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.

A Longing

Happy Autumnal Equinox everyone!

As the leaves start to finally turn color around my Midwest stomping grounds, I realize that the brief time for rest is up for me.  It’s time for me to jump into a new project.  Specifically, it’s time for me to build a framework around my beliefs.  this framework is going to include prayers, spells, holiday celebrations – the whole ball of wax so to speak.  The energy for this endeavor is already around and within me.  I feel an ache like I have never before in my heart and gut.  Finally, the culmination of all the work on myself is coming together.  I recognize now that I’m creating things for myself, blending my own beliefs, my ancestral bloodlines and traditions that I feel are right for me into a repeatable, workable methodology.

It will be fantastic to finally feel at home in a tradition I make of my own; a tradition I can share with others if they want to know what it is I do, but mostly one for me, where I know I’m going to make a difference by doing the practices I create for myself.

So with all of the energy spinning around me right now, where the heck is this creative block coming from?

I know that I’m not going to be able to pull everything together in a matter of months.  Heck, it might take me a full year just to figure out what works for what holiday.  And that is fine.  But the surprise is that I’m having a heck of a time writing a prayer right now, much less any ceremonies or spell work.

Writing down this type of thing isn’t new to me.  I’ve been in many covens and written a significant number of rituals for full moons, training rituals, rituals for high holidays, spells, you name it.  And I am longing to do this work.  I ache to do it.  The joy that I have felt over the past year finally figuring out how I ‘fit’ has been fantastic.  I am eager to play my part and move forward.

Yet, as much as I want to, I cannot put into words what it is I am feeling right now; I cannot figure out how to truly convey the simple prayers of adoration that I wanted to start with.  I am literally aching to put pen to paper, yet it feels like the language is totally foreign to me.

Perhaps I stay with this feeling for awhile and just wait for the words to come.  Perhaps I have to start with another prayer, or give up on the thought of using eloquent and descriptive wording for not.  I’m not certain what direction this is going to go.  So right now I’m just going to express my longing for this next project (and a bit of my frustration), and see what the coming days bring to me.

 

The Importance of Limits

1a8536fc5c45a266265e31f4bf6aea6c.jpg

As I go throughout my life, I recognize more and more that I need limits.  Not only are they important in my physical life and in dealings with other people, but they are important in my spiritual life as well.

I am not the type of person to shy away from a challenge, especially when it pertains to my self-improvement.  I’ve done a lot of things toward the goal of making myself a better person over the years.  I’ve lost significant amounts of weight, quit smoking, quit eating things that were bad for me or that I was allergic to.   (I know that one is a given, but I know family members who refuse to give things up, even when they know it hurts them!) I’ve changed my demeanor to the point that I have had people who haven’t seen me for a while come up to me and tell me I am a totally different person than what they knew before.  The changes aren’t being driven from the outside.  Instead, I’ve always wondered how far I can push myself to change, and to see what those changes would do for me.

Self improvement is one of the very basic things that I believe the Gods want us to do in this lifetime; we have to deal with the things that we are given, deal with the things that we have done to ourselves, and of course, deal with the stuff that others do.  We have to get through all of this in order to get to the nature of who it is we are as human beings.  It is only then that we see the gifts that the Gods give us to use in service to ourselves and others.

To that end, I believe the Gods take an active role in pushing you further in this life.  They are going to give you opportunities to come to terms with things that are going on.  They are going to give you opportunities to deal with roadblocks you put in your own way.  And as a reward, they are going to give you keys to the different gifts that you hold inside of yourself.  And the more you push yourself, the more the Gods will push you to go deeper into your spiritual path.  In the end, what you do makes you better equiped to do their will on this planet.  It’s never more than you can handle, but they still give as much as you think you can take.

That’s where the limits come in.

I’m recognizing the days of ‘overhauling’ my personal nature are pretty much over.  At 41, I’m finally recognizing that I am enough, and that a lot of the mistakes, abuse and issues from my past are now dealt with.  And if they aren’t dealt with now, they are at least on their way to becoming dealt with.  But for a while there, I still kept piling on projects like I still needed a lot more work, and the Gods reciprocated by opening up other doors of possibility for me.

Finally, a couple months ago, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed with stuff.  .  A friend of mine, after hearing about how in conversations with my Gods I was told about these possibilities, said to me that it was OK to say no.  That thought had never occurred to me before.  Say no to a God?  Seriously?

It took me some time to realize it was true.  And it’s all a part of self-care that I needed to do for myself now.

Now I understand.  My Gods want me to say ‘no’ from time to time.  It helps them know that I am putting my self-care first, something that is very important because of the physical maladies that I have to deal with on a day to day basis.  They want me to know that I can stand up for myself, whether it be to them or to someone else who is either imposing on my time or causing me undue stress and harm.

I have a bet too, that I’m not the only one that needs to say ‘no’ occasionally.  Gods, especially those in the Norse pantheon, don’t want us to bow and venerate them all of the time.  They want us to work with them, both to make ourselves better and to make this world a better place.  But the only way we can effectively enter a relationship with them and do that is if we are honest about our own limits.  It’s weird to think that we can say ‘no’, as I know many who worship in pantheist traditions don’t think that they can.  And those of us who were brought up in said traditions immediately carry that mindset of not being able to say ‘no’ to their polytheist practice.

Now that I have accepted it, I realize setting limits needs to happen frequently, and we need to be aware that they change.  As a sufferer of fibromyalgia, I am constantly reviewing my efforts to stay active.  And that means that if I want to pursue one activity, another one is going to suffer.  I have to be OK with that.  It doesn’t mean I’m going to drop the activity that suffers, but it does mean that it needs to go on hold for awhile.  This is the same with my spiritual practices.  I can’t spend an hour each day on practicing and reviewing the runes while also wanting to do a significant meditation practice and build a better spiritual gardening practice.  All of that takes time and energy, and with fibro, both of those are significantly limited.

Especially as we start to journey toward the Autumnal Equinox, I find my spiritual practices going back to focusing on balance.  Limits need to be created and maintained in order to find that balance.  We still aren’t through this extensive year of work yet; and I expect the next months until year’s end are going to be very productive on many different levels.  Reviewing and redefining my limits right now are going to go a long way to getting myself ready for the work ahead.

Photo from Deviant Art

It’s OK to not be one side or the other

division_by_ageofloss

My greatest challenges in learning to form my own opinions have happened this week.  With all of the events happening right here and now, many of my friends have started to post about what ‘side’ they are taking.  Memes are littering my Facebook feed that alter from making me shocked to making me upset, and occasionally I even agree and ‘like’ one of them.

But the biggest challenge has been when I post one of my own.  Recently, it was one regarding the state of education in the United States (yep, it’s in a bad state).  And immediately a Facebook friend took me to task for being ‘anti teacher’.

Now the meme had nothing to do with teachers.  Instead, it said that the education system needs to be fixed to help straighten out the mess that would ensure someone like Donald Trump would be voted in as a political candidate.  But immediately, the “us” vs. “them” started.  And even though I started giving examples of why I agreed that the teachers weren’t always the problem, I walked away from the posts being frustrated.

There is a lot of bias in this world.  Everyone has a bias – there is no getting around that.  If you think, you have opinions, and you judge input coming into you by those opinions.  And in today’s world where the media is for whatever reason focused on the negativity, or is biased based on the needs of the media source, opinions have become very sharp.  People expect you to either be with them, or against them in your beliefs.  The common ground has shrunken significantly, like I experienced with my teaching Facebook friend.

This environment of acute opinions and taking sides has caused significant harm, and I think there is a lot more harm that people don’t realize that is being done.  A whole generation of young people are watching what we do; watching social media and seeing the comments and arguments.  They are watching Fox News and learning from their parents how to be on the ‘right’ side, and to hate the ‘wrong’ side.

I especially have felt the harm caused by being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.  When I was growing up, I was always questioning things.  I won’t go into details, as I’ve had past posts that have had examples, at least from a religion standpoint.  But realize that same frame of mind my family had was not just limited to religious beliefs.  If I had questions about a specific preference, why someone dressed the way they did, why I grew up in a specific school or anything that might sound like it challenged my parent’s comfort zone of beliefs, I was slapped down.   ‘Because that was just the way we ARE,’ they would say.  ‘Because we don’t associate with THEM,’ was another one.   And my favorite, ‘Because that is what we BELIEVE.’

Well, Why DO we believe that?  No answer.  Or that is when I would be sent away, sent to my room, or the subject would be changed.

It’s only now when I’m 41 years old that I realize the problems that upbringing had on me.  Not that I share those limiting opinions, but because I was never ALLOWED to ASK questions, or VOICE MY OWN opinion.  Because I got slapped down, I never was able to learn to talk with someone of a differing opinion and understand why they were that way.  I was never able to understand and speak to why I believe the way I do.

Fast forward to the current time.  Now I deal with the fact that I am actually afraid to put my opinions out there because others would not approve, and even worse, belittle me for what I believe.   That’s what I got when I was young after all!

I don’t know if it is because of all the ways I was ‘slapped down’ as a child, or if it is because of being the type of person I am now, but there is one very big thing that I am trying to do as I heal from this tidbit of abuse I suffered growing up.  And that very big thing is trying to be understanding.

People can have opinions and beliefs that they stick to.  They can fiercely defend those beliefs all they want.  But they have to accept that others may have a differing opinion, and that they can agree and disagree on the smaller points within those issues without losing face.

  • You can accept the rights of gun owners and still want stricter legislation.
  • You can accept that there is a significant problem with the treatment of minorities in this country and still believe that there are good police that do their job every single day.
  • You can be a democrat and recognize that some republicans actually have good ideas.
  • You can recognize that we have a lot of good teachers in our education system. And we have some really putrid ones too.
  • You can accept the fact the black lives matter movement has some serious points of contention and not be racist.
  • You can recognize that the terms Pagan and Heathen have personal meanings for different people.
  • You can be a happy christian and understand that other people have other religions that are different than you and still fulfill the same purpose as you.

Where I will draw the line however is when someone deliberately doesn’t get their facts straight.  If you aren’t actively seeking out media that has as minimal bias as possible; if you are getting your facts from ‘wehategunowners.com’, or ‘liberalmediasucks.com’ or whatever sites that are out there that focus on one side or the other, then there is a serious issue.  We have to be willing to look at other people’s beliefs and understand why they have them.  And the people we are trying to understand have to be willing to show what they believe without fear that they will be mocked, and have the courage to put their belief out there with the possibility that better facts may come along that don’t support it anymore.  And when those facts come along, we all have to have the strength to recognize the stance is outdated, and it’s time to move on.

So one thing I can say from my upbringing, at least I understand from it now what not to be.  I don’t want to be someone who believes something because that is what they were told.  I want the facts, I want to understand the issues.

It’s hard to be the one to reach out and try to ask those questions.  It’s taking me a lot of courage to do so, especially because I am so very afraid I’m going to be punished for it still.  But I believe it is something that needs to be done.  And perhaps someone will see my actions and try to start thinking the same way.

Photo from Deviant Art

Dealing With Negative Emotions

I used to think that negative emotions were flaws.  When I got angry, I used to think that it meant that there was something wrong with me.

There is a great example of this going on right now, and it’s the reason why I started writing this post.  Right now at my work, I’m dealing with associates loitering at my desk.  You see, my work area butts up against a very popular manager’s office.  He is a good man, but he also is manager of one of the busiest departments in the company.  So he frequently has people that need to speak with him….MANY people that need to speak with him.  And frequently this means there is a line of people waiting their turn to talk to said manager.  Some of those people waiting in said line loiter around my work area, look at my work screen, check out what I am doing work-wise and get really nosy.

It gets irritating.  And I’m realizing more and more that it’s OK that I feel that way.  More importantly, it’s OK when I get angry about it.

One concept that is preached in some new age movements is the concept that if someone or something bothers you to the point of anger, it means there is an area within you that needs work.  Further, the person that is bothering you is doing you a favor by showing you a weakness within yourself.

This is a concept that I’ve struggled with this concept for a long time.  Like other new age concepts I have found a grain of truth to this, however, taken into extreme, this concept ends up hurting the person who tries to obey it each and every time they have a negative emotion.

The practice of seeking out what bothers you about an issue is good when you are dealing with some things, especially some of the issues that are out there today.  I firmly believe that lots of the emotion tied to issues today are because there are too many people out there that don’t deal with their own issues.  Sometimes it’s because they realize subconsciously that position they have is based on faulty thought, instead it’s a stance that they just ‘feel’ is right without looking at the real evidence for or against the issue.  Maybe the issue just hits too close to home to a traumatic event for the person that they need to deal with before they can have a clear head about the issue.  Whatever the cause, I believe our task when this happens is to investigate further, figure out the root cause of that emotion, and learn to deal with our own personal baggage so that we can see the more clearly.

Saying that, I do believe there are things that must be vetted prior to doing this work on sensitive issues.  First, you need to be in a position of safety to deal with those issues that might be related to a traumatic event.  And second, you need to know when to stop.

I didn’t know when to stop.

If I was upset about the weather, I considered it my flaw.  I considered it a flaw if I got mad because I had to re-explain something to someone at work for the 3rd time because they refused to listen the first two.  I considered it a flaw if I was angry at someone for interrupting me when I was deep in the middle of very highly detailed work.  I forgot those things were OK; and that I am only human.

As humans, we will never be perfect.  We will never be without flaws, no matter how much we push forward and deal with our baggage.  We will never be able to always say the right things.  We will never be able to always handle every emotion that we have.  We can work to do what we can with those emotions, but we need to realize that we are never going to stop having the occasional negative emotion, and that is OK.  I had to allow that for myself.

Once I realized that, it became much easier to realize how much I truly was beating myself up because I couldn’t control each and every emotion that I had.  I had done my work (and still do it when I realize there is something I can fix), but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be pissed at the non-management schmuck who decides to be nosy and see if I’m really doing the work that I am paid to do, or if I’m just playing on Facebook or cruising the internet.

The other thing I realized is that anger can be awesome when you need to harness energy.  I’ve done it training for races already, where I get mad and push through that last mile before I quit.  And I’m learning to do it with my fibromyalgia as well.  Sometimes you just need to get mad in order to get through the flare that hits during the work day.

I’m still playing with this, but I have to say it finally feels good to allow myself to feel the so called ‘negative’ emotions.  They are a part of me, and since I have accepted that I have felt more genuine than I have in years. Moreover, since this realization, I’ve been able to dismiss that which I do not need a lot easier as well and look forward to where else this realization will take me.

The Meaning and Use of Chronic Illness

Today I saw a post by Mainer74 about how he is dealing with his chronic pain and the lessons that it has provided him.   I am very thankful for this thoughts on this subject.   Information on this subject is needed now more than ever.  I also have been writing my own posts about it in an attempt to put into words how I deal with my pain, why I think I have this pain and to find others like me who are striving to live in spite of it.

Too many people think that their lives are over after they are diagnosed with pain.  Too many people go with what their physicians tell them, jump on the first support group website to see all of the agony and despair that others with chronic pain have and jump on the bandwagon of taking a daily dose of an opioid pain medication is their only choice to live anymore.

I’m here to say it isn’t.  I think there is a lot to learn from from the chronic illnesses that we have to deal with in this lifetime, and I’m not just talking ones that cause chronic pain and fatigue.  Mental illnesses, cancers, multiple sclerosis and many others can be teachers to show us more of who and what we are.  Learning why the illness came into our life, learning how to live with the illness and learning how to move forward and thrive again are all things that make us more authentic to ourselves, and makes us closer to our Gods.

In Mainer’s post, he speaks with how he deals with his chronic pain.  I do agree with a lot of what Mainer said, and I disagree with other pieces of it. But that’s OK; because what he is doing is working for him, and that is all that really matters.  What I think he and I can both agree on is that we are no longer victims of these illnesses.  We accept they have happened, and we are both determined to live our lives to the fullest.

So how do you live your life to the fullest with a chronic illness?  First, as I talked about in my previous post, you need to remember that you did not cause this illness.  There are way too many variables in this world that can cause any number of sicknesses.  We eat food laced with chemicals, we breathe air full of different chemicals, and we cannot get away even more chemicals in the buildings, in the vehicles on the street and even in the clothes we wear.  Whether it was a multitude of things that caused your illness or just a few things, it doesn’t matter.

Mainer talks about becoming submissive to the pain.  I don’t know if I agree with the choice of word, but perhaps the sentiment is the same.  I don’t submit to my pain and fatigue, but I do accept it.  These things are a part of my life.  But yet, they are not a part of me.  My actions, not the pain, makes me who I am.  The Gods give us obstacles to make us grow, and maladies affecting the body are no different.  I’ll be the first to say that Chronic pain and fatigue, no matter the reason we have them, are hideous obstacles.  But they can be overcome, and if you let them, they can transform you.

So how do we accept the pain?  Mainer discussed was how he had a meditation for submitting to his pain and learning to move on in spite of it. Someone could look at the meditation he proposed and be overwhelmed with what he suggests to do.  But his belief and the meditation he gave in his post isn’t very far from the truth.  Psychologically, one could say that he is being mindful of his pain, and that mindfulness of pain can go a long way to understanding and helping deal with chronic pain.  This is an area that is getting a lot of press in psychology and mindfulness circles.  There are countless articles on the web about this very subject.  Some of my favorites include how you can meet pain with awareness, much like Mainer’s meditation.  Another is an article about how the brain can change the experience of pain.  To go further, here are two published articles on meditating with pain and additional mindfulness exercises that can help someone learn to work with pain better.  So what Mainer is essentially doing has been studied and proven to be effective.  And what is even better is that he is showing the spiritual side of pain by modifying that concept based on your belief system to the same benefit.

From a physical standpoint, there are countless other things that can be done to deal with these illnesses.  Those of us who have to deal with illness every day can learn what our limits are, and sense when we are starting to reach them.  We need to learn when we can push beyond those limits, and when we cannot.  We have to learn when we need extra self care, when we could use the various treatments that are available to us.

Metaphysically, with magic and the spiritual awareness that we as pagans have, along with messages from our guides are also a huge benefit.  May times the pain, or pushing through that pain to complete a task, can become offerings to the Gods.   In working with my chronic illnesses in this way, I have also recognized that I am more aware of my surroundings metaphysically.  I truly have a foot in both worlds, and use that to my advantage. By working with these illnesses, you learn to see the hurt in the world through a different set of eyes, and recognize how many times there is a greater need for understanding when dealing with others, their thoughts and their emotions.  This is what I mean by allowing the illness to transform you.  You must learn to strip yourself of the things that you carry but are no longer needed.  You learn to recognize what the true needs of your life are, and start to align yourself with those needs.

My biggest frustration is that there are people that I see with chronic illnesses who think that they have no choice but to depend on opioids to have a life.  This past weekend I encountered a woman doing just that.  She was so high that she was slurring her words, repeating half sentences (she never did get a full sentence out) and could could barely walk straight.  I wish I could say that she was a rare case, but unfortunately it is not.  But it’s not always the fault of the patient.  The original treatment plan for chronic pain was to prescribe high dosages of pain medications.   In time, higher and higher dosages are required as the body gets used to the lower dosages.   Now in today’s day and age, we are realizing that this treatment plan wasn’t such a good idea.  So some doctors are trying to take away painkillers, while others demean and demoralize those who were originally prescribed the painkillers in the first place.  The entire situation has caused many in the chronic pain community to feel like victims – they cannot get the treatment they have been told is the only way to treat this disease, and if they do get it, they are treated like a junkie.

It is my hope that posts like Mainer’s and mine help to spur conversation on how we can reclaim our life and learn to grow in spite of these illnesses.  They aren’t going away anytime soon, and the old ways of dealing with them are making things worse.