will it take us to find common ground?

 

 

 

 

 

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Finding Buddha in a Typhoon

This blog is a series of posts that tell the story of one woman’s Spiritual experiences.  The story begins with The Day My Soul Cracked Open.
May you find your own moments of grace, healing, and love while enjoying her adventures.

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Rain came down like waterfalls from the clouds as I waded through the sidewalks of Nara, Japan. It ran in torrents across the pavement, washing over the tops of my sandales as it swirled toward the street. The force at which it collieded with the rivers rising up out of the storm drains created whirlpools and waves. It was raining so hard, water propelled itself at least three feet off whatever surface it happened to crash into. It felt like it was raining from the ground up just as hard as it was from the sky down.  The wind whipped wet sheets of air at me from all directions. I’d never experienced anything like it. The sky had simply opened, dropping nearly three feet of rain in 24 hours.

I would later learn that the typhoon over my head had swelled to a category five super storm while raging over the warm summer waters of the Pacific. Japan’s saving grace was a faltering eye-wall, dropping the sustaining winds down to the status of a category two typhoon a day before making landfall. The winds may have quelled, but the moisture this storm collected off the warm ocean waves didn’t spare the mainland a single drop of rain. It drenched everything in its path with the intensity of a dam bursting through its concrete confinement.

I was walking through the blistering rain looking for Todaji Temple, a 1400 year old structure housing three giant Buddha statues. It would be my only chance to explore one of the most ancient and historically significant sites Japan had to offer during my three week treck across the island nation.

I’d been hired by a woman* with a terminal illness making checkmarks on her bucket list. She was wheelchair bound with limited mobility and a host of medical needs. We’d been traveling for a week and a half on little sleep and even less food. I’d spent the previous ten days accompanying my companion on the marathon sprint of what she’d figured was the last vacation of her life.

I was dedicated to her care, knowing what this trip meant to her. I spent hours holding her upright in airplanes and train seats. I learned how to disassemble and reassemble her medical equipment. I moved and transfered her from chair, to bed, to bathroom, to shower, and back again. I ran along side her with aching legs and sagging shoulders, trying to keep up as she raced around the country in her  battery powered wheelchair. I hauled luggage and medical equipment through train stations and crowded sidewalks, doing the best I could to ensure she wouldn’t miss a single connecting leg of her journey.

I had the morning off. A rare break from the whirlwind of a woman trying to capture as much life as she possibly could in the short amount of time she had left. As much as I hesitated leaving her alone, she urged me to go. She was interested in modern day Japan. The Japan that offered easy movement via ramps and elevators. For her, modern Japan meant mobility. My main interest – histoical  Japan – meant stairs. Lots of them. Stairs were the nemesis of this vacation.  The inaccessible obstacles in her carefully planned adventure.

“Go!” She said. “There’s no point in you having to stay locked up in this hotel, too.” It was impossibe for her to do any sightseeing in the heavy rain. It would short out her wheelchair.

“Go see something I can’t. You deserve it. And take pictures!” She said as she yawned over her breakfast.

“I don’t know.” I countered tenatively, taking a sip of tea.

“Do you think you’ll have another opportunity to see a thousand year old giant Buddha in a thousand year old Japanese temple?” She asked as I fed her another bite of poached fish and rice.

“No.” I replied. “But the rain. It’s pouring out there. And I’m tired. I could just hang out here with you and take a nap.”

“Hey.” She said sternly. “Trust me. You can sleep when you’re dead. If you want to go see the temple. Go see the temple. Don’t let anything stop you. Not even a typhoon. Besides, it’s not raining that hard, is it?”  She grinned at me as she looked toward the window.

I’d started out with a map given to me by the non-English speaking clerk at the front desk of our hotel.  She’d outlined the streets with a pencil, waving her hands a bit while pointing directions in the air. Confident we’d somehow communicated effectively, I set out on my mini pilgrimage with a complimentary hotel umbrella and my Nikon d80. I’d gagued from her arm movements that I was to exit the hotel, walk straight for a while, then take two left turns and a right. From what I guessed, the temple would then magically appear right in front of me – at least that’s what I hoped would happen when I left that morning.

Not. Even. Close.

I’d been walking for over an hour through the drenched streets of a foreign city, lamenting the smeared pencil marks on my soggy map. My camera, wrapped in a plastic bag and tucked under my shirt, hung heavy around my kneck. I was soaked from head to toe. My umbrella, more useful as a shield for pushing through the howling wind than a covering to protect me from the assaulting rain, did its best not to crumble apart and blow away.

I contuined walking, finding myself in a residental part of the city. I moved past houses and rice patties, twisting and turning through the water logged streets. I found my way back to the business district, encountering a small, open restaurant in an otherwise desolate city. I stepped inside, hoping for a way to get directions from the old man behind the counter. It was impossible.  We had no way of understanding each other. Frustrated, I made my way back out in the storm. I did my best to retrace my steps, but visibility was limited in the onslaught of rain and recognizing landmarks was difficult.

I don’t know when, exacly, I started praying. Or crying for that matter. I was cold, hungry, and exhausted. The wet fabric straps of my sandles gnawed at my heals. My clothes stuck to my skin as I stumbled forward, finding footholds in the cement. The rain made the concrete slippery. I wondered how far down the street the water would carry me if I accidently slipped and fell in the gutters.

By then I’d been walking for over two hours. I’d given up all hope of finding the ancient temple or the giant Buddha. I was lost in a strange city, in the middle of a typhoon, half way around the world. I couldn’t communicate with anyone and I had no idea how to get back to my hotel. I’d left my traveling companion, a woman with limited mobility and complex medical needs, lying alone on a bed. The entire time I’d been walking I hadn’t seen a single police officer, hospital, or tourist information center.

I came to an abrupt stop in the middle of a city block as panic set in. I willed myself to remain calm as I struggled to hold on to my umbrella. I fought hard against the urge to drop to my knees and hyperventilate.  Wind lashed across my back and arms as rain continued to shoot off the sidewalk, pelting my legs like bee-bees. My body gave in to the trembling of desperation. My throat tightened as my breath became ragged.  I closed my eyes, lifting my head toward the sky. Cold rain and salty tears rolled down my cheeks. My body shook as I sunk deeper into the pit of fear.

What the hell do I do?

The question screamed through my body.

What do people do when there is nothing left to do? What do they do when they’re stranded in the middle of the storms of their lives, feeling lost, scared, alone, and powerless? What do people do when last remaining shreds of courage, fortitude, and determinaton begin to slip from their fingers?

They pray. Furiously.

Which is what I did. I let out a begging plea to the strange gods of a foreign land in one last, desperate attempt to find my way back to safety before completely losing my shit.

“Dear Buddha, Amaterasu, and any other Kami or Deva who’s listening. I know I’m not Buddist, or Shinto, or Japanese, or even Oriental, and I’ve never actually prayed to any of you before, but if you can hear me, please help me. Please tell me where I am and how to get back to my friend.”

I looked at the priest sitting in the chair across from me while trailing my fingers along the edge of the jar of holy water I’d collected earlier. I watched as he silently asked his God what to do with me.

In that moment, I realized I was his typhoon in the middle of Japan. I was the storm that blew into his church, knocking him off balance and forcing him to step a little deeper into the countenance of his faith.

Funny, how we both sat there, a little lost and a lot perplexed, trying desperately to find the common ground God required from us.

I glanced out the window before continuing with my confession.

*personal details have been changed to protect the anonymity of my traveling companion*

 

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A Druidic Witch Goes To Confession: Part 1

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I sat quietly in the pew while eight elderly parishioners filed into the church. One of them, a small woman wearing a white prayer scarf, smiled at me as her body began its crooked decent into a kneeling position. In a Catholic church, it is traditional to kneel at the side of the pew and make the sign of the cross before entering the row of benches. The woman’s hands, covered in dark spots and stiff with age, shook with the unmistakable cadence of Parkinson’s Disease. She closed her eyes as she reached first for her forehead, then the middle of her chest. She followed this with a gentle tap on each shoulder. Her body pitched forward as she fought to control her arms. I thought she might collapse and I moved to help her.

“No, no.” She whispered. “I’ll manage.”  I nodded at her as I settled back into my seat.

“Are you here for confession?” She asked as she sat down next to me.

“Yes.” I replied quietly.

“You’re first. Go on, now.” She said, waiving me forward with her quivering arms. I was keenly aware of the same sinking feeling in my stomach as I’d had the day my Druid teacher singled me out for my Bardic initiation. I glanced at the statues of Mary and Joseph as I walked toward the confessinal door. I tenatively grasped the gold plated door knob, taking a sharp inhale as I turned it to the right. I slowly pushed open the door.

The room felt like a large closet with windows. Late afternoon sun trailed down the walls in soft, white pools. One side of the room was used for storage while the other was dedicated to the purging of sins. On my left, candle holders, music stands, and folding chairs were arranged haphazardly against the walls, spilling out apologetically toward the middle of the room. To my right sat the priest. He was dressed in white robes with a purple prayer sash around his neck. He was much younger than I’d expected. His hands were clasped in front of his slender body, resting over the knee of his crossed leg. His hair had yet to show signs of grey and his skin held the elasticity of a man still in his prime. He felt elegant and refined against the wildness of my bristling Soul.

There were two ways to make confession – behind a small divider for the semblance of privacy or face to face.

“Where do I sit?” I asked.

“Wherever you’re most comfortable.” He replied, readjusting his posture as I cleared my throat.

I chose the option of sitting face to face. I nervously lowered myself into a simple metal chair with thin black vinyl cushions. I looked at the priest for a moment before reciting the words I’d memorized in second grade catechism. “Forgive me Father for I have sinned.” My voice felt thick and heavy with the guilt of a Catholic who hadn’t seen a priest for over half her life. “It’s been at least 30 years since my last confession.”

I paused, not knowing what to say next. I stared at the floor while my brain unraveled in a million different directions.

“What do you wish to confess?” The priest asked.

“Well…” I said, dragging the word slowly across my tongue while I figited in my chair. “I guess I want to confess that I’m a Druid and a Witch and I want to go to church tomorrow.” I raised my eyes to his face, studying his reaction.

It was his turn to look at the floor. He shifted again as he fought to maintain his composure. The bluntness of my confession caught him off guard. His knuckles turned white as he clentched his fingers tighter around his knee. I watched as fear traveled over him, tickling his skin like the legs of a thousand little insects.

It was a fear I knew all too well. Memories of sleepless nights spent clutching a rosary with a bible under my pillow and a cross on the wall above my head poured into the forefront of my consciousness. The little Catholic girl in me remembered the horror stories of witches and heretics and how they would burn in hell for all eternity for consorting with the devil.

“I grew up Catholic and I’ve always loved churches.” I spoke gently, trying to ease the tension in the room.

I spent the next few minutes explaining the twists and turns of my Spiritual path through Druidry, Shamanism, and Pagan Witchery. I watched the Priest’s face as my words filled the room. He was listening, thinking, trying his best to determine how to be both brave enough and safe enough to minister to the woman sitting in front of him. I did not begrudge his discomfort. After all, I was probably the first person to come into his church and openly admit to being a witch.

I finished speaking and waited for his response.

“The first thing that comes to mind are the Harry Potter books.” He said nervously.

“They talk about many of the same things you described.” He took a long, labored breath as he thought about what to say next.

“There are a lot of connotations around the word witch.” I replied, moving the conversation along a thin line between spiritual counseling and outright blasphemy. “It scares people, especially in the church. There’s a misconception in the Christian community that witches are evil and they do bad things. That’s not true. At least, it’s not true among the witches I know. Some of the kindest, most loving people I’ve met call themselves witches.”

“I see.” he said, eying me carefully. “I suppose it is a word that can be misinterpreted, and, as with Harry Potter, I suppose it’s possible to call yourself a  –  witch…”

He physically choked over the word. It scratched and clawed its way up his throat, coming out as a hoarse stutter in the small corner of his confessional. I could see how difficult it was for him to continue. To say things that might displease God in His holy house. He wore his struggle openly.

I admired him. I watched as he wrestled with his virtue, his faith, and his commitment as a priest to do the good Lord’s work. I imagined the questions forming in his head.

Why would God put a witch in front of me? What is His plan? Will He protect me? Will I succumb to temptation? What if I fail Him in this moment of doubt? 

All the Catholic worries I grew up with and the terror they inspired permeated the room. His fearful questions were my childhood nightmares. I knew them intimately.

I honored his courage. It took decades for me to heal from the religious trauma of my youth. When was the last time I felt as courageous as this man looked?  My mind dug out the memory of the day I found Buddah while walking through a typhoon.

 

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Christian Roots and a Pagan Crown

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The late afternoon sun created streams of multicolored light through the small windows near the front of the church. One of the rays rested quietly on the bare foot of a statue of Joseph hanging on the wall in front of me. He was holding the baby Jesus. A second statue of Mother Mary hung by his side. Beneath them was an altar of candles with a kneeler in front.

I took my jar of holy water and moved to stand before the kneeler, tilting my head up toward the feet of Mary and Joseph. I lit a candle, knelt down, and rested my head on the smooth wooden surface meant for the elbows of a praying woman.

I stared at the Easter lilies as tears rolled down my cheeks. My childhood self would have roamed the church, looking for Jesus under pews and around corners as if we were playing a special game of hide and seek. My adult self wondered what I’d say if I actually found him. Especially now.

Going to church as a child taught me about ritual and prayer as well as the concept of good versus evil.  I learned about the good fight between God and the Devil and how not to be a sinner.

Becoming a Druid brought my Spirituality to life. It allowed me to honor my body and my human experience. I remembered the first time I danced barefoot around a campfire to the sound of djembes and frame drums. There was something hauntingly primitive and primal in the way my body moved. It was my soul in its purest form of human expression. Druidy taught me how to fully embody my Spiritual communion with the Divine. It also gave me a Goddess.

For a child growing up in the Bible belt, the ability to pay homage to a fully empowered Goddess as an expression of Divinity was life-changing. My early ties to religion taught me I was born from the rib of a man whom I later betrayed. My betrayal caused his ruin, placing us both in disfavor with God. Our punishment together was the loss of Eden, my further punishment was to be cursed with menstruation and painful childbirth. I was taught my only hope for salvation was to become an obedient wife and mother – that this would be my most important duty as a Christian woman.

So I became a Pagan one instead. A wild, unapologetic, fully empowered, menstruating, breast feeding, daughter of the Earth. I celebrated my womb and the life I bore from it. I learned to love my body and accept my place as the Divine Feminine counterpart to God. I chose not to be subservient or obedient. I was not a child among men. I was a woman, and without me, humanity could not exist. I allowed myself to be powerful in my own right. I gave myself permission to enjoy being all the things men are not. To be what they cannot be. I took my place as a woman, not to punish men, or hate them, or try to prove myself to them. I took it because that is what I am meant to do. It is my divine birthright to be the female expression of humanity in its fullest, most empowered and impeccable form. It is my birthright to honor my body as sacred and holy.

I gazed up at the statue of Mary.

“Surely you must understand me.” I whispered to her. “How could you have given birth to divinity if you, yourself, were not divine.”

I wondered what it meant for her to be both the beloved mother of Jesus and the cursed daughter of Eve – the good and the evil – the sinner and the saint.

That moment – kneeling in a Catholic church, talking to Mary and searching for Jesus while honoring my Pagan connection to God – made the polarity of my Spiritual identity even more complex. As I’d mentioned in my first blog post, The Day My Soul Cracked Open, I was experiencing a full blown crisis of ego. I felt overly sensitive and vulnerable with an acute inability to discern the reasons why. This, coupled with a lack of Spiritual judgement and consistent weepiness over not being able to feel like ‘me’ anymore, made the task of figuring out what was wrong with me even more daunting.

I had no idea how to be Christian and Pagan at the same time, but I was.

How does a woman like me talk to Jesus when Pagans and Christians are not on speaking terms? How does a woman like me even exist?

A knock on the door and the sound of people’s voices snapped me out of my troubled mind. I rose from the kneeler with my holy water and resumed my place in the front pew. I watched while the priest opened the side door for a small gathering of parishioners eager to receive the sacrament of confession.

How long had it been since I sat face to face with a priest and told him about all the things I’d done wrong? At least 30 years.

I’d been invited to attend mass the following morning by the woman with the key. I felt the only way I could do that in good conscience was to ask permission from the priest.

How, exactly, does a Druidic Witch say confession to a Catholic Priest? I was about to find out…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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