Pagan Pages: The Primal Challenge

Hey guys –

So I’ve been reading a lot into the primal lifestyle (see the last post, and probably posts all the way back to September, for hints and what not).  It’s been a pretty logical progression for me.  First, I started off this year learning how to cook a little better.  More specifically, I’ve been trying new recipes and perfecting techniques since August and/or September.  Some of my experiments have been delicious, others, lacking.

During that, I stumbled onto the Mason Jar madness… making little gift jars and stuff.  During that period, I found some really cool “meals in jars” ideas that led me to preparing and packaging food a little better to prevent waste.

That brought me to buying a small vacuum sealer, to help me seal my jars and keep my food fresh, longer.

Which led me to wondering what sort of meals I could put in these jars.

Which led me to “primal” and “paleo,” both lifestyles I’ve browsed extensively on the internet, but have never tried.  The basic idea is to focus on consuming meat and veggies over grains and processed foods.

The difference between “paleo” and “primal” is that paleo denies dairy products, whereas primal does not.

The reasons I want to try the Primal lifestyle are simple.  One, I want to learn how to cook delicious, delicious meat.  Every time.  Part of the problem when I cook is that I screw up the meat, and then the entire meal is kinda… blah.  I want to eat meals that are easy and reliably delicious.

Two, I want to spend less on processed foods at the grocery store.  I bought a SodaStream on clearance, and that helped, some, but only for soda cans.  Most often, I end up tossing out sandwich meat, leftover pizza, or leftover mediocre meat.

Three, I’ve heard that in some people, the primal and/or paleo lifestyles help them figure out their migraine triggers and alleviate stress.  I don’t think that primal and/or paleo will cure my migraines, but it might help me get them under control if whatever I put in my mouth, I cook.  Obviously there will be times where I want to / have to go out or eat during social functions, and that’s fine.  But I want to guarantee that by the end of 2013, most of what I make, in my kitchen, is hands down delicious.

Four, I’ve unfortunately gained some weight in the past two years, with my breakup and some other life changes.  Whereas before, I was teetering on the “not THAT fat” range, I feel like I’ve exceeded it and I could be performing better, physically, in other areas of my life, like in my field work and in my soccer playing.  I want to emphasize that I am not focused on the weight loss aspect of this: it just may be an added benefit.  It may also be that I maintain my weight, but my body composition changes.

So this is my primary blogging place.  I am not turning this into a food blog!  But you may see me posting more recipes and primal oriented ideas.

To recap, I am trying to eat “Primal” food because I want to better my cooking skills, I want to save money on groceries, I want to see how it will affect my migraines, and I want to improve my physical condition.

I’ll be putting a “page” up (one of the links in the header) to connect all of my food articles together.  Stay tuned!

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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?

The Importance of Thought In Conflict

So, I’m not a stranger to the social networking applications. For the most part, I use facebook, and the other day, I started a very long, semi-heated discussion with a conservative person from elementary school, about the United States and it’s new President. I wouldn’t have – I don’t like those arguments – but it really pisses me off when people make sweeping statements. “All pagans are crazies.” I don’t remember what his particular statement was, and I’m too lazy to look back, but it was something that irked me, and so I responded.

No, I don’t think our government’s intervention in GM is going to destroy us. What bugged me was that I knew he wasn’t seeing the simple idea of minimizing damage. He was standing on his high horse, and refusing to recognize the fact that what our federal government was trying to do was minimize damage.

The only reason the issue is close to me is because of what Kodak did to my city in the 1990s. Maybe early 2000s. Kodak, based in Rochester, NY, closed the majority of its factories, cutting tons of jobs, screwing people out of their retirements. Three close friends had fathers who lost jobs. None of them have really recovered. Hell, the city hasn’t recovered.

Imagine if GM went out? That’s not just one city. That’s…hundreds of cities in the United States. Full of skilled workers who are so specialized that they’re actually fucked if they try to find another job that pays as well.

And our conversation evolved from GM all the way to global warming, with routes through healthcare and education.

But the point is that both sides of the argument have the danger of falling into the Always-Never categories. And that sort of brash assumption is first of all, a weakness in your argument, and second, prevents open communication. If you’re going to sit there and tell me that we’re NEVER going to remove the domination of oil companies, so why bother trying – then what is the point of me continuing the discussion? You’ve made up your mind.

And when I call you out on it, I’m sure you feel embarrassed. For me, as a 21 year old (he’s the same age) – I find it ridiculous that he’s already lost the hope for change.

How can he look at me and say, “Things are never going to change?” What kind of generation is that?

And so, I request readers, please, be careful what you say. Don’t try to push your point so hard that you begin to look like a fool. Acknowledge your ignorance. Allow exceptions. The world is not black and white. It is this beautiful shade of gray.

Some Days, You Need To Mope

We all have our rough spots in life, and we all have those moments where all we want to do, to put it eloquently, is to crawl into a dark corner and hide from the world. No religion or spirituality can stop those feelings from at least creeping up on us occasionally.

The important thing to do when that sort of depression hits though, is to not feel guilty over that sort of feeling, because its a common human being thing.  It might be chemical or environmental, or it may be entirely psychological in nature, but regardless, you aren’t alone.

So, when one of those days creeps up on you, or a loved one, accept it.  Talk about it – with someone else, if its you; or with the person its happening to, and then just let it run its course.

Forcing yourself to be sunny and cheery will just result in a bigger crash.  Letting your mind calm down, untangle and work itself out – that’s the best solution, at least in my opinion.

But don’t let it take over your life.  If you take your twenty four hours of hiding from the world, and it isn’t enough – you do need to emerge from your shell and live your life.  Sometimes, time is the best healer.

Why do you think this problem seems to be rampant – depression, etc – in our day and age?  I have a theory.  Too much input.  With the computers and the television and the radio and the high stress jobs/school and for younger versions of adults, buses and for adults, keeping up on all our various sitcoms and bills and the practical and theoretical and the fun and the family and god knows what else.  Too much input.  On an average night hanging out with my friends, we will watch youtube, play video games, watch a movie, drive around with an iPod dictating our music – there’s never any stop for my senses, which have to experience the general temperature and humidity, as well as varying sounds, a blinking and flashing lights from videogames or movies…

If we lived simpler lives, we wouldn’t have this problem, I think.  But we can’t live simpler lives – easily – in the United States.  You can use me as an example – for work, I manage two main websites right now, am programming one of them as-we-speak; i’ve got plans going for 3-4 other website design projects.  On the freelance side, I’m doing freelance video reviews, articles for one place, exclusive content for another, blogging here(for no pay), blogging on another(for pay), I run the Order…And I also at least try to maintain the house(in the summer) while my parents are at work – I’m combating my two dogs and two cats who need constant attention, my male family members who are constantly around the house(one of which does not even live here)…

Granted, I may just be an overachiever, but many, many people live the same way – juggling a million things at once because they have to or because they can.  And it does wear on us.

I recognize that today is Lammas/Lughnasadh, and this post is both seemingly endless and without a point.  But paganism can’t get any more practical than this:  Know when to take a break.

We close ourselves off from the Gods in our rush to be constantly doing so damn much.  Open yourself up today, and hear their message.

And that, is the best advice I can give ;-).

Fundie(s) of the Week Award

The award goes to the Birmingham City Council, whose internet filter blocks atheist, witchcraft, occult, and pagan sites but allows christian, hindu, muslim and jewish sites.

I’m not really sure what to say about that.  I guess I’m not even that pissed – I’m just laughing.  Why?  Because why in the name of any god you choose would you enable your employees to look at religious websites in the first place?  Even within Christianity there is such debate.  Isn’t that just…dumb?

And it seems like the fault lies more with the software that they have cited – Bluecoat Software – than the City Council itself.  My guess is that the Bluecoat Software comes with certain generic settings that allow, encourage and enable people to be discriminatory.  If the software company would stop considering

“witchcraft or Satanism” and “occult practices, atheistic views, voodoo rituals or any other form of mysticism” and Wicca

As something bad, maybe the rest of the world would get a clue.  If anything, my anger is directed there.  Indeed, a quick look at Bluecoat’s “K9” line shows that they use sixty categories of “Bad/Good” Delineation.

They have Religion.  And then, of course, even grouped up inside with the categories “Abortion” “Pornography” and “Violence/Hate/Racism” is, Alternative Spirituality / Occult.

Well guys, now that my morning has thoroughly pissed me off – here is their “contact us” page.  Let them know how you feel about being discriminated against for your religion – which is, by the way, legally declared a religion in the United States for quite a few years.  We have all of the rights that Christians do.  Let’s use them.

My letter:

Dear BlueCoat:

I will not be recommending your product to anyone.  It is unfair and discriminatory for you to place a valid and recognized religion according to the United States government – Wicca – into a category which is grouped with categories like Abortion, Pornography, and Racism.  Perhaps you should allow yourselves to research a little before relying on Fundamentalist Christian Views to dictate what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad.’

It is software companies like yourselves that enable discrimination and hate which all of the Wiccan and Pagan community have been fighting against for many, many years.  You should be ashamed of yourselves for this action, which, although not blatantly obvious, provides the suggestion that Wicca and other earth based, legally recognized religions, are in some way, shape or form harmful to the greater society.

Blessed Be, all!

Cleansing the Body

Cleansing the body is as much a mental and psychological – and spiritual – thing as it is something physical.  Cleansing the body, in this instance, is something more than just taking a shower.  It is taking into account the recognition that much of what we put into our bodies, and what we expose them to, is “impure” or “unclean”.  In many cases, these impure or unclean substances are created by society.

Many people have differing ideas of unclean.  For some of us, a cleansing may be as simple as using only stuff that is “primary” – has only gone through a few steps before it reaches us.  Things like fruit and vegetables, as well as simple bread, or other grain products which we could/have made ourselves.  People tend to think of mixed substances – cookies, cakes, hot dogs – as impure or polluting of our bodies.

Is this leftover from the Jewish standards?  Or is it simply our subconscious recognition of the idea that not all of what society does is good?

In any case, we are faced with a problem.  How do we cleanse the body?  What do we have to consider?

  • Is this a “for-good” cleansing?  A permanent lifestyle change?  A specific defense against current circumstances?  Or is it something that is going to need to be repeated either on a schedule or by how we feel?  If it will need to be repeated – can we create a smaller event for maintanence?
  • How much time can this cleansing take?  How busy is your life?  Is this a fifteen minute cleansing?  Or a week long one?
  • What do we consider necessary for this cleansing?  Diet?  Hygiene?  Emotional Connections?  Personal psyche?  Pain?  Meditation and contemplation?  Deprivation of senses or material goods?
  • How effective do we want this cleansing to be?  Is it simply for the body, or for the mind and spirit as well?
  • What restrictions will be on us during the cleansing period?  No talking?  Fasting or limited eating?

A very simple cleansing ritual that would last all day, and weave in and out of every day activities is one that I most often use.

When I wake, I shower.  During my shower I pray and meditate for peace and strength and wisdom.

When I dress, I dress simply – nothing in my clothing that is representative of a mood.

When I eat – if I eat – I choose foods that are simple – fruit, fruit juice, milk, water, toast, vegetables, etc.  I stay away from large meals and fast or prepackaged ones.

Before I eat – if I eat – I offer a prayer as a way to make myself conscious of my actions.

When I have free time at night, I will pray and meditate once more.  I sleep naked or with little clothes on, to represent my natural state. (And to be truly free, you will be skyclad in all your rites)…

I do not practice a maintanence rite, but if there was one that I would like to pick up, it would definitely be ritualized hand or foot washing before entering my own room or the ritual room(if I had a ritual room).

What do YOU do for your cleansings?

A Little Bit Of Crazy

I know I’m a little late on this particular post, but to be honest I couldn’t think of anything to write, and I did not wake up until 12:30 this afternoon after going to bed at 3am.  Not the healthiest of lifestyle choices, but sometimes, especially with such a non-structured schedule, it works.

Anyway, I keep hearing the same themes from my friends and family in reference to my cycling habits.  The words “crazy” and “insane” come up quite often, and although I know they aren’t too serious, after a while it does jab a tiny little place in my heart called “submerged feelings of inadequacy” which we all, to some degree, possess.

I spent much of my younger years trying to “fit in”, which was rather difficult, given that I was sort of steered along into skipping two grades in math and one in foreign language, rendering my middle school years a disaster.  I spent more time in the library of our school, waiting until a period for a different grade started or ended, than I ever should have.  I loved my school career, but I never fit in with my friends, at least academically.  At best, I was closest to the six people that were in the same boat as I – in a class of 300 – academically.

When I hit high school, it got a little bit better, despite not sharing a whole hell of a lot of classes with my peers.  Granted, I took the AP Calculus exam in eleventh grade and was basically in college my senior year, but I always had my eyes towards college where I could start fresh.

Then, I got to college and basically, the same thing happened.  Too far ahead (31 credits – I went in as a sophomore) and I eventually gave up on being normal, as I tend to attract strange and be an overachiever in my own fashion.  The problem(or great thing) is that I get urges.  And when I get an urge to do something, I do it.

The urge from 15 on was, “bike along the erie canal across new york state.”  And since I did that last year(and again this year) my newest urge has been, “bicycle across the country, from washington to maine.”  It alternates with, “bicycle ride across every state.”

And so, it’s been decided.  Two years from now, I will bicycle across the country.  The questions now are,

  • Will it have a purpose other than my spiritual fulfillment?
  • Will anyone be accompanying me?
  • what will I be bringing with me?
  • What route will I take?
  • How long will it take?

The first and the second are the most important, in my opinion.  Should I be supporting a cause?  It I support a cause, will that take away from my own spiritual fulfillment and experience as I am looking everywhere with one purpose: to get money for (cause here).

Anyway, my entire social circle is rather upset right now, because they can’t seem to understand why I would want to spend more than $100 on a bicycle.  I’m looking at purchasing a road bike, for better speed and better quality.  My bike is a little better than a mountain bike, a hybrid from Raleigh a few years ago – the c200.  But I want to take my hobby to the next step.

Is something crazy only when your social circle doesn’t agree with your choice?

They all know that I’m pagan, not-Christian, etc.  My parents have settled with, “It’s a religion and she’s happy” and claim blissful ignorance over any details.  Were my religion to come up in a conversation between them and others, I’m sure their response would rate somewhere along, “Oh, she’s into that nature stuff…” or something along those lines.

My friends accept my religion too, but some of them do refer to me by the various names – nature girl, crazy pagan, you/that witch, etc.

And so, my seemingly meaningless post comes to a round-a-bout end: religious tolerance.

It’s not always about the big legal battles.  Sometimes, it’s about the little things too.