Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Immortal

"In an infinite period of time, all things happen to all men.... If we postulate an infinite period of time, with infinite circumstances and changes, the impossible thing is not to compose the Odyssey, at least once."

- Jorge Luis Borges

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

So many birthdays; and, ritual protocol

What a splendid, busy weekend I had. Adonis celebrates his birthday tomorrow, and in our family, since we’re Pagan, we live in alignment with a natural force called “happy birthday, it’s my birthday!” As one’s birthday draws nigh, one can express any whim and one’s partner must happily comply. Proximity to the birthday increases the force. For example, last Wednesday evening Adonis asked for something - I forget what - and said, “happy birthday, it’s my birthday?” Though I felt the pull of the birthday, it was still a week away, and the force wasn’t yet strong enough. I didn’t comply with his wish to see Spiderman 3, or eat fried food, or rub his feet, or whatever it was. (Generally, however, I’m more than happy to comply with the latter two requests, birthday or no.)

But on Friday, during an email exchange about which movies to see over the weekend, the force of the birthday had clearly grown, and I could no longer resist. Luckily for me, the movie he wanted to see on Friday was “Waitress,” which we both enjoyed. (Captain Malcolm Reynolds was adorable.) But on Sunday, the movie was “Pirates.” Adonis loves summer blockbusters, no matter how awful; I don’t. Still, it’s surprising how much you can enjoy a movie when you go willingly and for your beloved. That, combined with the mercy of low expectations and Johnny Depp, made for another happy movie outing.

We also spent lots of time with Lugh, slept in, went to the farmers' market, managed some house cleaning, read, blogged, and attended social events Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Finally, and to my relief, I finished a piece of art I’ve been working on for my nephew, in time for his first birthday this week. (We travel for his birthday party this weekend.)

Sunday’s social event was a birthday party for a friend, a Witch, and there was a somewhat impromptu ritual in her honor. She has a much higher tolerance for fluffernutters than I do; I sat in ritual going slightly mad (silently chanting “try to keep an open mind, try to keep an open mind”). The woman priestessing did a fine job. She’s an acquaintance and someone I see only on occasion. While relatively new to the Craft – within the last five years or so - she’s had excellent training at Diana’s Grove, and has become by all appearances a happy, grounded, and skillful Witch.

But despite her suggestion, as the circle began, that those who call the directions do so in the spirit of acknowledgment ("the elements are always present") rather than invitation or invocation ("welcome, spirits of the East," etc.), some of the volunteers used the same old potted language. It wasn’t quite “all hail the guardians of the watchtower of the East,” but it was close enough. Uninspired, in other words.

Then there was the guy who was all “merry meet and merry part,” but who put his plastic cup of wine of the hostess’s altar, and when gently informed that he’d done so, decided he’d wanted the wine to be blessed – all without the hostess’s permission! I have a hard time being in circle with people who won’t meet my gaze, or people who talk while the priestess is talking. But the main issue, really, is that I felt powerless to do anything but sit there and seethe. I’d love to hear from you about more empowered ways to deal with this kind of situation; I’m sure most of you have been there!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Heima (Othila) and Essais

Two of my favorite Pagan bloggers haven't been blogging nearly enough for my taste, but yesterday brings a post from each of them. Sonja writes about her spiritual growth and the year she's spent in Alberta; one line in particular resonates with me:

Perhaps willpower is the arrogance of the ego and now the natural strength of the soul takes over and provides a truer voice.

Jenavira explains that she's writing posts but not posting them to her blog (thus depriving her readers of her interesting ideas, I'd like to point out). She's been creating complicated symbols for magic:

I bought Christopher Penczak's City Magick and was inspired with the genius idea to create sigils out of the sudoku puzzles I do on the bus, via a complicated numerology system involving ogam and fractions.

Both young women, both interesting minds. I hope they don't stop blogging!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A balanced life

Found in an old Yoga Journal (Issue 189, August 2005), from an article by Sally Kempton called "Seeing is Believing":

In the Indian tradition, life is said to have four aims - wealth, pleasure, ethical conduct or goodness, and enlightenment - and they are meant to be held in balance. What would your life be like if you were to cultivate each of these areas equally?

Wealth: Resources that sustain your life: skills, education, job, money, housing, food, clothing

Pleasure: Every form of healthy enjoyment - sports, sex, theater, literature, music, art, and practicing your own form of creative expression

Ethical conduct: Earning a living honestly, taking care of responsibilities, acting morally and according to your highest values, helping others

Enlightenment: Realizing your deepest nature, recognizing the oneness of everything, pursuing practices such as yoga, meditation, and spiritual study to make this possible

Friday, May 25, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award

I'm flattered and pleased as punch to be nominated for a Thinking Blogger Award by both Joanna Colbert of Gaian Tarot Artist's Journal and Sojourner of A Pagan Sojourn. I'm such a fangirl to both these women! And now I get to nominate five bloggers who make me think. I present to you, in no special order,

1. The Right Reverend Sara Sutterfield Winn, who can be found preaching the good news at Pagan Godspell,
2. Authoress Dianne Sylvan, who invokes the Mysteries at Dancing Down the Moon,
3. Green mystic Molly, who has me believing in angels and elementals, at Molly's Blog,
4. Angela-Eloise at Blogickal, sensible and full of wonder (her most recent bit of magic has been to inspire me to clean my apartment),
5. and Pagan journalist extraordinaire, Jason Pitzl-Waters of the Wild Hunt Blog.

If you've been tagged, here's how you play:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think;
2. List to this post at The Thinking Blog so that people can find the exact origin of the meme;
3. Optional: Proudly diplay the 'Thinking Blogger Award'.

Cogitate away!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The stories we tell about ourselves

This interesting article from the New York Times notes a correlation between how people feel and behave and the stories they tell about themselves.

Those with mood problems have many good memories, but these scenes are usually tainted by some dark detail. The pride of college graduation is spoiled when a friend makes a cutting remark. The wedding party was wonderful until the best man collapsed from drink. A note of disappointment seems to close each narrative phrase.

By contrast, so-called generative adults — those who score highly on tests measuring civic-mindedness, and who are likely to be energetic and involved — tend to see many of the events in their life in the reverse order, as linked by themes of redemption. They flunked sixth grade but met a wonderful counselor and made honor roll in seventh. They were laid low by divorce, only to meet a wonderful new partner. Often, too, they say they felt singled out from very early in life — protected, even as others nearby suffered.

This makes me wonder if a positive form of cognitive therapy could be to "rewrite" the stories we tell ourselves, making ourselves the heroes instead of the victims. I can imagine a therapist, peer counselor, or friend gently pointing out the "notes of disappointment" in a story being told and suggesting ways to change the narrative.

The stories we tell about the kind of person we are - our character - matter, too.

Those former patients who scored highest on measures of well-being — who had recovered, by standard measures — told very similar tales about their experiences. They described their problem, whether depression or an eating disorder, as coming on suddenly, as if out of nowhere. They characterized their difficulty as if it were an outside enemy, often giving it a name (the black dog, the walk of shame). And eventually they conquered it.

“The story is one of victorious battle: ‘I ended therapy because I could overcome this on my own,’ ” Mr. Adler said. Those in the study who scored lower on measures of psychological well-being were more likely to see their moods and behavior problems as a part of their own character, rather than as a villain to be defeated. To them, therapy was part of a continuing adaptation, not a decisive battle.

Of course, it's not as simple as "thinking makes it so." (I don't really understand the Law of Attraction, but I know that that's not so simple either, The Secret notwithstanding.) If anything, the retelling works more like an affirmation; repeat it often enough, and you can cognitively "rewire," training the mind to move in a different groove. Retelling may also be a gradual process, where each iteration of the story alters slightly from the one before, taking on a more positive cast. Ritual and magick could also be powerful tools to aid in retelling.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

New look

I'm having fun playing with the template upgrades - I was getting sick of all that green. But the "simplified" html coding (using widgets) is causing me headaches. I can't figure out how to put a link to my email in the sidebar, or how to restore the sidebar link to my occult library page. (The latter is just a link internal to the blog, to an older post.) It used to be as simple as pasting a line of code into the "edit html" box. Now I don't know what to do, and Blogger help is no help. Help?

Monday, May 21, 2007

It's a mystery

On June 9, I graduate from the mystery school. I spent this past weekend assisting the 1st-year class. In the fall, I begin a year that culminates in ordination; the central project for the year will be to apprentice as a healer. Even a year ago, I wouldn't have believed it was possible. But my sense of what's possible is now so much larger.

When I began the program 30 months ago, I could never have predicted the ways I'd change. I have so much more compassion for myself and others. I trust faculties in myself whose very existence I would've denied. I'm happier. I know myself better. I judge myself less. My spiritual and emotional intelligences have blossomed. I've embraced my spirituality and begun to share it freely with others. My connections with others have deepened. I take more responsibility for myself. I'm freer and more at peace.

Before when I've graduated - from high school, college, and graduate school - I felt like I earned my degrees through sheer hard work, endurance and/or perseverance. I felt like I'd battled my way to the end and was able to rest, weary but victorious. This graduation is different. There was hard work, commitment, tenacity, and perseverance, yes - but it was a commitment to myself in the truest sense, guided by teachers and colleagues who care deeply for my healing. Nothing about the work hurt me or required me to betray myself. Indeed, the only requirement was to show up and be as true to myself as I could manage.

I don't feel battleworn. I feel exuberant.

Between graduation and the beginning of my fourth year, there is one more initiation. In July, I'm traveling with my classmates and teacher for three weeks ... in Turkey!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Beltane blessings

Beltane blessings to you all this week, whether you celebrate on the traditional May 1 or the more solarly accurate (this year) May 5. Me, I've declared this week the week of Beltane. The May full moon (sun in Taurus, Moon in Scorpio) is also the Buddhist lunar holiday Wesak, the serendipitous date on which the Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and died.

This year, I feel strongly that Beltane is a holiday about the body. Of course it's a sex holiday. And it's the time of year, where I live, when we can finally remove a few layers of clothing and stretch our limbs to the sun. I find that I want to be outside more and move more. All of a sudden there are more dogs and people walking through the neighborhood. I'm seeing folks again on the streets whom I literally haven't seen since last fall.

But while we Wiccans pride ourselves in honoring our bodies, for me that's often a nice abstract principle rather than a real practice. Being present in the body means both being present in the now and accepting what we find here without judgment. I've been experiencing a lot of emotional turbulence lately, and while my mind can whip me into a frenzy of fear and loathing, it's my body that I can rely on to tell me the truth about how I'm feeling. Yet I strongly resist taking time to be still and listen.

I recently read Dancing in the Dharma, Sandy Boucher's lovely book about her teacher, Ruth Denison. Ruth teaches an innovative form of Buddhist practice that emphasizes awareness of and reverence for the body. (I picture her as the Martha Graham of Buddhism.) Ruth also has a gift for working with people who are seriously mentally ill. She brings them to her home and meditation center in the California desert and gives them manual work - literally, work to do with their hands. She has observed that coming back to the body is the first step in regaining mental health and a measure of equilibrium. When I'm struggling with depression, as I have been recently, the first things to attend to are getting enough sleep, eating enough nutritious food, and exercising every day. Also, getting outside, into nature, and being with my dog. In other words, getting out of my head and into my body.

The pleasures of embodiment are many. Of course, there is also suffering, but that is only part of life. Wicca, more than most other contemporary religions, teaches pleasure in our bodies for its own sake. This is what is holy: our animal bodies and their mother, the earth. Happy Beltane.