I’m Bridget Owens and you're listening to the Waxing Soul podcast. Join me on an exploration of mindful modern magic, a journey towards deeper understanding of self and transformative individual spirituality. It's December 31, 2020, and on today's episode we'll be discussing awe and fascination as the doorway to spirituality, why spiritual paths and traditions need to resonate with us on a personal level, and what we can do to increase the awe and wonder in our spiritual lives. Are you ready to grow your soul?
Happy New Year’s Eve to you all! It’s the very last day of 2020, and I, for one, am super excited to be moving away from the past year and into the next.
A couple of weeks ago I talked about the numerology around calendar years, and while this past year has been a really great opportunity for self-exploration and rest and spiritual focus and all of that for myself, I’m so very ready for things to get a little more exciting in a good way this year.
It’s also kind of exciting that this is podcast episode number 10! So thank you so much for listening, for subscribing, for telling your friends about this podcast. I’m very much looking forward to sharing another 52 episodes with you in 2021.
So, today’s topic comes out of a discussion we had at the local pagan meetup, and I really think it’s appropriate for today, for the turning of the year cycle, because it’s about awe and wonder and joy and fascination and those things that light us up from the inside, and that’s the energy I think we try to seek out at New Year’s. It’s not just hope and intoxication, it’s that energy of openness, of being just completely captivated by something outside of the stuff we think about day to day.
And I want to rewind a little and give some context to this discussion and where the thoughts I’m sharing today came from.
So we were talking about divination, specifically tarot, but the discussion took a bit of a weird turn when I brought up the question of how some people do channel or get messages from outside this plane when they’re doing divination. That’s not how I do it, it’s not where I look for insight, and so we were talking about how trustworthy messages from elsewhere really are, how it’s possible to really know what the source is. And that got into intuition and psychology, and someone said something about how science can’t explain magic.
Which, well, I’m an alchemist. I believe science and magic are the same thing.
And ultimately we got down to this idea that – and I know a lot of people believe this – somebody said that if you can explain how something works, it’s no longer magical. It takes the wonder out of it. But for me, that’s not the case at all.
Science doesn’t remove the wonder and fascination, it increases it.
Perception defines our existence, a lot of what magic is is the placebo effect and the Barnum effect and such at work, and different stimuli make our brains do weird things that we interpret in spiritual and magical ways, and for me every bit of it is totally fascinating. It’s more magical to me to know that because of various things I learned in my past, certain smells or sounds or sights induce a more or less predictable emotional state which then impacts my thoughts which drive my actions which, because we exist in a complex social and cultural machine, makes other things more or less probable, and our perception can then be altered to be more ready to notice specific things… It’s more magical to me to get a glimpse of those workings and see the complexity of it all than it is to think that if I ask a powerful entity the right way, they might do me a solid and push things in my favor.
Now there’s a ton to unpack here, and different aspects will become topics for future episodes, but for today what I wanted to dig into was the underlying issue here – not whether my way of looking at magic agrees with yours, but the idea that our spirituality is tied directly into that part of our brain that lights up when we talk about the stuff we find fascinating and amazing in the universe.
These ideas that kind of underlie spirituality in general – stuff like beauty and love and power – aren’t actually understood by everyone in universal terms.
Another little story: When I was in college I took a trip to France as part of getting my architecture degree, and we went to this monastery in Lyon that’s famous to architecture enthusiasts but most people probably haven’t heard of. And we happened to get there in time for vespers. So it was just the monks and us in this huge chapel space that we’d only ever seen in books, and there was just something about the way the songs echoed in the space and the lighting and it was powerful enough to me that I was moved to tears. And I was the only one of the whole group. Nobody else, none of the other students or faculty, thought it was quite that beautiful or meaningful. Because that’s just the kind of thing that trips the switches in my brain, but it’s not the same for the other people on that trip.
Ultimately it’s those switches, the stuff that moves us to tears or makes us swell with hope or captures our fascination and curiosity or whatever – the stuff that makes us feel those feelings and react in those kind of powerful ways – that’s what ties us to our magic. Our faith. Whatever the central force of your spirituality is.
If you're enjoying this episode of Waxing Soul, subscribe to the show! Each week we will dive into a different part of the world of spirituality, magic, and self-evolution. Check out last week's episode for a discussion of the important difference between pain and discomfort, the dangers of spiritual avoidance and bypassing, and how we can stop using spirituality to numb ourselves and embrace our evolutionary processes. And come back next week when we'll talk about the idea that everything happens for a reason, the importance of agency in the process of self evolution, and how to turn all experiences into opportunities for spiritual growth.
We have a hard time, as humans, really connecting with things that don’t resonate with us on a personal level. The way we connect to spirituality is much the same as the way we connect to other parts of culture. You know how when you’re with someone who is absolutely into something that you just don’t care for, and they talk and talk and talk about this thing they love in a way that you can almost FEEL how excited they get about it even though it literally means nothing to you?
That’s the difference between spiritual points of view.
It’s the difference between the way I see the universe and the way you see the universe.
It’s kind of like, my sister and I really agree on a lot of stuff. We share a lot of fundamental core beliefs about the world. But our taste in movies is really vastly different. A lot of people who I’m close to in my life, who share fundamental beliefs and a lot of interests with me, it would make sense that our taste in movies would be pretty similar. But there have been really very few, count them on one hand number of times that those friends have recommended movies to me that I was more than ambivalent toward once I saw them. But differences in our movie preferences don’t change all the other things we agree about and connect over. We’re very much alike, but different things light us up on a personal level.
The thing is, though, that there’s no correlation between what resonates with us in terms of spiritual ideas and what constitutes truth.Tweet
I’ll go really in deep on that some other time, but it’s important here because what we often don’t think about is how our spiritual beliefs, how the practices and traditions and mythologies and doctrines that make up the core of whatever our spiritual life is about, those things are shaped most of all by what really resonates with us on a personal level. And if you’ve bounced around between practices and traditions and religions, if you still don’t really feel strongly connected to whatever it is you do, it’s probably because it DOESN’T resonate with you.
It’s not just about what is true, what makes sense, what you want or don’t want. It’s about those things that spark awe and wonder in your heart.
If those things have no place at the core of your spirituality, then your spirituality isn’t going to spark awe and wonder in your heart, either. And it should.
Spirituality ties into the very root of us, the core of our lives, right? It’s the line of communication and the link between us and the rest of the universe, the rest of existence, past and future. So the key to that connection is to tap into those things that amaze and fascinate you and hold your attention.
I’m one of those people who can, and actually I do, watch science shows and Discovery Channel shows and archeology stuff and history and everything all day long, and sitcoms and reality tv and stuff, I’m not interested. Knowing how stuff works turns my brain on. Experimenting and exploring and researching is my jam. Which is why stuff like alchemy really connects with me. Science and spirituality as one thing. I like tarot because it’s a complex system, almost like the building blocks of the human experience that fit together like elements in an equation to paint a picture and deliver a message. It’s like code. I want to understand spirituality from an academic viewpoint because that’s what I find inspiring and intriguing.
But clearly that’s not the only way to approach those things.
So when we look at our differences, the times when we’re talking to someone and we know there’s some common ground there but their take is just so different from ours, this is where the difference comes from. It’s really about what resonates with us and what resonates with them.
And if you think about it, then, those differences, those things that they cling strongly to and which connect them deeply to their beliefs, those tell you something about them, right? It’s a way to really know them, really know what it is that fascinates them in life.
We all find awe and beauty and magic in our own way, and we understand each other better when we understand those things about each other.Tweet
And when know ourselves better, when we embrace and celebrate those things that resonate with us, the things that are kind of our way to find awe and wonder, and incorporate those parts of us into our spirituality, our spiritual lives become more meaningful.
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Since it’s New Year’s Eve, it’s a good time to think about not so much resolutions but things we want for ourselves in the new year. I’m not much for resolutions for a lot of reasons, I think the core idea is pretty flawed, but I do think the turning of the year is the perfect time to assess some things and set some intentions, do some visioning, that kind of thing.
And I especially think that this is a perfect time to think about how to be more authentic in various aspects of your life. So this fits really perfectly into that. Thinking about how to cultivate more awe and fascination and wonder and joy in your life, especially your spiritual life.
And if you’re still kind of on the fence about how this all plays out, how this works in spirituality when so many people very much expect that spiritual beliefs are about truth, about fact… If the truth doesn’t resonate with someone, how does that even work?
Well, if you’ve ever had someone try to convince you that your approach to your spirituality isn’t the right one and you should do what they do, I’m sure you know how well it DOESN’T work to try and draw someone into something that doesn’t resonate, that doesn’t ring true to their way of seeing the world.
When I was a kid, I had a friend who went to an Assemblies of God church, which was very different from the church I grew up in. But she took me to some of the big events at her church, the ones where there were prizes and flashy performances and it was big and theatrical and supposedly fun. The core beliefs between her church and mine weren’t that different – just little things – but there was nothing there that tripped any switches in my brain. In fact, the only thing I actually remember was that they gave away three foot long candy bars, and I spent a good portion of the service wondering how they even got three foot long candy bars. Turns out it was just a bunch of regular size candy bars stuck together with toothpicks, which was supremely disappointing.
I was that unengaged and bored with their attempts to flip those “wow” switches with as many kids as possible, and at that point I was definitely not at the point where questioning the core beliefs of the church was even on my radar. I just wasn’t feeling it.
And if we’re not feeling it, we’re not going to follow it.
Even if you believe the basic core truth of a tradition, if the practices involved are things that don’t really hit those buttons, don’t grab you in those emotional ways that strengthen that connection to that core truth, then it’s not going to really be part of you, part of your life. It’ll just be an academic belief. And things which are purely academic to us don’t hold a lot of importance in our lives, no matter how objectively true or generally important those things are.
Think about all the subjects that you know are important in a general way, you know that it’s important that other people are really into them, really good at that stuff, really invested in it so you don’t have to be because, well, you couldn’t get truly interested in it even if you tried. How many spiritual topics are that way for you?
It’s totally valid to just not really find personal value in things that don’t resonate with you, as long as you understand that it’s a matter of personal resonance and not a matter of ultimate value for everyone.
So there’s lots of elements in the how, here. There is getting to know yourself well enough to really know what flips your switches, what gets you engaged, what engenders awe and wonder and fascination in you. And there is how you work those things into your life, specifically your spiritual life. There’s learning to see things through the eyes of the people around you, looking at things in terms of what fascinates and wows them, so that you understand them better.
And, in the spirit of heading into a new year with new intentions, if self-evolution and growth is on your radar, I’ve put together a list of ideas for – not resolutions, this isn’t about trying to do something vastly different in your life to change things to how you think they should be – but these are ideas for things to focus on, ways to work this idea, this concept, into whatever intentions you’ve already started to form for 2021. Whether you’re wanting to work on yourself, you relationships, your career, whatever – there’s different ideas for bringing this to life for yourself.
And with that, I wish you all a happy new year! I look forward to bringing you lots more content in 2021.
Thank you so much for listening. New episodes of the Waxing Soul drop every Thursday. All materials and resources except the music are copyright Bridget Owens. Many thanks to my readers, listeners, friends, mentors, inspirations, and my framily for riding with me into season two. Until next week, blessed be and be good to yourself.