Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Reflections on a Sabbat- Samhain has come and gone…. Or has it?

I think the past two months have been a complete submersion into the depths of my own personal gnosis. I celebrated Mabon in Ohio with my tribe, then made the quick transition back to California and before I knew it it was time for Samhain! The magic that was sparked within grew to a brilliant flame as the turning of the wheel fanned the fires of change and transformation.

While in Ohio I got to spend time reconnecting to old friends, the old coven stead- there were a few spirits back home who seamed to be new, and the whole experience was akin to being dipped in the womb of the mother. I had ten days of sheer amazing love, healing, but mostly release. Those new spirits of place brought with them the reality that I no-longer belonged there, even though I come from that land, I have not lived there for several years and life just seamed to move on without me. This brought a sadness to me: The magic of the area I grew up in- the same magic that nurtured me as a boy, that fed me as a young man, and that guided me to adulthood has changed.

Realistically looking back on the experience now I see that I simply no-longer need that same magic because I have changed- in more ways than I had thought possible. The seed of my being may have been planted there, but now my roots draw strength from different soil. The nurturing of the spirits that were my friends and allies once upon a time has now redirected itself - or is it that I have redirected myself?

When I flew back to California I knew three things, three very big things were about to happen. First, I was going to quit smoking. I had been smoking since I was nine years old. No, I didn’t have horrible parents, lord knows they tried to stop me countless times, but I am a rather persistent person- imagine what I was like as a teen! Second, Blue Rose Samhain was about to happen. My partners teach within a line of the Feri tradition and we were due for a full house for a trad retreat. Third- I knew that I had to take a serious look at where my energy had been going- a busy man quickly loses himself in the art of “getting shit done.” Sadly, I felt I had been lost for a few months prior to this. Not lost in the sense that I could not find my way again, just that I had taken a detour on the path and somehow, someway, my internal compass was experiencing interference.

As Samhain approached there was much to do and little time to see it happen. As I stressed over the garden, trying oh-so-hard to replace the stone path, plant lavender bushes, trim roses, etc. My partners focused on getting the house in shape, see we had recently had a room-mate leave us which freed up a large portion of our house- the excitement over the d├ęcor possibilities alone kept us chatting for weeks! I had to plan airport pick-ups, sleeping arrangements, menu options, make trips to the grocery store, oh and you know, do my other ‘normal’ day to day stuff too! It seemed as though there was no end in sight to the busy.

People began to arrive from all over the country; students, initiates, and seekers alike. My idea originally had been that I would be staying in the kitchen the entire extended weekend. I was going to cook, then clean, then cook some more. I had been deemed Captain during one of our conversations- me, captain of the USS BR SAMHAIN and I was taking this job seriously.

Sure, for the first two or three hours I kept the stern face and the tough-guy act up, but then I was hit with something no-one could have ever prepared me for: I was called out on my little act. “ So, what are you doing over here all by yourself?” asked the initiate, “ Oh just working.” I replied. “ I see….” he responded, “ And are you going to be ’working’  all weekend?”

Shocked, I traced my mental sketch of the weekend as if to thumb the pages of a manual. “ Yes of course, I have to make sure food is cooked, the house is clean, people have what they need. I have to do it so you guys can have a worry-free weekend.” I was so smug with my response. I thought for sure anyone would understand my need to be the mighty kitchen over-seer. I had spent weeks planning meals and making sure that in general everything I was responsible for would be done to perfection.

“ Alright, well” he said as he quickly looked around the room, finally fixing his gaze on my eyes, “ Is it really your job? Do you really have to be in the kitchen all weekend?” he rebutted in his own know-it-all kind of way. “ Just sayin is all….“ he explained after a moment of silence finally driving the nail further into my psyche as he finished his point.

So there I was, completely full of shit and he knew it. I didn’t really have to be in the kitchen, everything was either pre-cooked and frozen for easier kitchen use through out the event or it was something that I could really just whip up on the spot. See, all that planning actually gave me the ability to not ‘just be in the kitchen’ the whole time. Not only was I dished up a nice healthy portion of what I am now lovingly referring to as “ REALLY?” but I knew I deserved a healthy dose of it.

The thing is, you have to know when you have been called out and you must at all times be willing to accept that as a human-being there will be times when you are just simply full of shit. Now, being full of shit is not a horrible thing, it really means, at least in my case, that you have so many streams of thought that you create your own walls that keep you from being in the moment and then as if a cup running over ( not a two-girls one cup reference ) it spills forth into the things that matter the most. I was relieved of all my own self-imposed tasks and came to the abrupt conclusion that I had been exposed as the fraud I was. Captain? Bleck- I wanted to be a passenger.

I attended a conversation that afternoon held by Storm and those other students and initiates. I was part of it, and I liked it. I didn’t have to be the leader who had all the answers, or the priest dispensing advice, I just got to be chill and present. One of my craft teachers refers to mana as being fluid like water, and if we do not stimulate it well, what happens to a pool of standing water? Sitting there with twenty plus others was like finally putting an air pump in the stagnant waters of my being.

I made my way back to the kitchen where I muddled over how I was feeling, what this could mean to me, etc. As I was taking chicken breasts out of the oven I looked out into the backyard via the sliding doors and saw my half done stone path, the various plant containers that I never put in the outside storage unit and as the feeling of embarrassment began to creep up my spine I stopped myself. These people could care less about the way my garden looks, they see how busy I am and I know how busy each of them are, no one is going to hold my half done walk-way over my head. There I was in the midst of allowing myself to have a good-time and my ego just could not let the distractions go.

Then, it dawned on me-

Conversation between me and me, in my head:

“Devin, do you love yourself?”
“Well, yes of course!”
“Devin, do you love Samhain?”
“ Almost as much as I love myself.”
“ God you can be a smug ass”
“ How is that working for you?”
“Eh, not so much.”
“Ahh… Well, perhaps you should try something else then.”
“Perhaps, but all the good jobs are taken- ninja, ruler of Mordor….”
“What is your potential in this moment? After-all that is your perpetual spiritual quest, to find and live up to your spiritual potential.”
“ It is- good point. Well, I suppose the potential this weekend is to be one of those coveners that are here to experience.”
“ Perhaps you should do that.”
“Yes, perhaps.”

I spent the rest of the weekend in sweet surrender. When I finally allowed myself to just let go I realized how much energy I used on a daily basis to keep it all together. Who asked me to become a stress-ball? No-one, I became one because I was coming from a place of fear. What happens if I don’t do X, Y, and Z? What will happen if I fail to take care of all my projects? More-so, in my career, what happens when I just go poof? I desperately needed sweet surrender, and I realized that although my “ shit’s gotta get done” approach to the daily grind is important, it is also the very last thing I needed to invite whilst trying to give myself permission to be in the now.

In need of no more convincing I gave-in. You see, compassion is such an important and often over-looked part of our own spiritual journey. We can muster-up compassion for others easily if we search for it, but when it comes time to have compassion for ourselves we might as well just spin blind-folded with our foreheads touching a stick then coerce ourselves into hitting the pinata that may or may not be directly in-front of us. Even when the need for compassion is there, finding enough at the end of the day for yourself is often as dizzying and confusing as swinging at an unseen paper mache horse that is full of sweet tarts and sour-heads.

I put the bat down and became a part of the experience. I chose to live despite the consequences of what may happen when I let go. The rest of the weekend I did not serve one meal on-time, I only went out into my garden at night, and I had the most fun I have had in a long time.

I met and got to know some truly inspiring people. We drummed into the wee hours of the morning, chanted ancient names in the shadows, and danced with the dead. Samhain was here, and it had come the time for parts of me to be left in the under-world, not because I wanted to run away from them, but because I realized they did not serve me nearly as well as just being present. You see, when in session and the ten of wands pops up, I often recite the story of Atlas and then mutter something the effect of:  “ Do you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders?” “Well stop because Atlas’s punishment was to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, if you accept that feeling, than you are accepting that you are being punished as well.” Eating your own medicine can be bitter sometimes.

Luckily being in that space, with those amazing people gave me just enough sugar to help that medicine go down. One of the holiest of times during our year had brought the death of self punishment and the rebirth of pieces of myself I had lost. I got to heal wounds that egotism had caused within and as I looked around I saw that in all the others a similar process was taking place. We all came to drink from the well and with each others help we drank deeply.

Ancestors came in spades making sure I and everyone else knew they were there. Being open and responsive allowed me to actually receive their messages, not just act as a channel. I would go into all the fun details, but I think that is better off in another post or in a book sometime. Just know this: I readjusted my focus and began to see life and my role within it through a different set of spectacles- nothing like the dead to tell you a thing or two about living.

For those of you who were present for the retreat know that I am forever indebted to you for allowing the experience to unfold as it did. My soul was cleansed, nurtured, and empowered by the space you helped to create. As you all left I felt as though companions on the journey were setting sail for their own voyages and know that you took a little piece of me with you, and that I cherish the little piece of you that I have as well. It is my belief that those tiny pieces of each other that we carry will guide us to circle once again. Namaste, I honor the god-self in all of you.

Samhain, a festival of the beloved and mighty dead showed me how to live again.

As soon as November rolled into town it brought with it other holidays and festivities to plan and focus on, but instead of getting caught up in the nightmare of holiday madness I am going to take a page from Samhain; sometimes the greatest gift you can give yourself is surrender, and that surrender is found at the end of compassion.