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The work of my Initiate year in the Wildflower Tradition began in earnest a couple of weeks ago. As we began, each of us received two pots, in which we planted seeds for various herbs that would grow along with us. I immediately froze at the idea that I would be responsible for plants. I am great at taking care of animals. My two 2-year-old cats are lean, healthy, impossibly energetic, and thriving. My old, blind brown tabby will turn 16 this summer. But every plant I had before that day either failed to grow or died within the month. I had convinced myself that I had a black thumb. Swallowing hard, I vowed that I would do everything within my ability to put my fear aside and trust the process.

Trent, my troublemaking orange cat, loves to play Sir Isaac Newton, and his adopted sister Daria isn't much help in that arena either, so the plants couldn't live inside. I chose to place my pots, alongside my wife's pots, on an attractive wire display, right in view of both of our altars to ensure watering would happen. Remembering my tendency to overwater, I didn't give the plants any moisture for several days. When one of my hivemates got sprouts mere days later, she informed me that the plants needed water at least once a day, and that the soil needed to be damp. So I watered daily after that.

A week after planting, I still had no sprouts. Several others in my Hive had plants growing. I felt despondent. Before going out the door to teach my Sunday morning yoga class, I picked up each pot after watering it, and said to the seeds within, "Hi, I love you. Please grow."

That very afternoon, a tiny sprout poked its head out of the soil in one of my pots. My mind exploded in awe: I grew a thing! I'm actually not hopeless in the garden! Every time I turned around to look at the pot, the sprout within had changed. There were increasingly more and more sprouts each time I looked. Just three days later, the second pot began to sprout. And today, a mere week later, the third pot yielded its first sprout. The fourth pot hasn't sprouted yet, but the surface of the soil is starting to pucker, which I have learned heralds the coming of the first sprout.

I began to wonder what else I could grow. I began to research vermicomposting, and hope to start my first worm bin soon. This morning, after dreaming about the Black Madonna and discovering she likes flowers of all sorts, I bought a mini rose bush to grow, and I began a garden altar.

Earlier this year, an ethereal being of light told me in a dream that I needed to evict anyone who was living rent-free in my head. I have since learned that this also applies to ideas we have about ourselves that hold us back from really becoming all we can be. If we choose not to listen to the fearful negative voices, try a thing, and then see what happens, we may surprise ourselves. Removing the "can'ts" from the limitations we place on ourselves, the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what limits us helps us grow both as human beings and magical beings.

Once we get rid of those old stories and toss them in the compost, we wind up with fertilizer for new skills and capabilities we never thought were possible. And from that, we evolve.
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Yoga is a central component to my spiritual practice. Some of my favorite classes include people of all ages, sizes, and levels of ability. Teaching such a class requires some delicate balancing acts, but the perspectives we get from the students are far richer than I could have ever imagined. They are our true teachers.

One of my favorite yoga classes holds a monthly luncheon every first Monday. We all pick a place, order, and then sit together and talk. This time, the first Monday lunch bunch consisted of me, the studio manager, and two delightful octogenarian women. I had taken classes alongside one of these women ever since I was a student in Yoga Therapy, and over the years I have found her to be a wealth of insight, wisdom, and a few surprises every time we take the time to chat.

She shared with me that one of the traits she has that has kept her going in the face of adversity is defiance. She was born to a French mother and a Flemish father, and was raised in the Flemish part of Belgium. As a young child during World War II, she found that very defiance to be a key to her resilience. In those days, many of the French-speaking children wound up going to boarding schools in the French area of Belgium. My lovely friend's family had no money for boarding school, so she went to the local school with the other Flemish children. Right then and there, she immersed herself in her love of learning. She caught flak from the other kids for being different. She challenged teachers when she knew she was right. During a time when women were expected to keep silent, she kept standing her ground and speaking her truth. To keep herself sane during such a turbulent time in history, she created puppet plays using her father's couch as a stage. She danced wildly and with abandon wherever she could.

Years later, she was a teacher at the Lycée Français in San Francisco, where she not only taught theater but philosophy. Many of the other teachers were put off by her because she was female, Belgian, chose controversial subjects, and refused to back down from her truth. Her students loved her though, and they put on some memorable plays together over the years.

All the while, she talked of how her yoga practice, her tai chi, and her continued dancing contributed to her resilience. That combined with the freedom of not giving a damn what anyone else thought of her, something that I'm only now beginning to settle into at 40. I looked into her eyes as she was telling her story and could see bits of myself: our shared love of theater, dancing at the drop of a hat, and being an unapologetically intimidating woman. Across the table from me was a comrade, a kindred spirit.

Women of a certain age tend to get hidden away by society, told they're past their prime and that they have nothing to offer, when nothing could be further from the truth. My theater loving, dance-crazed, Nietsche-teaching, intellectual firebrand of an older mirror is someone I learn from every time I'm blessed to be in her presence. The wisdom of our elders, especially our elder women, can't be bought for any price. We need to hear their words now, to soak in their wisdom, and reflect on their words. I personally hope that some of her wisdom rubs off on me. Here's to friends and teachers across the generations.
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"It is better to live your own Dharma imperfectly, than to live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection." -Bhagavad Gita

This past August, I sat around a table with my fellow CAYA Aspirants, musing about what we wanted to do for our lunar working for that month. We had agreed to choose a theme and then do our individual workings around the theme, checking in with one another for support. The theme chosen among us was Prosperity. Some mused about creating budgets or saving for a vacation. At first I felt a bit of a disconnect with that particular working, since as a yoga teacher, there isn't a whole lot of money in what I do. So instead of focusing solely on the monetary aspect, I instead chose to focus on Right Livelihood.

The day after, I hopped a plane for Washington State, and spent some much-needed time relaxing, rejuvenating, swimming in natural bodies of water, and connecting with nature. I had precious time there to reflect on what I valued, reassess what kind of work I wished to do in the world, and look at where I had been wasting my energy.

When I returned home to San Francisco the following week, I set to work. As a witch who is a yogini and a devotee of Ganesha and Kali, many of my spells have to do with mantra. I chant in Sanskrit, which is a holy language that has immense power to focus the mind and bring about transformation and healing.

In my studies of mantra, one of the most powerful chants to bring forth abundance is "Om Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha". In yogic philosophy, Om is the syllable that encompasses all sound and no sound simultaneously. Shrim is the seed syllable for Lakshmi. Maha means "great". Lakshmiyei is a term of endearment for the Lakshmi, goddess of beauty, abundance, and prosperity. Swaha means "I salute you."

Taking a cue from my colleague Edward Vilga, who has used this mantra for years with great effect, I added one more syllable to give the mantra some extra oomph: Gam, the seed syllable for Ganesha, the Opener of the Way, Remover of Obstacles, Lover of Knowledge. The reasoning behind this addition was to invite Lord Ganesha in to open the way for Lakshmi to birth abundance.

For the remainder of the moon cycle, I chanted 108 repetitions every day of "Om Gam Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha". After each day's working, I would either wear the mala I used to track my repetitions, or I'd leave it to charge on my altar.

Mantras wear a groove in our subconscious, thereby rewiring our thoughts and words so that we can bring about change within ourselves. Paired with action in the mundane world, this practice can move mountains! I mercifully let go of a class I had tried and failed to build for two years, as well as a class I was subbing out regularly due to scheduling conflicts. Then I put out a call to my colleagues in the yoga world to let them know I was looking for work teaching Hatha, Yin, Restorative, and Therapeutic Yoga. My colleagues stepped up to the plate and began making introductions to studio owners and managers. Requests for interviews began to flood my email inbox. Those interviews gave way to practical demos. Then the offers started pouring in. The classes I decided to keep from before this working have grown not only viable, but profitable. At one of the new studios where I was hired, I submitted proposals for four workshops, and all four got accepted. It has reached a point where I will need to exercise discernment on accepting any further offers.

I am grateful for the abundance that has begun to flow my way. I am grateful to Ganesha, Lakshmi, all of my colleagues who made introductions, and all the studio owners and managers who genuinely wanted what I have to offer. This is the Dharma in action. When thought, word, and action are in alignment with one's truest and highest self, some potent magic can happen.
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As my connection to Spirit continues to grow, I've been noticing a lot more of nature asserting itself within the urban landscape in which I live. This day and age, it's so easy to get sucked into the trappings of email, Facebook, smartphones, to-do lists, traffic, angry urbanites, that it's all too easy to find oneself spinning on a hamster wheel that just won't slow down.

I've been singing to the moon almost every day since January 1st. As a result, my body's rhythms have begun to sync with the phases of the moon. I've begun to notice little bits of nature in everyday life. Hawks on lampposts. Crows and ravens everywhere...especially the ravens, and especially when they engage me in a game of Simon Says with their song. The trees, flowers, and ferns that dot the landscape. Ivy crawling up buildings. The weed standing in defiance between cracks in the sidewalk.

It occurs to me that what I notice in nature on any given day reflects my state of mind. For years, I had blinders on in my side view, unable to see anything else but the goals I wanted to achieve. I missed the scenery. I missed random moments of beauty. I missed subtle signals from nature reflecting my state of mind, as a call to action to change what I've been reflecting.

Growing up, I often felt like that little weed, standing in defiance within a manicured garden, feeling like I didn't belong. I subjected myself to manicuring to try to fit in, but it never worked. I always somehow got found out for the weed I was. As I grew older, I began to realize that I'm actually not a weed at all. I'm a wildflower, with unique gifts to offer the world. I don't need to be manicured. I need to hone my gifts so that I can share my bold uniqueness with as many people who are open to receive it.

Along the way, I'll keep taking my cues from nature. After all, as I've been singing since the start of the year, "light and shadow reflect light and shadow."


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Ravensong Phoenixfire

March 2016

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