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Sixteen: A Traveler’s Rambling

My heart calls for travel upon

La nouvelle route de la soie du monde occidental.

Burnt and etched across the dystopian landscape

Set in motion by the American fall – the 16th tarot trump 16 years ago.

Blazing a trail set forth by the blood of my veins –

The Romanichal ancestors whose culture has long been forgotten in my family.

I would be unclean to these ancestors, for as my heart calls to the

Paths across the New Lands, my bed calls for the presence of another Man.

I will be unafraid, as six hearts light my way in the voice of the lady Lenormand,

The Chakano shedding celestial light upon every vignette I glimpse.

The Old Ways are dying, making way for the new.

The Crossroads arise and choices must be made.

I never thought I’d see sixteen again, though now

I can realize it’s power as a coming of age.

But what age am I? Who am I?

*Who is this Flower above me? What is the purpose of this god?

That I know myself in all my parts.*

And my parts lay bare, exposed for all to see,

An offering to the keeper of crossroads, though not given by my choice,

But ripped from me in the process of illumination, elucidation, realization.

I shall live as did the mighty ones, long past and deep within my marrow.

Home shall be the shelter of my own skin,

My medicine shall be the salve of my spirit,

But shall I take flight to run from fata? Or will I embrace her with open arms?

Who am I? A sibyl or a saint? A witch or a warrior? A traveler or a gadjo?

Who is my family? Who shall be at my side?

Shall I unite the salty waters of each ocean in my living?

One coast the birthplace of the reincarnated craft that pulses through my veins.

The mountains of the other coast the birthplace of puri mam and puro da.

What of the sweet waters ‘tween the lakes where my home lies now?

Where does my black heart take me? Where does Spirit lead that I may follow?

Saint Sarah, Black Sara, lead my heart, and pull me in from the thrashing sea

Of my fears and insecurities!

Who have I been? Who am I now?

Who shall I become? Who within myself do I embrace?

Four by Four, the sixteen fold path – this is where I make my home.

Here shall I dance. Here shall I commune with my ancestors past.

Here shall I meet with those that seek my counsel.

Here shall I be who I am, was, and ever shall be.

Speak to me, voices of my ancestors, whispers in my blood!

Guide me through the land of the living from the solace of your resting place

Beyond the Veil.

I am a conjurer. I am a witch. I am a traveler. I am queer.

And I have pride in my roots, and ambition in my branches.

Let me grow towards the stars and the sun.


I very rarely share any of my ramblings such as this. They are usually meant for me, and me alone. They are most often (as this one was) sparked by dreams and the messages passed to me in meditation. This is a piece that marks the start of a calling. I have not edited it, as I wrote it out as it came to me – a petition to those deep within my ancestry that have been speaking more loudly as of late. It is part prayer, part mystery, as much of it took some delineation. My ancestors spoke to me in tongues unknown to me, so I did do a minimal amount of research for the words that were spoken unto me in different languages. (The French was easy, once I got the spelling right. The Romanichal was much more difficult, as this isn’t a language that I’m terribly familiar with.) I used several words that I found in translation, but I’m still not completely certain that I used them within the proper context. Most of what was written was given against the backdrop of conversations in other tongues, and I chose only a handful of the words that I heard in my meditation.

When I receive messages such as this, I spend a great deal of time contemplating and interpreting them. This rambling references two of the predominate forms of divination that I use – Tarot and Petit Lenormand.  It’s a call from my ancestors to get my selves in order to get ready for what’s coming for me. I share this in the spirit of transparency, to show how sometimes these messages come forward and give guidance in the form of mystery, of prayer, and poetic verse. This is to share that even when you receive guidance it very rarely is straightforward, and takes some time to digest, especially when you’re receiving it for yourself.

****In my haste and daze from writing this little ditty, I forgot to attribute a part of it properly! Victor Anderson wrote/shared the Flower Prayer which is part of this post – “Who is this flower above me? What is the purpose of this god? That I know myself in all my parts.” I became so wrapped up in examining the implications and the words that poured forward, I completely overlooked giving credit to the proper source! My deepest apologies, and no disrespect meant!*****

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The Reality of Trauma for Sensitives

I had a fantastic day yesterday. I found myself working with some existing clients as well as new ones. My day was packed to the brim with readings, healing work, and being super challenged in my dance class. I don’t understand where that dream came from. Why now? But wait, that was 2 days ago. Yesterday was a yoga class, an afternoon with another intuitive friend of mine, then more super challenging dance class. Or was it the Reiki class yesterday? I remember….no wait, I don’t. That hasn’t happened yet. Those classes are this weekend. When am I? 

I almost backspaced right through that paragraph to start this piece off a little more cogently, but I decided to leave it there. Why? Because it is an example of what I’m here to talk about in this piece. This is part of the reality of being an intuitive (or psychic, or medium, or empath, or ‘highly sensitive person’ – take your pick for the label, and I’ll be using them interchangeably through the article). This is an especially punctuated part of the reality when it comes to us dealing with trauma.

Last night, for the first time in a long time, I dreamed of my rape. I dreamt it in full color, fully gore detail. I woke up sobbing this morning, my body remembering the pain as if it had just happened. I was scared to look for blood or bruising, and it took me nearly an hour to convince/remind myself that it hadn’t just happened.  This isn’t just a reality for those that understand themselves as being ‘highly sensitive’.  This is the reality of most people who experience trauma, and who get the label PTSD slapped across their forehead, like naming it is actually healing the wound caused by the trauma. (Don’t get me wrong, there is power in naming and understanding PTSD, but too often the healing gets halted once the label is applied, at least in my opinion. But more on this in a moment.)

If this is a commonality for those warriors who survive trauma, then why am I making a distinction between the whole group and the intuitives among them? Well, for one thing, most of us with psychic leanings recognize that time isn’t a firmly well oiled steely machine that only runs in one direction.  Time is more like jello – kind of solid, bouncy, still sort of fluid, and really hard to describe in terms of texture or experience. The more into the intuitive depths you reach, the more ‘timey wimey’ things get, or another way to put it is the more the jello consistency becomes liquidy.

Back to today though. I woke up, and after taking an hour to rise, I sat in a chair staring at my computer thinking of all of the work I still need to get done. All of the writing projects, prepping for class, my own seminary classwork, not to mention needing to mow the grass and do the dishes…. But I was frozen. I was still locked in the fallout of my dream, and any time I would start to move, I would find myself crying. It took me a full four hours to actually come together enough to put on clothes, walk up to the store to get some terrible chicken to eat for lunch as well as few other comfort foods, then I came back. I ate and I decided that I would push through.

I made kala (a cleansing rite) and aligned myself. I then sat. I sat in prayer, then in meditation. Today (as is the case often after such an episode) I found no solace in my prayer. My words weren’t empty, but my heart feels to heavy to hear, so my prayer was a one sided conversation. Meditation brought me no peace, even though I could find the silence within. I saged my space, and I forged ahead to do the unthinking tasks of washing dishes and was going to mow the lawn, only it had just begun to rain. But then I realized, I was still sitting in my chair with my coffee in hand.

I look outside (actually moving my body this time, instead of just my awareness) at the looming overcast sky, so I rearranged the order of things so that I could get the lawn mowed before raindrops began to fall.  A few raindrops fell on my head as I walked up to the grocery store, but not the downpour that I’d seen earlier. Things had shifted, things had changed.

This experience of walking through time is something I’ve discussed with a few psychic friends before, but it seems to be more notably associated with those that are healing from trauma. I personally recognize it as a form of dissociation, a term that sends red flags up for a lot of mental health practitioners, and this is part of why I feel the need to write this little article.

As a sensitive, we often find ourselves embroiled in other people’s junk. We hate drama, yet, we find ourselves covered it in (and frequently in the middle of it).  What allows us to survive while being able to utilize our heightened sensitivity is a certain level of dissociation. Though we dissociate with the world around us – whether that’s the physical world, time, or just the hat that we typically wear in a situation – we then associate with another space, a different space, an altered perspective. As a psychic medium, I do this very on purpose, dissociating from the world of the fleshy living and associating more with the world of spirit. Empaths often accidentally dissociate from their own emotions and associate with the world of the emotions/sensations of others.

The trouble comes when we don’t re-associate with ourselves, with consensus reality. It can also be a problem to rectify the experiences we have when we dissociate and re-associate. When we’re experiencing trauma (whether the experience is currently being enacted in the consensus physical reality or just brushing up against us from the past through the liquidity of time), the knee jerk reaction for many sensitives is to dissociate. That is what our psyches are built to do. It is a coping mechanism. This is survival.

I took a break from writing this to sit outside for a moment. I watched the clouds, heavy and pregnant with moisture, pass overhead, spilling a few minute droplets onto the sidewalk. I felt the shift of the air drop pulling a cool breeze past my head, which is throbbing with a migraine – one of the many points I look forward to after an occurence such as the nightmare. I’m reminded of a question I used to get frequently – “If you’re so psychic, why didn’t you see that coming?”.

First off, I’m not a party trick psychic. I’m not a mentalist, nor am I a dog-and-pony show. I stopped associating with “friends” that treated me as such a long time ago, and I’m much happier for it. (If asked for a reading in a social setting, eventually I may relent, but it’s less of a psychic reading, and more like a sharp tongued drag queen tearing you apart with quips that will probably fly over your head for about 3 minutes before you realize you’ve just been dished….because ‘Reading is Fundamental’.) But to address the unasked (or maybe it’s more self posed) question, things change. Nothing is set in stone. Intuitives, sensitives and artists see things other people don’t; we see potentials when we peer into the future, potentials based upon the current circumstance. Looking at the sky, I can understand why I saw what I did, even though it didn’t manifest exactly in the way that I thought it would. Either way, it got the grass mowed and I got to stay dry.

I liken this line of thinking to another impulse I had earlier. I pulled out my astrological program to start searching for some transit point that I may have missed that would have given me warning about such an experience I had as I slept last night. I also started thinking about the Reiki classes that I’m teaching over the weekend, and how I frequently get a ‘boost’ in my energetic experiences just before I teach a class where I pass energetic attunements. I reached for my lenormand deck to pull some cards for understanding….Then I stopped myself because I realized something.

In the spiritual and metaphysical communities, we often look to find some energetic justification or rationalization for what we experience. This can be a helpful tool, under the right circumstances. Too often, though, these ‘insights’ become crutches, excuses, and justifications. Instead of seeking divination, I chose to do my spiritual work. I prayed, I did kala, I aligned, I journaled. I did the things to help myself instead of wallowing in how the astrological aspects screwed me over.

As a spiritual community, we suffer from this affliction of thinking that once something has a name or label, the work is (at least mostly) done. But it isn’t. It’s frequently just the beginning at that point. Fast food spirituality is as nourishing to the spirit as fast food is to the body. (And trust me, I’m not hating on fast food at the moment. I’m really thinking about that fruit loop flurry that my best friend was telling me about, and that may end up being dinner.) When we train ourselves to go to the places others can’t go or to see what others don’t see (which is exactly what we do when we develop as psychics), then we are forced to deal with our own shit. Our shittiest shit. The shittiest of shitty shit that fucks us up to nearly unrecognizable proportions. And guess what folks – this healing work is ongoing. It doesn’t stop. Growth is not always easy, especially when that involves facing our demons and trying to claim them as allies so that we can be the ‘best me that I can be’.

I’m not writing this piece to talk about ways to deal with our trauma, even though I did share a few of the ways I decided to handle my own today. I wrote this because I’m not the only one out there that goes through this. I wrote this because trauma makes you feel like you’re alone. I wrote this because I feel alone, even though I know that I’m not, and it’s okay. I wrote this because someone out there may need to hear the validation – whatever you’re feeling, it’s okay. You’re allowed to feel it, even if it doesn’t reflect the reality around you, your feelings are valid. Your experiences are valid. You are valued, and it’s okay that sometimes you’re not okay.

You don’t have to justify what you’re feeling. Nobody gets to tell you what your timeline for healing is. And sometimes, shit just happens. Sometimes you may feel more or differently than others feel. Sometimes it’s okay to just cope. Sometimes living is just coping. And today is one of those days for me.

There is help for us though. There are resources available if you need help, or just need to be heard. If you’re struggling I am begging you, reach out.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) has a number you can call for help.  1-800-656-4673

The Suicide Prevention Hotline is another resource that you can reach out to. 1-800-273-8255

If you’re local to the Mid-Michigan Area, or if this is just the best number for you to call, The Listening Ear offers a crisis intervention line. (517) 337-1717

All of these lines operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Reach out if you need the help. I’ve called, and they’ve helped. I’ve been there, and while I’m not there today, maybe you are.

Not everyone is highly sensitive, or intuitive, or what have you. We troll through dark parts of ourselves, mining the shadow for the shards of wisdom and light that it holds. Know Thyself, which is conveyed in my favorite prayer ‘Who is this flower above me? And what is the purpose of this god? That I know myself in all my parts.” (Victor Anderson, Flower Prayer, Anderson Feri/Faery Tradition.) We do this to be of highest service to our godselves and to others. This sensitivity is a calling, and it calls us through some really scary places, but we can shine through. Use every tool at your disposal. Know that you are not the first person who has been standing in your shoes, and know that what you feel is yours to feel, and no positive self talk may change that. Own this space that you are in when you find yourself here, because then you can actually begin to move through it instead of just hiding it.

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The Magic of Now (from PsychicSpiritArt.com)

The Magic of Now

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We can only truly experience the now.  Unfortunately, as humans we tend to get all caught up on living through our pasts instead. We look at life through the tinted glasses of our prior experiences (sometimes to the extreme of reliving them) instead of being centered in the moment as it unfolds before us.

Conversely,  we can also get so caught up in looking to the end result that we are actually living more in the future than in the present.  We can place such a burden of needing to achieve upon our shoulders that we are constantly keeping our eyes on the prize instead of keeping our head in the game,  so to speak.

I personally find myself tending towards a whole lot of both.  I have days where every moment seems to be about crap from my past – big and little stuff. (“Why is this not going like it did when I did this same thing three years ago?” “Hmmm, this is the third time I’ve heard my break-up song from 2004. No wonder I’m feeling all weepy.” and so on.) It’s like I have to make a conscious choice to be the “me that I am now” instead of the “me that I was then”, at least in those moments.

More often though,  I find myself with my wheels turning, thinking about what’s in my future: bills I have coming due in three weeks, events I have on the schedule months from now,  even something as simple as what will I eat for dinner after I teach yoga class a week from now. And you know what I’ve found this amazing process of thinking leads to? Nothing.  As in nothing gets done. As in I think about so much that I begin to feel overwhelmed with a sense of anxiety,  to the point that I choose to procrastinate on doing anything.

Staying mindfully engaged in the present moment is an arduous task to take on. Okay, let’s just be real here. It’s fucking hard to maintain at the beginning of the practice of mindful awareness. Stay thoughts and memories seem to float right on in there like they have a VIP invitation to the party, often followed by judgment of ourselves for these thoughts. (I mean, it’s just they’re just thoughts, right? Why can’t I frigging stay focused on the moment in my goddamn serenity!?)

Ah, yeah, and that brings up another point. Just because you’re in the moment does NOT mean you’re necessarily in a Zen like serenity state of happy yogic la-la bliss. Sometimes the now sucks ass, and trying to convince yourself otherwise is just an open invitation for it to suck more ass. And sometimes that means admitting that the winds are not blowing in your favor at that particular moment. (That means acknowledging things aren’t so favorable, not having a meltdown or wallowing in the suckage.) Sometimes this all it takes for a while new now to manifest.

Here’s the thing that I’ve discovered in my bizarre little journey through life: The Magic happens in the now.  It doesn’t happen when you’re in the future, because the future never comes. It’s always perpetually in front of you. It doesn’t happen in the past for similar reasons. In both of those instances though, having your mindset everywhere and everywhen but in your current here and now, you have no chance of seeing the magic that presents itself right in front of you. And it’s there!

Now, when I say the magic happens in the now, I’m not just throwing out a cutesy little catchphrase folks. Yes, I’m talking about the metaphorical magic of being able to participate fully in your life. Mindful awareness is a gift in and of itself, standing on it’s own merits. But I’m also talking about that OTHER kind of magic. The literal kind.

I won’t go into a huge discussion of what magic is and isn’t (and yes, I am one of those folks who refuses to spell it with a ‘k’), so let’s boil it down to a working definition for the purpose of this post. Let’s just broadly define magic as when a person focuses their will through their intention, aligns it with an external bigger energetic paradigm (the Universe, divinity, spirits, angels, etc.) frequently through symbolic, ritual or ceremonial means, and then Voila! The focused will is manifested in the person’s life.  I left this intentionally broad because for the purposes of what we’re talking about today, it doesn’t matter whether you are working an intricate spell passed down through the generations from traditional witches in Essex, or if you’re making a friggin’ vision board.

If you go through the trouble of putting the call out to the Universe, pulling on the hems of angels, trembling the strands of fate – whatever – then you spend all of your now turning your eyes to the future or getting lost in the past, then there is nowhere to interact with you. It doesn’t matter what method or manner you used to set the wheels in motion, or who/what you called upon (if you called upon anything at all) in your conscious manifesting. If you aren’t available to receive because your nose is glued to your phone, or your mind is wandering through your past, then you’re going to miss what you helped to call to yourself.

The witch’s craft can involve a great many elements – herbal lore, incantations, ritual tools, divination – all manner of various magical goodness. One big area that sometimes gets glossed over, dismissed, or not thought of is magical timing. Many witches are trained on the intricacies of casting by the cycle of moon, as well as observing and flowing with the tides of the natural world through what many term the Wheel of the Year. I’ve known a lot of practitioners over the years – really good practitioners – who would complain that their spells wouldn’t be working, and usually after a hefty conversation we’d inevitably arrive at this conclusion. With that much emphasis on observing the proper timing for your ritual, many practitioners of the arts simply aren’t connected to their present moment in life. Most of the time, these fantastically gifted witches would be balancing their hectic schedules for several days at a time, or wistfully lost in days long since past.  You must be present, otherwise what you’ve set into motion remains perpetually in the future, until it simply fades into nothing but a “could have been”.

This doesn’t mean that we live without memory or planning. That simply isn’t possible. Both memory and planning are really important parts to being able to accomplish almost anything. What it does mean is that we have to recognize where we are putting our meaning, our emphasis. Some people literally frame their entire lives from vacation to vacation, and everything that’s in between is just kind of there. Some people frame their entire spiritual practice from festival to festival, and every day in between is just a countdown or a time to reminisce about what a great time the last festival was. This is where we get all fucked up and miss our mark.

So, why don’t you think about this: What are you doing today that’s adding meaning to your life?  Better yet, just close your laptop or put down your phone and just go do it.  The magic is waiting for you to happen.

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Breathing in Aloneness (from PsychicSpiritArt.com)

Breathing in Aloneness

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I met my yoga mat for practice with the intention of a quick practice to bring myself back into alignment before jumping into writing and painting.  I greeted my practice, blending my movement with breath. My body was hesitant to embrace the fluidity of movement that I typically feel in my practice, but as the heat generated from my core, I felt the asanas (yoga postures) smooth out with each pass through the sun salutation sequence.  I found the focal point of peace and I opened to my Spirit. Then, something shifted, and I suddenly felt tears flowing down my face.

I became aware that my breath was being impeded, and once I brought my awareness back wholly into my breath, I felt myself begin to sob. I gently muffled my sob, and pressed on through the yoga flow of poses. I felt the constriction continue against my breath, and finally gave in and allowed my breath to lead my movement. That’s when I found myself face down on my mat, my hands slipping in a mixture of tears and sweat. I still tried to rail against the crying, tried to force my body into the movements of a sequence of postures, but to no avail. The tears still came, my breath still seized up with staccato sobs punctuating my movements, pulling me back down to the mat.

Finally, I surrendered to my breath and allowed my body to go limp against the floor. I allowed the flow of my flesh to embrace stillness. I allowed my breath to be the gentle unencumbered sobs that accompanied to flow of tears I allowed to flow from eyes.  I rode the wave of this non-movement into an awareness of my emotions, my spirit. I observed what I was experiencing, and finally I found the root of today’s practice, and the mantra that fueled my practice: I am alone.

I recognized this mantra. These words echo through the back of my mind and this sense of aloneness is something that I’ve become persistently aware of, to the point that I’ve become numb to it, as if it weren’t there. But it is. It is always there at the back of my awareness, patiently reminding me of my singularity. Here, in my practice, on my mat, I finally decided to respond to this singular litany.  In this moment of recognition, I breathe into this space and embrace my awareness of being alone.

In my practice, I am alone.

When I walk down the street, I am alone.

When I am with my friends, I am alone.

As I breath in, I am alone. As I exhale, I am wholly in the seat of my self.

I greet myself and the divinity within with compassion. I am alone. But this does not mean that I am lonely.

I begin to move again pressing into the mat, greeting the flow of asanas with focus and acceptance. I find the limitations of my body, and I allow the heat to build within me through my breath once again.  Though I am alone, I am not lonely. Each pose moves into the next through the gateway and momentum of the breath, a part of the flow but distinctly unique and individuated. Though I stand as an individual, I am a part of something bigger than myself.

After a much lengthier, grittier and more intense practice than what I intended, I sat in meditation and reflection.  I am alone in meditation. I am alone in my thoughts.  But I am not lonely.

Buried deep in this feeling, there is a fear, and I am not the only one who feels this fear. It is fear that drives the sensation of being alone into one of despair, of loneliness. But even as fear drives this sensation, it betrays itself. The world is populated by people who are afraid of being alone. We are all connected in this need to be connected. We are all one in our aloneness.

And we are all alone in our oneness. This practice taught me that. Even when I found that point of connection, I was independent. We have to be. We have to honor our individuality in our journey into connection. The leaves must be different than the bark of the tree, though no part is less important than another.  Sangha – community – is comprised of all of the individuals that make up the collective.

We all feel alone at times. It doesn’t matter how surrounded by others we are, how loved we are. Feeling alone is not a reflection of how much others love us. Feeling this sense of aloneness has nothing to with any other person. This sense of aloneness can be scary, but only to that part of us that seeks to validate ourselves against the measure of others.  The fear of being alone arises from ego.

When we are able to pause long enough to just feel the sensation of only ourselves –without the expectations of others, without the fear, without the illusions that we are not connected – then the experience of this state changes.  This awareness can become a tool to help anchor us, to help us see past the illusory shadow cast by our fears, to slowly become aware of the difference between our egos and our true selves.

Once we can center our focus on this awareness, the illusion that we can ever truly be alone begins to unravel. As a community, we move as one. As a world, we all breathe collectively. Each of us individually breathes the same air inhaled by our siblings, by our ancestors, by our neighbors, by the trees, by the oceans, by the Earth herself.  And each breath draws us closer to that divine nature that is succinctly unique, yet paradoxically universal and all encompassing.

And so the journey is written – what began in the fear and pain finds it’s resolution in the breath.

 

The Flower Prayer

Who is this flower above me?

And what is the work of this God?

That I would know myself in all my parts.  –  Victor Anderson, oral tradition

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Labels and Naming (from PsychicSpiritArt.com)

I would personally like to reject most labels that are given for the sake of comfort and conformity. I would personally love to embrace gender-fluidity, stand against the outmoded paradigm of patriarchy, and reach out to find co-creators of a revolution that see the commonality of spirit as the primary trait that yoke us together on our shared journey; with gender, race, belief, attraction and ability being unique expressions upon various spectrums of this unifying spirit meant to be celebrated instead of being concepts used to isolate and divide us. I have just enough of a rebellious streak to find this anti-establishment mentality appealing, but that’s not my motivation for writing this piece.

My true intent of this essay is to address the difference that I give to labels and names, my personal account with labels (which has left a bad taste in my mouth), and why names hold so much power. While it’s true that we need a certain level of labeling to find commonality, so that we understand what it is that we are discussing, the danger comes when people come to believe that these labels are more than an understanding, that they are a hard and fast universal truth.

The biggest problem with labels is that they are assigned externally.  In other words, society/others assign labels.  This is most problematic when it comes to labeling people. The consensus of society works on assumptions that there are a finite number of categories.  This is where the inherent problem begins.  To maintain consensus, (in other words, to maintain order) society must only have so many views and vantage points.  To allow there to be too many different ways of seeing things would make it too difficult for the powers that be to maintain their perceived stronghold of control.

Before you write me off as a crazy conspiracy theorist, let me give a major example to illustrate what I mean: Advertising.  The field of marketing and advertising uses demographic information to sell products. These demographics are labels. What would happen to the way that advertising were done if suddenly gender were addressed as a spectrum instead of the male/female either/or choice that we’re inevitably given? What would happen if race and ethnicity were suddenly de-emphasized in the marketing world, and advertising agencies starting acting like people of color are just as likely to have true wealth as white people? (There are reflections of positive changes that I have actually been noticing in baby steps in advertising. But the overall average is still quite stuck in a stereotype.)

Advertising is just one representation of the perceived “powers that be” who direct the focus of society. It makes sense to want to keep their nice, neat, little labels to be able to organize all of the people to direct them.  Boys should play with this toy.  Girls should wear this outfit.  People of this ethnic group should listen to this music.  And so on.  The truth is this: Labels are not neat and clean. Labels are not truth, because they were never meant to be. Labels were meant to be a tool, and only a tool – not an identity. Sadly, many of us have been duped.

Many labels assigned to us don’t even have anything to do with our demographics, but these are just as often misused and misconstrued. This is where my personal experience with labels come into play.  From a very young age, it was clear that I was……different.  In West Virginia, this got me the label of being a bit ‘touched’, meaning off or crazy or deviant. I was in kindergarten. By the time my family moved to Virginia, my ‘oddness’ and my ‘knowings’ earned me the label of being a witch, so I started on the path to become exactly what was expected of me.  The same thing happened when I was ten and became the ‘faggot’ or (more appropriately, in every sense of the word) the ‘queer’.  Now, before you think that this was just a bunch of kids calling me names, let me inform you that there were just as many (if not more) adults using these lovely verbal points of reference for me.

I took these terms – these labels – as parts of my identity.  I used them to define myself, and while there was truth in these statements, there was limitation and a lot of danger that came with it. I decided that since I was gay, I should learn to do hair, so I completed an apprenticeship in cosmetology. I studied Wicca, which was the only form of ‘witchcraft’ my teen self could find outside of the practices of my family. I literally took their taunts to heart. Their hatefulness defined me. (And we wonder why queer teens are two to six times more likely to attempt suicide.)

Labeling isn’t just something that happens in the formative years of childhood either.  About two years ago, I was sexually assaulted.  Shortly thereafter, I had to share this information with a few people. Those that I was close to held space for me, and couldn’t have been any more wonderful or supportive. Those that were professionally trained to help me though immediately labeled me: victim.  I found that outside of the close circle of about 4 or 5 people that truly held space for me, everyone else reacted in a way that cemented me in the role of the victim.  I was pitied, and told how brave I must be. I was told all of the empty things that you tell a victim when you are trying to convince them that it will get better.

I very quickly decided to mostly keep this to myself. I worked through my healing process as best I could. I went through several counselors before I finally gave up because I just couldn’t find someone that could see me as something other than victimized. I slowly worked spiritually to reclaim my power.  I eventually shared my experience with someone that I knew and trusted to not try to label me. Unfortunately, she fell into the trap of pushing her viewpoint, paired with/behind her spiritual experience. She didn’t push the label of victim, but it was a label nonetheless.

She insisted that I must be a Survivor. I must rise above. I must prove to the world that I am every bit of the man I was before – otherwise that bastard rapist won! And she was quite animated in her insistence. Here’s the thing though – I am not a survivor. I did not survive my rape.

A part of me died. I am not the man I was before. I mourned. I transformed. I had to let go of EVERYTHING from the life I was leading prior to the assault, and then slowly reclaim the pieces and parts that actually fit me. I am now more myself than I think I ever have been because of it, but I am no survivor.

This is where I finally introduce the difference between naming and labeling. I’ve made this distinction to help me wrap my brain around a few spiritual concepts, as well as provide a tool for empowerment.  To me, naming could superficially be seen as how we choose to categorize ourselves.  It can be thought of as the self derived, self empowered version of labeling. But, to me, it’s so much more.

In some forms of magic, it’s said to know a spirit’s name gives you power over it. Uttering the names of deities from the Kabbalah or mantras from Vedic and Tantric traditions is a way of invoking their power. In short, names have power. When we name ourselves, we are giving ourselves a kind of power, or maybe more appropriately, affirming a kind of power for ourselves.

To me, naming is something that is seated deeply in the Spirit, down to cockles of the Souls. To claim your naming is to set yourself on your path of truth. To find a name is to find a home. I think of the example of a transgendered person claiming their proper gender.It isn’t just a ‘Huh, yeah, ok’. It runs so much deeper. It’s a powerfully resonant truth that is driving enough to help them shift and change a lifetime of gender based assumptions levied onto them. Naming runs deep.  For me, I’ve had to name and re-claim my names several times throughout my life.

Part of the discrepancy I feel from being labeled a survivor comes from my spiritual practice.  If I am to be a victim or survivor, then I am to carry the hurt and pain of the attack with me for the rest of my life. I am supposed to be ‘brave’ like that, and to me, that simply isn’t healthy. My spiritual practice is one of forgiveness. I forgive my attacker. Not for him, but because I refuse to carry that bitterness. I forgive myself for the attack. I forgive those that hurt me after the attack, that didn’t respond the way I needed them to. I do this so that I can take this burden off of my shoulders. I do this so that I no longer have to wear these labels. I am no faggot. I am not touched.  I am no victim. I am no survivor.

I have journeyed long, and I have found many homes in several names. I reclaim my home in the practices of yoga. I reclaim my name as witch, as healer, as psychic.  I claim my name as artist.