Bias Problems?

I got a lot of response from friends on the post I wrote about not bashing the new age movement.  And while some people felt I had made some good points, I got the idea that overall many people read and dismissed what I had to say as being either naive or simply dismissed me personally as being too ‘New Age’ to think critically about the issues in the first place.  I had expected that.  I also expected people to leave hurtful comments about the post (which luckily, I did not get).

Overall, there was a bit of good discussion about the post.  And while I was going back and forth several times with other members of the pagan community, someone else popped up and made the comment that the arguments in the pagan community never change.

I laughed off the comment with him as I agree that there will always be arguments in the pagan community about labels and issues, but I disagreed with him about the particular discussion.  Instead, I framed what I was engaging in with these other pagans was a discussion with other peers of the pagan community about the points I had brought up.  He then disagreed and brought up his points as to why this was an argument; I gave my side, the others involved gave their sides, and neither of us budged.  He concluded again that based on that definition, we were in an argument.

I reread the posts, and he was right.  And my heart sank.

Now in all fairness, I had no idea what to expect when I put that post out there.     But when I reread the posts, I did see the underlying theme of “I dare you to try to convince me that whatever you say is something I should consider” with some of the participants, so thus, it was in many ways, an argument.  So I gave up.

I was in an argument, and that really bothered me.  The post wasn’t supposed to become something to defend against.  It wasn’t supposed to be me defending my ideals and my right to my own beliefs, nor to defend what I meant by recognizing that even New Age ideals had a bit of truth to them.   It was simply me trying to get another facet of a situation out in the open for people to consider.

Perhaps I am naïve.  In the late 80s/early 90s, the pagan community that I was a part of were mostly open to new ideas.  We were all growing; and information wasn’t easy to come by.  All we had were books and each other.  So, if someone had an idea, most of the time people would listen, consider the idea, then either admit it wasn’t right for them or perhaps continue the discussion to see how it could fit into their spirituality.

But that isn’t this pagan culture now.  Instead it feels like today you get into the pagan community under a specific set of labels.  And if something doesn’t fit into that label, or (Gods Forbid!) if someone tries to push themselves into a label that a specific definition exists for (and is thus considered ‘incorrect’), arguments break out.

That argument culture is the current culture for everything; at least here in the United States.  No matter what the topic is, someone is going to disagree with what it is you think.  And not only will they disagree, they will be sure to make certain you knew it complete with taunts and expletives if you push it enough. Why I thought pagan spirituality and culture would be different and more like the culture I grew my own beliefs in, I don’t know.  But I guess I needed an awakening to what things were truly like.

Why does it even matter what others think?  It honestly doesn’t matter to me if someone dismisses my idea.  But it does make me wonder that if by dismissing a different spiritual idea immediately are they doing a disservice to themselves?  Perhaps instead of challenging them, contemplation on at least a small scale should be considered?

Many years ago, I read a book called “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” by Malcolm Gladwell.  The book has stuck with me all these years because of the exercises.  Those exercises in the book very quickly proved Mr. Gladwell’s point about how we don’t necessarily think, but instead react to unspoken and unknown biases.  While doing those exercises, I realized that I held biases that I had no idea I had.  Me, then a practicing pagan and someone who tried very hard to be open to new ideas and opportunities for growth still had biases.  The realization hurt.  And it also made me vow that I would always look at someone else’s opinion as objectively as possible to ensure that there wasn’t some grain of truth to it for myself.  I admit that it isn’t always easy.  But it is something I aspire to as a personal creed.

That personal creed is why I was so upset at the argumentative nature of the discussion.  I had hoped that other spiritual people would also believe the way I do about bias, and thus try to look at things with an open mind.  Now perhaps some did, I don’t know for certain, but the intent that I read from the posts seemed to me to suggest that the bad things the new age community has done outweighs anything I would have put forth as good, and thus the ideal of the post was dismissed.

And I could go the other way and say perhaps my bias at belittling myself makes me think that the intent I describe above happened when it didn’t happen at all.

It sounds like minutia, doesn’t it?  It sounds like critical thinking gone awry perhaps.  But in my belief, we have to think that deeply to understand the currents of energy that are around us.  We have to let our bias go; let any anthropomorphic ideals of those energies go.  The world and its energy behaves differently than we think it does; no matter how much you learn, no matter how many teachers you have or how many lives you live, we still need to expect the unexpected while we are living on this Earth.

So I come from this experience a little wiser and with more understanding, but with even more dedication to my personal creeds.  But I’ll always hope, and make time for an open minded discussion with my fellow pagans about ideals.  After all, that which does not change me only makes me stronger.

 

Photo from Deviant Art

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New Age Bashing

Several weeks ago, an article entitled “New Age Bullshit Part 1” popped up in “A Parliament of Owls – Spiritual & Metaphysical Chat for Wandering Owl Fans” discussion group on Facebook. Since then, It’s been on my mind quite a bit.  It’s been on my mind because I agree with some of the author’s points, but I also very much disagree about his stance on the new age movement.

In the article, the author speaks immediately about the jargon people in the new age movement use. (He calls them ‘lightworkers’ in the article).  Specifically, he speaks to how most lightworkers only talk about love and light, Further down in the article he speaks to how some of these people refuse to even consider the darker sides of the soul, speaking to how most lightworkers believe that if they don’t give any energy to that side of them, the dark side can’t hurt them, or basically, it won’t exist.   This is where I do agree with him.  Yes, there are people out there that have been in the new age movement for quite some time and don’t think about anything but ‘the light’ and preach how staying in ‘the light’ allows this and that and allows you to develop <insert touchy-feely statement here>.

I further agree with the author that many of these lightworkers are stuck in their own personal development because they only focus on the light.  But just like the minority of any religious or spiritual discipline that ruin it for the rest of the population, the same thing has happened in the new age movement, and these lightworkers he speaks of are the culprits.  Yes, we are going to get the people that are that are stuck but they claim they are not.  We are also going to get the people in the New Age movement that specifically speak to only certain practices are ‘true’ and only using certain tools are ‘right’ and so on and so forth.  And we should deal with them like we do when we find them in any other aspect under this great big umbrella called paganism:  We need to ignore them and continue our path.  Because if the lightworkers are true to form, anything we say to them is only going to get us angrier.

The author basically leaves his article there, which makes it feel more like a rant to me than being anything informative.  (In all fairness, he did say this was part one, but I could not find anywhere where he had a part two.)  Again, I see his point and can understand why he would rant.  People like the lightworkers he describes can be very frustrating to deal with.  But there are other facets to the new age movement he doesn’t even consider covering in his article, and that’s a shame.

As most of you already know, I do intuitive tarot readings.  Many of the clients that come in to see me for readings are searchers.  Some of these people are clearly out of their comfort zone, they come to me even though they have no idea how a reading works or what to ask.  Some don’t even know how a tarot deck works.  Still, they come because they are searching for something that they cannot name.  Still others come speaking of ‘talents’ or ‘gifts’ their recent ancestors had; and their visit to me is them grasping at straws trying to connect with that talent that might be innate in themselves.

In these cases, I do my best to be the gracious host of the metaphysical realms.  I speak to them and give them ideas on reaching out to their ancestors; or other ways they can start ‘testing’ the waters so to speak.  But I don’t give them too much.  Going straight into how to cast a circle, gathering spell components for a spell or talking about some of the more specific areas of the metaphysical realms are just too much for these clients.

So in short, I give them what some people would call New Age practices to start with.

If you look at some of the practices of the new age belief you will see immediately that they are very basic.  They are easy to comprehend and they can be communicated and understood in a very short period of time.  That makes them the perfect building block for me to present to my clients so they can start building their own foundations for metaphysical practice.  Also, the so called ‘light’ exercises are perfect to help teach protection and grounding; which most newbies desperately need.

The practices I speak about aren’t any that need deep oversight.  I’m also not designating myself as their ‘teacher’ by giving them suggested practices, nor do I say they MUST do them.  I simply suggest them and allow the client to make up their own mind as to whether or not the practice is right for them.  And if they choose to go deeper and want more information, then I can suggest a specific person from the list of people I have that I know to be very reputable and that can give them further information about a specific subject.

Another reason I start with new age practices is because of the terminology of the movement is so common.  Reaching for a common language to communicate to someone is the same thing I do in my day job.  As a technical writer, I constantly have to think about my audience; Is my writing going to someone with technical knowledge so I can let lose more technical terms, or is the audience a group who doesn’t know the difference between Kaizen and a Kanban?

In order to communicate anything, we must first make certain we have a common language.  New age terminology easily bridges that gap.  It also allows me to bypass terms that might scare my clients.  Sure there are things that I still must explain in more detail, but overall I have a common language that I can use to start connecting with my client and help them work through whatever problem they have come to me to get more information on.

The people that come to see me and people like them are some of the biggest reasons why the new age movement is still thriving.  These are people who could be just becoming aware of the energies within and around them and have no idea how to work with that energy.  They might be scared shitless of something they saw, felt or heard and have no idea what to do about it.  Or they are like me when I found new age practices – they are the people that feel deep in their heart and soul that something is missing, and are reaching for the piece of them they cannot define.

I am a Reiki Master, and that, to many people, is a new age practice.  Yet it was my training in Reiki that ultimately led to my being able to control my intuitive gifts and become the adept reader I am today.  It also led to me being able to use healing abilities and helped to teach me not to send out my own energy and deplete my own personal energy sources.  Reiki became my teacher in other ways too.  It was what I reached for as protection when I started doing my own deeper journey work and it has helped deepen my understanding of the Gods as I know them now.  In fact, Reiki still is a very important piece of my spiritual discipline.

When I found Reiki, it was the only thing that I could find in the pagan community that made any sense regarding my healing and intuitive abilities.  I was already pagan; I’d been practicing rituals at that point for roughly 10ish years and no matter how much I searched, I could find no one who could help me with my intuitive and healing gifts.  Reiki was the only thing that helped me understand what I was doing wrong in my practice, and it was the only thing that helped me correct my mistakes properly.

Now had this article been written back then, and had I seen it prior to my decision to be attuned to a new age thing such as Reiki, perhaps I would have reconsidered my decision to become attuned.  And I would not be following the wonderful soul fulfilling path that I currently follow.  I would not be the strong person that I am today.  I would not be devoted to Loki and Odin. I would not be a member of OBOD.  And I would not be a keeper of the Sacred Pipe of my ancestors.  That’s one reason why I’m a bit upset about this article; who is going to read it and step away from possibly the very start of a very fulfilling spiritual path because of what others think about the practices they do?

The whole ‘new age bashing’ in articles like this one also makes me wonder if there is a deeper reason why it happens.  Was there a time where we, in our newbie ignorance, were like those lightworkers perhaps?  Did we condemn practices that weren’t exactly like our own? Or, are we condemning new age practices that are so simple that we in our current knowledge base would now assume that ‘ANY’ newbie should automatically know them as common sense?

Or are we embarrassed at our own beginnings, and that is why the new age movement gets the brunt of the bashing, much like pagan publishers that publish lots of beginner books like Llewellyn publishing (or bash the so called ‘Llewellyn babies’ who read said books), authors that write lots of beginning practice books (Silver RavenWolf) or why books that we once held in high esteem get joked about (Uncle Bucky’s Big Blue anyone?).

Perhaps that is the crux of it.  We all DO have to start somewhere.  Let’s stop bashing those starting points.  And while we are at it, let’s not worry about the lightworkers or other people that choose to stay stuck and help the ones who truly want to reach deeper.  Let’s help them realize that the tools they received and the skills that they learned in the new age movement can help them learn that there is much more to these paths than what they know.  And in the meantime, let’s recognize the new age movement as the stepping block that it can be into a much bigger world.

 

Photo from Deviant Art

Learning to Love the Body Authentic

When I was first starting to blog a couple years ago, I read a post from another Lokean Blogger about a meditation/journey she had.  She remarked about how every time she transformed her form in the journey, Loki had pushed her back into the same exact form that she had in life.  She talked about being extremely mad at him for doing so, because she hated her figure so much.  But Loki insisted, saying he wanted her as comfortable with her body in the physical form as she was with her mental form and abilities of shape changing.

When I read that, I remembered thinking, ‘yep, I’m going to have to do that someday too.’  Well, that day has come. But learning to love my form is happening in a much different way than what this blogger had to go through.  For me, there are additional facets of this that I must face.

As most who read this know, I have Fibromyalgia.  When I was first diagnosed, I thought I could handle the disease by simply decreasing the quantity of my activity, and taking longer rest periods.

Boy was I wrong!

It’s a lot more complicated than that.  Sometimes you can  push yourself, but more often doing activities becomes dependent on variables that must be considered before you do an activity.  Further, the more you push to do something, the more you can make the disease worse. That means the little bit of extra work you did in a martial arts class might mean you have permanently shortened the amount of energy you have every day for the rest of your life.

So my being comfortable with my body doesn’t just include the body issues (which also thanks to the fibro are on the forefront again).  It also includes becoming comfortable with what I can and cannot do.  I need to learn how to listen to my body more deeply than I ever have before to better understand what I can do, when I can push to do more and when I need to take time to rest more deeply.

It doesn’t stop there.  Fibromyalgia also messes with digestion and exacerbates other conditions.  This now means what is going into my body is just as important as what I do.  Eat the wrong thing, and the balance of the whole system can take weeks and even months to recover.

So in short, instead of just being comfortable with my body, I now must also be mindful of my movement, my eating, my rest and how I think and feel in order to deal with this disease properly and make the most out of what activities I can do.

I am not writing this to whine.  This is a challenge.  It’s one of the hardest challenges I’ve ever had to take on in my life.  I also know I don’t need to accept this challenge if I don’t want to.  I could simply go with what I can do at any given moment.  But if I want to lead a life that is the most authentic to my spirit, my morals and my beliefs, and if I want to become the best person I can or pursue any activity that needs any sort of training, and to fulfill my obligations, it is work I must do.  This to me, is what my Gods would want me to do.

 

So, what does being authentic to my body mean to me?

  • It means bowing out of my last martial arts class, for now.   But that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to read up on the arts I have trained on and practice the techniques when my body allows me to.  Sure, I won’t be in a sparring ring as an opponent anytime soon; but perhaps with patience I can be there as a referee.  Or at the very least, I can support my husband and help him with forms and technique as he prepares for his own black belt boards in late summer.
  • Running slower, or doing a running/walking practice instead of straight running needs to be considered if I ever want to race again.  I could still complete races, but it may be much more walking than running depending on how my body feels that day, and I must be OK with that and not push anyway.
  • My sword practice needs to be equal amounts of reading about fencing and drills I can do alone; and I must not get upset about missing opportunities to cross blades with my sword brothers and sisters.  I have already beat myself up enough for the significant number of practices I’ve missed.   Even though historical fencing is lower impact than my other martial arts studies, it still takes a significant amount of energy to engage an opponent. I need to remember that.
  • I need to reconsider a personal eating plan.  Foods I once had no issue eating now bring stomach pain and days of being uncomfortable, which then eats into the stamina of the day.  My beloved two cups of coffee in the morning are in jeopardy as I find I am still having discomfort from drinking it even after switching to a lactose free creamer, and then to a non-dairy creamer.  Carb-laden foods like the gluten free pizza my husband and I both love are now on the chopping block once again, along with the infrequent serving of bacon we occasionally have with a weekend breakfast.  And as a caveat to this; I cannot just depend on a diet someone else puts together for me: Diets like Paleo, or FODMAP are good starting points, but they are not one size fits all with conditions like I have.
  • Finally, I need to become comfortable with my figure.  I have a ‘lovely’ area around my stomach that reacts like a natural ‘muffin top’. (when you wear tighter jeans and your skin pops over the top of your jeans like the top of a muffin – that’s a muffin top.  By the way, whomever decided to name a flap of skin after a calorie-laden baked good needs a right and proper curse.) It doesn’t matter if I am wearing tight pants or not; my body has made this natural hideousness on its own; and instead of pushing myself to lose weight and attempt to hide that area with slimmers and tops that flare out; I need to be comfortable with it.  This is the part that I think is going to be the hardest.

 

This sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?  It does, until you realize what routine I kept prior to the onset of the fibromyalgia:

  • Two hours of Tae Kwon Do classes a week plus an hour of Hap Ki Do classes per week
  • 1.5 to two hours of yoga per week
  • Running twice a week, with one run being a distance run of 5 miles or more
  • Swimming a half mile to a mile a week
  • Weekday lunch walks done as fast as possible with a minimum of 2 miles completed each walk
  • Eating the bare minimum of calories I could (usually 1500-1800) to continue to lose as much fat as possible (Yep!  Way too little for the activity levels, I know.)

 

Perhaps I should be thankful for the Fibromyalgia in some ways.  It made me realize what I was doing to my body was torture and not healthy.  Sure, I was getting down in size.  But I realize now it wasn’t worth the panic over the calorie or not being able to get a workout in because of sickness.  And it absolutely wasn’t worth the fear that I had every morning of my pants not fitting well because of bloating or because I had gained weight.

It’s amazing what we put ourselves through for reasons like health, pushing through obstacles or to become better at something.  Sometimes in the effort we become taskmasters and beat ourselves down more than anyone else ever could.

And that is why being authentic is so important to me now.  Loki was right about the other blogger needing to be comfortable in her own form, and he’s right about me needing not only to be comfortable, but being able to understand and know my body now more than ever before.  This isn’t work that is going to happen overnight.  And it will probably take many months of understanding and then months trial and error to move my activity levels forward.

But like with any other task, it’s not going to get any easier or take less time until you get started.

Finding Gods of Compassion

Many times when I do readings I get the message to tell someone not to be so hard on themselves; to give themselves time to heal from the wounds that the world has given them.  And inevitably, the client (especially my deeply pagan clients) look at me with surprise.  They then proceed to tell me that their God is not the type to allow someone to wallow in pity.  Instead, they tell me their Gods and Goddesses are the type to push someone to ‘suck it up’ and get on with it.

I fully agree, to an extent.  As someone who feels very honored to have a relationship with Odin, I know first hand that there are Gods out there that want us to ‘get on with it’.  They want us to accept our shortcomings and grow up.

But that request to ‘grow up’ or ‘get over it’ isn’t the same as giving ourselves time to heal from the deep wounds that the world gives us. And in that aspect, I think that we are missing an important factor in the relationship with our Gods.  Although they want us to grow, Gods and Goddesses can also can be compassionate and supportive of us being compassionate for ourselves and for our fellow human beings. 

Now before you start getting weirded out by images of Odin sitting around a camp fire holding hands and singing, hear me out.

We know that during early periods of civilization the Gods moved around within pantheons a lot.  We know that at times one God usurped another when civilization changed.  Gods of the wildlands were replaced or altered to represent the fertile fields and of agriculture.  And in time, those Gods were also altered or replaced to represent war and protection from other civilizations thirsting for conquest.  I’m not going to get into all the specifics, but they are all there in the history books for anyone to see.  And this happened in many different civilizations.

The point that I’m trying to make is that the Gods changed when humanity needed them to.  And for thousands of years, humanity was OK with that.  In fact, in our current time, we have been known to modify our own practices to mold to our own needs.  And even from a reconstructionist pagan standpoint, we see that modification today.

For an example, let’s look at Beltane, the fertility festival celebrated by many pagans around the world.  This festival was originally a fertility rite, both for the fields and for fertility of our species.  We still see this holiday as a perfect time for couples to do fertility rites to get pregnant, but we recognize that the survival of the species because of lack of fertility is not as serious of an issue today as it was two thousand years ago.  We don’t need to utilize that rite to secure survival of our species.  In fact, I think we all can agree that there is an overabundance of humans now on the planet.

So what do we do with this fertility rite?  Do we stop celebrating it, or do we reframe it to our needs today?  What we find is that many pagans do a very good job of reframing it.  We still honor and remember those of long ago and why they celebrated Beltane, but instead of fertility for the fields and for our species, pagans might celebrate the rites to work towards the fertility of money, the fertility of ideas that would allow them to further their careers or the fertility of wisdom and aid with the goal of bettering themselves in some way in order to continue to honor the Gods on this plane of existence.  And I think we can all agree that the Gods worshiped during the height of Beltane haven’t abandoned us because we modified the rites to more clearly represent what our needs are in this day and age.

I’ve pointed out that we have modified rites to reflect our current culture, and I’ve also pointed out that the Gods have changed based on the needs of the population at the time.  Now what does all of this have to do with the Gods having compassion?

One of the biggest needs of the day in my mind is compassion.  Open your favorite social media site and I can guarantee you will find something in your feed that is argumentative.  You may also find something that will get you frustrated or even angry.  It’s a very easy example because it happens on a regular basis.  Want another?  Drive your daily commute, or just drive anywhere on a highway in fact.  We are human, we are going to get angry at the person who just jumped in front of us and slammed on their brakes, or who decided to drive in the faster lane of the road yet is going under the speed limit for some reason.

All of this anger has slowly built up over the years to the point where we are today.  For years we have let the anger fester in our minds and souls, causing us finally to lash out at ‘those’ type of people.  Those that don’t think like us, those that don’t act like us, or those that believe differently than us.  We have become a polarized world that praises ‘sticking it’ to the other person over trying to come up with a compromise.

It didn’t happen overnight.  And there are more root causes of the problem than anger, but built up anger is absolutely a part of the problem.  We hold anger for ourselves, hold anger for our lot in life, hold anger and jealousy at others for having more, or for getting more assistance than us.  The anger bubbles up at our politicians (who may deserve it from time to time) and causes us to lash out at others who disagree.  And to battle we go.

For many of us, we feel like we either have limited options.  We could either take a side and fight for it, get the heck out of the way of the arguing forces or be run over; a casualty of the environment that has been slowly forming over many years.

Any one of those stances is going to cause anyone to have battle damage.  And this isn’t even the worst of the battle damage we carry around.

Our upbringings aren’t always rosy.  Our relationships with others can become abusive.  Life has its traumas, and we endure each and every one of them, but they don’t leave us exactly how we were prior to the situation.  Sometimes the changes are physical; a scar appears where a wound once was.  Sometimes the wounds are emotional, and we end up hardening some to those around us.  But no matter if the wounds were physical or emotional, there is a spiritual component to the wound as well.  Hardened hearts change the outlook on our spirituality.  Perhaps we stop caring as much about helping those in need because we are bitter about our own circumstances.  Perhaps we end up angry at our Gods for allowing things to be the way they are.

The world is changing, it’s getting more rough edges, and because of it we are hardening more than we realize.  I’ve seen even the most compassionate of Shamans make critical comments against another in the current hardened climate.  And I know I’ve done it myself numerous times.

Yes, there are times when we must be hard.  Perhaps we must defend ourselves from those abusers or from those that would do us ill will.  That is important too.

But what do we do with all the pain, anger and battle damage that has struck at our core and dimmed our spirit?

Why not give it to the Gods as an offering of endurance?

Why not ask for their aid to heal properly so that our souls can shine again?

Why not ask for their strength to see situations with compassion in an effort to make the outcome less hardened?

This is different than just ‘getting on with it’.  There will be times in everyone’s life that the hardened edge they encounter is small enough that it does little damage.  That is when it is perfectly acceptable to hear from our Gods that we must just ‘get on with it’.

But what about when the hurts are so great that they affect our daily lives?  What about those who have suffered any form of abuse for any period of time?  What about the traumas of life that shake you to the very core?  I don’t believe the Gods want to just look at us and say, ‘get on with it’.  Sure, we may THINK that is what they want us to do, but perhaps that is how we are conditioned to believe.  We’ve had almost 2000 years of a religion that has given us the group mentality that we are scum and not worthy of taking time for ourselves.  This religion has told us for years that we are unworthy of healing or compassion, and that we have to grovel and beg for healing and forgiveness.

Christianity has provided us with a group mind and culture that says we are weak and lacking.  Advertising agencies have already picked up on this and used it to sell us products to make us feel better.  Many people start waking up, and reach to Pagan Gods and Goddesses, (the very ones we think tell us to ‘get over it’) in order to get out of that mindset, and that is fantastic.  But are we allowing our personal beliefs to also make us feel better, or make us worse in other places?

At the very least, consider that the Gods and Goddesses that you are willing to fight for, the Divinity that you know will fight by your side, is also a Divinity that would be willing to tend to the wounds that you received from the fight you fought together.  That isn’t an unreasonable request, and one that could easily happen on the battlefields of old.

And if you are willing to go that far, also consider that sometimes the wounds that you receive may put you out of the fight for a while, and perhaps your God or Goddess understands that better than you realize.  Recognize too that if you could no longer fight, the Gods and Goddesses were compassionate enough to give you a place to go after you passed this plane of existence.

In my own personal journeys with Odin and Loki, I’ve come to realize that they are accepting of me when I am at my best, but they also are accepting of me when I am at my weakest.  Loki especially encourages me to look at my areas of weakness and learn to make them strong, and he has shown me that brute strength is not enough to do that.  In order to become stronger, you also have to have compassion, you have to have the courage to allow yourself to be weak, and perhaps even show that weakness to others in order to allow them to help you find your strength.  Compassion allows us to accept who it is we are without the glamour or lies that we tell ourselves.  Compassion allows us to look at the wounds we have received in battle and honestly evaluate them to understand how we need to heal.  And compassion is what we need to recognize the true amount of time we need to do that.

If we can expect our Gods and Goddesses to accept our feats of strength as appropriate offerings, why not also allow our feats of courage and compassion to be offerings to them as well?  Especially in today’s world, it’s going to take a significantly larger amount of effort to show compassion than to follow the status quo.  In those times when compassion is most needed, wouldn’t it be a better offering to show that compassion since it does take so much more effort?

And if you were one of the millions in this world who has emotional, physical and spiritual wounds, don’t you think your Gods would want you to heal as well as you can from those wounds?  And in order to heal fully, don’t you think that you have to have compassion for yourself?  So why wouldn’t a God or Goddess not have compassion for you?  Wouldn’t they be proud of you, because they know you realize that fighting isn’t something that is going to allow you to heal properly?

Perhaps it’s time for us to shift our thinking.  Perhaps it’s time we honor our Gods and Goddesses with different offerings; acts of compassion and beauty.  Maybe we need to recognize that even though they may not seem like a form of divinity that would react with compassion, perhaps they at least have understanding of the compassion that we need to have for ourselves and each other.  And perhaps they already are ready to adapt to that compassion to help de-escalate the polarization of the world.

 

Awakenings: The Day After

I’m currently in week three of the program called “The Artist’s Way”.  This is a very successful program that allows artists of any medium to remove the blocks stopping them from achieving their greatest potential.  The program has been around for over 20 years and is very effective.  There have been quite a few popular writers who credit the book with allowing them to write their first bestsellers.

The Artist’s Way is a book you must be ready for.  Several years ago when I first received the book as a gift, I quickly realized that going through the book was something that would take a lot of work.  I wasn’t ready to put in the time and energy to do so.  Therefore, the book went onto a shelf, forgotten, until I was reminded of it again by the person who gifted me the book in the first place.  She decided to go through the program again, and was excited at the results of the first several weeks.  Encouraged by her words, I decided to give it a try again.  And I’m glad I did, as the book has become the next logical step for me on my spiritual journey.

The first two weeks of the program deal with the baggage that we pick up and carry in our lives.  That baggage stops us from opening our creative and spiritual outlets.  This is Shadow Work at its deepest levels.  The book encourages you to go into those moments of baggage; the moments where you felt crushed, belittled and beaten down to the point where you decided that it wasn’t worth trying anymore.  Once there, you work through them by doing the exercises spelled out in the book to let them go.  The more you work with these moments, the more you open yourself up to the possibilities of reaching deeper creative potential.  (Or, in some circles, one would call it reaching the divine energy within each of us and allowing it to come to the surface in creative endeavors.)

Now that I’ve gotten through weeks one and two, I can see more opportunities for me to start writing, something I haven’t done since my childhood.  Poems have started to flow from my thoughts, and I’ve been inspired to start writing fictional work again.  I’m excited that I’ve reached this point.  It’s very much like the first initiation into a bigger world of opportunity and wonder.

Now, on week three, the author speaks to some of the synchronicity that can happen during this stage of the program.  If we truly have stuck with the exercises and gone deep, we have released some of the blocks to our creativity.  Now the path is clearing and we are open to new things to come into our lives and change us for the better.   The author speaks to possibilities of a class opening up, meeting the right person to mentor us, or any number of opportunities that can happen once we are opening ourselves back up.

I’ve been here before.  You and countless others have also been here before.  This is where the Gods/The Universe/whatever creative force you believe in starts paving the way for you to make permanent and lasting changes in your life.  You have been given the first bites of how a higher state of energy feels; an amuse-bouche of the clarity, wisdom and connection you will have.  Here is the opportunity to become more authentic to yourself and to grow in power and strength.  This is a beautiful and exciting place to be.  This is the flash of insight and surge of power we get after an initiation.  This is the “a-HA” moment of realization.  This is the decision that is finally made, the opportunity and resources that become available, or even the push of another door closing that forces you on the path you were meant to walk.

Everything is aligning the right way and it’s all there for the taking.  But are you ready?  Are you ready for the hard work that happens after the spiritual awakening or the initiation?  Sure, we have the moment of clarity, we feel altered, more in tune with the earth or with the Gods.  We feel the power within our hands, we see the path and opportunities open before us and we want to feel this way for the rest of our lives.  But these opportunities aren’t going to stay open without work.

Whenever we are trying to better ourselves in anything – school, career, personal life, physical changes to our bodies – everything we attempt to change pushes us to come to a point like this.  Any time we try to make ourselves better we first start to uncover the path, and now we need to change the daily habits to allow us to walk that path, one foot at a time.

So, how do you start to walk that path?  Perhaps we must radically change the way we eat, live, move or work to keep that moment of clarity in the forefront of our mind.  Perhaps we need to figure out the best way for us to get rid of habits, or take the time to meditate on why we have the habit in the first place.  Perhaps we need to learn to trust the new energy in our bodies more and not be as reactive to the negativity of others.

We can even have help to do these things.  Perhaps a new app, a new piece of jewelry or an affirmation posted to our bathroom mirror is enough to engage that spiritual energy within us, to remind us of the place we opened to and dared to go.  Maybe checking in with a mentor or teacher is a possibility.  If we feel like we need help on this journey, we will get what we need to stay on the path, as long as we choose to keep trying.

But keep trying we must.  Just because we ask for a crutch or additional aids doesn’t mean we are not relieved of our own work.  We can try getting up earlier all we want to do the meditations or prayers of gratitude.  But the alarm clock will only get us up if we stop hitting the snooze button.

And we must be vigilant with our changes.  Studies have shown that it takes a minimum of 21 days to get into a habit.  But drop that new habit, even for a day or two after those 21 days, and you may find yourself right back where you started.  No wonder most gyms in the United States get insanely busy in January, but die out in February.

The good news in this is that if we can’t make the change in habit or action, we will get another opportunity to do so.  Perhaps the class date will pass, perhaps the memory of the initiation falls away.  But another class will become available when you are ready.  The initiation energy and attunement is still there and still open, ready to be utilized.  If you have the will to keep trying, the opportunity will stay open.

Sometimes however the opportunity takes time to present itself again. I was reminded of “The Artists’ Way” about five years after I was first gifted the book.  I’m very glad I picked it up this time around.  And next time I hope I don’t have to wait another five years for the opportunity.

 

 

Photo from Deviant Art

Be Careful What You Wish For…

IMG_4383Heads up, this post is a bit of a vent.  And also  a warning.

Many of my past posts have been about the deep shadow work that I have done over the winter months.  Much of it has gone very well in that it has opened me up to many of my own deep seeded issues.  And since I finally could name and understand them, I was able to deal with those issues.  The entire endeavor has helped me to move forward in my spirituality and relationships better than I ever could have on my own.  I know I’m not finished, but I’m quite pleased with the results so far.

I’m at a spot now where I could pause that deep work, so I decided to take a break and pick up another endeavor to fill my time.  This task, I had hoped, would be a bit lighter than the places that I have been going to so often.  And, I thought it would help me heal from some of that intense work.  It would also give me time to replenish my emotional stamina for the next round.

So I picked up my copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

The Artist’s Way is a 12 week course to help you become comfortable as an artist.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s painting, writing, composing music or other endeavor, this book helps you clear blockages in order to do your best work.   It’s a powerful course; I had tried it several years ago, and realized that I was not ready for it.  Feeling like I could handle it now after my deep dive into the Shadow, I thought I would pick it up again and see what treasures of knowledge I could mine out of the work.   I was especially hoping it would help me get into writing stories again.

As a child I used to write a lot.  I wrote the occasional poem, but my favorite thing was to write fictional stories.  I would sit for hours after school was over, with the permission of my computer room teacher, writing out the stories that I had in my head. Of course these stories never made it in front of anyone else’s eyes; they were for me alone.  But the comfort and escape that they gave me was extremely powerful and very necessary in the troubled world that I lived in back then.

But suddenly, without warning, I stopped writing.  I’m still not very sure why I stopped. All I remember is that I was ridiculed for it.  It could have been me that ridiculed myself even.  I just stopped doing it, and that stop lasted until recently, when a story popped out of my head unexpectedly.

Pleased with my recent short story and remembering how much comfort writing was, I tried to get back into it.  From a non-fictional standpoint, I think it’s going pretty well, as the results are for all to see here at my current blog.  But the fiction I loved to write before eluded me.  So it was I decided to pick up The Artist’s Way again.

The exercises in the book are wonderful.  Ms. Cameron does an excellent job of setting up your practice with what she calls ‘morning pages’, and then eases you back into creative activity by first finding your safe place to create from.  Once you have established these practices, she takes you into others that are specifically meant to guide your creativity and allow you to be creative in whatever endeavor you choose.  The exercises seemed much lighter than the past three months, so it just felt right to pick up the book and allow myself time to stretch myself from a creative perspective, safe in the knowledge that I wasn’t going to go very deep into the Shadow.

Boy, was I wrong.

I read once somewhere that the spiritual and creative centers in your brain are essentially the same areas, and that the blocks for these can sometimes be one in the same.  I’m not sure if that is true, but now I realize they are at least relevant to each other if they are not connected outright.  You see, the exercises not only started to uncover creative blocks that I had with writing; they uncovered new facets of the spiritual blocks I thought I had dealt with.  Yet again, issues came back like unwanted house guests, planning to stay with me as long as they could to mooch a place to sleep and eat my food.

At first, I didn’t mind.  This was simply just going to be one topic that I write about.  I needed topics, after all.  So when I completed the first few exercises I started to write poems again.  And the poems I was writing were dealing with those spiritual issues.  They were about the relationships I had to the Gods, or about the Fibromyalgia I deal with on a day to day basis.  They were constructive, and I am very proud of these first few endeavors.  I was so proud of the first poem I wrote I posted it here, and soon five more were written, every one of them just as dear to me.  I found my poems were expressing things I didn’t think I could ever get out.  And even though I was proud of it, it was still just poetry.  It wasn’t the fictional writing that I desired to do.  And it was still eluding me.

Then, something came up this weekend.  Something from the Shadow that I had not yet dealt with.  I was actually planning on holding off this particular work until I had rested more.  But this issue would not stay silent any longer, and made it known to me that I have to deal with it NOW.

‘OK,’ I thought, ‘I can do this.  I’ll just pull out my journal and my cards and…’
‘NO!’ I felt and heard within my head.  ‘Write a story about it’.
‘Wait…what?”
‘You wanted to write a story, so write a story about this issue and deal with it through the story.’

In defiance, I did try to work through some of the issues the way I had been doing during the winter, with no such luck.  I guess the only way I’m going to get through this now is to write a fictional story about it.

I won’t share the expletives that went through my head once I realized this was my only choice.

I’m still a bit flabbergasted.  Sure, there was a bit of inspiration in my fictional writing oh so long ago from my mundane life, but to work through an entire aspect of an issue with a written story?  This one is new to me.  And I’m going to have to make it work somehow.

I DID say I wanted to start writing again.  The Gods simply gave me the topic.

It’s alright.  You can laugh.

 

Shifting and Shedding Skin

I lost my title of “Documentation Subject Matter Expert” at my place of employment a couple of weeks ago.  The title and duties were a holdover from the previous position that I held in the company, but I still did them.  But because I have been at my current position outside that department for several years now, it was time to let those duties go.  However, when I did, I was surprised to find a sense of loss.

It was cool to be a Subject Matter Expert, but there was a lot that went with the job.  On a monthly basis I had to teach classes on documentation.  I also was ‘on call’ when I was ever at work to deal with questions and issues.  This meant that the role regularly bit into my time to do my current job duties.  And unfortunately, it just got to be too much.

The whole thing reminded me of a hard lesson that I feel like I’m still learning.  This particular lesson started for me once I got back into the pagan community on a more active basis.  I have a lot I can offer people, so I wanted to jump right back into a role of teacher or priestess pretty quickly. But it never really developed for me to do so, and I found that very frustrating.

I came to realize that while I had a lot of experience, knew how to steer and work with a group (and had done so many years previously), doing those things weren’t a good ‘fit’ for me anymore.  I had committed to too many things that I needed to take on for myself.  So adding teaching a study group or even having an individual student was something that I just didn’t have time for anymore.  Don’t get me wrong, I still feel I am an elder, and I absolutely help people on their paths by my intuitive readings, but I’m not the one who leads the entire group.  At least not right now.

The realization of this is something that was akin to my losing my work title, but it hurt a lot more.  I am very proud that my previous forays into pagan communities had consisted of my being the one writing the rituals and the lessons for the coven to follow.  I led the cones of power, the chanting and spell casting.  But those things weren’t my calling anymore.

Looking back, so many of my previous posts on this blog have dealt with roles and titles, how they fit and don’t fit, what they actually represent, and the work that you take on should you accept one.  Perhaps were so many posts on this because  I was still trying to find where I fit in.  But in order to figure out where I fit in, I needed to understand what those roles and titles meant as well as let go of my assumption of jumping right back into a place where I was previously.

In other words, it was finally time to shed my old titles and roles so that I could grow into new ones.  Just like the Pagan community as a whole has evolved and become so much bigger than what it was.

I don’t think I’m alone in assumptions about roles and titles. I think that there are frequent assumptions made by newer pagans as well as us ‘old-timers’ at roles that we think or expect we need to be in that actually aren’t true.  I’ve met many people who automatically assume that they are meant for a specific role in the pagan community only to find that they were mistaken. And now, years later, they have found something that better suits who they are as a person.  I guess it was time for me to do the same.

I am not really sure if there is a name or label for what it is I do; there are so many facets to it now that I think only the label “elder” would encompass them, but that title in itself is very generic.  Perhaps that is a good thing.  And perhaps I need to consider not even looking for a specific role or title anymore.  Maybe I just need to be me, focus on that which I need to focus on for myself, and let things move forward as they may.

And speaking of shedding, I have updated my ‘about me’ page to better reflect who I am and what I feel I do.  I think it fits very nicely now.