The Struggle for Radical Inclusion

I’m getting very tired of hearing other opinions, especially when those opinions are openly against another person’s belief, the color of their skin, the way they dress, what they choose for themselves, or those against an entire religion. Yet, that feels like it’s all I’m surrounded by. And not only am I surrounded by those opinions I know now I have family members with those types of beliefs. And what is worst of all, it is now confirmed that people I chose to be a part of my chosen family and those I looked up to have opinions that demean and belittle others.

Each time I have heard about someone else close to me who has a believe that excludes others, it makes my heart ache. Don’t get me wrong, when it’s a story on the news about things that people are doing against each other, it hurts too. You pray for those affected and do what you can if there are monetary needs or petitions to sign. But when it gets close to home, things get really bad for me. Heartache turns to outright anger, bitterness and a whole hell of a lot of pain. But yet, when the talk from family or friends turns to those sore topics, I have still tried to be civil. I agree to disagree, or bring up reasons why things are not the way the person who is biased claims them to be. Even when my own uncle comes out against others for the color of their skin, I still try to ‘play nice’ for the sake of the family. I still try to listen, to understand, and to get them to understand where I am coming from.

There is a reason I was doing this. The thing is, one of the biggest problems this nation faces today is that we aren’t listening to each other. We aren’t recognizing there is an allowance for differences of opinions. There was a time when being ‘democrat’ or ‘republican’ meant that ideals were different, yet everyone believed in being civil, and both sides strongly felt they were doing the right thing for the nation. There was a time not too far in the past when civil debates could be held without fear and even political candidates stopped their constituents from throwing angry slurs at their opponents during rallies.

But unfortunately, those times are long over.

Today, it’s not just an opinion about whether or not to tax something anymore. Today, the differences of opinion are about large swaths of people and whether or not they have a right to education, a right to live and worship as they choose, or even just a right to exist. And I can understand why those beliefs are held. Some people that hold opinions against others do it out of fear, or they do it out of experiences they have, or they do it because that is what they were taught. And almost always those with the opinions of exclusion don’t think they are doing anything wrong. For example, I was recently told by someone that equality currently exists between a gay couple and a straight couple if the gay couple had at least a couple doctors to go and see. Sure, not all the doctors would be willing to see them because of their ‘christian’ faith, but because they still had a choice of some doctors who would take them as patients it didn’t matter if others wouldn’t see them. I couldn’t help but think if the situation was reversed that they wouldn’t think it was equal, no matter how many times they said they would feel the same way during that conversation.

No matter what it was justified it with, this person was talking about the exclusion of a human being. They were excluding another life, another spirit, another soul. They are excluding another in which, in many different religions, is believed to be that which has been made in a likeness of God – the very God they claim to worship. If that wasn’t bad enough, by excluding that person, many break a second tenant that is said in many different ways based on the specific religion, but basically boils down to ‘do not judge others’.

So here is where, in any conversation with someone whose opinion is being sliced to shreds, the cherry picking begins. Either I’m looking at something the wrong way, or I don’t fully understand the verses being spoken about, or another verse overrides what verses or holy books I’m quoting from. It doesn’t matter. In my personal belief system a human is still a human, and until they do something that clearly shows they don’t deserve it, respect for who and what they are matters deeply to me.

Automatic respect of others is radical. Automatic respect is the hard road. Recognizing the difference of opinion and accepting it (not approving mind you, but accepting) is ridiculously hard, especially in this polarized nation. But it’s what I’ve tried to do, time and time again. I’ve recently been in conversations with others that my husband has outright told me he would have immediately quit the conversation and stormed out of the room. Not because he nor I were being disrespected, but because the person was so passionate about their belief that they were right. This person wasn’t an outright hater or excluder, but they certainly were on the slippery slope to allow exclusion to happen and not find it to be wrong.

But I have to admit, even though I do my best, I still get shaken to my core. Recently in the Society for Creative Achronism (SCA), the ruler of a kingdom who has made racist statements on social media elevated a known racist to the highest honor of the kingdom, even while the other members who had a say vetoed the elevation. In another kingdom, months earlier, royalty decided to wear clothing with swastikas clearly sown into the embroidery. And today, I’m forced to recognize yet again that someone in my own household shares radical opinions about Muslims. This is someone who swore an oath to be kind to all, generous with their time, who is known as a caring individual, and yet, it seems to me now that these traits are just part of the ‘game’ that is the SCA, and not what they strive to be in real life. This is truly disheartening and sad.

Unfortunately, because I’m getting hit by this over and over, it makes me wonder about my own personal guidelines on dealing with these people. Do I give more benefit of the doubt than I should? Do I need to follow the example and turn away from anyone who even speaks about exclusion being right, even though it may not be outwardly racist or bigoted? And if I do, doesn’t that just mean that I’m becoming a part of the polarization, and not part of the solution? It breaks my heart that I have to consider these things. I have watched my own parents become bitter as they got older because of the beliefs and actions of others, and swore to myself that I would never become that way; that I would always seek the good in others no matter how hard it was to find, and only quitting if the actions of that person became threatening to me, my friends or loved ones.

Now I don’t know if I have the strength left in me to not be bitter.

But for now, trying to be open is the requirement I have set upon myself, not only as a personal ethical code, but for me, a religious one as well. So I keep trying. I keep listening. I keep trying to get both sides of the story, and try to change others minds when I can. Many are perhaps a lost cause. Probably many more than I’m willing to admit to myself right now. And perhaps there may be need of more distancing myself from those who don’t want to see another side. Perhaps those whose beliefs include exclusion of any kind should be distanced, their businesses not be patronized as much as I had before. And perhaps I withdrawal from the SCA even further than I have previously. And perhaps these things aren’t being done on my part out of malice or anger. Perhaps I simply need to do them for my own sanity. Perhaps then I might have more mental energy to engage someone who might actually listen and come to understand.

I can still hope.

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The Trial of the Flame

flame_by_vexix1887
Photo from Deviant Art

Well take my hand, and follow me,
Through the trial of the flame.
Oh take my hand, and follow me,
Through the trial of the flame.

Now well within the cold dark battlements,
Black raven calls my name.
Never’ fore have I explored this backside of my brain.
There amongst those misty ruins likes this port of death and pain.

Take my hand, we’ll make a stand,
Through the trial of the flame.
Well take my hand and follow me,
Through the trial of the flame.

Gonna take this long trek down the shoreline.
Where the sea awaits me there,
If you do not fear it friend,
You’re ‘bout as mad as can compare.
Lost souls, and ghosts and phantoms are there awaitin’ in the rain.
So take my hand and walk with me through the trial of the flame.

Take my hand and follow me,
Through the trial of the flame.
Take my hand and follow me,
Through the trial of the flame.

How does it happen now good lad
Black raven calls your name?
On this dismal voyage through a world that reeks of death and pain.
So clear the smoke it’s vastness so infest your mortal brain.
Take my hand I’ll lead you through this trial of the flame.

Take my hand and follow me,
Through the trial of the flame.
Take my hand and follow me,
Through the trial of the flame.

 

 

I may not have all of the lyrics of this song correct, but they are as close as I can get them from listening to Garold Amadon’s album “Tillerman’s Rye”.  This song for me is speaking to a lot of trials that I seem to be going through lately; with the fibromyalgia, the changes in my social groups, my work and in my spiritual life.  It’s funny, Tillerman’s Rye came out over 20ish years ago now and those lyrics are still as meaningful now as they were then.

We aren’t meant to be stagnant beings on this planet.  We are meant to learn, grow wiser and to help others.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to hurt along the way as we stretch ourselves.  We can only try to keep moving forward, keep pushing, keep striving for what is right for us and for our communities.

 

(Song by Garold Amadon, off the album “Tillerman’s Rye,”  available at his website)

Finally Coming to Terms with My Own Paganism

countryside daylight grass hd wallpaper
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Lately I’ve come to the realization that my personal pagan theology doesn’t ‘fit’ with anyone else.  I don’t call myself a wiccan, druid, heathen, Lokian or even a polytheist or pantheist.  Sure, I can fit into all of those labels from time to time, but they don’t always describe my personal religion or my spirituality.

That realization has at times given me comfort, but other times I’m distressed by it.  Not having a label means that I don’t ‘fit in’ with a specific pagan group.  And while being solitary is awesome, there are times you just wish that you had a group around you to celebrate a holiday, full moon, or other special occasion.  And don’t get me wrong, I do have pagan friends, but because my path is so personal, none of them will ever ‘fit’ into my personal paganism.  Even my husband’s paganism doesn’t fit my own.  His has his own personal beliefs and history with specific forms of divinity that very much revolve around his forge.

I don’t think I’m the only one that fits in this category of not-fitting anything.  Many people in my pagan community have to use more than one label in order to describe their specific paths.  Sometimes it’s because their paths span pantheons, sometimes because they span different traditions.  The more paganism grows as a religion, the more labels are going to be necessary to explain the differences.  And the more argument is going to occur about what the definition and intent of that label actually is.

So perhaps not having a true label is the right way to go.  Perhaps in a way that is where paganism needs to be headed.   After all, we are all unique individuals.  We all have different talents and needs.  We think differently from one another.  We  communicate differently.  It makes perfect sense that our paganism would be different.  Even if we practice in the same coven, that doesn’t mean that we do our personal ritual and disciplines the same as our coven sisters and brothers.

 

Our Different Paths: Too different to connect?
Our paganism is also going to be different because of our own past experiences.  There are those who came to paganism late in life, while others were born into this belief system.  Still others had different training prior to joining together in a specific tradition or style.  Those are all things that will influence the individual work that we do.

So if we are all different, then how can you say any particular style or tradition is the ‘right’ one?  How can we say if you don’t do this specific style of heathenry, or that you honor a specific God it means that you aren’t doing it ‘right’?  Really, you can’t.  Because one person’s version of heathenry is not going to be right for someone else.  You may visit the same topics as someone else when trying to figure out your path, but if a particular practice doesn’t feel right to an individual,it may not be because that individual isn’t trying hard enough.  It may just mean that the particular practice doesn’t fit that individual.  Instead, something else will have to be found that ‘fits’ better.

There are always caveats to any rule in paganism.  So even though I say perhaps we need to get to a place where labels aren’t needed, I know there is a caveat here.  We pick and choose our paths, and perhaps some of us will choose to work under a specific teacher.  in those cases, perhaps a specific label WILL fit for the time they are with that teacher, or that coven.  There will be people who are happy in a coven and that is where they choose to stay.  There will also be people that follow a certain heathen teacher and choose to stay on that specific path under the guidance of that teacher.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But I don’t think that particular style of paganism is meant for everyone.

Growing up in primary and secondary school here in the United States, it was pounded into my head that we are a ‘melting’ pot of people from many different areas of the globe.  People came here to start a new life.  They brought their culture with them, and that culture morphed into things we see and take for granted today.  Mardi Gras/Carnival, St. Patrick’s day,  and Paczki day are great examples of this.  While somewhat watered down or modified, these are still ancestral traditions that have made their way into common holidays celebrated by the general population.  It makes perfect sense to me that our ancestors would also look to us to follow other traditions in ways that would celebrate our ancestry as a whole, and not just a specific piece of that ancestry.  Add the matter of oathed or claimed ancestry and an entirely new facet of someone’s personal paganism is born.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that my paganism is going to be exactly that; mine.  Others have given me the labels of Lokian, Heathen, Witch, Shaman, Spirit Worker, Druid, Bard, Spiritualist, and perhaps they all fit, in their own way.  Perhaps more general terms would be better to explain like the Venn Diagram discussed in John Beckett’s essay on the Big tent of paganism.

 

The important bit that’s easily forgotten
But there is one very important part of this conversation that seems to get missed.  The definition of a religion for a pagan means that which who you are as defined by your actions.  Being defined by our actions means we own our beliefs.  We own our beliefs so strongly that we act upon them.  We don’t just debate them or talk about them for a couple hours once a week and go back to being whoever we were before the conversation.

So when someone decides that someone else’s belief is wrong or judges that belief, it isn’t something easily dismissed.  Because it’s not just a judgement about a simple religion.  We have internalized our belief systems enough to act upon them, so that judgement is about someone’s very nature.

Perhaps that is why we seek people out to worship with in the first place, and why we get so heated about others criticizing our beliefs or the labels we give ourselves.  And perhaps it’s why I feel so very radical when I say my own way is good enough.  Perhaps it’s because too many of us have been brought up in another way, where the only religious validation that we may get is from others.  And now we are asking others to validate our beliefs as before, but our paganism is so individual, we cannot get that validation.

John Beckett has recently written posts about pagan unity, and what paganism will look like in the future.  I agree with his optimism.  But I do believe that more of us have to come to terms with our own personal systems of belief being exactly that – OURS.  Let’s recognize that we are all unique and different and come to terms with that.  Let’s also recognize that everyone else’s religion is just as valid as our own before we open our mouth to judge something we don’t understand.  And let’s work on getting these two skills down first before we start attempting to unite as a whole.

 

 

Poem: Spirit

The spirit within me burns.
It burns with passion for things that I do in my life.
It burns with desire to be stretched
It yearns to shine within the eye.

The Spirit  longs to burn that which does not help
The Spirit longs to fill the space left with warmth and flame.

It burns with strength.
It burns with desire,
It burns to touch other spirits.

It is not mine to say ‘turn it away’ because it shines too brightly.
It is not mine to hide, afraid that I would burn another.
It is mine to be the reflection.

The Spirit is mine to allow its energy to saturate me;
It’s mine to allow the warmth to flow from my fingers,
Dripping onto the things that I touch
Changing those things unavoidably.

For that is the nature of the Spirit.

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Bias Problems?

I got a lot of response from friends on the post I wrote about not bashing the new age movement.  And while some people felt I had made some good points, I got the idea that overall many people read and dismissed what I had to say as being either naive or simply dismissed me personally as being too ‘New Age’ to think critically about the issues in the first place.  I had expected that.  I also expected people to leave hurtful comments about the post (which luckily, I did not get).

Overall, there was a bit of good discussion about the post.  And while I was going back and forth several times with other members of the pagan community, someone else popped up and made the comment that the arguments in the pagan community never change.

I laughed off the comment with him as I agree that there will always be arguments in the pagan community about labels and issues, but I disagreed with him about the particular discussion.  Instead, I framed what I was engaging in with these other pagans was a discussion with other peers of the pagan community about the points I had brought up.  He then disagreed and brought up his points as to why this was an argument; I gave my side, the others involved gave their sides, and neither of us budged.  He concluded again that based on that definition, we were in an argument.

I reread the posts, and he was right.  And my heart sank.

Now in all fairness, I had no idea what to expect when I put that post out there.     But when I reread the posts, I did see the underlying theme of “I dare you to try to convince me that whatever you say is something I should consider” with some of the participants, so thus, it was in many ways, an argument.  So I gave up.

I was in an argument, and that really bothered me.  The post wasn’t supposed to become something to defend against.  It wasn’t supposed to be me defending my ideals and my right to my own beliefs, nor to defend what I meant by recognizing that even New Age ideals had a bit of truth to them.   It was simply me trying to get another facet of a situation out in the open for people to consider.

Perhaps I am naïve.  In the late 80s/early 90s, the pagan community that I was a part of were mostly open to new ideas.  We were all growing; and information wasn’t easy to come by.  All we had were books and each other.  So, if someone had an idea, most of the time people would listen, consider the idea, then either admit it wasn’t right for them or perhaps continue the discussion to see how it could fit into their spirituality.

But that isn’t this pagan culture now.  Instead it feels like today you get into the pagan community under a specific set of labels.  And if something doesn’t fit into that label, or (Gods Forbid!) if someone tries to push themselves into a label that a specific definition exists for (and is thus considered ‘incorrect’), arguments break out.

That argument culture is the current culture for everything; at least here in the United States.  No matter what the topic is, someone is going to disagree with what it is you think.  And not only will they disagree, they will be sure to make certain you knew it complete with taunts and expletives if you push it enough. Why I thought pagan spirituality and culture would be different and more like the culture I grew my own beliefs in, I don’t know.  But I guess I needed an awakening to what things were truly like.

Why does it even matter what others think?  It honestly doesn’t matter to me if someone dismisses my idea.  But it does make me wonder that if by dismissing a different spiritual idea immediately are they doing a disservice to themselves?  Perhaps instead of challenging them, contemplation on at least a small scale should be considered?

Many years ago, I read a book called “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” by Malcolm Gladwell.  The book has stuck with me all these years because of the exercises.  Those exercises in the book very quickly proved Mr. Gladwell’s point about how we don’t necessarily think, but instead react to unspoken and unknown biases.  While doing those exercises, I realized that I held biases that I had no idea I had.  Me, then a practicing pagan and someone who tried very hard to be open to new ideas and opportunities for growth still had biases.  The realization hurt.  And it also made me vow that I would always look at someone else’s opinion as objectively as possible to ensure that there wasn’t some grain of truth to it for myself.  I admit that it isn’t always easy.  But it is something I aspire to as a personal creed.

That personal creed is why I was so upset at the argumentative nature of the discussion.  I had hoped that other spiritual people would also believe the way I do about bias, and thus try to look at things with an open mind.  Now perhaps some did, I don’t know for certain, but the intent that I read from the posts seemed to me to suggest that the bad things the new age community has done outweighs anything I would have put forth as good, and thus the ideal of the post was dismissed.

And I could go the other way and say perhaps my bias at belittling myself makes me think that the intent I describe above happened when it didn’t happen at all.

It sounds like minutia, doesn’t it?  It sounds like critical thinking gone awry perhaps.  But in my belief, we have to think that deeply to understand the currents of energy that are around us.  We have to let our bias go; let any anthropomorphic ideals of those energies go.  The world and its energy behaves differently than we think it does; no matter how much you learn, no matter how many teachers you have or how many lives you live, we still need to expect the unexpected while we are living on this Earth.

So I come from this experience a little wiser and with more understanding, but with even more dedication to my personal creeds.  But I’ll always hope, and make time for an open minded discussion with my fellow pagans about ideals.  After all, that which does not change me only makes me stronger.

 

Photo from Deviant Art

New Age Bashing

Several weeks ago, an article entitled “New Age Bullshit Part 1” popped up in “A Parliament of Owls – Spiritual & Metaphysical Chat for Wandering Owl Fans” discussion group on Facebook. Since then, It’s been on my mind quite a bit.  It’s been on my mind because I agree with some of the author’s points, but I also very much disagree about his stance on the new age movement.

In the article, the author speaks immediately about the jargon people in the new age movement use. (He calls them ‘lightworkers’ in the article).  Specifically, he speaks to how most lightworkers only talk about love and light, Further down in the article he speaks to how some of these people refuse to even consider the darker sides of the soul, speaking to how most lightworkers believe that if they don’t give any energy to that side of them, the dark side can’t hurt them, or basically, it won’t exist.   This is where I do agree with him.  Yes, there are people out there that have been in the new age movement for quite some time and don’t think about anything but ‘the light’ and preach how staying in ‘the light’ allows this and that and allows you to develop <insert touchy-feely statement here>.

I further agree with the author that many of these lightworkers are stuck in their own personal development because they only focus on the light.  But just like the minority of any religious or spiritual discipline that ruin it for the rest of the population, the same thing has happened in the new age movement, and these lightworkers he speaks of are the culprits.  Yes, we are going to get the people that are that are stuck but they claim they are not.  We are also going to get the people in the New Age movement that specifically speak to only certain practices are ‘true’ and only using certain tools are ‘right’ and so on and so forth.  And we should deal with them like we do when we find them in any other aspect under this great big umbrella called paganism:  We need to ignore them and continue our path.  Because if the lightworkers are true to form, anything we say to them is only going to get us angrier.

The author basically leaves his article there, which makes it feel more like a rant to me than being anything informative.  (In all fairness, he did say this was part one, but I could not find anywhere where he had a part two.)  Again, I see his point and can understand why he would rant.  People like the lightworkers he describes can be very frustrating to deal with.  But there are other facets to the new age movement he doesn’t even consider covering in his article, and that’s a shame.

As most of you already know, I do intuitive tarot readings.  Many of the clients that come in to see me for readings are searchers.  Some of these people are clearly out of their comfort zone, they come to me even though they have no idea how a reading works or what to ask.  Some don’t even know how a tarot deck works.  Still, they come because they are searching for something that they cannot name.  Still others come speaking of ‘talents’ or ‘gifts’ their recent ancestors had; and their visit to me is them grasping at straws trying to connect with that talent that might be innate in themselves.

In these cases, I do my best to be the gracious host of the metaphysical realms.  I speak to them and give them ideas on reaching out to their ancestors; or other ways they can start ‘testing’ the waters so to speak.  But I don’t give them too much.  Going straight into how to cast a circle, gathering spell components for a spell or talking about some of the more specific areas of the metaphysical realms are just too much for these clients.

So in short, I give them what some people would call New Age practices to start with.

If you look at some of the practices of the new age belief you will see immediately that they are very basic.  They are easy to comprehend and they can be communicated and understood in a very short period of time.  That makes them the perfect building block for me to present to my clients so they can start building their own foundations for metaphysical practice.  Also, the so called ‘light’ exercises are perfect to help teach protection and grounding; which most newbies desperately need.

The practices I speak about aren’t any that need deep oversight.  I’m also not designating myself as their ‘teacher’ by giving them suggested practices, nor do I say they MUST do them.  I simply suggest them and allow the client to make up their own mind as to whether or not the practice is right for them.  And if they choose to go deeper and want more information, then I can suggest a specific person from the list of people I have that I know to be very reputable and that can give them further information about a specific subject.

Another reason I start with new age practices is because of the terminology of the movement is so common.  Reaching for a common language to communicate to someone is the same thing I do in my day job.  As a technical writer, I constantly have to think about my audience; Is my writing going to someone with technical knowledge so I can let lose more technical terms, or is the audience a group who doesn’t know the difference between Kaizen and a Kanban?

In order to communicate anything, we must first make certain we have a common language.  New age terminology easily bridges that gap.  It also allows me to bypass terms that might scare my clients.  Sure there are things that I still must explain in more detail, but overall I have a common language that I can use to start connecting with my client and help them work through whatever problem they have come to me to get more information on.

The people that come to see me and people like them are some of the biggest reasons why the new age movement is still thriving.  These are people who could be just becoming aware of the energies within and around them and have no idea how to work with that energy.  They might be scared shitless of something they saw, felt or heard and have no idea what to do about it.  Or they are like me when I found new age practices – they are the people that feel deep in their heart and soul that something is missing, and are reaching for the piece of them they cannot define.

I am a Reiki Master, and that, to many people, is a new age practice.  Yet it was my training in Reiki that ultimately led to my being able to control my intuitive gifts and become the adept reader I am today.  It also led to me being able to use healing abilities and helped to teach me not to send out my own energy and deplete my own personal energy sources.  Reiki became my teacher in other ways too.  It was what I reached for as protection when I started doing my own deeper journey work and it has helped deepen my understanding of the Gods as I know them now.  In fact, Reiki still is a very important piece of my spiritual discipline.

When I found Reiki, it was the only thing that I could find in the pagan community that made any sense regarding my healing and intuitive abilities.  I was already pagan; I’d been practicing rituals at that point for roughly 10ish years and no matter how much I searched, I could find no one who could help me with my intuitive and healing gifts.  Reiki was the only thing that helped me understand what I was doing wrong in my practice, and it was the only thing that helped me correct my mistakes properly.

Now had this article been written back then, and had I seen it prior to my decision to be attuned to a new age thing such as Reiki, perhaps I would have reconsidered my decision to become attuned.  And I would not be following the wonderful soul fulfilling path that I currently follow.  I would not be the strong person that I am today.  I would not be devoted to Loki and Odin. I would not be a member of OBOD.  And I would not be a keeper of the Sacred Pipe of my ancestors.  That’s one reason why I’m a bit upset about this article; who is going to read it and step away from possibly the very start of a very fulfilling spiritual path because of what others think about the practices they do?

The whole ‘new age bashing’ in articles like this one also makes me wonder if there is a deeper reason why it happens.  Was there a time where we, in our newbie ignorance, were like those lightworkers perhaps?  Did we condemn practices that weren’t exactly like our own? Or, are we condemning new age practices that are so simple that we in our current knowledge base would now assume that ‘ANY’ newbie should automatically know them as common sense?

Or are we embarrassed at our own beginnings, and that is why the new age movement gets the brunt of the bashing, much like pagan publishers that publish lots of beginner books like Llewellyn publishing (or bash the so called ‘Llewellyn babies’ who read said books), authors that write lots of beginning practice books (Silver RavenWolf) or why books that we once held in high esteem get joked about (Uncle Bucky’s Big Blue anyone?).

Perhaps that is the crux of it.  We all DO have to start somewhere.  Let’s stop bashing those starting points.  And while we are at it, let’s not worry about the lightworkers or other people that choose to stay stuck and help the ones who truly want to reach deeper.  Let’s help them realize that the tools they received and the skills that they learned in the new age movement can help them learn that there is much more to these paths than what they know.  And in the meantime, let’s recognize the new age movement as the stepping block that it can be into a much bigger world.

 

Photo from Deviant Art

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.