Saturday, December 15, 2012

On Peace

Yesterday was an incredibly chaotic day in my world.  Despite the tragedy in Connecticut, I found the chaos in my own world a more immediate thing to be able of effect.  One of my co-workers has been having a difficult time within the past few months finding her equilibrium in her changing work environment.  She is a lady in her 50's and she's been with the company for close to two decades and, though she won't admit it, she loves drama above all else.

So, she and I were sitting in the break room at lunch, just the two of us and she was fussing about the other people in the office. This is a normal thing for her.  She uses her lunch break to decompress from the morning drama.  However, yesterday, she was especially agitated.  So, I opened myself up and began grounding her and asked her what was wrong.  At this, she began a full on play-by-play of how there was a conspiracy to get her fired or moved from our office.  It was everyone else's fault and they were all out to get her.  The usual stuff.  Then, I asked her, what had her so agitated.  Once again, she started talking about everyone else.

At this point, I stopped her.  With a gentle smile, I said, "You aren't answering my question.  What's got YOU so upset?"  This caused her to pause for a moment before she went on projecting her feelings on to everyone else again.  I let her get these things out for a few more moments and I stopped her again.

We talked about perception and how we can see the exact same thing and take away from it something completely different because of our unique perception of this world.  We talked about how our patients, sometimes, report that we aren't nice to them because we don't cave to their demands.  We talked about not putting stock in others opinions of us.  We talked about how to disengage ourselves from the negativity (or perceived negativity) of our environment.

Then, we began talking about peace, inner peace manifesting in our outward world.  I asked her, "Do you know why everyone around here loves me and thinks I'm the most wonderful thing to walk into this office?" (This opinion seems to be the general consensus at the office and in administration and I find it quite silly, honestly.)  She had no answer and was puzzled, I think, by my question.  I smiled at this, because even she is among the people who think this. 

I told her that people thought this of me, not because I work so hard and not because I am so wonderful.  I said, "They think this because I come to work and put my chin on my chest and I do my job.  I'm not here to impress anyone.  I'm not here to make friends.  I'm not here to engage in politics and take sides.  I'm here to do a job for which I was hired.  Others opinions of me don't matter, unless it is directly related to the job I'm doing and the job I'm doing is less than expected of me and then I need to be told, so that I can correct the mistakes.  I come in and simply do what I do."

Her surprise was quite evident.  She asked a few questions and I answered her as best I could.  She wanted to know HOW I could simply disengage as I do.  That is the moment we began speaking of finding inner peace.

I explained to her that I don't put stock in many people's opinion of me.  I know that I have friends who are in my life forever.  Their opinions matter.  It's not my co-workers opinions because I may or may not be around them for years and years to come.  They may or may not cement a place in my circle and become people who truly matter to me.  I take them as they are, flaws and all.  I don't make it my personal quest to change them because no one can change you but yourself.  I take nothing personally.  If I screw up, take acknowledge it and take my ass chewing like a champ and then make the appropriate changes and move forward.

I told her that I know who I am and I am, mostly, at peace with that.  I confessed to her that I have more days than I'm willing to admit that I'd rather stay in bed and cry than be around people.  I have to make myself smile because we all have days where it's either laugh or cry and laughing is so much better for us.  She understood that statement.  I also said that finding that inner peace and that equilibrium wasn't about a specific religion or practice, and that I'd found it to be more about what works best for the individual person, so what works for me, might not work for everyone else.

I also let her know that it had taken me years, literally, to find my own peace and ability to disengage.  And, when we find and practice that inner peace and disengaging, sometimes we find our compassion.  When we aren't personally invested in another person's problems, we can see more sides of the issue than simply their own.  We can be compassionate toward their plight, their feelings, and their perspective without feeling their own feelings of injustice and negativity.

So much of this world is about putting other people down to raise our own self esteem.  It is about using their problems against them instead of being compassionate toward their perspective on things.  It's about shunning those who are different, grouchy, or who appear unlovable.  Often we forget that there are times we are all unlovable.  We forget that we all get grouchy.  Because of this trend toward the negative, toward kicking someone when they are down, we live in a world that is intimately connected and yet vastly lonely.  We hear without listening.  We speak without compassion.  We feel without truly feeling.

Change begins on the inside.  It begins by accepting ourselves for who we are, seeing our own flaws and being okay with them, but acknowledging we have to work toward changing them.  When we are compassionate with ourselves, when we love ourselves, that caring overflows and manifests outwardly.  When we find peace within our own being, we find peace outside and in our world.  How will you begin manifesting change within your own world?  Will you begin today?

May the light of a thousand suns shine in your soul and may a thousand years of peace fall upon your heart.  Brightest blessings my friends!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Challenge Accepted!

As some of you know, I am currently studying Wicca and working toward my Second degree initiation.  My lesson and homework this week has been a challenge to me, as well as reigniting my enthusiasm for learning, teaching, and the Craft.  I have been given the task of writing my own seeker course or Wicca 101 class.

For me, the challenge has been to wade through all of the years of general Craft/Wicca knowledge I have gathered and determine what of it is basic enough to be taught in a 101 setting.  I know that may sound strange to some, but I'm one of those weird people who didn't grow up in the Craft, but still managed to grow up with it.  (If that makes sense...)

When I first stepped upon this Wiccan path consciously, I discovered that I already knew many of the basic elements that so many new people are ignorant of.  I had a firm grasp on the elements, mythology, and color correspondence, as well as, basic energy work, ancient history, and even a very basic understanding of the human condition.  I instinctively understood that what works for me might not work for anyone else.  I understood that Deity is greater than anything our finite minds could possibly comprehend, unless we compartmentalize it and break it in to small, finite pieces.  I understood the feeling of the ebb and flow of the energies of this life and that everything has a soul.

The challenge of creating this class has come from the fact that I don't know what it's like to be truly 101.  I firmly and readily admit that I am ignorant to many, many things in this world and to even more things within the Craft, and likely will be for many years to come.  All that said, it's the basics, the foundation, which challenge me so.

How am I supposed to teach something I have simply always known?  (Always isn't exactly the right word, however, many things I'll be teaching I discovered when I was no older than 9 and other things I discovered around 14, so I've still known these things for more than half of my life.)  How do I teach the basics of something which I have layered with more knowledge and experience through the years?  How do I strip away all of the complications, the meat of my knowledge, back down to the bare-bones structure?

These are my challenges.  Don't overwhelm the new students!  Don't scare them.  Don't freak them out to the point they do not want to continue with their craft knowledge.  Make.  It.  Fun.  Of course, then all of the other questions and self doubt creep in.  Then, I laugh nervously and tell myself I can do this.  There is a part of me, a part somewhere deep within my chest, that knows I'm doing what I'm supposed to do and when that doubt creeps in, this part of me glows blue-white and chases those shadows away.

That part, deep within me, is also the part of me that whispers I'll be learning from my students.  It reminds me that I will make mistakes, but I'm only human.  It reminds me that even teachers never stop learning.  It reminds me to let go and simply let my gods.  It is this part of me that is excited and enthusiastic about this possibility.  It is this part of me that also reminds me to tread slowly and deliberately.  It wants to be as The Fool, but knows that it's not quite the appropriate time.

I have accepted this challenge and I have resolved to muddle through it and take any direction I may get from my own teachers.  I realize, now, that this is the direction I have been needing to go for months.  I can only thank the Gods for being patient with me as I have figured this out.  I can only thank my Elders for setting such good examples for me to emulate.  I am thankful for this challenge, despite the scary implications for me (more personal challenges and such that I really don't want to accept) and I am thankful to have all of this coming just as I am emerging from my own darkness and getting ready to plant the seeds for growth within this new year.

Brightest of Blessings my friends!!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

December 21, 2012: It's the End of the World as We Know it (And I Feel Fine)

Today's date hit me this morning over coffee.  In 20 days the Mayan long count calendar ends, heralding the end of the fourth age.  Do I believe that the world is going to end in 20 days?  No.  I believe that the end of the world as we know it is going to begin, though.

Somewhere long about 1988 or 1989, in the summer, I discovered this prophecy.  Imagine the excitement of  an 8 or 9 year old child discovering a thousands of years old prophecy, especially one that no one was talking about.  I remember that day.  I was at the library doing research (as much as an 8 or 9 year old child can, anyway), and that particular day I was reading about ancient Central America.  I'd devoured what I could from the old encyclopedias (there were 3 different sets, none newer than about 1975) on the Incas and Aztecs and had begun reading about the Mayans.  I was fascinated by these cultures advanced mathematics and astronomy, their art, and their mythology.  Then there was a tiny paragraph about the long count calendar ending on the winter solstice of 2012 with nothing after.

My imagination ran wild.  I had to go and tell my best friend Michael.  He had to know this because I knew that it would excite him, too.  It did.  For days we looked into our own futures.  We could not fathom being in our 30's.  We wondered where we would be, what we would be doing.

The truth is stranger than any fiction we could come up with, just as this 'Mayan Apocalypse' has taken on a much bigger life of its own that, I'm sure, the Mayan culture ever realized.  I don't believe that this is going to be the doomsday.  I believe that it is going to be the beginning of a kind of doomsday, though.  I believe that those who see our mother as disposable are going to find themselves in a shrinking minority.  The slash-and-burners are going to find themselves hitting walls, not just finding pockets of resistance.  The wastefulness of our rampant consumerism and big business is going to fade.  Climate change is going to be recognized as actually happening.

This things have already begun.  They have begun all over, small pockets of local people refusing big business, refusing consumerism and wastefulness.  This refusal is going to spread in the coming years and decades.  More people are going to turn toward sustainability and growing their own crops for food.  Things are going to start going back to the way they were in our grandparents time.  There will be things which are kept, like the internet, but we understand that working toward a goal of a healthier planet doesn't necessarily mean giving up all of our modern amenities.  How better to be able to come up with new and more efficient ideas for conserving what we have than by being connected to the greater community?

So, there's no reason to hoard away food, water, fuel, and ammunition.  We are simply cycling back toward a simpler time.  We will make of the 'end of the world' what we choose.  What do YOU choose?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Duct Tape and Bailing Wire: The Fixing of a Thing With the Spiritual Equivalent, or at Least Trying.

Dear Readers, if you are from the Southern United States, then you know that there is nothing that can not be fixed with duct tape and bailing wire and if it can't be fixed it's junk and needs to be trashed.  Our pagan communities can be fixed with spiritual duct tape when they need to be and they should never, ever just be tossed out with the trash as some are wont to do.

I make no bones about the fact that I come from a pretty well functioning community.  It's like one of those families that frighteningly close in public and everyone thinks they really like each other.  Our pagan community is our family.  We have those whom we are very close to, both in age and in training, as well as our elders, who are like the parents, and the children, the next generation of pagans.  We have those whom we respect, but may not really see eye-to-eye with and we have those whom we may just simply avoid because of personality conflicts.  It simply is the nature of community and the nature of family.  However, I am coming to find out that there are communities out there which are like my own blood family.  I, jokingly, say that we put the funk in dysfunctional.  We aren't close and we don't really act like we like each other too much, but somehow, it works.  We come together and have a good time on occasion and it simply works in a strange and round about way.

My current pagan community saddens me.  It is somewhere between 5,000 and 25,000 pagans in size and I know or have met maybe two dozen of them.  I have heard that there was a time when this particular place had community, a hell of a community.  Through the years, though, something (maybe things) happened and those people and their groups began to slip from the light and back into the shadows.  This community shattered like a beautiful mirror into nothingness.  There was no one to pick up the pieces, maybe no one willing to do so.

Then, some friends and elders of mine ended up here, smack dab in the middle of this community.  Then, other friends did the same.  All the while I was training and learning and enjoying being 'one of the kids' in my pagan family.  Then, personal tragedy struck (well, I thought it was tragic at the time).  For the second time in two years, my whole life imploded.  My partner at the time tossed me out of the house on my ear for no good reason.  I was nearly homeless.  I had just quit my job to help him with his small business full time, and I had very little money.

The Gods were rearranging everything!  Then, through a series of circumstances that I would have called strange were I not a magical person, I found my path pointing north, to Missouri and to my friends.  I'd figured out that my path, long-term, is going to involve the healing arts in some way.  I wasn't prepared to also work at community building and healing those kinds of wounds.  (Still don't think I am!!)

Those things said, here I am, trying to find my place within a community wrought with anger, hurt, and despair.  Daily I ponder just how someone like me, someone trained well, but just really starting down this clergy path, is supposed to affect any change.  I'm just one person.  Not just that, but I'm just one person in a sea of hurt caused by events which happened in some time long past.

I know what it's like to hold on to hurt.  I know what it's like to allow that hurt to overwhelm and eventually stop me, frighten me, and cause me to run quickly the other way.  I know how damaging holding on to that hurt is.  It's like an asthma attack, you want to take a deep breath, but you simply can't.  Maybe the Gods want me here for those who wish to let go.  Maybe not.

I know this: I have been given a good support system of Elders.  I have been given a wonderful, supportive partner.  I have been given some very difficult life experiences, which can be used as reference points.  I have also been given a pretty thick skin because of these experiences.

It also seems that the Gods have handed me duct tape and bailing wire of some spiritual kind.  Now, I am getting out, trying to be more active, and getting myself out there.  I don't know if I will succeed or if I will fail.  I don't know what will happen, or even if anything will.  I do, however, know that I am here for some purpose.  I have donned the target of a leader.  Now, I must do something with it.  Am I scared?  Yes.  Am I going to let that stop me?  No.

When I think about my fears, I think of my Elders like Terry and Sonya.  They have poured their blood, sweat, and tears into their communities.  They have done the shit work when no one else would.  Both I have heard say:

Some will.  Some won't.  So what.  Next?

They have worked tirelessly with little or no help, with little or no thanks.  They have taught me that true leaders do that, work without thanks and do so with joy in their hearts.  Now, it is time for me to step off of the proverbial stoop and begin my own work with the community.  I have faith that my Gods will clear me a path, no matter how small and riddled with stones it may be (it wouldn't be any work if there weren't obstacles, now would it).  I know that my Elders will catch me when I fall, or let me fall and then ask me if I learned my lesson.

Mostly, I know that there is work to be done and I know that no one is doing it.  I know that people have seen the same things for so long that they think it is the only way and it is not.  May the Gods guide my purpose and my work and may it be seen for what it is by those who need it.  So mote it be!

Brightest Blessings, my friends!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Circle Shapes Us: A Journey

As pagans, we often stand or sit in circle, performing our celebrations and our magic, without a thought as to what we are really doing.  Sure, magic is the manufacturing of coincidence (a definition I have to credit to Rev. Terry Riley), but what are we really, truly doing within the manufacturing process.  Are we bending the Universe to conform to our will or is the Universe bending us?

As of late, I have been going through a moderately intense growth phase.  These are the kinds of questions I ask when I find things (both outward and inward) changing quickly.  More and more, on this journey toward clergy hood, I see that life is not linear, but circular.  Life isn't just birth, growing up, and dying as many muggles would believe.  When our eyes open, even a tiny bit, we begin to notice cycles, the sun and moon, the seasons, lessons we are or aren't learning, and even confirmations we willingly overlook or ignore because they aren't what we want.

I have recently come to the realization that there are some things within at least one past life that I have been resisting and, indeed, actively pushing away.  The biggest of those is a leadership roll.  I have, all of my life, found myself leading people in one capacity or another.  I have, all of my life, despised being in the spotlight, yet doing these leadership things because no one else would.

Do I dislike the spotlight because I'm not confident I can lead?  No, I know I'm a good leader.  Am I reluctant because I'm afraid of trouble if I make the wrong decision?  No.  I am fully willing to suffer the consequences of my actions when in a leadership role.  Then why do I prefer to stand at the periphery? The long and short of it is that I can't see the purpose in praise and back-patting when something needed to get done and then it was done.  If more people just did the work, then there would be more things getting done.  Who cares about critics?  Really.  If the critics and naysayers matter, then the work is being done for praise and the intentions are not pure.

Leadership isn't about the banging of cymbals, laser lights, and other flashy motifs to get attention.  It's about looking out at a sea of knee deep mud and slogging through it to accomplish a goal.  It's about doing the shit work that no one else wants to do because it has to be done.  It's about making a wrong decision and nobly and humbly admitting it and learning from the mistake.

I recently had my birth chart done by an astrologer friend of mine.  This road I am upon was written into the stars on the day of my birth.  Do I want it?  No.  Am I going to get what I want?  No.  Am I going to surrender to this higher calling?  I already have.  Am I going to accept it?  I'm working on that.  I work daily to push my own boundaries and edge closer to the spotlight.  I accept tasks from my elders that I know are going to make me uncomfortable.  Why?  I do this because it's more comfortable for me to willingly step into the light than it is to be shoved unceremoniously into it.

So, in my many years of magical workings, I have asked for things, been given things, and grown into this person I am today.  I often find myself asking the question, "Are these manifestations the things my Higher Self wants, my true desires, and I'm bending the Universe to my will, or is the Universe laughing at my pleas and bending me to its desire?"  Maybe it's a chicken and egg thing.  Maybe I'm a lunatic.  I don't know, but I do know the road that lies ahead isn't one that I would have picked for myself willingly.

My life waits patiently for me as I fumble onward in the darkness, not realizing that I need only to open my eyes to see the light.  Yet another lesson for me to learn in this manifestation.

Brightest Blessings, my friends!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Oh! Flower Man! The Truths You Metaphor!

I was listening to a song entitled Flower Man by the group Tonic this morning. This is a song I have listened to on and off for many years and today, a metaphor for the lyrics slammed into me. From my perspective the song speaks of the journey from Seeker to Clergy or leader on this pagan path and of the troubles we sometimes find in the changes we make.

Flower man, flower man
When are you gonna grow
When are you gonna lay down
Everything you know

This first first part, above, is a literal asking when we are going to begin to change. We have to de-program and reprogram ourselves from life long concepts.  In a predominantly Christian country, we are taught from a young age that things like sex are bad. We are taught body shame, that nudity is horrible, and I could go on and on about this.  As children and teens we are taught what society deems to be right and good and true. Pagan study teaches us to think for ourselves, listen to our instincts, and find the truth which resonates deeply within us, not to simply go with what everyone else believes.

As we lay down old concepts, behaviors, and patterns, our lives begin to change, sometimes subtly, sometimes drastically.  One day, we look up and realize the changes we have made and we look back and see this new person we have become.

Flower man, flower man
How are you gonna sleep
With all these people
Cutting down your feet

This second part of the verse speaks of those who could be stumbling blocks. When any of us experience growth, there are naysayers. There are those who would try to cut us down simply because of the changes we are making.  While these things certainly hurt us, we have to remember or remind ourselves that control is an illusion and those who would seek to control us can not see past that.

When the illusion of control has a hole punched through it, our perspective changes completely and in that perspective change, our ego lets go. This letting go may only be a little, but we begin to see our world more clearly and we begin to see how and why others may hold so tightly to that illusion.  Even more interesting, we begin to see just how these negative people no longer serve a purpose in our life.

They can't or won't change, so therefore, we shouldn't either.  They prefer their lives to be imbalanced and stagnant because it's comfortable.  At one point or another, aren't we all like that, though?

Flower man, flower man
Your head's above the rest
If you're gonna trust them
They gotta pass the test

In any context, spiritual or mundane, leaders always rise above.  Those who lead because they seek personal gain are much, much different than those who lead simply because they are called.  Both types of leaders are who this verse speaks of.

Leaders rise to the top.  They work harder, more diligently than those who simply wish to follow.  However, to be an effective leader, one must pass a test, of sorts.  This test is different for every individual and it's different for every individual they meet, simply because we all have different circumstances which give us different perspectives.  However, the one thing I have witnessed with leaders and clergy within my own community is that leading by example is much more effective than sitting in your ivory tower and shouting orders.

If you want to inspire people to help you build something, they must see that you are willing to get right in the midst of the vision and you must be willing to do the work no one else wants to do.  Clergy end up doing a lot of the shit-work.  They have to get their hands dirty in order to achieve their dream.  They go to their students and ask them to help and those students who will one day be clergy get out there shoulder-to-shoulder with their leaders ankle deep in shit.  They don't whine and they don't question.  They see that the work needs to be done and they do it because that's what clergy does and that's what leaders do.

Flower man, flower man
You've living in the sun
Shattered and hollow
You shine for everyone

This verse, from my perspective, is the turning point.  It's the turning point from maybe I'd like to be clergy one day to, "I accept what my Gods are calling me to do and I will do it to the best of my ability."  Or, in my case, "Really?!?  Um, do I have to?" *sigh* "Well, if my choices are only the easy road or the hard road, I'll accept your plan and take the easy road and try not to kick and scream too much."

Those who are leaders and clergy have to learn to live in a fishbowl.  Every move is scrutinized.  Every motive is questioned.  Those who are out there wishing they could lead by example, or maybe feigning it, have an opinion (usually negative).  People talk and, clergy has to do their work without worrying about what anyone else is or isn't saying.  It's similar to the fine line between genius and madness.  It's simply acting, not reacting.

Taken enough to hurt you
And all the things they say
So you put on your armor
And stand in the way
You're wearing the target
That took so long to earn
And you start looking sideways
With every turn
And you start looking sideways
With every turn

Then end of the song is about being full blown clergy, one who walks their talk.  In any religion there are those who think they are right and everyone else is wrong.  It's no different in paganism and wicca.  True clergy stands dead center of all of the controversy and mud-slinging and lets the hurtful words and actions flow through them.  That is the true armor, knowing ones self so well as to be able to divorce ones emotions from the actions of others and not taking things personally.

Of course, being clergy or a leader automatically puts a target on your back, too.  How many years of training did it take for you to earn that?  Rev. Terry Riley, in his workshops on being pagan clergy, says (quite emphatically), "I didn't sign up for this shit!!"  He knows, probably better than most, the difficulties of being pagan and clergy.  Yet, he does it and he does it with joy in his heart and a smile on his face.  No one wants a target on their chest, but pagan clergy gets it.  They get it not just from people in their own community, but from members of other religions.

So, the next time you look at a member of the clergy, remember that they are wearing a great big target that they choose to wear.  It is their choice to wear the cloth of their tradition and it is their choice how and what they do with it.  Whether it's a calling or for personal gain is of no consequence.  The true leaders are known by their hard work and their community building efforts.  They set the example and inspire.  How will you live your life?  Will you choose to inspire or will you choose to knock down those who do inspire others?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Teaching, Teachers, to teach teachers, to teach!

I can't tell you just how many times I have heard Rev. Terry Riley say the title of this blog in regards to his goal for the classes his students are in.  This statement really got me thinking about teachers and the teacher-student dynamic and how, through the years, I have been put in the role of teacher, whether or not I wanted to be there.  It also made me really take a look at the teachers I have had throughout my life and I have come to some interesting conclusions (all of them my own, of course).

Teachers, like nurses and other medical professionals, are a pretty special group of people.  To be an effective teacher takes an extraordinary combination of compassion, will, people skills, and patience (among other things).  It takes a deeper understanding of the curriculum, as well as a keen eye for the subtleties of learning because, just as no two teachers are alike, no two students learn alike.

For instance, I would be what most teachers call a 'typical' over-achieving student.  I adapt well to most teaching styles and try to take my own understanding of the subject matter above what is required (most of the time).  I learn best through active discussion, but also do well just reading and pondering.  Lecture and note taking are my most hated ways of learning, though.  I find it to be boring and tedious.  Ironically, I find lecture to be my preferred teaching method with discussion afterward.

Those things said, one thing I have found with my own teachers is that the good ones were always open to learning from their students, always offering encouragement and help, while the bad ones preferred to put down and humiliate their students.  It was always criticism, but never constructive.

My third grade teacher was the bad kind.  She was teaching us to write cursive and I, being left-handed, had horrible penmanship.  It's a fact that most of us lefties have scrawling handwriting because (unless we practice like hell) we are not properly taught how to adapt to a right-handed world of writing.

I distinctly remember my teacher humiliating me in front of the class by telling me that the boys had better handwriting and that left-handed people should have to learn with their right hand.  Oh, yes, she said those things to me in the late 1980's!  So, when I went home devastated at what happened and I told my mother, she called the school and had a conference with my teacher.

My mother is a very quiet and mild-mannered woman.  At 5'9" tall, she can be intimidating, but she chooses not to be.  When she met with my teacher that day, she scared the poor woman.  My teacher began the conference putting me down for simply being left-handed and went on from there, until my mother interrupted her in a quiet and waspish voice telling her that I got my left-handedness from her.

After that session, my teacher pretended like I didn't exist, so she also didn't go out of her way to hurt my feelings.  My mother came through like a champ, after that.  So very often, she wasn't supportive of me, but that particular time, she suggested that I take a book off of the shelf and just begin copying it, focusing on my penmanship, going slowly, and finding my best writing position.  She promised to keep in me in pencil and paper if I promised to practice.  And practice I did!!  Now, with the exception of no slant at all, my handwriting is a neat and legible as any right-handed person's.

As a teacher, I learned at the tender age of ten, to adapt to my students.  Yes, I was ten when I was selected to be a teacher's aid for the resource class for handicapped kids.  I was assigned to a girl named Janice who was severely mentally retarded.  Not only did she have learning difficulties, but she also had a severe speech impediment among many other physical handicaps.

Janice and I worked all year on learning shapes, colors, a bit of reading, and numbers as well as improving her speech.  Very quickly I came to love that girl.  While she had so many handicaps, she also loved learning.  From her I learned that it didn't matter how easily it came, it was that the learning came.  I learned that baby steps in learning were just as important as giant leaps.

Even almost 25 years later, the one thing in her learning that sticks out with me was one hard-fought lesson on saying the color 'yellow.'  When we first started, she said 'nano' for the color.  Oh, she knew her colors and knew them well, but she had difficulties saying some of them.  My ignorance of teaching (remember, I was ten) led us both down the road of frustration, but it was because I was not listening to her and adapting my own teaching to her way of learning.  So, after a particularly frustrating class with her, I got to thinking.

Understand, I wasn't frustrated with her, but with myself because I was being ineffective.  I was the 'teacher', so I should be able to work with her on a level and in a manner that she understood.  I wasn't communicating effectively.  It took me a couple of days and talking to the resource teacher to understand what I was doing wrong, but I changed my tactics.  Instead of having her listen to me, I had her watch my mouth as I sounded out the syllables and repeat them.  We worked and worked and worked on the color yellow.  We said it over and over again, day after day for weeks on end.  When we had our last class together, she could say all of her colors, including yellow, with only minor difficulties.  We were both very, very proud at having accomplished this, and for years afterward, if I saw Janice at the store with her mother, we would always hug each other and talk for a few minutes.  She left an indelible mark on my heart for sure and in learning with her, I learned about myself and I learned about teaching.

 So often society wants to label someone who learns differently as someone who is learning disabled.  A person with a short attention span may or may not be able to sit for a three hour lecture, just like someone with dyslexia may read a bit slower or have spelling troubles.  Having close friends and family who have both of these 'disabilities' (and, yes, I use that word loosely), I have seen first hand that it's learning differently, not an inability to learn.

I would let any number of my dyslexic friends do math work for me.  Why?  Because they are genius with numbers and I am not.  I am dumb when it comes to numbers beyond basic calculations.  Dumb.  If I need help multi-tasking, I'm going to someone I know with ADD.  Why?  Because they can do an astounding number of things at the same time and keep up with it all.  I can not.  I do not try to do more than two things at once because I will, often, fail miserably at everything if I do.  So, just how can either of these things be labelled as disabilities is beyond me.  If the written word is a difficulty, lecture and discussion are acceptable options for teaching.  If focusing on one thing for an extended amount of time is difficult, do two things at once like walk and instruct or make something and talk about it.  Or, build a better bridge of learning within the teacher-student dynamic and learn lesson-by-lesson how best to get your point across.

Teaching is never about assuming that everyone is going to be a 'typical' student.  Teaching is about figuring out the best way to capture the imagination of the student and guiding them along in the adventures of learning.

Brightest blessings my friends!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Vampires! (The Energy Kind, Not the Sanguine Kind...)

This blog is an observation and my own perspective on Psychic Vampires.  Sadly, I have dealt with them over and over again throughout my short life and many of them exhibit the same behaviors regardless of gender, demographic, or even elevation within the Craft or Craft community.  And, please remember, I am not an authority on anything.  I might even be wrong about this!

When one says the word vampire, it typically conjures images of Bella Lugosi or maybe Brad Pitt.  However, there are vampires among us all in every day life.  Within my own far-reaching pagan community, I can think of at least 4 people whom one might consider to be a psychic or energy vampire.  Now, whether any of these people know it consciously or not, is a different story.

Psychic vampires appear, for all intents and purposes, to be selfish people.  Does it mean all people who appear selfish are vampires?  No. Does it mean all vampires appear this way?  Of course not!  

Psychic vampires want a reaction.  They want the people around them to react a certain way, typically in a negative fashion.  These people feed on fear, pity, anger, and all manner of negativity.  When they aren't given that, they will typically throw a fit in an effort to get it.

When we, as a community, feed these people our reactions, we are handing them our own, personal power and why would we do that when we are trying to be light bearers to the world. 

An example in how to not feed a vampire from my own life surrounds a woman.  From the moment I met her, I knew that there was something 'not right' about her.  She's one of those people who has to be in charge and has to be in the spotlight and when she isn't, she's stirring the pot.  She wants people to react negatively to her.  She thrives on it.

Said woman doesn't know how to react when shown kindness.  I have, personally, seen her frown at being welcomed into a group.  It's like picking up an aggressive rooster and petting it.  They are thrown off guard by the kindness and, in the case of the rooster anyway, tend to wander off dazed wondering what just happened. 

The phrase 'kill them with kindness' must have been thought up directly in regards to psychic vampires.  When one is kind to them and refuses to react negatively, these people tend to move on because they simply can not process the positivity.  

So, when you see someone who constantly feeds off of negativity and drama, it's a possibility that they could be a vampire of some kind.  There are many other ways of identifying a vampire, but I have found that this is one of the primary ones (at least for me).  Be kind, even if that kindness means gritting your teeth, smiling, and walking the other way before your head explodes in frustration.  There's no reason to give someone your personal energy if they aren't doing anything constructive with it.  Why help spread negativity in an already mostly negative world?

Be kind to each other my friends and Brightest Blessings!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Can You Help Those So Willing to Help Others?

My church, The Southern Delta Church of Wicca- ATC, tends to dream big.  Our High Priest and founder of the church, Terry Riley, sees nothing as impossible.  He teaches us that nothing is impossible.  When he sets his radar on a particular goal, it manifests.  In  early 2011, we did a Lunar Rite with the intentions of building a new dining hall.  Now, understand, unlike Christian churches, Wiccan churches don't require tithing.  They ask for dues to be paid monthly and, for some members, that's not a possible thing for whatever reason.  Much like the Christian church, though, we don't tell people that they can't participate just because they can't pay their dues.  It's quite a struggle.  When your membership is in the low to mid double digits, raising money can be next to impossible.  

So, back to my story.  As I said, in 2011 Terry envisioned us having a new dining hall.  Late summer last year, the materials for that dining hall manifested.  Not just any old materials, either.  There was a house that needed to be torn down.  It was a 100+ year old house made of cypress wood.  If you know anything about cypress, then you know bugs (like termites) don't eat it and it doesn't rot when put into the ground.  Terry held work weekends and, as a church, we cleaned out the house and got it torn down, the vast majority of the lumber in tact!  Here, I have to say that Terry and his two sons did most of the work getting it torn down.  For the most part, they worked 7 days a week for months.  Now, SDCW-ATC has a new dining hall almost all the way up, Terry and his boys measuring and nailing and cutting, board by board.

The reason I tell this story is because, as a church, we have an amazing leader who has big dreams for, not only the pagan community, but the whole community.  However, he doesn't just have big dreams.  He has the tenacity to get out there and make it happen.  He has the will and work ethic to get out and do the hard things that no one else wants to do.  He wants to manifest a better world one family at a time.  He wants to manifest a better world for everyone.

Now, I've said all of these things because, once again, he needs help with one of his big dreams for the community.  SDCW-ATC has been accepted as the charity for The Home Depot in Jonesboro, Arkansas.  Home Depot will give the church $5000 in materials a month for their Community Outreach Program.  The CORP is our way to give back.  It is a program dedicated to helping the elderly and needy with things like home repairs.  If someone is on a fixed income, anything extraneous is out of the question.  The only hurdle in  starting this is raising a one time $600 administrative fee.  I have set up a page on Please Fund to help with this endeavor.  We are trying to get this link to go viral so we can get this money raised quickly!

It's very important that we do get it raised quickly.  Terry has already been contacted by one of the local elder agencies with several people who need home repairs and one even needs a new wheelchair ramp built!  He has at least 8 able bodies with strong backs and helping hands ready to work.  All we need now are donations.  If you can spare a dollar or two and then share the link via Facebook, Twitter, or Email you could help a whole lot of people who so often forgotten about or fall through the cracks.  Even a small donation and passing this blog on would be of help. 

Thank you for reading, and as always, Brightest Blessings!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

When times get tough, whaddya do?

So many people I know are having a difficult time at the moment.  For some it's difficult emotionally, for others, it's difficult financially, and for people like me, there's just this feeling of being lost.  I'm not going to do anything silly, like rip my still-beating heart from my chest and thrust it into your face, dear readers, but please feel free to follow me along on this confusing, shadowy path into my own psyche. (Quite appropriate for Friday the 13th, no?)  I often write about topics relevant to me and those around me, but I have yet to really write about anything personal.  So, here it is.

I am one of the many Americans who can not find a job in this economy.  Every day I sit at my computer and I apply for jobs.  Most places now want you to apply online, so that's what I do.  I scan the paper and mail out my resume in the hope of finding a job.  I have been doing this since May and  I apply for somewhere between five and twenty jobs a week and from those applications, I have been granted one interview.  That said, there are two things I know about myself: A) I have an excellent resume, and B) I am employable in a variety of jobs.

However, let's add another thing to the list of 'Things Going Against the Writer'.  Six weeks ago, I chipped my anklebone, and I am wearing a walking cast, or boot.  Even if I got an interview tomorrow, wearing this boot is going to put a big, red X by my name for most employers, no matter how good my resume looks or how good I interview.  Who wants to hire someone when they can clearly see that the person is very likely going to have to miss work to go to doctor appointments (at least in the beginning)?

Do I sound like I'm lamenting my bad luck yet?  Really, I'm not.  Yes, the boot is like wearing a fleece pillow around my leg.  We had days and days and days of 100F+ (40C+) temperatures, and there was no escaping the misery of the heat.  Most of those days I would have rather taken a beating than had to go outside when the sun was up.  But, I digress.

I look at all of these things which are going against me, and I wonder, "Just exactly what have my Gods got in store for me that could possibly include poverty, solitude, confusion, and this bone-deep restlessness?  What lesson is in this forced downtime?  Why am I being forced to choose between essential items such as laundry detergent and fuel?"

But, then, I smile.  I smile because I know that they do have a plan.  I smile because I'm not starving to death.  I smile because the right job is going to come along at just the right moment.  Despite the uncertainty, which I desperately hate, I'm getting to do something that I haven't gotten to do since I was in high school.  I'm getting to enjoy the summer.  While I'm certainly not going anywhere or spending any money, I get up every morning, no later than about 8am, and I get to sit on my porch that faces the West.  I get to watch the Hummingbirds chitter, buzz, and fuss at each other over the feeder.  I get to watch the ants busy themselves with their mid-summer gathering.  I see the butterflies flittering from bloom to scarce bloom, gathering nectar.  These are things I wouldn't get to do as I sip coffee if I had to be somewhere.

This summer I've been visited by a couple of garden snakes, been attacked by a butterfly, and went on a fantastic nature hike/flower gathering expedition.  Obviously, the hike was before the ankle thing, but still.  Had I been working, these things wouldn't have happened.  This slowing down and (almost) forced return to writing has been what my soul needed.  My pocketbook is still crying, but there are so many more enriching things in my life.  I have met people whom I wouldn't have if I were working.  I have had such a bounty of experience.

So, if you are like me, and you find yourself with lots of time on your hands and things not going your way, don't be so quick to judge your life negatively.  Don't be so quick to judge yourself negatively.  Don't give in to your fears.  Instead, ask yourself what the universe is trying to tell you.  Ask yourself if you need to cast off stress and worry, even for a day, and just be.  We all need a break sometimes and if we don't take it, the Gods find a way to force it upon us.  If we don't accept that break, we end up wasting it worrying and fussing instead of looking for the wealth of experience it allows (even if we still hate breaks).

So, I'll stay diligent and keep looking for work.  In the mean time, though, I'll fill my days with the experiences my Gods offer me.  I'm fairly certain that one day I'll look back on this time and see the lessons contained within.

Brightest Blessings friends!!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Adapt or Eliminate: Sounds Easy, Doesn't It?

There are times in our lives when the lessons are difficult.  For some, the lesson of adapt or eliminate is an easy one.  These people see something bad, negative, or otherwise not good for them and they let it go.  These same people see something that can be turned into a positive thing and they adapt themselves to it and use it for the good.  Unfortunately for me, neither adapting nor eliminating have come easy.  It happens, but I often second guess myself or beat myself up over the decision.  My choleric personality type often raises an eyebrow and asks, "Are you sure you aren't just giving up?  If you can, even remotely, make a difference, why are you giving up?"

It is in these moments, when I have to remind myself that not everyone wants what I have to give.  Sure, I want to instill confidence, beauty, and a bit of common sense in everyone I meet.  I want them to draw upon their melancholy personality (which is what I mask my choleric with) and think.  I want them to think for themselves.  I want them to weigh the good and bad out for themselves.  I want to gently guide them to these conclusions, but only if they are receptive.  When they aren't receptive, I find myself either adapting to their negative or chaotic outlook, or I eliminate them from my life.  Those are the only two choices I have.

I have found myself with people or in situations where, quite frankly, I open my big mouth and try to help.  I see these people, whom I count among my friends, with fear, negativity, and chaos in their lives.  They whine, complain, and lament their bad luck constantly.  Being on the outside and having stood in their shoes, I understand now what I didn't know then.  I understand that these people draw the chaos to them.  They thrive on the drama and the chaos.  If things weren't bad, they would happily sabotage something to have something to complain about.

I've been there.  I've been one of those drama-seeking self saboteurs.  The chaos in my life was exhausting!  Of course, the exhaustion was just one more thing for me to whine about.  I liked it.  I liked blaming everyone else for the crap life was flinging so mercilessly at me.  Now that I'm a bit older and maybe slightly wiser, I don't know what I was thinking!  Not to say that my life is completely chaos free or anything, because it isn't, however, instead of succumbing completely to the tornado of chaos, I stand as strong as I can against it, willing myself to not get caught up.  If I do happen to get caught up, I lament my luck for a bit (really, who doesn't?!?), but then I have to gather myself up and make a decision.  I can allow it to take over my whole life, or I can adapt or eliminate.

There are few situations or people who I don't adapt to.  I cherish the people in my life for the individuals they are.  That said, many of those people are also in the Craft.  We come to the Craft to learn.  We come to the Craft to grow.  We come to the Craft to become better than we were.  When I point out a learning opportunity to someone and, because they don't want to learn and grow, I am the bad guy, I am the negative one, holier than thou, or whatever 10,000 other ways they choose to try and insult me, I know that it is time for me to move on.  Adaptation is no longer useful and it is time to eliminate.  I love them anyway and I silently walk away.  I know that if they keep upon their path and walk it true that our paths will meet again down the road and we will have an opportunity to grow in our Craft together.

I've lost a handful of people just in the last single turn of the Wheel because of this choice.  It's heartbreaking.  It's difficult.  It really makes you re-evaluate your life, your changes, where you are going, and what you are doing.  For someone with my personality type, it also makes me wonder if the changes are worth it, makes me wonder if the progress is really forward progress.  That said, I look around me and realize that for every person I have lost, two new ones have manifested and, despite how things may appear, they are wise and lift me up and, right or wrong, help me see my own lesson in the situation.  As long as I learn those lessons, I can't be any worse off for it.

Brightest Blessings my friends!!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Are We Simply the Sum of Our Own Decisions, Really?

I was listening to my iTunes the other day as I was cleaning and a song popped up that I haven't listened to in years.  It was the song "Homecoming Queen" by Hinder.  Now, this group isn't one of my favorites, never has been, honestly, but a friend bought the CD and let me rip it to my computer, so I did.  Listening to the song hit me somewhere near dead center and got me thinking, "Are we really only just the sum of our own decisions?"  The lyric that hit me was in the chorus, "She's a casualty of all the pressure/That we put on her/And now we've lost her for good..."

It's a song about a beautiful girl, the homecoming queen, who succumbed to the pressures of life and ended up a junkie and how no one really knew her and what they were doing to her and how the song writer would have saved her if he could.  It's very analogous to life.

While I firmly believe we are the sum total of our own decisions and I firmly believe in personal responsibility, how many times have we made a decision just to make someone else happy?  How many times have we broken under the pressure of another's expectations and not done what made us happy in lieu of what someone else perceived as the 'right thing?'

This song really got me to thinking about my own decisions in life and how, so very often, I have made decisions based on what others wanted versus what I wanted.  I did this just to escape from their pressure.  Even more disturbing, I think, was my foray into addiction.  While I know that I do not have an addictive personality, I spent a year of my life either drunk on whiskey or high on marijuana.  Oh, at the time it was a blast!  However, now, I am older and wiser, and I know that I like whiskey and pot and I know that imbibing regularly could take me down that path again.  I will, on occasion, have a glass or two of Jack.  It's like a bittersweet reunion with an old friend, however, it's an old friend who isn't good for me, so when we reunite, I remind myself of this fact and I'm okay.< The addictive haze I found myself in at that time was due, mostly, to the pressure I was under from everyone else.  I recognize that now.  I took their expectations and hefted them on my shoulders and simply couldn't move, so I drown myself in mind-altering substances in an effort to convince myself that I could, indeed, walk and push forward.  As an adult I have found better coping mechanisms, but not without a lot of trial and error and even some backsliding. I am a lot like the girl in the song.  Everyone else had all of these dreams for me, yet no one bothered to ask me what my dreams were for myself.  No one bothered to foster those dreams.  No one bothered to encourage them.  Their myopic view of my life encouraged them to poo-poo my own goals and dreams of happiness for their own lost dreams, so they could live vicariously through me.

Unfortunately, that didn't work out so well for them.  I spent the first 10 years of my adult life married to a man who didn't give a crap about anyone but himself and how much money he could make.  When I finally left, he stalked me relentlessly until I disappeared off the face of the Earth.  Even then, if he say a friend of mine, he would ask about me, digging for information.  I spent the first two years after my divorce terrified that he would show up at any point in time simply to harass me.  You see, he was an addict (I blame his doctors for this) who ultimately cheated on me and couldn't believe I would have the gall to leave him and when he found out that the grass wasn't greener on the other side, he used every tactic in his arsenal to get me to come back.  He used everything from terror and threats to charm and lies.  Then, he died and I was free.

Now, I sit at this blog, jobless and nearly desperate, yet I don't feel the weight of the world upon my shoulders.  I don't feel the frustration many feel.  I simply can't.  I've come to a point where I know that I am both the sum of my own decisions and the decision of others to pressure me, but I don't blame them.  I don't lament my bad luck.  I don't project my own bad decisions upon others, nor do I blame them for pressuring me into decisions, or maybe pressuring me into thinking I had to make a decision.

Each decision I have made in my life has led me to this point.  It has placed the people in my life who I need and it has given me so many lessons to learn.  How can I say that it has been bad when I have had so many grand adventures?  How can I say it's anyone's fault but my own?  I can't.  It's not been bad.  I'm sure there aren't many people in this world who can say they bought their first luxury car just after they turned 25, and they worked their ass off for it.  I did.  It wasn't given to me.  I worked hard for it.  Two years later I bought my first brand new vehicle.  Once again, I worked my ass off for it.  I'm quite proud of those things, but then again, stuff comes and goes.  Ultimately, life isn't measured in stuff.  Life is measured in how you touch the lives of those around you.  Life is measured by your deeds.

So, instead of lamenting our bad luck or blaming everyone else, the economy, or even fate, look at the good things in life.  Just because things have been difficult, doesn't mean we have to beat ourselves up over it.  Difficulties arise when there are lessons to be learned and learning those lessons are the most important thing.    People were put in our lives for a reason.  They pressure us, they push us, they may drive us mad, but in the end we still have the ability to say no and to go our own way and find our own happiness.  What are you doing?

Brightest blessings my friends!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ripples in the Pond of Life

It is only Tuesday and this week the pond that is my life has been rippling blessings out and back in.  Through my short journey in the Craft, I have often heard the analogy of ripples in a pond and what you say and do are the stones which are thrown in to cause the ripples.  It could be, I suppose, a layman analogy of the Three Fold Law.

When we, as the spiritual beings that we are, choose selflessness over greed and choose to see the bigger picture, we can effect the lives of people we have never met.  I have already seen this exact thing this week.  It is a most humbling feeling.  I share the one thing I have in abundance, that which we all have, but can never possess: Love.  In return, I see love reflected back to me through others, some whom I have never even met and may never even get to meet.  Yet, it doesn't lessen the fullness in my heart.  It doesn't stop my tears of joy, and there have already been many of them this week.

Those ripples go out, spreading in larger and larger circles, encompassing me, my friends, their friends, and eventually total strangers somewhere far across the world from me.  In a world of seven billion people, I wonder just exactly how one person's joy, thanks, and love for another can be so far-reaching.  I wonder just how many people slow down and indulge in those feelings.  Even more importantly, I wonder just how many people take those things in and spread them within their own circles, causing beautiful ripples in their own ponds of life.  It also makes me wonder just how many people it would take doing this to touch every person on the planet!

There are days when we all get caught up in our own lives and dramas and forget to spread happiness, for sure, but how many of us on those days, have been smiled at by a total stranger on the street?  How many times did that smile make us stop dead in our thread of negativity and completely turn our day around?  How often do we do this?  It's always much, much easier, as we walk down the street, to avert our eyes and not acknowledge a stranger, but what if the eye contact and smile you give a stranger is the only positive thing that happens to them on that day?

Ripples in the pond, friends.  It's the Law of Attraction, the Law of Polarities. If you want happiness, luck, love, and beauty, embody those things, look for them, and call them to you.  Put them out there.  Smile at a stranger.  Say a kind word.  Help someone who is struggling.  When that happens, the ripples begin and, who knows?  Maybe somewhere down the line someones anger and frustration are melted into compassion, someone goes home and tells their partner just how much they are appreciated, someone decides they are worthy of being kind to themselves.  The possibilities are endless!

And to think it all began with a random act of kindness.

My own first random act today is to tell my readers just how much I appreciate you all!  I wholeheartedly appreciate that each of you take time out of your day to connect with me through this medium.  I know just how busy life can be and I am humbled that my oh-so-insufficient grasp on this language touches you in one way or another.  I can only hope that my emotions and experiences related here find some way into your life (even if it's in a this-is-what-you-don't-do kind of way).

These words have reached to all corners of the world and it awes me to think that I have directly impacted, in one way or another, readers in Germany, Romania, Lativa, and Australia, among other far reaching and exotic lands.  You bless me each time I check my statistics and see a new place on the map.  I want you to know that, if you are reading this, there is a woman on a small ridge in Missouri, USA, sending you love and thanks.  You touch my soul with your presence and it enriches my life in way I simply can not articulate in words.

Thank you all and brightest blessings my friends!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Who Says You Can't Go Home?

Whoever said that you can never go home obviously never knew Terry and Amanda Riley.  They never experienced that level of community, love, and trust.  I moved away from Northeast Arkansas and my church, The Southern Delta Church of Wicca-ATC, in April.  The Gods called me away from the first place I'd ever truly called home.  While I may not like Their reasons for calling me away, I don't question why I was called so far away.  Even though I miss my church family with every fiber of my being, I know there are lessons to be learned and adventures to be had, right here in Mid-Missouri.

That said, this weekend, I went back to retrieve the rest of my meager worldly possessions and was met with open arms and open hearts.  It was as though no time had passed, even tough it had been about seven weeks since I'd last seen anyone.  This visit broke my heart and lifted my spirits simultaneously.  Until this weekend, I'd neither felt fully here nor fully there, but with the retrieval of my belongings, I was no longer between places.  

Saying farewell was nearly spirit shattering.  I was finally leaving my old roommates, Heather and Jared, who gave me a home when I needed it and loved me unconditionally as I struggled and fought through so many changes.  Some of my best memories of this chapter in my life are sitting, morning after morning, sipping coffee with Heather, and talking all things spiritual before I had to leave for work.  I still often forget that she is several years younger than I and that she is just now beginning her First Degree work.  She is so intuitive, wise, and understanding.  She knows what she wants and once that goal is set, she goes after it with a passion.  She takes her life's lessons and, despite any frustrations that may arise, meets them confidently head-on, knowing that she can only do what she can and leaving the rest up to the Gods.

Jared is one of those men who sits and listens, more often than he talks, but you can guarantee when he opens his mouth, the words are either going to be heart-stoppingly profound or side-splitting hysterical.  He, too, meets his goals with a passion and quiet stubbornness that is simply breath taking to watch.  He is always kind and willing to help in any way imaginable, even if he doesn't know what to do, he's there offering a hug and a shoulder.

And then, there was the Riley household.  There are three things you can guarantee when you walk in over there, an endless cup of coffee, unconditional love, and wisdom beyond understanding.  When I walked in, I was greeted by Bo-Bo and Sparkles, the dogs of the house, with joy and kisses, as always.  Then, I was grabbed by Ivy, one of my best friends in the universe.  She has an amazing way about her that can not be described.  Being enveloped in her hug is like a soft, warm blanket on a dreary winter day.  Then, I was hugged by Terry.  The old Sage is the consummate leader, adviser, and father figure.  With him, there is no prodigal son or daughter, there are simply children who have gone on to other adventures.  

When his students come home, they are home, whether for good or for a visit.  All questions are answered to the best of his ability.  His latest projects are showed off and plans for future projects relayed with joy in his heart at the fortune he has to serve his community.  Terry lives his life in a way that most people only dream of.

Zach and Amberly are Terry's kids.  The three of us fought through First Degree classes from beginning to end. They live their lives like their father does.  They strive for a goal until they reach it and then they make another.  If I could have chosen siblings to have, it would have been these two.  Sure, they fight like all siblings, but it is on a whole different level and standing on the outside, its a humorous thing to watch.

Then, there's Ashley, Terry's daughter-in-law and her children.  Once again, an amazing woman.  She is a wife, mother, and witch.  She takes life with the gentle understanding of a mother and has grown so much since I met her, not a year ago.  Her babies are two of the sweetest magical children I have ever met.  As I was saying my farewells, her daughter toddled up to me and hugged my leg.  Of course, I bent down and grabbed her as though she were my own child and gave her a proper hug.

Finally, we come to the Queen Mother, Mandy.  She sits among the chaos with a smile on her face, exuding love for all of us who just might venture through her door.  We are all her children and she loves us as such.  She, like Terry, patiently answers our questions, hold our hands, and helps us in any way she can, offering her wisdom of the years for us to contemplate.  

Going home to these people is like shining the light of the noon day sun on the midnight of loneliness I have  sometimes felt in this big house on the ridge. It reminds me that no matter where the Gods call me, no matter where I lay my head, I can always go home.  Even more importantly, when I go home, I am welcomed as though not a day has passed.  That, my friends, is what community and friendship are all about.  That is what love is all about.  That is what I seek and what I seek to help create for everyone who I may come into contact with.  

Neither time, nor distance may change these things.

Brightest Blessings my friends!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Witch, Heal Thyself!

I want to preface this by saying, just like all of my other posts this is my opinion and my perception.  Because of our unique views on life, healing, and the Craft, there may not be another person out there who experiences these exact things in this exact way.  It doesn't make me any more right or wrong than another, just as it doesn't make me more knowledgeable or wise.  These are simply my own ideas on one tiny topic that I have experienced for a short amount of time.

In March I was attuned Reiki 1 by my High Priestess and beloved friend, Mandy.  For half a decade or more, I'd longed for attunement, seeing the need for healing in the world.  I understood, even before I was given this blessing, that energy work of any kind isn't a cure-all.  I also understood that true healing only happens when one is ready to heal. (Healing being used in a general sense here encompassing physical, mental, spiritual and emotional.) For years I'd lamented my bad luck in not quite ever having the money for an attunement.  I'd met and spoke with Reiki Masters, but none of them quite fit.  I knew that it wasn't theywho didn't fit me, but the other way around.  Until this year, though, I didn't know why.

It wasn't until this year that I started going back through the years and really remembering my own spiritual journey.  I've always heard that this is a path of healing, but I didn't quite understand what that meant.  I didn't understand that being whole isn't just about being in good physical health or taking your medication as prescribed.  I didn't really understand that it also meant having to face ones own darkness.  That shed the proverbial light on some things for me.

When things started clicking into place in my mind, all of the growth I'd been experiencing (and not realizing!!) began to make sense.  I had moments where things fell into place and I could feel soul parts reintegrate.  I had other moments where the workings of the whole universe were crystal clear, and I had yet other moments where I felt crazy and lost, as though I were standing still and banging my head against the wall.  These moments were life changing.  My perceptions changed and so my need to hang on to the old changed with it.

And so, late spring brought my long awaited attunement.  An attunement I was not ready for until that precise moment.  (Isn't that when everything happens, when we are ready for it?) I felt the beauty of the reiki energy as my partner, Ivy, practiced on me.  Her hands grew warm, my ailments did, too.  I felt a great sense of well being.  When we changed places, I experienced something totally different!  I knew, more than felt, the energy.  My hands did not warm uncomfortably, though Ivy's ailments responded with that familiar warmth.  I felt... different.  

For a week after my attunement, I struggled.  I struggled with this strange new perception of the world.  I struggled with being so open to the universe.  I was, honestly, crazy as a sack of asses.  Well, at least I thought I was.  Some things in my life ended up coming full circle at that point and it was then that the thought began to occur to me that maybe I wasn't so different as I once believed.  (Even though I still tend to be the weird one among the weird ones.)

Since then, I have settled in to a reasonably comfortable place with my reiki, as I am still getting to know the energy and I am still figuring out how best I work with it.  However, I have discovered that I don't experience reiki in a typical way.

Only on occasion do my hands heat up in the way they 'should'.  Rarer still does my whole body heat up, as I was warned could happen when I was getting my attunement.  Sometimes I physically feel the energy flowing through me, but more often, I experience it as a knowing.  I simply know that the energy is flowing and I simply know when it has peaked and I am ready to go to another hand position.

Even more astounding (at least I think so), is my searching out of the body's ley lines or energy channels, something I just recently realized that I do.  I'm not sure how to term these... areas.  I haven't done much research on this, aside from little more than basic chakra work.  My hands seem to search out the places in the body where the energy flows most freely to the  ailing area and sometimes it involves touching the area in question, but other times, it does not.  It's quite strange to me.

This knowing challenges every part of my logical self.  It slaps my logic brains in the face 3 Stooges style.  It makes absolutely no sense to me how it could possibly work, but it does.  It just works and, ironically, I don't have to know why.  It is just one of the mysteries of the universe.

This year I have dipped the tip of my little toe into the pool of the healing arts.  I have experienced Reiki and Celtic Healing, both being given to me by some of the most precious and important people in my life right now.  I have experienced my own perceptions and expectations being tossed unceremoniously out of the window in favor of highly illogical and unexplained knowings.  Yet, I don't rush to explain these things.  I don't dismiss them as impossible.  I don't doubt that they are actually happening.  I accept them for what they are: Something more than me, the humble vessel.

I look forward to many more years of learning within the healing arts, learning to simply accept some things as unexplainable, and most importantly being able to be of service to the community.

Brightest blessings my friends!!

(ETA: The HTML when screwy with this one, so if it's weird or the formatting is screwed, I missed fixing something in the code...)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Interconnected Web of Life: Do You Notice It?

We hear, all of the time, that all life is interconnected.  Native lore explains this through various tales of Spider Woman or Grandmother Spider (some of my favorite creation lore).  Each of us is connected.  We are connected to each other, to the Tree and Stone People, to the land, the sky, the water, and all things both manifest and not.  For some of us, this connection is stronger with our animal brethren, for others of us, it is stronger with plants, and for some, there seems to be no connection at all!

For many years now, I have noticed my own personal connection growing stronger.  Some days, the trees sing loudest, other days, it is the animals, while at other times, my connection seems strongest with the elements.  I know the seeming strength within this web is only my perception or my focus at that particular moment.  The strength of the web does not wax and wane, only my notice of it does.

As of late, I have noticed that my connection with the plants is strong.  Living where I do, with so much native flora, as well as an herb garden, it seems quite natural, I suppose.  I have been entrusted with the care of some herbs by a High Priestess who is very special to me and these joyful little plants speak!

Late last week, I spent part of an afternoon re-potting them.  It was quite a joyous occasion to sit in the yard, under the shade of an old Maple, and pick out the different pots according to what the plants wanted.  A couple of times, I wasn't listening and I set the wrong plants in the wrong pot, so before I could actually plant them, I had to do some swapping.  Had anyone been around to see me, they would have likely though me crazy, sitting in the yard with a wheel-barrow full of dirt, filling pots and laughing and talking to these plants.

Even now, the basil plants laugh joyously like small children and the tiny lavender plant sits quite somberly, as though in quiet reflection.  For people to say that plants don't have personalities, they don't pay much attention to that web of life.  They don't reach out to this other life form with that deep, knowing part of their soul and feel it.

These beautiful green beings are just one example of the simplicity of noticing the Web of Life.  I have, obviously, used a bit of anthropomorphism to describe what I feel with these plants, but the emotions are how I interpret what they say.  For someone else, they could get images or colors through the Web.  How we perceive this communication all depends upon our own personal symbolism and how we interpret it.

So, if you aren't, or don't think you can travel along that Web to touch another life, don't be so hasty to limit yourself.  Sometimes, it only takes a bit of time to simply open ones heart enough to experience something so simple.  Sometimes, in quiet moments of being, we do this and do not even think about it.  We may not know what it is, but we know what we felt, saw, or heard.  The important thing to remember is that we can not dismiss these things as flights of fancy or imaginings, for they are not!  They are an expanding of our awareness and, as nature worshipers, that's never a bad thing.

Brightest blessings my friends!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Respect within the Community

As of late the subject of respect within the pagan community has been a dominant subject in my life.  I have been in the community just shy of two years myself and I have never been accused of being disrespectful.  I have also not been instructed on etiquette.  I've not been instructed on how ones elders are supposed to be treated.  So, I have to wonder just exactly how there can be so much disrespect within this community because I know that many of the people who have been here longer than I have been properly trained and know how to treat their elders.

I've been told by many people within the community that I have been Craft-raised 'right', but the reality of it is, I was simply raised right.  My mother is one of the few true southern ladies left in this world.  She is kind, respectful, and dignified no matter the situation and no matter how she might feel about someone personally.  It is a rarity that she loses her cool, but when she does, it's like an atomic explosion that sends everyone running for cover.  I was taught to treat everyone equally and respectfully until their actions no longer deserved it and then, simply walk away.  There was no reason for fanfare, fighting, indignation, or slander.  This lesson has been driven home to me within my Craft family and, once the energy was expended, there truly was no reason for anger and hatred.  All I could do (and still do) is love and respect that person for the individual she is.  Walk away and keep loving is all we can do.

I bring that teaching into the Craft, but take it to another level.  I am on a path of service, therefore, I treat everyone as though they have been here longer than I and I treat them as though they are of an equal or higher degree than I am.  This means if I have food, drink, or anything that can be shared, I will offer to share it.  If I am standing in line, I will happily let another go in front of me, or at least offer it for them to make the choice (unless they are Anita, one of my High Priestesses, and then I drag her into the line ahead of me because I hope to be half as hard-headed as she is when I am a Crone and I hope my students do the same to me when I get there).  The community and the health of it is much more important to me than any one individual, including myself.

I have friends (whom I love dearly) who are students within the Craft.  I would never deign to see them as 'below' me, even though they are not as far along as I am in their training.  I see their struggles and their triumphs, and I cheer them on because I know how hard they are working and how hard they have worked and, in my mind, that deserves almost as much respect as I give my elders.  Their dedication is something to respect and on this path, no one is 'just a student' at any level of their training.  So, even with those whom are not as far along, I show respect by doing tasks with them as opposed to asking them to do tasks for me.

I find working together and showing mutual respect as a way to build our community.  It doesn't mean that we all always have to get along.  It doesn't mean that we all have to see eye-to-eye on every situation.  Respect does, however, mean to me that we all must put away our egos and at least attempt to meet in the middle.  It means stowing away our egos and allowing our Higher Self to examine the hurts that have been caused to us, so we can see the lessons in those hurts and just why we were offended, and moving past them, instead of trying to 'get revenge' and passing those hurts along.  Extending respect to everyone in such a way nourishes us individually and as a community so that we may grow and learn together no matter what path we may be on and no matter our how far upon our path we may be.

I believe it was the Buddha who said, "You will not be punished for your anger.  You will be punished by your anger."  Wiser words were never spoken and we should each and every one take heed.

Brightest Blessings my friends

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Mid-Summer's Rambling

Today we stand atop the mountain of the year, 'tis Mid-summer, the longest day!  The blessed Sun God rides at his peak in the crystalline, azure sky.  Pagans everywhere wait for the epic battle of the Oak and Holly Kings, though they know the outcome.

We begin our descent into the dark half of the year, that chilled valley full of our own shadows, our failures, that which we must reconcile before we move on.  Sounds quite scary, no?  Well, it's really not, if we are willing to face our own reflection in that dim, moonlit pool of the self.  While we must still harvest the fruits of our labors for the year during the next three holidays, Litha reminds us that the time for growth is nearly done.  It reminds us that now is the time for the fruits of our life to begin to ripen.

Into the valley we descend.  Deep within the self we begin the trek.  Over the next several months we reap the harvest of our lives and, at Samhain, we rest.  The work is nearly done.  The growth nearly complete.  So, what's next?

Next, comes the harvest.  We enjoy the fruits of our work this year.  We look at the goals that have withered and died.  We examine just why they didn't grow and fruit.  We protect those seeds which are slow-growing, just now beginning to leaf out and turn green.  These long-term goals will soon need shelter.  We look within and make future plans, decide the seeds we plant for next year.  We gaze into that cold, clear pool of our soul and try to see where we may have gone wrong and where we went right.  We decide what should be built upon and what should be cast aside.  This life we lead is much like the seasons, ever flowing forward, cycling, growing and resting.  Much like the river always reaching for the sea, we reach for the divine.

So, on this Mid-Summer's day, sing praise to the Sun God.  Thank Him for His life-giving warmth.  Sing praise to the blessed Mother.  Thank Her for Her life-giving food.  Stand in the grass barefoot and let the sun shine upon your face.  Let our Mother and Father comfort you in your fast-paced life.  Slow down for just a moment and be.

Praise be to Helios!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Resistance is Futile

These are narcotics-induced ramblings.  Please remember this!  There are abrupt thought changes and loads of things that may or may not make sense.  Broken bones, physical injuries, and the like take a lot out of me, but they seem to also make me think...

Last night, in that twilight time between sleep and wake, a thing occurred to me.  For people like me, this is Hell.  There is no lake of fire.  There is no sulfur, brimstone, or demons.  This manifestation, with all of its limitations, is Hell.

While my soul is still one with the divine, this conscious part of me falls daily for the illusions of this reality.  I know that I am limitless, yet I struggle with the illusion of pain.  I struggle with the illusion of powerlessness, helplessness.  "If I can't, then who shall help me?"  For so many years, I have had no answer to the question. Then, I reach out to someone I'm not sure that I have ever met.  Our conversation turns from the possibility of meeting to my own fears and limitations.  Quickly I understand that, yet again, my gods are speaking to me.

They remind me that they have a plan for me.  They remind me that these limitaqtions are tests.  They remind me to seek Them out instead of listening to that voice in my head.  They remind me that while this all seems read, that it is, indeed, an illusion.  This pain in my ankle is a phantom, because this body is a phonatom.  These emotions are wisps of smoke upon a mighty gale.  This entire universe is contained within a single atom within a single cell in the hair on the leg of a humble fly.

So, this illusion of pain and helplessness then becomes a metaphor for that which I feel inside.  My soul screams in agony as I refuse it what it needs.  I have become a living mirror, an outward expression of an internal landscape.  I seem to have injured a small part of my Self in my refusal to keep going forward spiritually.  So, of course, Self must remind me that I can't do that, or if I do I end up injuring my self.  So, where do I go from here?

I suppose I should probably step back on my path and move forward.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Just Tell the Gods Your Plans...

So many times in this life we set out toward a goal unaware of the implications it can have on our journey, unaware that it is our gods guiding us directly into our life's purpose.  Not quite two years ago now, I did this.  I had been practicing Eclectic Wicca as a solitary for about 8 years when I moved from Mississippi to Northeast Arkansas, and while I'd known there was a Wiccan church in the Jonesboro area for a while, I'd simply lived too far away to be able to join in any of its activities.

When I got to Jonesboro, I contacted the High Priest of the church.  He gave me the dates and times of their public meetings so that I could attend and meet some of the members and the clergy in a public setting.  It took me almost two months and a giant spider in my lap (one of my spirit guides is Spider) to gather up the courage to go to a meeting.  The rest, as it is often said, is history.

While still quite shy, I participated in these meetings and was drawn to their classes.  It wasn't long until the High Priestess handed me a test and told me to take it.  I did and found myself in an unlikely position, new to this church and stepping into First Degree classes.  When I began with them, I'd reconciled the fact that (as I think it should be with any new tradition) I would likely begin at the beginning and work my way through the degrees.  Finding myself in First Degree class was an honest shock, however, I was glad for the challenge.

Through the fifteen months of lessons, I heard Papa Terry say countless times, "Just tell the Gods your plans and watch them laugh!"  No truer words have ever been spoken, I do believe.

At the beginning of my classes, all I wanted was a better connection with my Gods and a better understanding of myself.  I didn't want to be "special".  I didn't want to be noticed.  I didn't want anything more than to live the magical axiom, "Know Thyself."  I told the Gods my plans and they laughed.  Not only did they laugh, but throughout my resistance, I'd get a tap on the shoulder and a "So, how's that working out for you?" from them, usually followed by some kind of hysterical laughter on their part.  Yes, the Gods have a sense of humor and it's usually at our expense.

So, I sloged along through my classes.  It was a long, hard-fought and won fifteen months full of trials for me.  In the beginning, I lamented my bad luck.  I cried out and shook my fist at the sky, angry at my Gods for putting me through these things.  At some point, though, the lessons began to take hold.  The seeming tragedies in my life transformed from, "It's not my fault." to "What is the lesson in this?"  I began to take responsibility for my part and change my perceptions.  My ego began to relinquish its hold on my thoughts and I began to feel my Gods walking with me every day.  I began to hear their words and listen to their wisdom.  I began to change from within, and these changes were difficult!  I lost a long-term relationship, a really good friend, and moved four times in as many months, but all of these life altering experiences opened my eyes (at least partially) to a bigger picture.  As with any amount of change, the tragedies seem larger than the triumphs.  In that same time, I discovered just who my friends were.  I was given a sister-hood that can not be torn apart.  I was given a life-partner complete with Hekate's sandalwood scent of approval.  I found myself surrounded by teachers, both Elders and my own contemporaries, who were always willing to give me a shoulder to cry on and then lift me up and set me back on my feet.  They never gave me the answers to my questions, but always asked the right questions to get me thinking.

These experiences didn't test my faith or my connection with my Gods, but made it stronger.  These experiences allowed me to better know myself and opened many doors which I'd believe were impossible to open.  I understand now just what Papa Terry means when he says, "Just tell the Gods your plans..."

My Gods have plans for me.  They have plans that I don't like, however, I have come to understand that acting like a petulant child and resisting those plans is tantamount to being dragged through life kicking and screaming.  Yes, I still kick and scream from time to time, and I still don't like it (and shout it from the rooftops), but I also know that in surrendering to my higher purpose and accepting it, I really don't have to like it.  I just have to do it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What's With All of This Ritual?

The following blog is, just that, a blog.  The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.  If you like them, wonderful.  If you don't, I can't say that I care. (Opinions are like a-holes, ya know...)  Commenting is always welcome and I hope that you enjoy your read!!


Recently, I was with a friend and the subject of ritual came up.  This friend, who is relatively new to the Craft, sometimes doesn’t understand why things are done as they are done.  Said friend also possesses the logic of a Vulcan.  He and I were talking about casting a sacred circle and what it takes to do such things.  He’d only ever seen this done ritually, so I sat down and closed my eyes.  Drawing the energy upward and outward (as I do), I cast a circle.  When I opened my eyes, he was looking at me strangely.  He felt the energy move, a bubble surrounding us.  I smiled and announced that the circle was cast.  He then asked, “If it’s that easy to cast a circle, what’s with all of the pomp and circumstance of ritual?”

This simple question really got me thinking.  If the moving of energy and the manufacturing of coincidence is magic and we really don’t need anything other than our own will, why do ritual of any kind?  Why do we spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on tools, or spend days and weeks of our time searching for and decorating the perfect tool if these things aren’t really needed?  What’s with all of this ritual stuff?

I have a theory on this.  Some may say this theory is truth, while others say that it’s bullshit.  I say it’s theory because both truth and bullshit are absolute, and we all know that in the Craft, what works for one may not work for another.  I also say it’s theory because theories are ever evolving and changing as more knowledge is gained.  So, a theory it is.

We pagans do ritual to create a certain mindset.  Our robes, cords, candles and incense all turn our minds away from our mundane lives and set our minds in a spiritual mode.  This is done much in the same way by our Christian counterparts who dress in suits and ties and dresses and fancy hats on Sunday.  For that allotted amount of time, we are neither here nor are we there, but in some in-between place where the energy flows easily and as a solitary or group, we can direct it in the direction we want it to go.  We open up and can feel and hear and see the intent we project.  Our will becomes a tangible thing, drifting and swirling under the gentle rays of the full moon as we chant and dance and beseech our gods to make it so.

So, when does that ritual mindset move from just sabats and esbats and into daily life?  When does the practitioner find themselves living their ritual daily?  When does it happen that you walk into a group circle (or even cast your own) without all of the chanting and ritual garb and the incense smoke hanging in the air?  When does the altered state of consciousness become something we slip in and out of without all of the pomp and circumstance?  Does it take years of intense study?  Is it something preached about by a teacher?  Or, is it something we do unconsciously when we drift off into daydream?

This altered state of consciousness, opening up if you will, is done by us all in those still, quiet moments.  For some, those moments last longer, but for others, it’s only that flash of silence which is needed to get an answer.  When we recognize those moments and begin to listen, we suddenly realize that none of this stuff is needed, not truly needed.  No ritual, no robes, cords, chants, none of it is a necessity.  These are all things we hold on to and when we find ourselves letting them go, we find ourselves in a simple state of being.  In that state of being, we are open.  We catch the wisdom of the aether. We take it in and make it a part of us, but then we release it.  We find the spiritual in taking a walk and picking wildflowers.  Before we know what has happened, life has become our ritual and all of the pomp and circumstance becomes added fun.