How To Ease Money Stress

How to Ease Money Stress | Whisper & Howl

OMG have I been stressing out about money. Some unexpected expenses have come up this month on top of my new car payment. Long story short, always file your state taxes or they will take a major chunk out of your ass in oh, 6 years time. Like a surprise $1000 chunk out of your ass. Like, your entire savings. It might also happen on the day that the security deposit is due on the house you want to rent. I’m just saying, it could turn out that way. That would probably be pretty stressful. If that happened to you, you might find yourself spiraling into anxieties about having no Emergency Fund where mere days ago there was a nice $1000 balance, or how you were definitely going to have enough money saved to not use your credit card for the big trip you have planned for the fall, or how it might take years to pay off your credit debt. Your brain might jump ahead to next year, when the landlord of your new house will probably raise the rent because they “don’t do” 2-year leases, and you’ll have to move again or spend even more money on rent, money that won’t be saved up for a down payment on a house, and you won’t be able to afford to live anywhere you want anyway because gentrification. Also, you might hate all your clothes and want to buy new ones and also be thinking about needing new furniture and why didn’t you include moving expenses in your very optimistic savings plan in the first place?!

If this happens to you, there is one tactic I know of that can calm the financial fear monster. No, it’s not budgeting, because planning in this scenario sometimes leads to severely overthinking, nay, obsessing (although yes, you should be budgeting).

I’m talking about gratitude.

There’s something about making lists of things for which I am grateful that is very soothing. Maybe it’s the list-making. Maybe it’s the realization that I have everything I need at this moment, that I’m safe and comfortable and free and surrounded by good things. Maybe it’s the reassurance of the Law of Abundance, that the universe provides, that all will be well. Maybe it’s just a distraction.

I don’t know. It just works.

My recommendation, should you find yourself in this situation, is to find a quiet moment in a cozy place. Take deep breaths. Light a candle. Make it a ritual. Focus your energy on gratitude. Give thanks to the goddess, the universe, God, light, the source, your own wits and talents and strength–whatever makes you happy. Grab a beautiful journal if you’d like. I write on scraps of paper and stash the lists in my God box (a great idea from Tosha Silver).

Sometimes it’s a stretch. I start with easy things and move on from there. Sometimes they are simple things, sometimes complex. Often, they’re related to things I’m stressed about. I remember all that I have and forget all that I don’t have, or can’t see that I have; the things I think will make me happy, the things for which I’m grasping; the things I’m afraid of losing or am afraid I will never have. I keep listing things until I feel better. That’s it. It’s not a cure, but it helps.

  • I am grateful for my family.
  • I am grateful for Devo!
  • I am grateful that my hair is finally long, even though it was kind of greasy today. High ponytails make a great swish when I jog.
  • I’m grateful for the park where I jog. Or, let’s be honest, speed-walk. I’m grateful I can speed-walk.
  • I’m grateful for kombucha and to the friend who brought me SCOBYs from his restaurant even though he was studying and has a small child. That was extra generous.
  • I’m grateful that I have a job that I LOVE.
  • I’m grateful for my cute little car that doesn’t feel as though it will break down at any minute. Driving is fun again!
  • I’m grateful for the Maximum Fun podcast network, especially Jordan, Jesse, Go, which makes me laugh my ass off.
  • I am grateful that the manager at the GAP let me exchange those jeans with the broken zipper for a new pair, even though I bought them a year ago, and to the customer service person who emailed me back and told me to bring them in. The new ones are better than the old ones.
  • I am grateful for the bugs making sweet music outside my apartment.
  • I’m grateful for my teachers, even the ones who make shit really hard, like Saturn.
  • I’m grateful for this really fun book, The Name of the Wind, that I’m totally enjoying (and for the friends who lent it to me).
  • I am grateful that I am incredibly wealthy in love, friendship, and support.

See? Not so hard. I feel better already.

3 Ways to Ring in Spring!

Happy Spring Equinox!

I’m 6 months into my Full Witch year, and it is going great. I’ve deepened my understanding and love of yoga and have discovered tantra and bhakti, gone wild for chanting, and finally found a translation of the Bhagavad Gita that I totally get. I’ve been learning more about astrology, which is also a huge part of the yogic tradition, and getting in touch with cycles, seasons, nature and the weather.

I’m learning more about rituals and celebrations in other pagan traditions, too, and while I’m still not into any organized religions, it is lovely to mark the changing of seasons knowing that across the world others are doing the same thing. Nature is something that unifies us all and reminds us that we are part of something greater and more powerful than all of the little moving pieces in our lives lead us to falsely believe.

So, to remind us of our inter-connectedness with each other and the world around and inside of us–call it the Universe, Goddess, God, Ostara, Nature, Spirit, whatever you feel–here are 3 simple things you can do to remember the end of Winter and beginning of SPRING!!!

Prepare Your Garden

It’s been unseasonably warm in North Carolina the past couple of weeks but with a hard frost this weekend, I’ve been holding off on starting my garden. Of course, this is about more than just prepping a garden bed. Spring Equinox holidays celebrate rebirth and renewal! As you prepare the soil, consider that you are making a bed in which seeds will sprout and grow, providing beauty, food, scent, color and joy for months to come. If you are ready to plant, say a little prayer to bless each seed. Garden with intention! Consider planting medicinal herbs and flowers such as lavender, calendula and chamomile.

PREPARE YOUR GARDEN, 3 Ways to Ring in Spring on Whisper & Howl

 

Make Pickles

All Winter long we roast and stew our vegetables until they are soft (and delicious). Are you ready for a little crunch? Try making refrigerator pickles! You can really pickle almost anything, with daring blends of herbs and spices. The color and bite will wake up your mouth, revitalizing your senses. Here are 4 recipes to try (links below the pictures):

Pickle Recipe Roundup, 3 Ways to Ring in Spring on Whisper & Howl

  • Garlic Dill Refrigerator Pickles from The Kitchn

Pickle Recipe Roundup, 3 Ways to Ring in Spring on Whisper & Howl

Pickle Recipe Roundup, 3 Ways to Ring in Spring on Whisper & Howl

Pickle Recipe Roundup, 3 Ways to Ring in Spring on Whisper & Howl

 

Dance Naked

Dance Naked, 3 Ways To Ring in Spring on Whisper & Howl

Right?!

 

**Fun Fact: Did you know that the Vernal (Spring) Equinox marks the time when the Earth’s equator is at a 90 degree angle to the Sun, not when day and night are equal? I didn’t! That event occurs a few days before the Equinox (The Equinox Isn’t What You Think It Is).  The 2016 Spring Equinox is on Sunday, March 20th in the Northern Hemisphere.**

Happy Vernal Equinox, everyone!

 

 

Becoming a Morning Person: The Hard Choice

Becoming a Morning Person | Whisper & Howl | #whisper&howl #morning #sadhana #habits #willpower

Oh, is that what sunrise is?

I think it’s time to revisit my quest to become a Morning Person. It seems that my problem lies not in establishing a routine, having the right alarm clock, or lack of desire. My issue, which is applies to so many more things that this particular trial, is in making a choice.

I had a really good stretch of waking up at 7:30 and doing some ayurvedic cleansing practices, cooking breakfast, doing yoga and mantra, showering etc etc. It felt really nice to have this extra time to myself and I felt prepared for my day, relaxed and easy rather than already behind schedule, frantic and stressed. Those feelings were nice. I like them. I’d like to have that again.

Then, my Dad died. It has been much harder to get out of bed. This is not because I feel depressed or am overcome by sobbing (although the sobbing and anxiety has definitely popped up and I have taken a few mental health days here and there). I haven’t really analyzed what is driving me to hit the snooze alarm until now.

I spent this past weekend in Advanced Yoga Teacher Training studying the Bhagavad Gita. This is a text about karma, which means action. We discussed (and will continue to discuss, intensively) sadhana, or practice. Sadhana consists of the wonderful things we do in our daily yoga practice, including asana (the physical movement), mantra, self-study, meditation, and more. In order to develop a steady sadhana, one has to do it every day. This is…hard.

It’s hard to do something every day! It’s easy to get excited about a practice, especially one like asana that makes you feel fantastic. It’s tempting to dive into a practice whole-heartedly and with commitment. It is much, much harder to sustain a practice. It gets old. It gets stale, Excuses are made, alternative acts performed. We skip days. The practice falls away.

This is what I see happening time and again with my morning routine (and my sadhana, but that’s a different story). It’s not that I have grand plans for what to do with the extra time each morning. I don’t know if it would help to have a plan. What is hard for me is making the hard decision every day.

I love lazing in bed. I think my bed is divine. It’s soft, cozy, comfortable, and safe. I feel safe and nurtured and warm when I’m in bed. When I leave bed, I feel the rush of time, the pressure of commitments, the weight of emotions. I need nurturing, safety, support and comfort in my life. It is difficult to make the choice to climb out of the sweet womb of my bed into the chilly, harsh world–even on days when I wake up feeling great. Even when I am excited to go wherever it is I have to be. Even when it is a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

So, how do I make that choice? What will help me?

Here’s what I’m thinking.

1. Just do it

Oh, gods, that sounds terrible.

We talked this weekend about developing will. I’d never really thought of will as something to be developed. I thought, you either have it or you don’t. My willpower is weak, I thought. I’m just not born with the sort of willpower that creates successful, Type A, morning people.

This is not actually true. What I happen to be weaker in is will development, which I may have just made up. Now I’m thinking that I lack the willpower to develop will. That’s just a rabbit hole of thoughts that I am not trying to climb down right now.

Anyway, how do you develop will? By doing the thing you need to do. By doing it every day. By making the hard choice even though it is hard. By making the hard choice because it is hard. The things that are the best for us aren’t always the easiest. I’ve been told these things become easier with the doing. You get used to making the choice and to the wonderful consequences of making that choice. That’s what they say, anyway (“they” being my teachers and maybe also Lord Krishna).

2. find alternative ways to satisfy needs

I was just typing “making a plan doesn’t work for me,” but I think that’s a little lie. Making a plan may very well work wonders for me if I can just make the hard choice. I don’t, however, think that the plan will help me make the choice. I can review my lovely plans for morning time in my head for many minutes while I lie under my comforter and still choose to snooze for 10 minutes (6 times in a row, which really is not very healthy). But…it could also be that I’ve been going about this the wrong way.

Making a plan has been about finding things that I think would be great to do in the morning, like go for a run, do sadhana, and journal. These are, of course, totally great things, but are there better things?

Let’s look at my list of needs: comfort, support, safety, and nurturing. I also need order and relaxation (as opposed to being rushed, scattered and stressed). Some of those needs are satisfied by lounging as long as possible in the morning, but that behavior also helps to create the feelings of rushing and stress and scattered brain which I do not like at all. Are there alternative practices I can do in the morning that make me feel the way I want to (warm, comforted, rested, and safe)? Am I willing to find out if there are, and to create a lovely morning routine that would fulfill my needs? Could I use these practices as further incentive to make the hard choice, knowing that I can continue to feel lovely outside of my down-filled heaven?

I think so. I hope so. I’m going to try.

Do you have habits that required consistent practice in making a hard choice? Is there one in particular that you feel gave you strength to make more hard choices? 

 

Have a Full Witch Weekend: All Hallow’s Eve Edition

Have a Full Witch Weekend: All Hallow's Eve Edition, at Whisper & Howl #halloween #fullwitch #weekend

Happy Halloweeeeeeeeen!

I’ve always loved Halloween. I sported some fantastic homemade costumes as a kid: Statue of Liberty, gypsy, prairie girl (complete with bonnets). As a young adult, my hits included Velma from Scooby Doo (a group effort), an excellent (if I do say so myself) babydoll, and a very conceptual tornado. As I’ve gotten older, though, the holiday has lost some of its buzz for me. I don’t love binge-drinking. I don’t have a gang to do group costumes with. I try to avoid sugar. I hate the traffic to and from parties and the clusterfuckery of bars on Halloween. I want something better, something more…wholesome?

I’ve seen Hocus Pocus at least 23 times. I have always wanted that New England Halloween thing where all the houses are decked out and there are local tales of evil witches and the cemetary has a crypt. Now that I’m older, I want that party where all the adults wear elaborate costumes and dance (all night, because they are cursed, of course) and there’s an awesome bluesy band and presumably good booze.

I also want to do all the kid stuff. I can’t do that, of course, but I want to borrow a kid for the season at least. I want to go to pumpkin patches and costume parades and trick-or-treating and school Fall Festivals and all the family-friendly events that you really can’t do if you don’t have a kid.

Anyway. I want something new for Halloween. I don’t know exactly what that is, but this year it involves the road trip I advocated last weekend. I’m heading to Asheville to have a spook out with my witchy friend Kara. Plans include a burlesque, a Sleepy Hollow puppet show, and possible a seance. Here are some suggestions for things to bring some witch to your weekend:

Honor Your Ancestors

This is really pertinent to me right now, since I lost my Dad to cancer a little over a month ago. I want to emphasize that I am neither Pagan nor Catholic and do not want to diminish the religious holidays of Samhain, Dio de los Muertos, or All Saint’s Day. I do really love the idea, though, of taking time out to honor those who have passed with celebration and remembrance. I am also interested in experiencing a Samhain ritual as part of my full witch explorations. Here are some suggestions of simple activities you can do this weekend to honor those who have gone before us (borrowed from the lovely website Circle Sanctuary):

  • Ancestors Altar. Gather photographs, heirlooms, and other mementos of deceased family, friends, and companion creatures. Arrange them on a table, dresser, or other surface, along with several votive candles. Kindle the candles in their memory as you call out their names and express well wishes. Thank them for being part of your life. Sit quietly and pay attention to what you experience. Note any messages you receive in your journal. (Read Creating an Altar for more ideas.)
  • Feast of the Dead. Prepare a Samhain dinner. Include a place setting at your table or at a nearby altar for the Dead. Add an offering of a bit of each beverage being consumed to the cup at that place setting, and to the plate, add a bit of each food served. Invite your ancestors and other deceased loved ones to come and dine with you. To have this as a Samhain Dumb Supper experience, dine in silence. After the feast, place the contents of the plate and cup for the Dead outdoors in a natural location as an offering for the Dead.
  • Ancestor Stories. Learn about family history. Contact one or more older relatives and ask them to share memories of family members now dead. Record them in some way and later write accounts of what they share. Give thanks. Share what you learned and have written with another family member or friend. Add names of those you learned about and wish to honor to your Ancestors Altar.
  • Cemetery Visit. Visit and tend the gravesite of a loved one at a cemetery. Call to mind memories and consider ways the loved one continues to live on within you. Place an offering there such as fresh flowers, dried herbs, or a libation of water.

 

Walk in the Woods | Have a Full Witch Halloween Weekend with Whisper & Howl #fullwitch #weekend #halloween

Walk in the Woods

This weekend marks the end of summer (that’s what the word “samhain” means) and the beginning of the colder weather. Make a point to spend some time in the great outdoors this weekend and enjoy the harvest season. Throw on some plaid flannel, wooly socks, boots and a knit cap. Recreate all those wonderful photos of hip young adults in sweaters, walking through the woods. Take a hike. Sit on your porch with a pumpkin chai. Rake leaves, or gather them to make a wreath. Build a bonfire. Celebrate the season and connect with nature.

Go outside and stay there.

 

Listen to Halloween Music

Like, nonstop. You’ve got like 48 hours so make it count!  I’ve had Werewolf Bar Mitzvah stuck in my head for months and now I can play it on repeat without feeling unseasonable.

Here’s a Spotify playlist I made last year for my occasional radio show, The Friday Night Mixtape on WCOM FM. There are a lot of spooky instrumental songs mixed in there to add a really creepy ambiance to your car or home. Honestly, I’ve been listening to this since September.

 

Do you have any Halloween traditions or rituals of your own?

A Week in Witchiness (or, One Witchy Week): 9/9-9/15

I’ve been a good little witch this last week.  With the New Moon in Virgo on Sunday night, my earth-loving, purifying, refining nature has been out in full force. Here are some of the things I’ve done:

5 ways I’ve been witchy since wednesday

Handpainted eyeball gel manicure | Whisper & Howl

Number 1

 I painted eyeballs on my fingernails.  I am obsessed.  When the paint inevitably peels off, I will be so, so sad.

Number 2

I undertook an Ayurvedic cleanse.  I’ve been taking herbs for a while and they seem to be helping, so I decided to do a Fall Cleanse right as the weather decided to drop 20 degrees!  Unexpected bonus: I’ve lost 3 lbs.

NUMBER 3

Because of the cleanse and its morning practices, I’ve been getting up much earlier than usual and am loving it!  I do some cleansing practices, make breakfast, shower and do yoga all before work.  It’s giving me more time in the evening, since my sadhana is already done, and has jolted me straight into a beautiful morning routine.  I’m getting a little closer to becoming a morning person every day.

Eclipse Healer by Mystic Mamma

Number 4

I taught 4 yoga classes last week, including the New Moon and Solar Eclipse in Virgo class on Sunday.  I love teaching the moon classes.  I get to learn all about what’s going on astrologically and impart it to others along with lots of my favorite poses (chandra namaskar or moon salutations is my favorite sequence).

Number 5

I got a book on Shakti mantras and am excited to dive in!  I’m headed to the beach tomorrow afternoon and expect to be reading lots of yoga texts and doing lots of chanting–along with playing cards and board games and watching horror movies with my Mom and sisters.  I’ll be sure and collect some nice shells for my altar while I’m there.

Bonus

This one isn’t witch-related, but I did get my Autumn Capsule Wardrobe figured out and have started transitioning some pieces in.  More info on my process and results will be coming soon.

What have you done to feel like a wild, weird, witchy goddess this week?

I am not a morning person…yet.

This is not my life.

This is not my life…but it could be.

I just bought an expensive, fancy-pants natural light alarm clock.  It was kind of an impulse purchase and I’m on a tight budget, but I have no regrets.

You see, I am not a morning person…but I want to be.  Oh, do I want to be.  The thought of getting up as the sun rises, enjoying a steamy cup of coffee, which I lovingly made with fresh-ground beans and steeped to perfection in my French press; sitting on the front porch listening to the world waking up; letting Devo out to play as I write my Morning Pages; returning to my room, which I have plenty of time to keep clean, to practice yoga and meditation before I shower, leisurely put on my face and dry my hair, make my smoothie with care and do the dishes so I can return home to a neat and clean space….This is the stuff of my dreams.

The problem is, I have spent my whole life avoiding mornings.  I snooze for hours.  I take a shower and go back to bed for a “quick nap.”  I set my alarm as late as is feasible for getting to work on time, and I am rarely on time.  Whenever I get the chance to sleep late, I will stay in bed all morning.  For most of my life, the idea of getting up before 8 has made me cringe.  And yet…

I’ve changed.

Last year, my big Birthday Resolution was to become fiscally responsible, something that I’m still working on (and will be working on forever).  This year, I am focusing on balance.  In the past this has meant time-management, balancing work and play, how to get everything done and still stay sane.  However, I’m realizing that time-management is hardly possible in this day and age.  We are constantly plugged in, absorbing information, processing and working every minute of every day.  What has become important isn’t time, it’s energy. How do I balance my energy?  How do I choose where my focus goes, ignoring things that are not important, and maintaining mental and physical health?  How do I get through a day of work at an emotionally draining job and still have the energy, at the end of the day, to be a well-balanced, social person with interests and responsibilities (and part-time jobs) outside of my 9-5?

I believe becoming a morning person is a crucial step.  Having those extra hours in the morning to exist in my own personal space, to greet the day with joy and to set my intentions (and priorities) will add some calm and beauty to my life and increase my energy.  Snoozing, oversleeping and sleeping poorly are energy-suckers and can be bad for overall health.

I started this quest in December as I began The Artist’s Way, which demands that you spend 30 minutes each morning writing 3 pages.  I did this for the required 90 days and then I slid back into my old habits (for several reasons including health issues and my job, but that’s a story for another time).  Then I began researching tactics for arising early, sleeping better, and morning routines.  I invested in an ingenious sleep app that, sadly, has lots of glitches so I won’t recommend it here.  It helped me calculate the amount of time I needed to sleep and to adjust my bedtime accordingly, which was useful.  I got up early for about 2 weeks, and then started bringing my phone/alarm into bed with me…bad idea.  And so I have resolved to buy an alarm clock, a fancy-pants alarm that will wake me gradually so I can become the morning person I am meant to be!

I’ll be posting a lot on energy balance, my person quests and resolutions, and the practices I encounter and learn along the way–and I’ll let you know how this alarm works out.  If you have any advice, tips or tactics that work for you, please feel free to share!

Follow-up: This alarm clock is dope. It has definitely made waking up less of a jarring and traumatic experience and more of a natural, pleasant part of life. The sunset feature is also very relaxing and helps me as a “go to bed” timer.