Posts Tagged exploring

Update

Hello, lovely readers! It’s been a long time… but I’m still here. Just a small update today, as my thoughts want to be set down in words, to get them out of my head!

2016 has been difficult so far, for many of us. I’ve been working as and when I can, but spent a good deal of time signed off, with depression and possibly exhaustion/chronic fatigure. I have good doctors, however, so am doing what I can. I have amazing friends, which is a true blessing upon the healing journey!

While it’s been a frustrating time, I’ve not been idle. Much research has been undertaken, and my next book is now under way. Creativity has happened, and my public talks are evolving to new places – as well as being broadcast by video for the first time! Look me up on YouTube if you’re interested, as I have a channel there for easy access.

But what’s been happening within… I started the year exploring the idea of discernment, something our Christian friends undertake when deciding whether to follow the path of Priesthood. The word rang in my head, and I followed it up, curiosity being no bad thing in this case.

Discernment is listening for that voice from the ‘powers that be’, learning to hear something that you’re meant to hear. Lately, that’s been books that leap out at me (well, that’s kind of always happened to this bookworm!), but also music, stories, phrases in conversation… any number of things.

This will no doubt feature in my future writings, but as I listen, I feel as if my mental map is becoming clear. I’m cutting through the mess of clutter and illness, to see the way forward – that’s been waiting to be found all along.

Dreams have become vivid, with a whole landscape becoming familiar for night-time exploration. Certain books demand to be read, places to be visited, skills to be attempted. I’ve learned to listen for that push, almost like a cosmic bell is being rung, a true note amidst the clamour of emotion that depression surrounds me with sometimes.

I carry notebook and pen, or a handy phone app to record my thoughts as and when they happen. If something seems out of reach, I ask on public social media, and someone will come up with the answer. I feel more connected than ever…

But on the other hand, I’m still fighting the darkness. This week, I’m glad to have survived, let alone accomplished anything (another reason to get these words down, as a reminder and a celebration of achievement!). This is clearly part of my journey, a challenge to overcome, but… the days can be brutal. But if I can find something to focus on amidst the madness, that thing has my total attention – and I learn from it.

Recently, I’ve been given tremendous hope. A friendly medical professional reminding me to stay positive, a book that uses Pandora’s box as a metaphor for a lone speck of brightness within the awful. A wise shaman friend just nodding, and telling me very matter-of-factly that I can do it, and need to get on with my work. A wild and wonderful Heathen gentleman confirming that this work sets us somewhat apart from ‘society’, but that’s necessary to be able to do it.

I’ve been walking between worlds, I think – dark and light, madness and sanity, polite society and what lies behind and beneath. I’m learning to discern what’s important, what I need to see and know, the path I must explore in order to report back in my writing.

When I’m stuck, friends have helped clear the way. When I’m lost, a solution appears. When I need sustenance, I’m supported.

I can never adequately express how grateful I am to be able to do this, and to those who keep me going through the ups and downs. I rejoice in the moments of peace, never taking them for granted; I battle through the storms, focusing and holding on to my internal rudder as best I can.

When I work, I give my all. This can lead to exhaustion, but that’s the price to be paid right now. Life is very different to how it was 10, 20, 30 years ago. But here I am.

I’m still here, and moving forward. And I’m so glad that you’re all here with me.

Much love, my friends x

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I Have Confidence…?

When I was little, one of the main background soundtracks to my life was ‘The Sound of Music’.

Don’t laugh. Bear with me, there is a point to this.

My Mum loves that film. Every holiday it was on (in the times before any form of recording device), and the songs played in the car as I learned the words and sang along. The ending was difficult to watch, but I loved the first half, of Maria the Nun bringing happiness to a rather repressed family unit.

As I grew up, this story fell by the wayside. Whereas once ’16, going on 17′ had seemed a world away, now it seems a world ago. But one of the songs has been looping in my head lately.

When Maria leaves her convent to go out into the world – after we, the audience, have been informed what a klutz she is – she sings of her hope for what’s ahead:

‘I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain, I have confidence that Spring will come again – besides which you see I have confidence in me!’

But towards the end of the song, she falters. ‘I have confidence in confidence alone… oh help.’

She stops. Those last two words aren’t sung, but spoken, whispered. The mask of joy falls. She prays for help, for strength – for that same confidence to step up to the task she has been set. She knows how hapless she is, and how large a job she has ahead. Singing a happy song might not be enough.

This is the truth and pleasure I find in well-done musicals, by the way. That they are so absurdly happy one minute, but reflecting the deeper worries of life the next. If they’re done right, musicals don’t do half measures – they’re all or nothing, but still with the nuances of reality that we all know. Cunningly masked behind a veneer of merry song.

A lot of my time recently has been in that moment that Maria shows, that pause, that ‘oh help’. I’m stepping up to the next level in my work, it seems, both personally and professionally. I’ve always had confidence that my gods will present challenges that might seem insurmountable, but are always within my grasp – if I push myself. That’s the point.

I’m reading a lot of books that I never thought I would, discussing new topics, exploring deeply. Ministry, theology, even religious texts of other faiths (to the shock of one kind Imam!). I’m investigating new – and old – worlds, and it’s amazing. I know that it’s a gift that I even can. As a woman and a Pagan, those previously repressed ‘minorities’, I am now free to act publicly as Priest. That’s no small thing, and one that I hope I never take for granted.

This morning, I’m reading a book on Chaplaincy – specific Priesting within certain spheres of society, rather than to a geographical community (as I am now doing in prison). I’m almost in tears as I read of those Chaplains caring for the soldiers in Afghanistan. I recently finished a tale of nuns who work for women’s shelters in New York. This is faith on the ‘shop floor’ – and yet, apparently a lot of the ‘proper’ Churches view Chaplains as not ‘proper’ Priests.

Paganism has the opposite approach, I’m finding. Because our current methods of public Ministry are still very much finding their way, it’s still seen as miraculous that we can be included in the multifaith community, as professional Chaplains at all. We’re still a ‘fringe’ spirituality, but which is being recognised more and more, and respected accordingly.

Our Western society, by and large, is pretty secular, but I hardly ever receive sneers or derisive comments about my role. Most people are amazed and curious, bombarding me with questions and enthusiasm. Individually, people still feel a spiritual ‘pull’, the need for someone to chat to about what’s on their mind as a companion, but also to support them in tough times. The Priest in the community might have a wider remit than the Chaplain in their ‘bubble’ (army base, hospital, prison) but both are absolutely invaluable. We are appreciated, and that is glorious.

But I am so very aware that we are still finding our way. I love that I can speak to my fellow Chaplains about this – their churches have been doing it for longer, after all, so their experiences are inspiring to hear. Ultimately, though, I can easily feel like Maria sitting there, with the support of her church behind her, but very much alone in that moment. 

How on earth can I do this? God, what are you asking of me?

I’m finding that stories about prayer are also pulling me lately. Another area which Pagans are only now starting to intellectually explore, what do we do when we are alone and needing help? Is this not a huge aspect of the Paganism that I convey to those I Minister to? How do you express the inexpressible in your heart, to and of beings that are beyond words…

Once, it helped hugely to know that I was part of a wider community, through the groups I volunteered for. This week, I resigned as Trustee of The Druid Network, and am stepping down as District Coordinator for The Pagan Federation. I’ll still be volunteering for both, but on a much smaller level.

I need to take the time to sit alone, in that ‘oh help’ moment. To speak with my Gods, to discern what’s next, as well as what I’m doing now. What am I doing? That old question, ever relevant.

I step on alone in one sense, therefore, but in actuality just with less titles. I know that I have a wonderful community behind and beside me, and that counts for so much. I’m listening for the tug that pulls me in the right direction, and know that I’ll be treading new paths. It’s bloody scary.

I’m not sure I have confidence; in fact, often I know I don’t. But I step forward, as promised. I do my best.

Onward, as always.

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The Joy of Inspiration

I consider inspiration: what it means and how it’s key
To so much of our own heritage, to my own Druidry.
A tricky word, it holds so much, and yet hides so much too
Inspiration doesn’t rhyme well, so the old bards thought that through!

Inspiration is a joy because it tells us what to do…

Except…

It doesn’t really, does it? It’s a bit more of a guide
An incitement, an incentive – a sneak peak to look inside.
To go just a little deeper, really forage and explore
To ask ourselves those questions, to find what we’re looking for.

We call out to the Awen, those three rays that reach so far
From deep inside our tiny minds, out to the furthest star.
Go back through time, through stories, through the blood that holds our land
Inspiration is our joy because it helps us understand.

Except…

Well, no, that’s not quite true, is it? It’s as much a mystery
As any of those spirit paths, down which we hope to see.
Small words can only touch the song, the greater melody
And yet how potent is the tale, what is and what can be.

Inspiration is my joy because it sings TO and OF me.


(And sometimes, it flows out in a quick burst, formed in 20 minutes between household chores! A bit of doggerel to brighten your day, folks – hope it made you smile.)

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Medicine

Today I’m pondering a rather controversial topic, which I thought interesting enough to share here. These are solely my thoughts and opinions, feel free to discuss or comment (as always). But please do read to the end and understand my words as they are presented. Reasoned arguments are always preferred to internet rantings 😉

I was recently given a short course of tablet medication by my GP, with the instruction to ‘try this and see how it goes’. No explanation for precisely what it was or what it was expected to do, just that it would somehow help me, make me better in some way, based on my symptoms.

For the past two weeks, therefore, I have been dutifully taking these tablets. One side-effect is that of a sedative – which will apparently help to ‘make me better’, through a restful night. And beyond, it seems: I have found myself virtually fighting to get through each day through the fug of tiredness and general odd-feeling brought on by these pills. It’s been a trial.

Now, as some of you may know, I’ve worked for the NHS (in an administrative capacity, not clinical). I’m prepared to acknowledge that doctors have access to a wide range of information on ailments and the treatment thereof, and are trained to administer these appropriately. I’m also aware of the opinions  of some regarding those treatments – from the motivations of international drug companies to those of the NHS itself as it deals with increasing numbers of demanding patients.

I’ve seen consultants who’ve forgotten to put the patient’s name on a form, and just a one-word scribbled diagnosis/treatment. I’ve known doctors who work 24/7 to the exclusion of all else, to be there for those in need. I’ve heard patients in need ashamed to call for help. I’ve seen drunks in A&E shouting for drugs.

Much of society is sick. There are good people and bad on both sides of the counter. It’s hard to see the ‘bigger picture’ when not all of those involved are actually aware of it – not always through selfishness, but often through simple human fear as their body (or mind) fails them.

A topic I was looking at recently for my book was that of ‘medicine’ – its definition and meaning, as we understand it. Here’s what I found on the Internet (the first result brought up by Google):

Medicine

  1. The science or practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease (in technical use often taken to exclude surgery).
  2. A drug or other preparation used for the treatment or prevention of disease.

Interesting. This truly is a scientific definition, based on current best clinical practice – and that’s fine, so far as it goes.

Finding an older, more ‘traditional’ definition is somewhat harder. After all, medicine existed before Pasteur and his colleagues, from Imhotep and Hippocrates onwards, and those effects are still felt in modern ‘medicine’ as defined above.

(This is a loaded discussion, and I’m not going to go into it in any more depth here. My own best conclusion is that a good deal of exploration is still needed on the relationship between us as patient and identification of illness (cause and symptom), even before treatment is prescribed. Sheer numbers (of people and sicknesses) in the system make this difficult. However, interesting investigation still goes on – such as the recent discovery of exactly what was in frontier ‘snake-oil’.)

It’s hard to find an older definition of ‘medicine’ that stands up to scrutiny (ie what exactly is meant by the term). Shamanic ‘medicine’ is an idea that many of us know about as a concept, but not exactly what it does.

One definition: ‘Shamanic medicine is a merging of the seen and the unseen; the conscious and the subconscious; and a harmonizing of the mind, body and spirit. It is a healing practice which integrates the natural and spirit world, calling on the relationships the medicine person has forged with her allies to gain insight, wisdom and energy to return to the client.’ (From ‘Dimensions in Healing‘)

Or: ‘Shamanic Medicine is soul work.  It takes us straight into the root cause of unrest and heals at the deepest levels.  When something is healed through Shamanic Medicine it stays healed, because we have asked soul directly what needs to be done.’ (From ‘Misha Hoo’s blog, Shamanic Medicine‘)

OK. Neither of these are ‘ancient’ definitions (and certainly not scientific), but I’m not sure that adds any particular validity anyway, so let’s go with what we have.

Shamanic medicine as it is practiced in today’s society generally seems to work on the principle that all of life is connected. Through exploring our relationship with each other – as individuals, connected species sharing space, lived environment and so forth – we can investigate the root cause of a given ailment and actively engage with our own treatment. This tallies marvellously with my principles as Druid; such connectedness is undeniable to me, as lived practically and spiritually (body and soul, you might say). And it does not exclude modern medicine.

Sure, some ‘shamanic’ practitioners may be as superior or elitist (and full of hot air) as some doctors. Authority figures with SECRET MAGICAL HEALING KNOWLEDGE are as old as humanity, I’d guess. And yes, it’s difficult to describe, let alone quantify scientifically, exactly what goes on in what would be called ‘traditional medicine’. The argument for holistic practice goes on. Both modern and ‘traditional/alternative’ doctors may sneer at each other.

But what we seem to have lost is that sense that we, ourselves, are actively involved in our own treatment. Of course we are – we’re the ones suffering and seeking a cure, after all. A common reason that more people are seeking ‘alternative’ treatments is simply because regular, scientific medicine has failed.

Some ‘experts’ have lost the simple ability to relate to those whom they are supposed to be caring for. Medicine begins from the moment you pluck up the courage to step into a doctor’s office – thereby admitting weakness and/or fear. Sometimes a smile, a caring thought and listening ear are the best start to any treatment. Bedside manner counts (despite the deliciously apt satire of Dr Gregory House).

I have no idea what was in the medicine that I was taking, even after looking it up. I took it for long enough to determine that there was no positive effect – on the contrary, the negative was deeply outweighing any positive healing that it was supposed to be providing.

I will report this back to my doctor and see what he says. I am loathe to take any more random pills on the off-chance that they will work – I will suggest finding alternatives.

If ‘medicine’ is finding health through identifying the source of a malady and working towards a solution, I will gladly do so – with a sense of personal responsibility and awareness.

Yes, my spirituality as I live it acknowledges that shamanic sense of connectedness with the wider world. I think that this opens up the potential for treatment to a new level, but it’s still a matter of exploring. Trying pills is part of this, but I’d prefer to undertake such experiments with awareness of what I’m doing. Hopefully my GP will agree.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of being brave enough to try – and that includes questioning the conventional. The relationship between doctor and patient and medicine and patient deserves to be explored, for the benefit of everyone. Human relationship is part of the wider connectedness spoken of above.

We are still learning.

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