Posts Tagged connection

Combined Healing

Good morning, lovely readers. It’s been the longest ever pause between posts… due to 2016. I’m sure few of you are surprised. It’s been a tough year for most of us.

I’m not going into details of my trials here (if you want information on that, it’s over on my Patreon page, as it’s somewhat more private). But what I’m wanting to do moving forward is to reboot this blog, talking about Druidry yes, but on a more regular basis.

On this particular Monday, I’m considering – as always – the connection between what is called ‘spiritual’ and what is called ‘everyday life’. And how the two really are connected, whether we like it or not.

I’ve been in a lot of physical and mental pain recently, which regular society suggests I handle via medication. My Doctor is great, as is my local pharmacy (hurrah for small village shops!), but ultimately it’s about pills to cure your ills.

This is fine, and I don’t want to disparage anything that works. However… I am questioning how much that is true.

Painkillers certainly work, and help hugely when I’m suffering from, say, a migraine last night. But they didn’t quite do the trick.

I was desperate. So I tried everything my frazzled brain could think of. The brain-pain was ultimately beaten back using a combination of forces: Ibuprofen for pain, tea and water for hydration and consolation… and ‘alternative’ remedies. Interestingly, it’s only when I started to apply these that change began to be tangibly felt.

I have a fabulous temple balm from Luna Levitas, ‘Witch Potion Headache Relief’. That’s her style, but in real terms it’s aromatherapy: peppermint, eucalyptus and bergamot, amongst other things. Entirely vegan and a pleasure to inhale and apply.

Also I love the term ‘temple balm’. Yes, it’s the temples on your head, so you’re essentially stroking your brain back to health. But it also makes me think of religious temples, peaceful and quiet, the scent of the balm mixing with the spirit of a magical place… definitely therapeutic.

Then I remembered a sari scarf acquired from Wrapunzel (I’ve been exploring ritual head-wrapping recently, but more on that in another post). So a deep purple wrap was gently tied around my aching noggin, and I rested myself back and closed my eyes…

In a short while, the pain began to ease. Not just the physical pain, but the mental tension beneath it. I began to breathe more freely again, feeling the flow of everything combining in my intention to heal myself.

This is a huge part of what I’ve been going through in recent months. NHS medication (which has never really worked) has given way to proper talking therapy. Self-care has become necessary – whatever works, from rest to exercise, engrossing stories (movies and books) to meditation or journeying.

By combining the spiritual with the ‘mundane’ (which really isn’t!), my mind, body and spirit are coming together to do what needs to be done.

Opening my laptop this morning to write has also been a huge challenge. The pain has made creativity so difficult, which in turn makes my mood plummet – writing is what I do, and not having done that has also been painful! So here I am. Again, setting intention, for both myself and sharing with those who are interested.

My work is about inspiration and connection. I’m reforging those skills as life turns into a new phase – I really do feel that’s what 2016 is pushing us to do. We step up, learn and move forward. But through growing knowledge of who we are, what we’re doing, and seeing that we do it for ourselves in order to step ‘outside’ and honestly connect with others.

I’m still here. That’s a blessing. As is the healing. I’ll be continuing to explore, and look forward to seeing what I find as the journey moves forward.

Much love, my friends. Happy Monday x

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Outside

When people ask me what Paganism is, I always start with a baseline. Because (let’s face it) Paganism is hard to define in a soundbite. Any spiritual path is, due to inherent complexities of belief, subjective individual perspectives… stuff most people aren’t really interested in.

Interestingly, I was also asked years ago to help explain Christianity to a lovely couple of Muslim co-workers at a temp job. My friendly manager jumped in, and we ended up using a whiteboard to illustrate. The Muslims then did likewise – and it was both fun and pretty enlightening, as you try to explain something that’s by its nature pretty amorphous.

But anyway. Paganism, I tell people, is seeing the sacred in Nature. Baseline, as best I can determine. Do any Pagans not believe this? I haven’t met them yet, if so. And I’m not sure why they would call themselves Pagans, because this kind of is the foundation of the definition.

Then come the differences. What is ‘sacred’, what is ‘natural’, how do we view this, how do we practise… it’s tricky, but it’s also interesting, to me, because this is where we can explore. Why we do what we do, but also why others do it in their own particular manner. Not saying anyone’s wrong, just poking a bit to challenge and understand.

Lately, I’ve been considering the meanings behind words we use to describe spiritual connection (specifically, how they’re often misused – or is that just the word-meaning evolving? A topic for another day). And I realized how so many of our ‘modern’ ideas are almost binary: right/wrong, us/them,  black/white… Science/Nature.

Not to go into too much detail, as it’s all out there if you want to look it up, but the idea of Science VERSUS Nature seems to have come about during the Industrial Revolution. In order to understand the world better, thinkers, scientists and engineers decided to use a mechanical model. This meant that complex forms could be understood by looking at their component parts, with a view to potentially tinkering with those to help or enhance, to find answers to Why Things Are the way they are.

So came the idea of physical versus meta-physical. What is empirically real – provable by Science – as opposed to what is not.

But the answers failed to be found, as each discovery simply posed more questions. Shades of me and my whiteboard and pen, trying to define a religion within finite space and with a language that didn’t quite help.

And again… I don’t think this is a bad thing. But I can see the frustrations when the ideas of the world don’t fit into neat little boxes. We’re reminded we can’t know everything… but we can still connect with it. We have to, in fact, or we die.

We see the sacred in Nature. And not just see. We use every one of our senses – and more besides. We seek that connection… and when we get a taste/touch/glimpse of it, we realize how indefinable, immense and complex it is.

But that is ok. That’s one of the first steps on this journey.

Here’s a task for you today. Pagan or not, it doesn’t matter – if you’ve got this far, I’ll assume you’re still interested.

Step outside. Take a few minutes. Do it. No excuses. If you absolutely can’t (and I’m speaking to my lovely readers who may not be physically able here, not just those who are confined to office cubicles), then get to an open window. Trust me.

Feel the Outside, with every one of those senses. The air on your face, perhaps rain or breeze. Birds singing, people talking, dogs barking, vehicles, phones, music. The ground beneath your feet.

How does it all feel? Close your eyes if it’s safe to do so, and reach out a little. If folk give you funny looks, don’t panic – you won’t see them.

Now. Notice your thoughts. How’s your brain dealing with all of this? Feeling stupid? Looking at the time, at the commitments you have to get back to, worrying about things to do… just catch that internal monologue in the act. Tell it you’re Outside. Remind it that you’re Pagan. You’re Doing a Thing. Shut up. All of that noise can wait.

Then notice the world again. Go deeper. You’ve put aside the mundane concerns, you’re having a spiritual moment within the everyday. This is your own small ritual. Reach down, reach out… connect.

Because that binary reality isn’t an accurate depiction of life, not really. It’s a way that people chose to help them understand, and that’s fine – as a model.Not the Ultimate Truth.

You touch the natural world while hearing and feeling the human-made – concrete underfoot, tiny computer in your pocket, machined clothes, make-up, processed food.

As you stand outside, your brain may want to go back in. This isn’t right, people will think you’re weird, there’s stuff to be getting on with! Or perhaps… as they look, seeing someone who has simply stopped, pausing to breathe… they might be envious? How many have the courage to ask you what you’re up to? How many more would want to join you? Would they be able to let themselves? Just smile.

The difference between Outside and Inside is a closed portal – a door or a window. You have the power to move through it (doesn’t that sound magical, just by thinking in those terms?). Civilization creeps outside, while the natural world effortlessly sits inside: earth, air, water, fire…

If you are Pagan, seeing the sacred all around, you can step outside to better connect. But you then take that with you as you move forward with your day. As your senses have opened, your awareness has been reminded of what is there all the time, just waiting to be seen, acknowledged, appreciated. It’s all combined, part of life. City or country, wild or tame, sacred or profane… we engage through taking the time to witness it, to be part of it. Any time, any place. We should not be afraid to do this. It’s not about ‘finding time’.

And it’s up to us what we do with that, ultimately. I’ve tried to turn a huge and almost indefinable feeling into words here, to convey my thoughts and understanding. We can let it inspire us, channelling through our own personal creativity in whatever way suits us best – prose, poetry, art, music, computer code, pottery or Lego… we use the technology (as I use this laptop right now) to pin down feelings, just for a moment. There’s that model again, something that allows our human brains to come to terms with cosmic reality.

We can’t see air, but it’s there and we use it. We may not understand electricity, but it we know how to harness it. I’ve always known in my heart that flying in a huge, heavy metal box above the clouds is a very particular form of magic that I’ll never comprehend, but I’ve done it.

And so I know that feeling the particular energy of the night-time is not strange. Joy at a sunrise, the primal pleasure of a fire in my hearth… or the warmth of a nourishing drink in my hands, sharing laughter with friends or witnessing someone else’s tale on screen or page. Our ancestors have done every one of these, using whatever technology they had. We reconnect with the world and we reconnect with our selves, our families, friends, stories… the wild and the tamed, intertwined.

As Pagans, we notice. And we are grateful and glad. Marking Nature as sacred in our lives, as they are lived.

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What Am I Doing…

As many of you know, it’s been a hard few months. As we head towards Yule (tomorrow), I feel the long darkness in my bones, and the need for rest. However, this has been manifesting in rather scary ways.

(This is not intended to be a self-indulgent, whiny whinge of a post. Bear with me. Writing helps the thoughts work through.)

So many things have happened in the past 3/6/12 months (I lose track) that the need for rest is becoming a real need. I know that I’m not alone in this, but my inner balance feels like it’s tipping to the point where stopping to reassess is not just a nice indulgence when I get time – it’s absolutely necessary. Here’s what I mean.

Things are affecting me too deeply. Yes, I’m what some would call sensitive (others just a worrier), but some of the flotsam thrown at me lately has hit rather harder than it should. I feel very knocked back, which makes it hard to move forward.

It’s becoming more common that some days, I just don’t care. About anything. Every act is a slog, a battle, with no motivation. OK, that’s depression – but now it’s more often become not caring about myself, at all. That old question ‘What’s the point?’ – with its’ friends Hopelessness and Loneliness lurking in the background – stifle anything that I try to do, including basic necessities such as eating and looking after myself. This is scary.

This means that the stuff that fuels me, that bring me joy and inspiration, is missing. I’ve not been able to write much at all. Recent events have been great, but they’ve knocked me out for days with sheer exhaustion. I feel as if I’m letting people down by my inactivity, my lack of energy. The self-berating voices grow louder, making things worse.

And I know I’m not alone. The world is a hard place right now.

Why is all this happening? What can I do about it? Generally, it’s hard to know. But I’m getting ideas from various places.

The writings of friends, truthful and sincere, about their own ups and downs. Joanne and Nimue especially in recent weeks; just a few words in a brief post can strike such powerful chords. Or the silliness and beauty of Veronica Varlow. Provoking a sincere smile is a real blessing.

My students. The brightness of their work, the freshness of their ideas, the sheer inspiration… one fine example being the stalwart and brilliant Naomi. I cannot thank them enough for what they bring to my life (so I’m embarrassing them here instead). 😉

Randomness. Small things that catch my eye and make me pause, as reminders of what’s important. Re-Connection.

Here’s what inspired these thoughts and this post today, bringing together a LOT of randomness from this week:

The solstice is always a time of change, reset, release of the past, and a movement into a new cycle. This solstice is about anchoring in pragmatism your dreams and intentions.

Your desires should be given top priority. Remember you cannot fix or create intentions for anyone else. Don’t be afraid to dream big. If you are still feeling the weight of what you have carried, changed, released, processed, started or created in these past months, release it somehow in a fire or other ceremonial way. Then take your vision and ground it in pragmatism and practicality.

A quick thought from a mailing list. But I read it, over and over, as other words have snagged in my head recently. This could be dismissed as selfish New Age witterings… or it could be explored. I could let it inspire.

My own ‘magic’ has always been grounded. While ‘escapist’ playing can be fun, when something is heartfelt and sincere, worked with honour and intention for practical effect… well, the difference is quite clear.

The next few weeks are relatively quiet in the calendar. Ideas have been quietly forming. I’m going to take time, to reestablish my own connection to my work, my practice – what used to energise me, make me smile and bounce and run to find a pen. I’m not entirely sure what will come out of this, but it clearly needs doing.

I’m going to start a journal again, longhand, in a notebook. It’ll probably hurt, physically – my hands aren’t what they used to be, and I’m long out of practice! But time has to be set aside for this, space made. The ideas are then invited as the marks are made on the page. And not so easily deleted.

Fires will be made, to warm the household and bring us together. Good food will be made to nourish us. The darkness won’t be a place to get lost in, but somewhere to seek out inspiration. Intellectually I know this – in practice, however, it can prove a tricky quest.

My old question: What am I doing? Actions are to be taken with intention, purpose. I’m holding on to my own magic, recharging it, reforging into something new. That old adage of ‘physician, heal thyself’ rings true – when the time comes again to minister to others, I’d better be ready.

What dreams do I have for the new year? Let’s find out. I’ve no idea where 2014 is going to find me – but I’d rather face it truly alive.

Icy Woods

From

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What Did You Do Today?

This week, I was rather forcefully advised that the root of all suffering and depression comes from the urge to acquire, from a ‘goal-centred’ way of life. This advice included charts, showing me just how this theory worked.

OK, I thought. Up to a point, yes, I agree. If you’re constantly demanding, ‘gimme’ with expectations of reward like a spoilt child, then you will very likely be disappointed.

This is one of the main cries of the modern world against capitalism, that constant marketed need for STUFF which we’re all supposed to have. We work to make money to buy stuff, but must have more stuff, so work harder… repeat.

I’m also aware that ‘desire’ is a key tenet in Buddhism, one of the Four Noble Truths. Numerous philosophers have covered it as well, in their exploration of how we work as human beings.

But something about those charts that I was shown rankled, stuck in my brain like an itch. Something’s wrong with this idea, said my subconscious.

Perhaps it’s the way it was sold to me – that the root of any depression that I might feel is because I’m constantly seeking gratification. No matter what it is, any gratification is temporary, therefore I’m destined to be disappointed, so am on a negative wheel of constant striving and disappointment. Doomed from the start.

Aside from the capitalist ‘stuff’ understanding of want, though, surely it’s the nature of every living thing to desire something? Or is it the balance between desire and need?

A baby cries. She wants something – reassurance, food, comfort (or a simple changed nappy). She is operating on instinct. So is this desire, or need?

When something is taken away, we realize how much we might want it – or need it. Telephones, money… food, oxygen.

So it seemed that rather than a conscious decision to want something for immediate pleasure or fulfilment, I’m trying to comprehend the animal need that keeps us moving. That need to survive, certainly, but also the need to not be in pain, not to suffer. To be healed, to live as best I can.

(Buddhism again covers this in its own unique manner, but I’m not well-versed enough in that to discuss such perspectives here. Worth exploring, though.)

So if it’s not the desire for Stuff that is causing the happy/sad cycle, I thought, perhaps it’s something more amorphous. Rather than a new iPad, I’m just wanting peace, happiness, stability?

Yes, it’s a desire. Yes, it’s more than an instinctive need. But I think it’s something that we all share. Again, this is a philosophical question that’s rattled on for years. But this is me. I’m looking for something practical, that I can work with.

One of the things that was highlighted with those charts was my desire to help others. A good thing, right? Nope – because it was a constant desire that could never be fulfilled, it was making me unhappy – so it’s bad.

So…. I should stop trying to help others?

The over-simplification here was staggering. System-logic – if A is true all the time, for all things, then B and C must follow. Cut and dried, no exceptions. Except here, A – the primary theory – seemed so flawed. And this truly made me start digging for the deeper source of what was wrong here.

What if it’s not a desire, but a need, on a deeper, instinctive level, for living things to help other living things? Cynics may disagree, but I cannot believe that we are all as inherently selfish as we are sometimes made out to be, as a species.

That baby cries. She needs something. She cannot fulfil its own needs. So we help.

This isn’t just a human reaction. Shamans teach that we are all connected. Animists posit that all living things have intrinsic value. So moving beyond the gratification/Stuff/gimme level… I see all around me the truth that we are seeking personal happiness and wellbeing through helping others. Our healing comes from that. Yes, reward is nice, but that connection is the key, that relationship with another.

So something I can work with, here. How about this:

What did you create today? What did you make? More than you think, perhaps.

So often, we don’t credit ourselves with the impact that we have on the world around us, human people and others. How much we do, without conscious awareness.

A good friend made her baby daughter happy by playing with her. My puppy dogs have tried to help in the same way, when they hear her crying. This is beyond species difference, this is simply natural, instinctive.

Today, I’ve made those puppy dogs happy by playing with them in turn. But I’ve also done things with my own creativity – I’ve made knitted creations for friends. I’ve made food to nourish my family. I (hopefully) made you smile – or think – by writing this. Those are intentioned acts, but still born of instinct to do. Others will respond. I can only hope the response is positive.

Every day, we are dynamic – we do so much. And it’s not ‘goal-oriented’, necessarily – sometimes it just is what we do. We try to be aware of our impact, as best we can… and from this can come so much happiness.

Yes, pain as well, certainly. But I’m presuming that you’re more likely to be trying to cause happiness than pain… I hope.

If we try to acknowledge that it’s not about the reward; that sometimes simply the act, the doing, is enough, if done with awareness, right intention, solid relationship. This is so central to my life practice, physical, mental and spiritual. This is what keeps me going.

What makes me sad is when I feel I’ve failed – not done something, or acted badly, or hurt another. Not so much a ‘goal not achieved’ as a discordant note in the melody of my day, my life… and potentially someone else’s. I can try to make up for this, but sometimes it’s done. I have to acknowledge that and move forward, which can be difficult. Such sticky guilt/shame feelings are often what hold us back, as our energy goes into them (despite the fact that they’re still done, unchangeable) rather than learning and moving forward.

So perhaps it’s truer to say that rather than beating ourselves up over impossible goals, we focus instead on what we have done, the truth of it? How that action relates to those around, and to other actions as we move along our path? How are we helping ourselves through others, learning and progressing in life?

We are all connected. I’m optimistic at heart – I believe that we all can do right for others if we try, through action or understanding. It’s the over-simplification of our motives that can cause us to give up before we start.

I see such actions around me, every day. This is my life, my spirituality – both are inextricable. As life is made up of a series of moments, so we acknowledge and take responsibility for them.

And sometimes realize that a smile, a laugh, a hug isn’t done for reward or achievement – it just is.

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Mercury Rising

It’s Monday. I made it.

The last week has been horrendous. Hellacious. A battle on every front, during which I could only seem to stand my ground, moving neither forward nor back. “If I can make it to Monday,” I would tell myself, “Then it’ll be ok.” ‘Make it to Monday’ was my mantra.

I’m sure we’ve all had times like this. Periods of difficulty, where each day seems to last at least a year, with so much thrown at us that we feel like simply giving up in the face of the deluge.

I’m no expert in astrology, but we’ve just come out of a period of Mercury retrograde – a time of pause and reflection. Because basically, if you try to do anything… forget it. It is not happening. Stars or not, this sums up the last few weeks. Mercury, God of travel and communication, was going backwards.

No matter what I did, I was stymied. Talks fell through, emails went unanswered (or receiving vague and unhelpful answers at best) – the world seemed to be moving, but just not the part I was in. Writing didn’t flow, any work was a challenge. So many pieces of technology broke or failed; even my shoes fell apart. Sometimes it felt as if I was bashing my head against a wall. What was I supposed to do with my time?! I do like to keep busy; even when relaxing, I like to be doing something, be is reading, knitting… whatever comes to hand. Even these simple activities couldn’t keep my attention.

And then last weekend, my first ever animal friend, who had been in my life since his ‘rescue’ from a local sanctuary, took himself out of the living room window with a brief final look at me… and vanished. He’s been ill for a while, had Harry the geriatric cat – an inoperable ear condition that meant he was fairly deaf (and so wonky enough that he missed when jumping at objects, which confused him no end), losing his sight, with no teeth and all the signs of senility.

He was scared of the mattress, because of how it felt underfoot – but he snuggled into bed with me when I was alone after my divorce. His loud purr from my lap was such a comfort. We’d play ‘licky/kicky’ games together on the stair (he grabbed and kicked at my fingers, I’d tickle his belly).

But now, it seemed, his time was done.

Lovely folk confirmed to me that ‘this is something cats do’ – they take themselves away to find a quiet place, where they won’t be found. In one sense, that hurts; but in another, I understand.

I found myself nodding. Because over these same past few weeks (months?), I’d been thinking the same. When the darkness seemed inescapable, with no way out… I’d considered taking myself away, for the sake of everyone.

Yes, I know – irrational. Depression does that. Things that would seem manageable, easy to deal with when perspective is ‘normal’ can be almost the end of the world when you’re down in the dark. Getting dressed is a challenge; leaving the house akin to scaling Everest. It may not be ‘all about me’, I may be selfish and inconsiderate… but sometimes there just isn’t anything outside your own head. That’s how it can feel. And it’s so very scary.

Last week, it seemed that knock came after knock. If I could just make it through… I kept telling myself, over and over. It wasn’t all about me. But feeling trapped and alone (even if I wasn’t) made it seem so.

I had to trust that Harry had done what he thought best. I had to trust myself, that I had the strength to survive (and that survival was, in fact, the right decision). This, too, will pass.

Mercury was taking me deep.

Years ago, when I first dipped a toe into Paganism, I sat in my bedroom and meditated, nervously asking for any deity who might like to take me on to make themselves known. I was curious, but had no real idea what I was getting into. But I had made my decision, and asked the question. I’m not sure what I expected, but certainly not who arrived.

A beautiful lady with the head of a cat stepped forward, shining and golden. I was taken on, as a kitten perhaps: a trainee priestess of Bast.

I had no idea what I was doing. But I was so staggered at the force of the experience, I resolved to simply (!) do my best.

Over the years since, my Lady has moved more into the background; a constant presence, but letting me learn what I have to. I’ve come to understand the fluidity of Deity, how personification is a human need, but which those forces which guide us can use to help us see what needs to be seen.

I’ve worked closely with other deities since, from Sekhmet to Hekate, Herne and Loki (not all at once!). I’ve learned. But She has been there, to be glimpsed when least expected. In no way separate from my life, but constant, present, in all Her aspects.

Harry was my friend, companion and guardian – but he was always his own person. I’m now in a house full of canines (all male). Life takes us on strange, winding routes.

I’ve made it to Monday. I’ve been reading the tales of others this morning, online and in print, the curling paths of life. Simple actions have taken on the importance of prayer – I’ve made it (this far).

We ebb and flow. Ourselves and those forces that we connect with – the stars, the gods, those living beings we share space with, larger forces of Nature that we are subject to. We touch and part. We learn and teach, inspire and are inspired.

I think back to the past week. To those shining lights which glowed all the more strongly for the hardness that they broke through. A call from a friend; a simple message. A request, a shared thought, a gift. A story can be the most powerful of connections, a smile the greatest achievement. A memory, held close.

Monday morning. The next week stretches ahead. My body is free from pain; my mind free from darkness. I honour what is past, promising not to forget. And step forward.

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Living Connection

Perhaps it began with that British urge to keep a ‘stiff upper lip’. During the Second World War, I believe – when things were so bad that it was just beyond comprehension. How on earth were we doing these things to each other? How were we supposed to respond? Stiff upper lip. Keep buggering on. It’s almost a joke on the British, that stoicism and determination. A sign of strength.

Then, in the 1990s, I remember the concept of the ‘New Man’ began to creep in. It was now, apparently, allowed for men to cry, to take on ‘un-manly’ jobs – such as housework, or being a stay-at-home father. Post-natal stress was also found to be real.

As the Millennium turned, we suddenly realized what a mess things had become. And in the chaos and confusion, we still didn’t know how to handle things – what we’re doing to each other, and how to deal with the consequences of our own decisions. Buggering on was no longer an option… and statistics began to come out of how many people were on some sort of anti-depressant medication. Or children being treated for ADHD. We tried to deal with it by quantifying it with data, making goals for treatment to show that we’re doing something. Even if it wasn’t necessarily healing.

Lately, it seems that sneering is the next stage – denial, perhaps. Showing emotion is passe now, depression a ‘trend’, a band-wagon to jump on. That awful phrase, ‘just seeking attention’, used to trivialise another person’s pain. Physical ailments such as allergies are acknowledged as real, but then sniffed at by cynical non-sufferers – after all, the coeliac, asthmatic or epileptic is probably just being awkward. There’s a hint that the disabled are viewed in a similar manner (just consider the attitude of ATOS, or even public transport providers). But we can’t talk about that, because it would be Rude. Politeness leads to Political Correctness (not at all the same thing), which leads to disregard. Back to Stiff Upper Lip again – on both sides. ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ has become a buzz-phrase.

None of these responses even gives a nod to investigation or understanding. Nobody really listens to the deeper story.

I’ve always been confused by this. Early in life, it was power-games – one person asserting themselves by abusing or taking advantage of another. Then it was the disregard for what certainly felt like a very real emotion or situation:

“I’m in pain, help me.” “Oh, no you’re not, pull yourself together.”

“I don’t understand.” “Well, you should, you must be stupid.”

I never understood what made one person’s opinion more valid than another; why one truth was somehow truer. And, for a long time, it seemed that I was always the one who was wrong, presumably because of this lack of understanding.

This isn’t self-pity, by the way. As a child (and a teenager) I spent a good deal of time just honestly confused. There appeared to be rules for life, and nobody had let me know what they were. School cliques, in particular, seemed to have the monopoly on ‘how to behave’. This then turned into ‘Workplace Policy’ – put in place, apparently, to help everyone… except those who needed it.

I’m aware, from my working life, that a lot of the Systems that are now in place were originally set up with good intentions. Doctors actually do want to make people better. Teachers want to instil joy of learning in pupils. Scientists want to explore and discover.

But the Systems have trapped us. Because we’re so aware of what we should be doing, what boxes we need to tick, what goals to hit… We’ve become an Orwellian or Swiftian nightmare; the satire has become real. Real People have been subsumed by dehumanising Systems.

What our hearts tell us is right is not considered important. Anything subjective, unquantifiable, emotional, is somehow invalid. How do you make a statistic out of happiness, health or pleasure? What is an appropriate level of inspiration or love? Too little isn’t sufficient; too much is inappropriate. I’d love to see how such things are charted.

As Orwell predicted, language is being turned against us. Forms must be filled in correctly, situations described accurately; if you can’t work those Systems, you’re practically useless, and so fair game. Punishment: benefits cut, medication increased, even home taken away. Never mind that you don’t have the skills (physical or mental) to even approach those Systems at basic level. Double-plus ungood – reject.

People often ask me if I think more people are returning to the ‘Old Ways’ as a response to modern life. I’m not entirely sure. I can see what they mean – but, in all honesty, I think we’re looking back to the past now in an effort to find something that we feel we’ve lost, which contemporary life is not providing. We’re not literally seeking ‘Old Ways’ – modern conveniences are rather nice, especially hot food, clean water and flushing toilets. Nor are we seeking Secret Hidden Knowledge about the Absolutely Infallible Way to Live (although some are always claiming to have this). We’re seeking to reclaim our truths as human beings. Or even as animals, living creatures sharing a planet.

This is where my Druidry strikes a chord. For me, it’s always been about those truths, you see – things that I know to be right, both personally and at a fundamental human level. What works for me should work for you too – not in a fascist manner, but simply as the same species, part of a (theoretically) like-minded tribe, at the point where we connect. We’re all seeking the best way to live our lives, a fact that’s very easily forgotten when we start behaving as Us/Them. Our relationship with each other is being lost, and we need to find it again, to explore and to (re)learn.

Studying Environmentalism, I read about how eco-lawyers are seeking to recognise the rights of non-humans. How? Well, while we can’t understand them linguistically, we can safely presume that all living things have the desire to go on living. The next step is the quality of that life. Not luxuries – basics. Nourishment. Happiness. Love. You know, those unquantifiable things. Which some folk feel they have the right to take away or devalue.

OK. Now, presumably we, as living, (apparently) intelligent and articulate human beings, have those same desires? We all eat, sleep and breathe. We have more in common than we do difference.

Life can sometimes seem like a movie – but perhaps one where we’ve lost our script. Everyone else seems to know what to do, and we lose ourselves in the rush to keep up, find our place, do what we’re supposed to. We’re appalled by news stories about the world around, but don’t know how to react. We’re encouraged to have opinions, but not to actually take any action (beyond ticking ‘Like’ on a Facebook page). We feel that our power has been taken away.

Yet we’re still part of that world. We’re starting to see through the filters, the Systems. We don’t want to ‘bugger on’, we want to battle on, to change and to put right. We need to see clearly, to understand the individual stories that make up the general picture.

Remember – or reforge – your connectedness. Whatever you’re doing, whoever you’re looking at, imagine that they are a friend or close relative. Look more deeply into their story; sometimes the most important information is what the news, or the first impression, is not saying. See past the spin, the cynicism, the ‘appropriate level of understanding.’

We each live our story. We write our own script. We connect with everyone else, doing the same. What’s important to you is probably just as important to them. Ask ‘Why?’ Then, when you don’t agree, say ‘No.’ Find alternatives.

Every day has little victories, tiny acts of heroism. For some, just making it through is a huge achievement. Let’s stop the cynicism, the disregard. Let’s celebrate each other a little more, recognising and providing help when needed, congratulations when deserved, and questioning of what we’re told. See variety and potential in our different levels of ability. Be brave and battle on. Learn from our ancestors.

Live.

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Seeing

A while ago, I wrote about the topic of ‘Listening’ (here, if you’d like to read it again). The idea has been growing about a piece on each of our senses and how they help us to interpret the world…

What does your world look like? Glance away from this screen for a moment, gaze about. What do you see?

Now open your eyes again (this will make sense if you know the work of Terry Pratchett). What do you really see?

This isn’t cosmic nonsense. When I look around now, I see the small home office that I’ve made for myself, books everywhere, a futon piled with comfy blankets, a bag full of ritual gear… it’s easy to go down the path of ‘oh Gods, I’ve got to tidy up!’ But that’s not seeing what’s there – that’s catching a glimpse and interpreting it into something, based on my own expectations. My mind is adding what it ‘should’ feel on looking around, based on what I expect to see.

If I stop those runaway thoughts and look deeper, I see a small sanctuary, a place created with a certain intention, each random thing holding its own story: a much-loved book from my childhood. My first piece of knitting. My dirty running shoes. A beautiful painting on the wall, gifted to me as ‘just scribblings’.

And beneath that? The old house that contains it all, with its 200-year history, from guardhouse to home. My time here has barely scratched its surface, but I’m adding my tale to it, as I pass through.

Sherlock Holmes summed it up in one way: ‘You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.’ Holmes was able to take one look at a room and see everything in it, making connections based on logic and deduction (or induction). If something was not there… well, he might have noticed that too. Holmes is remarkable for his skill in observation. He’s certainly not the norm.

As mentioned, Terry Pratchett takes this a little further: ‘First Sight means you can see what really is there, and Second Thoughts mean thinking about what you are thinking.’

Pagan folk often talk about ‘The Sight’ (as in seeing ghosts, spirits or generally apparitions beyond the regular physical world), but how many of us even really use our First Sight correctly? Do we see, or do we assume? Second sight therefore being truly thinking about what we are seeing…?

Sight, like every one of our senses, is most keenly felt when we do not have it. In a totally dark room, or when blindfolded or ill – we suddenly realize its value when it is gone. The trick is to remember to use it well when it would otherwise be taken for granted.

I would have difficulty typing this if I could not see. As it is, I’m using reading glasses to help. But I’m seeing the words in my head before they appear on the screen – writing, composing, then transmitting in a form that satisfies me.

You are reading the words and interpreting them, based on what you’re currently thinking. If your mood is cross, they may seem ridiculous. If you’re interested, they may provoke further thought. I have no way of controlling this as I type, save for doing my best to express myself accurately. And, in this way, I’m speaking to you, encouraging you to see and feel what I am seeing and feeling.

Words connect us. Shared experience connects us. However, two people seeing the same thing may understand it entirely differently – which is why a truly shared experience is so valuable. That ‘click’ moment, perhaps ‘wow’ or other gasp to pause and reflect – is that not Second Sight? The realization that our sense of vision has brought us together – as we see a stunning sunset, for example, or even a simple amusing internet video?

As a song can touch our heart and stir our emotions, so can simply looking, truly seeing. It’s nice to touch, but we don’t have to – we can reach out by observing.

I believe I used the example once before of a long journey or commute. When I travelled to London daily for work, I would be crammed onto a busy train, sitting I was lucky, or standing squeezed in amongst other tired and hot workers. The air would be thick with those frustrations… but I used to try and distract myself by looking around, properly. The trees outside the window, flashing by. Birds racing the train. Even inside, a girl engrossed in her book, a man smiling and nodding in time to his iPod. Tiny stories playing out.

Today, in my part of Derbyshire, England, it’s raining. A lot. After a lovely sunny weekend, people are complaining. Out there on the hill, walking the dogs, I was drenched. And laughing. Seeing the rain cascading down, the clouds scudding across the sky, the incredible greenness of leaves and grass…

A couple of weeks ago, in the same place:

Park with Dogs

A playing field, at the top of a hill. Very normal, with goalposts for the local children’s football team, a pylon in the distance. Hedges keeping everything contained, nicely cut grass.

I walk there every day. The ground has been bursting with dandelions, that turn into puffy clocks to blow away before the farmer returns to cut them down. The hedges contain rabbits; the trees hold ravens, sparrows, pigeons, and even sometimes a family of kites. In the picture above, a rainstorm has just passed – if you look carefully, you’ll see the rainbow.

If we follow the easy, lazy modern encouragement to be cynical, this park could be considered boring, a place for local teenagers to hang out, a waste of space. It could be anywhere.

Or it can (and does) hold so much potential, for exploring, running, playing – being. The dogs know it. I see it through their happy eyes, as well as my own. And the wildness is just a step away, arching down the hill via the untrimmed paths, the scratchy blackthorn bushes… who knows what.

You can impose your own perceptions onto things, declare them true or false, real or imagined, valuable or worthless – or you can just let yourself see whatever is in front of you. It’s amazing what you might catch a glimpse of, if you take yourself out of the way enough to see what’s really there.

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