In my last post spoke about ordeals, and the fact that I was going through one. So I thought it only fair to write a post about what has happened and what I learned from the said ordeal.
What’s an Ordeal Again?
In any spiritual or religious tradition, there are times when you are tested. My belief is because we are having a human experience in a physical world, there will always be tests of some sort. I think that each struggle we have in this human existence is here to help us learn and to become stronger both physically in this world, but also emotionally and spiritually.
Many ordeals won’t have a clear-cut beginning, nor ending. My recent ordeal was a mixture of my own doing (going to graduate school, choosing to work with Odin in more of a fashion he likes), the environment (the hubby losing his job) and various other micro decisions that I have made over the course of my life. A lot of times a physical ordeal feels like it just sort of happens. You can’t point to an exact issue or decision, but all of a sudden, you think you are in one, and sure enough, you get a sign that says exactly that.
Spiritual ordeals can also be initiations, as I mentioned in my previous post. And yes, I’ve had several of these over the course of my spiritual progression. But what is interesting and what I tried to explain in my previous post is that most ordeals are actually physical; in 25 years of being an active pagan (‘active’ being defined as in one who was tied to some sort of community and came out as ‘pagan’ to friends and family) I can think of less than 10 instances that were actual all-out initiations that could be considered ordeals. But those are a lot of what we hear about in the pagan community. They are the ones that sound awesome and dramatic. It’s neat to talk about the weekend retreat where you became an initiate of something or was accepted into a specific group or underwent a rite. It’s not as fun to talk about the day-in / day-out grind of doing additional disciplines because you promised you would do them in exchange for certain knowledge (or because you are required to do so as a priest/ess or devotee…).
Darkest Before the Dawn
I also want to note something here about the worst part of an ordeal – just before it is over. There were days in November where I was screaming at Odin. Literally. Here I was, doing all this work in his name, and he couldn’t even make sure I had a stable financial base so that I could focus all my energy on what he wanted me to do in the first place. I felt left behind, alone and scared, and wanted to make sure he knew all of it was his fault.
At that point, I was angry, tired, frustrated and damn near broken. Down in every possible way but not quite out. Incrementally, in very slow, deliberate moves that made baby steps looked like a freaking sprint, I was moving. And that is another thing about ordeals; you think you are going to break, but inevitably, you don’t. You break just enough to release that which you needed to release. In the darkness, you find a faith in yourself that you never had before. It’s a faith that tells you that you CAN make it another day, and somehow you keep going.
It was after the worst of this that I reached out to another of Odin’s claimed to see if his experiences with the old man were anything like I was experiencing. It turns out they were, and he chastised me for not asking for help sooner. And that is a very good point. I didn’t ask for help. I probably should have, even though I knew there were lots of points about my ordeals that I had to get through myself. But even having an ear to bend about the frustrations thrust upon those who work for someone that is at times called “You Bastard…” would have helped. A lot. So I encourage those who think they are going through ordeals to reach out – even if it’s online – to fellow devotees. It will help you understand what exactly you are going through as well as make you feel better about the tasks at hand.
After the Ordeal Is Over
There are many times when I have undergone spiritual ordeals that I was literally exhausted both mentally and physically, but at the same time, I was emotionally pumped. Sometimes when this happens the only thing you want to do is sleep, yet that is the last thing that crosses your mind. It’s a very weird state to be in. (A fun state sometimes but a very weird state nonetheless.)
The physical ordeals are much different, especially because of the autoimmune crap that is fibromyalgia and other maladies I deal with on a daily basis. Most of the ordeals were over in mid-December (at least the largest portion of it). But even now we are almost to mid-January and in many ways, I am still exhausted as I piece together the outputs of my struggles.
My personal ordeal also has me in a bit of a state of ‘weirdness’. Although a large portion of things in this ordeal are done, I still have more classwork to do. The hubby’s new job has meant finances have been a large question mark for three months, only to be (hopefully!) settled in February when he starts getting regular paychecks. And now I need to contend with creating new boundaries for those that have changed their reactions toward me because of the changes I have made in myself.
But even though that weirdness is there, I recognize I’ve made some huge advances. My trust in myself and my skill levels have expanded. I also know a granthi has been undone. A granthi is a Sanskrit term for a knotted area of energy in the body that blocks the flow of potential. Now that this phase of my ordeal is over, I know where this particular granthi came from, why it was there, and what happened to make it go away. I now also recognize that this area needs special care in word and deed to ensure that the granthi does not come back.
And because of that change in my potential, there are now more requests being made of me. Recently I was asked (repeatedly, because I said no first) to do what I call a ‘deity reading’ for another pagan that scared the hell out of me. A deity reading is when a client is asking specifically about what a deity requests of them. I don’t like doing them because it means I’m speaking FOR that particular God and didn’t trust my gifts enough to be able to clearly relay the message. Yet a couple days ago I found myself in that position. And now I know I was meant to be there; I was meant to give the advice I did because once I started the message flowed very well. There are other advancements as well, but I expect to be writing more about those in time when I finally have words to express them.
So again, I put this all out here again for others to see for the specific reason of letting others know what an ordeal actually looks like, what the intentions are, what can be understood about them and to help people recognize that they are not alone in going through them. It is also for me; to document where I’ve been. Perhaps I’ll come back to this post in a year and recognize so much more that happened during this ordeal. Because that is part of their nature as well; the ripples in the psyche made during one of these experiences also go through every aspect of your life.
If someone reads this and thinks they are going through one, I hope they will reach out if they feel they need to so they recognize that they are not alone. Paganism may be a very personal religious path, but it’s not one in a vacuum, and many times the ordeals are shared. But you won’t know unless you reach out.
This is one of those posts that I don’t want to write, but I need to write (and have been asked to write). And so, I’m going to write it. But note that this is under duress.
You see, I am going through an ordeal right now. I have been for months. And the fact of the matter is, it’s of my own choosing.
Well, kind of.
I am choosing to write this for a couple of reasons. I think the biggest reason is that I need to finally come out and say what the heck is going on in my life, and why I haven’t blogged in two months. But it’s also because I don’t know if many understand what a spiritual ordeal actually is, and what it means to go through one. I’ve seen many people focus on the spiritual aspects of a goal and not recognize the ordeal that needs to be gone through in order to achieve that goal. Or, people only focus on the spiritual aspects of the ordeal only to deny the practical disciplines that need to go along to achieve the spiritual goal. That is one of the reasons why I’m being asked to share this right now. To use the well-worn phrase, be careful what you wish for people.
Let’s get some clarifications out of the way before I go further.
The Background of an Ordeal First, what exactly is an ordeal? The definition of an ordeal, through a very quick Google search, is, “a painful or horrific experience, especially a protracted one.” Now, with that definition, why the hell would anyone want to go through one?
The quickest answer I can come up with is to become stronger. Or, to become wiser. And, well, to live. We actually are going through ordeals almost daily in this world. Sickness, trauma, arguments with others and many other things can be considered ordeals. For a while, there was a meme going around that said: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Those battles spoken about in that meme are other people’s ordeals.
So my belief about these ordeals is that since we have to go through them anyway, why not learn from them? Why not try to approach the ordeal in a manner that will help you further your understanding about a specific topic or issue? Or even better, how can the ordeal help you work on uncovering and dealing with issues that you carry? For me, that is a very specific point of my spirituality; to use ordeals to better understand the world around me and for my own self-improvement.
So as someone who gravitates toward a self-centered concept of paganism, who only 6ish years ago found deities that she agreed to work with directly after a multi-year hiatus, and is starting to find her voice again in the community, it makes perfect sense that my mundane ordeals would have a spiritual aspect to them. It also makes sense because I am doing intimate work with specific Gods. And those specific Gods expect that you clean up after yourself and work towards a common goal.
These ordeals are a blessing in that when you are done you will be absolutely shocked at the mountains you have climbed, the struggles you have gotten through, and that you did all of the things that you thought you couldn’t do.
Ordeals are also a curse because you are about to go climb those mountains, work through multiple struggles, and do all of the things you think you can’t do right now.
It seems like many pagans today seem to equate ordeals with spirituality only; as in, they only focus on spiritual struggles (initiations, rites, and other journeys) and assume they are the only path for spiritual growth. Some even focus so hard on the spiritual aspects that they literally are hiding from the physical issues of their life (which in fact, are their actual ordeals). Still, others may focus on the physical as not an ordeal, but something else. They may, in fact, give the physical issue a spiritual cause (e.g., someone is out to get me). That is where discernment is absolutely necessary to understand what is really going on. In my case, yes, there are other reasons why things are happening in my life right now, and I recognize the cause and effect of those reasons. But at the same time, I know my issues are part of an ordeal and that this ordeal is physical and spiritual in nature. I say that because I see the results of the struggle that I am in. There are both physical and spiritual benefits to this to this struggle. That in my mind classifies this as an ordeal.
The Path to My Own Ordeal Looking at things as ordeals comes naturally to me. Long story short, I’ve set myself on a path of reinventing myself once before, and although it took some time, I’ve come through those struggles beautifully. I’m proud of what I have accomplished, and because of those accomplishments, I’ve caught the eye of a certain one-eyed deity.
Odin is very much a deity that appreciates people dealing with their own crap. And I’ve done several cycles of dealing with my own crap already – once doing a full reinvention of myself, and multiple times in overcoming significant obstacles and fears. Looking at that resume that I am so proud of, it makes sense that he’d want me to be working for him (to put it bluntly).
Other than following through with the self-improvement, I wonder if Odin also works with me because I have developed skills to handle new ordeals. I’m disciplined (for the most part), and I have the drive to push myself forward, even sometimes at the expense of overdoing it and hurting myself. I’m also stubborn as all hell and if it meant proving a point, I will take on detrimental actions that in the end will cause more trauma than it will likely be worth (but I proved my point, dammit). So there are lots of pluses and minuses here.
Anyway, Odin comes along, and I agree to work with him. And in the span of a year and a half, I start a new spiritual training program, decide to go to graduate school, find a degree program that matches my interests, start it, take on a larger role in my work life, and find my intuitive readings becoming more and more accurate and specific as well as going into deeper spiritual issues. And I often find myself being drawn to do specific readings at specific times, giving the client “exactly what they needed to hear” (their words, not mine).
And if that wasn’t enough, the energy of my household raised to the point where my husband started feeling it and started his own road of improvement. And just as he started his own training, he was laid off of his work (which I think was all part of his spiritual development as well). Overall, being laid off will be a good thing – he was being underutilized and there was no room for growth at his former employer – but the finding of a job has added a level of deep stress for him and I to both be dealing with.
Again, you can see spiritual ordeals are not just spiritual tasks. You face things that you are holding onto that are detrimental to your growth. You go out of your comfort zone, taking risks you wouldn’t normally take, and most importantly, changing your habits and mindset to allow for more understanding and compassion for yourself and others. After all, ordeals are meant to open yourself up for a clearer link to the spirits and to the Gods, and sometimes it’s shadow work that is keeping you from them. Shadow work cannot be cleared up by spirituality alone.
Now Onto My Confession To put it bluntly, this ordeal is kicking my ass.
It’s taking me places in my psyche that I haven’t talked about, haven’t dealt with before, and couldn’t even define with words until a month or so ago.
I now realize that I have a very, very deep animosity for myself, my intelligence, my skills, and my abilities. I believe this animosity to be a learned behavior, but also a congenital one. And that animosity has influenced my life in ways I’m still realizing. It’s one of the reasons why I (still) cope with overeating. It’s the reason why I haven’t followed through in some of my past self-improvement endeavors, and it’s the reason why I sometimes push myself so hard I break my own body. There are other things I’ve realized too; other things that I haven’t really articulated before (and if I tried to explain, I’d take up two or three more blog posts just to describe), but the animosity is the one I’ll confess now as it is front and center in my head.
But now that I know it is there, the ‘mental tape’ that was buried for so long just reinforcing self-defeating behavior is now something I hear loudly being played over and over again as I continue to step out of my comfort zone. While I’m doing homework in my class (that I have to pass with a B or better just to stay in the program – no pressure) I am constantly fighting it beat me up and telling me I will fail. I get tapes at work telling me I’m not good at my job and will be laid off soon, making me lose my house and my security because we have no other cash flow. At home, I’m not doing enough, I’m ugly, I’m fat, and I’ll never be any healthier.
Why are there multiple tapes going on? Because this animosity was buried so deep it has become a habit, so just acknowledging that it is there isn’t going to stop it. I need to figure out and establish new tapes to replace the ones that keep flooding my brain, and ultimately, create new habits that will replace the bad ones.
So while I’m dealing with all of the uncomfortable feelings of this animosity, and with the insecurity of my current financial status, I have other questions about the success of this endeavor in my head. What if I do succeed in getting rid of this animosity? What then? Who will I be? What will replace it? What will my comfort zone look like? Will it be a place I want to be, or am I asking for something I really don’t want and don’t know it?
And from a spiritual perspective, the question about why Odin is pushing me to do this is also at the forefront of my mind. Don’t forget, Odin is a God of manipulation as well. He does things for reasons we won’t always understand. And that manipulation may not have any right or wrong to it; in his mind, it is all for the greater goal.
To say all of this has brought up insecurities, anxiety and other uncomfortable feelings is an understatement. I’ve had panic attacks, bouts of anger, bouts of depression, frustration, tears, and so many other emotions I’ve lost track. But while all of these emotions are being sorted out, I’m still working 45ish hours a week (in a job I like, so that is good), putting in about 35 hours a week on my graduate studies, trying to get in some sort of healthy exercise, keeping up spiritual disciplines and trying to be support to my job seeking husband as well as helping to keep up the house and try not to let my emotions get the best of me so that a fibromyalgia pain flare-up doesn’t sideline me.
This shit is hard. But it’s meant to be. And I keep getting reassured that each and every piece of this ordeal has meaning. Every struggle day in and day out is part of the ordeal. And I do know this won’t last. My husband has had 11 interviews in two months. The only reason he isn’t working is that the firms he’s interviewed with are taking their time due to the holiday working schedules (it happens at this time of year). He’s putting in the time so the financial security will come…sooner or later. I’ll be finished with my class in mid-December (after I finish a final examination, which has its own negative mental tapes playing in the background).
I keep reassuring myself (and getting reassured) that I’m doing everything I can, and I’m doing it all right. I’m making the mindful choices, I’m sticking with things and putting in the time I’m supposed to be doing. I just need to keep moving on.
I’ve been focused on self-improvement work for the past 16 years. I’ve done a lot, and I’m still always surprised at the requirements that are laid out before me to achieve another personal goal. I know I do more than many others do when it comes to spiritual discipline, but I also recognize that there is give and take here. If I want to do more, or am asked to do more, I have to be ready to accept the burden of the ordeal to prepare me for that endeavor. I also have to accept the responsibility that comes along with the tasks I’m asking to take on.
Not everyone is fit to be a teacher, a mentor or a spiritual leader. Not everyone is meant to be a Priest or Priestess. But yet we all have something to contribute to the pagan community as a whole. Our task, if we want to be a part of a pagan community, is to find that thing we are meant to do and serve our community as we can. This means that we will have to go through at least one spiritual ordeal in our lifetimes. And while my personal ordeal is tough, I am recognizing that it is also very much about finding that place in the pagan community as a whole. So I will continue with it to the best of my ability. There is still a chance I may fail, and I accept that. Either way, I will be continuing to learn, and that is the most valuable thing I can do.
Even though I have fibromyalgia, IBS and Chronic fatigue, I do my best to keep up the one thing that I’ve been passionate about for years, which is running. I don’t run very fast anymore, nor very far, but I do my best to get in at least a 5k run once a week. And to celebrate, I frequently post about those runs on facebook.
These runs are not easy by any stretch of the imagination. I get the normal challenges when running and on top of that I have pain that runs up and down my body while I’m running for no reason at all. That makes it really tough at times to keep moving. And on top of that, overdo it by just one quarter mile and a fibromyalgia flare up could stop you from doing anything for days afterword; including the the all-important getting to work.
So I run, and I celebrate my accomplishments when I can (like pictures on the aforementioned facebook) and I also talk about my lows too. After all, you can’t know how good your high points are without some low points thrown in occasionally. But I didn’t think that posting about those type of things made me an inspiration.
However a couple weeks ago, a friend of mine messaged me to tell me that I was an inspiration for her. She said that she follows my up and down running posts, and that I inspired her to do a virtual run herself. This very wonderful lady has her own issues to deal with. She recently had knee surgery, and on top of that she is an abuse survivor. Her abuse was so bad that she’s spent years trying to get herself back on track. So for her to say I am an inspiration was something that was very moving for me.
I felt so honored to be an inspiration for her that I chose to also sign up for this virtual run and run it on the same day as her in solidarity. I want to celebrate her strength and endurance. Then she told me what virtual run she decided to choose, and that made me realize there was more to this than simply inspiration.
This fine lady is doing a virtual run that supports an organization called “To Write Love On Her Arms” (TWLOHA). TWLOHA is an organization that works to prevent and heal people from addiction and help prevent suicide. I’ve read about this organization and it’s founding years ago, and was very impressed. It is a Christian organization, but the founders are the Christian-type that have good intentions. They don’t judge, nor do they try to recruit. They are simply trying to help their fellow human being. These are the types of Christians whose messages out to the public are downright whispers compared to the Evangelical Christians that scream from every street corner how bad people are. And because the Evangelicals are so loud, the Christians who run TWLOHA end up getting grouped in with them, which is unfortunate.
So I signed up for this run, even though the subject matter made me uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable about it because by choosing to sign up for this run, I’ve brought up pieces of my own life that I haven’t thought about in almost 20 years. And now that it’s come up again, I’m realizing I have to get some things out in the open.
You see, the only reason that I’m still around is because about 20 years ago, I didn’t swallow enough pills to actually do the job.
Back then, when I felt like there really was nothing any good in this life for me anymore, I downed a bottle of muscle relaxers, a bottle of prescription pain meds and a couple of other prescriptions my roommate at the time had. I didn’t have my stomach pumped, never went to the emergency room, and of course I got no hospitalization nor care with a counselor or a doctor. But even though I had taken several bottles of pills, somehow I woke up the next morning. My stomach had felt like it had been ripped apart and it did for weeks afterward, but I was still alive. To this day I don’t understand how.
I know now that back then I was suffering from major depression, PTSD from a rape that happened a couple months prior and had been dealing with a bunch of other things going on. I also realize now that the major depression was something that I’ve had for a very long time, most likely since I was a child.
There is a reason this is coming out now. There is a reason why I’m reminded of this organization. The fact is for the first time in many years I am struggling again, and have been for almost a month. This run, it’s uncomfortable topic and the organization being helped by it made me realize that this time my struggle is a bit more serious than it has been in the recent past. Maybe not as serious as it was 20 years ago, but serious nonetheless. And I need to treat this for what it is; a struggle against a deep depression that could turn into another major depressive episode should I not start implementing self care and figure out how the hell to get out of it properly.
I need to also remember – It’s not my fault that I can dive into a deep depression – I’m prone to it. It’s also not my fault I have fibromyalgia. And I have to acknowledge that fibromyalgia sufferers have higher rates of suicide and adjust my own self care accordingly. I also have to recognize that fibromyalgia sufferers have many facets of the disease that only a small number of other disorders have to deal with. Not only do we deal with the pain, we also have to deal with the lack of understanding by doctors, (some don’t even acknowledge it’s a disease in the first place) so-called friends (everyone has pain, yours is no different than mine, in fact mine is probably worse than yours is) and even family (if you just lost weight, or exercised more I’m sure you would have less pain).
On top of all that, the past month has been a very trying time for me. I realized that I had more so-called friends in some circles than I did true friends, so for the sake of my self worth and self esteem, I’ve cut those people out of my life. But doing so also cut out activities that gave me what I thought was a sense of purpose and enjoyment. Now I realize that much of that purpose and enjoyment was my perception alone. Much of the circle of friends in actuality did nothing for my well being nor the creation of any lasting friendships. On top of that, very little of the activity associated with the circle did anything to benefit my self esteem or self worth. Instead, there were many times it was lowered. So overall it was good that I did the cut, but I still grieve for the things that I thought I had. And the fallout of this decision isn’t completely over yet either.
So why now? Why put this all out in the open? Because I need to. I need to recognize the seriousness of the situation now as well as acknowledge what happened in the past. Because hopefully someone else might read this and also realize that there are sicknesses out there that don’t have anything to do with a diagnosis by a blood test, or are not sicknesses that are specific and measurable in any way. Perhaps they will realize that mental health diseases ARE in fact actual sicknesses, and that they perhaps are prone to them as well. Perhaps they may just realize they need help. Or, maybe they had never heard of TWLOHA and might stop over to their page to see what it’s all about and toss them a contribution or two for the good work that they do.
This is also another reminder to me of how we are in the care of the Gods, Goddesses and other spirits. While some may call it coincidence that this friend contacted me with this particular run for this particular group, it means more than that to me. Because while I do believe we have free will, we also have those that look out for us. And those that look out for us and our wellbeing could either be on this planet with us or in other planes of existence and visit us from time to time.
No matter whether it is coincidence or fate, these are the reasons I needed to come out with this post. I needed to acknowledge my past. I need to acknowledge where I am at now, and I need to recognize that I can easily fall into a situation that I need help to get out of. Now perhaps I can move forward a little easier.
And come April 14, I will be able to run for an organization that helps people who are so sick that they don’t even recognize how sick they are until they get better.
For more information on TWHOLA, you can go to their website.
Many 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.
I want to tell a story about something that happened to me today. this event was very profound, as nothing like this had ever happened, especially when I was at work.
I am lucky to work for a company that has a mile nature trail on its campus. Many associates take advantage of this trail. Some do it for the exercise, or just to take a break from the daily grind. I do it for that, but I also realize that there are a significant number of spirits in the woods and in the stream near the trails. So i frequently also send a mental ‘shout out’ to them as I walk by. There have also been many times that I have had conversations with the ones that choose to speak to me, and from those conversations, I’ve learned a lot about the path that I am currently on.
Today however, things were very different. I took the path at a fast clip, as there was another associate who was also walking, and my introverted self didn’t really want to walk near the associate and try to facilitate small talk. He, recognizing that I had much longer legs than he did and was walking much faster, allowed me to pass, and off I went into the first leg of the wooded part of the trail.
And I immediately spotted a large brown and white feather right in the middle of the trail.
Without thinking, I scooped the feather up mid-stride, and never broke my pace. The feather reminded me of one of a red tailed hawk, a predatory bird that is frequently seen where I live. However I knew that it was not. It also seemed beaten up, much like if the bird had lost it in a fight. I knew that my seeing the feather was a sign of something, as there is very rarely any feathers on this trail that I walk on a frequent basis.
That’s why the second feather was so surprising when I saw it.
This one was all black, like it had come from a blackbird, raven or crow. Again, all three have been seen around the area, so I really had no way of knowing. However, this one, unlike the brown and white one, was perfectly formed and surprisingly longer than most.
When I first saw the feather, I walked by it. After the third step I felt like I had to turn around and get it, to which I did. The associate I passed was still in range, and watched me walk back to get the second feather. I quickly took up my fast pace in order to not have any questions asked of me, and overtook a second group of associates walking the trail to get some distance.
As I was carrying the feathers, I took a trail not rarely used (it was full of mud – I didn’t care) in order to double back and make sure a proper ‘thank you’ was said for the feathers. As I said, they are very rare on these trails, so I had thought that I was very fortunate to find two on the same day, not 20 feet from each other.
When I doubled back, I found that I was the last associate to utilize the trails for that lunch hour. So I had it all to myself. And after a proper ‘thank you’, I was off.
As I continued to the farthest part of the trail, I realized that these feathers were more significant than I had originally thought. While I wasn’t told specifically what each feather meant, I was told that one of the feathers would have to go back to the trail, and with it, a choice was to be made in my spiritual practices.
The beat up one seemed to symbolize my past. It symbolized the abuse, it symbolized how hard I had pushed through to heal from everything, but it also symbolized all of the strength that I had gained and the spiritual allies that came to my aid. At least that is what I sort of ‘assumed’. I was never able to get a straight answer.
The black feather I think symbolized the unknown. And from it I could sense that there was a hint of a gateway to transform into something that I was not yet able to become. In the metaphysical sense, I could tell this feather contained no darkness, but yet it contained no light. The only thing that I could truly comprehend from the energy was that it contained the beginnings of something new.
At this point I was coming to the second trail, which has a bridge over a fast flowing stream. I was told that I could not keep both feathers; that one had to be dropped into that stream. And if I chose not to drop one of the feathers, there would be some sort of consequence that I would be choosing to face.
Now I was still at work, and even though I am allowed to take a longer lunch hour, I knew I had to get back to my desk as I was expected for meetings. It was only within a matter of moments that I was going to get to the bridge and cross it. And even though it was a short distance, I was surprised at how much dread, pain and longing I felt. Even though the meanings of the feathers were never truly clear, I knew they had some significant importance, and I didn’t have any time to study or understand that importance.
So onto the bridge I went, and as requested, one of the feathers went into the water. I watched as it spiraled down and the current carried it under the bridge and down the stream. For a moment, I thought about going down and trying to grab it as I saw it head toward the bank, but thought better of it. Instead, I quickly walked away before I could see if it would get stuck.
The second feather now sits on my desk, next to a feather I had found on another walk, and three stones I used for focus and meditation during the day. the feather sits in the middle of the three stones, much like a small altar in between my two monitors.
I am unsure of all of the intricacies of what it is I have chosen. All I know and believe is that I have chosen to step away from that which I know and into the unknowns of a new path, one that will hopefully lead me to becoming someone who knows myself well, and can utilize what I know I am for the good of myself and those around me.
Tansy Pat wrote a post yesterday regarding the compelling topic of the Christian God. His post is reminiscent of things that I have had to deal with, being raised in a Roman Catholic family and then dealing with family members that went to the ‘ultra’ conservative side of Christianity. This is also something a significant amount of pagans have to deal with, and ultimately also has other facets including feelings toward family, our Christian upbringings and all sorts of other pain and problems that make the entire topic a frustrating ball of crap.
Personally, I think it was awesome of him to bring up this topic. I think it is something that needs to be talked about. It takes a lot of guts to start thinking about and dealing with feelings and thoughts about a God that so many of us were taught at a young age to love and abide by. Quite a few pagans I know get so angry about their upbringings that they never reconcile this. Instead it becomes locked in their memories, where quite a bit of energy is needed to keep it locked, and lots of anger and negativity is thrown around in defense of anyone trying to suggest to them that they open it.
If people realized how much energy that they spend trying to avoid things and how much less they would use if they just dealt with their hurts, perhaps they would be more willing to dig into it and get it over with.
Sorry, just a short healer rant there. But I digress.
Years ago, while trying to get a pagan group together in the town I lived in at the time, I came across a woman who would cast protective spells on her things. She was very outgoing, and spoke often about different Gods and Goddesses. However, when I approached her about the meetup I was trying to form, I got a very peculiar answer.
“I don’t want to get any other Gods mad at me”. She replied.
When I pressed further, she changed the topic, and taking the hint I dropped it. I found out later that her mother was a devout Christian. And because she lived with her mother, she did a significant amount of work with her mother’s church. So she was saying she didn’t want to get the Christian God mad at her for going to a Pagan meetup.
Her response to me was a clear and classic case of the “Fear of God” syndrome. It is something that until recently I dealt with too. And I think it is also the thing that Tansy Pat speaks about in his post:
When I feel my heart flutter, when I feel anxiety, when I encounter hardship, when my blood sugar drops suddenly and I am faced again with the reality of being diabetic…I have this ingrained urge to believe I am being punished by this god I no longer worship, that I have brought these things upon myself.
When we start getting called by other gods growing up, or when we realize we have gifts that no other playmate or friend has, we start to become torn. Our heart and gut says we have to honor ourselves. However that is quickly overridden by our minds, which tell us that doing something like that is “bad” and will push us towards the path of “hell”. I think the ‘Shit happens’ joke was right when it classified Christianity as “Shit happens because you are bad”. We get that slammed into our brains so much it becomes a part of our DNA. And no matter how much we fight it or lock away our feelings about our past, the fear is always there.
Tansy speaks to how he started figuring out how to deal with this Fear of God syndrome in his next post, where he talks about starting to recognize the origins of the Christian God. By doing this, the Christian God starts to fit in within his framework of Divinity and thus he becomes more comfortable with it. That was huge.
I am doing my best to handle my own Fear of God Syndrome. But unlike Tansy, I have to fit it into my own personal framework. It doesn’t fit to me to look at the history of God, and that is OK. For me, I had to recognize where it fit by my discussion with the Christian God when I was still forced to attend mass.
As a minor, I was still forced to go to Roman Catholic mass, and of course, take communion. At that time I was already a full-fledged witch and working with the native spirits where I lived. However, not wanting to be totally disrespectful, I recognized the importance of communion to the Catholic tradition, and thus said a prayer to the Christian God to remove the blessing associated with the host after I consumed it. I did this every time I took the host. And every time, the reply I got was a joyful feeling that I could keep the blessing, even though I considered myself outside of the Christian religion.
It wasn’t until more recently that I recognized what the rest of the message was. By the Christian God’s allowance of my keeping that blessing, I realized the Christian God isn’t the type of God that most Christians today believe or pray to. The Christian God is a loving, caring god that is higher on the stalactite spectrum and excludes no one, unlike what most of his believers say. If you pray to him, he listens, and if you don’t, that’s OK too. If you have to recognize what his historical origins are to accept him, that is awesome. If you have to just look him as divinity as a whole and not use his name, that’s fine too.
What makes things uncomfortable around the Christian God are his believers. 99% of the congregations in the United States don’t have a true home for the real Christian God in their churches. There are a few that get it; the “Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented” group on Facebook, Pastor Rob Bell, who wrote the book “Love Wins” and immediately lost his congregation because of his writings gets it. John Pavlovitz, whose blog “Stuff that Needs to be Said” has over 17,000 followers and over 18,000 Facebook followers also gets it. They are the minority right now, but the movement has started to find a place back to what Christianity is supposed to be.
All of this recognition has allowed me to stop looking at Evangelical Christians with anger (although people like Kim Davis still get me in an uproar at times). Instead, I look at them with pity. If they knew the God I felt in that church all those years ago, perhaps they wouldn’t have so much anger and hatred for others. Perhaps they would stop judging and start truly loving as they claim.
We as human beings are too individual to fit under one religion. It was never meant to be. We need to not be afraid to broaden our own horizons and find where we fit, where our soul can call home. And we also need to be courageous enough to deal with the damage caused by trying to fit us into a ‘one size fits all’ belief system that truly doesn’t exist. I believe doing both of these things is required for us to truly be free enough to worship our Gods and Goddesses with a complete body and soul.
Upliftconnect.com on occasion has some articles that make you think. Currently I am having some very hard time standing still, as I’ve talked about in my last posts. So when I saw this post about how Awakening is a Destructive process, I realized that this topic is something that although discussed a lot, isn’t something that we truly understand unless it is currently happening to us at the present time. But it would do us service to remember it more often.
Psychologically, we as humans don’t do something unless we get some sort of reward out of it. An easy example of this is overeating. I still have problems with this from time to time. Inevitably, I get triggered by something that starts to give me uncomfortable feelings. It could be a problem at work, lack of sleep or a multitude of other things. But I know subconsciously, if I get uncomfortable with something, I can put something in my mouth, albeit chocolate, coffee, chips or other unhealthy things, to help me deal with that uncomfortable feeling. The food that I put in my mouth will inevitably allow my brain to release endorphins in my blood, which makes me feel better. That is my reward for eating, and thus, I also side step those uncomfortable feelings.
But those endorphins don’t last long, and sooner or later that uncomfortable feeling comes back. So do I eat again, causing myself more problems down the road by gaining weight, or should I start focusing on what it is that makes us uncomfortable? It’s a simple yet painful dilemma. I either get the quick reward from eating, or I travel the hard road of dealing with what makes me uncomfortable and take away the trigger.
Not only do we have to deal with psychological issues, but many of us on a spiritual path have to deal with the exact same thing in the spiritual realm as well. What I hear my Gods tell me is to surrender to the uncomfortable feelings and the suffering it brings. They tell me the only true way to deal with emotions is not to hide from them, but to lean in to that which hurts and find the root of the problem. Once that is done, we will have started to shatter that which has hold on us. Then are able to move forward. But this time, we move forward as more awakened beings who are more in tune to the earth and much more alive.
This destructive process is different for everyone. It’s even hard to explain to another pagan because it is such a personal experience. Over the years I have heard about many journeys and stories of reconciliation of struggle from friends, and many are vivid accounts of issues and problems that seem to melt away once they finally start to understand where the true suffering is coming from. Even though the experience and timing of these spiritual struggles various, the term ‘dark night of the soul’ has been coined in part because the struggle is shared by so many.
As we are starting to prepare for a new year, I am certain that many of the people who read this already are having struggles of their own, or will have to rise up to meet a struggle like this sometime soon. Remember that you are not alone, that the process will take as long as it takes, and that there will be an end to the struggle. And what will come out of the struggle is a stronger, more connected, more authentic person.
Enlightenment is a destructive process.
It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier.
Enlightenment is the
crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing
through the facade of pretense. It’s the
complete eradication of everything we
imagined to be true.
A personal journal to share my artistic works, to write about Norse shamanism and traditional paganism, European History, Archaeology, Runes, Working with the Gods and my personal experiences in Norse shamanic practices.