Posts Tagged practise

Words

Dyslexic friends have spoken to me in the past of their frustration with words. How their shapes change on the page, moving in a muddle that’s impossible to decipher. I don’t know how true that is, but I’ve heard variations on this theme, so presume there’s something there.

This has made me wonder if I’m some sort of reverse-dyslexic. Ever since I could read, words have had their own particular patterns to me, each one a tiny shape with specific form, made up of the right combination of letters, forming sentences and thus phrases captured on pages. As a child, when I stared too long at a page in a book, the edges of paragraphs would become clear, dark ink against white paper, the movement of the word-groups moving up and down almost like musical notation, telling their stories from sigils to be deciphered.

And then, there’s the feeling of having lost your grip on language – typing or writing the same word over and over again until it loses all meaning, becoming just a jumble of letters. Water-torture in text, a metronome of repetition seeking a tune?

I’m reading a fantasy/futuristic science-fiction novel at the moment, with a character who can ‘feel’ the contents of books. She walks between the shelves in a library, fingers gently outstretched, touching the sense of story, the tales told, the experiences of the authors. I’ve seen a lot of this recently, the book-love. Trying to make a little sense out of the joy we find in words – sometimes verbal, but mostly literary, captured in print.

The great Jasper Fforde satirises book-love in his ‘Thursday Next’ novels, with the ‘software’ of reading pinned down into programming language. BOOK 4.0 is to be released – that mysterious machinery which translates words from bits of print into images in our heads. Partly scientific, partly magical, nobody really understands how it works – and why, occasionally, it doesn’t (presumably as in text-speak, with its evolution of LOLs and ROFLs). Is this any stranger an understanding than our communication through the medium of Windows or Linux?

Stories are tangible. Whether it’s breaking the ‘fourth wall’ of a book, with a reader being acknowledged as an active participant in the story (the 80s ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ and ‘Fighting Fantasy’ books leap to mind), or the post-modernist idea of a literary character themselves reaching into a book to converse with the characters. The aforementioned Thursday Next book-jumps into ‘Jane Eyre’ to ensure that the ending is correct (Jane ends up with Rochester, not Rivers). Those of us who love that tale are certainly glad that this mistake was fixed! – and thus, we are part of the story too.

We cheer the heroes and boo the baddies in movies… but in books, the lines become a little more blurred. We have more time to get to know the characters and situations as the stories unfold. We ‘lose’ ourselves in a good book, eventually putting it down at the last page with a sigh and a racing heart. I frequently close a book and look around in confusion, wondering which reality is more ‘real’.

Stories make us who we are. Each of us has a story to tell – and very few are not worth hearing. We are the protagonist, which doesn’t mean it’s all about us. It’s about our journey, our understanding, our evolution.

I have always known that I wanted to be a writer. I never dreamed that my first book would be non-fiction (or semi-autobiographical) – the Internet wasn’t invented when I started scribbling in exercise books, let alone blogs. But my first love has always been fiction. When the words start to flow on a story, when characters step up into your mind wanting to tell their tale in their own voice… there is no feeling like it, to me.

This is the creative spark. This is the Awen. We all feel it, in our own way, with our own creative skills. The wonderful musician and Bard, Damh, wrote of it this week. I couldn’t stop smiling at the story of his journey – and cheering, in anticipation of what magical, musical words he’ll bring forth.

The inspiring Nimue has combined a literary idea with Druid practice on her blog, as a result of pondering the meaning of ‘Druid’ itself – slightly tongue-in-cheek, but reminding us of the importance of play, interaction, connectivity and creation. Her idea has already inspired me to write a first chapter in a ‘steampunk Druid’ story. Already, those who’ve seen it want to know what happens next.

And that, dear reader, is the deeper magic for me. When people want to hear more of your tales. When folk are inspired to go and explore themselves, to acknowledge their depths and what they have to bring forth. I love to hear it, and to see it. Such sharing is never a bad thing.

Stephen King spoke of books as a long love-affair between author and reader, requiring commitment on both sides, with varying degrees of enjoyment. Short stories were a kiss, a more focused expression of affection (but no less intense).

Most of my blog posts take an hour or two to write. This one has burst from me in about 15 minutes, at high speed, typing frantically and making my partner laugh at my enthusiasm. A friend told me last week that he loved reading my words, that they always flowed so well. That, I informed him, is because he doesn’t see all the deletions and changes. But here, today, there’s relatively few. A slice of writing life, as it comes. A flow of words, from my mind to yours.

So it’s my brief kiss to you, lovely readers. I always hope to inspire, even if just a smile.

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Flowing into Autumn

The year is turning. Fruit is heavy on the trees but leaves are starting to fall. There’s a scent in the air of Autumn, waiting to happen as the days slowly shorten. It’s Harvest-time.

The regular News programmes are beginning to tell of the difficulties of farmers this year, with the wide and varied extremes of weather that we’ve suffered clearly having an impact on crops (and so prices of food). However, some have fared better than others. The apple trees near me are groaning with fruit; the blackberry bushes are thick; that which grows on high seems to be ripening and ready.

It’s this balancing point which is becoming clearer to me these days. While grain and root crops may become more valuable through comparative scarcity, we still have the sweet and sharp fruits to nourish us freely. While very few of us have actual money to spend on easy frivolities, more of us are discovering the joy of personal creativity.

I’ve observed that there’s a sharp difference in the attitudes of people right now, as shown both in personal statements and media generalities. There’s slow-burning frustration, anger, impotence, powerlessness – and yet also great pride in accomplishment, ability and possibility. We have the confused relationship between Government and individual (in many countries, not just the UK). There’s the comparison of huge funds and corporate sponsorships for the recent London Olympics versus the sheer public awe at the achievements of athletes (and musicians, engineers and creatives) in the formulation of an event that will be remembered by so many.

The individual is striving to be heard; groups are forming, like-minded folk, wanting to bring ideas together to make powerful difference. And it’s not easy – but the sense of ‘maybe we CAN do it’ is gradually growing, overcoming past cynicism and doubt.

I do think that in this case, the macrocosm and microcosm reflect each other – ‘society’ and ‘local community’, Nature as a whole and the needs of a single species. We are having to become more aware of our relationships with each other. People are acting based on need, hope and drive – because complacency is just not an option any more. We have to do, or it won’t get done.

In recent years, I’ve actually been proud of how such considerate and mature attitudes have allowed growth. From a Pagan perspective, we have grown as an identifiable community and also achieved so much in the wider world. Our beliefs are heard, thoughts considered, voices noted as valuable. Those who remember when we were simply dismissed as ‘fringe loonies’ stand proudly, infectious smiles on their faces. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.

I’ve been pretty shocked lately at the unwarranted bile, vehemence and sheer contempt shown by some community members to others. Specifically in the Pagan online community, but also in the wider world. Certain folk are not standing up as good examples of integrity, ethical strength or even common sense. But how far are they allowed to get away with it? Yes, they have the right to a voice – I firmly believe that we all do. But how far can sheer empty noise and volume prevail against considered thought, meaning, discussion and genuine caring? How far are we willing to challenge ourselves, to admit our faults and work for change? We might be full of anger, but without focus that rage is simply firing blindly… and unintentionally hurting those caught in the crossfire (and indeed ourselves).

We gather our Harvest and consider what will sustain us through the winter. I feel the flows of energy, both in the cooler breezes and the tones of voices raised to be heard. Mine is one of them, here, of course. I’m aware of the responsibility that this brings, in my small way. But I’m also aware of how my own practice must be strong in order to contribute well to the wider community song.

How much of what you say is actually true? How well do yours words reflect yourself, really? There’s a lot of meaningless chatter out there – phrases such as ‘oh, you know’ (no, I don’t, tell me) and well-meaning, merry but incoherent ‘it was, like, y’know, sort of, like, Stuff’… we can laugh and satirise, but there’s still a story trying to be heard amidst the jargon.

Shouting down those we don’t agree with through casually cruel insults or flippant remarks, ‘jokes’ that aren’t. The freedom of relative internet anonymity encouraging ‘trolls’. Words that achieve nothing except pain, sorrow and even more anger. Not listening before we retort. We’re all guilty of this, some more than others. A question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately: ‘Is ignorance an excuse?’ Is it so hard to apologise and try again, to open ourselves up to learning and a different point of view? Or to stand firm, strong in our own beliefs, yet flexible enough to allow challenge, to laugh and share common ground?

As Pagans, we stand up to identify with a particular spiritual path – and the ethics, the responsibility, the impact of representing that. Would we be proud, if we were to see ourselves in the eyes of others? Or ashamed of foolish superiorities, paper-thin self-image, actions taken without true understanding? Why do you do what you do? When asked how you’re celebrating your Harvest, what will you say?

Poison and empty words don’t sustain us, nor those around. Some songs are more valuable than others, but all can be worth hearing if sung honestly. What nourishment do you bring to your community? How will you keep that fire burning through the winter ahead? We all have the capability; if that ‘family’ (whether blood or friendship) is to remain strong in its shared intention, what ingredients do you bring?

We stand together, made up of individuals. In shared reading of this little essay, written by my hands, inspired by so many others – our relationships move and flow forward.

Let us sing together as the nights grow longer. Let’s see what inspiration comes from single flames burning brightly in the dark.

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The Need for Protection

Pagan Basics: Shielding. Why, How, and What From?

You wouldn’t go out in the snow (or sun, or rain) without the appropriate clothing to protect you. Nor tap into a live current, or handle a blazing fire. So why should working with any other sort of energy be different?

I’ve found a lot of practising Pagans tend to be rather blase about shielding. It’s like stretching before a run – those who know, do. Those who don’t… hurt afterwards (and accomplish less).

Why do we assume ‘oh, it’ll be all right’, and then skip it to get to the ‘good’ bits? Because, quite honestly, that assumption stems from the vague idea that what you’re doing isn’t actually that important. A version of ‘it’s not really real, so it doesn’t matter.’

If that’s your point of view, stop with this path. It’s not for you. It requires someone who’s willing to put in the work at every stage, from the foundation upwards.

You’re here, so I’m presuming you’ve some knowledge of working with energy. Whether consciously in ritual or unconsciously in your daily life… because, after all, you have. From the nastiness of a crowded shopping¬† centre in the January sales, to the peace of a hilltop at sunset, you will have experienced the feeling of different energies impacting on your own. It’s just a matter of working in relationship to that.

This is a key skill within Druidry. If you follow this road, you will find yourself actively noticing those energies daily as you learn more of your connection to the world around. This isn’t just for formal ritual.

One of the first things that Paganism 101 teaches us is how to Cast a Circle. Why? Circles are cast to protect, from within and without, both individual or group. But (contrary to what the Ceremonial Magicians will tell you) your own personal circle can be any shape. It’s yours, after all. It’s a matter of focusing on your own energy to affect that around – in other words, magic. Or Quantum Physics, depending on your point of view.

And it’s not necessarily all about the correctly coloured candles in the correct places at the correct times. It’s about you, now, this moment, being able to look after yourself. A little like Pagan Self-Defence. Practice, and after a while, it becomes instinctive.

I’ve found a variety of ways of creating personal shields. From the slightly ritualised, based on the ‘Spoils of Annwn‘, to a quick visualisation from ‘Stargate‘, I’ve worked with ideas suggested to me, translated into a way that works for me. When I first started out, I was protecting myself from something both very physical and also intangibly threatening – so I envisaged myself armed with sword and shield. At other times, I surrounded myself with a net of beautifully crocheted thread, that catches those energies that may harm.

But even now, I can forget… and soon feel the overwhelming awareness of the world taking hold and attempting to drag me under. This isn’t necessarily negative or ‘evil’ – it’s just the sheer amount of energy that everything in the world gives off, again consciously or unconsciously.

Consider that crowded shopping centre. The screaming child, the harrassed mother, the worried unemployed person, the pain of the old lady in the wheelchair, the tiredness of the staff. Multiplied by the number of people. Every curse is a physical blow, every internal sob felt in your own chest. And there’s no natural light, the very air is recycled, the ground under your feet concrete above a car park. Your roots can’t stretch that far, the natural world seems so far away…

It’s not about the formal fighting of mystical demons. It’s about using your own focus to protect yourself daily, when such onslaughts occur. They’re not necessarily directed at you (although they certainly can be), but you need to respond.

Yes, it’s difficult. This is one of those tasks that is constant ‘practise’, every time – because every time, it’s a subtly different situation. You still have to deal with it.

One of the quickest ways to protect yourself is to find a quiet place as best you can (a handy bench, a corner booth in a coffee shop, or even the stall of a public lavatory). Centre yourself. Root down, ground if you can. If you’re in plain sight, don’t worry – everyone else will pass by, thinking you’re just having a rest. Close your eyes a little if it helps and is safe to do so.

Imagine that circle surrounding you, coming from within to surround you. Visualise it however you prefer – a bubble, a web, a ball of light, even a circle of thorns. Feel the space inside as your own, protected from the outside hubbub. Breath. Use a talisman if you find it helps: a necklace pendant, telephone charm or tiny medicine pouch.

You aren’t disconnecting from the world. You’re standing in your own energy, within it. Know your intention, what you mean that ‘safe’ energy to be, what its’ purpose is. Let the¬† protective layer settle around you. Then stand up and go about your business. Finish your tasks, and when you’re in a place of safety, let yourself breath out… and the shields can relax. Ground once again, remember your connection. Then – and this is most important – find some solid food.

It’s important not to cut yourself off completely. Investing too much energy into those protections for too long can go too far, blocking out the world, so that you’re detached and unable to understand or truly see what’s going on around. You’re still part of the life on this planet – total disconnection is harmful in itself (worse, in its way, than returning to the ‘sleep of ignorance’ that most people are content to stay trapped within).

Working with your own energy (as well as that around you) is part of your Pagan practice. That’s another topic in itself, but the key word here really is ‘practice’. Learn your own power and stand in it. If you lose that connection, work to regain it. Exercise, gain strength in your energy.

It’s a constant task. But if we are to live in conscious relationship to the world around, we need to be able to recognise and ride the tides – and know how to help others when they start to sink.

 

Note: This is a very large and complex topic – if you require any further information, please feel free to message me privately.

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