I have not always been a positive minded person. When I was young it often seemed like things just did not go my way. I was a pessimistic child, and when I use that term, I can almost see the dark rain cloud following me around in my memories. There was a pivotal moment when that changed, and I remember it vividly. I was in junior high, on the basketball team, and I really, really wanted a new pair of shoes. One of my teammates had said the newest Air Max sneaker felt like walking on clouds, and I was sure I’d be a million times better at basketball as soon as I got them.
I had worked out a deal with my mom to pay for half, and the day had finally come that I’d saved up enough money. On my mom’s lunch break, we went to the local shoe store, and searched for my size. I had a game that night, and I wanted to break them in for a couple hours while my mom went back to work. They did not have my size. I bemoaned my luck, and sulked back to my mom’s office, pouting in that intensely devastating way that teenagers do so well. My mom walked over to the dark corner I was hiding in, and said to me, “You know, Giana, there are two ways you can be in this world: an optimist or a pessimist. Both take the same amount of energy, but a pessimist will never get their way, and an optimist will find a way.”
I looked at her, and asked what it meant to be an optimist or a pessimist. She told me to go get the dictionary. After looking up the definitions, I again looked at her, asking,
“But what does this mean to me?!”
“It means you go get the phone book, and call the other shoe stores in the area to find which one has your size, and tell them to put it on hold for you. We’ll go pick them up after work.”
Just like that. I called a couple of stores, and the next town over had a pair. I asked them to put it on hold. In that instant my storyline went from ‘nothing ever goes my way’ to ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’. I knew that I needed to teach myself to be an optimist, and I made every effort to shift my thinking.
Now, in my spiritual practices this frame of mind is not only a good practice, but also a necessity. I am a magickal practitioner, but for ease of definition let’s just say, thoughts become things. Magick happens on an energetic level, and like everyone who’s ever watched or read the Secret knows, if you believe something, then it is. The magickal lifestyle puts a person in touch with a world of energy, and that energy interacts with every aspect of reality. If I am a pessimist, then the world around me will respond in kind.
Let’s backtrack. Every person who wishes to develop spiritually, to create a communion with the cosmos, must realize that along the path towards integrating with the great mystery will be many tests. These tests almost always are about a person’s ability to persevere, and have faith in themselves. When you’ve been working towards breaking subconscious barriers to your own happiness, the universe responds with tests to see if you can break your own barriers. Let’s say something devastating happens, like you lose your house. You are doing all kinds of work towards allowing yourself abundance, and your house gets swiped out from under you. A barrier mindset, or a pessimistic mindset, is to bemoan your grievances, wave your fist at the sky, and decide that the universe is conspiring against you. An optimistic mindset, a magickal mindset, is to see that your home was possibly part of the barrier to your greater abundance. Though it is never easy to lose a house, a spiritual optimist would look at this occurrence as a sign that bigger, and better things, are on their way. Mindset is a large percentage of the battle, but one also must be making steps in the mundane world to set action into motion. Is it time to move out of state, or country? Where is your soul calling you to? Heed that call, and go forth in faith.
Let me give you a personal example. There have been many times in my life where I’ve been called to take a leap of faith. I remember quite vividly sitting on the back steps of my old apartment, talking to a friend about my job. I was unhappy with the pay, the commute was long, and gas prices had just made that commute very expensive. I felt it was time for a change, but I was barely affording the rent to my studio. How could I risk leaving that job? My friend looked at me and said, “I think you’re supposed to take a leap of faith.”
I responded in agreement, “That term, leap of faith, has been popping into my mind a lot lately. I definitely think that is what I’m being called to do.”
Even as I said it, the words struck a slight terror into my spine. By definition a leap of faith is not a sure thing, and requires a great amount of courage. I felt my stomach turn. Courage is not the absence of fear, but action in the face of fear, and I knew what I had to do. Keeping a positive mindset, knowing the cosmos had my best interest in hand, I jumped. That week I quit my job. A few days later I was offered a better job, with better pay, that was closer to home. My leap of faith had paid off. I wouldn’t say that leaps of faith always turn around that quickly, but I can’t remember a time when they haven’t.
I want to take a moment to really flesh out this concept: bad things happen, which is not in our control. The only control we have is in our response to them, in our mindset. When a bad thing happens, it sucks! No one wants a bad thing to happen to them. Responding to the bad thing is the only real option we have in the matter, and my argument is that a positive mindset is necessary to move forth. Like my mom said, there are two ways, the optimistic and the pessimistic response, and both take equal amounts of energy to engage in. An optimistic mindset will find a way to rework the scenario, making it positive. The pessimistic mindset will sit in the mud of the situation.
It is easy to shift the story-line of a situation. I once told a friend while visiting a magickal lake that I had a symbolic meanings ready to interpret if the lake was covered in mist, or if it wasn’t. I was ready for every situation, because I just needed to shift the story-line. I intended my visit to the lake to be magickal, and it would be, one way or another. The same is true for life experiences. Here’s a current example: in the last week I’ve been verbally attacked by both family, and people online. My actions haven’t changed dramatically, I’m still just being me, but being me is infuriating people. I could say, “Why is everyone attacking me?!” while dipping into victim mode, which is an option I would have chosen in the past. Or, I can shift the storyline, which I prefer. If I am being attacked, and not because I am acting like an asshole, then there is something in my energy field that is mirroring people’s dissatisfaction with themselves. That means that I am just a tool for their own lessons, and for me it means that I am being called to step into a warrior role. In the past, when people have attacked, I have backed down and internalized their anger as something that I have to own. It is important to know when people have a right to be mad at you, and when they don’t. Now, when people attack, I have been energetically meeting that experience, and not backing down. I will circle back around to this concept in a little bit, because it ties into my shamanic training.
I have been coming to terms with the reality that if a person gains a certain amount of power in life, there will be those who hate that person. I remember talking to a friend who hated Gandhi, and I was appalled! Who could hate a pacifist revolutionary that succeeded!? Well, my friend did, and had specific reasons why Gandhi's actions weren’t desirable. So, even Gandhi has haters! I’m going to have haters, just for being me. Now, interpreting haters can be: “I’m so sad that people hate me!” or it can be, “I guess I’m starting to make a difference in this world.” Changing the storyline that surrounds your experiences is easy, in that you can just do it, you can just shift the meanings assigned to the experiences you’ve had. It gets easier as you do it more. I remember someone telling me once that there’s three sides to every story: your side, their side, and the story’s side. The truth tends to be malleable to the person telling it, ultimately affected by bias and perception. Here’s another example, I worked at a popular diner for many years, and at one point I made friends with a regular who would sit at the counter. We originally started talking because he came in reading the Bible, and I made some smart ass comment about a new version of the Bible that was gender inclusive. I thought it would propel him away from me, but it piqued his interest. From there on out he finished reading the Bible, and decided it didn’t make logical sense, so he moved on to the Tao Te Ching, and then some Wicca books. We would discuss philosophical foundations of reality, and I looked forward to the times we had to talk. One day I was telling him that I get obsessed easily, and that I don’t like that about myself. He looked at me, peering over his glasses, and said, “Well, what does it mean to be obsessed?”
I responded, “It means I can’t get over things, I just go round and round. I feel out of balance.”
“That’s one interpretation of obsessed,” he responded, “but you could also reframe it as being extremely focused.”
That blew my mind! From that moment on I started editing my internal dialogue from obsessed to extremely focused, which sounds like a strength, not a weakness. I can be extremely focused, and by calling it that, it becomes something that is under my control, not something that has control of me. I would give myself focal points for my extreme focus, like projects, or books. Now I wasn’t spiralling down in self loathing for my inability to stop obsessing, instead I had reframed the concept and used this characteristic as a tool.
One way to practice changing your mind is to create symbolic meanings for things. For example, I went out to my garden and there was a grasshopper sitting on my Rue plant. I looked up the symbolic meaning of grasshopper, and found several. I chose to attach energy to the meaning that I liked which was, something about moving forward, and listening to my inner voice. I took that as an oracle, or significant symbol and applied it to my circumstances. I took inventory of my reality: what am I holding back? I meditated on that and gave myself permission to move forward. There is symbolism in everything, and you can apply those meanings creatively to your life. When you create a story in this way you are training your mind to be able to transform your reality.
So, a positive mindset it important in life, and in spirituality, especially in leaps of faith. I have found that leaps of faith generally produce great experiences, but even in saying that, know that a leap of faith is never easy. It is a calling from the universe to test your faith. You must have a positive mindset, be an optimist, with the universe. Faith, in my definition, requires you to be an optimist, to believe in something extraordinary, without proof, and breathe into that mystery every day. It is the release of control, and the mindset to allow that release to engulf you into the divine truths of life. Having a positive mindset will propel you into the cosmos, within and outside of yourself.
I have to mention, if you are called to take a leap of faith, and you resist long enough, the universe will take away the opportunity for you to jump on your own. You will be propelled off that ledge, one way or another. I prefer to jump on my own as it feels more like an adventure, and less like a catastrophe. Let me say that again: if you are called to take a leap of faith, and you don’t do it, it will happen anyway.
Now, there is an addendum to this positive mindset reality, when problems occur and block the path that you are heading down, you need to be able to discern whether it is a roadblock because you aren’t supposed to go this way, or if it is a challenge to overcome because going this way takes commitment. I find that the way to be able to read a situation, assuming you’re not already psychic, and able to interpret messages from the universe, is that you need to get real quiet in your mind, and sit with the question. Even sitting with the question requires a positive mindset, because if you sit with it believing that life is working against you, then you are not able to hear what direction you are supposed to take.
When a person has a pessimistic outlook on life, things do not work for them, and further, they do not look for other solutions to their issues. When everything around me starts to fall apart I internally hit the brakes, and take inventory of myself. What was I counting on? What was the ultimate goal that I was working towards? When there are roadblocks, I ask myself, “What were the signs that led me to this place? Have I been barrelling through without checking in with the signs surrounding the process? Do I know that this road is not the best road, but the road I wanted to take?”
If in my quiet moments with self I can feel that little part inside of me say, “This is the way. You need to persevere” then I will move forward. If, when taking internal inventory, I hear, “You really wanted to go this way, but this is not your road” then I stop, and take another route. It’s that simple, because I completely trust the process, and my communion with the universe. Remember, you will be called to learn faith; especially faith in yourself.
Training yourself to be an optimist is both about your thoughts, and your words. You must watch how you think, and talk about, yourself. As I stated in my book Magick Where You’re At, “...every moment you must choose to be an optimist, with whatever your situation. Magick works on belief, and optimism is a state of mind. Many times people are not aware of the words they are using, of the dis-empowering stance they take in their language, or the reality that words are spells. Words are the verbal expression of thoughts. People are also not aware that they let their thoughts rule their minds, and if their words are disempowered, chances are their thoughts are as well. Your words are powerful, and you should watch what you say, and how you say it. Be aware of the web you are spinning, because, like a spider, it is sure that you will be living right in the middle of it.” (Cicchelli, 2016).
The idea that I am really trying to convey is that our world is created by our words and thoughts. I am in no way, however, suggesting that people who experience trauma in life are responsible for it. This is a popular belief thrown around in various spiritual circles. I don’t subscribe to this motto because it is unhelpful, and usually makes the person suffering from trauma feel like it’s their fault. This is counter productive. Trauma happens. A person who experiences trauma shouldn’t be blamed for their reality. At the same time, it is of benefit not to let trauma become the defining story that gets repeated time, and time again. Even if it happens over and over again, it is best to stop telling the story. In fact, let this be the moment that you take inventory of the stories that you tell about yourself.
Now, if that story that you tell over and over again is being utilized to encourage social change, then it becomes a position of positivity. By making the trauma story a platform for change, it is a source of power, and a catalyst for shifts in consciousness. The story that you need to stop telling is the one you use to prove to your friends and family that life just never works for you. By believing that something always happens to you, you will reinforce it, and it will continue to happen. Once you stop telling the story, and train yourself out of dis-empowering thoughts and words, you will find that your life changes, and that thing that always happens, won’t. This isn’t necessarily easy to do at first, and I don’t want you to beat yourself up if you don’t master it immediately. It is a gradual process that you engage with. I still find myself learning new ways to reinterpret reality, and shift my consciousness. It’s a journey, try to enjoy it.
Shit happens in our lives. Some shit is worse than other shit. Even after my mom’s lesson in optimism, there were still times where I felt like life was working against me. Becoming positive is a process, rather than an immediate overhaul. It wasn’t until I was trained in shamanism that I realized my wounds could become sources of power. Every traumatic experience I had had became a lesson, and a gift.
In my shamanic training, and healing experiences, I came to discover that in order to step into power one has to embrace their trauma, reclaim it, and reframe it into a gift. Now, I realize this can sound overly optimistic or cheesy, but really after a traumatic event what other option do we have? If being obsessive can be reframed into being extremely focused, then living in a household with emotional turmoil can be training for a person as a healer, or a counselor. I have heard a saying that the shaman is the wounded healer. For the shaman to learn how to heal others they have to be intimately aware of the process, thus wounded. Similarly your life experiences have trained you for your life’s purpose, and if you look at all of those experiences as sources of power, then you can reframe them, and claim them as your own.
As promised, I’m circling around to another part of my shamanic training, which is reading the energy of a situation. Reading energy may seem woo-woo, or super psychic, or some other reason why you think that you cannot do it, but trust me, energy is always visible. In my shamanic training I had been taught a technique for dealing with conflict, or attacking energy, which is to read it, meet it, and then flow. The flow part is probably the most difficult aspect, but for our purposes I’m going to focus on the read it/meet it parts. To read the energy of an attack requires you to be self aware. Are you being an asshole that is in need of a good smack down? If the answer is no, then you need to read the energy of why you are being attacked. I mean, this is a crucial part of the positive mindset reality, you can’t be engaging in a positive mindset, all the while being a total dick to the people around you. I feel like I’ve met people like this, who will be completely unaware of how their behavior is affecting others, but then talk down to those others with, “You just need to change your mindset, and be positive.” The positive mindset tool is not to be used as a weapon to diminish other people’s reality, or to actively mistreat people, but you need to be self aware to know whether or not you are engaging in that reality. You need to check yourself.
When you check in with yourself, and see that there isn’t a valid reason for someone to be mad at you, but they’re still mad, then you are a symbolic representation for something in their life that they can’t come to terms with. Having this awareness allows you to disengage with the reality that they are weaving, and stand in your own power. You can stand up to them with a mirror in energy, or you can reflect a vibration of disinterest. Either way you are returning the energy to them, and forcing them to deal with it. It is something that they wanted you to hold, but it is not yours to own.
Energy is palpable. You already know the energy of most of the situations you enter into, but you may like to second guess yourself or believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt. Do not doubt your knowledge. You know the energy of situations, you can feel it when you enter its sphere, and you may logically reinterpret it, or you may believe people’s explanations when they tell you, “No, I’m not mad, it’s just..” this or that, or the other thing, when really they’re mad, but they won’t fess up to it. Trust what you know, because reading the energy is accessible to all humans. When you meet up with a friend, can you tell that they are sad? Yes, because you are reading the energy. Have you ever been walking down the street, and suddenly you are overwhelmed with the feeling to flee? Your senses were reading the energy of danger. You can always feel, or read, the energy, we’ve just been taught in western society to not pay attention to those feelings. I’m telling you to pay attention. Reading energy will make it easier to stay away from situations that will replicate past traumas; the energy is vibrating at the same frequency.
A positive mindset, it’s easy, and yet difficult, but ultimately a choice we can make. A silly story of being positive minded comes from today. I had plans, awesome plans, family plans that I really wanted to participate in, but I woke up sick. At first I was going to push through. I can function while sick. I took a minute to breathe, and reframed the scenario in my head. I wanted to be part of the plans, but the plans didn’t need me to be there. I could just as easily stay home. I would miss out on the fun, but I would get some much needed down time, allowing me to work on some projects that I had been falling behind in. It’s a simple story, and not a devastating one, but the framing is the epitome of what I want to get at: there was a plan, it fell through, I found a way to reframe it so that no matter the plans, I still felt good about the day.
Looking back over this chapter, I feel like I just keep saying, “Change your mind, and shift your reality,” but it’s a little bit more than that. To have a positive mindset in this world is to find a way to reframe your experiences so that they benefit you, and further become a source of power. A friend of mine says that I always put things in terms of power because I have so much scorpio in my chart. Let me explain my understanding of power: to stand in a fully embodied energetic field, seeing the shifts and tides, but being strong in your own foundation. I don’t use power in the sense of something that you take over on someone. I know that this is the popular usage, and often people get sucked up in a lust for power that they take in any way that they can. In my visualization of power, when you are fully embodied in it, then others who would take it from you, cannot. When a person makes you feel small, or insecure, they are taking your power. When you stand in power, you cannot be cut down.
To have a positive mindset is to be situated in a position of power, because no matter what comes your way, you never feel like you don’t have choice. You can reframe the story surrounding the experiences you’ve had. You can claim what is yours to claim, and you can disengage from what is not yours, ultimately becoming the spider of your own life. In a shamanic ceremony that I attended, I had a vision of a spider weaving a web, and then sitting in the middle. I saw humans as spiders, each weaving their realities with words, and thoughts. Each web was its own cosmovision, and all the webs were interrelated, but also separate worlds. We weave the webbing of our stories, and we sit in the middle of it. What story do you want your life to be: positive, and empowered, or not.