Archive for the ‘gratitude’ Category

Talking to Trees   2 comments

This article in an Atlantic of some three years ago about emailing trees resurfaced online recently, and in case you missed it, still offers a fine blend of longing, whimsy, technology and Druid tree references to satisfy a diverse audience. The subheading says it all:  “The city of Melbourne assigned trees email addresses so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favourite trees”.

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tsuga canadensis,  north of the house

Writing to trees may not (yet) be proven to lower blood pressure, but expressing gratitude and affection never hurts. I write to the stand of hemlocks some twenty feet north from where I’m sitting indoors on this cold day in mid-December. “Your bark glows reddish brown in the late afternoon sun. I send you strength and healing against the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) that slowly eats at your bark and branches. Live, neighbors. May we learn more about how to help you so that your beauty and height remain to grace the land”.

 

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And just as the Atlantic article came up for air, so did a positively Druidic sentiment among my Facebook friends: the lovely Welsh idiom dod yn ôl at fy nghoed, which means to “return to my right mind, to my senses, to a balanced state”. But literally it means to “come back to my trees”.  (Nghoed is the mutated/possessive form, after fy “my”, of coed “woods, trees”.) A wise admonition coded in language, every time we say it! May we all come back to our trees, the trees that oxygenate and potentially heal us, that feed and nourish and shade us, that transform landscapes, shelter a myriad of birds and beasts, and help make the planet home.

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Posted 10 December 2018 by adruidway in Druidry, gratitude, hemlock (tree), trees, Welsh

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Four Rituals for Happiness   2 comments

The prompt for this post comes from a Feb. ’16 article in The Week — nearly two years ago. The inevitable article or podcast or meme about how depressing the holidays can be merits a judicious counterbalance — it deserves an “on the other hand” in rebuttal. So here’s one contribution toward that goal. It may help to read the article in The Week first. Or not — your call.

Now the pop neuroscience that the article’s based on — “Neuroscience reveals 4 rituals that will make you happy”, the title crows — isn’t actually particularly astonishing in itself. But the “four rituals” are interesting because they’re behaviors every human already practices anyway. That means — to me anyway — I’ve already got something to start with and build on. The magical principle here: What we make conscious gains power from focus.

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Snow, then ice: 23 December 2017

At this point those who think ritual doesn’t interest or concern them may be tempted to turn away. (There is after all a whole Net out there to click through. Go ahead if you need to!) But as anthropologists and neuro-folk have discovered, to be human is to ritualize our experience. It’s as if we each need to wear t-shirts that say: “What rituals are you practicing today?” You know, just to keep the activity in mind. If we’re ritualizing, what are its effects? Is it a helpful ritual? What are we doing?

As I’ve written elsewhere on this blog,

From small rituals like shaking hands vs. bowing, or saying your culture’s equivalents of “please” and “thank you,” to family traditions at the holidays, and outward to public ceremonies like reunions, annual festivals, weddings, funerals, ship-launchings, inaugurations, dedications, etc., ritual pervades all human cultures.

Some of our most potent and invisible rituals shape our daily experience in profound ways. The trick, I conclude, is to domesticate my rituals, expand on the most effective ones, and put more of them to work on my behalf. (By the law of reversed effort, they may become much wilder as a result.)

In fact, we ritualize such a large portion of our days, that when something breaks our routines (read ritual as “habit” here), it may annoy or even anger us as much as it may pleasantly surprise or intrigue us.  Let me find road work or a detour along a customary route, a power outage, a closed restaurant I was counting on (but hadn’t called ahead for, because it’s “always open”), and I’m thrown out of routine, forced to reshape something I’d previously planned and ritualized. We count on ritual to streamline and organize experience. Maybe that’s why we discount magical rituals. Ritual is so commonplace, after all, that it can feel “nothing special” by itself.

It’s what we do with it that counts.

So here’s a Druidified version of the four rituals, each now associated with an element and a direction. The ritually minded can expand on these “core four”, rearrange the associations, and so on. After all, if ritual or magic can’t deliver even a smidgen of happiness, it ain’t worth much.

Earth/North: Practice gratitude.

Give thanks for good things. Gratitude, as my longtime readers know, is one of my go-to techniques. Pairing it with appropriate action helps intensify it — write it down, etc. Earthy forms of gratitude may loom particularly prominently in your awareness right now — sweaters, wool socks, hot drinks, etc. Go for it. Earth the gratitude. Ground it in awareness and in gesture, in action, etc.

Air/East: Name the negatives.

Turns out our capacity for shame, guilt and worry can be productive, says the article. (Good thing, since so many of us specialize in one or more of these. Collect all Three!) And though labelling often comes in for a bad name in our politically distraught and extreme age, it’s one of the things that language is for, what it excels at. One key is the appropriate label: “Name it and tame it”. And “getting a handle on something” can include naming it accurately. And also knowing when to turn off language altogether for an interval — a magical technique all its own. Trance, music, daydream — we hold the reins in our hands.

Interrogating habits, whether “good” or “bad”, can reveal unsuspected wealth both for themes for meditation, and for material for ritual. What we really want can surprise us: going through the motions of a habit can block us from discovering what actually powers the habit in the first place. Studying the habit, revolving it in clear daylight, returning it to consciousness, can teach us much of value. Ritualizing it empowers us to live its full potential rather than shoving to one side, where it collects dust and rust and small rodents as it putrefies. A purified habit is a happy habit.

As J. M. Greer notes,

[t]he tools of magic are useful because most of the factors that shape human awareness are not immediately accessible to the conscious mind; they operate at levels below the one where our ordinary thinking, feeling, and willing take place. The mystery schools have long taught that consciousness has a surface and a depth. The surface is accessible to each of us, but the depth is not. To cause lasting changes in consciousness that can have magical effects on one’s own life and that of others, the depth must be reached, and to reach down past the surface, ordinary thinking and willing are not enough (J. M. Greer, Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth, Weiser Books, 2012, pg. 88)

Fire/South: Make a decision.

Starting with small decisions helps me access the spark that follows this act. After consciously telling myself I will do this after writing this sentence, I rise and go put in a load of laundry. I’m back, and the act of getting up literally and psychologically to carry out, to follow through on a decision, is useful to enact and then to examine critically for its effects. A magical insight here: switch hemispheres frequently!

(Perfectionists may want to aim for “good-enough” decisions. Consciously wallowing in mud, working up a sweat, or making some kind of a mess — your choice! — may help defuse some of the OCD tendencies of perfectionism — short circuit it intentionally. Hey, it’s worked for me! Making a conscious decision about something very small can open up clarity on the decision-making capacity itself, without the distraction of the incidental content of the decision.)

If “ordinary thinking and willing are not enough”, there’s plenty we can do.

Water: Touch living things.

So many … loved ones, pets, plants and trees, the green earth. Touch as the most concrete of the senses can take us out of heads and into our bodies, letting the other elements do their work more directly, without all the wards and barriers and avoidance strategies we deploy whenever we practice unconscious black magic on ourselves. Which we do constantly. Connection drags us out of the solitary hells that the West has come to specialize in helping us to manifest. “Only connect!” goes the magical refrain — “Live in fragments no longer” (E. M. Forster, Howards End).

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Change up the elemental associations, and the rituals will shift subtly if not significantly. Armed with the earth of the body, the air of the breath, the fire of spirit and water of blood, we may ritualize our ways to places of surprise and delight. Happiness can’t be an endpoint anyway — it’s a practice to take up and improve.

Grace for Lunasa Season   2 comments

Irish poet Dennis King opens his poem “Altú” “Grace” like this: “I láthair mo mhuintire …” “In the presence of my people …”, finding reason in human existence itself for thanks. So often we need gratitude most when we feel it least. But on to the poem:

In the presence of my
people
back to the beginning of
life,
In the witness of the gods
and the ungods,
In homage to the
immense
generosity of the universe,
I give thanks
before my portion.

I’m going to do the English teacher thing you and I both have learned to detest: take a perfectly good piece of writing and analyze its parts. My goal, however, is not some obscure symbol-hunt or post-Modern Deconstructionist manipulation, but the pursuit of wisdom. What can this poem teach me?

First, King acknowledges witnesses. I live in the presence of my people, whether I belong to an extended family of the living, by blood or choice, or to the default tribe each of us can claim, one among a host of ancestors. All we do and are takes place in their presence. We don’t need to summon, invoke, or invite them, though it’s a courtesy in ritual, and it serves to remind us we’re companioned always.

Look in the mirror and you see the ancestors in eyes, nose, hair, line of jaw and length of limb. Consider what goes deeper than skin, and you can find them in your temper, your tastes, native tongue, social class and assorted beliefs and prejudices. Yes, you’ve added your own variations on these themes, and many of these you can shift to some degree through chance and choice and effort.

Send off for the increasingly popular DNA check, and you may find, depending on the accuracy of the particular test, that your tribe includes ancestors from unexpected places, that you can claim roots in many lands — that you even have something like a choice of tribes, if you’re looking to trade labels or identities.

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Hellenic ritual

If the genetic test runs true that my father’s cousin ran a few years ago, I have some Greek ancestors, though family trees I’ve received and researched back ten generations or more on both sides offer no hint to explain an “8% Hellenic background”. But what does that mean, anyway? Wanderers, all of us, with ancestors as human, amorous, deceitful and restless as any of our relatives alive today. If because of all this I opt to worship Zeus, Athena, Hermes or Dionysos, they may or may not deign to notice. It’s an option for me, of course, and there are Reconstructionist Hellenists today who are reviving the old ways, Olympian style. But is that my call, or calling?

“Back to the beginning of life”, King continues. Whoever played a part in launching this whole enterprise of living, “gods or ungods” or lightning zapping the primordial chemical stew of a young Earth, we’re here and thinking (and drinking) about these things. And so these possible witnesses deserve acknowledgement, too. Why?! Because whether or not they exist, to remember and honor them even for a moment does me good. It enlarges my sympathies, and sets my life in a field much larger than what my social security number and bank PIN code and town tax ID and physical address suggest I am. We’re more, I hope we keep remembering, than the boxes we check on the endless forms we fill out. No single identity can define me, so why insist on just one? Pagan, white, childless, married, cancer survivor, writer, heterosexual, teacher, male: any one of these, and many more, could be a life-project to explore. Does one contradict or deny another? Does a census or a faction or political party or church begin to define me? Yes, you say?

Who are the true “authorities” in my life? Ancestors of scores of millennia, or a few political office-holders of the current arrangement, fulfilling one piece of their own lives by holding up one political system among how many possibilities? “I am large”, says Walt Whitman. “I contain multitudes”. (Easy to say, Walt, if no one insists on you being small, single, unitary, one thing only. Box checked, census complete, status once-and-for-always. But how large a claim about me, this thing I was born into, am I willing to assert?)

To exist at all is gift. “In homage to the immense generosity of the universe”: what would my life look like if I lived it daily in such homage? Can I begin to imagine it? Could I begin today, in small ways that could build over time?

“I give thanks before my portion”. Physically before: there it is, on plates and in bowls and cups. And temporally: before I take any of it into my body, I thank. Not after. Gratitude, how many doors can you open?

My portion: each of us has a part, a piece, a portion. If you’re a Christian, and you take Communion, the bread and wine or grape juice represent, or become, the inexhaustible blood and body of God. We eat and drink god-stuff, ungod-stuff. Our portion is endlessly refilling, and replenishing. To find and know and cherish my true portion: another project worthy of a life, of living.

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Image: Hellenismos ritual;

Moons of Spirit, Synonyms for God: Part 1   2 comments

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3]

In his fine novel South of Broad, Pat Conroy writes:

His curiosity about the earth ennobled his every waking moment. His earth was billion-footed, unseen worlds in every drop of water and every seedling and every blade of grass. The earth was so generous. It was this same earth that he prayed to because it was his synonym for God (Pat Conroy, South of Broad, New York: Dial Press/Random House, pg. 3).

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I’m adapting the 11 questions from Matt Auryn’s recent (May 27, 2017) post “Witchsplaining & How To Avoid It”, turning them around, upside down, and inside out, shaking them a little, and adding two more to make it 13 in total for this three-part series.

Matt’s original asks questions to help others avoid condescending or patronizing interactions – think “mansplaining” and apply it to Witchcraft. My adaptation repurposes the questions. (Who would condescend to themselves?!) It’s for myself and others who’d like a jumping off place for assistance and perspective in examining our interactions with Spirit. Among other things, I’ve modified the questions to make them into “hows” and “whys” along a continuum, rather than a matter of yes or no, all or nothing. You can think of a spiritual practice as an inward synonym for gods or God.

So here goes: if I feel Spirit or the Divine doesn’t seem to be speaking to me, here are some questions I try to remember to ask myself.  Versions have been kicking around in my journal for a couple of decades. You might think of them as “13 Moons of Spirit”, a year’s worth of spiritual investigation. Because if I haven’t visited some version of these recently, I’ll discover — or get prodded into remembering — that it’s time to return and incorporate asking and listening to them into my practice.

1. How have I already been asking for and seeking a connection with Spirit?

Almost everyone has some kind of practice already in place, at least in embryo. Take a walk, a jog or a drive after work to unwind? Read a favorite author or listen to the same song to help you fall asleep? Get up before everyone else, or stay up after everyone else, to find some “alone time”? Seek a particular household task (dishes, laundry, window-washing, vacuuming, etc.) as much for its rhythm as for its usefulness? Recite a favorite saying, charm, poem, etc., at a particular moment of your day, just before sleep, right after waking? (For some years, out for a jog each morning a little before sunrise, I’d whisper to myself these words from the Odyssey at the dawn: “The sun rose on the flawless brimming sea into a sky all brazen–all one brightening for gods immortal and for mortal men”.) You’re on the way to a practice already.

Often we assume that with Spirit we start from zero and move from no connection to full connection. Or sometimes we evaluate spiritual practices or paths like we rate internet connections or sports cars: 0 to 60 in how many seconds? Not fast enough? Change brands or makes of car. Get the speed you need! Sticking with a practice and timing it for results is like watching a pot for when it starts to boil, like waiting for seedlings to germinate, break through the surface and send out their first leaves. It will happen, and it also takes way longer if I sit there just watching for it. Finding something else to do can be an important part of my after-practice.

2. How can I open myself further to Spirit? How can I strengthen my “essential welcome” (see previous post)?

Asking for connection, all by itself, is a great start. Listening for answers and trying out nudges and hints is a fine second step.

What will I do with greater access, increased flow? How will I pass it on? (Otherwise it bottlenecks, and all the openness in the world to “more” won’t pass it along until I find an outlet. In-flow, out-flow. We are lakes, reservoirs, oceans, capacitors. Or if I’m feeling particularly modest, a tea-cup. Once I’m full, “more” has no place to go but over the sides. I need to get bigger, too. I need to pass along the gift.

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3. How have I responded when Spirit and I DO connect?

If I don’t record it somehow, it almost always disappears. Getting it down is a practice of gratitude all its own. Our minds are exquisitely this-world focused. That’s useful for driving a car, following a schedule, coloring within the lines. Want to keep a job, an appointment, a promise? Mind is your go-to guy.

Want to retain the touch of a god, the breath of Spirit, the thrill of broadened understanding, the trance of ritual, the gift of love between luminous beings? Mind drops what doesn’t fit on its notepad, its index, its time-card. Write it down, record your voice telling it, draw it, sing it, etc. This, I’ve found, helps train mind to hold on to just a little more. Every once in a while I get a glimpse of how much comes and how little I notice. And reviewing such records helps prime the pump, blows away the cobwebs and reminds us of past connections. One daydream including a glimpse of hilltop or temple may be a lapse of attention. Five or ten “daydreams” of the same location, recorded over a year or three, (mind WILL forget!) is something else entirely. How will I detect the difference if I lose the recall?

Response generates response. Thanks, with no other practice, can take me amazingly far into other worlds where gratitude is the sole pass-key. Thanks, wonder, generosity: a holy triad.

4. How, if at all, have I formally apprenticed myself to Spirit? How, if at all, have I agreed to make Spirit or any Wise Ones partners in my training?

Making these kinds of agreements can be of immense help in training a stubborn and lazy human consciousness to serve more widely. Once I begin to serve, the tools and resources and opportunities begin to open up. Make the request or promise seriously to grow and serve — they amount to the same thing — and Spirit will hold me to it. The training and the feedback in the form of quicker reactions to my actions all help sharpen awareness. If it gets to be too much, I can always take a break. Dial it back. Soon enough, I’m restless and eager to grow again. Because on an endless journey, there’s no rush. Only a holy rhythm.

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Tending One Thing   Leave a comment

On several occasions my teacher has shared with the small circle of his students his practice of tending with love one thing that he does regularly anyway. Then to do it with intention and focus and care.

The action can be as simple — and simple works well — as tying shoelaces. Getting out of bed. Shaving. Watering a plant. Opening the front door. The technique transforms a quotidian something that has till now just sat there in its ordinariness and now begins to flower in our awareness, once we give it that kind attention. I was going to write kind of attention, but “kind attention” fits, too. Do this, I keep finding, and like pockets or balloons of energy, the world through the particular thing we are cherishing and tending opens itself as a gift. This happened to me on my regular 3-mile loop walk, when I walked with intention. Putting each foot down, lifting the other, breathing, listening.

What remains green when other things are dying?

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Mosses and lichens nibble at stones, evergreens of a different tribe. I run a hand lightly over them, this first cool green being on the walk.

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I give thanks for all that comes free — air and earth, cloud and sunlight, birdsong and breathing.

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I give thanks we have language to name such things, our round, treaded words rolling us from perception to perception, good pointers that they are.

Numbers, letters, the signs we make to write speech onto things — little wonder we’ve attributed their origins to gods — Thoth, Hermes, Saraswati. Attend closely enough to roundness and the shape echoes, singing in the ear. Who knew worn round things have such stories to tell?

I will tend you until who you are is more important than my opinion about you.

img_1535I give thanks for this world of contrasts where, according to one of the Wise, many beings wait on the threshold, longing to incarnate for the extraordinary lessons it offers. The denser and harder its energies and challenge, the more it offers them opportunities to grow as they can nowhere else.

Shadow and light, new equilibriums possible with each step, so many things whose tending reveals things coming into existence because we have tended them.

Light and dark hold hands — or clasp branches, as the case may be.

What questions does the world answer that we haven’t asked — but could?

 

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ann-hallAncestors, relatives, descendants — who really is a stranger in the end, when so many are kin?

From the flat pink-yellow photo paper my great-great-grandparents Ann and James look out on their wedding day.

Did you foresee the Civil War gathering its bayonets and gunpowder, gangrene and despair?

Picture frame like a ship’s porthole — I half expect you to stand and move about and take up your lives as I gaze at you. I give thanks that because of you, I exist. I know you in my bones, though I know little enough about you: this image, and birth, wedding and death dates.

(I’m grateful even for the big noses you both obviously bequeathed to us your descendants.)

The world follows its own dells and channels and boundaries, often ignoring ours.

Build a wall and before long, birds, wind and animals help seed the beginnings of a thicket instead. Tree roots thrusting from below make a ruin of any wall. Trees might have served better to begin with.

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I’m grateful walls sometimes simply end abruptly. Should I leap from the capstone? Build a sacred fire on it? Shift it to seek for treasure cached beneath it.

Maybe just listen and see if it has something to say other than whatever I’m thinking. My thoughts may have less to say than its silence.

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Then there’s time’s rough handling. Hang around long enough, and the things you’ll lose, as much as anything you’ll gain, will build your character, all our ancestors mutter.

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I’m grateful for the tracks of things, however faint, that pull me out of thought and into larger possibility.

I give thanks life meets me halfway — just not always where and how I expect it.

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I give thanks, finally, that the path itself doesn’t always stay the same. Sometimes I think it changes underfoot, just to check if we’re paying attention, and not sleepwalking along our ways.

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Posted 27 November 2016 by adruidway in Druidry, gratitude

Tagged with ,

Initiation: To Serve in Order to Know   4 comments

[Part Two]

During the year and a day of your training, you’ve studied, practiced, visualized, rehearsed, memorized, subjected yourself to physical and psychological tests and disciplines and — perhaps in spite of your own better judgment of your readiness — you’ve finally been chosen as a candidate for initiation.

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The day of the ceremony arrives. You may be dressed in a particular ritual way, or you may have bathed and simply be wearing new clothes. Perhaps a single jewel or ring you now wear gives you something you find yourself toying with as you wait. Probably you’ve been given specific instructions to help prepare you and assist you in entering the desired state of consciousness. Or the absence of such instructions has the same effect.

You’re nervous, too, and the other members of the group who are participating in your initiation don’t do anything to dispel that nervousness. In fact, they may be sympathetic and kind to you, and their very kindness will only increase the mystery. What am I getting myself into? you ask yourself. This and other questions are good ones to ask — though they may have no answers.

In many occult and magical orders, potential new initiates face a challenge when they enter the ritual space where their initiation will take place. “What do you seek?” goes one variant of the verbal part of the challenge. Depending on what you’ve been taught or are expecting, the rumors you’ve heard, or the nature of the particular group you’re with, the question can catch you off guard. It’s meant to.

In an intro to an online magical training document by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, J. H. Brennan relates his own experiences, and doubtless those of many other people, here (see pg. 4) . He comments wryly that, not surprisingly, why we seek is often a bigger determining factor in our experience than what.

We all do things for the best possible motives, of course; and nowhere more so than in the esoteric arts. It is relatively easy to discover that the only really acceptable excuse for magical study is embodied in the statement I desire to know in order to serve. That was the answer I was prompted to give to the ritual question during my own initiation. I dutifully gave it; and it was a lie.

What actually attracted me to magic was not service but power.

“I desire to know in order to serve” has its motivations all lined up for inspection. It’s a “good doggy” answer.  It’s noble-sounding, and as the “really only acceptable excuse,” it’s comforting to give it and feel good about having such an answer to give. Because in this logical and scientific age of ours, don’t you need an excuse for something as wacky and bizarre as the study of magick — especially spelt with a -k — that doesn’t make you sound like a raving loony?!

So let’s reverse it. “I desire to serve in order to know.”

One of my teachers said this yesterday.  It rang true to me because he demonstrates service in what he does, in how he listens to the people he meets, and in how he stills his own agendas and instead of what he thinks, he strives to hear what’s needed. He does these things with humility. And just as important, he models this for others, not as something he turns on to impress others and then drops once he’s “offstage,” but as something he’s continually practicing until it accompanies him, his words and his actions like a fragrance.  And that makes you want to do the same.

A few months ago I encountered a goddess in contemplation. I heard her name, an epithet — Stormbringer — and a little more. The only way I can find out more about her is to serve her. Slowly I gain a clearer vision of who she is and why she is manifesting to me, now.

I can enlarge my understanding of service. I serve when I grow — a larger vision spreads its fermentation through human consciousness, because my actions emerge from what I hold in my heart and thoughts.

We serve when, rather than getting bogged down in irritation, anger and fear, we assume a playful approach to problems. Then the lightness of spiritual insight and creativity can lead us to solutions we might not have found on our own. And our playfulness, when it’s respectful of others, can help lighten their loads, too, and smile, if possible, or laugh. We serve in small things, done without thought for anything except the doing, and the doing well.

(OK. Got it. Dang — give you a soapbox and you just don’t let up, do you?)

I serve when I open myself to receive love from others , and find I must “enlarge my spirit to receive the gift,” as Ursula LeGuin describes it in her fantasy A Wizard of Earthsea.

giftinhandI serve when I ask to understand the causes underlying an issue or problem in my life, not just to remove the problem so I can get on with my agenda. (Often enough, my agenda is the problem. The apparent problem is a gift, to show me something I need to learn. Otherwise it wouldn’t keep coming back again. And again. Funny how much easier it is to see in other people’s lives.)

Difficult gift, what do you have to teach me? Can I enlarge my heart for you, too? Right now, when you come knocking again, when it’s really not convenient at all? Can I let my impatience dissolve and make my listening a gift to you?

We serve when we recognize ourselves in others, when we recognize others in ourselves, and see the Great Mystery, as the Lakota Sioux call it, the Wakan Tanka, in the eyes of those we meet every day.

We serve when we practice gratitude. A powerful practice I’ve proved to myself: keeping a gratitude journal, with daily entries. Just reading it over can jump start me out of depression and back into engaging my life. Gratitude grows and spreads to others its divine infection.

And so, in serving, what do I know that I didn’t before? Has knowing become less important, and service more?

Now, about power

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Images: guide and initiate; gift in hand.

“What Remains in the Journal, What to Communicate”   1 comment

handbirdIn her comment on a post from August ’13, Lorna Smithers makes a distinction particularly vital for “Bardic types” that I want to take up here, especially in light of my last post:

The division between what remains in the journal and what to communicate is a question I confront continuously as a Bard, for unlike with a path that focuses solely on personal transformation through magic, Bards are expected to share their inspiration.

I find that some experiences are ok to share immediately, others need time to gestate for the meanings to evolve and take on a clearer form, and a select few may always stay secret.

I see good craftmanship to be the key [to] sharing experiences. In contrast to the vomit of ‘compulsive confession’, well-wrought craft lifts the raw material into the realms of art, creating works that affirm the awe and wonder of the magical world.

That Bardic instinct to share inspiration that may or may not have been shaped by art can get us in trouble.  The desire to bring into physical expression something that’s going on in your inner worlds can lead to what Lorna accurately calls vomit.  Sometimes, of course, awen really does drop a piece of loveliness in your lap.  It arrives fully-formed, and you run with it, dazed and delighted and puppy-like in your enthusiasm to share the wonder of it with all and sundry, but that (the gift of inspired loveliness, not the puppy-like response) usually only happens when you’ve done plenty of the hard slog of shaping already, alone or with only yourself and your gods for support of a vision no one else may even know anything about.

Sometimes the time and energy your pour into nurturing your creativity can make you defensive if you haven’t “produced” anything visible.  If you’re a writer, for instance, you’re not a “real” writer till you’ve “published.”  Few will care about the months, years or decades of work that may lie shelved in boxes or occupy megs of space on a computer.  The same holds true in comparable ways for anyone who’s devoted time and energy to a craft or art.

Lazy-at-workArtists who should know better sometimes like to hint, or let it be inferred, that this business of “awen on command” is how they work all the time, both mystifying us “ordinary mortals” and also doing a disservice to their craft and the nature of inspiration.  Talent, oddly enough, responds well to practice, and no one works most of the time without effort.

The Anglo-Saxon bard was called a sceop, pronounced approximately “shop,” “one who shapes” inspiration into language and song.  And the word bard comes from an Indo-European root *gwer- that means “to praise”  or “to sing,” indicating two of the roles of the Celtic bard. The same root appears in Latin gratia, and English grace — a whole cluster of relationships — the gift and our response, our gratitude, and the quality in things blessed with awen, the loveliness and fluidity and rightness they often evince.

But if I opt to share something that’s not ready or right to share, I’ll usually regret it.  Let me enthuse or gab about a story or an inner experience before its proper time, and it may lose its luster.  It no longer thrills me enough to work with it, and I take what was a gift and cast it aside, its charm lost.  The spell is broken, and I am no longer spell-bound, or able to do anything with it.  Like the old fairy story of the goblin jewels, in the daylight of the blog, or the careless conversation with another, the one-time treasures that sparkled and shone under moonlight have turned to dead leaves.  One or two such painful experiences is usually enough to teach anyone the virtues of silence, restraint and self-discipline.

walkingAnother half (there are almost never just two halves, but three, four, five or more) of the whole, however, is that keeping the flow going, trusting the awen enough to go with what you get, and allowing the work to manifest, brings in more.  Jesus did know what he was talking about when he said (paraphrased to modernize the language), “To people that already have, more will be given, and from people that don’t, even what they have will be taken away.”  While this may sound at first like contemporary government policy and destructive legislation and current economics, it holds true on the inner planes, in the worlds of inspiration and imagination.

Lorna herself is an exemplar of this Bardic trust and inspiration.  As an Awenydd, one who receives and shapes the gift of awen, she demonstrates in poetry and photography on her blog and in performance the mutual bonds with the Otherworld and spirits of place that make up her path.

And so it was with considerable interest that I read her account “Personal Religion?”  well into writing this post, while I was checking that the URLs were right for the links to her blog.  She experiences a strong reaction on hearing about the OBOD Golden Anniversary celebrations, and launches into a series of probing personal questions without immediate answers which I urge you to read directly.  The challenges she faces are those of one attempting to be faithful to a call, and she follows a path with honor.  Her struggles illustrate the living nature of the Pagan path, with its many branches and trails.  Her practice flourishes precisely because she strives to be faithful to her own vision, which may not always grow and bloom under the “big tent” of orders like OBOD.

Making that struggle visible is valuable — posting it for others to read, ponder and benefit from.

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Images: handbirdhard at work; walking.

 

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