Book Review – Carry the Rock

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Carry the Rock  by Jessica D Rzeszewski

Carry the Rock is an honest, first hand account by the author J D Rzeszewski of her experiences as an apprentice in Toltec shamanism with a Nagual in Hawaii.

Early on, the book is very much about the perceived shortcomings of the Nagual who doesn’t work in the way the author expected, unexpectedly charges for their services and who is found to web have different reference points for Toltec shamanism than the author. As the book progresses though it becomes less and less about the failure of a Nagual and much more about the awakening and realisation of the student that only they themselves are responsible for their learning. The author shows how by stepping into her own power she is able to see the real differences between herself and the teacher she had initially placed on a pedestal.

I really enjoyed reading Carry the Rock and although a true story I found myself turning pages as I would with a novel as I wanted to see what happened next in the author’s journey. I would definitely recommend it to anyone seeking a teacher in any modality as it really does highlight some of the pitfalls.

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,600 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

I was ridiculously pleased with the idea of 5,600 views of my blog….until I saw someone else’s blog had 18,000 views that is. But then I stopped and reminded myself that I’ve only been blogging here since February 2014 so a huge thanks to all who made up that 5,600 viewings. Here’s to 2015!

Pagan Blog Project – Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

This is the last post of 2014 for the Pagan Blog Project and in fact the last post ever as part of this initiative 😦

So the zzzzzzzzz in the title represents sleep mode for the Pagan Blog Project may it rest well and may something great arise from its ashes in 2015.

Whatever it is I will be back blogging whenever I have something to share so hope to see everyone back here in 2015

Pagan Blog Project – Zen and the Art of Zentangles

imageRecently I came across the practice of Mindfulness, Buddhism and Zen being summed up as ten principles:
Mindfulness or being in the moment, Non Judgement, Patience, Awareness, Tolerance, Acceptance, Compassion, Validation, Invitation and Practice.

I know very little about Zen so I hope all those that do will forgive me in this if it is completely wrong but for me it linked closely with the Art of Zentangles which I discovered when searching for information on mandalas.

A Zentangle is an abstract drawing in a 3.5cm square ’tile’ of paper. It should be without orientation and so have no right way up. It should be black ink on white paper and so involve no special tools. Finally Zentangles should be portable so they can be done anywhere, anytime. Creating a Zentangle requires absolute focus and can even be thought of as a form of ceremony.

Zentangles are unplanned, allowing the end result to reveal itself rather than starting with an idea or goal. They are deliberate, yet unexpected with each stroke allowed to find its own form. The creation of a Zentangle is celebratory, like a meditation it is both freeing and healing. They are also timeless and connected to all human endeavour of putting pen to paper.

On discovering Zentangles I cut up paper to make tiles and sat down to produce one. As I did I discovered why the word Zen is part of the name for increasing one I found I was unable to do so without practicing at least some of the principles of Zen.

As I sat with my piece of paper and began to make marks I could only be in the moment as it required me to be still and focus totally on what I was doing. As I worked I became calm and relaxed, completely aware of every mark I was making on the paper, the way the pen moved, the way the mark connected with those around it and determined what came next. I was tolerant of myself and my lack of knowledge for this didn’t matter, not did any drawing ability I may or may not have for this was solely about the process of creating. I found compassion for myself in that space for I could be no way but the way I was and create nothing except that which wished to be created. And above all else it took patience for to rush a Zentangle is to completely miss the point.

When I was much younger it was all the rage to have tiny kits to make Zen gardens. Small spaces that had perhaps one carefully placed stone around which fine sand was moved into pleasing patterns with a tiny rake. The drawing of the rake through the stones produced the same feeling of calmness, of being in the moment as drawing Zentangles can.

There are complicated grids, patterns and rules that I believe can be applied to Zentangles but I have no interest in these. As an aid to mindfulness and to being still though I can highly recommend the art of Zentangles.

Pagan Blog Project – Yule

imageThis is about the third attempt at posting something about Yule. My first one was on the history of Yule and the second on the traditions but neither felt right, so instead I have chosen to share with you a few of the ways I’ve celebrated Yule over the years.

Yule, Winter Solstice or even Alban Arthan is usually celebrated on or around 21st December. I for one always try and do something on 21st, something that will mark the turning of the wheel and the move from the darkest part of the year towards the light. Something that reflects on what I have gained from my time with the darkness and which celebrates the change, the shift towards the light once again.

Some years I have celebrated at home with friends and when this has happened it usually takes the form of a guided meditation to spend time reflecting in the darkness, the lighting of candles to symbolise the return to the light and the sharing of food, there may even be some drumming. Because I work shamanically the exact form of the guided meditation varies each time as it depends so much on the energy of the people present and what we need as a group.

Some years I have celebrated alone, often by choice, sometimes by circumstance. Here it always begins with the opening of sacred space, drumming and rattling, a calling in of the spirits, of the four directions and a connecting up with my guides and allies. This is then followed by a shamanic journey maybe to gain insight on the year that has passed and to let go of that which is finished, to ask for insight for the year to come or to give thanks for the year that has come to its end. There would then be candles lit to represent the coming of the light, some quiet reflection and often a spot of journalling.

Last year, deep in the Gwers of the OBOD Bardic training I held a solitary ceremony following the ritual of the OBOD which gave me a slightly different perspective on celebrating the solstice taking me deep within my own sacred grove.

This year if all goes according to plan I will be celebrating with others in the stone circle at Drombeg in Co. Cork. Although I have worked in the stone circle many times including performing initiations there, this will be my first time in the stone circle for Winter Solstice an experience I am looking forward to. It is planned to be a co-created ceremony which will be another first for me.

I don’t think it matters exactly how Yule, Winter Solstice, Alban Arthan, is celebrated. It is the recognition of the time of year, the connecting with the seasons, the wheel of the year, and all that it represents that is important. It is a time spend time in the darkness where we can to let go of everything that is finished so that we can make space for what is to come.

Bearing this in mind I journeyed to ask my guides for a ceremony that could be easily adapted by people looking for a way to celebrate this year and this is what they gave me:

Whether you plan to celebrate outdoors or indoors, spend some time collecting up some of the bounty that nature has left you, golden leaves, fallen twigs, stones, whatever catches your attention, and use it to create an altar or mandala that can provide a focus for you.

Remember that when you collect gifts from the earth it is always good to leave a gift or offering in return.

Sit quietly in front of your creation and tune in to the energy of nature and the earth at this time.

Call to you any of your own guides and set up the sacred space around you in whatever way feels right.

Within that sacred space be still and go deep within yourself, deep into the darkness and see what insights you are given, just be still and let thoughts or ideas bubble up. Then follow your intuition as to what, if anything, you need to do here.

When you have learnt all you can then light a candle and sit in reflection if that feels right, if not perhaps you are now guided to celebrate in some way; maybe dance, song or music.

When everything is finished or feels complete thank your guides and close your circle to end the ceremony.

Pagan Blog Project – Xylotherapy

imageFollowing on from last week’s search for something beginning with ‘X’, this week’s endeavour has lead me to discover Xylotherapy.

Xylotherapy I discovered is defined as:

1. The use of certain kinds of wood in the cure of disease
2. Medical treatment by the application of certain woods to the body
3. Certain kinds of wood applied to the skin to regain sensibility to otherwise non sensitive (non feeling) skin

Search as I might though I could find little about how to practice Xylotherapy other than that the practice was to lay circles of the appropriate wood on the person and that any beneficial effects were considered to be in the mind.

Thinking about it though it is perfectly possible to understand how wood might have been, and can still be considered a tool for healing. For instance if we look at the properties of a few common woods we can find that many of them have healing properties associated with them.

Apple for example is associated with fertility and is thought to be helpful for nausea, toothache, fluid retention and digestive disorders.

Ash is said to help digestion and weight loss.

Beech is used for stomach problems, healing wounds and for sores and ulcers.

Elder is thought to help asthma, fevers and the healing of fractures.

Eucalyptus may ease coughs, colds and sinus problems

Oak, kidney stones, bleeding, circulation and fevers

And Pine may be used for chest, throat and lung infections, circulations and fevers.

Whereas in Xylotherapy wood may have been laid on the body, today we are more likely to use essential oils made from woods such as pine and eucalyptus for example. In some cultures and forms of healing, poultices may also be made from the bark of woods, or the sap of the tree used. So although we may not call it Xylotherapy healing with wood is still practiced today.

Pagan Blog Project – Xylomancy

imageI know that is was not necessary to find a blog post for ‘X’ but I love discovering new terminology so decided to take the letter X as a challenge and in doing so I discovered Xylomancy.

Xylomancy it seems is the art of divination using wood. Now divination is a subject close to my heart as it plays a large role in shamanism. There are of course many ways of divining such as through the use of cards, stones, cloud formations, runes, shamanic journeying and so on, the list is long. Wood though is a new one on me.

Derived from the Greek words xylo, meaning wood and manteia, meaning divination, Xylomancy is divination of past, present or future, using twigs, pieces of wood or the fallen branches of trees.

Like in all forms of divination where artifacts are used, in Xylomancy attention is paid to the location, overall formation and patterns made by the wood, as well as the size, shape and colour of each piece.

In ancient times attention was paid to the formation and patterns of pieces or wood found in a persons path, these were then interpreted by seers and soothsayers.

Later on the practice evolved so that pieces of naturally fallen wood were stripped of half of their bark and then scattered on the ground. The formations of those pieces which fell stripped side uppermost were then interpreted by those able to do so.

Another form of Xylomancy is to interpret the appearance of wood when it is burning.

Like all forms of divination, the secret it seems is to be able to interpret what is being shown to you.