Barn Cats

I grew up on a farm in the country where we had a large population of barn cats: cats that lived outside, caught mice, and generally managed themselves.

If barn cats are good at one thing, it is multiplying. There were always kittens around, who then grew up into adult cats, who then had their own kittens.

You’d think we would have eventually been overrun with cats, but we never were. And the reason awes me even to this day.

The cats would go through seasons of increase. Kittens were born, cats were living to old age, and the population was climbing. But then, when the population reached a certain number, there would come a season of decrease. Cats would die from sickness, get hit on the road, die from freak accidents, or just disappear altogether.

I don’t know why births and deaths didn’t just happen alongside each other: for every kitten born, an older cat dies. But they didn’t. They happened in seasons.

Nature is governed by seasons. In the summer, grass grows and fruit ripens. In the winter, everything dies, clearing the path for new growth.

Life seems to work this way as well.

I don’t know why it’s this way, and sometimes I wish it wasn’t. Especially when I’m in the season of death and clearing.

But I know that once the clearing is finished, there will be new growth in its place. And eventually, that new growth will become old and another season of clearing will commence, to make way for new new growth.

And in that way, nature manages itself. In that way, there is balance.

Acceptance

Reality works like a mirror. Whether you take this as literal truth or just a helpful metaphor, it still holds true.

This is why some people seem to have good luck and some bad, and why people who like themselves often end up being liked by others (and vice versa). There are endless applications of this on every conceivable topic from relationships to health.

For me, now, it has been showing up with regards to my self-image. The more I learn to accept and enjoy myself, the easier it is for me to accept and enjoy other people.

I used to be very prideful and very cynical. I disliked people, as a species in general. (I still do a little, if I’m honest.) And the fact that I was part of this species felt like a dirty secret to me. I always wanted to tack on a qualifier in my mind. “Yeah, I’m part of humanity, but…”, or “Yeah, I’m a girl, but…”

Qualifiers do more harm than good, I think. It’s only in taking them away and accepting what and who I am that I have been able to see more clearly what my true potential is. And by extension, that of other people.

Chakras and How to Clear Them

Last night, I reopened my chakras.

Usually, I only do chakra meditation if I feel one or two in particular are clogged and need to be cleaned out. It was the first time that I had sat down and used a string of meditations to open each of them in turn. It felt good. Like, really good. I feel like I had a full-body scrub and a spiritual getaway all in one.

Chakras represent energy concentrations in your body and, like organs, they are commonly given main functions. For your convenience, here are the locations and simplified functions of each:

  • Root Chakra: Base of the spine. Deals with security, food, and the other basic animal instincts. Blocked by fear and being out of touch with your environment.
  • Sacral Chakra: In pelvic region, below navel. Deals with pleasure and sexuality. Blocked by shame.
  • Solar Plexus Chakra: In stomach. Deals with dignity, pride, and confidence. Blocked by poor self image.
  • Heart Chakra: In chest. Deals with love and emotions. Blocked by hate.
  • Throat Chakra: In throat. Deals with truth and self expression. Blocked by lies and inability to express yourself.
  • Third-Eye Chakra: In center of forehead. Deals with insight, clairvoyance, and decision-making. Blocked by confusion.
  • Crown Chakra: On top of the head. Deals with spirituality, enlightenment, and oneness with everything. Blocked by attachment and preoccupation with earthly things.

To open your chakras, all you need to do is clear out what is keeping them from flowing freely. Admittedly, that is easier said than done. For example, dealing with the hate you have for someone, or dealing with shame or insecurity. It’s difficult, and it’s an ongoing process.

A good way to do this is through meditation. Chakra meditation is simple in structure. Choose a chakra to focus on. Think of what it means and what blocks it. Examine yourself in this light and work at trying to open it. Start scooping away the gunk clogging it up. Eventually, you will get a clean, relaxed feeling, a feeling of new understanding and freedom. That’s the sign that that chakra has been opened.

There are all kinds of meditation positions, chants, and visualizations to aid chakra opening. Personally, I’ve found this one to be the most helpful as a meditation guide. For general chakra information, as well as signs of blocked chakras, I like to watch Chakraboosters on Youtube.

As a general tip, you should not open your crown chakra if your root chakra is blocked. That can make your imbalance between physical and spiritual even greater. Always start with the root and work your way up.

Happy chakra-ing!

 

Meditation Corner

Some of the best advice I’ve heard about getting better at prayer and meditation was from a speaker at a conference I went to in high school. He advised us to create a “sanctuary in our room.” In other words, create a nook you can go to that is only used for prayer or meditation. In that way, you will be better able to focus and hopefully spend less time playing “tie down the monkeys” with your stray thoughts.

There used to be this tree a short walk from my house that bordered a wheat field. It had long, drooping branches and in the summer, its thick leafy branches touched the top of the wheat, creating a secret little spot in the shade. I went there to meditate as often as I could manage.

When I couldn’t manage, I took all the pictures off of one of the walls in my room and set a chair there, facing the corner.

These days, I find sitting on the floor in the dark, or with a candle or incense, more effective than the chair in the corner. But I still prefer to meditate outside when possible, if I can find somewhere I won’t be disturbed.

The Killing Kind

I used to have no problem killing bugs I found in the house. But I’m finding it harder and harder to do so. Which is ironic because the idea of death doesn’t actually bother me all that much (I see it as a necessary part to the cycle of life). Nowadays, when I kill bugs–out of fear or because I was too lazy to find a more humane solution–I feel a deep sense of shame.

Killing for defense, I understand. Killing for food, I understand as well. But killing a creature because it is trespassing, even when it poses no great harm to you? Yes, it’s within my rights to do so, but I can’t get the idea out of my mind that I should be the “bigger person,” so to speak. I am the sturdier one. I will live longer and fewer things will threaten me. I am built more resilient.

Shouldn’t I use some of that resilience to make the short life of smaller creatures just a little better and a little longer? What does it cost me really?

I’d probably be singing a different tune if I was in the midst of an infestation. But for now at least, while choosing mercy doesn’t put me in danger, I’m going to put my bug friends outside.

Physical

Even though I complain about having a physical form a lot, sometimes I really do enjoy having a body.

I enjoy having one on dusty summer days, walking in shorts and a tank top in the sticky heat. Muscles pulling under my skin, happy for some use and some grounding. Sweat streaming from every pore, cleaning the gunk out of my energy stream, allowing it to flow unhindered through all my chakra pools. Connecting me to the part of myself that came from the earth.

In a lifestyle where most of my time is spent sitting at a desk, I adore these times when I get to connect again with my body.

I used to be active in sports when I was younger, and I am realizing just how much I miss it. I miss the physical challenge and how it fosters collaboration between a person’s body and spirit. Maybe I’ll take up a sport again.

Wind and Spirit

There’s something sacred about the wind, but I can never put my finger on it. Only that, when it blows against me, filled with all the smells of where it has been, caressing me and getting into my hair and clothes, I feel more connected somehow. As if it’s blowing away the layers of flesh that separates me from other manifestations of spirit.

And in that moment, I want to strip off the rest of what keeps me back and become one with it, scattered over the earth. Fully integrated into the realm where nothing matters because everything matters. Where all is spirit and all is one.

But then I must still go home and do my homework for tomorrow’s class. Not only encased in flesh, but encased within a minuscule niche inside a purely human context. Oh the juxtaposition. I know it’s good, and everything has its time. But some days I can hardly stand it.

Sin as Contextual

Determining whether something is sin is a lot like determining whether two chemicals mixed together are going to explode: it depends what you are mixing with what.

Some chemicals are prone to explode on their own, and some actions are bad news for whoever participates in them. Things like murder. That one’s pretty cut and dry.

But most chemicals only explode when mixed with specific other chemicals. In the same way, whether or not something is harmful differs from person to person. What is harmful for one person is just fine for another. What is fine in one situation is not fine in another.

For example, it was noble to lie to protect Jews from Nazis. But it is not noble to lie to protect myself from embarrassment.

Another example is porn. For some people, it adds to their intimacy with their partner and helps them explore their sexuality. For others, it fosters harmful fantasies and thoughts.

To make matters even more gray, there may be things that didn’t used to be okay for someone to engage in but they are now, and vice versa.

Actions and thoughts affect each person differently. That’s why there’s no point to judging others.

Envy

I am reading through a book my friend lent to me and while it is a great read, it has also been stirring up uncomfortable feelings surrounding an already uncomfortable topic for me.

Among other things, the book is about how evangelism isn’t about converting people to a list of doctrines so much as just being there to do life with them and help them in any way you can. That’s great. Totally agree.

Except, I’m not a “hanging out” kind of person. I’m not a talk-with-strangers-on-the-bus kind of person. So…what does that mean for me? What do I have to give?

While I’m not good at being friendly and inserting myself into people’s lives, I am better at other things: like learning, listening, and creating.

Part of being okay with being a good listener and not a great befriender is accepting that I can’t be good at everything. To have a healthy view of myself and others, I need to be okay with my own failures and my own embarrassments. I’m not a god in skin. I’m just a human: one that has trouble relating to other humans a lot of times.

Envy comes when you feel ashamed because you aren’t good in areas other people are. And while self-improvement is good, that self-improvement can’t come from a place of shame. It has to come from a place of acceptance, love, and curiosity.

Elemental

Tonight I found my small box of Nag Champa incense and it made me think of my elemental (nature spirit) friend back home.

As I take in its sweet, heady scent, I remember how we didn’t used to be friends: how they used to hate me and how I used to be scared of them. But somehow, despite my egocentric, human-conqueror-minded stupidity, we eventually grew to enjoy each other’s company (once I stopped talking at them and started listening. But that’s a story for another time).

I’m reminded of that one time I wanted to burn incense as a gift to them to thank them for sharing their practical wisdom with me.

I often burn incense and candles to God (rose in particular), but I didn’t know whether forest elementals liked incense. I certainly didn’t want to give them a gift they wouldn’t enjoy.

So I thought back to our previous conversations, to think of something they would appreciate, and I remembered that when we were talking about plants, I had mentioned the plant I was tending in my room and how they said they’d like to see it sometime.

With my phone, I took a few pictures of my plant, showing how it had grown. Then I brought my phone to the forest where the elemental resides and we looked through them together.

That elemental is one of my best friends, and I miss them terribly. I can’t wait to sit and talk with them again.