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.

Finding Gods of Compassion

Many times when I do readings I get the message to tell someone not to be so hard on themselves; to give themselves time to heal from the wounds that the world has given them.  And inevitably, the client (especially my deeply pagan clients) look at me with surprise.  They then proceed to tell me that their God is not the type to allow someone to wallow in pity.  Instead, they tell me their Gods and Goddesses are the type to push someone to ‘suck it up’ and get on with it.

I fully agree, to an extent.  As someone who feels very honored to have a relationship with Odin, I know first hand that there are Gods out there that want us to ‘get on with it’.  They want us to accept our shortcomings and grow up.

But that request to ‘grow up’ or ‘get over it’ isn’t the same as giving ourselves time to heal from the deep wounds that the world gives us. And in that aspect, I think that we are missing an important factor in the relationship with our Gods.  Although they want us to grow, Gods and Goddesses can also can be compassionate and supportive of us being compassionate for ourselves and for our fellow human beings. 

Now before you start getting weirded out by images of Odin sitting around a camp fire holding hands and singing, hear me out.

We know that during early periods of civilization the Gods moved around within pantheons a lot.  We know that at times one God usurped another when civilization changed.  Gods of the wildlands were replaced or altered to represent the fertile fields and of agriculture.  And in time, those Gods were also altered or replaced to represent war and protection from other civilizations thirsting for conquest.  I’m not going to get into all the specifics, but they are all there in the history books for anyone to see.  And this happened in many different civilizations.

The point that I’m trying to make is that the Gods changed when humanity needed them to.  And for thousands of years, humanity was OK with that.  In fact, in our current time, we have been known to modify our own practices to mold to our own needs.  And even from a reconstructionist pagan standpoint, we see that modification today.

For an example, let’s look at Beltane, the fertility festival celebrated by many pagans around the world.  This festival was originally a fertility rite, both for the fields and for fertility of our species.  We still see this holiday as a perfect time for couples to do fertility rites to get pregnant, but we recognize that the survival of the species because of lack of fertility is not as serious of an issue today as it was two thousand years ago.  We don’t need to utilize that rite to secure survival of our species.  In fact, I think we all can agree that there is an overabundance of humans now on the planet.

So what do we do with this fertility rite?  Do we stop celebrating it, or do we reframe it to our needs today?  What we find is that many pagans do a very good job of reframing it.  We still honor and remember those of long ago and why they celebrated Beltane, but instead of fertility for the fields and for our species, pagans might celebrate the rites to work towards the fertility of money, the fertility of ideas that would allow them to further their careers or the fertility of wisdom and aid with the goal of bettering themselves in some way in order to continue to honor the Gods on this plane of existence.  And I think we can all agree that the Gods worshiped during the height of Beltane haven’t abandoned us because we modified the rites to more clearly represent what our needs are in this day and age.

I’ve pointed out that we have modified rites to reflect our current culture, and I’ve also pointed out that the Gods have changed based on the needs of the population at the time.  Now what does all of this have to do with the Gods having compassion?

One of the biggest needs of the day in my mind is compassion.  Open your favorite social media site and I can guarantee you will find something in your feed that is argumentative.  You may also find something that will get you frustrated or even angry.  It’s a very easy example because it happens on a regular basis.  Want another?  Drive your daily commute, or just drive anywhere on a highway in fact.  We are human, we are going to get angry at the person who just jumped in front of us and slammed on their brakes, or who decided to drive in the faster lane of the road yet is going under the speed limit for some reason.

All of this anger has slowly built up over the years to the point where we are today.  For years we have let the anger fester in our minds and souls, causing us finally to lash out at ‘those’ type of people.  Those that don’t think like us, those that don’t act like us, or those that believe differently than us.  We have become a polarized world that praises ‘sticking it’ to the other person over trying to come up with a compromise.

It didn’t happen overnight.  And there are more root causes of the problem than anger, but built up anger is absolutely a part of the problem.  We hold anger for ourselves, hold anger for our lot in life, hold anger and jealousy at others for having more, or for getting more assistance than us.  The anger bubbles up at our politicians (who may deserve it from time to time) and causes us to lash out at others who disagree.  And to battle we go.

For many of us, we feel like we either have limited options.  We could either take a side and fight for it, get the heck out of the way of the arguing forces or be run over; a casualty of the environment that has been slowly forming over many years.

Any one of those stances is going to cause anyone to have battle damage.  And this isn’t even the worst of the battle damage we carry around.

Our upbringings aren’t always rosy.  Our relationships with others can become abusive.  Life has its traumas, and we endure each and every one of them, but they don’t leave us exactly how we were prior to the situation.  Sometimes the changes are physical; a scar appears where a wound once was.  Sometimes the wounds are emotional, and we end up hardening some to those around us.  But no matter if the wounds were physical or emotional, there is a spiritual component to the wound as well.  Hardened hearts change the outlook on our spirituality.  Perhaps we stop caring as much about helping those in need because we are bitter about our own circumstances.  Perhaps we end up angry at our Gods for allowing things to be the way they are.

The world is changing, it’s getting more rough edges, and because of it we are hardening more than we realize.  I’ve seen even the most compassionate of Shamans make critical comments against another in the current hardened climate.  And I know I’ve done it myself numerous times.

Yes, there are times when we must be hard.  Perhaps we must defend ourselves from those abusers or from those that would do us ill will.  That is important too.

But what do we do with all the pain, anger and battle damage that has struck at our core and dimmed our spirit?

Why not give it to the Gods as an offering of endurance?

Why not ask for their aid to heal properly so that our souls can shine again?

Why not ask for their strength to see situations with compassion in an effort to make the outcome less hardened?

This is different than just ‘getting on with it’.  There will be times in everyone’s life that the hardened edge they encounter is small enough that it does little damage.  That is when it is perfectly acceptable to hear from our Gods that we must just ‘get on with it’.

But what about when the hurts are so great that they affect our daily lives?  What about those who have suffered any form of abuse for any period of time?  What about the traumas of life that shake you to the very core?  I don’t believe the Gods want to just look at us and say, ‘get on with it’.  Sure, we may THINK that is what they want us to do, but perhaps that is how we are conditioned to believe.  We’ve had almost 2000 years of a religion that has given us the group mentality that we are scum and not worthy of taking time for ourselves.  This religion has told us for years that we are unworthy of healing or compassion, and that we have to grovel and beg for healing and forgiveness.

Christianity has provided us with a group mind and culture that says we are weak and lacking.  Advertising agencies have already picked up on this and used it to sell us products to make us feel better.  Many people start waking up, and reach to Pagan Gods and Goddesses, (the very ones we think tell us to ‘get over it’) in order to get out of that mindset, and that is fantastic.  But are we allowing our personal beliefs to also make us feel better, or make us worse in other places?

At the very least, consider that the Gods and Goddesses that you are willing to fight for, the Divinity that you know will fight by your side, is also a Divinity that would be willing to tend to the wounds that you received from the fight you fought together.  That isn’t an unreasonable request, and one that could easily happen on the battlefields of old.

And if you are willing to go that far, also consider that sometimes the wounds that you receive may put you out of the fight for a while, and perhaps your God or Goddess understands that better than you realize.  Recognize too that if you could no longer fight, the Gods and Goddesses were compassionate enough to give you a place to go after you passed this plane of existence.

In my own personal journeys with Odin and Loki, I’ve come to realize that they are accepting of me when I am at my best, but they also are accepting of me when I am at my weakest.  Loki especially encourages me to look at my areas of weakness and learn to make them strong, and he has shown me that brute strength is not enough to do that.  In order to become stronger, you also have to have compassion, you have to have the courage to allow yourself to be weak, and perhaps even show that weakness to others in order to allow them to help you find your strength.  Compassion allows us to accept who it is we are without the glamour or lies that we tell ourselves.  Compassion allows us to look at the wounds we have received in battle and honestly evaluate them to understand how we need to heal.  And compassion is what we need to recognize the true amount of time we need to do that.

If we can expect our Gods and Goddesses to accept our feats of strength as appropriate offerings, why not also allow our feats of courage and compassion to be offerings to them as well?  Especially in today’s world, it’s going to take a significantly larger amount of effort to show compassion than to follow the status quo.  In those times when compassion is most needed, wouldn’t it be a better offering to show that compassion since it does take so much more effort?

And if you were one of the millions in this world who has emotional, physical and spiritual wounds, don’t you think your Gods would want you to heal as well as you can from those wounds?  And in order to heal fully, don’t you think that you have to have compassion for yourself?  So why wouldn’t a God or Goddess not have compassion for you?  Wouldn’t they be proud of you, because they know you realize that fighting isn’t something that is going to allow you to heal properly?

Perhaps it’s time for us to shift our thinking.  Perhaps it’s time we honor our Gods and Goddesses with different offerings; acts of compassion and beauty.  Maybe we need to recognize that even though they may not seem like a form of divinity that would react with compassion, perhaps they at least have understanding of the compassion that we need to have for ourselves and each other.  And perhaps they already are ready to adapt to that compassion to help de-escalate the polarization of the world.

 

To My Christian Friends

Perhaps this yet another post that was a ‘long time coming’ (That seems to be the start of a theme of posts for me.)

Things I yet again thought I had dealt with are still coming up and bugging me to the point where I finally have to start writing…AGAIN.  And while with this particular subject I would normally just start writing in my personal journal and not post publicly, I’m starting to believe the subject matter needs to be discussed more openly, and thus, has become another blog post.

The subject is Christianity.

I’ve written quite a bit about Christianity lately.  I’ve frequently shared articles on my Facebook page regarding the work of Pastor John Pavlovitz, more specifically, about some of the shared truths that he and other Christian pastors write about.  I’ve also gotten angry and written posts about how broken Christianity feels like to me (a post that upon retrospection, feels more like a rant than anything, but it still needed to come out at the time).

I was happy when one of my posts sparked discussion, and something from that discussion stuck with me.  It was a Facebook post where one of my other friends, a Christian gentleman, started to speak about how frustrated he was that he couldn’t speak about his religion and the comfort it gave him without being bashed about the ears by people who were expecting the next words out of his mouth to be ‘come to my church and see..’

So I guess I’m not the only one who feels oppressed.

I think the deep introspection of the past several months has caused me to realize that I need to speak my mind, but not just throw words at the topic to vent, like I did in the broken religion post.  I need to talk about how I still hurt, how I have issues thanks to someone’s interpretation of Christianity, but how I still recognize that Christianity as a whole isn’t that bad.  And maybe my being public about things might allow someone else who has some of the same issues to at least think about it.

Yes, you read that right.  I’m a non-Christian that doesn’t think Christianity is that bad.  Seriously.  The concepts of loving another as yourself, not judging another, taking care of the poor, even the discipline of going to a church and prayer are all good things.  In fact, the concept of faith is something I learned in Christianity that I keep with me even now.

But just because I don’t think Christianity is bad doesn’t mean that I don’t still have a lot of anger to deal with because of my upbringing in the church.  The fact of the matter is a great majority of people today were born into some semblance of Christianity.  Many of these people have issues because of that upbringing, and they still carry a lot of anger and resentment toward the entire religion because of said issues.  And I’m still one of them.

But – confession time – I don’t WANT to be someone who has issues with Christianity.  I want to be able to say that I can dismiss the stupidity of certain Christian followers and accept that which is good.  I want to be able to sit down with the gentleman I spoke about above, have a pint and enjoy a good conversation about how our lives are so much more enriched because we BOTH have faith in something more powerful than we are.  There is common ground here that I think is rich with opportunities for bridge building, and I’d love to have those conversations to see what specifics we do have in common.

Although I long for conversations like these, I wonder frequently if I will ever be able to have them.  A good conversation means egos, anger and any suggestions of ‘conversion’ need to be in check.  But still, many Christians I speak with find it their duty to convert heathens like me to the ‘one true’ way.

Come to think of it, now that I am someone who just opened myself to the possibility of sitting down with a Christian to talk about religious practice, or how I read the blogs of Christian leaders, did I just open myself up to people who think I am ready for conversion?  Possibly.  (And if so, I’ll give you the same response I’ve given throughout my life; No.)

Now I can’t do anything about people who feel like it is their duty to convert, but I do know that if someone whose underlying belief is to convert people because their religion is the ‘one, true way’, then you will never be able to have an open heart discussion with them.  The fact is that if someone believes truly in conversion, you will never know if what they say is from their heart, or if it is in the attempt to make you a convert.  And it makes everyone who opens their mouth to say the “C” word in any form or fashion suspect.

And the main sticking point of my anger is right around that ideal of conversion.  I call the root cause of that conversion issue the ‘fear of God’ syndrome.  People feel like they need to convert because the fear of God is something that is instilled in every young Christian in school.  You get raised with this idea that God is so nice, supportive and gentle until you do something wrong and don’t apologize.  Then this God becomes a vengeful being that shames you to eternal pain for the rest of the existence of the world because you dared to do something he didn’t like.  And when the young Christians get to the ripe age where they start to think for yourself – everyone goes through this crisis of faith and either learns to conform, or become like me and recognize things can be different. And if we truly believe in our heart that things can be different, we now get to deal with this fear of angering this vengeful God.  And that was the thing that screwed me up the most; This fact you could be doing the exact same things that the Christian God teaches AND STILL go to this eternal frying pan because you don’t do it in his name.

kenny-yolo_o_514748(Images flash in my mind of the South Park episode where the kids freaked out every time they did something they thought was a sin and had to run to church to confess it. Poor Kenny!)

Perhaps some Christians are aware of how conceited it sounds that some put the Christian faith above others.  But many don’t.  Instead, they relish in it.  It’s a perfect place for their egos to thrive and grow; as NOW they have a GOD GIVEN RIGHT to put everyone underneath them because only THEY and THEIR friends and family are CHOSEN ones.  And it’s those people that have poisoned it for everyone.  For me, who wants to reach out, and for others, like my friend who is tired of being punished for crimes he didn’t commit.

And people wonder why some of us go out of their way to avoid anything that has any Christian leanings.  It’s because the true reason for the speech or action regarding Christianity will never be known.  Are you one of the idiots trying to gain power?  Are you someone who’s trying to ‘hook’ more souls for your Christian God?  Or are you someone who is just sick and tired of the whole mess some people have made of the Christian glenda.jpgreligion and want to just have a good conversation about faith and how it can truly move mountains no matter what you believe in?

In short, “Are you a Good Christian, or a Bad Christian?” I ask, as I hold my ceremonial drinking horn. (I gave up the wand – and the athame might scare people.)

I jest.  But if I don’t jest I might get mad again.  And I don’t want to be mad.  Sure, I’ll have to talk about my hurt for a while longer.  And perhaps I’ll have that pint and hear about another’s hurt and how they feel just as oppressed.  But what is more important is that I want those good Christians to know that my anger isn’t directed at them.  There will be things I post – Stuff that needs to be said, to use the title of Pastor Pavlovitz’s blog – but I don’t do it to directly make someone else feel uncomfortable.  I do it to heal.  I do it to express how much anger I still have left within me.  I do it because someday, I don’t want to have that anger.  I want to shed that anger and pick up that pint and talk about how excited I am to share my practices with another person.  I want to share about how my faith in my Gods makes me feel connected to everyone around the world, how we all need to respect each other.  I want to talk about how when I make a mistake I have to do more than just confess it.  I want to talk about how I don’t bow to my Gods, just as I don’t bow to my boss, my mentors, my teachers or my husband, but instead I show respect in other ways.  I want to share how my vows to be a better person mean I have to push myself out of my comfort zone and force myself to do more to raise my energy and understand my fellow human being better.

Now, more than ever, I truly believe we need these bridges built between communities.  Bridges are the only way we are going to understand each other, and once the understanding is there, compromise is possible.  We see every day how non-compromise is causing trauma and pain and fear.  And if it means having more semi-open conversations before we can get down to business, then I am all for it.

Issues with A Broken Religion

Pandora really pisses me off sometimes.

I started building a new radio station to listen to at work based on one of my favorite bands, Breaking Benjamin.  I’ve been in a bit of a melancholy mood for a while now so it fit to create a station around them.  (For those that don’t know, the lead singer of Breaking Benjamin has been pretty public about his personal issues with anxiety and phobias, and to me you can feel that in his music.  You can also feel the strength he uses to fight those illnesses, and that is what appeals right now.  Times are tough, and we can be upset, but we also have strength in spades to get through).

So everything is going pretty well, and of course, as Pandora is designed to do, new music pops up.  And it’s from the band Skillet.  This is a band I wrote about awhile back.  They are Christian, and don’t shy away from speaking about that.  In fact, the reason they are still together is because one of their pastors counseled them to keep pushing forward and continue to speak about the “Glory of God”.   In other words, keep that recruiting up!  We need the revenue! (Yes, I’m aware my bias is showing here).

So that song got the Pandora thumbs down.

Then Ashes Remain came on.  Again, another Christian Rock band.  I looked them up, and they are too much like Skillet for my tastes.  So another thumbs down logged.  After the third Christian band popped up, I just decided to start looking up a list of “Christian” rock bands.  I found out there are quite a few.  The Color Morale, Red, Beartooth, Thousand Foot Krutch and many others I listen to identify as Christian.  And that really bothers me.

So my choices now were that I’m going to have to either keep logging thumbs down on songs a lot more than I thought, or I’m just going to have to accept that there are a lot of Christian bands out there and pick and choose what I like.  And if I just listen to them anyway, I get to do this despite the fact that I feel like most of these bands are out there specifically to recruit people to a religion broken by the people who identify with it.

Believe it or not, this is a pretty hard decision for me.  I’ve done my best to steer clear of Christianity for many years.  Christians can go live over there, and I’m here in my own belief system that suits me just fine.  And occasionally, on my own terms, I’ll seek out those that I know don’t ‘recruit’ and see what they have to say.  Speak to me about learning to become a better person, helping the planet or helping others gain their basic human rights and we will have things in common.  Talk to me about how my religion is somehow wrong or beneath yours, and the conversation will very quickly be over.

However, times are changing, and perhaps the mix that Pandora chose for me is just a catalyst for the realization that I have more lessons to learn.  Sooner or later, I’m going to have to accept that those of the Christian faith who look at me differently are integrated around me more than I feel comfortable about.  Right now I just keep that out of my mind.  However, perhaps that habit is a negative response, especially because of the amount of anger that comes up when I think about it.  And sooner or later, I’m going to have to deal with that anger; the real reason my bias exists.

So here is the crux of the matter: I have more issues with the Christian religion than I thought.  And now, I’m going to have to get off my gluteus maximus and figure out what those issues are and deal with them.

I talked about the fear of God syndrome once before.  And I thought that once I wrote that post, that I had dealt with my issues regarding Christianity, and that was that.  I thought I was doing a good job separating the religion from the people.  Because honestly, the religion itself isn’t THAT bad.  Love one another.  Judge not lest ye be judged.  Be still and know that I am God.  Let him without sin cast the first stone.  All of these things have profound meanings.  And they are meanings that transcend the Christian religion.  To me, it’s the PEOPLE who claim to be Christian that cause 90% of the problems with that religion, maybe even more.

I don’t need to go far to come up with excellent examples.  Look at those who are against abortion.  Sure, they are pro-life while the child is in the womb, but the minute the child is born there will be very little support it if the child was born outside of a strong family unit.  Look at the prosperity gospel and how many people who have given up their entire life savings hoping for a miracle.  Finally, and what angers me the most, is the issues in the current situation.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard ‘Christians’, in the current political climate argue against verses from the book that they claim to follow.  “Oh, that verse is just hyperbole.  Verses like that are throughout the entire bible.”  Or, “Sure, it says turn the other cheek, but at the same time, Jesus wouldn’t want me to stand by and watch as my family gets robbed and killed.”  Plainly put, these people will twist things to match what they want to believe, and they don’t give a shit about the true meaning of that religious text.

Perhaps I’m tired of seeing how people twist religion to make it fit what it is they want to do.  It’s the same with the racism in Heathenism.  There are interpretations of many religions that inflict more harm than they do good, and when that happens, there is something seriously wrong with the people that profess to be following that religion.  Perhaps it wasn’t the case in older times, but in the current age I firmly believe that religion is meant to help us understand the world around us and how we fit in with that world.  I firmly believe that the times where religion divided us should be over.  We have evolved further than that.

But unfortunately, power over people is still something that is strived for by many.  And religion is a tool that has been used for thousands of years to do just that; get power over people.  And for the most part, people are programmed to accept that when it comes to religion, you are expected to relinquish your power to get anywhere.  And thus you have the strife and conflict that we see today.  And that leads me back to my current dilemma.

But at least now I can speak to the issue more clearly.

I am pretty damn angry at people within the Christian churches.  I’m angry at how they failed me in my upbringing, how they didn’t answer my questions and how they forced me to follow along in a religion even though I felt so very different in my soul.  I’m angry at the strife they caused me and so many other people like me that felt different.  I’m angry that they made us feel like outsiders unless we conformed.  I’m very angry they caused us to be afraid of the very Gods that were there to help us the entire time.  And I am mad as hell that I have to deal with all of the leftovers of this upbringing.  I get to deal with all of the confusion and pain as to why I can’t understand or fit with the people who call themselves Christian.  I get to deal with them time and time again telling me that I still am wrong and that I need to ‘get with the program’ in order to save my soul.   I get to deal with the embedded ‘fear of God’s wrath’ if I dare try to be myself.  I get to deal with how I felt back then because I dared ask questions that people couldn’t answer.  And last but not least, I get to learn over and over again how to be a survivor in a country that claims to be Christian, yet refuses to treat people the way their own Jesus said to.

And I’m allowed to be mad.  I’m allowed to be mad as hell.  I’m allowed to be so mad that I can spit nails anytime anyone asks me if “I’ve found Jesus” yet.  Yeah, I found him, and he’s over in the Middle East doing what he can for the refugees that are dying.  And now that you mention it, I saw him the other day in your church, bent over the altar weeping at those using his house for their own personal gain.

Obviously I’m showing my anger.  I’m trying to get it out; to get a name to it.  I need to identify and deal with it.  I need to deal with it because of people like John Pavlovitz, Rob Bell, Michael Beckwith, Revered Ed Bacon and many others.  Although these people are only a few of the vast number of Christians out there, they believe differently.  They believe like me; that God is large enough to be involved in many different religions.  They believe we are stronger if we support and take care of each other, no matter what religion you profess.  And their beliefs contain the possibilities of what Christianity could become.  So there is hope.  Further, and thanks to the current political climate,  I’m reminded that I, someone who is in a religion in the minority, needs to learn to work with others who are in the minority.  Get enough of us together and we will become the majority, forcing change throughout the country.

Even if it is for that last reason alone, I need to deal with this anger.

I’m not sure where this thinking is going to lead me.  I hope it’s someplace positive.  I don’t want to dismiss good people trying to do what is right.  And I know the people I mentioned above are trying to do just that.  But the tenant of my faith says that I must work on myself; that I must overcome my own shortcomings and strive to be a better person.  This is what it means to me when I say I stand with my Gods.

So I guess because of my faith, my religion, I need to figure out a way to be more accepting to those that truly profess theirs.  But that doesn’t mean I’m going to feel bad for not listening to Skillet and bands like them that profess the current status quo of this currently broken religion.

 

Photo from Deviant Art

The Next Steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feeling Through Things and Taking an Inventory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Pagan Individuality vs. Theological Reformation

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One of the biggest issues I’ve seen in pagan community is the (sometimes heated) discussion around pagan theology, labels and individuality.  As I have said before, for years I have refused to label myself as anything but spiritual.  One of the reasons for this was to keep out of this type of discussion.  But now as I start to become more involved in pagan communities I have realized that it is time for me to organize my own thoughts on the subject.

Labels can cause more pain than they can help.  Eckhart Tolle talks about labels as being a part of the suffering in the world.  The meaning in people’s lives is usually associated with what labels they think of as “good”, and this good is threatened by the labels people associate with being “bad”.  Simply consider the question “Who are you” and you are inundated with them.  Your answer will most likely include something like the following, “I am a Technical writer (a job title label), a pagan (a religious label) and at times I am a fencer and martial artist (activity labels).”

While these labels define us as people, they also can divide us on a spiritual level, especially when we start looking at the definition of these labels.  An example of this is the discussion between Sarenth Odinsson and John Halstead.  While I don’t want to get into all of the specifics, Sarenth basically started to discuss his belief system and how his definitions didn’t fit the beliefs of people like John Halstead.  John replied, and a part of that exchange can be found here.  After reading the entire exchange, my personal belief is that the whole matter comes down to one specific thing; the definitions of the labels of “sacred” and “holy”.  These labels mean something different to Sarenth Odinsson than they did to John Halstead.

What’s my take on this discussion?  I think they are both right.  And I believe this to be a clear example of the problems when trying to unify pagans under a specific set of guidelines or beliefs.  Inevitably those beliefs include labels that have different meanings from one person to the next.  And thus the separations begin.

On the other side of the dilemma, I understand now that labels are necessary evils.  Without them I cannot communicate.  The problem is that there is a fine line between using a label to communicate a concept and using a label to communicate a division between two people.  A theology, defined as a system of religious beliefs or ideas, depends on these labels in order communicate a specific set of beliefs, practice and experience.  Therein lies the problem; if we cannot completely agree on a definition of a label that does not divide any part of the pagan community, how are we ever going to agree on a set of these labels in a theology?

Going further, how can we attempt to put a pagan theology around an entire mass of people that cannot even put a theology around a specific subgroup of pagans?   I don’t think we can.  We obviously don’t see it right now in one specific set or style of heathenism/polytheism/paganism that we have today.  If it was, then we would have only had Gardner’s version of Wicca, not the various traditional and nontraditional versions.  We would have had the Troth and not the Troth/Northern Tradition/Asatru/Vanatru/Rokkur and so on, and so on.

Individuals are as varied as the shapes of snowflakes, and this is reflected in our belief systems.  Sure you can label a snowflake group as six-pointed, four-pointed, heavy, light, big or small, but when it comes down to the individuality of each there is no way to specifically group them with the exception of labeling them snowflakes.

Will things always be this way?  I don’t know.  Will this belief of mine change over time?  Probably.  But I don’t think it will happen until we as a collective whole recognize the like mindedness nature in each other and push past our human tendency to label and divide.  We have to recognize that no matter how we pray, do ritual, live and interact with others that we all have something that guides us forward, no matter the label.  Once that is accepted into the pagan consciousness, then perhaps we can start the process to unify. Until then, I believe it we will only be a significant number of groups with different belief systems and sub-theologies unified under a very loose terminology.