Exploration and Curiosity in Spirituality with Laura Greenwood

Episode 45 – Exploration and Curiosity in Spirituality with Laura Greenwood The Waxing Soul


Episode Transcript:

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 September 23, 2021, and on today's episode I interview Laura Greenwood, the leader of a local initiatory coven as well as a hobby biologist, about her exploratory approach to spirituality and why we are sometimes too afraid to follow our spiritual curiosity.
Are you ready to grow your soul?

Bridget:
So for everyone who’s a regular listener to the podcast, you know a lot of what I talk about centers around authenticity and spirituality and like forging, creating the spiritual practice which fits each of us individually. So, I’m going to be bringing on guests to the podcast to talk about their experiences creating or finding their unique practices, and how they found or carved out spaces within this spiritual space where they can express and embody their authentic self. So today, my guest is Laura Greenwood. Laura is a hobby biologist who loves to hike and haunt around her local area, and spiritually she dives into the realm of spirit and enjoys studying magic, tarot and the natural world. She also runs an initiatory witches coven, and is a member of her City’s Pagan Pride Day committee. So thank you for coming on the show

Laura:
Thank you for having me.

Bridget:
I know that your practice you also talk about spiritual evolution as being part of your practice. So that’s I’m excited to delve into that here in a minute. But first I wanted to ask like what was your spiritual background? Before you started down the path that you’re on right now?

Laura:
That is not a simple answer, because to me, it has always felt like the same path that I’m walking and maybe just takes different twists and turns. I’ve done some self analysis and to me it’s pretty easy to see that I’m a product of the environment that raised me and that has molded me on the journey along with things that would come up and I would interact with but I would have to say that just being open and being curious. was really the foundation to where I got to the place I am today.

Bridget:
That’s really a, that’s really a cool thing to bring up. Because I think that and I fall into that trap sometimes to thinking at different phases of my sort of spiritual history of like, Oh, that was the thing that I did, like, Oh, I was. I was Christian for a while and I did this, like that was the thing that was old me, and it really is all part of the same path, even if you do vastly different things. Like every part of that teaches you something. So thank you for Yeah, that’s a that’s an important point of view that I don’t often be really clear on. So how did how did you develop sort of a sense of sort of authentic spiritual practice for yourself?

Laura:
Well, I feel that the path I took was one that provided a lot of structure joining a coven really helped me reap the benefit of other people’s experiences. And then it could also let me explore in ways knowing that if I messed up, those folks would be there for me and I could confidently take some steps to try new things and still have that feeling of like foundation for me. And then basically I just had to find what worked for me. And that got filtered with other people’s input.

Bridget:
So how did, did you have that sort of approach to spirituality sort of modeled for you? Or is that just something that you always knew like this, I’m just gonna try and I’m going to find out what works for me. Is that sort of a view that that you ever questioned or was there a moment when you were like, Oh, I could just kind of find my own path.

Laura:
I have always danced to the beat of my own drum. And that throughout any stage of my life, I’ve always been one to be like, Well, I really want to try something different or I want to try it this way. Or maybe there’s a phrase or piece of common knowledge people bring up over and over again and I’m like, really? Is it really that true? I want to find out.

Bridget:
So, so who were what has like influenced your spiritual practice the most?

Laura:
This is a combination here, between growing up in an open family, a family that was multiple religions, and eventually going off to college and finding that Coven that spiritual family. Those two things are probably the highest on the list. But it is a mixture of all my experiences. So questions that are like the one thing or the most are a little hard for me to peg down. Sometimes I’ll wake up and I’m like, it might be different today, depending on how I’m feeling or how I’m interacting with the world.

Bridget:
Did you ever like just seek out do you ever just sit down and go, Man, I’m just gonna go find something new today.

Laura:
Sometimes I do. And I realize I’ve I’ve been sort of sounding wishy washy in my questions and answers. There’s a little bit more method to it than maybe I’m letting on. I fully recognize that there are times when I want to explore and find some new strange depth, but there are times when it’s like oh, yes, give me the same old same old I’m comfortable with and the things that other people have learned and transmitted that knowledge to me, so I don’t have to make the same mistakes.

Bridget:
So one, here’s here’s a phrase that you use, that I use a lot. And I know this wasn’t in the questions that I that I sent you but what does it mean to you for a path for something to work for you?

Laura:
To work for me, I have to have some kind of enjoyment or attraction to it. You know, it’s very hard to get a person to do something they don’t want to do. So even if it is to run a certain distance, I might not want to run at all, but I try to keep my goal and my fulfillment like further down the line. I want to meet that goal for such and such reasons, probably health reasons, probably spiritual reasons. And I just have to take small steps to get there. I know myself, and if I tried to make drastic changes, it might not go so well. It might work out for the short term, but it might not and to me, it’s a much more practical, realistic thing to take smaller steps and do something that does bring me some amount of happiness and fulfillment.

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Each week we will dive into a different part of the world of spirituality, magic, and self-evolution. 
Check out last week's episode where we discussed how to choose spreads to get the answers you really need, tips for getting clarity in the messages, and how to make friends with every card in the deck. 
And come back next week when we will discuss the role of thought, action, and belief in spirituality and how action is the key to overcoming fears, exploring the world, and evolving in your authenticity.

Bridget:
So Laura, I know your practice involves a lot of research and trying new things. So how else does your sort of personality and your approach to life in general kind of come through in your in your spiritual practice?

Laura:
I try to be very practical in most of what I do, I need something that will benefit me, not only in the long term but also in the short term and can get the job done. This might be from a magical aspect this might be from a mundane aspect that’s maybe just spiritually adjacent. I also try to be very eco conscious and environmentally minded. And this leads to me trying to, you know, choose things that have benefits to my region, benefits to the environment around me. I have a strong vein of curiosity. So I really try not to stifle that. And I think that one of the negative aspects of organized religion is maybe they don’t promote curiosity as much as they could. So whenever I have a curious feeling, I just think this might be my curiosity. This might be an entity just trying to catch my attention. I should follow through with it and see where it goes. And that leads back to you know, something that brings me enjoyment, something that brings me happy when I can fulfill that curiousness and kind of go down those rabbit holes and explore

Bridget:
I know that you’re one of the more community connected pagans that I know, there’s a lot of solitary practitioners and a lot of people just kind of do their own thing and you, like, I know that you’ve been a member of a coven, You lead a coven, you participate in community like organizing the Pagan Pride Day. And how much of that is like, really important to your spiritual path?

Laura:
To me it feels very important, especially since the beginning of the pandemic, it has come to my attention that community it can be so much more deep than some people usually think. Oh, it’s just to get together. It’s just a group activity. But for me, and I don’t mean to typecast myself as a Libra, but gosh, I do love to be social. And I love to see people have a good time. I love to get activities and events going and that feels like tangible work to me. Not that my own personal work is any less tangible, but it does feel good to think I can see the results of my actions. We’re getting ready for the Pagan Pride Day coming up. And I feel that it’s especially big this year to to let people know that they’re not alone. And there is a community in their area in this area and they can participate.

Bridget:
So what is your definition? You mentioned spiritual evolution is a big part of your spiritual path. So what’s your definition of spiritual evolution?

Laura:
I’m gonna compare this to the biological kind of evolution which is just a change over time and I think that fits for spiritual evolution. I think somebody who’s beginning to learn things and new path or any path. If they do the same thing forever, I would be concerned. I think it is part of a person’s nature to change over time. You take in more information you learn new things, and you might find that things don’t work so well. So you drop them, and that’s perfectly natural. You can’t continually take information in and continually add more things to your life. You only have a finite amount of time. You have to pick what works for you

Bridget:
I just finished a podcast episode series on was about tarot and self growth, and one episode I was talking about the difference that I see between growth and evolution because they’re two completely different things. My way of thinking of it is like the caterpillar getting growing into a bigger caterpillar is growth. It’s not evolution until they become the butterfly. Like that’s, it’s transformative. And I think you’re really really right that people get stuck in sort of the I mean, maybe it’s it’s just stagnant. It’s just, it’s just practicing that same thing over and over and over again and then and then wondering why they feel so detached and feel like it’s just going through the motions. And wondering why they aren’t getting anything out of it anymore.

Laura:
Yeah, I know there’s a phenomenon where people are just attracted to the idea of information or that might manifest as books, just sort of wanting to collect books and thinking that that is a good basis for your spirituality. And I do think to a certain extent, it’s a good foundation. Your foundation needs to have knowledge and should have experience based knowledge. But just continuing to fill that with more information and not synergizing that or using it to your benefit is just not going to fulfill everybody all the time. And there has to be that transformative property we’re talking about where you take that information or experience and make it yours

Bridget:
Do you ever have trouble explaining your practice to people who are socially more static in their in their own practice? Like do you do you consider those types of conversations and opportunity to kind of open the world to people or are they just kind of a hassle?

Laura:
That is a mixed grab bag I think because there is no governing body for occultists, there’s no governing body for witchcraft. There’s no governing body for Wicca and spirituality in general. So, not everybody agrees on definitions and a lot of people get hung up on definitions. I find it much easier to talk about the actual things I do, rather than put labels on them. And then if they’re curious, I might mention some of those labels that I identify with. That I put on myself, but I it’s not my job to go around policing people’s ideas of things. It is a little bizarre though. I think Wicca is oftentimes a favorite punching bag because it has its own problems just like any denomination. And then I see this on the internet. I see this on Facebook. And I’m just like, I get that feeling like, No, I don’t agree with that, or what they say, but I don’t have the time or the energy to go around and make corrections to people’s assumptions about things. So I really by and large, try to let it go. Unless somebody has curiosity or approaches me and wants more information.

Bridget:
You come to the pagan meetup that I talked about all the time on the show, and mentioned frequently and I know that it’s kind of a somewhat frequent occurrence that people will come like for the first time, too. And that’s a group where it’s very much open to ideas and everybody’s kind of sharing their own points of view. So there’s really not a like, here’s how you do this. And it hits a lot of people a very wrong way to have the sort of open up like, I mean, you can do it however you want and that that’s not really like you can you can explore your own thing, find what works for you, and that’s not I know that there’s a subsection of the pagan community where that’s just not reality.

Laura:
I did a lot of thinking about that question because it doesn’t treat me you know, the definition I have for which is not going to match everybody’s. And then when we refer back to some of the old and great texts like Gerald Gardener, he had a different definition than what I have. Same with Raymond Buckland. Those two would use the word Wicca as witchcraft, not taking into account that which is an English word for someone who’s not Christian or a monotheistic religion and then just to learn about how that word traveled as the British Empire grew and basically if you were a colonized nation with a native religion or something that did not mesh well into one of the monotheistic religions, they were like, That’s witchcraft. And to think that you know there there are still places in the world where if you are considered a witch, your life is in danger. And then there’s people in other countries who are like all I have to be a witch is just say I’m a witch. Don’t worry about the people who died being called witches in the past. You know, it there’s a lot I have a lot of feelings about that and none of them are right. None of them are wrong. They’re all my own personal feelings. And it’s just sort of experience people have to go through for themselves to get to that point of finding their evolution of that definition, rather than just a Merriam Webster definition or TikTok definition.

Bridget:
This is one of the big challenges and sort of a lot of the things that I do because there’s a lot people who would argue that I’m not a witch, I’m comfortable putting that label on myself. That that there are aspects of my practice that are to me pretty clearly witchcraft, but that I’m not part of any I mean, I’m technically an atheist, so that makes it very weird. For some people for that, to be something that makes sense. I’m working on my book and finishing that up, which comes out in October. But there was a whole section my editor sent me back my notes for the first run through and there was a whole section that she was like, do we need this? And it was the section where I was talking about how when I say spirit, I don’t mean it in the same necessarily mean it in the same way that people talk about the word spirit like that has multiple definitions. And so with that, like my point of view is not to like you all need to talk about spirit the way I do, but I have to make it really clear so that we’re all talking about the same thing. Almost every spiritual term that we deal with has lots of different meanings to a lot of different people. And then all of the traditions that come out of that and all the ways that people practice and, and I think that we should all make our own authentic path but that means that we’re all dealing from you know, talking from sort of different perspectives and using words slightly differently and it makes it really challenging.

Laura:
I remember the first time I heard the term Christian witch, and I was so confused. I was like, How is that a thing? This is, no. And that was a couple of years ago. I have since learned more at this point. And you know, I have integrated some folk Catholicism into my witchcraft and I am you know, not a Christian at all, but I would absolutely stand up for anyone who wants to be called a ChristoWic or a Christopagan. Just and that might just be from experience and time. I can have a broader view ofthese things than just accepting this narrow view of a definition.

Bridget
My own internal hackles kind of rise sometimes when people start talking about like, paganism is all about being, you know, apart from from civilization and back into nature and I’m like no, as an urban, I beg to differ!

Laura:
The Sumerians they were all about their gods enjoying the city, enjoying the birth of civilization. And I think a lot of what our culture first goes to in a connotation for paganism is is like this 1960s 1970s hippie adjacent movement, and that’s that’s just how the cultural zeitgeist is about it right now.

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Bridget:
So, Lauren, you lead a coven. So how how do you help the members of your Coven learn to kind of trust their curiosity and their instincts and to explore?

Laura:
I think there are two main functions that go on when working in a coven, and the first one is that we all get together and practice magic together. We read books and talk about them together as a group. And then that group function is just as important. There are people there to listen. There are people there to offer you their experience. And you become part of that community. And just having people to validate your weird experiences, because I know we all have them. And I bet sometimes we wish we could have been able to call someone up and be like, I just saw the weirdest thing. What what do you think about this? So I do a lot of listening. And just even if it’s mundane stuff, you know, it’s humans are creatures that need to be around other humans. And then to deepen their relationship with themselves. Once they have a little bit of book learning a little a little bit of experience, I try to push their boundaries in a safe way. That will, you know, allow them to spread their wings and give it a shot. This is not like a sink or swim situation, this is more like okay, we’re in the middle of ritual. And now I’m going to put some responsibility on this person to do something like closing the circle, or make a ritual item that we will use at a next event. And it’s something that they have to work for. It’s something they can be proud of. They can reflect on it and see it as an extension of their own spirituality.

Bridget:
What do you see, and this is one of the things that I really am excited to kind of get into because I don’t have a lot of experience kind of guiding other people or teaching them or we did meet up saying, but it’s very sort of, like stuff out there. So you get to kind of have those conversations. So what do you see is the biggest reason that people kind of don’t feel able to create their own unique, authentic spiritual practice.

Laura:
I don’t want to blame our culture, but I sure feel like people are raised in which is that make them question? Is it good to do something for myself? Is it okay to ever really assess myself or is that something that somebody who has authority over me should be doing? And people want validation. I think people sometimes might be afraid to reach out and practice because when you practice something, you might succeed, but you also might fail. And if you fail, it doesn’t feel good. You might have wasted your time. You might have wasted some supplies, and people just need to know that’s okay. To do that as well. You learn almost as much from failures as you do successes.

Bridget:
I know that there are some people who are afraid that if they do this if they, especially with witchcraft, like if I do something wrong, there could be like horrible consequences. Do you have that come up in sort of within your coven?

Laura:
That is a great question to ask. Because I certainly ask people who have concerns what is the word you think would happen? Are things gonna maybe fall off your shelves? Are you going to hear some spooky words are those things or just you cannot absolutely abide? Or are those things you feel like you could overcome? And this is I think we’re the experience empowers confidence. Weird stuff happens and people need to have outlets to deal with it. Whether that is taking it into their own hand. Let me get my salt out and yeet out the spirits, or calling back up, or even just being like calling a friend and being like, you know, I saw a goose today and I saw a goose yesterday and the day before and then sometimes your friends like, well you live next to a pond. It’s maybe not that weird. Some feedback about what’s going on and expanding their perspective can really help. People like to trick themselves. It’s very easy to do. It’s very easy to kind of manipulate the mind. Human perception is very fallible, and getting some kind of verification I think is always a good idea.

Bridget:
Did you have did you have backup people? Did you have that kind of support network? Behind you when you were taking your first first steps into some of this stuff.

Laura:
Absolutely. That was one of the main functions of the coven. That’s not one of the cool fun ones they advertise about, but it’s like now that you have some spiritual peeps, when things go weird, first of all, you can talk about it. These are not normal. Normally things you would say to like co workers or family perhaps but it’s like, yeah, I saw a shadow creature by this tree under the light of the full moon and then a candle lit itself, um, I don’t know… So that that’s always the good thing to me. Strange experiences happen. And then I never really had any frightful experiences. But there were times when someone might call me at two in the morning and it’s like, bring the salt. There’s something in my house. Okay. Get it done.

Bridget:
Thank you so, so much for being on the podcast and I know we end up with giving you the opportunity to take the mic and share. If you have like a tip or a trick or whatever for for the listeners that you’d like to impart your wisdom.

Laura:
I have several, thank you for asking. My first one is don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. And this goes along with that trying things and exploring. You’re gonna get the words wrong. You’re going to catch a sleeve on fire. You might even walk in the wrong direction. Le gasp. This is part of life. And these are things that happen. They’re not buttons that are going to make something explode. It’s just, Oh, okay, maybe clear your throat, take a moment, recompose yourself, say the words again, or do the action again and this time don’t drop the lighter. And then I do encourage exploration. I think going to those places where you find fulfillment even if they seem really non sequitur is a good crumb trail to follow at first, maybe don’t dive right into it. But certainly, everyone can take five minutes to read a Wikipedia article about a topic and see if they want to go further than that. I do think journaling is one of the most important skills people can learn and I’m not talking about these beautiful Pinterest journalings that take like 30 minutes to do one page did not get one of those 25 cent notebooks get down and dirty. Write everything down, mundane stuff. magical stuff, dream stuff. And keep that as a record because it is so invaluable for self assessment. It’s invaluable because it allows you to express yourself and you don’t have to worry about like this human’s going to judge me for these things that I want to express. No, the journal is personal for you. And it can be a very special thing. And I think my last thing is to just try new things. It’s very easy to get stuck in your ways. They’re comfortable, they are great, they feel good. But every once in a while maybe shake it up and see if you like something else by trying it and not just thinking about it.

Bridget:
Awesome words of wisdom. So thank you. Thank you again very much for joining me on the podcast. And as always, I will have a download for this episode even though it wasn’t all of my content, but I will have a download available.

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.

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