Poem: Think About It

 

You never realize how much you damage yourself
Until you take a hard look in a mirror
And finally ask yourself
What do I like?

You never realize how much you hurt yourself
Until you take a hard look in a mirror
And finally ask yourself
Who am I?

You never realize how unkind you are to yourself
Until you take a hard look in a mirror
And finally ask yourself
Am I enough?

Betcha your answers match mine.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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

The Next Steps

Yesterday I talked about how I realized that I was falling into the polarized mess that became this election.  Today, I still feel just as upset about who it was that won, but not because of that polarization.

The path of polarization has only brought hate and fear.  I learned that lesson from my own upbringing, and I learned it again yesterday.   We can no longer afford to automatically assume that someone who looks or thinks different than ourselves is the enemy.  We can no longer afford to get into the same arguments over and over, and have elections be ‘us v them’ like they have been for the past 20 years. We need to find a better way, and I believe that part of that way is trying to understand each other, to teach and educate, and not respond so harshly to one another.

That being said, we still have to stand for our own values, and ensure that everyone…EVERYONE has the same basic human rights.

Today, now more than ever, I fear for those who look, think and act differently. I fear for those who were just starting to feel safe loving someone that society says they should not. I fear for those who choose to be what society says not to.   We, who look more like we ‘fit in’, need to do what we can to help.  We need to say some thing when we see injustice, and be prepared to act if necessary.

I remember a bumper sticker I saw once, “If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention.”  Yes, I am outraged.  And yes, I’m upset.  It’s going to be a long, hard 4 years.  And that’s why my next steps are still going to have to include backing off of my intake of media attention.  And I’m backing off and filtering my social media feeds as well.  With the exception of National Public Radio (NPR), which is the least biased media I can find, I need to do this.  And my best is that I’m not the only one who should consider this.  We are only going to burn ourselves out if we start scrutinizing every move our government makes from this point on.  There will be plenty to be outraged about.  But we sill need to live our lives as well.  We still need to give ourselves rest and allow ourselves to heal.  What good will we be to others if we are burnt out from hearing story after story that induces frustration and anger?  We have to choose our battles now, and choose wisely.

There will be people out there with a better constitution than I who will be more active than I.  That doesn’t mean what I’m doing isn’t enough.  It means they will do what it is that they can, and I will do what I can.  I’m already thinking about what I can change in my budget to allow for more money to go to organizations like the ACLU, and other organizations that support LGBT rights.  Where others cannot afford to help monetarily, perhaps I can.

Finally, and what perhaps may be the hardest, we still have to reach out to those who think differently than we do.  We still should not judge others immediately by what we think they mean.  We need to be respectful, and we need to let their actions tell us what they truly feel and believe.  If they don’t believe in the basic premise of human decency, of basic human rights, THEN we need to get to work.  But until then, we need to see more people as potential allies, because we are going to need every one of them we can get to step forward together.

When the Spiritual Obstacles get Real

darkness_by_alexkatana.jpg

I have been away from my blog for the past two weeks, but it wasn’t because I wanted to be.  Instead, I got hit by the current round of the flu.  And this wasn’t just any flu.  This was the ‘not-keeping-anything-down-or-up-my-head-is-going-to-explode-wow-does-this-hurt’ flu.

I’m lucky in that the seasonal stuff rarely puts me down.  The last round of the flu I was hit with was years ago.  But when I do get hit with it, I go down hard.  Even now, two weeks after the initial onset, I’m still not fully back to what I think of as my ‘normal’ physical state.

Now I’ve realized however, that it wasn’t totally the flu that put me down for that long. I mean yes, I did have a virus that I had to get out of my body.  But the recovery time is taking a lot longer because of things that I am doing, or not doing.  In short, I’m not treating myself very well.

Because I’m still trying to cope with my limited amount of activity, my diet has gotten to the point where comfort food is almost always at the top of my choices (and goes without saying that the comfort food of my choosing is always the fat or sugar laden kind).  I’m still trying to do more than my body can handle as my current exercise levels do not take into account the significantly changing Michigan weather, nor do they always take into account the fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.   I’m still not giving myself the significant rest that I need in order to fully recuperate from races and other activities that I push myself to do.   And last but not least, it’s become painfully obvious that I am dealing with another food intolerance that I have yet to figure out what to do about.

One of the biggest obstacles that come up for my clients when doing intuitive readings, or even just in discussion in pagan circles is the fact that we regularly are forced to be face to face with those things that shake us up.  These are things that come up again and again, even though we try to ignore them.  Or perhaps we try to push them away, thinking that we just ‘don’t have time’ to work on them right now.  We don’t even realize we are pushing them away because we don’t want to work on them.  Instead, we rationalize why it’s not a big deal to push it away just a little longer because you have more important things to deal with at the time.

As pagans, one of the biggest things we hear from others is that in order to grow, we must look into that which we are afraid of and overcome those things to the best of our ability.  It’s so common to hear now that it’s joked about a lot, especially when new people come and ask to learn, unaware of what they are truly getting themselves into.  So we go about our day, expecting these hard obstacles to be metaphysical.  Perhaps the challenge from the Gods will be to do a journey, perhaps to learn to build a ritual, or work with a divinatory tool.  No one ever expects the challenge to be something as mundane as dealing with your own shortcomings and weaknesses as a human being.

The Gods want us to look at all facets of our life.  And why wouldn’t they?  To overcome obstacles in every aspect in your life makes you a better tool for the Gods.  It allows you to better hear them and be able to more easily discern what it is that you think you hear vs what you want to hear.  Someone who works on all facets of their lives become more able to raise the energies of those around them.   You become more powerful just by recognizing the shortcoming in the first place and learning to find ways around it when you can.

Most of the time, those challenges and shortcomings that we have in other facets of our lives are HARD.  They are the ones that we try to hide from the most, because they tie to issues so very deep within us that it shakes our foundations to deal with them.  These aren’t the issues that take a week or two to fix.  These are issues that take years to tackle and deal with.  The Gods know this, and don’t expect a quick fix.  This isn’t going to be something a single spell is going to fix.  No one is going to be able to tell you what to do, and no one will take the burden from you.

This is when the spiritual obstacles become real.  This is when you will truly test your strength and your resolve.  Will you fall?  Absolutely.  I know I have.  Will you ever fully win?  Maybe not in this lifetime, but that isn’t the reason for the obstacle in the first place.  This is when you finally have the chance to prove everything that you have vowed to your Gods in the first place.  Do you truly believe you have the strength to overcome obstacles?  Do you truly love yourself and recognize that you are worthy?  Do you practice what you preach to others about tolerance and respect for others?

And the question that arises for me right now – Can I take care of myself just as much as I tell my clients to, and do I accept myself as I truly am in this life, or is all of it lip service?

I’m going to chew on that one for a while as I start making plans for an elimination diet and re-configuring my exercise and rest schedule….

Photo from Deviant Art

Feeling Through Things and Taking an Inventory

IMG_3040.JPG
Sometimes it seems like even though the path is clear, it still might feel like the right path

Recently I have looked through the posts that I have done on this blog and realized that some of my beliefs have changed since I first wrote them down.  Some of them are because of what other people have written in response.  Others have changed because I realized I feel differently now.

Feelings are hard things to reconcile sometimes.  I think some of the biggest obstacles we see in the Pagan community are due to feelings; Either we aren’t listening to our feelings and focusing too much on what other people say, or we think too much on a subject and try to outmaneuver others with our grasp of the material. Another thing we do is we get angry because someone else ‘dares’ to give themselves a specific label or calls out something they feel is an issue and it ruffles feathers – this I think being the biggest thing we see in the blogging community. The Pagan community, especially in the United States, is so broad and deep that no one person is going to hold sway over the entire belief system of a particular aspect.  We forget that when we feel like we are under attack because someone says we are ‘right wing’ or ‘left wing’ or whatever.  When in actuality, the label is actually fitting a very small group of people

I realized that in past posts I’ve not been as true to how I feel. Instead, I’ve tried to reason my way around what other stances are with my own knowledge of the subject.   I’ve tried to push my voice out there; to either agree or disagree with the argument du jour, and hope that enough people will get behind me and listen. Now however, I understand that the particular strength of debate is not in my wheelhouse, and probably will never be.  And thanks to that realization, I know now that what is most important for me is to look at the material presented, see if it feels right for me, and if it doesn’t, let it go.  I don’t need to form a rebuttal, nor do I need to agree.  Others who feel like it is their place can do that and get into the arguments.

So by not forming my own rebuttals, or putting my own significantly different point of view out there, I fall in with the biggest group of people in the online pagan community; the ones who either feel left out, or stuck in the middle.  They are the ones that can’t get 100% behind what someone else writes down in a post about their particular faith or religion. They also can’t get 100% behind what someone else writes in a rebuttal to the first post.  And since they usually don’t speak up, they then get roped in with the ‘you are not listening’ or the ‘you are ignoring the truth’ crowd, to which isn’t the case either.  One pagan blogger found this out the hard way, when in a comment on his Facebook post he classified the middle ground group as the “I’m going to ignore what you say and do it my own way” group.  He quickly was overrun with people hot under the collar regarding his comment.  He apologized, and said he would try to understand better before classifying one way or the other again.

Those who do not put their path out there for others to see are not lost.  Neither are those who choose not to defend their path when others perceive it under attack.  We watch, we listen, and we take that which is right for us and cast aside that which is not.  And I believe I can speak for many when I say that we have some very strong tools that can help guide us on the paths that we are on.  Our own communication with our Gods and our own instinct can go a long way in helping us figure out where it is that we are supposed to be to do the most good.

I am not a ‘lost soul’ that needs direction from someone else who knows the heathen histories better than I do.  I  am not someone that needs guidance from a human mentor, or teacher to teach me how to be a caretaker for the traditions that have been handed down to me by blood and by lineage.

I know now that I need to ‘feel’ my way through concepts and thoughts.  And I bet that I’m not the only one.  Others who may be feeling lost may need to do the same.  We cannot rely on the current group of published writers and founders of traditions to spoon feed us something that will fit our daily lives.  Yes we can listen to them, but that doesn’t mean we can take everything they say and become that which we are called to be.  It won’t fit.  I know that there are already countless traditions out there, but they will never fit everyone. Countless more are still needed – lineaged, solitary, eclectic, personal gnosis, political or no, it doesn’t matter.  We need to find our own places, and they may be places we have to make our own in some form or fashion.

This blog going forward is going to be making that place for myself.  I want to talk more about Chronic Illness Spirituality.  I want to talk about myself and how I fit into my own beliefs; and how my beliefs have changed from previous posts.  I want to talk about my successes, and I want to talk about my failures.  And perhaps others will comment and help shape what it is I practice.

These words describe things that have been within my heart for a while now.  But I didn’t have the courage to put them out in the open.  I’m hoping that this post will help me gain the courage to keep going.

 

 

 

Darkness

darkness_by_4nki.jpg

Today driving into work I could really tell that we are creeping toward the darkest part of the year.  There was no sign of the sun the entire way in, and even now as I sit at my desk I still don’t see any signs of the sun peeping out yet.

I used to think of the dark as a scary place.  Often during this time of the year I suffered with seasonal depression, and struggled to just get simple tasks done.  In those days I would much rather crawl into bed and hide under the covers until yule was over.  Then at least I could recognize the fact that the days would start to get longer, and allow that fact to get me through my daily tasks.  I recognized back then that for me the sun was a guiding force, maybe not metaphysically, but its presence was calming, reassuring and gave me a time frame to go by in order to get tasks done.  But when the days were so short that I ended up waking to darkness, working, and going home in darkness, it was a significant struggle because I didn’t see that guide in my life.

Now however, things have changed.  I recognize that darkness is not something to be feared.  But it is something that is different and must be explored.

We cannot have light without the darkness.  And while darkness brings a time to rest, it also brings a time where we must change our patterns.  The sun serves as a guide to the day, so since we don’t have the sun, we must strive to look within ourselves to find the guidance to carry us through.  Since the darkness also brings cold, we must seek warmth, whether it be the warmth within ourselves, the warmth that comes from being kind or just the warmth of extra blankets on the bed.  Darkness is meant to be a struggle.  It’s meant to be a time where you have to reach deep within your resolve to get through the daily duties of the day.

Darkness is also an excellent time to look within ourselves and let go of the things that no longer serve us.  To continue to carry those things around simply means that you exert more energy.  Why not cast out that which you no longer need?  The thought of changing patterns and recognizing unhealthy truths is scary in itself.  Yet holding onto those things may be stopping you from figuring out what it is you really want, or it may be dragging you down so that you cannot reach the goal that you have for yourself.  At the very least, accepting those pieces of you that you aren’t as comfortable with will go a long way in allowing you to move forward.

For me, this year I am learning to embrace the darkness itself.  I want to learn to live within the darkness just as comfortably as I live within the daylight.  To me, that means I need to recognize I am more human than I allow myself to think I am.  I am not the perfect shape, by any means.  I have what society classifies as ‘negative’ feelings, and I’m allowed to have them.  And I recognize that I need to accept what society may classify as my shortcomings as they are.  And although some of those things may need to change in the future, for now just accepting them as a piece of me is enough.

Photo from Deviant Art

Feeling Connections

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

~ Howard Thurman

 

img_6994_copy_2_final_fb_by_xbassxharmingx-d7pcfv7.jpg

Over the year that I have been working with Loki, Sigyn and Odin, I have found a happiness that I never thought was possible within religion.  In all of my years as a practicing Christian, I never felt the Christian God the way I feel the ones that I am working with now.  Yes, the Christian God felt alive to me, but I didn’t “feel” like one of “his” children.  Even when I was doing other pagan and Wiccan practices, I never felt so close to the Gods as I do now.  The more devotional things I do for Odin, Sigyn and Loki, the more I feel and hear them.

I wonder if in today’s constant strife regarding the role of religion if this is something that we are lacking.  We see a lot of posts about how and what people think about their Gods, their practice and what other people should or shouldn’t do, but we aren’t seeing many posts about how we FEEL about our Gods.  Perhaps if we looked at how we feel about our Gods, and in turn how they feel about us, we wouldn’t have as much argument.  It doesn’t matter how we find our own ways to get there, but in the end, if you are content with your practice and feel the connections to the Gods, then that connection can be a starting point to reach out to other religions.

My connections to my Gods make me feel alive.  They soothe my soul and make me feel whole.  Odin helps me to understand that I do not know everything, and that I have a long road to get to the level of understanding that I want to be at.  He recognizes that I have value in who I am and in what I do, and that I’m not afraid of going outside that which I know in order to get something done, especially in his honor.

My connection to Loki is one that is very hard to describe.  I feel his passion and fire within me, and that has gotten me through rough times, especially when I am having a hard time with my chronic pain.  Loki also helps me learn to accept all of myself.  This includes those pieces of me that I feel are less than desirable.  I’m allowed to be angry, I’m allowed to dislike things.  But I am also allowed to recognize those feelings but that I don’t have to DO anything about them.  I can let things go as they may; I don’t have to make everything right for everyone, or even for myself.  And while I am not constantly on the lookout for the rug to be pulled out from under me in some aspect of my life, I recognize that it may happen.  And when it does, I am enough to do whatever it is that is needed to make the best out of the situation.

Sigyn is a much deeper lady than anyone gives her credit for.  To know her is to know that there are other aspects of her that she does not show to many.  She is the consoler, but she also does not let people shirk their duties because of their pain.  She asks of you to do what it is you can, to find the limit and work to it, then to recognize that that is enough.  Some days those limits are higher than others.  Sometimes they are much lower.  Either way, that is OK.  She also teaches that once you have met the limit, Rest for your body and for your soul is always necessary.   She is the champion of us who have chronic illness, a lady of quiet wisdom and strength, and a child of wonder and awe.  She is someone you must sit with for a time as she must know you before she opens herself to you.

Some readers may also remember that I am the holder of a medicine pipe of Native American traditions.  This relationship too has been solidified over the year.  I am not as afraid as I once was of the power that likes within the sumac and pipestone.  Instead, I recognize that its purpose is to help heal and teach those who are within its influence.  Ceremonies with the pipe are not things that happen often, but when they do, they will need to be done very carefully and purposefully.  And even when the pipe is in its bags, proper respect is still expected.  I find myself still giving offerings to it whenever I feel it is necessary.  Finally, the pipe doesn’t have to be out to speak.  It will speak to whomever it needs to, whenever the time is right.

A year ago I made pacts with these Gods that I would renew within a year and a day so long as they still wanted me, and I still felt comfortable with them.  Now I recognize that the connections that I have made with them will last much, much longer.  And I am absolutely OK with this.  It feels so nice to finally find a home.  It just took me throwing out some of the things that others taught and feeling my way through my own truth.

Perhaps speaking about these connections will help others speak about their own feelings regarding their relationships with the Gods.  Perhaps they will think on how they feel, and recognize that we all have a common starting point; the joy and comfort the Gods bring as well as the continuous lessons that we receive on a day to day basis.  I don’t expect this post to change all that.  But it might get some people thinking at least about expressing their own connections to divinity.  And even if it doesn’t, I’m still happy at the fact that I can express the relationships that I have had a hand in making for myself.

Photo from Deviant Art.