The Philosopher’s Stone

cordelia2

Alchemy.  The science of transmutation.  Turning lead into gold.  We all want it.  Everyone wants to find that element, that elusive and pivotal essence that will create the desired change.  Where is that magical Philosopher’s Stone?  One sliver dissolved in liquid and quaffed is a panacea for all ills.  Taken regularly it is the Elixir of Life, bestower of immortality.  It’s powerful stuff.

You must realize, of course, that I’m speaking in metaphor here.  It is my belief (and that of many others) that the “science” of Alchemy is allegorical to the quest of the human soul towards enlightenment.

Is it unrealistic to believe that there is one ingredient that can transmute our heavy leaden existences into the soaring, golden bliss of enlightenment?  I think not.

I’ve noticed a theme running through my life. This theme has to do with “True Statements”.   I’m talking about that experience when you hear a phrase or a quote or a teaching and the deep, undeniable Truth of it hits you in the face like a chocolate cream pie thrown by a major league pitcher.

Here are some of the True Statements that have pie-whacked me:

“Follow your bliss.”  Joseph Campbell

“Do what thou Wilt be the whole of the law.” ~ Aleister Crowley

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”  ~ Rumi

“Do what you love. Know your own bone; Gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it and gnaw it still.” ~
Henry David Thoreau

“Keep pure your highest ideal.  Strive ever towards it.  Let naught stop you or turn you aside.” ~ Doreen Valiente

“Your Heart’s Desire is the Voice of God, and that Voice must be obeyed sooner or later.” ~ Emmett Fox

Do you see the theme?

There’s nothing high-minded about it.  It’s not about intellect or wisdom. It’s not about finding the right guru. And it’s not, in the end, even about prayer or meditation.  It’s about DOING.

I do believe that we are spiritual beings, at our core.  But we were put on this earth, in this mundane existence for a reason.  It is to experience things and experience Doing things.

Without exception, when humans occupy that space of “the zone”, they are creating.  And creation is the realm of the gods.

In those moments you are connecting your heart and your soul to the Soul of the World, the Anima Mundi.  At those times when you are doing what you truly love, you are at peak intuition, highest wisdom and you are changing the world.  And not just your world, THE world.  You are collaborating with the Anima Mundi to bring about that which is in your heart.  In those moments you can feel the presence of the divine.

And this, my dear readers, is the Philosopher’s Stone.

Let’s take a closer look at some of those quotes.

Joseph Campbell said “Follow Your Bliss”.  And I said, above, that you’re changing the world by being in that zone of joy.  Here’s a little excerpt from Bill Moyers’ interview with Joseph Campbell in the PBS series “The Power of Myth”. They were discussing the idea of “Following Your Bliss”.

“-Moyers:  In this sense, unlike heroes such as Prometheus or Jesus, we’re not going on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves.

–Campbell: But in doing that, you save the world.  The influence of a vital person vitalizes, there’s no doubt about it. The world without spirit is a wasteland. People have the notion of saving the world by shifting things around, changing the rules, and who’s on top, and so forth. No, no! Any world is a valid world if it’s alive. The thing to do is to bring life to it, and the only way to do that is to find in your own case where the life is and to become alive yourself.”

 The more you can cultivate those moments of following your bliss, the more often and the longer you dwell there, the more miraculous your life will be.

How about Crowley?  “Do what thou wilt be the whole of the law.  Love is the law; love under Will.”   Crowley expanded on this edict from his seminal work Liber Legis or “The Book of the Law” in a further interpretive work, “Liber II, The Message of the Master Therion”.  He discusses the meaning of Will (with a capital W).  This Will is akin to Purpose (with a capital P).

“It is Nirvana, only dynamic instead of static–and this comes to the same thing in the end.

The obvious practical task of the magician is then to [(1)] discover what his will really is … (2) Do that Will with a) one-pointedness, (b) detachment, (c) peace.

Then, and then only, art thou in harmony with the Movement of Things, thy will part of, and therefore equal to, the Will of God. And since the will is but the dynamic aspect of the self, and since two different selves could not possess identical wills; then, if thy will be God’s will, Thou art That.”

And Doreen Valiente’s beautiful poem, “The Charge of the Goddess” furthers this notion.  The quote, expanded, reads:

“Keep pure your highest ideal. Strive ever towards it.  Let naught stop you or turn you aside.  For mine is the secret door which opens upon the land of youth. And mine is the cup of the wine of life and the cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of immortality.”

So don’t seek enlightenment. Seek the joy of creativity that makes you forget that you’re not enlightened yet.  Don’t pursue self-development. Pursue those moments of pure bliss that put you in the role of creator.  No self-judgments or doubts can creep in at those times.  You’re already there.

That’s your Alchemy.  That is your pivot-point of transformation.  That’s your Pholosopher’s Stone.

Contemplate what that is for you.

I will leave you, dear reader, with these quotes from “The Alchemist” by Paolo Coelho to move you along your journey.

“I learned that the world has a soul, and that whoever understands that soul can also understand the language of things. I learned that many alchemists realized their Personal Legends, and wound up discovering the Soul of the World, the Philosopher’s Stone, and the Elixir of Life. But, above all, I learned that these things are all so simple that they could be written on the surface of an emerald.”

“This is why alchemy exists,” the boy said. “So that everyone will search for his treasure, find it, and then want to be better than he was in his former life. Lead will play its role until the world has no further need for lead; and then lead will have to turn itself into gold. That’s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”

Brightest Blessings

In the Company of Yin

cover yin yang

There was a time in my life (in that maiden to mother phase) when I naturally fell into a routine of caring for my mate and child, spending more of my time on them than on anything else.  It’s easy to do and I think many American women can identify.

Your girlfriends are in the same stage and it’s easy to let those friendships fall by the wayside.  It’s easy to allow yourself the joys of family and immerse yourself in your relationship with a significant other.  With the exception of lesbian couples, this is almost always a male dominated time in one’s life.

Family

And there’s nothing wrong with that.  I know, for me, it was a time to explore the Animus side of my own psyche.  I spent a tremendous amount of time trying to put myself in my husband’s shoes, in order to better understand him.  It was part of my endeavor to be a good wife/partner in our relationship.  And much of this time in my life was worthwhile and valuable and enjoyable.

But something was still missing.  I realized, one day, that so much of my life revolved around Husband and Family that I no longer had strong bonds with women.  In fact, I wasn’t sure I ever had.  I seemed to hold a belief in the back of my mind that I’d always identified more with men anyway.  In hindsight, this might have been a “sour grapes” sort of attitude.  I felt obligated to that life… even though, when I got honest with myself, I had to admit that I chose it.  But there was, at that time, a bit of a feeling of being trapped in that.

In my marriage, our friends were HIS friends.  My women friends were the wives of his friends.  So I thought I’d try to cultivate some real bonds in that pool of choices.  I decided to have a party just for the women in our social group.

High Tea

I devised a beautiful, pampering “High Tea” sort of soiree.  I called it my Sereni-Tea Party, during which each woman would receive massages, manicures, a soak in the Hot-Tub and all sorts of pampering.  I also devised a small ritual, where each woman was crowned as a Goddess.

The idea was to remind each of us that we are sovereign in our lives, that we may choose, daily, how (and for whom) to live.  It was a big hit.  Everyone loved it.  No one loved it more than I did.  It sparked some changes in my life that are still in the works, I think.

aphrodite

I’m not sure if anyone else at that party “got” what I was trying to convey… but I did.  I claimed myself that day, and again and again on many days that followed it, I claimed my own sovereignty.

The experience sparked a new way of thinking for me.  I had one close female friend and I forged deeper into that bond.  She supported me and cared about my outcomes.  It was a really good start.

friends

I began to embody the Queen archetype.  And that sovereign queen of her own life was not the woman my husband married.  So in some ways, I could call that the beginning of the end of my marriage.  It’s okay.  It was a marriage that needed to end. And when it did, those women (the wives of his friends) shunned me like an Amish photographer. And that’s okay too. They were not “my tribe” anyway.

After the divorce I began to create more and more relationships with women.  I came honestly and openly into groups of females sharing my experiences and my ideas, and offering my empathy for the things that they may have experienced as well.  And that’s when the magick started to happen in my life.

I joined a witch’s grove of learning.  We met each week to discuss books, teach and learn and challenge each other toward excellence.  In the process we also loved, nurtured, supported and cheered each other on.  The grove developed into a coven.  I served as one of the leaders of that coven for quite a few years.

circle of women

I learned and grew more in those years than any other time in my life that I can recall.  I increased my personal power exponentially during that time, because of the company of other powerful women, all striving for their own excellence and the collective excellence of the group.  It created such momentum.  We were all swept along in it.

My leadership role in that group led me to more leadership.  I formed a non-profit spiritual center in my own home.  We offered worship services of an inclusive nature. We provided workshops, support groups, had festivals.  And I gained all of the experiences of facilitating that. And I could not have done it without the blessing of a number of breath-taking feminine souls who were regular members at the center.  They enriched me and the others in our group tremendously.

Life changed, as it does, and eventually I closed the center and moved clear across the country.  In my new home town, I volunteer and teach at a non-profit which supports women in ALL their endeavors to improve their own lives. It’s called Fresh Start Women’s Foundation.

And now, I also facilitate women’s spiritual retreats.  The latest installment of that happened in Sedona, AZ last month.

(There’s a new one coming up in November – Click here for more info!)

Six women from different backgrounds, understandings, beliefs and challenges came together.  We discussed and explored our hopes and fears. We worked towards our dreams.  We shared laughter and shed tears.  We moved forward in our lives, powerfully and magickally.

Above is photographic evidence of the goddess power we generated around us.  (Watch the orb at the foot of each goddess.  This showed up on 3 different cameras!)

owl yin yang

Yin in Taoism is the Feminine Principle.  The feminine aspect of this dualistic reality in which we live occupies the “dark side” of the yin yang symbol.

In Wiccan circles the Goddess is represented by the Moon, the night, while the God is represented by the Sun and the day.

This, in no way should be interpreted as meaning that the feminine principle is “bad” or “wrong”, although that is the way that much of our patriarchal society defines it.

But the divine feminine is a mystery.  The High Priestess card in Tarot holds a scroll, which is half hidden and sits before a curtain, beyond which are mysteries and wisdom untold.  There are even popular jokes about how women are complete mysteries to men.

High Priestess

There’s a reason for that.  And I think it’s our power.  This kind of power cannot simply be offered to everyone.  The power of the Feminine Divine is hidden for a reason.  The right to exist in its web must be earned.

And the women whose power is blatant and obvious to the world have been called everything under the sun, from demon, harlot, bitch to witch, activist, boss and Goddess.

The fact is that all women possess this power.  The degrees may vary or the power may be more or less suppressed by this patriarchal jailhouse, but, make no mistake, it is there.  It is present and can be awakened to greater strengths to greater missions and to the greatness of all things touched by such power.

I’ve found that when women come together in any kind of group, there is a magickal phenomenon that takes place.  There is a heightened power, an increase in intensity, like a spiritual battery being turned on.

A woman is powerful.

A couple of women, or a group, aligned in their Will, connected at their hearts and clear in their intentions, are UNSTOPPABLE, and deeply magickal.

Goddess Group

I’m not talking about excluding men from your life, by any means!  Today, I am in a committed and happy relationship with a loving, wonderful man. In fact, I believe that the time I’ve spent loving and nurturing other women (and myself) is a direct contributor to my finding him and to my being worthy of him.  Our relationship is very strong.  We believe in each other. We encourage each other. We acknowledge each other’s sovereignty.  And I adore spending time with him.

But these days, as the sovereign queen/goddess that I am, I choose to also spend a lot of quality time in the company of Yin.

Goddess Divine Empowerment!

How I went from Playing Way Too Small to Being an Empowered Goddess and So Can You!

oppressed-women  My last blog post ended with me in the depths of addiction and and suffering the pain and humiliation of a terrible marriage.  So, how did all of this turn around?  I’ll tell you!

A few years into that marriage I finally decided to get a handle on my addictive, self-destructive practices. That makes it sound like it was easy, like I made a decision one day and then got clean. That’s not what happened. There was a LOT of “Facing my Shadow”, and “embracing my darkness” at that time. I was introduced to the concepts put forth by the noted psychologist, Carl Jung and began to study the practice of uncovering and accepting our “Shadow” aspects, those parts of ourselves that we would rather deny. I had a lot of that. Also, during that journey, in my twenties, I was introduced to the concept of spirituality as opposed to religion. Cultivating a connection with some “unknowable force” helped me greatly in my recovery from alcohol and drug abuse, and I became a seeker. Learning about spiritual practice became my new drug of choice, I believe, because it touched on that true nature and those gifts I was denying. Some part of me recognized that something here might actually have an effect on the root cause of my destructive behavior. I wasn’t consciously aware of this, of course, but I believe it was there.

So I read everything I could. I spent many years investigating different spiritual practices. I studied, and continue to study, world religions, and philosophies like Catholicism and Christianity in general, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and so on. And while I can’t say that I felt a deep connection to any one religious view, what I did find was the practice of meditation. Meditation was the single most important component in my recovery and my journey to here. And it remains the staple of my current practice. I cannot over-state its importance in my evolution from frightened little girl to empowered Goddess. It saved my life.

I’m going to repeat that here because it’s REALLY IMPORTANT!

Meditation was the single most important component in my recovery and my journey to here. And it remains the staple of my current practice. I cannot over-state its importance in my evolution from frightened little girl to empowered Goddess. It saved my life.

empowered goddess   My studies continued and began to include more philosophy, psychology and mythology. I read some classics by great scholars such as Marcus Aurelius, Socrates, Plato and added in some more modern works by the likes of Eckhart Tolle and Joseph Campbell. My views continued to expand as I continued to grow in every way that I could manage. During all of this, I became the mother to a beautiful old soul, a daughter. Witnessing the miracles of her birth and growth and my regular meditation practice were putting me in connection with the divine on a daily basis. Everything changes then. You see, when you meditate it puts you in touch with that ineffable ground of spirit that permeates all that there is. It verifies the unbreakable connection between these bodies we are currently inhabiting and that limitless “other” which we discover is not “other” at all. It’s like plugging in to a vast switchboard where everything is accessible. The miraculous is occurring all around us at every moment in time. I began to notice, is all.

All the while, I was still married to that overbearing, narcissistic man. And during most of our marriage, because there was still that part of me aiming to please and eager to be seen as “the good wife”, we got along fine. But then I began to grow a spine. I began to understand that I had to set an example for my daughter. And I began to disagree with some of the decisions he was making for us and for me. And that was when it got bumpy. I won’t go into the details here of the ultimate awakening that brought me out of that marriage, but know that I did break free and I did so in a meaningful and mindful way, understanding my part in all of it and understanding what I would no longer accept for myself or for my child.

In the following years I was inspired to study the many connections between science and spirituality and became very interested in (um, ok, obsessed with) quantum physics and the philosophies of mind over matter, what some call the Law of Attraction (what I call witchcraft). There was a wonderful feeling of being carried along on a wave of new information and discovery. One insight led to another. One book led to a dozen more. With a broader understanding of myself and the concepts of energy, I renewed my interest in divination and I studied the Tarot, with all of its wonderful Archetypes and insight into the human journey. I also began again to experiment with Skrying. All of this brought me to the study of Nature-based religions like Wicca and Heathenry and paganism in general. And a new wave of discovery launched me into practice with others and the structure and benefits of ritual, shared energy and sisterhood. I delved deeply into the study of mythology, especially the Goddesses which re-energized my desire to facilitate women’s empowerment. I was given the opportunity to expand my leadership skills as a founding member of a coven, often presiding over Ritual as Priestess. And, finally I put that into practice in my own spiritual Meetup Group and opened an inclusive spiritual center from my own home where I hosted many, many workshops, ceremonies, rituals and festivals before moving to Phoenix, AZ.

Aphrodite2   So here I am today, wanting to share some of this learning and insight with you, the seeker with the Goddess hidden inside. I can help you find your inner Goddess because I worked so hard to find my own. And I’ve distilled all of the seeking and struggles and mistakes and successes into some very essential lessons to set you on your personal journey to Goddesshood. Join me and a number of your sisters on this amazing, life-changing adventure. Simply email me at AffordableSedonaRetreat@gmail.com for all the details.  There is absolutely NO obligation, NO spam, NO sharing of your email address and a free gift!  This retreat will fill up, so don’t hesitate!  

With Love and Sisterhood,

Renée

Blessed Be

Unblocking

So this blog is called “Witch in the World”.  And I wanted it to be about magickal practice, spiritual studies, paganism, witchcraft, etc.  But I also wanted it to be about how we witches function in today’s modern world and how a witch can manage her mundane life while using a little magick to move things along.

I felt, for a minute or two, with my recent posts about health and fitness, that I might have been getting off the subject a bit. But, not true.  I’ve mentioned how I included magickal workings in this.  And my new, more earth friendly lifestyle is certainly a goal of most of the witches I know.  After all, we are spiritual beings having a physical experience.  But ,as I like to say, and as most witches know, because we are so connected to the earth, “We ARE Having a PHYSICAL experience.”  So it makes sense for us to dwell in both realms and to embrace our physicality, as well as our magick. So, I’m going to stick with this subject for as long as it interests me!

I’ve realized something recently.  I mentioned in previous posts, specifically in “This is Sparta!”, that I performed all kinds of magick to try to help myself see myself in a more loving light; to help me feel more beautiful.  If I am honest, I was so down on how I looked that all I really wanted was to feel more visually “acceptable”.  I was in a pretty bad mental state over it.  I did spells, created talismans, performed full moon rituals to goddesses of youthfulness, you name it!  And the thing is, I kept thinking that those spells weren’t working.  But they were.  Magick isn’t as magic as we think sometimes.  I guess I expected to wake up the next day after each of these workings to a new woman.  I expected to wake up and look in the mirror and say, “Good!”  But that’s not how it works.

river blockage

An image occurred to me this weekend.  The image is of a river, coming to a narrow portion where its banks close in on one another and where debris has filled that space.  The flow is restricted.  But water is relentless, as anyone who has seen a canyon can attest.  Eventually, little bits of this debris are pushed loose by the pressure of the water, and as it flows through one tiny crack in the blockage, it begins to loosen other bits in the way, a twig , then a stone, then a clump of mud.  This tiny flow picks up speed and pressure unclogging its path with greater and greater swiftness.  Suddenly, the whole blockage just lets go and the river flows freely again.  That’s what was happening with my magick.  I didn’t give up on it.  I was relentless, like water (thank you Bruce Lee!), and so eventually, it worked.  The “blockage-letting-go” moment was the moment I was in a meditative state, still questioning my psyche (which is another form of magick) as to why I would feel this way about myself,  or why couldn’t I cultivate some self love for my appearance.  And words came from a place that I recognize as the “higher self”.  I’ve spent years listening for and listening to that voice.  I recognize her when she speaks.  Even if I don’t understand the words she says right away, I always pay them due note, because I know that they will become clear, and usually pretty soon.  She said (and of course she rhymed it, because she knows I love that shit!) “Your beauty, my dear, is not in the viewing, but in the doing.”  And within 48 hours of hearing that sentence in my head, I was suddenly ready, willing and able to make the necessary changes to my lifestyle.  It was like magic!  Wait, it wasn’t LIKE magic… it WAS Magick – Magick that I’d been performing for over a year.  It just so happens that this was a tough blockage and took time to break down.

riverflow2

That is how this life works.  We are all creating, manifesting, performing our own magic with our thoughts all of the time.  We must work to do this consciously, instead of in default mode.  This is how I incorporate magick into a mundane life.  I’m now giving myself all kinds of love!  I love myself by feeding my body lots of delicious, healthful food, taking the time to carefully choose and prepare that food.  Every single morsel I put in my mouth these days, by the way, IS delicious or I don’t eat it.  I’m loving myself by giving my body lots of great and varied (and FUN – above all FUN) exercise.  I’ve lost weight, and that feels good.  I’ve built strength and THAT feels really good.  And when I do glance in the mirror, it seems, my thoughts have lost the most weight.  I’m not going to tell you that I see something beautiful every time I check my reflection, but I can tell you that my thoughts about it are no longer heavy.  They don’t carry any judgment or even any concern about “beauty”.  I have noticed my skin looking healthier and my eyes brighter and my hair shinier, but those are all just side effects.  And this is good.  The beauty is indeed in the doing.  And I’m doing it. I even took a selfie and smiled!

selfie

Blessed Be.

The Magick of Variety

So here’s an update on my progress toward the Spartan Race. spartan – Woo-Hoo!

I’m getting stronger and healthier by the minute.  And I’m learning all kinds of new things along the way.

I’ve been doing a lot of cooking on the weekends to have easy, ready-made meals for the week.  I’m finding new recipes and basing my choices, mostly on whatever I find at the farmer’s market and the organic section of Sprouts.

Farmer's Market< Look at all that gorgeous food!

There was one week where I planned to have a green smoothie every day for breakfast and a salad every day for lunch.  That got old fast!  By Thursday I was so bored with the food that it was REALLY difficult not to grab something off-plan.  I managed, but I was miserable.  And this journey that I’m on (as I’ve said before) is not punishment or deprivation.  This journey is about feeding my body lovely, delicious, vibrant, healthy food, and giving my body solid and fun exercise that strengthens and empowers me.  It’s self-love, NOT self-loathing.

So this week, I have variety!  I’m very excited about it.  I have choices for breakfasts ranging from smoothies, to fruit to eggs and even egg sandwiches with avocado – YUM!- using a recipe I found for paleo, wheatless sandwich rounds made with plantains and coconut flour! Who knew such things even existed!  For lunches I have Spaghetti squash crust pizza, eggplant rollatini, a wonderful medley of beans with spices, mini meatloaves and the most delicious butternut squash soup you’ve ever tasted and yes… salad too.  I actually love salad since it can come in so many varieties… but the same salad every day for five days is a recipe for disaster.  I won’t make that mistake again.

Also, I’m really enjoying being in the kitchen again.  And I’ve noticed that, even though I’m not cooking the traditional foods that I was taught as a child in an Italian household, I can still feel the spirits of my Mom and my Nana with me while I cook.  Mom < This is my Mom.

They are peering over my shoulder at the stove as I add spices, they are lifting their chins as they smell the aroma of the beautifully fresh vegetables and they are smiling approvingly as I dish these masterpieces up for my family.   This is ancestor magic.  The line of my people going back to the beginning is with me as I improve my life.  I feel their presence as I haven’t in quite some time.  I am putting my magic in all the food.  I’m pouring my love (and the love of those who have loved me my whole life) into every meal that I make and this is producing amazing results for my body, mind and soul.

I’m also varying my workouts.  The same workout every day can get just as boring as a salad every day, so I’m doing different things and incorporating magic into all of it.  When I swim, I pronounce incantations in my head.  As I scoop the life-giving force of the water with my hands on every stroke, I’m visualizing the waves of it sculpting and strengthening my core.  When I do water calisthenics, or weight training, my trainers, Odin and Athena, are there to help me keep count, improve my form and keep pushing until the final set.  When I run on a treadmill or elliptical, I listen to empowering music and visualize my muscles working at peak performance.   On hikes, I am rallying the forces of nature to join my quest.   This week I’m adding burpees to the routine.  In case you don’t know, a burpee is a grueling combination of a squat, plank, push-up, squat and jumping jack.  Yes, all of that is ONE burpee.  And if you fail an obstacle in the Spartan Race, you have to do THIRTY of them to get to the next obstacle.  So, I’m starting now.  And no, that doesn’t sound like a tremendous amount of fun. And I’m going to have to find a way to put magic into those! But it will be fun when I start to see my numbers increase and when I start to feel like I can handle it.  And I will.  Because, As I Will It, So Mote It BE!

winning

Blessings, dearest readers!  Love yourselves today!

Blue Moon!

blue-m1So tomorrow is Blue Moon in Aquarius.  Uranus (Aquarius’ planet) is in retrograde.  Venus is in retrograde.  All of these combined energies are supposed to mean something.  Venus is about love, but most of the articles I’ve read talk about romantic love.  For me, a triple Aquarian, I think it’s a little different.  Perhaps it’s because of Uranus being retrograde at the same time.  This planet’s energies are generally revolutionary, (Aquarians always want to change the world) but in retrograde that would be turned inward.  So to me the whole thing is about self-love and personal revolution.  Maybe the planetary energies have something to do with my recent changes to my health and fitness routine.  If so, I thank them!  I ran again this morning, with less pain than the first time and I sweated out a rather intense (for me) workout.  I’ve made healthy and delicious meal choices for the day and I’m looking forward to farmer’s market on Saturday morning.

I will be celebrating the Blue Moon tomorrow night.  I’ll go out into my meditation garden and make contact with my personal trainers, Athena and Odin.  They make a pretty awesome combination, in that regard.  I’ll toast them with a draught of fresh clear nourishing spring water and request their help and strength through this journey to a more fit and badass me.  The timing is perfect.

Healthful and loving blessings to all of you!

This Is Sparta!

This is Sparta!

I’ve just done something a little crazy.  I registered to participate in the next Arizona Spartan Sprint.  For those who don’t know, this is a 4.7 mile obstacle race sponsored by Reebok.  You have to climb 8 foot walls, crawl through mud under barbed wire, drag heavy weights up hills, climb ropes, throw spears at targets, etc., etc.  (Oh! And you run from one obstacle to the next.)  At the moment, I am the heaviest I’ve ever been.  I am 5’7” and weigh 226 pounds.  This is considered obese.  I have also struggled, over the last few years, with arthritis, bursitis and vitamin D deficiency.  I can walk about 10 miles (if I have to).  Generally, I walk about 2 – 5 miles during my current workouts.  My upper body strength is pretty much non-existent.  I have shin splints and I have never, ever done any running for a workout in my life.  I’m also 52 years old.  I’ll be 53 when this race rolls around.  Crazy?  Maybe.

But I have had a long history of weight gain and loss.  I’m a prime example of the Yo-Yo syndrome.  As a child, I was chunky, but not technically fat, although I felt that way.  I was much larger than most of the other girls, sprouted some pretty intense womanly curves by the age of 12 and was certainly called fat by many a typical school bully.  I was maybe 10 or 15 pounds overweight when I went away to college.  My roommates were waifs.  I starved myself and exercised whenever possible and got down to a size 6 by the end of my freshman year.  Fast forward a few years and I had “blossomed” to a size 14.  Those womanly curves of mine were actually a detriment sometimes.  My waist always stayed comparatively small, so I didn’t notice the pounds creeping up, because my shape was still good.  At size 14, I was engaged.  At my wedding I was back down to a size 6.  After pregnancy, back up to size 16.  When my daughter turned 3, I was a size 6 again.  At 37, size 18, at 40 and divorcing, you guessed it, size 6.  This last decade of gaining weight again has left me at size 20.  Are we seeing the pattern here?

How does one go about breaking this kind of cycle?  Honestly, I’ve no idea.  But I’m hoping that I’ve found some “key” that’s a little different.  I’m going to back-track a little and fill you in on my frame of mind for the past 2 years.  After suffering the aforementioned, painful maladies and after several years in a job I hated and becoming exhausted with life as it was, I picked up and moved 2,600 miles away from New York to Arizona.  My lifestyle since moving has been healthier, on the whole (not as healthy as it could be, mind you, but healthier than when I was in New York.)  I incorporated a little more movement, more “whole foods” and less junk, eliminated refined sugars.  I thought I was doing pretty well.  But, oh, how I loved my breads and cheeses!  I’ve been very resistant to changing those habits, even though I’ve been told over and over that wheat products and dairy products contribute to inflammation of the joints.  Anyway, that being what it was, I still felt a lot better and was enjoying my life in the southwest.  I have to include here, the fact that I moved here with Captain America, my dream man.  He is ever supportive, helpful and has made my life infinitely easier and more joyful by being in it. I’m not doing any of this alone.  I have help.

About 18 months ago I decided to stop coloring my hair.  I’d been going gray since I was 16 years old and dying it to my childhood auburn for the last 24 years.  Dealing with the silver roots was really starting to bother me and so, I had my hair cut and bleached to be done with it all at once, instead of having that awful skunk stripe of white against the dark red while it grew out.  I came home from the salon feeling pretty good about “embracing my cronehood”, and hoping for those glorious silver locks that some women have, while they still have a beautiful, youthful looking face.   When I looked in the mirror the next morning I was shocked by the fat, ugly, old lady staring back at me.  That’s how I felt. And I cried like a baby and wondered how this had happened overnight.  The fact is, of course, that it didn’t happen overnight, but it did hit me all at once.  My bones hurt, my clothes were like tents, my hair was fully gray (and short, like a granny) and all the wrinkles on my face seemed to scream at me.  I wanted to cover up every mirror in the house.  I thought the situation was hopeless.  I believed that I should simply give up on youth.  I believed that I should truly make peace with the fact that I couldn’t be pretty anymore.  After all, I’m a spiritual person.  Why should it matter that the vessel my soul is wearing no longer fits in with conventional beauty.  My beauty was inside, right?   But I hurt.  Every glance in a mirror caused me pain.  Every time I tried to put on make-up or fix my hair, I became despondent and frustrated.  I railed against my own psyche for not being strong enough to handle this “aging” thing.  “For Goddess sakes, Renee!  It happens to everyone!  Why are you being such a shallow, selfish, whiney baby!”  That’s how I was speaking to myself.  Not good.  I know.  I just didn’t know what to do.  So I tried to simply see myself as pretty.  I used affirmations and made a conscious effort to speak kindly to myself.  I noticed parts of me that I could still consider attractive and focused on those.  I did  self-love meditations and magic spells to help me accept and love my appearance “as-is” and yet every damn time I looked in a mirror, without the specific intention of practicing self-love, all I saw was ugly. And, of course there were set-backs.  I kept getting asked if I wanted the senior discount.  Then there was a vacation with my best friend, who is 5 years younger.  No less than three times on that trip, I was mistaken for her mother.  Ouch.   This continued for a year.  Twelve months of self loathing!  A couple of people,  who are very close to me, probably have had an inkling of what I’ve been going through, but even they don’t really know the depth of it.  I haven’t really gone into detail about it, because I was ashamed.   Very slowly, it started to get a little better.  My hair was growing out (finally!) and I began to do some spell-work while applying my make-up in the mornings.  I tried to take pride in my appearance.  But I would still, in my quiet moments and in my saddened mind, have anguished conversations with the powers that be:  “Why can’t I look in the mirror and just like myself? What is wrong with me?”

One day, almost two months ago, while floating in the pool, I was having one of those conversations.  I float in the pool in meditation.  It is just such a blissful feeling to be floating and let my mind drift away.  As those anguished questions arose in my mind this time, instead of silence and pain, I received something else.  I heard one sentence.

“Your beauty, my dear, is not in the viewing, but in the doing.”

I didn’t quite know what to do with that at first.  But I did know that it came from somewhere higher and wiser than the frame of mind I was capable of at the time.  So I kept it and remembered it and repeated it to myself many times over the next few days.  About a week later, I was reading through an article about healthy lifestyles and reading advise that I’d read a million times before.  The writer suggested just a two week trial of eating no wheat, no meat, no dairy, no sugar and then adding those things back to your diet in small, occasional amounts.  And suddenly, I was willing.  I had never felt the slightest willingness to give up wheat and dairy before and suddenly, my attitude was “I can do anything for two weeks!”  Previously the thought of giving up those things felt like restriction and deprivation. I was raised in an Italian home and I have been known to voice the opinion that food is love, so restriction felt like the opposite.  But in that moment of willingness to try something different, to DO something different, I revamped my entire routine.  I went far beyond the suggestions of that article and began incorporating all of the healthy things that I knew about but was previously unwilling to work into my schedule.  I began daily workouts, taking vitamin supplements, preparing meals on the weekends for the whole week, shopping farmers markets and sticking almost exclusively to whole, organic fresh food.  I’ve been doing this for a little over a month.  I feel great!  I love the food I’m eating. I have re-discovered my love for cooking with all these new recipe ideas. I have re-introduced some meat (but only grass fed, organic, sustainably farmed) and cheeses (organic, local, minimally processed cheeses), both in very small amounts.  I have not had wheat or refined sugar at all.  And I don’t miss it! I am feeding my body well.  And I’ve lost 8 pounds.  This is good.  This is “doing”!  I’ve changed the focus and my heart is starting to feel better.

Last night there was a picture in my Facebook feed of a person I don’t know.  She was holding up her “Spartan medal” that she’d received for completing a Spartan race.  And she was overweight, not one of those skinny, six-pack abs women to whom I could never relate.  I was inspired, so I started researching the Spartan Races.  The logo is the Greek warrior helmet.  It looks very much like the helmet worn by Athena in the image of her on my altar.  Yes, I am a priestess of Athena, so this seemed perfect. Greek warriors are definitely “my thing”!  On the website I found a race scheduled in the Phoenix area for February of 2016.  That gives me more than 6 months to train.  I ran this morning for the first time in any workout of my entire life.   It hurt like hell to be honest, but I did it.  And I will again tomorrow.  And now, I have a goal.  My goal is to be the badass person who can complete that race even though it seems like a crazy idea.  It’s going to take hard work and a lot of sweat and perseverance and good healthy feeding of this vessel that is carrying a badass soul.  And it will take a bit of magic too.  Athena will help me with that.  She loves a hero’s quest. I have a goal.  And for the first time in my weight-loss history, it is a fitness goal, not a “beauty” goal.  I got slim for my wedding, I got slim for vacations, I got slim to look better. Always it was about looking better and always it involved deprivation and self-punishment.

This feels different.  This feels like self love.  I’ll keep you posted.