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Soul

At Home in the Universe

In Soul

At Home in the Universe

The night was cold. It was the kind of cold that shocks you, that offends the animal within on a primal, existential level. Nelly, our faithful Mazda 3, carried us over a long black tongue of country highway, signalling the essential information from the dash in a serene amber glow. It was midnight and thirty below. It was the dead of winter. The frost crept up the inside of the car window, filigrees of white ice summoned from the air, fed by the moisture of our warm breath and stretching across the glass.

I was half-asleep, and Andrew drove. There was some droning podcast on. I think it was the Undertale episode of Cane & Rinse, but I’d lost interest and retreated into my own thoughts. I don’t know what prompted it, but my eyes seemed to focus out the window without any conscious instruction from my brain, and I realized that I could see stars near the horizon.

You almost never see stars near the horizon, at least not near the city, where the light pollutes the air. I always thought that was an interesting way to put it — light pollution. As though light were an impurity, an infection. It makes sense, though. The night sky is a resource more precious than oil or gold.

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Season of the Witch

In Soul

 

Season of the Witch - The Wholesome Handbook

Witch. Even the word itself is slippery and wild-eyed, delicious, dressed up all in black.

Witches are bad, bad girls. They’re ill-behaved, impure, messy, full of life. Witches are women who stand out, who are different. They’re the ones that make you a little uneasy and draw you in at the same time. They’re the original nonconformists, either because they can’t help it, or because they don’t care.

For ages, women who stick out have been ridiculed, ruined, tortured, raped, and murdered for being different. For making people uncomfortable. For being too old, or too wealthy, or too wise. For being sexual, for loving other women, for having children out of wedlock. For being too beautiful, or for being too ugly. For possessing unsanctioned knowledge. For being too ambitious, for speaking their minds. For challenging the status quo.

The witch is a woman who doesn’t answer to anyone. The witch is someone who lives outside of the polite rules of society. The witch is someone who knows she won’t find answers in a doctrine or an ideology – she has all of the answers inside of herself, in her heart, in her intuition. She prioritizes that knowledge. She trusts herself.

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The WH Guide to 2017

In Soul

The WH Guide to 2017

After years of maintaining thirteen small, tidy heart-shaped leaves, the old philodendron in the corner of my apartment has exploded into life. Her stalks divide and she unfurls a profusion of waxy new leaves every week, reaching her long arms into the room. She’s outgrowing her pot. She’s restless, I think, and so am I.

These days, I can feel a rumbling under my surface, like great tectonic plates crushing into one another at the beginning of the world, rearranging my lithosphere into something unrecognizable. But it feels good, this cracking and crumbling, this molten rock bubbling to the surface. To be honest, sometimes I just get so tired of softness.

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5 Ways to Reclaim Your Magic

In Soul

5 Ways to Reclaim Your Magic - The Wholesome Handbook

“See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allow to wither in themselves”.
– from A Boy’s Life, by Robert McCammon.

We all know someone who is just dripping with magic – who marches to the beat of their own drum, who seems to be able to navigate life with grace and style, who walks in a soft and wild confidence. They have the ‘it’ factor. They are beautifully alive, totally self-contained, and have an undeniable magnetism. Magic is our life-force. Magic is our presence, our libido, our creative energy. And many of us have lost it.

Working to reclaim our magic is an act of restorative self-care. When we are living in our magic, we become curious, passionate, strong, and wise. We thrive. Every person’s path is different, but if you are struggling with where to start, I recommend the following.

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Surviving the World With a Tender Heart

In Heart, Soul

Surviving the World With a Tender Heart - The Wholesome Handbook

I’m sensitive.

I have a heart that breaks every single day. I frequently suffer from sensory overload – I get anxious in crowds, in cars. I hate bars and parties. I’m easily spooked and easily offended. Cereal commercials make me cry.

I am also intuitive, empathetic, passionate, and poetic. I see beauty in humble places. The smallest things manage to take my breath away in wonder and awe. I am easily moved and quick to love.

There is a lot of shame surrounding sensitivity. We don’t exactly live in a culture that celebrates those of us who walk a softer, more complicated path. But I happen to think that we are badass warriors, blessed with a deeper understanding of joy, pain, sorrow, and beauty. We are so significantly affected by people, places, and other stimuli because we understand the implications, the repercussions, the rich complexity behind every minor detail.

It’s tough out there for those of us who feel deeply. It took me 26 years to figure out what I needed to not merely survive, but to thrive as a sensitive person. Of course, I wholly believe that you’ve got this – but if you’re ever in need of a little respite, it helps to remember a few simple things.

 

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Hygge for the Rest of Us

In Soul

The winters here in Alberta are bitter long. Daylight hours are rare and bright, darkness stretching languidly onward from 4 in the afternoon to 9 in the morning. The winter air shocks the lungs and stings the skin, forms tiny icicles in our eyelashes and beards. Snow blankets our houses and trees, our windows frost over, and a stark, monochrome beauty overtakes the world.

The Scandinavians know the darkness well. In true northern fashion, they’ve made friends with Old Man Winter, and welcome his endless nights and brutal cold with open arms. Through the practice of hygge, our Nordic friends while away the winters without a care.

Hygge, loosely translated, means comfort, camaraderie, and well-being. It’s coziness, and it’s how we keep the winter blues at bay. Easier said than done, right? Well, I’ve compiled a list of super easy ways to embrace our dark, cold winters and make the best of them.

COMFORT
1. Set the mood at home. Soft, low lighting is incredibly soothing, and a nice change if you work in a brightly fluorescent office all day. String fairy lights, light giant beeswax candles, throw a sheer scarf over your bedside lamp. Don’t try to chase away the darkness, but embrace it instead.

2. Slip on a pair of shearling moccasins or thick woolen socks to wear around the house. So much cozier than a pair of regular socks or bare feet.

3. Pick up a new winter hobby. Knitting and crocheting are incredibly relaxing, and after a few sessions you’ll even have a scarf to keep you warm!

CAMARADERIE
1. Have your pals over for no particular reason. You don’t need an occasion to mull some wine, pop some popcorn, and break out Cards Against Humanity. Fill your home with laughter and warmth- invite a few people over for a movie, for brownie baking, for a board game.

2. Volunteer for a cause you believe in. I truly believe that humans are helpful and productive creatures by nature, and it does the soul good to help out where help is needed. Volunteer for your local women’s shelter, put in hours at a teen hotline, walk dogs at the humane society, bake cookies for the homeless shelter.

3. Research your family lineage! Believe me – it’s actually pretty fun discovering quirky ancestors and  delving into ancient family scandals. Call your grandfather and talk about his life and his experiences, ask about his parents and grandparents and what they were like, and write it all down in a beautiful leather-bound journal to pass down to your eventual descendants. It’s such a lovely bonding experience and it will probably mean a lot to your family members, too.

WELL-BEING
1. Make and eat a lot of homemade, seasonal, and healthy food. Holiday baking, candy, takeout food, and liquor are no substitute for homemade stews, soups, roasted root vegetables, bright mandarin oranges, local ethically-raised meat, and grain-and-seed studded loaves. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of indulgence, but pairing it with hearty seasonal fare will ensure that you feel energetic and healthy throughout the dark months, instead of sluggish and bloated all the time.

2. Exercise! There are so many winter activities that we do as kids that we never do as adults – skating, sledding, snowshoeing, skiing, winter hiking, a good old-fashioned snowball fight. Get your blood pumping in the cold or hide away in a hot yoga studio. Do something that makes you feel good, don’t lock yourself away in a gym if that’s not what you’re into. Exercise should be fun and rewarding, not a duty.

3. Relaxation. Probably the most neglected component of health and well-being is the importance of relaxation. Take a long, steamy bath with epsom salts and eucalyptus leaves, tuck a sprig of lavender into your pillow, ban your computer from your bed and wind down with a book and a cup of chamomile tea. Trade massages with your partner, spend some time just stretching and meditating. Make time to relax, even if you don’t think you can squeeze it in. You’ll be happier and healthier for it.

Simple Paths to Cultivating Joy

In Soul

Joy is hiding behind every corner. It doesn’t only live in the magnificent, but in the mundane. Living mindfully and joyfully isn’t easy – we are so easily consumed by everyday stresses, distractions, hectic schedules. The less glamorous parts of our lives – commuting, paying bills, doing the dishes – can take up so much of our brainspace that it’s easy to ignore joy even when it’s nipping at your heels.

As someone who has the tendency towards melancholy, I have had to work really hard at living joyfully. I have to fight every sarcastic, biting thought, silence that inner voice that judges and condemns my every move, work on forgiveness and acceptance and unconditional love. It’s not easy. But along the way, I’ve found that there are simple ways of cultivating joy that don’t ask much from me at all.

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1. Take a walk in nature.
If you look closely, nature is full of joy. The chattering of squirrels, the song of leaves fluttering in the wind, the way shadows fall on the grass. Nature simply exists, full of life. Nature expects nothing of you. It frees you. When you’re confronted with the majesty of the mountains, the vastness of the ocean, the humble beauty of a chickadee fluttering from poplar to poplar, all of a sudden the heaviness of life doesn’t seem so crushing. Nature has endless lessons for us, and all we have to do is pay attention.

2. Wear a little something extra.
A quirky bow, a blue lipstick, a scarf wrapped around your head, a big cocktail ring- don’t be afraid to look a little different. Clothing communicates who you are to the world. Having a little fun with it encourages you to be confident, lighthearted, and not take yourself too seriously – all essential components of joy.

3. Practice spirituality.
Whether you’re deeply religious, agnostic, or you don’t believe anything at all, spirituality is a deeply fulfilling and healing force. I want to emphasize that spirituality is not the same thing as religion. It is something that happens with religion or without it, with a set of beliefs or without one. You don’t necessarily have to pray, read scriptures, or perform rituals in order to nurture your spirituality. Spirituality is simply a deeper, more intentional way of experiencing life. It can be practiced by reflection, through acts of love, through reverence of nature or humans or animals or a higher power. It can be fed through creating, painting, cooking, lovemaking, studying things that you’re fascinated by, running or yoga or dancing. It’s what’s below the surface, the night realm. I was once given a wonderful piece of wisdom – when you’re so engaged by something that you lose all track of time, that’s when your soul is the happiest. That’s where joy lives. That’s spirituality.

4. Send a love letter.
I recently came across More Love Letters, a project headed by Hannah Brencher, who began by leaving love letters all across New York for people to find. This eventually grew into the project it is today – a global network of people who want to give a little love, or are in need of getting some. Every month, letter requests are shared, and you can choose to send off some words of encouragement and support to those who need it. I began writing my love letters last month, and already it’s brought me a lot of joy and fulfillment. I’ve written to complete strangers about the power of laughter, the beauty of birth, strength in weak moments, and several other subjects, and through the writing, something in myself was nurtured as well. Humans are meant to support each other, and this is such a great little venue through which you can do that.

5. Go to the dog park. 
Of course, this one only really works if you’re a dog lover like me. Honestly, I’ve seen the light, and the happiest place on earth isn’t Disneyland…. it’s the dog park. Dogs are so great at being joyful. They run, jump, dive into the river, stalk, hunt, play with abandon. They’re excited just to be alive. And it’s usually pretty hilarious, too.

Living joyfully requires practice. It requires patience. It requires a hell of a lot of self-reflection. Most of all, it requires the celebration of little things. You have to cultivate joy, invite it in and nourish it. It may not be easy, but it is simple – and worth every ounce of effort.

List of Healing Things

In Soul



1. Standing in the rain with arms outstretched
2. Looking down at clouds from an airplane window
3. Drinking a hot cup of tea under a woolen blanket
4. Baking bread
5. Slow dancing to Nina Simone records in the living room
6. Swimming naked in the river
7. Stargazing in the countryside
8. Dipping your bare fingers into ink and painting with your hands
9. A steaming bowl of homemade stew
10. A long walk in nature, alone with the birds