In my mid-twenties, I was living a corporate, achievement-driven existence that neither fed my soul nor gave me joy. A series of synchronistic events conspired to wake me up and set me on a spiritual journey in search of the missing half of my womanhood and humanity.
My journey led me to Vipassana meditation, feminist graduate studies and new age spirituality. These were all powerful and transformative, and yet something was still missing for me: the feral, sensual, dreaming, witching, life-affirming sacred feminine.
One day it came to me: I am a pagan. This was the spiritual path that sang to my soul.
Paganism isn’t just about beliefs, it’s about stepping outside of the strictures of everyday reality and stepping into full-bodied experiences of the wild, magical world of what else is true and possible. After twenty-plus years of pagan explorations, these are five precious lessons that I’ve learned:1. Life is delicious.
Paganism is a spiritual practice that calls us to a joyful, sensual communion with Nature and our bodies.
Even in those bumpy times when your challenges and losses bring your down, remember that life is delicious and that there is always a brush of beauty to sweeten your sorrows.2. The Earth is alive.
Paganism is defined by its earth-centered ethos. While our collective humanity has lost sight of the ways of the green world, pagans hunger to touch and be touched by the powers and splendor of Nature. And in this sensual, embodied exchange, we awaken to the living world.
The Earth is alive. One web of life connects us all, breath to breath, and essence to essence. What your mind has forgotten, your body remembers.3. The Goddess is everywhere, in everything.
I didn’t go looking for the Goddess. I set myself on the trail of my lost humanity and womanhood, and one day there She was, everywhere and in everything.
The Goddess’s deepest presence is love, not as an emotional state, but rather as the primal desire of life to seek out, create and nurture life. Through this love, all things are made holy and infinitely worthy. We are made holy and infinitely worthy.
Lift your face toward Her living light, open your heart to Her infinite love, take in Her green-drenched beauty and feel Her holy presence in your own shining soul, and know that the Goddess is indeed everywhere and in everything.4. So without, so within.
Pagans celebrate the wheel of the year: eight sabbats that mark the turning seasons of Nature and their shifting balance of darkness and death with light and life.
Our life too is a shifting balance of light and dark, joy and sorrow, and life and death moments.
So without, so within; like the natural world, our humanity is woven of darkness and death, and light and life. And in this powerful truth, we can find our balance and wholeness in the face of life’s shifting seasons.5. Magic is real.
Magic, in basic terms, is the ability to experience and work with the Mysteries (alternative states of being and knowing). Think of reality as a frequency dial that can tune into the astounding magical possibilities of the world around us: “normal”, everyday modes of consciousness fall within a specific frequency range; the Mysteries are engaged at different frequencies on the dial.
Pagan magic practices, such as ritual and spellcrafting, develop and deepen our abilities to turn the frequency dial and work in altered states of consciousness.
Don’t take my word for these things I have shared. Instead, think of paganism as an invitation into the realm of what else is true and possible. Take a little journey beyond the everyday for yourself and bring back whatever sings to your soul.
Artwork by:Stephanie Law
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An edge marks a jumping off point, a cliff’s edge, or a moment of irreversible change. It’s also a border place, where one thing ends and another begins.
Transformative change is an edge. When you heed your soul’s desire to heal and grow in alignment with your deep, beautiful Self, you awaken powerful forces that will take your life in new, empowering directions.
It’s like jumping off a cliff, leaving behind the things that you know and opening yourself to what else is true and possible. And once you wake up to your soul’s desire and make this jump, you can never go back to sleep.
Your soul’s desire knows the parts of your beauty and wounding that are the keys to your deepest healing and evolution. They hold your secret longings that push you to claim a life in alignment with your deep, beautiful Self, and your best gifts and qualities.
Your fears are experts on your trigger buttons, and the inner and outer voices that order and control your life. From this mastery, they can deliver well-targeted, ‘what if’ poison darts that can paralyze your impulses to take your life in new directions: what if I lose my job?; my partner?; my sanity?; what if my mother never talks to me again?.
The push and pull of these competing forces may make you feel crazy, and cast doubts on your commitment and ability to heal and change your life. But the opposite is actually true. Strong fears indicate that you are truly riding your edge of transformative change, and getting somewhere new. This is a place of immense power if you know how to navigate its conflicting directives.
These ideas are best understood by trying them out for yourself. Here is what that process can look like.Making an Ally of Your Fears
For this exercise, work with something from your own transformative edge: what do you want to change in your life right now?
Choose something that is substantive and important to you, rather than a more surface level change. Then follow these steps:
1. Turn your awareness to your soul’s desire.
What is it your soul desires? What changes are being asked of you? What would this change look like in your life? What would be your first steps?
2. Turn your awareness to your fears.
What fears and resistance do these changes trigger? Get specific: what exactly in your life is threatened by these changes?; what ominous consequences is your fear suggesting; and, what issues and sensitivities are coming up for you?.
Engage your fears as if they are a valuable source of information, without necessarily believing in what they are saying. Think of them as focusing your attention on key aspects of your life related to the changes, rather than revealing absolute truths.
Your fears can show you: sensitive, challenge situations and personal hurts that need loving attention as part of your change process; outer roadblocks that need to be resolved; and practical consideration to help you make wise, balanced choices.
3. Consider both your desires and fears in relation to what you want to change in your life right now.
What would a wise, balanced version of this change look like? What actions will help facilitate this change? What resources do you need in place? What personal healing and development do you need to address? What roadblocks and issues do you need to proactively deal with?
What are your next steps? How do these steps offer a balance between your desires and fears? How have your fears positively contributed to this balanced approach to change?
Know that this is a border place, where the new and old, and your desires and fears collide. And it is this very collision of such potent, opposing forces that can give rise to brand-new, never-imagined options for healing and transforming your life.
Expect this process to be messy and uncomfortable, that’s why it’s called an edge. Open to your soul’s desire and make your fear your ally. Let both of these powerful forces guide your way to the life you are longing for.
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Hansel and Gretel are lost in the woods and leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find their way home. Though this plan doesn’t seem to work out so well for them, it offers an evocative metaphor for those of us who are spiritual seekers on a journey home to a soul-based life.
My spiritual journey began in earnest the day I realized there was something essential missing from my life, that was somehow related to my soul. I was in the midst of my MBA studies, lost in a material, career-driven life, with an aching hunger for something I neither understood nor knew where to find.
No matter that I was lost, I had woken up to my spiritual hunger and decided that I needed to change. And that was enough. The Mysteries, those powerful, invisible forces that underlie our waking reality, heard my yes to change, and began to leave a trail of crumbs, in the form of life-changing encounters and events, for me to follow.
A few months later, I completed my MBA and set off on a solo backpacking adventure in Europe. Shortly into the trip, I landed on the wrong train in France, only to hook up with a fellow adventurer, who was also on the wrong train. She was a beautiful young woman from Hawaii, with an edge of wildness and burgeoning, feminine-based spirituality.
We decided to travel together, joining our itineraries. She took me to the subterranean caves of Dordogne to see Paleolithic paintings, and here I encountered the Goddess for the first time. Though I had no words or concepts to explain this encounter, I felt Her pulsing omnipresence the moment I descended into the womb-like darkness of the cave.
Somewhere along the way, I understood that I was on a Hansel and Gretel journey, and that the Mysteries and my soul were leading me home to the presence of being and soulful life that I longed for. My task was to follow the trail of crumbs, doing the soul work presented by each, knowing that the next crumb would naturally follow.
Your Hansel and Gretel Journey
As a spiritual seeker, perhaps you are also on a Hansel and Gretel journey. Whatever you have lost and whatever you are longing for, these things set you on your path of soul, leading you home to a richer, fuller expression of your Deep Self and the best of your nature and gifts
When you say yes to your soul’s longings, you are also saying yes to the Mysteries. With these potent forces at your back, opportunities and challenges show up on your path, gifting you with their impetus for healing and personal growth.
Through a Hansel and Gretel frame, you can conceive and consciously engage the Mysteries and your everyday life as guides for your spiritual healing, growth and evolution.
Here is what this pathwork looks like.
1. Start with your soul hungers.
What longings underlie your spiritual life? What are you hungry for? What are your deepest desires? What are you seeking?
From this awareness, name your longings and say yes to the personal change these soul-based desires invoke. You don’t need to know what these changes are; what matters are your sense of the rightness of your longings, and your readiness to follow where they lead.
This yes aligns your soul-based desires with the Mysteries, or powers of life, or Goddess, or God, or however you name and understand the unseen forces and energies that direct and influence waking-world reality.
2. Look for the crumb: the gift/clue from the Mysteries to direct your pathwork.
I sometimes call this pathwork: what’s in my face now? This is not an elegant turn of phrase, but an accurate one. The crumbs that the Mysteries leave on your path reveal themselves in the opportunities, challenges and unusual incidents that are right in front of your nose, and very hard to ignore.
Turn your awareness to what is happening in your life at the moment. What are you dreaming about? What challenges or positive opportunities have come your way? What is bothering you? Exciting you? What do you find yourself drawn to or repelled by?
Now widen your awareness to catch anything unusual, unexpected or attention-grabbing that has crossed your path. These can include social exchanges, synchronistic occurrences and physical objects. I am especially fond of found magic: unexpected objects that you stumble upon or that appear out of nowhere.
License plates can deliver messages. Books can fall open to specific pages. Unusual behaviors by animals can alert you to their totemic qualities. You can feel inexplicably drawn to something. Or have your plans waylaid, only to find yourself in some other, perfect situation. The possibilities are endless.
In this pathwork, look for common, reoccurring themes or messages. The Mysteries like to repeat and reinforce their crumb clues.
3. Pick up and claim the crumb: do the healing and personal growth work that the crumb has revealed to you.
This step takes commitment and courage, because soul work is rarely convenient or comfortable, and often takes you to the painful, shadowy places in your life story and experiences.
Yet there is great beauty and power in this work of soul. You are on the trail of your Deep Self and the best of your nature and gifts. As you heal and transform the old of your pain and suffering, you unleash greater love and goodness into your life. This is the hard, but wondrous work of healing and reclaiming your soul.
What this looks like will differ for each individual and at different times on your spiritual journey. And there is no perfect way to do the work, nor a predetermined destination or ideal state you are trying to reach.
There is only the imperative to do the soul work that has come to you, to the best of your ability, and with wisdom and self-care. You can go as deep and as far as is right for you, taking the time and gathering the resources (personal and professional) you need, with the knowledge that this is a journey of many steps, big and small, where one step/crumb naturally leads to the next.
4. Eat the crumb: let yourself be changed by your pathwork.
Though this may seem obvious: you do the work in order to be changed, this step can be the most difficult of all.
To truly change on a substantive, soulful level is to come face to face with fear and resistance, both inner and from your outer environment. These negative reactions are an expected part of the process. You know you are riding your edge and getting somewhere new when you come up against strong resistance and reluctance to change.
Listen to your fear and resistance, and let them inform your pathwork without derailing it.
Open and be changed, moving forward and deeper on your journey of soul. Again, give this your best, while acting with wisdom and ensuring self-care.
5. Begin again: look for the next crumb.
One crumb leads to the next, and the next.
Relax into and trust the journey. Play, keep your sense of humor, and stay with love, especially when the going gets tough.
Be curious and don’t over analyze, this journey will change you in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. The more loose and open you are, the more profound and life-changing the adventure.
Follow your instincts and wisdom. Make sure you have the healing support and guidance you need, both personal and professional. Always put self-care first.
After almost thirty years as a spiritual seeker, I am still following my path of crumbs. The pathwork changes as I change, taking me deeper into the roots of my life story and experiences. With each crumb, I shed the old and become something new, coming home ever more deeply to my Deep Self and best nature.
It is still a path that requires great courage and commitment, though the forest is no longer dark and scary, and the challenges and struggles are tempered by the well-spring of love and power that has become my natural state of being.
I never cease to marvel at the wide, wild journey I have been on, from the profoundly unhappy and disconnected young woman I was, lost in a material, soulless life, to the woman I am now, comfortable in my own skin and beholden to what is best and beautiful inside of me.
In all these things, and so many more, I know that Hansel and Gretel have indeed revealed a great truth: that we can only ever find our way home one crumb at a time.
Artist: Ted Chin (tedslittledream.com)
We humans aren’t good or bad, beautiful or ugly, perfect or imperfect, but some complex weaving of all of these things. To witness, embrace and hold space for the totality of our being is a very potent practice that can bring the transformative magic of healing and change to our lives and world.
I am on a hike with a dear friend in a wild area close to the ocean. A creek runs through a small, verdant valley, guarded over by towering evergreen trees. We stop walking, stop speaking, and gaze in slack-jawed wonder at this miniature Garden of Eden, arising from a fertile meeting ground of dappled sunlight and rich, moist soil. The beauty is visceral, a shining green luminescence that thrums up against my own shining core.
“We are this beautiful inside,” I tell my friend.
Later this same day, another dear friend shares a story about having to explain to her ten-year-old son what an army is. Her explanation went something like this: “I am so sorry to have to tell you this, but we give money to a group of people who use it to buy weapons that they use to kill other people.”
This is not a judgment of the courageous individuals in the armed forces who risk their lives in service to their countries, but more a paring war down to its simplest terms and seeing the horror, the ugly, at its core.
We humans are this ugly inside. Not just in relation to war, but in the many terrible, destructive things we do to each other and to our planet home.
Both of these statements are true. We have a whole lot of beauty and a whole lot of ugly inside of us and in our world. These two polar forces, inside and outside, battle for dominion over our soul. And it is here, in these opposing forces, that you find the transformative magic at the heart of your life story and our human experience.The Gift of the Beauty and the Ugly
This is never an easy conversation to have. If you are like most people, you’ve been socialized to push away and transcend the bad and the ugly, and to aspire to the good and the beautiful, while skating around the edges of the uncomfortable, unsavory parts of your own personality and our human society.
If you can do this, become big and wise and courageous enough to embrace these disparate aspects of your life and our world, deep healing and change happens.
A light turns on, revealing what once was hidden: the roots of your stories of wounding and pain, and the profundity of your gifts and powers. And in this place of greater awareness, you get to choose which of these two parts of your human experience to dedicate your life to. You can chain yourself to the ugly or you can embrace your beauty.
And in this choice making, where you show up and take responsibility for the full range of your nature and experiences, you determine the fate of your soul and your life, and that of our world. This is the gift of the beauty and the ugly.The Transformative Magic of Your Life Story
Though these ideas may seem abstract, and perhaps even apocalyptic, the beauty and the ugly play out in the everyday of your life, and this is where real change can happen.
Take for example your imperfection, your personal ugly, that reveals itself in the aspects of your personality and life story that reflect your dysfunction and struggles. First, to be clear, there is no such thing as unsullied beauty and perfection. The ideal of perfection that we’ve been indoctrinated to believe in, and can never measure up to, is a lie, a distortion that blocks our personal healing and growth.
So why not try a different approach, sourced from the sacred feminine, where you show up to the aspects of your life that you see as your personal imperfection, and hold them in the loving embrace and awareness of the beauty inside of you. This is what the process looks like.
1. Start with personal awareness. Bear witness, without judgment or analysis, to your current state of mind in relation to your personal imperfection.
Pay attention to your internal tape about yourself and your life.
What do you see as the imperfect parts of yourself? How do they play out in your life?
How do you treat these personal imperfections? Do you push them away and judge yourself? What emotions do they evoke?
What deeper beliefs underlie your treatment of your imperfection? Do you see yourself as flawed? Do you measure yourself against some outer ideal or yardstick? What is this ideal or yardstick?
2. Access the beauty inside of you, the part of you that holds your love, compassion and self-acceptance. Connect with your perceived imperfection from these beautiful parts of your nature.
Step to one side of your self-judgment and current way of conceiving and engaging your imperfection. Let go of these beliefs and thoughts, if only for the moment.
Step into your beauty. Imagine it bubbling up from the core of your being and filling you with self-love and compassion.
Look for the perfection in your imperfection – what it teaches you about yourself and how it can guide your healing and positive growth.
3. Hold space for the totality of your being. You are both the part that pushes away and judges your imperfection, and the part that loves and accepts you as you are.
You are not good or bad, beautiful or ugly, perfect or imperfect, but some complex weaving of all of these things.
This is not an idea, it is a way of being where you access that part of you that is big, wise and courageous enough to embrace and contain all that you are.
Find this bigness of being inside of yourself and open wide to everything you have experienced and learned about your imperfection and your beauty in this exercise. Imagine yourself as a strong, resilient vessel that can hold the tension and power in the meeting and mixing of these opposing energies.
Don’t be surprised if this feels distressing and difficult. Our human psyche likes dualistic, either-or categories of good versus bad, and beauty versus ugly, and this exercise is outside of its comfort zone. Stay with the discomfort, without trying to repress or resolve it. You are increasing your capacity to be present to the truth that is your life.
What comes next is unknown. You have activated the transformative magic of your life story, both its ugly and beauty, and change will come.Transforming Our Collective Ugly
It is this same transformative magic and bigness of being that can not only heal and evolve your life, but also our world. And this brings us back to the story that began this post.
You, and each of us, are indeed as luminescent lovely as the slice of Garden of Eden I came across on my hike with my friend. And we each have the ugly of human society inside of us that begets war and the countless other abuses and atrocities of our species.
Both these things are true, and both offer us the greater awareness and choice making that can mend and transform our collective ugly from our bigness of being and deepest beauty. Then maybe, just maybe, we will someday live in a world where a child won’t need to ask a parent, “What is an army?”
An intriguing question came through my Facebook newsfeed: what are your superpowers? On the surface, this may seem like a fun, diversionary post, prompting you to indulge in whimsy about your hidden, larger-than-life abilities. Yet there’s so much more to this question that calls you to discover and claim the special gifts and powers that are yours alone to share with the world.
Forget the superheroes of the DC and Marvel universes, with their superhuman powers and strengths. Yes it would be marvelous to fly, shapeshift, manipulate the elements, space travel, and the gazillion other fantastical talents of these otherworldly beings, but none of these things are within your human reach.
While you’re at it, forget the superstars that our culture obsesses about. Yes it might be marvelous to be a movie star, famous musician or artist, media celebrity, billionaire or world-class athlete, dazzling the world with your special talents and meteoric success, but, if you’re like the vast majority of us, these adulated characteristics won’t apply to you.
Superpowers aren’t only the prerogative of superheroes and superstars. You don’t need to measure your personal abilities, worthiness and contribution to society against these select, special few, with their showy, out-of-reach talents. It’s much more empowering, and interesting, to widen your gaze to the super-people closer to home, including yourself, with amazing, unique superpowers of the more accessible and nourishing kind.
Add to this the idea that you were born into this world for one reason: to claim your special gifts and offer them up to others. You are here, on this Earth, to be of service to others and our planet home. This service isn’t about self-sacrifice and personal deprivation; instead it’s your path to self-actualization. By claiming and cultivating your special gifts, and sharing them with others, you will naturally blossom into your true, beautiful, powerful Self.
Where you find this sweet spot of service and self-actualization, you know you’ve hit upon your superpowers.My Personal Superpowers
When I read the post with the question about superpowers, I immediately put my fingers to the keyboard, and, without thinking, typed the following:
My superpower is to be a master story-hunter. I go searching for the story-magic that’s needed in the moment, traveling deep in the land of lost tales and forgotten dreams. I follow the trail of angst and longings of the story-seeker that show the way to the frozen-in-time moment of the long forgotten tale, and then I pluck the story back into the waking world and place it into the hands of the story-seeker, trusting them to discover and make their own the beauty and healing medicine from the lines and drama of the tale. My cape is deep red, the color of life and beating hearts and living stories. Yes! This is my superpower.
There’s a backstory to my superpower. Several years ago, I was on a four-day spiritual retreat that focused on finding your place and service in these turbulent, world-changing times. I had already begun working on my first Path of She book, but I couldn’t seem to find my groove. In one of the exercises, it suddenly came to me that I was a collector and teller of stories, and not just any old tales, but lost stories that arose from the deep roots of our collective humanity, and the sacred dark of our inner landscapes; stories that offered healing, transformative medicine for these times.
Yes I’m a writer, but that’s what I do, not who I am. In my sacred, essential core, I’m a master story-hunter. This is my superpower that I bring to most everything I do: my Path of She writing and teaching, my journey of soul, my personal relationships, my magic and ritual work, and in my every moment dance with life. I live and dream by story. I honor and free lost stories by returning them to the waking world, and to the story-seekers who arrive on my physical and cyber-space doorstep. My deepest wish is that these stories will help others find their own beauty and gifts, and claim their superpowers in service of themselves and others.
Words can’t do justice to the sense of rightness and peace that settle on me as I say these things out loud, and claim them as my special gifts and sacred purpose. This is my sweet spot of service and self-actualization. Yes! This is my superpower!What Are Your Superpowers?
Pull up a blank page on your word processor or journal book and answer the question: what are my superpowers? Don’t think, just open to that part of you that knows why you are special and what gifts you have to offer this world, and let this part of you write.
By this question, I don’t mean your fantasy, wish-I-had powers, but your close-to-home, special-to-you beauty and gifts. Let your soul reveal itself on the page, and speak in whatever words best illuminate your superpowers.
If you’re blocked in answering this question, or you sense that your mind and preconceptions are interfering, let this exercise go. But carry the question with you for the next few days, remaining open, curious, and hungry to discover and name your superpowers.
Your superpowers don’t need to be showy or awe-inspiring. They can be a special talent, quality of being, or powerful kind of knowing. You’re already sharing your superpowers with the world. You can’t help it. They’re part of who you are, always present, although you may not be able to name and know them yet.
Think to your childhood play, your most passionate, joyful moments, the things your family and friends like best about you, and the times when you lit up the world around you. Stir up these memories and energies inside of you, and let them draw your awareness of your superpowers to the surface.
When you feel answers rising within you, pull up that blank page and give voice to the superpowers of your special gifts and sacred purpose. You’ll know you’ve found them when you feel that sense of rightness and relief that comes with naming a deep, profound, personal truth.
You were born into this world for one reason: to claim these superpowers and offer them up in service to others. You may not know what this means, or how to live in alignment with your superpowers, and that’s okay. Trust that you’ve found your sweet spot of service and self-actualization, and that something has shifted within you that will guide your way on your journey of blossoming into your true, beautiful, powerful Self.
Check out Path of She book offerings in the Path Store.
Artist: Autumn Skye (autumnskyeart.com)