Gratitude Beads and The Spiral Path Book of Days Review

My month off from social media was wonderful! I’m still considering how much social media I want to go back to, and I may not be blogging quite as often through the late fall and winter as I continue to practice staying off of my phone and computer. However, I had a couple of things that I wanted to share.

I found that being off social media allowed me to be much more creative, and one of the things I came up with was a new item for my shop: gratitude beads. I created a strand for myself and I have been using them every night before I turn out the lights. They have nine beads, and I say one thing I am grateful for from that day on each bead. I can easily mix and match the charms on each end, so if you have a special request, please feel free to send me a message on Etsy. They would make great gifts for the upcoming holidays!

I also wanted to share the wonderful new daily journal that I will be using for late 2017 and 2018: The Spiral Path Book of Days. I have a regular journal where I do the bulk of my writing, but several years ago I got into the habit of doing quick daily entries in a dated book every day. I have tried a variety of journals and planners over the years, but hadn’t yet found the “perfect” one.

I wanted a daily journal with the months laid out according to the moon, plenty of room to write every day, the daily astrological signs for the moon, as well as space for monthly planning and divination. With The Spiral Path Book of Days I got all of that and more!

The book is a great size, 9 1/2 by 7 1/2 inches, which allows plenty of space for writing. There is a plethora of astrological information and a tarot layout to do for the whole year. Each month includes a moon wheel for the month, a four-element tarot layout, monthly planning pages, three blank pages to use as you would like, and a nice amount of space for each day to make your daily journal entry.

Each month starts at the new moon (the entire calendar starts with the upcoming New Moon in Scorpio on 11/18), and you are encouraged to do you monthly planning keeping in mind the astrological sign of the New Moon and how it relates to your natal chart.

The calendar includes pages of Amy Topham’s beautiful artwork, and the design and quality is wonderful. The pages turn easily on the spiral binding, and there pockets on both the front and back covers. The paper is a heavyweight, slightly coated paper, so not all writing utensils may work perfectly on it, but my favorite pens, Uniball Vision (not Vision Elites—they use a different ink!) work wonderfully on it. I’ve also found that LePen pens work great on coated paper, and they come in all sorts of wonderful colors and don’t get yellow ghosting around them over time like Sharpies can.

The calendar also includes all eight holidays/Sabbats and tarot spreads for the Equinoxes and Solstices (with wonderful artwork!). The dates of the holidays/Sabbats are marked on their actual astrological cross-quarter days, rather than the usual calendar dates.

I can’t wait to get started using my new daily journal!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween/Hallowmas/Samhain! I have decided to try celebrating on the actual astrological cross-quarter dates this year, so I will be celebrating on November 7th. It will be an interesting experiment!

May your descent into Winter be blessed!

It’s Introvert Season

October is such a beautiful month! We still have blue skies and some warm days, but there is a chill in the air, and rainy days are scattered among the sunny ones.

Autumn is also what I like to think of as “introvert season.” I find myself wanting to draw inside myself. I am drawn to read more, to journal more, and to engage with the outside world a little less.

To that end, I have decided to take October off from social media and from blogging.

A few days ago I deactivated my Facebook account (I almost never post there, but would check it several times a day), removed the Instagram app from my phone (although I may check in on my computer from time to time), and removed any other apps and links that had become time sucks for me.

I thought I’d miss those things, but honestly so far it has been liberating. Being online was beginning to feel like being constantly yelled at by thousands of people who were telling me what they think I should feel, think, do, or say. It was exhausting, and I was wasting so much time.

After only a few days of no social media, I find that I am able to focus better, I’m being more creative, I’m reading more, I’m journaling more, and I’m talking to real, live people (in small doses, of course)!

Part of the impetus for taking a month off was reading Brene Brown’s new book Braving the Wilderness. Her book made me think about true connection, and what role social media actually plays for me in truly connecting with other people. I highly recommend reading this book—it is relatively short, but it is packed with so much food for thought.

I will wait until November to do another 15 Quiet Minutes post, but in the meantime I highly recommend trying the last 15 Quiet Minutes practice, Tarot Prayers and Affirmations. I have been using this practice in the evenings and I am finding so much new depth in the tarot and in my prayer practice.

I have also recently posted some new rosaries to my Etsy shop to honor the Dark Goddess, whom many of us may find ourselves connecting with this time of year.

Lapis Lazuli & Owl Rosary

Black Obsidian and Labradorite Crescent Moon Rosary

Green Sheen Obsidian Pocket Prayer Beads (these have a beautiful green sheen in bright light)

I hope you have a wonderful October and a blessed Hallowmas/Samhain!

15 Quiet Minutes: Tarot Prayers and Affirmations

The Halloween Tarot and Agate Wolf Pocket Prayer Beads (available in my Etsy shop)

I’m very excited about this 15 Quiet Minutes practice because it combines two of my favorite things—tarot and prayer beads!

For this practice you will need a tarot or oracle deck, and a set of prayer beads if you have them, as well as some paper and a pen or pencil. However, you can still do the practice even if you don’t have a tarot or oracle deck or prayer beads. There are many great inexpensive tarot apps for your phone (I especially like those from The Fool’s Dog), and you can also find some free one-card tarot readings here

If you don’t have prayer beads, there are also other options. You could simply take a thick piece of string and tie knots in it. Try tying seven knots, or nine, whatever number speaks to you. Or you can fill a small bowl with stones, dried beans—anything, really, just be creative! As you say you prayer or affirmation you’ll remove one item from the bowl. Once the bowl is empty, you have completed your number of prayers or affirmations.

I personally like to do this practice with one of my pocket prayer beads that has 21 beads, but you can use any number of beads (or knots, stones, beans, etc.) that you like.

First, take a few deep breaths and quiet your mind while holding your tarot or oracle deck. Once you feel ready, ask what message you most need to hear at this time, and draw a card from your deck. If you already draw a tarot or oracle card every day, you could also use the card you’ve already drawn for the day. For this example I used The Halloween Tarot, because it feels like fall today, and I’m already looking forward to Halloween! I drew the Page of Bats (Swords).

The Page of Bats from The Halloween Tarot.

Now, write a quick prayer or affirmation based on the card you drew. Don’t stress over this part—it doesn’t have to be brilliant or perfect! You may immediately know what the card means for you right now, and be able to write an affirmation. Some books that come with tarot and oracle decks already include an affirmation for each card, and you can use that if it is speaks to you.

If you are having trouble creating a prayer or affirmation, pick out one image on the card that stands out to you. For example, on my card, my eye was drawn to the glasses she is holding and the binoculars tucked inside her bag. So I might write an affirmation such as: “I clearly see the truth in the situations that surround me.” She also looks to me like she is on an adventure, braving the darkness in search of her truth. So a prayer might be something like, “May I face the darkness bravely, may I find my own truth.”

What is the difference between a prayer and an affirmation? This is not a formal definition, but this is how I see it. Affirmations are positive statements, usually written as “I,” that affirm you already have the quality, item, etc. you wish to possess. “I communicate clearly and maintain my boundaries with those around me,” or “I do work that fulfills me and supports all my financial needs.” Those are examples of affirmations.

I think of prayers more as dialog with the Divine, so I write them differently. I might write the above statements as “May I communicate clearly and maintain boundaries with those around me,” or “May I find work that fulfills me and supports all my financial needs.” I see prayers as asking for assistance with creating these things in my life, and opening myself up to Divine inspiration and communication to help move me towards these goals.

Once you have written your affirmation or prayer, use your prayer beads to repeat it however many times you choose. If it really resonates with you, you might want to keep the card you drew on your altar and repeat the prayer or affirmation for several days. If you keep a tarot or oracle journal, you may want to make a note of your prayers or affirmations so you can refer back to them, or write them in the book that goes with your deck.

This is a great practice for getting to know your tarot or oracle deck better, as well as taking regular quiet time for prayer and affirmation in your day-to-day life.

Let me know if you have any questions and may you have a blessed Dark Moon tonight!

15 Quiet Minutes: Mindful Walking

In the first 15 Quiet Minutes post I encouraged us to try meditation. This time, I’m going to suggest something a bit more active, because our quiet minutes don’t always have to be spent just sitting still in silence.

Mindful walking can be done anywhere. In fact, I recommend simply walking out your front door and around your neighborhood. If at all possible, leave your phone at home, or if you don’t feel safe without it, at least put it on silent or do not disturb. I hope it goes without saying, but please choose to walk at a time and in a location where you feel safe!

Mindful walking isn’t about getting your heart rate up or getting more steps in for the day, instead it is about walking slowly and being present to the world around you.

Pay attention to the sounds you hear: birds calling, kids laughing, dogs barking, traffic, the wind rustling the leaves. Try not to judge the sounds and think, “The traffic is so loud!” or “Why does my neighbor have to mow her lawn at 8:00 at night?!” Instead, just accept them. They are the sounds of your community, of the world around you.

Next, focus on what you smell. Again, try not to judge good or bad, just notice. Do you smell wet earth? Exhaust fumes? Flowers? Freshly mowed grass?

What do you feel? Notice the warmth of the sun, or the cool evening air, the breeze blowing through your hair,  or the feel of your clothing against your skin. How does the pavement or dirt feel beneath you? How do you shoes and socks feel on your feet?

What do you see? Can you find something new that you never noticed before? Perhaps you hadn’t noticed that you neighbor recently repainted the trim on their house, or the lovely color of the roses at the house on the corner. If you see something really beautiful, try to resist taking a picture of it. Instead, look at it. Really see it. Take you own mental picture of the image. Try to notice what you are hearing, smelling, and feeling as you look at this beautiful sight. You might be amazed by how well you’ll remember something after really paying attention to it!

This is your time, your fifteen minutes out of the day to wander and just be. To observe what is around you without having to judge or analyze it. Your time to be present in your body and in your world.

Try to stay in the moment. If you find your mind wandering to your to-do list, or planning dinner in your head, return your attention to one of your senses. Choose to focus on the feel of each step as you take it, or on the sounds you are hearing around you. You can even choose to focus on a specific sound, like only listening to the birds or the breeze in the trees, or a specific sight, like the way the light hits the leaves, or a sensation, like the feel of each footfall. You could choose this specific focus for a few minutes, or for your entire walk. Center your attention on whatever helps to get you out of your head and back into the present moment.

I hope you’ll give mindful walking a try. I’d love to hear your experiences with the practice. I’m looking forward to taking a mindful walk tonight for my 15 Quiet Minutes practice!

Until next time, blessed be!

15 Quiet Minutes: Beginning

One of the goals I set for myself this month was to take fifteen quiet minutes each evening to meditate, pray, check-in with myself, write in my journal, etc. I’ve been enjoying it so much, and thinking of so many ways to use that time, that I’ve decided to create a series of blog posts called “15 Quiet Minutes”. I will share ideas for meditation, spiritual practices, nature practices, and creative practices that will help us all take fifteen minutes for ourselves in the evenings to relax, unwind, still our minds, and connect with our hearts, our creativity, with nature, and with the Sacred. I plan to publish a new post around each full and dark moon. I wanted to leave a couple of weeks between posts to give us time to try out each new practice and see how it works for us. I have lots of ideas, so the series will continue for several months at least. I hope you will join me in taking 15 Quiet Minutes for yourself each day!

Today’s post is about beginning. First, figure out when you can fit this practice into your life. Take a look at how you spend your time, and see where you may be able to claim fifteen minutes for yourself. I am doing my practice in the evening as a bracket to my morning spiritual practice, as a way to end the day the same way I start it, with some quiet time to sit with myself and with Goddess. However, if evenings are not possible, find a time of day that will work for you. You may do it in the morning if you don’t already have a morning spiritual practice, or in your car or at a park during your lunch break. Choose a time that will work best for you and your schedule.

Next, set a goal for yourself, and make it as realistic as you can. If you think you will only be able to take fifteen minutes for yourself twice a week, then choose that. It is better to start small and be successful than to set an unrealistic goal, fail to meet it, and then give up altogether. My current goal is five evenings a week. I’ve kept this goal before, so I know it is doable for me, and it gives me a couple of evenings a week to be lazy and spend too long watching Netflix without feeling like a failure.

Whatever goal you choose, write it down. Write it in your journal or in your planner or on a sticky note stuck to your bathroom mirror. Writing down goals really makes a difference! I like to put little check boxes next to my goals so I can check off each time I do the practice (so if I plan to do it five time each week, I make five little check boxes). If you love checking things off lists, this might work for you, too. If you tend to be more motivated by being held accountable by other people, then you might want to tell someone supportive about your goal, and let them know when you accomplish it each week. Do whatever you think might help you be successful.

You’ll also want to figure out where you can take fifteen minutes to yourself. If you already have a room to retreat to, that’s perfect. If you have an altar, that may be the place where you’ll choose to do a lot of the practices. Some of the practices will be done outside, and the creative practices will require a bit of space on a table, counter-top or floor to spread out your materials. If the only privacy you can get is in your bathroom, or in your car, that works, too! You’ll want  a quiet place where you can put your phone on “do not disturb” and turn off the TV and music.

The first practice is one of the simplest, and one of the most challenging—meditation. If the word makes you cringe a bit, I understand. I’ve tried doing simple meditation by following my breath so many times over the years, and I just end up frustrated and bored. I’ve found that I need some other kind of focus, like a visualization, in order to sit quietly for any length of time.

One of my favorite visualizations is to see my breath coming in as a wave of golden, sparkling energy, and as I breath out, that energy moves out through my skin, so that I am surrounded by a cloud of golden light. You may even imagine yourself dissolving into this cloud of golden light.

Another visualization that I have found really useful is to see myself floating in space among the stars. Just floating, without a care in the world, surrounded by the darkness of space and the beauty of the stars. You could also visualize yourself floating on the ocean waves, or in a still pool, gently rocking in a hammock, or laying in field of flowers. Choose a visualization that makes you feel absolutely calm and at peace, and focus on that for fifteen minutes. Bring your attention back to the scene you have created—feel it, smell it, hear it—whenever your attention wanders.

If you prefer guided meditations, I’ve used this one several times and really enjoy it. This is a great loving kindness (or metta) meditation. You can do a search on YouTube for other guided meditations that you might like.

I’ve found the Meditation Timer app useful for timing my meditations (it looks like it is only available for iPhone, but there are lots of other meditation timer apps available for Android). Another great resource is the Beginning Meditation audiobook by Sally Kemper, which includes several different types of meditations to try.

Don’t worry, if you absolutely hate to meditate, there will be many other suggestions for things to do with your 15 Quiet Minutes. If you don’t want to meditate, but want to start taking fifteen minutes for yourself now, you might try just sitting still and letting your mind wander for fifteen minutes. Just fifteen minutes of peace, of doing nothing, of telling your “to do” list that it can wait, and watching the world go by. Ahhhh, doesn’t that feel good?

Until the next post, I wish you blessings upon your 15 Quiet Minutes, however you choose to use them. Enjoy!

Going with the Flow

Flowing with the Rogue River. Goddess pendant from Brigid’s Grove.

I had big plans for the little staycation/personal retreat that I took in May. There was going to be lots of reading! Lots of journaling! Lots of meditation! I also planned to finish my spring cleaning, but other than that I intended to do lots of quiet inner work.

There was one problem with my grandiose plans—I didn’t take into account the energy of the season. If there is one month of the year that is absolutely buzzing with busy energy here in Oregon, it is May. Every week there is a dazzling new array of wildflowers decorating the hills and roadsides. Baby birds are arriving at the feeders noisily begging Mom and Dad for food. Everything is green, lush, vibrant and bursting with life.

With this riot of energy going on around me, I could not sit still. I easily got all my spring cleaning done and then some. But when it came time to read or journal, all I wanted was to get out! I wanted to be out doing things, not sitting around reading and thinking. I fought myself for a few days, feeling like I was wasting all this precious time and not accomplishing what I planned before it finally occurred to me—I was definitely not going with the flow of the seasonal energy.

It is certainly true that we can choose busyness over spiritual practice as a way of avoiding sitting still and facing ourselves, and I’m sure there was some of that going on with me. But I also believe that a big part of my struggle was related to trying to do quiet, introspective things when the whole tide of energy around me was filled with activity. It was also the most active, energetic time for me in my own monthly cycle. With all that energy buzzing around, no wonder I couldn’t sit still!

Over the past few years, I have gotten good at knowing and working with my personal energetic cycles, but this reminded me of how important it is to honor the energetic cycles of nature as well. It isn’t often that I find myself feeling so lively—I would have been much better served by putting that energy to work for me rather than trying to fight it.

This experience has taught me to pay better attention, and to learn to go with the flow of the energy, not only of my personal cycles, but of the cycles of nature as well. If my plans haven’t taken into account the energy of the season, I may find myself swimming against the current, making whatever I am trying to do that much more difficult. It is one of those things I knew intellectually, but apparently needed to be reminded of in a more experiential way.

Do you consciously work with the energy of seasonal or lunar cycles? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Discovering the Benefits of Praying with Prayer Beads

One of my handmade rosaries (available in my Etsy shop).

I had an interesting experience last week. I haven’t been using my prayer beads as regularly as usual over the past few weeks, but I always have a rosary or two beside my bed. As I climbed into bed one night last week, I felt the urge to pick up my rosary and pray, even though I really wasn’t feeling very spiritual that evening. But as soon as I picked up my beads and started repeating the familiar prayers, I felt…calm. Centered. Connected to Goddess. It was like all of the prayers I had prayed with my beads were still contained within them, a sort of magic that transported me into a space of connection with and devotion to Goddess, just by picking up the beads and repeating the prayers I have prayed so many times before.

This wasn’t a flashing lights and trumpets kind of experience, it was a quiet and gentle, but it was still profound. First, it showed me the benefit of regular spiritual practice. Our spiritual practice isn’t going to be filled with sparkles and fairy dust every day, but some days it will. And when we are in a difficult or dark place, turning to those practices we have done so many times before can help us find our connection to the Divine again, can help us find the spark of light in the darkness. There is a kind of muscle memory in our practices that helps imprint the good experiences we have had while doing them in the past, and sometimes just by going through the motions, we can move ourselves back into the experience of those positive moments again.

I have had a similar experiences while knitting or cross stitching. It seems that when we are doing something repetitive and engaging our hands in the process, our minds retain information and experiences more easily. I actually had an organic chemistry professor in college who encouraged us to knit or crochet in class because he thought we retained the information better than when we were furiously trying to take notes. Often when I’m working on a needlework project, and pick it up again, I’ll have vivid memories of what I was watching or listening to the last time I worked on it.

In a bit of wonderful synchronicity, the radio show “To the Best of Our Knowledge” did a whole episode yesterday on handwork, and how doing things like knitting and drawing can help us become calm and better retain information. I also found this study showing the physical benefits of repetitive prayers and mantras.

I think the reason I love working with prayer beads so much is that it combines both repetitive prayer and the tactile sensation of moving beads through our hands—a two-for-one combo of practices that are known to help us move into a calm, centered, meditative state. It’s no wonder that using prayer beads is a popular practice in so many religions.

Some days praying with my beads is just routine. Some days my mind wanders and I have trouble focusing. But by repeating the practice, I realize now that I’m creating a bit of magic for myself that can help me through the difficult times in my life. I’m creating a connection to Goddess that is there for me when I most need it. Sometimes just picking up my beads and holding them makes me feel better.

What spiritual practices do you use, and how have they helped you through the challenges in your life? I’d love to know!