Finding Autonomy, Parts 1-3 (WALK)

WALK.

 

I. BEGINNINGS

(1) In the beginning, there was nothing. Not a single atom, nor a god, nor a sun, a moon, a cell. Nothing was infinitesimally packaged into this universe. Nothing was this universe.

(5) Then came a day when there was something. Nothing exploded into matter and still expands to this day. And although the universe stretches far beyond human imagination, the universe is not our current concern.

(8) All solutions must first have a problem. I do not wax omniscient about your problems, but instead offer the solution. I have found this solution works for all problems, because problems are never first physical.

(11) Sensations turn to perceptions turn to problems. And it is here, in perceptions, that we find the source of all problems. And here, in these words, I offer you the solution to your perceptions.

(14) Walk. If you cannot walk, move in some direction by your own decision. If you cannot move of your own free will, then imagine a walk, a perpetual, decisive motion. And it is here, in this walking temple, that you will find the answers to your problems.

 

II. WORRIES

(1) Your perceptions are the source of all problems. Those who do not think, do not worry. Much of human life is worry. And although other beings are not as cognizant, they too, worry. Without worry, there would be no survival.

(5) Worry must not rule your heart and mind. Deep inside, we all recognize our autonomy. Though we are ruled by law and order, none can rule our minds but us. Chains on our feet are not chains on our hearts.

(9) Worry has its place, but its place is not at your head or in your heart. Worry is your counselor, not your master. Remember your autonomy. Control your movement. Be one with your physical body, and your mind will quiet.

(14) Walk. And while you walk, challenge your heart to know itself in the deepest way. Do not love unwilling, do not know with a blind faith. Control your worry, and you will have peace.

 

III. FINDING SELF

(1) All hide in familiarity. Be it a song or smile or route, we find solace in the perceived fallacy of sameness. Yet, everything we see changes, and everything we hear will never be heard again. Although the message stays the same, the delivery will change, and our perception of its meaning will rise anew each time.

(5) To remember the wisdom of “Walk.” is opportunity to learn your lessons anew. To bring to heart new meanings and discoveries and decisions. To find your way through the darkness and into your light.

(8) Take this opportunity in the morning and in the night. In the high sun and in total darkness. Shod and unshod, clothed and naked, stand before yourself and inquire with an unfettered mind. What makes you? What makes me? What makes the universe?

(14) Walk. And while you walk, open your heart to all things. Challenge your atheism and your faith alike. Emerge from the fire as a new being each day.

Early Morning Reflections

I woke up this morning because  my cat kept jumping on me and I couldn’t take it anymore.  You see, she likes things on a schedule and we feed her every morning between 5 and 7.  It was right around seven and so I crawled out of bed to feed her and I saw these dark shadows on the floor. They happened to be dog poop.

There’s an important lesson to be had here, and the lesson is that sometimes, you wake up to find that a dog has literally shit on your floor and your morning.  Now, luckily for me, I own a dog, so all in all, it wasn’t too out of the question to find some shit on the floor.

And in the end, yes. The shit is irritating.  Annoying.  But it’s not necessarily an inherent bad or evil thing.  In the end, it’s just poop.

I guess my point is that we often spend a lot of time being angry at things like dog shit that just happen.  There’s nothing you can do about them, yet you find yourself seething at the gods and universe for the shit on your floor.

Shit happens. Don’t blame the the universe. Just move on.

Invocations of Dionysus and Athena

Great Dionysus, 
Keeper of wine and fruit and merriment
I call upon you, great god of mystery
To join us in our celebration
And bring us down your wisdom, joy, and love
So mote it be.

Lady Athena, 
You who burst forth from your father’s skull
Mother of weaving and wisdom and war
I call to you now and invite you into our circle
And ask for the gift of your loving knowledge
So mote it be.

When God Talks Back (A Review)

I’ve been reading the book, When God Talks Back by TM Luhrmann as of late. I’m not all the way through it, but what I’ve read is interesting. And fascinating.

The author spends a lot of time with evangelical Christians to study how they pray and communicate with God.  What she finds is very similar to the relationships with the sacred described by other spiritual traditions.  Through active prayer and meditation, these people enhance their mental imagery and feel a sense of peace and love and joy come over them, and sometimes experience (hallucinate) god as being real in physical form.

It reminds me of my conversion moment.  I was a child, drifting to sleep, but still awake, when all of a sudden, I was overcome. I felt like I was being hugged by the best invisible force in the world. I was warm and cuddly and the happiest I had ever been.  And I understood that sensation as the sacred power of the universe come to greet me. 

Regardless of what you believe, those “conversion moments” can be powerful and drive you towards a blind faith.  I would offer the following advice: 

You can explore your mind, create a social connection with yourself, and still have divine experiences without attributing it to anything but your brain’s awesome power.  That being said, gods and goddesses and even Jesus are a powerful construct designed to help your brain get there.  So, if a part of you believes, let it go wild. Maybe you’ll feel as though you can “see the words [of prayer] written on their faces” or hear God’s voice behind you. As long as God isn’t telling you to hurt someone, you go on with your fine self!

 

Minors and Witchcraft

I don’t know about you, but I was 12 when I found Wicca. I had grown up with my nose in fantasy books and history books and pretty much every other book you can imagine.  Oh, the horror! Right?

Well, I imagine that many a pagan found their way to the path in a similar fashion. I grew up talking to the wind like it was god, finding solace in singing sad country songs into the night, a little offering to the world.

The sad truth is that there are predators in the pagan world.  I know, because I spent 8 years “under the tutelage” of one. He taught me that homosexuality was unnatural because male and female need to be in balance with each other.  He taught me that anytime a woman was close to a man, it would end in sex, and so, as a woman, I should keep my distance from others.  He taught me that I was weak and nothing that I did would ever make me  a master of my own craft.

I loved him like he was my soulmate. And he used me until I was a dried up husk of faith and he left me and my broken heart alone on the side of the road.

I’m sure that I’m far from the last young person to experience this sort of abuse at the hands of a pagan priest(ess).  Whether it’s sexual, emotional, or maybe just a little too crazy (there are things AFTER YOU let me PROTECT you!!), or some other sort of abuse; we adults have an obligation to protect the young children that join our path.

This is a friendly reminder to you all. Treat minors carefully.  Send them to BOOKS or large ORGANIZATIONS, not PEOPLE — unless you know and trust the person.  Don’t give them access to forums or websites you use for communication with other adults — especially if you know of one person that you wouldn’t want a child exposed to.  Someone that might take advantage.  Treat them like you would your own child.

We have an obligation to keep our seekers safe. Our religion is one of peace, and wisdom, and happiness.  Let’s make sure we show our best side to the most vulnerable, most impressionable generations.

 

The Gym: Depressing or Uplifting?

Whenever I think about going to the gym, a negative voice starts creeping into my head.  It says to me, “You’re so fat” and “You’re going to hurt yourself” and “You know you won’t come back.”  You wouldn’t believe what my awful brain cooks up.  It’s all, “Look at yourself in the mirror” and “Look at how awful your clothes fit” and “You’re on par with her” (Yes, my awful brain even judges other people at the gym when I’m there.  It looks at the gym attendants and goes, “Wow, he must be laughing at you inside when you go to ask him about gym classes” and “I bet he’s watching your fat jiggle.”  Then, when I’m doing weights, my brain goes on and on, telling me about what a weak person I am, and how I used to be able to lift so much more.  When I’m on a treadmill, I’m not working hard enough.  Remember how fast I used to be able to go?  And by the time I come home, I’m so exhausted from this inner battle that I take a bath or shower and just want to sleep.

I tell you all of these personal thoughts to pose a question: Does this happen to you?  Or is this just a side-effect of my “migraine brain?”  I know that there are severe, uncontrollable mood swings with my migraines.  For gods’ sake, I’ve cried about wrapping presents because of migraines.  If I were a man, I would be laughed out of society.  Thankfully, I’m a woman, so apparently, emotional outbursts are mildly acceptable.  Although I usually contain them well and leave my tears for pillows and hot showers.

Everyone (e.g., the internet) says that the gym should be an uplifting place.  We go to the gym to better ourselves!  Not me.  I go to the gym to beat myself up.  Then I spend the next day in a “gym hangover” because I went a little too hard and now I need to take it easy.

My mom loves the gym.  She was never “fat” pre-gym, but she really toned up and lost weight when she started going.  She’s probably about 6 pants sizes smaller than me.  She can just hop on a treadmill or elliptical and go for half an hour.  She switches gyms all the time, but her activity/participation remains constant.

I need more mental stimulation.  Like classes.  Which brings us to the question, “Why did I sign up for a gym if I hate it so much?”  The answer is that I was under the impression that this gym, new at the time, would be offering lots of classes, soon.  It’s been a year and a half, and they have two: Zumba, and some weird toning class.  Both aimed towards middle age females. I hate dancing.  I hate things like pilates only slightly less.  I DO like Yoga, but Yoga isn’t offered at my $30-a-month-for-3-years gym.

Do you think, like I do, that maybe the reason people have an on-again off-again relationship with the gym is because they feel like I do?  For me, the gym is a place where dreams go to die.  I’ll keep using it, because I have to, or lose my money… but man, I wish it didn’t stress me out and cause me the sort of internal grief that it does.

An Exercise in Faith

I often find myself astounded by depth of literature out there that is available to Wiccans wishing to expand from their introductory books and move on to deeper, more interesting mysteries.  I’m writing this as I sit next two five books in the local academic library:

I wrote these out and linked to them so I could find them later, and if you’re interested, you can too.

Anyway, for a while now, I’ve tried to develop an idea for a book that could come out of the work I’ve done on this blog.  Given my search ratings on certain articles, I have a feeling that much of what I’ve said over the years has been useful to the internet community at large (correct me if I’m wrong!).  Given my mixed background of solitary, coven, and family traditional practice, I think I’ve seen the gamut of some of the more common Wiccan practices.  I want to help people extend their religious experience beyond what is traditionally offered to solitary practitioners.  Of course, nothing I write in a book will ever capture that feeling that you get when you’re surrounded by fellow coveners, raising power.  But for those who aren’t in situations allowing them to interact with others publically, I don’t want them to be left in the dark, you know?

I’m rambling.  That’s the problem with this idea that I have, its sometimes just too big for my brain to handle.  So yesterday, overwhelmed and unsure where to start, I prayed.  And what I got back from the Universe and my inner thoughts was this barrage of questions.  Well, one question.  Repeated over and over and over.

What is your purpose?

The Universe was yelling at me, I was yelling at me.  What is your purpose?  Why are you standing at my door without a purpose?  How can I help you if you don’t have a purpose?  What is your question?  What is your answer?

A short digression, but I promise to get back to the point at hand and finish the story.  So, you know how I’ve been writing all month?  A couple of hints and tips and tricks have helped me along the way.  I’m going to real quickly introduce you to them.  The first is the concept of writing to an audience.  Then revising for a different audience.  And again.  And again.  And you do it five or six times, and suddenly, because you’re lazy, you’ve developed a document which is good for a mixed audience.  The second is the concept of showing and not telling.  Of choosing your words to demonstrate instead of ponder.  I’m not sure how useful this is for the topic at hand, but I’m including it anyway.  We’ll see where this takes me.  And, the third is to write without editing.  You can edit later.  Write first, edit later.  Because if you haven’t written anything, you don’t have anything to edit.

So I have these three pieces of writing advice and a question slamming into me like a tidal wave.  What is your purpose?

And I start to delve into my many collected documents (my “Book of Shadows” is my house.  Scraps of paper and stuff.  One binder can’t hold it all… I’m sure many experienced Wiccans are in the same boat as me) and a few things catch my eye.  First, the Charge:

And thou who thinkest to seek for Me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not, unless thou knowest the Mystery: that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.

Second, degree requirements for High Priestess-ship in the Ring of Sacred Fire tradition (my original coven):

Explain the impact you plan to have on the world, and how you will leave your legacy.

Third, many, many documents which outline explorations into the Wheel of the Year, Tarot, types of magic, types of ritual, and many other things.

And I realize that for now, my purpose seems to be to consolidate what I have learned so far into a manual which outlines the hybrid tradition that I practice and use.  To not only lay out what I have done, but also, set out guidelines for managed inspiration and exploration through what I call “reflective questioning.”

So that’s why I’m in the library today.  I was browsing our archives and found an astonishing number of scholarly books which discuss Wicca in an historical context, and not only Wicca, but also magic and esoterism as a whole.  Now, as far as the “book draft” goes, I’m definitely not “to” these topics yet, but these books are fascinating and I wanted to share.

Another good one, which I own but have not finished or examined in many years, is Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon, which is a scholarly discussion of the origins of Wicca.

Here’s the best part of my revelation over the last few days, and the reason for this post’s title.  I’m writing this book, yes, but I’m using it as an exercise in faith.  I know that this version, this first draft, will not be “publishable” by any means, but I’m using it as a challenge to myself: What are my beliefs and how did I come by them?

I know I always start projects and never update you guys again about how they’re going, so, I’m not going to promise anything to you.  I’ve got about ten drafts of this same concept lying around my computers’ harddrives from the last 6 years or so, and so, something has to come out of it eventually, right?  You may get snippets from time to time.

Oh.  One last thing, based on that infamous “If you put it online its yours” idea that we have floating around that has no basis whatsoever.  I decided that the working title of this tradition that I’m trying to describe is going to be called the “Western Winds” tradition.  There are two main reasons for this, first, that winds from the west bring us closer to our ancestors, and ancestors formulate a large portion of my beliefs; and second, that I have always been affiliated with air and wind, and you can see it tattooed on my body: I’ve got a redtail hawk and a flying pig on my right ankle and left shoulder, respectively.

So I guess the point of this blog post was to call dibs on the new name.  Sort of a roundabout way to do it, but hey.  You can’t do everything straight 🙂

Have a beautiful Tuesday!

Lynn

Samhain Promises

So, as I wrote a few days ago, I had cast a circle a few days before Samhain, and a sacred space on Samhain morning.  In both of those, I spoke to the Gods and explained how I was feeling and why; and asked for help, and advice, and strength.  I received this mantra, to be repeated at will, from my pleas:

I am safe, and warm, and comfortable.
Everything will be alright.

Friday, I mildly sprained my ankle.  Today, I awoke with a sore throat, my period (which, on birth control, is annoyingly unexpected), and in general, had a rough morning at work.  I left early to clean myself up, took a nap.  Woke up feeling a bit better, but overall, not really.

And so obviously, I didn’t want to cook.  I went out to McDonalds and I got myself and the bf some food.  In the process of the food getting, I got myself a Sprite – caffeine free soda.  I believe I mentioned it, but I quit caffeine about a week ago.

I get home, get out of my car, and boom! Goes the soda.

I guess the gods don’t want me drinking ANY soda.  Meanies.

Anyway, I think the moral of the story is to be careful of what you wish for, because sometimes, it doesn’t turn out how you plan.  Yeah, that’s right.  I’m blaming the gods (not faulty McDonald’s cups) for my soda-spill.  I drank water with my dinner instead.

The Spiritual Meaning of Butterflies

Ever have a butterfly flit across your path as you take a walk in the late morning?  What did it make you think of, with its little wings buoying it up into the air time and time again?  Was it flying with purpose, racing down the road to the next patch of flowers?  Butterflies can teach us a lot on a spiritual level, and given that I’ve been a nearly-professional butterfly watcher, I’m going to share some of my insights.

A black swallowtail larvae munches on some parsley in a garden

A black swallowtail larvae munches on some parsley in a garden, mimicking bird poop with its black body and white stripes.

First, butterflies can teach us that life isn’t always about being an adult.  In most cases for butterflies and moths, the adult stage is the shortest lived life stage they have.  Butterflies tend to spend longer as egg, caterpillar and/or pupa than they do as adults.  We can apply this idea to our own lives and make the life stage that we’re in now, the most important one.

Second, and along these lines, butterflies have two main strategies for dealing with the world around them: They either make themselves obnoxiously visible, in often gorgeous colors, or, in stark contrast, ridiculously hard to find.  Though some of these more obnoxious color schemes mimic more poisonous organisms, or indicate that they are, themselves, poisonous, the fact remains that more visible creatures have a higher chance of being picked off by some unsuspecting predator.

The ones that blend in, they play it smart, but at what cost?  It certainly may make mates harder to find.  But drab-colored moths and butterflies with bright eye spots may frighten away potential predators.  We can apply this duality within ourselves – which part of yourself do you want to camouflage?  Which part do you want to show to the world?  Putting on a brave face, like those butterflies with bright colors, may be a good strategy… but sometimes, you should probably just go ahead and fade into the background.  Have you dreamed of butterflies?  What colors are they?

Butterflies are also, for us, symbols of getting a fresh start.  Although adult butterflies may retain some memories of their caterpillar experiences, emerging as an adult butterfly is an iconic way to get a fresh start.  If you want to wipe clean your slate, you may want to visualize pupating, shedding all that is wrong with you, and then emerging as an adult butterfly, fresh faced and ready to return to the world.

Wiccan Scientists

I did a google search today.  As some of you may know, although hopefully, many do not know the details, I am in the field of science (macroscopic biology).  This career keeps me very busy, but it also puts me in a place of awkwardness that is hard to reconcile with my job.

For example, although my religion was not an issue in hiring, that was at this job.  The next job I take, perhaps as my religion comes out in personal interactions, there will be lashback.  Or more importantly, it will leak onto my career.  A missed promotion.  Whispers around the coffee table, etc.  That sort of… murky, undecipherable place between personal and job.  And nothing can get you marginalized in science faster than throwing around words like “magic” in a serious tone of voice.

Of course, this sort of discrimination is silly, especially towards me.  I’ll be the first to tell someone – anyone, in fact, that both prayer and magic are ways for humans to better cope with their lives – to reach a subconscious state, to meditate.  We all know the (scientifically proven) benefits of meditation!

So back to my google search.  I googled “Wicca and Science” and I got pretty much… nothing.  No league of Wiccan scientists.  There are, of course, groups for religious (mostly Christian) scientists, but they’re often fraught with “I love Jesus” terminology that makes us neo-pagans very, very uncomfortable.

And come to think of it, I don’t know a single other neopagan/wiccan etc etc scientist.  I really, really don’t.  I know a few Christians.  Lots of agnostics and atheists.  No pagans.

Consider this a call to a coven.  If you’re a wiccan scientist, you let me know.  Contact me via the comments and instead of publishing it, I’ll email you and we can talk.  Wouldn’t that be fun?  To know you’re not alone?