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What I Learned Yesterday….

Base paper, elements, and word art, all from the January Gathering: Winter Wonder: A Winter’s Tale, by Taliesin. Layout by Connla.

Normally, if we were going to blog today, it would be written by one of the artists who worked on this quarter’s Gathering–Duncan, Daniel, or Taliesin–but after the twelve-plus-hour-day I (Connla) pulled yesterday, I felt it was a little more important to talk about what I learned from that experience, and maybe talk a little bit about how it relates to my own personal process (because your personal process is important, and maybe introducing the concept, and talking about how to work on it will help some of you).

Let’s talk about the concept of process first.  The dictionary defines it as “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end”.  Bruce Lee, who I celebrated as my hero in my artist journaling page today for Determined to Shine’s 30 Days of Artist Journaling, described being in one’s own process like this:

“The truth is that life is an ever going process ever renewing and it [is] just meant to be lived but not lived for. It is something that cannot be squeezed into a self-constructed security pattern, a game of rigid control and clever manipulation. Instead, to be what I term “a quality human being” one has to be transparently real and have the courage to be what he is.”

Now, a lot of us live by the standard of “I am a work in progress“, but what if, instead, we lived by the standard of “I am a work in process“? Let’s look at the definition of progress, and then I’ll get back on track with what I learned yesterday (which is what I promised to write about in the title of this post).  

Progress: forward or onward movement toward a destination.

And that, my friends, is what yesterday definitely was for me: constant forward or onward movement toward a specific destination, that “destination” being completing the official public release of The January Gathering: Winter Wonder.  Yes, there was a process to getting that done, but by about 3:30PM yesterday afternoon, I was no longer in process, but I was in progress,  and believe me: there’s a definite difference between the two, and the latter one (progress) sucks!  I started my day early–7:30AM, which may be a little hard for those of you who know me best to even fathom–and I worked diligently, running pomodoro after pomodoro (for more on that, please do check out the work and offerings of Racheal Cook ), so it wasn’t like I didn’t “schedule well”.  I had my “eyes on the prize”–getting all of this published and out to all of you, and available for sale; my final specific destination–from before I even went to bed on Tuesday night!  But about five minutes into trying to publish the first set of Word Art, I realized we had absolutely nothing for the gallery on that product that actually showed the word art being used, and I suddenly had to switch from progress to process,  and that basically threw off my entire day: to the tune of I finally reached my specific destination at 8:45PM last night, and I was not at all pleased about that!

So, what did I learn yesterday, apart from the important lesson of “check your CT inventory before you start trying to publish assets”?  When I was actually playing with the assets, and using them to create examples of what could be done with them, I was in process, and time seemed to slip past me, effortlessly.  Once that work was done, and it was back to the grind of actually creating the listings (which is a very slow process), I returned to a state of being in progress, and the work became tedious and exhausting.  Yesterday, I learned to either do everything in process, instead of in progress, or don’t do it at all.

This goes along with another recent personal epiphany: planners make me feel icky.  Planners are certainly all the rage right now, especially in the papercrafting/digi-crafting world, and I have really, really tried to hop on that bandwagon, but every time I start trying to tediously plan out my life with one, I get butterflies in my stomach and I just feel this sense of general agitation. And yesterday helped me figure out ultimately why that is: planners force us to live our lives in progress, rather than in process, because every deadline we write down becomes a destination we’re working towards, and we focus on that (those specific destinations in time) instead of on the steps we take to get there (the process).

I’ve really tried to start off 2017 in process, rather than in progress: Allyson Bright’s offerings over at Determined to Shine have really helped me with that, and so have Leonie Dawson’s Shining Life Workbooks, but yesterday put me back a notch. I got so focused on my destination (read: deadline), that the process of getting there sort of fell by the wayside, and that was literally painful.  My day more or less became this determined, slothful plod, instead of an excited, triumphant race to the mountaintop, and nothing successful/good ever happens to us when we get in that place; when our minds and spirits go there.  It’s like another famous Bruce Lee quote (this one from Enter The Dragon, which maybe you’ve seen): 

“It is like a finger, pointing a way to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all that heavenly glory.”

Yesterday, I reached a point where all I was focused on was the finger–on the deadline (the destination); and literally on my fingers typing, typing, typing, clicking the mouse, and hitting publish–so that by 8:45PM last night, the only “heavenly glory” I could even see anymore was “whew, that’s done”, when where I should have been mentally/spiritually was in a place of pride that this glorious set was now out there and available for other people (meaning you) to express themselves with it, too.  So, short of more effective scheduling (which puts us right back in that planners-are-my-life-mindset, which is precisely where we don’t want to go), how does one avoid getting in that place of being in progress, rather than in process?

Be mindful, my friend. (Yes, that may sound a bit like Master Bruce, but that’s me talking, not him. hehe)  What does that mean?  To be mindful means to be fully conscious or aware of what you’re doing: not where you’re going; not your final destination; not the moon or the mountaintop, but the steps you are taking to get to that destination.  The deadline to publish yesterday is but one of many “destinations” I tend to focus on on a pretty much daily basis. Others include the deadline for newsletter each week, the deadlines for paying my bills, and the deadlines I have set for myself, in regards to such things as guest-blogging, effectively networking, and generally becoming my definition of “successful”.  I’ll confess that up until the start of 2017, I’ve spent far more time focused on those destinations, than I have on the process of the steps taken to actually reach them.  The consequence of that? I’ve spent a lot of time honestly depressed because I haven’t reached the destination yet: it’s about as useful as being homesick for a place you’ve never actually been.

Regarding mindfullness, Bruce Lee said:

“Discard all thoughts of reward, all hopes of praise and fears of blame.”

Reward is just another destination; so are hopes of praise and fears of blame.  If you live your life doing anything because of what you’re potentially going to get out of it (financial gain, hope that other people will think what you did was good and lay praise on you for it, and/or fear that people will think what you did absolutely sucked and will be totally willing to tell you that, too), you are going to live your life in a constant state of worry, depression, and anxiety.  Let me say that again, more succinctly, so you will remember it and take it forward with you, in your own life:

If you live your life doing anything because of what you’re potentially going to get out of it, you are going to live your life in a constant state of worry, depression, and anxiety.

Ultimately, I make art not because it might get me to any certain destination (whether that be financial solvency, self-worth gained via the praise of others, or my own particular definition of success), but because I literally have reached a point where I just can’t help it!  Where things “go wrong” and switch from in process to in progress is when the feeling goes from “I just can’t help it; I need to create” to “I have to ___________”.  “I have to” is destination-focused; it’s progress-oriented, rather than a process.  Which brings me to the other very important lesson I learned yesterday:  When art becomes something someone else is doing, that art often becomes “I have to” instead of “I need to”.

Now, I have total faith that everyone who is working here at Iaconagraphy is here, designing, because they need to make art, the same way I need to make art.  If they weren’t, they simply wouldn’t be represented here.  So don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to remotely imply that anybody here at Iaconagraphy is here for any other reason besides the self-same reason that I’m here, which is because we all have a need to make art; we just can’t help it.  What I am saying, as the person “running the show” (note: I really am not comfortable with that term, but it’s the best one I can come up with right now), elected as the spokesperson for the whole of Iaconagraphy, is that I, personally,  have a tendency to switch the focus from process to progress when faced with not publishing my own work, but instead someone else’s. Which is part of why we’ve reduced the releases of upcoming Gatherings to quarterly, rather than monthly, but how else to avoid this ongoing dilemma? I mean, we’re a conglomerate of artists, all of whom need to make art, and therefore, deserve to have that art made available at the end of the day so that those of you who also need to make art have resources available to do just that. This isn’t just “my gig”….

Which brings me to the last (and maybe most important) lesson I learned yesterday: I need this to be my gig right now.  That isn’t to say that there won’t be some very valid “guest spots” coming up in future weeks and months, but that is to say that I have at least one “bundle” that I’ve back-burnered at least three times since December, in favor of releasing other people’s work, and in favor of meeting other deadlines, and it’s starting to burn a hole in my brain–and in my soul.  Every ounce of creation that I have done since December has been self-expression (i.e., artist journaling and digi-scrap) with things others have created, when what I really want to be doing–and what I need to be doing, the way most people need to breathe or to eat–is creating the assets to say what I need to say (and to give you all what you need to say what you need to say).  When I leave that process up to everyone else, or even when I give that over to everyone else, art becomes a destination; a deadline; art becomes progress instead. And right now, I need that to stop happening.

Thank you for taking the time to read (what wound up being) a very long blog entry.  If it helped you learn anything about your own process vs. progress, I’d love to hear about it!  Feel free to comment below, or come on over and respond on our Facebook Page.  Or, better yet, take a dive into art journaling, and make a page about your own process vs. progress, using the awesome assets in The January Gathering, and share that with me and the world!  

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Silence Is NOT Golden….

Sometimes, silence is golden. In those moments when you’re in the heat of creating; when you’re making something beautiful to offer to the world, sure, silence can be blissful.  But when it comes to keeping people interested and up-to-date on your business, silence certainly isn’t golden.  And when it comes to keeping silent concerning who you truly are, and what you can actually do–your God-given talents, no matter how “out there” they may seem–well, silence isn’t golden then, either. In fact, it can become a crippling cage.

I’ve been living in that cage for a very long time.  I’m more than ready to come out of it.

Some of you may come away from this thinking “wow, she’s even more nuts than I thought.”  Some of you may come away from reading this judging me; perhaps even judging me quite harshly.  But I’ve had a month of silence from this blog and pretty much everywhere else–thanks to my declining health–to really think this through, and when it all boils down to brass tacks, I’ve been judged before. In fact, I’ve been judged over and over again my entire life, and I’ve let my fear of further judgment lock me in this cage in the first place.  Guess what? I’m still here, and I’ll still be here after further judgment as well.  It is ultimately my choice whether I choose to let the fear of those judgments keep me locked in this cage or not.

Today, I choose freedom.

I choose that freedom in part because keeping myself a secret is part of why my health has taken this dive in the first place.  The cage has leeched forward onto my skin, and into my bones, in the form of the worst outbreak of debilitating psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis that I’ve experienced since I was sixteen years old.  I am now faced with the very real choice of continuing to hide my talents and abilities and slowly killing myself, or letting all these cats out of the bag.  Like the New Hampshire state motto, I can live free, or die.

That’s the big reason for my choice; the other smaller reason is that if I’m going to offer my services as a Tarot Reader, and as a Counselor, and as a Priestess, I should probably let you guys know exactly what you’re getting when you put your dollars into my PayPal account.  There is a huge difference between paying $25 to someone who has an “ability and years of experience with the cards”, and paying that same $25 to someone who is actually clairvoyant, clairaudient, claircognizant, and clairsentient.

What do all those “clairs” mean?  Most people have heard of clairvoyance, but few people actually know what it means. In common parlance, it has become synonymous with psychic, but it actually means something far more specific.  Clairvoyance is literally “the ability to see things that aren’t physically there”.  Most clairvoyants receive message through symbols, from both the Dead and the Universe at large.  Objective Clairvoyants  (the rarest type) actually see things that aren’t physically there with their actual physical eyes–like spirits, for example.  Clairaudience is the ability to hear things that aren’t physical sounds–like the voices of the Dead, for example (and most commonly).  Claircognizance is being able to know things or foretell things without knowing how one “just knows”–this is the one that most closely resembles the modern media’s definition of the word psychic. Clairsentience is “clear feeling” or “clear sensing”; picking up on emotions left behind by past events, or the ability to sense people’s direct emotions.

Newsflash, y’all: I have all of those.  I am an objective clairvoyant–I’ve been “seeing dead people” like the little kid from The Sixth Sense since I was three years old.  That is every bit as terrifying as it may sound, but it can also be quite rewarding.  I am clairaudient; I frequently get “astral phone calls” from the Dead, Angels, and often whatever else is hanging around at a given time, whether I want them or not. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a psychic “do not call” list!  I am claircognizant, although this is one of those things that comes and goes as the Spirit wills it; it’s not something over which I have direct control (which can often be quite annoying, because sometimes you genuinely don’t want to know the stuff you suddenly just know, while at other times you wish you knew something, and the Universe is behaving like a Magic 8 Ball set to “no answer at this time”).  And I am clairsentient: I am often entirely too aware of emotions left behind in places, especially when they are negative ones, and this wreaks total havoc when dealing with the living, especially when your home is populated by numerous teenagers at any given time.

So, when you buy your Tarot from me, you are actually buying them from a “real, live psychic”.  One cat down; one to go….

Ready for an even bigger cat to be released from the proverbial bag? We’re talking lion-sized?

I’m also a Medium.  I’ve been living my life in the proverbial closet–or, in this case, the coffin–for twenty-two years.  It’s slowly killing me, as well as damaging the people that I do this to help. Yes, by people I mean “dead people”…..

I am not a trance medium.  This throws most people off completely, as that’s the only kind of mediumship which the popular media seems to be willing to show folks.  I am a shamanic medium, which means I literally step out of the way, and let someone else take over completely, to the point of voice changes, mannerism changes, handwriting changes, and everything else.  The intangible becomes tangible again–through me.  This is not a service that I perform on cue for the living–no, I will not bring your dearly departed grandmother ’round for tea.  This is something that I do to help “them” (my set group who has been with me over the past twenty years), as much as they do it to help me. I am not the Mishy Psychic Friends Network, nor am I the Psychic On Demand Channel. This is not something I do as some weird sort of “psychic performance art”. This is for me, and for them. It’s perfectly symbiotic; in no way, shape or form as glamorous as it may sound to some people, and not dangerous to any of the parties involved, because I know what I’m doing. (Which is my way of saying, as they do on TV shows like Jackass: “don’t try this at home, kids!”)

So, why tell you this now, if I’ve managed to keep it a well-guarded secret for twenty-two years?  Two reasons, and one of them is far more important than the other.  The first and most important reason is that continuing to keep this a secret is damaging not only me, but also my charges (the folks I let in), who I have sworn that I will protect and assist.  The second reason is that some of them happen to be artists, and they deserve credit for what they’ve done for me over the years: credit which I’m finally ready to unveil in my new endeavors with One Pagan Place. (They’ve been doing this through me for a rather long time; it’s time they finally got credit for what they can do!)

Keeping this a well-guarded secret has locked not only me, but also them, in a cage in which none of us deserve to be locked.  And it has begun to take its toll on my health–which also not only affects me, but also them.  For example, at least one of these folks–The Professor–is British, which extremely limits when and with whom he can “come out to play”, curtailing his growth in the afterlife, and making it very hard for him to step in and allow me to take much-needed breaks.  I often find myself cursing the times when I have to interact with “muggles” (for the Harry Potter-impaired, that means “non-magickally minded people”), and I feel profoundly guilty about the times when I feel that way.  That guilt is manifesting on my skin and in my bones.  It’s time for it to stop.

As I move towards a time in my life where I am contemplating doing more live readings, I feel it is important for my clients to realize that we might not be the only two people in the room, so to speak.  To do otherwise, in my opinion, would be unethical.

So, there you have it: my cage doors have been thrown wide open, and now you know the full truth of me.  If you’re going to judge me, go ahead, but please don’t feel the need to let me know you are. I’ve had plenty of that over the course of my life; I don’t need to hear more of it right now, and for the sake of my health, I beg your mercy (that particular silence is also golden!).  If this causes any of you to worry about me, please rest assured, there is no need to do so. I am absolutely certain that none of the parties with whom I time-share are demonic, or otherwise nefariously inclined. I’ve been dealing with them for twenty-two years, and I’m quite aware of precisely who and what they are. I am also very adept at shielding myself from anything that is out to do me harm.  The folks that I have sworn to protect and gift with my abilities (and who’ve likewise sworn to do the same things right back, when it comes to me) are purely gifts to me from God (as is this ability), and I honestly would not have made it to this point in my life without them.  And please don’t take this as an opportunity to throw “prove its” at me: I am not a trained pony, and this is not a dog and pony show.  Believe or disbelieve; that is your choice. My own personal path to freedom is mine. For all of you who have supported me in that freedom–living and dead–and who are coming now to continue or even just begin to support me in that freedom, there are not enough words to express my gratitude.

Thank you for allowing me to live in a much larger world….

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Advent Event: Second Day of Advent: Prepare Yourself for Peace

The second Sunday of Advent is a call to patience, with the understanding that preparation is required for anything remotely good to happen or come to fruition.  It is a call to rest in the blessed assurance of hoped for peace, which requires a rebuilding of faith in the heart.  In order to rebuild something, we first have to know what that thing is. I mean, you can’t exactly build a bridge, if you don’t know what the heck a bridge is, now, can you? Well, how the heck are you supposed to rebuild faith if you have absolutely zero clue what that word actually means?  The learning of that thing–of faith–requires patience and preparation. It isn’t something you can just turn on and off, like a lightbulb.  Ultimately, this call is all about peace: only if our hearts are perfectly at peace can we hope to develop the patience of preparation, but that peace is impossible without first understanding and rebuilding faith.

At this time of year, patience tends to be in short supply.  Everyone seems to be in an all-fired rush, whether it’s driving down the road or bustling through the mall or grocery store.  Nobody wants to wait for anything, and we see that reflected in people’s attitudes. Those attitudes tend to be harsh, unforgiving, and downright pissed off.  At a time when there is supposed to be “peace on earth; good will towards men”, both  of those two things seem to be in overwhelmingly short supply. Even worse, in amidst all those rushing, crazy people, there are the people crying and moaning about the “war on Christmas”–I’m sorry, but if you’re out there in the morass of the rest of the holiday shoppers, pushing and shoving and showing your ass, you don’t get to talk about the war on anything, because you’re part of the problem! When you’re acting like that, you are “the war on Christmas”; in fact, you are the “war on peace on earth and good will towards men”, and that’s even worse!

We all know that patience is the ability to remain calm and not become annoyed while waiting for a long time or when dealing with problems or difficult people, but that raises two important questions:

  1. What are we waiting for?
  2. Why shouldn’t we become annoyed when dealing with problems and difficult people?

Are we waiting for everybody else to catch up to the realization of who they really are and what they’re meant to be doing, like we talked about last week?  Yes and no. Certainly, that’s what we can hope for, but if we don’t actively get out there and try to teach people that way of being, we’re going to be sitting around and waiting for a long, long time. That “trying to teach” is actually what we’re waiting for: that’s the preparation part of what we’re talking about.  We’re waiting for everybody else to become as prepared  as we are, but the only way they’re actually going to get there is if we teach them, and that is going to require a butt-load of patience!

Which is why we shouldn’t become annoyed when dealing with problems and difficult people–if we let ourselves give in to that level of negativity, nobody is ever going to learn anything, including us!  But how, when people act the way they so often do–requiring us to teach them these lessons in the first place–are we supposed to remain patient? What tool is there to help us maintain our calm and not get so annoyed that we might actually punch one of these folks in the face, and let that be their lesson?

That’s where faith comes in.  What the heck is faith? Faith is the firm conviction/belief in something for which there is no proof. There is absolutely no proof that if you attempt to teach this person what you already know–who we really are and what we’re meant to be doing–that they’ll actually get with the program and start doing that.  But think of it this way: there is absolutely no proof that you can potty-train a puppy, either, but people still adopt puppies every day, put that paper on the floor, and keep hoping and trying!  Why do people do that–try to potty-train puppies?  Because they love the puppy, even if they don’t love the poop, and they have faith–a firm conviction/belief–that if they love that puppy enough, and keep on trying to teach it to do better, eventually the poop will happen outside, instead of inside.  You have to love difficult people enough to do the same thing: you may not like the poop they leave all over your life, but you’ve got to have faith–a firm conviction/belief–that if you love them enough, and keep on trying to teach them to do better, eventually the poop will stop happening at all.

Faith is the gateway to peace.  Without faith, we’re never going to have any peace, because people are going to continue to poop all over our lives.  What exactly is peace? It is a state of quiet, where there is no fighting, no oppression, and no emotional upheaval.  Sounds nice, doesn’t it?  Wouldn’t it be great if that was the “resting state” for all of us? Instead, we have expressions in our society like “resting bitch face”.  So what gives? If peace is such an awesome thing that all of us would enjoy so much, how come there isn’t more of it in the world? Because very few people have the faith to make it happen.

Peace is what happens when all the “ways are made straight”–when the obstacles are removed, and there’s no longer a need for detours into things like judgment, backbiting, arguing, and “resting bitch face”.  Think of building a road: in order to make the way smooth, so you can pave that road and make travel easy, you’ve got to bring in the bulldozers and even out the hills and valleys, right?  Doing that takes a lot of patience, and a lot of preparation.  If it’s that hard to make the way smooth to build a physical road, how much harder is it to do that when dealing with ourselves and other human beings?  The guys who are building a road get out there every day to do their jobs, because they have faith that at the end of the work, they’ll get paid.  Yet when we’re doing this kind of work with ourselves and human beings, what is the guarantee of our pay-day? Peace is the pay-day!

When you’re out there trying to teach other people who they really are and what they’re meant to be doing, you’ve got to come at them believing they can actually change; if you come at them with doubt, they’re going to react the same way as a puppy that’s being potty-trained: they’re going to poop all over your life.  The only way to believe in that puppy, as we’ve already discussed, is to love that puppy. That’s unconditional love, y’all, and that’s something we’re going to be talking a lot about in our next-to-last Advent Event entry, on December 21st.  It is exactly what it sounds like: love without conditions; that means without judgment or doubt.  When we’re potty-training a puppy, we don’t punish the puppy (well, some people do, but all they wind up with is a pooping puppy with a poopy nose, and poop perpetually on their floor); we reward the puppy when it does the right thing, and just keep trying til they actually do that right thing. We’ve got to treat the people we’re trying to teach the same way: yelling and screaming at them is only going to create more poop in your life, and less peace!  Rational people don’t let their pooping puppy send them off on crying jags, or other tangents of emotional upheaval, do they?  They remind themselves “this is just a puppy, and one day, this will work”.  You’ve got to do that with the people you’re trying to teach, too: “this is just a person–a luminous being–and one day, they’ll finally figure that out.”  When we operate this way, we maintain quiet in our lives, there is no fighting, no oppression, and no emotional upheaval.  We maintain peace by working to deliver peace, the exact same way roadworkers deliver a smoothed out stretch of road by actually working to smooth that road out.

The bottom line is, the only way you can ever achieve peace, is if you believe peace is possible–and that applies to any negative entities which you might encounter, as well as to difficult people. You’ve got to know the definition of what it really is, and then you’ve got to have faith not only in the fact that you can get there, but that you can also deliver it to other people.  And all of that is going to require a lot of patience:  you’ve got to remain calm in order to be calm and stay calm.  So, be who you really are, and let that light-spreading keep you calm, giving you the faith you need to prepare others for the peace you’re discovering; the peace you so desperately want to share with the rest of the world.