Writer’s Block and the Throat Chakra

There has been a slew of coincidences in the last twenty-seven days (of 2014 – hello!) that have lead me to confront some throat chakra (Vishuddha) issues I’ve been dealing with. One in particular on New Year’s Eve when I was pulling cards for Facebook friends. In reciprocation, a rune was cast for me and the result, Ansuz (Odin’s rune), indicates the voice, communication, messages and perception. I found this telling (pun intended!) as I’ve been in a sort of “therapy” for writer’s block the last few months and am just recently feeling like there’s been an opening in my ability to articulate my feelings, position, and sense of self. I’ve been drawing Ansuz for myself over and over again for the last year and a half.

Writer’s block, if you are not a writer, is the creative equivalent of chronic constipation. And I am a writer. It’s painful, devastating, and soul killing. Want a real-world example of the unpleasant effects of writer’s block? Take a peek at the (lack of) archives on my blog over 2013. The inability to write, for a writer, is like the inability to speak. In fact, the two are often are intrinsically linked, as my voice is expressed most succinctly through the medium of the pen (or uh… computer keyboard).

The throat chakra, our fifth chakra, encompasses our throat, mouth, jaw, ears, and through the collarbone to the upper chest. It includes all the organs necessary for speaking and hearing, and our ability to understand language and communication. Interestingly enough, it is also linked to the thyroid (guess who has two thumbs and issues with that little gland?). Can’t find your voice (literally or figuratively)? Miscommunications a pain in your neck? Are there blocks in your creative expressions (music and writing specifically)? Congratulations, you may have some issues with your throat chakra.

The fifth chakra is represented with the 16-petaled lotus blossom. It’s blue (like the marble background I picked in the image above). If I were to choose a tarot card to correspond, I would perhaps pick the Magician or the Emperor (I thought long and hard about that one, do you have another in mind?). The Lenormand correspondences would be the Birds or Letter or Journal. Playing card—the Six of Clubs. If you’re working with crystals, pick a nice blue stone that resonates well in your hand when you raise it throat level; I would pick turquoise or lapis.

Therapy for such an issue can involve many different modalities. When I hit the “write or die” wall (that I think a lot of writers begin to feel at some point), I did the sensible thing. I got help. And my coach and I worked through a plan to make things better. We chose the morning pages route, and every day for the past several months, I’ve been spewing the entire contents of my brain onto paper (or uh… the computer screen).

The process is ugly. I write dribble like “Today I did…” and “Yesterday I went…” I write embarrassing sentimentality that only my 13-year-old self would approve of. And I write terrible secrets that should be burnt in an angry, unholy fire. But eventually, after a month or so, I began to notice that I was also writing ideas and snippets—and I started catching those with another net. The morning pages began to serve the purpose of the chaff basket, and other, better words began bubbling to the surface. I eventually added writing prompts to my exercises and finally I feel like I’m finding my way back home. Slowly, yes. But once again, I hear my own voice.

And over the past few weeks I’ve noticed other subtle differences in the ways I am able to speak my truth. Here I am, after all. Hi! It’s nice to talk to you again.

It was actually a revelation about the chakras that lead me back to the Sassy Sibyl—or a vision rather—of the energies of my life orbiting happily as they should be in order for all my parts to feel like they’re working (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually). In working through my writer’s block, I opened up my fifth chakra, which got this energy flowing and set into motion a lot of deeply healing work I’ve been immersed in the past few weeks.

To summarize, in the past I have clogged the pipes of my throat chakra by:

  • not owning my truths
  • allowing others to speak for me
  • allowing myself to be bullied/silenced
  • not asking for help

These are issues that can obviously goo up the cogs of the other chakras as well. In the context of the morning pages exercises, I’ve started the process of getting to know myself intimately, mundanely, and wholly again. This has given me the courage, and opened up the space for me to find my voice.

I will continue to work on my throat chakra issues by:

  • meditation & mantras (I even have my own writer’s mantras set aside for when I falter at the morning pages. If I am stuck, writing one over and over again is enough to get the words spilling out again.)
  • morning pages—devotedly
  • finding writing prompts and inspirational quotes that keep my wheels turning (pun intended!)

For morning pages, I recommend either 750words.com or ommwriter. The first is web-based, so make sure your other tabs are closed (don’t need you, Facebook). It’s great for unloading the junk floating around in your mind, as it times you and counts down each word you type till you hit the goal. The second is a program you download to your computer, and it’s wonderful for distraction-free writing—it’s what I use for those writing prompts.

Have you ever experienced throat chakra issues? How did they manifest? How did you resolve them?

Explaining Jesus

Christmas is a weird time for heathens. I love the snow, yule tree and twinkly lights, after all. I’ve weaseled out of the meatier Christmas stuff in the past by opting for Solstice celebrations in my house and letting the kids do Christmas with their dad and his family. Those celebrations are largely secular anyway — the focus being on presents, Santa, feasting and making merry. Nothing wrong with that.

But this past year my son has become more and more aware of the world around him. He notices things in his environment and asks questions about them. We’ve also been reading more mythology together — mostly Greek and Native American myths. And perhaps my heart was softened a bit toward the whole Christian mythos by our study of Mary in the Goddess Mystery School this past summer. In any case, when we were in Target yesterday picking up a few more strands of lights and I saw this adorable little nativity set, I couldn’t resist. “Who is this supposed to be?” he asked. And decided then to explain Jesus to my son.

You know how we talked about different people around the world having different ideas about how the world began? Well there are a lot of people around here who are Christians and they believe that a god named Jehova, the Father God, created everything in the Universe.

Ok.

And Jehova wanted people on earth to learn how to treat each other better, so he had a son named Jesus and gave him to parents on earth to be raised as a regular person. See, here’s the baby, and here are his human parents, Mary and Joseph. And Jesus was a superhuman guy, but also a person.

Like Hercules?

Sort of, except he wasn’t super strong. So when Jesus was born, in a barn in Bethlehem ((I had incorrectly wrote Jerusalem originally. Clearly I need to spend more time in Sunday School.)), angels, which are like people with wings, came down from the sky to check him out — so that’s who those people are in the set. And then there were three guys who were really smart and important — and they followed a big shiny star all the way to the barn and gave the baby gifts when they got there.

And then Santa came with gifts?

Uh, no. Santa is a figure that comes to us from Norse mythology and Dutch folklore — see, there was a God named Odin who rode through the sky during Yule celebrations on an eight-legged horse and gave gifts to his people. And then some Christian’s got involved and turned him into Saint Nick and then Santa… it’s all very confusing, isn’t it.

Yes.

Yeah, this is why mama sticks to Solstice. Well, just know that Jesus was a man and god who taught people to love each other and Santa teaches us the importance of giving. And Christmas is a day we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, every year, just like on the Winter Solstice we celebrate the birth of the Sun (God).

So is the Sun God and the Son of God and the Sun God in Changing Woman the same?

That really depends on who you ask.

Ok. Can you do Easter next?

Sure, well, remember Jesus the baby? When he grew up, he was SO good at teaching people to be nice, mean people killed him. But then, since he was the son of a god, he came back to life. So on Easter, Christians celebrate Jesus coming back to life…

Wait. He came back to life as a bunny??

… Just… ask me again in the spring, okay?

On Kissing Frogs

Why
should a certain
quite adorable princess
be walking in her garden
at such a time
and toss her golden ball
up like a bubble
and drop it into the well?
It was ordained.
Just as the fates deal out
the plague with a tarot card.
(Ann Sexton, “The Frog Prince” from Transformations)

“Horrid Old Thing”, thought the princess… (Illustration by Anne Anderson)

And so the story goes that a frog heard her weeping and offered his assistance in fetching her favorite bauble on the condition that she promises he may sit at her dinner table, eat from her plate and sleep in her bed. Thinking (or not-thinking, depending on your perspective) the frog couldn’t leave the water, she agreed. “Anything for my pretty toy!” The frog makes good on his end of the deal and the princess learns that a promise made in vain is still a promise.

Princesses are problematic. My daughter puts on a swishy dress and dances through the doorway, “I’m a princess!” she exclaims.

Princesses, I’ve discovered, are the standard to which young girls measure femininity. It’s not surprising — I understand the appeal of these beautiful little waifs with the prettiest things and the catchiest of theme songs. I don’t recall if the princess phenomenon was such a force in my own adolescence, I only know that I view it now with skepticism at best and abhorrence at worst. I can, as a mother, only issue warnings, “Don’t kiss frogs.”

In Grimm’s version, she doesn’t kiss the frog. The frog enters her dining room and sits at her table. He eats off her plate. And finally, demands entrance to her bedchamber. The King holds his daughter to this strange pact, so she carries the frog upstairs. The idea of sleeping with the frog is so repulsive to the princess that she dashes him against the wall — and in that moment he turns into a handsome prince.

In other versions, the frog-tossing is removed, along with a good deal of the princess’s agency. English audiences were treated to a rendition where the frog sleeps in the bed of the princess for three nights — and on the third he transforms into the handsome prince. Of course she has to marry him now (good thing he’s suddenly handsome, and a prince).

The kissing scene seems to have been added later. And the fickleness and falseness of the young princess is replaced by a sort of courageous sympathy that is rewarded when her kiss becomes the impetus for the transformation. The frog gets what he wants. The princess gets what she wants. Is kissing a frog really so bad? Maybe so, if you’re a princess.

Which tale do we tell? The one where the princess uses her charm and beauty to exploit others? The one where the frog offers to help a crying woman so long as she agrees to sleep with him? The one where she is so remorseful about her poor decisions that she commits a rather terrible act of violence?

Should the King have sheltered his daughter from the consequences of her choice? To what end should we keep to a promise? What if he never turned into a prince? What kind of a prince can this frog really be? Why does he accept her, knowing that her vanity prevents her from seeing the true nature of others?

In the end I’m not sure what to tell my children. Except maybe we’re all frogs and we’re all princesses. We all use people. We manipulate. We tell lies. We regret the things we say without consideration. We give ourselves away without thinking. We are all capable of violent outbursts when we’re forced into a corner. And we all change. We transform. And we go on. Ever after.

 

Singing over the bones

When I was in first grade, my mother got a phone call from my teacher. She was concerned because unlike the other children, I didn’t play much during recess. Instead, I would walk the perimeter of the playground against the chain link fence, stopping every few feet to pick up and examine interesting pebbles. What became particularly disturbing was when the other children began to migrate to the edges of the asphalt as well — following me, but also watching where they were stepping through the slips of grasses that grew in the sandy cracks between the sidewalk, looking for treasures.

I grew up in a village that was lush with ponds and woods and trails and spent every day of my childhood exploring all that bounty. When I left my parents house I moved to towns and cities and a great disconnect grew between myself and the natural world. I recall the first few times we visited my ex-husband’s family in Pennsylvania. I was frightened by the old growth forests. The tall trees and hills made me feel claustrophobic. In the wastelands of the midwest, the only things obstructing the view1 were factory silos and telephone poles. I didn’t walk. Well I could have walked, but tracking between the liquor store and the Dairy Queen is a distinctly different kind of spiritual experience. 😉

Since moving to the country2 I have discovered a love of walking. My little dog loves walking too — most attuned to the element of DOG when she’s nosing through the underbrush and rolling in deer poop.

Walking with the kids out here is tedious — though we make an almost-daily pilgrimage to a nearby stable to see and say hello to our neighbor horses (and the noisy donkey). I walk with the dog, by myself, whenever I get the chance though — because we can walk up against the edge of the woods or down long winding country roads until she gives up and sits down3. I find rocks and I take pictures of flowers, mostly. I’ll even admit to a certain level of nerdery when it comes to rocks — especially crystals and fossils. I show them to the kids and we talk about how we think they were made — what kind of creature the fossil was and what kind of story that tells us about the place we live now. My kids smile and nod.

A week or so ago, I had a dream that I was walking in the woods, looked down and picked up an animal bone. The next day, when I was picking the kids up from the sitter, a note on the door said they’d be in the pine grove behind the house. As soon as my feet hit the bed of needles, there it was. I’ve never been a bone collector — always found the whole business a big macabre. But when the Universe throws you a bone… literally, I mean, it seems pertinent to play fetch.

My father collects bones when he takes his dog on walks. And turtle shells. And snake skins. And interesting rocks. The older I get the more I see my parents in the mirror. He used to bring them home and show us. We would smile and nod. I grew up in a natural history exhibit and I never realized it.

The bones though — do they now call to me for curation? On our walk Sunday, my dog and I came upon a sacred tree in a shallow trail not to far from the field behind my house. A natural altar had formed in the well of its exposed roots, made from a butterfly wing, a broken snail shell and a sparrow’s feather. We lingered there while I made my prayers. When I turned away I saw a pearly jawbone (a groundhog maybe?) glinting in the midsummer sun. Later, while pulling some sedums to transplant in my terrariums, my hand fell against the clavicle4 of a deer.

I brought them home, rinsed them of dirt, sang them a ditty and blessed the spirits of these creatures passed with some rainwater I had collected and kept from the garden. Put them in the tray with my rocks and tiny pinecones — the treasures I find walking along the edges5.

Two coping strategies that don’t work (and one that does!)

Coping is a skill that I happen to be well-versed in. Hell, I’m a self-employed single mother. Every day is a new lesson in coping. I’m constantly trying new strategies to just. get. through. the. day. Because it really sucks. It’s hard. I’m frazzled, stressed and totally overwhelmed. The key to avoiding trainwreckification1 though is effective coping. And moving 600 miles away from my tribe, my happy places, my family, friends and homeland (yes, I’m looking at you, Indiana), has been a crash refresher in these kinds of skills. To that end I’d like to share with you two coping strategies that DON’T work — and one that does (for me — aside from drinking heavily2.)

Talk to Pollyanna

I was talking to a friend about how it had been a week since my last shower. And when I finally got my kiddos settled to the point where I thought I could safely jump in and lather up my hair, my daughter decided to sit outside the tub and scream like she was dying because she was out of juice. So look, I was frustrated, frazzled and overwhelmed and I started crying. In the shower. With soapy hair. My friend listened to all of this, smiled and said, “Look on the brightside! Your kids love you and need you SO MUCH ALL THE TIME you’re SO LUCKY!” worse yet is when Pollyanna says something like “Well soon your kids will be all grown up and they won’t need you anymore! So think about that!” (Next time I’m sobbing in the shower?)

Why it’s not helpful

When someone tells you to look on the bright side it’s usually because of two reasons:

1. It’s easy to respond this way AND 2. They’re uncomfortable with your pain

When you talk to someone about being frazzled, overwhelmed or stressed — needing to find some way of coping, what you’re really talking about is your pain. I wasn’t just telling my friend about how I needed a shower — obviously the story ran much deeper. I was trying to communicate that I hurt because I have to do everything myself and it sucks. And when Pollyanna suggests you look on the bright side, it usually indicates an unwillingness on their part to be present with that hurt. Talking to people about unpleasant things is awkward. It’s weird and uncomfortable to see other people’s pain. Perhaps your friend is worried about the possibility of experiencing empathy — of feeling any of that yucky stuff for themselves — and will say anything to escape it as quickly and efficiently as possible. And yet — Talking to someone about the ways and the hows of my hurt is SO helpful to me. But I’ve learned that it’s important to chose those people who will really listen and allow me feel my pain rather than trying to sweep it under the curtains. And if you’re a Pollyanna who regularly dispenses this advice, stop it. It doesn’t help and it’s just so uncreative. You can do better. Start by giving your friend a hug and holding their hand while they wring out all those tears.

Make a gratitude list

I’m a grateful lady. I’m well fed, have a beautiful little (pink) house in the country. I have two children who are good looking, intelligent and healthy. I have so much to be grateful for, it’s sick really. It’s unfair to most of the world just how wonderful my life is. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck sometimes. So when I’m having a bad week — when I get behind with the housework, with sleep; when I am frustrated by a project, by a person, by my own shortcomings — and someone tells me to make a gratitude list, I seriously just want to fly into fits of rage and throw a lamp across the room at a wall, for example.

Why it’s not helpful

Gratitude is a practice that’s best instituted before you get to the actual coping bits of life. Gratitude is something that, if it’s already in your box of tricks, will help you deal with the blows before you’re in the pre-lamp-throwing trainwreckification phase. So in that sense, I do recommend that you keep it in mind — like when things are going good. I’m also a fan of noticing. It’s like gratitude but without all the touchy-feely-woo that’s going around these days. I notice what things bring me great joy (and yes, I even make lists about it sometimes) — so that when I begin to feel a little edge-worn I can call upon those energies, those spirits, those chocolates and double Americanos, for example — and that is a good coping skill. Noticing works in the opposite direction too — with equal effectiveness! If you notice what makes you psycho crazy and just keep it in mind, you can avoid it like a blistering communicable disease next time you notice it creeping up on your radar. Gratitude lists don’t work for me for (again) two reasons:

1. I can’t fool myself into this way of thinking. The gratitude list works as a way to remind you of what you have going for you. I am either too jaded or this is just too obvious for my brain. I know my problems are first-world problems. If you’re reading this, chances are your problems are first world problems too. Be grateful you have the internet right? Is it really helpful to remember that you have clean water to drink and don’t live in a war-ravaged third-world nation? I mean, yes? But still…

2. Eventually, if things got really really bad, all your list would be good for is to remind you that all that all that shit hasn’t killed you… yet. And hey, maybe that makes you feel better. It doesn’t, me.

I tried to do gratitude lists once. It didn’t make me feel better. It made me feel petty in addition to the shitty I already felt. Maybe I wasn’t being grateful enough? Maybe I’m ungrateful. Maybe I’m a horrible person. Maybe if I could be more grateful I wouldn’t be so stressed out all the time! Why can’t I be MORE GRATEFUL WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME OMG.

What does work

Roller derby.

Kidding! Okay not really. Actually I found roller derby to be an incredibly stress-relieving, perspective-inducing, edge-smoothing coping mechanism. There’s just something about getting your ass smeared all over a gym floor to really put your problems into perspective (please note: I only condone violence when all parties are wearing mouthguards and wheels).

Honor your pain

A few things – Looking on the bright side and being grateful for what you have are both good ideas. I support both plans wholeheartedly. But the positive thinking/manifesting your desires/believe-in-yourself and all your wildest dreams will come true movement seems to miss the mark on the fact that feeling shitty is just part of life. There’s a tendency to just gloss over that unpleasant detail – in self-help books, blogs, etc. Life can be disappointing. Life can suck. Everything that makes you very very very happy also has the power to make you really really really miserable. That’s the toss of the die, people. When I say ‘honor your pain’ – I don’t mean wallow in it. Having a good cry is different than not being able to get out of bed for a week. Punching a pillow is different than punching your obnoxious neighbor. If your pain is so deep that you’re unable to see the difference, please seek the help of a qualified professional who can meet you where you’re at and offer you the support you need. You’ll feel better. How to honor your pain:

1. Allow yourself to feel it – Cry. I used to cry all the time. I find I have a harder time with this now. This is, of course, me avoiding those unpleasant feelings. I always feel better when I cry though. Always. 2. Release it into the wild – I like a bit of ritual in this step. Ever hear of a bitter bonfire? Maybe host one with you friends and family. Where I’m at right now — not so appropriate to have giant bonfires. Take a candle outside. Write that shittyness down on a little slip of paper and set it on fire. If you like a bit more woo with your ritual, try it while the moon is waning, in the late evening right before you indulge in a hot bath (handful of salt in the water). 3. Make it for something – one of the ways we can honor a spirit is to give it a purpose. Make your pain good for something — even if that something is just the promise to yourself to enlist that awkward teenager down the street to watch your babies while you bathe. If you’re frustrated by work, you don’t have to release your pain and then do something drastic, like quit your job, for example. But think of something small, something useful and good that the pain can be for. Maybe it’s for taking a walk while your coworkers smoke. Maybe it’s for finding a book about writing your own business plan. Make it for something. Our brains like it when energy, even the hurtful kind, has purpose.

And finally, a spell by Valerie Worth (from Crone’s Book of Magical Words) To Dispel Sorrow When world and fate Conspire to mark Your life with lines And characters dark, Mold a tablet Of earth or clay, Write on it all You would cast away — All you regret, All that you bear, All that afflicts you, All that you fear — Break it and bury it In the ground, Saying this charm To heal the wound: Sorrow be dust And dust dissolve: Let all my grief Go into this grave.

***

On Intuition and Coincidences

The Intuitive nudges us toward the Divine. Always. They are both parts of the whole, after all. And this is how you know you can trust it. Ask yourself, would I be closer to divinity? If the answer is yes, rest assured you’ve tapped that deep knowing well.

Intuition presents itself in different ways. Sometimes those bits of flying-about Universe that catch in our dreams, visions, mind eyes and hearts, are messy to process. Sometimes it’s painful to hear. Sometimes it’s the obvious you were avoiding. Sometimes it’s the inspiration you were waiting for.

And sometimes it’s the tears at the grocery store. Pushing us toward flour, salt and water.

Sometimes it’s the bleakness of midwinter.

That if we can look past, would unveil, through the spitting snow and biting cold, a kind of life still in the trees.

Sometimes it’s sweetness in an indulgence. A sacred moment that we can prolong for hours through ingenuity.

And sometimes it’s a skill we have to invoke, by creating a space and waiting for the light — which is easy to find if we stand very still, and are willing to get very, very close.

I have an intuitive sense for magic-making and for seeing patterns that unfold into the future, like an origami chain building in one direction, one mountain or valley at a time. But it’s not something I can do on auto-pilot (at least, not yet). I have to slow down, listen carefully and get present to make it work. My coincidences start to pile up when I choose instead to bury my head as though  it doesn’t exist. Being intuitive isn’t always fun. Mostly it’s not fun at all. And I would like to pretend I could live in ignorant bliss of the future, of my path, of your path; of the pain I know we will both experience. But then I read cards for someone who is desperately clinging to that ignorance, and I realize that it’s not blissful at all.

What is most important for you to remember is that you are NOT CRAZY for listening to the voice of your inner self. Your intuitive sense is perhaps the most important sense you can develop. Like our other senses, it is how we navigate our lives. How we make decisions. How we experience the sacred (or mundane) of our everydays.

How do you experience yours?