Knowing our places, inside and out

Knowing our places, inside and out March 11, 2013

T. Thorn Coyle’s book Make Magic of Your Life might not, at first glance, look like it will have much in it of relevance to Pagans seeking to connect with the land beneath their feet, and the all-species tribe which it supports. The book focuses on desire and making desires into reality, taking the reader on a journey with the four powers of the Sphinx: to know, to will, to dare and to keep silent, and a fifth power, the power to manifest.

It is an excellent book, filled with illuminating stories from Coyle’s own life as well as those of friends, students and clients, and supplemented by thoughts from a ‘Wise Council’ of additional voices. Potentially complex philosophical, spiritual and thea/ological ideas are couched in clear and easy to understand terms. The suggested actions given at the end of each chapter are practical, simple to do, yet, if done persistently, have deep effects.

All of us are driven by desire: our desire to be, to know, to have and to do, one way or another, is behind all of our seeking, our journeys, and our choices. My pilgrimage of connection with place in my life is driven, fundamentally, by the desire to belong to something greater than myself, and to something greater than human.

So how can I apply the wisdom of Make Magic of Your Life to manifesting this desire? There are two exercises in Part 1 of the book, the section relating to the power to know, which speak directly to both my pilgrimage and the desire which underlies it. The first relates to that part of place closest to home: home itself.

Image by Gábor used under Creative Commons license.

In order to know, Coyle encourages us to make a practice of listening, and in preparation for this listening, she suggests clearing the space of our home, by physically cleaning. For me, cleaning my home is not only a preparation, a clearing of the way for other work, but a practice in itself. When I physically clean my home — sucking up dust and dog hairs, mopping away spilled food and muddy paw prints, polishing surfaces and rubbing down furniture — I come to know my home, the ‘inside’ of my place, better.

Not only that, but by being willing to become intimate with its dirty and messy state, the accumulated byproducts of living, I am saying, both to myself and to the spirit of my home, “I care for you; I respect you.” Both the willingness to be intimate and the message given are steps to building relationship, creating connection, actively feeling at home.

The second exercise in Make Magic of Your Life which speaks directly to my pilgrimage of connection with place and my desire to belong is actually a small part of an exercise: it is to “[t]ake a walk through your neighborhood as if you were showing a friend who had never visited before.” (page 65).

This is a simple and powerful way to open our senses in a new way to surroundings – the ‘outside’ of our places – that may have become dull to us out of familiarity. The last time I had occasion to do this was in late July last year. A friend was visiting from the States, and I took her around the Eskdale Prehistoric Trail.

The meeting of the White and Black Esk, on the route of the Eskdale Prehistoric Trail,

where handfastings were performed at the Lammas Fair until the 1920s.

It’s a route I drive often, but always on the way to somewhere else. I rarely stop to get out of my car and really pay attention. Having a friend to show my area off to was a wonderful excuse to slow down, be still, and open my senses to my place. For me, it was an exercise in remembering: remembering the sweetness and the power, the age and the presence, the ancestors and present residents, of all species, of these places, which often become just the backdrop to my everyday life — a beautiful backdrop, but a backdrop all the same.

With the impetus of Make Magic of Your Life I will be revisiting these experiences, repeating them, both for their own sake and to gather knowledge to take further steps — through will, daring and silence — to manifesting my desire to truly belong.

Watch an author video with T. Thorn Coyle and read more responses to Make Magic of Your Life at the Patheos Book Club!

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