Being Good to the Environment, ft. LUSH Cosmetics

As I’ve said numerous times, I’m currently in a foreign country.  This particular country is actually generally much cheaper than the United States.  For example, you can buy a train ticket for an overnight journey for what would be the equivalent of $15.  Your trip to the grocery store for enough food for the week might only cost you $10-$12 (if you buy frugally and cleverly).  Of course, the wages match this level, so depending on your job, you might only make $500 a month as a professional, and your rent might be half of that.

Thankfully, my rent is covered by the company I work for, since they specialize in hiring international people (they need native English speakers).  So all of my money is take-home pay.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t translate well into dollars for when I go home, but I’ve been trying to save up a decent amount that I’ll transfer.  In the meantime, though, I haven’t been stressing too much about the money I’ve been spending.  I try to spend smartly, but sometimes I just go for it when the whim strikes.

The one thing I’ve spent a substantial amount of money on so far in this country (maybe $100 worth?) is LUSH.  LUSH is a cosmetics company that is now found in dozens of countries around the world.  In this country alone, there are almost 60 locations, and many of them are in my region, since I live near one of the bigger cities.  I found the store that’s on one of the big streets in town, and since then, whenever I have to go into town, I stop by.  I do this for several reasons–1) I couldn’t bring many cosmetics into this country, so I had to buy some here, 2) LUSH is much cheaper in this country than it is in America, and 3) I really like what LUSH stands for, and I think their values coincide with my own.  Plus, I’m just probably addicted to the smell of the place.

Now, while I’ve been in this country, my environmental impact has not been what I would like it to be.  As I’ve said before, recycling is not widespread here, and it is nearly impossible to find a place to recycle.  It’s very common to throw out plastic, glass, cans, and paper in the same trash bag, into the same dumpster.  Likewise, there’s no place to compost.  Even more, water is often wasted here–it’s pretty common to leave the water running while washing dishes, brushing teeth, etc. (my roommate is guilty of this, and he’s from England), and sometimes even not shutting the water off properly after bathing, resulting in a lot of water going down the drain.  Now, this water is not exactly potable from the get-go (it must be boiled before you can drink it), but that doesn’t mean it should be wasted.  Thankfully my parents instilled in me the habits of turning off the water while doing mundane tasks, and while my showers sometimes run long, I’m working on that too.

So, what I mean to say is that I’m trying to lessen my environmental impact wherever I can.  This means that if my cosmetics are environmentally friendly, use sustainable harvesting practices, come without packaging, and have mostly natural ingredients…like, sign me up.  I’m so glad to have found LUSH while being here, even though it is still far more expensive than I would like.

The truth is, though, that just buying LUSH products is not enough.  I love what they’re doing, and I think that being trendy is helping them really break into the mainstream cosmetics industry, but I hate seeing so many people on YouTube and other social media just buying LUSH because it’s trendy.  Like, sure, they buy LUSH, and they love getting LUSH products, but they don’t actually have the mentality that LUSH does–or maybe they say they do, but they only say it for the video.  They’ll be like, “I don’t condone animal testing!” and “There’s no packaging, so it’s totally eco-friendly!” but then in the next shot they’re gushing over their mainstream products, which come in plastic bottles and non-recyclable containers, or use harmful chemicals or test on animals.

I realize this.  I realize that enjoying LUSH products is a step in the right direction, but more than that, I’ve realized that it is doable, and necessary, to find and use products that are good for the environment and don’t harm other living things.  And even more than THAT, I’ve realized that my choices as a consumer are a major way in which I can support the practices that are healthy for nature.  So, even though LUSH is very expensive, I want to keep coming back to their company.  I believe in companies like LUSH, and how they’re changing the industry.  I hope their mentality spreads to other industries.

And of course I’m not being paid by LUSH or anybody to say any of this stuff.  But I would definitely recommend them, if not because they’re an awesome company with great values, then because the store smells fabulous.

 

)O(

Blessed be!

 

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Year and a Day Journal #16: January 31, 2016

Being raised Catholic means that I grew up in what seems to be one of the most regimented religions of the Western world.  We have, of course, the Ten Commandments that permeates Christianity (and Judaism, I think, considering the Ten Commandments were given to Moses), but there are innumerable doctrines that we follow also.  (And yes, I still say “we,” despite my current disconnect with the Catholic Church.  When I’m out and about, it is so much easier to identify as Catholic than as anything else, especially in the country I live in right now.)

One of the appealing parts of Witchcraft is that there are not necessarily “rules.”  There’s the end of the Wiccan Rede, which says things like, “Mind the Threefold Laws you should, three times bad and three times good,” and “These eight words the Rede fullfill: ‘An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will’,” which I think is generally a great philosophy to live by.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, there is also the list of the 13 Goals of the Witch, which I talk about in my Year and a Day Journal #9.  The great thing about the 13 Goals is that they are just that–goals.  And really, they are general things that we should all try to do, because they’re pretty much tips on how to be a good human being.  Except for #13, which is to Honor the Goddess and God, all of these goals are basically applicable to everyone on the planet.

Since I’m lacking ideas for journals right now, I thought it would be good to go through each of the goals specifically and do a journal for each of them, so that I can really go into depth.  That will be beneficial for me in two ways: 1) I can focus more on what each goal means to me, and how to improve upon that goal, and 2) I can easily come up with the next 13 journals.  Bonus.

So, for today, I will elaborate on the first of these Goals: Discuss the first Goal of the Witch: Know yourself.

This is a great goal, but right out of the gate I’m going to say that this first goal really illustrates how these are LIFELONG goals, not things to do and be accomplished.  I mean, how can one know oneself in an instant; how can one answer the question, “Who am I?” and never ponder this again?

The answer is, of course, that one can’t do this, and I, specifically, certainly can’t.  Everyday I can wake up and ask myself this question, and I might have a different answer.  In fact, I probably should wake up everyday and ask myself this question.

In a way, though, I do think we ask ourselves this question everyday.  Whenever we have a big decision to make, we think, “What do I want?  What is important to me?”  When we meet new people, we think, “Who is the person I want to portray?”  I think that I question myself each day, sometimes multiple times.  I ask myself who I am and who I want to be, even if I don’t realize I’m doing it.

Right now, for example, I’m looking for a job when I return to the United States.  It’s crazy how much soul-searching goes into just making decisions about employment.  I have to ask myself what kind of job I want ideally, and how much I’m willing to do to get that job, or how much I can sacrifice.  I have to ask myself what is the most important thing to me.  For example, if I were to apply for a job that’s far away from where I live, or that’s primarily in the evening, I would have to ask myself if I’m willing to sacrifice quality time with my family and my boyfriend, because, at least now, they work during the daytime, and I would have to work in the evenings.  I have to ask myself if the salary is worth the work, and I have to ask myself what I’m worth.  Am I worth $10 an hour?  Am I worth more than that?  What do I want in life, and how much money do I have to make to achieve that?

So, I’m asking myself these questions all the time, even if it’s not a direct shout into the void of “WHO AM I?!”  I’m constantly reevaluating my life, in many different ways.  That’s not to say, however, that I don’t have some ideas about who I am.  I know a lot of the things that drive my decisions, and some of the aspects of my character that I can identify and that I cherish.

For example, I’m family-oriented.  I’m friendly.  I want to make people feel happy, and I genuinely care about my friends’ well-being.  I love personal contact, but I love my alone time too.  I love nature, and all things romantic.  I’m a Hufflepuff, too, which means I’m “loyal, patient, fair, determined, and true” (according to Pottermore).

I have some weaknesses.  I can be quite selfish sometimes, and lazy.  Sometimes I’m quite impulsive.  I’m a rule-abider, which isn’t always good (for example, I told my roommate last week that if I were in a distopian novel, I’d never be the rebellious main character.  I’d just be stuck there forever).

I think that there are many more things about me that I am discovering even now, but I’m not worried about the fact that I don’t know all of them yet.  It’s definitely a process that’s ongoing.

The tricky one might be the next one–knowing my Craft!

 

)O(

Blessed be!

 

 

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #15: January 29th, 2016

I spent some time today searching around for good “year and a day” journal prompts, but, to be honest, I didn’t really find a lot of good sites, and also, (SURPRISE!) aspiring Witches are not the only ones coming up with writing ideas for the pretty popular length of 365 or 366 days.  So the search was not entirely fruitful today.  I did come across some more interesting Pagan information on my search, as one might expect, but it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.  For example, there’s even a book called Wicca: A Year and a Day on Amazon, and I thought about buying the Kindle version, but there’s only like $13.75 left on my gift card, and the book was a little over $14, and that seems ridiculous but it is a real obstacle when you are on a tight budget.  Plus, I didn’t know if I could justify buying more books when I’m struggling to read the ones I’ve got.  I also promised my foreign friend here that I would read a very famous book by one of the authors of this country, and I said I’d do that by March, so that’s not looking good.  I’m on like, page four of that.  And I’m trying to learn this country’s language on top of that, which requires some time and effort.

Maybe I’ll do all these things on the weekend.  Except I’ve been invited to a birthday party and nobody parties like the people of this country, so I’m expecting Sunday to be a bust.

Anyway, I guess that I ought to get to the actual journal part of this post.  So, another question that I’m just making up as I go: What do you picture when you think of a Witch?

I think this question is really important for me, which is why I’m addressing it.  As I said in my “If I Went to Hogwarts” post, the desire to be a Witch for me has sometimes been confused with the wish to be a witch, as in like, Hermione Granger.  Who doesn’t want to be able to levitate things, mix up magical potions, or fly?

The thing is, though, that even if I wish I had Hermione’s magical powers, the thing that’s really drawn me to Witchcraft is the back-to-roots feeling of it–turning back to the Earth, being reverent of all life and all things that contribute to this Universe, using natural methods and empowering oneself to make change, instead of waiting around for an unseen God.  When I first started getting seriously interested in Witchcraft, I simply searched that term on Pinterest and what came up was a lot of Bohemian-vibe women who looked like they 1) couldn’t care less about what other people thought, and 2) were experiencing something so universal that it could and should be shared by everybody, if only we’d take a moment to pay attention.

I remember one pin that I really liked–it pictured an elderly woman, sitting in natural-looking, earth-tone clothes, wearing a babushka-style scarf, sewing an herb wreath, surrounded by other drying herbs, and it said in bold white letters, BLESSED BE THE MAGICK OF THE KITCHEN WITCH.

I love that.  I think that it’s amazing how traditions have been passed down, how many of the ancient cultures honored magick, and how that’s survived even to this day.  Not every old lady is the uptight pearl-wearing grandma who always sits in the back pew of the church service so she can start making her way out after Communion (I mean, my grandparents weren’t like that either for the most part, but I’m just making an illustration here).  Some people still believe in the profound joy and reassurance found in nature, and some people want to surround themselves with the old ways.

That’s why my tagline for this blog is “journeying on a new old path,” because this path is new to me, but really it’s got so much heritage.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with adding new touches to the old ways.  If you prefer to wear all black instead of the natural fibers of the bohemian look, that’s pretty badass and I’m with you on that.  I love the different styles Witches have–since they’re all unique–but there’s just some mysterious thread that runs through all of them.  Like they could all sit in a circle in the woods and not even say anything, except this silent secret and everyone’s answer is, “I know.”

I think it’s important to find your own path with Witchcraft, which is what I endeavor to do.  And certainly it’s not just the image of the Witch that keeps me going, but when I think of who I want to be, I hope I fall somewhere in that ballpark.

 

)O(

Blessed be!

 

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #14: January 28th, 2016

After taking a very long break from this blog (not purposefully, but as a result of life, as usual), I’m back.  This time I’m taking things a little differently.  I’m still doing the Year and a Day Journal, but I’m not going to be posting as the day I WISH it was.  Rather I’ll be posting as the day it really is, and I’ll just post until I get to #366, even if it’s four years from now (hopefully it won’t be).  Heck, I might just keep going after that.  People do that, right?  Make series and stuff on blogs?

Since the Year and a Day Journal club was disbanded on social media, I have to look up other sources for interesting spiritual questions.  I’ll do that tomorrow.  Today’s journal is one I’ve come up with for myself, so here goes:

What is the thing that frightens you the most, and how does it impact your spiritual path?

I’m glad you asked, Chloe.

Really, the reason I came up with this question (five seconds ago) is because this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot in the last few days.  As I’ve made pretty clear on this blog, I’m currently working abroad as an English teacher.  I’m in a country I really enjoy and I’m doing something I really like doing, even if it’s not always easy.  Sometimes I’m disgustingly lazy and I don’t want to go to the school, even though teaching is incredibly rewarding, and watching my students improve is awesome.

On the whole, though, the best thing about being in this foreign country is all of the other experiences I’ve had.  Recently I got the opportunity to do a spiritual ritual dip in icy water.  It’s a traditional thing here and I was really happy to have the experience of doing it.  Even if, for me, it wasn’t a vastly spiritual moment–or, at least, it wasn’t in the way you’d expect.  What happened for me was not that it was spiritual in the sense of a baptism, or in the sense of being cleansed or something.  It was spiritual because it was an active step to combat one of my biggest fears, which, at least at the moment, is onism, or the awareness of how little of the universe we’ll experience.

A few days ago I was shown the YouTube series “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows,” which is basically a bunch of videos that highlight various complicated feelings of the human condition.  Lots of them speak to me and have been things that I’ve experienced before–for example, that moment when you’re walking down the street and you realize that each face is the main character in each of their own stories, just like you are in yours.  The series gives names to these feelings, usually taken from other cultures or languages.  While many of them rang true with me, the one that really gutted me was “onism.”  As I said above, it’s the awareness of how little of the universe we’ll experience.  The video talks about how we get to a point where we mourn all the destinations we’ll never get to, all the billions of doors we close to just progress one step in our own lives, all the corners of the map we’ll never fill in with experience.  I was already talking about this obscure sorrow before I had a name for it.  If I go back and look at the posts on my travel blog, I mention how strange it is that when I leave this life, there will be places I’ve never been and things I’ve never done.

I think, at least at this time, this is my biggest fear.

Of course, you can’t prevent this.  It’s not like a fear of spiders or heights or closed spaces, things you can just avoid or tell people about and they’ll get a newspaper as soon as a hairy eight-legged friend makes an appearance.  When you tell people that it freaks you out that you’ll never live every single life, they just kind of shrug and say, “Well, what did you expect?  It’s impossible.”  But that doesn’t help.

Additionally, I can’t decide if it helps or hurts that I have trouble believing in an afterlife.  Maybe if there was this hope of infinite existence, I could feel okay about not completing everything in this life.  But also, it could be even worse if, when I die, I’m stuck in eternal paradise bowing at the feet of Jesus next to a bedazzled Jerusalem when really, I would prefer to be down on Earth getting dirty, if I’m going to go on existing at all.

I suppose the idea of reincarnation would help to make me feel better about onism, but I don’t think I’m ready to commit to that ideology, and really, I don’t know if I ever want to commit to it.  For the last few years, I’ve been pretty content with the idea that we just go into the ground when we die.  Reincarnation sounds like a lot of work, and even though I guess I could be comforted by the fact that I’m at the human stage now, I wouldn’t want to risk the possibility of messing up big-time and coming back as something farther down the pecking order (despite my belief that all things are important and intrinsically valuable).

So how does this fear (is that a good word for it?  It frightens me but it’s not a fear the way spiders or tornadoes do–it’s more of a general awe and terror) affect my spirituality in the now, and not just in my philosophy of the afterlife?  Well, as I’ve been in this foreign country, this frightening aspect of life has been a major force in encouraging me to take every opportunity.  So far, I’ve almost never turned down an invitation or a suggestion to do something.  If my friends invite me to partake in something (that’s not illegal or really stupid), I’ll do it.  Because I already know that my life is very limited, and who am I to turn down these opportunities to have experiences, to at least transfer these very small things from the “haven’t yet done” list to the “did it” list.  I don’t know if this behavior is entirely spiritual; we hear a lot about people who spend their lives in the desert or as recluses, pondering religion and becoming more spiritual.  But for me, this action is, in itself, a spiritual thing.  It gives me joy, which is, I think, a feeling of the spirit.

I can’t say for sure whether or not this onism is going to go as far as to affect what I choose for a spiritual path, but so far it has definitely been a driving force in my life, and it has led me to do positive things in the constant fight to live a life full of as many experiences as possible, which I think is a very spiritual concept.

)O(