a word from Fariha Róisín — bodies in revolt

excerpt from Who Is Wellness For? [annotations by me]

Finally understanding that I had to give words to all these things and let them sit in my system, giving my cells the lifeblood they had been starved of for so long, allowing myself to claim the space that I had never been given, was a difficult point to arrive at, and I wonder if it’s a place of constant arrival. Every day I gain further clarity of myself and my body’s alchemy–all its mysteries and wonders–understanding that healing or wellness is not a stagnant state. For some of us with bodies in revolt, it is a state of unraveling that’s necessary for the rebraiding to occur and reoccur.

Life is an upward motion dance, and along with that, I’ve realized, wellness is, too. I used to get so upset by the slowness of my path, at how difficult it is to be in my body after all these years of trying. The work is glacial; it’s punishing, too. The only thing that has taught me any calm is to surrender. To embrace all of it and let it unfold as it must.

Starhawk on For the Wild podcast – this shit says it all

We know that to name these things as sacred is an inherently political act, for what is sacred must not be exploited or despoiled. We also know that action in the world in the service of the sacred is one of the core expressions of our spirituality.

A Working Definition of Reclaiming by Starhawk

“I think that what you’re describing, this ritual and prayer in collaboration with action is full and holistic, and one without the other is incomplete. And I think talking about the decay of cultural ceremony has accompanied the rise of hegemony and capitalism.

You know, most of us grow up deprived of traditions that ground us in the Earth and our communities and our unique gifts. And resultant is a disconnected fog that blankets our society.

And the young people of today are left stumbling for a purpose, yearning, perhaps even unconsciously, for guidance from their elders.” – Ayana Young

source: Homebound: The Roots and Shoots of Earth-based Community with STARHAWK /182

inner turmoil as training ground

i did a tarot pull while holding the question, “how can i grow my relationship with cannabis?”

i drew the hermit + five of wands:


(they were both reversed, which depending on my mood, carries significance. my general sense of reversal is that it indicates tension — blocks around the energy the card is speaking to)

musings:

i often struggle with my relationship around cannabis — constantly coming back to a desire to be intentional with my practice, making sure it’s sacred instead of compulsive, numbing or escaping.

cannabis has been in my life for over 10 years at this point, and so we’ve grown a lot together. and i, inevitably, worry about falling back into old habits, ones that don’t serve me.

and to be honest, i’m not sure how much i’ve grown externally with my practice of cannabis. i think in a lot of the ways, i practice her similarly, with some adjustments. it’s almost as though the way it’s the way i relate to her that has really changed. i see her more as a sacred sacrament than a “drug.”

generally, the cards are letting me know that this turning inwards about it, this internal conflict over it, isn’t inherently a bad thing. together, they’re reminding me that this is often the place of growth – intentional contemplation and allowing for/moving through contradictions, the parts of ourselves that seem in opposition.

the other side of the five of wands, of these people sparring with each other, is that it’s a training ground; conflict is how we grow, how we get stronger. in turning inwards and holding these many parts of ourselves as they combat each other, we learn that it’s less about one winning/claiming domination over the others, and more so about learning how to create space for all of them. how do we let the contradictory parts of ourselves coexist? how do we nurture a sense of belonging for all of them?

there’s a part of me that truly believes cannabis is one of the kindest practices i’ve integrated into my life. and another part feels like it’s often be a crutch or distraction, something that’s more compulsive than anything else. part of me believes that cannabis is a sacrament, not a “drug,” and yet i find myself partaking in her in ways that treat her more like “substance.”

i can’t remember the exact wording, but it makes me think of ashe phoenix referring to a “conscious practice of cannabis” — the reality is that cannabis is in and of itself neutral. or maybe it would be more apt to say that as a spiritual sacrament, she’ll bring the medicine, but it’s up to you what you do with it.

this also makes me think of something else ashe said in relation to cannabis justice:

all cannabis use is medicinal.”

ya, so it’s tricky.. cause even when i’m using cannabis to escape, to distract, to comfort.. can this still be reaching for medicine? i guess that’s why they call it self-medicating. it makes me think of how all behavior, even the most destructive and shameful, is serving a purpose a purpose — we wouldn’t reach for it if it wasn’t.

i do have such deep reverence for cannabis. and that’s one of the main reasons i want to make sure i’m aligned in my relationship with her. i want to always treat her with care and respect and appreciation.

the work of the hermit and the five of wands is to surrender to the internal conflict, to let it be, to show up for it. to understand that going through this turmoil leads me to the other side of clarity. the grappling with is an integral part of the learning/growing process.

and yet internal conflict can feel so wrong when it’s happening… waking up this morning, having slept a lot (like 10+ hours), i was wondering if it was because i smoked too much last night.. and showing up for that consideration honestly can be hard, because it’s triggers insecurity and shame — makes me feel like a “loser” or “failure.”

like, “again, Becki, again? you still haven’t figured this shit out?”

and there’s another layer to this as well — i often use weed as a scapegoat. if something in my life isn’t going right, if my energy is low, i blame it on cannabis. and so i both blame her and reach for her. this makes me think of my friend Katie describing people’s toxic relationship with money, like “i need you but i hate you.”

i don’t want to blame cannabis for my problems, because she’s always been kind to me.

holding consistent turmoil, such as my conflicted feelings towards my cannabis practice, is exhausting. i understand why people reach for binaries, all or nothing thinking. it’s the irony of the middle way, one of moderation, often being the hardest option. it requires consistent check-ins with self to make sure we’re moving in alignment.

it’s the hard work of daily dedication to a path.

i tell myself that if there’s a time i need to walk away from cannabis (again), that knowing will arise in me without forcing. but it’s important to note that in order to be able to hear that call (or any call for that matter) requires a practice of honest listening, one without judgment or restrictions.

before i did this tarot pull, i thought to myself, “i hope the cards don’t tell me i need to stop/take a break from smoking…” these are the revelations i need to be rigorously honest about — my deep attachment to smoking, at how often i reach for her, and the fear that arises in her absence. i guess you could refer to this as dependency.

and admitting that brings up feelings of shame, of failure. because i feel like i can either admit that and stop or not admit it and keep going. as opposed to admitting it and not stopping, which then just feels like self-aware dysfunction.

my trauma therapist, when i told her about my cannabis use, said it makes sense. and that she wouldn’t just ask me to stop out of the blue, because it’s obviously serving me in some way. there’s a sense of irresponsibility to taking something away without having an offering in its place.

i don’t really have clarity around my relationship with cannabis, because it’s many things. it does not fit neatly into a box of “good” or “bad.”

and ultimately, cannabis is loving. i’ve thought numerous times, if i needed to walk away from cannabis, i’m confident she’d understand. i don’t feel as though she‘s manipulating me, holding me back.

i also don’t feel as though she is truly the problem in my life. but i do have a lot of discomfort around the compulsivity that can arise in me with her. that’s the part that really irks me, that makes me feel “bad” or “weak.”

anyways y’all, i worry i might just start going in circles at this point.

i guess like many things in life, to be continued…

i’ll keep y’all in the loop with as much honesty and courage as i can muster.

much love and good luck out there ❤ ❤ ❤

“What if we thought of life less like a problem to be solved and more like a mystery to be unfolded?”

This is a quote from one of my yoga instructors in New Orleans. I can’t even remember the context that she offered it in, but it was powerful. It washed over me in the way that universal truths tend to, poignant and esoteric, the type of thing you can’t grasp too firmly with your mind, cause it’ll ruin it lol.

notes on Femme Spirituality

femme spirituality: “Spiritual practices and interpretations of sacred texts that honor the divine feminine, Mother Earth, sacred sexuality and LOVE above all else.” [source]

[image source: https://www.ouvra.com/femme-spiritual%5D

i need femme-informed spirituality. i’m tired of this masc shit that’s all about the brain (often ignoring/denying the body), control and restriction, anti-pleasure.. i believe there’s ultimately a need for balance but i need to tip the scale in the direction of femme-dominant for now.

i need practices that don’t run away from, deny, or shame the shadow. ones that teach us how to look at it head-on, study it, learn its dimensions (Women Who Run with the Wolves type vibes)

paganism is femme – earth-centered spirituality: sexual, sensual, erotic, pleasure, death, rebirth, ritual, celebration, connection, nature, embodiment (listening to vs denying the body) — witchy vibes

complexity/moment of nuance & clarification: i struggle to speak about the concept of femme spirituality without it seeming inherently exclusionary. this isn’t about anatomy, it’s about having more options in the realm of understanding, celebrating, and working with the mystery of life.
i also don’t want to encourage binary ways of thinking, especially in relation to spirituality. we are all everything all at once, always, and i understand that’s too much for our human brains to hold. anyways, i digress.

here’s an excerpt from Holly Whitaker’s Quit Like a Woman to break down the contradiction between masc-informed spirituality and feminism.

AT THE ROOT
[bolded/italicized for emphasis by me, along with some reformatting]

At the Root of This Longing is a book written by the author, scholar, and educator Carol Lee Flinders. Flinders holds a doctorate from UC Berkeley in comparative literature, with a focus on medieval women’s mysticism; she has lived for most of her life in a meditative co-op under the tutelage of Eknath Easwaran, an Indian-born spiritual teacher. Flinders is a feminist and a deeply committed meditation student and teacher, with a profound depth of knowledge about women mystics. Her life is devoted both to the telling of silenced women’s stories and meditative discipline, and she set herself on a course to understand why her feminism felt so at odds with her spiritual practice. In doing so, she identified four key areas where feminism and spirituality contradict each other.

According to Flinders, all religious and spiritual traditions and specifically meditative practices—because they were built by men and for men—promote the following:

  1. self-silencing;
  2. self-naughting (destruction of the ego);
  3. resisting desire; and
  4. enclosure (turning inward, sealing off from the world).

As a feminist, naming these four requirements of transcendence troubled her. “I realized that however ancient and universal these disciplines may be, they are not gender neutral at all. Formulated for the most part within monastic contexts, they cancel the basic freedoms—to say what one wants, go where one likes, enjoy whatever pleasures one can afford, and most of all, to be somebody—that have normally defined male privilege” (emphasis mine).

What she is saying is that the underlying precepts of a spiritual path—in every lineage from which there is a path—seek to define a degree of spiritual freedom through reversal of status. And who has had that status in societies all over the world for the last few thousand years? Men. “Women, on the other hand,” she wrote, “have not been in a position to renounce these privileges voluntarily because they have never had them in the first place.” In fact, “they are terms of our subordination.”

When I read those lines in her book after that conversation with Cath, every hair on my body stood at attention because finally, finally, someone had put into words the thing that had been screaming in me since I was first told that my failure to submit to AA was really my ego run amok. Finally, what I read was: It makes sense that a woman might entirely refuse a program that asked her to give up something she’s not only never had, but was finally just grasping: a sense of self, a voice, a sense of her own desires, freedom in a world not made for her.

The opposite of these precepts, as argued by Flinders, is to
(1) “find your voice; tell your story, make yourself heard”;
(2) “know who you are. Establish your authentic identity or selfhood. Identify your needs and learn how to meet them”;
(3) “reclaim your body, and its desires, from all who would objectify and demean it, whether it’s the fashion industry, pornographers, or even the medical establishment. Recognize the hatred of the female body that pervades contemporary culture, and oppose it”; and
(4) “move about freely and fearlessly. Take back the streets. Take back the night and the day.

❤ ❤ ❤ much luck out there; take care ❤ ❤ ❤

navigating liminal spaces

there’s a saying i learned when i was in AA — “the only way out is through”

like many AA sayings, it might not have originated in AA, but that is now my association with it. it came from a woman in a meeting after she described a deeply dark period of heavy drinking and chronic pain in her life.

i’d like to adapt this saying in relation to liminality — “the way through liminality is curiosity.”

i’ve honestly felt like i’ve been in a liminal space since the start of the pandemic. it’s like i’ve been in a perpetual limbo, uncertain how/when to take action.

the thing about the prince of liminality card in the tarot is the figure hanging upside down, hooked by their ankle is cool as a cucumber. not only that, they’re rocking a halo.

so the question becomes, how do you find a sense of calm amidst uncertainty, confusion, dissatisfaction, or a sense of stuck-ness? we become curious about it. we let go of the internal resistance to it (i like to think of this type of resistance as getting in a fight with reality).

anyways, long story short, it’s about acceptance, expansion. instead of attempting to control or change, we relinquish ourselves to it. and in that place of surrender, we find peace.

side note: it’s hard for me to describe something that feels like wisdom without grappling with the sense that i’m spiritually bypassing the inherent human struggle of it. like being like, *in lazily fancy voice* “oh, alllllll you have to do is accept it, my dears”

let me be clear: i will attempt to control with a chaotic vigor before i attempt to reach anywhere near acceptance.

i feel like there’s this idea, and i’m not exactly sure where it came from, that acceptance of reality, of something we don’t want or fear is like giving up. when in actuality, acceptance is always the first step towards true change, right? (can i get an amen?)

the irony of surrender is that it’s actually quite liberating. letting go of control, allowing ourselves to simply be another human trying our best is actually quite relieving.

this reminds me of another AA-ism: Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show.

sometimes when we’re in the in-between, it’s simply because we need to be there. and when i’m feeling truly connected, i see it as Spirit getting us ready for the next step.

alright y’all, i’m gonna end there ❤ ❤ ❤

a list of albums i’ve been in spiritual relationship with [work in progress]

aka albums that have gotten me through hard times, that have been companions, a source of support. they helped me feel seen, felt.

  • current: Florence + the Machine – Dance Fever
  • Miley Cyrus – Plastic Hearts
  • Glass Animals – Dreamland
  • Beyoncé – Lemonade
  • SZA – Ctrl

runner-ups (albums i’ve had some pretty lusty flings with):

  • Harry Styles – Fine Line & Harry’s House
  • Ariana Grande – Sweetener & thank u, next

as you can see, i’ve had to come to terms with the fact that i guess i love pop (something i tried to avoid during my “cooler” years of listening to more indie tunes (which i still kinda do)).

acceptance as action & attention as worship

note: these musings are inspired by readings from Jessica Dore’s tarot book, Tarot for Change.

tarot pull this morning: the prince of liminality* and the king of swords

the prince of liminality is known for being a space of patience and inaction. the prince is literally hanging upside down and totally chilling, seemingly at peace. it’s a place of calm not because everything is good and has worked out but because we have created the capacity to merely exist with it. we have let go of resistance and control. it’s a place of acceptance.

Jessica Dore does a lovely job relating to acceptance as an action, one that can prompt interest, curiosity, and observation. she offers examples of this:

  • looking at a difficult emotion with curiosity (to hopefully diffuse the sense of it being “dangerous”)
  • extending validation to ourselves when our inner voice is tearing us down
  • finding a sense of expansion to make space for a fiery emotion like anger/rage
  • learning to sit with discomfort, making note of its dimensions, taste, and texture

becoming curious about emotions we’ve typically ran away from can turn us into the observer, as well as the feeler, of the experience. we can become like a scientist, noting the ways in which sadness, loneliness, boredom, and anger unfold within our being and the specific forms they take.

i remember earlier in the summer, making a point to sit with boredom. to let myself simply be with it without changing it. and lord, it was one of the hardest things i’ve willingly done recently. there was so much shame associated with it. being bored make me feel like a loser, like i was doing something wrong, like i was bad at life, a failure.

without curiosity, i wouldn’t have been able to sustain this for as long as i did. and even then, sitting with it and feeling all the shame and fear associated with boredom, i could understand why i ran away from it. it was scary to experience, it carried so much weight. it was hard and uncomfortable.

my point is that learning to sit with the things we’ve been avoiding is both incredibly difficult and possible. especially from the somatic perspective of titration** — taking things slow and steady, like step by step exposure therapy. if your anger terrifies you, set a 5 minute timer to sit with it. and then walk away. because too much exposure too soon and quickly can compound our fear and avoidance as it overwhelms our system.

the king of swords is like the pinnacle of where learning how to hone and direct our focus can take us.

Jessica makes a connection between attention and worship, which i find captivating. this reminded me of an adrienne maree brown quote: “what you pay attention to grows”

the ability to maintain focus on something in the “age of distraction” is no small feat. i think of the commitment needed to stay true to one’s unique personal path — the ability to come back to that place of inspiration and connection with the divine again and again and again.

the most obvious practice for learning how to return to a point of focus is meditation. but to be honest, i find meditation oddly triggering for reasons i don’t need to go into here. and so if meditation is not the practice you feel aligned with right now, let me offer some other options: reading/studying, writing, deep listening, praying – pretty much any moment in which you want to bring your whole mental presence to it.

which doesn’t mean always being in a state of flow. it’s also choosing to come back to something time and time again, no matter how many times distractions get in the way. it’s choosing to not get discouraged by having to begin again and again and again.

so if our attention is like worship, what do we wish to worship? TV, social media, each other, our dog, books, work, stress…? and i don’t say this to shame or judge, because i honestly believe we each get to choose. i am working hard to live in a place of, “it’s not for me to say what is right for you, only what is right for me.” (which is different than asking someone to account for harm done)

on a final note, Jessica offers us a moment of compassion, noting, “I’d suggest we go where our natural abilities lie in order to build strength and competence in things that come more easily to us before we toil in the realms that are more challenging.” this, to me, is telling me: gurl, you don’t need to start meditating and fasting [two very challenging practices for me] today or tomorrow. we’ll get there.

prayer: may i remember that acceptance is a practice, one empowered by a genuine sense of curiosity. may i use my attention with intention and awareness, growing the things i love and care about with devotion and discipline.

<3<3<3 good luck out there

*this card is typically referred to as “the hanged man” but considering the triggering nature of that name, especially for Black Americans, i use this title instead. this insight and new name for the card provided by Sarah Cargill of Tarot for the End of Times.

** Titration exposes a person to small amounts of trauma-related distress at a time in order to build up tolerance and avoid becoming overwhelmed by traumatic memories. In therapy, people pay close attention to the sensations they experience when revisiting a traumatic event and gradually become less affected by them.

podcast notes: the pitfalls of perfectionism (For the Wild w/ Alexis Shotwell)

podcast link — For the Wild – Alexis Shotwell on Resisting Purity Culture

personal epiphany prompted by the conversation: i don’t need to police myself. (where i go when i feel guilty about my behavior/choices)

noteworthy phrase: “pain of complicity” – what many of us resist, especially us white people, because it’s so hard and heavy to hold the ways in which we are responsible for/benefit from systems and histories of oppression. this sense of responsibility isn’t about shame — it’s ultimately empowering; it reminds us that we can take action against these systems. it’s a call to action.

i’ve been encountering this theme repeatedly recently, the connection between responsibility and empowerment.

noteworthy point: Alexis describes qualities of people who have been resilient in social justice movements, ones who are in it for the long haul and still pleasant (lol):

  1. they have a quality of curiosity – they bring their knowledge and experience but are also flexible to see what works for the specific group, cause
  2. they don’t collapse when they make mistakes – i think of this as ego work. as white people (people in general, but we’re speaking situationally here), we’re going to fuck up. it’s about how we show up to make it right, to make amends, to work towards repair that really matters.
  3. they have an orientation towards repair and responsiveness — i think of this as accountability work. accountability for harm (that doesn’t revolve around punishment), that moves with the intention of seeking reconciliation, is an incredibly kind gesture in community.

personal musing moment: as human beings living in a fucked up system, we’re going to reflect that interpersonally at times… and so instead of falling apart at what feels like criticism or like you’re a “bad” person, we can put our energy into moving towards a path of healing.

also, i’m speaking idealistically here, cause you know i’ve fallen apart at what feels like criticism or being called out more than once. i mean, the reason this podcast resonated with me is because i’m a recovering perfectionist, which is simply not copacetic with working for real change. we gotta move forward knowing mistakes will be many. which is why pouring energy into systems of repair is so vital.

Alexis Shotwell makes the point that individual perfectionism is anti-collectivist. without the ability to endure making mistakes in relationship, there’s no way to grow. and ultimately this leads to silence and inaction due to fear of doing the “wrong” thing, which is simply inevitable if we’re truly doing the work.

as white people, whiteness is a lot to grapple with, to hold, not just the past trauma but the present. we are peeling the onion of power and oppression. so if having to confront that in yourself feels rough, it’s because it is.

and i don’t say this to center white comfort but to prepare us white folks for the fragility we may encounter in the face of racial reckoning. i think it’s helpful to be reminded that some things are just hard. not because we’re doing it wrong or because we suck (which is centering ourselves), but because it’s fucking hard and grimy and depressing to confront. it’s collective shadow work. the only way to heal is to bring it all out into the light.

Alexis mentions 3 Types of Relationships she’s been curious about recently:

  1. the power of friendship, whether animal, places, people, nature; “mushroom friends, animal friends, people friends, mountain friends,” etc. – she makes the point that it’s a myth that only our family will take care of us.
  2. “forming collective is a skill” – that’s all i wrote for this one. but i’ve been thinking about this more and more recently — is there an activism/social justice school?
  3. the importance of naming enemies and opposing them – “opposition is a relationship”

the podcast also mentions an essays of hers called “Claiming Bad Kin” that i made note to check out. here’s an excerpt:
“I am interested in what it could mean for white people and settlers more generally who benefit from historical and current effects of enslavement, colonialism, border militarism, racial distributions of environmental devastation, and capitalism to claim kin with the people producing these effects. If we are complicit in the pain of this suffering world, how might we take responsibility for our bad kin?

personal musings part 2: when we make a mistake, and we don’t make it about ourselves, about how “shitty” we are, when we don’t shame spiral, we are able to step into the responsibility and humility of being in relationship in a way that really excites and comforts me. it’s like we think there’s something righteous about “punishing” ourselves.. i’d say actually letting ourselves feel the depth of the pain of unintentionally harming another person is enough. anything more becomes self-indulgent, becomes about us, the person who’s fucked up, instead of tending to the other person and repairing the harm done.

but let me be clear: it’ll probably also take some individual processing after the fact, because if you’re a perfectionist, fucking up hurts. it feels like it could kill you. so the more we feel it, hopefully the less fragile our ego becomes in the face of it. because it’s not about me or you, it’s about us. we’re going to fuck up and we’ll all ultimately need help to figure out the road back from it.

side note: i had a hard time writing this post, because it can be hard to reflect and digest lessons without feeling like i’m lecturing. any tone of lecturing is ultimately about me towards me, not anyone else. i am the one eager to grow here. and if it resonates with others, that’s of course a lovely bonus.

also, these ideas are fresh to me, and it can feel awkward working out ideas in real time. oh, the irony about my perfectionist taking over as i try to write about resisting it. it’s hard to learn in public, to rationalize mistakes as a part of growth (especially in a shaming culture). shame and social rejection are powerful tools for silencing and causing action paralysis. it leads to us trying to stay “safe” from criticism, which is the opposite of what change is about. but goddamn is it scary.

good luck out there ❤ ❤ ❤

prayer: when i have made a mistake, when i am being held accountable for harm done, may i remember that i am one of many folks who will walk this path of reconciliation. may i not collapse under the weight of imperfection. may i remember, as Alexis says, that i am “good enough,” and that most importantly, i will show up for repair.