You’re hard-wired for wonder…
… for pausing to study sunsets and the afterglow of lightning flashing through the summer sky.
It’s really that simple.
And yet, the same hard-wiring which allows for so much joy can lead you on a merry chase for meaning, for logic, and scientific explanations. When we become overly analytical we close the door on everyday magic. We end up living in Mundania with no mystery in sight. I’ve been down this path: it led to longing, disconnection, and even depression.
When we fail to recognize the wondrous in the daily, we lose a necessary part of ourselves.
I’m not exempt. After the umpteenth time sucking my thumb in the abyss of Why-The-Heck-Are-We-Even-Here, I came back with this basic truth: sometimes we have to allow life to have meaning.
Wonder is always there– you just have to give it an opening in your soul.
But how? How do you reconnect, plug in, get into the flow, read the signs… when you’re smashed face-down at the bottom of the well?
Let me tell you a story:
Years ago I took a writing workshop with Tom Robbins, who wrote one of my favorite novels, Jitterbug Perfume.
During Q&A I mustered my fan-girl courage and asked: What do you do when you have nothing to write?
And Tom said (I’m paraphrasing here):
You show up. You show up at the same time, the same place, every day. You don’t go to the coffee shop or the library, hoping the muse can find you. You sit at your desk and you write. You’ll be sitting there working whenever she deigns to join you.
This same advice holds true when you’re connecting with the deeper mysteries of life— you show up.
If you only meet Mystery in the woods for the summer solstice, then that’s her only chance to connect with you for the whole year. If you think Mystery only hangs out at four day retreats led by uber-influential teachers, then you’re missing out on the tiny offerings she leaves you daily.
Church, synagogue, and the mosque are meant to be places where we reconnect with the greater mystery, but for many of us these institutions no longer spark the magic-meter because connection is deeply personal and difficult to institutionalize. For me, it’s studying the inner-workings of the natural world and tapping into the universal symbols of the collective unconscious. When I engage at this level, I feel like I’m backstage watching the mechanics behind the show, supported by a crew and cast, buoyed by hard work, joint venture, and the laughter of the after-party.
We have so many tools for tapping into the Universe, the Divine, our God-selves. For years I had to wrangle my East-Coast-Intellectual-Snobbery as it attempted to put the kibosh on tarot and astrology, dream-weaving and journey work. But when I get truth-and-bones honest with myself, these visual tools are my best way in.
The part of me that longs to see the fine filaments of kinship running from myself to all things, giving meaning to this crazy thing called life, needs to be nurtured. She needs her time in the spotlight, not in competition with science but in addition to science. Making time for Mystery is not only making time for me, it’s making time to make life matter.
Remember: you are hard-wired for wonder.
If you knew that a meeting with Mystery was your key to health and happiness, that you were hard-wired for wonder and needed a daily fix, how would you get it?
I’ll let you in on a little not-so-secret secret… one of my favorite ways to remember the Mystery is to explore (and re-explore!) the history and power of the witch archetype. Though I don’t actually call myself a “witch,” I find this archetype to be full of wisdom, wonder, magic, and a bit of just what I need to help me transition from the light, airy season of summer to the dark, watery depths of autumn into winter.
If you’re longing to create a space for Mystery, then it’s time to invite your inner witch out of the closet. She’s got dust bunnies in her hair and she’s desperate for a cup of tea…
And really… aren’t you ready for a taste of starlight?
If you’re ready to create your own unique kind of magic, join me for Witch Camp. (We begin October 20th!)
Her hands were delicate and her fingertips ink-stained.
Over the course of weeks (months?) we looked at images: That line weight is too heavy, she’d say or I love this! But it’s way too detailed: it will look like a blob by the time you’re fifty.
I got my first tattoo when I finished my Master’s degree. After three universities and enough course credits for a PhD, actually finishing— degree in hand— felt like befriending a personal dragon or summiting an inner-mountain. This was no small moment and I wanted to mark the occasion.
Many people (especially my parents) thought it odd that I would literally and permanently mark my body. But that was exactly what I wanted— a permanent reminder of who I had become. I was not the same woman who had begun degree-hopping six years before and I was craving a way of expressing my inward change in an outward way.
And permanent? Absolutely.
Because, let’s face it, we often take two steps forward and one step back, treating our personal growth like a cosmic cha-cha.
This time I wanted to own it. I wanted it to be inescapable: I wanted it etched on my skin.
This was the first in a series of tattoos, each marking an important shift in my psyche. The next tattoo came after what I call my “Jesus Year,” when I went through a personal death and rebirth. The weeks before my marriage brought me again to the tattoo parlor. And recently I got a small tattoo on my forearm. The shifts within me were so new and raw and fresh that I spent the first week tucking my arm under blankets and shirt sleeves, savoring the secret marking (I’m truly not sure Andrew has noticed it yet!).
Ancient cultures knew the importance of marking inner-milestones, they knew that internal changes needed outward celebration. After an initiation into a new way of being, you went through a rite of passage: a ritual that allowed you to see and be your new self within your community. Perhaps your name was changed or a piercing added to your body, maybe you were tattooed with woad or given a cloak of feathers to wear to ceremonies.
We have precious few rites of passage anymore and the ones that we do have have become so rote as to be practically meaningless for most people. The exception (hallelujah!) is the wedding ceremony; there we still see the kind of creativity that replenishes meaning and brings life to dusty words.
While I can count our culture’s rites of passage on one hand, as individuals we have initiatory experiences often… at least we do if we are on a path of personal empowerment.
These shifts in the psyche can be subtle things, often inexplicable in language. How do you describe a dream which alters your life’s work or a frisson of clarity which comes as you walk alone in the woods?
Initiations are funny and don’t always come when or how you expect. You can spend five years going on “life changing” retreats only to have everything shift as a deer leaps in front of your car and scampers off into the undergrowth.
The thing about these cosmic lightening bolts? If we don’t pull them from the hazy spaces of our minds into the material world, we lose the texture and tone. We may slip slowly back to the past version of ourselves as the moment of shift sinks into subconsciousness.
And that’s where a rite of passage comes in. If you’ve had an initiatory experience (i.e. you were initiated into a new way of being or thinking), how could you create a personal rite of passage for yourself to acknowledge your shift? What symbols in the outer-world mirror your experience in your inner-world?
What if our lack of confidence in our own skills and wisdom comes from a lack of these rites of passage?
What if all it takes to become the person we most want to be is to acknowledge our inner-landscape and it’s subtle shifts? To celebrate our new way of being so we can truly step into it?
I walked into the tattoo parlor last week and marked my skin as a reminder to witness, everyday, who I am becoming. How will you make your spirit seen so that, over and over again, you can celebrate yourself and your growth?
This past week autumn has begun to beckon. Her call is still faint: a crisp edge to the breeze, a few yellowing leaves waving amidst the lush green of summer.
My thoughts have begun to drift toward my autumn rituals, the luscious time of harvest and, ultimately, rest. Inevitably autumn thoughts are Ireland thoughts since that is when I began my studies there…..
We parked in a rut on the side of the road and hiked up a barely-seen track and then across a stile before clambering up a fence line edged with Hawthorn and Elderberry.
This route had become familiar, ‘though I doubt I could find it now, fifteen years later.
The stone circle at the hill’s top was off most maps and worn down like ancient teeth. Walk clockwise to build energy; the stones like that my teacher murmured.
So I set off in a sun-wise direction, moving slowly, trailing fingers over moss and bird droppings to feel the ancient rock beneath. Once, twice… the walking became a meditation. I stopped seeing my teacher, the sun, the gnarled roots beneath my feet. (more…)
A Cherokee story was told to me by a medicine man.
Native tales hold power and need to be shared in a specific way. Since this story is not mine to tell, I’ll paraphrase it for you and maybe, if you’re lucky, someday a person of Cherokee decent will tell you the tale whole, the way it’s meant to be shared. The short version is this:
A long time ago, on the land right under your feet, people understood more than we understand today. They translated the murmurings of the four-leggeds and the calls of the winged ones. The buzz of a bee had meaning, as did the glub, glub of the salmon swimming upstream to spawn.
Most important for us here and now, those long-ago people understood the whispers of the green world. The gentle twisting of flowers toward the sun had meaning as did the way the wind whistled through the slow-growth forests hugging steep mountainsides.
For reasons only the Cherokee can share, we lost our ability to communicate . . .
. . . And we have searched for this lost language ever since.
Understanding the languages of nature is a universal human obsession.
The ancient Greeks developed the Doctrine of Signatures, a complex code designed to reveal a plant’s medicine through observation. Everything from the color of a flower, to a plant’s growth habit, to its favorite location and soil type, was used as a method for deciphering its gifts to humanity. So a plant which could survive in the desert, for instance, was seen to have the Medicine of moisture.
The Victorians crafted a language of flowers assigning each bud a meaning — blue violets for faithfulness and vervain for enchantment. Each posey that was gifted contained a secret message encoded in its petals.
I wrote The Illustrated Herbiary as a codex which gives you a window into the unique gifts of the flowers and trees, a key to understanding their whisperings… though there is a very simple beginning to this relationship between human and plants:
Plants do something that neither animals nor minerals (nor fairies or unicorns, for that matter!) can do– they enable our breath. Plants exhale oxygen, which we inhale; we exhale carbon dioxide, which they inhale.
Their exhale, our inhale. Our exhale, their inhale.
An invisible dance, a necessary exchange.
The first thing we do upon arriving in this world is inhale and through that in-breath we come into our first contact with the plants and the green world.
Another word for inhalation is inspiration.
Ultimately that’s the magic of plant medicine: it inspires you to look at your life through a different lens, so you can tap into the collective unconscious as well as your own intuition and self-knowing.
What was your first conscious experience of the green world? Share with us over on Facebook.
This week has been all about books!
I’ve wanted to be an author since I was a kid, not because I loved to write but because I loved to read.
Last year I shared a few of my favorites with you.
This year, I asked to hear YOUR life-changing books and favorite authors…
… And I was not disappointed!
Without further ado…
What if you belong to a world more magical than you realize?
I asked myself this question over and over again during my studies in Ireland.
‘Cause, truthfully? Despite being drenched in Irish myth and mystery, I didn’t believe in magic at first. So my daily what ifs became an exercise in the willing suspension of disbelief which over the course of many months (maybe even years!) shifted my locus of knowing from my head to my heart.
So I’d asked myself What if the world is synchronous and serendipitous? What if the land is sentient and the stones have stories to tell?
I grew up in the world of the head and for a long time confused feelings with thoughts. But contrary to popular belief, the head is not an organ of feeling; it’s an organ of thinking. The brain is uniquely designed to store and sort information, to reason and rationalize. It needs feeling like a snake needs sneakers.
But I (and probably you!) need feeling. I long for the scent of jasmine blooming at dusk and the feel of linen against my skin (I know silk sheets are supposed to be the ultimate luxury but I’ll take linen’s slight nub, the washed feel of warp and weft, any night of the week). My tongue wants salt and spice and the sweet bite of chocolate, and my eyes want the soft spaces where sea merges with sky.
When I engage my senses, my heart lightens— it fills my throat, my eyes tear up, my stomach tickles a bit.
I can guarantee you I have never had this feeling crouched over an encyclopedia in some fluorescent lit library.
These thoughts were tumbling around my brain as I scribbled out the proposal for The Illustrated Herbiary three years ago. (more…)