This blog is part 2 of a 3 part series on Lessons from a Month of Seeking Magic. Haven’t read part 1? Check it out here.
““Seeking magic daily taught me the importance of getting OUT of my little bubble of house and into the world.
It taught me that glow and glimmer are real things (more on that in part 2).
It taught me that magic doesn’t always strike twice– I only saw the dragonflies on the wall once in the 31 days– being present to magic lets you witness things you might not see again.
Some things feel magical every time you see them– like the lights on the columns on the one house.” – From Lessons from a Month of Seeking Magic Part 1
If you asked me why I started to do a month of seeking magic, I would tell you it was because I was craving magic in my daily life. If you asked why I ventured outdoors for daily walks without distractions of music or going outside during times I knew my neighbourhood would be busy, I don’t know if I would have had the best description for the most scientific, thought out, well-rounded answer. The truth would have been, ‘because that’s what I felt I needed’, which may sound equal parts vague and mystical.
During the pandemic, daily walks (even throughout the winter months which, from 2020 into 2021, were unseasonably warm) were the daily reprieve and nourishment I needed. It was space away from it all to daydream and catch snowflakes in my mittens and gaze at them from all sorts of angles to see their unique beauty and contemplate how the Divine created everything so big and wondrous but also the intricate beauty of each individual snowflake that tends to just pile up as we, with angst, shovel it into piles and wish it would go away. These daily walks worked wonders on my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
So, what seemed natural to me when I was feeling in a slump, was to take those daily walks and seek big magic to feel connected to something bigger and greater than I. I craved BIG magic, and I felt the tension of craving more while wanting to be content with the life I have. This led to chats with my spiritual director about how it’s not ‘but’, but instead, could be approached with ‘and’. I am content AND I crave.
In quiet spaces of reflection with the acknowledged presence of God all around me, the answer to my feelings came naturally, intuitively– to get outside and seek magic daily. It didn’t require endless reflection to come this conclusion; just the space of silence where I could really tune into the person God made me to be, look back on moments with God in my history with the Divine, and acknowledge the invitation from God to me here and now.
The benefits of being outside in nature are plentiful. We know being surrounded by nature is positively impactful for your overall well-being (and yes, there’s science to back that up if you need it. I recommend just going outside and having your own first-hand experience). But, I didn’t know the scientific benefits of seeking magic…
In my every day scrolls on Instagram, an enneagram 9 account I followed shared a post from @heydrjustine titled ‘Glimmers, Glows & Your Nervous System’. Clearly a title of a post that would draw me in instantly, I quickly devoured the content and then sat in the fullness of God’s goodness.
I shared the post on my own Instagram stories with the following words:
“Isn’t it cool when you do a practice (for me; morning walks seeking what feels like magic) and then you find out there’s actual science behind the intuitive practice you’re enjoying?
So cool there’s actually names for this! Seeking the ‘glimmers’ and letting them turn into ‘glows’ has been my daily practice this month even before I knew the name.
God is so cool.”
I know, you’re sitting there thinking ‘Tell me about Glimmers and Glows already!”
So here we go!
Glimmers and Glows (terms coined by Deb Dana) are the opposite of Triggers.
Triggers activate your stress response and dysregulate your nervous system. They activate your fight/flight/freeze response in your body.
Glimmers and Glows (glows being an expanded glimmer) activate and expand ventral vagal energy! This stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system and, more specifically, the state in which you feel calm, connected, and grounded.
Noticing Glimmers and Glows helps you stay regulated! (Note, with polyvagal theory, the dorsal vagal nerve network, on the other hand, is when your body sometimes decides it’s better to physically and mentally “check out.” That’s called dissociation. The ventral vagal nerve network is what is stimulated when we notice glimmers and glows).
You can actually shape your nervous system by intentionally seeking out glimmers! Glimmers are often missed, especially if you are rushing through you day from one thing to another, taking in endless amounts of information, endless scrolling on social media, etc. Dr. Justine says that when you find a glimmer, take a moment to really notice how it shows up in your body. You may notice a slight smile on your face, a feeling of warmth, a spark. Name it to yourself.
*sound like seeking magic to anyone?*
If you have more time available when you notice a glimmer, Dr. Justine says to stay with the felt-sense of it for 30 seconds or longer. Notice what happens to your body sensations, emotions, and thoughts as you stay with it. Noticing a blooming flower may go from a burst of joy erupting in the chest (glimmer) to a slight smile, to wrinkling around the eyes, eyes softening back, and a permeating feeling of connectedness (glow).
Intentionally noticing Glimmers and expanding them to Glows are important because, as Dr. Justine says, human beings are wired with a negativity bias (to pay attention to negative events). This attentional bias can be applied for people with trauma-related disorders, depression, and anxiety. Glimmers and glows can help you stay regulated.
Dr. Justine shared a few tips for ‘Finding Glimmers – noticing micro-moments of ventral vagal energy’ which include; How you feel inside when something beautiful catches your eye. The sensation of tasty things. The warmth of the sun or breeze on your face.Seeing a friendly face. Moments of connection and belongingness. Pleasant sounds.
Reading through her post I was drawn to the ways I so intuitively seek out the glimmers and turn them into glows in my own life;
From my daily walks where I would ask myself, ‘what feels like magic?’ and notice the sensations in my body and the way they would linger after, to acknowledging my draw to ‘ambiance’ with music and an environment that creates extended ‘glow’ moments as I live my daily life, to even partnering this information with my knowledge of the power of the breath to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, it felt like connecting stars in a constellation you knew was there but didn’t have the map to connect the points together.
“God is so cool” is a phrase I use often during these little moments of insight.
Moments of awe and wonder at the Creator of Awe and Wonder are one thing that keep me coming back to sitting in the presence of Love and Mystery and Beauty and Magic (all capitalized words being other names for God that I feel, in the moment, express my personal connection and intimacy with God). These moments of insight, where science catches up with what God created to be in true inside of us, to witness the world around us; the trees and the sky and the flowers and the faces of others, and to have that activate and expand our ventral vagal energy that calms us, just allows us to be in a more receptive and loving state of engaging with the world. Perhaps, you could say, it allows us to engage in a more loving and peaceful (shalom peace, reconciling peace) with the entirety of creation around us.
How are you seeking magic? How are you noticing the glimmers and letting them turn into glows? How are you allowing the lingering glow to impact how you interact with the world around you?