blessing ceremony

Making Mabon Magic

The upcoming autumnal equinox (in the Northern hemisphere,) or Mabon, is a perfect opportunity to create a ceremony to mark a seasonal transition. Ceremony is a sacred and active prayer that opens communication with spirit. It can be as modest or elaborate as you'd like, as long as you infuse your ritual with clear intention and heartfelt meaning. Here is a loose guideline for a very simple, personal autumn equinox ceremony:

1) Gather materials: You'll need your journal, a piece of scrap paper, pen, candle, lighter, favorite scents (oils, smudging plants) and any other objects that speak to you in this moment (stones, bells, photos, jewelry, flowers, etc.) 

2) Carve out a sacred space. It can be in your home or yard, the forest or beach -- anywhere! You may wish to create a small autumn altar on a shelf, table, or near your yoga mat or meditation space. If outside, you might use a stone or tree stump as an altar, or create a beautiful spot at the base of a tree. Place your special candle on your altar. You might also include seasonal objects you've gathered, such as leaves, acorns, stones, fruits.

3) Set your intention for autumn. Reflect on what you want to manifest by writing or making art in your journal. Then write a your intention statement on a small piece of paper to use in ceremony. You may wish to flow with the energy the fall equinox offers naturally, such as:

  • Recognizing and honoring the balance of the light and dark within you, as there are equal hours of each on this special day.
  • Harvesting, expressing gratitude for, and celebrating the bounty and abundance from the seeds you've sewn earlier this year.
  • Soulful planning for the cooler, darker, introspective months ahead. The seed you plant now can bloom next spring.
  • Making a commitment to open your inward eye during these darker months, discovering more about your unfolding, authentic self.
  • Replenishing yourself - mind, body, and spirit. As reflected in the plant and animal life around us, we are also moving into the time for dormancy, hibernation, rest, and renewal. 
  • In this season of roots, spend time honoring your ancestors, calling on them for guidance or protection. 

4) Open the ceremony by marking the time as sacred using a symbolic act. This can be done any in any of the following ways: Crossing a threshold; lighting the candle on your altar; sounding a bell, gong, drum, or rattle; using a scent to bring you into the dreamtime (diffusing or anointing with essential oils, lighting sage or palo santo, misting rose water, etc.)  

5) Now call your guides into the space. Your personal guides might be your spirit guides, angels, gods/goddesses, animal spirits, ancestors or any un/seen entity that feels good and clear to call on in support of your highest good and your intention.

6) Cast a circle, calling upon all directions. You can do this however you prefer. I like to speak the following:

Facing east: "Spirit of the east, great spirit of air, cleanse this space."

Facing south: "Spirit of the south, great spirit of water, bring peace to this space."

Facing west: "Spirit of the west, great spirit of fire, energize this space."

Facing north: "Spirit of the north, great spirit of earth, ground this space."

Directed upward: "Great father sky, protect this space from above."

Directed downward: "Great mother earth, nurture this space from below."

7) Say your intention aloud and/or meditate on it like a mantra. Allow the intention statement to flow through your body in both directions -- inhaling the earth's energy up from the bottom of your feet (or base of your spine if sitting) from root to crown until it ascends from the top of your head to the heavens. Then exhale it down from crown to root, grounding your intention into the fertile soil of the earth.

8) Place the small paper with your intention on your altar. I often place mine under a candle or a stone to ground and enliven it. 

9) Close the ceremony circle by offering gratitude to your guides. Also you may want to repeat or reverse the act you chose for opening your ceremony, such as snuffing the candle or herbs, sounding the bell, or crossing back over your threshold. 

10) Allow the ceremony live in you as you move through the season ahead. Interact with your altar and/or journal, revisiting your intention and noticing the ways you are actively manifesting it in your life. 

Simple guide to smudging

Smudging is one of my favorite ways to cleanse my space and my being, so I thought I'd break this ritual down to a few simple tips today on my blog. You might have heard the word "smudging" used and you may have seen what looks like dried leaves tied together with string in WholeFoods or your local apothecary. If you have, and you've wondered what that's all about, read on. Smudging is the term for clearing lingering energy (of a space or a person) by burning various healing herbs. The idea of purification by smoke can be traced back to Native Americans, though many cultures around the world have rituals using herbal smoke mixtures, including some from China, India, Southeast Asia, and Europe.

Benefits of smudging:

Smudging has been known to cleanse or purify energy, whether it is that of a person or a space. Essentially, it does the same thing for the person or space that hitting "reset" would do for your cell phone. Native people believed the smoke ascends to the heavens, or the world of spirits, acting as a spiritual messenger. For those of you who like a dash of solid science with your woo woo, I recently saw this article citing studies on how smudging cleanses the air of harmful bacteria and can be medicinal.

Ideas for when to smudge:

  • Ending a job and preparing for a new job
  • Ending a relationship
  • Returning from travel
  • To cleanse and bless a space/house/apartment/office you are about to move into (and even the space you've just moved out of, to prepare it for the next person.)
  • After an emotionally difficult day, an argument, etc
  • After a therapy/healing session (whether you're the healer or the client.)
  • To mark an occasion or crossing a threshold (New Years, birthday, a birth, a death)
  • Celebrating seasons (solstices and equinoxes) and other earth cycles (full moon, new moon)
  • When you want to feel more centered or protected

Simple smudging tools: (You can purchase these tools via the Amazon affiliate links in text below.)

  • Smudge stick - Bundle of dried, cleansing herbs of your choice. You can also create a bowl of the loose leaves, though when they are bound together with a colorful string, they are much easier to use. (earth element)
  • Large feather - Used for wafting the cleansing smoke around the person or space to be purified. Use the underside of the feather when moving smoke around, as the underside of the bird's wing is what faces mother Earth when flying. (air element)
  • Abalone shell - Used to catch ashes that fall and also to tamp out the flame or smoldering embers. Some shells even come with a great little wooden stand. (The shell represents water element, though one can also use a small ceramic or stone bowl for the same purposes.)
  • Lighter/Matches/Candle - Used to ignite the herbs (fire element)

How to smudge:

You will simply light the bundle of herbs, then tamp the flame so the dry leaves are just smoldering. The smoke is what you want to use here to clear the air. You can wave it around yourself or in the corners of the room with your hand or more traditionally with a feather. When doing this, you can set an intention to cleanse away anything that is not yours and is not serving your greatest good (or any verbiage that makes sense for you.) If you have smoke alarms in your space, keep your window open while smudging. For you visual types, here's a short  Vimeo video by herbalist Maia Toll showing you how to smudge with a bundle of sage.

Guide to common smudging herbs:

  • Sage: Used to heal and bless. Drives away negative energies, old patterns, influences that do not serve your greatest good. This is a great herb to burn on the full moon, when we enter the period of waning and shedding. I wrote a blog post about rituals for moon phases with more on this piece at this link.
  • Cedar: Used for protection. This is a wonderful one to use when moving into a new home, apartment, or office.
  • Mugwort: Used for protection, well-being, and endurance. It is said to be "the traveler's friend." It is also helpful for tapping into your dream world or bringing about lucid dream states.
  • Lavender: Calls in spirit guides and is said to guard against negative spirits, and was used in Egypt for mummification.
  • Sweetgrass: Attracts positive energy after negative energy has been banished, and invites in the essence of the feminine. (Wonderful for new moon rituals.)
  • Palo Santo: Calls in new, manifesting energies (Also great to use during the new moon) The sticks of this tree are the part that is usually burned, though you can also find bundles of its leaves at times.

If you'd like to learn more about the ritual of smudging, google has so so so many links for you to peruse. Happy cleansing!

Live by the moon

Humans are tidal. We're made of mostly water and pulled by the moon in ways we may not even consciously realize. We undoubtedly feel its pull on our emotional and creative rhythms, so why not tune more into this natural cycle so it can empower and inform our lives? Reproduction is affected by the moon by way of menstruation, fertility, and birth rates. Lunar cycles have been proven to impact the hormones of animals (do your cats go bananas on full moon nights like mine do?), along with influencing crime rates, traffic accidents, and hospital admittance. Acknowledging that this rhythm impresses upon our lives, bringing our awareness to it more fully, and using its power to guide our intentions can help us roll with the tide.

Simple rituals for the lunar cycle

A full lunar cycle, from new moon to new moon, lasts about 29.5 days. The new moon (or when the moon is in total darkness, resting in the shadow of the earth) is aligned with the idea of a fresh start and a new beginning. This is a time to start new projects and plant new seeds. It is a time to call forth energy to manifest something new over the following 14 days when the moon will be waxing, meaning the light part of the moon is growing. I enjoy setting intentions on a new moon for what I'd like to create for myself. I often smudge with the sacred wood, palo santo, to bring about fresh energy during this time. It is a wonderful time to create vision boards, soul collage cards, or to visualize what you would like to call into your life.

My recent full moon cleansing altar
My recent full moon cleansing altar

The full moon (or when the moon is in total, circular brightness, with the sun shining upon its surface) is powerful when it comes to honoring manifestations, decision-making, and setting intentions for what to release as we move through the following 14 days when the moon will be waning. Waning means the light part will be decreasing in size, as we move toward the next new moon. This is a wonderful time for smudging with sage or cedar, herbs which assist us in cleansing ourselves or our space, as well as letting go of that which is no longer serving our greatest good. I also like to write on pieces of paper the things I hope to release, and to burn those pieces of paper during the time the moon is waning. On a practical note, the energy of the waning moon period supports cleaning out your home and space. The light of the full moon is also said to cleanse the energy held in crystals and stones, so you can set them outside or in a windowsill on the night of the full moon.

The graphic below, by Ezzie Spencer, gives guidance on the types of intentions we are invited to set during each specific phase of the moon, along its path of waxing and waning. So, look upward tonight. Remember that you are a part of nature -- connecting more deeply to your place in the universe -- and perhaps try a small ritual of your own, letting your awareness of the phase of the moon empower you more consciously.

Spencer lunar cycle
Spencer lunar cycle

Simple ways to use oracle cards

If you're seeking a quick, fun, and meaningful way to look inward, working with oracle cards could be an enriching practice for you. The simple act of choosing a card (or a few cards) is an immediate way to invite self-reflection, whether you are starting your day, pondering a lingering question in your life, or invoking nighttime dreams. Oracle cards generally come grouped into a deck, and they can provide us with insight into our innermost questions -- not from some outside source, rather from our inner wisdom used in deciphering their message. Tarot cards are one well-known example of an oracle card deck, though there are many other types. You don't need to be a professional tarot reader, a shaman, a believer of woo-woo, or anything other than exactly who you are to make oracle cards part of your practice. All you need is a favorite deck (or you can even create a deck yourself using your own art and/or images cut from magazines.) A few of my favorite oracle card decks I keep around my studio are pictured below, and many can be purchased via the Amazon affiliate carousel at the bottom of this post.

Ways I like to use my oracle cards:

  • At the start of my morning
  • To set intentions for my week, placed upon my altar or around the house as a visual reminder
  • For clients to draw at the begining of therapy to arrive into the sacred space and set the tone for the session
  • As creative writing or journaling prompts
  • For help in answering a question that I'm mulling over (because the reflecting on the image requires me to go deeply inward and inquire from my true, core self.)
  • Before bedtime, to close my day or invoke/inquire into my nighttime dreams
  • To mark special occasions, like my birthday, new years, or the beginning of a project
  • To mark a transition, like a move, a new job, a birth, a death, a relationship beginning or ending

How-to and prompts:

Once you have a deck you like, get a feel for it. Hold the deck in your hands, shuffle it gently, cut the cards - do whatever you'd like. While you are holding the cards, think of a question you'd like to ask. It can be as simple as: "What do I need in this moment?" or "What will this day bring?" You can fan them out or stack them. Using your intuition, pull a card from the deck. (Sometimes a card will fall on the floor as you shuffle - that's usually your card.)

After you pull a card, study it closely. If you have a deck of words (like the Angel card or Blesssing card decks in the carousel below) or phrases on the card (like the Shambhala deck or Danielle LaPorte's Truthbomb deck,) then see how/if this word or phrase could apply to your life.

If your deck is comprised of cards with images, really look at the card you pull. What is pictured? What colors are used? Is there movement or stillness? Is there a person(s) present? Are there animals? Which natural elements stand out: fire, water, earth, air? Simply describe what you see. (We art therapists call the practice of just describing what you see "the phenomenological approach to the image" - fancy huh?) Describing form/the image leads to content/the meaning.

Now it's time to let your mind free-associate and play! Does your card remind you of anything or anyone in your life? Could it apply to the question you asked as you shuffled? What do the words or colors or shapes mean to you? (i.e.; "yellow reminds me of the sun and happiness" or "owls make me think of nighttime and wisdom" or "the word 'patience' is such medicine for me right now.") At this point, you may choose to make notes in your journal. If your card comes with a booklet describing the images (as tarot cards and other decks often do,) you might choose to then add this collective wisdom into your own personal reflections. Though, I'd recommend saving the booklet for last so as not to cloud your intuitive hunches.

You might also pull 3 cards in a row, representing 1) Who I was, 2) Who I am, and 3) Who I will become. You can get creative about what sets of cards can mean, or you can consult the booklet that comes with your deck to see what types of readings are recommended.

This practice can be infused with any energy you give it: light, fun, sacred, deep, meditative, inspiring... and the best part is that you can connect with yourself and your inner voice in under 5 minutes when engaging in oracle card reading. Trust the process.

So, what is Reiki anyway?

Reiki has been circling back into my practice more regularly since the new year, and it seems like a perfect time to write a little post about this ancient, subtle, and powerful hands-on-healing method. I am a Master/Teacher-level Reiki practitioner in the Usui tradition and lineage. I have been studying energetic healing and the chakra system since 1995, and I have been formally practicing Reiki since 2003. I enjoy calling upon Reiki energy for my own healing, cleansing the energy of a space, and for hands-on healing treatments for clients, family members, and friends.

This Spring I conducted two Reiki workshops in the Bay Area for therapists who also wish to become Reiki practitioners, and incorporate this type of energetic healing modality into their practices. In these workshops, I shared information about the psychology of the chakra system, taught specifics about Reiki I & II, and 'attuned' the participants to become Reiki practitioners. We gathered in a lovely space in Mountain View, and it just felt so good to send more healers out into this world.

So, what is Reiki?

Reiki is not a religion or dogma, does not take away from current belief system; it’s a gentle, effective, non-invasive hand-on healing modality based on an ancient form of healing. Rei means spiritual consciousness.  Ki means life force (sometimes called chi and prana). Thus, Reiki is a spiritually guided life force energy, which is everything around us (earth, air, sun, water.)

Some of the benefits of Reiki: 

  • Reduction in stress and anxiety
  • A sense of deep peace and tranquility
  • Release of blockages on physical, emotional and spiritual levels
  • Feelings of overall well-being
  • Renewal of spiritual awareness and insight
  • Inner stillness, allowing a deepening connection with self
  • Enhanced functioning of the immune system
  • Reduction in levels of chronic pain
  • Decreased time necessary for healing from illness or injury
  • Shortened recovery time from physical exertion
  • Management of symptoms from chemotherapy
  • Support for conventional medical treatment

What to expect during a Reiki treatment session with me:

I offer 75-minute Reiki sessions. You may think of scheduling a Reiki session as a self-care and self-inquiry treat to yourself, much like getting a massage or acupuncture. You don't need to be my psychotherapy client to receive a Reiki treatment, as I offer them independent of psychotherapy. At times when appropriate, I also incorporate Reiki with psychotherapy clients who are interested.

During a Reiki treatment, you will lie comfortably on a massage table, as you remain fully clothed. You may wish to gently close your eyes as you lie quietly on the table and relax fully into the treatment, remembering that you do not need to do anything to increase the effectiveness of the treatment.

The room will be comfortably lit with either candles or soft lighting. Soothing music may be played to enhance relaxation.

I will spend a few minutes getting to know you better, as well as discussing Reiki treatments and finding out what your reasons for coming for a treatment might be. Anything that you choose to share during your treatment will be kept confidential, remembering that this is a safe and sacred environment. If you have any significant areas of physical discomfort, be sure to share that information before the treatment begins, or as you become aware during treatment. I then will gently place my hands over/on the major energy centers, or chakras, of your body, leaving the hands in each position for a few minutes, helping the body to bring itself into balance as it draws in the healing energy of Reiki, and may spend additional time at other areas of the body that seem to be calling for attention.

During the treatment, you may experience a variety of sensations throughout your body such as heat, vibration or tingling, pulsation or flowing energy, lightness or heaviness, deep relaxation, and occasionally temporarily intensified emotions as you release blockages from the past. You may also fall asleep for all or part of the treatment, or find that you do not experience any physical sensations at all. This is perfectly normal, since Reiki does not need to be perceived for you to receive its many benefits, nor do you need to be awake during the treatment.

If you'd like to learn more, I recommend the following books on Reiki: (clicking on affiliate links below will open the Amazon page for the book in a new browser window on your computer) 

Or feel free to contact me to discuss scheduling a session.