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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.



My uncle Svevo, who also happens to be my favorite person in the entire world, takes more joy and delight in the unexpected than anyone I know.

Whenever he visits Hoppy House, I know that he’ll bring along crumpled paper bags filled with marvelous and unlikely things.

A loaf of bread he baked on top of his pot-bellied stove. A toy chicken that lays pretend eggs. A ridiculously enormous supply of my favorite feta. Beeswax candles. Something he found in the woods that makes a good tea or an unusual snack. Like pine tips.*

* I just found this entertaining post about pine tips. See also this one for recipes.

Once — at a wedding — he gave me a toy car wrapped in old newspapers in a shoebox inside of a shoebox inside of another shoebox. The car was blue. The real present was in the trunk.

I could go on.

Widdershins! One of his favorite words.

Widdershins comes from the fantastic German word widersinnig (of course it does!), which means something like against common sense.

I think of it more as against the grain. Which is basically my uncle.

Widdershins means taking a course contrary to the apparent motion of the sun — or going in a direction opposite to the usual.

Yes. Going in a direction opposite to the usual.

It is also quite fun to say. Widdershins!

Like opposite day, only better.

When I go for a walk in the park with my uncle, he says, Let’s go Widdershins! Do you want to?

And we do. I didn’t even realize that I always walked around the park the same way, but it feels weird and awesome to go the other way. It’s brain-tingly. Same same but different.

Svevo told me that when he teaches P.E. (he’s a sometimes substitute teacher at an elementary school), the kids unconsciously run around the track or play their games exactly the same way.

He taught them Widdershins! And now whenever he teaches, they ask “ooh, can we please do it widdershins?”

It’s magic. I love it so much.

And like on Rally.

When we’re on Rally (Rally!), I am constantly reminding people about another useful phrase, this one in Hebrew:

Meshaneh makom meshaneh mazal.

It means: Change your place. Change your luck.

It means: when you change perspective, your fortune changes too.

In my experience, the people who struggle most with their projects during Rally are often the same people who don’t move around. They stay mostly in the same room, the same position, the same attitude.

When we flail the shivanautical flail, they’re usually standing in the same place and getting frustrated about the same mistakes (in Shiva Nata mistakes are what we’re going for).

It’s not always fun to mix things up. And of course, safety first — you don’t want to ignore your comfort zone.

But if you can change your perspective? Do it. Widdershins!

And like Pineapple Upside Down days.

Pineapple Upside Down days are what I call weekends.

I’ve been deep in the practice of Not Working Weekends for several months now, and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

The thing that has helped most is not thinking of them as weekends.

Now I think of Saturday and Sunday as the days when everything is unlike how it normally is.

I take down the pirate duck flag (the Jolly Selma!) and raise the flag of Upside Down.

It is imaginary. And it features a carton of take-out with the invisible slogan Thai food for breakfast!

Not that that’s what I do. It’s just the symbol of Everything Is Different Now. How is this night different from all other nights? Etc etc. Widdershins!

You learn a pattern. You take it apart.

You use the new pattern to take apart the old one. But you can’t get too attached to the new one either because the next one will be even crazier.


The things that are most important in life and in business.

Oh, everything is like this now?! Okay. Got it. I can handle that.

That is power. Accepting the new way, and also accepting that it won’t always be the new way. Good for the body and good for the brain. Widdershins!

And like yesterday.

I was rewriting the page about the September training.

Now known as:

The Shivanautical Academy of Hilarity and Play presents the most brilliant, fun and sparkly training ever!

And it was so damn hard.

I knew what I wanted to say but not how to say it, and I kind of … stopped believing that I ever could.

So I threw ten thousand panicking temper tantrums about how impossible it was.

But then I remembered about going the opposite direction.

Once I’m going an opposite way, it almost doesn’t matter in opposite of what.

I can start at the end and reverse-engineer. Or go randomly. Or tear everything up and start over. The point is, not in the way that I would normally go.

And it worked. Widdershins! Yes, I can’t stop.

Apply to anything and stir.

So. Comment zen for today!

Here’s what I would love:

  • Many happy exclamations of Widdershins!
  • Ideas, examples and stories about approaching things in an unlikely way or turning something around.
  • I would also appreciate some rejoicing with me over having finished the page.

That is all. As always, we all have our stuff and we’re all working on our stuff. We own our stuff, and we’re respectful of other people’s stuff.

Love all around. And exclamation points. Widdershins!

26 Responses to Widdershins!

  1. Kathleen Avins
    Twitter: spiralsongkat

    I love the new Shiva Nata training page! I read it this morning, and it just made me feel so good.

    Reading about your uncle Svevo always reminds me of my uncle David, who is a musician and a dancer and a choreographer and a director and a teacher and an inspiration and deliciously funny and altogether magical.


    Right now, I’m taking a few minutes to approach my pre-existing relationship to the word “widdershins” in a widdershins way.

    Often, when I’m doing pagan/Witchy stuff, I think of widdershins as a direction for releasing things, letting them go, sending and scattering and deconstructing, as opposed to deosil (the sunwise motion), which I associate with building and strengthening and pulling things in.

    But the thing is — of course, of course — when you release something, when you let it go, you make room for something else. Something new. So widdershins is a necessary direction for building new things. It breaks new ground. It clears the space.

    Oh, and I’m also thinking about one of my favorite swimming pool games from childhood, where we’d move around and around the pool (pretty much always sunwise to start with, come to think of it, how about that?) building up the current of the water, and then turn around and go the other direction, and feel that resistance, moving into it and enjoying it. Lovely!
    Kathleen Avins recently posted… Things that bring me back to myself…

  2. Pam
    Twitter: moonslar

    I love the concept of Widdershins…
    As a Wiccan I have always equated “Widdershins” to mean undoing the negative… “deosil” (with the sun) is for creating good, and widdershins is for undoing things that are going wrong :) in my world…
    Pam recently posted… Wishcast Wednesday- What is your money wish

  3. Karen
    Twitter: violetdelirium

    I love the idea of widdershins. It’s like learning that I can still do a handstand as an adult. Everything is better when I’m upside-down.

  4. Tori Deaux
    Twitter: ToriDeaux

    Widdershins, Widdershins, Snihsreddiw!

    I used to do a “Contrary Coyote” thing, where I did stuff intentionally wrong, only to have it turn out to be unintentionally right, after all.

    ‘Cause if you chase your tail in a circle, it doesn’t much matter which way you twirl, you’ll still wind up in the same place, falling over giggling and dizzy. Which is serious fun in any direction!
    Tori Deaux recently posted… Put down That Metaphor- Ma’am!

  5. andrea
    Twitter: gocreativedream

    Totally rejoicing about how outrageously great the new page is and how outrageously much I want to go.

    Widdershins! Widdershins! Widdershins!
    andrea recently posted… Creative Journaling The Fear Gremlin Map of DOOM

  6. Isolde says:

    I read half the book “what the internet is doing to our brains”.

    Have you ever tried to change OS?

    Even for a second, if I want to play with a mac I’m completely thrown and I feel stupid. That book talks about how engraved our human-machine interaction patterns are.
    You don’t even think anymore.

    The way you move your fingers across a gadget.. the way you already know the order in which you will visit the daily websites in the morning. Even how your hand seems to think faster than your head and closes a screen that you intended to minimize. When I read that book, or half of it actuallty (because I got tired), I panicked and I tried to break all my patterns at once.

    I tried to do things in reverse. I deleted all my taskbar bookmarks and replaced them with random things. I sign off my accounts everyday just so I have to -at least!- remember my login and password. I changed the toothbrush holder to the right side of the sink. I changed shampoo bottles to the “north” side of the tub…

    I try to take a different route to work at least every three days (except when I’m late, my default ride is the fastest).

    However, routine is comforting too and I love my breakfast routine, even though I keep telling myself I should change it once in a while.
    That the world won’t implode.

    But yea, scrambling the order of things is great for waking up!

  7. Elisa says:

    When I moved my bed from the left side of the room to the right side, I had to get used getting out of bed on a different side and it was quite disorienting for a while but refreshing at the same time. I felt like I had a whole new room!

  8. Jane
    Twitter: JaneOfArdis

    Widdershins! A fantabulous word and one that makes me feel like I could be about to step into Discworld.

    Change your place, change your luck – I like this – perhaps especially because I know I tend keep on banging against the same wall…but it’s a pattern that’s changing. Even if it’s just a little bit.

  9. Darcy
    Twitter: darxyanne

    Widdershins!! Thai food for breakfast!!

    Once I had a lot of work to do, but I took a nap first instead (and I think that was even before Rally! where I learned that naps are okay, really, which was like, one of the best parts of Rally!). I woke up and did all the work much easier because I’d had the nap. Very widdershins from my usual work-first-nap-as-reward-later habit.

    Widdershins!! That new teacher training info page is seriously shiny. Hooray!
    Darcy recently posted… On being seen

  10. the fat nutritionist
    Twitter: fatnutritionist

    When I’m finding a textbook particularly boring (which is always), I like to read it backward, section by section. It wakes me up and pay attention rather than passing out, drooling, on the open book.



  11. Anna Barnett
    Twitter: annabarnett

    I got not even all the way through the comment thread (oh, I guess I was on @Isolde’s comment about computer patterns) and realized that I had, not wholly consciously, switched to scrolling *with my left hand*. Which is something that a physical-therapist-type-person suggested a couple weeks ago, for my RSI, but I keep forgetting to try it.



  12. Caroline
    Twitter: Cazzylina

    Widdershins! Turnwise! Widdershinsier! (another discworld fan)

    I tried the switch which wrist your watch goes on, a couple of years ago. Catching myself looking at an empty wrist was a source of amusement for months. The vacant looks on people’s faces that saw me giggling at the back of my hand equally so! Probably time I switched it back again.

    Does that count as meshaneh makom meshaneh mazal?

    I love that doom and luck and fortune are all the same.

  13. Halo
    Twitter: Haloquin

    Very cool!!!

    I, too, am a Pagan-type… and I love the fact that deosil is ‘sunwise’, and widdershins is ‘earthwise’ :) Learning that completely erased the early fluffy negativity I’d subconsciously collected re:widdershins from the dark=bad sects!

    I shall have to think more about patterns and acting contrary to the norm, as I’m not certain what that looks like in my life! It must surely happen sometime, mustn’t it?
    Halo recently posted… Being a Creative Philosopher in an Analytic World

  14. kim
    Twitter: avoidingkim


    The new Shiva Nata page is super sparkly and I’m oh so interested in going but oh so afraid of the non-refundable tuition part on account of my Mom’s unpredictable and mean cancer. And this is a theme. I suppose the widdershins! thing to do would be to make a committment, pay and let everything fall into place.

    Heavy sigh. I’m going to practice Shiva Nata NOW.

    Except: You are sooooooooooo right about changing position = changing, period. I really struggled at Rally! (I’m not even sure which part of me was even there, frankly….) and, as I reflect on it, I pretty much stayed in the same area of the Playground the entire time until the very end, you know, when I moved and then plotted out my novel in like an hour.

    Go figure…
    kim recently posted… Irene Wants Me To Write A Nice Internet Dating Column But I’m Not Nice

  15. Domey says:

    I just found you and I’m so glad I did. Congratulations on the Shiva Nata page, yay!

    A few years ago, my aunt made a visit to her hometown in Thailand. She hadn’t been there in a few years because she couldn’t afford it. She had a lot of plans to visit old friends and such. But as soon as she got there, it rained so hard that all the roads were flooded. When she got back to the U.S. she told me she didn’t get to do any of the things she planned.

    I asked her how her trip was, and she said, it was fun because it was life.

    That has always stuck with me, and I think it related very well to what you are saying here. :)

  16. Miriam says:


    Have been reading the Disc world series by Terry Pratchett and enjoy the fact that, on the disc world, instead of north and south there is spin-wise (the way the world turns) and widdershins (the way that world doesn’t turn) and it is a legitimate and universal direction!

    it makes me think of placing myself differently – like under a trampoline looking up through the perforations in the mat or on top of a car or under desk. Things look different and you notice ‘otherness’ about the world.

  17. VickiB says:


    What a great concept — in so many ways. I also love Pineapple Upside Down Days and the Contrary Coyote! Change your place, change your luck!

    The first time I took a poem to a writer’s group for feedback and suggestions, one of the best poets in the group suggested that I “turn it upside down” so I tried variations of that and the result was a stronger and more effective piece of writing. Widdershins!

    It seems important to find a balance between the comfort of routines and rituals and the stimulation from change and novelty. When I have routines that support my doing the things I want to do with ease and flow, I don’t want to shake them up. But when I’m stuck or bored or things are hard, this is a great idea: instead of doing more of the same and hoping for a different result, I need to go widdershins, I need to be Contrary Coyote, I need Pineapple Upside Down Days.

    Going to think about what this could mean. How I could do it. And experiment. And record it in the Book of Me.

  18. Chloe Walker
    Twitter: chloewrites

    I’d like to talk about Widdershins but I have to talk about the toy chicken that lays pretend eggs, because IS THAT MAGICAL HEN? WE HAVE A MAGICAL HEN!


    “This is a very well famous toy all around the world
    The magical hen function as mentioned below
    When it walks the wings and the tail are flashing the head is waving and the music is heared
    It could install three egs at one time(provided along with this product)
    After about 2 meters walk it stops crowing and then lays an egg. Isnt that exciting.”

    MAGICAL HEN! Best copy ever.

  19. Ellie Di
    Twitter: Ellie_Di

    Widdershins, indeed!

    I love the idea of starting from a different place or upsetting our patterns to get perspective. I’ve often encouraged my writing students to start their papers in the middle, then do the beginning. It’s amazing how much easier they find their essays when they’re looking at it differently.

    This idea reminds me of the “attraversiamo” concept from “Eat Pray Love” – the Italian word meaning “let’s cross over”. The metaphors are the same at their root – Do things differently! Cross to the other side!

    And yet, it can be mind-bendingly hard to break out of our patterns so we *can* go widdershins. We get so attached to doing things This Way that doing them Another Way makes us panic (or it does me, anyway). But I’ve found that doing something as simple as sitting at the kitchen table to write, rather than at my desk, produces incredible results. Plus, I get to eat more treats.
    Ellie Di recently posted… Radiant Goddess- The Beginning

  20. Do Mi Stauber
    Twitter: dmstauber

    I’m not quite lost, I’m not quite found,
    Just somewhere different now…
    –Ty Greenstein of Girlyman
    Do Mi Stauber recently posted… The Deadlines Get a New Name

  21. Jared says:

    Nice Havi! I love making up words. :)
    Jared recently posted… Four Weeks One Goal TO ROCK YOUR COPY! Part 1 Of 4

  22. […] Havi of ‘The Fluent Self’ talks about the value of going “Widdershins”. […]

  23. Jacquie says:

    The line “Change your place. Change your luck” made me suddenly jump/twitch – my whole body responded/reacted to this idea.

    I immediately and simultaneously wanted to a) run away from it at high speed and pretend I never saw it, and b) grab it, hug it close and not take my eyes off it.

    So wanted to let you know: wow.

    In unrelated news: new page is fab.

  24. Christina
    Twitter: christinag503

    When I was younger, I sometimes had a really hard time getting to sleep. You know, when you’re tossing and turning and your mind just will.not.shut.off. I don’t remember why I started doing this, but on really bad nights, I would move my pillow to the foot of the bed and rearrange myself so that my feet were up by where my head usually was.

    Once I was situated, I always fell asleep within ten minutes.


  25. Ju
    Twitter: transcendancing

    Widdershins!! I shall have to remember this as an option :D
    Ju recently posted… Checking in on my enquiry for 2011: Conscious Faith…. it’s all a work in progress.

  26. […] everything backwards for a day. How about you start your day going to bed before […]

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