The Magic Ring

 

There is something divine about a ring. It’s intrinsically holy for it’s cyclical form, which connotes the eternal and a completeness. Rings may even be a source of magic. A ring is said to have given Solomon his wisdom and Joan of Arc her success on the battlefield. In the story of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, Aladdin summons djinn from a ring given to him by the Maghrabi Magician.

Rings have curative and protective power. The plague was warded off with rings on which the Holy Family was pictured. In medieval England, cramp-rings blessed by priests cured epilepsy.

As it happens, I was in the birthplace of Solomon, or the Holy Land, when I found my magic ring. Jerusalem is actually incredibly holy and I can see now why all major religions want claim over it. Magic finds you everywhere. People and events just appear to you to show you you’re on your path.

But on this one day, I was fighting with my girlfriend and I was losing my path and sense of self. This happens to me in fights. I question my judgement because I’m so traumatized by the other person being up upset with me. I really get deeply affected in a fight. But we were going to have a talk that evening in attempt to resolve the dispute and I needed to collect my thoughts. Our third friend told me to go take a walk to find my center.

So I went to the Muslim quarter for a good spot to hear the Call to Prayer. I’m strongly connected to that sound. It feeds me. It’s like my daily dose of God. And today I really needed it.

I was walking through the markets when I locked eyes with an old man seated outside an antiques shop. Why I made the connection with him, I’ll never know, as the streets are lined with men perched outside their shops. But I greeted him and we entered.

His shop was a decaying treasure trove of Middle Eastern jewels and gems. Like an old Silk Road souk long-ago abandoned. He said he had been there since the 60s. All the objects seem to have a soul.

But I was actually there for my new friend. We sat on low stools in the back, among the beautiful old things, while he chain-smoked, and we talked. About life, God and love, self-love, stuff that you don’t always dive right into with a stranger, but it felt like we knew each other and had been talking and understanding one another for years. He even spoke like he knew the day I was having, the insecurities I was experiencing from the fight. “You’re highly sensitive. You love a lot. But you have to love yourself before anyone else,” he said. It’s such an old adage. Everyone knows this but how often do we really practice it? Without getting into it, I told him I happened to be was having one of those days of self-doubt. This troubled him. “If I could, I would give you my eyes so you could see yourself as I see you.” He was not only a sage but a poet (I asked him where he got his impeccable English from and he said he’d spent all his years in the shop reading). What a message about the spiritual objectivity needed to overcome our fears and insecurities. When you doubt who you are, see yourself as an old Arab antiques dealer from East Jerusalem sees you. Which is basically an eternal being, complete, with no beginning and end.

Then he took out a jade ring and put it in my hand. “This will protect you and remind you of who you are in this world. And who you are is infinite. Screw anyone who makes you feel otherwise. ” And as if on cue, the Call to Prayer piped into his shop from the streets. And if you think I wasn’t going to cry in that moment, well I did. It was just all too much for me-the stress of the fight, the release of the feelings around it, the validation I was getting in this moment that I am good no matter what, and to screw everyone else. I hugged him goodbye and walked out feeling like I had just met my guardian angel. I felt lighter (I also met a man named Aladdin only minutes later but that is another story…). 

I was wearing my ring that night when I went to duke it out with my friend. And I had my own success on the battlefield as I stood my ground, which in the end, cost me my friendship. But it was a lesson in spiritual development for me. What would’ve once ruined a trip for me gave me an even better experience. It’s strange that it took going to this faraway, unfamiliar place to remember who I am.

I don’t think the ring gave me the sight to see myself-but I think the trip and the ring and all the people I met in the Holy Land were life-supporting. They appeared to me as signals to show me who I used to be and how far I’ve come. Someone who can keep her silent center and exist in that quiet, attachment-free space where you are your own source and you are fearless.

I wear the ring on a necklace, every day. As for my friend, we don’t speak anymore. But I don’t think about the broken friendship. I think about my relationship to myself and how I stood in my knowing and self-love that day and from now on, always. A ring also stands for a vow, a bond, a promise and this is my forever promise to myself.

 

 

#rainbowlandisinyou

Below is a written dialogue that evolved from many late-night phone chats with my soul sister/fellow goodwitch/psychic soldier, Juhi. The exercise was to explore a quote/piece of advice her therapist had given her that for whatever reason has really resonated with us and we find ourselves referring to often in these philosophical pow-wows. We’d like to share our ideas with an audience other than ourselves because we feel that it speaks to an experience a lot of people on the spiritual path have.

“You can’t stay up there in the realm of the spiritual. You have to come down to earth- that’s where the action is.”

Julia: Hiiiiiii.

Juhi: Yooooo.

Julia: !!!!

SOO

Juhi: So, Bonnie’s quote…

Julia: Yes. It felt pretty profound to both of us, immediately. How do we break this down? What is it really about?

Juhi: I would explain it as: it’s very easy to get caught up in one’s spiritual bubble and isolate yourself from the jolts and bumps and such that are happening in the big bad dirty world where the day-to-day business of existence is happening

Julia: Yes. It’s very nice to hole up there in Rainbow Land.

Juhi: Exactly!

Julia: And choose what frequencies we want to be in and be with our mantras and stuff. But we have to return to Earth and the here-and-now.

Juhi: And I think also when we find a spiritual community- whatever that may look like – one person, an online thing, a group, your yoga studio, whatever – we get very cozy in that. And then interaction with people outside of that becomes challenging. And sometimes frustrating. But that’s where important growth happens. That’s where we are tested and where we refine and hone.

Julia: We go outside our circle and people might be like, “what is this language you are speaking?”

Juhi: Hahaha yes. And it’s very easy inside the confines of this land where everyone is speaking rainbow language.

Julia: But we can learn new languages or just be in a place that is challenging.

Juhi: Ok say more about that.

Julia: If there’s no challenge, there is no evolution.

Juhi: Yes! And we also can create this false sense of “Oh, I have evolved!” But unless you actually go out into the world and BE and LIVE and INTERACT…

Julia: Haaa yeah! But then it’s like “now what??”

Juhi: You have no idea how much you’ve evolved. You’re just surrounding yourself with spiritual yes-men.

Julia: Evolution should be an ongoing, never-ending process. And to assess how much you have evolved, you need various contexts. You can’t just surround yourself with people who are always in your corner.

Juhi: Yes. How much or how little. Which is always the shocker like, you think you’re hot shit now, with your rainbow badge…

Julia: Otherwise we’re just a bunch of self-congratulating hippies who have peaked in our evolution.

Juhi: YESSSSSS. Hahahaha. And then you face a real sitch and you’re like, “Oh shit, wait…”

Julia: We work a lot with the law of pure potentiality, right? But what good is potentiality if you don’t then transmute it into the physical world? Sometimes I feel like I feel so good up there on the spiritual plane that to come down and interact in the land of the humans will cause a kind of turbulence in my life. But how else can we put into practice these spiritual lessons? The lesson is useless if it’s not implemented.

Juhi: I’m still on self-congratulating hippies. It’s too good.

Julia: Haaaaaaaaaa

Juhi: You’re on fire today

Lessons = useless if not implemented. And I think it’s easy to retreat into the rainbows when the going gets tough. And the key is to find a balance. Spirituality and all this stuff MUST be practical. It must be integrated.

Julia: Yeah. I am so grateful that we have this power at our disposal. But we need to integrate it-that’s a good word.

Juhi: So even with meditation, or any of these practices, Shamanism, even yoga, whatever. The point isn’t that they are some “me time” isolated retreats. They are medicine, they are tools, they are there to inform all aspects of our lives. Not something we do in a compartmentalized way for however long each day.

Julia: I think that’s a really powerful point. In the beginning of my journey, I made that mistake, like it was, “time to do my 21 minutes of meditation so i can get on with my day…”

Juhi: I think we all do though. Because let’s face it- it makes sense to start that way.

Julia: It’s a natural part of the process. And eventually you begin to see the benefits of these exercises and how they play out on land, with the humans.

Juhi: Ok so maybe this is the crux of all this, if that’s the right word: when you start out with all this, two things happen (one which we haven’t discussed here yet):

  1. You are just trying to fit it into your life, but it’s separate, because that’s all you can handle
  2. You get REALLY excited, and you kind of roll around in it and fall in love with it. And of course you want more and more. But THEN that’s when you can get stuck in Rainbow Land. With the rainbow people. And everyone else is like “Oh jeez, she’s into meditation and she won’t shut up about it” and you lose patience with those people (or worse, you try to convert them, passively or aggressively). And I think the “coming down to earth where the action is happening” is about that integration. How you begin to navigate it all as one thing: your life experience. And it’s like the Campbellian stuff…you go on your journey and then you must return to the world (except the mindfuck is that the journey is kind of always happening)

Julia: Wow, I think you really nailed the process-at least for me as well. I see that this is a sort of step-wise journey, one that other people have also walked. And now I maybe find myself in the stage of this process where I am forced to remember this great quote we are speaking of and I call to mind often.

I think I have an example from my personal life that illustrates this-do you want to hear it?

Juhi: Yes, of course!

Julia: Not getting mixed up with boys was a big theme for me this year. I saw them as kind of upsetting this empress streak I was on where I was focused on the creative self and the career attached to it.

I had this very specific, preconceived idea of how, if I were to let someone get past my red velvet rope, it would have to look. And I would consider the fantasy-and that’s all it was going to be at that point-a fantasy. Because I was so in my higher power that I couldn’t imagine accepting anything less than my fantasy. It was going to have to be with someone or a situation that supported my goddess/empress self. And anything else that came my way that didn’t look like that wasn’t going to cut it.

So then I so-called “fell from grace” a few months ago…like I got physical with someone, and the encounter didn’t look anything like what I had planned for myself. But actually what took place was better than that AND a cataclysmic shift in my energy was there. It was NEW energy, you know? Foreign and unexpected.

Juhi: Right! and that’s the kind of “action” that creates new energy, shifts, etc.

Julia: So it was like I was shot down from Rainbow Land and got dropped straight into a strawberry patch or something and it felt luxurious and galvanizing and I had this renewed energy that I could apply throughout my day/life. And we need that newness-we can’t have spiritual stagnation.

I mean, on an energy level, sex can be dicey because it is an exchange of energy. But again, we’re talking about practicing the lessons we learn in our wisdom. Because, “that’s where the action is” in the practice. And this was an opportunity for me to navigate the diceyness of mixing up my energy with another person’s but still staying in my silent center and higher power.

Juhi: But talk about why you chose the term “fall from grace.” I think that’s important.

Julia: Wow yeah…hmmm.

Juhi: My instant feeling was that it relates to this thing we’ve been discussing about getting into this high-minded spiritual place. And then the disconnect that happens when things get “real.” And you think, “wait, that’s not how this was supposed to go” – like you said.

Julia: Right. I mean, judging by my choice of words, it sounds like I still have these expectations/projections. Still in the process!

Juhi: But you also said “so-called.” Which could also be “supposed.” Which is important.

And this really resonates: “in the practice. and this was an opportunity for me to navigate the diceyness of mixing up my energy with another person’s”

Julia: Yeah “so-called” implies that I think there is some audience or community out there who agrees with me. That’s a bit dogmatic of me.

Juhi: I was seeing it as: “I myself acknowledge that it was not an actual fall from grace, only that it could be perceived that way” and that you were able to make a distinction between two ways it could be perceived or interpreted or processed. And that perhaps the dichotomy within ourselves is there- we might immediately feel “oh no, I lost the plot.”

But then you start to examine it and it comes together in a different way.

Maybe the point is there is no plot we’re supposed to “not lose”…in thinking that there is, we get dogmatic and rigid and risk beating ourselves up over things that we should just be processing.

Julia: I was just thinking that that is a beautiful thing- to “lose the plot”-and then be delighted by the result, or at least learn from it emotionally and spiritually. Actually, I think you are applying some great language here to something that we both are really eager to address/learn: This idea of not having such an agenda.

Juhi: Right, which is something you have always reinforced for me.

Julia: To long for certain things and have our ideas is OK but we also don’t want to be so attached to how it will look.

Juhi: Right.

Julia: God, it’s so key, girl! So hard. But I think we have been chipping away at it quite nicely (self congratulatory hippie).

Juhi: Hahaha. We all need gold stars sometimes…

Julia: Haaaaaaaaaa. lmao.

Juhi: So I have this image now. I want to share this analogy.

Julia: I love your analogies, go for it.

Juhi: So I was thinking first: we can’t avoid the shit. The shit is always going to be there. You and I, we find ourselves in the shit every so often, and then there we are, and we navigate our way through and out of it, knowing we will eventually be in it again. And then “shit” became “mud” (less gross). And then the image of a path.

So the mistake I think is maybe seeing the spiritual as finding a path where you avoid the mud. OR that you find the proper boots to walk through the mud in, so it doesn’t affect you as much, so you’re better prepared.

But then, it came to this: What if it’s just that you’re barefoot, you don’t fear the mud. It’s there, you will sometimes not be in it, and sometimes you will step in it. But it’s nothing to fear. You experience it between your toes. And it can even be not unpleasant. And then you dip your feet in a stream and wash it off and move on. It’s not a big deal. And maybe later you find “Oh, I missed a spot, there’s some between my toes.” And you deal with it. But the point is maybe, don’t worry so much about avoiding the mud. Just be cool and know that it’s not that big of a deal, and you will live.

Haha-please tell me that made some sense.

Julia: Holy shit, girl. You are the analogy-izer. There should be a separate gold star system for your analogies.

Juhi: Hahahaha thank god you understood what I was talking about. I am laughing over here, partly in relief. Ok let me add one more thing to it, if I may: Re: boot thing. Maybe the boots are like different methods/modalities people try in order to shield themselves from the mud. But the most freeing thing is realizing that you can just take the boots off and your skin is as tough a thing as you’ll ever need. Maybe that’s too much and needs reworking. But when I think about us and how many different modalities and traditions and practices we’ve taken from and internalized and integrated, I see that we really take them into ourselves, and really integrate them into ourselves. Instead of relying on them as an external thing, which I think a lot of people do, at least in the beginning. So you don’t need the trappings. You need the wisdom, and you need it to be part of yourself. And you only internalize that through experience and application.

Julia: Yes, I think the aim is to be our own source.

Juhi: YES.

Julia: The letting-it-roll-off-my-shoulders part is getting easier. The flicking off of the mud (to continue the analogy).

I even wonder if being in the shit is or could be pleasurable. A pig in shit, ha.

Juhi: Well I think that’s the dream, no? That you can be in the mud and say, “This is life! It’s all good!” But I think another one of your sayings is more attainable (at least for me right now):

CTFO.

Julia: Chill the Fuck Out!

Juhi: That’s a way to deal with being in the mud. You might not enjoy it but you can CTFO.

Julia: At worst, CTFO. At best, bring an attitude of play with you wherever you go.

Juhi: Right. Yes. But going back to something you said here earlier, about being the source. I want to tie that into our original starting point. I think that when you can internalize what you’re learning then it’s not dependent upon being in Rainbow Land. Then it crystallizes. When you have it in you, you’re the source and then you can actually be in the world and deal with the action and welcome the action. Or at least not fear that it’s going to really kill your vibe. Your vibe has to be strong enough so as not to be killed or upset by “action.”

Julia: Yes, Rainbow Land is in you and you are in it, and all is one. All is integrated.

Juhi: Loooool. #rainbowlandisinyou

Julia: Ha! And the action doesn’t disrupt your silent center and you might even in fact, as you said, welcome it.

Juhi: I would say my personal example was with Dude. You know, we were out of contact for a while, which, strictly speaking, could have been a total bummer. But I was doing love & light meditations like a champ for 2 months and was as happy and positive as a rainbow clam. And then suddenly he reappeared and BOOM-I lost my sea legs. I was on my ass. My vibe was totally disrupted. But it was good practice.

When action happened (action that I WANTED even). I wasn’t prepared for it. Because I had been insulated in my own bubble and I even said, “This was so much easier when we weren’t actually talking” because then it became unpredictable. Then there was this other person’s energy in the mix, and dealing with things you can’t control is an art. It’s obviously always been a challenge for me.

That’s the danger of Rainbow Land- your get a false sense of security if you’re there too long because you’re insulated from these foreign energies.  And when life happens, you run the risk of being unprepared. But the beautiful thing is when, instead of being discouraged by falling on your ass, your can look at it as an opportunity to learn and integrate for the future.

Julia: I mean, that is so much the struggle. Learning how to navigate the unpredictable. We talk a lot about taking the journey of serendipity and surprise but the other side of the coin is it’s fucking hard and scary and lonely or whatever. But right…as you said, it’s a powerful opportunity that we should be grateful for. Because it gives us more of that wisdom and creativity that we crave. I really like this idea of being thankful for these tough moments. It’s easy to be thankful for the good stuff…but let’s love it all.

Also, I love you, you are my soul sister, I am amazed by you.

Juhi: I LOVE YOU TOO. And the feeling is so mutual. You are such a rock in my life. You have taught me so much and I love what we have.

Julia: I am grateful for you every day girl. I love you

Julia: Ok I love you sooooo much and let’s talk later.

Juhi: Thank you for this, and for everything. xxxxxxxx

Julia: Thank you for being in my life!! xoxoxxoxo

 

 

The Psychic Souk

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There has always been an impulse in me to jump the garden wall – a need to see what’s “over there,” or anywhere but where I am. Wherever I go, I want to go further. I don’t know if it’s a symptom of chronic dissatisfaction or just itchy feet. But I have been known to plan vacations on my vacation.

I think everyone wants to live forever..? We write songs, paint pantings, collect stamps in order to leave behind a legacy. We want to be connected to this earth for as long as possible and a song or film helps guarantee that (although not really, because permanence is an illusion). I feel like the reason the death of David Bowie was a shock is because he had already achieved immortality in his proliphic career-how could he die?

Travel gives me that feeling of living in the eternal. The universe feels infinite. I leave behind a legacy in the more places I go and fingerprints I leave. And in going outside my element, I no longer have those familiar cues that tell me who I am (my language, my street, my water pressure from my fancy western showerhead). So I’m forced to slay the ego-this idea of myself that I’ve been so attached to-and dissolve into a oneness with others. That’s that infiniteness I’m talking about. When you’re standing on a pyramid at Giza looking out onto the Sahara, you become that tiny grain of sand that makes up the whole desert. You gain perspective on your place in this world. “I’m just a grain of sand! Why do I give a fuck about that breakup when it’s just a blip on the cosmic plane!?” Nothing matters. Not in a nihilistic sense but in an existential one.

It took this writing project for me to see that collecting clothes scratches the same itch that travel does. When I can’t get away, I collect beautiful old things that I feel like have been somewhere. Through the folkloric prints of Thea Porter, theatrical colors of Zandra Rhodes, exotic silhouettes of YSL, I’m like an astral traveler. Clothes are transportive. They support the fantasy.

It’s kind of an exercise in conjuring. Like in meditation, when I invoke a deity for guidance on a certain prayer. “Empress, can you please give me some wisdom?!” and then I try to experience myself as inhabiting the Empress energy and being wise about the matter in question. Clothes work the same way. If I feel powerless, I put on Speakeasy-Era lesbian or Japanese Schoolgirl Assassin. You can transmute negativity to a higher energy. Or you can embrace the shitty feeling! Wear it with pride. Sometimes when I have an ugly or invisible day, I might surrender to it with Artfully Disheveled Waif. Loneliness gets Sicilian Widow (I really do this, think Dolce and Gabbana). Put on the clothes that get where you need to go-spiritually, emotionally, geographically. Wear somebody else’s ego for a bit. It’s a play on archetypes. It’s empowering.

That’s my axis of creativity-not in the classical, artistic sense but in the sense of spiritual creation. When clothes, travel and the divine can so strangely meet. Vintage and secondhand clothing is all energy. It’s been somewhere before you. And it contains magical qualities that can support you on this journey of life.

 

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