Pathwork

The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful: Reinveinting Your Worldly Toolkit

Everything we are, everything we’ve experienced, learned, and suffered can be used in service of the healing and transformation of ourselves and our world. What matters is not so much who we are, or what has happened to us, but what we do with what we’ve been given. We can choose to reinvent our worldly toolkit, and make beauty with the good and the bad of our life.

You have the power to do beautiful things with what life has given you in your worldly toolkit. From both the good and the bad, you can create positive change.

Whether we are conscious of it or not, we have been socialized to see the world through the black and white lens of good and bad. Good things come about through the best sides of our humanity and personal nature; bad things through our worst instincts and the shadowy, nasty places in our collective humanity.

We apply this dichotomous lens not only to the world around us, but also to our personal history and characteristics. There are parts of ourselves that we embrace as good and positive, and other parts that we reject as bad and negative.

As we embark on a journey of healing and transformation, we may think that positive change will only come about if we can somehow get rid of or transcend the bad parts of ourselves. This is a destructive premise that is more likely to block, rather than enhance, our personal work. 

Instead I offer a different perspective: within each of us is the power to do beautiful things with what life has given us. From both the good and the bad, we can create beauty and positive change.

Our life story brings us the things we need to heal, grow and change, and whatever we have gathered in our worldly toolkit in the form of knowledge, skills, abilities, and personal characteristics can be used to bring about positive, beautiful change in ourselves and our greater environment. It all comes down to personal choice: what we do with what we’ve been given.

A Personal Story: A Witch with an MBA

This insight came to me in the midst of a crisis on my island home. A small corporation had bought a huge tract of land in the southern portion of our island and began to clearcut the forests, leaving a swath of devastation in its wake that threatened the environmental and economic fabric of our community.

In this story, the corporate world was the bad guy: the business men who owned the land, the multinational corporation that funded their activities, the government legislation that enshrined corporate rights over community and environmental considerations, and a cultural ethos that worshiped money above all things.

Our community rose up in resistance and I found myself, for the first time in my life, deeply involved in a collective activism that fought, with every bit of skill, knowledge, and inspiration at our disposal, to protect this stunning, natural landscape we called home.

Yet I faced a strange dilemma. I was also the bad guy in this story. I had a corporate, consulting background and an MBA. Whatever we were fighting out there was also part of my personal makeup and worldly toolkit.

This split within me wasn’t new. I had long struggled to reconcile the two divergent, powerful sides of me: the MBA with a corporate career, and the wild witch connected to earth and magic. Our community crisis and activism brought this struggle to the forefront.

But, as is the case in any crisis, there was no time for indulging my inner angst; I just jumped in with all that I had. With my witch skills, I did magic and ritual to protect the land, and with my corporate skills, I led a small group that organized public, consciousness-raising events like street theater. As the group’s business manager: I made agendas, ran the meetings, delegated tasks, made sure the financial resources were in place, and followed up on logistical details. Our group did amazing things, with a handful of people, little money, and quick, efficient meetings, due to the massive, diverse talents within our group and my well-honed business skills.

A light went on for me. The corporate world and my own business skills were not the ultimate bad guys. I had the power and potential to do good or do harm with the skills, abilities, and gifts life had bestowed upon me. And I chose to use my business acumen to do something beautiful: to help protect my island home.

This story has a beautiful ending. Our community activism stopped the clearcutting and turned big tracts of the forest into magnificent parkland. A middle ground was found between the interests of our community and the corporation that owned the land. And I reclaimed and reinvented my worldly business side in service of the beauty of my island home and community.

Reinventing Your Worldly Toolkit

1.  Take an inventory of your worldly toolkit.

List the key knowledge, skills, abilities, and personal characteristics that you draw upon to navigate the demands of the everyday world. Be sure to include the parts of your toolkit you see as good and bad.

2.  Choose one thing on this list, or a bundle of related things, that you view in a negative light.

This can be a “bad” side of your personal characteristics, a skill that you aren’t proud, or anything in your toolkit that you believe negatively impacts your life.

3.  Explore this part of yourself with clear eyes and an open heart.

Where did this part of you come from? What is its story? How does it bring about negative situations or outcomes?

What is your attitude toward this part of yourself? Do you want to: a) hide it, get rid of it, pretend it doesn’t exist, or transcend it; or b) embrace it, learn from it, and find a way to make it a positive part of your life?

4.  Now imagine, no matter what you current attitude is, that you can do good, beautiful things with this part of you see as “bad”.

Open your heart wide, with love, compassion, and acceptance of all that you are and all that life has brought to you. Know that you have the power to do good, to choose something new, beautiful, and life-affirming, with these parts of you that you see in a negative light.

This new, beautiful choice may be committing to heal an inner hurt or old story, or to reframe this part of you as a strength and ability that you can use in more positive ways.

Don’t overthink this, instead let go of your current way of thinking, and explore what else is true and possible. See how you can take this part of your worldly toolkit in a new, beautiful direction.

Everything you have experienced and learned, the good and the bad, has made you who you are today. Within your worldly toolkit, you have what you need to heal and transform yourself, and bring positive, beautiful changes to your greater environment.

Positive change doesn’t require that you reject or cut away your “bad” parts, but that you open yourself to love, self-acceptance, and new possibilities for these parts you see as negative. You can choose to do beautiful things with what you’ve been given.

Check out Path of She book offerings in the Path Store.

Artwork by: Cameron Gray

Pagan Dreamer: Storytellers and Stewards of Her Beauty

Our primal, natural place in the great weaving of life on this planet is not dominion, but sacred communion and protection. Of all of the Earth’s life forms, we have been given the gift of creative expression to give voice to the beauty and wonders of this world.

Open to Nature. See what speaks to your wonder. Give this communion your complete attention. You’re the storyteller and steward of Her beauty, the Earth, our home.

This is what my deep dreaming tells me.

I wake up in the early hours of the morning, still half in my dreamscape. In my dream, I am writing about the country walk I had taken with my partner the night before.

I record the sensual minutia of the natural world: the slow track of a jet-black snail, with a thin band of shiny, silver slime marking its passage; the nuanced scents of the surrounding forest and farmland with hints of resin, flowers, and sun-warmed earth; the gun-smoke gray of the twilight sky juxtaposed against the rich chestnut of a horse’s coat; and a weighty silence that marks the fading of day into night.

As I slowly emerge from this dreaming, I bring with me a fierce, full-body love and awe that speak to my primal communion with the living landscape, and inspire the writing flowing from my heart onto the blank page.

And I see, with the soulful clarity that sometimes slips through from the dreaming to the waking world, that we humans are the storytellers and stewards of the beauty and wonder of this place, the Earth, we call home.

I invite you into my dream world to experience this fierce, full-body truth for yourself.

Go for a walk or spend a quiet hour in a favorite natural setting close to your home. This can be a park, trail, or green space in an urban setting — anywhere you feel a strong heart connection to Nature.

Bring a journal or sketchbook with you, whichever is your preferred form of creative expression.

Anchor yourself in your body with a few deep, full breathes. Quiet your mind and be fully present to the landscape around you. Take in the sensual details of the wild world: the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations of Nature. See what draws your attention and speaks to your wonder. Give this communion your complete attention.

You are sacred witness and storyteller to this moment. The wild world is gifting you with its beauty. Show your gratitude for this gift by expressing and recording what is before you.

Widen your awareness, open your heart and your body, and then write, draw, or record, in whatever way is free-flowing for you, the beauty before you.

Keep your mind and interpretations out of this. This moment is not about you, but about your capacity to storytell, in words or images, the beauty and wonders of this living, breathing Earth.

When this communion feels complete, put down your journal or sketchbook. Let go of words and images. Sink into your energetic connection to the natural world, your living body to its living body. Take in the sensations and emotions that arise in you, the raw love, joy, and awe that infuse your primal communion with the beauty and wonders of this world.

Breathe this connection into your body; imprint it in your memories; let it change you.

You are the storyteller and steward of Her beauty, the Earth, our home.

Check out Path of She book offerings in the Path Store.

Artist: Lucy Campbell (lupiart.com)

Enlightenment as a Verb: The Process of Becoming Lighter

I know enlightenment as a verb is grammatically incorrect. Enlightenment is a noun that, in a spiritual context, indicates an egoless, awakened end state. It is an ideal attained by the very few, the masters, mystics and gurus in our midst. Therein lies its problem.

Re-vision your spiritual work as a process of lighten your soul’s load, becoming enlightened, through little steps of clearing the inner debris that weighs you down.

Enlightenment as a noun is beyond the reach of most of us who travel a sincere path of spiritual healing and evolution. If we think we have reached a state of enlightenment, the very act of naming and claiming it indicates the presence of ego, and ego is the antithesis of enlightenment. If we want to reach this state but can’t get there, we are probably short changing our spiritual accomplishments.

Either way enlightenment can inflate or deflate your spiritual process.

Though this may sound like blasphemy, I think enlightenment is a red herring that can distract us from the very important business of healing our own soul. Each of us comes into this life with soul work to do. For the vast majority, this work is to heal and to grow. For the very, very few, it is to achieve the rarified state of enlightenment. All of this spiritual work is essential to the greater healing of our humanity, and the only piece we can claim is our own.

This brings us back to enlightenment as a verb. My suggestion is that you think of enlightenment, or its verb form of enlighten, as the process of becoming lighter.

Imagine your soul being buried under the accumulated debris of your old stories and habituations of beliefs, thoughts and life choices. What your soul fervently desires is a free-flowing alignment between your deep inner self and your outer life. But this is only possible if you lighten your soul’s load by cleaning out and healing the debris that weighs you down.

An Exercise in Re-Visioning Your Spiritual Work

For this exercise, I invite you to re-vision your spiritual work as a process of becoming lighter/enlightened through little steps and small moments of cleaning out and healing those things that weigh you down, and allowing your soul to shine forth in your everyday life.

1. Start with a small event or exchange in the recent past where you were challenged or you experienced positive change.

Look for instances where you acted with courage or shifted something inside of you. It doesn’t have to be anything momentous or even visible from an outside perspective. Maybe it was allowing yourself to feel something you usually repress, or to speak your truth, or to seek out help, or to stop doing a negative behavior, or to say yes to something new, or no to something that doesn’t serve you.

Journal the details of what happened and how you dealt with it.

2. Consider the roots of this small event or exchange.

What deeper issue or part of your personal story is present in this situation? How did your actions and choices shift this deeper issue or story piece? Did you unblock, heal or clean out anything that has gotten in the way of your personal pathwork or of living from your best, soul-based qualities?

How did you become lighter?

Even if you felt stuck or made choices that you are not happy with, leave your self-judgment behind and look for the positive. What did you learn from this situation? How did it wake you up to things that you would like to heal and change in yourself and your life? What did it teach you about the other person(s) or your external environment? How will these lessons and insights affect your future behavior?

How can you use this situation to unblock yourself, become lighter, rather than continuing to re-enforce your old stories, behaviors and choices?

3. Select a longer period of time or a bigger event or exchange from the recent past where you experienced a greater degree of challenge and change, positive or negative.

Go through the same process and questions as you did for the smaller event/exchange. Keep your attention at the micro-level of individual incidents and exchanges that are part of the bigger situation. And also look for the connection or domino effect between these individual incidents.

A Little Steps Journey of Becoming Lighter 

The importance of this exercise is to realize that small events and little shifts matter, even when considering a longer period of time or a bigger, more complex situation. We don’t go from a wounded state to an evolved, healed state in one leap. We take little steps and make little changes. These shifts and changes can happen in a negative or positive situation, and when we handle things well or badly. As long as we are paying attention and looking for our healing and unblocking lessons, change will happen.

Over time these little things can add up to big leaps. Or a big leap may seem to come out of nowhere, but if you look closely, you will be able to see all the little things that came before. You get lighter, enlightened, a bit at the time.

Perhaps in this soul work, you will have moments of crystal clear awareness, an enlightened glimpse into the most profound secrets of life and the Universe. Perhaps you will step beyond the bounds of ego and self into an awakened state that we have collectively named enlightenment. Perhaps this will be for a moment, or forever. But do not look for this, or cling to this notion. Whatever comes to you is your journey of soul, not to be compared with outside constructs or the soul work of others.

And perhaps a master, guru or mystic, an enlightened one in its traditional definition, will be a source of wondrous of information and insight along your way. But you can be equally inspired and guided by the everyday people in your life who face their hardships with humor, grace, love and presence, and who bravely choose to live bigger, more fulfilling lives — people who are becoming lighter and more soulful in the course of the ordinary events of life.

So put aside your ideas of what your spiritual journey is supposed to look like and any idealized end state you are trying to achieve.

Instead of judging yourself when you make a mess of something or seem to be resisting rather than embracing change, take a deep breath and let yourself know this is a learning moment. Your awareness and willingness to shift your perspective make this an enlightening opportunity.

Step by step, issue by issue, you clean out the debris that weighs you down, and you naturally become more present, more powerful, more aware, more beautiful and more soulful. You become lighter, or enlightened, and in this new lightness of being, your soul shines through a little bit brighter and you bring new light into this world.

Honor and celebrate every bit of yourself you heal and reclaim on your journey of becoming lighter. Enlightenment is the journey itself.

Check out Path of She book offerings in the Path Store.

Artwork by: Tatiana Plakhova (complexitygraphics.com)

Wake-Up Calls: Taking Your Life In Soulful, New Directions

Our shared culture is like a sleeping spell that disconnects us from our Deep Self that holds our true beauty, unique essence and authentic humanity. As children, we’re not asleep; we naturally, innocently express our true beauty and inclinations. And then slowly, relentlessly, the forces of culture — through our families, school, the media and countless other aspects of our shared outer reality  —  domesticate our free spirits and lull us to sleep by telling us, over and over,  how we’re meant to believe, think and live our life. By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have lost our roots in our Deep Self and are fast asleep within cultural-defined reality.

A wake-up call is an unexpected, often startling event and profound gift that prods us to remember who we truly are and take our life in soulful, new directions.

Yet our soul longs for an authentic life, where our outer existence is a natural expression of our Deep Self. Though our waking mind may be asleep to these things, our soul remembers who we are and the life we long for. It speaks to us through our most secret, cherished desires, the things that give us joy and satisfaction, and in a restless hunger for something missing from our life that we can sense but often not name.

From the midst of these opposing energies, wake-up calls emerge.

A wake-up call is an unexpected, often startling event that prods us to remember who we truly are and to take our life in soulful, new directions.

It can take on many forms: from something as dramatic as an accident or illness, to something more subtle, like a gnawing, brewing discontent that just won’t go away. Big or small, direct or subtle, drawn from the familiar or the wildly unexpected, wake-up calls are profound gifts that offer healing and transformative change.

Recognizing Wake-Up Calls

The intention of this exercise is to heighten your awareness of the presence and impact of wake-up calls in your life transitions. With this awareness, you can become more attuned to the small and large ways your Deep Self and the powers of life work together to shake you awake and steer you in a more positive, soulful direction.

Wake-ups calls are typically best understood in retrospect. With this in mind, this exercise will focus on a life-changing event from your past.

1. Consider a time when your life made a significant change in direction, positive or negative.

How did your life change direction at this time? What did this change look like?

Think back to the circumstances surrounding this change in direction. What was happening at this time that was shaking up your life?  Identify a specific event, positive or negative, that initiated this change process.

What was this event? How did it impact you? What did you learn? How did this specific event initiate a change in direction for you?

2. If this first approach doesn’t work for you, consider a time when you were experiencing a dramatic event in your life, either positive or negative.

Name and remember the details of this event. What happened? How did it impact your life circumstances?

What did you learn from this event?

What happened after the event? What changes did you initiate? How did you take your life in a new direction?

3. Compare your life before and after the change in direction or dramatic event that you discovered in Step 1 or Step 2.

What key parts of your life changed? What new insights and experiences came to you? How did these things shift your self-awareness, beliefs, values and life choices? What did you discover about the things that matter most to you, and that give you joy and satisfaction?

As you answer these questions, dig beneath the surface, seeking out the voice and longings of your soul within these life changes.

You may have to work harder to root out your soul’s voice if your life made a negative change in direction, but it’s there. Where there’s a big life shift, you’ll find the presence and longings of soul.

4. Embrace the notion that the event you’ve named and explored in these life transitions is indeed a wake-up call.

When you embrace the notion of wake-up calls, you acknowledge that the events of your life have deeper meaning and purpose.  Life isn’t something that happens to you; instead it’s a purposeful journey with events and situations to further your healing and personal growth.

For this exercise, witness and honor the gift of your wake-up call as the impetus for learning, growth and taking your life in a new, soulful direction.

The self-awareness focus in this exercise can be used not only for big, life-changing events but also for the whispers of your soul in the smaller, more subtle impetuses to take your life in new directions.

The more you can heed these whispers and increase the fluidity of your responses, the less you’ll need big dramas and consequences to drive your healing and pathwork process —  because every moment is really a wake-up call to rub the sleep from your eyes that blurs your vision and blocks you from a full, beautiful life of soul.

Check out Path of She book offerings in the Path Store.

Artwork by Igor Morski (igor.morski.pl)

Be Love: A Meditation Exercise

The Goddess tells me one thing over and over again: to heal and evolve this world, we need to become something different. We need to be love.

Though these words sound simple, what do they really mean? What is this love? And how do we go about being love?

Love is woven into the fabric of existence, inside and all around us. We are this love. Our very being is made of its golden strands, and our sacred purpose is to be love.

What Is this Love?

To answer the question: what is this love, I have to tell you a story.

I was attending a workshop on the Buddha’s doctrines on love. As the teacher delivered his dharma talk on this topic, I shifted into a meditative state and opened to this love he spoke about.

What I experienced wasn’t an idea or an emotion, but more a place or part of my being where I was love. My whole being was infused with an absolute peace and acceptance of everything and everyone. There was no separation between me and this love; it was in me and outside of me at the same time, everywhere and in all things.

Later, in my connection with the Goddess, I came to understand this place or part of me as the golden love of the Goddess that had little to do with my pre-conceived notions of love, and everything to do with my direct experience in the Buddhist workshop.

This isn’t the romantic love of Hallmark Valentine’s Day cards, nor a warm, enveloping, motherly love, but something woven into the very fabric of existence — sometimes fierce, tugging and unrelenting, like the ocean calling us back to its life-sustaining waters — sometimes hot, sensual, igniting, like the skin-on-skin of a lover’s touch — other times gentle, accepting, peaceful, like the hands of the Goddess cupping us in their infinite interior — always as close and intimate as our breath, yet also way beyond our limited human conception of things — something of soul, of body, of experience, not mind.

What I know, beyond all doubt, is that we are this love. Our very beings are woven of its golden strands, and our most sacred purpose is to be love.

How Do You Go About Being Love?

To answer the question: how do you go about being love, I offer you a meditation exercise.

1. Start with a simple breath meditation.

Take several full, deep breaths, following the sounds and movements of your inhalations and exhalations. Feel your body soften.  Empty your mind of thoughts and worries.  Relax.

2. Turn your awareness inward.

Imagine stepping away from your mind’s way of understanding the world, and into the vast wisdom and knowing of your body and soul.  Ask to be shown the love that you are. Keep your focus on your breath, with your body soft and your mind quiet and curious, and see what comes to you.

The challenge in this exercise is to get completely out of your own way, letting go of all preconceived notions and expectations, including the story I have just told you.

Be profoundly still and open, and let the love pour into this emptiness.

3. Bring this exercise to a close.

Before you complete your meditation, imagine lighting up your whole being — mind, body and soul — with the golden energy of this love. Totally immerse yourself in the love that you are, and the love that is everywhere and in all things.

Let this connection change you, in whatever way is good and right for you at this moment.

When you are done, use your breath to fully return to your physical form and waking consciousness. Pat your body and say your name out loud. Then slowly, softly get up and continue on with your day.

In the days that follow, and every time you do this meditation, pay attention to any shifts in how you conceive and engage yourself and your outer existence. Set the intention to embody and experience this golden love of the Goddess in your everyday life.

Trust that these things will change you in profound ways. You’re healing and evolving yourself and our world. You are being love.

Artist Unknown