Spirit

I’m Back. Welcome to Witch ‘n Bitch.

Dear Gentle and Sexy Reader,

VOTE, y’all. Are you registered?

You’ve noticed I’ve been away for fucking ever a couple years. And that I’m no longer over at askdrding.com but over here, on a big-ass fancy professional website. It took me a minute, but I finally fully launched myself all the way out of the broom closet of being a semi-anonymous, sweary, shit-talking psychologist blogger who wrote in the third goddamned person for reasons unknown even to myself, to finally officially revealing myself as a the straight up Tarot reading witch and shamanic practitioner I’ve been, well, pretty much forever. I’m assuming you’re not totally shocked.

I’m over on IG a lot. And I have a cool af intersectional witch group forming over on the AskDrDing FB page, called Witch ‘n Bitch. But, you ask, “How do I know if Witch ‘n Bitch is my jam? I don’t own an actual cape or BoS, you see.” Excellent question!

First off, this is non-binary space. IDGAF about your genotype or phenotype or if you identify as male or female or have transcended the gender binary altogether. C’mon over. Tell us your pronouns.

Second: you don’t have to be a big boss witch, a Wiccan, or a witch of any kind. I’m a retired Catholic, a former altar girl at St. Patrick’s who still digs a lot of the traditions I was raised in, and in fact, it’s where my interests in mysticism originated back when I was a fake nun. We talk about what being a witch means, or doesn’t mean. In the end, it’s the results that matter to me most, so if you resonate with the group but don’t consider yourself a witch or a believer in the otherworlds, cool.

If you’re someone who’s into using magic/k, witchery, energy work, shamanism and/or other embodied spiritual practice to help fix the flaming pile of used diapers that is this country right now, including room for “deep trouble/good-hearted” hexing* along with healing…

If you’re someone who groks #blacklivematter, #POClivesmatter, #ibelievesurvivors, #resist, #LBGTQIA, and #bodypositivity along with #ableismexists …

If you’re able to dialog with others in a respectful way about spiritual and metaphysical topics and be willing to examine the ways these intersect with the lived experiences of oppression and patriarchy in your own life and in the lives of others…all while conspiring (literally “to breathe together”) to heal some shit in the right-now…

If you are an intersectional feminist who maybe secretly digs “woo” or who ain’t quite sure about the rest of it, but is open to learning…

If you’d also like to trade old-timey or newfangled spellwork, recipes, rituals, charms or invocations, discuss healing techniques, explore your spiritual/intuitive gifts, share stories of boldness, love, empowerment, healing, awakening, and grief…

You get the idea. Psychology, a discipline which used to encompass soul, mind, and spirit, has spent the last 50 years or so trying to forcibly separate the soul from the mind, and my stance in WnB is that I’m here to help make reintroductions and hold space for folks interested in limning these deeps. I expect the group to function independently at some point, like when I go on vacation or enter my hibernation cave in the winter.

You absolutely must answer the questions three to get in. Fact. This space must remain not only safe, but sacred. I’m not here to argue about it. My house, my rules, but the rooms inside are yours.

If I’m teaching anything, it’s along the lines of rediscovering and nourishing aspects of the Self and its ways of knowing that have been disallowed, fractioned off, suppressed, oppressed, or devalued. There are many Ways of Knowing. Multitudes. Not just the ones we’ve all been taught in textbooks and by the culture at large, or even in classes. Deeper, older ways that can be helpfully integrated with modern understandings if we have but eyes to look; ways, that, if applied over time, can result in a return to wholeness, to original blessing (as opposed to original sin), to singing the tired old bones to life again, and make them stronger from the breaking.

I am here to lovingly affirm that we can learn through joy as well as pain. We can regain power that seems forever lost to us at the hands of oppressive structures and forces. Every human being, I believe, has this ability to call their spirit back when the shit comes down.

I’m deliberately letting the ways and means of this group coalesce in a natural way. We are still “forming and norming” what this group is going to be about, because I had that “storming” part covered, around the time of the autumnal equinox and Aries moon, when something deep in my marrow finally arose and plainly spoke: ENOUGH.

Enough.

I’m turning 50 in a few months. This is a time of great change and even turmoil, the realization of unfinished business and incomplete mourning, of deeply knowing the certainty of death and the finitude of earthly time. Midlife can be, and is for me, the second adolescence of the psyche and body, and a revisiting of the awful and also glorious truths of life as revealed by the turning of the wheel.

It’s go time, baby. Let’s make it count. Tell your friends. Only the ones you know will be into it, though, ok? I’m weary of arguing with those who do not seem to be able to recognize that everybody matters, or nobody matters. Let’s create a cauldron of healing, of dreaming a new future where this gobshite diaper-fire patriarchy is a thing of the past and burnt to bits, and a healthy world is invoked and dreamt awake, where the Sacred Masculine and the Sacred Feminine coexist right here, right now, in real life, in real time, for earth and all her peoples. Blessed Be forever.

*Hexing = to bind and thereby neutralize harm, render harmless, dissipate, ward off, protect against, etc. You get it.

That Time When I Was A Fake Nun

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St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church and general purpose badass. Still my patron saint. “Make it quick, Holy Spirit, I’m all about business here!”. Booyah.

Way back in the day, I was a Third-Order Carmelite, with my heart set on the nunnery. Third Order means you practice the Carmelite way of life while still being a layperson: chastity, obedience, poverty. I joined an Order that met up in Omaha, NE and I’m sure by now you’re thinking: wow, she must have purt near died from the excitement of it all.

Needless to say, in the long run, it didn’t take. Turns out I’m not cut out to be obedient or chaste. Poverty wasn’t a problem, however, because I was in gradual school at the time, and had a lot of experience eating generic ramen and pirating cable. So, I had that going for me.

And as far as the style of prayer favored by the Carmelites, I was a total washout at that too. I was searching at the time for a unitive and personal experience with the Divine, something that brought me into direct contact with God (I wasn’t really into the sacred feminine at that point, obvs), without all the bells and whistles normally associated with most Catholic prayer traditions. I’d been practicing something called Centering Prayer, which is remarkably similar to the Zen Buddhist meditation style I learned years later, only my hips and booty hurt a lot less. It’s what I’d call a heart-centered way of being in the direct presence of God. I found it refreshing mentally as well as emotionally; for the first time, I was developing a felt, embodied relationship with God, rather than a relationship based on mental prayer alone.

The biggest block for me within the Order was all the red tape, plus the fact that despite its early mystic origins, they weren’t really much into said mysticism, save for maybe a moment of silent prayer during our meetings. Instead it was basically here, read these dry-ass prayers with the group. Here, pray to Mary even though humility and subservience is like the last thing you need right now. Go to this meeting. Learn this lineage of prophets and martyrs. Sit in a room with people who believe having way more children than they can support is the way to God. Suppress your oh-so radical views on seeing women and minorities treated equally, or for gays to marry, or for the priesthood to include women. And so forth. Eventually, over many months, the cognitive dissonance grew from being merely annoyingly familiar to completely unbearable; certainly I’d experienced it many times before, growing up Catholic with a wonderfully hippie-dippy liberal arts education, but never at this intensity.

The turning point was the day I went to what was supposed to be a quick Saturday evening Mass with a gay friend; the priest deviated from a discussion of the gospel readings and instead railed against homosexuality and abortion and birth control. That was the moment. I’d absolutely had it. The world was burning and rather than remind us of the quenching refreshment and peace of God’s love, this fool wanted to rail against the very normal human functions of attraction and sexual activity. And then he hit us all up for money. Fuck that, I was outtie. Done. We left the Mass before communion started, and that was that. I returned my various Our Lady of Mount Carmel tchotchkes and quit. I quit the Order and I quit The Church altogether. Done.

I didn’t give up on trying to develop a more intentional relationship to the things that gave my life meaning, purpose, identity, comfort, connection, or joy, aka spirituality. But I did give up on the Catholic Church. Centering Prayer allowed me to experience this kind of all-encompassing, tidal oneness with all of creation. But the overwhelming feelings of safety, of love, of the light of heaven interpenetrating this plane of reality and lighting it up from the inside out just didn’t jive with what was going on with the Church and with my Order. I won’t supply the entire litany of complaints here, as I’m sure most of you are familiar with them. I just had reached my breaking point.

Giving up my dysfunctional relationship with Catholicism kinda screwed up my spiritual practice for a good long while. But mostly I felt relief that I no longer had to contort my soul into an unrecognizable shape, just to fit into the Order or to pursue a relationship with a higher power. And relief again that I didn’t have to continuously ignore the uptight collective of psychosexually fucked up* individuals preaching at me anymore. I could simply choose to listen to myself.

Unless you’ve been raised with organized religion and had its roots grow into you, these struggles and their solution may all seem very obvious. But to me it felt like victory. Breaking up with a bad boyfriend, even if it is your own church, is a gift you give yourself. And if you find yourself relapsing and returning, you may have to give that gift more than once.

At the age of 47, it’s almost embarrassing to remember that young, impressionable shrinkling who thought she could somehow outwit or outwait the tyranny of The Church. It’s still painful to think about how deeply dysfunctional and inherently misogynistic the religion of my ancestors is, and about how deeply its tendrils curled themselves into my soul, my psyche, even after I’d developed the ability to say no to it. Complicated shit here, people.

One thing that intrigues me still, is how people, women especially, can learn to somehow adapt. It seems to begin with un-tethering yourself from bullshit paradigms, which entails facing the fear that you’re doing some Cosmic Fuckup to End All Fuckups by saying naaahhhhhh, this ain’t me. I no longer am afraid that I’m going to smolder forever in the flames of hell, like some sacrelicious Raquel Welch who is on fire.

Or maybe I’m a little afraid, but the fear of not being true to myself outweighs this.

What I find reassuring is that as human beings, we can learn. We can learn to walk away from the things that hurt us, even if we’re simultaneously drawn to them, over and over. We can learn to say no. We can learn to more quickly discern what brightens and enlivens and nourishes the soul from what dims and dulls and ultimately starves it out. For example, it’s far easier for me nowadays to walk into a group, a circle, a store, a workshop, whatever, and suss this stuff out. Often the only way to learn to fully appreciate what is helpful for us is to know what is harmful for us.

What a fucking paradox. My belief is that we must take the risk to experience, to truly inhabit the deep Self, to not just rotely barf up prayers or platitudes, but to enter into a real relationship with life. With real people. With our real selves, bodies included. And there are many many days when I think: this mortal existence fucking BLOWS. It blows intergalactic weenie at like 2000psi. So many days, I want to just sit back kind of check myself out of this world and into the world of meditation, deep trance, myth, metaphor and dreams, full-time.

And I should probably say here that I think that for some people, this is a legitimate path, like the folks that live in monasteries and cloistered convents, or certain shamanic traditions that involve lengthy separations from the day-to-day world. In fact, I think most of us could benefit from relatively more time spent in things like reflection, meditation, introspection, contemplation.

But for me, I’ve also got to live in whatever this thing is we call everyday life. The world where you get up, pee, shower, drink a little coffee, and Get Some Shit Done. Not necessarily Epic Shit, but like boring and really unsexy shit; going to work, redoing laundry I left in the washer for five days, cleaning up dog puke, paying bills, grading papers, haggling with the dude at the tire store. As much as I love to enter into mysticism and meditative mindfulness, baby look, I got Shit To Do, and sometimes practicing mindfulness at every turn just isn’t realistic for an everyday diva like myself.

Sometimes I encounter people who are very busy excoriating themselves for not living up to their stated goal of being in a permanent state of gratitude or compassion or heightened consciousness. And I usually ask them to look down and see if they have feet or if they’re floating around in gilded archangel sandals or some shit. And we share a laugh to hopefully dissipate what someone (who wasn’t me) once called “Zen tenseness” and get back to working on balancing their spiritual objectives with their day-to-day life.

My feet? Are decidedly NOT wearing sensible nun’s brogues. I checked earlier and they’re definitely in some orthopedic glamazon clogs. With glitter. Duh.

 

* Did you know, for example, that in order to enter a seminary, candidates must take a battery of psychological tests and sit for at least one clinical interview? And that most of them have really immature relationships with other humans and especially FUBAR relationships with women or anyone they see as less powerful (e.g. kids, teens)? And that even though these results get reported to the seminaries, they are summarily dismissed and viewed with contempt? Yep. Gotta keep the money machine rollin, keep the masses cowering. I’ve met some truly humble, wonderful priests over the years, but sadly they have been the exception.

 

Intuition: Muh Spiritual Adventures

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In psychology, we think of intution as knowing without knowing how we know, something that happens without conscious reasoning. In psychotherapy and counseling, we encourage attention to it, because acceessing deeper and broader knowings and feelings is key to the healing process. Most of us walk around not heeding this sort of thing, or at best, attending to it but brushing it off later as mere coincidence, and we miss a lot of important information about other people, situations, and places due to this oversight.

But there is another type of knowing out there that psychology doesn’t much reference,  or only in a pejorative way; psychic intuition.

This type of experience goes by many names, depending on culture, language, and spiritual training. You’ve probably heard some of the following terms: the Sight, psychic insight, communion of the saints, contemplative or centering prayer, clairvoyance, clairaudience, mediumship, visions, active imagination. It goes by many names, and of course there are differences amongst these phenomena, but they all share one thing in common, and that is this: knowledge that comes from a metaphysical source, without conscious thought process.

Adventures With Catholicism and Zen

The two main traditions I’ve formally studied, contemplative prayer of the Carmelite order, and Soto Zen Buddhism, emphasize not getting distracted by “psychic” phenomena such as the ones I’ve listed above, as they are seen merely as semi-interesting diversions to the purpose of the practice, which is either union with God or enlightenment respectively. This always made a kind of abstract, esoteric sense to me, but left me feeling sort of displaced. For example, back in the early 1990s when I began a formal practice of contemplative prayer, I had all sorts of odd things happening; I found that I could sense what was going on with someone for whom I was praying, even if they were thousands of miles away, particularly any physical ailments. I again began seeing auras around people, as I had in adolescence. I had no framework for understanding these experiences except the guidance of my spiritual directors to not heed any of it, because according to tradition, it wasn’t important.

In hindsight, I see the Carmelites exhortations as emblematic of the Catholic Church’s long and grand tradition of steamrolling women along with anything else that threatens their hierarchical control over the masses; if people could trust their intuition, then why would they need organized religion and the ridic anti-contraceptive musings of half-dead old men to tell them how to live? Heresy! She’s a witch! Where my money at! And so forth.

Several years later, while performing zazen (sitting) and kinhin (walking) meditations central to Soto Zen Buddhism, I enjoyed the peaceful discipline of calming the mind, but again began having vivid spiritual experiences. The sensei wasn’t too keen on all that, so I would usually practice my own version of zazen outside of the normal daily zazen, where I’d actively invite light beings and saints to offer me their counsel so I could become a better psychologist.

Eventually I quit formal zazen practice and training altogether. It was too hard to have to keep my eyes open instead of closed, and again I felt squashed and like I didn’t really belong. Plus, there’s a minimum of bling involved, and I really like spiritual bling. Truth.

Back From Self-Imposed Psychospiritual Fuckery

It’s been a long road back to myself, my homies, back to trusting my own inner knowings and inuitions. It’s so easy to get lost in tradition (“We’ve Always Done It This Way!”), stubborn orthodoxies (“This Is THE Only Way! There Is No Other!”), fear (“If You Stray From Our Path, Jesus Gon Gitcha!”), and self-doubt (“No One Is Going To Respect A Shrink Who Is So Freakin Weird, Man!”). And Lawd knows I’ve been lost in all of them at one time or another, sometimes simultaneously.

The one thing that has persisted is the desire to help relieve suffering, and all the things I listed above are the enemy of this goal, I’ve found. It’s taken me a long time to stop contorting the shape and texture of my soul into something more socially, academically or religiously acceptable, and my road has turned out to be quite different than the one I’d hoped to travel back when I was a young shrinkling-in-training.

My hope for anyone reading this is that you learn from my adventures and mistakes BCUZ OMG SO MANY. I have put myself through a lot of psychospiritual fuckery while trying to come to terms with my identity as medium and intuitive who happens to be a psychologist, feeling like I had to have Everything Figured Out And Justified before I could return to blogging and whatnot. If I could travel back in time and lovingly read myself to filth, I would have told myself this: The world is going to hell in a flaming, rickety-assed handcart that smells like feet and fear. We’re destroying the planet, each other, and girl no one cares about one foulmouthed little shrink. So you may as well tell your truth and keep moving forward. Also? Blunt-cut bangs are iffy on you.

Word.

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