The Blank Slate

I don’t like the saying “where ever you go there you are” — and I have said that before. It infers that if you go somewhere to get away or start over–you will always have your old baggage.

I can tell you, that’s total bullshit. I lived in Boston for 32 years and we were planning on moving out of the city when we could. We were not sure exactly where we were going to go, but after much debating and back and forth we decided Arizona. Flagstaff to be exact. I was NOT happy in Boston. It was to dense, to over populated, to noisy. I didn’t like the false sense of community or the “yuppy hippies” that were permeating the area with their fake idea of what it means to be free-spirited. It was suffocating. I was tired, restless and began to have a lot of health issues. Yes, I had baggage! Divorce, people who I thought were my friends who weren’t, a dead-end job that initially had the promise of growth.

So we moved. And you know what? None of that baggage went with me. It stayed put in Boston. I came to Flagstaff a complete blank slate.

And not only did I leave my baggage in Boston, but I left what I thought was “identity” there as well. For over 10 years I was “Zehara The Belly Dancer” — For 10 years I taught, performed, traveled across New England and hosted and organized more shows than I can remember. Zehara The Belly Dancer was who I was….or at least thought I was. I was initially given the name Zehara when I was initiated into the Temple of the Seekers, a Ceremonial Magick coven I had been involved in for 8 years. I was Zehara the Priestess LONG before Zehara the Belly Dancer. And Zehara the Priestess and Melissa (my given name) were always one in the same. But the belly dancer persona became my identity. She was who I was. My alter ego who was not shy, bossy, could take on the world, and had no fear. And when I started sprouting branches that went beyond the scope of belly dance, I found it increasingly more difficult to find that balance between Zehara the Belly Dancer and Melissa/Zehara. It became even harder when I started wellness practice. While I understood that I was outgrowing  my dance persona I just could not fully let her go. She was me. For ten years I created this person-This tantalizing, sexy, Snake Charmer. She consumed me. And whenever I thought I was ready to let her go—I would get a pit in my stomach and say “not yet.”

Then I arrived in Flagstaff. And one of the first things I struggled with was the Zehara The Belly  Dancer and being in a new place–where no one knew her or her accomplishments. She was just a new dancer in town. And I freaked out!!!!

OMG! NO ONE KNOWS ZEHARA!
I finally secured my first performance…..and….then…..

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I realized that Zehara the Belly Dancer was gone. During the performance, I felt nothing. Zehara The Belly Dancer became a shell and Melissa/Zehara was emerging. It was a strange feeling.

When I got home, and washed away the glitter and changed into my pj’s….I said out loud, “I cant do this anymore.” It felt amazing. Slowly but surely I began to sell my dance wears—-and I felt no second thoughts, no regrets, no sadness. She had a good run. But now its time for her to go. I was finally being able to just be……..me……Melissa with my magickal name Zehara for my magickal work. I was no longer the belly dancer or snake charmer. I was just me.

Then I made the biggest and most difficult decision I have ever made in the 10 years I had been dancing and in the 15 years that I had them. I rehomed all my snakes. It was painful. I cried for about three days. But, while they were more than dance partners, I just couldn’t devote the time anymore. And also, after  my friend and dance partner Kaala died, the desire to snake dance died with her. She was special. She and I had a connection that I never had again with any of my other snakes. I was very fortunate to find an amazing woman in Flagstaff who has a reptile sanctuary They are all living happily in retirement. It was a decision I did not make lightly, but it was the right thing to do.

Finally letting Zehara the Belly Dancer go was an amazing feeling. She did a lot of amazing things! But now its time for me to be me again.

And with that, I became a blank slate. Creating a new destiny for myself. Creating a new chapter in my life (or maybe an entirely new book!).

I am focusing on my Reiki practice, branching out into animal reiki as well! And I am focusing on starting my own Coven in which pagans of the community can come together and celebrate the God, Goddess and Earth energy together.

I feel so blessed. So light. So happy.

The Dark Side of the Moon: When the Light Fades

There is always a light and dark side to everything in life. And for those of us with depression, the dark side tends to be the most prominent. I have battled depression most of my life, with an attempted suicide at age 14 followed by panic attacks later in life and then several shrinks. I finally found a therapist I liked and from 2009-2013 I saw her and a psychiatric Nurse Practitioner during the darkest hours. I am very open about having clinical depression because I have to be the voice for the thousands out there afraid to talk about because they are afraid of being judged. In 2014 I was doing great—so great my social worker decided that she only needed to see me on as needed basis and my NP tapered my meds. I was feeling on top of the world.

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Then, I recently, and abruptly had a life change. Within two weeks, my boyfriend and I were packed up and heading to Arizona. There we were on a Saturday night enjoying some wine and sake listening to some old school tunes in an apartment I lived in for 15 years to suddenly packing boxes on Sunday, renting a U-Haul and driving 2300 miles away from the only place I had called home. It happened so fast I had no time to comprehend what the hell just happened. The whole cliché of having the carpet pulled out from under you—is serious shit.

Here we are in Arizona and the adjustment has been difficult. We went from a major city to a new town. We know no one. Have np physical support system here and are basically fending for ourselves. I have to find a job pronto to make sure we can pay rent which means finding meaningless work to pay the bills.

And what happens but that the dark side appears. I woke up one day in tears. I was crying to the point where I couldn’t stop. My depression had returned. YES—the move was the TRIGGER—but not the reason.

People who don’t have depression don’t understand what it’s like. Imagine that you are just moving along a bright sunny day when suddenly someone throws a pitch black can’t see shit bag over your face and never ever takes it off. It’s like that. A dark cloud that just doesn’t go away. And thoughts-bad thoughts come in your mind. And YOU CAN’T HELP IT. It’s just there.

I have had so many people tell me it’s the move. To give it time. To find joy in the things around me. Believe me…I am trying. We have gone to canyons, creeks, walked, enjoyed the beauty of the place—but my lack of happiness isn’t with where I live…it’s chemically going on in my brain.

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I think that’s hardest thing about depression–people think it’s an external thing that can be “fixed”–when it’s a chemical thing that can’t be fixed just “adjusted”….and I appreciate everyone’s helping…. but depression can’t be fixed with a walk or giving my move time…if it were…I would be walking all day every day and loving every bit of Flagstaff. It’s hard for people who don’t have a clinical diagnosis to understand that depression is not always due to outside circumstances. I appreciate everyone’s kindness and offerings of advice during times like this, but want I everyone to understand that it’s not going to “fix” what’s happening inside my head. I can’t just flip a switch and “be happy”—nor can I flip a switch and decide that all the chemical mishaps in my brain will fix themselves.

Being supportive is awesome. Being able to just be there—and listen—is even more awesome.

The Dark Side of the Shaman

Shamanism is not for the weak. Nor is it something one dabbles in. Shamanism is a spiritual path that one takes because they are called. And once called, and you accept, it’s not always a bright shining path. People see me now and they think “wow you have such great energy” ~ but it took awhile for me to get there. And a LOT of darkness and loss along the way.

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For a very long part of my life, I suffered from severe anxiety and deep depression.  I struggled to “fit in” ~ and not on a social level. On an every day I live level. I always liken it to feeling like I was a visitor on Earth, someone on the outside looking in. An observer. It wasnt until I was in my twenties and started meeting people of like mind that I started to feel “normal.”  In any case, meeting like-minded people, continuing my spiritual studies and finally finding Shamanism….I started to…..unravel.

From December 2011 to March 2014, my depression and anxiety got worse. In fact, I was having frequent panic attacks and my depression was so bad that I would spend days on end sleeping, crying and not eating. Sometimes not going to work for days. I found little joy in things, though I was able to put on a smile when I had to. I eventually ended up seeing a therapist and going on medication. IT was the ONLY way I could function. I am not, against medication when needed to HELP you see clearer. While digging my shoes deeper into the path of the Shaman, I began to loosen the strings and ties that had held me down for so long. It was a dark and scary. I had to acknowledge deep pain — emotional, spiritual, mental and physical. Barriers I set up a long time ago to protect myself. Pain I didn’t want to acknowledge. Past hurts. Present hurts. Things about myself that made me not a good person. It was like standing in front of a bunch of fun house mirrors and seeing myself warp into different people–yet remaining the same. So many layers of skin shed away. Things I thought I wanted and needed—I realized were a lie.

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As the weights slowly came off, the depression lifted. And while there was still a fog around me, I was able to see a bit clearer…..I was finding out WHO I was and WHAT I wanted….Because of that, I started losing people close to me….Phone calls stopped. Emails stopped. Chats stopped. People I considered family simply vanished from my life. I  was okay with that. They were there for whatever time they were meant to be there. I know that now, though at the time, it felt like my world was shattering. I got divorced and realized the things I needed in a relationship were not just things based purely on the idea of love. My perceptions of relationships, love and friendship changed.

I quite literally, became a whole new person.

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Shamanism is not an easy path. It’s a path that forces you to accommodate the LIGHT and THE DARK. I always explain to those interested in the Shamanic path…that you are like an ocean: you have your deep dark parts and your clear sparkling parts–the catch is being able to allow the two parts to flow together not apart–they are not separate. These two worlds, the dark and light, must be constantly fluid. Moving together.

As I began my career as a Shamanic Reiki Practitioner, more things came to “light” — more gifts opened up that once again forced me to look at myself. I had to learn how to deal with my new abilities and deepening intuition. I had to again, deal with the light and darkness that resides not only in the world around me, but in myself. Friends came and went, relationships changed…..But I went with the flow.

Being a Shaman is about becoming a master of the balance of light and dark.

The Growth of the Butterfly

All of us are on a journey of self discovery–whether we realize it or not. Whether we want to or not. I have always been and always will be, starting new chapters in my life. Life is a book. Last year was the beginning and ending of a very long chapter. Yes, I am happier than I have ever been. I have found my calling. Learned what I want and need in order to grow, and have taken steps to follow through on my dreams. But along the way, I realized, that sometimes the more we love the more we have to learn; that nothing hurts more than holding on.

I have always had major trust issues with people.  I spent such long time fighting who I was and I wasn’t always true to myself. The past 10 years has been a struggle for me. The hardest part of changing and growing-is losing people in your life that you always thought would be there for you in the darkest of times.

I thought I was surrounded by friends who were essentially my “family” ~ friends who I truly believed would be by side regardless of situations. In the end, I only found the truest people were the ones I never expected. I remember at my wedding I had invited people who I considered family. Friends who I was involved with for a long time. Friends I cared about and who I thought cared about me. More than just casual acquaintances, but true friends. Then the day came when I got the text from my ex that he moved out and took everything we had together with him. I came home to an empty apartment-literally void of everything save a few pieces of furniture. Though I knew it was coming-though  I could see the writing on the wall–nothing is real until you see it. The illusion was finally shattered. My life was flipped upside down and I was forced to look at myself and the darkness inside myself that I pushed away.

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Devastated, hurt and confused, I texted, called and emailed my friends. Those who were at my wedding, those who were in my wedding and those who knew me long before I met and married my ex. The ones who I thought were apart of my life through thick and thin. Who I could count on for council, advice, a good laugh or just a shoulder to cry on.

Only three of my friends responded. Only three of my friends showed up at my door to be by side. And after days and weeks went by, only three of my friends even bothered to see how I was. The day of the divorce, only one of my friends was there to support me. None of the friends who I considered true friends even bothered to drop a line just to ask how I was doing. It was like I had ceased to exist. The curtains fell down and I just became another person. That hurt me more than my ex leaving and more than me having to face the darkness alone. I felt abandoned by the people I needed the most. Learning that all these relationships I had were nothing more than shadows. Maybe they didn’t even really exist at all. Maybe I created them – reveled in the idea that I had all these people in my life who I felt I could count on when shit hit the fan or I bottomed out. Everything was an illusion-a dream–gone in a puff of smoke and leaving me standing in front of a foggy mirror. I was involved in “show biz” then–a professional dancer and performing artist. A lot of friends were performers as well. Perhaps we were all actors?

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Months passed and still none of those friends even bothered to just see how I was. It was like they completely fell off the face of the world and I was left standing alone. I was suddenly shut out and shut off. It hurt. It still hurts. Save for my three friends who made sure I was ok. Friends who are only your friends when things are bright and cheerful–or when they need you for something–or can benefit from having you in their life for selfish reasons. TRUE friends and TRUE relationships in your life, are the ones where people actually care ABOUT you. When you are sick, down, going through a shitty time-they just drop you a line to say, “how are you,” or “thinking about you.” I started to delete them from my contacts. They became just more shadows of my former self.

It takes me a long time to forgive. Its something I am working on. But I have had to let go of a lot of people in my life because things were not what they seemed. Its hard seeing someone who you believed considered you family and think “wow, this person didn’t even bother with me when I needed them.” I remember the first time I attended an event and saw some friends who were at my wedding and they didn’t even bother to say hello–in fact, one of them walked passed me to get to the bathroom!

Part of growth, is realizing that not everyone is going to be with you along the way. It was a hard lesson to learn. And painful. It will always take awhile to forgive those people.

Now I am writing a new chapter–with new relationships–and learning to trust……all over again.

Can Shamans Hate? **SENSITIVE TOPIC**

Well, yes we canShould we? No.

I wrote a similar post to this after the Boston Marathon Bombings. I am writing this because today a beautiful woman who was murdered got justice. Her family (who I am friends with) have some peace of mind knowing her killer is behind bars for the rest of his life.

I write this because, well, it needs to be said. I had a friend die young 9 years ago from “unknown causes” but was in a heavily abusive relationship prior to her passing. When she died–I felt so many emotions. She was young. Had her whole life ahead of her..and then she was gone. I went through the stages of grief, but I remember feeling so angry. It didn’t need to happen. Why would The Universe do that?

Hate is an emotion. Anger is an emotion. They are not necessarily attached to one another. You can be angry-and not hate. When you hate something it means you have an emotional attachment to it—and if you have an emotional attachment to it-it means you care about it. It matters to you. And it could be a person, place or thing. The spiritual question then is,”if you are on a spiritual path to love all–how can you prevent anger and hatred?” You cant. You are human. It’s natural to be angry with things-so angry you hate them. But….

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It’s not healthy. Sending out negative energy and emotions will fall on you.You are only keeping that emotional poison within-in yourself. And when you do that, whomever, or whatever it is, that you are having those negative emotions towards–they have power over you. Whether you like it or not, when you hate, you surrender your power to another. The more negative energy you send out–the more it will come back to you. Even justified anger. Even “justified hate.” The Universe doesn’t want you to feel those emotions. And it sure doesn’t want you to lose your spiritual and personal power to someone who hurt you or your loved ones. To make something/someone matter so much that they own your emotions–its only damaging yourself.

Now…..onto something else.

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The Universe is all about balance. Good and bad. Light and dark. It’s all about making sure everything is held in harmony. Everything–every person–we are linked. We are all destined to meet certain people, go certain places and do certain things.

**Please note that what I am about to say does not mean that I think murderers, rapists, etc. are “justified.” They will have to live with their consequences of their actions, the karma that follows and The Universe will ensure that balance is restored.**

When we are born, we are born with a specific karma–and specific bits of webs that we spend our entire life sending out to attach–even if temporarily–to another person. People have asked me, “why do bad things happen to good people,” ~ and my answer is “you can’t control someone else’s destiny.” When someone is murdered–it obviously doesn’t make sense to those left behind. But, the destiny of those two people were already entwined before they came to this Earth. Why?

Perhaps that person had to leave this planet that specific way, to ensure that the person who did the crime doesn’t hurt anyone else. Or that they had to break a cycle of karma. Or someone-friend or family left behind from the tragedy–will create something so powerful to give to others.

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Yes, I know, it doesn’t make sense. But I don’t believe The Universe takes without giving.

I know a lot of people will disagree with me, and that is fine. Through my experiences with death–planned or unplanned–young and old.

I truly believe that everyone who passes suddenly–violently or not– crosses into the Other World with known reason that they have created some higher purpose for those they left behind. The persons spirit was here to assist and teach others a lesson–whether about the power of love, and healing–the power of community–the power of resiliency. When they pass, the leave this Earth, and those who touched them, with a deeper purpose. Those left behind are now set back onto their journey with a reason to continue–for they know now truly–that life is short and has meaning. Those spirits they left us, have finished their task–and now they guide us from the other side.

And with that–I light a candle-say a prayer and send out love, healing and positive energy to all those who have lost someone suddenly. Know that the person is guiding your journey–holding your hand–and giving you wisdom from the after life.

 

 

Volcanoes and Flowering Trees

Emotions are either good or bad. They either make you elated to be alive, or wish you were living in a cave away from any human contact. They can make you love, they can make you cry. Every aspect of our living consists of having multiple emotions at one single time. 

But anger can be the most damaging. It is the most dangerous of emotions. When you are angry, it can settle into your soul. Sometimes so deeply that it consumes you like hot lava engulfing a forest of trees. It eats away at you. 

We are human, we cant help but to feel anger at some point in our lives. Its normal. Even for those on the spiritual path, anger will occur. But its not the anger itself that is dangerous. It is our reactions and choices when presented with anger that are poisonous.

Its natural to want to lash out. To have a knee jerk reaction. To tell someone how you really feel.  Sometimes anger is so consuming people do bad things. Regrettable things. 

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In truth, however, despite how angry you are at a situation or with someone, as difficult as it maybe…..turning the other cheek is the best thing to do. I used to think that was submissive. That I needed to lash out when I was angry with someone. Anger would take seat in my solar plexus and I needed to scream and yell at whomever caused me to feel that anger. Then I realized, its not submissive. Its not about “winning” or letting the other person get away with something that you know is wrong. 

Its about accepting, that you can change that person. You can scream and yell all you want, but more than likely it will not change the situation or the person involved. You cant change people. You can only change yourself. Turning the other cheek doesn’t mean letting people walk all over you. But its about accepting that that person is making choices that will consciously or subconsciously change the course of their journey.

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Whenever I am angry, I think about what is making me angry. What about the situation is making me angry? Its usually because I didn’t get to say what I wanted. Not that I couldn’t, just that I realized that it was pointless. It wont change anything. When I am angry, I do two things. I dance. I dance until my body has sweated out any negative feelings. Anger is a toxin. I dance until my body, mind and spirit are one again. I stomp my feet and send that anger energy into Mother Earth an let Her do something positive with it. Sometimes I will have crystals on the floor and I will dance and “push” all that energy into them. Allowing them to take the anger and turn it into something positive.

And, I write. I write a letter to the persons or the situation as if I would be speaking to them face to face. Then,I read the letter out loud and burn it. Its done. Watching something bust into flames, consuming my anger. Then, its done. Whenever I feel that surge of anger come up, I tell myself that it is gone. That I surrendered to The Universe. Then the anger goes away.

Its the nature of things. Have things burn so the soil can be rich and new life and trees can grow. 

The Pain of Resiliency-And the Power of Vulnerability

Resiliency is often a word that people don’t fully understand. Often people associate the word with the ability to bounce right back up when you are kicked down. To be able to crawl your way back up to the light when you have fallen down a dark hole. People admire those who are resilient. The resilient folk seem to have some insurmountable strength that often leaves people asking themselves, “why cant I be that strong?” ~ and it leaves the resilient people saying, “if you only knew.”

I am a resilient person. I have been knocked down so many times in my life and have always found the ability to move forward-against all odds-against whatever the tides of the Universe pushed towards me. I held my head up high and walked against the winds and made it through. Always learning something about myself along the way. I have never allowed myself to be vulnerable. I most often allowed myself to cry behind closed doors….or not cry at all. Even when I have felt that my heart was being torn out of my chest-I would never cry. Crying is not something most resilient people allow others to see. Chin up and no tears, that’s what they let the world see. And that, unto itself, is painful. Resilient people feel that they need to move forward–no matter what they are feeling. And that is the main problem. Resilient people more often than not, dont allow themselves to feel. Feeling would be weak-and you cant move quickly enough to bounce back if you feel everything or anything. Resilient people are the ones who usually, are in the most pain-we keep everything locked up-its easier that way. Putting on a brave face and showing that indeed, I am the Warrior Queen. 

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But then again….we need to show our hearts. Put it on the table. Allow ourselves to be vulnerable. There is a strange power in vulnerability–we cant be strong all the time. And its through our most vulnerable moments-that we learn more about who we are, and what we can handle and what, after all, makes us so resilient. We have our emotions played with, our hearts broken, our dreams shattered. We learn who is there for us through thick and thin and who is only there for the moment. We learn what trust is and what the real value is in friendship. Who will be there for you when the ship is sinking….and who will tear your heart out. All of this so you can crash and realize that you are more stronger than you ever imagined.

Sometimes the pain in your heart makes you feel like you are choking. That you cant breathe. That you have been locked in a box and cant find your way out-because for whatever reason-you keep being pulled in one direction. And then sometimes, you wake up and realize who you are, and what you want to become. You realize that despite the heart splitting pain you feel-you will learn a lesson and become stronger. You will gain a new battle scar, a new wound, and look back on its cause and realize that there is nothing more powerful than allowing yourself to be open–even if it hurts like hell.

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When it feels like torture-to be able to open yourself up-and feel-and allow others in. To knock down a few walls so others can see what is behind them. Even when someone chooses another over you, or tells you they are in love with someone else. When someone walks away from you-or they push you out of their lives. Or even, when you need to spread your wings and realize that you are letting others float away from you–because you have to let them go in order to grow. To find some solace in the pain of vulnerability is what gives the strength that is found in resiliency. You are able to push forward because you know the pain of looking back, and the lessons you learned to get you where you are now. You can’t bounce back if you haven’t already fallen.

Resiliency isn’t always about being strong. Its about knowing when to let yourself be open to the power that lies in being vulnerable.