Tag Archives: spiritual journey

A Talisman to Hang On To

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This crazy mixed up spiritual journey has left me feeling like a boat without an anchor, a kite spinning in the wind without a tail.  Left without my former faith practices, without a church, not even sure what faith I’m practicing anymore, I came to a decision today.  It may not even be a good decision.  I don’t know.  But since I’ve been depressed and left aimlessly fluttering in the wind, I knew I needed to just pick a direction and start walking.

Instead of trying to figure out what I believe, or what to call myself, I’m going to hang on to what works.  The very first new tool that called to me by inserting itself into my dreams 5 years ago – the Tarot.  I don’t know why it works.  I don’t necessarily think it’s some mystical woo-woo thing.  I mean, it could be.  But regardless, having a physical touchstone/talisman really helps.  Sitting and holding, shuffling the cards is calming, preparation for some meditative quiet.  I can choose a deck that resonates with my mood.  After I’ve laid out the cards, meditating on the artwork helps me focus my monkey mind long enough to think straight. 

Now, I don’t know how this works for other people who use Tarot, but I have never had any luck “telling the future” with them.  If fact, I don’t even try. The future is best left to itself. Mostly I keep a Tarot journal to record the spreads, make a few notes, and look back on it later to see what actually turned up. 

I do find that many times the images I’m looking at reflect what’s churning in my soul or life at that particular moment.  It is uncanny that I will see running themes and over a period of days or weeks may draw some of the same cards.  Since I tend to be my usual easily-bored Gemini self while choosing a deck – I find this even more uncanny as I tend not to use the same deck even two days running.

So.  For whatever reason, it works.  It calms me, grounds me, gives me focus.  That makes it a useful tool, all mystical stuff aside.

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The Hermit’s Journey

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This spiritual journey that I’ve been on for the past four years has become ever more eclectic.  One of the constants, something to hold the journey and myself together, is the Tarot.  It began with the dreams shortly after leaving our last very Evangelical church – when I realized that one of the symbols that kept popping up was actually a chalice – an important symbol and an entire suit of the Tarot.  The mystery of the Tarot had called to me once before, before we had children, before I fell headlong into Evangelical Christianity.  Before I threw out all my metaphysical tools in a fit of Christian fervor.  I went and got my hands on the favorite deck I’d had back then – the Robin Wood Tarot.  Before long I found many more Tarot decks started following me home.  I kept trying to find one with that “perfect” intuitive connection.  Well, Gemini soul that I am, I never found “the” perfect one.  But lately I’ve realized I have found a theme of Tarot that works better for me than all others.  Any decks which have a pagan, Wiccan, or witchy theme work on my intuition with very little straining.  For a while I found this odd little fact both intriguing and disturbing.  After all, why should I so easily connect with pagan themes when I’ve been raised by Christian parents, in a Christian family and Judeo-Christian environment?  It’s a thought provoking question. One that can’t be answered easily and succinctly.  Maybe I really do have past lives that are beginning to bubble up through my subconscious.  Or maybe there really is something to that theory of racial memory – all that Welsh and Scottish DNA coursing through me.

Since I’ve been researching and studying the Tarot for four years now, I suppose I thought at some point I would just “get” it completely – that I would come to a point where I’d lay down the cards and everything would make sense, all the time.  Well, turns out that’s a silly Western notion that doesn’t translate well for an intuitive tool like Tarot.  Near the end of a very busy and stressful school year, I decided to try a different tactic.  Instead of trying to forcibly suss out the Tarot’s secrets, I would simply use it.  I stopped trying to do it the “right way” (whatever that is).  I simply chose a deck from my collection to use each night before bed.  No planning, no pressure, and usually without referring to any guidebook – I simply chose whichever deck appealed to me at the time and shuffled and laid out a Celtic cross spread.  I did not even take out my Tarot notebook and write down the cards I’d laid out.  I was curious to see what would happen if I stopped over-analyzing my methods.

What happened was intriguing, to say the least.  Without over thinking, without even writing things down, I noticed that my spreads began to show a pattern.  Within a few weeks time I saw that I need not have worried I would forget what cards came up.  Not every night, but very consistently – more consistently than attributable to mere chance – I saw the same cards come up over and over again.  Also all my spreads were showing an awful lot of major arcana cards.  According to most of the Tarot wisdom I’ve read, spreads that show lots of minor arcana are concerned with the everyday situations we find ourselves in – situations dealing with our own choices and actions.  Spreads that are major arcana heavy show more the forces (of God, the Universe, etc.) acting on or around us.  The major arcana are archetypes or life themes.  The minor arcana are daily life and happenings.

At first, when I saw the cards that kept coming up, I was frightened.  This, I remembered, was the reason I’d stopped studying Tarot in the first place.  Out of desperation for insight (and pure curiosity) I took a deep figurative breath and let the cards fall where they may.  These are some of the ones I began to consistently see:

 

The Tower, The Devil, The Hanged Man, The High Priestess, The Moon, The World, Justice, Death, Judgement, The Wheel of Fortune, The Hierophant, The Magician, and most often and consistently – The Hermit.

Well.

I began to wonder what on earth sort of plans the Universe has for me.  I was also seeing lots of Swords (intellect, thought) and lots of 2’s (decision, duality).  

The Hermit is all about the inner journey.  It is exactly what one would picture – the old wise sage up on his mountaintop.  Shedding the material concerns of the world to seek after enlightenment.  The idea of which I am *all* over.  The practice in the real world becomes slightly more complicated.

I have found the Universe handing me some unusual tools for my journey.  Things like the unrelenting academic and social pressure on my oldest son who has Asperger’s.  And the emotional journey of my preteen daughter who is discovering that some of her friends are changing – not always for the better.  The neediness of my youngest son, also with a developmental disorder – which leaves me very little time to have un-interrrupted thoughts (or meals).  Topped off by a mystery rash on the little one that turned into a 5 month’s long ordeal of getting rid of a bed bug infestation in our sons’ room.

There were points this summer where I seriously questioned whether God and the Universe were pulling a trials of Job on me.  I did so much laundry I feared the washer would give out.  I lost so much sleep to the fear that they would spread and suffered the tickling of non-existant bugs.  It was like having the DT’s without ever taking the drugs.  

Suddenly the most important task on my household agenda was clearing out the almost 20 years of clutter that has followed us around from move to move.  I decided it would be my summer project.  I wasn’t counting on the toll it would take on me – physically, emotionally, spiritually.

I also wasn’t counting on how little outside validation I would receive.  The Hermit’s Journey is a solitary one.  In our technologically savvy, sound-byte, materialistic, ever-striving society – the womblike task of sorting and tossing both physical and spiritual clutter is looked down upon or ignored.  I am being torn apart inside and remade into something Other, something different than what I started out being.  And yet by the very nature of the Hermit’s Journey, very few notice or care.  It’s also very tough to find any sort of spiritual support group for this lonely journey.  

I have taken most of my comfort and succor from ancient texts and the wisdom of many mystics who have gone before me.  I basked in the renewing energy of our favorite mountaintop camping site.  I must figure out a way to make my home a sanctuary to hold this journey, and begin to seek out some local companions to share it with.  For it seems that The Hermit does not release his pupils into the world lightly and I will emerge forever changed.

Honesty in writing

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Over the past month or so I’ve had countless ideas flit through by head and latch onto my brain. Some were whimsical, some were silly, some were thoughtful, some were painful, and some…. some grabbed hold of my insides and set them on fire. Those last ones, the ones that are Real, are the hardest to get past the Editor in my head. Those ideas that bubble up from the depths of my being – they upset my equilibrium. They’re not safe. They’re the ones that I start in a flurry of keystrokes (or pen strokes) but then stop halfway, or finish but don’t publish. Ephemera of a moment’s passion left floating unfinished in the ether. Somehow, I need to get brave.

I got brave enough to leave the church situation that was no longer beneficial behind. I got brave enough to explore all the unanswered questions about my faith. I got brave enough to dive down into the clutter of both my house and my soul to do some deep housecleaning. I made space to create the life I actually want to live right now. The only thing missing is honesty and heart in my writing. It may come out soon like it or not, planned or not. It’s been burning within me like the fury of an unexploded volcano. Been journaling a lot to open the pressure valve and not go crazy. But sooner or later it will work it’s way on here, when I can’t hold back any longer.

It poses a big dilemma for me. All my life, I’ve been proper – well-behaved, polite, God-fearing, well-mannered, kind, considerate (dull?). The good girl, that’s me. These ideas, they’re not good girl ideas. I keep trying to journal them out, stuff them down, ignore them. Now they’re showing up in my dreams. I spend my days chasing my children, and my nights chasing down the twisting hallways of strange buildings, or cities. I find myself battling anarchy in strange Orwellian dystopias, or being shoved, pushed, slid down things even a non-Freudian could see represent a birth canal.

The Muse will not be denied much longer. My very subconscious is fighting back at my efforts. If I encourage it, write what’s actually scorching me from the inside – will I find it worth whatever fallout ensues?

Background for the journey (Part 2)

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Wow.  Guess I’ve been holding back a lot more words than I thought – this wasn’t supposed to be a 2 part post.

Well, so – in and around living my life, reading this fascinating story, and feeling like I was adventuring in my dreams – I was pondering the problem of my friend and this church.  I had taken on a pretty big position in the planning end of leadership, and I was acting as the go-to girl for my friend’s creative team.  Just before taking our sabbatical, my friend and I had a long phone conversation about what was going on in my head and why I’d made this (seemingly sudden) decision.  I was pretty certain she was ticked off at me.  I was very certain when I began reading the not-too-subtle-but-unnamed potshots she was taking at me on her blog.  I prayed a lot, I cried a lot, I slept a lot.  I refused to have a nasty blog war with my friend because I was trying to be an adult about this whole mess.  I really hadn’t wanted to leave my friend or my fellow leaders in the lurch – but I knew nobody would look after my sanity (or my family) if I didn’t.

I cocooned myself with my family and did what I do best when a crisis hits – research.  The novel had raised some interesting questions in my head – about Mary Magdalene, about the Gothic cathedrals and their symbolism, about the history of Christianity, the Gnostic gospels, the heretics,the history of religion, and so on and so forth.  I didn’t want to read some biased commentator’s account either.  I wanted (inasmuch as was possible) to read from the source – from the people who’d scoured the records themselves.  I let myself get lost in the sections and the authors that are generally considered verboten in Evangelical circles.  I bought myself a couple of dream dictionaries to see if I could figure out what on earth was going on in my head.

I researched.  And I waited.  I figured I would know when the time was right to make a final decision and what that decision should be.  Toward the end of July I realized my decision had been made.  I was much healthier, happier, and sane *not* being involved with that particular church.  I called my friend to chat and to update her.  Left a message.  She never called back.  I figured she was busy or never got the message.  I emailed my decision to the leaders, and decided to email her too so as not to hear it through the grapevine.  No answer – at all – not a word, not a peep, in any form at all.

That threw me into a *major* tailspin.  Suddenly it was as if my foundation had crumbled beneath me.  I have known this woman for 10 years.  My children call her Auntie.  She mentored me through 3 children and 4 church changes.  And now she was gone, seemingly out of my life – over a simple difference of opinion.  Wouldn’t even *speak* to me to give me a chance to apologize.  Because I disagreed with her “wisdom.”

I was angry and hurt in a way I’ve only been once before in my life.   But this was worse.  That friendship was much more shallow, based on shared experience and common interest.  This one – this one had roots down into the taproot of my soul.  And with that one act (or rather, lack thereof) I felt as if God was striking down the concrete foundation blocks of my soul.  I started questioning everything – my faith, the church, my judgement skills, my misplaced trust, even God himself.

My soul hung over a sheer precipice – I was frightened to the very marrow of my bones.  I wondered if I had lost my mind….

So very lost was I that I actually went out and bought The God Delusion by the famous atheist Richard Dawkins.  I read, or skimmed, nearly half of it in one night – all the while expecting God to reach down and zot me from heaven.  (i know, a paradox – nobody said it made sense).   Well, He didn’t – and as I read the book I calmed down a bit.  I figured if I could read a book by a dedicated atheist who actually states he’s *trying* to convert people – and still feel in the depths of my soul that I cannot give up my belief in the Ultimate Divine, well, that’s at least something to build on.

Only now, it would seem, I had to work on rebuilding my faith from the ground up.

Enter Wolfdreamer…..

As I shared these vivid and bizarre dreams with a close friend who knows a few people gifted in dream interpretation – I realized two things.  One,  this gift or tendency has been with me all my life – but I must have been repressing it (along with other gifts and tendencies) for quite some time since dreams and dream interpretation are not part of traditional/orthodox/evangelical church at large.

And two,  this had morphed into much more than just a spiritual hiccup in my journey.  There was some serious stuff in my psyche that God meant to dig up and bring to the light.  Not the stuff that other (well meaning) people told me it was either.  Whole ways of being and parts of my personality that I had compartmentalized or chained down.  I needed healing – but I didn’t need healing *by* the church, but *from* the church.  God had been dealing with me on the wearing of “masks” over my true personality – and the biggest one of all was the one I wore for the sake of the church!

I soon decided that logic was not going to work for this journey.  I allowed my mind to slip into its intuitive way of being – started searching for symbols and ideas to latch onto to lead me through the wilderness.  I found the dream and the symbol that made the least sense to me and I hugged it to me, though I didn’t understand why.  It was the wolf.

In a fragment of a dream I had written down that I had turned into a wolf, and met up with another wolf (or a wolf-like dog).  I almost never dream about animals – and anyone who knows me personally would be hard pressed to associate me ( your basic mild mannered persona) –  with a wolf.

It puzzled me greatly – but in that intuitive way of knowing – it also felt significant.  So I mentally carried it around with me.  And one day, while perusing the library stacks – serendipity struck again.  I saw Clarissa Pinkola Estes book “Women Who Run With the Wolves”.  I’d seen this book lots of times in my days working in a bookstore – wondered about it on occasion.  Figured it was about powerful business women or some such (like swimming with the sharks imagery).

I. Was. So. Wrong.

She’s a Jungian analyst.  Jung was the one who pioneered a workable system of archetypal dream imagery.  I was part Psych major in college.  I started reading the book and felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole as the author laid my whole life out in front of me.  Finally, as though God had handed me a key to the door of my soul,  I could begin to understand the things that have driven me (or that, I have run from) all these years.

And that is why my name, for this journey, is Wolfdreamer

And so it begins

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Some years back, we used to tease a friend of ours that she had an “alter ego”.  And we changed the first letter of her name accordingly, depending on how she was acting that day.  This blog is my alter ego, such as it is.  I exist elsewhere  in the blogosphere as myself.  And I have loved every minute of it.  However, I now find myself in an odd position.  For the past 4 or 5 months I have been on a deep, soul-searching spiritual journey.  A journey which absolutely defies categorization.  I’ve thought and prayed long and hard over sharing the details of this journey, both as a catharsis for myself and in hopes of creating a community of others who find themselves on a similar journey.  But there are some folks in my regular sphere of readership who could be hurt/shocked/confused by some of the ideas that have been swirling around in my head.  In order to spare them confusion, and spare me snarky comments, I plan to remain as anonymous as possible.  It is my hope that there are somewhere in the world others like me who have been flung into the fire while searching for Truth.