HOW TO EXPLAIN YOUR SPIRITUAL AWAKENING TO YOUR RELIGIOUS FAMILY

When Fundamentalist threats of Hell left her wanting more, Kate Forristall turned to Now Age practices. But how to explain your spiritual awakening to your religious family? Kate shares her top tips for making the holidays less hellish …

Photo: Diana Vargas

Christmas 2017.  Reaching for a beautifully wrapped present (the gene I didn’t get, sigh), I notice my sister Sally give our mother a nervous glance. Given my family’s tradition of one-at-a-time unwrapping, there’s no hiding what’s inside, but I have to smile as I open my package and see an intricately carved wooden box … with a pentagram on top.

I steal a glimpse at Sally’s face and feel her telepathically communicating with me in a desperate Tim Gunn voice, “MAKE IT WORK!” I lift the new repository for my tarot deck (pentagram covered by my palm) and wave it quickly, “A wooden box!”

“Who’s next?!” Sally chirps, as we simultaneously head into the kitchen to get coffee and put my gift away. When it comes to the spirituality we now embrace, we’ve decided pick our battles.

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Finding a faith to set me free … 
At the age of 15, I began attending a church youth group known more for fun and community than hard line theology. Leaders preached the Gospel, but it was as simple as the original version (appropriate for humans without a pre-frontal cortex). The Jesus People movement had paved the way for a faith that was about loving God and loving each other, and I was happy to go along for the ride.

Unfortunately I got hijacked on the way.

In college I met Christians who could recite whole passages of the Bible and never seemed to struggle to obey all the rules the way that I did. They let me know that I wasn’t doing it right and by the time I graduated, the shame I felt over my failings was enough to send me right into the arms of Fundamentalism.

There were no sermons about the messiness of life, no Young Adult Group talks about how hard it was to be in your 20s. Floundering was considered moral failure and the threat of Hell was always looming. My goal became security, for myself, and eventually, my growing family, and I lost the delight and wildness of the God I’d met as a teenager.

In other words, I can help you explain things to your conservative mother, because I’ve been her. But while I forgot the kindness of the Divine, it did not forget me, and over the past 20 years I’ve managed to unload the toxic institutional religion that held me captive, while finding a faith that set me free.

Such faith means changed opinions about almost everything in life – politics, sexuality, social justice, capitalism, feminism – topics my family has often been less than thrilled that I brought up at the Thanksgiving table. But they were small potatoes compared to announcing I’d fully embraced New Age practices that we once believed were nothing short of demonic.

The new practices of my faith—meditation, spiritual direction, energy healing, multiple sacred texts, astrology, body work, and tarot—came from a period of darkness and spiritual searching, a time when I lost the ability to hear God and believed I’d been abandoned.

Now I can see that I was never alone, that my unknowing was, in fact the gift that pushed me through the Life-Death-Life cycle and into a belief that now sees the Divinity of all things.

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So as you prepare for Thanksgiving and the inevitable questions about why your life looks different than it used to, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way … 

1// “Preach … at all times. When necessary, use words.” 
This advice from St. Francis is the best wisdom I’ve ever found for sharing experiences that have changed my life. If your example is one of serenity, service, love and hope, you’ll have no better evidence for the truth of the New Age spirituality you’ve embraced.

2// The Bible is your friend. Really. 
I know, right? Whether it’s the Wise Men who used the stars to find Jesus, God noting the wheel of the Zodiac when conversing with Job, or Jesus feeling the energy leave his body when a hemorrhaging woman touched him, the Bible has an awful lot of examples of “New Age” faith. The word meditate is mentioned 20 times and if you do a Google search you’ll even find phrases like “centering prayer” from many corners of traditional Christianity.

3// Because science.
Meditation’s benefits are now proven by so much data that if your loved one can’t handle it, they probably believe in a six-day creation. Measurable energy fields of everything from the flowers in your garden to the heart in your body have uncovered a universe way weirder than science fiction. Neuroscience has revealed that our brains are supercomputers capable of affecting objects miles away (hello, pray much?) If none of that lands, find an empty room, light a candle … and meditate. At least you’ll feel better.

4// Try not to brace for impact.
This phrase has carried my family through many an anticipated rough situation. Neural communication studies show how much we convey before we ever say a word and I can tell you from experience that if you are telepathically shrieking, “I fucking dare you to make fun of my Tarot practice,” someone is going to comply. Moments like these are when the rubber meets the road. The Buddhist practice of accepting suffering while trusting its transitory nature has completely changed my life.

5// Baby steps. 
I’ve always been an evangelist. Whether it was Jesus or toasted pecans in chocolate chip cookies, if I love something, I can’t wait to tell everyone I know. But when asking people to expand beyond a fear-based bias, I’ve learned that you need to move like an acrophobe in a skyscraper – one floor at a time. My mother now knows that I own a tarot deck. We’ve discussed the astrology of the moment on multiple occasions, and for her birthday, I gave her a book about manifestation. But it’s been seven years since I began this journey and my goal isn’t conversion. It’s that she too would find the path of greatest freedom for her life, no matter what it looks like.

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My resistance to the New Age movement wasn’t because I hated everyone outside my church. It was because I was terrified that it could destroy people I loved. Those who cling to fundamentalism are inordinately motivated by dread – circling the wagons to protect a God they can’t imagine being bigger than their sanctuary. Considering how vast and unknowable the Divine is, that’s a pretty sad perspective and I’ve given my kids unlimited permission to make fun of me forever for all the dumb stuff I did that was driven by fear.

Ironically, the greatest thing my New Age practices have taught me is how to deal with the fear I meet in this life. “If I go to the depths of the sea, You are there,” says the Psalmist to God, an understanding that no circumstance can separate us from Them—including, no matter how scary it is, spending the holidays with your family.

Kate Forristall is a writer, actor, mother, and lover of stories. Connect with her at #IRL Project, and on Twitter and Instagram

HOW TO TURN YOUR WORKOUT INTO A FORGIVENESS PRACTICE

Feeling bloated from pie and difficult holiday season emotions? Resident fitness witch Russ Marshalek shows you how to burn calories AND bad feelings by making your workout a forgiveness practice …

For most of us living in post-Woke America, the “saveable” facet of the holiday season is the food—and idea of togetherness at any cost, through gritted teeth, regardless of how racist Grandpa is.

And what you “indulged in,” this can also be a time to practice the art of forgiveness.

“Why should I let that asshole off the hook by forgiving and forgetting?” you might ask (especially if you’re a witch with a penchant for revenge).

Well, true forgiveness isn’t the same thing as forgetting or shitty faux-happiness. Instead, it’s the act of acknowledging what’s happened, and actively choosing to allow past grievances to be fuel for your personal power. 


You’ll be surprised at how damn good it feels—so good, you may even be able to deal with good ol’ racist Grandpa without biting your own hand off.

Turning bullshit into power: that’s magic.

But it also takes practice and rock solid awareness. Try these 5 fitness practices to summon the core strength and mental fortitude you need …

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1// Walk it Off
When you can’t stomach any more negativity and are ready let go and let Goddess, take a walk and hug a tree. Seriously.

As witches, the healing power of nature is a truth we hold to be self-evident, but I feel like it bears repeating til the cows come home.

Feel your negative energy leaving you and imagine the tree breathing a deep green or white energy into you in its place. If you want to add more to this—a run, sprint, etc, or incorporate this into an existing outdoor workout—feel free. But the important and non-negotiable part is to hug a tree. Definitely do a quick but sincere offering to the local spirits as a thank you after.

Music: Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Store”

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2// Sit with Forgiveness, aka “Let’s take a time out”
Ok, so Grandpa/Uncle/whathaveyou was offensive, admitted to voting for Trump, and basically stands in total opposition to you, your beliefs, and your existence.

The best way to let that shit go? The incredibly challenging practice known as active meditation. This guided meditation from The Mindfulness Movement is an excellent starting point until you’re able to guide yourself.

Music: Motion Sickness of Time Travel’s “Totality” 

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3// Breathe Into Self-Forgiveness
“Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck,” you say to yourself, “I can not fucking believe I did that.” Whatever THAT is, I can assure you that you are dwelling on it way more than anyone else. And even if that’s not the case: so what?

Use this planking exercise to embody the sensation of “letting go,” get over it/yourself, and be grateful for the experiences that have brought you here, even the sucky ones.

While holding a plank, suck your stomach all the way in and tighten your stomach muscles. Breathe normally, ideally through your nose. Hold this position for one minute, and then relax your stomach slowly as your lower down to the ground from plank position. Try raising the length of the exercise by 30 seconds every week to keep pushing yourself.

Music: Black Heart’s “The Day The Whole World Went Away” 

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4// Knock This One Out
Feeling overwhelmed by all of the internalized crap you’ve been bottling up?

Try this drill for starters. Imagine the air in front of you filled with the charged emotions that have made you feel bad, kept you from moving forward, and locked your heart in a dark place. Then punch it out, imagining the air in front of you purifying into a bright white light.

Music: Portishead’s “Machine Gun” 

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5// Reps for Retribution
Ok, I’d feel remiss if I didn’t include a post-Thanksgiving “Bye, Pie” type workout in here, so this is that one. Sure, you can meditate on the meaning of self-love or whatever, but mainly this is here to make you sweat.

Throw that yoga mat down on the ground and do 25 burpees, 25 pushups, 25 plank pushups, 25 shoulder touch planks. Rest for 10 seconds, then repeat. Repeat for 3 rounds.

Music: Knifesex’s “Sex and Death” 

A NEW ADVENTURE: READING FOR THE FULL MOON IN GEMINI

The Full Moon in Gemini is an invitation to re-shape our reality and reorientate on our journey, says Hannah Ariel. PLUS Three essential questions to help each sign navigate the vibes

“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.” – The Matrix

If there were ever a week to take the red pill, it’s this one. It’s high time to engage these days like a Gemini, restless in a your infinite search for more knowledge, more truth. Wanting to hear and see everything, life through Gemini eyes is like experiencing an endless discovery channel.

Gemini is MUTABLE energy. It can’t help but change course with every turn of a thought. Nothing thrills this sign more than to follow a new lead, comprehend yet another fact, connect another dot. At the Full Moon in Gemini on Wednesday November 25th we’re beginning to realize we may have to take a few twists and turns to get to where we need to be going next.

In aspect to Neptune, this may not be at all where we thought to dream before. This Full Moon in Gemini illuminates how our lives are meant to change and mutate, to the point where they are unrecognizable at times, in order for us to explore a fresh vision. Cosmically, it’s a time where life can be stranger than fiction.

The Sun has just entered Sagittarius. We have survived the depths of Scorpio, and there is an unmistakable optimism in the air. And while Gemini is busy turning corners, Sagittarius always trusts there’s going to be a good time around the bend. Although these signs oppose one another in the sky, they actually make for lively partners in crime; Gemini points the way, and Sag has the good faith to follow the signs.

It’s a divine recipe for unlimited exploration, plain and simple. However, Mercury and Saturn have also joined the Sun in Sagittarius, creating a not so simple trifecta of nature. This Gemini moon is we don’t really have a reliable map. We can’t know which way we’re pointing without also investigating what we’re looking for, in good faith of course.

Thoughts and beliefs born of our experiences are our only reality right now. We can’t simply believe what we would prefer to anymore. Saturn in Sagittarius sees to this, as our beliefs will materialize opportunities in time and space faster than you can say Abracadabra. If you aren’t excited by the opportunities being presented to you in your life currently, check in with your third eye and ask: what do I envision for myself?

Reality is fundamentally mutable as this Full Moon in Gemini directly activates the first of three Saturn in Sagittarius/Neptune in Pisces squares – the first one on Thanksgiving Day, November 26th. When two slow moving outer planets square off it triggers shifts in consciousness that don’t come around very often. These heavy-hitters want to improve our circumstances, dissolving one boundary to re-create the next. We’re breaking through illusions we were unwittingly supporting while totally re-identifying with a new ride. Expect whatever vision you channel now to form and expand your reality.

When we look around we may be mistaken into thinking nothing makes sense right now; relationships are dissolving, re-locations are taking place, responsibilities are shape shifting, our identities and professions are being re-invented. With Neptune in the mix: surrender. Surrender to this Full Moon in Gemini. If what you thought was going to happen doesn’t, don’t flip out! Reweave the story. See to it that something else unfolds in its place.

As long as we keep the energy moving, the right situation will manifest at the right time, bringing treasures we did not know we were looking for. There’s so much we can’t possibly understand completely right now – the least we can do is open up to the journey. Surrender and feel free to experience a radiant sense of adventure in searching for where you’re headed. And above all, know you are not alone.

This Full Moon in Gemini will also reflect a particular paradigm-shift, based on your individual chart. Here are three essential questions to ask yourself, based on your Sun or Rising sign, to guide you through this Saturn/Neptune square – especially if at this Full Moon in Gemini you are struggling to make sense of what’s happening:

Aries :: Aries rising
Where is your community? How do you connect? Is there a spiritual purpose at work?

Taurus :: Taurus rising
Who are you really? What do you want more of? How can you expand your influence?

Gemini :: Gemini
How are you feeling? How are you healing? Who are you exploring with?

Cancer :: Cancer rising
Where do you fear? How do you experience peace of mind? When does it feel good to be in your body?

Leo :: Leo rising
Who do you inspire? How do you show love? What can you let go of?

Virgo :: Virgo rising
How many roles are you playing? Where are your roots? How can you see yourself more clearly?

Libra :: Libra rising
Do you see a big picture coming together? Which ideas fire you up? How can you put them into practice?

Scorpio :: Scorpio rising
Are you open to what is possible? How good does it feel to be you? Where do you experience love in your heart?

Sagittarius :: Sagittarius rising
What relationships are you attracting? Do you believe in yourself? How can you feel more at home wherever you go?

Capricorn :: Capricorn rising
What projects are you working on? Do you feel spirit supporting you? Which conversations inspire you?

Aquarius :: Aquarius rising
Are you having fun? Do you have an audience? What are you holding on to?

Pisces :: Pisces rising
What is privately coming to life for you? Where do you experience recognition? Do you feel your affect on others?

For a private reading with Hannah Ariel contact: [email protected]