Where Did the Words Go?

I haven’t been ignoring this blog, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.  At least once a week, I pull up a blank post and… stare at the screen for thirty minutes to an hour before throwing my hands in exasperation.  The same thing happens when I sit down to my other blogs, my personal journal, the fiction piece I started last January, and anything that requires stringing together coherent sentences.  Writer’s block has taken up residence in my brain and has refused to budge for weeks. I’m just going to plow through and try to put some words down, even if it’s just getting down a couple bullet point updates and making a few tentative plans. 

  • Monthly Ritual Calendar: It’s a project that I still want to pursue, even though I haven’t been keeping up with it.  One slight problem – I’ve lost my brain-storming notes and have completely forgotten what I’d planned to do for most months. By the end of September, I’ll have to either find those notes or start again.  In any case, there will be a write-up before month’s end.  If I can find my notes, I may be able to catch up with the months I’ve missed.
  • Gods and Such: There has been a general lack of deity interaction lately. My practice doesn’t rely on regular contact, so lack of it is not particularly concerning.  I suspect that this will change with the arrival of fall.
  • Sam: There have been a couple of behind-the-scenes inquiries about Sam and how he’s progressing.  By all accounts, he’s recovering well and back at home, but still has a way to go.  Prayers and gentle energy would be appreciated according to his daughter.
  • Temple of MSB: No updates from the trail… sidelined with an injury that makes walking or running on uneven terrain just dangerous.  Hoping to be able to get back to it this fall.
  • Thinky Thoughts about future projects:  I have vague notion that I need/want to do some shadow work over the coming winter.  I’m not sure exactly what form that will take yet or what the focus needs to be.  The notion is still very vague and unformed.  Something will come to me I’m sure. If not, I’ll scratch this off the to-do list.

That’s all for now, as the writer’s block is still strong enough that typing more than ten words leaves my brain struggling. 

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Getting Grounded (PBP Week 13)

Life is full of change and mine doubly so over the last few months.  I’ve realized that, amidst the changes, I’ve lost touch with any form of regular spiritual practice and ritual.  The best I’ve been able to manage is mentally muttering a half-prayer/half-mantra/half-rant* that goes something like this “Enough already. Enough. Enough. Enough. Of FFS, enough already. Just stop.” Somehow, I don’t think this particular mantra is going to get me brownie points with anyone and certainly hasn’t gotten me any closer to inner peace or enlightenment.  It hasn’t even managed to lower my blood pressure or reduce my stress.  As mantras and prayers go, it might just be a failure.

It is time to be grounded – in several senses of the word.  Most of the last few months have been spent in a constant state of heightened anxiety, one in which I felt separated from everything except the anxiety itself.  To say the least, this isn’t a physically, emotionally, or spiritually healthy state of being.  My initial goal is just to feel grounded again, to bring myself back into living moment by moment rather than fretting over what just happened or what might happen next.  Forget out-of-body experiences- what I really need right for the time being is some good in-body experiences, some moments of feeling whole again.

Exactly how I’m going to accomplish this has yet to be determined.   I know where I need to be, but haven’t quite figured out the best way to get there.  Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a Michelin map for this.  Nor are the answers at the bottom of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – already checked there.  I think I’ll start by shutting off the computer and sitting outside in the sun for a bit.  With any luck, my brain will turn out to be solar-powered and start churning out some ideas of what to do next.

 

*Yes, I realize that there are more than two halves listed.  Can we just say that things have been so backwards that the sum of the parts has been greater than the whole?

Breathe, Just Breathe (PBP Week 4)

Blue

I’ve started breathing again.

I never stopped respiring (obviously!), but breathing- serious breathing with focus and  intentionality- had fallen off my radar a while ago.  Aside from the rare moments of asthmatic crisis, I had stopped thinking about breathing altogether. I slipped out of the habit of doing regular yoga and meditation practices, both of which require quite a bit of focus on the breath.  I let myself forget a wonderful prayer technique that involves silent prayers timed with inhalations and exhalations.  Chanting, singing, and intonations  all went the way of the dinosaur.   At some point, I just started taking breathing for granted and stopped treating it as an important aspect of my well-being.

No big deal, right?  Respiration is still happening, so I’m in no immediate danger of perishing from asphyxiation.  Yet, there is something missing, some basic connection that I’ve been failing to make.  Whatever could it be?

Oh wait, I remember what that connection is… it’s the one that brings together mind, body, and soul into singular focus.  It’s the one that calms, grounds and centers me almost instantaneously.  It’s the one that allows me to cope with stress in a way that doesn’t jeopardize my overall well-being.  The connection is one that I sorely missed without quite realizing what it was I had lost.  Finding it again was like coming home again, finding again a beloved place that I thought no longer existed.

So, here I am, finally breathing again.

PBP Week 48 – Xenomancy

“Oh my gods, that guy just waved with his left hand.  This is going to be a bad day.  I just knew it and now this!”

These words uttered by a friend a few years back were my introduction to xenomancy, a form of divination in which one looks for signs in the appearance and actions of complete strangers.  In response to my completely puzzled expression, my friend impatiently explained that, when the first stranger you see waves with their left hand, it is an ill omen for the rest of your day.  She went on to say that omens and signs can be read in the gestures of strangers.

Um… okay?  My first reaction to a person waving with their left is… to wave right back. I really don’t take notice of which hand is waving, but if I did I’m pretty sure that my thought would not be that I was going to have a bad day.  My thoughts, should it even occur to me to have them, would be something like this: maybe the person waving is a southpaw, maybe they’ve hurt their right arm and cannot raise it,  maybe they’re carrying something heavy or bulky in their right hand, heck maybe they’re an amputee with no right arm to wave.

Yet, my friend was hanging the outcome of her entire day on this simple gesture. It seems to me that this kind of reaction becomes a fatalistic, self-fulfilling prophecy.  This is one of the pitfalls in relying too heavily on divination for guidance.  It is all too easy to get wrapped up in finding signs and omens where there either are not any or are not any of significance.  One can quickly get carried away by reading too much importance into something that is actually quite trivial.   A man waving with his left hand is not, in my mind, a bad omen or reason for dread and fear. It’s a gesture of friendliness.

On the other hand, a man waving a knife, gun, or machete with his left hand could be interpreted as a precursor  to really bad day, particularly if he’s waving it in your direction.   It’s the little details that are important in these situations, you know?

PBP Week 45 – Words and Worlds Within

Brains, those masses of tissue and blood in our heads, I can grok.  I’ve held one in my hands* and I understand them from biological and anatomical perspectives.  What I have difficulty grasping  is how we interact with our own brains, that is, how our minds work.

The mind is an extraordinary and sometimes baffling place.  Mine  allows me to remember all twenty lines of Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” which I learned for a class  in 1986 . That same mind steadfastly refuses to recall where I parked my car twenty minutes before at the shopping center.   As I said, extraordinary and baffling… with dashes of wonderment and annoyance thrown in for good measure.

Our minds can create entire universes within our skull cases.  Some would argue that those universes aren’t created in our minds, but exist independently in reality and  are merely perceived by our minds if we open ourselves to them.  We could talk about astral spaces, about inner spaces, about travelling or journeying in our heads, about telepathy, about dreams, about nightmares, about hallucinations, about visions and visitations.  We could talk about those things, because all have to do with how our mind works (or possibly doesn’t work). Instead, though, I’d rather focus on these questions:  How much weight do we give to what goes on in our own heads? Should we believe what our minds tell us, particular when we are talking about realities and worlds that may not exist outside our skull cases?

 

My Perspective (YMMV)

For me, I find that it’s necessary to do a lot of mental filtering and fact-checking before I accept anything as a truth or reality.  It isn’t that I’m closed-minded about extraordinary/paranormal/mystical/etc. experiences, just the opposite, in fact. The problem is that I have far too much going on in my head and only part of it even vaguely resembles ‘truth’ or ‘reality’.   Ever heard the saying “Don’t believe everything you think”?  I’m pretty sure that one was created for people like me.

It’s almost embarrassing the amount of garbage that goes through my head.  First of all, I have a vivid imagination, so that a single thing or event can trigger an entire fictional story in my head.  A leaf drifting slowly to the ground becomes an airship for a family of tiny refugees driven from their arboreal home by an invasion of  an ant army.  A shoe abandoned in an odd place warps itself into the story of a kidnapping by time-travellers seeking to stop a future catastrophe.  It’s a great tool when I have my writer’s hat on, but proves not so useful when I need to look at something objectively.

Second, there are the issues – my issues – with anxiety and depression.  My brain spouts some very nasty and negative things.  These are messages that, if I choose to believe them, would leave me completely unable to cope with life.  If you have no idea what I mean, imagine that you have someone in your life who constantly verbally abuses and berates you.  Now imagine that this abusive person spews abuse and negativity in a voice that sounds just like your own.   Imagine further, that you have no option to walk away, that this person is with you 24/7 and can  speak at any time both in your waking hours and in your dreams.  Got all that?  Then you understand, at least theoretically, what depression and anxiety are like for me.  What goes through my head as a result of these illnesses is utter and complete garbage and I have learned to recognize it as such. Still, it’s there and must be dealt with if it tries to assert itself as reality.

Third, I simply think too much, about too many things.  If someone directs me to clear my mind, they might as well tell me to pluck the stars from the sky (and just using that turn of a phrase led to this whole stream of thought that involved Gaiman’s Stardust, MIB, and interstellar travel – see what I mean?!?!).  There are always thoughts, big and small, streaming through my brain.  What I’ve learned about it is this: Not everything that goes through my head is valid, believable or worthy of the time and energy that it occupies.

That last bit lies at the heart of how this whole rambling relates to spiritual paths, so I’m going to say it again for good measure:

Not everything that goes through my head is valid, believable or worthy of the time and energy that it occupies.

One of the hardest learning curves in my life has been grasping this concept.   I’ve come to recognize that many of the difficulties along my spiritual path have centered around this particular struggle to discern what in my head is worthy of belief and what is worthy of the rubbish bin.  Somehow, I think that this will  always be a challenge for me.

A Broader Perspective

For most of us following an eclectic pagan path, we don’t recognize any single book or teaching as our ‘gospel truth’.  We do recognize however that there are some fairly extraordinary things that happen in our universe and that some of those things happen within our own head.

However, it’s important to realize that the human mind is capable of hallucinations, deceptions and lies, just as much as it is capable of revealing universal truths. We have a responsibility to ourselves, and to the gods that we follow, to attempt to discern between the ramblings of our own minds and what is important, valuable, and true.  If our eclecticism is to be useful to us, we must be able to make those distinctions, lest we end up with an unmanageable and conflicting hodge-podge of beliefs.

 

*In case anyone gets too worried about the holding a brain comment: I am not an aspiring Frankenstein conducting experiments in my laboratory. Instead, I am merely over-educated, squandering part of my undergrad years with human anatomy, physiology, and forensics coursework.

PBP Week 40 – This I Believe

This I believe…

I believe that within each of us there is a divine spark.  It is the right of every person to embrace, deny, or ignore that divinity within.  For those of us who chose to embrace that divinity within, it is our right of us to choose for ourselves the path that is appropriate for us.

I believe that all paths to the divine are valid and sacred. No one person or religion has The Correct Answer (TM), but each of us has one small piece of the puzzle within ourselves.  Our knowledge is but a grain of sand on a beach of universal proportions.  We are not able to take in the entire landscape of divinity nor should we try.  The best we can do is to take that small piece we are given and nurture the divine within us.

I believe that pursuing the divinity within ourselves does not give us the right to denigrate or disparage the beliefs of others.  Under no circumstances does our own divinity give us the right to molest, torture, abuse, or murder others in the name of our beliefs.  Nor does embracing our divinity debase any of us in such a way that we should be subjected to such treatment.

Embracing the divine and scared within ourselves requires that we recognize the same with in others.  This I believe.

(This post is inspired by the organization This I Believe, which I first heard about on NPR. Go, check it out!)

PBP Week 35 (Belated) – Reality & Religion

I reject your reality and substitute my own.”

Yes, as a matter of fact, this is my standard response to anyone who tries to convince me of the superiority of their beliefs over my own.  Religious reality is very much a subjective thing.   For many of my friends, the ‘reality’ is that Jesus Christ is the savior of mankind and those who fail to recognize this are damned to eternal suffering.  For other friends, the ‘reality’ is that there are Four Noble Truths.  For others, the ‘reality’ is that there is no power in this universe higher than our own mind.

To me, this is the beauty of humanity… the multitude of paths that we take to find our higher selves.  This diversity of experience is something to be embraced and encouraged, in my opinion.  I believe that living in respectful harmony with others who do not share our religion (or social class or culture or language or skin color or who are otherwise different from ourselves) is in itself a path to finding our higher selves.   Who knows, by doing so, we may even learn a thing or two about our own realities.