Pagan Blog Project: B is for Breath

So, yes, I’m really, really late with this post. 😛

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Apparently, it’s really hard to get into therapy in the mental health clinic at the VA’s mental health clinic these days. When I talked to my psychiatrist about it, he said that I should try to get into some of the groups that are available and use that as a way to get to know the therapists.

So, back in January, I joined an 8-week mindfulness class.

I was mostly thinking of it as a way to return to a regular meditation routine; I wasn’t really expecting to learn a whole lot. After all, I’ve been meditating in some form or other as long as I can remember.

I should have known better – everything is an opportunity to learn more.

First off – I find it amazingly wonderful that a conservative organization like the VA is doing mindfulness and meditation groups in their mental health clinic!

Most of my meditation experience has been using prompts, guided meditations, or music.

What made this different was that there was not a . . . FOCUS for the meditation that I was used to.

Except there is; there’s the breath.

Everything comes back to the breath.

The breath is the center.

The process is so simple as to be childish.

Just breathe, and pay attention to it.

People tend to think of meditation as making your mind blank and feel like they fail when their mind wanders all over the place. Quotes like the one below (often mis-attributed to Buddha) feed that mental image. So do movies and other parts of popular culture.

It may be stating the case too strongly to say that in meditation one seeks to gain nothing. For there is an increase in happiness and peace of mind. But when asked, “What have you gained from meditation?”, the answer would be: “It is not what I have gained that is important but rather what I have diminished, namely, greed, hatred, and delusion.” – Apparently NOT a Buddha quote, but from World Buddhism by the World Fellowship of Buddhists. 😛

This class acknowledged that your mind WILL wander – and actually the mind wandering and you corralling it back to a focal point *is* the process of meditation.

We were asked to commit to 5 minutes a day, with the idea that 5 minutes a day, most days, is more beneficial than longer periods less frequently.

During the class, I had all these things I wanted to write down and talk about and now I can’t think of most of them – isn’t that always the way?

Try it.

Set a timer. 5 minutes? 10? more? it’s up to you, but if you’re new to it, start with 5.

Sit comfortably, but so that your back is straight: a dining chair, office chair, cross-legged on the floor. The reason you want your back straight is to allow your lungs to fully expand. If you’re hunched over, you can’t fully breathe.

Close your eyes.

Start off by just paying attention to your breath. You don’t have to control it, just pay attention to it.

Your mind will tell you this is a stupid thing. Do it anyway.

You’ll start to think about stuff you need to buy at the store, things you need to do, people you need to talk to.

That’s ok, but when you notice it, come back to your breath.

It’s that simple – and that hard.

The class started out with 18 people, 3 of us women. One woman dropped out after only 2 or 3 sessions. Another woman only made it to about half the sessions. In the end, there were 12 of us.

During the course, some of the things we talked about were forgiveness and the fact that as you do this, as you gain experience with this, you might actually have some uncomfortable feelings, fears come up.

I was intrigued that a mental health clinic would be doing this, and so did a little research and found out Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy is totally a thing.

That means I need to research it more. I bought two books:

Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World
The Mindful Way Workbook: An 8-Week Program to Free Yourself from Depression and Emotional Distress

I’m still working through them so when I come up with insights, I’ll write more.

But if nothing else, remember to pay attention to your breath.

Weekly Oracle Reading: January 6-12, 2014

I’m a little late getting this up tonight. I thought I’d have time earlier in the day to write it up, but things got really busy at work and I took a short lunch.

Then, when I came home after tutoring, my poor little kitty had stopped eating again. 😦 Boo.

Today’s Oracle Reading is from the Energy Oracle Deck by Sandra Anne Taylor.

This is my newest deck, and it’s so gorgeous! For a few readings, I’ve blended it seamlessly with one of Colette Baron-Reid’s.  

Once again, I’m going to look at this as if it were for myself, but I’d love to hear if it relates to your life!

I’m doing a 3-card this time, but instead of Body/Mind/Spirit, I’m looking at it as Opportunities/Challenges/Outcomes.


1. Opportunities – 46. The Thinking Man – This card is supposed to represent either a mentor/teacher/guide or a possible new love interest. However, my eyes are drawn most to the crystal he’s holding, not the man. I feel this means a new path opening up – wisdom? knowledge? A new way of seeing things.

As I think about that a bit, there has been something I have started to look at in a new way – a path I’ve been walking that might need to change.

2. Obstacles – 18. Anxiety, Reversed – Anxiety is a big part of my life, constant stress – financial, social, near constant companion. While reversed, this card could imply an end to worries (or a need to worry), because it’s also in the position of Obstacles, I feel that it means that the worry/anxiety can be . . . harnessed. Like, when you get really keyed up before a big test and it helps you focus, or you really need that fight or flight reflex. So, like a double negative, no worries as an Obstacle means there may be some advantage gained by focusing the anxiety correctly.

3. Outcome – 43. Man Holding a Coin, reversed – So, sexy guy with money? Bring it on! 😛 Oh, but he’s reversed. hmmm. 😛

My initial feeling is that this could mean a drain of resources, which may be financial or may be emotional in a way that could affect finances or health. I think it’s pretty clear that in this deck “a coin” is like pentacles in the Tarot – representing the element of Earth – physicality, health and finances.

Putting it together, it appears that if I don’t figure out how to harness the anxiety, there may be a drain on my (emotional? physical?) resources – but in either case, new wisdom or a whole new path will be opened.

Does any of this relate to you? Please share below!

Pagan Blog Project Week 1: A is for Archetype

This week, I discovered the Pagan Blog Project – it’s essentially a blog challenge, focusing on Pagan stuff. I’m supposed to post every week (or every other week) on Friday about something pagan dealing with a specific letter, spending 2 weeks on each letter.

Since one of my goals is to be more consistent on the blog, I think this will help me and help make the blog better.

I chose Archetype for this first post.

Archetypes are sort of a . . . pattern for things.

Carl Jung defined archetypes as:

universal, archaic patterns and images that derive from the collective unconscious and are the psychic counterpart of instinct. (from Wikipedia)

What’s that got to do with modern Paganism?

If you look at different cultures through time, there are different themes that show up over and over.

The innocent, sweet, kind, young woman (maiden).

Tricksters.

Wise old teachers, male and female.

Fathers, philandering husbands, and the Hero.

These days, when I read mythologies, I see the Gods/Goddesses as divine archetypes – examples and amplifications of human behavior.

There are still lessons to be learned in the ancient stories, from these archetypes.

I have been away from Pagan politics and the evolution of modern Pagan thought for some time now.

When I went to research and refresh my memory on a few things, I came up with several blogs/articles about people being down right angry about my point of view, as if seeing the Gods as archetypes somehow takes away their. . . divineness? God-ness?

I’m not going to link them, because I found them to be a little too . . . hidebound for me.

I fully admit that I’m not as religious as I used to be, in any sense of the word. I think what I think, I feel what I feel, I work my own way and don’t worry about how others do theirs. I don’t think everyone needs to follow my path, and mine has evolved over time.

Raised loosely in a Protestant Christian tradition, I do still think that there is something we don’t yet fully understand that may be called Divine.

I think every culture has tried to connect with this Divine thing in various ways.

I think our brains are finite, and so by nature cannot fully encompass the entirety of this thing.

And so, we create stories around the parts we can see/find. And as the stories grow, belief in the entity grows, and the entity becomes something new.

To me, using archetypes to define and describe the Gods is not sacrilege – it does not take away from divinity.

It creates a path to understanding of the Gods, of humanity, and of ourselves.

Here’s some scholarly info on Jung and archetypes to get you started.

Weekly Oracle Reading Dec 30, 2013 – Jan 5, 2014

I’ve seen a lot of other readers do publish weekly readings and people seem to like them.

I find a couple of things odd about it, which is one reason I haven’t started doing it.

Most of these readings are 3-card readings but they are also temporal readings, meaning the three cards are supposed to represent 7 days as the beginning, middle and end of the week. Of course, 7 days don’t really break up evenly like that. Some say Card 1 is for Mon/Tues, Card 2 is for Wed/Thurs and Card 3 is for “the weekend.” I suppose that makes a kind of sense, but sometimes I find more Real Life happens on the weekend, while the week is concentrated on Work Life. So, having only 1 card represent the weekend seems a little light.

However 3-card readings can also lend themselves to other breakdowns, like Body/Mind/Spirit or Health/Work/Relationships (or Family) or other break downs.

I’m probably going to do one of those most weeks.

The other thing I find weird is that to me, readings are intensely personal, so saying that a reading is for everyone. . . strikes me as odd. I know that it’s general energy trends, not specifics, but I still find it weird. I don’t know if I can do that.

So, for now, I’m going to do the reading as if it were for me, and if I can see how it can relate to everyone, I’ll put that in.

I’m also going to ask for feedback. . . if you can see how a card or interpretation can relate to you, let me know!

Now, onto the reading. . . .

I’m using Colette Baron-Reid’s Enchanted Map deck this week.

Body: 

11. Balancing Act – Reversed – 

That makes total sense. Upright the card would indicate that I am in balance, reversed, I am not.

And it’s true. My own physical health has taken a backseat to many other things. I’m not active and I have not been eating well. I’m also having trouble sleeping. It looks as though this may continue.

 But I think I’ve drawn the card to get me to focus on this issue, so I can use it to focus on my health. Interestingly, my eyes are drawn most to the heart-shaped flower petals, which are supposed to represent love and devotion. That being out of whack is something that has been on my mind lately, as well.

Mind: 

53. Listening.

This image of the Elephant is enchanting. The elephant has large ears to hear, and there seems to be music playing, or is that the birds singing? The green is a calming and healing color.

My eyes are drawn to the elephant’s wise and knowing face. He cannot see the birds where they are perched (well, maybe the one on his tusk) but he doesn’t question where the music is coming from, he just knows.

Elephants are symbols of memory, wisdom and good fortune. They always remind me of my great-grandmother. Edith always had elephant statues and on jewelry as symbols of good luck.

It’s funny because after months of being silent on the blog, I’m just starting to write again, finding my voice, and now the guidance is to Listen.

That’s ok, though, because Listening and reflection are already on the schedule for this week. 🙂

And just the last few days, I’ve been realizing that I’ve turned back to using entertainment as distraction. I’ve been watching all these British shows on Hulu, pretty much non-stop (as I discovered a few I had never seen). I enjoy the shows, but I’m using it as a way to avoid going within, to avoid Listening to my higher self or to Spirit.

I suspect it’s because I think I’m not going to like what I hear, so I want to avoid hearing it. But it’s time. It’s time to hear what’s been trying to come through.

Spirit: 

25. Metamorphosis Reversed – 

The butterfly on the chrysalis is an obvious symbol here. Going through great changes.

But aren’t we always going through changes? If you aren’t changing inside, are you even alive?

Reversed, this is supposed to be a reminder that change can be painful, but worth it.

Funny, I’ve been thinking the worst is behind me. Perhaps not. Perhaps there is more spiritually difficult times on the horizon, and this is a reminder to keep the end-game in mind?

My eyes are drawn this time to the flamingos, with their necks curving into a heart shape.

Ah.

Maybe that does make sense, with some things in my personal life that have been coming to light recently, and ties back into the first card.

Yes, change can be uncomfortable. And it can hurt to give up on long-held dreams.

But, sometimes that change really is necessary.

How about you?

So, do any of these cards speak to you?

Do you see symbolism different than I’ve mentioned?

Does anything I’ve said apply to you this week? (and if you’re reading this long after this week, does it speak to you on the day you’re reading it?)

Not to get too awful salesy, but if you’d like to book a reading with this deck, you can do so here.

Let’s talk about money & business

I thought I’d give you guys and myself a little run-down on my income for this year, since it’s the first year I’ve tried to make money with this blog.

 My tutoring income is one of my lowest since I started doing it – but I did not advertise or really hustle for clients at all.

Source
Gross
Fees
Net
AdSense
$8.95
$8.95
YNAB Referral
$6.00
$6.00
Leonie Referral
$93.95
$93.95
Amazon
$11.85
$11.85
Tarot Sales
$1,210.00
-40.66
$1,169.34
Tutoring
$3,340.00
$3,340.00
Totals
$4670.75
-40.66
$4,630.09

Now, Amazon doesn’t pay until you reach $10, so I do have another $0.51 earned there that’s unpaid.
Google Adsense doesn’t pay until you reach $100. Total, since 2009, Adsense has earned $24.98 from several of my blogs.
The fees mentioned above are PayPal fees.
I have not yet added up buying office supplies, paying for my URL, or any other business expenses, but my profit is likely really small. 
I guess I thought it was important to post this because when starting out, a person may NOT get a few thousand a month right away. “Get your first 5 figure month in 3 months, starting with nothing!!!”
Yeah, no. 
It might work like that for someone that already has a huge list or can pay for advertising, or knows someone who will pimp her stuff.
But most people don’t.
I could have made more, and I know it.
When my energy ebbed in the summer, I got behind on completing readings. Then I felt guilty for not getting them done on time. 
I didn’t feel like it was a good idea to push and advertise for more sales when I wasn’t fulfilling my obligations from sales already made.
I’m hoping that this will also encourage me. If I can do better in 2014 than I did this year, then even if I don’t meet my own sometimes lofty goals, I can still track how I’m doing, and see that I’m better.
Here’s the thing, though. I don’t know if readings is really what I want to do.
I started doing them because it was something I could do, already had the stuff for and people would pay for – NOT because I’m totally passionate about doing readings. 
I LOVE doing readings, but I love doing them when I feel like doing them, not when I *have* to.
What I think would be better, for me, is to create something that could sell itself even when I’m at a low-energy point.
For me, products might be better than services, because I can’t/don’t have the energy to be consistent with services. 
Next problem: what could I write or create that would sell? 

You know what happens when you make plans?

First you make plans. . . .

Playing with my phone camera 

I wanted this weekend to be about solitude, reflection, finishing up my Core Desired Feelings, setting up concrete goals and working on my vision board and my Amazing Year calendar and workbook. I was going to have a massage this morning, and spend the rest of the weekend in reflection. I was supposed to have off from Wed-Sun.

Then, I forgot to turn in my November invoice for my contract gig, meaning I didn’t get paid this month. So, ok, cancel the massage, but it’s ok, the rest of the weekend can go as planned.

Then, something had to get done for the contract job on Friday, and I don’t mind that, actually like that they asked me to do it, so, ok, worked 7 hours.

Friday I found out something else had to be done on Sat. Still, really not a problem – it’s only 4 miles away, and it’s a quick something, so fine.

Tonight, sleeping on top of my bed, rather than under it.

Then the big thing. Last weekend, I noticed Pumpkin (my big, fat, orange cat) was hiding under the bed and not eating.

This is so unlike my normally social baby. I was worried.

He’s been to the vet 3 times this week. Right now, there’s still several things it could be, but the best bet, based on symptoms, is pancreatitis.

Right now, he has antibiotics, pain medication, and subcutaneous fluids. Today, he also got a shot of anti-nausea medication and an appetite stimulant pill (1/8th of a pill! seriously 1/8th!!).

Fresh poster board for my Vision Board.

This is, obviously, another financial hit, but luckily C is helping me with the cost.

But the point is, worrying about my baby and taking him back to the vet on Thursday and today is not helping me with the reflection and goal-setting and workbook working on stuff.

I may not get my stuff done this weekend.

And that’s ok!

Taking care of my sick kitty is more important than getting my goals written down by a certain date.

I was able to spend a little time tonight working on them, though.

I bought a new poster board and hung it where my old one was.

Water colors!!

I got out water color paints and paper and made a couple little things to hang on the board.

I’ve never been into New Year’s Resolutions, but last year, attempting to set real goals and reviewing them regularly really did help me focus on what was important to me.

This year, I’m more focused and starting to become a bit more financially stable (thanks to the contract gig). I feel like I can really begin to focus on my next steps now.

I already mentioned my Word of the Year in my last post, so here’s the start of my new board!

Getting started!

Words

My tiny black tree. 🙂

.

I finally gave a nod to the season by putting up my tiny black tree. I bought this at Border’s several years ago, when C and I were renting a room in someone else’s house. We didn’t have any room for a real tree or for the 4 ft artificial tree I had in storage. C was into skull & crossbones and her favorite colors were black and red. It seemed perfect for us at the time

Last year, I didn’t decorate at all. I just never got into the mood to celebrate. This year, I put up my little tree. At least I have a *little* spirit this year.

I’m working on my Amazing Year Planner but I’m also working on Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map (I got the digital version last year in her “pay what you can” sale).

I’ve chosen my word for 2014. I chose it a couple of weeks ago. It’s been bubbling in my head for weeks, maybe even months.

Amazing Year and Desire Map Workbooks

I think perhaps reading The Desire Map earlier in the year stuck in my subconscious. The Desire Map is about finding your Core Desired Feelings – decide how you want to feel, and create your goals and make your decisions based on how you want to feel.

I chose my Word before I started doing the Desire Map work, but I definitely chose it with the idea in mind that this word was going to shape the decisions I make from now on, not just for this next year, but for the rest of my life.

I’ve had hard times, I’ve made bad decisions, I’ve done things I’m not proud of, I’ve created strife where there didn’t need to be any, I’ve created drama for the sake of being dramatic. I’m tired of that.

Earlier in the year, I wrote that I kept coming back to a wallpaper Leonie created that said, “Joy is an option!”

For the last several weeks, I’ve been thinking that I want freedom, dancing, liberation, abandonment, unshackled happiness, radical love. . . . in other words,

I want more joy in my life. It’s time, past time for it. I deserve it.

This may mean making hard decisions and letting go of things I’ve held onto for a long time.

But those things are pulling me down, and I want to FLY!

Words have power.

The things we tell ourselves can shape how we see our lives, and ourselves.

Having “Success” plastered in a place where I couldn’t avoid it this year did help. I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to, but I made a lot of progress on a lot of fronts that have me in a better place emotionally and financially than I started the year.

I’ve had moments of happiness and contentment. And now I want more than that.

It’s easier to look for this kind of emotional fulfillment when my financial picture is starting to get better.

With this in mind, the business may change.

I love giving readings.

But I would like to expand to reach people who may not be interested in readings, but are beginning to explore their inner lives.