Woodland magic and writing spirits

When I returned home this week from the Pacific Circle Revival, a pagan campout that celebrated midsummer, I brought back something unexpected.

I had made my camp on the top of Celtic Hill overlooking a wilderness of trees and mountains. Yucca trees stood like blooming spears among the pines. On the ground, lizards scampered. In the trees, blue-feathered birds alighted. On top of that hill, an oak sheltered my tent, and a nearby boulder became my altar to Saraswati, goddess of learning, arts, and creativity.

Part festival and part retreat, the Revival was a gathering of dozens of other people during the three days in Angeles National Forest for workshops and rituals. Though I came to the event alone and didn’t know anyone when I arrived, I was never lonely. I had lots of company when I descended from my camp. Several hours a day, I spent in the company of other people learning about nature and practicing magic.

Most of my time, however, was spent happily by myself among the trees and rocks as I talked to nature and its spirits. I was happy apparently alone because I didn’t feelalone. I had a community of people, nature, and the supernatural all around me.

By Sunday, I was so content that I even stayed after most other people left. As I heard engines start and people saying their goodbyes as they drove out of the campgrounds, I sat in front of my altar watching the sun descend in the sky and talking to Saraswati, feeling more connected than ever.

Mountain top BandidoAt home, my writerly independence can feel isolating. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed for a spiritual and creative partner. So many times. Too many to count. Despite all my many requests, I am single. I live alone. I work alone.

My prayers have felt unanswered.

On that hill, with a breeze blowing in from the west, I asked the goddess how to know her better, how to please her. I wrote a little, because that is what she asks of me.

I drove home slower than necessary as I descended the mountain, soaking the last bit of magic in. Once home, I realized that my prayers had been answered. I just hadn’t recognized it. I had expected a human partner, but my spiritual and creative partner is Spirit itself, embodied as the goddess Saraswati. I am not living and working alone when I take the time to bring her in on my projects and when I stay in relationship with her.

Turns out, the weekend in the mountains was like a magical couple’s retreat for me and Saraswati.

Set aside some time to romance your own creativity. Light a candle. Make some magic. I invite you to consider which of your prayers have been answered but you haven’t recognized, too. Perhaps you will sit with that for a while, and then write about it as I have. Remember: gratitude has a magic of its own.

Learn more about writing and magic in my Magic, The Elements & Writing YouTube video.  Or stop by Wholly Creative and learn more.

 

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Dirty Lies that Keep You from Writing Magic

I’m so tired of all the glorification of suffering that seems to go hand-in-hand with writing. The idea that one must suffer for her art has been ingrained in us. It doesn’t help that some of our literary icons have told us its true.

“Writing is hard work and bad for the health.” E.B. White 

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Perhaps it’s good to suffer. Can an artist do anything if he is happy?” Aldous Huxley

Even if you’re not familiar with these quotes, it’s likely the notions that writing = hard and that suffering = better writing are some of your core beliefs because they’ve been repeated so often.

The truth is, as writers, we all hit creative blocks or need solutions to a craft problem. And, yes, writing takes effort. But we don’t have to suffer.

I did it, anyway, because I didn’t know better. After 10 years as a journalist, columnist and poet, I just couldn’t handle the suffering my writing life caused me. My writing depleted me. My failures, whether perceived or real, demoralized me.

Even though I’d made deep sacrifices for my art, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I quit my column. I stopped performing. I stopped publishing. I knew I either had to quit forever or I had to find a new way of doing things.

Marya yoga writingIn a commitment to this new life, I moved across the country to California, and I began cultivating a yoga practice that changed everything.

The teachings of yoga philosophy helped me with my relationship with writing. (I published a paper on this in a book on innovations in teaching writing. Read it here.) Soon, I saw that my yoga practice was a magical tool, too. And as I continued my quest for a relationship with my writing that felt supported, purposeful, and nourishing, I recognized the principles that I now teach in Practical Magic for Writers workshops.

Imagine a writing life…

  • that allows you to feel connected, rather than isolated.
  • that fills you with purpose, inspiration and joy.
  • that nourishes you, instead of depleting you.
  • that contributes to the well-being of you and others.
  • that helps you realize your best and highest self.

I have a FREE upcoming webinar where you can find out more: Intro to Practical Magic for Writers. You can attend live or watch it in replay.

 

 

Magical Confessions of a Poetry Chick(en); or How to Manifest What Your Heart Desires

I published the story of how before I became a national poetry slam chick, I used to be a cringing poetry chicken. It’s all about using magic to move past what we are afraid of and how to claim what we really want.

 I cringed inside every time he said it.

“This is Marya. She’s a poet.”

I was ashamed. His introduction made me feel like an imposter.

  • Even though I’d been writing poetry since I was young.
  • Even though I’d taken poetry workshop classes in college.
  • Even though I’d published literary magazines.
  • Even though I’d read and performed poems publicly.
  • Even though my poems had been published.

Other writers will understand. Something about calling myself a poet felt self-important. Pretentious. I didn’t feel like I deserved to be called a poet because I wasn’t a Great American Poet.

I tried to explain, “Poet, author, artist, musician… one does not just bandy these terms about.”

You can read the rest of it here at my Wholly Creative blog where I discuss some of the Hermetic principles of magic that helped me manifest what my heart really desired.

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Learn more at PracticalMagicForWriters.com.

What it really means to be “woke”

There’s no mistake how much most of us enjoy our stories. Streaming our favorite films and shows is a national pastime that many of us can’t resist. The thrills, the romance, the suspense — all of this adventure, we experience from a safe distance. We know it’s “not real” so even when it’s dramatically tragic, we aren’t too concerned about how the death of our favorite character is going to impact our actual lives.

woke-up-v1-1312At night, similarly, we enter the theater of dreams, seeing stories unfold that terrify, delight, and amaze us. When we wake, we may remember them and wonder about them, but mostly, we shake them off because they aren’t “the real world.”

Then again, lots of what goes on in the real world, what we believe to be true and act on, is nothing but projection, too — just a great drama invented in our minds, a story we made up to give meaning and purpose to the world. It’s amazing how when we decide that something is true how the entirety of reality shapes itself to support that belief.

This condition of our minds is exactly why magic is so effective in producing the results we want. Like films, dreams, and our waking projections, magic creates meaning of the things in our world, attributing significance to them and acting accordingly.

Embracing magic has been a process of waking up within the dream of my life. The more awake I become the more I am aware that there’s no real difference between “reality” and “magic,” except that in “reality,” I am accepting the conditions of my life as somehow less mutable and more imprisoning than those of my imagination. In “magic,” instead of being at the mercy of an external world, I see that I get to choose what I’d like my world to look like. I get to create it intentionally, just like a writer and director would do for a film, except that the movie is my life.

Lots of people stay asleep within their dream. Mostly, I think this is because they don’t realize that they are dreaming. When most people say they are “woke” what they mean is that they are aware of some underlying social or political system at work in our culture. But this what is called in sleeping dreams “false awakening.” They’re just dreaming that they have woken.

To really be woke is to understand how much power we have, that we are the dreamer and that we can change the dream. That is we can actively change the projection that we generally and passively accept as “reality.”

dribbble_-_owlOf course, this takes lots of work. It takes work at things people will often dismiss as frivolous and impractical. Working with the subtle forces of deities (which is to say “archetypes”) and of our desires and aversions is the stuff of magic that wakes us up inside the dreams of our lives so that we are lucid and empowered, and we recognize the significance of everything.

This is what I focus on in the Genius workshop of the Practical Magic for Writers series. We work with the mind’s powers — of imagining, of creating story, of dreaming and believing and knowing — as we write.  I have found writing to be the strongest magical tool I know of to shape and create reality. It’s allowed me to wake within the dream and to dream wide awake.

 

Writing as spell casting — the untold power of your words

People’s eyebrows do The Wave when I tell them what I’m up to.

They seem intrigued (or maybe confused?) by the yoga-magic fusion that I practice in my writing. Many times I will have met someone in the more mainstream yoga world and when they find out that I practice magic, I watch their eyebrows do their thing.

Yoga and magic aren’t that different, really. They both work with subtle forces to bring about change. They both believe in the power of words.

magicYoga philosophy holds not only that words are powerful and important but that language and sound is sacred. The sacred syllable Om brought everything into existence. As writers, our letters create sounds that spell words into existence. We manifest where there was nothing. They don’t call it “a spell” for nothing.

Hello? Magic!

I’ve seen this sort of spelling happen over and over again in my life, where my writing meditations manifested new things and often a new world. In fact, these were often things beyond my wildest dreams.

Once during a waxing moon, I cast a spell for knowledge (I teach this spell in a writing workshop). It was a spell that had chosen me – that is to say, I had chosen the spell randomly allowing The Universe to tell me what work I needed to do in my life to become more aligned with my True Self and True Purpose.

In the seven days that I worked the spell, sitting in the roots of an old tree and recording its wisdom, not much happened except that my journal pages began to fill with smart observations expressed in poetic language. The last day, I finished the spell and I thought, “Well, I got some good writing.” And I thought that was it.

But that night, which also happened to be a lunar eclipse, I got more.

spelll cast

The phone rang. It was a call from my then-teenaged daughter who lived with her father, and he had done all he could to keep her from me and drive a wedge between us. But that night, my daughter was asking to come live with me.

Talk about knowledge! From that point on, I learned what it was like to be a daily parent rather than a weekend one. I learned that all the sacrifices that I had made to stay in my daughter’s life hadn’t been for naught. I learned to forgive myself for being young and poor and unable to fight for her when I left her father.

But it wasn’t just me who gained knowledge. My daughter did, too. Her studies, which had been stunted by depression in her father’s home, began to improve. With hope for something more than going to the local community college, she also began studying for the SAT. Based on the knowledge she demonstrated on that test, the University contacted us to say they would admit her if she had another semester of excellent grades.

And the magic continued to expand over the months.  When we got the call six months later saying she was accepted to University, we literally jumped up and down and cried tears of joy.

What unfolded – the sudden reunion with my daughter and her rapid re-routing of her life course – was nothing short of a miracle. And that’s what a spell does for us: it gives us what otherwise seems too difficult or impossible. And this is just one instance of countless others where writing magic changed my life for the better.

It’s why I will always practice what I call Practical Magic for Writers. Not only do I manifest new writing, but I manifest wonderful life changes.

And just in case you were wondering, I shaped the writing from my spell for knowledge into a lyric essay, and it was recently accepted by Tiferet Journal of Spiritual Literature. Once set in motion, the forces of magic are unstoppable.

Marya Summers photo.jpg
Magic and Writing make me feel pretty unstoppable. I feel like a literary Wonder Woman.

Sacrifice: a confession, an oath, an homage

I’ve been trying to write about sacrifice for days now. I realized it was important part of Fire element (I’m writing a book, Practical Magic for Writers, where I look at writing through the lens of the four classical elements), that we need sacrifice in order to keep us committed. I know this firsthand; I’ve sacrificed big time.

I have a clear purpose, a clear audience, but there is something in me so adverse, so resistant to writing about it that I haven’t been able to get myself to sit down to write for three days. When I try, my aversion has me open Facebook or email or compose something else. I’m a professional writer, for fucksake. And a writing coach. “Heal thyself!” I scream at myself in my head. Disgusted.

candle flame
A light in the darkness

Lighting a candle got me to sit down and open my lap top and start writing. I made it to 800ish words in a herky-jerky, stop-start process that felt a lot more like learning to drive a stick-shift than sitting down to write.

It’s a huge relief when I realize I am crying. I’m opening a huge can of worms. Fucking huge. Because to me sacrifice means leaving my then-2-year-old daughter with her father so that I could write. And it’s difficult to explain how I could do that and not be a monster; or if I am, how I got to be that monster. Or how my now-26-year-old daughter has both benefitted and been hurt by my choices. How we both say I did the best I could, given the circumstances, but both of us feel like we deserved better. We’re both still hurting and angry.

It’s difficult to explain the subtleties of what happened – how I didn’t “give her up,” for instance, or how much my difficult relationship – including emotional, physical and sexual abuse – with my own parents influenced my choices. It’s too much. And my cat, which has been relegated to the porch for shitting and pissing all over the house, is howling. Other than the over-eating, she’s a healthy cat. But she’s an emotional wreck.

sappho-2
A 24-pound cat fits easily into any size box.

Anxiety has me by the shoulders and is shaking me hard. And I want to punch the cat and shake her hard. I want her howling to stop so that my pain will stop its howling. Who can write in these conditions?

I decide not to be thwarted by writer’s block. Not to succumb to the urge to punch the cat. To write, even if it is crap. Just write it anyway. Because if I don’t write, not only do I feel the pain of the past but I also feel the pain of my present – my past and current powerlessness. And if I punch the cat, then I really am a monster.

I have rationalized my choices, but I haven’t forgiven myself. I’m pretty sure that’s holding me back. I’ve been punished enough. I am ready to be forgiven, to be washed clean. I want all the experience, all of the wisdom, none of the pain, none of the guilt.

The cat is still howling.

Too much of the time, I have felt like a hostage of circumstance. But I’ve decided my victim days are over. So, fuck you, anxiety and pain and shame and fear. Fuck you. You don’t get to control my life anymore.

I’m writing you off, out of my life. I will squeeze you out, shake you off. You will dangle at the end of my sentence, howling.