Love – it isn’t just for Hallmark Cards Anymore

CupidLove has become cliche.

It seems trite now, a meaningless hippie platitude.  Love is not all we need. We also need water. And oxygen. And preferably, all our limbs. We need banks to stop robbing us blind. We need a stronger economy so that we have a chance to thrive. We need to find sustainable ways of living on our finite planet. We need a healthy immune system. We need to be able to defend our loved ones. We need competence and compassion. We need reliable news sources. We need creative outlets.

So, with a roll of our eyes, we toss “All we need is love” into the rubbish bin, alongside “We are all One” and “Visualize World Peace”.

Which is too bad, because it is one of the most ennobling experiences we humans can have.

How can we reclaim love? How can we remind each other that it is more than a sentiment for Hallmark cards and pale pink hearts and cloying romantic comedies where all problems are solved and everyone lives happily ever after within a 90 minute time frame?

Maybe we need to remember how fierce love can be.

  • Love is the strength of a mother to lift a car to rescue her child.
  • Love is a Tibetan monk setting himself on fire in protest of his culture being destroyed.
  • Love is giving up a cushy job so that you can devote your life to ending sex trafficking.
  • Love is speaking out against the oppression of others.
  • Love is keeping our commitments.

To reclaim love, we can also think about the awesomeness (and I mean that in the truest sense of the word, not with “dude” added after it) of life itself . Consider our situation: We experience our lives from within these automated meat suits, itself a miracle. We are breathing air because a long time ago a bunch of chemicals decided to bunch together for whatever incomprehensible reason – or no reason at all – and create life. And here we are, with a zillion different types of flowers and animals and rocks and things to eat, look at, and experience. We are on this planet alongside music. And Fjords. And Lions. Lions! And a gajillion stars that are 200 million miles away from each other. And those are the close ones! Just the ones right next to us in this one galaxy, which is frigging huge. And of which there are a gazillion more.

If this doesn’t inspire love, or at least awe, you might already be dead.

I believe this level of awe is also love. For what is love if not an experience that cracks our hearts open to the beauty, wonder, and amazement of creation? What is love if not to be overcome by the majesty of this glorious, mysterious life?

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! May you fall in love with everything!

 

20 Penises

www.catherinebuchanan.com

Several years ago, a friend and I went to the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco.  As you probably know, San Francisco is sex-positive mecca, (or a den of debauchery, depending on your viewpoint), and the Folsom Street Fair is sort of our Kink Pride Day.

So off we went in full leathers, drinks in hand, weaving our way through thumping techno, writhing bodies, drag queens, leather daddies, damsels in distress,  and impossible heels. Among many, many other things. Mark my words, if you can think of it, someone has developed a fetish for it.

I love a good freak show. And Folsom Street Fair delivers. My eyes nearly popped at the imaginative costumery! I saw fabulous feathered headdresses, skin-tight leopard print and latex body suits, chain mail and patent leather platform boots, scantily clad women with pig noses, masters with slaves on leashes, spectacular tattoos, drag queens dressed as nuns –

“Penis,” said my compatriot.

“What?” said I.

“Penis. Didn’t you see it? It was right there.”

“Right here on the street? With all these people all over the place?” I said.

“Yep,” he said.

Some people are braver than I will ever be, I mused.

And on we went. We had lunch and listened to a band. We checked out various vendors. I saw men in top hats and nose rings, queer pirates with epically long beards, half naked Indian-pirates, bras made out of soda pop tabs, faces covered in glitter-

“Penis,” quoth my friend.

“Again?” said I. “How do I keep missing them?”

I decided I would make extra effort to see some penises. We continued on. I saw transgendered folks in bootie shorts, green hair and cat ears, impossible piercings, Hello Kitty underpants –

You guessed it:

“Penis”.

This happened at least 20 times. And I never saw one.

So then – several years later, there I was, reading a book on exploring our money mindset (“Get Rich, Lucky Bitch” by Denise Duffield Thomas, which at first peruse is a little too “Law of Attraction”-y for my tastes, but reviewers swear she’s got all kinds of practical exercises so I am giving it a chance)  and the author suggests we do an exercise where we write down all the ways we do bring in money. Every time money comes in, write it down. In this way, we see that we already are better at manifesting money than we realize.

And it popped into my head: “Just like the penises!”

We can be surrounded by abundance, whether it be penises or money or love or whatever, and if we are in our tapeloop of lack, we don’t even notice it. We filter things out ALL THE TIME. We can’t possibly process all the information our brains receive, so we develop selective attention. And we decide what we will let in based on what we expect to see.  So, if we have already decided “I’m always broke” we are not likely to notice the ways in which that isn’t true.  We end up seeing what we are already attuned to, constantly affirming all the ways in which we are broke, unloveable, unlucky, or whatever, and not even noticing the wealth, love, luck, or whatnot that is all around us.

This is why gratitude practice is so important! It helps us to tune into the parts of our lives that are glorious! Parts that we may well be taking for granted.

I went to the Folsom Street Faire expecting to see some fabulous drag. And boy did I! My friend, who was at the time exploring his attraction to men, saw a sea of penises.

The verdict is still out for me with this “Get Rich, Lucky Bitch” book. The Law of Attraction has issues, as far as I am concerned. But still. It isn’t total bullshit. (It is partial bullshit, which is the most deadly kind of bullshit, but that is another blog post). Remembering the penises helped me to remember that we really do see our lives through selective filters. “What the thinker thinks, the prover proves” Robert Anton Wilson always said. And it helped me remember how often we can improve our lives just by consciously taking note of the awesome that is already in them. And the more awesome we see, the more we attune ourselves to other opportunities for awesome. Instead of habitually seeing everything that sucks, and turning into a big curmudgeon that no one wants to hang out with, you start seeing opportunities for more of what you love. This is how the Law of Attraction makes sense to me. And this is why I am going to give Denise’s book a chance. Because maybe my judgements about the Law of Attraction are just that – judgements. Perhaps there is some value I can glean from it.

So what have we learned here? Start seeing that which we want more of in our lives. It may already be there more than we think.

Also – if we are seeing nothing but scuffed shoes, empty coffee cups, and gum on the cement, and our friends are seeing penises – maybe we need to set our sights a little higher.

 

Contemplating the Artist-Patron Relationship

Wherein I explore the “Hunger Games – Touring Musician Style” video log-fundraiser, and weigh its successes and shortcomings….

Winter and I are back from our tour through the South. We are mostly unpacked and integrating back into our home life, and I thought I would take a few moments to muse on our fundraising experiment, which went on for the duration of our tour.

Including a donation outside the Indiegogo framework, our fundraising efforts yielded a little over half of what we were shooting for. While this was still very helpful, it didn’t get us entirely out of the woods. Also – it was a lot of additional work in an already pretty grueling schedule. Was it worth it? Well – yes,  in that, as we feared, we would have lost money on this tour, and due to the fundraiser we did not. So in that regard I am glad that we did it.

However, I probably won’t do this particular thing again. It required entirely too much hustling just to get it where we did. I never want my promotional strategies to take on the qualities of a henpecking housewife . An effective strategy should take on a life of it’s own, because it’s a cool idea and folks want to share, and want to be part of it. I believe that if you create something that speaks to people, it will “sell itself” more than this did. Of course it is my job to tell folks it is happening and to give reminders here and there, but this one felt like it needed too much push, so that toward the end I began to fear I was bugging folks.  I prefer the voice of “rallying the troops to glory” over “old battle-ax”.

Also – in retrospect I wish I hadn’t posted all the videos on my blog. It isn’t really what my blog is for.  Here is to be my musings on the quest for beauty and wonder in this world, a place of inspiration. When I look at my blog now and see nothing but several videos of us doing this or than on the road, I lose interest. I can only imagine that my readers have as well.

I know some of you did follow along on the whole thing and will probably tell me I am being too hard on myself. Let me  say, I do acknowledge it had some successes. It did engage some folks and it did earn some money.  It was a worthy experiment, and I think in general the artist-patron relationship is something worth cultivating, and indeed a necessary piece of the pie for most artists. It is not my intent, in declaring this fundraiser a bit wanting, to diminish the value of any contributions made. Those of you who did contribute helped us shoulder the weak spots on the tour, the new territories – which were many – and thus you saved us from a financial burden at holiday time. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that! Winter and I felt truly supported.

My only real complaint is that it didn’t resonate with more folks. Since it did not, this particular model created too high a work-to-results ratio.  So we live and learn, we experiment and evaluate, until we find our sweet spot.

I would  be interested to know your thoughts about this particular endeavor –

Did the Hunger Games – Touring Musician Style videolog fundraiser speak to you? Why or why not?

What sort of supplemental activities or projects would you like to see from me as far as generating fundraising support for future musical endeavors? What kinds of things would you be excited to participate in?

Some ideas I have are:

1) The Ring of Enchantment – a membership area of my site wherein I endeavor to inspire you and your own dreams, which will include 1 essay a month on cultivating enchantment, magic, living creatively, etc., and 1 supplemental practice with custom music written by me to support the practice, delivered as an audio file meditation. This will also include a social network and/or forum area where we can converse online, and maybe some Google hangouts. It is my hope with this to create a community where we can all share and support each other’s greatest dreams for our lives and our world. We’ll have an internal marketplace, and I will also include deep discounts on everything I create, musical and otherwise.

2) A store filled with all things “Neofolk Romantique” – vintage, upcycled, handcrafted, one-of-a-kind, made or found by me, and that brings the flavor of my music into your lives in a tangible way. Store would be online and also a floating market that I bring on tour

3) Travel guides of some of the highlights from the places we visit on tour. Emphasizing the romantic and magical.

4) More chant Cds.

5)Workshops – online or in person. What types?

Please let me know if any of these excite you, what you thought of the Hunger Games video log, and also what types of things you would find engaging as future fundraising efforts. Got an idea I haven’t listed? Feel free to share it in the comments. Ideally, I seek ideas that don’t require constant hustling, because they are things you want to participate in anyway.  So if you have any thoughts or ideas you want to share, I am eager to hear them.

Alright! Back to our regularly scheduled programming of finding the enchantment and magic tucked into every nook and cranny of this beautiful world. I have many things to blog about from tour, and am looking forward writing them up! Stay tuned…..

Song-A-Week Songwriting Update

You guys.

I’m not pulling it off. In fact, I am flat-out tanking on this “one song a week” bit. In April, I managed to write two chants, one of which those of you on my mailing list received as a mermaid kiss in early May.

But that is it. And so far, no new ones this month.

It’s not that I am a flake. Honest. It’s that touring season is now upon us, and I am balls- to-the-wall with tour details. Winter and I do this entire operation ourselves – every phone call, email, inquiry, finding of new venues, promoting of shows, finding places to stay, answering questions, mailing posters, creating Facebook events, plotting out routes, picking up band members from airports, booking hotels, asking folks to help spread the word, etc. etc. etc. is on us.

Not to mention this time out, preparing two separate shows for the same festival. And getting the new songs I have written up to performance speed.

Not that I mind any of this – I love my life and there is nothing I would rather do. But I bit off waaaay more than I could chew, saying I could write 4 songs a week AND be on the road.  I wondered, when first I declared this Song-A-Week bit, how it was going to play out during touring season. Now I know. I am laughably overcommitted!

So there we go. I told you all I would report each month, and report I am. Apparently that report is going to read FAIL at times.

Does that mean I am quitting? Hell no! Believe it or not, I am still going to strive to get as close as I can to 4 songs a month, even during the summer. I am just not going to beat myself up if I fail. I will just pick myself up, dust myself off, and dive back in. And of course, I’ll keep you posted.

Speaking of tour, I will write up a full report of this first leg in the next few days. Beltania was downright epic, and it was great to travel with all of Pandemonaeon for our first time out of the state. I look forward to telling the tale – for now, off to the next gig!

Love to you all – Sharon

Why I Don’t Want to Save the World

The other day I was having dinner with some friends, and the conversation turned to the KONY 2012 video. You know the one, I am sure, if you haven’t been living under a rock.

I was quite moved by the video, although it did raise a few questions that prevented me from telling all my friends how great it was before I’d had a chance to delve behind the scenes. (Such as “Are we sure empowering the Ugandan government with more military might is a good idea?” And “I wonder what ramifications of  ‘getting  the bad guy’ we have to look forward to that nobody is talking about?”)

But still –  I was moved. This may be partly due to the fact that I am hopelessly unhip with regard to cynicism. It is very much in vogue these days to be cynical. After all, what thinking person, who keeps themselves informed and doesn’t stick their head in the sand, wouldn’t be? I get it that there is much to be cynical about, but it is a conscious choice on my part to fight against it. Cynical people aren’t effective people, and therefore they aren’t going to solve any of the world’s problems. Say what you will about the triteness of “Our thoughts create our reality”, but there is a fair amount of evidence that where we direct our minds determines how our neural pathways develop. (Google neuroplasticity). Therefore I choose to focus on the optimistic as best I can, because I want my brain to be primed to contribute, in whatever small way, to the world’s solutions.

Apparently this makes me a bit of a Pollyanna.

So naturally, my first pass through the KONY 2012 video was viewed through rose-colored glasses.

But during my dinner conversation with my friends, some of those questionable “behind the scenes” details I had been meaning to delve into began to surface.

It wasn’t the realization that Invisible Children (the organization that put out the video) is circulating outdated information (Kony hasn’t been seen in Uganda for about 5 years and is considered far less a threat by the Ugandan people than he once was), or that they are funded by some pretty right wing Christian organizations, or that a key founder of IC snapped and ran naked through the streets, that had the greatest impact on me, although these things did put a considerable tarnish on my warm fuzzy afterglow.

No, the thing that really surprised me in delving into the situation, and the greater dialog happening around the internet, was the notion that the privileged classes have a Savior Complex. There is a perception that far too often, Americans or Europeans want to rush in and play “The Great White Hero” so that they can pat themselves on the back and say “Aren’t I swell” over beers with their buddies. They do so often without a deeper understanding of  the underlying problems that caused the situation to begin with. And they don’t engage deeply enough with the people they are trying to help, which comes across as condescending. They assume that (in this case) Africa needs saving because they are incapable of solving their own problems.

But the thing is – people want to stand on their own. Sure they may welcome help, but as collaborators, not as the damsel-in-distress to some glory-seeking hero sweeping in on his white horse and turning everything into his chosen flavor of happily-ever-after.

I had never really thought about it like that before. I have always thought that people in privileged situations should help others, and that is as far as it went. It hadn’t occurred to me that that help may not always be welcomed. I was reminded of so many “magickal workings”, wherein a well-meaning but ultimately meddlesome magickal group sets out to heal someone unasked. If a person has not asked for healing, you don’t give it.

I do think it’s noble that the more privileged of the world help others. I would like to see us all giving each other a leg up as best we can, whenever we can. But care needs to be taken in how that help is offered. It needs to create a bridge of cooperation and not more disparity between “The Savior” and “The Saved”. Care needs to be taken to respect the people who are living with the situation day in and day out, and to work with them in a way that empowers rather than belittles.

And this sheds some new light on my own quest to “Save The World”. I want to make an impact. I want the world to be a better place for my having been here. And I struggle with that, because so far the life I have chosen has not left me with much time or money to spare for activism. And yet it does make me feel more alive than anything ever has, so I’d be loathe to give it up.  Therefore, I often feel conflicted about whether my choices have been selfish, and whether my path truly serves.

In light of mulling this over, it occurs to me that there is a certain amount of hubris in Wanting To Save The World.  I mean really…no one person can save the world anyway. Not even Richard Branson. Not even Bill Gates. Why do I want to Save The World? So I can feel all warm and fuzzy? Perhaps I don’t need to get all antsy about when my ship is going to come in so I can do Big Epic Things and feel all important.

Maybe Small Everyday Things are just fine. Maybe we can all Save The World together. None of us really doing the Saving, but rather each of us doing a little to make the world we touch a bit better. Which means, perhaps I can start easing up on my feeling that I need to be doing more to make the world awesome than I am already doing. Maybe it really is enough to be excellent in the ways that we are empowered to, and let the rest go. I may not be able to save children in Africa, but I can be kind to the folks I encounter on the street.  When we are all doing the work together, perhaps it is enough that we only affect our immediate sphere of influence.

No, I don’t want to Save The World. It is far too great a burden, and gets in the way of me writing fanciful folk tales and singing them to you. But I can fit  “Making The World a Little Bit Better Wherever I Go” into my busy schedule.

I think I’ll do just that. Because, after all, I am a bit of a Pollyanna.

———————————————————————————————————-

Ps – here are a bunch of links that my friend sent me, if you are interested in following the dialog that has sprung up around the internet regarding the KONY 2012 video. I found them interesting enough to write a blog post, apparently.

Links courtesy of Jonathan Korman, who can be found here: http://miniver.blogspot.com/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/reality-check-with-polly-curtis/2012/mar/13/reality-check-kony-2012-reaction

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/

http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/should-i-donate-money-to-kony-2012-or-not

http://www.voanews.com/english/news/africa/east/Northern-Ugandans-Critical-of-Kony-2012-Campaign-142923415.html

http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2012/03/11/invisible-children-funded-by-antigay-creationist-christian-right/

http://boingboing.net/2012/03/12/kony-2012-invisible-children.html

http://boingboing.net/2012/03/07/kony-2012-a-viral-mess.html#previouspost

Experts Be Damned – I Am Speaking From The Heart

Most of you reading this know that music is my profession. Like any artist striving to create a small business from their craft, I spend a fair amount of time learning about how to communicate with people in ways that are meaningful to us both. One of the ways I have decided is right for me is blogging. Blogging is a way I can communicate with my people no matter where I am. It’s a place to share new song ideas, muse on the worldview that shapes the songs – which in my case is decidedly magickal – and to generally converse with like-minded folk. While social network sites feel like being at a party, my blog is where I can invite folks into my living room. It’s more intimate, more personal, and ultimately where I feel most comfortable sharing the deeper parts of myself.

Because I am fairly new to blogging, I wanted to learn from those who’ve had some success. I have spent the last year and a half reading all sorts of blogs, signing their mailing lists, working through their workbooks, participating in blogging groups, etc. And they’ve all been really helpful. But at the end of the day – I am throwing much of it away. The time has come for me to stop listening to others’ voices, so that I can better hear my own. Oh, not forever. Listening to others is pretty crucial to having genuine relationships!  But – for a little while, I need to tune into the voice of my own inner expert.

The reasons are twofold:

1) I have come to feel that doing all these programs has become an excuse to distract myself from diving into my own work. “I just need one more workshop to break through my stuck places and THEN I can start!”  I am not saying we never need these things, and in fact I can recommend a dozen if you are finding yourself in a stuck place. I’ve sampled several over the last 18 months! But what I am saying is that for my part, I have gotten what I can get out of them for the time being,  and they have become busy work/distraction from actually applying what I’ve learned.

2) A lot of the information isn’t relevant to me. Such as the blogging formulas that purportedly get people’s attention. Apparently I am supposed to be putting out “How to” blogs to help make your life better. But the thing is…I don’t write “How-to” manuals for helping make your life better.  I sing songs. My blogging isn’t about blogging. It’s about music. Same thing applies to the “7 ways to make your (whatever) more epic”. These blogging formulas are supposed to get me more readers because I am helping you to find the answers you are seeking in your life. And therefore more folks will discover me, leave comments on my blog, and I will rise in the ranks of Google.

That all sounds contrived as Fuck. At least for me.

I know some excellent bloggers who do these things in a way that feels authentic, and I have learned a lot from them. but it is time to move on.

It is time for me to stop “learning” – at least for awhile – and tune into my own voice. I may not have 7 tips for you to lose weight, make money on the internet, or be more like me.  I may not have epically inspiring things to share every day. My most epic work is going to come in the form of songs, because that’s how I roll. I am not setting out to become an A-list blogger. Only to share more about the places my music comes from. If you are moved by my music perhaps you’ll want to read my blog.

A year and a half ago, when I started reading these blogs, and learning how others have built their online businesses, I did learn a lot. But for the past several months I have been trying to extract the same inspiration I got when I first discovered some of these folks (Chris Guillebeau, Goddess Leonie, Connection Revolution to name just a few) and it’s just not there anymore. And the worst part?

It has actually kept me from blogging. Because I go into “second-guessing myself” mode. Is what I am writing “useful”? Am I really helping anyone? Is my content “Epic” enough?

The way I help others is to write music that cracks my heart open. If my own heart cracks open, I know that some others’ will too. And boy could this world do with a lot more open hearts!

So that’s what this blog is going to be. My journey to crack my heart open – through beauty, wonder, mystery, music, hope, joy, sorrow. The journey to feel the depths of this world as fully as possible. You are welcome to come along.

So where am I at right now?

I am raw, my loves. I am doing what I love, what I have longed to do my entire life. And I fear that it is not enough. All the time, I wonder if it is selfish and self-indulgent. Shouldn’t I be more “activist-y” somehow? Shouldn’t I be doing more to “Save The World”?  And always, Howard Thurman’s famous quote comes to me in those moments – “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”. This is a guiding light for me as I  navigate my way through these feelings.

Also –  the money is sporadic at best. So I confront fear every single day. Every day that I am not living under a bridge and still get to write songs and plan tours is a day that I am allowed to be fully alive. And this compels a gratitude like nothing ever has. And yet I am acutely aware of how fragile this is, and that I must work tirelessly to bring myself to a more stable place with it all.

Now that I am living as a full-time musician, there is no way I could ever stop. I have never felt so alive, so fierce, so full of magick and hope. So I must find a way. And if I can’t, I honestly think I would rather starve than let the songs inside me go unsung. For what? For safety? No way.

Finding and expressing the songs that live inside me is, at my core, what makes life worth getting up for every day.  I will find a way through this path of traveling the world singing my songs, or I will starve. I will not let my fear and uncertainty lull me back to the unsatisfied sleep I was in for so long. I will create my life on my own terms or die trying.

And it is this call, to follow my Siren Song despite the dangers, that compels me to return to the Siren myth as a songwriting theme over and over again.

Do you have a Siren Song you follow? As always, I invite you to share your stories in the comments. It’s so much more fun to share a conversation than to talk to myself!

Imagination Vacation

Happy Monday my beauties! I was feeling a bit drab, so I decided to give myself some sparkle with this collection of places I’d love to visit. I share them here in the hope that you’ll find them a feast for your own senses as well. Can you imagine curling up in any one of these places with a journal, sketchpad, or musical instrument? I can!

Finding such places always helps to remind me that the world is full of amazing people doing amazing things, that nature is beautiful, and that mystery is inexhaustible. May these images kindle your own creative spark, stir the dreamer within, and rejuvenate your imagination as they have mine.

The Power of Commitment

Whew, two weeks have gone by since I wrote a blog post! I strive for once a week but frankly this Song-A-Week Songwriting Challenge is kinda kicking my butt. I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to some abject, unmitigated panic at what I just told my entire universe I would do.

“What was I thinking?!” I though. “I will never, no way in hell, be able to write 4 songs a month, let alone get them recorded so folks can hear and vote on them. I’ll be spending every spare second trying to accomplish this, and I’ve left myself no time for the pursuit of making money. How will I pay my rent?” Etc., Etc., Etc., down the rabbit hole of full-blown anxiety attacks.

But in the last few days, an interesting thing has begun to happen. Twice now, the beginnings of a song have trickled into my head, compelling enough to stop what I was doing and write it down. One of these times was right after my Sonic Alchemy workshop (which went quite well, BTW), when I might have allowed myself some well-earned brain-chilling.  Instead, I felt the urge to jot down some lyrics. So I did.

Two weeks in,  I am already seeing how the power of my commitment is  shifting my usual habits. Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? Just declare something, and it will magically fit its way into our lives.

Except there is one more piece.

I am a stickler for keeping my word. I have been for years, and while not perfect, I have a pretty good track record. IMO, this is where the magic really happens. Or course, a lot of it isn’t magic so much as plain common sense. Keeping your word demonstrates that you are not a flake. Which sets you apart from a large portion of the population. What’s that saying? “90% of success is just showing up”? That’s a big part of it. Keeping your word lets others know they can depend on you. When folks can depend on you, they want to be affiliated with you, share projects, be your friend, and know about your offerings. Others who keep their commitments –  and have success because of it – invite you into their club. And before you know it, a momentum builds of successful, reliable people sharing ideas, vouching for you, and creating with you. It becomes considerably easier to manifest the life you want.

But there is a magical part as well, and it goes like this: when we develop habits – good or bad – they take on a life of their own. They become automated as it were, and before we know it we are exercising, writing, or smoking without even thinking about it. So when we develop a habit of acting in accordance with our word, this behavior becomes second nature. Because we have spent time consciously restructuring our lives to support our commitments, our brains learn to rise to this occasion, and before long the restructuring happens subconsciously. When we make a new commitment, our brains work behind the scenes to develop a new rhythm that will enable us to keep that commitment. Spontaneous prompts come and urge us to write, to exercise, etc., and it all feels much more effortless. It then appears that we can summon our Wills out of thin air just by speaking them. Which is pretty darned magical if you ask me.

Keeping our Word builds our Will. And over time, renders us able to manifest our Will with much more ease.

Do you have any stories of summoning your Will by the power of your commitments? Will you tell it here, and inspire us?

Here’s a song Winter and I wrote on the topic over a decade ago, to inspire you while you think on a good tale to share –

Musings on a Christ-free Christmas

Harold the Christmas Tree.

Happy Monday All!

Many of us had a holiday yesterday. Whether we wanted it or not, our society shuts down on Christmas day.  For my part, I love Christmas, even though I am not a Christian. The Jesus’  birthday thing doesn’t bother me because I see no conflict with my own traditions. What’s one more Solar hero reborn to bring light into the world at Solstice?

So yeah, the birth of Christ on Dec. 25th feels more Solstice than Christian to me.

Although the symbolism of having a dying tree nailed to a cross in my living room isn’t lost on me. (Note to self: if you’re going to continue this “get a tree” thing,  look into getting a live tree.)

So. I am thoroughly enjoying Christmas. Which is a bit of a revelation for me. Because for many years I divorced Christmas from Solstice, saying I only did Christmas for my family, and feeling vaguely guilty about enjoying it all all. What kind of a Pagan was I after all, participating in this orgy of crass commercialism, when all the true meaning is on the Solstice?

I’ve carried this ambivalence for many years, which has always left me feeling a bit like I’ve missed out on something. Not fully committed in spirit, I don’t fully participate. And then I feel on the outside of it all.

So I am reclaiming Christmas this year, and having a lovely time. I am owning that I want to fall on the festive side of the ambivalence and go ahead and really celebrate it.

I got a tree. (Which Winter named Harold. Because, you know. Harold be thy name.)  I bought gifts, or bartered, or gave something of mine that I thought suited another better. I did not incur debt. I only gave what I could, and what felt good. I planned a nice meal for what family can attend.  I used savings to buy gifts, and next year I will plan even better by saving specifically for Christmas. Which is easier to do once you realize you want to participate.

Christmas has plenty of traditions that hold meaning for me, and really is an extension of the Solstice. And I am a big fan of multi-day festivities, so seeing Christmas as “Second Solstice” works quite well for me. The Solstice is alive and well with the reborn solar hero, Santa and the reindeer, the World Tree, right there in our living rooms.

And the gift giving does not need to be based in crass commercialism. It can be about giving something from the heart. A small token that brings an unexpected sparkle to a loved-one’s life, something that’s special precisely because it wasn’t expected. A small gift that you made or that represents something you believe in, says “I took time out of my usual hustle and bustle to think about something that would bring a bit of joy into your life, and here it is”.  It doesn’t need to be expensive or even cost any money at all.   It can be about sharing the warmth in one’s heart, about sharing the abundance of one’s self with another.  A song or a poem, your awesome home-baked chocolate chip cookies. Some little part of what makes your life joyous, shared with a  loved one. In this way we give a piece of who we really are, and this makes our traditions more meaningful.

With just a little bit of exploration into why I was feeling sad about Christmas – which started with realizing I miss my dad (First Xmas after his passing) and ended with noticing how my own ambivalence has always made me feel like an outsider,  I have managed to reclaim Christmas for myself and make it something special. I don’t need to give up Christmas entirely now that my family is grown, scattered, or passed on. No, I can, and do, choose to do the exact opposite.

I am a Pagan who loves Christmas. So be it!

 

 

My Solstice Wishes for You

HAPPY WINTER SOLSTICE!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

MAY THE SEASON BRING YOU ALL MANNER OF GOOD CHEER!

I choose Solstice and Christmas as these are the ones I know and celebrate, but my warm wishes extend to all.

My blessing for you this season is this:

May you feel a kindling in your heart, the glow of light and life that comes from a sense of family, friends, and community.

May the sense of well-being promised in those corny Christmas movies be yours.

May your faith in the goodwill of mankind be renewed.

May you find healing and closure where it’s needed most.

May you know love.

May the good things outweigh the bad.

May you have a sense of hope and rightness about the possibilities in our world, and may this fortify you through the darkness.

May you remember that the sun always returns.

May you smell fresh piney branches wherever you go.

May you have more pretty lights and eggnog lattes and less mall parking lots.

May you hear exactly the amount of Christmas music that you want to hear.

May you be nourished, warm, well-fed, and safe.

May you believe that, even just for right now, everything is really okay.

May you remember what childlike wonder and glee feel like.

May the fullness  of your heart spread this warmth and goodwill to all you touch, that they too may be ignited and pass the spark to others, on into infinity.

And may you know that, if you are reading this, I am grateful that you exist. Even if we’ve never met, we find ourselves connected in this small way by sharing these words. And to share this sentiment with you means a lot to me.

May all these blessings be true for you, and all you love, and all they love, until we find ourselves living in a beautiful world.

Happy holidays, my friends!

(And yes you may share this. That’s the point, after all :+) )