Walking the Heartroad ebook now availble

It’s certainly taken me long enough.

Walking the Heartroad is now available through my Etsy store as a pdf ebook; listings for the paperback version will be along soon.

 

heartroad-cover-front previewThis little book is very nearly 10 years old – it’s hard to believe. The conversation around devotional practice, spirit work, and related topics was very, very different back at the time I was writing in 2007, so very different that I’m more aware than ever of the book’s shortcomings. Nonetheless, it represents an enormous personal accomplishment and continues to serve as a reminder that I still have a very long way to go.

Thanks for your support.

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Shrine boxes in the shop

I’ve added another four shrine boxes to the shop. These are compact, lightweight boxes that I’ve carefully painted to make them small niches or little sacred spaces that can be used right away. In a way, these came from my work with the Virtual Temple Project and sacred space-building more generally. Although they might look simple, I feel they embody some of my personal work that I find hard to put into words.

IMG_3726I’ve made these in a range of sizes to suit different pieces of statuary and other sacred items. I’ve been using them on my personal ancestral spaces and other altars.

IMG_3734The medium ones (like the one pictured here with the skull) measure just under 5″ (inside measurement). Each box is painted by hand and finished with a light coat of varnish; because they’re ultimately made with flammable materials, I suggest candles be burned a reasonable distance away from the boxes – clearly the candle here is just for show!

IMG_3749This red and white shrine box has a ribbon hanger on the back so it can be carefully hung from a wall or other vertical surface. You could keep a couple lightweight items in it.

IMG_3744Click on any of the pictures to be taken to the Etsy listing. I’ll be adding another two larger shrine boxes pretty soon (I’ll let you know here once I do). I’ve got several more in the works and I’m hopeful they’ll be done in another week or so.

Wraps and what I’ve been up to

You’ve probably noticed I haven’t done a lot of general blogging. Truthfully I don’t know what to write. Sometimes I sort of have an idea for an entry I’ll think about it and end up rejecting it. Some ideas do eventually make it into blog form, but that’s actually fairly rare compared to the number of ideas that are rejected.

I submitted presentation ideas for PantheaCon 2018; I won’t know for a while yet if I’ve been accepted but I’ll certainly keep you updated. I’ve also been invited to present at SpiritCon, a new local pagan spirituality convention taking place at the end of February 2018. I’m looking forward to participating in this event and I hope that it will be successful. Their Kickstarter has a long way to go; if you would like to see a pagan convention in the Salt Lake City area (with programming for families!) consider supporting it and sharing the link.

In anticipation of vending at SpiritCon, I’ve been working on some new wraps and other things.

 

These are made with interlock fabric, so they’re soft and easy to wear and care for. They’re freesize (each listing mentions the back width measurement) and made with the intention of gender inclusivity even though they’re modeled by only one of my mannequins. Speaking of conventions, I’ve made these for some people who want an easy layering option when at events; sometimes rooms are too cold but not so cold that a jacket is required – you know the struggle. Something like this is a great solution that also looks nice.

I’ve had the idea to make ritual clothing for quite a while; in addition to making all of my own I’ve also done some sacred sewing for clients and friends. I need to find/make the time to get deeper into these ideas (but first I suppose I should finish existing projects, sigh). I’ll share pictures of anything that gets made.

So that’s what I’ve been up to.

New items in the shop – wraps and shrine boxes

If you haven’t checked out my Etsy shop Coffee At Midnight lately, this is a good time to do so. I’ve been busy adding a few new items, including freesize wraps that would make great ritual garb. (Click the image to be taken directly to the listing.)

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Each wrap has a range of widths and lengths; the design is very versatile so I can make wraps in any size. I’m happy to discuss custom orders! Messaging me through Etsy is the best way to begin this process.

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The wraps are easy to wear and easy to care for; they can be gently machine washed and dried flat.

smallshrineboxAlso new in the shop are these darling shrine boxes. These can be used to house sacred items and to enhance their appearance during display. The boxes are hand painted and embellished by myself; they’re made from lightweight material so they are easy to store and move.

largeshrinebox

Shrine boxes come in three different sizes. There are currently four shrine box listing; more will be added soon.

There’s also lots of activity happening over my Patreon account. This is where new divination videos are shared first along with previews of work in progress, photos of forthcoming artwork, and other great stuff.

Purity in action

Purity is a matter of concern to a majority of the traditions that influence my practice(s). It’s a subject approached from a variety of angles – one might consider internal purity, external purity, and behavioral purity. Because I’m a devotee, not an initiate, I concern myself with the basic forms of purity, namely things like honesty, kindness, compassion, non-violence, steadfastness, devotion, and so forth. Cleansing rites are valuable and have important effects but if one doesn’t exhibit the principles that these rites embody, the activities rapidly become empty and meaningless. Although the above-mentioned standards can be regarded as a “basic” approach to purity, they aren’t simple and nor do I succeed in exhibiting them with consistency. But you see that steadfastness bit up there? I am obliged to continue trying.

One would rightly point out that unless interior forms of purity are exhibited, then they’re not much use to anyone, including ourselves. And this is true, of course. The internal stances and the interior sources of appropriate behavior and action are essential but these things must be helpfully communicated in order to achieve their fullest expression.

Purity in action is reflected in how I treat others and how I treat myself. Purity in action is how consistently I enact my values and how consistently I apply them to the decisions facing me. And none of this is easy; every time I reflect on these concepts I’m aware of how far I miss the mark. I am aware of my dishonesty, cruelty, divisiveness, and coldness. I am aware of how frequently I chose options contrary to my standards. But see – I’m reminded that choosing these contrary options I’m enacting harm. I let others down. I let myself down. I open myself up to more self-recrimination and blame. Choosing these contrary options aren’t simply impurity because of some arbitrary set of rules; these contrary options are impure because they lead to harm, a certain set of effects that I’ve chosen to try to minimize in how I live, believe, and practice.

I’ve struggled with this question for a while – why should I bother trying? What is lost or gained by my choices to strive towards my standards or to slide away from them? Why does purity matter at all to me or to my practice? Why does minimizing harm matter to me or to my practice?

A friend reminded me not long ago that compassion requires bravery. Extending a friendly hand – or at least a hand that doesn’t intend harm – requires so much bravery and confidence. Not being an especially brave person, I can recognize that I flee from the implications of my harm-reduction purity standard. But sadhana isn’t supposed to be easy – how else can one grind the mill to dissolve the impediments to clarity and charity? Adopting a purity practice because one likes following rules is…well, not useless but it isn’t exactly very useful perhaps. Adopting a purity practice because one feels challenged by the prospect and perhaps slightly unworthy of the whole endeavor…well, there is fertile ground for meaningful change.

**

(I rather hate that I feel obligated to clarify my non-violent stance. My non-violence is based in an unwillingness to see violence as a foregone conclusion to situations, and in a willingness to look for other forms of resolution. I strive to see the ways in which I harm others (and myself) and to find ways of correcting this harm or at least mitigating it somewhat. I chose this value because I feel myself to be fundamentally a violent person capable of considerable harm; I came to see the futility of this personality trait and therefore chose differently. Like all ideals, non-violence cannot fully exist in a non-ideal world but no one could ever accuse me of wisdom in such matters.)

Diagnosing myself

“Fear of returning to the site of failure.”

There – I’ve named the fear keeping me from my practice, the reason preventing me from approaching the Mother’s altar for several days running.

**

Many, many devotional practitioners I’ve spoken to and read over the years express a particular pointed concern – they worry they aren’t doing their practice well. They think there’s something wrong with what they’re doing, they’re worried that they’re not doing enough, they fear that they’re failing to live up to some minimal standard of “being devoted”. It’d be nice if I could assure people that these are fears of early devotional life, but really – they’re not.

Anxiety and fear play a role in devotional practice. They certainly don’t seem to play a major role in everyone’s practice but they are common enough in people’s experience that I feel safe in naming them part of the greater body of lore regarding the devotional path.

(Perhaps there’s an element of personality at work here. Would I describe myself as an anxious person? Honestly, not really. I am, however, plagued with random thoughts of being hit by cars, by falling out of windows, by feeding my cats poison food, by being screamed at by strangers, by being told horrible things by people I love. My days are suffused by unbidden fantasies of disasters of one kind or another. I hate speaking on the phone and must wrestle with the near-debilitating thought that PEOPLE MIGHT SEE ME every time I leave the house. I don’t seem to be anxious about anything in particular but I do experience anxiety about all kinds of random things and most of them are rooted in various common and tedious neuroses. Given that I am anxious about so many things, it seems reasonable that I would also be anxious about my devotional practice and about its execution. Like I always say, we carry the whole of our selves into the practice.)

Given that there is no site of practice outside of the self, it seems reasonable to name anxiety and fear as part of (some people’s) devotional experience. Acknowledging that, I interrogated myself to see if I could find the diagnosis and solution to my concerns regarding my practice.

Problem: I feel like I’m not doing enough, that I’m not doing what the things I am doing to any kind of reasonable standard, that I’m letting someone down, that I’m failing to adhere to even the lowest standard of practice. I feel suffused in failure and despite telling myself that devotional failure is all but impossible, I still feel like I’ve failed. I don’t know how to overcome these feelings or manage them in a way that lets me resume practice.

Reality check: I’ve been doing *something*. I say Hi to Loki all the time, I light His candle. I made a temple video for Her. I like Santa Muerte’s candle and say Hi. I light candles for the other Powers and talk to Them. The things I have not done include daily japa, daily aarti, and Maa’s darshan. Is it accurate to say that I’ve done nothing?

What would I tell someone else in my position? I would remind them that standards are there to lift us up, not tear us down. We have standards to help guide our behavior in an optimal manner, not to punish us for deviation. I would say that addressing anxiety from a mental health direction would certainly help them improve their devotional practice; even though a problem might look like a problem pertaining primarily to devotion, it might actually be a problem related to another realm of life. Therefore, tackling a problem from multiple directions is advisable.

My beloved and honored traditions counsel me that daily practice is best because spiritual progress takes a very long time; however, if progress as such is not part of one’s paradigm then “standards” can and should mean different things. Furthermore, not everyone is interested in “progress” (leaving aside the fact that various progressive outcomes are a natural part of devotional engagement and are likely to happen sooner or later as a natural result). So, I must ask myself once again what my goals are. In this case, my goal is a sustained and meaningful relationship with Maa. What supports this goal? Oh – japa, aarti, darshan. You know. Those things. ┬áBut there are other things, too.

All forms are Her forms, all names are Her names; She is all states of consciousness, including anxiety and fear. I must adjust my vision to see that this, too, is Her. I am confronted by the very relationship I’ve spent time trying to flee from.

The outward expressions of yearning for relationship are important. I will never say that daily practice is bad or that striving for high standards is bad but the heart has to be fixed in the correct posture. Remembering one’s yearning is enough. Remembering one’s priorities is enough. From this all actions spring.

**

A friend reminded me that I told her that there are no bad devotees. I *feel* like I’m a bad devotee. I feel like I’m a bad practitioner. I feel like I’ve failed in some very fundamental way. Coming back from this stance is difficult but it’s ultimately necessary. I can’t let the practice keep me from the practice – how does that even make sense?

“Doing it wrong” is a specter some of us battle against on a daily, maybe even hourly, basis. “Doing it wrong” is a weapon we use against ourselves perhaps even more than we do others. “Doing it wrong” is a punishment we use to justify our feelings of inadequacy and failure. None of these things have to do with loving the Gods. Therefore, it must be excised from the devotional path – although this is easier said than done.