Day 191: Earth, the Power to Resonate

As far as the passive, inward elemental expressions have gone, we’ve seen the power to wonder with air, the power to surrender with fire, and the power to accept with fire.  These clearly all have strong connotations of passivity.  But earth with its power to resonate seems again to have fallen off the beaten path.  Resonance is reverberating.  It is movement, and movement is dynamic.  It is as paradoxical as the power of silence being the dynamism of potential, but resonance is the ‘quiet’ force because all beings resonate.  The atoms in all matter quiver with energy, and so it is oddly enough this movement that provides the receptive baseline.  As Roderick says, “resonance represents the interconnectedness of all reality.  It is an energy that widens your perspective to understand that there is no division between you and anything else.”

Roderick notes that in times of silence, we can naturally connect to this resonance and “feel the pulse of life throbbing all around us”, and it is this pulse that “places our concepts, our academic terms of ‘god’ and ‘goddess’ into a palpable experiential form.”  Moreover, when we tap into this resonance and make spontaneous utterances, we can presume that this is the voice of the gods, and the spontaneity of acion makes us passive to the greater forces.

When tapped too much into resonant energy, though, the earth energy in an individual skews and forces one to be “light-headed, detached, disoriented, and out of touch with one’s surroundings or reality.”  If this seems to be your bent, Roderick recommends the following exercise:

Practice:  Rebalancing Resonance

When you notice the signs of resonance imbalances, take time to practice this grounding exercise.  Begin by heating seven small river stones under hot running tap water.  Do not allow the stones to heat so much that you cannot handle them.  Then, take off your clothing and lie flat upon your back.  Use table salt to form a line down the center of your body from the base of your throat to the pubic area.  Place one heated stone each at the center of your brow, at the base of your throat, at the center of your chest, about two inches above the navel, and just above the genitals.  Place one stone in the palm of each hand and lie so that your palms face upward.  As you lie on the ground, imagine that you absorb the earth energies both beneath you and from the stones.

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Day 190: Earth, The Power to be Silent

As with air (the power to know), fire (the power to will), and water (the power to dare), Roderick gives earth the fourth part of the witches’ pyramid–the power to be silent–as the element’s active power.  In other words, it is “earth’s outwardly expressed, dynamic energy.”  The thing, though, is that Western culture does not equate silence with dynamism.  For us, silence is a receptive quality:  be silent and listen.  The listening is the action that the passive silence permits.

Silence is a bit of a paradox, for it is a still, restful energy.  But, as Roderick points out, “the stillness of silence also represents the void” and that emptiness of all things is also the potential of all things.  Therefore, the receptive energy of silence is also the “active energy of readiness and of unlimited potential”.

That potential gives the element of earth rule over things that have potential:  material gain, wealth, prosperity, riches, work, service, strength, fortitude, honesty, practicality, pleasure, comfort, music, and art.  Roderick also notes that the earthy people strong in silence enjoy life’s simple pleasures of “good food, good sex, and a nice place to live”.  These are the people who are grounded and practical in their approach to complex issues, and Roderick notes that they often find success in the fields of “real estate, banking, investing, engineering, farming, mineralogy, archaeology, building, architecture, dentistry, or medicine.”

When silence is out of balance, though, it can cause people to appear “rigid, stubborn, pessimistic, conventional, cruel, worrisome, inactive, possessive, stupid, slothful, greedy, or covetous.”  In fact, this skew in balance puts me in mind of the figure on the four of pentacles:  a miserable little old miser clutching desperately to what he’s got in his empty little box and ignoring the full, happy world outside of his walls.  It’s a deceptive place to be in:  the stubborn greed makes you feel as though you have plenty, but it blinds you to the potential around you.  It’s really very sad.

If this is the unfortunate direction that earth’s active power of silence seems to be taking you, Roderick recommends the following exercise to help reign in the rampant power of silence.

Practice:  Rebalancing Silence

When you notice that you are out of balance in the active energy of earth, take time to practice this freeing exercise.  Go to a place in nature where you can touch the bare earth.  (if this is impossible, fill a bowl with salt, which is the magical representative of earth.)  Place your hands lightly on the surface of the earth (or salt).  As you do this, exhale onto the earth.  Close your eyes and imagine that a green field of energy leaves your body through your hands and out through your breath.  Now imagine that it enters the earth.  Continue with this process until the green energy field feels rebalanced and you feel whole and serene.

Day 184: Water, the Power to Accept

As we know from yesterday’s work, water uncontained is a force to be reckoned with.  It will mow you down, and it don’t care.  It dares.  Yet, once water is contained, it will happily remain in its container until something happens to that container.  In fact, it fits itself exactly to the shape of that container unquestioned.  It just takes the container as it is.

That’s the flipside to the power to dare:  the power to accept.  The converse to breaking boundaries is honoring them.  As Roderick says, the practical terms of acceptance are “grounding yourself in the circumstances of your body, your environment, family friends, work, life, etc.  It is fully knowing where you are right now and determining where you’d like to go.”

Part of that knowing is accepting the real limits of a situation, the whole truth of your life no matter how pleasant or unpleasant aspects of it may be.  Once you accept these limits, you’ll be able to recognize when your cup tilts a bit and allows you to flow in a new way.  Understanding the limits means understanding when they change and how to take advantage of that change.  This will keep you from clinging to former limits and becoming “paralyzed and ineffective” when your confining variables shift.

However, Roderick is careful to elaborate on paralysis, noting that an imbalance in acceptance causes individuals “to appear rigid, hyper-alert, self-deprecating, demanding of boundaries, needy of high structure and order, or only able to relate to what can be defined.”  He also asks us to investigate our own relationship to acceptance by answering the following questions:

  • In what ways do you feel you are connected to the power to accept?
  • In what ways do you feel disconnected from the power to accept?
  • What are the dangers of accepting?
  • Would accepting have any benefits in your life?

As I’ve previously said, I really like the structure of containment: having those places for everything and putting things in their places.  I think I get ‘accepting’ very, very well.  Indeed, I’m sort of famous in my family for listening to the dreams of my brothers and then saying “well, that sounds great…but where are you going to get the money/how are you going to find the time/etc.”  I make sure that the limits are known before anyone gets over their heads in untenable projects.  I don’t really have a strong disconnection from this aspect of water at all.

That being said, I know I’m in the danger zone.  As I noted in the previous post, I’m too prone to accepting my situation and leaving change for later times.  And I miss out on a lot because of that.  Maybe I could be happier if I dared a little more?

Practice:  Rebalancing Accepting

Engage in this magical activity whenever you notice that you are feeling rigid, hyper-alert, or self-deprecating.  Go to water in a natural setting, such as at a lake, a stream, or the ocean.  If you do not live near a natural source of water, fill a large pot or cauldron with fresh clear water.  Stand directly in front of the water.  Open your arms and welcome this energy into your being.  Close your eyes.  Imagine that you become transparent and you allow the cool, slow, watery flow to pass directly through you.  Stay with this exercise for at least ten minutes.

I anticipate well, it seems.

For this, I would certainly do my best to go to natural water and actually get into it.  I keep remembering last Christmas when I went skinny dipping in that waterfall and felt the power of the water around me.  I don’t think you could really get that DARE infusion if you stood in front of a sedate contained cauldron.

By the way, this is my tricentennial posting!  I don’t think I’ve ever had a journaling project that has resulted in this much body.  Congratulations to me!

Day 183: Water, the Power to Dare

One of my best (and pagan!) friends from back in college was a fellow named Allen.  After graduation, Allen eventually moved to San Francisco, and appears to be having a most excellent time, which makes sense because this move was essentially Allen returning to the Mothership.  I don’t know if this is a San Francisco gay culture meme or not, but many of Allen’s friends constantly refer to people who sassily don’t care about a given person or situation as “Honey Badgers.”  I believe it is in reference to this YouTube video:

Now why am I bringing up the bad ass honey badger in reference to water and the power to dare?  Well, that honey badger does nothing but dare:  if a honey badger wants bee larva, it doesn’t give a shit if it has to go into the bee hive and get stung like a hundred times; nothing can stop the honey badger when it’s hungry ’cause honey badger don’t care.  Water don’t care either.  If something happens and it’s got to redefine its barriers, it’s gonna.  Floods don’t care if they mow down villages; water’s just tryin’ to find it’s own level.  The ocean don’t care if its tsunamis wipe out half of Japan:  it’s just moving its mass ’cause that mass has to go somewhere.  Bodies of water move their own way and don’t take shit from no one or nothing.  It responds to itself, and itself only.  Water is fearless and fierce.

Returning to my typical diction, we can basically view the honey badger of water as a power that pushes around artificial barriers:  that’s daring, the ability to be the pioneer who gets outside of the box.  If we dare as water dares, we move beyond those cultural limits that tell us something is disgusting (like eating a snake) or wrong, and we can experience a heretofore unknown richness.  Maybe that’s why we adore artists like Oscar Wilde, David Bowie, and Lady Gaga:  they actively question and redefine things that seem like ‘hard barriers’, things like ‘gender’, ‘sexuality,’ ‘performance’, ‘reality.’  I think we all can agree that the world becomes better when these surreal artists force everyone else to question the permanence of their quiet little definitions and limits.

This force, this daring, that is water.  That’s probably why it rules all the things that allow us to imagine our limits away, things like our dreams and visions and our empathy and compassion.  It allows us to cycle between polarities and find a spectrum, so it’s also that element which rules cycles and lunar mysteries.  No wonder we consider counselors, story tellers, social workers, narrative creators, and psychics as having water occupations:  things that require a sensitivity to the multifaceted human experience need water’s daring.

But I suppose even daring has its limits:  with too much left undefined, it is hard for others to relate to you.  Therefore an excess of water energy can cause sadness, depression, brooding, fixations upon the past, emotional hyperbolism, and an inappropriate excess of empathy.

Roderick asks us to think about our own relationship to water by responding to these questions:

  • In what ways do you feel you are connected to the power to dare?
  • In what ways do you feel disconnected from the power to dare?
  • Have the outward qualities of water been an important part of your life?  Your culture?  Your upbringing?
  • What part does daring play in your life today?

You know, I think I’m far more disconnected to daring than I am connected.  In theory, my profession at least should bring me some power to dare because cultural critics are all about deconstructing barriers and uncovering innovations and transgressions.  Studying something no one has ever studied before is, in itself, a daring proposition for you necessarily change the previously known boundaries.  But academia has its own clearly defined boundaries and containment boxes, and you must be skilled at negotiating them in order to succeed.

Moreover, my core personality is one that really honors strong delineations.  I like having places for everything and putting everything in its place.  I go ballistic when people change furniture around and are content to let things sit in awkward positions just for the sake of change.  (Probably the one thing that most perplexed me about my friend Johnathan was his need to rearrange all the furniture in his bedroom at least once a season…if not move rooms altogether!)  I live a pretty quiet, domestic life with fairly little upset.  I don’t even like to be impolite:  I care that others would freak out if I dared to eat a snake like the honey badger!  Maybe I inherited this from my upbringing; after all, I recall that I was quite the innovative little hellion as a child, but that my parents eventually succeeded in feminizing my actions and reactions.

On the downside, changing up my life’s little boxes is really hard.  It would probably take the cosmic equivalent of a tsunami to get me to ask someone on a date.  I don’t even seriously consider moving away from my house because it ‘fits’ me just fine.  And don’t even get me started with the lack of daring professionally:  I’m scared as heck to even begin thinking about dissertating and taking that first DARE step.  Never mind that I’m pretty much emotionally stunted.  (Emotions are for the inefficient!)

I’ve got some steps to take, I believe.

Practice:  Rebalancing Daring

When you notice that you are too emotional, dreamy, and lacking in boundaries, take time to practice this grounding exercise.  Go to a place in nature where you can find water.  If this is impossible, fill up the bathtub or sink with water.  Place your hands lightly on the surface of the water.  As you do this, exhale onto the water.  Close your eyes and imagine that a blue field of energy leaves your body through your hands and out through your breath.  Now imagine that it enters the water on which your hands are placed.  Continue with this process until you feel calm and emotionally centered.

Well, this sure isn’t my water imbalance, but I can see how it could go both ways.  Instead of imagining that the energy left my body, I could imagine it going into my body.  It might be worth trying someday.

Day 174: Fire, the Power to Surrender

Roderick sure is right when he says that “at first blush, [the power to surrender] hardly seems to be a power at all” because we popularly association surrendering with giving up and that giving up may invite others to harm us or things we care about.  In magic, though, surrender is to bring your will in alliance with a universal will.  It’s about letting go of preconceptions of how an action is to come to pass and allow it to occur on nature’s schedule.  As Roderick puts it, “When you surrender you live in harmony with the flow of life energy; you live in accord with whatever circumstance arises.  Surrendering comes from a deep understanding that life energy does not need to flow in one way or another, since that energy is what you are already.”  In other words, if you can develop a level of elasticity about something, you’ll be able to ‘roll with the punches’ rather than shatter to pieces at the first obstacle.

Surrender is more, though, and I will quote Roderick in full on this:

Surrendering is also about letting go.  And this sense of release manifests differently in each of our lives.  It may mean releasing your physical stress and tension, it may mean letting go your emotional tension.  It may mean releasing your grip, your insistence on getting your own way.  It might mean leaving a job that pays you more but causes you misery.  It may mean releasing your hold on a relationship that no longer functions.

I suppose this is the whole “if you love something, set it free” philosophy.  Letting go and trusting in others to carry their load.  Almost always, the load gets carried–if not in the way you envisioned, perhaps, but it will get carried…and sometimes better than you could have ever hoped for yourself.  This joint alignment of personal will with universal will and letting go effectively ends up allowing us to mirror “nature’s nonstriving” and eventually helps us unite with nature and the divine.  Too much of this, though, and individuals appear “lazy, depressed, dependent, inactive, idle, indirect, and perhaps dangerously passive or unable to act.”

As with the power to will, Roderick asks us to write down our own relationship to the power of surrendering, focusing on four questions:

  • In what ways do you feel you are connected to the power to surrender?
  • In what ways do you feel disconnected from the power to surrender?
  • What are the dangers of surrendering?
  • Would surrendering have any benefits in your life?

I wonder if my tendency to procrastinate connects to the power to surrender?  Part of the procrastination makes me lazy and inactive.  It promotes idleness, indirectness and can really make me depressed–and then that depression snowballs.  Eventually, I’m completely unable to act if it gets really bad.  I’m far more likely to take the que sera sera stance and passively stay in a situation that could be vastly improved if I took steps to get out of it.  For example, there was no real reason for me to stay at that job at Stanley Chevrolet for as long as I did–it was beyond awful.  It was just easier to sit back and collect that paycheck and ‘not care’.  I was afraid I’d fall in love with a better job and never go grad school–that I’d get too comfortable and not want to give those comforts up–but there’s no reason I couldn’t have found an imperfect job that catered to my skill set more.  I just didn’t want to apply and get rejected over and over and over again.

I think I am too connected to this power overall–I’m struggling to articulate how I feel disconnected to it.  Perhaps some disconnection is a resistance to trust others to get their jobs done or to make me feel safe or to arrive at some compromised agreement that is beneficial to all.  Living in the co-op where you’re forced to develop some skills in this area has been good for me, but I still resist fully letting go.  My ‘shields’ are always up.

If they dropped–if I totally let go–I would be open for a world of hurt and pain, and that is probably the biggest danger I can perceive.  It would also open me up to much greater satisfaction and happiness…a clear benefit.

Practice:  Rebalancing Surrendering

When you notice that you have become lazy, depressed, or unable to take decisive action, take time to engage in rigorous physical activity.  Go to the gym.  Take a hike along a mountain path.  Go running.  Whatever it is you choose to do, make a commitment to do it regularly for several days.  Keep your mind clear while engaging in the activity.  Once you complete your activity, stop and allow yourself time to feel the vibration of the energy you raise in your own body.  Feel the hum of blood as it courses through you.  Feel your aliveness.  Now take action in your life as needed.

A very smart exercise–harness the endorphins released from exercise to bump up your ability to get things done–the pleasure chemicals will help override nagging doubts and insecurities.  I shall have to try this.

Day 173: Fire, the Power to Will

If you keep track of the post dates, you’ll notice that yesterday was the first day in ages that I flat out skipped…which is doubly silly seeing as I wrote one for the emergency queue that I could have used.  I just couldn’t get my act together to focus on 366…I was too busy procrastinating on paper writing!  I just have one left for the term, and–weirdly enough–this is the first time in weeks where I could take a break.  So I took all weekend off of ‘school work’, and that crept into Monday, too.  I’ve got to start writing today, obviously (paper’s due Thursday at noon!), but it has been sooooo nice not having to rush about all tweaked and stressed.  Now, alas, I have to reharness my power to will.

Willing, as Roderick describes, is simply a matter of “actualizing one’s personal desire”, and it is that which connects will to the element of fire, which “centers around movement, action, passion, directness, attentiveness, strength, and assertion.”  Actualizing desire and these purposed qualities are all functions of the frontal cortex–the part of the brain associated with reasoning, planning, parts of speech, movement, emotions, and problem solving.  It understands the long term benefits and costs of any action, and allows us to reason our way through or against that action independent of any temporal emotional pulls…and I suppose it would contrast against the limbic system in the power to surrender, but that is another day’s focus.

Roderick does note that “fire people are often quick and agile.  They can also be passionate, sexual, assertive, athletic, goal-oriented, and a bit sharp-tongued”–which are all nice traits in my book.  But when fire takes too much control in a person’s life or personality, individuals might veer into the “hostile, angry, rageful, aggressive, destructive, hypersexual, nervous, over-assertive, impatient, demanding, back-biting, competitive, or vengeful.”

With all this in mind, Roderick asks us to “take time to commit to paper an exploration of your own relationship to willing” following these four questions:

  • In what ways do you feel you are connected to the power to will?
  • In what ways do you feel disconnected from the power to will?
  • Have the outward qualities of fire been an important part of your life?  Your culture?  Your upbringing?
  • What part does willing play in your life today?

It is clear that I have a problem with procrastination, and that is something that I feel disconnects me from the power to will, for it postpones or destroys my will, and makes me more passive, indirect, and dreamy than I’d like to be.  Yet, I do think that I have a large portion of fire energy in me.  I know that I am a very strong person:  I can function under tremendous stresses and serve as a source of strength for others undergoing those stresses, too.  Sure, I may completely breakdown for a period of time–when I found out my dad lost his business, for example, I drove to a parking lot an bawled for a couple of hours, then collected myself and went on with the process of living under changed conditions.  This pattern repeats at every major crisis.  But I do go on, and I do become a sort of leader.

I do think I need to cultivate fire energy in the form of willing in more healthy ways–but I know I can do it.  I have a reservoir of this will deep within me.

Have the outward qualities of fire and will been an important part of my life?  Well, action, passion, directness and such have all been privileged qualities, but when I was growing up, I think I felt a sort of pressure to temper those qualities with patience.  In my house, if you wanted to get anything done, you had to go about it backhanded and get my father to think it was his idea.  For example, on one of the last truly enjoyable family outings we had, my mother really wanted to grill steaks for supper, but my father was trying to pinch pennies and said hamburger and hot dogs would do.  Knowing my father listened to me more than anyone else, my mom asked me if I would try to convince him that steak was the way to go.  What this meant was I had to carefully pick the time and place and approach the whole thing with humor–present the situation as a “wouldn’t it be nice if…” and let my father think he was enabling some sort of dream because he got a lot of pleasure from surprising us, but only if he thought that a) we would be surprised and b) we really wanted that thing.

So I waiting until dad and I were reading together and relaxing.  Then I said, “Today has been such a lovely day.  You know what would really cap it off?  Grilling steaks.”  My dad laughed and laughed, and I joined in and heightened it to something ridiculous to make just the steak look even more attainable:  “yeah…steaks and lobster.  Can you imagine anything better?”  Then we giggled and that was that.  But you know what?  Later that afternoon, Dad went to the store.  And he came back with four steaks and four lobsters.  That was how I got my will done, and that’s probably a good example of how I operate to this day.

Practice:  Rebalancing Willing

When you notice that you are too focused on striving for outward achievement, take time to practice this grounding exercise.  Light a fire in a fireplace or in a fire pit.  Alternately, light four or more red candles.  Stand directly in front of the fire.  Open your arms, breathe deeply, and mentally invite this energy into your being.  Close your eyes.  Imagine that you become transparent and you allow the heat and flames to pass directly through you.  stay with this exercise for at least ten minutes.  When finished, jot down notes about your experience.

I think the opening to this exercise is key:  too focused on striving for outward achievement.  Will is most powerful when you have an internal passion for achievement.  When you are striving for, say, an A in a class rather than really learning the material, you’re just focused on outward achievement.

I think I might actually be in this place.  It might just be because I’m at the tail end of my coursework now, but a lot of the passion that got me into a doctoral program has fizzled.  Courses and the insane pace of the quarter system has beaten the care out of me.  I’m now more focused on a degree than on being a scholar.  And I do have to work on this.

But right now?  Well…I have to procrastinate!  I need to finish this one last paper–just go through the motions and get this one thing done in a few last days before I can begin the bigger process of finding the will again.

Day 167: Air, The Power to Wonder

This is so brilliant, I can’t understand how I never thought of it before, but wondering is the polar opposite of knowing.  Wonder occurs when you don’t know why something is happening and just taking simple pleasure in the affective.  Roderick says that “wondering is about unlearning your life and your relationships to everything and everyone [… it] is experiencing the wisdom that emerges when you release opinions or judgments about life.”  It also opens up extreme flexibility of response and can bring one around to the most creative expressions and solutions.  Eventually, “the power to wonder allows Witches to discover truth as it reveals itself in each moment without resorting to fixing perceptions, cognitive understanding, or mental anticipation.”  Unfortunately, with wonder unchecked by knowledge, individuals can appear “inattentive, spacy, sleepy, distractable, dense, and dull-witted.”

Roderick asks us to evaluate our own relationship to wonder by answering the following questions:

  • In what ways do you feel you are connected to the power to wonder?
  • In what ways do you feel disconnected from the power to wonder?
  • What are the dangers of not knowing?
  • Would not knowing have any benefits in your life?

I think I am drawn to wonder, but I don’t know how to just let myself go.  I’m drawn to magic, which is inherently something wonderful…but there’s still a part of me rationalizing why we Witches do what we do and placing explanation over the actions.  Therefore, I have a great appreciation for it, but I think I’ve gotten too estranged from the childlike place to find my way back.

The dangers of perpetual wonder would probably be a social estrangement.  In the Harry Potter books, for example, the character Luna Lovegood could be considered a person completely lost to wonder.  None of the other characters quite understand where she’s coming from because she basically has a vocabulary of her own–she responds to the world in her own way, and no one else can ever really share that response with her.  On the bright side, Luna is also one of the most insightful characters and is not afraid to speak her mind–she has full confidence in her convictions and delights in sharing them.  It’s an odd tightrope.

Practice:  Rebalancing Wondering

When you notice that you are imbalanced in wondering, take time to practice this grounding exercise called “adjusting the breath.”  Sit in a comfortable chair and align your head and spine.  Instead of beginning your usually breath by inhaling, begin a breath by exhaling and voiding the lungs completely.  Allow your solar plexus region to contract inward, toward the spine, as far as it can.  What is important here is that you get all of the air out of your lungs.  Once you reach your own limit of inward contraction (and please don’t do this to the point of discomfort), release your hold and allow the lungs to fill naturally.  Do not try to compensate for the voiding of your lungs by deeply refilling with a large breath of air.  Instead, simply allow the lungs to release from the contraction and fill naturally, of their own accord.  Repeat this process three more times.  Finally, allow the breath to settle into its own natural rhythm of inhalation and exhalation.  Following this exercise, your mind should be refocused and clear.  If not, repeat the process as needed.

Hm.  I think perhaps I should take up some basic yoga practices again.  I actually had a hard time with this.  Voiding the lungs was sort of easy, but refilling them was a hurky-jerky process to keep from taking in that large breath of air.  I could stand to practice this exercise a lot more, but from this take, I can see how it can help bring more focus instead of wonder to a mental perception.  I feel much more prepared to say something purposed rather than bask in wonderment.

Day 166: Air, The Power to Know

Roderick makes an excellent point in this discussion that I’d never really thought of before:  the elements express themselves in a balance of light and dark, active and passive.  I must admit, I’ve only really ever thought of the elements in a single way–knowing, daring, willing, and silence–but that, as Roderick points out, are the outward expressions:  the “visible, active expression of unseen, subtle, elemental forces.  There is a flip side, of course–the receptive internal process and manifestation of these forces.

The outward expression of air is, of course, the power to know.  In magical terms, this is–as Roderick says–a representation of “the acquisition of rational understanding of the world around you”, so all areas of knowledge and communication feed into this–art, theatre, film, television, acting, writing, production, publishing, philosophy, psychology, education.  These are all air pursuits, of course.

But when there’s too much of the outward expression and not enough of the inward, a person can get a little out of balanced.  Too much emphasis on knowledge with a lack in wonder can make a person “appear flighty, talkative, overly analytical, hypercognitive, exclusively rational, and only able to experience the world through mental understanding”.  I think that this, carried to its extreme, might be a magical cause of some of the social disorders being diagnosed today, as well as some really complicated spectrum disorders like autism.

Roderick asks us to write down our own relationship to the energies of knowing:

  • In what ways do you feel you are connected to the power to know?
  • In what ways do you feel disconnected from the power to know?
  • Has knowledge been an important part of your life?  Your culture?  Your upbringing?
  • What part does knowledge play in your life today?

I do feel like I’ve got a strong connection to this power.  I’m very analytical, and I do try to bring myself through logical argumentation whenever I come to a disagreement.  In fact, this is what I teach as my job.  I’m also generally hungry for all manner of trivial information, and I love bringing together disparate parts of information to see how that juxtaposition changes our assumptions of how things work.

At the same time, I sometimes feel that air and knowledge elude me.  It’s tiring trying to do that work, and frequently my body rejects pursuing it.  I get all procrastinate-y and want to do more material things like bake cookies or just chill out with my friends and family.  The bigger a knowledge project is and the more stakes are involved, the more likely I am to run away.

Knowledge has been an important part of my upbringing.  My parents always stressed scholastic performance with me, and they encouraged and enabled me to search for and find answers.  This was a fun thing for all of us.

Today, knowledge plays a huge role in my life since I elected to become a scholar…though I often wonder why I thought that was a smart choice, given how prone my colleagues and I are to dissatisfaction.

Practice:  Rebalancing Knowing

When you notice that you are overanalyzing and too caught up in knowing, take time to practice this grounding exercise.  stand outside in a breeze, or if there is none, stand in front of a fan.  Whether you are outside or indoors, stand facing the breeze directly.  Open your arms and welcome this energy into your being.  Close your eyes.  Imagine that you have become transparent, and allow the breeze to pass directly through you, blowing away your thoughts.  Imagine that this leaves you empty and clean.  Stay with this visualization for at least ten minutes.  When you are finished, jot down notes about your experience.

Mmm…so lovely to do this on a warm, sunny spring day.  I feel lovely and refreshed and surprisingly out of ‘head space.’  I feel like I should go on a walk or mix up some lemonade!  How bizarre.

Day 163: The Elements of Your Life

Review the elemental chart from yesterday’s exercise.  As you do, think about which of the elements seems most to represent you.  For example, if you are someone who spends a great deal of time communicating, then the element of air might best represent you.  If you are an energetic, active person, then fire might best represent your essence.  If you are emotional and sensitive, perhaps you more naturally align with water.  If you are silent, stoic, and practical, you most likely align naturally with earth.

Once you have determined the element to which you closely align, see which of the elements represents the people who are closest to you.  Take time to explore these questions:

  • Which elements represent the sort of people who interest you?
  • Which represent the kinds of people who turn you off?
  • Which element best represents your job?
  • Which element represents your style of relating to people?
  • What elemental colors are you wearing today?
  • How do those elemental colors affect you?
  • What element symbolizes your relationship with a partner, friend, or loved one?
  • Which of the elemental colors do you have painted on your house (inside and out)?  How do these colors affect you in your home?

Contemplate which of the elements seem to be the most prevalent and which seem to be lacking in your life.

Oh my.  I think I might be a toss-up between air and earth.  I put a lot of stock into developing thought and communication, and I probably put too much stock into accumulating and deepening knowledge.  I’m also a person who really admires practicality, and I actively try to cultivate that in my own life.  I’m also very fond of taking periods of stillness to contemplate things that are happening in my life.  I’m also really drawn to color combinations that use yellows, greens, and browns.

The people who most interest me?  Well…that’s a good question.  I admire strongly practical people who can communicate well and are curious, but I adore people who bring that little “spark” to their relationships.  There’s something about people who can express passion in their quirks that is just irresistible.  I’m also fond of people who can be physically expressive and take initiative to even do something like hug, since that completely bypasses my radar.

The element that best represents my job is air, hands down.  I’m a scholar and a teacher.  Moreover, I’m a scholar who actively studies art through the medium of linguistic communication.  ‘Nuff said on that, I guess.

Relating to people…ooh.  I usually want a practical, actionable outcome of my communications, but I often pull on emotions to get that effect.  Maybe toss ups between earth and water?

I’m wearing blues today…blue jeans, blue underwear, blue-green paisley top.  I guess I’m pulling mostly on water there.  I don’t really think they’re affecting me all that much, though I will allow that I usually wear oranges when I want to bring some stronger, passionate energy to the day.

If I had to choose an element that would symbolize my relationship with my mother, it would probably be water since we’re mostly mucking through emotional stuff these days.  Maybe that’s why I find that relationship so difficult right now.

My house is a Crayola crayon box.  We’re repainting one room purple this weekend and we’ll soon be painting our kitchen orange, which doesn’t really help matters much.  My personal space, though, is a room of beige and cream, and I incorporate a lot of sage green in with my bedding and some accessories.  The beige has a bit of a peach tone to it.  This space makes me feel calm and safe.  It’s like my miniature spa, especially when I get everything ‘neated up.’

Overall, I think that air and earth are very dominant in my life, fire creeps in around the edges, and water is practically non-existent.

Day 157: Fall Equinox, The Mythic Chain

The Mythic Chain is a spiritual practice that can facilitate your understanding of karma.  The mythic chain is the chain of practical circumstances in your own life through which one event connects to another.  Just as in mythology, the hero’s actions link one to the next and finally result in found riches, powers, or in recovering something valuable.  In this exercise, you will learn about your own hero or heroine’s journey, and in the process discover the interconnectedness of people, places, and events.

To begin, think of a person with whom you have a friendship or close relationship.  Take a blank piece of paper and at the top write down your relationship to this person.  Next, draw a short vertical line directly below your first statement.  This line represents a link in the mythic chain.  Below this link line, write down the circumstances through which you met this person.  Continue with this chain for as long as you can.

You will find that the mythic chain can trace backward in time indefinitely, sometimes beyond your own birth.  This exercise demonstrates the magical and spiritual significance of each encounter in your life and how each person or event shapes what will happen next.

When you have completed this exercise, commit your answers to the following questions to paper:

  • How did reviewing this chain of causality affect the understanding of your life?
  • What does this chain say about the circumstances of your life as they exist right now?
  • Would your life circumstances be the same had one link in the chain been broken or altered?

My good friend is Johnathan Shatto.

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I met Johnathan through living at the Janet Smith Co-op.

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I started living at the Janet Smith because I needed a place I could afford on my first year Graduate stipend.

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I had that stipend as my only income because I got accepted into the UO’s English program.

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I got accepted because I applied.

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I applied because Harry Brown said I should think about being an English scholar.

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Harry said that because I was a very good student for him.

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I was a good student for Harry because I was half in love with him.

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I was half in love with Harry because I thought he was kind and thoughtful.

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I thought he was kind and thoughtful because I saw he was supportive of his students and very invested in campus life.

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I saw how supportive and invested Harry was because my roommate, Shea, wanted to go to Ireland on a winter term trip and Harry was leading it.

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Shea wanted to go to Ireland because I’d come back from my Galapagos trip and couldn’t stop raving about how great Winter Term trips were.

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I went on the Galapagos trip because one of my favorite biology professors, Dana Dudle, was leading it, and barely enough people had signed up to make it a viable trip.

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Professor Dudle was one of my favorites because she could say things like “Photosynthesis should blow your mind.  Think of it:  sugar from air!”

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I was so into photosynthesis because I was a bio major.

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I was a bio major because my friend Andrew was a chem major, and he totally took over all the chem classes we were in, so I knew I couldn’t be a biochem major and stay friends with him.

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Being a bio or biochem major was a big deal because I wanted to be a physician.

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I wanted to be a physician because I wanted to be like my mother, but my mother said I was capable of being more than a nurse.

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My mom said that because I was smart as a child.

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I was smart as a child because my mother read all the time to me.

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My mother read to me because she was trying to bore my toddler self to sleep.

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She was trying to bore me to sleep so that she could get some measure of pre-baby sanity back.

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I don’t know why my mother would want that.  Do you?

Wow.  I hadn’t quite realized how some very insignificant things–things like Shea and me snoozing on our floor in DG and talking about how she wanted to go to Ireland and how I should come with her–would lead to sea changes in my life.  I think this chain says that at any moment, something like that can happen and alter the path I’m headed on now.  My life definitely would not have been the same had that one moment not happened.  I wouldn’t have met Johnathan because I probably would have gone onto medical school, or maybe become a nurse practitioner.  Maybe I’d have totally flunked out of that–the type of studying medical students do isn’t really the type of mental work I’m great at.  Maybe I’d be married with two kids.  I don’t know.  It could have all been so widely different.  The life I have now, though, isn’t something I saw myself as having when I was 17.  Ten years makes such a difference.