Learning to Love the Body Authentic

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

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

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

Boy was I wrong!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

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

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

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

If You Want Change, you must Move

cocoon_by_vuzelMany times I see people in the Pagan community who get ‘stuck’.  Through no fault of their own, they get into a position that they don’t seem to get out of.  I myself has fallen into this predicament many times in my life.  It doesn’t matter if it is a physical, spiritual or mental issue.  You become unable to move.  And you may feel so lost that you aren’t sure what way is up.  The situation can feel hopeless.  Many times it may take someone else’s help to start you moving to get out of the situation.

Sometimes people who are stuck like this come to me for an intuitive reading.  I have been honored to be the catalyst for some of these people to realize that there are issues in their life that they need to tend to, and that is what is making them stuck.  And I have been excited to watch as they start to lift themselves out of this situation, strengthen their spirit and find new ways to live and grow.  To see this transformation is a blessing in itself.  Someone who is willing to transform their energy also helps to lift others around them.  I think on these clients that have taken my suggestions and transformed with happiness and joy.  I am amazed at how powerful and strong they become.

I also get clients who aren’t for some reason willing to listen to my suggestions.  One pops out in particular, and I will use them for an example.  The reading brought out that this person’s spouse was cheating on them with the client’s best friend.  In fact, the client confirmed this, and went further to say that the best friend suggested to the client that they stay with their spouse because the spouse loved them so much. But the guidance from the reading was very much in disagreement.  The message I got for the client was that they needed to get out of the situation; that it was toxic for the client’s growth as well as their self-esteem.  Yet later, I ran into the client again at a local pagan event, still very much connected to the cheating spouse and best friend, who were at the event with the client.

Change isn’t easy.  It sounds easy, but it’s not.  In order to change, even a little, we have to be willing to change our habits and thinking.  We have to be willing to try something new and stick with those modifications in order to make a change stick.  It doesn’t matter if this change is physical, mental or spiritual; you have to put in the work to get what it is what you want.

In other words, you have to move toward that change.

The people who cannot move toward the change they wish may not be doing it purposefully.  Counselors are taught that when someone is in a situation they refuse to move from, it is because they are still getting something of value out of that change.  It may be negative feedback they are receiving, but they are still receiving something.  In the case of my client, perhaps they feel that they have an identity as a pushover, or a victim.  The client is getting feedback from the spouse and the best friend to stay in the relationship; in other words stay in the victim and/or the pushover role.   And until the client no longer wants that role, they will not make a move to change.

I know the theory sounds simple, and to those from the outside looking at someone stuck in a situation that is harmful to them, we may be flabbergasted that the person cannot change.  But this is far from simple to the person who needs to do the change.  It takes a great deal of courage to step out of that which is comfortable and try something new.  That is where those of us watching someone who is trying to make a change in their life need to tread carefully.  To us, the change a person is trying to make looks easy; but the person making the change feels like every move toward that change is a significant struggle.

Overall, the entire situation is frustrating for both sides, especially when the person who tries to make a change backslides.  It gets even worse when the person is so tied into the negative situation that they recognize it’s bad and constantly talk about the change they want yet never makes a move toward making things better. This happens a lot.  In cases where the person refuses to change, perhaps they are getting something from the people suggesting the changes.  Perhaps they are getting attention because of the situation they are in, and that is their reward for being in the negative situation. Another possibility is that there could be a reason why the change cannot occur yet.  Perhaps they need to understand what it is that is going on around them before they change, so when they are in a similar situation later, they know what they need to do, or could be of service to someone else facing the same change.

So why am I posting about this now?  It’s because I have seen it yet again this past weekend.  It’s the same scenario – someone wanting change, they were invited to come to a ceremony that would be a catalyst for that change, but suddenly they were not able to attend, even though they expressed an interest in trying to better their situation.  And after the event, those same people again started to lament that forces beyond their control forced them to not make it (which wasn’t entirely the case), and lament their woes because they yet again are stuck in a situation they cannot get out of.

It also doesn’t hurt to enlist help when making changes in your life.  In the scenario I presented above, the client might do well with a certified counselor.  Others may do well by looking into speaking with a trusted friend, a spiritual advisor, finding a support group, getting a divinatory reading or looking for help in an area that they have not yet tried.

Perhaps discussing in this post is the very basic theory of why people do and don’t change will help someone understand why they are stuck.  Perhaps someone will look at this and see the theory that is discussed, and have the a-ha moment to get out of this situation. Maybe not.  But writing about it is something that at least helps me.  I was not the only one who recognized that people who needed and wanted to be there to help get them out of the situation were not present.  I was not the only one this past weekend who gets frustrated with people who frequently complain about their situation but never do anything about it.  And perhaps I needed to re-remember the fact that it is THEIR lives, and perhaps they are stuck, but it isn’t my place to help them get ‘unstuck’ without their being a part of it.  I can’t force them to go do something that would force a change in their life.   They have to do it for themselves.  The only thing I can do is to ensure that should they get to the point where they refuse to help themselves, that I am aware that they are at that point and take care not to get involved in a situation with the person where I get pulled into their drama.

If you are someone who wants to make a change, don’t give up.  Even incremental movement is something.   Just being open to moving out of your comfort zone puts you way ahead of the game.  And for me, if people ask me for help, I’ll be there to do what I can, but it will be up to the person who wants to change to move.

Photo from Deviant Art

Religion is not Black and White

the_holy_book_by_djvue

Last week I was lucky enough to be at Pennsic; an event for members of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).  And while this event is very much a part of the SCA, there is a significant group of pagans that attend as well.  In fact, many of the classes had a religious twist to them, while others classes taught beginning forms of magic and prayers.

So you would think that with the amount of different belief systems that were represented in this 11,000 person gathering, a tolerance to other belief systems would be something that you would see a lot of.  Unfortunately, this was not the case.  There were many times during the week I  saw instances of people using their religion to justify lack of respect for others during the week.  That really bothered me.

Of the things I saw, two things stood out the most.  The first happened around the campfire.  I was listening to gentleman in the group I am affiliated with speak about Muslims.  Unsolicited, this person started to explain that if you read the Koran you would find verses there that tell Muslims they must kill others who don’t believe the same as they do.  He then doubled down and said Muslims weren’t ‘true’ to their faith if they did not believe these verses.   Not wanting to get involved in a debate, I told him that I was going to agree to disagree with him, and that there were many different interpretations of the Koran.  This just pushed him into a frenzy to say whatever he could to get me to believe what he does.  After a few minutes, someone else changed the subject.  Unfortunately, this was a man who I really looked up to, and listened to.  I don’t know what he thinks of me now, but in my mind he no longer is held in the high esteem he once was.

The second issue came up during a discussion with the founder of the group.  I found out about it second-hand, or else I would have gone off on the younger member myself.  You see, the founder was told by this younger member  that because he was Heathen, his Gods told him he didn’t need to bow to them, and thus he will not bow to bow to any other person, including this gentleman.  He further said to the founder of the group that nothing the founder said or did on his behalf would be welcomed.  He went further in denouncing and belittling the founder, but I think you get the point.

This really bothered me.  Yes, I go by this belief as well, and yes, I don’t bow to my Gods. But I still  treat them with respect, much like I treat my elders with respect.  The founder of this group is very much an elder in the SCA, but also an elder that is looked up to for his teaching ability and his talents.  The younger member not only didn’t treat this person with respect, but he belittled and demeaned him.  And that was very hard to hear for me. And again, I lost a significant amount of respect for this young man.

In the altercation with the gentleman around the campfire, perhaps he was right on one point – perhaps the Koran does have verses in it regarding the killing of others.  I have honestly not read it, do I don’t know for absolute certain.  But I have read the book of Leviticus in the Christian Bible, and I know there are significant stanzas in that book that are not looked on as law today.  Those include having slaves, not touching the skin of a pig, and not wearing clothing made out of two different types of fabrics.  But yet, Christians pick and choose what they want to believe out of that book, so it is an easy assumption that a Muslim may consider doing the same thing, especially when they preach peace between religions (like many I know do).

The belief about Muslims being forced to kill others  is damning, especially in today’s world.  But I think there is a deeper, even worse problem here.  This person never thought about asking another Muslim what they believe.  He never asked another Muslim why they believe what they do.  Instead,  he felt reading their religious texts and making up his own mind without any outside influence was the best thing to do.  Therefore he believed his interpretation of that text is right.

The holy texts of many religions are hundreds and hundreds of years old.  They were written by man, who is not infallible, but they were inspired by God.  There are many things in those texts that just don’t fit today’s society.  Certainly there were reasons back then for those things, but in this day and age they just don’t make sense.  Therefore trying to understand a holy text on your own without some sort of help or without someone that can answer any questions you may have is going to skew the beliefs that come out of the text in the first place.

In the second scenario I heard about, the young member is a solitary heathen, who again has read the lore and has formed his own beliefs.  He does not practice with any other group, as he finds other groups ‘limiting’.  And here, I agree with him in the fact that our Gods do not want us to venerate them like those in other religions do.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t give them the respect they deserve.  That doesn’t mean you don’t give them offerings and thanks.  Perhaps if this young person would go to their local group or get online sometime he might recognize that.  But instead, this was again a case of someone learning about something on their own and not asking questions.    This one bothered me significantly, because this person is representing MY religion.  And after hearing this happen, I had to explain to the head of the house that unlike this young member, I will be treating him with the respect he is due because of his position, as well as treating him with honor and respect because he is a fellow human being and a good man worthy of that respect.

These situations made me realize how much we really don’t know about people’s religions.  We can take religious classes, we can read books on religious subjects or read the holy texts of the religions we wish to learn about all we want.  However, if we don’t go to those who practice the religion on a regular basis and get their input, we will never be close to understanding the true meaning and peace that a particular religion can hold for its followers.

When someone doesn’t seek out those who wish to share their beliefs openly, it is easy to fall into many of the  assumptions that are so common:

  • Christians hate anyone who is involved in the LGBTQ community
  • Muslims believe anyone who does not share their religion are infidels and must be put to death
  • Anyone who calls themselves a son or daughter of Odin is a racist
  • Witches are always Wiccan

And on and on the assumptions go.

I refuse to believe these assumptions.  Are there bad groups within each religion?  Of course there are.  And if I find out someone believes something that belittles or exposes their hate for another, I choose not to listen to that person speak about any religion anymore.  I can simply step away or shut down the conversation, and I have a right to (politely) do that.  I don’t need to get into a debate with that person because they have already made up their mind.  All a debate would do is to make everyone involved frustrated and angry.  Some people may say the debate would be a healthy thing because there is an opportunity to change someone’s mind.  But what is more likely to happen is more hate and anger being spewed regarding the opposite side.  I saw a lot of that going on last week on blogs, and I refuse to help spread it.

So instead of trying to debate or change someone’s assumption about a religion, I will choose to look for those who don’t assume.  I want to talk religion with those who are open to hear what others think, despite what some holy writ or text says.  This is my way of not continuing to spew assumptions and judgement on others, and I think we need more of this type of thinking in this world.

Photo from Deviant Art