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The Sacred Art Of Taking A Bath

 

When I tell my students that one of the most magical things they can do is take a bath, I rarely have to say anything more, for we intuitively know that the time we take to shower and bathe is time touched by wild magic, and the space in which we do so is space imbued with the scent of the sacred.

 

Make Your Bath Sacred


Consider your own bathing rituals right here and right now. Begin with the fundamental question, “What needs to be washed away, removed, released?” And then, “What kind of bathing appeals to you the most?” A brisk shower or a slow bath? If you use products like bubbles, soap, bath salts, or body scrubs, why did you select them? Do you love to bathe in the privacy of your own home, or do you feel most connected to your remembered magic when you immerse yourself into a wildly running river, the cresting waves of a great ocean, or the green depths of a limestone spring? What elements need to be in place to change your bathing experience from one that is merely practical and about physically cleaning yourself to one that is also extraordinary and capable of washing away deeper marks and struggles?

 

Where do you feel dry?

Just as the land where we live contains water, our soul soil also holds swift rivers, vast oceans, and deep springs. These interior waters are the places understood to hold the human capacity for deep feeling and emotion, creativity, love and compassion, vitality and nourishment. And just like bodies of water in the surrounding world, our interior waters can be dammed up, walled off, covered over, and blocked in a variety of ways. These waters can also be polluted. Sometimes this is done by others or is a result of the toxic aspects of the culture at large, and sometimes we do it to ourselves without realizing it. Having set up house in multiple arid lands, I can tell you from firsthand experience that the presence or the absence water in our surrounding world presses us to ask hard questions about our internal waters. Consider where your life feels dry, uninspired, lacking creativity, fecundity, and fertility? Where are the places that have become too tough and hard and not nearly tender enough? Where has your soul soil been in drought for year upon year, so that all you can find there is dry dust and cracks in the ground? Where is the spark of life lacking or completely absent? 

 

Where do you feel in the flow?

After considering what makes you feel dried up and devitalized, consider the opposite. What calls up your life and creativity? What makes you feel like your inner landscape is well irrigated and flowing with wide rivers or caressed by ocean waves? What are the ways that you best clean up the hurt places in your life? What are the medicines that help you heal most readily and completely? Our work here calls us to an awareness of the places that feel broken, the parts of life and the stories, beliefs, and habits that devitalize us from the inside out. Working with water in an intentional manner can also highlight these places, for we become acutely aware of where precisely there is lack. It is natural to feel that there is not enough water in the whole world to slake the deepest soul thirst and soothe the most parched places of our hearts. It is true: there is not enough water in the world to quench that thirst. But there is enough water in each of us. When you live in a desert, as I have for most of my life, you come to know this as fact. There is good water, strong and flowing, usually many miles beneath the surface, and when the thunderclouds come in and the wind begins to blow just so, the sheer rocks themselves begin to usher forth rivers and streams, and the well that springs up from the deepest self carries on its waves life-bestowing and life-affirming blessings.

 

Don’t have time for a full sacred bath every day? Try these stepping stones instead!

Make moon water. Fill up a clear glass jar with water and leave the top of it open. Set it outside under a full moon. Drink it down the next morning and note the texture, taste, and feel of the water as you do. Notice too how your body feels after drinking it.

 

Create a sacred spray. Get a spray bottle, fill it with water, add a few drops of your favorite essential oils, and use this quick version of sacred water to spritz yourself and your home, as you like.

 

Give yourself a footbath. Fill a basin with warm water, and add a teaspoon of baking soda, some lemon and lime slices, and any essential oils you like. After soaking your feet, pick out an oil or lotion to anoint your feet. Cleansing and anointing the feet is an ancient practice that honors one of the most sensitive (and taken for granted) parts of our bodies.  

 

This is an excerpt from Making Magic: Weaving Together the Everyday and the Extraordinary by Briana Henderson Saussy.

 

Download a free Making Magic journal here.

Briana Saussy is a teacher, spiritual counselor, and founder of the Sacred Arts Academy, where she teaches tarot, ceremony, alchemy, and other sacred arts for everyday life. She lives in San Antonio, Texas. For more, visit brianasaussy.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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RITUAL: Making Magic in Your Kitchen

RITUAL: Making Magic in Your Kitchen Blog Header ImageTHE HUMAN WORLD AND THE NATURAL WORLD: ONE AND THE SAME

Nowhere is the apparent rift between the everyday and the extraordinary more evident than in the way we regard the relationship between the human world and the world of nature. The rift is ultimately rooted in the opinions and beliefs about these two realms. The natural world is full of surprises, and perhaps the greatest is the discovery that nature is everywhere. The common way nature and humans are regarded in belief and opinion does not match up with the reality. The two worlds are, in fact, one world, interpenetrated by diverse and powerful elements—not only physical forces but also holy helpers and native capacities like memory and sacred imagination. Sooner or later the search for magic brings us face to face with a reality beyond the apparent rift between the everyday and the extraordinary, as we explore not only the verdure of our interior life but also our actual relationship with the surrounding world.

Learning how to speak to these holy helpers means learning the language of nature. This is the language of the wild and natural world, the language of the wind through trees and birdsong at dawn. But it is also and equally the language of that wondrous creature called Homo sapiens sapiens, for in knowing nature, we also come to know ourselves.

All magic originates in the natural world. From the ingredients used in ritual and ceremony, to the clothing worn, the talismans treasured, the foods eaten, and the medicines taken—all of them begin among plant and fungi, animal and mineral, as do we. The role that nature plays in magic cannot be overstated, but it can be misunderstood. Magic is like a wild animal, but in the common understanding, what wild actually means tends to be a pale and shadowy reflection of what it really is.

FIELD NOTES FROM THE EVERYDAY

The experience of nature does not begin in a wild forest or rushing river valley. It begins right here. If we cannot discover the materials we need for magic already present in the everyday, then we will not find them at all, no matter how far we journey, no matter how breathtaking the scenery along the way. Noticing is a lifetime of work. For most of us, noticing will not happen in a pure and unpolluted wild place, for these places are few and far between and often hold secrets that are not meant for us. It will instead happen in our kitchens and front yards, where nature is just as present.

What is entirely familiar and known, hidden in plain sight? Where might nature be found? One answer is the kitchen and the cupboard. These are the spaces where nature has made herself most at home within the home itself. In folk traditions, magic was made in the kitchen—through cooking and making use of the ingredients found within the kitchen—from the spice cabinet to the pantry, and since the advent of the icebox and refrigeration, the fridge. For it is here in the kitchen, even within the simplest and most stripped-down kitchen, that we routinely come into contact with some of the most tangible elements of the natural world—animals, plants, minerals, earth and air, fire and water.

Go into your kitchen and pick one area: the spice drawer, the cupboard, your refrigerator. Pull everything out and set it on the counter. What comes from animals? What comes from plants? From fungi and bacteria? From minerals? Don’t limit this inquiry. Glass is formed from silica and fire. Plastic is a petroleum by-product, and what is petroleum but a product mined from the earth? Paper wrappings started off as trees. Metal appliances were once veins of ore buried within the dark ground. Dare to find one item that did not begin its life firmly rooted in nature; it is not possible. You needn’t go into a nature preserve to come into contact with the whiskers and muddy paw prints of magic. There it is, padding across the stovetop and through the pantry.

As you go through the above process in your kitchen, certain ingredients will stand out above all the others. They seem to have vibrancy, an attraction. They feel potent. As a root doctor or cunning woman might say, they have mojo.

When it comes to working, wandering, and wondering through the wilds of the kitchen, it is important to heed your own personal responses and impressions, and not be overly concerned with conforming your taste to dictionaries and lists of correspondences compiled by various sources. Meanings and interpretations are best grown from the soil of your direct experience; these are the meanings and interpretations that are just right.

A sacred artist who knows ten different ways to work with a single ingredient will make more effective magic than one who has the wherewithal to buy ten different exotic ingredients. Why? Because in the former case, there is a real relationship. In the latter, there is merely acquisition, and they are not the same. So start where you are and with what you have.

RITUAL—KITCHEN MAGIC

In response to the increasing tempo of modern life, many wonderful grocery stores offer prepared foods as a convenience. When cooking is outsourced regularly, however, we become detached from the necessities of food preparation, from the ingredients of the food, from the nature of the food, as well as from the space or nexus that holds the cooking and food in the home. We lose a sense of the alchemy inherent in all of these things. So, given this newfound knowledge based on our own experience and a desire to explore kitchen magic a little further, it is time to cook something up!

This ritual is not about releasing the inner Julia Child (although if you feel called to do so, then by all means do). It is about taking time to connect with nature hidden in plain sight, in your own dwelling space, and coming to know one aspect of it as well as possible.

TIME

  • 1 hour

MATERIALS

  •  a simple recipe
  • your Making Magic journal, or your favorite personal journal
  • a door (optional)
  • a special talisman (optional)
  • a candle (optional)
  • incense (optional)

PROCESS

Cultivate calmness both within and without. See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel your relationship to the otherworld and your holy helpers that reside there.

Incorporate any other pieces of ritual you would like: open your “door;” touch your talisman, sharing with it your desire for this ritual; or light the candle or incense, as you like.

Begin to prepare the recipe. Take time for and give attention to each step. Pause and feel into the ingredients you are working with—where they came from, how they arrived in your home. Even boiling spaghetti in water can become a springboard. The spaghetti was once wheat in a field—where? What did its life cycle look like? What animals and plants depended on it?

Record your impressions in your Making Magic journal.

Make the serving and eating of the food a ritual as well, allowing yourself to fully savor the entire experience. When you are attentive and open to what the ingredients actually feel and taste like—and not just the idea you have of them—you discover their essence or inherent properties, qualities that can’t be taken away. Be open and curious about the differences that make garlic garlic or an apple apple.

This is an excerpt from Making Magic: Weaving Together the Everyday and the Extraordinary by Briana Henderson Saussy.

 

Download a free Making Magic journal here.

 

Briana Saussy HeadshotMaking Magic BookBriana Saussy is a teacher, spiritual counselor, and founder of the Sacred Arts Academy, where she teaches tarot, ceremony, alchemy, and other sacred arts for everyday life. She lives in San Antonio, Texas. For more, visit brianasaussy.com.

Buy your copy of Making Magic at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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RITUAL: Tracking Memory

Ritual: Tracking Memory Header Image

Consider your own experience of the acts and beings involved in memory and imagination—before science enters the picture. Consider what memory and imagination are like from your inner experience—not from the perspective or the studies of cognitive neuroscience or psychology. Science seeks truth and finds it, but the search here is for what supports that truth from within.

Say, for example, that a person weighs 170 pounds, measurable by a standard scale. She may find it difficult or even impossible to pick up 170 pounds of deadweight, if she is not a weightlifter. But how does it actually feel to be 170 pounds? It doesn’t feel at all like lifting deadweight. From the inside of her own experience of that 170 pounds, moving about in full health, she feels relatively light—maybe even light as a feather. This is the inner perspective of memory and imagination that we’re looking for. Our inner perspective does not cancel out the scientific perspective; they are complementary.

Memory is fascinating. I encourage you to get interested in the ways of your own memory. It has a unity, like our physical bodies or a landscape have a unity, and this unity can be touched or awakened at almost every part of point.

RITUAL—TRACKING MEMORY

This small, simple, but very potent daily mental cultivation ritual has its roots in the practices of ancient Greek philosophers and mystics, as well as in the mindfulness practices of Buddhist lineages. Variations of it are used in therapeutic contexts to support survivors of abuse, war, and trauma of all kinds.

This ritual serves two purposes. First, it heightens your awareness of your relationship to memory and to your experience of the present moments that are distinguishable from and underlie memory. Second, it attunes you to your everyday experiences.

TIME: About 15 minutes

MATERIALS:

PROCESS:

Breathe in a blessing on your physical body. Exhale in gratitude.

Set your timer for fifteen minutes and record the events of the previous day, without comment or judgment. Start anywhere—with what happened in the morning, afternoon, or evening. There is no need to try to pick an interesting experience or “problem area” to focus on. Making breakfast, walking down the street, working in the office—all the little, seemingly unremarkable things that happened during the previous day are what you’re recording here.

Simply describe what happened or what you were doing in as much detail as possible, including the sights, sounds, and any other details that seem relevant. Don’t get into the mental or emotional details of these happenings, such as whether you were worried while you were walking down the street, or whether you were thinking or feeling something profound. Resist the temptation to comment on what happened.

Take your time. When the timer rings, put your writing implement down, even if you are not finished.

Breathe in a blessing on your physical body once more and on your willingness to show up for this work.

Exhale in gratitude.

Move forward with your day.

This is an excerpt from Making Magic: Weaving Together the Everyday and the Extraordinary by Briana Henderson Saussy.

Download a free Making Magic Journal here.

Briana Saussy HeadshotMaking Magic BookBriana Saussy is a teacher, spiritual counselor, and founder of the Sacred Arts Academy, where she teaches tarot, ceremony, alchemy, and other sacred arts for everyday life. She lives in San Antonio, Texas. For more, visit brianasaussy.com.

Buy your copy of Making Magic at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coleman Barks: Rumi, Grace, and Human Friendship

Tami Simon speaks with Coleman Barks, a leading scholar and translator of the 13th-century Persian mystic Jelaluddin Rumi. Coleman’s work was the subject of an hour-long segment in Bill Moyers’s The Language of Life series on PBS. He has published numerous Rumi translations, including with Sounds True the audio programs I Want Burning: The Ecstatic World of Rumi, Hafiz, and Lalla; Rumi: Voice of Longing; and his three-part collaboration with cellist David Darling called Just Being Here: Rumi and Human Friendship. In this episode, Tami speaks with Coleman about the extraordinary friendship between Rumi and his teacher Shams Tabrizi, and how translating Rumi requires entering a trance state. Coleman offers insights on grace as he and Tami listen to selections from Just Being Here

 

Click  here to listen to  Holiday Without Limits by Coleman Barks

The Trauma-Trigger Cycle

When you are stuck with old unprocessed experiences living inside you, they can create what I call a trauma-trigger cycle because they are still very much alive in our systems.

Here’s my analogy to help you understand how this works and why it causes so much trouble. Imagine that you have a very difficult experience, for example, having to say goodbye to a sick pet. All of the details in the form of individual feelings, smells, images, sounds, and more get bundled up and deposited into a metaphorical glass trauma capsule—which gets stored in the body. It sits there with all of the old feelings we experienced at the time the event happened. While you might not be aware of it constantly, you are likely feeling those emotions at a low level all the time. When any current situation reminds you of any of those details hanging out in the capsule—either consciously or subconsciously—the old trauma gets “poked,” or reactivated. This is how we get triggered. Being triggered can bring up flashes of those memories, including images, feelings, and any sensory stimuli.

For the most part, except in certain cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from major life events, where sometimes the trigger is known, this trauma-trigger reaction actually happens at a subconscious level, outside of your awareness. Even in obvious situations, you may think you know what the trigger is, and try to avoid it, but it may be something totally different that got stuck in the metaphorical glass trauma capsule. Often, people come to me and say, “Nothing set this off,” “I’m depressed for no reason,” or “I suddenly started feeling terrible but nothing happened.” While this may seem true, I can bet on the fact that while the bad feelings might seem random, they are being triggered in some way that you simply haven’t yet identified. Triggers can be foods, colors, smells,sounds, weather, or anything, really! Finding and resolving triggers can become almost an entertaining game if you let it.

As you can imagine, this entire trauma-trigger dynamic is very unsettling and unpredictable—which can feel like danger to your system and keep you stuck in that freakout response. Not only that, but in this state, you can actually be excessively tuned in to your trauma, seeing reminders of it everywhere, which further traumatizes you.

I had an experience after going through a loved one’s difficult health crisis where every single place I looked, I saw reminders of the experience. And for someone who wonders if everything is some greater “sign from the Universe” (fact: not every single thing is) or my intuition is trying to get my attention because another loved one might be in danger (second fact: trauma and fear clouds intuition), it felt like torture to me. I kept meeting people who had the same illness that my loved one had had, saw posters and billboards advertising medications for the condition, and more. As a distraction while on vacation, I had deliberately picked out several seemingly lighthearted books to take—and it turned out a character in every single book had that same medical condition! I was constantly on edge and further traumatized by all of these things. This is a perfect example of what happens to us in a traumatized state: we become highly attuned to the world around us, perhaps subconsciously scanning for danger, but in the process, we see and get triggered by everyday things we’ve probably passed by a million times before. I realized that had I been tuned in to any other single thing out in the world, like peaches, I likely would have seen that everywhere. This recognition actually led to a funny mantra I used during that time to keep things light while I did the deeper healing work: Look for the peaches! But in all seriousness, what happened as I worked to release the trauma, just like you’ll be doing in this chapter, was that I stopped seeing reminders of it. I have to be honest in that this took months of using energy therapy in different ways to overcome the trauma I had experienced, like you’ll be learning soon—but it worked. Did all the people with this condition go away? Did all the billboards get taken down? No. The less traumatized I became, the less heightened my sensitivity to it was. This is a perfect example of why it’s essential to work with unprocessed experiences.

Emotional memory is stored throughout the entire body. Thanks to the work of Candace Pert, we know that “unexpressed emotions from experiences can get stuck in the body at the level of cellular memory.” This is such a simple explanation for why we feel bad when we haven’t resolved our past experiences. We are still quite literally feeling them. And even if it’s at a subtle level, it may only take a “trigger” from that metaphorical glass capsule to awaken it.

While your own unprocessed experiences may not disrupt your life in the way that clinically diagnosed PTSD does, you may relate to what it feels like to have PTSD, when one or a few memories from life takes over all of it. This is, again, why we must deal effectively and consistently with our emotions instead of suppressing them. Otherwise, we are at risk of our emotions becoming part of future unresolved experiences.

Even knowing all of this, there’s no need to panic. Again, not all experiences traumatize you. And, not all traumas will need to be dealt with in order to get you feeling better. But the ones that do need careful attention. I want you to understand that by working with trauma, we are not trying to force a positive perspective on it or make you be okay with something bad that happened to you. Not at all. What we want to do is release the stress it’s causing you, even if that stress is undetected consciously. We don’t want these traumas taking up space and energy in your body anymore or triggering you without your knowledge.

Working with unprocessed experiences will help empty the metaphorical glass trauma capsule so we stop becoming triggered by the world around us. In other words, you’ll be seeing peaches more easily instead of trauma triggers.

This is an excerpt from How to Heal Yourself From Depression When No One Else Can: A Self-Guided Program to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t by Amy B. Scher.

 

amy b scherAmy B. Scher is an energy therapist, expert in mind-body healing, and the bestselling author of How to Heal Yourself When No One Else Can and How to Heal Yourself from Anxiety When No One Else Can. She has been featured in the Times of India, CNN, HuffPost, CBS, the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Curve magazine, and San Francisco Book Review. Scher was also named one of the Advocate’s “40 Under 40.” She lives in New York City. For more, visit amybscher.com.

 

 

how to heal

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The Importance of Being Vulnerable

Emotions are the primary way we connect with others. In fact, for all the ways we perceive that sharing our emotions causes trouble, it’s actually worse for us not to. Sharing our truest, most vulnerable selves actually prevents us from the isolation that occurs when we miss out on the deep connection that only comes from this type of transparency. While social media can be a place of great support, it’s also caused a huge challenge. Because we’ve created a world in which we are addicted to showing our curated emotions, social media posts rarely tell the entire story. We’ve gotten accustomed to holding back our real selves—so much, in fact, that we have a totally distorted view of what’s “real.”

On a wet fall day as I was researching the negative effects of social media for this book, I noticed that a heavy sense of melancholy had fallen over me. Pushing myself to go out for a short walk in my beloved Central Park, only a block away, took every ounce of energy I had. When I was out, my sadness didn’t fade, but astounded by the colorful change of leaves, I felt inspired to take a handful of photos. They were the kind that Instagram is made of. When I got home, I decided to post them on social media. But earlier that day I had read something that was still with me: what happened when Tracy Clayton, host of the BuzzFeed podcast Another Round, asked people to repost photos they’d previously shared on social media, but this time, with the “real story” behind them. The photos that most of us would have longed for had painful stories behind them. One woman admitted to a terrible anxiety attack that took her all day to overcome, someone else shared the grief over a loss of a loved one stuffed under their smile at a party, and so on. What this shows us is that we are all running after a farce. But what’s worse, it shows that we’re all co-creating it.

So after a brief pause, I posted my gorgeous fall photos from the park with this: Full disclosure: Inspired by research for my next book about how social media posts screw us up by making everything and everyone seem OK even when they are not, I’m adding the truth here. These pictures were taken on a walk I dragged myself on because I felt sad today for no particular reason (except for that life is a lot sometimes).

I am typically not a sad person, nor am I one who shares it on social media when I am. I am very transparent on my author account, but for some reason, I am less so on my personal page. The response that day when I shared how I really felt took me by great surprise. Dozens of people I rarely heard from came out of the blue with comments, texts, and private messages. And what most of them were saying was, “I feel that way too.” In our technological age, we are more connected than ever before, but also lonelier and more isolated than ever before. I wondered that day, What if everyone stopped staying so busy pretending everything was perfect? What if instead of hiding our vulnerabilities to prevent the isolation we fear, we are driving it?

The bottom line is that, over and over again, I’ve learned that emotions are better in every way when they aren’t kept inside and to myself. 

This is an excerpt from How to Heal Yourself From Depression When No One Else Can: A Self-Guided Program to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t by Amy B. Scher.

 

amy scherAmy B. Scher is an energy therapist, expert in mind-body healing, and the bestselling author of How to Heal Yourself When No One Else Can and How to Heal Yourself from Anxiety When No One Else Can. She has been featured in the Times of India, CNN, HuffPost, CBS, the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Curve magazine, and San Francisco Book Review. Scher was also named one of the Advocate’s “40 Under 40.” She lives in New York City. For more, visit amybscher.com.

 

 

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