The Work of Introspection

The past week or so has been rough for me again.  But part of it is at my own choosing.

A couple months ago I realized that there were some behaviors and beliefs I had that were bothering me, so I set out on some psychological and introspective work to figure out why I had them and how I could change them.   Now I feel like I’m a little over half way through that process for these specific behaviors, and it’s getting to the part where it becomes tedious as the process has me focus on deeper and deeper issues.  On most days when I do the work, I get very tired.  At worst, on those days I feel like I’ve been run over by a big, emotional truck.  Do this on top of a normal work day and you can see how many people would consider stopping because of the complexity.

But I still continue.  Because I know I will be a much better person on the other side of this process, not just for me, but for my spiritual community.

I have been told by several people that I do more work on myself from a spiritual and mental level than the average person.  In many ways I feel like I’ve had to; I had a lot to recover from over the years and doing this work was the only real way to allow me to become authentic to my true self.  But because I held true to the belief that I could do this work, and pushed myself through it over the years, not only have I become more true to myself, I have also raised my energy levels to the point where I can now be of more service to others.

Introspective psychological work is very important and it is a key part of spiritual work.  However, especially because of the significant conflict I see in the pagan community, I wonder if there is a lack of this introspective work being done today.  My belief of this stems from the myriad of posts from people willing to tell others how their thoughts are wrong; or how we are moving in a wrong direction, very rare are the posts that discuss any compromise or any discussion or offer understanding as to why there is such polarization.  We are too quick to sprout facts for or against issues, but never take the time to understand why someone else believes differently.  So instead of building bridges by reaching understanding, we become even more polarized; much like how politics has become.

Perhaps this lack of introspective work in the Pagan community isn’t on purpose.  Many people in today’s pagan communities find the internet or a book as their first teacher.  That isn’t a bad thing – the very nature of paganism offers significantly different beliefs and systems, and I believe everyone has a place under this umbrella of belief.  But how many ‘how to’ books speak about how shortcomings and outdated beliefs could affect your magical work?  Sure, many speak about discipline of the body through proper diet and exercise as well as discipline of the mind through meditation; those are very important things to know when following a spiritual path.  But knowing why we have those shortcomings, those bad habits and why we carry the issues we do are just as important.

Many spiritual teachers that I’ve discussed this subject with over the years have told me how they do incorporate some sort of psychological work into their student’s magical studies.  It only makes sense to do so.  We need to know ourselves before we can take possession of the energies of the world and wield it to that which we desire.  And by not doing that work to truly know yourself and yet progressing with more advanced studies and spell work, you leave yourself open to unintended consequences.  And those consequences won’t be just for you, but for those around you and the community as well.

Although psychological work is a huge benefit from a metaphysical perspective, it is also beneficial in other ways.  The understanding you receive about yourself from introspective work moves throughout every aspect of your life.  You become a more solid person, not only in magical understanding, but in your career, in your relationships, in your family and in the community.

At the very least, doing psychological work will allow you to better tolerate those that intentionally try to carve up the pagan community , as that type of work provides tools for yourself when dealing with those that intentionally divide.  But depending on how deep you decide to go with this work you might find the other, deeper benefits that come from it.  For example, thanks to the significant amount of work I have done over the years, I can now understand better where some of the negative beliefs that people have come from.  This allows me to respond with empathy and put up firm boundaries with those that wish to bring the challenge to a more of a personal attack.  At the very worst, I am protected, but what may also happen is that my empathic response could deescalate the situation.

An even bigger benefit that I feel I have achieved through my own psychological work is being able to see what specific energies are at play in different conversations and situations.  Perhaps it is simply the Lokian perspective to which I subscribe, but I feel like because I was willing to look into those things that were destructive in me and learn to work with and through them, I can now see that energy better in the world around me.  I have a deeper understanding of the creative and destructive energies around me; how they move, how they react to stimuli and how they balance themselves out.  This understanding has given me a bit of comfort in this polarized world, and I am very grateful for it.

So back to the grindstone of the introspective work I go.  And I don’t plan on stopping this particular work until I am at my goal of at least understanding where these particular issues came from and why I still carry them.  Yes, it’s hard.  But good things never come easy.  And there are too many benefits to me, the energies around me and for my community to even consider stopping.

 

Photo from Deviant Art

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Roles within Activism

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This is a post I knew I needed to write, but yet it has taken me quite a long time to figure out what I wanted to say.

You see, I’ve had a very hard time with this subject.  As the media spews more hatred and death and people become more polarized, I’ve known that I need to start figuring out an action plan for me to help heal the world around me sooner rather than later.  I’ve realized that as human beings we can no longer be idle about who we are, what we believe and what we choose to do day in and day out.  We need to stop listening to others and act on what it is we believe deep down in our soul.

I’ve done the work of figuring out what I believe and what I will stand for. And while that work will never be fully done, I feel l can comfortably say what I am and what I am not.   Since I have come to that conclusion, I’ve had this deep nagging in my gut that tells me I need to figure out what to do with this knowledge.

I hear the frequent calls that other pagan blogs and by other people in the pagan community, “Become an activist!”  “Join a Protest!”  “Make your beliefs known to all and that you won’t stand for anything less anymore!” And those are good ideas, for some people.  There are people that can do that day in and day out, and I applaud them for that.  I know it is hard to be out there for your beliefs 100% of the time.  It’s even harder to keep that up and still do the things you need to in order to live.  But I already know I can’t do that.  It isn’t because I want to hide from what is going on around me.  It isn’t because I don’t want to fight for what it is I believe in.  It is because I recognize I am a highly sensitive individual, an empath and sufferer of fibromyalgia.  And I simply can’t do those same things.

I know there are a lot of people out there like me.  We recognize that when we are in a situation that is saturated in anger and hate – no matter where it is at or who it is directed to – we physically hurt from what we feel.  When we become passionate enough to speak up or defend something we see wrong, the raw emotion and power that we hold in our bodies and minds also threatens overwhelm us for hours or even days.  We feel anxiety over having to talk about our beliefs with someone that disagrees – not because we are afraid of speaking out, but because we know that the negative emotion that might leak from those we are talking to will hit our shields and stick like a nasty, dark film that is ever so hard to clean off.  And if we aren’t vigilant about keeping our energy clean, physical sickness is going to come very quickly.

People like me have to know their limits very well; We need to know when we are well enough to push through something, and when we have to immediately stop what we are doing because we are going to hit a mental and physical wall.  And if we try to decide to push against that wall, we know the consequences of that action will be felt for a significantly long time as our bodies, minds and spirits heal.

Now that would happen if someone like me was in the middle of a protest when they have reached their limit or are forced into feeling every emotion because what emotional shields they had are blown away?  What about someone like me who has limited energy and a fogged mind thanks to fibromyalgia being in a heated debate?  Or what about someone like me who is so overwhelmed with anger because they believe they are right that they start to lose their sense of logic? It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  But I know any one of these scenarios could happen to me.  And if I put myself out there like I see other activists do, I would be the one getting the brunt of it and not be able to recover.

Don’t get me wrong – I still do what is needed.  I’ve done it in the past, and I can do it again.  I’ve pushed through that wall by gathering every bit of strength I can and used force of will make it through whatever situation needs to be taken care of.  And I have also paid the price for doing it.  The last time it happened I was down for a full month.  And another two months passed before I was back to the same strength and energy levels that I was before the situation occurred.  So I know I cannot properly take care of myself and still be an asset while I am on the ‘front line’ on a regular basis.

So that pretty much cancels any thought of keeping up in any activist group.  So what is it I can do?

I think I’m halfway to being where I want to be.  I know what it is I believe, and I don’t let anyone else tell me differently.  And I think the fact that I push to understand myself and listen is more rare than it seems.

I recently watched a TV Show called “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee”.  In it, there was a clip of a young man, sitting next to his mother, who wanted to start a “Children for Trump” Group.  The video featured this kid going on and on about the virtues of Trump, how President Obama is Muslim, and lots of other statements that came directly out of sound bites from media reports and other politicians.  I’m not going to get into those beliefs, but I do want to point out something else that I think is even more concerning:

This kid was a clone of everything his mother wanted him to be.

He said the right things in her eyes, did the right things in her eyes, and was never taught to think for himself.  I bet you he lives in a comfort zone completed for him by his mother, and is most likely kept from anything that could sway his thinking to something that is outside what his mother wants him to believe or see.   He probably has never asked “why” he believes what he does, he just believes what he spoon is fed to him about what is going on in the world.

That is a big problem.

We need to understand why we have the beliefs we do and not just allow them to be spoon fed into our minds like this poor kid.  We need to question things, and obtain our own sources of information that we feel are right for us.  We also need to expect to be challenged in those beliefs and sources, but not in a negative way.  We need to have open conversations about things, and have the courage to change the belief patterns.

So basically, in order to help heal the divisions, we need to do some of what I talked about in my last post.  I firmly believe in what Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”  If I want the world to be more understanding, I have to be more understanding.  If I want to understand why other people believe what they do, then I need to learn why they believe it.  We can’t be spoon-fed beliefs anymore.  We need to find what works for ourselves, and be ever willing to learn something new, even if it challenges the current belief system we have.

A couple months ago I would have thought that what it is I am doing – challenging my own belief systems to really dig deep into my own morals and beliefs – would be enough to be considered an activist in today’s world.

But I don’t think it is anymore.

I think it is a huge first step, and it would go a long way to healing many of the issues we see today, but it’s no longer enough.

So the question now becomes, what else can I do?  Give money?  Volunteer?  Or is it that if I am not on the ‘front line’ that I am not doing anything of value to the cause of stopping this polarization that we find ourselves in?  It’s a very tough question, and at this time I still don’t know how to answer it fully.  But perhaps the answer is different for each one of us.  Perhaps what I am doing is enough for me, and what someone who attends the protests is doing enough for them.  Perhaps those who cast spells or actively pray to make the world a better place is doing the best they can as well.

I know that if I see an issue, if I see someone who is bullying someone of a different religion or race I’m going to say something about it, and try to deescalate the situation if I can.  I know that if I hear something that is derogatory, I’m also going to speak up (and already have done that in my workplace more than once).  But perhaps that is all I am meant to do – to find the beliefs that settle my soul the best and to live by them.

It’s at least a good start.

I know that I still have to do some thinking on this topic.  The thought of being more active still stirs my soul for some reason.  Perhaps it is enough to have conversation about it, perhaps not.  but if I come up with any other ideas, I’ll write about them here.  And as always, thoughts are welcome.

Photo from Deviant Art

Hearing the Voices, Seeing the Spirit, Feeling the Heart

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Never open your gifts in a spooky prison.

One of my old teachers calls metaphysical gifts blessings and curses.  I tend to agree, especially when it comes to hearing, seeing and feeling things that others cannot.

I’ve known that I’ve had these gifts since I was a child.  I would always have experiences that others didn’t.  However it wasn’t until my college years that I actually understood what was happening, why, and how to control them.

I seem to have three distinct gifts when it comes to seeing, hearing and feeling things.  The first is mediumship.  It’s not one I am particularly fond of, and thus is one I try to use rarely.  Most of the time I effectivity shield myself from things, but there are those times where it comes through the shields whether or not I want it to.  Those times are usually when someone around me has passed on in some way.

Depending on the case and the circumstances, I can also at times see the spirits of the dead.  For example, one time an associate that I worked with had a heart attack in our office.  The first responders started working on him until the paramedics arrived, and then they continued.  Fifteen minutes into the paramedics work I could have told them that it wasn’t going to help because I watched the associate ‘stand up’, look at me, wave, and walk away.  He indeed passed away that day.  That was a very trying time for me.  I mean, what could I have done – looked at the medics and tell them “ah, you can stop now, he just started crossing over…”?

One thing to never do if you have this gift NEVER drop shields in an area that is considered haunted unless you want lots of input from the area around you.  I was stupid enough to do so in a haunted prison during a nightly ghost hunt.  The resulting headache lasted for days.

The second gift is hearing the Gods and spirits of this earth.  I am told that there is a term for this in some traditions called a “Godphone”.  From the research I’ve done on the web about the origins and use of this term, it seems pretty controversial.  The origins, as I see it, was from looking at an older phone/landline and discussing how some people have a gift of that type of line to divinity.  The thing is, sometimes you get busy signals, sometimes calls don’t go through, or you have bad reception.  The whole analogy does fit, although I don’t know if I really like the term.

It works for me sort of like this – when it comes to hearing from spirits, Gods, Goddesses and the like, it’s really all up to them.  I don’t get much of a say.  Sometimes they are in my head until I do or say whatever it is that they need, sometimes I can put my foot down and tell them not right now, and if they so choose to heed me, I am allowed a break.  However lately, I’ve been welcoming this more in my life.  It helps to have guidance, especially on these new endeavors that I have been attempting.

Finally, I put the gift of empathy in under hearing, but this is also a gift of feeling.  And again, this is a gift that I have known I have had for a very long time.  I also recognize that there is an ancestral tone to this gift.  My niece and sister also have the gift.  My sister chooses not to handle it in a metaphysical way, however my niece, her daughter, is having all sorts of fits with it, and I try to help her when I can.

The big negative with empathy is that you can easily mirror the malady that you are feeling.  If someone is angry, you feel afraid.  If someone is hurt, you feel the hurt.  If someone is having an anxiety attack, then guess what you could have.  You have to have a strong sense of self in order to properly work with this gift.

All of these gifts are significant, and I am happy to have them, but learning to work with them has been a significant amount of trial and error, doubt, fear and strife.  There is also a lot of doubt that goes into these.  That’s where validation from others and teaching can help.  I was lucky to find metaphysical teachers in my college years that had the same gifts as I did, and thus I received training from them in how to use these.  But even with that training I found that my doubt clouded my judgement, which meant I didn’t use these gifts to my (and the Gods) full advantage. I think that’s one thing this post is about actually.  Twenty five years a pagan and this is the first time I’ve ever come out publically and said “Hey, this is everything I got.” I think it’s part of the shaking of the bones that I talked about in my last post.  This is who I am.  It’s time I embrace it, put it out there, and fully accept everything about it.