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)
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.
Artist: Lucy Campbell
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Artist: Igor Morski
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.
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 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.