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

To Carry a Pipe

It’s been about two years since I was gifted a personal prayer pipe.  And in all that time I’ve had a pretty healthy fear of it’s power.

Well, at least I thought it was a healthy fear.

As someone who can’t document my Native American ancestry, some may consider my want to carry a pipe as sacrilege.  And others may say that even though I’m native, because I didn’t grow up within the native culture that I am disrespecting the pipe by even owning it.

This is something that I have fought against for a great deal of my life, and I know I’ve spoken of it here many times before.  Growing up, when I would find new information on my spiritual heritage I became very excited.  A new book, contact through friends with tribal elders, a new nugget of wisdom to ponder and treasure was something that comforted me.  But continued searching would most inevitably lead me to others within the native community who would bash what I had found; claiming either that the teachings were watered down or not true teachings at all.  I went round and round like this, until early in the 1990s when I finally just gave up and tried another spiritual path. But the native ancestry always called me back, even though for many years I was afraid to answer the call.

Fast forward to several years ago when the pipe came into my life.  Here is where I thought I would finally get somewhere; that I would finally be able to fit the pieces of what I learned so long ago into my current practices.  Here, I thought, through working with the pipe I would find more about my ancestry and how I could become a part of it. The naysayers and limited information still remained, however, the root cause of that problem changed.  When I thought it was the naysayers that still held me back, it was something different.  It wasn’t because they judged me as unworthy.  I was judging me as unworthy.    I didn’t find myself native ‘enough,’ or worthy and strong enough to hold such a valued item.  All of the talk from those that I looked up to years and years ago stuck with me, and not in a positive way.

I didn’t realize this problem until this past evening, while on a phone call with a friend who is dealing with the same issues.  My friend is someone who I trusted, and who gave me advice about the pipe before.  So when I asked him more specifics about how he worked with his pipe, I think he realized what it was I was dealing with, and therefore he opened up to me more than he had in the past.  He told me about his own fears; that in the past he never felt like he was ‘enough’ of the blood for his pipe.  He spoke about his fears of being judged by peers in the community, or his fear of being called insensitive and unworthy outright.

When I heard about these fears, I was shocked.  This is a man who is respected in our local native community, someone whose mother is full blood, and here he is telling me he didn’t feel like HE was enough?  I have seen many things that this man has done for the native community.  I have seen this man rescue older pipes that have fallen into hands who did not know what they had.  I have seen him lead spirit fires.  Yet here he was, saying he felt like he wasn’t enough to hold a pipe.  How could this be?  Even now, after the conversation I’m still in a bit of shock.  But now I understand why he and I have felt this way for so long.

The whole issue that repeats itself for many people like me (and for him), who are called to do the work of a pipe or to walk the ‘red road’.  We become afraid of doing so because in some form or fashion we have been told that we do not carry the proper paperwork that we are told we need to allow us to walk within Native spirituality.  Or we are told that we can walk some of the road, but we will never be allowed behind the ‘buckskin curtain’ to know the true ways that we seek so desperately in our hearts.

I am not saying what full blooded Native Americans do is wrong.  What I am suggesting is that there is more malice towards some of us that are mixed than perhaps there should be. Those who love their traditions dearly and want to see them continue just as they are may not be looking at the full picture of the world becoming a global community.  Or perhaps instead of wanting to embrace that global community, they feel that they need to protect the purity of the teachings to ensure they are kept alive.   And while I fully understand some teachings are only meant for specific people, some teachings can be shared – NEED to be shared – for the good of the global community.  This means that those who have pressed for so long to keep these teachings under wraps and only available to a select few may need to reevaluate some of the things that they hold as secret.  And perhaps, in their zeal for keeping things secret, they may be doing more harm than good, as they have done in the past with me, and with my native friend.

I am going to say again, I don’t feel like going to the other end of the spectrum would be of any benefit.  Opening up ALL of the teachings is also not the solution here.  Already we have seen people use even small pieces of the teachings for personal gain, something that I doubt the elders and spirits ever wanted to happen.  And worse, others have used the teachings to invoke power over others.  The teachings must be protected from this just as much as other people must be protected from this abuse.

Another point to consider – the ceremonies of the pipe are very sacred.  The knowledge needs to be treated with the same respect that the pipe itself is treated with.  Flooding the world with this knowledge would not be respecting either one, and would only make the entire ceremony and pipe useless.   And with as dire need as the world has right now, by putting these things out there for everyone to see is to remove some of the sacred from this world.  We would also lose another very important tool of community, healing and strength. The pipe goes to they that treat it with respect, and those who are willing to stretch themselves to do good in the world.  This I understand now.

My native friend talked to me about his own fears for a long time.  Then he told me how he how there was a reason why I was called, just like there was a reason I was having the conversation with him.  There are reasons for why things are as they are.  It didn’t matter whether or not I was full blooded, or even if I didn’t have any native blood.  The reasons for the pipes coming out into the world can only really be guessed at.  But they ARE coming out. That is the truth of the matter.

And he went deeper with this truth:  The pipe came to ME.  The call was there, and I answered it.  And because the call was there, and this pipe came to me, I was meant to carry it. And as long as I give it the proper respect and do my best to continue the tasks I have been charged with, that is what truly matters.  And that was what I was not doing before we had the conversation.   I THOUGHT I was giving it proper respect, But further introspection made me realize that the ‘respect’ that I was giving was actually fear.  For too long I had confused ‘fear of’ with ‘respect for’ the pipe.  So instead of respect empowering me to utilize what I had been given, I was frozen in fear of the pipe and its powers.

Regarding the entire situation, with mixed Natives and full blood Natives, I don’t know the way forward.   I am not in any place to suggest any path for the tribes to follow.  But I do think that we have to learn to understand situations where Native teachings are being given on a case per case basis. We need to learn to stop condemning that which we come to learn about in a respectful manner.   But more importantly, and for me personally, we need to learn to look inside ourselves and undo the damage that was done.  It doesn’t matter if the damage was done 20-30 years ago or just yesterday.  If we feel called to learn to carry the pipe, we must consider that pull seriously, no matter what lineage we have in our DNA.  And we must not be deterred from that duty should we choose to follow our hearts.  To carry a pipe is to bring hope to people, to bring blessings and to bring a powerful vehicle of prayer and intersession.  We cannot turn away this call lightly.

After the phone call with my friend, I felt compelled to journey.  So after the appropriate measures were taken, I journeyed to meet my Gods and to discuss with them what it was that I had learned.  I discussed my fears, my hopes, and their expectations for me.  I was given cleansings and some appropriate trials.   Finally, I was allowed to be a part of a pipe ceremony where I was spiritually given the pipe whose physical form laid beside me as I was doing my journey.  I was also given more instruction on the pipe ceremony itself and how I was to utilize that ceremony.  Today, the fear has subsided some, but I know that I may still have work ahead in order to deal with it better.

Moving forward, I have been given plans on when I am to keep ceremony, and how to work with the pipe outside of ceremony.  And most importantly, I have accepted it much more deeply into my life than I had before.  Now my hope is that someone else may read my words and get some solace out of what it is that I have gone through.

Picture from Deviant Art

Winds of Change (Again)

The only thing that is constant in this life is change.

11 years ago, I attended my first Pennsic as a member of an armored combat unit.  Pennsic is an event of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval reenactment group.  This particular event has been running for 45 years now.

The difference between this event and others is that Pennsic runs for a full two weeks, and is a war between two kingdoms.  So for one of these weeks, roughly 2,000 fighters go out in full armor almost every day and ‘fight’ this war –  by beating the hell out of each other with rattan sticks.

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The Kingdom of the East moving in for the Field Battle – Photo from the East Kingdom Gazette

Oh there are rules to this form of combat – specific armor requirements, specific places on the body you can and cannot hit, specific rules on how large the rattan weapons can be, and plenty of marshals out on the field watching to ensure that no one gets hurt.  But it is combat nonetheless.  And there is a lot of energy being expended in combat, especially when it is on the same field 45 years in a row with 2,000 or more people fighting almost every year.

So being in that first fight was a HUGE catalyst of change for me.

First, there was physical change.  I faced my fear by being out there.  I recognized I had more control over my body than I ever realized.  I didn’t throw up, even though I wanted to.  I didn’t allow my fear to show on my face, and I actually was able to function in the battle, even though I was scared as hell.  There too were also physical changes.  I met my husband on that battlefield, and fought alongside him in that first battle.  Once we started dating, I moved to another state, took another job and ended up purchasing a home in order to be close to him.

Mentally, I found that I had wells of strength within me that I never knew I had.  And those wells of strength have never gone dry, even in the years since that first battle.  I’ve relied on that strength to push me through lots of life changes as well as to learn to heal from issues in my past.  And what surprised me even more was after I got off that battlefield, I recognized that doors opened in my mind that allowed me to recognize what it was I needed to heal from.

Finally, there was a spiritual aspect to those battles.  By claiming my strength and pushing myself I found I had learned new skills I to protect and take care of myself.  Those skills have also served me well.  They have given me confidence that I can handle things that have been thrown at me.  I think the Gods saw this that day.  And their response was basically, “So, you have faced your fears, good for you.  Here are some gifts and more work for you to do.”

Pennsic will be starting again this weekend, and again, I will be attending along with over 10,000 people.  I won’t be on the armored combat unit this year; I had to give that up due to the fibromyalgia.  This year however, I’m trying my hand at fencing.  The battles will not be as rigorous, but they will still be just as intense.

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Defending the Castle is very difficult when you are outnumbered – Rapier battle photo from the Pennsic Independent

And as I make my final preparations to go out there, I’m recognizing that I’m having the same feelings as I did 11 years ago, when the winds of change first started to push me into a new direction for my life.  The feeling of being unsettled started this morning, along with my thoughts moving towards reflection of my life and how it could change.  I decided to set up a meeting with a friend to do some divination on the subject, and by doing so all of the feelings that I had started to intensify.  Change is again on the wind.

Perhaps the changes will be battlefield related, like they were 11 years ago.  Perhaps they will be more related to the classes that I intend to take, as Pennsic is a place to explore many interests – not just those related to combat.

It sounds weird that something that started as a game could have such power to be a significant catalyst for change, but I say from experience is absolutely does.  You just have to do your best to be ready.

A Story of Death and Rebirth

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The night started like any other normal night.  As night fell, I retired to my bedroom in order to prepare for sleep.  However, upon lying down I felt the gentle ‘pull’ on my spirit.  The Gods had other plans in mind for me than simply roaming around within the dream world.    Tonight would be instead a journey to the realms of spirit in order to learn another lesson.  I quickly made the necessary preparations and prepared to go where I was lead.

Upon closing my eyes I found myself staring at a funeral pyre that was yet to be lit.  There were no tears from the others watching with me.  Instead, the sense in the air was that something powerful was about to happen.  No one was here to mourn.  Instead, they were here to witness rebirth.

Once I recognized that important difference, I felt the wood on my back as I found myself lying down on top of the pyre, chained there so that I could not move.  I frantically searched through my mind, and looked over at the other version of myself still staring at the pyre.

‘This can’t be right’ I thought, panic starting to set in.  Frantically I tried to pull my spirit away, but it was no use.  I was tied to the pile of wood very well.  Nonetheless, I continued to struggle

‘This is meant to be’ I heard a male voice say. The voice calmed my fears some, so I stopped struggling.

It was then that I saw a spectator light the wood at my feet.

In the physical world fire burns quickly.  I’ve heard fire doubles in size every four seconds.  But here, it felt like it took forever to catch.  Finally, I could feel it close in on my feet and legs.  The sensation was nothing like I had never felt before.  Thankfully, there was no pain, but that didn’t mean the destruction of the fire was lessened any.  I looked down and watched as the skin of my arms started to blister and be burned away exposing the muscle and bone underneath.  The flames lapped at my torso, and again I watched the blistering and burning of my skin.  In moments I was looking down at my ribs and could see my organs aflame through the bone.  I tried to breathe but flames instead entered my nose and mouth.  I could feel them as they burned away the nasal tissue and found their way into my lungs.

The flames got hotter then, and my bones started to burn away.  By now I could no longer see as my eyes were turned to dust.  But I could still feel the flame and it’s power burning my body away.  And as the dust started to accumulate I realized that no longer was I the body that had burned, but instead I was the flame.  I opened my new eyes and realized I was born again a giantess.  All around me was the world of fire as I walked.  I felt the destruction of the flame and knew that I would in time I would destroy everything.  I would be the one to set everything on fire.  I was drunk with the power of destruction and death, loving every moment that I controlled that power.

Then I knew it was time to transform again, and I started to feel a slight chill.  It started to become harder to move forward and I realized the power of the fire was retreating into me as the outside of my body started to chill and turn blue from cold.  Quickly my environment changed from fire to one of ice and snow.  Finally I could no longer moved and I feared I would be stuck within the block of Ice I had become forever.

It was then I saw Loki walking toward me.  The fire god was not in human form, but rather a walking ball of flame.  Lovingly he embraced the block of ice I had become and I felt myself melting back into my human form. Yet, even though I looked the same as I did before the journey started, I felt very much transformed.

I heard the male voice speak again.  ‘You will go through this transformation again and again until you give up all that you do not need and allow it to be burned away.  How many times you must endure the flame is up to you.

And then, just as abruptly as it came, the journey ended, and I awoke in my own bed, my husband sleeping next to me.

The next day I did feel different.  I cannot put my finger on the specifics, but I know that the journey changed me to my core.  I no longer fear  that which I once did.  And if that fear does come back I immediately see and feel the flames on my body.  I know them now as a reminder of what it was I endured, and a signal to know that I am attempting to carry something once again I do not need any longer.

This is a transformation that I have been deeply grateful for.  Although it scared me, it was one that was needed, and had I known it was coming, I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to lay on that funeral pyre myself.  I know it happened the way that it needed to.  However next time I may have to make the choice to burn in flame myself.

Photo by Mirovia from Deviant Art

A Story About A Choice

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I want to tell a story about something that happened to me today.  this event was very profound, as nothing like this had ever happened, especially when I was at work.

I am lucky to work for a company that has a mile nature trail on its campus.  Many associates take advantage of this trail.  Some do it for the exercise, or just to take a break from the daily grind.  I do it for that, but I also realize that there are a significant number of spirits in the woods and in the stream near the trails.  So i frequently also send a mental ‘shout out’ to them as I walk by.  There have also been many times that I have had conversations with the ones that choose to speak to me, and from those conversations, I’ve learned a lot about the path that I am currently on.

Today however, things were very different.  I took the path at a fast clip, as there was another associate who was also walking, and my introverted self didn’t really want to walk near the associate and try to facilitate small talk.  He, recognizing that I had much longer legs than he did and was walking much faster, allowed me to pass, and off I went into the first leg of the wooded part of the trail.

And I immediately spotted a large brown and white feather right in the middle of the trail.

Without thinking, I scooped the feather up mid-stride, and never broke my pace.  The feather reminded me of one of a red tailed hawk, a predatory bird that is frequently seen where I live.  However I knew that it was not.  It also seemed beaten up, much like if the bird had lost it in a fight.  I knew that my seeing the feather was a sign of something, as there is very rarely any feathers on this trail that I walk on a frequent basis.

That’s why the second feather was so surprising when I saw it.

This one was all black, like it had come from a blackbird, raven or crow.  Again, all three have been seen around the area, so I really had no way of knowing.  However, this one, unlike the brown and white one, was perfectly formed and surprisingly longer than most.

When I first saw the feather, I walked by it.  After the third step I felt like I had to turn around and get it, to which I did.  The associate I passed was still in range, and watched me walk back to get the second feather.  I quickly took up my fast pace in order to not have any questions asked of me, and overtook a second group of associates walking the trail to get some distance.

As I was carrying the feathers, I took a trail not rarely used (it was full of mud – I didn’t care) in order to double back and make sure a proper ‘thank you’ was said for the feathers.  As I said, they are very rare on these trails, so I had thought that I was very fortunate to find two on the same day, not 20 feet from each other.

When I doubled back, I found that I was the last associate to utilize the trails for that lunch hour.  So I had it all to myself.  And after a proper ‘thank you’, I was off.

As I continued to the farthest part of the trail, I realized that these feathers were more significant than I had originally thought.  While I wasn’t told specifically what each feather meant, I was told that one of the feathers would have to go back to the trail, and with it, a choice was to be made in my spiritual practices.

The beat up one seemed to symbolize my past.  It symbolized the abuse, it symbolized how hard I had pushed through to heal from everything, but it also symbolized all of the strength that I had gained and the spiritual allies that came to my aid.  At least that is what I sort of ‘assumed’.  I was never able to get a straight answer.

The black feather I think symbolized the unknown.  And from it I could sense that there was a hint of a gateway to transform into something that I was not yet able to become.  In the metaphysical sense, I could tell this feather contained no darkness, but yet it contained no light.  The only thing that I could truly comprehend from the energy was that it contained the beginnings of something new.

At this point I was coming to the second trail, which has a bridge over a fast flowing stream.  I was told that I could not keep both feathers; that one had to be dropped into that stream.  And if I chose not to drop one of the feathers, there would be some sort of consequence that I would be choosing to face.

Now I was still at work, and even though I am allowed to take a longer lunch hour, I knew I had to get back to my desk as I was expected for meetings.  It was only within a matter of moments that I was going to get to the bridge and cross it.  And even though it was a short distance, I was surprised at how much dread, pain and longing I felt.  Even though the meanings of the feathers were never truly clear, I knew they had some significant importance, and I didn’t have any time to study or understand that importance.

So onto the bridge I went, and as requested, one of the feathers went into the water.  I watched as it spiraled down and the current carried it under the bridge and down the stream.  For a moment, I thought about going down and trying to grab it as I saw it head toward the bank, but thought better of it.  Instead, I quickly walked away before I could see if it would get stuck.

The second feather now sits on my desk, next to a feather I had found on another walk, and three stones I used for focus and meditation during the day.  the feather sits in the middle of the three stones, much like a small altar in between my two monitors.

I am unsure of all of the intricacies of what it is I have chosen.  All I know and believe is that I have chosen to step away from that which I know and into the unknowns of a new path, one that will hopefully lead me to becoming someone who knows myself well, and can utilize what I know I am for the good of myself and those around me.

 

 

 

Being Uncomfortable

As I said before, 2016 is a year of work, but I was silly to think that it only meant spiritual issues would be worked out.  Many things have been moving forward at my job and home life as well.  As we are getting closer to planting time, my gardens have needed protection from our 8 month old German Shepherd, which meant putting up new fencing.  My work’s fiscal year end is March 30, so there are many projects that need help to wrap up before then.  And I unfortunately have a hand made of helium sometimes.  Also as it is getting to spring, my mind has turned to significant cleaning efforts in my house (having cats plus one big puppy makes for horribly dirty carpets).  And last but not least, the fibromyalgia I have means I have to pace myself and sometimes rest instead of doing something I want to get finished.

Keeping all of this moving has taken a lot of effort.  And it has also made me uncomfortable.  And that is a very good thing.

Being uncomfortable while doing these tasks has meant that I have been pushed to the limit of my comfort zone.  It means I am putting in extra effort, and because it is so uncomfortable for me, I am more mindful of the task at hand.   I am learning new things, and accomplishing things that I didn’t think I could.

In the past weeks, I have also found that I am uncomfortable because of mental issues.  Before the fibromyalgia hit me, I would push myself for hours to ensure I would get every task I had set for myself done in the time I allotted for it.  Now, I find I consistently have to change my plans because of my pain levels.  Yes, I might get to cleaning my office after work, but instead I might have to just sit on the couch and leave the office for another day.  I have to accept that sometimes, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel.  In that case, I take the feeling of being  uncomfortable as a sign that I must change my thought and belief about what I can do.  Perhaps I am still pushing myself too hard, and thus need to consider why I am doing that in the first place.

In many cases being uncomfortable means there is something that needs to change.  Perhaps it is a thought or belief, like the one I have about pushing to get things done.  But for some, that feeling of being uncomfortable might be about something that is just too hard for them to even consider, and thus causes anger.  Over the weekend I read about a blow up between two pagan bloggers, one being so upset about the others beliefs that some pretty horrible things were posted in anger.  The blogger has since apologized, however the words are now there in the internet eather, and I am certain there will be repercussions on both sides of the issue.  Perhaps instead of posting horrible statements, the blogger should have recognized that the humanistic beliefs of the other we’re not wrong, but instead had made her uncomfortable. But instead, because they did not fit into the worldview, the blogger became angry instead.    Perhaps the feeling of being uncomfortable was just too much to bear, I don’t know.  But in cases like this, the feeling of being uncomfortable could be a clear sign of holding onto a belief too rigidly.

Life is meant to be lived.  And because of that, it will make us uncomfortable.  Physical, mental and spiritual accomplishments take effort.  They take consideration of other view points as well as study and contemplation.  As spring is starting, this is the perfect time for new endeavors.  Just don’t expect for those new endeavors to come easily.  The best things come to those who are willing to push themselves to be a little bit uncomfortable.
Photo by deviant art

A Foot in both Worlds

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There are things that can be seen here physically, but also spiritually.

One of the first concepts I learned as a pagan was the concept of having a “foot in both worlds”.  This means that while you live and breathe within this physical world, you are not ‘of’ this world.  Instead, you realize that there was more in this life that could be physically seen and understood, and thus also spent part of your time in this world doing our best to honor and work with that which could not be seen.

The concept of having a foot in both worlds is something that I think pagans today don’t embrace as they should.  I say this because in my journeys through pagan communities, I see many pagans who have a strong spiritual life, but their physical life is a  constant struggle.  Some may attend every pagan event they can, but may not hold down a paying job.  Others believe that they are meant to be only in the spiritual world 100% of the time.  Still others have decided that they are going to rebel against the physical world because it is unfair to them, or because they try to be the ones to ‘change the world’.  I have seen this type of behavior not only in the pagan community, but also in the reenactment community.  When someone quits their paying job in order to attend an out of state event, I don’t think they have a solid grasp of what it means to be in both worlds at the same time.

I understand that there could be a calling to stay in the spiritual world 100% of the time, I believe in this day and age that calling is very rare.  And when it happens, there still has to be some sort of trade off with the physical world in order to continue the work of the spiritual.  A great example of this was when I worked in a family housing unit for a local University.  One of my coworkers was a Russian Orthodox priest whose parish could not afford to keep him as a full time priest.  Therefore he did extra work on the side, such as inspecting properties, in order to maintain a regular income.  I have also said before that while I feel I have a very strong intuitive gift, it’s not going to generate enough income to ensure that I can pay my bills and put food on the table.

The physical world in my opinion has quite a bit to teach us about being spiritual.  Every problem and every interaction with another has a lesson hidden within.  There are also spiritual lessons to learn from what it is that you aspire to do in this life.  Whether or not you succeed in an endeavor doesn’t matter; what matters instead is what you take from the experiences.  One of those experiences that you could strive to have includes going to school, keeping down a job and learning to fend for yourself.

I see a lot of pagans in my community who are angry with what they see in current society.  They fight against the ‘social norm, determined to make a difference and change the way society thinks and acts.  Some believe that we cannot sustain the society as it stands today (which they are right), and because of this they expect an apocalyptic style change that they plan to be ready for.  Others just wish to rebel against what they feel is the mainstream of society.  I find fault with both of these stances.

While I don’t disagree that there have been people that have made a significant influence to society as we know it, I believe it to be harder to do in today’s society than it was during the time period that they stood up for what they believed in.  Society has changed to the point that you need to be a part of what it is that you wish to change; you need to understand the playing field, so to speak.  The only way to do that is to be a part of the society that you wish to change.  Further, I don’t think we are going to have an apocalyptic event.  Instead, society is going to change as the world changes.  This is the main reason why Arnold Schwarzenneger recently came out in favor of clean energy.  He didn’t do it because of a possible apocalypse, he did it because of the business investment! It’s also the reason in Alaska they now have a Climate Change Adaptation Advisory Group, not to stop climate change, but to learn to adapt to what is coming.

While I understand many people do not agree with me, I believe that going beyond a high school education also has spiritual benefits.  When I finally got back to college, I thought obtaining my bachelor degree was simply ‘going through the motions’ of getting a piece of paper that allows you to earn more money.  However, through my schooling I recognize now that I have learned to understand more about people, situations and life than I would know as someone with a high school diploma.    Schooling in any form forces you to think about the world around you in different ways than you normally would.  It makes you go out of your comfort zone, which is exactly what spiritual growth also does.

In my experience, I have found that those of us that work within society actually help change society the most.  Because I have a bachelor degree, I am financially established to the point where I can ‘vote with my money’, and only patronize establishments that are ecologically friendly and pay living wages.  I have purchased carbon emission credits in order to offset the ones that my vehicles make.  I can also help others by donating my time and money to various causes.   I also vote, which is very important.

But just as I blend in with the society I live in, I don’t fully conform to this society.  I spend quite a bit of time at work thinking about my spirituality, and at times I have been so moved to write some of the posts to this blog at work after a walk, or because a situation has arisen that I felt like I had information about.  I pray often, and have spiritual objects at my desk.  I am also not against using magic to work through situations and to help better the world as a whole.  I go to religious events and groups, and I also spend several hours each month doing intuitive readings in order to help serve my pagan community.

There is one last thing that I want to share my point of view on, and it is something I am truly passionate about.  I have heard from some people in the pagan community claim that in today’s day and age it is hard for younger people to do as well as their parents did.  They feel that society is stacked against them because of the loans that they must take out in order to go to college, or because they are saddled with so much debt they cannot become financially independent.  I disagree with this.  As someone on the cusp of Generations X and Y, and I grew up in poverty.  I was the first in my family to go to college right out of high school, and I because I was not equipped with the right skills to study nor understand the classes I was taking, I did not finish.  Instead, 16 years after high school graduation and three different schools later I finally got my bachelor degree as I worked full time.  I now have the ominous student loan debt (currently $26,000) that I am paying off.  And at times I have had to refinance or defer it when my husband has been out of work or when I could not pay the minimum payments.  I have taken more than one job at a time, lived in small apartments with many roommates and used public transportation in order to get to and from where I needed to be.  I have had many trials through my life, but I never gave up.  And that is what I believe the Gods want us to do – not provide excuses as to why we can’t, but to never give up trying to make our physical and spiritual lives better.

Now, because of mine and my husband’s hard work, we purchased a modest house in a decent area.  We do our best to live within our means, and each year we try to make our lives better.  Our entire struggle is just as much spiritual as well as it is physical. I know that we are not done struggling in this physical world financially, but we do our best.

I challenge those people who feel that the world is stacked against them to look again. There may not be opportunities in the areas that you want them to be, but there ARE opportunities out there.  Those opportunities mean that you can work toward building the ones that you want in the future; you just have to keep at it.   Just like there is significant hard work involved in a spiritual practice that is outside the mainstream, there is also significant hard work that needs to be done in the physical world.

The Gods want us to grow and become stronger so that we can serve them and our fellow humans on this earth to the best of our ability.  That is truly what being in both worlds means to me.  It isn’t about rebelling against society, it isn’t about finding excuses, nor is it finding a path that you only have to focus on the spiritual.  Having a foot in both worlds means that you find a way to overcome obstacles in both the physical and the spiritual worlds and growing as a human being and becoming closer to the Gods because of it.