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A vigil for innocent lives lost

A ceaselessly burning vigil for those who have lost their lives to gun violence, senseless police brutality, COVID-19…

Turning the other cheek?

Spirit, may it begin with me.
When I am called out for racist ancestors,
help me to remember the story my teacher told me
of a woman who came to her for healing,
then accused her of being like her abuser.
Instead of responding with defensiveness,
my teacher apologized and said she shouldn't
have done it, and the woman received the apology
she needed for so many years of being victimized.
Spirit, as my teacher modeled compassion, may it begin with me.
When I am accused of coming from lazy white people,
let me remember the truth of my ancestry
but speak what is needed for healing.
Let me speak for the insurgents at the Capitol
though I have no racist bone in my body.
May I not defend the ancestors who taught me
to walk in beauty and in truth, but tread lightly
as they did. When he yells at me,
"You come from a racist slave state.
Your family are hateful, white racist people.
Have some shame," let me refrain from anger.
Let me say, "Yes, I feel shame for who I am.
"I feel shame for being so weak and powerless.
Let me feel no shame for who I am,
but let me say, "I am so sorry for your pain,
the pain that these racists have caused you.
I am sorry for my slave owning ancestors."

I feel no shame for running away to the page
where I can muster the strength
to sow pardon where there is injury,
to be light where there is darkness.
For it is in giving that we receive,
and it's in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it's in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
Because I know the truth of who I am,
the truth of the pain in this country,
the injustice of so many innocent lives lost,
let me sing the true song of my ancestors:

the song of the whales who shed their feet
so that their brothers could ascend from the waters
to conquer the earth and trample the land.
Let me sing the song of the whales
who sing from the depths of the ocean,
a barely discernible sonar symphony,
but beautiful, no matter who may hear it.

Grieving my cousin’s untimely death

My cousin died an untimely death in October. Only thirty-seven years old, he was hit by a car when he had pulled over on the side of the road and run out of gas. Nobody knows exactly where he was going. Given COVID-19, maybe he had wanted to travel. He had been out of prison for about a year, started his own business, and was sober. He had found God as he knew God, and was moving forward in life.

His death caught me off guard because it was sudden and accidental. I felt confused and sad for a week because I wasn’t sure how he died, and then it hit me: what if his soul hadn’t passed over to the other side? As a shamanic apprentice, I was aware that psychopomp might be necessary: because of my cousin’s tragic death, his soul might not be ready to leave earth. In psychopomp, a power animal spirit will speak with the soul who is stuck on earth due to a violent, traumatic, sudden or untimely death, and if the soul is willing, the spirit will guide it to the light where it can be at peace. I journeyed to my power animal to ask for help in my grieving, and to understand the truth of my cousin’s death. I witnessed my power animal perform psychopomp for my cousin by being merged with the animal spirit so that my cousin wouldn’t see me and feel disturbed or confused by my presence.

I felt great peace seeing my cousin go to the light and be with God. I felt even greater relief writing my aunt and uncle a sympathy card, assuring them that my cousin was in heaven with his master Jesus. There was some doubt on my family’s part that he wouldn’t be in heaven due to his troubled experience on earth. However, I knew from his correspondence with me while he was in prison that he had converted to Christianity, and that his soul was at peace. Although I now identify as pagan, I still hold my initial Christian walk throughout my young adulthood as an invaluable experience, in that it led me to value service, social justice, equality and nonjudgment. As a shamanic apprentice, I believe that Spirit takes multiple forms, and that it is important to honor the various modalities of those we serve as Spirit’s representative.

I also found out that my cousin wrote poetry, and so I decided to go ahead and post the two poems included with his obituary below to honor him and let his words live on here on earth. I hope his message of redemption in spite of hardship brings you hope, regardless of your religious beliefs. I have also included this Nickelback song, “If Today was your Last Day,” to honor my cousin’s journey, and remember that every day is a gift, and we need to live with purpose, gratitude, bravery and dignity.

The New Me
By: S.C.

Hello, Me, it's the new me
Old me you're dead
I am a new creation through Christ Jesus
Old things have passed away
The new me has begun now
I will shoot my shot and this will be to the whole world
I needeth no bullets nor a gun
This battle will be won
Fought with the word of God
My aim is true and so is my heart
The target has been acquired
Sickness, sin and disease is being destroyed
Through Jesus Christ who died on the Cross
Thank you, Jesus!

Not Afraid
By: S.C.

I have fought from birth
Born with a noose around my neck
Battled rejection, addiction, evil spirits, prison
Been poisoned
Sickness and disease lived in bad difficult straits
But when redemption stomped Satan on the Head
through Christ Jesus
Satan lost the taste of victory over me
My Savior not afraid of death
Went to the gates of hell and stole the devil's horse and rode hard
Side by side with the Holy Spirit slashing demons the whole way
Long Live the Lord God Almighty
Thank you, Jesus, from my heart
I want to be a warrior for real like you
I am not afraid to live for God and Jesus Christ my Savior

A painting I made to show how grief feeds new life.

Thank you for reading, and feel free to share stories of how you honor your loved ones who have died in the comments section below.

“My Unkempt Angel”published in Ang(st) Feminist ‘Zine

Here’s a link to the October issue of Ang(st) Feminist Zine. The theme is hair. My piece is titled “My Unkempt Angel” and discusses my experiences in childbirth. The above image reflects my piece’s theme of hair as spiritual consort in challenging experiences.

Trigger warning: many of these pieces evolve around our relationship to our hair, but how our perception of it is informed by our culture, family, significant other, etc. There is some explicit content, but it merits close study and compassionate witnessing, as it highlights the all too familiar struggles women experience around body shame, self-image, sexism and self-acceptance within dysfunctional homes, relationships and cultures at large. There are some pretty amazing photos, comics, illustrations and short prose, fiction or poems within this magazine, so I encourage you to take your time and really immerse yourself in the fifty pages of content.

Focus on the positive

As I focus on your absence, I forget.
I am present in an empty bedroom 
full of unread books, waiting to be read.
Scan my body for a singular opening
into the epiphany of being in love.
How can I call this moment my own
when I never linger long enough to stay? 
When will change ever be imminent?
Life is fuller when you've vacated.
Spit accretes in dish and spoon,
muscles arch into midnight.
If I was to dissect the feeling,
I would find hope mingled
with disappointment.
I believed you capable
of transformation.
If you passed through fire,
you would become gold.
When pushed, you'd soar
like a kite past the canopy.
In the mirror, I saw you
did not want to go there.
I saw that you were afraid
to run away from yesterday.
Today became like every other.
A habit will hold you in its arms
forever until you let it go.
Addiction is the perpetual fling 
convincing you it will grow
into a kingdom by the sea.
All the while, you wait
in an empty room.
The sun sets.
It is pink, orange and yellow
all at once, veined with blue.
You can say that it is beautiful,
knowing it is pollution
that brings the rosy glow.
I am empty yet full
in your absence.
How I can finger
this rose
knowing
it will prick me
bewilders me
until I am bleeding
alone again,
hungry for your touch
even if it costs me
every ounce
of presence I own.

Dreams of Darkness

 

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The vampire has left, but I still wish he’d say something.

The darkness ahead is the surface of the waters or graveyard,

not sure which.  Darkness so thick it sucks at my shoes.

Rest in this darkness. Rest in uncertain directions. 

The darkness of a thousand graves or the darkness of his mind?

Which do I prefer beating down on me at all times?

I wake up after every dream and I fear for my life.

I think I may go insane, just trying to make it out alive.

The vampires have been my comrades for so long,

what will happen when I no longer offer my neck?

Will I still be codependent or will I just be a single mom,

stretched until I rip into cosmos? 

The pain behind my nose is not an illness.

It is grief waiting to burst into a million tears

until I am ocean pounding surf, ocean of stars–

Tears of loss, tears of grief, of what could have been–

single microcosms of gratitude dripping off my fingers

for what is, what was, what will become

darkness or light, distant surf or sandy shore.

This is water, this is the abyss of rebirth

where I belong. Go ahead. Swallow me whole.

I will be reassembled as a star, no matter

how much I fear my self-composure.

Sacred Confusion: coping with mental illness

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I found this drawing I drew in 2013. When I first made it, it was to represent the divine marriage of the masculine and feminine within our psyche. This is what Jung calls the animus and anima. However, as I look it now, it takes on an entirely different meaning. It reminds me of the confusion that can occur when you or someone you love experience mental illness.

The language around mental illness can be very troublesome, and to avoid stigma, I want to use the term ‘sacred confusion’ to express my own experience of mental illness. I use this term for two reasons. First, as a shamanic apprentice, I believe that all subjectivity is sacred, even if there might be confusion that comes from living in the middle world, or ordinary reality, which, as you know, can become muddled. Shamans have the ability to leave their bodies and enter the mindscape of those they are healing. Through Spirit, we can see a client’s mindscape from an objective, non-judgmental stance, and do so with compassion because we are seeing it through the eyes of helping spirits who care for humanity.

Secondly, as someone who loves somebody with mental illness, and who has been diagnosed (and then re-diagnosed after being misdiagnosed), I can tell you that the human aspect of mental illness is very profound. There is truth in whatever confusion is experienced. There is truth in the suffering, and we can’t discount somebody’s experience of reality, even if it seems radically skewed through our human eyes. We also have to be aware that mental health continues to be poorly funded in the United States, and in spite of significant advances, poorly understood. Diagnoses can be helpful but harmful. This is why I think that there is not only sacred confusion for the client, but also for the practitioner and the entire system itself.

All of that said, I wanted to bring up Eckhart Tolle’s work on the pain body and ego as he discusses it in his book A New Earth. I won’t go into too much detail, but he discusses how our ego tries to avoid suffering but in doing so actually feeds on it. For example, we believe that accomplishments will bring happiness, or if we feel resentment, that somebody else is responsible for our pain. In effect, we have our own pain body that we project on others to relieve ourselves of our pain. Think about the blame game: if one finger points at another person, where do the rest point?

It is very important not to take anything your loved one with mental illness says personally. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt; your feelings are valid, and so are those of your loved one. It doesn’t mean your loved one is right in his or her actions. All it means is that you don’t react with defensiveness or believe what they are saying about you is true.

In the 2008 book Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Love Has Borderline Personality Disorder, Randi Kreger discusses how people with borderline personality disorder will split, projecting their own sense of inadequacy onto those close to them. They may also project those who have hurt them in the past, especially parents or caretakers who were abusive, onto loved ones. It is as if you are part of a script, taking on a role that is not truly yours. You become the mother or father. Maybe you become the traumatized child. This is because the pain of the past, as well as the pain of working through this childhood trauma, can be so horrific to experience it is easier to pass that burden onto loved ones. It’s not right, and it’s not wrong. It is what it is. However, by having this understanding, you can work on what Kreger calls “reality statements” to help you not only validate his or her experience but also assert your own. This ensures that you have boundaries and not start to internalize the truth of the borderline. Read chapter 7 for specific dialogues that show how these reality statements work.

I have been struggling with finding my place and accepting my role in my loved one’s condition. As a codependent, I have been finding that motherhood is teaching me how easy it is to enable. At the same time, it is showing me that for me to be an effective mother to my child, I have to set firm, consistent limits so that I am not drained by my son’s fathers’ own sacred confusion. It is not easy, but there are resources out there. The biggest thing is learning effective communication skills and setting boundaries, while also trying to be a compassionate witness for him when he has episodes. This also includes staying out of range and protecting my son and myself from any rages.

There are many resources available if you are willing to find them. Personally, I find myself feeling very lonely and estranged from my partner. I often feel as if I am the only one doing my work, or that life is a roller coaster. Do I stay on, or do I get off? That’s why it’s critical to reach out to as many people as you can and have multiple support networks. I’ve found that my partner has tried to cut out important people, places and things in my life because he sees them as a threat to his security or happiness. There have been times where I thought he was right because after a time, it can be very easy to believe what your mentally ill loved one says is true. That, or as a codependent, you think you can make things better by changing your life or yourself in some way to make that other person happy. I’ve found that it is simply not true. Whatever changes you make, make them for yourself and your own peace of mind.

Finally, having additional sources of support in your life helps you maintain a balanced perspective while walking in sacred confusion. It provides light in times of darkness. I created this painting of the scales to remind me of the beauty of balance, as well as the eternal impact of living a life of integrity. Our hearts must be lighter than feathers. We must let go of grief and not carry the grief of others. The word for the heart chakra is ‘anahata,’ or unstruck. Detachment helps us step aside from strong emotion and act from a more temperate position.

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Thank you for reading. I hope this post offers some solace, as I know the pandemic has many of us on edge. Know that you aren’t alone. Take time for you. Take time to step back and heal. Embrace the sacred, but don’t get caught up in the confusion. Remember that we all are in need of love.

There Will Be Blood

fear

This image is the fear, or birth, image in a series of paintings I created. They were inspired by a shamanic journey I did to meet with my wildness and learn from it. They were also inspired by further research into Gabrielle Roth’s five rhythms, which is a form of ecstatic dance that enables us to come to terms with various aspects of our development. Flowing is the first rhythm and is associated with fear, birth, being, and the body.

The poem below is a nonet. It is a nine line, syllabic poem. The first line contains nine syllables, the second eight and so forth until you reach one. I wrote it to question the roles we take on in our lives to avoid being in touch with our bodies at their most primal level. In other words, being in our fear bodies keeps us out of our truth bodies: the essence of who we are and the intuitive understanding of what gives us vitality.

I decided to include Kim Petras’ song “There Will Be Blood” because I think it speaks to the fear of being authentic in our culture. There is death in coming to life, and there is death in not being of service to the capitalistic culture that demands we sacrifice our bodies in obedience to making money. That culture is evident in our current pandemic where you see the White House administration trying to keep the economy open, only to risk the health of millions of people. A better alternative would be to fund contact tracing, providing remote jobs for millions of Americans. That way, people could earn a living while promoting public health. More importantly, we could contain the coronavirus. Instead, we see resistance to funding for contact tracing, mass testing, or a nationally enforced mask policy. Here’s the poem. Thank you for reading.

Why do we wear ill-fitting costumes?

Snapping piranha mom hybrid

Chicken with its head cut off

Repressed artist gimmick

Big hairy man suit

Revved up ego

Sleepyhead

Wake up

Now

 

The Shift

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Don’t be fooled. Desert has its colors, too. Sand dunes shift with breath, it’s true,

but here, you learn to trust your skin. Skin feels sunset long before eyes,

Your shadow your compass when pendulum heart chimes.

A time to strike out, A time to withdraw.

No shrieking ghost. Only bats making love.

No chattering teeth. Only scorpions marking crossroads.

No water. You sure? Tides sing within. Coax them out

with a flick of your shroud, your scarves.

The heart a chamber of unspoken wishes

until here, until now.

Space: A Tribute to Introverts

Here is another image from my niece. Check out her work at Deviant Art.

looking_at_the_stars_5_5_by_caseyfavoc_ddzmscu

Home

Home?

Home is a quiet place where you can be alone.

With the stars at your back, your eyes all your own,

staring up into milky way, dreaming your way back home.

Home?

Home is a net of stars suspending your breath.

With the closed door at your back, your hands all your own,

dancing across the blank page, crossing your ts in it all.

Home?

Home is a teardrop waiting to unfold.

With the night at your back, your dreams all your own,

diving into the star field, drifting away from shore.