Many of us feel deeply moved by compassion and are driven toward righting injustices and systematic mistreatments toward our fellow humankind, the animal and plant kingdoms, and our planet on both micro and macro scales. Being aware of and keeping informed on atrocities, can at times become incapacitating. They may pull our heart strings into uncontrollable anger, cloak us in depression, occupy our mind until we think only of hardship, or become a self imposed tool of measure that invalidates our personal hardships and devalues our joys. Sometimes these knowings leave us feeling as if two distinct realities are at play among us; “those who know and care” and “those who don’t”, and it is very common to experience helplessness, hopelessness, frustration, isolation, and become completely exhausted. How then do we continue our endeavours to live as agents of harmony and activate the righting of wrongs?
I offer up four in-the-moment inquiries and personal agreements to support navigating living in an over burdened world. They are suitable for empathic sensitives, peace creators, activists, change makers and informed dreamers alike and are intended to ensure our energy and focus stays efficiently placed. When overwhelmed with emotion and choosing how to proceed when facing a travesty or injustice, be it smaller scale within a personal or family dynamic, right on up through to larger scales of country, entire peoples, or earth as a whole, these reflections and commitments are designed to be a dependable support.
My bubble buddy, and new friend at the fine arts centre has watched me patch up "clay fails" and creatively tend to mishaps that would make most potters cringe and scoff. Generally the idea of being so attached to a piece that one tries to save it is relegated to noobs who could use practice in 'just make another' don't waste your time and learn through the doing. Most serious potters tend to toss imperfect greenware into the Reclaim Bucket, or smash Bisqued and Glazed pieces into the ceramic graveyard of mosaic hopefuls and archeologist dreams.
I create with intention but keep very close the knowing the life of a piece may be found short at any moment. But I can't say it is non-attachment, for surely it isn't. One swift movement, jerk of a hand, hidden air bubble, too hot and dry air too soon, too cold air too soon, a poor dip or drip, a fusion to a kiln shelf, catch of a finger nail, an exploding kiln neighbour, ripped out bottom or snapped off handle, each can spell death to a piece, and I will love each for as long as they live just the same.
And just like those parts of ourselves that feel broken or dreams we thought were destined for the reclaim bucket or graveyard - sometimes we can put our perfectionism and consumer conditioning aside and love it back - again and again if we must.
I remember being very small and looking closely at a plastic horse that I had, noticing how the eye paint was askew and there were chunky bits along the mould seam. I knew that no one had touched it when it was being made, no one had cared for it or noticed its details. There was a sad vacancy and I wanted to love that little horse more to make up for it somehow. I hadn't read it yet, but knew Velveteen Rabbits were real.
Perhaps that is why I hesitate to toss so easily into the reclaim bucket, why I slow-cook and hand stitch aspects of my life together. If you know me though, you know I am a strong advocate for letting things die when it is time. Perhaps surprisingly so. But some things quietly call for being loved back to life.
This piece was gifted to me half a foot away from the Reclaim Bucket. As you can see, so far it has been resuscitated at least twice and it certainly isn't out of the woods yet. Some of my pieces hold this story of reclamation with them and I softly wonder if anyone might feel it. If they don't, that is okay. I do.
I didn't hyperspeed this up because reclaiming by way of loving takes a little time - as it should.
There are many times we might feel called to pick up a stone, feather, shell, or stick while walking in nature. These little friends might catch our eye or even seem to "call out" to us. We might feel a pull or even seem to audibly hear them. This is especially the case during meditation walks when seeking items for certain ceremonial working such as creating a spirit arrow or staff, when in need of a particular energetic or elemental medicine, gathering for a devotional offering practice, re-stocking Burlá Ghuí/Despacho kits, when creating medicine pouches, or simply wildcrafting herbal medicines, but we may also feel this urge spontaneously. Some of us may even develop a habit of collecting a particular item, heart shaped rocks or feathers are a common favourite.
There are a few important aspects to consider when gathering from Nature to ensure that we are doing so in a good way.
How to cultivate a relationship with plant, stone, or crystal medicine - article full of easy methods
Stone Spirit Medicine - online course for those drawn to stones in personal healing and spiritual practice
There are many ways to “be of service” to our communities that don’t involve extensive training, one-to-one healing sessions, or even a full-time dedicated practice, that are incredibly powerful and very supportive. One of these methods is by tending to a Community Altar. This way of holding space for others on their journey through life and healing is easily integrated into even the busiest lifestyles and from what I have experienced, can become a highly requested form of support.
7 Steps to building a Community Altar practice:
1.) Consider where your Altar will be and the length of time it will remain active. Helpful questions might be; Will your Altar be indoors or outside? Are you ready for a permanent feature in your home or will it be created only for a short gathering? An Altar is created with careful energetic intention on a designated surface - so choose a location that is easy to access and encouraging for you to tend to. Perhaps more than one person will actively tend to the Altar on behalf of the community - you get to cultivate this practice to suit your needs as well as those seeking to be included!
2.) Ponder the essential quality the Altar will be designed to represent and radiate. One might choose to support people’s hearts, invoke the sense of being held in the hands of divinity, promote their safety, clear ancestral wounds, encourage physical health, or tend to a need in the community that you identify with and relate to from your lived experience.
3.) Every item that makes up the Altar will be carefully selected and geared to contribute to the chosen energy and purpose. Consider them as energetic or spiritual ‘power houses’ such as specific crystals, images of deities or photos of deceased relatives, stones from significant and relevant places, plant medicines or dried herbs, all of which carry or support the chosen intention. An Altar brings together the individual energies of the objects with your aim to create a unified energy source that continues to “work for you” once set.
4.) Decide how you will represent people who want to be included. You might light a candle on their behalf and speak their name for long distance support or if they will be physically present you might ask them to bring a stone, photo, or personal item that resonates with their individual energetic imprint.
5.) When you have spent some time becoming familiar with the energy of the Altar, are clear on its intention and comfortable with tending to it; extend the invitation to your community to be included. One might offer to individuals who are already asking for support, post a general invitation on social media, or verbally encourage participants at a gathering you are offering.
6.) Be sure to hold the work your Altar is doing with utmost respect. Do not allow others to put random objects on it, keep it clean and organized, spend time in quiet reverence there, and perhaps move things around or change up the items to keep the energy fresh. You might sing devotional songs, make offerings, or speak invocations and prayers while tending.
7.) It is important to remember that as a working energy source, there are also times of rest needed. We can provide this rest by periodically laying a cloth over it and by dismantling it when no longer active. Blessing and cleansing the items with sacred smoke is also something to be mindful to do when the energy begins to feel “stale”. If out-of-doors in a public area, be sure to thank and close the Altar by removing personal items after each time of tending.
Tips to remember:
An example of a simple yet powerful Altar as an inspiration for your own might be to dedicate it to the "Good Neighbours", and include a central rose quartz sphere representing your love and appreciation for house sprites. Perhaps a fairy quartz in included with the points radiating outward and interlaced with small images of Fairies that are particularly attractive to you. You might decide to work with the creative, impish energy of this space by reciting a daily invocation stating your desire to connect with the Fae, Brownies, House Elves etc on a more reciprocal level. This could be helpful in homes where items regularly, and inexplicably, go missing or when it feels like your house is "playing tricks" with you. Visitors to your home who would like the same intention could be welcomed to leave shiny coins, milk, oats, or chocolate as gifts on the altar when they come for tea with you.
Another example might be an altar for our Grandmothers, perhaps created on a piece of lace at a Samhain gathering. Adorned with an inherited favourite tea cup, some black and white photos, and a brooch your Great Great Grandmother wore. These would establish the connection to matriarchal lines and brings in their energy. If the intention is to heal a history of abuse for our Ancestors, including crystals that transmute dense energy, repair heartache, and impart strength placed with the intention of safely surrounding the Grandmothers creates a powerful healing purpose. Guests could then bring their own photos, heirlooms, and written prayers for healing their lineages.
You might be surprised how many people ask to be included and share with you a real, felt sense of being supported. The simple act of someone caring is a profound sentiment let alone the supportive medicines included with, and invoked by, your Altar practice. It's free, takes little time, creates a strong feeling of community, and isn’t impeded by distance. I invite you to begin and have fun!
If you would like more in-depth wisdom to explore about Altars & Shrines, the differences between the two, their purpose, nuances, and best practices, it is a topic we cover during the first month of the Return to Reverence immersion program and continue to work with throughout.
Registration opens each June and we begin each October.
Do you have Altars ALL over the house? Here is something to consider that is often overlooked.
I don't make new year resolutions anymore, but I do take my cues from the natural world and plant the most viable seeds of intentions during January's journey circle. We will be doing this again this year and working with the "garden" of our medicine pouches over the months ahead - tending to the sprouts, weeding out what needs to compost, and feeding those projects, dreams, and ways of being in life - just as the seasons show us. This month's Deepen Your Practice article is support for those who are unable to join us but wish they could.
I invite you to co-create what you want to harvest this year. People often say to me, "wow you manifested x,y,z!" No. No I didn't. I couldn't possibly take all the credit for such things. But I do try work in alignment with nature, I aim to make space for Spirit to intervene, I do the leg-work of walking through the doors of opportunity that open, and of course am surrounded by an incredible clan of people. This process here of planting seeds is a major aspect to this <3
Many women are really working with the different energetic aspects of each phase of their menstrual cycle, and many men are being invited into this world as well - to do so brings enormous clarity, efficient use of these qualities, an unfolding instead of struggling against, and deepens our connection with ourselves, each other, and the natural world. Reclaiming this women's medicine may be considered as vital for whole-being health that inherently impacts the societies we live in and world around us. August's Deepen Your Practice column introduces readers to bringing our moontime cycle to our medicine wheel as another layer of wisdom to guide and orient us.
July's Luminous Wisdom article gives us a simple practice to balance our nervous system, write new neural pathways and bring emotional healing - just by doodling. Yep! For real.
I felt it as a student, I see it with colleagues, and I hold it as a teacher - there is a new aspect to the modern teacher/student dynamic that was unheard of in times of yesteryear.
The traditional way of a medicine person, shaman, bean feasa, etc etc was to study with one teacher for a number of years, become an apprentice, endure their and Spirit's sometimes harsh teachings, wait your turn, and integrate the medicines learned over time. Always showing utmost respect, learning as ready to, and mastering one's craft after much diligence.
Today those who seek to dive deeper into their spiritual practice have wave upon wave of seductive workshops, a plethora of fantastic books, online focus groups and videos abound. We live in an excellent time of sharing and availability. It's accessible. Great event coordination can happen. One can pick and choose who we like best, and who to give our precious time to. If we don't like what we hear, well, there is a book at the local occult shop we might like better.
The trouble is this, this sense of urgency. With so much in our western modern world being instant gratification and with great selection, we can easily lose respect for a Teacher and hurry our learning along - because frankly, most of us are starving for something deep, soulful, purposeful and personal. And then we want to share it and "become" useful.
This is how it seems to look...
In traditional settings, an apprentice would never think to go to the next village over and ask a different medicine person if they didn't like their teacher's answer. To do so would end the student/teacher relationship and potentially kibosh any future relationships with other teachers. There was a trust in right timing, that things weren't withheld as a power play but for safety.
As a teacher, there may be many reasons why a question is not directly answered, or skipping ahead would be discouraged.
Yep, I could have asked another teacher what they thought about it and searched for confirmations. I could have trusted the book instead. I could have trusted what my guides were showing me at the time - and likely would have had a rockier road to getting where I am today. This path is not known for its "smooth sailing" after all.
As a teacher, these situations call for delicacy as well as trust. Trust in our work, in the student, trust in right-timing and the ability of both participants. Trust that our ego isn't driving the boat in deciding what should or should not be for another. Trust in the student as a creative, resourceful and whole person. Trust in the balance between holding and guiding a being of free will, or being too controlling or nonchalant about it. And the delicacy to be able to sometimes say No without tearing away at that trust.
A most important cue for both sides - is a sense of urgency. When either participant is acting on feelings of urgency, that is a big cue to step back.
Whether a student or teacher, I wish you blessings on your slow cooked processes.
I was surprised and blessed to be asked by Sibella Publications to write a column for 1 year in their new magazine, Luminous Wisdom: Sophia. Deepen Your Personal Practice is where I share methods to engage and enliven your spiritual practice in interactive ways. Here is the first of the series...
Very often I am asked what do I mean when I ask folks to bring an "eco-friendly offering" to the land or to Spirit when attending my journey circles or medicine gatherings. Making offerings of love & gratitude is an important part of my practice. I make them during every walk in nature, during times of duress, when I feel helpless against the atrocities of the world or when I am full up with appreciation for the blessings of life. Here is a wee time with me at the Squamish River, talking about and making offerings. I hope this can help answer questions and I invite you to join the many of us who are loving up the world.
Enjoy this beautiful day!
A bean feasa of Celtic lineage shares stories & insights from her animist and 'shamanic' practice on the West Coast of Canada.