The weather is changing

The weather is changing.

The weather here in Chicago is much different from the Bay Area. The cold actually surprised me. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt real cold. This is the beginning of the cold that bites your cheeks, making you run for the covers and some hot chocolate.

The cold also brings back body memories from when I lived in New Hampshire and the Northeast. Like the smell of tobacco reminds me of my grandfather, the cold reminds me of growing up, among other things.

The shorter days makes me want to hibernate, but I know that’s not what people do anymore. It really helps me remember that this time of year is the time to go in, to reflect, to introspect. I do plan on doing more introspection here for the winter. I’m resurrecting my blog to do this.

There’s a lot going on here, and I have some ideas about future ministry, but for now, I just think. I reflect. I look at the past, think about what I want to do for the future, and then put the plans in motion to make it happen.

I do miss all my friends in the Bay Area, but I also know moving here was good for me, good for us. Change is hard, people don’t like it, but it’s also part of life, and usually necessary.

I wonder: what thoughts this cold season will bring me? What will Spirit tell me in these days where the Earth sleeps and things are quiet?

 

Samhain Meditation 2: The Descent by Mage of Machines

The Descent by Mage of Machines is an approximately one hour meditation journey to the Underworld and the Isle of Apples under the protection of Inanna to commune with the Beloved Dead. The music was written, composed, and performed by Sarah Thompson, also known as Mage of Machines. You’ll recognize a little bit of this album as the show intro and exit music for This Week In Heresy.

Some of you, if you had attended Pantheacon in 2013, will also recognize this music. The Circle of Cerridwen, with friends, performed The Descent in a live dramatization and dance with an early edition of the music. The final edition of the album was released on Samhain 2013.

Sarah Thompson is your Guide. Inanna is voiced by Calyxa Omphalos, and Rev. Gina is the voice of Ereshkigal. The script was written by Rev. Gina and Sarah Thompson.

This is offered as a Samhain blessing for you, as a gift to the community, and to honor the Beloved Dead.

The album version of The Descent is available via iTunes. If you are looking to purchase it through other platforms, click here.

Click here to to listen (player will open in new window).

Samhain Meditation 1: Crow’s Arch

Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Feel the firmness of the chair that you are in. Feel it hold your body. Breathe deep again, and let your body relax. Let your mind drift, floating in the darkness.

You begin to see stars form in the darkness, small pinpricks of light that seem to be moving way from you, as if you were watching the sky on fast forward. Soon, the moon rises, and you see that you are sitting on a rock in the middle of the crossroads in the midst of a vast plain.

When you stand up from the rock, a bird swoops down and lands in front of you. It is Crow, who says,

“I have come to guide you. Follow me!”

He cocks his head to look at you, and then flies off. You follow.

After following Crow for awhile, you see two orange specks of light in the darkness. As you come closer, you realize that they are two torches on either side of a large arch. The arch looks empty, but when you stand in front of it, you can hear voices from the other side as if they are coming from a closed room. You ask Crow about the arch, and he tells you, as he lands on top of it, that it is the Gateway of the Dead.

He tells you: “I will fetch one of your Ancestors for you, but there must be payment! What shiny thing will you give me?”

You look around, but you are dressed plainly and you have nothing on you to give to the Crow. The Crow begins to caw, which sounds a lot like laughter.

“I do not want jewels, silly human! I want the one thing about yourself that you want to give up. It will be as tasty as carrion!” He flies down from his perch on the arch to land in front of you, dancing a little in anticipation.

You look inside yourself for a part of yourself that you wish to give up: a bad habit, self-doubt, fear about a certain thing, something that’s blocking your creativity, PTSD, or any other thing you feel you can give up. You remember to be specific about what it is so that you don’t damage what’s left of you. You hold out your hands and imagine it as a physical presence. When you finish manifesting it, you offer it to Crow, who takes it and gobbles it up with a satisfying “caw!”

“Wait here!” the Crow says, and he flies through the arch. As you wait for his return, you notice that there are stones close to the circle of light that are just right for sitting on. Eventually you see a vaguely human shape emerging from the arch. It starts to walk towards you, and as it does, it solidifies into one of your Beloved Dead. The Crow follows after they manifest and resumes his perch on top of the arch.

You invite this person to sit with you on the stones and you begin to talk.

(…)

After you two talk for awhile, Crow comes down off the arch to where you two are sitting and says to your Beloved Dead, “It is time.” You ask them for any last messages, hug them, and they follow Crow back to the arch. Crow perches on their shoulder as they walk back through the arch. Once they are fully through, you start walking back to the crossroads.

As you reach the crossroads, you hear the beat of wings, and Crow lands on the rock. He says, “I have one last message for you…” and he gives it to you. (…) You thank him, and he flies away with a caw.

You sit on the rock again, take a deep breath, and return to floating in the darkness. And when you are ready, you return to the present, to this room and open your eyes.

Blank Page (Post-Hidey Ramblings)

I’ve been staring at the screen for a few minutes, listening to my Samhain playlist, and wondering what I should write about. There’s plenty of dust ups and politics that I could write about, but I feel like I’ve said all I really need to say about things. I mean, how many times can I write some version of “don’t be shitty to people”? On the Internets it feels (to me anyway) like banging one’s head against a brick wall. Or shouting in an echo chamber.

Facebook has been really bad for that. That’s a big part of the reason that I’ve been taking a Facebook sabbatical. It’s not that don’t care about any of the issues that people talk about, far from it, but there’s only so much I can take before the depression sets in. Which it did for a couple of weeks, as I kind of “disappeared” while the Olympics were happening. (Here’s a good video about this and why those of us with depression and anxiety do it.) Although, spraining my hand also forced me to stay off the computer since typing was hard (although, I did get practice with Google Dictation in Google Docs).

What I’m realizing, though, is that the most stable and happy I’ve been (and the wife confirms this) is when I maintain a somewhat strict monastic schedule. Get up early, meditate for 20 minutes, take care of altar, pull cards, then get dressed, have breakfast, and go about my day. At night I clean up the altar from the morning and meditate or ground, depending on how tired I am when I get to it. This schedule works, along with my swim training, and I’m finally getting back to it.

It makes me wonder why people tend to think that a monastic life isn’t a legitimate form of work, particularly when it comes to social justice. I get that “prayers aren’t enough” but there are some of us that, for whatever reason, just can’t do all the activism that some activists think that everyone should be doing.

Then again, most of my ministry really stems more from being an example of radical inclusion. I hope that most of the time people can feel included in my home or at any public event that I help to run. I’m far from perfect and I know that some people don’t really subscribe to my ideas of inclusion or even my theology. I don’t always get it right, and I don’t need a cookie for my work. But it’s how I roll.

I pray for the Dead and the Ancestors every day.
I pray for all those who need a light in the darkness every day.
Some days I do more.
Some days prayer is all I’ve got.
I try to be as inclusive in my being as I can.
I hope I get it right more than I get it wrong.
So mote it be.