Dandelion Seeds: Devotional Techniques from the Heartbreak Trenches

Dandelion Seeds: Devotional Techniques from the Heartbreak Trenches February 3, 2016

Recently, I was asked by a former student if I had a ritual or practice to get rid the bad energy of betrayal of a broken relationship.   That was a bit of a punch to the gut. I’ve been struggling with a lot of those betrayal and brokenness feels recently.  It’s not a pleasant place to be.  I imagine it to be a lot like the grinding monotony of working at a fast food restaurant, except imagine that restaurant to have a bunch of broken glass scattered all over the floor and you have to work barefoot.   You keep trying to sweep up all the glass, but you keep finding more, dammit!

a painting of an older woman comforting a younger one
Walter Langley – Never Morning Wore to Evening but Some Heart Did Break – Google Art Project” by Walter LangleyDwH1ilq-MsEMwQ at Google Cultural Institute. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Stupid emotional glass shards, who needs em’ anyway?

It’s that age old question: is it better to have loved and lost, or to never have loved at all?  Sometimes I have wished I never loved at all.  I’m sure anyone who has gone through a breakup, the death of a loved one, or unrequited love has pondered that question.  When we love without reciprocation it’s a difficult place to be.   Love is more than just roses at Valentines Day or teenage romance novels.  It’s actually a complex biochemical process that is largely out of our control, as we all know from the never ending movies, shows, and books that center on love lost, gained, and not returned.   We don’t choose how or when we love. We only choose how we act while engulfed within that feeling.

As a polyamorous individual, my rules and obligations in terms of relationships are often more multifaceted than people who choose to focus their romantic love energy on only one person.   I am still married, but no longer with my two other primary partners.   So even though I still have love in my life, I also have heartbreak at the same time.  Having felt both those things simultaneously, I can tell you that I can indeed work in the Restaurant of Glass Grinding Pain and feel the love and partnership that comes from a 16 year marriage.  Who knew, right?  Have some data points from the edge of the relationship frontier, dear reader.

So when I was asked this particular question about practices for heartbreak, it just so happened that I had been immersed in personal and intensive work on answering it.   Yay, I guess?

I don’t know if I’m ready to feel a bunch of shiny happies at the idea of using my own experience with pain to help others, but I’m going to try.

If you already have a devotional practice in place, that’s great.   It’s much easier to do this sort of difficult work if you’re already used to doing daily spiritual work.  So if you’re reading this and not in a great deal of emotional pain, get to it!  Start your practice now so that when you need one, it’s there.  Go. Now.  (Are you going?)  If you are in emotional pain you can still start a practice.  I would suggest keeping it simple and doable.  I have a post here on how to get started with daily devotional work.

Now to the pain specific parts:

a photo negative image of a woman crying
Miedo-ajeno” by RayNata – Mis documentos. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

So, what entity is the right one for dealing with bad breakup energy?  The answer lies within you.   I’ve really come to believe that there is no one right answer, no perfect combination of elemental associations, deities, herbs, and words that will automatically make things right for all people.  One person might pray to Frey for peace and new love.  Another might light a candle and hold their hands toward the flame while asking the fire to transform them.   A third might call out to their ancestral mothers to aid them with wisdom and support.  I think the key here is not to necessarily find the perfect god or spirit to aid you, but to reach out with your heart toward the idea or being that you find compelling.

No matter what, be prepared to fail.

Failure is good. It means you’re trying.   I’ve done intense trancework since my twenties. It’s a comfortable tool in my magic bag of tricks, one that I use for almost every magical act in one way or another.  When this breakup happened, that all ended. I couldn’t trance. Just couldn’t do it. Bam. My focus was gone. I couldn’t even begin to reach a still place in my mind, let alone cast it forth into the ether.  So I went back to the beginning.   I focused on my breath, simple two powers, and tree of life meditations.   Eventually my focus began to return in fits and starts.

Be prepared to change.

Being in a bad breakup can cause you to go into an emotional crisis. This makes you psychologically vulnerable.   The whole point of brainwashing techniques is to induce this sort of psychological state within a person so that the individual’s belief system can be rebuilt.  This is the moment when a lot of people are “saved” by religion.   It sounds pretty bad when I put it that way, but it’s also a moment of opportunity.  When you feel broken your mind is open to change and you can choose how you rebuild yourself.   This leads into:

Be prepared to ask yourself hard questions.

Because you want to make sure that change is good.  Devotional practices can be a release valve and a safe place to process and feel.  (Make sure to put a box of tissues next to your altar)  It’s just you and the Gods.  Don’t expect to get grand gestures every time, but make sure you’re listening to your own internal dialog.  It’s worth keeping a journal, blog, or voice memos of your thoughts during these moments.  At first I would say don’t worry too much about anything but letting the feels out.   Eventually I began to ask myself what I had learned, what I had lost, what I intend on doing differently in the future.  Don’t just ask yourself these questions once, keep asking.  As you work through your grief the answers might change.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

I am a trained priestess and ritual specialist.  I have helped lots of people develop rituals for all sorts of things.  I have a degree in psychology and I kick ass, right?  Nope.   In my own moment of crisis I need help just like everyone else.  I found out who my true friends were, and that even though the loved ones I thought would be there for me weren’t, a lot of people were there for me.  They moved furniture, cooked meals, listened to me bitch (lots of bitching), sent me cards and packages, and even helped me learn to fix my exploding car.  It’s okay to need professional help too. That’s what therapists and social workers are for.   Devotional practices dovetail great with therapy.  I know. I’ve done both.

Having told you all to go do your own thing with your own Gods, I still know that sometimes the best thing is to use someone else’s words. Pre-written rituals can help until you can find your own voice.  Here is a short example of a ritual component that could be used in many pagan formats to get rid of the bad energy of betrayal.

Thawing of the Stone Heart Ritual:

You will need:

  1. a candle or fire,
  2. a stone that was put in the freezer,
  3. a bowl of salt water,
  4. a quiet space.

After you have called to the Kindred, the Elements, or created a sacred space, pick up the bowl of salt water in your hands and place it in front of you. Look down into it and dip your fingers into the water.  Imagine the waters as your tears and as the tears of all those who have experienced heartbreak and betrayal.  Allow yourself to experience your sadness as best you can.  Use the water to wash yourself and mark yourself with sacred symbols that connect you to the sacred waters like spirals and circles.  Say:

Let the tears of those who have gone before purify me.  Let me be cleansed of unwanted feelings, let me be filled with the wisdom of the waters below.  

Take the cold rock into your hands, or if it is too cold to touch for long lay it in your lap or touch it with your fingertips.  Feel the coldness of the stone and imagine it under ice and snow where you might find a stone like that, a rough piece of granite might come from a mountaintop, a rounded stone might come from a river bed or the ocean.  Let the cold of the stone become the betrayal you felt, the bad feelings that you’ve had over your loss of love.  As you can, take the stone into your hands and let your body warm it.  Say:

Let my heart warm as this stone warms. Let me have the strength to endure the cold of loss and let me be patient with myself as rock worn down by rain in the spring.

Light the candle or fire and hold the stone toward the flame, one hand over your heart and say:

Let this be the flame of transformation. Let this be the flame of purification. Let this fire ignite in my heart and burn brightly to show me the way in my pain and sorrow.

Feel the warmth of the flame flowing into the stone and at the same time into you. If you have the time or inclination, repeat “Let this be the Flame” again and again like a mantra while imagining yourself purified and energized by the flame.

Keep the stone in a spot where you can see it.  You have made it a talisman that you can use when you need to feel steadied or strengthened.  As time passes and you find yourself thinking less and less of the past, eventually you will come to a time when you don’t need the stone.  The best thing to do would be to take it to a place in nature that seems like it would belong, a river or a mountain, but burying it will work as well.   As you walk away from the stone, know that you walk toward something new.

Good luck, and may we all find the healing we seek.

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