Cleansing, but not gentle
New Orleans streets at sunset
I can’t believe we are coming up on the autumn equinox! The fall equinox, or Mabon as some witches honor it, is the date when day and night are equal once more as we ready ourselves for winter. This year Mabon falls on Monday, September 24th. I have already begun to notice how much earlier it gets dark than it did when I first arrived in New Orleans 7 weeks ago. While I do love heat of the warmer times of year, honestly my least favorite part of the colder months is the early darkness. It’s something I am going to have to keep in mind for my van too, as it’s a 100% off grid machine. My fridge, stove, lights, fans, everything inside is run by solar power. When I’m in a less urban environment, I’ll probably buy a small portable propane based stove so I can cook outdoors too. I’m honestly really looking forward to being outside of cities soon. These first few stops of my travels have been centered on cities where I know people as I get used to my change in lifestyle. So sticking around in New Orleans this long has mostly been about me getting acquainted with all the demons around self-employment and loneliness that I knew were bound to come up.
And boy, have they come up. Some days of this trip have been really amazing - I particularly liked the journey down here from Chicago, with my stops in St. Louis and Memphis. I’ll probably write more about those days here soon. But being in New Orleans has been challenging for me in a lot of ways. It’s an intense city, with lots of palpable magical energy. A lot of the roads are beat to hell, so driving is always bumpy. It’s a small place (did you know that New Orleans has a smaller population than Wichita, Kansas?), and people are always low key (honestly sometimes high key too) in your business. It’s a party town, people are walking around with cups all day every day. It’s hot and humid as fuck, which like I said I usually love, but makes hanging out in the van challenging. That’s just external stuff, though. I knew what the city was when I decided to come here. It’s a strange place, with an endless amount of character and excitement.
Internally, there’s a whole other world of challenges I am facing. So many questions about what I’m “meant” to be doing and if I’m doing it “right”, plus fears about money, belonging, and self-discipline. All of the things that would ordinarily arise when making a major life change, I’m experiencing ten-fold here it feels like. Never mind the fact that I don’t drink or do drugs, I’m taking a break from smoking weed, I’m currently celibate and not dating, and I don't even drink caffeine! My only vices left are food and Youtube. I don't fit in to the party atmosphere here at all. I’m like the black weirdo-witch-alien version of a small town Christian teen - “have you heard the good news about Christ Consciousness?”
So lest you think that this life change, as beautiful and expansive as it is, is coming to me super easily, let me tell you, there is so much I am still learning. Mostly around self-discipline and letting go of my emotional attachments. It’s incredible how much I’ve been feeling while I’ve been here, and how those feelings end up externalizing in the form of synchronicities and responses from Spirit. Something that I’ve noticed is that New Orleans is a place that is surrounded and immensely impacted by water, but it’s not a place where people are swimming or playing in the water. Instead it’s experienced in the forms of storms, flooding, gator sightings, etc. The water is cleansing, but not gentle. That’s how it’s felt here the whole time. Cleansing, but not gentle.
I’ve been pulling the Death card and 5 of pentacles a lot these past several days. Yipee. I had a little breakdown about it this morning. It’s fine. Just wailing about responsibility, nothing to see here. Just tantruming about how hard it is to let go, no big deal. But once I got it out and faced the reality of everything, it was like hey, yeah let’s get to work! Let’s write about presence! Let’s write about release! What it do, Equinox baybeee!
Click "Read More" below to check out what I was divinely guided to understand and share about habits, balance, and letting go. And feel free to share in the comments what you have been working through in this waning moon phase and what you are hoping to shed as we move into harvest time!
You hear a lot of practitioners talking about “letting go what doesn’t serve”. I have said it myself a million times. But what does that actually mean? What does that look like in practice? As I tantrumed today, I kept asking myself this very question - “how do I let go? what am I supposed to do?” And the doing, if we can even call it that, can be broken down into a set of steps. Please note that these steps may not be linear - they exist on a jagged spiral, like wandering footsteps in those old Family Circus comics (god, spoken like a true Christian teen); we have to revisit and recommit to these over and over again, and not always in a straight line. We won’t be “fixed” when we run down this list (remember, you are not broken) - we will be given a new tool set to process our big feelings instead of being ruled by them.
Step 1: Slow down and breathe
Our breaths are the physical manifestation of our spirits. Let your breath gently guide you away from the “doing” and more into being. Breathe intentionally and fully. You may find that you start feeling emotional just from doing this. This is not bad. Allow your breath to guide you into presence.
Step 2: Presence
I typically associate “what doesn’t serve” with the behaviors running in the background that are habits that I feel very attached to, that seem like an inextricable part of my identity or simply "can’t be helped". So primarily what we have to do is bring awareness to those behaviors by asking ourselves, is this habit in alignment with my highest and best good, and my expansion? Then take it from there. Instead of putting all of your energy into simply "changing" your actions, allow yourself to feel what might be underneath those behaviors. Trust that what comes up is valuable, even if you don't have all the answers. It’s easy to try to jump immediately into problem solving mode, or into making promises that are impossible to keep. Start just with pausing and listening.
Step 3: Dis-identifying with behaviors
Recognize your emotions and behaviors for what they are - coping mechanisms developed as a response to a world that is less interested in our growth and expression than it is in our conformity. Survival mechanisms to keep our heads above water, but not to free us completely from the waves. When you separate your behavior from your identity, you open up a totally new way of seeing yourself. For me this is the goal - but this can feel threatening to the ego. The ego may tell you that it’s impossible to imagine living any differently, that you couldn’t possibly change these things that are so ingrained.
Step 4: Don’t punish yourself - learn to live with your impulses
And honestly, in some ways the ego is kinda right. The point of habits are to show up, over and over and over again, without us having to consciously think about them. It’s supposed to feel comforting to do the same thing again and again. Of course it feels good when you go back to the behavior, even if it is a self-destructive one. It’s what you’ve taught yourself to do! The brain is very good at its job when it comes to habits. A little too good - there’s not really a whole lot you can do about the showing up. What you can do is respond to it differently.
A simple example - I quit smoking cigarettes 5 years ago (I just realized that tomorrow, the 20th, is my 5 year anniversary of quitting! No wonder this example came to mind). I still get cravings for them. Not from a biological standpoint - the addictive aspect of nicotine left my system long ago. But the familiarity of it, my associations of it with friendship, feeling cool, and soothing my nervous system are still hanging around and honestly will probably never go away fully, especially during times of high stress. Last year, at the peak of my chronic illness and a deep depressive phase, the cravings came in a big way. I was so disgusted with myself for even thinking about it. How could I possibly want something that I thought I was already done with, this expensive fruitless habit? When I was feeling angry with myself is when the cravings would get even louder. I was so worked up about it, it seemed like just buying a pack would be a simple, reasonable fix to the problem. I didn’t actually go for it, but when it came to the point where I was actually seriously thinking about buying a pack for the first time in years, that’s when I knew I had to take a different approach. Instead of chastising and yelling at myself, I chose to see the impulse for what it was - an invitation to be present with and aware of my stress levels. And with that, the impulse no longer became my enemy. It was instead just a nosy neighbor looking through my window that I could just wave to and then move on. You will not always be able to respond this way the first time - you will find yourself falling into the routine of punishment a lot - but once you realize what is happening, you can redirect, acknowledge the feeling, and move on. There doesn't have to be a story around it either. Learn to live with it - it doesn’t have to rule you. Remember, habits aren’t meant to just go away. This is good medicine for us - we have to keep choosing to show up, over and over again, until it doesn’t matter what keeps popping its head in. We already know the deal and can choose to check in on what we really need as opposed to going straight for the distraction.
Step 5: Release expectations
Part of the letting go process is not putting a timeline or when things are supposed to be better. Or knowing exactly what healing will look like. Allow this part to feel fun and magical. What will Spirit have in store for me? How will I learn to spend my time? What new ways of creativity will I come up with next? Let it unfold at its own pace. Don’t worry about playing by the rules. Be gentle and kind to yourself.
I hope these suggestions were helpful! Feel free to let me know if you have any questions, or book a reading if you want to dive in to your particular needs in depth.
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Alia Walston is a traveling writer and intuitive making connections between the challenges and ecstasies of our evolution