Radical Altars

photo 4 - Edited (1)

I’ve had an altar in my bedroom for about 20 years – since I started practicing my own version of Wicca after leaving the Christian Church. I stopped practicing Wicca a few years later, taking pieces of the religion on with me as I created my own spiritual path. My altar has always held items of special and sacred meaning to me and provided a focal point for Sacred Time with the Divine.

Originally it looked like a pagan altar – candles, sage, an athame (ritual knife), bowl of water, purchased and home made goddess and god representations, shells, stones, a deck of Tarot cards, etc. It was a big deal at the time because I was following a path that my parents believed was sinful, harmful to my soul, and perhaps even some kind of devil worship. When my mom learned that my girlfriend brought Tarot cards into the house, she asked to bring some of her church lady friends over to cleanse my home of demons. Seriously. I let her do so in my absence because it made her feel better.

Now my altar has taken on quite a different shape and meaning. It’s primarily full of gifts from others – sacred items that were given to me by soul mates of one sort or another. There are some inherited items from my Mother. And there are a few items I purchased because they spoke to me.

The two items in the picture above are unusual and profoundly meaningful. The bottle was gifted to me about five years ago by a dear friend in the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The Sisters fill these tiny glass containers with glitter and make-up collected from table tops at fundraising events they produce, as well as with the ashes of Sisters who have passed. This sacred vessel is filled with years of Radical Faerie and Sister Magic. I’m not exactly sure why my friend honored me with this gift, other than knowing that by the nature of who I am I tend to have a spiritual impact on some people in my life. But I am deeply grateful for it and always keep it in the center of my altar space.

The other item is a new addition. It;s a Kavadi spear tip. A Heart Sister of mine recently did the Vel Kavadi ritual at a tribe gathering. The ritual dance involves a framework of spears that pierce into the skin. It is a body rite that takes the dancer into an ecstatic state. Soon after the ritual, she came to Portland to stay with the family for a bit. She is going through radical transformation in every aspect of her life and needed to be held in the metaphorical and physical arms of Chosen Family who love her unconditionally. She gave me the spear tip shortly before she moved on to the next arms of tribe who would hold her while she re-forms in the chrysalis of conscious evolution. I am honored beyond words by this sacred gift.

April's Altar

Other meaningful items on my altar include:

Images of Jesus* inherited from my Mom. She and I shared our devotion to the Divine, it just looked different after I left the church. She committed herself over and over again to Jesus and the Christian concept of God. She even became an ordained minister. I believe she was almost a mystic, in that she had the deep love for God, but she could never believe in her own lovability in return. Within the framework of sin, she believed she had done too many bad things to truly be loved and held. It made me sad to witness her give her power away again and again rather than see the pure beauty of who she was as a Divine Spark. She sparkled with humor, love, devotion, strong will, and the incredible strength to reinvent herself over and over again. She deserved joy, but she couldn’t seem to find it. She died because of her relentless physical and emotional pain.

*I share my Mom’s love for Jesus. He’s still my favorite spiritual Master (when you strip away the religious doctrine that perverted his story and teachings). There is something about the powerful mythology of the crucifixion and resurrection story that resonates deeply with me. Likely because my own superpower is creative generosity. The story of Jesus is full of generosity. He didn’t fill convention centers with people paying hundreds of dollars to hear his teachings. He kept himself accessible to the poor, the untouchables, and the radicals. He did miracles for anyone who asked and believed. I imagine from his stories that he built true community, based on caring for and serving each other’s needs, rather than based on someone making large amounts of money to serve their audience.

A small bronze Buddha, a golden wax Goddess sculpture, and images of particular Goddesses whose archetypes I relate to. I like some of the Buddha’s philosophies and I am particularly drawn to the archetype of the Bodhisattva. My central Goddess image is Kuan Yin (Infinite Mercy & Compassion). Again – it’s about generosity. In this case, the dedication to work toward ending the suffering of all beings. The other Goddesses are The Lady of the Lake (Emotion, Renewal, Creativity), Selene (Moon, Bright, Shining), Isis (Mother, Giver of Life, Emotion), Hel (Fiery Woom, Renewal, Divine Mystery), Aphrodite (Spiritual & Passionate Love, Relationship, Feeling), and Inanna (Mother, Spiritual Death, Resurrection).

A fiery heart shaped pillow handcrafted by a Heart-Sister who shares my capacity for deep emotion and love. She’s one of the few Radical Mystics I’ve had in my personal life.

A stone heart from another Heart-Sister and member of our family. Camille gave me the heart as a Blessing Way gift for the birth of our Magic Baby. It holds a lot of the emotion I’ve processed from the birth and adoption.

A dream box from a friend at my last workplace – a going away gift for planting the seeds of my dreams of my adventure in Portland.

A beaded bracelet I made with a Heart-Sister at our see-you-later lunch before leaving for Portland. The bracelets represent our Enoughness, something both of us have struggled to feel in our selves. We are learning to love ourselves through acceptance rather than through constant (and violent) pushing to be better, better, better all the time.

A string of prayer beads that I crafted with a long lost spiritual community. The Radical Mystics of that community planted many of the seeds that I am now harvesting in my mystical practice and in this project.

A handmade prayer book from someone who gifted me after receiving a Transformation Doll package from my previous project, The Conspiracy of Blessings. I filled it with my favorite prayers from poets and mystics of several different spiritual traditions. I don’t pray every day. I reach for prayers when I need them.

And the picture of me as a child, on my knees praying, that I have on my About page. This reminds me that I am a God Girl – a woman who has always loved the Divine no matter how my brain and heart perceived Him/Her/It.

Part of being a Radical Mystic is having sacred space and time for connection with the Divine. Of course it can happen spontaneously – out in nature, while dancing, in intimacy with others. But the connection needs to be nurtured regularly or I start feeling disconnected from everything in my life. It’s my on-going relationship with the Sacred that makes my life healthy and vibrant. My altar reminds me of that need, to keep it as a conscious intention, and gives me a place where I can easily connect to the expansive feeling of Oneness through my relationships to the loved ones who’ve played a precious role in my mystical evolution.

I Bow To All

I Bow To All

I keep telling strangers that
to be in the presence of those
with whom you can both share
pain and celebrate just waking
is the answer to loneliness.

Such friendship makes the shar-
ing of pizza in a noisy pub and the
standing in silence as the old oak
creaks all one could ask for.

In truth, this process of being
worn to only what is raw and
essential never ends.

It’s as if a great bird lives inside
the stone of our days and since
no sculptor can free it, it has to
wait for the elements to wear us
down until it’s free to fly.

~Mark Nepo

What the Devil Tells Me

The Devil - Universal Tarot
The Devil – Universal Tarot

Yesterday I felt called to do a Tarot reading. It’s been a long time since I’ve used the cards with any regularity, which is silly because they always help me feel more connected to the Sacred and myself. I don’t use them to tell the future, I use them to find insights into the archetypal energies at play in my life. It felt good to reconnect with the cards and I plan to make readings a regular part of my practice from now on. It’d be lovely to start reading for others again as well.

Overall the reading was glorious. I tried out a new layout, one I had made note of years ago but never utilized. It’s a reading based specifically in archetypes, using only the Major Arcana and the court cards. The reading validated the archetypes that are at play in my relationships (The Empress), my creativity (The Queen of Cups), etc., and helped me see some other beauty. However, I was flabbergasted to turn over The Devil card for career.

The Devil represents the small “i”, the ego. It’s a card representing bondage, limitation, restraint. And materialism – as in being tied to the material world.

This is confusing because I see my search for work in Portland as being very much tied to my values and my higher self. While I have set a couple standards regarding base income and refusal to go backwards on my career path (I’m no longer a $15/hour administrative assistant!), I’ve been seeking only meaningful positions with non-profits and educational organizations. My mantra is “meaning over money.” This is not an ego based approach to the professional world.

Until I consider the idea of smallness – playing small instead of owning my Bigness.

Perhaps my restraint or self-imposed limitations look like continuing to pursue a regular job with a regular income rather than pursuing an independent means of supporting my family through the work of my heart. I wonder if I’m limiting myself to “secure” work by telling myself that I’m not oriented to being an entrepreneur and that I thrive in high stimulation environments with lots of people. I also say that I want to help create change in leadership from the inside of organizations. Someone has to, right? And I talk about how my creativity is motivated by generosity. All of these things are valid, high minded ideals…and I suppose all of these things could also be self-imposed limitations.

There is also the possibility that I’ve been thinking small in my search for work. While I’ve applied for several leadership positions, they have been in the comfortable zone of Operations Manager/Office Manager or even Executive Assistant (which is a leadership position when you’re the liaison for the rest of the staff). While I know I’m ready for a significant leadership position, I am afraid that no one else will think so. While I was growing into a big fish in the small pond of Humboldt, I feel like I might be a small fish in the big lake of Portland. I imagine I still have some growing to do before I can be an HR Manager or Director of Operations. But maybe that’s not true?

As I go deeper into the meaning of The Devil, I am looking for where I am playing small. I’m waiting to hear back from a specific position I’m a finalist for this week. If I get it, the question may be mute. Or at least, it will look different than if I don’t get the position. If I have to continue the hunt for work, then this question of smallness will likely impact my direction from here. Either way I do feel there is something significant in what the Devil is telling me.

Of course I remain open-minded about where the Universe is leading me in regards to Radical Mystic. I know there’s a project here. Whether it’s a project from which I could one day make a living, I don’t know. I just know it isn’t that time yet. I need to develop the project. I need to build a community. And I need to do so without the shadow of money over my head.

Radical Mysticism through Relationship

Transformation Card from the Universal Tarot by M. Miller
Transformation Card from the Universal Tarot by M. Miller

“Intimate relationship is arguably the twenty-first century’s ashram. It’s not, however, a retreat or refuge from everyday life, but a transformational growth center located in the very midst of it, offering experiential courses in whatever generates and deepens intimacy, courses uniquely fitting for those entering its domain.

Its goal is not transcendence, but full-spectrum intimacy, not only with your partner, but also with all that you are — dark and light, high and low, petty and noble, deep and shallow.

If you are seeking transformation, you need look no further than doing what it takes to fully be in such relationship. This is a great undertaking that asks much of us, and gives back more than we can imagine.

The path isn’t neatly laid out, because we, with our partner{s}, are cocreating it as we deepen our intimacy, stepping into and embracing a trailblazing mutuality, without having to know where we’re going.

Implicit in this is a rare trust, an ongoing, shared willingness to bring not only our very best to the relationship, but also to expose our worst — not to be acted out or otherwise indulged in, but to be faced and integrated and related to in ways that serve our relationship. Nothing in us gets left out — it’s all part of our relationship. This is more than possible when — through our work on ourselves — our relationship becomes both sanctuary and crucible, a place of deep healing, care, life-enhancing challenge, and a love that pervades all that we are.” Robert Augustus Masters

Intimate relationship has always been one of my primary interests in life. I started reading Leo Buscaglia’s Love books when I was 15. While I spent years in unhealthy relationship patterns due to the environment I was raised in, I was always motivated by a desire to experience deep, healthy, abiding love with others. Not just with one life partner, but with family and friends as well. Community relationship. I could feel the potential in love that went well beyond our infatuations, romances, and attractions; beyond our traumas, dramas, and defensive patterns; beyond everything our culture says is intimate relationship in the 21st century.

I also felt relationship could be a spiritual, healing practice. However, while every relationship I had gave me opportunities to grow and heal, many of them also came with a hell of a lot of hurt. Often I was in the crucible, trying to heal, and my partners were in the shallows, interested more in fun, sex and comfort than conscious evolution. They provided the burn for my refinement, but they did not desire to go through the refinement process with me in order to refine themselves or the relationship.

Until Camille and Jen, my partners in the Impropriety Society. Although they were business partners, they were willing to work to get to the love, with each other and with others in the community. Our partnership refined all of us in profound ways, and built the foundation for this precious family we’re nurturing.

Then I discovered the jewel in the heart of my fiance, Eros, and he showed me his willingness to work to get to the love. We have healed significant aspects of our ourselves within the crucible of our relationship, especially through the pregnancy and adoption. We have grown immensely as individuals, and grown our relationship into something neither of us really believed was possible.

I now strive to approach all of my relationships as a mystical experience, as a way to dance with God. Instead of looking for God in an ashram, temple or church, I look for God in the people I love.  And I’m striving to look for God in everyone I interact with, directly or indirectly. Perhaps you could say the world is my temple and the 7+ billion people on it are my teachers.

The God of Life, the Spark that connects All That Is, is innate in all of us. It’s the sparkle in our atoms that communicate with each other. It’s the consciousness that animates life in ways we have yet to understand. And maybe we never will. Maybe that’s part of the experience we’re here to have, faith in the unseen. Maybe if we figured it all out we’d be bored and have no where else to go with our evolution as part of this ever expanding, increasingly complex Universe.

Whatever God really looks like, it’s finding this meaning in my experiences that keeps me resilient. I’ve had more than my fair share of traumas that could have broken me. It’s my experience of God, no matter what shape it’s taken (the Father of Christianity, the Mother of Paganism, the Consciousness of the Universe, my Beloved), that has allowed me to turn every trauma into something beautiful. It’s my work in psycho-spiritual development that has created the emotional health, joy and peace I now experience nearly all the time.

The Gift of Adaptability

I am grateful that one of the tools I was born with is adaptability. Change is rarely difficult for me. I do not fight it. I do not suffer because of it. I adapt to new information and new situations very quickly. It can actually be a source of frustration for those close to me, because sometimes my mind changes on the spot and they’re still reacting to where I was a minute ago.

The gift in adaptability is less resistance to what is, which equates to less suffering. If I don’t resist change, then I don’t suffer. That doesn’t mean change isn’t painful. It often is. But there is a difference between pain and suffering. While I may have to live with pain, I do not have to create suffering out of it by resisting change, fighting what is, or wishing things were different.

Today I am adapting to new ideas about where Radical Mystic is headed. While I’ve had frustration with my lack of writing lately, I have also experienced multiple epiphanies regarding my next creative project over the past few weeks. I realize now that I am in a state of pregnancy – forming something new that has yet to take its full shape. It takes time, patience, and a lot of work in the unseen to birth something new into the world.

I believed I wanted to write a memoir, yet I’ve been struggling with getting into the nitty gritty of planning a book. I thought I was merely experiencing typical resistance. However, now I believe I’m in incubation and a bigger idea is just starting to take a distinct shape in it’s development.

When I was a young University student, even though writing was my primary form of expression at the time, I always desired to do something more complex. To combine styles and forms and create in multiple dimensions. To bring writing and theater together in performance art. To bring theater and visual art together in a community art experience. All of my former projects were multi-dimensional. The Yoni Endeavor was sculptures, digital paintings, web design, poetry, essays, creative non-fiction and blogging. The Conspiracy of Blessings was multi-media art, blogging, and community building. The Impropriety Society was multi-media art, graphics and web design, writing, blogging, event production, leadership, and community building. After these years away from actively creating something other than a child and family, I needed to remember that I am turned on by complexity.

Another factor I needed to remember – I’ve always been an immediate gratification artist. I enjoy creating a collection of small creative projects that take hours or days each, leading to a larger creation based on the cohesion of the pieces. The idea of taking months or years to produce one object is really rather horrifying to me.

So the idea of writing a book – words only, crafted over months or years of time – does not ignite a fire inside of me. But planning a project – designing a website and graphics, writing content in a variety of styles, discovering the possibilities of video and audio and collaboration with others, all with an on-going production schedule – this ignites me. The last few days have seen pages of development notes, full of inspirations from nearly everything and everyone I engage with.

Developing a project, in real time online, without a direct intention to make money from it, is also in line with my super power of Creative Generosity. I have never and will never create with the intent of getting paid. I can’t. That’s just not how I work. That doesn’t mean I won’t develop ideas for exchange or accept money for creative work that I do; it just means that I operate from generosity first. I create and give away what I create because it makes me happy to do so. Generosity is both my bliss and my rebellion, a significant aspect of my radical mysticism.

I am rediscovering and following my passions. In response, I feel the Universe dancing with me through serendipity. In adapting to the Divine’s lead in our dance, I am experiencing the magical support so many teachers have claimed is out there, waiting for us when we get clear on our creative desires. It’s been a long time since I felt this way and it feels fantastic.

Next step: my own domain name.