My First Mini-Sabbatical
Sometime this summer, I listened to a podcast (I think it was the Good Life Project, but I don't remember the guest's name). The guest said that very few people can arrange a whole year "off" to take a sabbatical. Even though he worked for himself, he couldn't manage it. He realized, though, that he could manage to schedule a week "off" for a mini sabbatical. He tried it and liked it and decided to make it a regular part of his life. He works for 7 weeks and then takes one week off, then repeats the cycle.
The week off isn't necessarily to just binge watch Farscape (which I would also love to do). It is to refill the well. Recharge the batteries. Feed what feeds you. Attend to your soul. You know, all the things that get pushed down the To Do List.
Even though I work for myself, I couldn't take off completely. So I compromised by only attending to the essentials, which could be done in less than a hour a day.
I broke up my hour with 30 minutes just before lunch. That was the first time I would launch my email that day. I'd do what I could for 30 minutes, then done. Later, about 30 minutes before the end of my working day, I checked my email again.
Most interesting, was my sabbatical week rules for Facebook. I can't tell you how much time I spend on FB. There is a lot about FB that I love and I would never "give it up." Instead, I realized that I need to re-evaluate the time I spend there and the purpose I am there. Good: keeping up with friends. Bad: FOMO...Fear of missing out. After just checking in with FB once or twice a day for a week, this weekend I went back to my normal practices and was shocked to see that so much of what read was nothing new. I know. But really, I was shocked. I realized that FOMO kept me from being as present as possible in my own life. I realized that I am interested in almost everything and I could spend my whole life reading about fascinating and forgettable things posted on FB.
By keeping my online visits to a minimum, I was really surprised by all the time I had and how much I accomplished. And I wasn't trying to accomplish anything in particular.
Now that the week is over, I declare it a success. By the end of the weekend, I was energized and ready to get to work. I think I will approach my work over the next 7 weeks with passion and no resentment. You see, I'm interested in lots of things and sometimes I get really sad that I can't do or explore everything I want. Now I will know that every 8th week, I'll be able to go wherever my fancy takes me.
I realize I am lucky, that I can structure my work life so that I can do this. Maybe you can't take a full week off. But the guy who originally had the idea knew he couldn't do a year, so he came up with an option that worked for him (and me). That means, you can figure out something that works for you, maybe a long weekend or maybe one evening a week.
Maybe it seems indulgent or irresponsible to do this. But I don't think so. I think refilling our wells and exploring the things that delight our souls, even if they don't earn money, add great benefit to our lives. Yes, it has taken me, a stereotypical Capricorn, over 50 years to realize this. Better late than never!
Here are some things I did last week since I wasn't on email or FB or working much.
I journaled and read.
I made art. The leaf is watercolor, the pumpkin is oil pastels, the rattle is pencil. I also watched a ton of YouTube videos on watercolor instruction. I would have watched ones on oil pastels but there aren't many.
I took walks around Como Lake and through my neighborhood.
I copied about a hundred scraps of paper (with brilliant ideas scribbled on them) onto index cards for easy sorting and reviewing. I refreshed my altar.
May you, my dear friends, find some time to nourish your souls. May life make it easy for you to feed what feeds you. May you find inspiration and refreshment whenever you need it.
This morning I listened to a Good Life Project Riff (short podcasts that briefly explore a subject) called What if You Were Defined by Your Worst Moment? You can listen to it HERE. I suggest you do, because it is really good and under six minutes.
I've seen too many relationships, beautiful, loving, nurturing relationships or reputations thrown away or destroyed, because one person made a mistake. As Jonathon says in the podcast, a lifetime of loving, kind acts can be erased by one moment of reaction, stress, anger, or other human emotion. He posits and I agree, that we do better (and are making a more accurate judgment) to look at the long haul, the cumulative goodness as the norm and the one thing, the one mistake, as an anomaly and part of being human. And you must know, I'm talking about mistakes and not talking about things like assault and such. Nor am I talking about reasonable discernment.
He turns the question on us: how would our characters be described if someone used only our worst moment? How accurate would it be? Not very, I bet. So why are we so quick to think that one mistake means we need to say "Aha! They've shown their true colors and now I will never trust them again!"
We, or at least I, do this to myself as well. One mistake and I think of myself as some lame loser who has never had one bit of value. Or maybe something less extreme, but still, pretty hateful and unrealistic.
I don't know why we do this. Maybe because it makes life easier in some ways. We like things simple and black and white. Rules help make things easier and just cutting a person off is a lot easier than working through emotional messes.
Maybe next time you find yourself judging yourself or someone else, first measure that thought against the idea of judgment being a way to give life rather than crush life.
Image: Judgement from Llewellyn's Classic Tarot, by Barbara Moore and Eugene Smith
Snickerdoodles: A Delicious Metaphor
At the Minnesota State Fair, there are lots and lots different categories for entering your best efforts in the arts, baking, knitting, crop art, and more. In each category, there a many different lots, or subcategories, you can enter. In the baking category, there is one that I always find interesting. Each year, they pick a different recipe--this year it was Snickerdoodles--and each entrant bakes the cookies using the exact same recipe.
The picture above is just a few of the many cookies entered. As you can see, even though they all supposedly used the same recipe, the results are all different. I'm sure there are lots of reasons: quality or specific types of ingredients, relative humidity, technique, tools, the type of oven used, timing. Even if they controlled for all of that, I think the cookies would still come out differently because each baker adds something of him or herself to the mix, something that is uniquely themselves.
Besides making me want to eat many cookies, looking at them reminded me a lot of tarot readings. In some groups or on Facebook, sometimes people will do a reading for themselves and ask the group for input. I always wonder about the usefulness of that, because I think that you can put the same, say, three cards in front of a dozen readers and even using the same question and positional meanings, you will get different conclusions. The reason goes deeper than tarot education and experience. Underneath all of that are our personal beliefs about what tarot is, how it works, where the answers come from, the role of the reader, etc.
These are all questions (and there are even more) that I have my students answer before we even get into "what the cards mean." Because what the cards mean depends on your core beliefs about how the world works. Good bakers understand that baking is more than measuring ingredients and following directions. Just like a good artist doesn't simply make a painting that looks like a photograph; they make a painting that expresses a core truth that lies in their heart or mind or soul. There is an alchemy that happens in the creation, an alchemy that starts from within.
In fact, the alchemy starts from within and affects the reading before it even begins. It will influence what kind of sitters you read for, how you handle their questions (including type, wording, and approach to the reading), how you interpret the cards, and how you present the information (as well as how, if at all, you "edit" the information you see in the cards). These are all things that new readers want to know the "rules" for. But unless the rules come from their core, it's not really their most authentic reading.
Many readers tap into that core accidentally, because they are trying to access their intuition or something "more." I think that cultivating a firm understanding of your beliefs will help a reader tap into that place of alchemical wonder more easily and more consciously, and, in the long run, it will help them become a better reader.
My wish for you, my friends, is that you are always able to access the divine core within you and add your own unique magic to whatever you create, whether it is cookies or a tarot reading.
Through the Looking Glass
A few weeks ago we hosted our very first ever retreat. We called it Through the Looking Glass and, of course, used the theme of the Alice story of the same name. Mirrors, or more accurately, the way we see ourselves, figured prominently in the work that we did.
This work was based on a kaleidoscope of things that I experienced, learned, read, and figured out over the past two years or so. So many things worked together to create this transformative experience in my life, an experience that changed so much about me, including allowing me to dream big enough to create this event. I wanted to pull together all those elements in a coherent way and present it to others in the hopes that even one of them has the same incredible experience that I did. It was something that I knew could not be done in a single workshop. It required days, so a retreat seemed like the best method.
We took over Orchard House, a house on the grounds of Buttermilk Farm in Wisconsin. We brought in curtains and pictures and all kinds of things, making it into our own temporary wonderland. The three main bedrooms for the guests and the common area (where we did most of our work) each had an altar, one for each element. The picture above is the Earth altar.
In the large grassy field outside of the house, we made a huge labyrinth using flour. The labyrinth was part of our very moving, hour-long closing ritual on Sunday morning, but it was also used by our guests Saturday under a nearly full moon. The dew glistened in the moonlight like stars laying on the ground and the floor shone bright white. It was really magical. Lisa (my wife) and Michelle (my sister) made the labyrinth on Friday afternoon and each day I "fed" it by adding more flour and keeping the lines clear. As I fed it, I prayed that whoever walked it would leave behind what they needed to and take away a special message.
Friday and Saturday, I taught, led the guests on journeys, and gave them time to do readings using spreads created to support the journeys and the lectures. The goal was to create a ritual that they will do on the Winter Solstice, to release what hides their divinity from themselves and the world and to shine their authentic truths through their thoughts, feelings, words, and deeds. Between now and then, they have work to do to prepare. Because contrary to what many thing, transformation doesn't begin and end in one instant. Transformation requires a cauldron or a crucible that will not react with the process, so the work between now and then prepares their inner cauldron. After the ritual, more work (and support) is required because once you are transformed, your changes ripple out into your life. Conflicts may occur. Relationships may alter or even explode. You may decide to do crazy things like start a One Year Teaching program or host a retreat.
It wasn't all work, though. Everyone bonded so quickly and it was like we all became fast friends immediately. On Saturday night, we had a bonfire and one wonderful guest brought a guitar and we sang under the stars. On Sunday we had a Mad Tea Party Brunch (there is a photo of the table below).
The retreat was more amazing than I could have dreamed and I can't wait to offer it next year.
My wish for you, my friends, is that you always see your shiny, beautiful, divine selves and do what you can to nurture and support that precious gift that is completely you!