Posts Tagged lessons

In Sickness and…

A long overdue update. Spring is upon us (as the rain beats down on my window here!), and I feel like leaving this Winter is almost akin to clambering from a very deep, dark hole…

For the past two months, I’ve been pretty much confined to home. I’ve been very ill, both mentally and physically, and while I have a fabulous doctor looking after me, it’s been ridiculously hard. Not least because I’m a bad patient. If I’m not able to do something with my days, I get frustrated, which leads down the path to… well, bad thoughts. Spiralling down is an apt metaphor, but not fun to live.

So anyway. Today is the first day I’ve been back in my little office for quite a while, and I’m doing my best to do that something. Catching up with emails and marking; the phone is already going with meetings to sort out treatments and work. But my head is still fuzzy, so I’m having to remind myself to take things gently.

One thing which has struck me over and over throughout this is how much we drive ourselves in the world today. This is an old song and I won’t sing it again now, but I’m sure you understand.We don’t have time to be ill, what about deadlines, people to see, things to do… argh!

A huge aspect of my healing has been the voices of friends, reassuring me that it was actually OK to be out of action.They were still there, I could do this, everyone had faith and things would soon be well again. Thank the gods for social media again – all I had to do some days was to reach out a hand and have it grasped firmly across the virtual ether.

It’s hard to defend against such a barrage of loving optimism – and I quickly learned not to try! Seeing the torrent of kindness reaching from around the world touched me deeply, and tears flowed more than once.

I’ve written in the past of community, and this is the best aspect of that, I think. Sure, there’ve been some who sent brickbats – I’m lazy, making excuses, can’t be bothered, etc etc – but those who really saw the battle I’ve been fighting have really stepped up in arms alongside. (I love that image.)

This is the community that I’m proud to be a part of. I’ve met almost all of them through my work as a Public Druid (TM, heheh), and when I remember back years ago to that similarly awful time of unemployment, the prospect of even advertising as a ‘Druid Priest’, how ridiculous that sounded… But I did it. I moved off the map, the 9-5, pension and sick pay, lunch hours and annual leave. Beyond the border of ‘normal’ life, here there be dragons! And it has brought me so much joy. Difficulties, sure, but life is a very different place now because I stuck to those choices, followed the signs and trusted. I wouldn’t be part of this community otherwise.

Being Pagan, of course, teaches you to look for the reasoning behind things, the lessons that we can learn through the downs as as well as the ups. And so my sick time has taught me a few things. A big one is that mental illness hurts easily as much as physical. But sometimes stepping into those waves of madness (especially when you seem to have no choice), standing up and raising hands to others, having faith and just riding things can take you to marvellous, unexpected and wonderful places.

I have to trust that this time has held its own lessons – I’m too close to tell just yet. At its worst, I feared letting others down by my inactivity; but those others stepped up gladly to help me. Love and trust, those tenets of humanity as well as Paganism, genuine compassion, empathy and understanding. Friendship and community, worth more than any gem.

I’m still here.

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Druidry as Relevant

Apologies for the large pause since my last post. Life has been interesting.

In the last week, my life has changed dramatically. As the frequency of paid work has been low, I resolved at the end of 2011 to take a step that I’d been considering for some time, but which had somehow not seemed ‘viable’ before.

I now have my own little work-place at a beautiful ‘Healing Rooms’ business 15 minutes from my home. From there, I’m offering my services as a Druid – from multifaith advice to planning of ritual, teaching, support, and generally Working in the Community.

It’s exciting. But also terrifying. Because as far as I know, this has not been done before. I’m entirely treading new ground.

Except I’m not really, am I? I’m doing precisely what those ‘ancient’ Druids did – I’m in my locality, offering my skills as needed, in return for enough in return to keep myself and my household going (or at least, that’s the plan).

The level of support I’ve received has been astonishing. Friends have donated gifts to help, word of mouth is entirely positive – this really  does seem to be something that is both wanted and needed, not just another woolly ‘New Age’ fad.

The challenges, however, have started to come in the form of the ‘real’ working world. Insurance to cover ‘spiritual services’. Renewing CRB accreditation. Trying to find out what certification I have to do what I do (there is none, nor any auditing body!).

Issues have struck me that would never have occurred before. Insurance implies that I may be sued by unhappy ‘customers’. I’m not sure how I’d deal with that (and hope I never have to). Charging for services, with all the attached politics – how much, how do I justify costs, how do I balance my survival needs with expectations of the work? Once money’s involved, the entire playing field changes.

And yet, at the end of it, I’m sitting here in my beautiful little room, while outside is a busy street. School-children on their way to lessons, shoppers heading into town. I’m here. I’m really doing it.

When I go home, there’s still more. Review books to sort (and read!), research to undertake. And that’s as well as basic housework!

It’s all setting a foundation. My book is on schedule for publication in the Summer, I’m being asked to perform talks and workshops around the country. There’s talk of a signing tour. More public rituals are being planned. But it’s all amorphous, in the future. I know it’ll come soon enough, but in the meantime there are bills to pay.

We get by, but I’ve been cutting back. This really is living with awareness of the practicalities of life, the necessities, what needs to be done. I must do my work well, otherwise I won’t get paid, because nobody will be interested. Simple relationships of supply and demand.

And therein is the lesson. I’m now working actively and intentionally with my Druidry for others every day on a much stronger basis than ever before. My awareness of energy has increased hugely; my connection to the world around is constantly reinforced. My learning curve has shot up, as my life and my work truly do combine.

It’s been exhausting. I almost bottomed out last week, just from doing as I usually do – giving my all to whatever I’m working on. But doing that every day means that I’m left with only just enough for myself afterwards. New routines must be established, new personal modes of practice to take care of myself.

There’ve been comments that I’m ‘lucky’ to be doing this. Not really – it’s necessity. If I wasn’t here, I’d be at home, keeping busy but mainly looking for other jobs to pay the mortgage. I’m out in the world, working hard.

And it’s the energy exchange, that giving and receiving, that keeps me going.

I truly am learning – and I’m very glad of the lessons. Because the wonderful response I’m getting so far is proof that I’m doing something right.

Onwards indeed.

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The Need for Grounding

I thought I’d do another couple of posts that answer queries put to me in recent weeks, on topics that are fairly important as Foundation Level Paganism. Otherwise known as What the Books SHOULD Tell You (But Usually Don’t).

Not long ago, I got asked about Grounding. A friend had been show how, as one of the introductory exercises to a novice witch-in-training – but not been given much explanation. Why, he asked, do we need to ground? What does it do?

(Don’t panic, any Muggles in the audience. I’ll explain the terminology, bear with me.)

I quite liked this, and had to smile. It sums up a lot of the ‘how to’ books out there, in that pagan Learners of any path tend to be told what to do, but not necessarily why. We find out as we bimble along, making learner mistakes and bouncing back to exercises that help (once we realize why we were taught in the first place), but I agree – I’d quite like to know why I’m doing something as I go along.

Pagans – be they witches, druids, heathens, etc – don’t just believe or feel their faith, they practise too. And practise, as we know, is continuous (to make perfect, natch). A big foundation of that work is based on energy. Not to teach your grandma to inhale ovulations, but a lot of ‘magic’ is energy manipulation… which means grounding is necessary.

Grounding is basically taking the energy you’ve worked with or raised, and settling it back down again, bringing yourself back to reality and not in a small hyperactive bouncing bubble that burns out very quickly. Imagine a puppy on Red Bull. Follow this through. The crash is not pretty, and neither is the mess left in its wake.

Energy raising is something we all do, magic or not. Runners generate a lot of energy, for example. So do actors and performers. You know the energized feeling when you’re about to go on-stage – and that same buoyancy when you step off again afterwards? Whether you enjoyed the experience or not, that’s energy.

The classic training step is to rub your hands together fast, generating enough static that you can feel it when you pull your hands apart, like electricity zapping between your palms.

Taking on too much energy, or holding onto it with no release, is bad no matter how you do it. It goes to your head quickly, and while you are capable of accomplishing a fair bit, it may not necessarily be of any quality (you know the feeling of ‘nervous energy?’). And you will quickly burn out, with a huge pressure headache and possible physical collapse.

The best exercise for raising and grounding your energy in pagan work (or at all) is to plant your feet squarely on the floor, feeling yourself fully present, there and then, solid and firm in foundation. Barefoot is good, but not essential – your toes can wiggle inside shoes just as well, to properly feel the ground beneath you.

Imagine the soil beneath you. Yes it’s there, beneath all foundations. Just work through the concrete, wood, whatever – into the earth. There may well be tree roots, insects and small creatures, brick, bone. Just feel it.

Then draw some of that energy up through your feet, into yourself. Take it gently, but let it fill you. Wiggle feet, fingers, neck, shoulders. Open your eyes. Experience it. See how the world looks now you’re actually aware of your connection to it. Remember to breathe.

When you’re ready, let that energy flow down again, through your body and out into the earth beneath your feet. Feel yourself still planted, secure and solid. Breathe. Shake your head. Let the excess go.

If you feel wobbly or ‘spaced out’ at any stage, don’t panic – you’ve just taken on some of the energy from a planet. If you’re not used to it, the sensations will confuse you, but this won’t always happen. Simply crouch or kneel down, so your feet (toes are fine) and hands (fingertips) are touching the ground. Let some of the energy discharge down. If it persists, sit or lie down and let it flow from all of you.

For  the scientific explanation of what you just did, feel free to investigate books on physics (I find quantum does it best). The idea that all energy is connected is basic, but you are simply working with that connection, sharing energy in the same manner as you share breath with those around you – people, trees, plants, animals, birds… all the same molecules.

When you hold that energy, you can use it for whatever you wish. You can move around – your feet will always be connected to the floor, after all; you’re both a conduit and a battery. Ritual, magic, sticking balloons to walls – your choice. But the need for grounding will become apparent from the first time you forget and feel the consequences. It is necessary. Don’t ever take it for granted.

And spiritually, I find it’s also nice, from time to time, to say Thank You.

The best recent source I’ve found on energy work, if you want to learm more, is from the late, lamented Isaac Bonewits: ‘Real Energy’. Or feel free to email me 🙂

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