Two years ago, December 2017, I began on a journey I had been starting my whole life. I’ve always been too conscious. I’d always asked to many questions. But there I was, finally doing something about it.

Sure, I’d meditated before. Sure, I’d fasted and journaled and exercised and read personal development books and articles – sure – I’d been obsessed. Sure, I’d been following High Existence online for years, but there I was: doing something about it.

I had seen HE’s 30 Challenges to Enlightenment bopping around on the interwebs for a while already, but I had only just bought the program and December 2017 was my first official 30 Day Challenge: High on Existence. No drugs, alcohol, nicotine or caffeine for a whole month – and because I’m me, I included sugar (I’m more addicted to it that any of those other substances). I anticipated a difficult time, but was pleasantly surprised: I actually enjoyed myself.

Development and Growth

Subsequent challenges would prove more difficult and with time my personal development would again evolve, but I can’t help thinking back to the ease of that December, and how empowering it felt to feel so in control of myself. Flash forward to today though: I’m a mess.

I keep waking up late, I’m gloriously failing at implementing my own Sadhana practice for my Kundalini yoga teacher training, my self-care has been minimal, I can’t seem to keep up with my responsibilities and I’m randomly overwhelmed with such intense emotions and thoughts that they consume my whole being. Ah yes, the putrid smell of growth.

Since December 2017 so much has happened in my life, I feel like almost an entirely different person. I’ve taken trips to the underworld and back with Momma Aya, I’ve begun to develop a more comprehensive understanding of my Being through yoga and meditation, I’ve started developing peer and mentor relationships with people I admire and respect, I’ve learned Reiki and began practicing Divination for others, I’ve started to heal trauma and confront fears, I’ve begun bloging and am blooming more purposefully in my life… All to find myself here: feeling more out of control than I did back then, before any of this began. But is that really what’s going on?

No Longer Playing Games

You see, along with my personal development, I’ve been doing deep spiritual work too. It’s not as simple as getting “better,” it’s about dismantling my egoic understanding of “better” and the manipulative devices I am conditioned to deploy in this world as a result of those delusions.

You see, 2 years ago my ego was still calling the shots. Being able to detach from my vices so easily felt good because it confirmed my biases about my abilities to manipulate myself – er, I mean exert self-control. But those subsequent challenges? The meditations and self-care? Those required so much more than self-manipulation.

In the last 2 years I’ve learned to give my ego a backseat, and it’s shaken everything up. At times, I am literally completely out of control – in fact, I aspire to be totally out of control. Yet, my ego is still there, still screaming and throwing fits. It’s not so nice when it’s not getting it’s way: confirming biases and coming out “on top.”

Choosing a Master

Alas, there we were, still listening. See, I may have put Ego in the backseat, but Spirit was still back there too. Observer was up front with Wisdom navigating, but kept getting distracted by all the commotion:

Are we there yet?!” Ego likes to scream.

Where exactly do you want to be?” Wisdom replies, “You haven’t exactly helped us formulate a plan E.”

“Be here,” Spirit wispers.

“I don’t know, I don’t care!” E screams, “Anywhere but here! Somewhere exciting! Let’s do something good, let’s do something seen. I don’t want to waste my time, and I’m not letting any of you waste yours either.”

“We’re all in this together E, and I love your passion,” Spirit cooes, grabbing E’s hand on the seat between them and giving it a little squeeze while gazing deeply into E’s potential.

Ego recoils sharply, with a look of disgust for Spirit’s vulnerability and affection. Spirit remains, unfazed by the discomfort and reaction.

“Well?! Go O!” E yells again, at which point Observer is startled to find itself in the driver’s seat, speechless.

“Seriously?! What’s your problem? Just GO!” Ego exclaims, growing in ferocity.

Observer turns to Wisdom for guidance and W shrugs as if to say, “I know.”

And this sort of thing was going on for a while… ‘Round and ’round; it’s completely immobilizing. It couldn’t continue, I had to choose a different driver.

It would seem, despite my naive assumptions of meditation training, that Observer isn’t the best driver – but I can’t put Ego back in that seat again either. Wisdom is squarely in the navigation position, of its own personal assertion, so that leaves Spirit.

The most obvious and unassuming of all. Of course, surrendering to Divine grace is the answer! But have you tried to actually do that? It’s not exactly easy.

Seeing Clearly

It’s not as simple as deciding to do something and doing it anymore. Everything is scrutinized and examined, mostly because Ego is in the backseat DEMANDING it to be so. That’s been one of the major lessons in my life this past year: much of my “personal development” has actually been more “Ego development.”

Even putting Observer in the driver’s seat was Ego’s move. E knew that O could be manipulated, overwhelmed and controlled. Spirit is always the one to, not fight back but, remain tranquil and resilient despite anything Ego tries to do. As far as Ego’s concerned, “SPIRIT CANNOT BE THE DRIVER!”

I’ve only just made this choice as consequence of my calling to Kundalini and everything I’m dealing with now are just the consequences. It’s seriously maddening at times though. I am actually at war within myself.

Ego knows it’s different this time, and it’s not giving up control without a fight. It’s using everything it can to its advantage: old patterns, pain, manipulation, self-sabotage and symptoms of mental illnesses all resurfacing within me to try and force E’s desperate agenda. And yet, with Spirit now in full power, I am unphased.

Accepting the Promises of Grace

Maybe I’m not waking up and doing the perfect Sadhana every day, but I’m reconstructing the patterns within my heart and mind that have made me content in my excessive comfort. Maybe I’m not practicing self-care or approaching my goals and projects as mindfully as I want to, but I am rooting out the lies of unworthiness, insecurity and fear that have plagued my life. Maybe I’ve not yet mastered the simplicity of my own Sovereignty, but with Spirit at the healm it’s only a matter of time before I get better and better at developing those skills and understandings too.

Personal development can look like a flawless execution of a challenge, but it can also feel like falling apart. Dense pockets of conditioning require a bit of finesse and tenderness, but they have to be worked through. Whatever isn’t flowing, is growing stagnant and contributing to dis-ease.

As much as we want to undergo growth to feel better, we have to be willing to work through even those patterns and pains that make us feel worse. True healing doesn’t happen at the surface, and this is just one of those times I get to explore a messier side to the art of growing. Even amidst the struggles I can rejoice knowing I will make it through.

“Ah! Fine! Can we at least get going now!?” E says in a defiant huff.

“Only once you’ve calmed down dear one, where we are going an attitude won’t serve you…” Spirit encourages with a smile, “but we’ve got all the time in the world to sit, here, with you.”

Ego’s eyes grow big with disbelief and wonder. Caught within the illusions of its own fear, subject to everything but distractions, for once E seems itself speechless – emitting only: “… okay.”

Very busy with Friendsgiving today, so to free up some of my time I’m posting some old writing. I hope you enjoy these stream of consciousness observations about beauty that I wrote down over 5 years ago, and please let me know your thoughts on this topic too.

I’ve never considered myself to be truly ‘beautiful.’ Perhaps that’s sad, but I think it’s a truth for many women. Sure, we may look in the mirror every so often and think (or even say) ‘damn, I look good’ but it’s typically right before we think ‘except…’ Readjusting, squeezing, primping, plucking, masking, and the list goes on – we’re never quite right and there’s always something more to be done. I’m sure that the pressure exists for men as well, and perhaps it’s not fair that it’s socially acceptable for females to slather on cover up or maneuver ourselves into body shapers while the males have to just deal with the hand they’ve been dealt, but the fact remains that this type of self-manipulation is expected and celebrated.

What’s worse is the fact that these manipulations aren’t even promoting real beauty. For example, when you look at a beautiful landscape it’s not typically ‘perfect’ – there are scars, flaws, variations – it’s the whole, the wide view lens, and the act of taking it all in that leaves you gazing on in wonder. We typically have this type of appreciation for others all the while examining our own reflection with magnification. This excessive scrutiny is taking over lives and confusing onlookers; even I have no idea why I give my attention and admiration to some of the examples I do…

I saw a picture on Facebook, well actually three of them, of an acquaintance of mine and one of her friends – now, this acquaintance is gorgeous by anyone’s standards (thin, tone, tan, etc…) but next to her friend she looked heavy and frumpy. The friend struck the same, seemingly pre-practiced pose in all three pictures – this girl was extremely thin, to the point that from the side her breast implants were obvious (being the only visible curve aside from her butt, which she was promoting with an uncomfortable arch of her lower back), her tan was unnaturally dark, her hair unnaturally long, and her gaze (which never met the camera) and expression lacked any life at all… This poor girl looked so manipulated and fake that it made me uncomfortable, and yet her ‘perfectly’ poised self somehow managed to cast a shadow over my acquaintance’s usually glorious physique. It made me sad; sad for the friend because it was horribly obvious that her own insecurities had been magnified to the point of completely controlling her, and sad for my acquaintance because she was being compared with an example like this.

I hope to never look like that friend in that picture, yet when I look in the mirror I’m examining my flaws and adjusting my appearance just as I’m sure she does (albeit, not to the same extremes). Why do I allow myself to be influenced this way? Why is it that it’s more difficult for me to pick out things I like about my appearance than it is to find things I don’t?

It’s that time of year: everything seems to be winding down and speeding up, all at the same time. Friendsgivings and family get togethers to plan, snowy days and hot beverages to enjoy, gift and card lists getting longer – everything helping to foster a bit of seasonal cheer.

I wasn’t always a fan of the hustle and bustle though.

The Littlest Grinch

Kids are supposed to like the holidays, especially Christmas, but in this and many other ways I just had to be different. I was miserable and wanted company. I didn’t understand why we were killing trees and forced to see family members that we otherwise had nothing to do with.

It all seemed excessive, pointless and contrived. I didn’t keep these thoughts to myself either. I remember being asked to help decorate the tree once and responding obstinately, “I’ll watch but you can’t make me participate.”

Image: Panda Whale

I was raised Christian and had a voracious appetite for knowledge as a kid. These two aspects of my childhood were consistently at odds but ultimately lead me to the depth of spiritual experiences I enjoy today. Back then though, I was always asking too many questions.

I knew Christ’s most probable birthday wasn’t in December. I never had the chance to believe in Santa and though I had generally unlimited access to the Bible, other Christian texts, encyclopedias and my homeschool curriculum, anything with actual Pagan or eclectic spiritual content was completely prohibited. I simply didn’t have the framework my inquisitive mind needed to appreciate these Pagan, albeit bastardized traditions.

Transformed

Today, I am the householder for my grandma’s mountain estate. I am the hostess for Friendsgiving and holidays. I not only decorate for but plan, pull off and even enjoy Christmas festivities now.

I’m sending out cards this season. It’s reached a critical level. I am a full fledged holly jolly person these days.

Image: funnybeing.com

So what changed? It’s true, I am not the same person as that very stubborn little girl, but even just years ago I struggled with seasonal affective disorder and abhorred all holiday traditions. For all my personal development and growth, I’ve still felt like I had to manipulate myself into participating and pretend that I cared about these things I genuinely found frivolous for the majority of my adult life.

The change wasn’t about me, it was about my awareness. I became aware of the Pagan roots, the actual traditions and the intentions behind the creation of these holidays. That’s it!

Creating Genuine Appreciation

Granted, awareness isn’t always endearing. Thanksgiving isn’t one of those holidays with admirable roots, but it’s still important to be aware.

Knowing what was done to the indigenous North Americans following their naive hospitality towards the pilgrims, I can purposefully acknowledge both humanity’s capacity for good as well as for evil. I can make meaning that extends beyond media and cultural portrayals and stereotypes, becoming more intentional, respectful and truly grateful. Personally, I celebrate what I call Displaced People’s day instead of Thanksgiving, trying to bare in mind that humanity’s greatest threat, as well as benefit, has always been humanity itself.

Image: The Atlantic

Appreciation doesn’t mean adoption. Christmas is another one of those celebrations I’ve found joy in tweaking for myself. From the outside looking in, it’s all the same, but my heart is filled with cheer because it knows the true original intentions of the traditions I have now. I will be celebrating a sort of Yule/Saturnalia mash up.

I will decorate because bringing more lights and greenery into the house is an ancient practice for combating seasonal affective disorder. I will give gifts and send cards because during this coldest and darkest time of the year it’s more important than ever to encourage and support our loved ones. I will cook for family and entertain friends to create a sense of warmth and community in order to offset the isolation of winter.

Letting the Truth Inspire

I don’t need Santa coming down the chimney with diamonds. I don’t need lavish gifts or celebrations. I don’t need religious obligations. Just give me the truth.

I can relate to feeling cold, sad and alone in winter! I don’t want my loved ones to feel that! Of course I’ll do my part to encourage and support my community so that we all make it through to see another spring!

It’s that easy.

Image: Instagram

Turns out I wasn’t every really obstinate. I always wanted the truth. Now that I’ve got it, nothing else matters.

“The simple truth will always have the most power and potentiality.”

mayryanna

Happy holidays and blessed be my beloveds – and yes, I sincerely mean that!

I have two loving, aware, compassionate, snarky and personality-filled familiars:

“Really May? Right up in our faces today?!”
My Lucas (left) & Sammi (right)

They aren’t my pets, but they are my partners. They mostly prefer to be indoors and are genuinely appreciative of my hospitality, never shying away from requesting their favorite foods or a full body massage, but they also like to wander sometimes. I let them out to explore this mountain top because I want them to remain autonomous – the times they haven’t returned for a night or more I have been concerned, but they have indeed always come back.

They don’t belong to me, but they are mine in the same way I am theirs. We sincerly love and appreciate one other. Our souls nurturing and nourishing each other’s.

I found Lucas when he was just days old, at the bottom of a box of junk where his too-young mother couldn’t get to him. He would’ve died if I hadn’t “gotten a feeling” to look in that obscure place for something I didn’t *know* existed. He has been my ride-or-die kitteh baby ever since, helping through some of the most difficult and painful times of my life. He has been the medicine for my aching heart, pillow to catch my tears and most trusted confidant – I owe that cat the world. Such an amazing friend.

Sammi came to me in college from a sorted past with a bit of trauma already. His brother Salvatore was with him initially but died due to complications from his own past trauma just 6 months later. Despite his short life, he was loved dearly and is still very missed.

Sammi doesn’t let his own past or grief hold him back at all and inspires me with his silly, kind and curious nature. He is the first to greet anyone through the door, very vocal, affectionate and has softened some of the most bitter blows in my adult life with loud purrs during under the covers cuddles. He is a true treasure and encouragement in my life every day.

I consider anyone who gets to meet my cats very lucky, and if on the rare case they don’t like someone, I always take note. They are more than just animals, they are my teachers and companions. I am blessed to have been chosen to take this soul journey with such compassionate and generous beings.

Sammi and Lucas 6 years ago – they’ve always been my little shnuggle butts

Image: Google

A couple weeks ago I posted on my personal social media about doing a “no-thing” year, starting November 1st after Samhain. It’s officially been one week since the start of this new focus for my personal development and I feel called to flush out my parameters for this goal.

Already I’ve noticed some points of tension:

  • Food, and/or
  • Household purchases

Living with grandma, my own personal choices are never purely concerned with me. So, how do I navigate grocery shopping when I want to stop buying “things” myself but grandma always gets whatever she wants?

Likewise, what about household items? Hand and dish soap? Toiletries?

Image: Google

Taking it Easy on Myself, to Start

Given that this commitment is for a year, I’ve decided to ease in to it for the sake of longevity. So, I don’t have all the answers yet, but I plan to get them via this challenge rather than in spite of it.

I will continue to shop for the household items and food as I have been, but will also be examining my own consumption to try and determine what “things” aren’t necessary or are only serving me. However, for the time being I am not going to be finicky about insuring I don’t consume household or food “things.” Towards the end of December I will be reevaluating this portion and further acting on the observations of these next two months.

Image: Google

So, what are the solid parameters I am starting with then?

My “No-Thing” Year Rules:

  • Stop purchasing “things” for myself
    • Clothes, Shoes, Accessories, etc
    • Make-up or Personal Toiletries
    • Books, Journals, Notebooks, etc
    • Knickknacks, Blankets, Art, etc
  • Stop purchasing “things” as gifts (because of who I am, I started collecting holiday gifts for friends/family in October, but I will be crafting/making any other gifts I might still need or focusing on gifting experiences)
  • Stop consuming food “things” personally
    • Fast foods, to-go coffees, snacks, candies, etc (packaged food-like products)
    • Focus on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts or homemade
    • Take notice of “things” consumed as meals (packaged/premade products) by myself and grandma, looking for ways to reduce these habits and return to whole-foods
    • The hospitality of others will be accepted gratefully regardless

That being said, I anticipate a few more grey areas:

  • Gifts = will still be accepted, gratefully
  • Returns = recieved items may be exchanged for other “things”
  • My Cats = will still be getting their foods, litter, treats and toys as they always do
  • Souvenirs = not allowed; myself and others will have to be content with stories and pictures from any trips taken
  • Subscriptions, Memberships, etc = to be reevaluated, only kept/purchased if deemed necessary for my work
  • Experiences, Trips, Courses, etc = not to be limited by this commitment, but still considered on a case by case basis
  • Miscellaneous =
    • This commitment is not a justification for increased spending in other areas
    • I will not ask or “hint at” others to purchase “things” on my behalf (this doesn’t apply when asked what I would as holiday/birthday gifts)

Maintaining Flexibility

All that being said, I am excited to have opportunities to explore my consumption habits and may make adjustments and changes as I go. When I am reevaluating for 2020 at the end of December I will likely choose the next point of reevaluation, and so on.

The purpose of this commitment is to purposefully establish myself as a consumer, not to merely stop all consumption. As humans, we all consume, digest and produce waste in a variety of ways, this isn’t itself a flaw. It is over-consumption that causes imbalance and it is this trend in my own life that I desire to quell.

The minimalist lifestyle is highly appealing to me, but I am not at a place in life where I can make that drastic of a change. Therefore, I am taking more modest steps in that direction.

It makes sense to me that prior to reducing my stuff, I need to get my purchasing under control. I need to create some space to discover what is truly essential. Otherwise, I’ll simply replace what I get rid of.

Perhaps along my journey this year I will find myself naturally and organically reducing by using up things I already have. Perhaps there will come a time for more purposeful purging. Regardless, this is sure to be an illuminating experience!