New, Again

Happy Lunar New Year! Slightly late, as usual. I celebrate my third new year at this time, between Imbolc and Lunar New Year. This is the new year that really feels like a new beginning. Things are starting to grow, it’s not super cold and miserable every day while I wait for the train.

I certainly could choose, instead of multiple specific new years, to make some sort of “every day is a new year, every day is a new start” philosophy work, but to be honest, those sorts of changes don’t stick for me. I need a schedule. I like order.

I’m not necessarily good at order, but I like it and I try to seek it because my natural state is chaos. I make lists and plans and schedules. I make, for example, a neatly ordered outline of how I intend to KonMari my spiritual life.

But I still can’t find my jewelry and my bone runes so I can get rid of them and clearly getting hung up on this doesn’t help anyone, and all of the things that would be in that “group of stuff” are things I consider to be very personal and fairly valuable, so they’re unlikely to be tossed this early in the process anyway. What I learned from my first pass at the physical KonMari is that everything is more interwoven and more complicated than I thought, so I will definitely need to come around again.

In Spark Joy, Kondo speaks about honing one’s sense of joy and how many of her clients have trouble deciding what joy feels like when they start the process. I suspect this is why her clients boast a 100% success rate – what she’s teaching them is not how to throw things away but how to tell whether the things in their lives spark joy. Once you start applying KonMari-type principles outside of their intended context, you begin seeing them everywhere.

Jessica Abel talks about finding a single creative goal and sticking to it, fully committing. I have a long, long list of works in progress and plot cards and story hooks that I haven’t even started on yet. Abel is absolutely right about the tendency to spend a little time on everything and accomplish nothing.

I have plot ideas I’ve been holding onto since I was eleven. If I sat down and wrote out a list it’d be far too long to fit on the worksheet she offers. (In fairness, the worksheet itself suggests it might be insufficient.) I need to give myself permission to move some things to “not in progress right now” and then put it somewhere I can’t see it anymore.

Writing is so interlinked with my moods that I think doing this now instead of waiting until I’m done with the metaphysical KonMari is reasonable, especially because I’m still compiling my list of practices.

This is starting, but it’s keeping going. Abel recommends picking a project that’s comparatively easy to finish if you haven’t had a lot of luck finishing before. I have a few fiction projects that are in different stages of done. While I’d like to work on Unstuck, I’m still, well, stuck as I work on straightening out some plot kinks. While I let that simmer, I’m going to take Abel’s advice and work on something that’s a bit more complete.

There’s something to be said for the feeling of finishing something, after all, and the joy of keeping going is in making progress.

A Tale of Two Shrines

To be honest, I have a bit of a shrine problem. I tend to have a lot of them, and they tend to creep into other, unoccupied spaces when I’m not looking. Separating out my feelings about the physical “stuff” of shrines and altars from the deities represented therein has been one of the difficulties of this KonMari attempt, but I have made significant changes to two altars so far.

The first is my ancestors shrine. This one was my first real sense of improvement – I redid this shrine almost immediately after going through the physical step, removing some things that no longer made sense, and adding a few things I’d rounded up from elsewhere, like my grandfather’s pocket knives. I did a lot of waffling over what went on there, and a lot of fiddling with placement. Finding the balance between different categories of ancestors and the symbolism of each is a challenge, but I’m happier with the layout now than the previous one.

As for the second shrine…

I used to work much more closely with spirits of the waters than I do now. For a time, this meant a strong relationship with the Norse goddess Rán. For several years I hung a net indoors and hung various shinies and offerings to her on the net. When we moved into this apartment a few years ago, I wanted to try maintaining it as an outdoor shrine. Over time, however, it became clear that this just wasn’t working, but I the idea of disassembling the shrine was overwhelming. I found a beaded shawl that was made like a net and created a new indoor shrine, but left the old one outside, too anxious to do anything about it but feel guilty.

On Friday, I took the whole thing down. There was very little to save from it. It was barely even a decommissioning, given that I’d already replaced it. It was just a thing that needed to be done, that I finally did.

There’s still so much to do, but having that shrine taken care of, finally, instead if sitting there making me feel guilty is such a huge relief for me. Even if I stopped now, this will have been worth it… but I don’t intend to stop now.

At the very least, I still have to find those damn runes.

Metaphysical KonMari: Practices

I was trying to make a list of practices and then I got to ‘reading runes’ and I stopped.

(Why is it always the fucking runes that trip me up? Can I blame Odin? I blame Odin.)

You see, I only read with runes about twice a year, when I’m doing specific kinds of card readings that need additional context. I happened to think about runes because I have been thinking about my missing ones for days on end now, but there are probably plenty of other things I only do every couple of months and I’m not thinking of.

I was talking to a friend about this and she suggested that I treat it similarly to the decluttering technique where you turn your hangers backwards for six months or a year and only keep the clothes’ whose hangers have been turned, indicating that they were worn.

This is a reasonable suggestion, but it doesn’t make for much of a blog post, nor does it make me feel like I’m accomplishing much, so I started making a list and I’ve been slowly adding to it and I realized today that I’ve been overlooking a whole category of things. Things I have very much wanted to declutter from my spiritual life before.

I am, of course, referring to scrupulous practices. These overlap heavily with luck and omen-spotting, and are therefore metaphysical and/or spiritual practices. They go on the list.

I think, to tie it back into Keep Going, I need to make it a regular review process, same as evaluating what I’m reading. Practices that are generally good can become scrupulous for me, and taking some time off from them can reset them to healthy levels. In the past I’ve had to be told when I need to do this kind of stepping away. I need to learn how to do it for myself.

Awareness matters.

So… how do I know when to move onto step four? Honestly, I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll just barrel right into that too. Let me think about it and get back to you.

Metaphysical KonMari: Influences

I have a folder in my feed reader that is specifically for the feeds that annoy me, so I don’t have to look at them unless I have the energy to be angry.

Why do I have this folder? Why am I even following blogs that I know will annoy the crap out of me? This must mean it’s time for the Influences portion of the KonMari.

As soon as I started in on it, I realized I probably should have done this first. I’ve done digital purges several times before, and this is much less fraught than sorting through tools or altar pieces. There’s still some angst there, as I let go of blogs that haven’t been updated in over a year or that I feel like I would keep up with if I was a better magician.

There is the idea of the lifestyle blog, all about being a better $X. There is a tendency to read these blogs aspirationally – instead of doing the things on those blogs, it’s so much easier to just read them and dream about doing them. I know this kind of blog well; I know six different recipes for making your own detergent and have never tried a one of them.

I did finally succeed in using those candle-making instructions the other night, but that’s neither here nor there.

The point is that I tend to get into a new kind of blog, or a new “wing” of an old kind of blog, and subscribe to ten different blogs (or worse, Facebook groups) in the same genre and then they all sit there until I get overwhelmed and delete them all. I plan to do ALL THE THINGS and then I get overwhelmed and fail to do any of the things. I’m not sure how to fix this problem in the long run, but for the moment, anyway, I can fix what’s in front of me.

I took great pleasure in unsubscribing from that minimalism blog that always annoys me, from that spiritwork blog that always seems to be talking down, from that magic blog that’s not a system I’m never likely to put any time into. There’s nothing wrong with being interested in a wide variety of topics, that’s a good thing to a point. Unfortunately, I can only focus on so much at once, so I need to improve the signal to noise ratio.

Along the way, I whittled my subscription list down enough that I’m switching back to receiving all of my blogs by email. I’m not sure what it is about feed readers, but no matter what I use, I seem to forget to check it. Rather than remember once a week and get annoyed at myself for forgetting, I’m just going to send them to my email, where I can read them in the moment or tell them to come back later. I’ve switched to and from this system more than once, and it definitely works best when I keep the number of blogs I’m reading under control.

I need to hone my ability to judge whether something is bringing me joy in the moment – not necessarily whether this particular post makes me happy, but whether the last two or three have made me happy, whether I sigh inwardly when a certain blog shows up in my feed, what I look forward to and what I delete unread. Rather than let everything pile up, I need to be more aware of my own happiness in the moment and more responsive to my own state of mind. I’m hoping that keeping my feeds in my mailbox will do that for me going forward.

To a certain extent this will be an ongoing trickle of a process going forward – I can clear out my feed reader or my FB groups, but there’s always a stream of newsletters, liked pages and other influences that spill in front of me. The ongoing work is to keep that mindfulness about what brings me joy and what I need to get out of my life, one status update at a time.

KonMari Interlude

Today I was definitely going to take another shot at Metaphysical KonMari! So I…

… cleaned out the kitchen cabinets.

I didn’t even properly KonMari them, I just cleaned a bunch of things out because I had to get rid of something, it was driving me crazy, but the baby was a little too fussy for digging through the bedroom closet in search of my missing runes and jewelry.

I finished reading Spark Joy on Friday and honestly I like it a lot more than Marie Kondo’s first book. On one hand, it’s more philosophical than Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. On the other, it’s much more specific and detailed when dealing with the actual ins and outs of decision-making. There are clothes-folding diagrams. It’s very nitty-gritty in some spots, and seems to have been written in response to the questions I see come up the most in KonMari groups.

Kondo talks about several broader subjects that I felt were very important. First, she answers the question “what do I do if I need it but it doesn’t spark joy?” Yes, she talks about getting rid of her hammer and pounding nails with a frying pan, but she pairs that with a story about getting rid of her screwdriver and breaking her favorite ruler trying to substitute that for the correct tool. She goes on to talk about how you can find joy in things that do a necessary job and do it well by appreciating those things instead of taking them for granted and treating them with the same respect that you do your other belongings.

One of the big failings of the American reception of the KonMari Method is that Americans are far too quick to jump into sorting while throwing out the more philosophical sections of her method. I’ve seen many people react with skepticism or discomfort at the idea that our things have energy, that they should be thanked for their service, and so on. None of this bothers me, and while I still don’t empty my bag every night, the idea of having a bag that I trust and am happy to thank for doing a good job makes perfect sense to me. Anyway, I took a few pages of notes and I’m still chewing on some of the things she discussed in the more philosophical section of her book.

I’m currently in a transitory state because I’m working at a temporary store. I have a permanent job as well, also part-time, and I’m continuing to look for either a full-time position or a slightly more flexible second job to replace the one that’s ending. Frankly, I need to be doubling-down on job magic. So far I’ve gotten what I’ve asked for but I think I’m not asking for enough, or perhaps I’m not being sufficiently specific. Either that or there’s a direction I’m supposed to be going in that I’m just not seeing.

Sometimes I forget that getting my act together is not a destination and the fact that I’m not yet together is not a failure, just an in-progress.

More to come when I find those fucking runes.

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Metaphysical KonMari: Physical, part 1

This is the easy part, I said.

Just gather up all your random magical crap and sort it, I said.

I was wrong. I was so, so wrong.

I attempted to do the physical component of the konmari last night, gathering up everything I could find before the baby went to bed. I knew I was missing a number of things that got boxed up when we were making space for the baby, but I decided to go ahead with what I had, because as you can see above, what I had was still a pretty big pile.

One entire altar didn’t even make it on the pile, I just looked at it and knew I wasn’t attached to anything on it anymore. I have a box of things that are definitely no longer mine. But this was so much harder than I expected.

There’s a surprising amount of anxiety in dismantling an altar or taking down a figure I no longer have any connection with. It’s not as if it’s necessarily long term, and it’s explicitly not a reflection of my relationship with the god but somehow I have no active Kuan Yin altar and that bothers me.

I have five sets of runes, somehow. I couldn’t even find one of them. Two sets are handmade by me. Two other sets are handmade ones I bought. I read with runes approximately three times a year, I don’t need this many rune, Allfather or no Allfather. But I’m supposed to do this without thinking of the practice of reading runes, right? How the hell do I separate the tool from the thing the tool does? For some reason I thought this would be a lot easier than it is to separate.

I got overwhelmed and also took much longer than I’d envisioned. I’m going to have to try this again when I have more spare brain, I think. Maybe this weekend, when I can stay up a little later, and when I have time to go hunting for missing pieces.

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Metaphysical KonMari: An Outline

After my previous post about the idea of a spiritual or metaphysical KonMari, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.

The KonMari system divides everything one owns up into categories, and then instructs that you gather all of the things in that category together and go through it in one big session, deciding what brings joy and what doesn’t. Marie Kondo recommends starting with clothing, then books, then paper, then komono, or miscellaneous household items, and then sentimental objects. The idea is to progress from the easiest decisions to the most complicated.

So the question is, what ‘categories’ would one use for a spiritual KonMari process? Right now, I have a rough outline of four categories:

  • I’d start with physical items because that is a process I’m already familiar with using the KonMari method on. Gathering up all of my altar pieces and tools will be a bit of a logistics challenge, but it’ll be good to try to dredge everything out of hiding anyway. I am definitely a Magic Packrat. The question here is the simple “Does $THING bring me joy?”
  • After the easiest stuff is done, I’ll probably look at influences. This includes things like the blogs I read, the pagan/magical Facebook groups I read and post in, Tumblr follows, Instagram follows, even my to-read pile. “Does $GROUP bring joy into my life?” Yes or no, and move on.
  • Once that’s complete, I intend to move on to the more complex practices. It may seem too early, but I want, in part, to divorce practices from all the other categories. If I take joy in a practice, I can adapt it. If I do not, I can find other practices to satisfy the other categories. This question is “Do I find joy in doing $THING, or in having done it?”
  • Much like sentimental items, I am saving what I expect to be the most fraught category for last: spirits and powersYes, I’m “decluttering the gods.” It may seem strange to do this separately from altars, but I can always repurposes items I like for other uses, or find new altar pieces to replace ones I don’t really like. This category is more about evaluating my relationships with the powers in my life. I don’t expect every interaction with an entity to bring me ecstatic joy. This is “On the whole, am I happier and better off having $ENTITY in my life?” The answer might be no because the relationship is unpleasant, or because it is no longer going anywhere or because I get only crickets and emptiness. It doesn’t matter whether the disconnect is on my part or the spirit’s.

This last category will involve divination in various areas to determine what the opinions of the spirits are, to see if there is anyone trying to get a message in that I’m not hearing, and to tie into the ‘personal court’ I discussed in the previous post. There will be offerings of thanks and well-wishes to any spirits I am ending a relationship with, regardless of whether it’s my choice or theirs.

Suggestions for additional categories or divination spreads/techniques for the last category are welcome, as well as experiences with ending relationships respectfully. I’ve done the latter before but not often.

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Life-Changing Magic

This post popped up on my Tumblr dashboard:

The Konmari Method can totally be applied to your astral life. Does it bring you joy? No? Then stop that shit and do something that does. […] That’s called adjusting your approach to your spirit life and people do that shit all the time.

I keep finding myself in a mindset that’s dangerously close to scrupulosity. This isn’t good for me.

There’s a place in her new book where Marie Kondo talks about working with people who don’t know what it means to ask if something “sparks joy.” I know that feeling myself, but for me it’s a facet of depression. I sometimes declutter compulsively when I’m in a bad state, but only things or maybe internet accounts.

Decluttering my spiritual life is a lot harder. A few years ago I did an exercise called Project Protagonist, a whole year spent revisiting the ideas that were important to me and to my ideas about magic, metaphysics and spirituality as a child and teenager, before I got involved with others. I have a tendency to fold myself into interesting shapes to try to please other people, and I wanted to see what I looked like unfolded, if you will.

This was an excellent exercise and I rediscovered a lot of things that were very useful to me, including getting back into fictional reconstruction. Both Project Protagonist and fictional recon as a system, however, lead to a certain amount of… overcrowding. One can only discover what works by trying things, and some of those things don’t work. I have a hard time putting things aside.

Keeping going doesn’t mean continuing to do everything I start forever. It means actively evaluating what works and what doesn’t, as opposed to getting mired down and overwhelmed. It means being willing to move on to the next thing. One of the things I need to put into action this year is to evaluate and be willing to change or even end relationships and practices that aren’t working, and to take risks and try new things.

To that end, I’m going to be trying new methods of reaching out, and tracking success or failure. I’ve seen discussions in some spaces of divining what gods, spirits and ancestors are already around you and interested in you, a kind of personal pantheon. I want to work on that idea, of discovery and on further developing some relationships I already have. I’m working on some divination ideas but haven’t moved forward yet. I should.

Nothing is permanent. That’s what gets me through panic attacks. This too shall pass. I worry about changing things because I’m afraid everything will fall apart, as if I’m atop a delicate framework with no real support to it. I suspect there’s more support than I think, but ultimately the best I can do is build more support. Part of that is doing the construction, putting the work in.

Part of that is the lesson of the Hanged Man: learning to let go. I’m still working on that one.

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Restarting?

I started the new year with #31daysofmagic, a challenge from the Strategic Sorcery community. I was really good about it and then the last couple of days it’s gotten away from me, as the ideas I had for animals and boxes were much more ambitious than I really had time for.

Scope matters.

Normally I would quietly give up, because I’ve got perfectionist tendencies. If I can’t do it perfectly, I don’t want to do it at all. But that’s not how keeping going works, so instead I decided to pick up where I left off.

And today that means setting things on fire, so bonus. There’s nothing to instagram tonight, unfortunately, because I didn’t get the camera ready before I set the paper on fire. Oh well, maybe it’s for the best.

The important thing is picking back up and getting on with the magic. Other things, too – before the holidays, I picked up two part time jobs, one of which is temporary and starting to wind down. I’m finally not working six or seven days a week every week, and that’s got me in a place where I can start juggling other things again.

I’m happier when I have a lot of things in motion. I suppose it’s kind of the mundane equivalent of shoaling. If I keep kicking at a bunch of things, sooner or later one is bound to score a goal, right? Well, maybe not, but it beats not even trying.

Paring Down, Building Up

For a long time, my “active daily” religious routine has revolved around Mara alone. This was fine, until it wasn’t.

I’ve written about my Dark Lady before. I’ve gone through various and sundry names for her before, and worked with many wonderful goddesses and entities on the way, but never “found” her, and last year I’d given up on her having a name I’d find and resolved to just deal with her as Herself and not worry about it.

And then I had occasion to call on Hekate in early November, and some things she said made me think she might be… my first reaction was to say no, you can’t mean that. Why?

This is where I reveal myself for a hipster, dear readers, because I didn’t think it could be Hekate because everybody works with Hekate. Hekate is popular, with loads of Serious Real Witches giving her offerings and hallowing her. The only way I could possibly be cool enough to warrant attention is by finding the bands gods nobody else works with, right?

Um, so yeah, that was a thing I thought and then as soon as I find things like that I get to work on them. Yay personal development?

My super awesome magical assignment from Hekate? “Get your shit together. I will provide the boot. You will provide the ass.”

A large part of the inspiration to make this year about keeping going and finishing things is because those are things I am bad at. I spiral down and I drop everything and I claw myself out with something new and shiny and then the process repeats. The process of making causes me to feel good. The process of finishing scares the crap out of me.

There were times I kept going on the Daily Mara project solely because of scrupulosity, which is a kind of fear and a facet of OCD. Fear can be useful, if I learn how to use it, the same as anything else. Anything can keep me going.

I’m working on using my discomfort, listening to it, instead of shutting down and waiting for something to break through. Part of that is attacking the things that make my OCD flare. Sometimes that’s picking apart what scares me about approaching a certain god, and sometimes that’s spending twenty minutes cleaning the range hood because it felt contaminated. That thought process needs unpacking. That range hood needed cleaning. I might as well have something to show for it at the end of the day.

After all, that’s how I know I kept going.