Heartsick and Heart Full

I don’t watch the news. Ever. It’s too negative, upsetting, fear-filled and depressing. Occasionally I see a clip that someone has posted to Facebook. But never a full broadcast.

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly NOW. Love mercy NOW. Walk humbly NOW. You are not obligated to complete the work but neither are you free to abandon it.” -TalmudThat doesn’t mean I’m out of touch, at least not completely. I get some local news on the radio. And, of course, the big events I hear about on Facebook. Especially when there is a series of horrifying events all in a short time span.

You see, I have a lot of friends who are social activists. I’m grateful, honestly. I learn a lot from them, especially about how to be more sensitive to other people’s experiences.

With the recent killings in the US – the Pulse Nightclub, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and police officers in Dallas (and that doesn’t even scratch the surface of atrocities going on in other parts of the world) – the activists on my list are very busy and very vocal. And I’m glad. Because too many times in the past people have been murdered unjustly. Because they happened to be born with more melanin in their skin. Or because they loved someone of the same gender.

By the luck of the draw, or fate, or who knows why, I happened to be born a pale-skinned female heterosexual. I’m not at the very top of the privilege food chain, but I’m pretty darn close. The only ones who outrank me are white heterosexual males in general, and white heterosexual males and females who were born to wealthy families.

I was painfully aware of my privilege this week when I was stopped at a road check. After answering only a couple of questions, I was on my way, with very little hassle. I couldn’t help but wonder how differently that experience might have been if I had been born Black, or, in my area, Native American. Would I have been allowed through as easily? Or would I have been pulled over and questioned more thoroughly? Or abusively?

It’s unfortunate that we need movements like Black Lives Matter and Pride Festivals. It would be so wonderful if we were all loved and loving, accepted and accepting, empowered and empowering. That’s not the case. Gender, race, sexuality and religious beliefs still divide us, and some still think there is a “better than”.

Events such as these hurt my heart. It is hard to observe the hate and fear and violence that so many still live with on a daily, hourly basis. It is even harder to put myself in the shoes of someone who lives in constant fear of being injured or killed because of the things that make them individuals. The pain is overwhelming.

We can’t let the pain stop us, though. At times like this, it is even MORE important to find beauty and good in the world. Not to escape from the pain, in spite of the pain. Because beauty and good are what will keep us going. Finding the beauty and finding the good help us to heal.

This weekend I volunteered at Vancouver Island Music Fest. I saw people pay it forward to strangers, by gifting their unused ticket to the next person who came to buy one, without having any idea who that person might be. I received kindness from a couple who had extra chairs, and let me use one instead of sitting on the ground. I experienced beauty in listening to music performed by people who are both talented and skilled.

Did the music make the pain go away? Not entirely. But it helped me experience beauty and kindness and good, and that fills my heart.

Blessings,

Mary

Struggling With Body Image

Again.

I consider myself to be a smart, educated woman. I’m very well aware of the media’s effect on self-esteem through the narrow image of beauty that they push. I don’t watch television or read magazines.

I see beauty in people of all shapes and sizes. I remind other women that the Goddess is beautiful in ALL her forms, including yours. And most of the time, I feel really good about my appearance. Or at the very least accepting.

Ugly DucklingMost of the time.

Until I see a picture of myself that doesn’t quite fit the one in my head. Then BAM! The ugly monster that I thought I had slain comes back with a vengeance.

It is horrible that I looked at myself and the first thing I thought was, “I really need to lose some weight.” Then comes the shame spiral of “I need to exercise more.” – “When am I going to be able to exercise?” – “Why do I even bother?” – “Can’t I just stay in bed today?”

I’m actually one of the lucky ones. I am aware of the destructiveness of these thoughts, and I’m pretty good about not buying into them. I also have a wonderfully supportive partner who helps to remind me of how beautiful I am, and how much he appreciates my curves.

So now I begin the climb back up out of the pits of despair and back to feeling beautiful. I am beautiful, and I believe that.

Do you feel beautiful today? You definitely are!

This video sums up in a humorous way media’s mixed messages about beauty:

Blessings,

Mary

PS. Did you download all 3 fundamental guided meditations yet? Click here now before you miss your opportunity!

The Things I Do for (the Goddess of) Beauty

We are less than a month away from Spring Mysteries now – getting ever closer to Eleusis. Most of my costumes are ready. There are just a few finishing touches still to be done. Now I’m down to accessories, and hair.

Oh, the hair.

In my mind, Aphrodite has beautiful wavy tresses. Curly even. My hair is not so curly. It waves when it is wet, but not as much when it dries. And not at all once I brush it.

Mary with curlsSo I have been on the search for a way to curl my hair that is not permanent, and doesn’t involve copious amounts of chemicals. For the Aphrodite and Eros dance at The Tab, I did it the “old-fashioned” way – with a curling iron. It took me an hour and a half, and a ton of hair spray. It still didn’t stay that long. The ringlets were gone the next morning, though I did have a certain sexy just-got-out-of-bed look. Which still didn’t last past the brush. Not to mention that I don’t want to be spending an hour and a half at the festival (each day!) curling my hair.

I’ve watched some videos on different types of (really expensive) curling irons, and really cool braids. I know how to french-braid my hair, though I don’t think I could do some of the fancier patterns on my own head. And french braids is one of my options for the wavy look.

I had my eye on some interesting looking ringlet curlers on ebay for a while, and I finally broke down and ordered some. They arrived this week, so I had to try them out. They are pretty simple to use. (If you want an interesting experience, check out the promo video.)

I put them in Friday morning after my shower before work. It took me longer than I expected, so I thought I would use my hair dryer to speed up the process. I didn’t have enough time, and I was going to be late for work if I stuck with it, so I pulled them out. Although my hair was still very damp, I could see that it should create the ringlet look. I decided to try again that night and leave them in over night.

FYI, they are NOT conducive to sleep like it shows in the video, although I had them much closer to my scalp. I slept very lightly all night, because they did not compress. I woke up with a sore neck from my head being lifted the extra bit off my pillow.

But I had perfect ringlets when I took them out in the morning. I put a bit of gel in my damp hair to see how long they would last without hairspray.

By the end of the day, the back had pulled down a lot, but the front curls were still good. Even after sleeping on it (though I did tuck it all up under a hat), it looked ok. So this will work. I just won’t be sleeping on them!

What are some crazy things you have done in the name of beauty? Post your beauty tips and traumas in the comments below!

Blessings,

Mary

“He Called Me His Venus”

Wow. I want to thank all of you who have commented on Healing with Aphrodite. You encourage me to continue exploring this issue, because it touches so many of us. I am humbled.

Goddess VenusBack when my husband and I were dating, I, of course, felt very conscious about my looks. I wore baggy clothes to hide my body, because it was shameful. Or it would lead men, and me, to sin. I didn’t date a lot of men – I wasn’t asked out much, so of course that meant I wasn’t pretty. At least that’s what my head said. But here was a man that I instantly knew I needed to get to know, and he was interested in me.

He’s been very healing for me. I still have the little tiny green notebook that I had back then that I recorded my favorite quotes and sayings in. One page says, “He called me his Venus!” I still smile and feel wonderful when I read it.

He was telling me he thought I was beautiful, comparing me with the Goddess of Love and Beauty, and telling me that my beauty was timeless. Though I may not fit today’s rigorous standards of beauty, that doesn’t mean I am not beautiful. He saw the goddess in me, way back then.

Once we were married, he gently encouraged me to push my comfort zone. Early on in our marriage, I could not walk the 10 feet from the bedroom to the bathroom without putting a robe on. I was not comfortable being naked. He was totally comfortable in his body, able to walk around the house nude, and even host hot-tub parties that were clothing optional in the tub.

Slowly, with his support, I have become more comfortable in my body. I started wearing clothes that accentuate my curves instead of hiding them. I can now walk around my own house in the nude and not have my head on a swivel worrying about who might see me.

We used to “fight” with compliments – he would call me beautiful, and I would call him handsome, then he would call me intelligent, and I would call him genius… Whoever ran out of compliments, or broke up laughing, first, lost. It is a silly game, and it really helped to boost each other up. I know it helped improve my self-confidence.

I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can participate in mixed company skyclad rituals. For those who don’t know, skyclad literally means clothed in the sky. In other words, nothing. This was a huge healing step for me just over a year ago. I did it at a festival, and my husband wasn’t there. I was on my own.

Baring my soul is one thing. That doesn’t bother me. Baring my body is another thing altogether. I was nervous, but everyone was very relaxed (or at least appeared to be), and pretty soon it wasn’t a big deal.

I’ve got another healing/courage step coming up. Traditionally in the ritual drama at Spring Mysteries Festival (which is filling up quickly, so make sure you register soon!), Aphrodite is bare-breasted at one point. This is a bit different from a skyclad ritual in that I will be on display, instead of in a group in which everyone is participating. It will be a huge moment for me to stand tall and be proud of my body as it is.

I’ve come a long way towards body acceptance. It’s still something I struggle with regularly. There are good days and not so good days. Thankfully, I’ve got Aphrodite on my side. And a few friends who are very vocal about accepting bodies as they are. Check out Fat and Not Afraid, The Mundane Mystic, and Gaia Magick Photography for more inspiration.

Blessings,

Mary

PS. Apparently the donation button was not working on my post “The Long Journey to Eleusis”. If you would like to make a donation to help me cover the costs of all my travel for rehearsals, here is a working link:





Healing with Aphrodite

I’m sorry. I’ve been neglecting you, my blog readers.

When I started my crazy schedule in January, I thought I would have time to make more video blog posts. And at the start, I did.

And then I started doing my healing work with Aphrodite – the healing she is pushing me to do. It’s very personal, and emotional, and not the sort of thing I want to be recording a video about on the ferry. So I’ve been putting off the video, which means I’ve also neglected my blog.

So today I decided I need to get something out there, just to let you know I’m still alive, and moderately sane.

Me at the Aphrodite and Eros dance this weekend, pushing my boundaries of self-acceptance.

Me at the Aphrodite and Eros dance this weekend, pushing my boundaries of self-acceptance.

The healing work Aphrodite is doing with me is about body image and body acceptance.

We live in a culture of body shame. As a child, I was taught that our bodies are dirty, our desires are shameful, and we must work to cleanse and purify our bodies and souls. I was molested as a child, which lead to more shame and guilt (though I have forgiven my molester, and, for the most part, don’t let that experience determine how I live my life. Except, apparently, when it comes to accepting my body and my beauty). And I was told when I was 14 that because of my (at the time) tiny pot belly, I looked like I was 3 months pregnant.

I was also a nerd. Being teased for being a nerd definitely does not help one’s self-esteem. Throughout high school, the only time the “cool” kids talked to me was for help with their homework. It’s not that I really wanted to be a “cool” kid. I just wanted to be accepted and acknowledged. But nerd definitely did NOT equal beauty. (Thankfully, geeks and nerds are becoming more accepted now, though high school can still suck.)

Anyway, at rehearsal a few weeks ago, I was told I wasn’t being sexy enough. Not that *I* wasn’t sexy enough, just that I wasn’t letting that come out, I wasn’t letting my beauty and sexiness shine through. And I’m crying again now as I write this. It feels uncomfortable, and embarrassing – that’s not how good girls behave. But why does it have to feel shameful?

I honor and celebrate the Divine Feminine. I see the beauty of the Goddess in ALL her forms. Except mine. I get embarrassed when people tell me how beautiful or attractive or sexy I am. It feels good, and it also brings up a lot of guilt and shame.

We’re told from the time we are little that girls are supposed to be pretty – but not TOO pretty, because then you’re a bimbo. Be sexy – but not TOO sexy, because then you’re a whore. Be attractive to the opposite sex (or the same sex) – but if you flaunt it and don’t “put out” then you’re a tease. The media bombards us with images of beauty that logically I know have been altered, and then sells us all kinds of lotions and potions promising to help us achieve that unattainable image.

This work is not easy. It challenges me, pushes my buttons, and rips me open. Yet I know I need to do this. Not just for me. For every girl and woman who has felt ugly or shameful or otherwise “less than”.

Because the Goddess IS beautiful in all her forms. Including mine.

Blessings,

Mary

 

Journey to Eleusis – On Beauty and Makeup

beautiful even without make up quotes
In working with Aphrodite, I find I’m thinking a lot about beauty. I’m wearing makeup more often, and I’m a bit conflicted about the connection between beauty and makeup.

I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below.

Blessings,
Mary

Time Destroys All Things

Time
This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.

~One of Gollum’s riddles for Bilbo in
The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkein

I had an insight this week while I was meditating on Kali. One of the places I researched is, of course, Wikipedia.

The name Kali comes from kala, which means black, time, death, lord of death, Shiva. Kali means “the black one”. Since Shiva is called Kala – the eternal time, Kali, his consort, also means “the Time” or “Death” (as in time has come). Hence, Kali is considered the goddess of time and change.

Besides the nature of so many of the images we have of Kali, could this be part of the reason we in the West are afraid of Kali? Our society seems to value youth and beauty above all else (except money). We create endless products to slather on our skin, ingest into our bodies, or worse, go under the surgeon’s knife in an effort to preserve the appearance of youth. The media constantly determines what it beautiful for us, and women in particular starve and torture themselves to be more like the images we are shown. And yet all of these, youth, beauty and money, vanish in time.

eyetimeAs a Goddess, Kali is eternal. As time, she really is “dancing the world to destruction” because everything eventually crumbles and decays. Her dance goes on, heedless of our protests or pleading.

The only thing that stops Kali’s dancing in myth is Shiva – in one story he stops her by laying down beneath her feet, and in another version he turns himself into a baby and his crying interrupts her. For me, time seems to stand still when I am with my lover. And nothing else matters when my child is crying.

In both of these stories, love and compassion stop the destructive dance of time. Through the eyes of love, all things are made beautiful. Age no longer matters. And looking with compassion, I am able to find beauty in (almost!) every experience.

My heart is full to overflowing from these realizations. I wish you much beauty this week!

Blessings,

Mary