Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.
This post falls outside of the normal boundaries for my blog, but I decided I wanted to share it nonetheless. I won’t burden you with the details, but I just experienced a three week stretch full of such a varied array of stresses and struggles the like of which compares with the worst I’ve experienced. This is saying quite a bit because I have clear memories back to about 18 months of age. Despite walking in the deep vale near the brink of my personal abyss, I still had to manage the mundane tasks of work, fulfill my ministerial duties as priest, offer counsel as a reader, and more. I have passed through this challenge and have gained insight through the experience. The pearl that was gained and my summary for this set of experiences is:
Compassion and empathy lead to serenity. Selfishness and fear of imperfection are the surest route to sorrow.
I am repeating this to myself everyday and will do so until I no longer feel the need for the reminder.
The technique I used to bring myself out of the deep vale has worked for me before and has proven itself again. I will share it with you with the hope that it is applicable for some of you as well.
I reminded myself of the story of my life. There is an adage in herbalism that the cure often grows near the bane. I look to my life for my own healing. I looked through old photos and listened to music from each decade of my life. I read old letters, poems I’d written, saved emails going back to the 80s. I viewed the significant events, not just the pleasant ones, of my life in my mind’s eye. I breathed and meditated and asked to remember the people who have touched my life whose stories connect to my current struggles and circumstances. I re-read a novel that I loved when I first read it years ago to see what I felt about it now. I dug through my filing cabinet and amongst the memories of organizations and causes I found a tarot trump I’d painted of myself when I was 19. I let myself feel and remember the good, the bad, and the just is what it is. I remembered times when I thought I was right, when I thought I was wrong, times that I was both, and the pointlessness of these distinctions. This took several days, sandwiched between the tasks that could not wait. I gave myself permission to cancel or postpone what I could to free up time for myself. Then came the day that I noticed that the circumstances of the moment looked and felt different. I had regained the long view and with it the long arms needed to carry burdens until they could be set down. Each situation or circumstance that we pass through, regardless of how it turns out, can be transformed from a burden into a stepping stone, or thread in the maze, or bread crumbs. The remembrance of our personal story, which changes as our understanding changes, is the way home to our shining self. For me this process calibrates my sense of scale and relationship so that I can know mountains from mole hills.
Did I ask for Divine help or guidance? Yes, at the very start of the process of recollecting myself and then again at the end to give thanks and to give my insights as an offering. I have found that this process is much like spell work or operative magick. It is best to set the intention, to do the work, to let it fly, and to examine the results. The God/dess/es are not there to hold my hand, they are there to remind me of what matters in the eyes of eternity. It is my job to understand how things play out in the web of relationships that moves in the frame of time. Context is important. There is nothing wrong with using the God/dess/es as a crutch when the only the other option is falling or immobility. However, reliance upon a crutch for comfort rather than function, compounds the troubles. I am grateful for both the support and for the denial of my requests when I am in communication with my God/dess/es.
In my efforts to find what is closest to my personal truth I try to remember that Unity exists as an essential truth, that Separation exists as a physical truth, and all the possibilities that fill the space between them. All emotional responses to life are real, but not all emotional responses are valid or adaptive. Myth, personal or collective can among other things, have the dual significance of higher truth and delusion. Validation only occurs when there is a basis in actuality and that requires the long view and many external perspectives. We live in a social context. The Latin roots for the word context mean to weave (texere) together (con) , and indeed that is just what we do day by day. The Lakota Sioux prayer, “all my relations” is a declaration that we are all one, all family, within the web of life. The various Hermetic principles of magick also speak to the myriad linkages that exist between everything great and small. Together they recognize both Unity and Separation and the paradoxes they generate. To be aware of the world outside myself, I must honor the relationships that exist within myself— all the experiences, feelings, beliefs, and voices that are the threads in the weave of self. Then in ever-broadening circles that include greater degrees of difference (separation), I must work to understand the meaning of these relationships and their stories. To do so requires conscious participation in a web of stories that reaches deeply inwards and stretches outwards to the Divine, and back. Our stories are all unique, are all one, and are all and none within a shifting and often paradoxical truth. May our hearts be whole enough to embrace that fractious and charming thing we call life.
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