Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Forgiveness and Guilt from One Faith to Another

For me spring is about freedom and life.  It's about energy and love.  My honoring the season change involves exercises like fairy joy bubbles, taking lots of photos of seasons' change, watching the progression of flowers' growth and learning something new about local flora and growing, if I wasn't moving yet again shortly I would be halfway through growing some flowers herbs and veges.  I go outside for walks and being grateful and I will be coloring eggs.  These are all my expressions of love and joy and being absolutely thrilled for the spring.  I don't think I can begin to put into words how sacred and joyful spring is. 

Now for Catholics, spring/Easter season (because nothing is supposed to be related to weather) is far more complex.  In my mother's case spring brings up a lot of concerns regarding guilt, forgiveness, and sin.  I suppose it's only natural, she's fasting right now in the lenten season.   She's meant to consider Jesus' sacrafice, and I know that Good Friday, the day Jesus was on the cross, has always been particularly hard for her.

As a child, I can remember being very confused over Good Friday.  My mother always took us out of school, whether we had the day off or not, which fluctuated.  We always colored eggs and baked sweet bread we would wrap around the eggs.  We would always refrain from using technology from the hours of 2-4 because apparently that's when Jesus was on the cross and you should spend time in quiet reflection. 

Everything about the time seemed so muddled to me.  Because this horrible violence is happening to the savior at our hands for our sins, but there's this deep excitement because on Sunday Easter is happening soon.  Without this horrible violence and betrayal there would be no miracle.  It's still very confusing to me, though thankfully no longer as painful.  Wouldn't the deeper miracle have been for the people to recognize Jesus and to save and protect him?  What could he have done with all that power if he didn't have to rise from the dead?  If he came for peace and a better world then how does this violence do anything but perpetuate what is wrong in our world?

It is a pleasure to me to not have to ask those kind of questions or have this worry that there is something deeply wrong with me.  I was horrified by so many aspects of Catholicism and not able to work through it the way other followers seemed.  I felt like I was bad and wrong twice, once for what happened and again for not being on the same page as other Catholics. 

My mom is still Catholic, we inevitably end up discussing guilt and forgiveness.  One thing she said to me that really struck me to core to our discussion was: "To be really and truly sorry and able to repent means that you won't do those actions and more.  So if you repeat the same actions again, it means you weren't really sorry and couldn't really be forgiven in confession."

To me, and I have no doctrine to back it up, we are most sorry for things we can not help.  I feel guilty and sorry that I have so much while others have nothing.  But what's the real solution to that, how do I "not do that again" or make that right?  Do I give up my position of privilege and join other people who are homeless?  How does that help?

I feel awful that two things I value most, my creative ambitions and my relationships with my family clash.  Each suffers from my experience with the other.  When I'm with my family, I think of the writing or the book assembly I could be doing.  When I'm working on my projects, I think about how long it's been since I've spoken to my family, but if I stop and have a word with them, how they will draw me away from the work I'm doing.  I feel torn between the two, and as if I must sacrifice or compromise one for the other.

I often feel morally compromised at my job, unable to give the best advice because it may look like the boss trying to dictate an employees affairs when really all I want to do is give the best advice in the most straight forward way.  To protect my own interests I stay silent, but it's not genuine to who I am or the most I'd like to give people.

I need/want/hope for compassion and understanding regarding these struggles and others like these the most.  Am I going to keep having these struggles?  Of course, the only way I know how to stop these struggles is to stop living.  That doesn't make me feel less sorry about them, or less like there is a sense of wrongness in our society that these are some of the choices and compromises we make. 

I might wish that if I were sorry for it, I'd be able to fix it or stop it, but that's not always my experience.  I think part of why my mother struggles so much is even though that's her doctrine, it's not her experience?  I think that's why each year we have the same hurt sad conversation.

 Beyond that, to me, forgiveness/compassion is a choice that we have to make to ease others and ourselves despite the fact that there may be nothing they can do to ameliorate of make the situation right.   We are all only human individuals, and singularly we can only do so much.  I think meeting people with both compassion and realism is needed to make the world a better place.  We don't have to allow wrong actions or be silent in wrong actions, but we need to see a whole picture of a person along with realistically what we can expect or do.  

 This idea that we can change everything that's wrong in our lives or ourselves is a great tool to critically look at every option we have and all possible solutions and I do think we need to be thorough in our search for self improvement.  On the other side we need to respect where each person may be and that we are imperfect beings in an imperfect world.  We would like not to repeat the same wrongs but sometimes, even when it's avoidable we're going to make the same mistakes.  It's more about what you as a person do next, than the kind of mistake you made to start.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Babies, Families, and Art Creation

My best friend in the entire universe is having a baby in a month.  I am over the moon for her.  My only regret is that we live so far away and I won't be able to see him until the summer.  I love him so much and have so many ideas for what we can do and experience together and he's not even here.Plus we'll be lucky if we see each other twice a year in person. 

My friend isn't pagan but she is feminist, counter culture, highly spiritual, and desperately missing the rituals of her Catholic faith in not the doctrine that goes with it.  I wish I could be there to hug her and throw rituals along side the celebrations for her.  In that stead, I've been consuming with a voracious hunger any information regarding raising children pagan.  Family trads have always been of interest to me, though often on the outer zone because while I love kids, I am not ready to have one and may never be.

I never realized how much we as a group had idea wise for children.  I think there is more diversity of information on how to healthily introduce kids to religion than there is diversity of rituals offered for adults.  Plus the kids rituals have less tools and are more intuitive. Not everything is a gem--I've read through a lot of kids myths and stories that are not my taste (though by no means bad).  Also I've noticed that all main characters in original works seem to be female, which actually is making is hard for me to present the little man to be with an equal gender assortment of books.  Yes I know the world at large is male dominated, but I want the male lead to be as progressive and multidimensional as my female lead.  I have time though, the little baby isn't born yet.  

While I hunt, I've also been piggybacking.  I took two of about.com kids' bedtime prayers and made the into kids picture books using public domain material.  It's got me appreciating the format artist in a way I never knew I should.  I didn't write these works, I didn't break the work up in any fancy way, just pretty much one line of the poem gets it's own page, and I had a software that makes creative layout ridiculously easy.  Still it probably took me about seven hours a book to put these two together (and these are short books only 12 pages including title page, name plate, and ending page). That time doesn't count the hours hunting for the right public domain material to accent the writing. 

It's helped me understand why there aren't more pagan kids books (or adult picture books for that matter) and why we need to support people who are doing this work. 

I'm really proud of the end results though, even the mate, who is not of the artistic bend or pagan or into kids things thinks the first one I did is amazing and the second one is solid.  He quipped that I should have presented them in reverse because then he would have found both books amazing, but I led with the stronger work, so he found the other one much less than it really is.  

It also made me hungry to create more of these little picture books. I'm thinking of creating a house spirit series where a local house spirit helps to explain some concepts that fall under Hir domain.  I've got being a good host, being a good guest, and maybe creating your own house spirit shrine.  I wrote out Being a Good Host, it's going to be 20pages long including title, cover, name plate, end plate and back page.  I've spent days looking through public domain art and I think I finally have enough to really work with creating the book.  I worry that the writing is kind of dry but I guess a lot of those manner-ish books are dependent on good presentation with interesting pictures to help with the potentially less amazing subject matter.  It took me a lot of thesaurus use to find smaller more reasonable words.

So Questions:  Is anyone interested potentially in a copy of these original kids books I'm working on (I can send the writing to you and I can alter some of it so it fits your family and faith better)?  Does anyone have a work they'd like me to adapt to a kids book for them or any ideas on what they'd like to see as a kids read?  Are there any readings or writings already in print of one form or another that you would recommend? 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Pagan Vibe Opting In

I'm going to pagan meetup this morning.  I go every other week when I don't work because part of me really  really needs more community here in the south.  I'm a reflective, nature loving, sensitive, socially liberal woman in an area where as a whole I've noticed the people are kinder but usually less reflective and often wrongly categorized as less smart (even by me when I'm being lazy or when I'm in a fit of temper).  Long story short people here are even less like me than they were up north.  They are kind, they allow me to exist but often just as I'm getting comfortable with a person they start railing against abortion, talking earnestly about creationism, or the new hot button topic to hate Obamacare.  There are conversations I don't want to have, especially not in a "casual" setting where there is literally no way for me to shut these folks when they don't accept "I don't want to talk about that" or "we have to agree to disagree".

So I go to pagan coffee and we sit down and talk about nothing and everything.  Several people their open carry to coffee, they still rail against Obamacare, and their traditions are nothing like mine (last time I went someone even mistakenly said I was an eclectic without any practice--eclectic yes but I practice and experience the divine just fine).  You know what though, in the midst of this online battle of pagans not treating each other like we are all on the same side, these people do teat me well--like I am a welcomed guest.  We don't practice the same, but we already know that and we make space to listen to each other.  We don't have the same values, but we come to the table to express ideas earnestly, and we listen to out opposition as if the other person had a rational thinking mind and was able to come to their own equally responsible decision on a topic, even if we have to agree to disagree. 

That's my version of a pagan unifying theme.  We're a whole bunch of people who you know what honestly don't fit together most of the time.  We may look a like to an outsider (and my group doesn't even do that) but we have depths that divide us as deeply.  It's like ocean, sure we categorize it  all the same but what it's like at the surface vs the bottom is not the same--the sea floor is like it's own world really.

What unifies us is that we decided we wanted community.  We decided we were going to come together and do all the things you have to do to develop community like listen to each other and have genuinely open conversation.  We've decided to build on what we have in common, a love of the outdoors, in our case a sense of environmental responsibility (though I will say it is NOT religious for everyone), and an enjoyment of crafting/art creation. 

If opting in and being a good host is what makes us a pagan community, I can live with that.  It's more than some people have.  But it means that we as a whole do need to listen better to each other and think more before writing in our online community.  There are a million blogs I enjoy reading, but I realized that I don't consider a lot of them contributions to the pagan community and I've seen others that are contributions, even needed criticism that are treated as attacks. We don't have to agree and that's awesome because we aren't going to agree.  We don't have to choose kindness every time, but I would love to see more people stop to think.  As pagans we are only have community if we opt in.  What does opting in mean to you?  And how do you choose to approach someone forging as you are, to create common group and an open welcoming community?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Fairy Joy Bubbles: An Energy Technique with Suggested Uses

It's full on spring time here in the south. The weather is what I know as mild (though many truth southerns tell me its cold and unpredictable ^_^), the sun is out often and the light is returning to the days. Wild flowers are beginning to bloom and our tamed ones are beginning to sprout out. Bird song is waking me early in the morning again. It's lovely, I just hope that if I keep taking my local honey, the allergies won't also be in full force.

I love the spring with such fierce intensity. I love that it's always completely new. I love that spring is about life, light and energy. I love all aspects deeply, it's a season that knows my soul best.

With Spring I thought it was time to re-share an energy raising technique revealed to me called Fairy Joy Bubbles. I've written about this before on an older blog, but never in it's own post.  Further, I feel my writing style and ability to communicate has significantly improved since this older post.  In honor of the Spring I thought it was an appropriate technique to re-share.

I have always been a sensitive person when it comes to feeling and seeing energy. In particular as a child, I was more open to the experience than I am now. I used to often see these glittering circular balls of either pink, lavender, silver, or gold energy around flowers, trees, animals, certain natural places, and happy people. I loved these energy bubbles. They were beautiful to look at and they felt refreshing, energizing, and most importantly ecstatically joyful to be around and to see “pop” and release their energy.

One of my guides of the time took the form of a childerns' book good fairy with butterfly wings and long flowing hair. I don't see her any longer which makes me suspect she was meant only to watch over a certain period of my growth, but at the time we were very close. I called her Areiona.

Areiona explained to me these energies I saw were called fairy joy bubbles. She offered to teach me how to make these joy bubbles. They are still how my energy and expression of this feeling manifests, particularly in the spring.

Areiona's instructions for Fairy Joy Bubbles in regular font with my added thoughts in italic:

  1. For your first tries: sit, stand, or lay in a peaceful area where you will be comfortable and undisturbed. You may need to set the mood first with music or candles or you just may need to sit yourself outside someplace quiet in the sun/shade as is your preference. The important part is that this place and position feel relaxed, peaceful, and safe.

    I am at a point now where I can skip this step. Most places and positions are ones where I can perform this exercise, but each person has his or her own level of challenge and is in different places in his or her own spiritual journey. Please use your own discretion.

  2. Close your eyes and listen to your breathing. Take some moments to first listen to your own body and how you feel today. Take all the time you need to notice your feelings and aches and release those that are negative as best as you can. Some people do this through contemplation, others through meditation, and others through releasing or offering these aspects to their guides or their interpretation of the divine. Please use the technique here that fits your tradition.

    Personally, I take a body/emotion inventory in the morning when I wake up and I try to update it as the day goes on. There's an impersonal tally running in the back of my mind where it's more quiet that I go to through short meditation. I find it's easy to slip into this quiet place because I know it's always there in me, but that took years of creation and daily maintenance for me to achieve. If I am in no duress I can often reach where I need to be through saying a few gratitudes or focusing on one part of my life that makes me feel deeply fulfilled. I can reach where I need to be by placing my hands over my heart and/or power chakra and breathing deeply a few moments as well. If I am in pain or struggling with deep emotions often I need to sit and do a long through meditative process. This can take a good forty minutes or more. 
  3. Pull out a memory of pure joy. This can be a true moment such as a happy memory, or a relationship that lights you up. This can be a moment from a book or imagination that left you with a depth of joy, excitement, or inspiration. This can even be as simple as a reflection on a sunset you enjoyed, a flower, or some other quick flash. Focus on the feeling these thoughts evoke intensely. Notice how your energetic field feels and shifts with these thoughts. Let this feeling fill you up to the point where you are brimming and overflowing with this energy and feeling. Some people may choose to actually overflow with this energy and create a large pool or other shape surrounding them with this energy that immerses the person. This energy surrounding you can be used as a barrier to keep out unwanted energy or it can be viewed as a more powerful energy that reaches out and transforms other natural forces around you or it could be an energy that hums and matches the natural charge of the place yo are in. The experience is going to be different because people and places are different. You are now generating the energy you should to create your own joy bubbles. 

  4. Allow this energy and feeling that is flooding your body to pour out of you so it may have it's own separate life. Some people may need physical gestures for this, which I recommend visualizing this energy you're humming with to slowing collect at your shoulder area, from there all the energy to flow down your arms and through you hands. Use your hands to shape the energy into a sphere or any other creation you may be inspired to make. Size of the shape and density will vary, please use your own intuition on this creation.

    Other people will be able to imaging their spheres or shapes manifesting outside of his or her body without going through the physical motions. He or she may make as many bubbles as they want at at time in as many sizes, shapes, and density as desired. He or she may wish for his or her bubbles to begin existence somewhere farther from his or her own being. It's a more complex mediation to do this but possible (it is also possible to send more tactile made bubble to others, which we will walk through).

  5. When you are done shaping your bubble release it. I like to hold my hands up to my face and blow the bubble out of my hands or toss the bubble up into the air and allow it to float by me. I also wipe my hands one over the other to cut connection with energy and to let any residual energy on my palms flow back into me and the earth through my connected state. If you want more than one bubble, keep repeating this process until you have enough. If you want to send this energy to someone else, now is the time to imagine it floating out to them. Otherwise sit back to observe your bubble. 

  6. Watch the glitter and sparkle as it hangs in the air. Look into the pure sense of joy, creation, and peace you've made in the world. Given time the bubble will hang in the air and eventually pop, as all bubbles must. It will release a cascade of that lovely blissful energy down on whatever it is around. This can be very healing for people and it's also a great way to reclaim spaces that may have negative emotional connections This is a good simple way to introduce children and loved ones to energy work, that leaves everyone feeling happy and energized. Or this can be an exercise meant to hone your ability to focus and prolong your meditative state.

Some Suggestions I have in How to Use this Technique:

-Of course how I experienced and got this style of energy work makes me think of spring and summer celebrations as the perfect place to use this energy. I like to pair these energy bubbles with real soap bubbles to create a joyful, youthful experience of celebration and happiness in these seasons. I also like to release them when I'm in parks or at outdoor picnics, and other areas this time of year based off of how I feel called.

-I offer these bubble up to my house spirits and protectors when I am cleaning the home or thanking them with offerings. In this case I like to make hundreds of little bubbles that shoot from me like a bubble machine, cascade around and pop as they will. I feel like I'm making an indoor fire work display for them.

-I am occasionally moved to send these bubbles out distances to help heal or uplift other people. If I think all they need is a jump start of a little positive nudge, these bubbles are the right tool. They are almost always present in deeper healings along with other energy flows and techniques because underneath all the other work, we are looking for that moment in joy. Having a bunch of little moments of joy while healing helps motivate us to keep moving forward.

-I also use this bubble to help transform unreasonable fears and anxiety. This level of work though is very delicate and emotional. It's important you feel up to it, and have several techniques ready based off of how an individual responds to your energetic technique. Using the joy bubbles as self healing is also possible, though it took me a long time to hold energy to create the bubbles in the same space I found something upsetting. I think being able to balance the two like that helped provide as much healing as the bubbles themselves did.

-I think these joy bubbles are great for children. They naturally have that bubbly happiness and wonder. It's a great outdoor activity to put the meditation into kid speak and use the props of actual bubble wands, soap bubbles and maybe an appropriately themed bubble machine to create a little magic and a memorable happy afternoon. They really get in to the whole concept. Especially if you add flower garlands, wands and fairy wings!

I hope this techinque may be useful to some and I hope everyone in the Northern Hemisphere is welcoming and loving the Spring in his or her own way!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Gratitude: A Spiritual and Mental Health Practice

Something I would uniformly recommend to anyone whose looking for positive transformation in their life is to practice gratitude more frequently.  It's a bold, probably over reaching statement but I'm going to break down how I use gratitude and how others could use it as a helpful tool, whether or not they incorporated it  as part of a spiritual practice. 

For me gratitude is in part a spiritual practice.  Beyond identifying things that are going well in my life that I'm pleased about, it's about thanking a higher power for those moments and acknowledging their presence in my life.   Not all of my gratitude work involves the divine, but I do tie a lot of my work back into my faith. 

For those of us who spiritually practice gratitude as part of our conversation with our Gods(esses) and Guides, we usually have a daily practice that includes giving thanks.  My personally gratitude practice happens twice daily.  I start in the morning as I prepare for work and settle my dog.  It's part of how I start my morning dialogue with the divine.  I don't always have time to light candles, make offerings, say long prayers, or even do a simple tarot reading--though I often tell myself I should get up earlier to make myself available to do these things.  I always have time for a quiet good morning, I feel healthy, the dog seems well, it's beautiful outside (maybe), I'm running on time to work, thank you.  Exactly what I say varies based on what's true, but that's fairly standard format.  

The end of the day has more ceremony.  I can make offerings and light candles.  I can speak directly to individuals.  I'm trying to get back into tarot and meditation, though that is hit and miss depending on my mental level, the dog's needs and the mate's needs of me that day.  I often have more concrete things that happened to me during the day to talk about either in joy that they happened or as an opportunity for me to continue my work.  

I don't think there is a god or human being who wouldn't benefit or appreciate five minutes in the morning and five in the evening talking about what was a win for them (even if it's just enjoying the weather or a silly text).  

That's a huge aspect of practice for me.  Working gratitude doesn't have to be something big.  It doesn't have to be something I've earned.  It doesn't have to be something meant just for me.  It doesn't even have to be a change from one day to another.  I have been grateful for and mentioned in some way my dog, my family, and my mate pretty much every single day, usually more than once a day and I'm never less grateful or sincere in my utter joy to have them as part of my life.

The practice of gratitude is very informal, which makes it accessible to all people at all times.  You don't have to write it down or even speak it out loud.  There is no wrong time to start working gratitude.  There is literally no religious practice I know of that frowns on acknowledging things that helped make today special.

Beyond my spiritual practice, I use the formal written version of gratitude as an excellent  "interupter".  Am I hyper focusing on a bad moment and fixating on one wrong thing?  Time to sit down pull out my small portable notebook with colorful pen and write down at least three things I'm glad for today.

Did someone's offhand comment or text start spiraling me into a land of upset and hurt?  Again time to re-direct my emotions from that one element into something going well. This isn't me trying to run from every confrontation, but instead it's me trying to get myself in a mental space where I can describe without hurt of offense what upset me to others. It's been a very useful tool for me, and I think it could do the same for others.

Have I caught myself eating a bunch of terrible junk food or craving that extra coffee, then its time to stop and write three things I'm happy about.  One of those three things is always that no matter when in process I caught myself, even if it's right after I indulged and there's nothing I can do to take back those empty calories, I'm grateful I noticed because I can't correct a problem I don't notice. 

My practice with gratitude has further opened my natural empathy.  Instead of leaving me hurt and drained through understanding where another is coming from, as it once did, the experiences energize me and help me to see dispassionately what I can do to help or when there is nothing I can do but listen.  I feel less powerless in these encounters and I feel less guilty about any potential privilege I have that has allowed me to escape or navigate around the situations these people are in.

More than any mediation to create a barrier for a sensitive person, or any "I am" affirmation.  Just taking a moment to acknowledge good things has helped stabilize me and make me more able to constructively work with others.  I think part of it was me coming from a place of mental strength, but part of it is seeing how others are not always coming from an authentic natural center for themselves.  When people are in pain or under pressure, they do not always make healthy choices for themselves or those around them.  We do have some control on how they impact us in part by controling how we respond.  I think my gratitude has helped me know better how to respond to others in crisis. 

My gratitude has helped solidify what I value in my own mind.  I was surprised by some of what I found, and joyful at the gradual organic process which led me here.  Things that have hurt me a lot in life include relationships with my family, and it was a huge surprise to me to realize that part of why they hurt me so deeply was because these relationships are something I am deeply grateful for, but also something I am not truly authentic within.  The dissonance between my value and my ability to present 100% of who I am within the relationship is the source of strife.  This is why I have shown preference to chosen relationships with people I carefully vetted before accepting and showing all of myself before vs family relationships that I value as greatly but am less able to predict.

I was surprised to learn how linked my guilt and gratitude are.  The same things that make me feel good about myself and comfortable in the way I live also make me feel guilty that others don't have something they would value this way.  I do live with a certain level of privilege in my life.  Most people do, as this worlds isn't about what we earned or deserved but about a lot of fickle circumstances beyond any individual's control. I hadn't been aware of how bad I felt to have good things, which is something I'm working through still.

 I think within the capitalist system and  in the US in particular guilt and want is a tool used to manipulate people.  There is always something more you need to be complete.  You could always be doing better and if you don't want more or better you should feel bad.  See if you have enough, you need to feel bad because others don't have enough, which forces us into a mentality of needing more just so we don't have to feel bad about feeling satisfied.

  This culture is toxic.  To combat it, we need (or at least I need) to start sending our own messages of joy, completeness, and the idea that what we have has worth beyond being a stepping stone to something more. Ideally I think gratitude could be best when we come together as a group to be thankful for aspects of our life and to support others gratitude for what they have.  This next step though is something I lack community for at the moment, but think there would be power to be leveraged in such a gathering.

This doesn't mean that we need to stop working for better in our lives and the lives around us. It just means we don't have to be mindlessly chased from one project to another.  We should be glad for at least some part of where we are and we should do our best to rejoice in the journey.  After all we are alive and we are in a position to grow and seek more that makes us happy, what a wonderful place to start a journey in gratitude.