Standing in power: Owning brokeness

I haven’t posted here in a while.  I’ve been on a journey, a quest, and I guess I still am.  I’ve resisted, persisted, and am starting to own the entirety of my experience.  I am realizing that I am perfectly imperfect and that my scars allow my light to shine outward.  I am no longer resisting as much, and learning that going with the flow is much easier that fighting the water.

One of the things I have the joy of doing is connecting with people through spirit.  I love what I do, and I think I’m pretty good at it.  Today I came into work with a different mindset, and really asked spirit to bring to me some of those beautiful clients I have not seen in a while.  There are some people who are easy to connect into, and it is always nice to catch up with them.

So, the day started off just as I had asked.  Then I noticed a wonderful theme in these individuals… they were all standing in their power in new and exciting ways.  Each of them is growing, and from the outside looking in it warmed my heart.  One of the things I am so very appreciative of about his job is that I get to see the flowering that happens through my students, clients, and friends that are engaging the spiritual journey.  I always like to use the example of my yoga classes:  as a new student you do not usually get to see where you are growing, but a few classes in you forget that you are new, but as your instructor I get to see the continued blossoming.  What a wonderful opportunity.

I also learn so much about life and spirit from my clients.  When we share that sacred shared space for a few moments, we are reflections of one another.  Sometimes we have to bring out the windex so that we can look into our mirrors with greater clarity, but we do the work.  Today, I got to see people who are doing the work, and living in their process and standing in their power.

broken_vaseWhat does it mean to “stand in your power”?   To me, this means simply owning all your pieces… especially the broken one.  We try to sweep them under the rug, but they just crunch under our steps.  The cracks in the concrete allow the grass to grow through, the cracks in your experiences are where you shine the brightest.  We have to own the cracks as much as we own the light shining through them.   The spiritual path comes with a price.. and that is awareness.  Once we have it, we have to own it, but this allows us a deeper connection with all of our aspects, our complexes, our struggles.  When we have a better relationship with all of our parts, we don’t fight as much.  We become better tenders of our own gardens, and our seeds begin to bear fruit.

My clients always remind me that I have work to do.  That what I do is valued, but that I am not alone.  We are all working towards connection.  Start where you are and move from there.

What in you needs to be loved?  What is calling for your attention in this moment?

You are Loved.  You are Beautiful.  You are Divine.

Michael Brazell

The Pagan obesity discussion… and debate

The interwebs is alive with discussion regarding obesity and the nature of it being a taboo topic within pagan circles.  Peter Dybing recently posted an article on his blog Pagan in Paradise regarding this oh-so-taboo of topics.  I applaud Peter for taking a step in creating space to have a discussion regarding health within out spiritual communities.

To start off, Obesity is not a “body image issue”, it is a health issue.  Many have lashed out with the thought that this is going to create polarization within the community, that judgment will occur due to body size, etc.  Rather than taking this as an opportunity to discuss creating positive change for health within our pagan circles, we have taken it as an opportunity to attack and tear down each other… see anything hypocritical about this?

Obesity is a global issue, to think that we as magical culture are exempt from the issues that plague society is a narrowing viewpoint.  What I do feel however is that we as a magical community have the power to effect change globally by taking a deeper acceptance of where we are in our pursuit of health.

Before the attacks begin, let me give you a bit of my back story:

I have been on a yo-yo existence with my weight ever since childhood.  I was healthy, but I did not feel satisfied with the extra weight.  Weight even now, is a struggle.  I’ve also had the opportunity to see this issue from multiple perspectives.  I am a certified personal trainer, nutritionist, and yoga instructor.  I am vegan.  I’ve worked for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and have worked in gyms and studios across the east coast.  It was also my responsibility while in the Navy to be a fitness instructor for the Special Warfare candidates.  I have competed in bodybuilding competitions and I have also suffered through struggles with being overweight.

There is a reason why the fitness industry makes over 8 billion dollars a year, and an its the same reason that the pharmaceutical industry makes even more… we surrender our power away to others rather than taking responsibility for where we are.

If we look at the body as a temple.  The soul as the energy that moves through us, it is important for us to improve that temple by whatever means necessary.

Now, lets step this away from a body image issue.  This is not about body image… again, let me stay… this is NOT about body image. 

The problem that I have seem as a fitness professional that is also a member of greater spiritual community is surrender to non-health.  I think that we should absolutely love ourselves no matter what size we are… big, small, and everything in between… However I do not agree with surrendering to poor states of health, poor habits, and poor lifestyle choices.

As members of spiritual community we have a responsibility to our divine work to be part of this experience for as long as possible.  We cannot use our spirituality as a shield to the reality we face as a community.  Obesity as a health issue is an epidemic.  We can pull facts, stats, etc and we can argue both directions.   We begin feeding into a greater illusion that being overweight does not have a damaging effect on the body.  Carrying excess weight not only puts excess stress on the joints, spine, and hormonal system, but it may limit how we engage the world around us.  I agree, greater society does at time make this more about body image than health… why are we feeding into this same illusion?  Are we, as spiritual individuals not able to see through this to the core of what we are supposed to be engaging?

Each of us holds weight differently.  Each of us has a unique beauty.

This is an opportunity for us to have dialogue to create opportunities to engage health in a new and fun way.  Locally we have monthly Pagan Centered Fitness gatherings.

Having these discussions are moments for us to engage in expansion instead of limitation.  We are a spiritual family, and it our responsibility to reach out with compassion and acceptance.  Size is not always an indicator of health, but by the same token, size does add some restriction especially when it is coupled with poor eating, lifestyle, and fitness habits.

Where are you within your body now?

What changes would you like to make to improve overall health and well-being?

How do you feel in this moment?

Where are you giving power away in regards to food?

***This last question is one way we can bring the spiritual aspects into how we relate to food.  Food is a powerful way for us to connect as community.  It brings us together.  Does our spread reflect healthy connections to food?  Do we surrender to certain foods because of emotional attachments?


I am going to do a series of posts on this topic, as I feel this needs to be an ongoing discussion.  Perhaps we can even facilitate an open discussion on conference call to bring actual voices to this issue.

If we don’t talk about issues of health, how are we supposed to engage our communities towards positive evolution?

Michael Brazell, CFT CSN MAT PAT




A Personal Story of a 10 Year Journey by David Salisbury

The air was cool but fast, as it whipped through the woods on a clear early-December sky. The soft waves of the stream brushed up against the rocks. Some of its cold droplets fell on a collection of small cloth and paper nearby. The young boy took in the scents and sounds of the chilled woods around him. Inhaling deeply, savoring each cleansing breath, just as the book instructed him. As he found his place of center, looking upward he began the words. “I dedicate myself, in this place that is not a place, in this time that is not a time, between the worlds but in all the worlds.” Pausing to breathe again he continued, “I dedicate myself, with perfect love and trust, with honor and reverence, to the great spirit which animates all things: earth, air, fire, and water”. The boy uncapped a small vile of sweet scented oil and anointed his forehead, then wrists. “By the earth that is her body, by the air that is her breath, by the fire of her living spirit”. He let out one last exhale…”So mote it be”. The boy closed his eyes and felt the wind whip up, stronger, and with more intention blowing out the small candles of the circle. The branches of the tree’s whistled and sang. The woods were speaking. Everything was alive, vibrating with energy and life. Connected, in tune, and with purpose.

And so began my journey on the path of The Goddess, the path of the Witch. It is hard to believe that ten years has gone by since that December evening, the night of my “Dedication” to the Old Ways, as we call it. It is hard to say exactly what called me to this religion. I don’t think I chose it, I think it chose me. I didn’t know many others, save for a few who pointed me in the right direction when I wanted to learn. I just knew that there was something “more”. I was always fascinated with spiritual things. I prayed and attended Christian youth groups as it honestly did interest me in general, but there was no connection. Religion means alignment and connection, and I didn’t feel like I was aligning myself with anything. I would best describe my past practices and spiritual upbringing as “worshipping air”. There was no substance, no form for me. I craved more.

I was lucky enough to have a series of people  placed into my life at that time to point me in the right direction. Sure, Wicca was pretty widely accepted ten year ago but so much has changed. Information placed on the internet was usually sketchy and it was difficult to discern what information you could trust. Add to that the fact that I had to save up my $1.25 lunch money for books, and you can imagine my frustrations. School life made things very difficult. I even had a teacher in the 7th grade who confiscated a copy of “Teen Witch” by Silver Ravenwolf (one of my very first books) calling it “inappropriate reading material”. God forbid something teaching a youngster about personal responsibility and respect for nature be read in the classroom! Then the classmate taunting. Oh how cruel children can be. The death threats quoting scripture referring to Pagans deserving death poured in. It was more like a 90’s inquisition than a school. When I defended myself with words, I was put in detention from other kids claiming I had “threatened to curse them”. Yes, that really did happen once. But I persevered. I learned about metal exercises designed to deflect negative energy, to bind harm, and to heal my emotions. Over time, their words lost power and I regained my own.

As mother read more and became more comfortable with my new “thing”, I was able to start developing a daily practice and reach out to the Pagan community. For awhile I attended “Teen Wiccan Wisdom”, a Charlotte-based youth group for Pagan teens sponsored by Shamans of the Willow Moon Coven. Through them, I learned about disciplined study, ritual work, and using my religious beliefs to help me grow into a responsible, compassionate young adult.

Into high school the hardships varied and we’re less intense than middle school. I was able to handle things much better. I was starting to realize that the opinions of others didn’t matter to me and that my connection with myself and the divine was what needed to be made a priority. The “personal responsibility” aspect of the craft really came into play here. And through it all, I emerged with many different career ideas, ready to take on the world. The magick did help too. Memory augmentation charms for exams, spells of truth and discernment in dealing with tough relationships, things like that.

My understanding of magick now-as a daily art and science-is much different. I find now that everything is magickal and has very different sides. I no longer see the world as black and white and either “cruel or kind”. The experience of working with this energy has taught me that there are so many different layers and aspects to things. I know now that when seemingly “bad” things happen to me, it isn’t because something hates me or I did something wrong. I think of it in terms of the goddess Brighid. She forges the steel of being in her cosmic “flame”, bettering her skill and tools. When I am “thrown into the fire”, something is being transformed for the better in it. It’s that process of hardship that refines, that polishes away all the extra “stuff” so I can shine. That is probably one of the deepest and most valuable things that Witchcraft has brought me to understand.

The community has been kind to me. Through the years I’ve had the pleasure of learning from and being in circle with some prominent Pagan elders in our community like Starhawk, Dorothy Morrison, Christopher Penczak, Janet Farrar, Gavin Bone, and Jamie Wood. I’ve been on radio shows, had articles published, and am pleased to announce I’m working on a book (once I nail down a publishing agent). It’s been such a joyous experience and I can hardly believe how much I’ve learned and how much I’ve changed. As I go forward and past my 20’s, I’m looking forward to another 10 years of magick, mystery, and growth. Sure, I may burn some potions along the way and there may be times when I fall off the broomstick, but I know now how to get right back on it again.

I have so much to be thankful for. My life is so much richer and filled with so much more substance than I could have ever imagined. I feel and experience the divine in everything I do now. It’s in the subway on my morning commute and it’s in my dreams when I fall asleep. There’s a known Wiccan proverb that says “She [the Goddess] changes everything She Touches. Everything She touches changes”. And she has. May I always be changed, may I always be transformed, and may the world be a better place because of it. Here’s to 10 more years and beyond.

Blessed Be