Friday, February 28, 2014

I Dream of Gardening

It's almost March, and plans are in motion to make our home garden better than ever.  Last year, we had a lovely garden planted. Our improvement for that season was to add a thick layer of hardwood mulch. It was doing a great job of keeping out weeds, and we were all set to have a bountiful vegetable harvest.

Then the deer came. We live in the country, so this is not an unusual occurrence. But for some reason, perhaps our large tribe of outdoor cats, the deer had left our vegetables alone before last season. This time, they came through like a mower and ate nearly the whole garden right to the ground. I wonder if it had to do with the fact that very few soybeans were planted in the fields near us. It was mostly cotton and tobacco.

So this year, we're going to have the entire garden fenced off and maybe even electrified. Discussion about this made me get a little quiet. I love the deer, and even though I'm a hunter...hmm. My partner chortled about this, of course. Last weekend, my partner drove fenceposts and laid out a raised bed. He's thinking of installing a permanent trellis for climbing plants along one side, too.

I am so excited! While he's working on that, I'm going to clean out the raised bed along the back side of our house. Traditionally, we have planted lettuce, tomatoes and herbs there. I have recently learned that crop rotation is important even in small areas, so I plan to switch up everything except the perennials. I'm even going to move the tomatoes to the main garden. That will give me more space for basil! Last year, I had 4-6 plants. This year, I hope to have 8 plants. I want enough to use fresh, to make large batches of pesto AND to dry.

Pictured above is Sweet Woodruff, aka Gallium Odoratum aka the secret ingredient in May Wine. Last year, I grew some in a large planter. It's a perennial, and I'm hoping that the cold winter hasn't completely killed it. *crossing fingers* Because as my coven mates know, I am that kind of witch. The kind that shows up to Beltane with dew gathered at dawn and homemade May Wine. Oh yeah, baby!

It's almost garden time, garden time, whee!

Earth Center: Ever Closer to a Dream

I've dreamt for many years of a community that I will create. When I was younger, the dream was for it to be a sort of commune. At that time, I had no idea how I would buy the land, or how we would support ourselves. Now that I'm older, and I've lived in and around communes, my dream has grown. What I envision now is a large piece of land - 200 acres or more. The land will be held in trust by a nonprofit with a board of directors to make overall strategic decisions about how the land will be used. If the organization ever dissolves, the land will be conserved for public usage and will never be subdivided or developed for private residency or businesses.

To make the land profitable, we will host independently owned businesses, including an educational center run by yours truly, an organic farm, healing center, sustainable community, sacred grove and mystery school. Our mission will be to create self-sustaining, environmentally conscious community and share the Earth’s wisdom with all people.

My vision is to gather a crack team of entrepreneurs and prospective residential community members, shop for land and jump in to the glorious challenge that will be making this dream a reality. So many people that I know have the same dream. I can see so many beautiful programs hosted at our center - from artist residencies to yoga retreats, Spiral Scouts to Witchcraft 101. We could train youngsters in farming. We could teach every outdoor skill you could hope to need. We could maybe, just maybe, show people that living a sustainable and environmentally conscious life is not just for patchouli-wearing hippies, but the duty of every responsible citizen.

Meanwhile, I am working towards my part of the dream. I've begun a Meetup group, South Wake Spiritual Community, to build an audience for our teachings. I'm networking like mad, checking out all the other environmental education centers, spiritual centers and sustainable communities in the area. I'm getting the final pieces of my education finished. I'm making a name for myself. I'm building all the channels of my multi-faceted career: Massage & Yoga Therapy, Environmental Education, Holistic Business Consulting, Music, Writing and Art. It's a lot of work, but I'm doing what I love. My passion fuels a lot of long days and late nights.

As the Goddess knows, we need more of these places. We need every beacon of light and sanctuary that we can get in this world of unsustainable growth and suburban sprawl. We need wild spaces, real food and whole swathes of the landscape free of big box stores. We need places where a person can learn to drum, sing, canoe and revere all life. We need places that all people feel welcome, regardless of gender, race, religion, politics or profession. We need the Sacred Earth Center, the One Earth Center or the Earth Wisdom Center or...whatever we name it.

This week, dream a dream of the Earth with me. And let me know if you want in.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Winter Pagan Fitness Challenge - Weekly Update 1

My first week of the Winter Pagan Fitness Challenge was great. Busy, but great. I can't say that I'm very balanced at the moment. It's the beginning of an important year for me, and there have been several late nights on the laptop writing, planning and dreaming furiously. But I'll take it. It's still forward motion.

How did I do this week?

Fitness - I did not get any hiking in this week. I did some vigorous gardening on Saturday. I also attended a super intense power Yoga class, which was only sort of yoga-like, but incredibly challenging.

Diet - I did fairly well this week, but not great. We need groceries, and I need to do some pre-planning. With my busy schedule, some prepping for the week in advance is the only way I stay on track.

Air - Not much pranayama in my personal practice. Got to get back on track with that. 

Fire - My daily Yoga practice suffers on days that I have to work early in the morning. As I get more on track with sleep, this should improve. I did play music on Saturday, so that was good! Fire predominated my week, with all the writing that I did. 

Water - I did fairly well overall this week.

Earth - Reasonable week for this. I'm on the upswing of getting all my self-care practices back on track.

Spirit - A spotty week for morning devotionals, but good for gratitude journal.

A really helpful tool that I have begun to use is an iPhone app called Track & Share. I'm not into the sharing function at this point, but it is great for tracking all sorts of things. It's adaptable, so you can track whatever you want. It's quick - just a few quick taps and all your items for the day are tracked! I'm really liking it. I've tried several different methods in the past - wall calendar, day planner and Excel spreadsheet. All of them have failed for one reason or another. If I can export the data from Track & Share, it may be just about perfect.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Winter Pagan Fitness Challenge

While doing some blog networking, I came across the Winter Pagan Fitness Challenge over on Pagan Health and Fitness. What a great idea - a spiritually focused fitness challenge to get us through the dark winter months! 

This challenge comes at a perfect time for me. Though I love winter weather, the winter months are always the most personally challenging ones for me. The days are short. Holiday stress gets me down. Year end professional organization fees, taxes and other recurring expenses loom. Family dramas ensue. Business is often a bit slower. And did I mention that the days are short? 

Yes, even a Yoga instructor, outdoor guide, backpacker and adventurer like me has tough days! I find that having goals and some form of structure helps me get through rough patches. I have an ongoing Yoga practice, spiritual community, a personal spiritual practice and plenty of active hobbies. But I like the idea of having a little boost. A bit of extra motivation. What better way than to join this challenge and tell all of you about it? 

Besides all of the good reasons to do this challenge, I really liked the author's ideas about balancing health using the five elements. As a follower of an Earth-based spiritual path, balance and the elements are integral part of my worldview.

One thing I see a lot of New Age or Pagan practitioners do is to focus on their spiritual practice while ignoring their health, home life and/or financial situation. In my opinion as a holistic health practitioner, this is a risky proposition. How can you meditate if your body hurts? How can you live a life of abundance if you don't have your finances in order? How can you have positive relationships when your emotional baggage is not sorted out? Balance. Balance is key. Each element of our lives must be reasonably healthy and in balance with the others for everything to work harmoniously.

So here we go. The challenge ends March 19. Between now and then I will post once a week on Sundays to report out on my experiences. After the challenge ends, I won't stop my practices - this is life, daily practice! As the Yoga sutras say "this practice becomes well-grounded when continued with reverent devotion and without interruption over a long period of time."

Traditional Goals and Plan

Good thing yoga pants are stretchy. I haven't weighed myself in years, but I can tell that I have put on a few eggnog and pasta pounds over the holidays. My goal is to fit into my smallest clothes comfortably.

My goal is to be in good enough shape to begin teaching martial arts again. To be fit enough to backpack for a week at a time again. To be fit enough to do handstand pushups. My plan is to continue with Yoga and hiking, then add in martial arts training routines - all several times a week. Also, be better about my knee rehab exercises. My knees are fine when I'm in good shape, but I have patellar tracking syndrome. That just means that I have to keep my quadriceps balanced in order to have good knee health. I get slack about it sometimes. Also, more archery.

My goal is to eat clean 90% of the time. I eat pretty healthy most of the time, but certainly was off track over the holidays. It's gotten better again now, but I need to stay on top of it. To me, this means: plenty of fruits & vegetables, avoid processed foods, lots of water, low amounts of dairy, reasonable portions of healthy meats, very low sugar and plenty of whole grains. I will save splurging on snack food, rich food, sugary drinks and desserts for holiday celebrations and one day a week of reasonable cheating. I will pack healthy snacks to stave off any low blood sugar incidents.

5 Elements Goals

Air rules the intellect, communication and of course, breathing. My plan is to practice pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) every day, to continue my intellectual studies and set healthy personal & work boundaries. I will also incorporate more chanting into my practice.

Fire rules strength, passion, will and the creative force (qi, ki, prana). My plan is to continue my daily Yoga practice, and also attend at least one challenging weekly group class. I will exercise my creativity with writing, art and music. I will play music in public once each month. I will continue to pursue my passions with gusto!

Water rules the emotions and our intuition. My plan is to listen to my intuition, honor and accept my emotions, honor the yogic principles, continue my personal healing work and of course, stay well hydrated. I also pledge to spend more time on the water this year!

Earth rules our bodies. To me, honoring the element of Earth is caring for the temple of my body each and every day. That means getting enough sleep, eating mindfully, wearing fun clothes that make me feel good, practicing safe body mechanics while working, receiving regular massage therapy, and getting routine healthcare. I also have a goal of incorporating more Ayurvedic daily practices into my regime (more on that later).

Spirit is the element that binds everything together. Spirit is the energy that animates us and connects all beings to one another. My plan is to continue my spiritual practice and to continue to integrate a spiritual awareness into all aspects of life. I will continue my daily practices of Yoga, meditation, gratitude and morning devotionals.

So there you have it. Looking at the list, it seems pretty ambitious. On the other hand, it also looks a lot like my normal life! Care to join me, anyone? 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Divine Energy, Love and other Thoughts

What is the Divine? Who has a lock on spiritual truth? Is there a design inherent in our universe? Questions like these swirl through our consciousness and seem to be a big point of division these days. Which is ironic, if you think about it. The spark of divinity is something that all human beings share. I'd like to believe that we can all agree on this point, at the very least. On optimistic days, I believe we can agree. More cynical days, I make an internal sad face and keep dancing.

I believe that all the life forms on this Earth (and possibly the rest of the universe too, but I don't know them yet) are connected by energy. The life force within us all (call it qi, ki, prana, spirit, etc.) connects us and collectively  forms the Divine (macrocosm). Human beings are one drop in this ocean of beings, and as such are a microcosm. A microcosm contains the blueprint of the macrocosm within it, and is a powerful thing - containing both the power of the individual and the collective. Each of us is Divine and powerful, yet part of something larger than ourselves...god is us and we are god, get it? So there is no deity that is separate from us, no centralized intelligence that is judging us every day.

But we as humans create person-like thought-forms for the Divine to make it easier to relate to, and that's ok. All of us see them differently and they are all valid. Here, let me say that again: your God and my Gods are one and the same, yet individual and real for YOU and ME and that guy over there and all the gals around the world. 

It is also true that the Gods exist in their own right. Sure, it's a paradox. Get used to it. Life is full of paradoxes.

Also, this Divine energy is a force of creation and connection. It's love in it's purest form. Love, which maybe we should redefine as emotional gravity. Gravity draws objects toward the center of the earth; love draws objects together. Divinity has been heralded as a source of inspiration for poets, artists, sages and philosophers through the ages. I think it is also a powerful mirror. We become fully present in the world when we know ourselves, and the mysterious force of Divine love can draw us in to our center. 

I also believe that belief is a scary and powerful thing. So I believe things, but not 110%. Maybe 98% or so. I could be wrong about all of this. Or more likely, as a human being, I will simply never understand the true nature of reality and of the Divine. 

And therein lies the rub, no? None of us really know. Not in a factual way. I feel my truth in the center of my being, like a sort of glow and it makes me feel like humming. But is it a fact that the Earth is a sentient ball of interconnected beings and that various Gods and Goddesses run around helping and hindering humanity? Maybe not. But then again, maybe it is...