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.

 

Shielding is Optional?

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This past weekend I attended my local pagan store’s monthly pagan discussion group. Every once in awhile we get a new person there that asks a bunch of questions, and this past event was no different.  This particular new person asked about what she can do to deal with all of the crazy emotions that she had been feeling over the past couple days.

I did try REALLY hard to not read her, but it was impossible.  Think about when you happen to glance over at someone who is using sign language to communicate and you happen to know the language.  You are going to pick up things that are being said no matter what you do.  That is how it was for me.  One glance and I immediately saw the problem she was having.  She worked in healthcare and was picking up the issues and emotions of the patients she was a caregiver for.  So once I had a turn to speak, I apologized to her for my very light read of her, told her what I saw, and very quickly talked about some simple grounding, centering and shielding techniques that might help her.  Others followed, speaking of other techniques.  She might have been overwhelmed by the amount of information she was getting, but I got the sense that those things were going to ‘internalize’ so that later on she would have some idea as to what it was she needed to do.

But then a very peculiar thing happened; something that I had never heard of before.  One of the local witches who runs a local lineaged coven spoke up.  He said that his tradition didn’t believe in shielding.  In his system, the theory is that if you are strong enough in your metaphysical hygiene, that shielding isn’t necessary.

Really?

Although I didn’t say it in the group discussion, I disagree.  And I have a great story involving this particular witch’s coven member to explain why.

A couple months back my husband wanted to go to the same discussion group, but I was flaring big time.  Fibromyalgia flare ups can be a combination of different things, and this particular flare up was one of the neurological nasty pain ones.  My arms and legs were full of that ‘bone’ pain, that type you get just before you are destined to get a horrendous case of the flu.  And on top of that bone pain, my aura was ballooning up around areas where I hurt, filling my energy fields with energy that I can only describe as looking like static on a TV screen.  When it gets to that point I cannot control it and it just hangs around me, stuck to my aura and body like glue.

We got to that particular function late, and the only other chair that was available was next to one of the members of that lineaged coven, whom I now know doesn’t practice shielding.  At the discussion break, I  mentioned to her that I was flaring, to which she replied that she already knew that because I was making her so nauseous by my sitting next to her.  I was shocked.  At this point I do want to note that this person is a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and practices this art for a living.

Shielding is something that most people do naturally, but those in the healthcare industry should always consider doing more.  That is one reason why I’m so flabbergasted at this particular coven member.  As someone who has spent time working in hospitals and emergency rooms, I recognize how important this is.   Even if your shield is setting spell work in a lab coat, scrubs, or in a necklace or bracelet, to me it is key to getting ready everyday while working in the healthcare industry.  Massage therapist friends of mine who are also empathic / intuitive do cleansing and shielding between each patient, especially those who are going to do deep work on someone with a chronic illness.  If I didn’t keep up spiritual shields on my own person and my work space I would be feeling many emotions of those around me, and possibly getting ‘cross traffic’ from the hundreds of people that work at the business I do.

Now some might argue that I shouldn’t have been at that particular event if I was not in control of my own energy, and I do see the point, however, my energy was only directly impacting one particular person, and that was me.  I’ve worked with other empaths and energy workers to understand exactly how my energy interacts with others when I’m in this type of flare, and in each and every case a simple shield has stopped anyone else from indirectly being affected. Further, I was going to a public space for a group talk that had no intent of doing any other workings like casting a circle, spell work or raising energy.  Let’s face it, I can’t not live my life and hide in my home when I’m in pain or when my energy flares up.  And I’m absolutely certain that I will never be a big ‘threat’ to anyone’s energy fields when I’m in a flared up state!

Perhaps I am old fashioned; Maybe because I learned the basics so many years ago now that shielding is ‘out of date’.  But I fully disagree with the non-teaching of it.  At the very least, teach it to new students and let them decide for themselves if they need to practice it or not.  There is a lot of things out there that can cause issues to those of us who understand and work with energy on a daily basis, and me in a fibro flareup is the very least of those worries.  There are people that don’t do any cleansing or grounding; the equivalent of walking cartoon characters like Pigpen from the Peanuts comic strips.  I want have something up between me and all of that ‘dirt’!  Sure metaphysical hygiene is important, but with the many interactions everyone has with the public each and every day, I’ll take that extra barrier, thank you very much!

So what are your thoughts on this topic?  Am I old fashioned?  Or is shielding a key component to everyday living?

Photo from Deviant Art

 

 

 

 

Religion is not Black and White

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And on and on the assumptions go.

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

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

Photo from Deviant Art

What I Want To Say to My Christian Family

Last week I helped to bury the patriarch of my extended family.  My Grandfather was a strong, noble, wonderful man who held together all of the extended families with his presence.  If he said ‘be here on this date’, all of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would assemble, ready to do whatever it was he wanted.

His burial was a Catholic one, and I once again found myself in the Catholic church of my upbringing.  The funeral home’s services also were Christian in nature as my Grandfather’s faith in the church was just as strong as he was.  Even the Knights of Columbus came to give their respects and held their own special service to commemorate his 50 years of service with them.

The tone of the funeral and it being populated with so many strong christian and Catholic overtones reminded me of one many years earlier, the funeral of my great-grandmother.   Weeks before my great-grandmother’s funeral, I had come out to my parents as being pagan.  At that time they didn’t say much about it, but instead chose to unleash their anger at me on the drive home from my great-grandmother’s funeral.  I remember that drive vividly, as it was filled with my mother’s tears and ranting.  Specifically aimed at me, my mother ranted about how my great-grandmother, also a devout Catholic, had shown such unwavering faith in her religion, and how dare I belittle her by not following suit with my own faith.

This recent funeral didn’t come with the same yelling, but it did come with a deep silence that felt like an uncrossable chasm between my family and I.  In the end, no one took notice of my half-hearted attempt at mumbling through the remembered prayers of my childhood. And the not going up to communion was still easily explained at the fact that I cannot eat wheat without getting violently sick.  That isn’t what I wanted though.  I would have much rather had a long conversation with them about what I believe and why, and how the values and morals that I carry in my heart are so much like their own, even though we do pray to different Gods.

I wanted so badly to explain to them that my desire to better myself and help others around me steers my life and is based in my beliefs, even though there is no bible that dictates it.  I wanted to tell them that they would be proud of me, because I don’t just speak of my beliefs on Sundays and on events like this, but instead I speak of my Gods on a daily basis, and am constantly in a state of communication with them, allowing them to guide my actions as they see fit.  I wanted very much for them to see that the faith that they yelled at me years ago for not having is there and is so much stronger than I ever thought it would be.

I wanted to say how much I pray; how often I give offerings, not only things like what is dictated by the Christian church, but yet I give so much more than that and included volunteering, prayers for the dead, prayers and blessings for those around me and actions to help this earth that we all live on.  How I wanted to explain that each of my offerings came directly from my heart and was because I felt it was needed, not dictated by Christian doctrine.

I wanted to say I didn’t need the bible to give me comfort in the loss of my Grandfather. I wanted to explain to them that I knew he was home, and that no bible was needed to explain that to me.  And most importantly, I wanted to say I knew that someday we would all see him again, regardless of what we believed, how ‘good’ we were at ‘repenting’, or what religion we claimed to be.

In the end, I didn’t say those things.  I’ve given up on the idea that my parents or my sisters would understand me.  Instead, my family is more comforted in their beliefs that  I am an atheist, because this ‘pagan’ ideal is much to hard for them to understand.

So the silence still remains.  And I grieve the loss of my Grandfather alone.  I have learned to leave the silence in place, as every time I have tried to cross that uncomfortable quiet I am struck down.  I am silenced by them again and again because my beliefs do not come from a book, nor do my beliefs need someone else to validate them for me.

In the end, I am stronger for what I believe, and I know this.  But it doesn’t stop me from wishing for that one day to come when I can talk to them and help them understand.  But I guess that will just have to wait for the time when we are all on the other side of the veil.

A Story About A Choice

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I want to tell a story about something that happened to me today.  this event was very profound, as nothing like this had ever happened, especially when I was at work.

I am lucky to work for a company that has a mile nature trail on its campus.  Many associates take advantage of this trail.  Some do it for the exercise, or just to take a break from the daily grind.  I do it for that, but I also realize that there are a significant number of spirits in the woods and in the stream near the trails.  So i frequently also send a mental ‘shout out’ to them as I walk by.  There have also been many times that I have had conversations with the ones that choose to speak to me, and from those conversations, I’ve learned a lot about the path that I am currently on.

Today however, things were very different.  I took the path at a fast clip, as there was another associate who was also walking, and my introverted self didn’t really want to walk near the associate and try to facilitate small talk.  He, recognizing that I had much longer legs than he did and was walking much faster, allowed me to pass, and off I went into the first leg of the wooded part of the trail.

And I immediately spotted a large brown and white feather right in the middle of the trail.

Without thinking, I scooped the feather up mid-stride, and never broke my pace.  The feather reminded me of one of a red tailed hawk, a predatory bird that is frequently seen where I live.  However I knew that it was not.  It also seemed beaten up, much like if the bird had lost it in a fight.  I knew that my seeing the feather was a sign of something, as there is very rarely any feathers on this trail that I walk on a frequent basis.

That’s why the second feather was so surprising when I saw it.

This one was all black, like it had come from a blackbird, raven or crow.  Again, all three have been seen around the area, so I really had no way of knowing.  However, this one, unlike the brown and white one, was perfectly formed and surprisingly longer than most.

When I first saw the feather, I walked by it.  After the third step I felt like I had to turn around and get it, to which I did.  The associate I passed was still in range, and watched me walk back to get the second feather.  I quickly took up my fast pace in order to not have any questions asked of me, and overtook a second group of associates walking the trail to get some distance.

As I was carrying the feathers, I took a trail not rarely used (it was full of mud – I didn’t care) in order to double back and make sure a proper ‘thank you’ was said for the feathers.  As I said, they are very rare on these trails, so I had thought that I was very fortunate to find two on the same day, not 20 feet from each other.

When I doubled back, I found that I was the last associate to utilize the trails for that lunch hour.  So I had it all to myself.  And after a proper ‘thank you’, I was off.

As I continued to the farthest part of the trail, I realized that these feathers were more significant than I had originally thought.  While I wasn’t told specifically what each feather meant, I was told that one of the feathers would have to go back to the trail, and with it, a choice was to be made in my spiritual practices.

The beat up one seemed to symbolize my past.  It symbolized the abuse, it symbolized how hard I had pushed through to heal from everything, but it also symbolized all of the strength that I had gained and the spiritual allies that came to my aid.  At least that is what I sort of ‘assumed’.  I was never able to get a straight answer.

The black feather I think symbolized the unknown.  And from it I could sense that there was a hint of a gateway to transform into something that I was not yet able to become.  In the metaphysical sense, I could tell this feather contained no darkness, but yet it contained no light.  The only thing that I could truly comprehend from the energy was that it contained the beginnings of something new.

At this point I was coming to the second trail, which has a bridge over a fast flowing stream.  I was told that I could not keep both feathers; that one had to be dropped into that stream.  And if I chose not to drop one of the feathers, there would be some sort of consequence that I would be choosing to face.

Now I was still at work, and even though I am allowed to take a longer lunch hour, I knew I had to get back to my desk as I was expected for meetings.  It was only within a matter of moments that I was going to get to the bridge and cross it.  And even though it was a short distance, I was surprised at how much dread, pain and longing I felt.  Even though the meanings of the feathers were never truly clear, I knew they had some significant importance, and I didn’t have any time to study or understand that importance.

So onto the bridge I went, and as requested, one of the feathers went into the water.  I watched as it spiraled down and the current carried it under the bridge and down the stream.  For a moment, I thought about going down and trying to grab it as I saw it head toward the bank, but thought better of it.  Instead, I quickly walked away before I could see if it would get stuck.

The second feather now sits on my desk, next to a feather I had found on another walk, and three stones I used for focus and meditation during the day.  the feather sits in the middle of the three stones, much like a small altar in between my two monitors.

I am unsure of all of the intricacies of what it is I have chosen.  All I know and believe is that I have chosen to step away from that which I know and into the unknowns of a new path, one that will hopefully lead me to becoming someone who knows myself well, and can utilize what I know I am for the good of myself and those around me.

 

 

 

The Meaning and Use of Chronic Illness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take A Rest…

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If you have been following, you will have noticed that I’ve been doing a significant amount of shadow work lately.  It’s all things that I have been working on for a long time, and it seemed like all at once everything started fitting in place, helping me realize what I need to deal with.

So each day, on top of pushing through my daily mundane duties, I’ve given a lot of time to that shadow work, that self reflection and that necessary journeying and spell work.

And it’s been exhausting.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining.  This is stuff I’ve been trying to work through for a heck of a long time.  And seeing it finally moving is something I am quite happy about.  But now I feel like the Gods are giving me another order that I’m having an even harder time trying to obey.

It’s time to rest.

Wait…What?

I’m not done yet!  There is still a lot of ground to cover!  I’ve only figured out a small fraction of what I want to figure out!  There is a lot more for me to learn yet!  I don’t think I have things in a position to allow me to rest yet!  I’m afraid I’ll forget something, or pick that habit back up!  I haven’t made enough progress!

What is funny about all of this is that I get a lot of my pagan friends that laugh when they hear I’m working with Odin, The Medicine Pipe and Loki, and joke about all of the work and things that they are going to make me face.  And the thing is, I don’t understand the joke sometimes.  I want to face these things.  I want to go into the place that that I fear, because I know I will be a better person on the other side.  I want to fight those demons lurking in the darkness, because I will gain strength for doing so.

It’s the resting that I’m not so good at.

So for me, the joke is perhaps the opposite.

This weekend is my birthday weekend, and although it’s not a rounded number (that was last year)  I am going to do my best to get some rest in.  there will be 8 hours in the car, but there will also be an extra day off work.

Something tells me I’m not the only one to do this.  Something tells me someone else out there needs to rest more often than they do now.  So if I can do this, I expect those needing some rest to do it as well.

And I think I can do this.  Maybe.