Saturday, May 30, 2009

Finding Our Self Esteem and Getting Unstuck on This Path

Finding Our Self Esteem and Getting Unstuck on This Path
-Leandra Witchwood
May 30, 2009

I grew up in a household where my extra efforts where sometimes scoffed at and ridiculed. Growing up this way I naturally believed that my extra efforts were silly and pointless. Even now after years of soul searching, meditation, and empowering myself; I still struggle with my less than healthy self-esteem. I now realize that it was my family’s insecurities mix with my own ability to hang on to the past that helped make me insecure.

I did not appreciate how common this issue is until I took a good look at our American culture. It happened while I was taking my most recent class on progressing in meditation. The instructor commented on how our American mind-set differs from the Tibetan mind-set. She revealed to me how our culture is based on “Your best is not good enough”, instead of “You did your best and that is good. Try it again tomorrow and you will do better.”

I immediately found this enlightening and empowering. It helped me remember that our mindset is not the only mindset available. It was freeing to know that I have the option to change. We don’t always contemplate the messages we receive from family, media, friends, and community. Unfortunately, these messages seep deeply into our psyche doing damage that is tough to mend. Over the past several weeks, I have been contemplating this reality and how one can conquer this subtle oppression.

Someone once told me this, “We are who we think, others think, we think, we are.” Some wisdoms are not always easy to grasp or express and this one defiantly has a “Whoa!” factor. To put it most simply, if we believe in ourselves and express our own inner strengths, others will pick up on this and it will become who we are to them. In turn they will treat is as confident and capable people thus encouraging our own confidence.

Our self-esteem is important in developing ourselves Magickally and spiritually. Recognizably it is counter-productive to achieve proficiency in Magick and spirituality without working on our inner blockages, like low self-esteem. When it comes to learning a spiritual path on your own and performing Magick, your healthy self-esteem is what drives our intentions home. You have to be willing to believe in yourself and your abilities 100%.

When I began this path several years ago, there were very few creditable people offering classes, apprenticeships, coven opportunities, etc. So much of what I learned in the beginning was on my own. Before I was able to find competent teachers with enough experience under their belts I read books, practiced what I read, kept a journal of my experiences and more. From what I can gather not much has changed for many people out there. Many beginners and many of those on the cusp of moving beyond the “101” stage are still limited to learning on their own.

So if we spend so much time practicing alone, reading alone, and learning alone why can’t we find some pride and empowerment in this? Doing so much work and finding the will and dedication without someone encouraging us is not easy. By taking these steps on your own shows you have the inner flicker of your own healthy self-esteem. You don’t have someone around to explain things to you or push further, you tapped into your own personal strength. I feel for people when I read how they feel stuck and can’t progress on their own. I immediately want to jump in and offer encouragement.

I feel we are placed here to help one another ascend. Here are some ways I was able to move forward, find my inner power and confidence. Perhaps you can benefit from the things as well.

1. Read – I don’t mean simply read things published by Pagan authors. Read fiction, periodicals, blogs, and subjects that may not pertain to your practice but have a sense of creativity. Read something that inspires, motivates, and above all challenges you.

2. Listen to Pagan and Spiritual Podcasts –There are so many Pagans out there chatting up the internet. Some you will agree with and some you will not. That doesn’t matter. The point is to open yourself up to other points of view and ideals. This is also a great way to practice non-judgmental listening. If we become too judgmental of how others practice we lose the point. Listen and learn with an open heart and mind.

3. Practice Staying in the Moment – This is a tough one, but it is essential. Breathing is a great way to practice. I found that I am able to adjust my thought patterns and emotions by simply focusing on my breath. Sometimes I will incorporate Yoga breathing techniques, which also seem to be effective.

4. Get Outside – Go camping, take a hike, listen to the birds, watch the clouds, study animals in their habitats without interpretation, or document the growth of your favorite tree or garden. Watch Nature in all her splendor and take time to realize her connections and cycles.

5. Create something – I have a few hobbies and crafts I enjoy from sewing to candle making to making herbal remedies to gardening. I find that when I engage myself in something creative I relax and think. There have been several occasions where I reached critical epiphanies while sewing a ritual robe or cooking up a healing salve.

6. Find a tough and experienced Teacher – I can’t stress this enough… find a tough and experienced teacher. Find someone who has been around for a minimum 10 years, Preferably someone with experience in leading others a public group. When you find someone with experience like this, you are likely to bypass the drama and head games that inexperienced and socially closed leaders tend to indulge. Our Elders are very important and from what I have seen we discredit them too quickly. Make sure the teacher you choose will challenge you mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be afraid to accept the challenge of learning something new. Finding a teacher is not always easy but when you find the right one you will be amazed at your growth.

7. Be Willing to Dedicate – Passive learning never does anyone any good. Personally, I see too much passive learning and engagement from the community. Maybe that sounds a little harsh but it is true. We tend to look for the easy answer and the quick fix. Truthfully, this path is filled with necessary lessons that are difficult but well worth the effort. Without these lessons, we would gain nothing. If we only look for the easy in everything, we end up with a very shallow spirituality. When the tough lessons hit you try your best to recognize where they hit you the hardest and find ways to stick with it. Dedication will deliver a deeper understanding of the spiritual experience.

8. Notice your own patterns – I had a man come to me a few years ago who wanted me to read his cards for him. As soon as I saw him I knew what he was looking for. He wanted to know what was following him around to make him have such bad luck. I also knew he was not willing to know the truth. As I read his cards, the uncomfortable truth was revealed. The cards said to him that he needed to change the way he lived his life and viewed/treated the people in his life. He needed to change his reactions to situations and he needed to release himself from negative redundant processes he had become blind to over the years. He was convinced that someone had cursed him, and that may be true. One of the most basic curses and hard-hitting curses is to bind someone to their own destructive behaviors. So if you feel you are stuck take a look at what you have been doing and perhaps try something new.

9. Don’t Quit – If you quit you fail. I don’t like using this word but I can’t describe it any other way. When you quit no one can help you. If you need to step away for a while then take the time you need, but don’t allow your frustration to drive you to ending your journey.

10. Help Others – There is a certain inner reward for doing something for someone else. Volunteer your time helping rescue wild animals, clearing hiking trails, reading to kids in the library, weeding a community garden, etc. Do it as a distraction, make the effort to give back, and give yourself the time to connect with other people even if they are not from a Pagan path.

These are only a few things we can try to move forward and become more confident within our practice. Through time and dedication, we can look back and see how we have changed. Most of us don’t change over night. Give yourself a break and give yourself some time. Change is usually scary and difficult for many people, but trying your best is all you can do. If you falter, try again. You will do better each time.

Do your best today. Try it again tomorrow and you will do better.

Bright Blessings!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Owl Medicine

Lessons of Owl

Owl is a mysterious creature who is friends with the night and flies on silent wings. Her presence is rarely noticed unless you know where to look. Her breeds and calls are numerous, and her lessons are never easy. Owl sees what we want to remain hidden. Owl is honest and sees directly into our heart and soul.

Although we have become most familiar with her symbolism of being wise, there is more to her. In many Native American tribes, Owl is the wise one, the feared one, and the honest one. Some tribes see Owl as a symbol of danger and is deeply feared. They consider her a bringer of dark or black magick because she is a creature of the night and her ability to be around you with out you ever knowing. Owl is a silent presence always observing and is rarely seen. Some even see Owl as a “demon” or as a companion of those who practice Magick of ill will. In some cultures, it is said that if you see an Owl a horrible curse was coming your way.

However, most tribes adore Owl. They see her as a cunning and silent observer who sees all. She perches in the trees looking down to notice the smallest detail. Owl moves from tree to tree never making a sound continuing to observe and learn. When you least expect it she will call to you and startle you, immediately you realize your actions, deceptions, and movements are watched very closely. For those who try desperately to keep their dishonesty hidden this is an uneasy realization.

In the tribes and cultures where Owl is most beloved, she has two faces. She is the Wise One. This is the more accepting face of Owl, one we have chosen to associate closely with Owl.

Her second face is the True Seer. She is the one who sees clearly through to even the most concealed deception. She sees the tricks we play on ourselves and others. She sees our manipulations and does not hesitate to call us out on them. She tells no lie and she does not look away. It is for this reason Owl people are both loved and feared.

Those processing Owl Medicine are strong with True Seer energy, because of this they are often pushed out of groups within society. Many find themselves feeling very uncomfortable around people who have Owl Medicine although they may not know why. The reason for their discomfort is simple… Owl reveals one’s deceptions and when Owl Medicine is at work deceptions are exposed. There is rarely a middle ground with Owl people, unless Owl chooses to keep her distance or keeps the knowledge of said deceptions silent. Keeping silent is very difficult for Owl as it is her duty to reveal deception.

When we don’t understand Owl Medicine we find Owl’s honestly very unsettling. As many of us struggle with the truth and lies we hide within, Owl sees them clearly. Owl brings these deceptions forward and looks within us with giant piercing eyes. She looks into the depths of people and sees them for who they are deep down. This ability makes people very uneasy especially when they are not ready to face their own inner demons. When Owl is asked to reveal something she does it with naked honesty. When she is asked to call out the truth she does so even when the requestor is not prepared for the truth. Always prepare yourself if you ask for the truth from Owl.

Owl’s comfort with pointing out the areas where we hide and stumble is alarming. This ability is not exclusive to those around her. Owl also sees her own inner demons and regularly faces them. In some cases, it is hard for Owl to remember that others do not contain her unique gift of acceptance and her willingness to face her inner demons.

Owl does not mean to bring fear to others, her true intention is to bring peace within. She is practicing her gift as she best knows how in hopes that you will open your heart and mind to accept your growth potential. Her goal is to make these areas known so one can work on strengthening one’s character.

Owl people are not usually cruel people, they are genuinely compassionate, and they care deeply for those she reads. If Owl chooses to keep her distance from someone it is wise to follow her. She most likely sees something within that person that is disturbing and is not likely to change. She may not be able to tell you exactly what it is that repels her, but in time, you will see it revealed.

Because Owl prefers the cover of darkness and the camouflage of trees, her Lunar symbol is the Dark Moon and Full Moon. In some traditions, the dark of the moon is when Magick is most powerful. Some see it as being the time for “Dark” or “Black” Magick, while others (like Owl People) see it as being a time for Inner Magick. The Magick that is most difficult to reach because it requires you to conquer the darkest and deepest inner places of your heart and soul. This Magick comes from years of meditation, stillness, balance, and a full understanding of self. This Magick is only accessible when the user is completely able to let go and achieve true balance. To some surprise this ability does not come naturally to Owl people in their current corporeal form. Only through time, practice, patience, and mistakes can one achieve the balance necessary to perform Owl Magick.

If you encounter someone who seems to possess Owl Medicine, remember to be aware of why you might feel uncomfortable in his or her presence. Remember be careful in asking Owl to reveal what she knows, you may not be prepared. If you open your heart and mind, Owl has a great many lessons to teach.

Friday, May 8, 2009

An Eco Challenge for ALL Year!

This challenge is taken from Julia Butterfly so I cannot claim any ownership to it. BUT I think it is a fantastic challenge and definitely opens one’s eyes to how wasteful we really are. I originally posted this in December of 2007 and thought it needed another go around!

The challenge is to carry your garbage around with you for one week. You can carry it in a duffel bag, backpack, etc. and take it with you everywhere. Take it to the bathroom, school, work, the gym, etc. At the end of the week weigh and measure the bag. You will be astounded!

The purpose of this challenge is to show each of us how much waste we actually produce. This is a great way to recognize your true carbon foot print!

I think once you learn how much trash you actually produce you will learn ways to reduce your wasteful tendencies. It is also a great realization of what could happen if we continue to over fill our dumps and landfills without seeking our alternative methods like composting, recycling, etc. Where is the garbage going to go when there is no place left? Perhaps it will end up in your own backyard...

After you complete the challenge do it again in one month and see if you have decreased the amount of garbage, you produce. Decreasing the amount of garbage we each produce is the goal!

If you cannot do it for a full week, try it for a day or two. You will still be amazed!

Good luck!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

In Hope of Understanding

What I expect of you is nothing more than for you to remain true to your heart and dreams.

What I dream for you is for you to bathe in strength and beauty. What I dream for you is that you find your place as I find mine.

Emotions on the tide are made into storms out at sea. We toss and turn while our true intentions are lost and our desires endlessly burn.

Words are lost when spoken in anger and intent is misunderstood. We close our minds to the possibilities and lose the things we hold dear to our hearts. Honesty is my strength and my weakness. It is my blessing and my curse, as I am sure you have found true. I will be nothing but honest with you, that is my calling, what else can I do?

The fog of loss and confusion makes it hard to take. All we can do is improve as we recognize what makes us blind… In hope that from insanity we shall awake.

I see in you a light, brighter than most. A light that is filled with strength and hope. A light that is slowly being put away.

The constants remain, my love for you… my dream for you... my hope for you. Let your light shine from within and not weakened or dimmed.

Sometimes the one who banishes our light is within and we must seek to banish this limiting being before forgiveness can begin. Many call it ego. I have to agree. To find it deep we must go. Into place we‘d rather not know.

From this being, I have spent a long time learning how to break free. It is hard to let go. It is sneaky and friendly. It is sly and speaks to us the words we want to hear. It is hard to let go.

Beware this is not our only challenge. There are others who will help this limiting presence breed, rather than let your true self flourish and grow. That want us to conform to their own inner greed.

What I expect of you is nothing more than for you to remain true to your heart and dreams. I still care about you, no matter what challenges we go through.

Life is tricky and even more are the relationships within… but when I see you shine it is then I must not resist my own inner calling. Yes I must, give in. I see your light clear and true, but a lethal haze is rolling in, what else can I do?

I have no choice but to set aside my assumptions and truths I hold inside. After all we are no more than humans. People who try to find the answers… but fail as we are caught up in the emotion and drama created within. Stillness is a clear window to the soul this is where healing will begin.

Honesty is something we cannot deny. Knowing this, I choose to grow beyond the assumptions that loudly cry. I find peace for myself and hope you will find it too.

Stillness brings to me rapture and intensity.

To find understanding between me and you, reaching out is all I can do.

You are my friend no matter what challenges we go through and YES I still care about you.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Thy Mirror of Thou Soul

Thy Mirror of thou soul

Thou truth be told

Reflect to see what thou have deeply veiled

Thy Mirror of thou soul

Thou truth be told

Look away thou cannot

thou must resist not

Thy Mirror of thou soul

Thou truth be told

Through fire and trial

thou soul reborn

Thy Mirror of thou soul

Thou truth be told

-Leandra Witchwood

The Mural

Paint a mural high on the wall, watch as the lines bleed and fade.
Storms bursting with lightening and rain upon a restless sea.

Looking hard and deep within to find the truth I seek.
Looking hard to understand the deceit, they choose to speak.

Paint a mural high on the wall, watch as the colors bleed and into gray.
A meadow green and fey unseen, upon a sun lit day.
Cool and crisp the air surrounds, gentle water washes over me.

The song you play in my heart is filled with lies and fear.
I turn to the brighter side, where I feel hope will reside,
beyond my pain and tears.

Looking hard to understand.
Looking long and deep within to find the truth.
Looking to find the truth, you are willing to stand.

Warrior of Light

I am open
I am seeking
Light come to me
As I sleep
As I walk the plane of mist and visions.
Light visions let me see with my willing heart.
From darkness I emerge into another life
Surrounded by the veil covered by my tears
Light break through the darkness
I am a warrior of peace
I am a warrior of light
I am a warrior who moves beyond time
Peace come to you from your inner womb,
sooth me away from doom
Come to the brilliance and away from despair
Come to me your soul I shall prepare

-Leandra Witchwood

Coffee and Clouds

As the sun struggles to peek through the clouds, I find myself thinking deeply about many things. I think thoughts of community, friendships, heartaches, spirituality, relationships, and more. In my thoughts, I find myself questioning why people and community are so important to me. I wonder this because more than enough times my fellow patrons of this community have slashed me, discarded me, spoken ill about me, and worst of all… the closest of those to me have abandoned me.

So why should this community mean something to me? Why should I care? Why do i continue to reflect and ask?

The answers are fleeting like puffs of cloud racing on the wind. With my coffee warm in my hands, I hold it hoping the warmth will stir the answers within, bubbling answers fourth like a tasteful drink of clarity.

Reflection is a necessary evil when one wants to grow. Sometimes the reflection can be negative in nature, but if allowed it will open the reflectors eyes to new possibilities previously over-looked. It is important to remember how we obtain balance... without light we would not have dark. Without sadness we would not know happiness. A continual ebb and flow is necessary when finding balance and maintaining balance.

Each of us is a being in himself and a being in society, each of us needs to understand himself and understand others, take care of others and be taken care of himself. ~Haniel Long