The Magic of Working With Difficult Emotions (part 1)

girl-107163_640We all experience challenging emotions at times. It can be all too easy to get caught up in our reactions to these intense and unpleasant feelings.

We might find ourselves getting irritable and taking out our anger on our loved ones. Or we might find ourselves spending a lot of time and energy disconnecting from ourselves in order to avoid feeling what we feel. This article will help you overcome and successfully resolve your feelings.

Imagining Another Way

But what if we could learn to welcome such emotions instead? What if we could learn to experience our difficult emotions as gifts, as opportunities to deepen our self-care and spiritual practice, as potential allies who have much to teach us?

If you are interested in pursuing this approach, here are several steps that you can take to befriend your pain and sorrow, your anger and fear. These steps are presented as a rough outline; feel free to choose your own path, to mix and match elements of them, to skip over or replace some of them or to work through them in whatever order makes sense to you.

Accept that you feel what you feel.

Before we can start to move or transform any emotion, we have to simply be present with it. We have to stop resisting, stop fighting, stop pretending that what’s happening is not happening.

Acceptance is powerful medicine. It’s the best antidote for all the convoluted snarls and tangles we can find ourselves stuck in. For many people (including myself), it’s so easy to start feeling bad because we feel bad.

I often find myself feeling angry or sad that some old familiar pain has resurfaced in my heart. I might start to believe false stories, such as that I’ve always felt this way or that my sorrow is never going to end.

This dynamic can also show up in different ways. For example, you might be scared of the intensity of your own anger. Or you might be ashamed of the depth of your grief. You might be frustrated because your emotional reactions don’t seem to make rational sense.

But you don’t have to beat yourself up for feeling how you feel. You can simply accept that this is where your heart is, in this moment, and trust that, no matter how lost you might feel, you are on a long and winding path towards wholeness.

Ask for help…

friends-204324_640We don’t have to deal with our pain and difficulties alone. We are stronger when we are interconnected, when we draw on the many resources that exist within and around us.

Asking for help can look very different for different people. It can also be quite different for one person at different times in their life. One important strategy is to cultivate a network of emotional support.

When you have a range of relationships with people that you enjoy and trust, you can often find great comfort and help. It can be challenging for most people to reach out when they’re overwhelmed. Because of this, it’s often a good idea to ask people beforehand if you can contact them for support when you’re having a hard time.

…From all your allies.

As magical practitioners, we have the ability to ask for help from more than human allies. Depending on your tradition and preferences, you might reach out to Gods and Goddesses, to faeries and elemental spirits, to your ancestors and/or to angels and spirit guides.

All of these can be great sources of healing, soothing and spiritual insight.

Some people also cultivate relationships to non-human allies who exist physically in this realm. For example, many magical people use crystals for a variety of emotional balancing purposes. You can also use herbal teas, plant-based remedies and aromatherapy oils in similar ways.

If you have rituals that you are familiar with, performing them during a trying time can be a great way to comfort yourself. Doing something familiar can also help you feel empowered and competent.

A Simple Prayer to Ask for Help

Emotions and Candle Ritual
Emotions Candle Ritual

Here’s a very simple ritual that you can do if you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you need to something quick and easy, or if you simply aren’t sure how to ask for spiritual help. Light a candle. Imagine that your heart is a bud, a tightly closed flower.

Say out loud, “Divine Beings, Spirits of Benevolence and Grace, I ask for help. I ask for support and comfort to enter into my life. I am willing to open and be changed.”

Imagine that the flower of your heart is opening and blossoming. Imagine that your heart is giving off a sweet, alluring scent that draws love and connection towards it. Allow yourself to see any images of support that might appear, like honeybees, to pollinate your heart.

Check back next month to read part 2 of this article, which will explore expressing difficult emotions and gleaning lessons from them!

Harvesting the Magic of Autumn

 Some rightsreserved by gre.ceres http://www.flickr.com/photos/greceres/
Grain in Autumn

This time of year is the harvest, when the fruit and grains that ripened in summer are gathered in. It is a time to give thanks and a time to take stock, a time to share the bounty we have been given and a time to consider the fruits of our labor. Here are several ways that we can align ourselves spiritually with the magic of harvest.

Count Your Blessings

In this season of bounty, it’s important to take time to acknowledge all the many gifts we’ve been given. Of course, for each of us, the exact nature of these blessings is different.

And for each of us, the best way to take stock of our gratitude is different. You may want to write down a list in your diary or magical journal. You may want to gather with some friends and community members in order to speak your reflections out loud. You may want to create some other form of expression, such as a song or a painting or a collage.

The point of this exercise is to survey your life. Allow yourself to become aware of all the things that bring you joy and contentment, whether those elements are relationships with other people, features of the natural landscape, physical objects, or freedoms that you enjoy.

Sometimes this exercise can bring up feelings of scarcity or lack for people. If nothing else, you can start with the eyes that you’re using to read these words and the mind that you’re using to understand them. You are alive, which is in itself a great and miraculous gift.

Once you begin to connect to your gratitude, you are likely to find more and more items to include in your count.

Remember Your Part in Creating the Feast

As you sit down to the harvest table, take some time to consider the food that’s in front of you. This food might be metaphorical or literal; it might be literally the fruits of your garden, the ripe apples of the trees you tended, the bright orange globes of the pumpkins you watered all summer. Or it might be the relationships you’ve deepened this year, the lessons you learned, the abundance you created for yourself, the projects you completed.

Whatever your harvest is, it’s something that you created. It’s the result of the seeds you planted in the spring and all the weeding and nurturing you did in the summer.

So after you thank the world for all the gifts you’ve received, thank yourself as well. Remember the part you played in manifesting this harvest feast.

If You Reap What You Sow…

And after you’ve expressed your gratitude, consider: does the food that’s before you truly nurture you? Is there something missing? Is there something that you wish wasn’t there?

If you do notice a desire for something to be different, be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to simply be aware, without judgment or blame.

And imagine, if you can, that the difference that you’re craving is already present, that the difficult fruit is gone or the missing bounty is there, sitting on your table. And ask yourself, or ask the harvest, how did that nourishment come to be here? What seeds did I plant in order to invite this gift into my life? What did I sow in order to reap this bounty?

The answers you receive can serve as inspiration for next year’s garden.

Bigger than Human

These meditations, while beautiful and helpful, are very human. If you want to connect to something larger than yourself, something wilder and more ancient, harvest is also an excellent time to do so.

The easiest way to do so is simply to take nature walks as often as you can. This can be a little challenging, as the blissful heat of summer starts to give way to the cold and dark of winter. Personally, I have found that consciously spending time outdoors makes it easier for me to adjust to seasonal transitions, both in terms of physical comfort and in more emotional and esoteric ways.

As you walk, allow yourself to notice the changes that are taking place all around you. Let yourself feel whatever you feel about the colder winds and the dying leaves, whether that’s sorrow or excitement.

After you have acknowledged the arising feelings, say a small prayer of thanks. Thank the summer for the bright sun that feeds growth and abundance. Thank the autumn for being the time of harvest, the time of gathering, the time of change and preparation. Thank the winter that is coming for the deep rest and the sheltering dark.

The Viking Vision of Peace and Plenty with God Freyr

448px-Freyr_by_Johannes_GehrtsWe’ve already explored the central roles that physical strength and war play in Viking mythology. But the Vikings were a multi-faceted people; they also told stories that celebrated peace, diplomacy and the courage to give up your arms and embrace those who had once been your enemies.

Again, the Vikings’ mythology reflected the conditions of their actual lives. No people, no matter how fierce, could continuously be at war. Many of the conflicts the Vikings experienced were no doubt internal conflicts, fights between various Viking families and clans. They needed inspiration and guidance on how to restore peaceful relations after violent disagreements.

Who is Freyr?

Several of the most potent Viking stories of peace feature the God Freyr. Freyr is a God of sunshine and plenty, pleasure and generosity. He is said to bring blessings of peace and prosperity to humans who honour him. Freyr has a close relationship with humanity; legends claim him as the Father of the Royal House of Sweden.

The story of how Freyr came to live in Asgard, home of the Norse Gods, is a tale of reconciliation going back to the very roots of Viking mythology. The Gods themselves were once split into warring clans: the Aesir and the Vanir. The Aesir, led by Odin, invaded the homeland of the Vanir, where Freyr lived with his fellow Vanir Gods and Goddesses.

The two clans fought each other bitterly. As you might expect from beings of vast supernatural power, the war between the two families of Gods went on for a long time, causing vast damage and loss to both sides.

Eventually, both the Aesir and the Vanir were ready for a peace treaty. In order to ensure that both sides honored the peace, the two families exchanged hostages; several Aesir Gods went to live with the Vanir in their homeland, and Freyr (as well as his sister Freya) went to live with the Aesir in Asgard.

Though he comes from an enemy clan, Freyr’s charm and contagious optimism soon won him the trust of the Aesir. As a token of their respect, the Gods gave Freyr Alfheim, the world of the elves, to rule over. In time, Freyr became one of the most prominent and powerful Gods in the Norse pantheon. He is the God of Sacred Kingship and masculine fertility, the bright sun who brings growth and plenty to all the land.

The Blessings of Freyr

A detail from Gotland runestone G 181, in the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm. The three men are interpreted as Odin, Thor, and Freyr.

The gifts that Freyr brings are those that come from a long peace; abundant harvests, stockhouses full of meat and cheese, celebratory feasts where neighbouring clans come together and dancing might lead to strangers becoming spouses.

Freyr himself fell in love with a stranger, in another old tale about the power of peace. He became infatuated by Gerd, a giantess. The giants were a race at war with the Gods. In order to win the trust and affection of his beloved, Freyr agreed to cast aside his magic sword. He won the hand of Gerd and the two were happily married. But Freyr’s sacrifice of his weapon came with a price; he was destined to be slain in the final war, Ragnarok.

Freyr, Lord of the Sun, can teach us how to move from strife and distrust towards peace and prosperity.

Working With Freyr

Ask yourself:

* Is there a way I can turn the forces I see as my enemies into my allies instead?
* Where do I need the life-giving abundance of the sun?
* What am I willing to sacrifice in order to find love and trust?

Freyr teaches us that peace and prosperity are bound up together. In the world of the Vikings, freedom from war meant more hands to work the fields and gather the harvests. For any society, it’s much easier to get along with your neighbours when you know there is plenty of food and sunshine to go around.

In the end, Freyr’s most powerful blessing seems to be the realisation that the well being and prosperity of our neighbours -even those we might sometimes deem enemies–brings good to us as well.

Dancing With Summer’s Light

sunflowers
Sunflowers

This time of year, the days seem to stretch on forever. The afternoons, overflowing with golden sunlight, seem to go on and on.

Whatever age we are, we can’t help but remember the promise and delight of summer holiday: swimming and taking long walks in the woods, savouring ice cream cones and watermelon slices, bike rides and games of tag and epic water fights.

In the natural world, a celebration is happening as well.

The trees are gratefully soaking up the abundant energy of the sun, transforming insubstantial light into the solid substance of their sweet, swelling fruits. The fledgling birds and young animals who were born in the spring are leaving their nests and dens behind, venturing further and further out into the wide world.

Summer Magic and Fun

Lughnasagh
Lughnasagh

During summer, aligning ourselves with the rhythm of the seasons can seem easy and appealing. Now, the call is for us to expand, to drink in the wealth of inspiration and light and to use this abundance to nourish the fruits of the projects and intentions we planted earlier this year.

Summer is also an excellent time for us to reconnect with the beauty and simplicity of the wild world. Whether you’re drawn to going on hikes in the wilderness, to taking long walks in your neighbourhood or to sailing on local rivers and lakes, the long, warm days are the perfect opportunity to spend more time outside, to strengthen our bodies while simultaneously deepening our relationship with the living body of Gaia.

The increased presence and activity of animals makes this a great time to connect with animals allies, helpers and guides. If you already have an established relationship with an animal spirit, consider travelling to its natural habitat so you can further build your connection.

If you’re seeking new animal allies, there’s a couple of different strategies you might use. You could use techniques such as lucid dreaming and shamanic journeying to enter into the spirit world. However, in the summer months, the pull of the physical world is strong. You might have better luck if you physically travel into a green, untamed place.

Wherever you go, simply hold the clear intention of seeking an animal companion to guide and accompany you on your spiritual journey. The world will hear and respond to you. 

So Much Abundance  

Summer forest
Summer forest

The abundance of light in summer can reveal new possibilities. This makes the current season an excellent time for exploration, for trying out new activities, new ways of being in the world. Is there a new spiritual practise or healthy habit you’ve been considering trying for a while?

Now is an excellent time to start.  

Another way of working with summer abundance is by cultivating gratitude. To start with, try taking a little time each day, perhaps right after you wake up or right before you fall asleep, and listing some of the things in your life that you feel grateful for.

As you continue to work with gratitude, you may find yourself spontaneously saying a silent “thank you” to the universe when something beautiful happens.

The magic of gratitude is expansive and contagious; you will likely find that the more gratitude you feel, the more blessings and gifts will appear in your life.

Remembering the Balance  

Lughnasagh (25 Jul - 16 Aug) Pendant To Invoke Intuition
Lughnasagh (25 Jul – 16 Aug) Pendant To Invoke Intuition

While the summer might feel endless, we know that it is not. The solstice, so recently gone by, may be the height of the sun’s power and brilliance but this means that it also marks the time when the light begins to wane.

As suggested by the Taoist symbol of Yin and Yang, the moment of greatest light also contains within itself a seed of growing darkness.

In ancient Celtic lore, the summer solstice marked the day that Lugh, the Sun King, died. There is no need to dwell gloomily on this aspect of the season. But it is important to remember that summer, like all the seasons, is transitory. The wheel turns, and keeps on turning. The light and the heat and the wild sense of expansive possibility: these are precious because they are only here for a time.  

This pinprick of sadness, this reminder of winter’s chill, can help deepen and enrich our gratitude. We can seize the long day of summer and live our lives to the fullest, knowing that nothing lasts forever. At the same time, we can hold the paradox; the wheel turns, and will return once again to summer. In this way, the brilliance is both fleeting and eternal, too quickly gone and always present.

by River

 

StormJewel Says: Thanks River for your beautifully poetic article.  I love your recommendations for getting in to the summer mindset, and I really love going to woods and parks to connect with nature in the summer, especially this one which in the UK is wonderfully warm for once! 🙂

Have you any Summer or Lughnasagh tips to share with us? What do you like best about summer? How do you connect with nature at this time? Let us know! xx

Img Credits: All photos except the last are by talented photographer Andreas Krappweis