Posts Tagged relationship

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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Still Singing…

As the Autumn season truly moves in, I find myself at last at home again. My travels surrounding book events have finished. I’m preparing for new workshops, students and hunkering down with Book 2.

And yet, I feel as if somehow, I’m not doing enough. I’ve put myself ‘out there’, in the world, and people are responding – therefore, I’m clearly performing a function that’s needed. I’m very grateful for this, more than I can ever express.

But it’s still a question of balance. Boundaries need to be maintained. Where do my ‘Professional’ and ‘Personal’ lives intertwine, merge and then separate again?

I don’t know if this is a question that I’ll ever be able to truly answer; it may be one of those that changes over time as I do, and as my role and practice change. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s important.

Sometimes during this madly busy Summer, I’ve felt as if I’ve lost myself. My To-Do list has taken over, so many people asking questions, reminding me of things. As a former professional Organizer (read: Personal Assistant), the idea that I’ve let tasks, events or duties get away from me is appalling. This is both good and bad – bad in the panicked moments, good in the restraint, as I bring myself back to what I need to be doing. Nobody is intentionally forgotten, there’s just a lot going on.

However, like many workaholics that I’ve seen over the years, the one thing that is forgotten on the To Do list is ‘Be Yourself’. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but without personal integrity, sense of self, constant challenging and discovering, then how valid is anything that I say? In this sense, it’s far too easy to forget that YOU are the main, primary constant in your life, as Living becomes subsumed by Doing.

One thing that I knew would eventually appear after the book was published is The Troll. Regular internet users will know the sort – the person who seems to haunt public e-places purely to niggle, to pick, to make trouble. They start arguments but don’t engage with them – there’s no back and forth, just constant harangues, confused self-righteous logic and eventually, simple abuse.

Sure enough, one of these delightful individuals appeared a while ago. They put voice to my inner concerns and worries, grabbing on and worrying at the slightest perceived weakness, refusing to answer my questions but simply arguing around and around. How dare I say anything, I’m not an authority on their spirituality. I’m just standing up and posturing for attention. Who do I think I am. Etc etc etc. And of course, that ultimate teenage cry: You don’t understand me!

Frustrating. Hurtful (so far as I let it). But also pathetic and rather pitiful. With all the noise they were putting out, this person was entirely missing the point. Perhaps I do understand them – and that’s something they can’t bear. It’s far easier to cause trouble via the anonymity of the Internet than to face your demons… even if that’s (apparently) what you’re trying to do.

I’ve said many times, I can only tell my story – nobody else’s. I’m not saying mine’s better, nor that you should follow my way. There’s nothing wrong with your own story, after all. I’m sure it’s far more suitable for your life than trying to live someone else’s.

But the fury that comes out when you discover that nobody can live your life for you can be tangible over the massive electronic media communities that we all inhabit. The cries of abuse when misunderstanding is caused by almost incomprehensible, misspelled Tweets. A world of pain contained in such a small burst of text, with no back-story, context or truth. Those who mean well and try to help are firing blindly into this lack of story – resulting in the oh-so frustrating, general message of: ‘HUGS’.

A couple of weeks ago, my Inbox contained the polar opposites of these issues. One from the Troll, apparently angry at me for not sticking around to listen to their abuse, how dare I ignore them, that just proves them right all along, blah blah, bad grammar and more abuse. Oddly enough, I felt that enough time had been wasted on trying to engage with this person and receiving only bile. A line was drawn.

The other was from a total stranger, asking for advice (OK), telling me a little of their story (lovely)… and then asking me to be their guru, their teacher, their High Priestess. They may have had the word ‘Crystal’ in their online name. I replied politely, asking for more information on what they were looking for. And never heard from them again.

While these are opposites in opinions of me, there is a clear parallel to be seen. Both people need help, and are reaching out across the internet webs. The former cannot deal with admitting weakness, so any help will be rebuffed – yet they keep seeking. The other is opening themselves to a random stranger (me in this case) for help, perhaps through desperation or perception of what I am and can provide.

Neither is truly able to engage, to connect. I have no doubt that both will continue to seek, wandering the vast and echoing halls of cyberspace, looking for someone to understand them fully in 180 characters or less, and have the power to sort their lives out for them. I’m sure you can guess the outcome.

Then there are those who become friends. I’ve said often, I always try to help – no questions will receive a rude reply, even if they involve the word ‘naked’ or ‘sacrifice’ (honestly, are you surprised that I’ve been asked?). But those who are willing to have a conversation, those I’ve met at random events and shared laughter and tea with, those who know I’m human too… these are the ones I’ll be up at silly o’clock in the morning talking to. Those who remind me both who I am and why I’m doing this.  Reforging connection through relationship. In person and in spirit.

I can’t live up to a perception, a stereotype. If I wasn’t true to myself, it would be obvious to those of you listening, and my words would become worthless. Just another Internet Pagan, retreading the same old ground. It would become so easy to become a snake-oil salesman, peddling false hopes. I can’t do that. I just have to remember to take time for me as well, so that my truth remains… well, true.

I’m looking forward to the winter, hugely. Me time, hibernation. I’m coming to understand why so many writers are solitary hermits, in a small office or shed at the end of the garden, tea and snacks at hand, scribbling away. Sometimes that’s all you need in order to create. But then you emerge: tired perhaps, but bright, happy, accomplished, fuelled by that connection, that Awen.

I can only tell my story. You can only tell yours. But that is life’s quest – both seeking out your true story, and discovering that it can actually be quite a good one. We’re all doing that, you and me.

Some might not like it. They’ll disappear, grumbling at perceived slights and misunderstood ideas. But those who truly know you… will know. And smile.

The kettle’s on. Make yourself comfortable – I’ll be back soon.

🙂

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Walking Your Own Path

This week, I have mostly been exhausted. It’s a busy time of year, my diary is crammed, I knew it would be happening. But that doesn’t stop me about worrying – about the work I’m not doing (while I’m resting), how tired I am, the ever-present To Do list…

I suppose this is symptomatic of the modern age. We’re encouraged to always be Getting On, doing something worthwhile, answering our emails within 24 hours (at most!), always being on-call.

I’ve never liked such a demanding life – I doubt many do. From having to answer questions via mobile from my boss while on holiday in the middle of a field, to explaining that no, I’m not ignoring someone because I haven’t answered their message, I’m just not getting a telephone or internet signal while away. We’ve all become very needy, with this constant (time-saving?) connection to each other.

While the positive is that we’re living as an ever-widening community, the negative clearly is that your own self can get lost, subsumed in the noise. I hear parents say this all the time. They’d love to do certain things but can’t, because of the demands of the children. I understand that to some extent (not being a parent myself), and certainly honour their choice to give up their life for the rugrats. But I can’t help thinking that we then grow up with those expectations, of someone being there for us as soon as we need them to be. A child, tugging on its parents’ cuff, whining ‘Mum, Mum, Mum’ – like the incessant ring of a mobile phone.

My parents gave things up for myself and my brother. But then when they needed to do something, go somewhere, we were taken along as well. We learned from an early age to be polite in public, sit quietly (I still always carry at least one book with me wherever I go), or amuse ourselves without being naughty. Yes, of course we got bored – but we made up games to keep ourselves amused. I vaguely remember some sort of ‘hide and seek’ in the furniture department of a large store, and discovering early video games with an original Atari display in a shop (yes, I’m dating myself – it was the early ’80s, if you must know).

Now, as an adult, I see children running almost out of control in shops and restaurants, with parents uncertain how to deal with them, how to set boundaries. This isn’t the norm, though, despite what some tabloid newspapers may have us believe – it’s simply that the louder children are more annoying and incessant, so more visible in their obvious demands. I see smarter, abler, more responsible youngsters regularly in the streets near me, but fortunately, the parents here are more inclined to the old ‘good telling off’ method of discipline than wrapping the little darlings in cotton wool.

But then we see it with adults as well: demanding, shouting, raging in public when something hasn’t worked out to their liking. That expectation, the sense of control being lost and subsequent crying like a child – I find it rather scary. I’ve felt it too, the frustration of being treated like a number by those apparently trying to help – but these are systems that we have agreed to live within, as they rise around us. Anger isn’t going to change that. Acting like a mature adult dealing with another, however…

One of the most common excuses I hear for not following a spiritual path is ‘I don’t have time.’ I understand, but it still frustrates me (when I do it too, by the way – I’m not immune!). But as I’ve often said, Druidry is a lived spirituality. We are living it, all the time.

In this mad connection of busy-ness, calling to and being called on by others, we are speaking, listening, thinking, seeing… or are we? How often do we find ourselves lapsing into the easy laziness of absolved responsibility? Like a child, allowing others to take over, and then complaining when things don’t work out as we’d like? It’s far easier to laugh at mistakes when they’re your own, that you should have realized but didn’t – because you know your own thought processes. Did you cock up because of enthusiasm, ignorance, distraction, or all three? That’s ok. Now you know, you can fix it.

Or if we’re working as part of a team, are we doing our bit well, or spending all our time worrying about others? Are you frustrated by those workmates’ own laziness, allowing you to pick up the slack while they hang back? How far are you letting them do so? How much easier is it to blame others, bitching from a remote moral high ground where nothing will ever change? Or are you really seeing the whole story?

We all need time for ourselves. All of us. Whether it’s to recharge, or just to simply breath out and take stock, that ‘Me Time’ is crucial to our sanity. From the classic sit-com image of a husband relaxing in his greenhouse, to a busy mum closing her eyes as she lies back in her bubble bath. We all know it – the difficulty is ‘fitting in’ that time amidst everything else.

But the truth is, like our spirituality, we are always in our Me time. How could we not be? We are each ourselves, an individual, walking our path in a larger world but ultimately ME. So what are you doing with that time?

We aren’t encouraged to stop, to rest. Try it now. Pause. Take a breath. Look around, really look. Smile at what you see (I hope). This is your life. You chose to be there, doing that, reading this. I chose to type these words.

I chose this path. I avoided it for a long time, before listening to that Universal voice telling me to get on with it. I can’t complain about my busy-ness, because ultimately I’m doing something that I love, which brings happiness to others, or at least helps them out a little. I’m not just doing this to massage my own ego or to be ‘needed’ – I’m here because people keep calling on me. I’m fulfilling a role, one which is flexible based on each individual and their circumstances. Connection, but each time entirely unique.

I’m truly not trying to be some sort of ‘guru’ or ‘leader’. At best, I’m a guide – noter of the possibilities, kicker-up-the-bum to action, deflater of complacency and provider of tea in times of crisis. But I need that too, from time to time. Of course I do.

This is where we learn to stop, to stand, to take stock and breath. To take responsibility. Even if that means saying ‘no, I’m sorry, I can’t do that’. To see, listen, investigate, understand; or if not understand, then either walk away or find an alternate route. To be part of the flow, which helps you to ride it more effectively rather than push against the tide.

We need to find what recharges us, fuels us. To maintain our personal practice. Yes, I do firmly believe that you can find time to set aside for this, but if you absolutely feel you can’t no matter what, do so when waiting for other things – a bus or train, a kettle to boil, while running a bath or washing up. Those are good times to think, to consider, to connect. After all, each one is a ritual act in itself…

Try it. Live your life, your responsibility, your spirituality. And, as always (both actively and passively): What are you doing?

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The Raven’s Eye

Yesterday, I wrote a post on the topic of ‘Sacrifice’. It’s been taken down now, for various reasons, but mainly that it was perhaps too ambiguous – a large topic either needs a broad area for discussion, or something simpler, more personal.

But I’ve been thinking, deeply, on both that subject and the wider aspects of communicating such amorphous concepts. Which is, essentially, what this blog does. I’ve made it my duty to do it as well as I can.

So this is just one tiny page of one person’s thoughts. Challenged to write from my heart, to sing my own song, I call on the Awen to flow once again…

As a Druid, I’m often asked about ‘making the sacrifice’. It’s something people ‘know’ about our ancestors, that image of the robed figure with knife held high above a stone table. That may be the story, but what’s the reality?

To me a Sacrifice is a sacred gift, given to reflect and maintain balance. Offered with love and some regret, it should be missed – and therein lies the value. The relationship between given and giver, the connection, the story told in the history of that act and its future consequences: a sacrifice is neither simple, nor isolated. Responsibility and intention are presented and received in turn. And we move forward.

The first, or last, taste of food or drink – the gift of Life.
Time and energy – the gift of Knowledge.
Tears – Strength.
Life – Love.
Blood – Life.
Pain – Healing.

I give my words to you all, here. My efforts, time, thoughts and integrity, sacrificed on the altar of free information – not ultimate truth, in any way, but my own truth. I can do no more.

I learn from what comes as a result of these words, as others read and respond. It’s not about ego, not at all, but about inspiration, sharing, adding one voice to an overarching melody. I work hard to make that sound true, with so much discordant squawking out there. The topic becomes less important, as I struggle to make the words reflect my thoughts, to create understanding, not confusion. I have no idea who will read these words – the sheer audacity of believing that it will be of interest at all is huge, but I can’t think about that. It’s a challenge, but I can’t be overwhelmed by the unknown. It’s just me, here, typing my intention.

I make my own sacrifices daily, feeling it become more difficult as I get older. To my loved ones, my Gods, my ancestors, family of blood and spirit – and to complete strangers, those who approach me to simply ask. These words are just one example.

We’re all human, reluctant to give up what we’ve worked for, to expose ourselves to ridicule. But we have to make that connection, to do what matters – or we’re simply isolated, alone and confused, and fooling ourselves, refusing to feel, blocking our own senses. We receive as we give (as a wiser person said).

What sacrifices do you make in life? Not necessarily through obligation, but voluntarily – not always easily, but willingly?

The cost and reward of Sacrifice? Love, bravery and honesty. A Druid Triad, perhaps – or it could be just my mutterings…

Dedicated, with love, to that Son of Odin whose wisdom I hold dear. The Raven’s song may be harsh, but it always carries meaning x

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Druidry in the City

It’s always a challenge to combine your spirituality with your ‘regular’ life. This is one of the joys of Druidry, and a strong factor in what originally attracted me to it: that lack of dividing line. Something that would help when there’s an impossible deadline, a sardine-can of a train journey, another late night at the desk.

Druidry really isn’t a fair-weather path, something to do when you ‘get a minute’. It’s constant, lived, breathed, investigating your personal connection and relationship with the world around all the time. And let’s face it, if anywhere/one needs it, it’s the worker, the ‘wage-slave’, the office and the streaming multitude of lonely commuters.

Don’t believe me? OK. Do you really think your Gods are only present when you call them, wearing the right clothes and performing the correct rituals? Our ancestors saw the spiritual (in terms of real, named spirits) everywhere. From the water in the cooler to the energy in the computer wires. The natural world is where we live, even if it’s concrete, glass and granite.

I’ve written about it before, but wanted to just write something practical today for those of you out there with your noses at the grindstone (farmer or financier).

When you get the chance today, either get outside or at least to a window. Look around. Breath (yes, I know fumes aren’t fun, but use your judgment). Feel the air – natural or processed? Be aware of the light on your skin – sunlight or bulb? Notice the difference.

Ground yourself: feet on the floor. Listen to what’s around you, feel the buzz of people and activity. Then listen harder, to the undertones. Worry or enjoyment? Stress or happiness? Look inside, at yourself. Are you knotted up with the weight of expectations, or flowing with your tasks, your duties and responsibilities?

Notice the spirits around you. The lone tree planted in a pavement and ignored, save by the birds. And then the gods of modern life, that we bow down to: the Lord of Deadlines, the stern dictator of Commuter Etiquette. Eris is Lady of Computers, if anyone is! Make whatever offerings (coffee? chocolate? small symbols on the desk?) are appropriate, and ask them to be kind as you work with them.

Realize how blindness and ignorance threatens our awareness, as we walk past the homeless man, fail to help the crying girl lost on a roadside, or do nothing for the fellow apparently unconscious on a train platform. See the God of Fear that prohibits our actions, due to propriety or overruling awareness of How We Would Look.

This is not an exercise in guilt. This is an urge to Wake Up. Feel your spirituality as it runs through you, every minute of every day. What are you doing with it? How it is informing your awareness? Ultiumately, how is it helping?

Now. On Monday morning, from the moment you leave your home, walk with awareness. Really look around, at the land, the creatures, your fellow workers. Forget the MP3 player, even the book on the train or bus. Look around. See the land you walk through, natural and man-made. Don’t judge, just bear witness. Consider how you move within it. Let your spirituality inform your actions.

Try to carry this awareness through the day, putting perspective on your actions – especially if you ‘don’t have time.’ Why are you doing what you’re doing? Not in a negative sense – who will benefit from your efforts? See your link in the chain, from immediate co-workers to end users. Washing up may be a chore, but it allows clean utensils to enhance meals, to fuel others. Call centre conversations are immensely frustrating, but is this because one of those involved isn’t really listening? How are you helping, others you are beholden to help, and yourself?

Remember your connection. It’s always there, as are those who walk with you. Just stopping to take a deep breath and bring your true self back from panic or frenetic activity is a sacred act.

Your Gods, your ancestors – would they be proud of you for what you do, even if it’s just making it through the day? Thank them for the realization that ritual is possible wherever you are – and for their help in the daily battle.

You\re never alone. You just have to open your eyes.

Addendum: I’m now slightly late this morning, because I was compelled to write this piece. I’ve just completed the Greater Morning Ritual of the Coffee, however, and wanted to share – preparation with awareness and gratefulness, now taking a moment to sit and enjoy it. Before rushing off to get ready for work…

Enjoy your day, kind reader x

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