Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Exploring Lost - 20/20 Hindsight

In starting this process of exploring lost and figuring it all out I have to say this has been a long process. I actually started on it months ago and it has been an indepth and intensive process. Much of the work has been internal and has involved a lot of questioning, crying, journalling, bitching to anybody who was kind enough to listen and lost of late nights eating ice cream and staring into space. Now that I am coming out the other side of it I think I can give a few humble suggestions about how to be lost.

First and foremost, you will be scared. It's a fucking terrifying bag of suck being spiritually lost! And you know what, it's ok to be afraid, it's ok to sit with a pint of Ice Cream, while sitting on the sofa, swearing up a blue streak as you try and sort it all out. It's ok to feel the confusion, and the heartbreak that goes with it all. Your emotions are a healthy thing, and what's more they are yours. If you find being lost makes you feel exhilarated and free that's great! If it makes you want to curl up in a little ball and sob your guts out that's great to! It's ok to feel whatever the hell you are feeling, just don't let yourself get stuck. It’s ok to mourn that which was lost but don’t let it become the chain you strangle yourself with. At the end of the day you will have to decide that you want to get your ass off the couch and start engaging with the world again, only you can do that.

Second, you are going to be tempted to cling harder to the religious structures that gave you comfort before. Go ahead; there is nothing wrong with giving something a good hard second look. Maybe you will find something you missed that will help you find your way back. If so, wohhooooooooo!!! That’s awesome. And if you don’t, that’s ok too. It is ok to let it go, to take a step back from it all while you sort things out for yourself. If you belong to a coven it’s ok to request a leave while you get your feet under you, or to stop attending churches, temples, synagogues etc. It’s also ok to keep going while you work on it in your heart and mind. Truth be told there is no right or wrong way to be lost, well except going crazy and killing people, that’s wrong.

Likewise it is ok to set aside the labels you attach to yourself for a while (third point). For part of my journey I was not comfortable calling myself Pagan or Witch because I was lost and unsure of where my next step would take me. So I let go of the labels for a while. I set them aside as I walked forwards. I eventually picked them back up again but you don’t have to. It’s also totally ok to let go of an unhealthy ideal image, especially one that causes you more harm than good. There is nothing wrong with having goals to strive for, it’s not a good idea to have a next to impossible goal and then beat the shit out of yourself when you cannot reach it.

Fourth: there is no shame in being lost. I had a huge helping of self imposed guilt on my plate about being lost, about how it meant I was a terrible person, pagan and witch. I didn’t want anybody to know for the longest time, it was a dirty secret I kept. But you know what, I got over that, I realized that being lost was a sign of growth. I had grown within the previous traditions I had been in and then my growth took me outside of them. Some people will continue to grow within those traditions and I am excited for them! I just wasn’t one of them, and you know what, that’s ok.

Fifth: there is nothing wrong with taking the time to explore outside your tradition. I spent a lot of time reading what people of other faiths had to say, both clergy and the layperson. I found some things that turned me away, but I found a lot more inspiration and beauty in their words. I found ideas they offered for others to try (some were epic failures and others gave me new perspectives). I found things I had not considered and I lost a lot of the prejudices I had been allowing to fester in my spirit. I found that we are far more alike than we are different, that we are all linked, that we are still one. No matter the God, no matter the prayer, no matter the trappings of the religion, we are still one. We are all walking miracles and a unique expression of the universe.

And finally the most important thing I discovered with this journey is the value of being myself. I took the time I needed to go through this journey. I decided what voices I needed to listen to, and those I needed to ignore. I learned that sometimes it’s ok to listen to the advice of others, and other times to tell them to fuck off (or at least mentally do so). Take your time to go through your journey, thank those who add value to the journey and tell those that would hinder you or outright stop you to stop, and if they don’t tell them to fuck off. You can follow advice if you want or you can take another road.

At the end of the day finding the right expression for your soul is your journey. Relationships you make with the divine are your own. It’s up to you and the divine to decide how that relationship will work, or it’s up to you to decide that there is no divine. The only right choice, is your choice. I hope you find nothing but love and support along the way, and if you don't, tell them to blow you and move on.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Getting Unlost - Foundations

So the mission of the day is to do I build something of beauty and reverence without becoming an arrogant asshole... Fuck. How do I do that?

Having never built a spiritual system for myself, or for anyone else for that matter, had me feeling lost all over again.  I mean I certainly did not want to create a meaningless piece of fluff that will linger for a millennia as a stinking piece of shit in the collective garble that is the internet (or the pile of notebooks around the house).  I also have no interest in creating something that is going to amass a pile of brainless sheep… I mean followers. I want to create something that is intensely personal, something I can connect to that will help my soul sing. But again where do I start!?! Not to mention the fact that it is an utterly terrifying endeavor. It would be baring my soul in a way I have never done and taking full responsibility for everything I believed in, and in a manner I have never done before. It seems like such a crushing task that had me wanting to run away and forget the whole damn thing.

Enter a wonderful Druid who’s writing I admire: John Beckett. I was browsing through his excellent blog on Patheos when I stumbled across this post he wrote:

I devoured this marvelous gem of wisdom. I even printed it off and numbered each of the questions he had listed and began to examine each one carefully before thoughtfully answering each one for myself in my journal.  I’m not going to lie; some of those questions were damn hard to answer.

Some of the questions I could answer right away where as others I had to sit down and really throw the idea around in my mind a couple hundred times to bore down to what my heart was telling me. There were other questions that forced me to face a few things about myself that I had conveniently been ignoring for a bit too long. For example I know a huge part of the reason I first came to paganism was running away from some hurts caused by organized religion in the past. I’m also rather guilty of #3 at times, being a bit of an A type personality and at times it has caused unnecessary heartaches, headaches and attacks of uncalled for bitchiness.

Granted there were some things that I wasn’t totally in agreement with. I have tried more than once to throw myself into a religious practice and for more than a year for them. I find the structure to be stifling to my spirit, however I do appreciate the lessons that these structures have offered. I also recognize that when I first started out I needed the structure to orient myself and begin the process of learning about what different religions have to offer. However, at the end of the day I believe that the conversation between your soul and the divine is an intensely private one and while religion helps build community, the communion of the soul is nobody’s fucking business.

So as I sat down and pondered the list, responding to the questions, re-thinking them and re-responding to them I came to some important realizations about the core of what I value. LIFE. I value life, in all its shapes and forms, in all its glory and all its horrors. I believe that every life matters and is something that is worthy of respect. I believe that every life matters, from myself, to a dog, to a tree to a deer to an insect (although I very begrudgingly accept wasps and mosquitos… from a distance). I believe every life is a unique piece of the universe.

At the same time, I also understand that in order to exist, life must feed on life. The cow eats the grass, I eat the cow, upon my death bacteria and insects will eat me, which will feed the grass to feed the cow again. The taking of any life, plant or animal, should be done with an understanding and reverence and not needlessly. And we as an animal species are not exempt from this. My family serves in the military, and I know I have family members who have taken a human life to preserve the lives of others. So I understand at times the ending of a life is needed, but not something that should be handled lightly (in the case of my family the bear the scars of their service in their hearts to this day).

I’m nowhere close to figuring it all out, I have miles to go as I sort out where the jumble in my mind fits on this windy path I am weaving. But at least I feel as if I have good boots on my feet and a lamp to light the way. I’m still a little afraid of the road ahead as I blaze this new trail but to quote John Wayne: “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” Time to saddle up.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Exploring Lost - Now to get Unlost

Ok first of all is unlost even a word... spell check says no. Fuck it, it's a word now, at least for the duration of this post.. Anywho...I have decided after taking the time to explore being lost, letting myself feel these feelings and exploring my options that I think I am rather done with being lost and am ready to get unlost. In reviewing all my options I believe the best one for me personally is the last one... the other! What an exciting and terrifying path I am embarking on!

To be honest the other one that had warranted some very serious consideration on my part was to pick another religion and go with it. It was the less terrifying of the options and to be honest it got me this far. I wondered if perhaps I just wasn’t doing it right, maybe I hadn’t tried hard enough or missed an essential aspect. I reviewed a lot of my notes and101 books while I considered this option but felt restless in my spirit. My heart felt heavy. It was like trying on beautiful dress, one that left you gasping at how perfect it was, and then putting it on and realizing you look like a fat Basset Hound in a sparkly sausage casing.

Now I know that there is no such thing as a perfect religion, everything is flawed. Mainly because everyone is flawed, and they take all their flaws with them into everything they do, including religion. Religion can never be perfect because we are never perfect. Religion is a formula; follow steps ABC to get result 123. For some people this formula works beautifully, others not so much. The formulas themselves follow the norms and morals of the religion, which in turn is a reflection of the culture that the religion is in. The religion influences the culture, the culture influences the religion.

At the end of the day, however, religion is a creation of people. Somebody (or a group of somebodies) had to invent the religion. The idea for the religion came from either a study of the human condition, study of the natural world or interpretation of dreams or visions. Eventually these ideas become codified, the rituals are repeated until voila: a religion is born. This religion will be shaped by the people, the geography and contact with other cultures. It may evolve and carry forward or it may slowly linger and eventually die off. It is ever changing and evolving. Don’t believe me, look at the progression of Christianity: from Catholic to Progressive, or in the Abrahamic Faiths: from Judaism to Islam.

While many of these faiths have the same roots they differ vastly in what they believe and how they practice it. Even within the larger faith groups there are disagreements and new factions rising daily; look at all the different Pagan groups, or Christian Groups or Jewish groups. I mean if they can’t get their shit together and agree then what hope does a pain in the ass unruly Celtic Redneck have?!?

So I am beginning to believe that the way out of being lost for me is to not move into a prefabricated religion and instead focus on building a spiritual home for myself. Maybe I need to build my relationship with the divine again from the ground up. The thought that is hounding me now is not that I am lost, but that I have no idea how or even where to start. I have always had a structure and experts to guide me. I have had priests, nuns, pastors, priestesses and highly regarded authors to help me on the way. I have had bibles, holy texts and books of shadows to light the way. How do I become my own light? How do I become my own guide? How do I build something of beauty and reverence without becoming an arrogant asshole?