I have nightmares about the ocean. They never start off scary. In my dreams, I am excited to go to the beach. It’s often the same seaside town I visit in my slumbering journey: a rather New England-looking village that slopes down a hill toward the shore. Cheerful buildings, boardwalk, winding sidewalks and narrow roads, bright sunlight on a sparkling sea. People out walking, riding bikes, visiting shops. I stand at the top of a hill looking down at this idyllic scene, appreciating its beauty.
And then the wave comes.
I see it swelling from the horizon – a dark curve that grows in size as it races toward us. Soon it is close, green-black waters churning, full of debris dredged up from the deep. An immense wall of water roaring with menace, with the howl of destruction, towers over the little village. The wave is taller than the trees, than the buildings…taller than the hill I am standing on. It covers the blue sky and blots out the sun. And it is too late to run.
Right now it feels like that moment. Like I’m bearing witness to the imminent primal destruction of life and the clock has run out for us.
The pattern of life is a cycle and frequently a vicious one. We like to speak poetically of the life-death-rebirth pattern, of the repetitive dance of human history. The thing is, when you have a front row seat for the ‘death’ part of the Wheel, it still fucking sucks. We can cast a calm eye toward the calamities of the past – the Plague, the Ice Ages, World Wars, earthquakes – since we were not there for them. Trauma becomes memory becomes story becomes dusty history. However, for the people and beings who had a front row seat for the destruction, the experience was anything but dull and dusty.
Our cells bear the memories of these times. Our ancestors survived them. We have seen the Tower fall before. Terrible things are happening and will continue to happen. And somehow, we must continue as well.
So how do we survive? How do we root deep into this whirling planet when it seems like everything is poised to fly off its surface into the darkness?
Control What You Can
It is difficult to respond to life intelligently and effectively when our inner state is a cacophony of overlapping fears, anxieties and stimulation. The path of Stoicism contains many useful concepts, one of which is to understand one’s place in relationship to the world. Within Stoicism, it is considered hubris to believe that we can singularly bear the responsibility of controlling all the things that can affect us. Although many events and situations can impact us, we frequently do not have the power or ability to impact those events and situations in turn.
From my office in Maryland, I cannot stop the fires raging. From my desk chair, I cannot call up world leaders and talk sense into them. To send my mind whirling into the ‘if only’ and ‘I wish I could’ categories is a waste of energy, time and emotional reserves. In order to respond to the onrushing waves that will most definitely impact me and mine, I need to preserve my energies.
So, what can we control? Our immediate environment. Our inner world. Our relationship to community. This is where we begin.
Our Immediate Environment
One of the drums I find myself sounding regularly is the power of home. Where we live and what that space feels like has an incredible impact on our mental and emotional state. The reason we start with our immediate environment involves channeling energy. Right now, a lot of us have ‘I need to do something’ energy. It’s difficult to work on our inner world when we’ve got a tanker load of anxiety, adrenaline and fight-or-flight flowing through our bodies. It is damn near impossible to respond (rather than react) in a meaningful, useful way when the inside of our head is screaming at us.
So, channel that energy. Look around your immediate space. Bring it to order. This is something you can control, something that will use the frantic energy you’re feeling and something that will help you find ways to respond meaningfully to the events unfolding around us.
There are different levels of bringing spaces to order depending on ability, health and vitality. Maybe you just clean your desk or reorganize a bookshelf. Maybe you vacuum. And that is enough to channel some energy and create some harmonious space.
If you have the option of putting your space in order completely, do so. My preferred method for this is to start in one corner of a room and clean top-down and deosil from that point. I keep ‘trash’ and ‘donate’ bags handy. Items that do not belong in the room I am cleaning go into a pile in the center of the room. They get returned to their respective spaces after everything that stays has been put to rights. This particular pattern works well simply because it allows you to see the progress you’ve made and keeps you from getting sidetracked while putting things away. Yes, parts of the house may still be a mess, but that 8-foot section of living room is now clean. You have established control and order in one space. One space can spread.
As you clean, channel the emotions you are feeling into this process. Give those impulses something useful to do. As you wipe away dust, wipe away harm and pain. As you throw objects into the trash, throw away the poison creeping through our culture. As you scrub, scrub out the frustration, the helplessness, the fear. Feel the emotions, channel them, release them. If you have the option to blast some music, choose something you find personally cathartic. I have a Viking Metal station on Pandora that I like to blast when I’m working out my frustrations through cleaning.
Then, enchant your space or reinforce the enchantment. If you have not worked house magick before, there’s a good introduction to the practice here. My personal preference is to clear, retune, shield, then enchant. Here are the protocols I follow, adapted from ones I learned from Space Clearing by Denise Linn:
Clear the Space
Let’s get some AIR in here
Crack a window or door a little bit so there’s an exit for loose energy to leave through. If you know how to set up your windows so that a draft is created, do it (for me, that means opening a window at both ends of the house and making sure all interior doors are open). Then, clap out the corners. Starting high up in the corner of a room, clap loudly. Do it again halfway down the wall, then at the bottom of the wall. Sound vibrations, especially loud percussive ones, are good for breaking up accumulated energy. You could also use claves, clackers or any other sharp sounding percussion instrument for this part.
Move through the house. Focus on the corners (loose energy is like dust – it likes knickknacks, corners and other places where there’s not a lot of movement to disturb it) but clap along the walls a bit as well. I like to move deosil, but there’s really no wrong way to do this part as long as you cover the whole space you’re clearing. Remember to get into the closets, cabinets and storage areas as well.
Once you’ve completed the circle, light some incense or smolder some purifying herbs in your cauldron. Carefully carry that cleansing smoke through the house and waft it into the corners, along the walls, and into the closets and cupboards. I use a feather wand for this, but you can just as easily use a paper fan or even a light book.
When you have completed the circuit, wash your hands and close the windows.
Retune the Energy
Using a pure-toned bell, ring out the house. I personally perform this part using three ascending bells – two Himalayan hand bells and a high-toned set of tingshas. You could use anything that has a very pure, even, beautiful tone – singing bowls, mounted chimes, etc. I start with the lowest bell, do a complete circuit with it, then use the next highest – toned bell. I finish with the highest, brightest, purest bell I own. Following the same path as breaking up the energy and saining with smoke, strike the bell and let the pure, smooth sound ring into the surfaces of your home.
Shield your home/apartment/room or contribute more energy to your existing shields. If you could use a refresher on shielding a space, there’s a tutorial right here.
Add Further Enchantments as Needed
(It was Jareth. I couldn’t help myself.)
Simply clearing and shielding your space is wonderful. If you would like to add on, now is the time to do so. I like to use threshold magick on my house. All living beings enter and exit through the doorways, so magickally enhancing those passages is a very powerful way to filter the energy coming into and out of your living space.
Clearing and resetting the energy of your home is a wonderful way to use the nervous, angry or frantic energy you’re feeling. Put those vibes to work, my friend. By the time you reach the end of clearing your space, you will feel miles better. By transforming those particular threads, you’ll be better able to untangle your psychospiritual state. Next week, we move inward to focus on that very piece of Work. For now, work with the energy you have and let it support you rather than harm you.
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