Five ways to work with stones

There are lots of different ways to use stones. My methods are informed by neuroplasticity, somatic therapy, yoga, and Pagan practices. I have organized these methods into five groups:

  1. To gain insight and/or subconscious learning: meditate with stone
  2. To bring focus to the body and hopefully transform bodily sensations: place on the body, on a chakra or an area where emotion manifests (somatic emotions)
  3. As a reminder talisman to maintain personal intention and/or focus, also to provide comfort and support by looking at or touching stone: carry stone in a pocket, place nearby on desk, or wear as jewelry, for instance
  4. To set an intention and release to the universe in ritual
  5. To send support and/or healing energy to others through long distance connections

I have employed #3 most frequently, but am increasingly using the other four.

Here’s an example for #2: I was having difficulty concentrating and getting any work done. I felt like my mind was racing a mile a minute. I selected a Blue Lace Agate as my companion for the day, and when I found myself at a real loss, not knowing what to do next, I decided to grab the stone and lie on my floor. I placed the stone on my 3rd eye chakra, just above where my eyebrows meet, and closed my eyes. Then, without any prompting from me, my cat Hugo came over and laid down on my torso, applying gentle pressure to my solar plexus chakra. I relaxed there for a few minutes, and when I decided I was ready again, Hugo jumped off, and I sat up. It was a reset.

During my yoga training, and through my own practice, I’ve learned that I find some somatic comfort from gentle pressure on my 3rd eye and on my upper abdomen. I can do this practice with the stones to help set my intention, and commit some part of my brain to this goal of greater calm and ease. Hugo’s involvement is just a bonus.

My first exposure to the benefits of pressure on the 3rd eye came from Bo Forbes, and the pose she calls “Blockasana.” It’s a really good one to add to your restorative practice.

Stones: to do the work I need to do

I pick up the small stone in my left hand and rub my thumb along the smooth edges. I hold it up to the desk lamp to see the deep purple glassy triangle pattern that is otherwise nearly invisible. Water flows into my crown chakra, up and over, streaming down through my aura, washing away the latest layer of guilt.Determined to overcome the procrastination borne of my fears, I tuck the amethyst into my left pocket and focus on keeping my thoughts in line with my goals. 

I find a blank 15-minute planner sheet, write Wednesday on the top, and schedule out my day. I come to the row for 12:30 and I remember that email I should send…wait should I send it now? I reach my hand into my pocket and grasp the stone again. No, I’m planning right now, so I’ll add sending that email to my schedule for the day. It’ll get done; I need to trust myself. I get down to 4:15 and decide to leave the next hour blank, in case earlier tasks go beyond my scheduled allotments. I nod, set the plan to the side, retrieve the amethyst from my pocket, and return it to my stone box.

This just might work.

I’m obsessed with my own productivity. I never have enough of it, and I lament the days when I juggled so many activities that I only ate on the run and never sat still and “relaxed” for more than a few minutes at a time. Was I happy then? No, but I was too busy to have to feel all the hard feelings stuffed inside my body.

I got to a breaking point about eight years ago. Circumstances conspired to force me out of my modus operandi. And I haven’t yet mastered a new system for the me I am now. The me who sometimes still gets PTSD triggers, who apparently has had ADHD all along, and fears falling back into that suicidal depression that never seems fully out of reach. The me who desperately wants to do more and be more, who feels so many untold stories in her bones and whose muscles feel so much work left to do. She—I—need to figure out a way to be in this world, to feel like I have some right to keep living this life, to believe I’m making good use of my time.

I’ve read so many books and tried so many methods. My flailing desperation leaves me more exhausted than I ever felt when I juggled dozens of extracurriculars or multiple simultaneous careers. Feeling and thinking takes way more out of me than doing ever could.

WHAT IS THIS ABOUT, REALLY?

I know there is power in the world, and there is power within us. Everything has energy: living things and inanimate objects. Some people believe stones have a power all their own, and that simply placing a stone on an ache will help heal it. I don’t personally believe that, but I certainly am not bothered by anyone who does. Some call these stones “crystals,” highlighting their metaphysical capabilities. To me, they are “stones.” Specifically, they are touchstones that I can use to know myself better and gauge how I’m handling the challenges I face. The stones provide focal points, avenues to healing and right action. They help me clear my mind and my spirit for the important work I am called to do.

My stone work is based upon the central importance of intention. To do anything well, we must be clear about our aims and our intended outcome. We must sift through the maelstrom of feelings and thoughts and focus on specifics. When we struggle with old wounds or procrastitasks, there are specific emotions or thought patterns stuck on repeat. We likely have physical sensations emerge—again and again—as we keep trying to get past whatever is in the way of our forward momentum.

And it’s overwhelming, all the body feelings, and emotions, and self-talk. We cannot tackle it all at once. We need to break it down into digestible and dismantlable chunks. That is how I use the stones.

I work with the four basic elements: air, fire, water, and earth. Many spiritual traditions recognize a fifth element, called spirit or ether. I do not deny the existence of this element, but instead focus on the four that are more readily visible and tangible to people who are not accustomed to working with elemental energies.

I work with seven chakras: root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye, and crown. Excellent explanations of the chakras abound in books and even online sources. My methods simply require you to recognize these seven areas within your body and your immediate energy field. You may feel your root chakra at the base of your spine, between your knees, on the soles of your feet, or even a bit below you into the ground or floor. The sacral chakra is located beneath the navel, and the solar plexus above. The heart is central in your chest, and the throat chakra is in your neck or between your collarbones. The third eye may be between your eyebrows or in the center of your forehead. You may feel your crown chakra at the top of your brain, on your scalp, or just above your head. 

This is my task: to integrate information from myriad sources and employ the stones in my collection to heal the pieces of the me I am now. So I can become the me I need to be.

Wanna come along for the ride?

Learn, damnit

I’ve finished the first draft of my Stones Tables and have started working with them. I’m hitting quite a snag though, in that at least one third of the stones in my tables are not yet in my hands, they are somewhere in a post office distribution center. I have two sizable orders en route for nearly a month now. Good times.

Some of my purchases were spurred by general interest, but a number of the stones are new to me. I’ll credit Yulia Van Doren’s delightful Crystals: The Modern Guide to Crystal Healing for introducing me to Cobalto Calcite, Rainbow Fluorite, Rhodonite, and Rutilated Quartz. Can’t wait til I get my hands on those.

This morning I’m continuing to familiarize myself with my new CRM (customer relationship management) program. It feels foreign to me, and there’s a lot of jargon to sift through, so I’m calling on my stones for some help. I look at my Learning table:

I’d really like to grab an Ametrine or Rainbow Fluorite, but alas, they are still “en route.” Instead I select Red Jasper and Sunstone.

They’re both associated with root and sacral chakras and with fire. RJ also earth, S also solar plexus. I hold the stones in my hands, in my lap, and close my eyes. I feel fire energy from the soles of my feet up to my solar plexus, just above my navel. I breathe in the warmth, gently exhaling to stoke the flames. I feel the earthy fire energy in red-hot coals from the base of my spine into my low back. I commit to moving forward. I envision my focus like a laser beam for the work ahead. I blink my eyes open and set the stones aside. So mote it be.

You say “Crystals,” I say “Stones”

I’ve always found it strange to call these lumps of rock “crystals,” like we’re trying to be fancier than necessary. Granted, the name likely originated because we often work with minerals that have a visible crystalline form, but not all of the stones we use have that form. So I say “Stones” to mean any of the substances I’m working with, whether clear quartz points or tumbled malachite or a chunk of amber or an Ammonite fossil.

A few months ago I began what has become a quite large project working with these stones. I’ve had some specimens for decades, but hadn’t previously been very deliberate. I’ve always felt called to tiger eye and carnelian, even getting some jewelry. I had eschewed rose quartz simply for its color and clear quartz simply for its ubiquity. Silly.

So I started over, got some books, and started exploring this world more earnestly. I’m gathering information about elemental and chakra associations, mineral composition, and areas of origin. I’m compiling notes on how the stones could be used for motivation and healing and divination. Though some practitioners use stones for physical ailments, I do not.

This work fascinates me and I always look forward to getting back to this project. My next goal is a set of tables that show me a set of stones I could call on for specific purposes.

Here’s a work-in-progress table for stones to help me with anger and irritability. Columns denote chakra and colors denote elemental associations: red=fire, green=earth, blue=water, yellow=air. In some cases, stones are associated with more than one element, at least according to my research. I’m not sure I’ll retain all of the elemental or chakra associations as I continue.

The capital letters denote my categorizations of the main properties each stone addresses, among calm, energize, ground, heal, manifest, and protect. And the italicized bits are mantras I can use with each.

For instance, suppose something happens that irritates me, and I cannot get my mind off what happened. Suppose I realize this is a pattern, I always get annoyed when this happens, and then I get stuck in the anger. I check this chart and I find Blue Chalcedony to “release anger patterns.” The element is water, the chakras are root, sacral, throat, and 3rd eye. I have some options here. I could choose among the chakras, or work with all. I decide to hold a tumbled Blue Chalcedony in my hands, I close my eyes, and I breathe. I bring my awareness to my anger, noting if I feel it in any particular part of my body. Then I bring my awareness to my 3rd eye, and as I exhale, I envision cooling water flowing down from my 3rd eye, through my throat, down through my sacral chakra, through my root, and into the earth below, washing over the anger in me. I inhale again, and exhale another wave of water. I continue until I feel like stopping. I place the stone to the side, and return to work.

If my mind returns to the anger, I can pick up the stone. Perhaps I just need a reminder, and I can set it down again. Perhaps I repeat the exercise.

Is this stone magically taking my anger away? No! Well, yes!

What’s magic anyway?

I believe in magic and I believe in science. One place they meet? Neuroplasticity. I know I need to rewire my brain if I’m going to really heal from the crap I’ve been through, if I’m really going to do the work I need to do.

These stones will help me rewire. I just know it. Like when Thorn asked us, during a Pearl Pentacle class, what do we know? I know this. I feel this in my skin and my bones and my blood and my breath.

So mote it be.

Breathe

I never let you go on ahead before.

Supple and thick leathery skin, smooth ridges along your
Back, where I rest my hand while we walk.

You breathe fire for me You
Breathe for me

I called you forth every day, every, every, day, every
Ev-e-ry time I had to face them.

I lowered my head and blinked my eyes open and
Shut and I reached out my hand. My palm
Found you. I didn’t really
Trust you, but I had
No one else.

I simply pretended to be you.

And now I know you are not here Have
You decided I no longer need you That can
Not be true It is not true But you went on
Ahead anyway

And I let you go, I must have. Maybe
I see you, faintly at the horizon. Framed
By the setting sun.

Turn around and face me.

Don’t leave me Is this
Place safe I’m looking a-
Round and I guess It
Seems safe enough, so you
Must have been here and
Approved it but I see no papery
Thin scales to reveal your
Presence Maybe I am
Not looking hard enough or
Maybe you weren’t here long
Enough to shed

I don’t want to be
Too demanding But we
Are not yet finished I
Am not yet finished I
May be safer but that
Does not mean I am
Safe

And I cannot breathe my
Own fire.

Imagine Dragon

Is this where I am now? Talking about it, writing about it. I imagine those who know me have already tired of my sharing. A reveal (and the surprise and/or empathy and/or pity) is really all they need or want.

But may I write anyway? For as long and as often as I feel compelled? May I put this out into the ether, may I share it? For in sharing I don’t want anyone I know to feel obligated to keep reading. But I need to have this out there where it could be discovered, because I don’t want to be ashamed anymore. I don’t want to keep keeping secrets.

I want to be a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear me. Because I still make a sound.

Aside: It’s safer to fall when no one I know hears my crashing. But I want to be able to be vulnerable enough that i am not alone in the forest.


Angry Business man

I’m tired of not knowing how best to answer the ubiquitous question, “How did you go from economics professor to this?” But I’m amassing options.

The pithy: Well, most economists are assholes. Most plants are not.

{chuckle, chuckle}

Aside: No, you are not an economist if you minored in econ, or had a bachelor’s in econ, or even a master’s in econ. You may nonetheless be an asshole, but you are not the specific kind of asshole addressed here.

The not-telling-the-real-truth-so-help-me-god: I got into economics because I wanted to understand economic wellbeing, but it turns out that most people in the field just want to know how to get richer and richer.

The dipping-my-toes-in: Honestly, it was a really hostile work environment, and I just had to get out.

The bold and bald-faced: Well, I got tenure. (Oh, you had tenure? *shock and awe* Yeah, and a 6-figure salary.) And then I went on my sabbatical to Cornell. While there, I got a call asking me to come back and chair the department. And then there was a series of threatening and abusive incidents with no real administrative response. I wasn’t safe there. I was diagnosed with acute stress disorder, then post traumatic stress disorder and severe depression. I began planning to kill myself, and when my husband realized it, he begged me to leave. So I did.

Cue one or more of:

  • Silence. (This could be discomfort around mental health issues, particularly suicide. Or maybe they’re thinking: holy shit, TMI much? I didn’t want to hear that, I don’t know you that well, why are you telling me this?)
  • Yeah, I have PTSD too. (Followed by exposition, which I find both annoying and comforting. Hey, why are you making this about you? And thank you for not making me say any more.)
  • Wow, I had no idea. (Um, yay? I hid it really well, right? But then maybe that means you think it couldn’t have been that bad, since you didn’t know I’ve been in such pain. I’m not fucked up enough to deserve your support or empathy. So why is it taking me so long to be Better?)
  • That really sucks. I’m so sorry to hear that happened to you. (I guess this is the best possible response, right? But I don’t know what to do with it. Thank you? Say more? Change the subject?)

What do we do with this pile of crap I just tossed on the floor between us?

Aside: My gross income in 2018 was one thousand six hundred dollars and fifty cents.


Inside of Batu Caves temple. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Famous nati

My options were to kill myself or go be with my husband and spend an indefinite amount of time in misery.

May I tell you another secret? I’m still not sure I made the right choice. And I don’t know if I will ever feel that I made the right choice.


I had to imagine a dragon walked me to campus, in order to get myself to go.

Every day at some point I shut my office door, turned off the lights, crawled under my desk, and cried.

I never answered the phone because I didn’t know if it would be someone yelling at me.

I rarely checked my email because I didn’t know what mean and nasty shit I’d find there.

I started drinking by 3pm most days, and kept drinking until I passed out around 2am. (I don’t think I admitted this publicly before.)

Aside: I didn’t try to get drunk, but I was self-medicating to dull the pain–like someone who takes ibuprofen everyday. I don’t seem to get chemically addicted, thanks to my genes, I guess. As soon as I moved to Philly, I immediately drank less. I could get through most days with less or none because I felt just a smidgen more safe. 

I remember watching myself acting like I was okay, being playful in my bellydance classes, displaying compassion while advising econ majors, smiling while up onstage, as though I was having fun. I remember that I got shit done, I paid my bills, I showed up for classes. Who was that person? The skin she wore wasn’t mine.

I didn’t attend a single department meeting during my last semester. I stopped cleaning the house. I stopped showing up to committee meetings. I got a disability accommodation to only have to be on campus two days per week. I didn’t finish the grant I co-PI’d. I didn’t finish a class I taught at another university. (That still fills me with great shame.) As soon as the semester ended, I disappeared from my former life. I put all of it in a box and taped it shut, though it was bursting at the seams. Then a trigger would hit me, and one of the seams would burst open, so I frantically gathered what fell out and stuffed it back inside. More tape, but still not enough…the triggers kept coming.

Here’s something I’m working on

Don’t know where this is going to go, but here’s what I have so far.

Productivity for people who get triggered

My body reacts whenever I get triggered. My blood pressure rises, heart rate increases, cheeks flush, I sweat and sweat and sweat, and my hands and feet go cold and numb. If it’s a rough trigger I also start shaking. My thoughts fixate; I cannot get myself to think about something else, no matter how hard I try. I may get stuck there for a while, but I nearly always devolve into a depressive response. The urge to fall to the floor and curl up in a little ball under my desk is almost unbearable. Sometimes I give in, like I did when I was in the trauma situation. I don’t know if I feel safer down there, but what else can I do? I need to hide. My body feels lethargic, heavy, my jaw clenches, I hunch forward, my hands and feet are still cold numb, and I have a low-level headache for which I cannot justify an anti-inflammatory. My abdomen feels like it’s eating itself. I’m probably holding back tears. I cannot make myself do even the things I want to do, unless I am beholden to someone who expects me to be somewhere. That’s why I don’t make more social plans.

 

Working at my desk makes me vulnerable to all sorts of triggers, but I need to work at my desk. Who doesn’t? That’s why I ended up doing landscaping and tree service. The plants don’t trigger me.

 

But it’s January and I am not out with the plants. I’m sitting here at my desk on my computer or jotting down a schedule for the day or checking due dates or rifling through my ’next action’ index cards. Next actions, you can kiss my ass. I love the getting things done method, in theory. I’ve been able to make it work sometimes. But when I’m triggered, I hate that damn box of cards.

 

Productivity gurus are assholes. I finally realize that. I have assumed that the-me-I-am-now just sucks at productivity. See, I used to be a productivity champion. The sheer volume of tasks and roles and identities I juggled simultaneously…I know it was impressive. Then my life fell apart and I got diagnosed with ptsd and I couldn’t stop thinking about killing myself. Even when I was out around people—at a derby party or putting on makeup backstage before a show—I was still thinking about how much I wanted to be dead. Smiling and laughing…death, please.

 

How much of procrastination is about laziness? Mine never has been. How ‘bout yours? It’s okay if it has, or is. I envy lazy people. My mom never let me be lazy. She often scolded me for being irresponsible, though the evidence suggests I was way beyond the appropriate level of responsible-ness for a teenager. So I’ll show up even when I can barely muster the energy to walk out the door. Not showing up is a luxury I have only recently allowed myself, and only on rare occasions. Sounds strange, I know, but if I cancel on you last minute, it is the highest of compliments. It is probably because I think our relationship is strong enough that you’d want me to take care of myself, and for that I love you very much. I don’t cancel on people I can’t stand. If I show up it’s because I feel okay or I don’t know you yet. Or I know you and I don’t like you.

 

Procrastination also isn’t about Fear Of Failure. At least not entirely.

 

I procrastinate because I have been triggered, and no glut of productivity hacks or innovative journaling styles or motivational podcasts will get me back to work.

 

I don’t know the difference between “I don’t want” to do the thing and “I can’t” do the thing. Maybe I can’t because I don’t want to. I don’t want to have to sit in the feelings—the physical feelings—that hijack my attention. I don’t want to find or revisit that trigger that lives around or inside that thing on my to do list. And that thing, and that thing. Where is the thing on my to do list that is trigger-free?