To Live Well Set Yourself Free
by L. Lisa Lawrence
The night air, finally freed of winter’s bitter chill, had given way to the caress of spring. Night-blooming flowers perfumed the air, and their smell blended with the scent of freshly cut grass and salt water from Puget Sound, creating a heady potpourri. The voices of croaking frogs celebrating the season sang cadence to the rhythm of our feet striking the ground, urging us onward. Lungs and legs burning from the effort of the run, I looked out onto Commencement Bay and noticed the full moon reflected in the water.
“I wonder if he is looking at this moon right now as well?” I asked myself. For a moment, nothing else existed but me and the moon, a moon older than time, a moon that has witnessed countless nights like this. As I reached to top of the bridge, I couldn’t help myself, I raised my head up high and let loose with a long howl. Another friend who was running with our group was also moved to do the same. There we stood on the bridge, howling at the moon feeling joy, release and a sense of wildness that most in our society never experience. We had tapped in to the primordial, the wildness within ourselves, and it felt good.
Soon we noticed that the others in our running group were standing across the bridge staring at us. “Never mind us,” I replied as if nothing unusual was going on. “We’re just howling at the moon. Go ahead; we’ll catch up.” They gave us a strange look and continued down the waterfront, heading back to the running store and a very mundane, controlled existence. How sad, I thought. They have no sense of wildness.
I recently learned a lot about the importance of reconnecting with wildness after experiencing an episode that I can only describe as a “magickal meltdown.” Normally, I’m exceptionally tuned in to nature, the fey, energy and magick, but when faced with a nasty divorce and serious financial crisis, I shut down into survival mode and a very mundane frame of mind.
Being a fiercely independent woman, I was not about to ask the Goddess to take care of my problem for me. I was going to do whatever I had to do to survive. Unfortunately, that survival was at the expense of my connection to all that was wild, sacred and healing. There was no howling at the moon, dancing with fey in the forest or playing with the seals in my kayak. I was unable to produce an article for Widdershins for half a turn of the wheel and was barely able get rituals put together for Gaia’s Grove. My Tarot cards would not work with me, and my pendulum would swing wildly in a direction that didn’t mean anything. The more this occurred, the more I tried to rationalize and control it. The more I tried to rationalize and control it, the worse it got.
As weeks turned to months and months turned to seasons, I realized that my situation wasn’t getting any better. I knew that I had created an energy blockage within my body and spirit by trying to shield myself from the pain and anger that I was feeling. I learned the hard way that trying to keep the “bad” stuff away by closing down energy centers in my body kept the “good” energy away as well. I had shielded myself into isolation and was fixated on survival, not living, much less living a magickal life.
Over time, it became apparent that the situation had progressed to the point where I could not heal it myself. In addition to my magickal problems, the situation compromised my immune system. I suffered my first case of the flu since childhood, and later a nasty cold.
At Imbolc, I was contemplating a trip to British Columbia that I couldn’t afford to have a friend of mine who is a shamanic practitioner help me clear the energy blockage. Them another friend, also a shaman, just happened to show up out of the blue for one of our rituals. He sensed what was going on and helped identify and clear the blockages.
The clearing of energy blockages, which in my case were in the heart and solar plexus areas, requires the person being healed to completely open up his or her energy and spirit to the person doing the healing work. I can’t think of anything else that has the potential to leave you feeling so raw and exposed as allowing another person to internally explore your energy patterns and deepest pain. As the work began, I could feel channels open to a force outside myself, exploring, probing and learning as it coursed through my body. What was happening inside me reminded me of the work that is done in cardiac labs to clear blockages in the coronary arteries of a heart patient, in which a catheter specially equipped to penetrate and clear the plaque is threaded through the femoral artery, through the midsection, up into the heart.
After a time, I began to get senses of color and images coming from the person doing the work. I knew that a strong connection had been made and that it was vital for me to resist the urge to hide or constrict the pain, weakness and darkness that had formed within me; it needed to be opened up and flushed out. It’s not something that I could have allowed just anyone to do. It never ceases to amaze me how the Goddess will bring just what we need into our lives, just when we need it.
With the energy blockage supposedly taken care of, I expected to be back at it as if nothing had happened. Unfortunately, I wasn’t yet in the frame of mind to keep the energy centers open and was still guarding myself and creating new, although less severe, blockages. The magick didn’t come right back. The words did not flow onto paper. I felt better, but something was still not quite right. I continued to suffer from minor physical ailments ranging from pulled muscles to migraines.
In my effort to deal with my need for food, shelter, clothing and protecting myself physically and emotionally, I had forgotten where true magick lies. I had forgotten my “wildness,” and the need to connect with wild and uninhibited places within my soul. I couldn’t remember the last time I had even considered howling at the moon.
Before I could reach the wild places within, I had to reconnect with the wild places in nature. When I relocated to town from my home on the edge of a forested greenbelt, where I had protected and cared for nature, I lost a wild place that was very important to me. Since that place was gone from my life, I knew that I needed to find some new wild places. In addition to trips to the ocean and rainforest, I began to change my weekly routine to include runs and walks in the forest at Point Defiance Park. Breathing the forest air, feeling the soft earth beneath my feet and blending my energies with those of the nature spirits that dwell there was vital to making a full magickal and physical recovery. I began to make my personal and Gaia’s Grove offerings to the nature spirits there and learned to just sit and listen to them. Soon, I was graced with the sound of wolves singing whenever I got out of my truck. Things were beginning to feel right again, but I still had a long way to go.
I realized that when I got into survival mode I had stopped doing other things very important for my well-being. Two of the most important things, which also turned out to be the easiest to reclaim, involved music and rhythm. I needed that part of my life back.
Rhythm has always had a profound effect on my spiritually. One of my first truly consciousness-altering experiences occurred many years ago at a Bear Dance on the Tule River Indian Reservation in California, where the rhythm of the drums, the dancing and the smell of burning sage changed me and my perception of life, magick and energy from that moment on. In an effort to reconnect with that time in my spiritual development, I began burning sage and incense at home again and revived my “preritual ritual” at Gaia’s Grove. I started arriving an hour before everyone else to put a rhythmic CD in the sound system and dance around the sanctuary until I could feel a shift in my own rhythm and energy.
I had taken a break from singing, knowing that I needed to reduce the number of things in my life that I was responsible for facilitating. But losing my regularly scheduled time to make a joyful noise with my friends and chosen family did not enable me to relax and let the energy flow; instead, it contributed to the blockage. Luckily, my hiatus from Enchanters of the Woods encouraged one of the group’s other members to take over the leadership and organization. When I returned with the strict understanding that I was not going to accept the responsibility of leadership again, there was much less pressure on me, and I was able to relax and just enjoy singing. I’ve also made a point to sing in the Unitarian Universalist Association of Tacoma (UUAT) choir, the car, the shower, and anywhere else I can get away with it. Singing truly is a salve for the soul.
Reconnecting with wild places, rhythm, song and dance like the ancestors of our tribes and clans was an important part of reclaiming my wildness, creativity and magick. Bit I still wasn’t quite there yet. There is no creativity or magick without passion. Not just physical and hormonal passion, but passion that touches one’s heart and soul.
Regaining passion would prove to be the most challenging task in my magickal recovery. I was going to have to learn to open myself up to another person again. My often overly analytical brain was telling me that I had no business even considering any type of relationship after the disaster I had just extricated myself from. Looking back on my marriage, I don’t know how I could have missed all the signs that getting into or continuing with it was going to be a huge mistake. They couldn’t have been more obvious if someone had literally hit me over the head with them. I obviously had lousy judgment, my mind said, and no business even considering getting involved with someone else.
I had decided that I was going to draw the line at a relationship. I didn’t need or want one. I had friends and family and could have a fling any time I chose to, so why complicate my life with a relationship? The casual fling I had tried to convince myself I wanted and needed did not materialize, because I rejected the opportunities that came my way; I wasn’t in any rush. The Goddess had other things in mind. Despite my best efforts to tell myself all the reasons why I shouldn’t, the fact that spring was in the air and that I had tempted fate by saying “never” won out. I found myself faced with someone who was not causal fling material, but who challenged and excited me on many levels. After much internal debate, I decided to take a chance.
The whirlwind of energy that followed initially left me feeling confused and thrown into turmoil, but later brought balance into my life and taught me much about the ways of passion. Just because one is in a relationship (or even just getting laid) doesn’t mean that one has passion. Passion is much more involved than the physical act of sex its self. Passion is about being touched on every level of your being and feeling the flow of magick and energy between two people even when physical contact is not present. Passion changes our very existence. I ran faster, played better tennis and worked more powerful magick. Poetry flowed onto paper. The trees and the fey spoke to me again, and things that used to get on my nerves rolled off me like water off a duck’s back. I was shocked to realize how long it had been since I had truly felt passion and began to realize that my energy blockage had likely been in the works much longer than I thought.
“Bring on Beltaine,” I said to myself. “I’ve got reason to celebrate!”
As with anything in life, however, the glamour of relationship’s newness began to lose its magickal veil and a harsher perception set in. Once I got over the initial dizziness, I began to fear the intensity of what I was experiencing. Allowing myself to feel spiritual, physical, intellectual and emotional passion was overwhelming enough, but to open myself up to another human being and make myself vulnerable was a big risk.
One morning, I became exceptionally fearful of my own passion and vulnerability and was almost panic-stricken. What had I been thinking? That annoying, analytical mundane part of my psyche began to rear its ugly head, and it led me to do a really stupid thing in an attempt to distance myself from and potentially sabotage the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time — for no reason other than the fact that it scared the hell out of me.
After that, my run in the forest did not give me the usual comfort and the trees had no answer for me. The Goddess did not appear as a Celtic warrior and goad me to “act like a warrior, not a weenie,” and my attempts at meditation gave me nothing.
Instead, a chain of events the following day led me to an epiphany. Although I had gotten over the initial panic and made every attempt to undo any damage I caused by my attempt to distance myself, my underlying issues were still there waiting to rear their ugly heads again. As “unwitchlike” as it sounds, I found the answer in church. An unexpected phone call and appointment slightly delayed plans my new companion and I had made to go hiking, and I found myself with just enough free time to attend services at our Unitarian church on a week I had not planned nor scheduled to do so.
Our minister was talking about humanism and how many of us, humanist or not, try to internalize our spirituality rather than allowing ourselves to be open to the universe and experience mysticism. During his talk, he related several stories from various cultures of people who didn’t feel that their prayers were answered because the help they were asking for hadn’t come in the form they expected. Their rational, controlling minds had already decided what they needed or wanted and how it would manifest. They weren’t truly opening themselves up to the answers to their prayers and didn’t recognize those answers when they showed up.
While relaying a personal experience, he made the statement, “I learned that my past mistakes and failures do not identify who I am now.” It hit me like a ton of bricks. As I sat there, somewhat dazed, I realized that the Goddess had come not in her usual guise but in the form of a very human, somewhat flawed Unitarian minister and a last-minute scheduling delay. My whole meltdown was based on my trying to internally control what was going on in my life rather than being open to what the Goddess had sent to me. I also realized that I had almost thrown away passion, energy, challenge and friendship because I was identifying myself by my past relationship mistakes rather than admitting that I just might have learned from them. Once again, I had distanced myself from being open and was listening to my analytical mind rather then the wildness within.
My last lesson in wildness for this cycle of personal and magickal change was that of surrender. I thought back to my attempts to understand alcoholism and codependency over the previous four years. I remember visiting Al-Anon sites and finding a link to the Twelve Steps, which to me went against everything I thought I believed in. “Surrender to a higher power?” I had sarcastically muttered to myself. “How fundamentalist!” I believed that dealing with addiction (even if it was someone else’s) or any other major life challenge was all about personal responsibility and accepting and working through the consequences of one’s own actions. I guess what I had really thought it was about was control.
I learned a very valuable lesson on that fateful Sunday morning. No matter what perceptions we carry of deity, the universe or any other power or energy greater than or outside of ourselves, we must surrender to it, at least on occasion, if we want to truly experience magick.
We all deal with varying levels of challenge, energy blockage and perhaps even minor magickal meltdown over our lifetimes. If we truly want to connect with our power, passion and creativity, we must learn to reclaim our wildness. We can’t always act on our passions, and often we do have to let the rational mind rule our behavior if we are going to be allowed to exist in society and keep our jobs, homes and partners. But as far as I’m concerned, this world would be a happier, healthier place if more people would dance, sing and stop to howl at the moon once in a while.