In early January I went to LA for Rob Bell's 2 day workshop on Finding Your Groove for Creatives and Communicators. You will be hearing about it a lot over the next few months because so much of what he taught set me free in different ways and it is going to take some time to process and share all of it with you.
One of the things he talked about was the problem many of us who communicate about matters of spirit face. He said that questions of grace, blessing, and favor are as hard as questions of suffering.
To the question "why did my loved one die?" there is no satisfactory answer.
To the question "why am I lucky enough to have this work to do; how in the world did I get this gig?" there is no satisfactory answer.
This rang true for me because I often wonder that a lot. I've been sitting with the idea for a few weeks now and feel it unfolding within my soul. The energy of this idea, this truth, if you will, is flowing through my established synapses, shaking them up, and creating new pathways. It wasn't a cure all but a strong beginning.
One other thing I fret about is that there is so much hunger, need, homelessness, real immediate physical need in the world. Isn't it a little presumptuous of me to pursue spiritual work, and asking people to pay for it, when others are starving? Let me tell you, I've beat myself with this particular whip pretty regularly. Which is really an ungrateful act. It is kind of like kicking sand in the face of a generous gift from the Divine. But I was saved from further beatings by a few revelations.
I thought about how some people do work that attends to our immediate physical needs. Some focus on education. Others on entertainment. All these areas are important for human life, for not just surviving but thriving. While my work is kind of educational and some might say kind of entertaining...but I figured out a word that feels more accurate: enriching. The goal of my work is to enrich someone's life during their time as a spiritual being having a human experience on this planet.
I told this to my wise and practical wife. She suggested that I find a charity or organization that is attending to a cause or need that just totally breaks my heart. Whenever I do work that brings me the kind of joy that makes me feel a little guilty, I should give a portion of that to that cause or need. It is like balancing out two extremes: joy/abundance versus heart break/need.
As Above, So Below. As Within, So Without. I believe this. Lisa's idea is not just practical, it also incorporates sound magical principles. Not only will the actual money help the cause, because the money was generated by joy, love, and abundance, it will create a flow of joy and love toward the cause. The $25 or whatever will have value beyond the monetary...it will create a magical shift of energetic as well as financial abundance.
Yes, questions of grace, blessing, and favor are hard. Being grateful and doing something concrete to show that gratitude is so much better than beating myself up over the great gift that is my life.
In tarot terms, the suit of Pentacles explores the flow of resources in the world. Finding the right balance between maintaining your own life and participating in the flow of resources in the world isn't always easy. But for now, it's a balance I'm working hard on getting just right.
Most people don't like being told "no." Even if it is gracious. Even if the "no" includes useful feedback or constructive criticism.
Jonathon Field's recent Good Life Project podcast riff, "How You Handle No is How You Handle Life" really resonated with me. This is only 10 minutes, so if you want to listen, check it out HERE.
In the riff, Jonathon explores possible reasons why we shouldn't get all bent out of shape when being told no and I agree.
As an acquisitions editor (for over 15 years), I've had to tell plenty of people "no, thank you, but this project isn't a good fit for us." Mostly people act like adults and either don't write back (which is fine, no reply required) or thank me for my time. These people stick in my mind as possibilities for future projects. Others will write back with a lot of hostility and defensiveness. So even go so far as to spread angry comments about the company in public. When I receive, hear, or see those words, it makes me thank the gods and goddesses that we did say no, because there is no way I want to work with someone like that. All their vitriol did was burn a potential future bridge.
As a tarot reader, I've had to, in essence, tell people "no." By "no" I mean giving them news that isn't exactly what they want to hear. Whether it is the common, but still always heart-wrenching, "will he come back?" or the ostensibly advice-seeking "what can I do to get a job?" If the answer isn't "yes" or "nothing, someone will walk off the street and give you a dream job with stellar salary" some people react with anger, defensiveness, or disbelief.
I remember one reading where the client wanted to know about getting a job and there were some very obvious blocks that he could clear, but he kept getting more and more upset. He ended up saying that I had obviously brought my own negativity into the reading and that it was the worse one he'd ever had. His reaction to the really solid advice the cards were giving made it easy for me to see why he was having trouble finding employment.
Instead of being defensive to the gracious no (especially when it comes with feedback or advice) and behaving as if the world is against you, calm down (maybe make note of the disproportionate emotional reaction and investigate it later), sit with the rejection and consider it, as Fields suggests, as data. Information is valuable. Take it in. Respond with openness. Use it as an opportunity to grow.
In tarot terms, don't be like the guy in the 4 of Cups, who is only seeing something that makes him unhappy and is completely missing the gift that is actually being offered.
Those of us who identify with the Hermit love to spend time alone. The Hermit, after all, goes off alone up a mountain, into a cave, or across the desert; sometimes he just withdraws into his own mind. It doesn't matter where he goes; what matters is keeping his own counsel. He does come back to his tribe from time to time to teach and share and probably to get a Starbucks and maybe a pizza.
Many of you know that this is the year of the Hermit (as reckoned by adding the digits of the year together 2+0+1+6=9=the Hermit). So I didn’t think much about it when the Hermit card kept coming up for me over the past few months. Turns out, he wasn’t just stopping by to say “hi” or get directions to Starbucks. Nope. He had a bigger message for me.
The first threads of the message started over a year ago when I read The Philosophers’ Secret Fire: A History of the Imagination by Patrick Harpur. This paragraph really stuck with me:
Hermes is also, I suspect, behind the ‘information revolution’. He is, we remember, the god of crossroads and boundaries, of mediation and of communication. If we revere him he gives us hermeneutics, insights, and wisdom; if we do not, he deceives us (he is a great Trickster) through messages that seem true but are really false. Since he travels, uniquely among the gods, from Above to Below, from Olympus via our world to Hades, his dimension is depth. We relate to him through the depths of soul whose movement is slow, labyrinthine and downwards towards death. If we deny Hermes his vertical movement, he begins to spread horizontally, to speed up, until he is girdling the Earth like Puck (who did it in forty minutes). Hermetic revelations become literal signals, from satellites above to cables below, whose transmission criss-cross the globe, growing faster and more garbled by the minute in a wild attempt to return us to that knowledge of eternal things which can never, alas, be cobbled together by no matter how many trillions of bits of information strung across the world.
Those words have been growing louder in my memory, sometimes shouting as if in warning. For the longest time, I ignored it. Instead, I kept scrolling through my Facebook feed. I had a really bad case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). I always want to know what’s going on, what people are doing, what’s exciting and interesting “out there.” So much so that I forgot that I need to pay attention to what’s exciting and interesting “in here” <points to head and heart>.
So much of what I read on FB fills me with ideas and questions and fuels my curiosity, which is great. Except that all I really do is make a note of it, but the note in this big box of notes that I have, and move on to consume the next great idea. I don’t actually pursue the ideas, seek out answers within myself, or follow my curiosity deeply. One idea that kept skimming the surface of my consciousness is for a novel about a young woman who takes herself offline. I kept thinking about it, not realizing at the time that I was imagining my own future.
My birthday was January 16. The night before, as I was falling asleep, I had this clear thought “You must remove yourself from social media.” I told that thought it was nuts. How would I run my business? How would anyone know about my readings or my classes. And a really quiet, honest voice asked “how will I know who I am?”
The next morning, I was journaling and pulled a card for the year (a birthday tradition of mine) and almost fell off my chair when I saw it was the Hermit and the voice that spoke last night kind of laughed and murmured something about the Universe and a 2 x 4 and my thick skull. I swallowed my fear and entertained the thought.
It was finally time to admit it. I needed to energetically cut my cords to social media. Not just check it less, but deactivate my accounts and metaphorically depart on a Hermit’s journey, taking the time to explore all these ideas and possibilities that I’ve been gathering. And I need to find out who I think I am when my beautiful, kind, and generous Facebook friends aren’t telling me who I am. Don’t get me wrong, I love who they say I am. And I think that’s really who I am, only older and not quite so sparkly pretty. But I need to find out for sure.
Also, I’m interested in connecting with fewer people more deeply. Which means I’ll be doing more blogging. Hopefully people who are interested will stop by and see what I’m thinking about and share what they think via email or the comments. I am not going off the internets completely, just all forms of social media. I’m not sure for how long, either. It’s all a bit of a mystery to me.
Another interest of mine right now is paper…with handwriting or hand made marks on it. So if you send me your mailing address, maybe I’ll write you a real letter sent with a stamp and everything!
This is important: I do not think anyone else needs to do this. There is absolutely no judgment here (you all know me well enough to know that, right?). I don’t think social media is bad or evil. I actually love it. But sometimes a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do. I hope you all keep the party going while I’m gone and I really hope my Hermit trek doesn’t take that long so I can join you again soon.
So, in honor of the Year of the Hermit, in honor of the crazy voice in my head, and in hopes of curing myself of FOMO, I will deactivate my Facebook account at the end of the day on Friday, January 22. Yikes. I’m kind of scared. And kind of excited.
Image: 7 of Cups from the Steampunk Tarot. Find out more HERE.
I think of myself as a logical person who likes to make decisions based on facts and reasoning. Gather facts, list out pros and cons, think about ramifications...these are all ways we prepare to make rational decisions.
You know what? Turns out I'm not always the logic-ruled creature that I like to pretend that I am. And despite her common sense and determination to always make the best decisions, my dear Lisa is sometimes driven by impulses other than reason.
Because we are mostly rational, when one or the other of us made a decision that didn't seem logical, the other would be confused, would question the other, often getting a defensive response. Confusion and hurt feelings were often the result.
It's hard when we want something for non-logical reasons because our culture values reason (and, for us, because we mostly are logical). But those heart-driven desires and choices do happen and they are fine. We just needed another way to deal with them since we didn't like feeling or acting defensively or being on the receiving end of defensiveness.
Our solution is easy. And it is working for us, so of course I want to share it with you. When we want something that we can't defend logically (and as long as the ramifications are not logically disastrous), we simply say three little words: "I prefer it."
Instead of creating a potentially defensive situation or feeling bad because we are driven by something other than logic, now we can laugh about it and understand each other very easily.
In addition to easing potentially tense situations, this realization and practice has opened us up to honoring other ways of knowing and deciding. We are a little more free from the stranglehold of cold logic (please don't make me turn in my Spock card), free to be a little more fully human, embracing all aspects of ourselves.