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 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.

Why Weaving Serpent???

I started using “WEAVING SERPENT” when I first started teaching out of my home studio in 2007. It was my “dance studio” name. I picked it because I like the idea of “weaving.” Snakes, of course, are also my totem animal–and they themselves represent change, rebirth and renewal.

At the time, I was a Fusion Belly Dancer. It meant that I took bits and pieces of dance styles (African, hip hop, flamenco, etc.) and “fused” them together into a belly dance performance. Ultimately, it’s what I taught my students and my troupe.

The name just stuck.

Since I was 13, I have studied most major ancient societal cultures, religions and beliefs, Hinduism, Shamanism, Buddhism, Wicca, Christianity, Vodou, Gnosticism, Metaphysics, etc. You name it and I have had at one point in my life spent months reading about the subject. Over the past 20 years, while I always considered myself “neo-pagan” ~ I began to find that my spirituality started to evolve by taking bits and pieces of what I studied over the past 20 years and creating something of my own. We literally have altars in our home to nearly EVERY spiritual belief system in our home. I always joke with people who if they ever need a prayer answered but are not sure who to go or what to believe, to come to our house–someone will listen!

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With that said, I began to call myself “pan-spiritual” ~ I believe in everything and nothing.

Which brings me to why I kept Weaving Serpent–and why I have used it for my wellness business “Weaving Serpent Wellness.”

I weave together different aspects of my spiritual studies from various spiritual groups to create a healing methodology. Its like having a very large basket with a bunch of stuff to pull out whenever you need it. I am a weaver. I like to weave. And I believe every religion and every form of spirituality has something to offer. And that, it does not mean that you can only believe in ONE thing–or that there is only ONE truth. All spirituality has the same concepts: love, harmony peace, well-being and kindness to others. I pick and choose what works for me and weave it into my spiritual practice.

It’s a nice way to go about evolving, because just when you think you have learned everything—-something new comes along that demands your attention! And its nice to not feel restricted to “one idea” ~ when you can become a giant melting pot-then you can understand the importance weavers have in the way the world works…after all….we are all weaving the same web!

Sacred Sedona Visit

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Ahhh, I finally have the chance to sit down and write about my visit to Sedona, Arizona. Sedona has been on my “spiritual site” visit list for years-so when I finally had the chance to go I was so excited. My partner and I went the first week in November in celebration of my birthday/new year. I have heard a lot of stuff about Sedona-mostly that as a sensitive, I would have to prepare myself for the energy surge I was going to feel.

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As we started getting closer, I felt the all too familiar feeling up my spine that my energy channels were opening up. It’s usually a tingling sensation up my spine, like a tickle. From there I get a tingling in my left hand and on the left side of my head. It’s usually at that point that I get visions or hear voices. Rather this time, I just felt peace. My energy channels were open and everything was settled inside. For the first time in my life, I felt calmness unlike anything I have experienced.

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The peace and vibes I felt repeated itself deep into the night where I would experience sleepless nights and yet still feels refreshed the following morning! It was like being awake—always, yet never feeling fatigued.

We hiked up Bell Rock, one of the places renowned for the vortexes. The energy there was so strong that you didn’t need a map to know where the vortex was. I felt it the instant I stepped into it. And I cried. I cried as I looked out into the horizon. Sedona strips away everything you are. It divests you of whatever you believed you were. I felt like someone had taken away everything that defined me—everything was boundless and limitless. In that moment, I became someone else, my true self.

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The further we hiked the more I felt the energy. When we stopped for a break and I leaned against the rock, I felt my whole body enveloped by hundreds of primordial arms-embracing me like family. I saw images of spirit, and saw a vision of the Venus of Willendorf-a Goddess I have always felt connected to. I felt her embracing me in her bosom. I felt free of worries. I was home. At that moment I completely trusted the Universe.

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As we were walking back to our hotel, I saw all these amazing Totem trees. Ironically of all the photos I took, the Totem trees were my favorites. The sun shining on my back, I heard a voice that said “its ok.” I felt transformed.

It’s funny how life is serendipitous. While in Sedona we met several people who moved from Massachusetts to Sedona. One of the amazing people we met was Jan Sullivan, a painter and tattoo artist. Ironically she was a transplant from Sturbridge, MA and her friend owns a farm near my home that I used to go to as a kid! We became very good friends, and my partner and I both decided we should get tattoos to remember the experience of Sedona.

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I went for the OM sign—the sound that created the Universe; the sound and symbol of the higher frequency chakras. Whenever I feel like I am loosing myself, I look at my tattoo and remind myself of that moment on Bell Rock. Through the course of the week, the healthier and more restored I felt. I was an amazing experience. Made even better because we made so many new friends and connections!

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Life has a funny way of leading you on the right path when you need it. I have been looking to leave my current job in health care and work in a more holistic field. I had been applying for various positions since August. Upon my arrival home, I received an email for an interview at a holistic health center! The Universe truly does bring to you what you need when you just let go!!!

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Instantaneous Spiritual Awakenings…..

~*Out of respect for those who have positive experiences or believe in the power of ayahuasca, I am omitting names of both people, groups and shamans from this post. Everyone has their opinion and this is solely mine. I know many people who have had life changing experiences and I respect and honor that.*~

Last year, while I was deep in depression and anxiety issues, I started hearing more and more about the magical plant “ayahuasca.” For those unfamiliar with it, I will sum it up this way: It’s a plant from the nightshade family and contains DMT. Done in small doses by a genuine Shaman, ayahuasca is meant to bring a profound and cathartic spiritual awakening. To quote someone who had taken the trip to Peru to try magical plant “its like psychotherapy on steroids.”

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I really needed something to shake me out of the funk that I was in. Drowning in depression, I began to learn more and more about this magical herb, which, if taken correctly is non-addictive (though illegal in the US). I am a deeply spiritual person, and felt that part of my depression was caused by a lack of spiritual communion. I went from daily routine to nothing. At the time, it felt though someone had taken my soul and left a void. I began to meet more and more people who had taken the ayahuasca journey with great success. I thought about it, sought out retreats (most of which are in the middle of Peru) and started making plans to go on a journey and take this magical plant.

After a few months, I began to notice more and more stories and retreats popping up. I know the idea that when you are aware of something you see it more, so initially I thought that was it. But the more people I met in the spirituality community the more I learned that ayahuasca was and is, becoming a new fad for the Westerners. Primarily because most Westerners think by traveling into the jungles of Peru and drinking a concoction of magical herbs and plants, they will receive instantaneous spiritual awakenings.

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When things become a “fad” its more than likely going to start turning into something that is not what its original intentions were. And that is what I began to see happening. More and more people taking ayahuasca…more and more “shamans” available. When I initially looked into retreats, there were maybe 2 or 3–now there are a dozen. Who is to say that the people you are working with are “genuine” ~ Additionally, there are very small groups who perform ayahuasca rituals in the U.S. – and to become part of the group you need to know someone who knows someone. A completely underground world.

The other thing I had begun to notice were those who were painting or drawing the ayahuasca visions–were all drawing nearly the same exact imagery. If there is supposed to be a personal spiritual experience during the hallucinations-why were all these people creating the same imagery. Additionally, some of the people were already using recreational drugs, so ayahuasca was just another “spirit journey” for them. And some of these people still had pent-up residual psycho-social issues. So their contrary words of the power of ayahuasca had really not changed them, aside from taking them on a trip.

Now, I am not saying that this occurs all the time. I know many people who are in a good state of mind and have had magical and transformative experiences with the drug. And I am also not saying that specific drugs, like peyote, under the guidance of a genuine shaman (one who has spent years studying plants) can not bring about a spiritual experience. I do believe in the proper hands, specific hallucinogens and ritual can create a deeply moving experience.

However, my thoughts are this. I believe most Westerners are looking for instantaneous spiritual awakenings. We live in a world where it is a get in now mentality. You can download music rather than go to store, order items on-line and have them the next day. There is no waiting or working. So rather than spend the years that are involved in spiritual atunement, they turn to a “quick” method of spiritual awakening. I have been working on my spiritual path for 20 years. And I am still learning. Spending thousands of dollars to spend time in a jungle to drink something – or finding an underground group who participates in ayahuasca circles, is not going to bring a lasting spiritual experience.

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A spiritual awakening is something you continually have to work on and maintain. And it doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen by smoking or drinking a hallucinogenic. Sure these may “open your mind,” but you get the same effect from deep meditation and relaxation techniques. Or via ecstatic dance and drumming. I believe the people who do have the instant spiritual awakenings are those who have had near death experiences. Only because they have been to the other side and back. They have a new perspective on life.

If you want to become more spiritual you have to spend years working on it. You have to find your ebb and flow. You have to awaken your souls journey and take the long and arduous steps to get there.

There is no such thing as an instantaneous spiritual awakening,

Its Not *OUR* Planet

With the upcoming Climate Change walk–I keep hearing people refer to Earth as “our” planet….I know this is going to be one of the posts that people will either agree with me or disagree–there isn’t middle ground on this one.

But….

It’s not “ours.” To use the word “our,” “mine,” “yours,” infers ownership. We do not own planet Earth. She owns us. I know we live in an age of “eco-friendliness” especially with an emphasis on recycling (which is great and something we do in our household) and “global warming,” –but I think we as humans forget–the Earth has been here a LOT longer than we have. The Earth has been here 4.54 billion years. Humans–give or take 200,000 years…..

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To put a bit of perspective on this: Earth has survived more crap thrown at Her than humans have or ever will see in their entire existence. Acid rain, sulfuric air, ice ages, asteroid crashes, floods, droughts, climate changes, continent shifts…and She is still here.

I don’t believe in Global Warming. I believe that climate change is due to the natural nature of the planet. Earth is a living being that grows and changes. It’s constantly revolutionizing itself. It’s a living breathing organism. Now, I do think that humans are nasty little creatures and that we over use the resources that Mother Earth has so graciously allows us to use? And corporate societies where bigger is better are only adding more crap in the air? Of course!..But, do you think the Earth cares?

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Truth is, when She is ready to be rid of us all…She will rid us all (sorry Dinosaurs-you just became pests!)……I believe that earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, etc. are Mother Natures way of performing population control. I don’t see it as humans causing more and more of these “natural disasters,” – they maybe occurring more frequently because humans are overpopulating the Earth and She needs to keep us at a minimum.

When humans complain that there water source is low–it’s not because of Earth–it’s because of humans. When it rains and our water resources are at a maximum…humans are the ones to be the first to suck it all up…then blame “climate change” for why it’s all gone. It’s not the climate change– it’s because humans do not understand the balance between Mother Nature  and our existence. It’s supposed to be like a perfect partnership— 50/50 — give and take– not take and take. Don’t blame global warming or climate change for the humans lack of understanding a mutualistic relationship.

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I am not against those who strongly believe in global warming. We are all entitled to our own opinions. But, rather than wasting money (and gas!) to go and march somewhere where the “big guys” could care less about climate change and Earth (unless an election is coming up and they need your vote)–why not do something to THANK Mother Earth for allowing humanity to continue to exist. Plant a garden, plant a tree.

Who knows how long we will be here. Earth does not belong to anyone. She is just a wonderfully beautiful hostess allowing us to be a guest in Her ever-changing household.

The Illumination of The Universal Heart


Its Beltaine today. The Wheel continues to turn and we begin to reap what we have sown. Sometimes, the seeds that we planted no longer blossom or just refuse to bloom. Sometimes, the seeds that we planted shoot up to the sky and embrace the light and warmth of the beautiful star shining above us. 

In the end, regardless of whether our seeds bloom or not, we do, eventually, reap what we have sown. We must be humble ourselves and accept the choices we have made. In the end, they are our choices. The Universe may have plans for us. The Universe always lays before us its desire for us. It already has our destination mapped out. The Universe wants us to have balance and happiness. However, our choices and free will ultimately lead us to the road of the journey we must take. The Universe has the map, we just have to figure out which route to take.

 

There is an awakening that will ultimately occur in our lives, when we realize that everything and everyone is connected. Despite how big the world may seem, in the end its small. We are a small planet in a big expanse of Space. Everything is in balance. The Universe keeps everything together. The Earth rotates. The moon keeps us in alignment. The Sun illuminates our sky and sustains life. Our galaxy is connected to everything and everyone. 

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Regardless of how things turn out–there is always a reason for what is occurring in your life at this moment. The people, the events, the journey. It’s all occurring for a purpose. Even if that purpose is to teach us strength, or how to find the light in the darkness. Everything and everyone is connected. The people in your life may come and go–but they entered your life for a reason. The happiness and tragedy that encompasses life is always part of the plan. There is no such thing as “failure” ~ only lessons to be learned. Only new roads being laid before us. 

Its an understanding and awakening to that single idea of The Universal Heart. We all are ONE. We all beat as ONE in the grandiose scheme of The Universe. It doesn’t matter if your rich or poor, white or black, happy or sad. We are all from its stars. And as the Sun continues to shine, and our Earth continues to move, we learn that eventually, we do really reap what we have sown.