My relationship with Alexandria Bull began over the internet years ago, and most recently ended up in the very last volume of Many Moons. A couple of years ago, when Many Moons first came out, people would write me, and I would write them back. (I had more time, less emails, and more energy then!) Alexandria was one of them. We struck up a correspondence, and began following one another on Instagram.
One day, she sent me a photo of her grandmother, Pema Chödrön, reading a quote that I had cited from her, in Many Moons. It was a bit surreal—Pema, the Buddhist nun, writer, and teacher, had gotten me through many dark days with her books over the years, specifically When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.
Alexandria continues on in her grandmother's footsteps. She is a writer and mindfulness practitioner, who is currently working on a book about her grandmother. It only seemed natural to ask Alexandria to collaborate with her grandmother for the very last Many Moons. Together, they offered a beautiful piece on ancestral healing. Below, I asked Alexandria about witchcraft, Buddhism, mindfulness, and how her and her grandmother have healed family relationships together.
You are both a practicing Buddhist and a Witch. I'd love to hear about the ways in which these different identities and practices weave together in your life and practice.
Identifying as a Buddhist and a Witch, in my experience, feel like one in the same. There is so much overlap between the two traditions, and I think that they compliment each other beautifully. Buddhist culture is historically male dominated, and including magical rituals in my practice often makes it a lot easier to resonate with teachings that were originally intended for a male audience, while incorporating Buddhist meditation into my spellwork and magical practices helps me keep and eye on my ego and pushes me to actually do the work. That being said, I do try to be precise in the way I work with Buddhism and magic together to ensure that I’m altering my practice in a way that enriches my awareness, rather than giving me room to not hold myself accountable.
You are interested in mindfulness based education. Can you briefly share a couple of simple ways to practice mindfulness? What are a few tangible ways a committed mindfulness practice has positively transformed your life?
My main daily practice is just a basic sitting meditation, which I typically do in the morning and return to throughout the day if I feel like I need a moment to reset. I’m prone to cycles of a sort of zoomy laziness--where instead of engaging with the present moment or my work, I’ll keep myself as busy as possible with useless chores and tasks so it feels like I’m being productive rather than avoidant. Practicing before I begin my day nips this tendency in the bud by helping me cultivate a more genuine relationship with myself--which in turn makes it pretty difficult to get attached to empty routines that aren’t serving me.
For your piece in Many Moons, you and your grandmother, Pema Chödrön, did a piece on intergenerational karmic healing. What was that like? Did you learn anything new about your grandmother, or your relationship with your grandmother as a result of this process?
This piece gave us an opportunity to do some mild Wikapedia-ing about distant relatives in my grandmother’s family history that she grew up hearing stories about, which she then went on to tell my brothers and I when we were kids. One of her great uncles took his own life, and she’s always felt that he did so because of the pressure his parents put on him to meet their impossible expectations. It turns out she didn’t account for the fact that this great uncle had also stumbled upon a massacre that had left his father and eighteen other people dead, and articles are still being written today about his PTSD.
After learning this we both agreed that maybe his mental state had a little bit more to do with the murder situation than it did his mother being disapproving and strict.
What is your current favorite Moon phase? Why?
First Quarter! The Waxing Moon always makes me reflect on structure and efficiency in a way that feels very calm and constructive.
What are a couple of things that you are excited about?
I’ve lived in the Bay Area most of my life, and somehow only just discovered the East Bay Meditation Center. Their programs and focus is really refreshing, and I’m looking forward to doing more with them.
Also, Courtney Barnett’s new album “Tell Me How You Really Feel.” It was released last month, but I’m still excited. She is a force of nature.